Reflection: Righteous…Blameless…he walked with God

Open Bible“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” Genesis 6:9, NASB

These words are not embellished yet they seem unattainable to us. As I read this morning in the the text, I stopped to consider the weight of such words…what they say…and what they do not say. 

When we think of the difficulty of attaining to the standard of the words “righteous” and “blameless in [our] time,” we struggle because our default is to think of our own actions. How can we be righteous? How can we act righteously? What can we do to be blameless? The issue for us is that we are asking the wrong questions. The answer will not be found in what we can do but in what God has done. 

In the context of the Genesis narrative (which I could argue persuasively is a “type” of picture…a foreshadowing of the grace to be displayed in Christ)…we find a world that is utterly evil. There are none who live perfectly. To the contrary, the opposite is true and the God describes the people as evil with every thought and intent of heart being continually evil (Ge 6:5). The image of God (imago dei) was so defaced that none of humanity bore outward resemblance to the graciousness of God. 

In the midst of this, God showed favor to Noah (Ge 6:8). The outworking of the favor was redemption BUT the method of its realization required effort on Noah’s part to build an Ark and to function as the steward of God’s creation in redeeming it. Certainly God could have given all of the animals the ability to walk on water or gills to live through the flood…or he could have beamed them up to Mars and kept them there for a year; however, He chose to use Noah (who had favor in God’s eyes) to be the means through which these created beings were saved. 

If Noah had ignored God, he too would have perished. If he had delayed obedience, we can suppose the same outcome. But he did not. He built an Ark and prepared for a flood and secured animals and food and walked into the Ark with Mrs Noah, his three sons and their wives…and watched God close them in (Ge 7:16). Then they waited a week for the rain to start. 

Noah and his household were not saved by their efforts. God saved them. They were, however, saved through their obedient response to God. In this way, they became recipients of God’s grace. 

Righteous…blameless in his time…one who walked WITH God. 

Do we rest in the righteousness of God? Are you without blame in the present? Are you actively walking WITH (not in front of, parallel to, behind, or contrary to) God? 

Reflection: God said…but she saw…

Old Man PrayingIn Genesis 3 we find the details of the first occurrence of sin. 

Here, Eve recounts her understanding of the Lord’s instructions as she received them from her husband…”of the tree in the middle/midst of the Garden you shall not eat. You shall not eat its fruit or even touch it…or else you will die. You may eat of every other plant or tree in the Garden for God has given them for your provision…just not this tree.” 

The enemy quickly and adamantly responded…NOT TRUE! God is keeping something from you and if you had it…you’d be JUST LIKE the One who created you and the tree. You could be your own god! 

So…knowing what God said…Eve looked and saw regarding the fruit of the tree that it was pleasing to the sight, good to the taste, and profitable to make her wise. IOW…she observed that the warnings of God were baseless and the upside taking from the tree was an acceptable risk…in fact…no risk at all. 

NOW I KNOW that lots of “really smart” people dismiss this account because they cannot see how it could happen in light of all that we “know” about science (yep…tongue in cheek). Really though…the reason they dismiss it is for the reason that Eve (and Adam…and all of us since) dismisses what God has said. We want to be our own gods! We want to champion our own causes, meet our own needs, tap into the power of the human spirit, pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps and provide for ourselves the satisfaction for the longing deep within our own souls. Then…we’ll be able to control everything we need! [insert diabolical laugh here...followed by weeping]. 

The truth is…there is no escape from the fact that God has provided all the plants of the Garden and God provided a divine warning against that which would harm us as well. 

But we too, like Adam and Eve, don’t want this to be true. We want to believe that we can figure out the solution to our own problems and that we can then choose to accept or reject God based on our own conclusions…since He will be able to offer us nothing. In the end, we are the “preacher” of Ecclesiastes realizing that after every pursuit there is no provision other than God’s provision. There is no satisfaction other than God’s satisfaction. 

If we come to this realization it ought to affect us deeply in at least three ways. 

  • It should drive us to our knees and then to prostration before the King of Glory who provides for us! 
  • It should motivate our sanctification. We should passionately pursue bringing all areas of our lives into alignment with God’s provision and warnings. 
  • It should fuel our mission. If we cannot find satisfaction apart from what “God said,” then we must also rightly conclude that billions of people also seek for answers as blind men groping for a light switch (think about it) and that as possessors of the only hope of deliverance…there is a divinely imparted responsibility incumbent upon us to God and make disciples of all nations. 

In essence, we MUST come to trust more in what God has said, than in what we think we see. 

Favor for those who fear Him…

Old Man Praying“[God] does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness.”

