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August 20, 2019, 11:35 AM

Playing Dress-up with Jesus


In the not too distant past, my son had a box of costumes in his closet. Every now and then he would go into that box and pull out one of those costumes and run through the house pretending he was that particular character. Some days it would be Ironman, and other days Woody or Buzz Lightyear. And I would be remiss if I somehow left out the Ninja Turtles. He had even got to the point of acting like Raphael so much that he would run around the bases at his baseball games the way that the ninja turtles ran in the cartoon. It didn’t matter to him that it slowed him down and resulted in him getting out some of the time. It was cute for a season, but if he continued to do it as he got older it would just be awkward. It’s fun to imagine and play dress up. In fact, many adults still do it at the Comic-con events. (I’m not judging, I’m just saying.) Halloween is another time when some grownups play dress-up and act like children. There is a time and place for relishing in the splendor of our imagination, but when it comes to the worship of our Lord, we should leave the dress-up out of it. I’m not accusing anyone of going to church dressed as a princess or super-hero, but I believe there are plenty of people simply playing dress-up with Jesus. Mark 15:16-20 and the parallel passage in Matthew 27:27-31 tell the story of roman soldiers dressing Jesus as a king in a purple robe and mockingly giving Him praise. They even put a crown upon His head and a staff in His hand. Next, they knelt in front of Him and declared, “Hail, king of the Jews!” The reality of the condition of their heart was revealed in the way they treated Him after this mockery. They beat Him, spit on Him, and paid false homage to Him. Unfortunately, this is how many worship Jesus. They say He’s the King of their life and even act like it from time to time but in reality, they give Him no authority and even their acts of worship and submission are a farce. Their worship is a game of dress-up that allows them to be the central focus of the “experience.” Worship of the King of Kings isn’t an experience that you’re a part of once a week, it is a way of life. It’s not about simply going through the motions of giving adoration to some make-believe god created in the minds of those who worship him. It requires that we approach Him, the one true God as the God who is a consuming fire but allows us to draw near Him through the blood of Jesus. Does your walk with God include true worship or are you simply playing dress-up with Jesus?

Robert

https://youtu.be/ZUg9qE_KjLg




August 12, 2019, 10:00 AM

Why Do You Hate Me? part 4


The third type of discipline is revelatory and causes us to reflect on how great God is. This type of discipline is similar to what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul begins by telling of the greatness of things God had allowed him to witness but quickly turns the topic to the thorn in his flesh. The “thorn” was given to Paul by God in order to keep him humble. Even though Paul asked the Lord three times to remove it, He would not. Paul goes on to say that it is only in his weakness that the perfect power of God is displayed. It is only when God reminded Paul of his weakness through circumstances and situations that he was able to better understand God’s power and praise Him all the more. God loves us too much to allow us to be supremely satisfied with anything less than Himself. Thus, He allows us to go through things that point us back to Him and show us all the more of His attributes.

There are two amazing examples of this type of discipline found in the Old Testament scriptures. The first one comes by way of a young lady named Hannah whose story can be found in 1 Samuel 1-2:11. Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah but she was unable to bear him any children because according to 1 Samuel 1:6, God had closed her womb. In Old Testament times, if a woman was unable to bare children then it was common practice for the man to take another wife so that he would have an heir. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, was able to provide children for her husband and Scripture tells us she didn’t let Hannah forget it. Peninnah, we are told, would provoke and grievously irritate Hannah whom she viewed as a rival over the fact that she was able to have children and Hannah was not. The Bible says that this went on for years. Stop for just a second and think about that. Hannah had to endure being treated terribly, weeping bitter tears over the period of years. Some of us need to remember that our current struggles could be worse and perhaps others should remember that there is always hope when God is involved.

