Friday, December 15, 2017

presumption on God


If you have any words, answer me;
speak, for I desire to justify you.
If not, listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.
Job 33:32-33

Elihu speaks to Job. And the young man does tend to go on and on, echoing elements of the other three friends of Job, but with a proudly theologically precise tweaking of the past arguments against Job. Yet just like all the other friends, his main assumption is that Job has done sins that warrant his sufferings. He presumes to know Job as well as God knows Job. He presumes to know God’s motives. And in those presumptions are the folly of Elihu’s self-described wisdom.

The egregious sin in Job’s story is committed by all the characters as dialogues on suffering are spoken. The sin in the story of Job that each man makes is to presume to know why God is doing what He is doing. Even Job succumbs to this in his defensive speeches. No one can know what God thinks about a specific situation outside of direct revelation from Him. But young, impetuous, impulsive, experiential Elihu thinks he has wisdom to teach Job. He basically tells Job to shut up and listen to him. And then the young man with a dangerous confidence in his own theology rips into Job fiercely as he teases out an intricate, sometimes accurate, but ultimately presumptive, theological treatise on how God relates to humanity. It goes on for a total of five chapters and is only abruptly ended when God Himself thunders His answers to everyone out of a tornadic storm.

In the end, God pulls the plug on Elihu’s grand theological exposition and has the last word on Who He is and why He does anything! God alone confronts Job with the truth. God alone dispenses true wisdom. God alone reveals Himself and actually never tells Job the back story or motives behind Job’s pain. And Job seems fine with never knowing. God doesn’t have to explain Himself or His works. He is God.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

how repentance looks


Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Amos 5:15

The prophet Amos issues a call to repentance even as his prophetic message pictures painful judgment to fall on the house of Israel. There is hope beyond the heartache and an offered renewed relationship even in the midst of prophesied pain. God desired repentance from His people, even as He prepared judgment on a stubborn and unbelieving nation.

This repentance could be seen in three ways. First, the people must hate sin. They must see their actions, born from sinful hearts, as wrong and must hate the wrong they have done and thought. When we excuse our sin even when we are confronted, we cannot yet repent. We must hate sin to truly find grace. We must be repulsed by the ugliness of our evil. We must sometimes even repent of not hating sin enough. And when we hate that we have within us the desire to love our sin, we can begin to understand repentance.

Repentance must also be seen by loving righteousness. It seeks to love what God loves. It sets its affections on things above. It wants to love what is good and finds pleasure in God and the good things He is and does. We must love good, not begrudge the good, in order to be truly repentant.

The first two parts are attitudes and affections. The last part of this call to repentance is action. Those who hate evil and love good will seek to establish God’s justice. Their actions among other people will be just and fair first. Their repentant moral affections will want the right things done in the world. They will be people of justice like God is a God of justice, hating evil and loving righteousness.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

sin, righteousness, and judgment


And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
John 16:8-11

The Holy Spirit’s convicting work has a three-fold emphasis. He is at work convicting all people in three crucial categories. This conviction (sense of wrong and awareness of God’s greater accountability) prepares the way for the good news of the gospel to be received by those who will believe it. I believe that all people everywhere know the feeling of conviction in these three areas. They may not realize that it is God doing this in them, but they are aware of a human deficit in three ways.

The first is conviction of sin. People know that other humans do wrong things. When they are really honest, they will admit that they do wrong things as well. They will argue and perhaps self-justify with “degrees” of wrong-doing when confronted with self sin, but sin and its negative affects on humanity are pretty well known. And the Holy Spirit convicts at a personal level as all people fall short of the glory of God in sin.

The second conviction area is righteousness. The world has imperfect standards, but even then human beings realize that there should be some standard of right. In the gospel, we know this standard is found in Jesus. Conviction of sin is strongest once we know Who Jesus is and why He entered planet earth to die for the sin of the world. Righteousness is the standard that His life shows us now that He is with the Father. And this standard aggravates our sense of sin, convicting us even further.

The third area of conviction concerns God’s right to judge sin and unrighteousness. Seeing Jesus as God’s righteous standard, convicting of sin personally, knowing sin deserves punishment, the Holy Spirit shows us that the world stands deserving judgment... that each of us is part of that condemnation. This is painful to realize, but sets us up for wanting something so much better. The Holy Spirit thus convicts so that the gospel can be heard for the really good news that it is!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

the praise God deserves


And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
Revelation 5:13

Every creature in the universe sings out this worship song in John’s vision. It is a worship service to celebrate the worthiness of Jesus to judge the world of men. It is frankly not the kind of action we might celebrate with praise, but in John’s vision just before Jesus opens seven sealed judgments that will literally shake the heavens and the earth, all of creation shouts out His praise. God is to be worshiped for His justice, even as His judgments are devastatingly powerful.

