Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why God?

Posted: October 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

We have probably asked this question once or twice in our lives. Yet, something came over me this evening as I was working on reading and grading some discussion threads from some of my students? That is, from what perspective are we asking that question? Is it, “God, why are you doing this to me?” Or, “God, why are you doing this for me?” Huge difference as it pertains to our attitudes and perspective. If we are always caught up thinking that always owes us something, then we will be of the mindset that God is doing something to us that is not fair and certainly not deserved. Yet, on the other hand, if we see each day and circumstance (even though difficult) as a continued extension of His abundant grace that I do not deserve, my heart will continue to overflow with gratitude and praise. I didn't deserve grace. I earned condemnation. Each moment I sin and I continue to breathe, my mouth should explode in abundant worship testifying of His abundant mercy and grace.

 

 

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The True Center

Posted: July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 Do you ever feel lost in attempting to figure out why particular things happen in your life? Do you ever struggle with understanding how God is going to use this particular thing for good? Are there things in your life that just plain don’t make sense? Plans, I mean, really good plans, which failed? Job promotions that went sour? Relationships that fade away? A routine doctor visit that ended up not being so routine? Random? Useless? God couldn’t possibly use these things for any kind of good…

 

Really… Is that really how God works? Is that really how God operates in the lives of His children? Is God capricious in His workings of His Creation?

 

I believe the best answer we can find is how we see God’s character lucidly portrayed in Scripture. The advantage that we possess as we read Scripture as it describes the lives of its characters is that, for the most part, we get a glimpse of the whole story. Take Job for example. We know a whole lot more about the details of this story than poor Job does. As such, if we were viewing the storyline from Job’s perspective, we may possibly believe that God was absent. Possibly, that God didn’t care at all what was happening in his life. Yet, we see a very different view of God from the reader’s perspective. We see not a distant God, but One who is faithfully present. A God who cares about every detail. A God has an ultimate purpose behind those details. A God who is sovereign.

 

So, how does knowing more of the character of God build trust in our life of faith in the here and now? How does knowing that God is not capricious in His dealings with us help us in our time of need? How does it assist us when it appears that nothing in our life makes sense? Trust. Faith. Understanding who God is and how He has responded in times past brings builds a foundation and a standard. We have experienced and witnessed how God has brought us through and deepened our relationship to Him historically. We can therefore place our hope and faith in Him that since He does not change (His attribute of immutability), He will continue in the present to do the same thing in this particular circumstance.

 

Yet, even though we experience such a wide variety of adversities and we in our finitude cannot wrap our minds around it, we must trust that God does have a purpose behind it. Mostly, the reason we cannot understand why He is doing what He is doing is a direct result of our self-absorption. We are under the impression that the world revolves around us. Therefore, if pain comes our way, our natural response is to avoid it at all costs. We cannot recognize the fact that this circumstance could possibly use pain to help us. But, you know what, He can and He does.

 

Something further to reflect on. Have you ever thought that there is even a bigger story being told here? I mean sure God is definitely attempting to grow us through our hardships. But, is that the ultimate big picture? I don’t believe so. I believe there is an even deeper root cause for it. I believe that He orchestrates trials in our lives to grow us, as well as to ultimately grow us to bring glory to Himself through it. The trials are a mere thread in the beautiful tapestry. The magnificent tapestry itself is the glorification of our Lord and King. As we struggle through a difficult situation, going to the Lord in prayer, seeking earnestly His guidance, direction, His will, His course of action—we grow dependent upon Him. We grow more like Him. We testify to a lost and dying world that God is real and that He does indeed care about His children. We are reflecting Him glory. We are signifying that we are not at the center. God is.

 

This is a great little book. I would recommend using it as a tour guide when reading through the Bible in a year to remain focused. It would also be beneficial especially when going through the Old Testament to see forward as the hope of Christ is progressively revealed.

I would not recommend this volume for those looking for an exhaustive explanation of each book of the Bible. It only highlights the themes of the books as well as gives explanations as to how each points to Christ. Williams also develops some good thought-provoking questions for further reflection as well as “hook” questions to give the reader the necessary nudge he/she may need to reflect upon a passage a little more before pursuing onward.

Williams does a great job developing a theology of Christology throughout Scripture without voiding progressive revelation. Although there are rare occasions where the author does seem to stretch his theory a little thin.

The author also does a great job in helping readers look at Scripture through a contemporary perspective. Giving interpretive insights into the books and maintaining their historical integrity, he accurately issues forth principles from the text which can be spiritually beneficial for contemporary readers.