Then one year as Elkanah and his family went up to the temple to worship, Hannah, in her bitterness of spirit, cried out to God desperately for a child. She was so passionate in her prayers that Eli, the priest, mistakenly rebuked her for being full of strong drink. Hannah made a vow to the Lord to that she would give her son to the service of God all the days of his life. As the story goes, Hannah later conceives and gives birth to a son of Elkanah who she names Samuel, because she, asked for him from the Lord.” (1Sam 1:20) Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-11 is the heart’s cry of a woman who endured unknown depths of suffering and persecution, but faithfully continued to go up every year and offer sacrifices at the Temple. She gives praise to God for she now better understands His might, power, provision, salvation, faithfulness, and righteousness. Far better than she would have been able to had she not had to go through the circumstances she endured for the years leading up to the birth of Samuel. And to top it off, her son would become great in the eyes of God and anoint the first two kings in Israelite history. I’m not sure what became of Peninnah’s kids, but Samuel’s legacy is well known.

The second example may be a little more well known among the general population outside the church. However, the best part of the story is often left out because doesn’t fit into the desires of those telling it. The account of Job is famous for the fact that he suffered amazing loss, excruciating physical pain, and dark spiritual, mental, and emotional days. His own wife and friends turned their back on him and as he sat on the trash heap in sackcloth and ashes. Fast-forward to the end of the story and we see all of Job’s loss restored to him. This in of itself is a wonderful story of God’s redeeming power. But if that is all you come away with from the story of Job, then you have gotten up and left the table before desert was served. You have missed what I consider to be the best part. There are two main points to being able to understand the revealing discipline God puts Job through.

Thefirst point is found at the very beginning of the story, even before Job loses everything. You must understand that Job lost everything and endured the trials he did because God allowed it. In fact, God mentioned Job by name when conversing with the devil. Lord says in Job 1:8, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Talk about getting thrown under the bus. God gave the devil permission to do anything to Job except take his life. Remember, Job was a blameless and upright man, not a person caught up in a sinful life and simply getting what he deserved. Regardless of what his friends and others may have thought, Job’s circumstance was not a result of a terrible life of sin. God was using the attack of the enemy, the detractions of his friends, and unbelievable loss to train Job up in preparation for what God was going to reveal to him about Himself.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Job 38:3. God puts Job on notice that He is about to be questioned like he has never been questioned before. I don’t know what was going through Job’s mind as God began to speak to him from the storm, but I would imagine it was something similar to how my kids feel when I call there name in “that” tone of voice and have them sit down in front of me and look me in the eye. Before I ever say the first word to them, they know it’s going to get serious. Usually, my sweet little Laura is already in tears before I even say a word. Job was a God follower and knew well many of the attributes of Yahweh, you can tell by the things he said to his friends. It’s one thing to know about someone, and completely different for that person to roll up and start telling you who they really are and who they really are far surpasses anything you could have ever dreamed. Something to keep in mind about Job 38:3 is not only does God tell Job he’s about to be questioned, but also that Job will answer Him. 

As a seminary student, I tried to stay out of sight and out of mind in the classroom. This was completely different than how I was in high school or other colleges. I was intimidated not only by the professors, but the other students as well. I would try desperately to avoid making eye contact with the teachers and when a class discussion broke out, I would refrain from offering any opinion at all. When inevitably I did have to give an answer, I was usually in such shock I would ask the professor to please repeat the question. While the question was being given again, I would try to somehow formulate in my mind an answer that didn’t sound as stupid as I felt and would be short and concise. This never seemed to happen. I would wind up babbling on and on and feeling like an idiot. I thought that even if I didn’t know the answer, I could simply keep talking in circles enough that I might say something that made sense or make the professor call on someone else. I quickly learned the Job strategy when facing a question I had no good answer for. Job’s humility and a sense of overwhelming reverence are obvious in his response in 40:4-5:

4“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?

I lay my hand on my mouth.

5“Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;

Even twice, and I will add nothing more.”

