Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Genesis 38, Job 4, Mark and Romans 8

Job 4 - Strangely, much of what Eliphaz says to Job is echoed in the New Testament by Paul. He talks about how no man is righteous before God...Paul says much the same in the book of Romans. I say "strangely" because Eliphaz is wrong to lecture Job as he does! We see in the Book of Job that all the suffering Job has gone through is a test of his righteousness more than a punishment for his sin. Eliphaz believes that Job has sinned and that is why he is suffering (Always a great bit of wisdom to hear from friends "comforting" you!). Job knows he has done nothing wrong and has faithfully loved God and does not understand why these terrible events are happening to him. The challenge for us to take to heart in this reading is to understand that terrible things happen even to those who love God. Paul and Eliphaz are both right...there is no one who has ever lived that was righteous in comparison to God. There is no one truly GOOD. But the Book of Job also shows us that God holds Job up before the accuser as a righteous man (By human standards). Even though Job loves God and serves Him, he ends up suffering in life. Those of us who love and serve God do not get a free pass from the chaos of this world. But fortunately for us, we know a little more of the story than Job did. We know (like our reading in Romans 8:18 today) that the sufferings of this world are completely insignificant in comparison to the glory of the life that we will live eternally with God. Regardless of what happens in this life, keep your focus on the life to come.

Mark 8 - Two chapters after the feeding of the 5,000 (maybe a few weeks or months after in terms of Jesus ministry), the disciples don't understand how Jesus could possibly feed 4,000 people. Seriously! Come on guys! It is easy to judge the disciples and wonder how they could have forgotten the miracle of Jesus first feeding, but I think we have similar issues with selective memory as well. How many times have you seen God move in your life? How many times has Jesus met you in your time of greatest need? How many times have you been given strength from outside of yourself to get through difficult times? Yet time and time again, when we are faced with difficulties we turn to worry instead of turning to God. Remember the redemption and life that Jesus has brought to your existence before you freak out the next times things start to fall apart...he will not leave you or forsake you!  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Genesis 37, Job 3, Mark and Romans 7

We see pretty quickly in Joseph's story that he might be a kind of annoying guy to have around. He is a tattle-tale. He is arrogant. He is Daddy's favorite. He says the wrong things at the wrong times. I believe that Joseph needed to go through the harsh treatment he received, as a process of shaping and maturation. The next time we see him in the story - after being sold as a slave and living the life of a servant - he is completely changed. Sometimes God allows us to go through difficult things in order to shape us for the future. Do you look at trials through that view? Do you ask God what He is going to do in you through the hard times, or do you just get angry and sulk?

Why does Jesus speak so rudely to the foreign woman who comes to him for help? His response about not giving food for the "children" (The Israelites) to the "dogs" (everyone else), seems pretty offensive to the current-day mind. But I want you to notice the reaction of the woman...did she seem offended? No. She takes his words and puts them right back to him..."Well sir, even dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs that fall off the table." Jesus has a very specific mission, with a very specific timetable. He has come to the people of Israel (A people group God has been working on for thousands of years...for this very moment!) to put into place the events that will lead to salvation for every person who has ever existed (If they choose to accept it). That is kind of a big deal and Jesus is not going to be distracted...he tells the woman so, very bluntly. Everywhere Jesus goes, people are trying to get him to come with them to heal a relative, a child, a spouse, a friend...and he cannot say yes to them all...he has to stay focused. But this non-Israelite woman shows an amazing depth of faith that impresses Jesus. She does not need him to come with her. She does not need a big show...she just wants some scraps from the table...she knows that he has authority over the forces of evil...she fully believes that he can save her daughter...and she acts on that belief. She does not give up...she puts her trust in Jesus...and her daughter is healed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gensis 35/36, Job 2, Mark and Romans 6

Mark 6:51-52 - These are a couple of interesting verses. Jesus walks out on the water and calms the storm and they are utterly dumbfounded...they are shocked. Marks throws in an extra tid-bit about them not really understanding what had happened in the feeding of the 5,000 because their heart were hardened. Jesus fed 5,000 men (not to mention countless other women and children) with 5 loaves and 2 fish (Everybody ate their fill) and the disciples still didn't really understand the power he had. They fear the storm, think Jesus is a ghost, and are shocked by the fact that he can walk on water because they aren't really operating from a place of faith yet. They are operating from a place of cynicism and doubt. The Jews have been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds and hundreds of years...prophets have come and gone...false messiahs have been raised up an removed...they don't fully understand who Jesus is yet. Do you ever allow your heart to get hardened? Do you ever miss out on the great works that God is doing around you because you have become the Christian cynic? Remember the things that God has done in your life and faithfully expect Him to move...because He will.

