You Can’t Get Any More Secure Than This

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Years ago someone shared this truth that has often encouraged me:

Anything that comes to believers must first go through Christ.

Why?  Because those who believe in Jesus are “in” Christ.  He is our dwelling place, our refuge, our eternal home.

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms… DT 33:27

The uncreated, eternal, sovereign God is our dwelling place.  This means that anything that comes to us must first go through him. He determines the intensity and length of every challenge we face. Nothing takes him by surprise. No affliction can be an ounce heavier than God says. A trial can’t last one second longer than God has determined. God knows exactly what we need and exactly what we can handle by his grace.

The eternal God is our dwelling place. Satan can’t hurt us. He had to ask God for permission every time he afflicted Job and God set strict limits – “You can do this and this, but NO MORE.” And Satan had to obey. He can only do what God allows and God works all he does for our good.

The eternal God is our dwelling place. We may lose everything in this world, yet in the eternal God we are secure. The eternal God becomes our dwelling place now in this life, the moment we believe in Jesus. We don’t have to wait until we die to enter our eternal dwelling place. This is ultimate security, ultimate peace.

Everything in this world is temporary.

Our physical bodies will get weak and frail and eventually succumb to disease or just wear out. We don’t like to think about it, but we’re regularly reminded that we won’t be here forever. Robin William’s tragic suicide reminds us. A truck accident claimed a life this morning in my hometown. I’ve done three or four funerals in recent months. Last week someone sent me a list of my high school graduating class, and a number of my classmates had “deceased” by their names. Gone. Their lives are over. Mine will be too one of these days. I’m so glad the eternal God is my dwelling place.

Underneath are the everlasting arms.

Therefore God will make sure we make it to the end. He will lift us up when we fall. And he will let nothing separate us from his love in Christ Jesus. Even at the end of our lives, even if we lose our minds, memories and consciousness his everlasting arms will uphold us.

My mother had Alzheimer’s the last 7 years of her life. When she was first diagnosed, she said to us, “I don’t ever want to forget Jesus, and I don’t ever want to forget you,” to which I said, “Mom, even if you forget us, we won’t forget you, and I know this – even if you forget Jesus, he will NEVER forget you.”

Have you fallen? Failed? Blown it? Don’t give up.

Underneath are the everlasting arms.  If you ask him, Jesus will restore you and lift you. He is upholding you and will never let you go.

Remember, anything that comes to believers must first go through Christ.  If you are in Christ praise him and thank him for opening your blind eyes and bringing you into this wonderful love and security. Things may look bleak in this world, but you have an eternal dwelling place and everlasting arms beneath you.  

God Is Not Logical

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Those of us who believe in God credit him with being in control of “all things”. And we mean it. He is control of absolutely everything. We run into trouble, though, when we start trying to piece that together logically. We try to add up the causes to equal the effect or lay out the events in sequence so that they make sense. But God doesn’t always make sense. He is a puzzling being who often leaves us baffled and frustrated.

God is good and loving. He doesn’t do bad things. But he’s in control of bad things. So that means he is responsible for tragedies without being at fault for them. Huh? That doesn’t make any sort of logical sense. By our logic, 2+2 = 4 and anyone responsible for bad is guilty of it.

Those delightful debates over election and soteriology rest in the fact that God doesn’t make logical sense. God decides who will be saved and who won’t; He chooses His elect. Yet we’re all responsible for our own actions and face judgment for our sins. It doesn’t seem particularly good to judge people for actions that were predetermined beforehand. Or is it that each of has free will and chooses pour own way, and somehow God is sovereign over our liberty. Logically, that doesn’t make sense either. It sort of lets God off the hook, but it sounds dumb. Now I’m flustered.  God makes no sense.

What if our seeking to “make sense” of God is based in the wrong place? What if 2+2=4 isn’t the right system of thought for understanding God? We seek to limit God to something we call logic, but what if that isn’t enough?

God is not logical because logic is for the finite and the fallible. It is a structure created and given by God so that beings with limited knowledge cold solve problems and have a reasonable world. Logic is a framework for understanding created beings and their doings, but God is not created. He is not finite. And He is not bound by logic. What we see as the ultimate basis of understanding is not ultimate at all. It is a created thing too.

To say God is not logical isn’t to say he is illogical. No, God is beyond logic. He is, as the bible puts it, “inscrutable”. He is outside our ability to understand. What we understand of God is but a sliver of who is, revealed to us out kindness. He doesn’t fail to make sense. To accuse Him of such is blasphemous. We simply don’t have the limitless knowledge to understand him.

