Category: The Gospel

Looking for a Fine and Upstanding Citizen?

Once upon a time God did not have a chosen people on this earth. Sure, there were a couple of individuals like Enoch who followed God. But this was far from having an entire people who were selected by God and united in him.

You might think that to start this plan, God would search in a reputable area where there were many fine and upstanding citizens and find one who would be worthy of being the father of his people.  But no, on the contrary, he went to a locale where people were notorious for being raucous pagans: Ur.

And there God found one guy to whom he said, “I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5b)

This man was chosen before he had done much of anything. And he proved to be far from perfect in how he executed God’s plan for him. Indeed, if you read about his life in Genesis, in chapters 12 and 20 you see how he messed up and told two lies that were real whoppers.  When that happened, did God say, “Wow, that was a surprise! Oops, I must have made a mistake by choosing this guy to be the father of my chosen people.”?

No, God knew what he was doing. The man he chose was Abraham. And God said that his promise that Abraham would be a father of many nations was irrevocable despite any missteps he might make.

Abraham was the first of God’s chosen people, who became known as the Hebrews.

Later, membership in God’s chosen people was opened up. Christians are compared to olive shoots who are added to the chosen people because of what Jesus did: you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others (from Romans 11:17)

Here’s how our story is like Abraham’s: We did not have to be superb, meritorious citizens before being added into God’s kingdom. We were called in just as we are. And once we are in our place is irrevocable.

Thousands of years later the invitation is still open:
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)

We are welcomed in by Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews. And he will never kick us out. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and mercy.

Fight For Our Rights ?

In the book of Hebrews Christians are being persecuted. Punishment for following Jesus raised a question for them: Should they lash out at the officials who were hassling them?

Fast forward 2000 years. The legislature passes a law that seems to whittle away our first amendment rights. We are enraged and furious. How dare they do this!  We’ll see them in court!

But what if political rights are a privilege and blessing from God, which we then receive with humble thanks? When we consider the whole gospel message, we are reminded that God in Christ gives me privileges that are much more than I deserve.

I am not saying we should passively accept it when our political rights are infringed, and do nothing. Rather, we can petition for redress while yet having a humble attitude rather than an aggrieved one of offended pride and entitlement.

The first amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; “

What if that were repealed?

Would we be boiling with rage …? and even taking up arms?……or would we see a stunning alternative:  that we have better and lasting possessions that are even better than the government allowing us free exercise of religion.   Here’s what Paul said:  

 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.  You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:33-34)

To joyfully accept having my property taken from me with no payment??? I must admit, that would be ridiculously hard for me! My natural reaction would be to feel super ticked. That shows me something, though.  I think am holding to and insisting on my rights tighter than I should, instead of being thankful for them.

Does the Bible directly give us any political rights? I couldn’t find any, but here is the one guaranteed right that I can find in the Bible.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)

So we enjoy our first amendment rights but we hold them loosely. And we hold on very tightly to the privilege of being a child of God!

Out for Revenge?

With God we will gain the victory,
    and he will trample down our enemies.
(Psalm 60:12)

David wrote several Psalms that anticipate how his enemies will get their just desserts. Even so, he never said “revenge is mine.” Because he knows God is the one who will take care of it and pay back.

I had a real problem with a harsh boss I called “the Nazi” when I worked in IT. Looking back, I was wrong to keep fretting about her unfairness. I lost sight of God’s truth: “I will take care of it.” Yes, God always takes care of it; sometimes it’s in this lifetime; other times it won’t be until eternity.

 (Ironically, after I retired, my former colleagues informed me that the harsh boss was marched out of the door by security due to being caught stealing from the company!)

I bet David would have been rooting for my boss to get a quick comeuppance. But I am asked to have a different attitude: Like David, I am to rely on God to set things right, but unlike David I am called to live at peace with my enemies in the meantime. This command is binding for all who believe:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Here is a command Jesus makes that is even harder:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:43-44)

Yes, Jesus commands something from us that goes beyond what was asked of David: Love your enemies. Be peacemakers even when people have done us evil. Some are impatient with God for dilly-dallying. But God has a great reason for the delay!

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

How should we react?

Even though we know that the day of reckoning is coming, we can be glad that, so far, God is delaying it. Why?  We now have time to give people a loving warning. We yearn for them to repent. Jesus makes an offer: Repent and believe in me. We are wooing people to freedom and bidding them to accept Jesus’ offer of entering Shalom before it is too late.

Would you Want This Verse on Your Coffee Cup?

coffee mug enemies - Copy

Does this verse sound unkind? Why is it even in the Bible? How does it square with the message of love, love, nothing but love that we hear in our contemporary worship songs? Or line up with this old hymn: “Gentle Jesus meek and mild.”

Two thoughts about this verse:

First, note that the writer of this Psalm is not taking matters into his own hands. We are not talking about a Charles Bronson Death Wish vigilante movie! No, the writer is asking God to take care of it.

As Paul said:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  (Romans 12:19).

Second, Jesus is more patient than the Psalmist. God’s wrath is real but Jesus has given it a delay. Jesus has mercifully postponed the sentiment expressed on the coffee cup, by allowing us to live in an age where God’s grace, love, patience and mercy are triumphing over his judgment.

Peter expresses it beautifully:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)

We want to respond to this news by steering people to the love of Christ and the offer of repentance, forgiveness and salvation that he makes. Yet, we also give a loving warning by letting people know that the patience of God really will end one day and then it will be too late. So we don’t stop pleading and persuading.

Today, you are in one of two camps: You are either very thankful for the redemption Jesus accomplished for you, or you are receiving a loving warning to respond to God’s offer before it is too late.