Monthly Archives: June 2015

Keeping It Simple

Psalm 119:127-128

One of the pillars of modern science is something called the “Second Law of Thermodynamics,” which in its’ essence means without any outside intervention, everything is becoming more disorderly.  It is so widely accepted that it no longer is considered a theory, but all areas of science consider this a “law” much like Newton’s Laws, or Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, just to name a few.

While maybe not on the same level as those laws, I propose another concept; There is a strong tendency to make simple things complicated.  This includes our understanding of Scripture and how it applies to our life.

Here are 2 simple verses in Psalm 119 that we seem to overlook.

I love Your commandments more than gold, yes even fine gold.  Therefore, all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right.  I hate every false way. – Psalm 119:127-128.

It’s just 2 verses, but it is a lesson on how we need to approach the Bible.  There is no need to understand the construction of Hebrew sentences or to dig through commentaries to understand these words.

The Psalmist proclaims he loves the Word.  He values it over gold.  He declares it to “right” concerning all things and he gets deeply offended when falsehoods are presented to him.

One thing modern evangelicalism has failed mightily in doing is presenting God’s Word this way.  We become more interested in wanting people to like us and our churches.  We don’t want to chase people (especially those millennials) away from church and we don’t want to be confrontational – at least not right away – because we don’t want to offend people.

I propose that because of all this interest in not offending people, we intentionally begin to refrain from presenting God’s Word as something of high value and correct in everything it says.  At first we may still believe what it says, but we don’t talk about it.  But over time, even our understanding of scripture becomes less clear.  We look to explain the text away, find “cultural differences” or some other reason to claim the Bible doesn’t say what it plainly says.  We make the bible complicated and look for loop holes and any little nuance to get around problem passages.

The Psalmist says, “all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right…”  In other words, since he so highly values God’s word, he looks upon it as being “right.” Meaning the writer made a decision or determination that it is right and true, therefore worthy to be obeyed.

The Hebrew word here for right can be translated as “perfect or smooth or straight.”  In modern vernacular when someone is telling us something right, we might say they are a “straight shooter.”  That person is correct and to the point.  That’s a great way to describe God’s Word.  It’s a decision I need to make – that the Bible is right.  It does not matter what I think of a passage or if I understand it.  It makes no difference if I agree with it – it is “right.”

There is no need to complicate matters.

Understand, I’m a big fan of going deeper into a text and seeing other places words are used, finding meanings to a word or phrase etc in Scripture.  I love digging into a passage, and I can spend hours studying one word in scripture.  However, I must always maintain this concept; the text is never wrong.

So I must avoid the tendency to overly complicate the simple plain truth of God’s Word.  I need to be like the Psalmist who valued it so highly that even fine gold was of no comparison to God’s Word.  Further, I need to make the decision to always consider His Word true on everything.  Once those basic, simple truths are established, it makes no difference what others say or what the current cultural trend is telling me.

A wise Christian knows the Bible is to be highly valued in your life.  It is to be held higher than wealth, personal status or public acceptance.  No bank accounts, concept of humans, public opinions or even well-intentioned church growth plans are to ever take the place of His Word in my life.

Simply put, the text is never wrong.

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A Soft Plushy Pillow

I don’t know if this is just a recent phenomena in evangelical thinking or something that has been prevalent for many decades and I just hadn’t noticed.  It’s this idea of “love” as being the singular characteristic or quality of God we as believers are to proclaim.

From my observation, we seem to think love – especially God’s love – is just this happy, content-with-everything, almost euphoric feeling of all things good and accepting of anything and everything.  It’s like a soft, plushy pillow that conforms to anything placed on it.

This concept reveals itself when the church is confronted with some sort of concept or aberrant behavior that runs counter to a previously accepted societal norm or traditional doctrinal position held by the church for decades or longer.  Those in the traditional church are considered “unloving” and those outside the church become the experts on what Scripture teaches.

But what is shocking is when those within the church body start making the same claim.  That somehow, all we are supposed to do is “love each other” and nothing else.  Anyone pointing out error in this new concept is accused of not “accepting” or “loving” and are labeled Pharisaical, legalistic and basically unloving.  The primary basis (although maybe not the sole) for these conclusions is that “God is love and Jesus told us to love each other.  After all, He is grace, love and mercy and we shouldn’t judge each other” or some derivative of the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in His love. Without His love, I don’t exist.  Without His love, life means nothing.  It’s only His love that sustains me.  But what exactly do I mean when I refer to God’s love?

I’ll won’t go into Old Testament prophets about repentance since too many people somehow think Jesus’s teaching cancelled the Old Testament  (which of course even Jesus said His teaching didn’t cancel the Old Testament – Matthew 5:17) so I’ll want to point out just one verse in the New Testament, Revelation 3:19.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent. – Revelation 3:19 (NKJV)

Repent.  That’s not a word we use much anymore, especially in this modern age of only speaking about God’s love. The word repent implies I need to change, that there is something wrong in my conduct or thinking and it needs corrected.  So if God loves me (and I know He does), isn’t it reasonable to expect Him to correct me?  Doesn’t it seem logical that there are areas in my life that need some rebuking and challenging?