 

What a beautiful and appropriate response to God. God Himself had reminded Job of His power, majesty, glory, and wisdom. Job had received a theological lesson from the God of the universe. I can say without a doubt, that was more intense than any exam I took in seminary. But there was still more that needed to be done on Job’s part. Still more he needed to learn and have God reveal to him. This was not the end of the reward for the discipline Job had endured, so the Lord continued to expound to Job. He once again tells Job to prepare himself to be examined and give a response.

I know some may ask the question, “Isn’t God being a little belligerent? I mean, Job said he had nothing more to say.” I equate this to my kids responding with a simple, “Yes sir” when I’m correcting them for something they should not have done. Sometimes, a simple “yes sir” will do and they go about the business. But sometimes the issue is deeper and it requires a different response and therefore a continued explanation. God’s continued explanation to Job of who He is brings forth the more appropriate response from Job. In 42:2-6, Job declares his feeble estate in comparison to the greatness of a mighty God. Verses 5-6 warm my heart and I encourage anyone who has been brought through a reflective type of discipline to cling to them. Job has a knowledge of God that he would have never known had he not endured the discipline he did. He can boldly say that what he had only heard of has now been made known to him by the God of the universe. In addition, he admits that he is not worthy and repents in dust an ashes, which is a sign of tremendous humility. To simply say “yes sir” and carry on was not what God desired from Job. He wanted Job to have a full understanding of who He is and the natural response of sinful man in the presence of a holy God is repentance and worship.

I think it would be safe to say that Job’s life was never the same after this time of discipline and revelation. I would imagine Job reflected the glory of God in his life much more than he did prior to this experience. Make no mistake about it, the greatest part of this story isn’t that God redeemed Job’s losses with a double portion, but that Job walked away from this experience with a greater understanding of who God is and a deeper relationship with Him. Reflective discipline allows us to reflect the glory of God all the more because we have gone through circumstances that allow us to see Him more intimately.




August 6, 2019, 9:10 AM

Why Do You Hate Me? part 3


The next type of discipline is protective discipline. Sometimes God allows struggles to come into our lives in order to prepare us for something that is yet to come. For example, you may be going through a financially difficult time right now and having to learn to budget and pinch pennies. You may be feeling overwhelmed and wondering what you did to deserve these circumstances. But what if God is teaching you to be a good steward because He knows you’re about to come into a tremendous financial blessing and He wants to make sure you honor Him with His gift to you. Or, for instance, take the old illustration of spanking a child’s hand when they try to touch a hot surface. The child doesn’t understand the punishment is for their own good, but the results of not disciplining the child would be a greater detriment and much more painful. Sometimes we face spiritual less intense spiritual battles so that we will be better prepared to face the super intense ones when they come. To use a sports analogy, championships are won in the offseason through training and preparation that leads to victories on the field.

I heard a story many years ago when I was a youth pastor. I had taken a group of students to camp and we were in the evening worship service. I must confess I don’t remember the text the pastor preached from that night, but I will never forget the example he gave about God’s loving discipline. That sounds like an oxymoron to many of us when we are in the middle of the storm of discipline, but it is out of love that He disciplines us. At the time I had never heard anything like it but I know now it has become quite popular.

The story involves a baby giraffe and a momma giraffe. I’m sure many of you know where I’m going with this but if you don’t you can search it on the internet. The pastor told of the time he was watching a nature program on T.V. He had begun to get the warm fuzzies watching the amazing act new life greeting the earth. He continued to gush about the way the momma giraffe loved on the baby and cleaned it up and the way the momma seemed to be cheering on the baby giraffe as it struggled to get its weak and wobbly legs underneath it. Finally, after struggling to stand up, in a moment of splendor and glory, the baby giraffe looks up at the momma and momma looks down at baby with pride. You could almost hear the angels singing and see the bright lights of heaven shining down. It was one of those amazing moments. Then, without warning, the mother giraffe ninja kicked the baby and knocked it to the ground.

