God Bless You

“God bless you!” No, there’s nobody around who sneezed. It seems that one of rare occasions I hear someone say, “God bless you” is when someone sneezes. But are we actively wishing the blessings of heaven upon others? This is the expression of a Christian’s heart toward others, because this is God’s heart for others, too.

When I was growing up, I got the impression that we shouldn’t say, “God bless you” to someone unless we knew they were sound in doctrine and living right with God. People were afraid, I believe, of “bidding God speed” to people living in error (2 John 10).  I think we get two concepts confused. We confuse approving sinful behavior with wishing God’s goodness to come upon those in sin.

But we really need to think about this. Does God bless those living in error? Sure thing. Does the Lord bless your enemies? Yes. Does God bless those who are wicked? Absolutely. Does He bless the most wicked, heathen, nasty, disgusting sinner? He sure does (Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:27-28,35).

Why does God do that? Look at the following verse that shows what God’s goodness and blessings are designed to do for everyone.

Romans 2:4 – Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Whether you wish someone God’s blessings, God is blessing them. If you choose not to say “God bless you” to someone, God is still blessing them. As long as any person is breathing air and living in this world, he or she is partaking of God’s rich blessings. And we should want that! Those blessings are intended to drive people to God!

Acts 14:17 – “Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

God is kind to the ungrateful and evil (Luke 6:35), so what is to be said of us as God’s children? Can we wish God’s blessings upon everyone? We should, God does.

The way of the Lord is not just?

Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? (Ezekiel 18:25,29).

The people of Israel accused God of not being fair. God turned it around on them. It was their ways that were not fair. Just read Ezekiel 34 to see how the Jewish leadership was treating people. That was injustice to put it mildly. God is always just.

Look in Ezekiel 18 to see the “just” nature of God. God doesn’t want anyone to die in his sins. He wants the wicked to repent and turn from his wickedness. God wants the righteous person to stay on the right path.

Here are six examples in Ezekiel 18 to show that God is just.

  1. If a man lives by God’s word and is a righteous person, he will live (Ezekiel 18:5-9).
  2. If a righteous man raises a wicked son, the wicked son doesn’t get extra credit points for being a righteous man’s son. He will be punished by God for his wickedness, even if his daddy was godly (Ezekiel 18:10-13).
  3. If a wicked man raises a righteous son, the righteous son is not going to be held accountable to God for the sins of his wicked father (Ezekiel 18:14-20).
  4. If a wicked man turns from his wickedness and chooses a godly path, God will save him and he will live (Ezekiel 18:21-23,27-29).
  5. If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and decides to live a wicked life, God will judge him for his wickedness (Ezekiel 18:24-26).
  6. God will judge everyone according to his ways and deeds – That is fair and just (Ezekiel 18:30).

Think about this! How much more “fair” can you get? You are judged by your own deeds. It is not a rigged system that exists in so many places, like politics and business. God doesn’t judge you by other’s deeds and words, He judges you by your own. If your parents are evil, you don’t lose your relationship with God. If your parents are righteous, you don’t get to ride into heaven on their coattails. God is fair – He judges you by what you say and do and how you respond to His word. It’s not anymore complicated than that.

God Granted Paul 276 Men

I encourage you to read Acts 27 in which Luke describes in amazing and accurate firsthand detail the dangerous journey they took by sea. Not only is the firsthand knowledge of Luke’s account an incredible witness to the accuracy of the Bible, this is just a breathtaking and emotional journey as you read what those men went through on that ship in the Mediterranean Sea. So many faith and leadership lessons can be taught here.

What I want to focus on for just a moment this morning is how Paul’s relationship with God and his leadership brought all those people safely to shore.

Notice this: When Paul is speaking to the men on the ship, he tells them about what God told him.

and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
(Acts 27:24)

God has “granted you all those who sail with you.” What is implied here? Doesn’t it sound like Paul had specifically made a request to God for all of these men on the ship? God seems to be saying, I am giving you what you requested. These men will all safely come to shore, even if they do so swimming or floating on broken pieces of the ship.

and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
(Acts 27:44)

276 men were on that ship (Acts 27:37). 276 men made it safely to shore, even if it was scary and ugly. And they all can be thankful for Paul’s dedication, prayers, and concern. Paul showed who he was down to his core – he deeply loved and cared for everyone on that ship. And Paul showed them the loving and mighty God he serves. When those men swam ashore and stood on the ground, they could rest assured that God keeps His promises, and God answers the prayers of the faithful.

