Archive for August 5, 2012
Tags: American League Championship Series, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Frank Tanana, God, Psalm, Toronto Blue Jays, World Series
“I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” Psalm 34:1
My friend Frank Tanana, who pitched the Detroit Tigers into the American League Championship Series, has an interesting take on baseball fans. He pitched a stellar game against the Toronto Blue Jays to win the final game in the division playoff. His picture was front page and he was, hands down, the town hero in Detroit. But when his turn in the rotation put him on the mound in the ALCS, his performance was not so stellar, and the Tigers lost their chance to go to the World Series. I asked Frank how he handled being town hero one day and “tarred and feathered” a few days later. I’ll never forget his quick reply. He said, “I learned a long time ago that with baseball fans it’s ‘what have you done for me lately’ that counts!”
I’ve often thought about Frank’s answer when it comes to how we feel about God. Going to a small group meeting where everyone else is telling about how God has supplied for their needs and miraculously answered prayer can make a lot of us pretty grumpy about God because it seems like He doesn’t do much for us. We still have long-awaited, unanswered prayers on our lists and unfulfilled expectations that seemingly have gone unnoticed while He has been busy blessing others. But be careful. This kind of spiritual grumpiness will make you ungrateful, unworshipful, and ready for a major fall into the spiritual dumpster.
So, for all of us who tend to be out on God for His seeming lack of living up to our expectations, let me help you out of your grumpiness with a list of how wonderfully good He is to you every day.
- If He never does anything else but save your soul from hell and guarantee you an eternal home with Him in heaven, He has already done far more than you or I deserve and enough to keep us grateful to Him for the rest of our lives.
But thankfully there’s more . . .
- If it is true that He never leaves you nor forsakes you, then you have a lot to be thankful for (Hebrews 13:5).
- If you can be sure that His mercies are new to you every morning, then you can make it through the day as weak and frail as you are (Lamentations 3:22-24).
- If He guards our lives so that nothing comes in that is not ultimately for His glory and our good, then we are among the truly blessed ones (Romans 8:28).
- If, when you put your head on your pillow at the end of the day, you think He didn’t show up for you, think about all the things you don’t know that He kept from you which may have “done you in” had He permitted them (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- If He gave you His Word to guide, comfort, inspire, convict and assure you of His unfailing love and mercy, then you have enough to cancel your grumpiness and make you grateful (Psalm 119:97-103).
- And, since He is far more than we ever bargained for or deserved, we have the high privilege of demonstrating to our world that our God is worthy to be trusted, worshiped, adored and praised—regardless (Job 13:15)!
- So the next time you start wondering what He has done for you lately, check the list. There’s a lot to be thankful for! Which leaves only one more question: Is He wondering what you have done for Him lately?
- How does it make you feel when others talk about the great things God has done for them? Do you feel left out, or do you respond with a heart that is happy for them and grateful for what He has done for you?
- Take some time to look up the Scripture references listed above. It may just help you build a biblical perspective of gratitude for all the things God does for you on a continual basis!
- If you were to answer the question, “What have you done for God lately?” how would you respond? Think of something you can do for Him today as an expression of your love and gratitude for all He has done for you!
Tags: Christ, Christianity, God, Holy Spirit, Jesu, Jesus Christ, Religion and Spirituality, Son of man
’. . . and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.’ . . . But they understood none of these things . . . —Luke 18:31, 34
This bewildering call of God comes into our lives as well. The call of God can never be understood absolutely or explained externally; it is a call that can only be perceived and understood internally by our true inner-nature. The call of God is like the call of the sea— no one hears it except the person who has the nature of the sea in him. What God calls us to cannot be definitely stated, because His call is simply to be His friend to accomplish His own purposes. Our real test is in truly believing that God knows what He desires. The things that happen do not happen by chance— they happen entirely by the decree of God. God is sovereignly working out His own purposes.
If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. As we grow in the Christian life, it becomes simpler to us, because we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose. A Christian is someone who trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God.
Tags: God, Judaism, Lord, Prayer, Psalms, Rabbi, Sabbath, Tallit
A few hundred years ago, there were two great Jewish masters who had very different styles of worshiping God. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was renowned for his unbridled passion for all things holy. He could never stand still during prayers; instead he would be seen dancing and swaying, from one side of the room to the next. In direct contrast was Rabbi Baruch of Medzibuz. His service to God was extremely dignified. His every action was performed with total control and utmost discipline.