Not sure how to feel about the treatment of the baby giraffe, he continued watching as the process repeated itself several more times. As he told the story, those who had been laughing at first had now stopped and focused in to hear the pastor explain why the momma giraffe would commit such an atrocity against her child. The fact is, giraffes live in the wild and are often viewed as fast food by predatory animals. The reason the mother giraffe continually knocked her newborn child to the ground was to build strength in the leg muscles of the baby. That way, when the predator came, the baby would be able to quickly jump up and run away to safety. You see, something that seemed to be cruel and unusual punishment was actually life-saving training. It’s not a matter of if the predator comes for the giraffe, but when. The same applies to followers of Christ, it’s not a matter of if the roaring lion roaming to and fro seeking to steal, kill, and destroy will come, but when and will we be ready.

There is another way to look at this type of discipline. My brother is one of the strongest people I have ever known, mentally and emotionally speaking. Growing up without a dad, he was always my rock. After high school, he shipped off to Marine Corps boot camp. When he came home after boot camp he was a different person. He was no longer a regular guy, he was a Marine. His mentality and behavior had radically changed. I remember asking him about this change because he had always said that the Marines would never be able to “break” him. He recalled to me the moment it happened to him. He was the last one in their group to give in to the Marine Corps way. After enduring countless numbers of push-ups, hours of running in full gear, and other such exercises over a period of time, he saw the light. He realized that unless his old way of thinking was broken and replaced with the Marine Corps way, he was always going to be a potential liability to himself and those around him. His drill instructors were teaching him things that would help keep him alive in battle and unless he got to the point where he could follow commands and not do things his way, there was a risk he could get a lot of people hurt. They could give him everything materialistically to survive, but unless he learned through discipline how to be obedient and follow his commander, he would still be in danger.

Paul uses a similar illustration in his teaching of Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3. Paul references the behavior of a good soldier staying focused and pleasing his commanding officer. One way to please the commanding officer is to follow instructions and be obedient. That is also one way to assure the greatest safety because the commanding officer, both humanly and divine, often knows more about the bigger plans for us and the logistics of those plans. So the discipline the commanding officer is putting us through is for our best and is training us up to be good soldiers, not just so they will have someone to be mean to.

Consider Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These four young men, according to Daniel 1:3-6, were good Israelite men who were found to be distinguished in lineage, physical appearance, and intellectual ability. After being taken captive by the Babylonians, Daniel records the battles they endured, the discipline they would undergo, and the eventual outcome. First, it began with a changing of their names. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but the name of an Israelite usually meant something. It wasn’t just randomly selected by joining parts of other names that sounded cool or given because it was great-grandpa’s name. Also, changing the names was an attempt by the Babylonians to assimilate the Israelites into their culture and thus making them more compliant, model citizens.

The next battle came by way of food. If I may be honest for a moment, this is probably where I would fail. Daniel asked that he and his friends not have to defile themselves with the royal food and wine, but rather they preferred to continue with a modest diet of vegetables and water. As the story goes, the appearance of Daniel and his friends was far better at the end of ten days than those who delighted in the royal food. Passing this “small” test provided for a bigger stage via promotion in the kingdom, and eventually bigger tests. Daniel chapter 2 records this test in the form of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. As the sentence of death was soon to be carried out, Daniel put to good use the tact and favor he had received from previous tests to secure time enough to seek God and ultimately interpret the king’s dream and preserve his life and the life of his friends.

These and other events would eventually culminate in what is probably the best-known test Daniel had to face. When the decree was passed that prayer should be offered to no god or man other than Darius for 30 days, Daniel continued praying to God. His faith was stronger than the fear of a lion’s den because of the discipline that God had used to train him up. Daniel’s obedience led to God glorifying Himself in a manner that required every member in the kingdom of Darius would revere the God of Daniel. Let us not forget the discipline that led to this great victory. God was strengthening Daniel for this test long before it ever happened. Like the mother giraffe kicking the baby to the ground so that it would be able to survive the attacks of the enemy, so Daniel through captivity, name changes, dietary, disputes, dreams, and other tests were strengthened to survive the attacks of the enemy and glorify God through protective discipline.




