Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dirty Floss & Polluted Garments (W.o.W. Rewind)

[This post was originally published 8/5/15. Please pray for my church as we're doing VBS this week.]

When it comes to cleaning, almost all married couples are "unequally yoked." There's usually one spouse who stands out as the messier of the two and one who is inevitably called the "neat freak." I am the latter.

One thing in particular that I do drives my wife crazy. I talk incessantly about cross-contamination. In part it comes from my time working as a short order cook. Stacy has listened to me talk about cross-contamination as it relates to food preparation, diaper changing, taking out the trash...a whole host of scenarios really. For example, "Stacy dear, your floss touched the faucet handle that we touch after we use the bathroom to wash our hands. You may not want to put that in your mouth." I drive her nuts! But thankfully there is grace even for this. And as it turns out this is a biblical concept of sorts.

In the little book of Jude, sin is pictured as a type of spreading disease that contaminates all it comes in contact with. In Jude 1:22-23, the brother of Jesus instructs believers to "be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."

Jude isn't telling Christians to avoid interacting with lost people as though they might contaminate us. That would go against his admonition to snatch them from the fire of God's impending judgment. Rather, Jude instructs us to always respect our own vulnerability to the power of sin. His emphasis on the garment stained by sin serves to remind us how much we ought to hate sin. If we hate even clothing that's been contaminated by sinful actions, how much more ought we to hate the sin itself. This reminds me of the Old Testament priests. When they entered the tent of meeting or later the temple to make atonement for God's people, they had to undergo ceremonial washing, bathing and even changing of clothes to ensure that the stain of sin wasn't on them as they entered God's presence.

At the end of the day this image captures the core of the Christian life. How can a person ensure that the stain of sin is not found on them when they stand before God? Zechariah 3:1-5 provides a beautiful and insightful picture into the Christian answer to this question. In the immediate context it speaks to the high priest's sin being taken away so he can make atonement for God's people, but Joshua serves as a type of how we all can find forgiveness in Christ.
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.

Satan is eager to accuse us all. And just like Joshua we are all clothed in the filthy rags of our sin compared to God's holiness. But those who place their faith in Christ will be washed as white as snow. God offers to clothe us in the righteousness of Christ and to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness. But unlike Joshua we cannot wait until the day we stand before God to deal with our sin. The Bible tells us that on that day it will be too late. Sin is a spreading disease for which there is no cure after death. It'll be too late to try get right with God after you die. We dare not wait to deal with our sin or to warn those we love. The cure must be administered while you are still alive. Hate sin. Hate even the garment contaminated by sin. For it has the power to separate you from God for all eternity. Have you turned to Jesus in faith for the forgiveness of your sins? If not, then remember that today is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2) If so, then who might God be calling you to snatch from the fire?


For further reading...
  • 1 Corinthians 5:9-13- Paul agrees with Jude that Christians should not separate from non-believers. Interestingly, Paul tells us who we should separate from.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How Faint a Whisper We Hear of Him

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”
Job 26:14


A while back I got bored with reading Scripture. I tired of going to church. I wasn't quite arrogant enough to say I knew everything there was to know about God, but I was convinced I'd read it all before and there really wasn't anything new for me to find in the Bible. You have to understand, I've been in church since I was four. I was convinced I'd heard all the stories, learned all the lessons, and sat through all the sermons. But I couldn't have been more wrong! This was nothing more than a tactic of the Adversary. I was deceived. Satan had actually succeeded in convincing me that learning about God - the most beautiful, powerful, interesting, and exciting being one can imagine - was boring. Today's verse captures well just how blind I was. 

The heart of theology is to know God; and when you set out to know an infinite being, you can never be finished learning. If God is infinite, there simply cannot be an end to what you don't yet know about Him. All that I have learned about God in my many years of church attendance and seminary study barely scratches the surface of what His Word reveals about Him. Even if I plumbed the depths of His revelation of Himself through Scripture, even that is only the outer fringes of His works. It's just a faint whisper of who He really is. But oh what a whisper it is! 