Romans 6 - I read the first eleven verses of this chapter at every baptism I go to. It is such a concise and powerful description of what it means to experience the life that comes through Jesus Christ. When we believe...when we choose to give our lives to crucify the old self and experience the resurrection that comes through Jesus - we are new! We are living in the resurrection...we do not live like we once did...we are new...we are different...we are dead to sin and alive through Jesus Christ. Christians, that should be the driving force of our lives. Living the resurrection. Living for Christ. Bringing redemption to the world...let's get to work!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Genesis 34, Job 1, Mark and Romans 5

I have always been astonished by Job's response to losing everything. He was very wealthy, in terms of livestock, and he lost it all. He had 10 children, who he loved deeply (He made sacrifices for them regularly, just in case they had sinned), who were killed in one catastrophic event. He loses everything...yet his first response is to worship God! That is amazing. It is easy to see why Job is held up, even by God, as a great example of faith and righteous living. How many of us worship God only when things are going well, and then turn angrily away from him when things start falling apart? Job shows us the response of a true believer. There is no hope outside of God...where else are we gonna turn when our world is collapsing? Bitterness? Anger? Fear? Disbelief? These all lead us down a path of deeper pain and suffering...only God can lead us towards healing and hope.

Paul offers a great follow-up to Job in Romans chapter 5. He says that we can rejoice in our sufferings (like Job did), because suffering produces endurance...endurance produces character...character produces hope...and hope does not bring us shame...hope does not let us down. Do you understand what he is talking about? We have been given access to God...access to a righteousness that we could never have obtained on our own, through the death of Jesus Christ. That is the reality that faithful believers live in every day - EVERY MOMENT! So when terrible things happen to us on this earth, we can know that even in the midst of that pain and hurt, we are experiencing the grace that Jesus offered on the cross. We know how this story ends! We know who wins! We know that true life awaits us after death, so we can handle anything the screwed up world has to throw at us! Doesn't that make sense? Anywhere else you turn - away from God - leads only to hopelessness. Do you really think that walking away from God because you lost a loved one is gonna help you...gonna make life better? How could it? The only thing that is gonna offer healing in our times of brokenness is the hope that comes only through Jesus.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Genesis 33, Esther 9/10, Mark and Romans 4

Gen. 33:10 - "For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God." This is what Jacob says to Esau when they meet for the first time since Jacob has run away after stealing Esau's blessing from Isaac. He was expecting anger and violence from Esau and instead received forgiveness and love. Esau truly is reflecting the character of God as he chooses forgiveness instead of vengeance. When we choose to offer forgiveness where it is not deserved, we show the world the face of God.

In Jesus parable of the sower, he lays out for us the strategy of the evil one, when it comes to leading people away from God. The seed is out there...the truth of the Gospel...the working of the Holy Spirit, but there are forces at work trying to keep people away from that life-giving truth. First, Jesus says that Satan steals the truth from some. What does that mean? I think it means that Satan replaces the truth with are not good enough...God doesn't really love could you ever be forgiven...there is no could a loving God let things like this exist...these lies are believed and the truth is stolen away. Secondly, Jesus says that some believe the truth but lose it when they go through difficult times. Sometimes people with immature faith choose to blame God when things in their life become hard...they run away from God, which is heartbreaking because only hopelessness exists outside of God - especially when you are going through difficult experiences. When someone you love dies, why would you want to run away from God? There is no hope. There is no life after death. It is all just tragic happenstance, if you don't believe in God. Third, Jesus tells of faith that is destroyed by obsession with the world and the material possessions of the world. This seems to be the ultimate American destroyer of faith...we become so obsessed with "stuff" and comfort, that we forget about how desperately we need Jesus. Finally, there are those that hear the word, believe it and live by that truth. Jesus says that their lives bear fruit - their lives have meaning and purpose and hope and joy...needless to say, this is where you want to be. We need to understand the battle that is raging around us if we are going to be able to cling to the truth and to help others grab hold of that truth as well!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Genesis 32, Esther 8, Mark and Romans 3