Of course very few people would treat their own children the same way we want to treat unrepentant sinners.  Sure, we love our kids, but we also correct them, guide them and at times, discipline them.  So why can’t we understand that while God loves us, He does call us to something – repent?  Instead, we are told to just love, accept and never point out what the Bible says about sinful behavior.

I wonder if we don’t like repentance because we don’t like brokenness.  To repent, one must acknowledge their sinful behavior and need to submit to God’s authority in their life – for that particular thing.  It’s brokenness and who wants to admit they’re broken.  We want to be accepted, right as we are without any push or challenge to change our behavior.

We so rarely mention repentance as a necessary step to knowing God.  We allow, coddle and even encourage a person to continue to live just how they are with no push to seek God’s help to change.  That requires admission of wrong and brokenness which we’re afraid to challenge people to do and merely want to express God’s love as a fluffy, soft pillow.

It’s sad that our Gospel message has become so watered down that non-believers can’t even reject it.

Yes, God loves us.  He loves all of us no matter what we’ve done or are doing.  Yet He challenges us to live for Him and for ourselves.  He does not want us to continue to wallow in our sin and neither should we want that of people.  We do no one any favors by allowing sinful behavior to continue unabated and unchallenged.  He is the author of life-change and our job is to introduce people to that life-change author.  But it starts with brokenness and repentance and when we don’t encourage repentance, we are not fully demonstrating God’s love and present an incomplete picture of who He is.

Know this, God does love us and He has so much more for us than what we currently are experiencing if we just bow before Him and repent.

Blessings my friend.

-jm

You Can’t Do Whatever You Want

Therefore, submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. – James 4:7 NKJV

 

The New Testament book of James would seem to be a primer on living the Christian life.  James takes the concept of believing in Jesus and makes it practical or visible in our life.  In other words, there needs to be some noticeable life-change for the person who claims to be a Christian.

I was thinking about how James coves such a wide range of topics from how we handle adversity, to how treat each other, what we say and the control of our tongue – just to name a few.  In chapter four, he continues his treatise on Christian living by asking a few questions of his readers.  Among those questions, James asks:

What causes quarrels and fighting among you? Is it not that your passions are at war within you? – James 4:1 ESV

He goes on in verses 3 & 4 stating we do not have because we do not ask and when we ask we ask wrongly, spending it on ourselves.

Finally he gets to the bottom line of this section with the statement in verse 7 that we are to submit ourselves to God.  Submission to God, isn’t that what this book is all about?  James is making the case that we must remove ourselves from the top of our own importance ladder and keep God there.  We are to submit to Him.

At first, this seems like a no-brainer for believers.  But I wonder if there is more to this that just acknowledging God is God and that I am not.  It’s to be lived out.  I am to be a servant, doing what the Master commands.  My life, my desires, my passions, my interests, my money – EVERYTHING – is to be under His authority.

If I am truly living in submission to Him, then I don’t get to do just what I want to do.  I do what He wants me to do. It does not matter if I like it or not.  Whether I understand it or not is irrelevant.   As a servant, I am to submit myself to God.  But the beauty of this concept is when I do remove myself from the head of my life and submit myself to Him, I can resist the devil.  In fact, based off this verse I maintain my ability to handle adversity, temptation and conflict is magnified when I submit my will to Him.

Additionally, I’ve been struck by the idea that like David, we can pour our hearts out to God, yet He really doesn’t need my opinion.  He doesn’t seem to ask me about my thoughts on a certain subject or my opinion about what He’s calling me to do.  He, as my Master, gives me a command.  I, as the servant, need to follow those orders.

You might say, “But isn’t there a verse in Psalms stating He gives us the desires of our heart?  What’s wrong with what I want?”  That verse is found in Psalm 37:4 and it is one I love to quote!  Yet even in that same Psalm we are to trust (vs3), delight (vs4) and commit (vs5) ourselves to Him.  Our desires are to be in service to Him, we don’t get to earn them as a fringe benefit of being a believer.  We are to submit to Him.

There might be nothing wrong with what you want, but then again you might be like one of those James is writing to when he says in verse 3 that “you do not receive because you ask wrongly, spending it on our passions.”

I wonder, would our lives be less stressful, less complicated and more fulfilling if we just were able to grasp the concept of submission to Him?  Can I fully live a life where He is the Master, where He dictates the terms and I am to be submissive to His direction in my life?

So… how submissive you?  How has this idea of submitting to God worked out in your life?

Blessings my friend,

-jm