Psalm 147: 10-11 NASB

Sometimes…if not oftentimes…we like to focus on our skills/gifts/accomplishments and how they benefit the Lord’s “gospel enterprise.” We assume that since he has gifted us with eloquence of speech, business acumen, financial resources, or a mechanical aptitude…then we are highly favored. 

In one sense we are. Every gift comes from God. All good and perfect things come from our heavenly Father. We should thank God for how He has created us and how He impassions our spirit within us. 

At the same time, we must also recognize that God’s gifting to us can be (or become) a liability to our spiritual growth if left unchecked. If we come to a place where our confidence arises from our abilities rather than from the giver of gifts (abilities) then what was good to us (by intent and revelation) has now come to cost us greatly. It is an idol of sorts in the recesses of our hearts. It is a competitor with the One True God who gave the ability to us to begin with! 

The apostle Paul alluded to this in 1 Corinthians when he stated that he endeavored to fulfill his calling to preach/proclaim the gospel NOT WITH CLEVERNESS OF SPEECH lest the power of the cross would be lost (1:17). This does not mean, of course, that Paul spoke with intentional simplicity; rather, it speaks of where his confidence resided AND where he intentionally placed the focus of his message. 

In our church community we tend to look to the gifted orator, or the winsome teacher, or the strategic planner to fulfill the roles that most similarly reflect their gifting. While this is logical and appropriate in many circumstances…God exists and operates on a level beyond our human logic. He may not always want our best speaker to preach, or our most compassionate and animated adults to teach in children’s ministry. He may not desire our most gifted financial strategists to oversee stewardship strategies or our prevailing statisticians to formulate our strategic approach. 

God does not place His confidence in any of these things. He places His confidence in His omnipotent and omniscient being…in Himself…because He is God! 

There are times…I am convinced…when God parts a giant sea…and tells us to step between the walls of water…trusting Him to hold them firm. There are times when He places a rushing river before us and tells us to step into the water believing that He will stop it up and dry the ground on which our feet tread. There are times when He commands us to walk around a fortified city in silence…time and again…and then orders us to blow a horn so that the walls will crumble and we will overcome. There are times when He tells us to make the last cake of bread for Him and then live off of the miraculous provision that He will provide afterwards. There are times when He tells us to leave the safety of a boat and walk on the water if we wish to be with Him. There are times when He send the Jewish religious guy to the Gentile irreligious and the the Jewish fisherman with a hot temper and no filter on his words to the Jewish religious elite. 

God places no confidence in our horses or our physical strength. He empowers US to do that which is beyond our ability…simply for the sake of His own FAME and GLORY. 

Do you trust Him to put you in “the game” to play a position that others may be more gifted at…so that you may be used and He may be exalted? 

God is Near…

Old Man PrayingWhere is God when I sin?

If we make God like us…He turns His back on us or puts us in “time out,” or comes to a place where He is just “fed up.” 

If we listen to the enemy…God is distant, aloof, or focused on good people…ignoring our unfaithfulness and moving on to people with greater promise. 

If we listen to the Scriptures…God’s treatise on Himself…God is near. God is NEAR! (Now let me qualify that with the text.) 

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”  Psalm 145:18, NASB. 

Since we know that by nature, we are all distant from God due to our own sin…IOW, we walk away from Him in active rebellion (Isaiah 59:1-3, Romans 3:23) and this distance can never be closed by us…and, since we are utterly incapable of closing the distance (Romans 6:23)… we are desperate for someone to act on our behalf to close the distance for us and restore us to God. He (God) does this Himself in Christ (Romans 5:8). 

Now if this is true at the initial point of Salvation (theologically speaking I am referring to Justification)..then why is it we struggle accepting the fact that God does that to restore us from our sins after we’ve been adopted into His family (sanctification)? 

The truth is, He is NEAR to us to restore us when we call on Him in truth. What does this “truth” thing mean: 

  • Among other things, it involves seeing ourselves and God as He reveals. We are not victims of society or underprivileged people who had no choice…we are rebels that spurned the love and gracious provision of God…choosing our plan for ourselves…thinking we are better at meeting our needs than God could ever be. 
  • It also involves acknowledging our utter desperation to God to fix our sin. We cannot manipulate Him (God I need your blessing so I will do something religious in order to provoke you to bless me.) 
  • It further professes that God is GOOD and GRACIOUS and DESIROUS of our return to Him…not because He needs something from us but because He desires something FOR us. [It should be easy to comprehend that if God would die in the place of and to restore a rebel…how much more easily can we expect Him to restore a wayward child? 