Whoa there!!! What is all this talk of an "unforgivable sin"? Don't Christians always say that God can forgive anything...that Jesus blood can cover any sin? The sin that Jesus is talking about in Mark 3 is no accidental is not something that you are going to do without thinking about it...the sin that Jesus refers to is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. He even goes on to explain exactly what it is (Because I am guessing that he knew we would be confused about this)...this unforgivable sin takes place when people who supposedly follow God attribute the works of the Spirit of God in the world to Satan. That is some messed up stuff. Think about the Pharisees in chapter 3 who see Jesus miraculously heal a man (They see it with their own eyes!) but because they love only themselves and their own power they sneak off to figure out a way to kill him! They have seen the God/man Jesus at work bringing healing and redemption to the world and they want to kill him for it. Later on in the chapter, other Jewish people see his miracles and think his power must come from Satan. That is ridiculous! Satan brings chaos and pain...Jesus is restoring order and healing. Jesus is very obviously doing God's work (A good fit, since he is God!) and these self-centered, blind, arrogant, idiots think it is the work of the evil one! God has the power and the love to forgive anything, but I believe these people are so far gone into their corruption that they will not return to God. If they can see the works of God and think they are evil...I'm guessing they are never going to be throwing themselves on the mercy of Christ. Without turning to Jesus there is no forgiveness...thus they have put themselves in an "unforgivable" position.

Romans 3 is incredible...Martin Luther considered this passage to be the central passage of all scripture. If you want to know how to break down for someone our great need for salvation through Christ...Romans 3 tells the story in a nutshell. There is no one good...we all fall short of the glory of God (the glory we were created to reflect)...we cannot save ourselves through "good behavior"...but God made a way for us to become righteous through faith in Jesus Christ...that was always His plan...that is the ultimate testament to His faithful love...this is the picture of hope...this is our story.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Genesis 31, Esther 7, Mark and Romans 2

Jesus deals with the hypocritical Pharisees in Mark chapter 2...and Paul is dealing with hypocritical Christians in Romans 2. The Pharisees look down on Jesus for his interaction with sinners...what they don't understand is that by the very law they never they are shown to be corrupted sinners themselves. It is the sick that need a is the sinner who needs the salvation that can only come through Jesus. The sinners around Matthew's table are actually in the better position because they understand their brokenness...the Pharisees don't know how sick (sinful) they are, so they refuse to go see the doctor (approach Christ for salvation). Paul is still dealing with the same issues years later with Christians. New converts who were once Jews are still trying to cast judgment on the people around them, while not realizing the depth of their own corruption. In Romans 2:23 it all comes to a head when Paul explains just how dangerous this kind of judgmental hypocrisy really is...when Christians act as if they are perfect while they wallow in the obvious imperfection of all mankind - they run the name of Jesus Christ into the ground. People turn away from the saving grace of Jesus because of our hypocrisy...because of our judgment...and that cannot stand!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Genesis 30, Esther 6. Mark and Romans 1

Whoa! Jumping into Romans after reading mostly narratives so far is crazy!!! There is no way I can do justice to a chapter of Romans in a short paragraph or two, so I will just write about something that really jumps out at me each day. If you want a more detailed handling of Romans chapter by chapter, you can look at my older blogs...I went through it two or three years ago.

I have Romans 1:14 underlined and asterisked in my Bible and I understand why after reading through it again today. In the midst of so much meaty theological writing by Paul, this jumps out at me because it levels a pretty intense challenge my way. In the verses that come before, Paul is telling the Roman church that he cannot come and see them...he really wants to spend time with them...encourage them...disciple them...but he cannot because of what he writes in verse 14 - he is obligated to continue the ministry that he is doing to those on the margins of the faith. The Greeks and the barbarians...the wise and the foolish. This obligation he has comes from none other than God. Paul's unshakable belief in Jesus Christ...his utter dependence on the Gospel message...demand that he share that truth with people who can be quite difficult. This is a powerful message for me to hear. It is so much easier to do ministry to people that want to be in church...people that come to your church...students who are genuinely great kids who come from Christian homes...that kind of ministry is easy. That kind of ministry is not often soul-crushing...heartbreaking...ulcer inducing...but much as I love hanging out with good kids who want to know Jesus more, I am obligated by the life-changing/mind-blowing/peace-giving/sin-removing Gospel of Jesus Christ to share that message with those who are on the margins of faith and society. The modern day barbarians...those who think they are too smart of be believers...those who seem to be too dumb to understand that they need help...those who are (whether they know it or not) desperately crying out for the truth that I just happen to know (Thanks be to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!). Paul understood his obligations...the obligations of a Christ-following Christian. Do I? Do you?