As we go into Memorial Day weekend, let us also remember that we have made it safely through a lot of storms in our country. God is to be praised and thanked for that first and foremost. But do not forget those who sacrificed of themselves and poured our their blood because they wanted all of us to make it safely to the shores of freedom. We stand in freedom because others laid down their lives.

David and Uzzah: It Matters to God, Part 4

Efficiency and Expediency

We are focusing this week on the account of David and Uzzah (2 Samuel 6, 1 Chronicles 13, 15).

If you were transporting a heavy, very valuable piece of extremely important religious history…wouldn’t you try to find the most efficient and expeditious way to move it? Add this factor – You are transporting this sacred box over miles and up a mountain.

What if you are in that leadership discussion with David and the Levites and someone brings up, “Hey, let’s build a new cart and pull it with oxen.” Without any guidance from God’s word, wouldn’t you think, “Hey, that’s a great idea!” Makes sense to me! That would make this great work of God more efficient.

What we can see from these texts is that our ideas for efficiency and expediency will result in big problems if we don’t look first for God’s authority. In order for something to be helpful it must first be lawful.

How is it that over 2,000 years of church history we have had all kinds of things introduced into the church even with the best intentions? Maybe others responded to those ideas with, “Hey, that’s a great idea, let’s do it!”? Is it any different than what happened in the days of David? We have great ideas, ways to “improve” and make the church better. But have we fallen prey to the same problem of David and Uzzah? Did we look into God’s word to see if that’s what God wants?

We can look at the Reformation Movement for great examples of this concept. People started reading the word and then they realized that many of the established practices of the day were not founded on God’s Word. Did you know that many of the Reformation leaders rejected instrumental music in worship because they found no authority for it in the New Testament? This is just one example of men and women who did like David and “sought God according to the rule.”

Has God changed since the days of Uzzah? Is He any less concerned about our obedience to His instructions?

Jesus told us that in order to worship God “we must” worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). When Paul wrote about how the church at Corinth was to worship he said that those instructions were the “commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:36-37). As Paul wrote the young evangelist Timothy, he said that those words were from God so they would know how to behave in God’s church (1 Timothy 3:15). Nope, God hasn’t changed (Hebrews 13:8). If we want to do great works for God, we still need to look in the Word and see what God has to say first.

God’s Anger in the Psalms, My Anger in the Proverbs

Today’s MDB is a follow-up of yesterday’s article about fierce anger. My friend, Geoff, sent me a great note reflecting on the “why” of anger, meaning “why am I angry?” He also pointed out that when Jesus was angry, it was mainly because of how others were being hurt, not how He himself was being hurt. At the same time, I was listening to a sermon where the speaker was saying pretty much the same thing about Jesus’ anger. So we are going to dive deeper into the anger of God.

God’s Anger in the Psalms, My Anger in the Proverbs

In preparation for this, I started searching the word “anger” and started looking through the references. It was interesting that in the Psalms, a large majority of the references were in connection to God and His anger. The same search in the book of Proverbs revealed that most of the instances of the word “anger” is connected to man and his anger.

It’s as if God wants us to reflect on His anger first, and then consider our own anger in comparison.

God’s anger in the Psalms

  • Psalms 6:1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
  • Psalm 30:5For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
  • Psalm 77:9 – Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah. (The answer to that is in the Psalm, no…God has not forgotten to be gracious, and no He did not shut up His compassion in the midst of his anger.)
  • Psalm 78:38Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. (You can see in Psalm 78 that God was rightly angry for their sins, see verses 21,31,49,50,58. However all of that “anger” of God was couched in atonement, restraint and compassion).
  • Psalm 85:3 – You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.
  • Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
  • Psalm 103:8-14The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
  • Psalms 106:37-40 – They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds. Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage;

So, what have we observed about God’s anger? Here are some things I saw, and I know you all will see others.