The refrain of shouted worship in this worship acclamation is fourfold. The praise recognizes that God the Father and His Son deserve blessing,  honor, glory and might. The first two are what we humans “give” to God... we bless His name, we worship Him by honoring Him. We ascribe blessing and honor in our praises. The second two are attributes of God we recognize in our worship: God is glorious and we give Him glory... God is mighty and we know His power. We sing of His glory and His mighty power. Only God is glorious. Only God can do His wondrous works.

God of glory and might,
I worship You this day You have made. I bless Your name. I honor You as holy and righteous, the Lord of my life, the Savior of my soul, the Creator of all I know and all that I am. Forever may I give You blessing and honor and glory and might, my God!
Amen

Monday, December 11, 2017

when it just gets worse


But when I hoped for good, evil came,
and when I waited for light, darkness came.
Job 30:26

This is the simplest description of the most personal part of Job’s suffering. He kept hoping to turn a corner on his pain. He was waiting for it to get better. It had not done so, in fact, whose who came to offer their comfort in his losses only made it worse. There was no good news for the moment. There was no breaking light of dawn. There was only pain and suffering.

And this is a feeling that was more than just emotion. It was the reality of Job’s pain. It just got worse. And there wasn’t a lot of light in his dark days. There was no comfort coming from his friends and Job has resigned himself to that. It was a really bad time in his life. The pain had settled in. The realization that this experience was his new normal was Job’s painful expression. There isn’t anything a human can do to change that kind of reality. It must be accepted and then God must be trusted despite all parts of life seeming to be incongruous with grace.

Sometimes life just gets worse. There is no other way to see it. It is best to accept this becuase given the decay of mortality and the curse on sin, that is every person’s destiny. There is hope beyond this only in Jesus. He died so death would end its finality. He rose so that hope would be our actuality. We know that God is making it all new and better eventually, but things must get dark before that dawn. The only hope for good is the gospel. That can sustain us as life gets harder and suffering dominates our days.

Friday, December 8, 2017

God will have His day.


Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is near,
and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.
Joel 1:15

The prophecy in Joel focuses on a future day in which God will judge the earth. Joel uses the devastation from a plague of locusts to call Israel to consider this greater judgment to come in the Day of the Lord. Just as the locusts left no food in the fields, so the Day of the LORD will be complete in its destruction. Just as the nation was powerless against the insect onslaught, so no one would be able to stop the Day of the LORD in its coming to destroy.

God will have His day. In the story of humanity and God recorded in the Bible, we know that before the universe is restored to its created “goodness”, a day of destruction will occur. The earth and all the elements of the universe will be burned up and remade as creation is restored to its original state of sinless perfection and the glory of God is known universally in the new creation. But before this renewal of all things, there must be a destruction of what has been cursed by sin. The curse has to be real. The destruction must happen. That is the Day of the LORD.

All the beauty of the earth and the heavens right now is marred by the curse of Adam’s fall. But that will not stand forever. God will redeem us from this mess through Christ, He will judge the world of humanity, bring an end to sin’s curses forever, and then magnificently restore all the universe to His original intention as Creator. It will be glorious. And it is that hope that is a source of confidence for our future, even as we live in present difficulties, struggling against sin and brokenness. The Day of the LORD will change it.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

hated


If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
John 15:18

My only offense to others
Should be the cross
My only “fault” to watchers
Should just be Jesus
My Savior, my Master, My King
Should be known in me
And if folks don’t like Jesus watching
They won’t care to look at me

Some people hate Jesus Christ
Because they know they must change
And the gospel calls them to another life
That they reject as strange
They refuse the gospel, refusing God
And don’t want to hear it ever
They look at Christians as somewhat odd
When we say we can live forever

If some today hat Jesus our Master
Then we may be hated as well
But Jesus is judge, rejection is their disaster
When the hate and rejection end in hell
My aspiration is to let Jesus live in me
Showing His love to people all around
No mater what others might think of me
I am Jesus’ disciple, pilgrim here, heaven-bound