Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Path to Peace

Psalm 34.12-14: Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Peaceful relationships do not just happen. In other words, peace is not an easy process but must instead be pursued. David tells us in Psalm 34 how to seek peace in relationships.

First, it comes when we fear God (Psalm 34.11). The foundation of peace is the fear of God, that is the standing in awe and living in reverent fear of our holy God. The fear of God is to live within the bounds God has set and seek to love Him and glorify Him above all.

Second, peace happens in the realm of controlling your tongue, fleeing from evil and doing good. Peace in a marriage will not happen when there are loose and angry tongues. Do you want to know the pathway to peace? Turn from evil and commit yourself to doing good. Simple, profound and highly practical.

Third, peace takes place when pursued. You can see God bending to speak into the human ear as He says, Do not give up. Do not give up - seek peace and pursue it. Too often in relationships we take the easy way out and give up on peace. We run from our problems and we do not humble ourselves before God. In a society where every problem is solved within a half hour sitcom, we can not seem to grasp that peace sought in the fear of God is attainable.

This is all brought together when we look at how Christ pursued peace. He came from heaven to sinners and he glorfied God as he died for His own. Amazing how God loved the unlovable and brought peace between them and God. As you see Jesus living his life and then dying on the cross, you see Jesus as he pursued peace. He did not give up, rather he said in the garden Not my will but yours be done.

Seek peace. Pusue peace. And remember how Jesus reconciled you with God your Father.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Boundary Blessings

Proverbs 29.18: Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraints; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Proverbs goes contrary to worldly wisdom. We are told today that the fewer restraints and the greater freedom we have, the happier we will be. "No one can tell me what to do" is the mantra of our society and the reason is people have rejected revelation, ultimately God's Word.

The opposite is found when we keep God's Word we find blessing. In other words, living within the boundaries of God's Word, one will find happiness and true life.

2 thoughts as I look at this passage.

First, a task and privilege of a Christian is not just to tell this to the next generation or the world around us but to live this truth. When we speak to our children about Christianity or when we live in front of our neighbours, are they able to see that the boundaries of God's Word are pleasant? It is no use saying we love God but complain about all the fun the world is having. Casting off restraints leads to confusion and hurt, ultimately death; living in the presence of God's boundaries brings blessings. Does this show in your life?

Second we need to thank God for boundaries. My wife and I were talking to a nurse the other day and she told us how many 12, 13, 14 year old girls are coming into the hospital with multiple STD's. There are no restraints and therefore, really, no blessing. The greatest blessing to happen in these young girl's lives would be for someone to come and show them boundaries. And this can happen in so many areas of life. So thank God for boundaries because they not only protect us but they enhance our standard of living.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How Do We Battle Sin?

Genesis 2.16-17: And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Genesis 3.1: [The serpent - Satan] said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

We can learn about the subtlety of sin as we look at the first temptation. Notice God's word to Adam contain 3 parts: 1. The blessing or the goodness of God - you are free to eat from any tree in the garden. 2. The command - you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 3. The warning of judgment - for when you eat of it you will surely die.

When Satan tempts Eve, he leaves out the blessing and the judgment. Instead, he simply asks Eve, did God really say? In leaving out the goodness of God, Satan's temptation causes Eve to question the love of God and in leaving out the judgment of God, Satan causes Eve to downplay the punishment of God.

We know that Eve was duped because we read her answer: The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die." Notice what is missing are words like every and surely. In other words, Eve begins to doubt the goodness of God - yes, God will let us eat from the trees but not every tree and the judgment of God - we will die but will we surely die?

When we are tempted today, the same process happens:
1. We begin to doubt the love of God. We begin to look at sin as something good that God withholds or as something which will satisfy - even though God has told us it will not.
2. We lower the fear of judgment. God is holy but surely die? He will show mercy or accept me, after all I'm basically a good person.