One really nice element of the book is that Williams gives a very detailed, yet concise introduction to each book highlighting the essential composition of the book. He also densely compacts the thematic element of each book in a nice summary sentence. This can assist the reader in keeping a simple theme in mind as they read the book looking for how that theme develops throughout the book.

My focal point was the book of Genesis. I chose to review the book in light of Genesis because I believe there lies the foundation of Scripture. The beginnings. We note from this book that God’s creation was created perfect. Man fell yet God still desired to have a relationship with him. Even as man did not pursue God after his initial sin, God sought after him. Even though He was the One offended, He went after man. The love of God is so evident in the book of Genesis. It was an incredible experience to look at how this points to Christ.

As we look into this ancient book through the Jesus lens we are able to earmark certain narratives which deliberately pinpoint forward to Jesus. As we do so our hearts are pricked to recognize the certain fact that nothing takes God by surprise. It did not surprise Him when Adam and Eve succumbed to the wicked lure of the enemy in the Garden. God did not have to resort to a Plan B to take these new turn of events into consideration. No, by His sovereignty, this was all part of His plan. He is well aware of all the things that go on throughout history before they occur. Therefore, He had the plan worked out before the actual events came into the actual historical narrative. There is no, “well, if this occurs, then I will respond this way.” No, it is all taken into His consideration and the conclusion has already been planned.

I really appreciate this perspective of interactive reading. Sometimes it can become easy to get wrapped up in the narratives and lose sight of God’s overall purpose behind Scripture. All Scripture is to point us to our need for a Savior. The accounts of the Israelite’s following with reckless abandon and in the next sentence brazenly disobeying God give us a mirror in which to see our own fickleness in our relationship to God. It points us to promise. God has promised to make way for a Savior. We in our sin have no good quality in which to offer God to accept us. We have nothing in which to barter with. Yet, even as we carefully read in Genesis as to how God carefully plans and coordinates the various historical events, He is coordinating the way in which we can still maintain a relationship with God. And He is pointing us to the Savior through the workings of many complicated plots and sub-plots which also provides evidence of His grace, love, and mercy.

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Do we really believe that God is sovereign? I mean, do we live as though God does have everything in our lives under His control? Even if there are things in life that seem to not make any sense at all, does that make us neurotically uncomfortable?

As believers in Christ we recognize from an academic perspective that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:16-17). But, there is so much more to this than merely assenting agreement to it as a factual statement. There is so much freedom and joy to be experienced if we walk in this truth! We live in a fallen world. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that as a result of the wickedness of this world that we are going to experience a plethora of disappointments, discouragements, unfairness, and pain. And, in contrast to what the world’s philosophies would teach, there is much to be learned even from this. God would not have us to spend all of our resources to avoid these trials. God orchestrates our trials with a purpose (James 1:2-4; Romans 8:28-30). His deepest desire is for us to lean totally on Him and seek to know Him in an even deeper and more significant way during your adversity.

This stands at odds to what we normally would believe about difficulties. James teaches us in chapter 1 that those instances that God crafts for us are used to instill steadfastness which will bring us to a richer relationship with Christ where we will enjoy sweet fellowship with Him. Not that we are to somehow enjoy the actual pain, but rather, we see it in a whole new light. We meet it face to face in the power and strength of the Lord. We are no longer intimidated by the adversity. Instead, we hold steadfastly to the power of God.

Trusting in the sovereignty of God. Trusting in the Unseen. Experiencing uneasiness due to our inability to see into the future, but limited to our finite experience of the here and now. Yet, walking in the light of knowing, actually knowing the One who sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:8-10). The freedom of living a life in a world infected with evil and wickedness that often bites you like a ravid dog. The freedom of knowing that in spite of all of this, God is aware. God knows. God allows. But, God allows it for a purpose. For some reason that we may not know, these things are necessary for our growth and for us to be made like Christ. So, rejoice when you “meet” those trials fully knowing that through those times, God is fortifying you to deepen your relationship with Him. He has not forgotten you. He has not forsaken you. Rather, these are more evidences of His radical love for you.