If I were to uncover all the mysteries of His creation, if I were to gain understanding of His great wisdom in ordering events and overwhelming chaos, if I were to grasp the unfathomable might of His power that He exercises in all His deeds... even then I still would not be any closer to exhausting all there is to know about our infinite and eternal God. There will always be more to His goodness, His wisdom, His being than we can comprehend. There will always be more reasons to praise Him. Knowing God is truly a lifelong task. Indeed, one lifetime is not nearly enough time, but it is all we have. So let's spend our lives studying what God has revealed about Himself to us in His Word, and then may we know the great joy of spending our eternity studying the fullness of God's glory face-to-face.


For further reading...
  • If you are looking for help getting to know the depths of who God is, I suggest a little book written by A. W. Tozer entitled The Knowledge of the Holy.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Matthias Waited

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Acts 1:24-26


Have you ever been passed over for something that was then given to someone who didn't deserve it? Maybe it was a promotion at work that went to the kiss-up. Or perhaps your crush chose someone else over you, someone who just wasn't good for them. Whatever it was, I bet you've felt this way at least once. And if you are anything like me then you probably whined and complained and raged about the unfairness of it all. Well, the next time you feel this way, think about Matthias.

Scripture tells us that Matthias had been with Jesus and the twelve disciples from the very beginning, "from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us” (Acts 1:22). But in spite of that Jesus didn't choose Matthias to be one of the twelve. From all that we know, Matthias was a faithful follower with a good reputation who had followed Jesus for three and a half years right alongside the other disciples, yet he had been passed over...for Judas. 

I wonder if Matthias ever felt overlooked? Did he ever think Jesus had made a mistake not choosing him? We know that Judas not only betrayed Jesus in the end but that he also embezzled money from the ministry along the way (John 12:4-6). Did Matthias ever question Judas'  place among the twelve? If he did, Scripture doesn't mention it. In fact, this is the only passage in all of Scripture that mentions Matthias at all. He is never mentioned before or after his selection to replace Judas. So why does it matter?

Consider what Jesus said to the twelve disciples (including Judas) in Matthew 19:28: "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Jesus said this before Judas was revealed as a traitor. At the time, Matthias could not have known that this saying would one day apply to him. He was overlooked on earth from a human perspective, but he was not unnoticed. Although he may have felt unappreciated for years, God had a special place reserved for him in eternity. On earth, Matthias wasn't chosen for a center stage role. He was called to work behind the scenes, to humble himself and faithfully follow the Lord while he waited for God to lift him up. He trusted that God saw his good deeds and that God would reward him in due time. And God did! 

So don't be discouraged if you feel underutilized or passed over or forgotten by God. He has a part for you to play and your reward is secure. Don't waste your time coveting someone else's role. If you will be zealously faithful in doing what God has called you to do, you can be confident that even if you feel passed over in this world you will not go unnoticed in heaven.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poison Sumac Praise

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But [Job] said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job 2:9-10


I'm miserable. I have large goose egg blisters on my elbows and forearms from a poison sumac plant I managed to get into as we cleared brush at the church this past weekend. I've had poison ivy and poison oak many times but these are the largest blisters I've ever seen. It is uncomfortable for me to bend or move my arms because they are all blistered around my elbows. And it is nearly impossible to rest them on my desk or on the arms of my chair without hitting a blister and causing pain or discomfort as well. So again, I'm miserable.

It makes me think of Job. He was covered with boils from head to toe. He had it a lot worse than I do. Job's words challenge me today, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Who am I to tell God what I will and will not receive from Him? I have no right. God is God, so I will simply trust Him and receive what He sends my way. So today I choose to rejoice. Not in my painful blisters, but in all the amazing blessings God has poured out on me. The fact of the matter is that this little outbreak is the only thing in my life that I have to complain about. In every other way I am blessed beyond measure. 

You know if we aren't careful it's easy for us to focus on the few negative things in our lives and let them sour our attitude toward God, when what we should really be doing is offering up to Him unending praise for the countless blessings He has poured out on us. If you are tempted to grumble and complain about your condition or some situation in your life, take a break from focusing on the negative and choose to spend a minute thinking about all the positive things God has given you. No ask yourself Job's question. Is it right for you to receive good from God, but refuse to receive evil? God is God. Trust Him. And praise Him no matter what.