  • God’s anger is for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Man’s anger is for a lifetime, while our favor is for a moment.
  • God is slow to anger. Man has a hair trigger for his anger.
  • God knows we are but dust. We with our anger blast other people into dust.
  • God’s anger is often focused on how others are treated. Our anger is often focused on how we are treated.
  • In God’s anger, he was compassionate, and did the atoning for our sin. He often restrained His anger/wrath, and refused to keep stirring it up. How about us? Are we seeking for others’ sins to be covered? Do we put a seat belt on our anger, or do we let it loose? Do we keep a “anger spoon” in our hands at all times, stirring the pot of our anger?
  • God does not deal with us according to our sins. He punished us far less than our iniquity deserved. We, on the other hand, are like James and John who want to bring fire down from heaven on the person who cuts in front of us in traffic.

There’s a lot more to consider on this. We’ll continue on Monday, Lord willing, and consider our anger as taught in the Proverbs.

Remember that the “wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20).

The Battle Rages

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. (Genesis 3:1-7; NKJV)

I wanted to share a synopsis of a great sermon I heard yesterday which dealt with the spiritual battle we are engaged in.  These are the high points and verses used and I invite you to look into this topic further.

In the verses above from Genesis, we see the very first battle between the devil and God’s created children.  We see the main actors in this eternal and spiritual battle…our God and Father, our adversary the devil, and us…God’s children.  We see God’s family as He intended it attacked and corrupted by the devil…how good he is at winning battles in our lives.  We see that the devil will win battles and we will sin.  We see in reading the remainder of the Bible that God continually battles for us and though we lose battles He has won the war in Christ Jesus.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devourResist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a whileperfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11; NKJV)

Remember, we are engaged in a spiritual battle with real and powerful actors.  God is active in our lives but so is the devil and we must remain active and continually seek refuge abiding in Jesus Christ (John 15) for He is the only security and salvation we have.  He is our Stronghold!  Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, flee from and resist the efforts of the devil, and always and continually petition your Father in prayer through your Savior Jesus Christ…He is and will be victorious and we prevail in eternity if we are with Him.

Other scriptures to consider:  James 4:4-12submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (vs. 7); Ephesians 4:25-32nor give place to the devil. (vs. 27); 1 John 3:7-15…he who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous….he who sins is of the devil…(vs. 7-8); Ephesians 6:10-20be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might…put on the whole armor of God…(vs. 10-11)

Heritage from the Lord

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127; NKJV)

The Psalms and Proverbs continue to reveal themselves in my life as I grow older and my kids grow up.  My oldest son turned 18 yesterday…wow!  At some point in the day, I found myself looking through pictures of him throughout the years and it was a weird feeling…a soup of longing, happy, sad…

This is new ground for me as he prepares to finish up high school and move onto college and fully stepping out on his own.  As I reflected on his life and the tremendous blessing he is to me and everyone he comes into contact with, the above Psalm came to mind and I wanted to share today.

What I also realized as I went through the pictures of the different years of his life, I thought about all the work and worry that went into raising him.  There were some really hard times and some times I didn’t like him very much.  What I realized as I looked at the pictures was the fact the fear or stress that might have been there during that phase of his life had melted away and I could see him for who he was and the tremendous joy he brings.  It made me a little sad and worried that I  missed something.  Maybe not, but it made me think that I need to be careful and ensure that I am putting my trust in God to help me be a good dad and my kids to grow and flourish so that I don’t miss the blessing He has put before me and that I enjoy my heritage at all phases of life.  I love my kids and thank God for them and take great comfort knowing the best Father is their Father and He loves them more than I ever could.  I am so thankful for my God and the power He brings into my life and the lives of my children.  I am especially thankful for my God and my children today.

David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation, Part 3

Acts 13:36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,

We continue our dive into the life of David and that he served God’s purpose in his own generation. At a practical level for David that meant as a young man he focused on being a shepherd of his father’s sheep. Even when he knew his next job was going to be king of Israel, he still did his everyday job of tending to the sheep. As an older man, while serving as king, David wanted to build a temple for God. God blessed David for his desire, but said, “No…Solomon your son will build the temple.” How did David respond? He devoted the rest of his life to preparing Solomon and Israel for the building of the temple.