Sensitivity

Posted: June 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Some time ago I was reading Numbers 22-24 during my devotions. I am so thankful that God places such a freshness to His Word that we can pick up things that we forget or neglect. But, as I was reflecting upon these verses of Scripture it really hit me that our God is a God who desires such an intense, intimate relationship with us that He will use very creative means to do so! From a very practical, leadership perspective, this can be very helpful to us as we desire to serve God from a heart of humble obedience. How sensitive are we to God’s working in our lives? I know that we can answer all the questions about who God is and what we are supposed to be doing, but are we doing it? Is our heart right? Do our inner motivations match the outward manifestations of our lives? Does God have to resort to some creative strategies to gain an audience with us so that we finally pay attention to what He is trying to teach us? Why I mention this is for the very simple reason that in our lives things are going to get crazy. There are going to be times when we are not going to have the luxury of retreating from a situation so that we can spend an hour in prayer about a situation before we need to make a decision. We are going to need to respond right away. So, what I am trying to say? Am I telling you that you can make a rash decision without praying and hope that you do the right thing? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that our relationship with the Lord should be that we are proactive. We are constantly preparing our hearts and minds for the daily battle that we are involved in. We go before the Lord on a regular basis seeking His wisdom, strength, and Spirit to assist us as we face those challenges so that we respond in a manner that will honor Him. We seek His will as He instructs us through those situations and ask what He wants us to learn from them. Prepare your hearts in advance so that the enemy will not catch you unaware…

What Is Worship?

Posted: May 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

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How would you define worship? What is it about our church gatherings on Sunday mornings called worship? Do we worship God any other time? How? Why? I believe that if we take a close look at Scripture, the text reveals to us what the answers to these very important questions are. Worship, in its most basic sense is ascribing worth to something. For example, when we say that a person worships his new sports car as we notice how much care that person takes in washing it, waxing it, never driving it in the winter. etc. We say that person worships his car because he values it. He does not want anything to damage it or harm it. He is ascribing high value to it. God commands us to worship Him and Him alone. We are to set no idols before Him. An idol is basically something that we replace God with as our number one priority.

So, how does what we do on Sunday morning fit into this? It fits into this chiefly by our attitudes. When we go to church our hearts and our minds should be cleared from all of our distractions of our lives. We should prepare our hearts to enter in the house of God fully yearning and excited to meet our God. We should plan to leave church different than when we entered in as we are exposed to God and His Word. As we are submissive to Him and we listen attentively to His Word as it is preached, we are focusing on His Truths and seeking God’s will to reveal to us anything that needs to change in our life. Music is often thought of as “worship.” Although music is indeed a necessary part of worship, it isn’t all that it includes. Musical worship is joining our hearts together lifting our voices and our instruments to praise and glorify the Lord, singing God-centered, God-focused words of praise which honor Him and lift Him up.

But, this shouldn’t just occur on Sunday mornings. Am I saying that we should enjoin the leaders of our churches and demand that they begin to have services 7 days a week? No. What I am saying is that our worship isn’t reserved to a place. God desires and deserves our worship every moment of every day. How is this possible. Think about it for a moment. We can worship God in every decision that we make. As we seek to honor and glorify Him in those decisions, we are worshiping Him. We honor Him by putting Him first in our lives over ourselves or what may be more comfortable.

Loving the World

Posted: May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Have you ever taken an honest evaluation of how much you love the world? Notice that I did not say “if” you loved the world? We all love the world to a certain extent. John was challenging us in this passage of Scripture that the goal we need to have before us is that of a singular focus on loving the Father. That love should encompass every ounce of us to the effect that their is absolutely no room for such petty desire this temporal world has to offer. What is so interesting when we begin to contemplate this is that God has some very creative ways to give us a divine distaste for the things of the world. He begins to temper our spiritual taste buds to desire finer spiritual fare; eternal nourishment. What we need to constantly reflect on is this. Earth is not our eternal destination. The things of this earth are not eternal. One day—all that you see around you will be consumed. I was reminded of a very sobering fact in a book I was reading. We are so caught up in the race of significance that there is one humbling statistic we fail to bring to mind. In 50 or so years, no one will probably remember you. That’s right. In a generation or two, everyone who ever knew you will be dead. How does that make you feel? Honestly? Good? Bad? Insecure? Why do you feel the way you do? Your assessment will give you some crystal clear feedback as to where your true treasure is. May our heart be ever drawn so close to God that we have a proper perspective on the stuff He decides to bless us here on earth with. May they not become a time-consuming, resource-robbing distraction that take our focus off of Him.

Each Day

Posted: May 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

Often we can get a little ahead of ourselves. What I mean is that we often get really caught up in our long-term goals. So much so that we often lose sight of what God is doing in our lives at this very moment. Now please, don’t get me wrong. I am a staunch advocate of developing long-term goals. Yet, I wonder how pleasing it is to the Lord when we seemingly “use” the present day as a mere stepping stone to achieve those future goals? Do we see the beauty that God is doing in the here and now? I really believe that each day that the Lord has given to us has something in which He desires to teach us.