The verses that follow state that God “fulfills the desire of those who fear Him (v.19),” and hears their cries and will save them. He also keeps (secures) them who love Him (v.20) while destroying the wicked. 

All of this is praiseworthy (v.21) and provokes eternal blessing from all flesh! 

APPLIED: So this is the deal as I see it. The enemy seeks to preserve a distance between us and God and if we listen to him, the distance will remain; however, if we trust God and call to Him…He is quick to forgive and restore…not to gain something from us but to give something to us…abundant life. 

So, is there distance between you and God? Have you been ashamed to ask Him to take you back? Are you afraid of how He will respond if you confess your failures to Him? Do you think that you have to fix it and make amends as support for your case of repentance? 

Instead, why not call upon Him (145:18) knowing that He is near and will hear, restore, and keep you…giving you the deep desires of your heart that is His in truth. He is not ashamed of you. Your sin is no surprise to Him. The guilt you feel is not His design for your life. He wants to set you free and restore you to the purpose He has for your life. 

Peace, 
CA

Reflection: “For the sake of Your Name.”

Worship to GodFor the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble. And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies and destroy all those who afflict my soul, for I am Your servant.” Psalm 143:11-12 (NASB) 

This past weekend I shared a message of revival based on the thrice repeated phrase “Revive me” in Psalm 119:153-160. My heart has been stirred for some time now of the need in my own life of being renewed, revived, and restored to utter dependence on God. Strangely…that awareness in my own life began as a prayer for God to create this in the lives of those I lead. 

What I know is…we don’t sit in comfort and ask God to provide for us. When we have provision, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional…we tend (by sinful and rebellious nature) to look to what we have or to what we want…but rarely to where it came from. 

In other words, when we HAVE…we are not prompted to pray for provision like when we do not have. If you are hungry, it is natural to pray for food. If you are “full,” then you may give thanks or may ask for food for tomorrow…but hardly with the same fervency as when you are hungry. Therefore, when we pray for and seek revival…genuine fervency rises up from a clear understanding of our spiritual poverty. 

Here is one of the dangers I see…as I meditated on the Psalms today: We may pray for revival out of awareness of our poverty…but if we are not careful…it will be to alleviate a deficiency within us. IOW…we are the beneficiaries of revival in that case. As such, our goal in revival is to help ourselves…and God benefits as a secondary result. 

As David prays here in Psalm 143…He begs God for relief from his desperation as he considers the power of God evident in the history of his people (Ps 143:5-6). He does so, not that he (David) would have more or would be more comforted…but so that God’s Name would be magnified. 

CATCH THIS THEN: The substance of David’s prayer is not PRIMARILY that God would make his life easier; rather, it is that God would make HIS Name FAMOUS in the world again…among His people and among the world/culture! David earnestly desires for the GLORY of God to be made manifest! 

My own assessment of David’s heart (imperfect as it is…but I believe I can demonstrate this convincingly) is that he would gladly suffer and continue suffering if only he could/would be able to see God’s name magnified! In the specific verses I shared at the beginning…he desires for God to REVIVE him for God’s NAMESAKE…not for David’s comfort, convenience, power, prestige, or vindication. David sees himself, not as a worthy beneficiary of God’s grace, but as a servant of the One True God whose Name is worthy of glory, honor and praise. As such…David would gladly lay down his life and surrender his comforts and suffer unimaginably…if the glory of God would be revived in him and in the world around him. 

So, I wonder…when I pray…when we pray for revival…is it so that the bad and evil around us would be abated (and we would not have to encounter it any longer) OR, is it so that God’s name would be magnified even if it cost us everything? 

Peace. 

Reflecting on Kindness and being Tenderhearted

From my Experiencing God devotional (Blackaby) today: 

We show forgiveness because we, too, fall short of God’s ideal. Knowing that God has graciously saved us from destruction motivates us to forgive others when they offend us. Often we are less patient with our fellow Christians than we are with nonbelievers. We expect more of Christians, and we feel betrayed when they fail us. When this happens, we need to look closely at the cross and remember the forgiveness we received there. We must set aside the self-centered attitude that leads to impatience and criticism of others.

The full text can be found HERE if you want to read it all. 

I find in my own life that I can be “critical” of others, particularly as they offend me personally. One of the problems with that is almost everything is “personal.” :) From disagreement with a conclusion I have drawn to the method I may have chosen to get somewhere…it can be easy to be critical. 

Now discernment is not wrong. It is not wrong to evaluate someone else and determine that they have chosen poorly or erred or whatever. It is not wrong to criticize. I am certainly not advocating (personally or from Scripture) that we simply accept everyone’s actions as equally good, helpful, and effective. 