July 29, 2019, 10:01 AM

Why Do You Hate Me!? part 2


There are three types of discipline commonly experienced by the believer. They may have different names and descriptions but I will call them correcting, protecting, and revealing. When difficult times come upon us we should evaluate the circumstances as one of these three types of discipline. James 1:2-4 tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials of every kind and in order to do that we must better understand why the trials are present in our life. James goes on to say in verse 5 that if anyone lacks wisdom they should ask God who gives generously. So, if you are having a hard time considering it joy when you face trials, ask God to show why you are having to endure them, but as v.6-7 say, you must believe and respond when the Lord answers.

For the first type of discipline, I use the term correcting because that is exactly what it is, corrective. It’s not something a person chooses to receive, but it comes as a result of choices. God will not bless sin and especially for the believer, sinful behavior will not go without punishment. I spent 15 years in the medical field and witnessed many amazing things. Some of the patients I encountered over that time presented with medical issues that required a corrective intervention in order to save their life. Sometimes this was due to their own actions or the actions of others. Regardless of the nature of the need, it still required a corrective intervention.

For example, if you get a spider bite on your hand, the venom from the spider can cause the tissue in your hand at the site and around the bite to become necrotic. This means the tissue begins to die as a result of the poison from the spider. If you allow this process to continue without seeking medical help, the infection can grow and cause the surrounding tissue to become involved as well. If still no intervention is sought after, the bone can become involved and ultimately cause the limb to be amputated. All of which could have been avoided by seeking medical treatment at the first signs of infection. Often times, people don’t go to the doctor for treatment because they're afraid it will hurt or may be too expensive.

It's often the same way with sin. It usually starts out as something “small” and grows into a huge mess. Sin brings about a consequence because like earthly fathers discipline their children, so God also disciplines His children. The treatment for sin begins with confession and repentance but that does not alleviate the discipline that comes along with the sin. Hebrews 12:11 reminds us that no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but is painful. Like medical treatment for a spider bite, treatment for sin is put off because it can bring pain and sometimes comes at a high price.

David provides a great example of the consequences of sin. What started out as something “small” quickly escalated into something deadly. David was at home hanging out, walking around on the roof, enjoying himself. In the middle of taking in the beauty of God’s creation, he found a different kind of beauty. You know how the story goes, David sent for Bathsheba, and knowing full well she was married, he slept with her and she conceived. Rather than repent he compounded his sin by trying to make it seem as if he was doing something noble. He further complicated the issue by committing murder in an attempt to make everything go away. All of this led to Nathan rebuking David for his sin and his son born to Bathsheba dying as a consequence for his actions.

You may think this all began with Bathsheba taking a bath but that is simply not the case. 2 Samuel 11:1 tells us that at a time when Kings go off to war, David sent Joab in his place and stayed at home. If he would have been where he was supposed to be, David would have never seen Bathsheba taking a bath that day and an innocent man, and child would not have died. Psalm 51 is a beautiful prayer between David and God. It describes how David felt as a result of his sin and the subsequent separation from God it caused. As a result of God’s corrective discipline of David, he was restored to a right relationship with Him. As with David it can be painful and come at a high price, but in the end, a restored relationship with God is the most pleasant outcome. The foundational principle of all discipline is that it should always be done in a manner that promotes reconciliation and produces righteousness and peace.




