Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Before the universe was a gleam in God's eye . . .

In Sunday's message, Lee challenged the idea that we are the sole decision-makers when we choose to follow God. He suggested that we must consider God's role in our salvation as well, citing Ephesians 1:4, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight". I was fascinated by the idea that God chose each and every child of God before anything was ever made. This got me wondering what else the Bible tells us God had done before he set all of creation in motion. The following may not be an exhaustive list, so leave some feedback with any thoughts or additions!

  1. The Father loved the Son
    "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."
    - John 17:24
  2. Jesus was chosen as the perfect lamb and Redeemer
    "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake."
    - 1 Peter 1:18-20
  3. God chose those to be adopted as sons
    "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."
    - Ephesians 1:4-6
  4. God gave grace to those he called
    "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time."
    - 2 Timothy 1:8,9
  5. Believers' names were written in the book of life
    "All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world."
    - Revelation 13:8

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Karma . . . or something better?

For a couple of years I worked at the Doubletree with a guy that was obsessed with the idea of karma. When someone didn't tip him, he consoled himself with the confidence that this same person would get a flat tire on the highway and no one would stop for them. Aside from the fact that it was a very resentful way to walk through life, I was always baffled how he could reconcile the idea of karma with the Christianity he claimed.

Of course, I understand the appeal of karma for those that don't believe in a personal God. It's comforting to think that something or someone out there is balancing the scales of our lives, good for good and bad for bad. The cold, hard reality that we see from day to day, however, is less than karmic. Hateful, selfish people often slide through life wealthy and unpunished. Wonderful, loving people fall victim to terrible crimes. And what do we make of the tragedies that take so many lives in one fell swoop? We cannot simply assume that every person was equally deserving such a fate.

Yet the Bible assures us that something like karma will take place some day. Paul writes the following in 2 Thessalonians 1:

"God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (verses 6, 7 and 8)

However, there will be one major difference between karma and the judgment of God. Grace and mercy have also be offered and given through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is why I was so confused by my co-worker who claimed to be a Christian. Two major themes in Christianity had seemed to make no real impact in his day to day life: the grace of God and the justice of God.

He seemed to to have no practical confidence in the justice of God, otherwise he could rely in God's charge: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath" (Rom. 12:19). Even if we do not see God's wrath in this life, we know that God will be the perfect judge at the end of all things.

But second, and more troubling to me, was his absence of the grace of God. As children of God who have been forgiven all—I mean ALL—how can we not forgive those who have wronged us? When compared with our sin against God, even the greatest sin one person can commit against another is small.

So, this week, consider what it means to leave room for God's wrath, meditate on how you can trust God in his justice, and strive to reflect God in his grace.

For further reading: Matthew 18:21-35

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Struggle to Pray

I have to admit it, I've been struggling to pray for the last few weeks. I won't bore you with my excuses; I'm just saying it's been a difficulty. I haven't put in the normal time and effort to pray. It's been coming more in snippets, desperate moments, and s.o.s. prayers.

In the middle of this, a funny thing happened. God has shown up anyway. It's almost like He wants His best for me - even more than I want it for myself.:)

I'm not trying to say that we shouldn't pray. The Bible teaches it. Jesus demonstrated it. There is no question that God expects us to pray. My purpose isn't to excuse our lack of prayer, but to give us hope when we don't.

Prayer does not depend solely on me. Even when I'm not praying, two-thirds of the Trinity is praying for me.

The Bible tells us that Jesus prays for us.

Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:34

Did you know that Jesus is praying for you. Not condemning you, but standing up for you to God the Father. Do you think God is pleased with His Son? Do you think He will answer His Son's prayers? Absolutely. So even when you aren't doing what you know you should - Jesus has your back.

What about the Holy Spirit? He's praying for you too.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

Even when we don't know what to pray, the Spirit is stepping up for us. He knows God's will and He knows our hearts. He is pleading with God in perfect knowledge of what's going on and asking God to do what is best and right for us.

It's a tremendous comfort to know that God is aware of what's going on. He's not looking for opportunities to punish you; instead, He's on your side. Not working against you, but working to bring about the best for you.