Rabbi Levi’s greatest wish was to spend the Sabbath with Rabbi Baruch, but Rabbi Baruch was concerned that Rabbi Levi’s form of worship would disturb the quiet, meditative service of his community. He agreed to host his colleague but made him promise to keep things calm. Rabbi Levi agreed and held himself back from his normal expressiveness during his prayers. Everything was going well until they began the festive Sabbath meal.
“Would you like sour fish or sweet fish?” a young student asked Rabbi Levi.
“Like? I only like God,” burst out the holy soul.
Rabbi Levi jumped up and, in doing so, overturned the entire tray of fish. “I love God, I love God!” Rabbi Levi could no longer control himself! He was now dancing and singing, with all his pent-up energy finally let loose. The fish flew into the air as Rabbi Levi waved his arms in holy ecstasy. When the fish landed, they were found on none other than Rabbi Baruch’s pristine white prayer shawl.
Afterwards, Rabbi Baruch refused to allow anyone to wash that prayer shawl, although it was stained. “I want to wear the prayer shawl stained with love for God,” he explained. And so it was. That prayer shawl was handed down from one generation to the next. Never was it washed, for the holy stains were reminders of what it means to truly love God.
In Psalm 84, the Psalmist expresses his deep love for the Lord: “My soul yearns, even faints . . . my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” King David described his deep desire to be connected to God. Somewhere deep within us, our souls yearn too. Like Rabbi Levi, our innermost being wants nothing more than to cleave to the living God.
It’s not always appropriate to break out in song and dance in expression of love for God. I can imagine that it might be disturbing in the middle of your supermarket! But every once in a while, it’s important to let yourself go. Let loose in song or dance or in any other form of expression. As you express your deep love for God, you will experience His love for you.
Tags: Bear, Fruit, God, Helper, Holy Spirit, Jesu, Spirit of Truth, Vine
Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes; if it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me that where I am, you may be also; and you know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how then can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except through me. If you had learned to know me, you would have known my Father also; from now on you know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Master, let us see the Father and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been all this time with you and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; then how can you say, ‘Let us see the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I speak do not come from me but from the Father who lives in me. Believe me, that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me because of the work itself. I say to you, he who believes in me will do the work which I do and still greater works than these, for I go to the Father. And whatever you shall ask in my name I will do, that the Father may be glorified through the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
“If you love me you will keep my commands, and I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.
“In a little while the world will see me no more; but you shall see me, because I live and you shall live also. He who has my commands and obeys them is the one who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.
“Peace I leave with you, my own peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled nor afraid. You have heard me tell you that I go away and am coming back to you. If you love me you will be glad because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you this now, before it takes place, that when it does you may believe.
“I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-dresser. He cuts away each of my branches that does not bear fruit, and cleans every branch that bears fruit so as to make it bear more. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Remain united with me and I will remain with you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit unless it remains united with the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain united with me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains united with me and I with him bears much fruit, but apart from me you can do nothing.
“If you remain united with me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you will and you shall have it. It is by your bearing much fruit and being my true disciples that my Father is glorified. As the Father has loved me, so have I also loved you; continue in my love. If you keep my commands, you will continue in my love, even as I have kept my Father’s commands and continue in his love.
“I have told you all this that my joy may be yours, and that your joy may be complete. This is my command: ‘Love one another even as I have loved you.’ No man has greater love than that which leads him to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. I call you servants no longer, for the servant does not know what his master does; but I call you friends, for I have told you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will give you.”
“He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.” Psalm 57:3Posted: August 5, 2012 in O Christian.com
Tags: Atonement in Christianity, Christianity, Evangelism, God, Jesus, Lord, Religion and Spirituality, Satan
And where is God’s mercy revealed? Outwardly in the word of God; inwardly in the heart. And it is by sending his mercy into the conscience, shedding abroad his love in the soul, manifesting his pardoning favour within, that God “saves from the reproach of him that would swallow us up.” Man may say, ‘I do not doubt your religion; surely you have marks and testimonies of being a child of God!’ Ministers may come and endeavour to soothe you, and often by their soothing make more mischief than they mend: ‘O, no doubt, if you are exercised with these things you are a child of God;’ as though a man could be satisfied with exercises, and because he is hungering and thirsting after the Lord, could be contented with his famine and his drought. No; these things do not touch the secret malady, do not go far enough, nor deep enough, nor come with divine power as from the mouth of the Lord himself. All short of this leaves the poor patient afflicted, desolate, and dejected; and does not remove that under which his soul labours. But mercy, sweet mercy, sent from heaven, and dropped from above into his spirit, applied to his conscience, revealed to his heart, and brought warm into his very soul by the Spirit of God–that saves him from the reproach of every enemy that would swallow him up. For if he can lean, confidently lean upon the arms of mercy, what can man do, what can Satan do, what can sin do, what can death do, what can hell itself do to hurt him? If the mercy of God is upon his side, revealed to his heart, and sent from heaven into his soul, who or what shall swallow him up?