How do we battle sin? Ask Am I beginning to doubt the love of God within His boundaries? and Am I beginning to downplay the judgment of God? Sin is subtle and will attack God's love and wrath/punishment of sin. Knowing with confidence that God is both love and holy will help us in our battle against sin.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Sad Phone Call

I came into my study this morning and collected my calls. I had one message from a lady who said:

Yeah I was just wondering if I could speak to Mr. Christ. Mr. Jesus Christ. But aahh, I guess he's not hear right now - I guess, I guess Mr. Christ doesn't love me enough to talk to me - cause I've been praying for like 10 years and he hasn't made my wishes come true at all. So God is a bad man.

Click. No name. No number.

As I reflect on this call, sadness is probably my first reaction: sad as the lies of Satan have not made her life a happy one; sad as Jesus freely offers life to all who come to him - eternal life; sad that her conclusion is God is a bad man when her very breath is a gift from the one she calls "bad".

However, the call does give insight into the hearts of people today - Jesus or God exists to make them happy. When Jesus does not listen and when life does not add up, then God is a "bad guy."

As you are reading this blog, pray for "Jane Doe". Pray that she would be struck with the gospel, the love of God and the power of the cross. Pray that those around you would know Christ and His promises of life.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Psalm 62 - Dealing with Worry

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62.1-2)

The Bible puts words in our mouths that seem to describe exactly what we are experiencing. Today we may use words like worried or anxious, troubled or restless. When we minister to others or when we are going through such times ourselves, speaking as the Bible speaks helps us understand what is going on inside of us and how to deal with those moments of "unrest". David describes his worry as "not finding rest in God alone" and as being "shaken".

What is important is that these words include God in the process of dealing with worry and unrest. Anxiety and worry are never just an inner problem - the Psalmist David brings his soul before God. This is a good lesson as we live in a godless society and try to deal with issues through day-timers and stress suppressing measures. David first starts with an acknowledgement of his soul in the presence of God. If there is worry or anxiety, if his fortress is about to be shaken, then he will bring the matter into the presence of God.

Then, as you read Psalm 62, David spends time bringing his "unrest" before God. He brings his unrest before God and then finally leaves it in the presence of God.

How do we leave our worry in the presence of God? David shows us. The final two verses of Psalm 62 read: One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: that you O God are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.

Do you see what David did? He left it before God not in some mysterious manner. He simply confessed who God is in relation to him. In the midst of unrest and a shaken fortress, David humbles himself before God and confesses God's power and love - the twin towers of peace and rest. David is then ready to leave his worries, his unrest in God's power and love - his fortress will not be shaken.

Dealing with worry is best dealt with in the presence of God and it is best dealt with when we bring Biblical truths to mind. We need to know God is strong, stronger than our issues or our worries and we need to know God's love is overwhelming and intimate.

Those times when our fortress is shaken the most, are probably times when God's character is far from our thoughts and souls. Bringing God's strength and love into our souls brings worries into perspective and the tough issues of life into God's care.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

God Cannot Win

An issue people have with God is that He does not prevent death. How could God be good and let all of these things happen - a friend died in a car accident, a mom is dying of cancer, thousands are being slaughtered by civil war, earthquakes and the list continues. And God just stands by and let's it all happen.

Here is the quandary and how God cannot win. Another issue people have with God is His sovereignty. People refuse to believe God is sovereign over all areas of life - they cry out "human freedom". Free will demands that there are pockets where God is not allowed to touch - God cannot touch salvation or day to day activity. After all, it makes us robots, right?

So on one hand people complain that God is not involved and on the other hand they complain when He is involved. God cannot win in the sinful human heart because the bottom line issue is that man wants to rule. Man sits on the throne demanding God to stop all evil or sin but have nothing to do with their lives - they are free, after all.

Sin is confusing. The sinful heart demands action from God one moment and the next demands freedom. And so in their confusion, sinful man rebels against God in his sad and pitiful manner.