What I am saying is that I am pretty quick to condemn another’s critical actions or conclusions…and in so doing, become critical myself. To look at a believer who fails or falls and criticize the mis-steps (he dropped his quiet time, he moved out of accountability, he got too close to her…whatever) is itself the evidence of a critical spirit. 

Following this weekend, a person sent me a concerned email about a policy we have in place in our church. Nothing wrong with the email. The person (in my gracious assessment only wrote it because he/she had only half the facts) shared a concern in a pleasant, respectful, and kind manner. My first reaction though troubled me. (This is not one of my normal “snipers” that sends a shot across the bow just to harass me.) I immediately became defensive in my heart. I thought, “How can anyone who knows me think I would do what is being suggested? This is not my first rodeo. OBVIOUSLY I would not do this or that. And what’s with the example cited? It is not essential tot he conversation!” [See how quickly the conversation in my head went downhill?] 

Fortunately, God gave me enough grace to exercise presence of mind to not fire back immediately. I wrote a response…edited it….wrote it again…deleted it…wrote it again…deleted 2/3 of it because it was just a rant…and sent a short and gracious reply. 

What if I had not? What if on the outside I had displayed what was on the inside of my heart? I would have become a HUGE stumbling block to a brother/sister in Christ! BUT…my default in my heart was to be critical. 

So…Paul writes to the Ephesians and tells them to be kind…tenderhearted toward one another (Eph 4:32). 

Blackaby reminds in the devotional that it is not our miracles, signs, or accomplishments for the kingdom that identify us as disciples…but the LOVE we have for one another. 

And once again, the Scripture speaks clearly and the message drives true. Remember that Christ forgave you for being a sinful, evil, rebel against God. To do so, He took your place and your punishment as the Father poured out His WRATH toward you onto the SINLESS Son. If Jesus would ask for God to forgive and show His kind and tenderhearted nature toward us…should we not as FOLLOWERS do likewise with others? 

Peace, 

CA

Reflection on Faithfulness

Perhaps one of the most used and least understood concepts of Christianity is that of faith. I’ve heard people speak of keeping their faith, of losing their faith, and of practicing their faith…but it is this last expression that is the most accurate to the biblical record and the teachings that Christ gave us to embrace.

Faith is not a token philosophy. Faith is not something that we acquire and store away. Faith is what we do. It is who we are. The best rendering of the principle in Scripture is to see “faith” as an action…rather than faith we might think of it as “faithing.” It is not static or passive but active…and revealed in our every action. It works its way out through our words and our activities.

Faithfulness speaks of how resilient we are at living out our doctrinal convictions. We say that God is good (doctrine/faith assertion). When we TRUST Him as good…we are “faithing” our doctrine…an action based on belief. When we do this consistently we call that faithfulness.

As I was reflecting on this today, I thought, “I have faith.” I am a student of Scripture and a teacher of doctrine. I have no problem claiming my acceptance and embrace of these truths. I also am good at “faithing.” I allow my faith to inform my actions, my thoughts, and my words. I seek to avoid certain things as a active pursuit of adhering to my faith. What I wrestle with is “faithfulness.”

Some days I am dialed in and dead on. I breath it, walk it, live it. I am a poster child for Christ-follower. Other days…I look more like the wisdom of the world around me. I make decisions based on my perspectives, not on the tenets of my doctrinal claims. I hear God’s voice (the Holy Spirit residing in me) tell me to “do” or not to “do” and I choose to ignore His voice.

What is important to realize is that as we mature in our “faithing” with God, we should see our faithfulness increase. If it does not, we are not maturing as we ought. Notice though…it is progressive in nature, not a point of achievement or arrival. We don’t necessarily get to a place of :faithful” this side of eternity.

Why would I tell you such? As I was considering this today I was reminded of the Lord’s work in my own life. I remember that I have been stuck and struggling and defeated at points in my journey. In fact, I don’t think I would even be in ministry today except for the truth revealed to me in a two simple verses. “If we say we do not sin, we lie and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). Any man who claims to have arrived is a liar and the Holy Spirit of God does not reside with him. “If we confess our sin, God is FAITHFUL and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9, emphasis added). Faithfulness escapes us…only One is faithful. We should be “increasingly faithful to faithing our faith,” but we will continue to fall short. Faithfulness then for us…is not absolute perfection, but intentional prostration before our Holy God and our firm reliance on His faithfulness which endures and is new every day. Praise be to the One who is faithful. God you are faithful!