I was reminded of this once again during our Adult Bible Fellowship this past Sunday. We are studying the godly life of Joseph. We were looking at Genesis 39 and his response to the advances of Potiphar’s wife. Yet, we focused on Joseph’s life prior to that event–how he advanced in the ranks…being “stuck” in places he didn’t necessarily want to be in, yet continued to honor God and testify to His Name. He was noticed for his work ethic and his desire to please God no matter what his circumstances were. In each place he found himself in, he glorified the Lord.

So, what can this teach us? I believe that we need to get off the rooftops and jump down into the trees. I believe we spend way too much time looking at the big picture–planning and advancing our future little kingdoms without much attention being paid to what God is teaching us right now. And a major part of what He is teaching us right now will definitely prepare us for our future aspirations as well. Instead of looking at what is going on in our life right now as to how it is going to get you to point B in your future plans, seek exactly what God is teaching you in the moment here and now. It really isn’t all about us anyway.

Perhaps you have heard the cliche that “It will all work out in end.” Maybe someone was attempting to encourage you after a particularly trying day. Yet, maybe you have not ever considered that this is solid, Scriptural counsel. God’s Word teaches us rather emphatically that He is a sovereign God. He does nothing out of caprice, nothing catches Him off-guard so that He needs to re-think or re-tool His previous steps in order to roll with the punches. Our God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He is the Creator and the Sustainer of all things. Therefore, He and He alone possesses the divine right to rule over all that He has created. He is the ultimate and final authority over it all.

Yet, we definitely need to temper this power with what Scripture reveals about who God is. Because if we do not, we could conjure up an inaccurate portrait of God. When we think about power and authority left unchecked, we probably recall mental images of historical dictators who for the lust of power and greed manipulate and murder innocent people in their deranged plot for more power and wealth at the expense of others. No, this isn’t how Scripture portrays our God. Our God is a God of love, grace, holiness, righteousness. He is described as One who knows all. He knows all because He created all. He is wise in His use of His authority and power. His ultimate plan and purpose is to bring Himself glory. Yet, on the other hand, we see a lot of things going on in our world that don’t seem to align with who we say we think God is. How do we reconcile the two? This is where we need to step back and really gain a sense of what Scripture really teaches us about not only who God is, but who we are and our limitations. God is infinitely wise and omniscient. He know all and possesses the ability to utilize His abilities that will always bring about His desired end. We, on the other hand can only see in the present, and even then, we are limited. We are limited in the sense that although we may possess the ability to “see” what is in front of us, our sin nature clouds just how we see those things. God’s perfection is not limited by such things.

Throughout Scripture we are made aware that God has a plan. We see glimpses of what that is and many of the details which are being fit together to assist in bringing that about. We are shown that man definitely does have a role in this plan. Ultimately, this plan has as its goal to bring God glory. Yet, our minds cannot fathom exactly what this means or what this entails. We can become easily confused if we only look for answers by observing things in the physical realm that seem to contradict what we know about God through the study of Scripture. God desires for us to know Him. This idea of knowing God describes a deep, intimate knowledge of His character. It is a a much deeper relationship that just a mere acquaintance. Rather, it describes such a familiarity to trust in Him even though the outward appearance of things don’t seem to square when using our limited senses. It is like saying, “God, I really don’t quite understand how you can use this deep adversity in my life to bring glory to yourself, but I trust that you can and through it help me to learn to lean more on You and less on myself.” Or, “Lord, I really am having a difficult time reconciling that you are loving, gracious, and merciful with what my friend is going through right now, but I have faith that somehow, someway, they are pieces of a bigger puzzle that will bring You honor and praise.”

We need to remember that the things that happen here and now are extremely small pieces of the overall picture of human history. God has known exactly what will occur in every second of every day since before time ever existed. None of the things you are going through or will ever go through catches Him off-guard. They never surprise Him. They are all part of His ultimate plan and purpose. He can and does use extreme adversity and even wicked and evil people to bring about those plans (remember, Joseph, or Job?). The details may not make much sense to us, but we need to remember that we don’t and cannot right now, possess all of the details and therefore completely wrap our minds around them (James 1:2-4). God can use the trials that we experience in our lives as tools to strengthen and fortify our faith and our dependence upon God. The more adversity we experience and the more we lean on Him in obedience during those times, the more our trust in Him and His purpose grows. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).