July 25, 2019, 9:00 AM

Why Do You Hate Me!? part 1


 

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us there is a time for everything in life. Like seasons of the year, seasons of life come and go. If only we could have some sort of schedule for the seasons of life like we do for the seasons of the year, it may be a little easier to endure the difficult times. There are seasons when I feel like I’m standing on the mountain top with Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and the disciples. Then, there are seasons when I feel like David running for his life. Maybe the most frustrating seasons are the days of despair that follow a tremendous time of victory. Elijah after the victory on Mt. Carmel, as he flees and hides, is where I often find myself. Typically, when I when I'm in the seasons of struggle and difficulties, I become distracted by those around me that I know don’t follow God or who are living a life of sin that seem to be doing great. They are the ones that win the lotto or get an inheritance from some long lost uncle. Everyone thinks they’re such wonderful people and it feels like everyone is attacking my family for trying to live as followers of Christ. David is credited for authoring Psalm 37. David is a man that could understand my frustrations and coming to the point of wanting to look up to heaven and ask God, “Why do you hate me?!”

Now, I know God doesn’t hate me, in fact, He loved me so much that even while I was still lost in sin, He saved my soul. So, if God doesn’t hate you or me then why do difficult times seem to always wait for us around every turn? The answer is actually quite simple. The writer of Hebrews explains the meaning behind some of the struggles of life for a Christian. Hebrews 12:4-11 gives tremendous insight as to why things happen, how to receive discipline from God, and the encouragement that is to be gained from being disciplined by God.

First, the writer reminds his audience of believers that it is not as bad as it could be and would soon become. The young church had not yet suffered to the point of martyrdom to the extent that soon awaited. There had endured some persecution, 10:32-34, but there were darker days still to come. In every season of persecution and trials, we go through it is important to remember that it could always be worse. That is not to say that the current level of difficulty is to be downplayed or made light of, but it could always be much worse. When we are persecuted for following Christ and ostracized for our faith, let us be reminded of the great cloud of witnesses that we stand in the company of. Also, as Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11, he desires to experience the power of the resurrection of Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. When we endure persecution, no matter how light or severe, we are partaking in fellowship with Jesus. That should provide a little sense of encouragement to the one enduring a difficult season.

Secondly, and working from the first point, when times of hardship come into our lives, we often fret and become distracted and discouraged because we have forgotten or never learned the promises God has made to us in His word. The author tells the church that they had forgotten the word of encouragement that called them sons. Please allow me to be a little blunt for just a moment. Too many people call themselves Christians and have no idea what the Scriptures say about being a Christian. They don’t read the Word unless it’s to use it for their own benefit and never dig into the deeper truths of the promises of God. The people being addressed in Hebrews would have been well versed in the Old Testament teachings and Laws and promises of God. For that reason, the charge against them that they had forgotten the words of encouragement is more severe.

The Greek word, eklanthanomai, which is translated “forget” loses some of its power in the common English vernacular. This is the only place in Scripture this Greek word is used. We probably think that it’s like, “Oops, I forgot what Psalm 94 says. No big deal.” It was a much more severe charge than simply forgetting to pick up a loaf of bread on the way home. They were being accused of willful neglect of remembering the promises of God. It may be easy to heap judgment upon those believers and declare that you and I would never be found guilty of such atrocities. Before we get too far down the path of self piety, let us come down off of our high horse. Life doesn’t slow down for anyone and it’s easy to allow the busyness of life to creep in and push prayer and regular Bible study out of our schedules. Many people even justify the absence of such things by blaming their kids. As a parent, you can tell your child you’re not going to stay at the ballpark all weekend and skip church so they can chase the American Dream of fame and fortune through sports. Remember, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, but lose their soul? It is much easier than we realize to willfully neglect the ways and words of God than some may think. In my life it is often something I don’t realize has happened until the Lord gets my attention and causes me to re-focus on Him. So, the author is accusing his audience of willfully becoming oblivious to the word of encouragement by neglecting the study and practice of it in their daily lives over a period of time. As has been said by some, “Them there are fightin’ words.” However, if the following verses, he gently reminds them of the truth of the promises of God and the blessings of being disciplined.


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