Tags: Bathsheba, David, First Epistle of John, God, Good News, Jesu, John, Sin
A friend was updating me on his past year—a year in which he had been receiving ongoing medical treatment for cancer. The smile on his face was a powerful testimony to the good news he had just received. He said that at his one-year checkup the doctor announced that the test results all pointed to one thing: “You are totally clean!” What a difference two words can make! To my friend, totally clean meant every trace of the disease that had threatened his life only months before had been wiped from his body. We rejoiced to hear that he was totally clean!
King David, after his moral failure with Bathsheba, longed for a similar thing to happen in his heart. Hoping for the stains of his sin to be washed away, he cried out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). The good news for him and for us is that our sins can be taken care of. When we need cleansing, John’s familiar words bring hope: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We can’t cleanse our own hearts; only God can do that. If we confess our sins to Him, He promises to make us totally clean!
Tags: Bible, Book of Deuteronomy, Christ, God, Jesu, Lord, Moses, New Testament
Love for Christ is a love of willing as well as a love of feeling, and it is psychologically impossible to love Him adequately unless we will to obey His words. In seeking to learn whether we truly love our Lord we must be careful to apply His own test. False tests can only lead to false conclusions as false signs on the highway lead to wrong destinations. The Lord made it plain enough, but with our genius for getting mixed up we have lost sight of the markers. I think if we would turn for a while from finespun theological speculations about grace and faith and humbly read the New Testament with a mind to obey what we see there, we would easily find ourselves and know for certain the answer to the question that troubled our fathers and should trouble us: Do we love the Lord or no?
Tags: Christ, Divine grace, Gentile, God, Jesu, Jew, Lord, Paul
I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them.
I can think of lots of good reasons to share the gospel with people. As a pastor, I regularly preached the good news of God’s love in Christ to those who were not believers. I wanted them to experience God’s grace so that their lives might be transformed, both in this life and in the life to come. I preached so that they might become active disciples of Jesus, partners in the work of the kingdom of God. But I must admit that I never thought about preaching to some so that others might be jealous. Thus, at first glance, Paul’s reasoning in Romans 11:13-14 seems odd to me.
According to this passage, part of the reason for the salvation of the Gentiles was to make the Jews jealous. This helped to motivate Paul in his ministry to the Gentiles. Indeed, it was part of God’s own reason for saving the Gentiles (v. 11). If only the Jews might see how blessed the Gentiles were to receive God’s grace, perhaps they too might be open to embrace that which had been offered them in the first place.
Though we don’t tend to use the language of jealousy, there is a sense in which we want those who don’t know Christ to see what we have as Christians and to want it for themselves. One could call that a sort of jealousy. Indeed, if people can see in us the joy of being forgiven, if they can witness our freedom to forgive others, if we are willing to love sacrificially, freely giving away that which we have so generously received from the Lord, perhaps they will want what we have and be drawn to the Lord.
Human beings are usually jealous of those who have what they cannot have themselves. The wonderful thing about the jealousy of Romans 11 is that it opens people to receive what they can have for themselves…the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever felt jealous of other Christians? Why? Are you living in such a way that people who don’t know the Lord might be jealous of your relationship with him? Is your faith sufficiently visible to draw others to Christ?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must admit that this whole notion of jealousy seems strange to me. But as I reflect upon what Paul is saying, I realize that I do want people to be jealous of what we Christians have in you. I want people to see in me the joy of knowing you, the comfort of your forgiveness, the love that flows from you through me to others.
Though I don’t think I’ve ever prayed quite this way before, I would ask that people might be jealous of the bounty you have given me, so that they might turn to you and receive your abundant grace for themselves. May I live in this world in such a way that people want what I have in you. Amen.