Let’s summarize it this way:

  • When David was young, he didn’t focus on the job he was GOING to do, he focused on the job he CURRENTLY HAD.
  • When David was older and king, he didn’t focus on the job he ASKED God to do, he focused on the job God WANTED him to do.
  • Are you and I like David?

Here are a few points to consider about God’s purpose for you:

  • Let God DECIDE what your purpose is. For David as a young man it was shepherding, as an older man it was mentor and temple-preparer.
  • Let God DEFINE what a great purpose and work is for you. David could have gotten a big head as a young man, saying I’m going to be great someday and be king. Instead, he knew greatness at that period in his life was serving God and keeping sheep. As an older man he wanted to do this great work of building the temple, but God’s great work for David was preparing Solomon to build the temple.
  • Let God DETERMINE the right time for you to live out that purpose. David didn’t know when he would become king, so he just kept doing his job and living for God until God revealed the right time for him to be king.

 

Here is a link to David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation, Part 1

Here is a link to David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation, Part 2

Be Thou My Vision

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

It is the year 2020, and there are going to be a lot of 2020 Vision references around in the media, so we’ll try not to wear that out here. However, it is a great opportunity to talk about vision, especially God’s vision.

As we saw in the above passage of Scripture, the prophet Samuel was told by God not to look as man looks, but to see as God sees. Samuel thought the biggest, tallest dude would surely be the next king, and God said, “Don’t look at it that way.” Samuel was looking at the physical stature of a man, God was looking at the heart. The oldest son, Eliab, was rejected by God to be the future king, and so was every one of Jesse’s sons in the room. They had to go out into the field to find David, the youngest of the sons who was out keeping the sheep. He wasn’t even invited to the party initially, but God said, “This is one…this is the man I’m looking for…this is the future king!”

What made David so “kingly” to God? Because he saw things God’s way. He was a man after God’s own heart. His vision was tuned in by His Father above. David’s eyes saw things through God’s lenses, and that’s why he was chosen.

Our prayer for all of us is that we will be transformed in 2020 to see as He sees, not as man sees.

Here are the words to a very old Irish hymn:

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best thought, by day or by night. waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine Inheritance, now and always; Thou and Thou only, first in my heart. High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won, may I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun! Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall, still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Encouragement

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their GodAnd God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Revelation was written to encourage the 1st Century Christians as they suffered under the severe persecution of the Roman Empire.  There is much to study and to learn from the book and I believe it is also given as an encouragement to us.

There are many of us who have loved ones that are very sick, hurting, or are otherwise in a very tough spot.  We love them and we want to help them but in truth there is only so much we can do.  Cancer, mental illness, physical disabilities, emotion abuse are the ones that come to my mind as I think about those I love who are either suffering or have someone who is suffering.  It breaks my heart overall and as I consider each case and the impact of the situation hurts me even more.  I dare say it makes me mad on some level though that is a fruit of the flesh and not the Spirit.  The Spirit, if I am focused as I should be, brings me peace, comfort, and encouragement.

As I think about it, I hurt because of the pain but I rejoice because I know that in the end, every person on my mind who is suffering is going to be ok when they go home to Jesus.  With that said, as I turn to those that are caring for them, love them, or otherwise affected by their loved one’s suffering…what can I do there?  Of course I can say encouraging things, I can pray for and with them, I can just generally be available, compassionate, and loving.  That is a lot and I should do more.

What I also want to do today is encourage everyone who is reading this to take time throughout the day and pray for those we know are suffering physical, mental or emotional pain.  Pray that even though they may not be able to pray or read scripture, that verses like these would fill their heart and God would comfort them through the power I know He has and will use for His children.  I believe everyone that is in Jesus is going to be ok in eternity and I believe our God is willing and able to comfort His children who are our loved ones in ways we cannot see or fully understand.  I believe that and I think we can find comfort in it.

It is not about us and it is not about now.  We cannot do it all and thankfully He has done it all.  Take heart and pray with me for all our loved ones and their families in these difficult times.