Getting away with it?

In the Hebrew Bible God’s people were told not to intermarry.

Let’s see how Solomon handled that command after he disobeyed by marrying the Egyptian ruler’s daughter….

Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her, for he said, “My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the Lord has entered are holy.” (2 Chronicles 8:11)

Here’s how he justified himself:  I broke God’s command to not intermarry, but at least I’m not letting her live in the palace where the sacred Ark of the Covenant was once stored. I’ll give her her own palace instead. Perhaps that will placate God so he’ll be OK with my intermarrying!

That sounds rather twisted: Solomon gets to have his Egyptian cake and eat it too.

Oh, I would never make a clever excuse like Solomon did to try to get away with what God prohibits — would I???

God’s Love for Sinners

Here’s a devotion I shared recently at our Battleground Men’s group.

We know that our great God loved us sinners so much that he brought us to salvation in Jesus Christ. Note what Jesus said in Mark 2:16-17: And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

It’s easy to think of repentance as a one-time event when we first came to recognize our sin for what it is, but today let’s consider God’s continuing love for us as sinners!

What, me a sinner? I thought I was past all that!

But Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Importantly, Paul does not say he WAS a sinner but that he IS a sinner.

You may have heard of Martin Luther nailing up his 95 theses. But do you know what the very first one was? It reads: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” With no exceptions, Luther was calling Christians to repent.

Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners isn’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but should be a daily experience for us as Christians. Our daily repentance and faith means living in constant realization of our tendency to abandon God. It is a daily re-orientation of our eyes onto Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Luther’s last known words scratched out on a piece of paper in February of 1546 said: “We are beggars! This is true.” That’s the heart of daily repentance and faith — living in a way that we continually recognize that our only hope is Christ. That propels change in us. And that change comes from God’s continuing love for us as sinners!

We are rebels, prone to wander, as the song says—- but God loves us too much to let us stay there when we wander. His love brings us the gift of repentance. Our rebellious condition meets with the beauty of God’s loving grace in the gospel of Jesus —a gospel deep enough to cover all the little and massive flaws of a beggar like Luther and beggars like us.

First and foremost, repentance is a gift. By his grace, God grants repentance to us, his adopted children whom He patiently disciplines. In Revelation 3:19, he says “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”.

In conclusion, living a life where we know that we are sinners, in ongoing need for correction from the God who loves us,  is a great launching pad for how we bring God’s love in Jesus to those sinners who haven’t  gotten  saved  yet.

Wrath or Favor ?

I pulled in to park for my 7:00 a.m. men’s meeting one Thursday this past September. On the eastern horizon was a blood red sun and I stopped to take a picture of it. But suddenly there was a monstrous lightning bolt followed instantly by an ear-splitting thunderclap. I quickly decided to take shelter inside, not willing to risk being struck by the next lightning bolt! (That’s why today’s picture is only a stock shot!)

Reflecting on that narrow escape leads to two quotes from God.

 I will gather you and I will blow on you with my fiery wrath (Ezekiel 22:21a)                                                                                      I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor (Ezekiel 36:9a)

At first glance these verses seem incompatible with each other. How can they both be true?

The first verse sounds like such bad news.

Did you ever walk through the long corridor from the Port Authority terminal in NYC to the 42nd Street subway stop? Often, you’ll see someone in the tunnel giving a loud warning about the wrath of God. This is not very winsome, but it is not because speaking of wrath is incorrect. The problem is that they are only presenting the bad news and leaving out the good news.

Thank God, the good news of entering God’s favor via Jesus outweighs the bad news of wrath. God does not enjoy spewing wrath on anyone but offers every one of us the opportunity to turn around.

Wonderfully, it is true that as we repent and move into living in and for Christ, we live in God’s favor. This is not a magic entrance into my best life now, where everything goes the way I would like, but it is a life with God and with his people. We are together no matter what happens, even when things are hitting the fan.

Just as I took shelter from the lightning bolts, we are offered shelter from wrath. Our shelter is Jesus Christ. We get a loving escape from wrath. God wants to win your heart. Then his mercy triumphs over judgment.

Timmy Trumpet

Before this past summer, I had never heard of the Australian trumpet player Timothy Jude Smith, whose nickname is Timmy Trumpet.

Then a recording of his song “Narco” was selected by relief pitcher Edmund Diaz of the Mets as his walk-in song to be played each time he came into a game.

Soon this trumpeted entrance serenade went viral.

In response, the Mets summoned Timmy Trumpet to play his intro live at Citi field during a Mets versus Dodgers game. Timmy went from never having seen a live baseball game to being all over the New York media.

I was surprised how moved I got from watching clips like this one.

I mean, it’s only a rock trumpeter tooting! But then I realized it’s a kind of parable of our Christian experience.

Before, Timmy was completely unknown to the average Met fan. But at just the right time, Timmy Trumpet got called into the New York spotlight. Similarly, for a long time God was unknown to me. But then at the right time when I was 24 God suddenly called me and I saw who he was. Indeed, He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11a)

Incidentally, there are many verses about trumpets in the Bible. One of my favorites is
And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24: 31) 

As we enter the advent season, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The gathering of his elect is for all who acknowledge Jesus for who he is and what he did. The invisible almighty God really did appear as a baby. I like to invite people to hear God’s call. Are you listening?