It is fair to say that God doesn’t make sense but not to say that God isn’t sensible. It is never fair or right to make a judgment of God based on a lack of logic. Think of a father who can stay up late, drink caffeine, and watch scary movies but doesn’t let his second grader do the same. Why is that ok? What’s right for the parent isn’t always right for the child. The child won’t understand this, may get frustrated at it, but must abide by it. It’s what’s best. In the same way (only infinitely more so) what’s right in the mind of the creator won’t be understood by the created as right all the time. It’s not that He is playing us; we simply cannot understand. It may be frustrating, but we must abide by it. It’s what’s best.

photo credit: bitzcelt via photopin cc

We Know Something Nobody Else Knows

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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We who have trusted in Jesus know something. We know something no one else knows. It is one of the great secrets of life and one of the keys to consistent, deep, abiding joy. What do we know? That our sovereign God, Jesus Christ, the Lord of history, who reigns on his throne for us, causes all things – ALL things – to work together for our good. Really? ALL things? Yes. All things.

All of history. Kingdoms and rulers, wars and discoveries.
All that has happened in our lives – Where we were born, the country, state and town you live in, the language you speak
The period of history we live in
Our education (or lack of)
Every event in our childhood and teenage years.

Jesus causes all good things to work for our good:

First of all, Jesus’ own life was and is for our good, both in eternity and now. Every word he spoke, every action, every miracle – they all work for our good now, especially the cross and the resurrection.
All of heaven, the angels and saints above.
The Bible and prayer – how powerful they are!
The church, worship, giving, preaching, serving, the gifts of the Spirit, working through conflicts with brothers and sisters – it’s all for our good.
Our families – our dads, moms, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents.
Our friends.
Books, music, art, technology, medicine, computers, the internet, television.
Jesus causes all of creation – the stars and galaxies, gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, plants and animals and birds and bugs (yes, I tell myself, even our two dogs) to work for our good.

It’s easy to see how God uses all good things for our good. But we know by faith that Jesus causes all evil and bad things to work together for our good. Jesus turns to our good:

Every sin we’ve committed. By no means does this encourage us to sin for sin offends our holy God. We may look back on our sins with deep regret and sadness, but Jesus is so great he causes even them to work together for our good. Jesus also uses:
Our temptations and struggles
All things from our past, tragic or sad
Every evil in the world
Satan and demons
Every trial, affliction and tragedy we face now
Every sad thing
Every sickness and disease
Every lack
Every failure, or poor decision
Every bad thing someone does to us, every sin someone commits against us.

But wait, there’s more: Jesus works together for our good:

Times of waiting
Unfulfilled hopes
Joy, sorrow
Hunger, thirst
Weakness, pain, confusion, misery, boredom, emptiness. You get the idea.

Why do all things work together for our good? Because Jesus is on the throne, sovereign over all, and he loves us. He works day and night for our good. Not one single thing that happens to us is outside his control or purpose for us.

And what is our “good?” To be like him, to know him and enjoy his fellowship and love. To be holy like he is, and have his image stamped upon us. To be overflowing with the fruit of his Spirit. To be filled with his joy forever.

Let us remember this today and give him praise for everything that happens to us. Let’s praise him for as much as we can. For every good thing and every bad thing. Someday we’ll see how Jesus’ divine genius worked them for our eternal everlasting good.

The Kind Of People God Loves To Use

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Most of us will never star in a movie, win a gold medal or speak to thousands. In this day of celebrities and even celebrity pastors, it’s good to remind ourselves that God loves to save and work through common ordinary people. That’s one truth the Christmas story teaches us.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27)

Galilee was a small city of less than 2000 people in an insignificant region of Israel, 63 miles north of Jerusalem in Judea separated by Samaria. Biblical Scholar RT France says, “Judeans despised their northern neighbors as country cousins” “who lacked Jewish sophistication.” Galileans spoke “a distinctive form of Aramaic whose slovenly consonants… were the butt of Judean humor.” Reminds me of how some sophisticated folks disdain a Western Pennsylvania accent: “Hey, yinz goin dahntahn to see da Picksbarg Stillers? Be sure to pick up some chip chop ham ‘n ‘at at da Gian Iggle.” Judeans were also of the opinion that Galileans were lax in their observance of proper ritual, and this problem was made worse by their distance from the temple and religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Remember when Philip told Nathanael about Jesus for the first time: …“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” …(John 1:45-46)

Jesus himself would have had the Galilean accent and been despised by the religious elite in Jerusalem for his roots.

Gabriel was sent to “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” Mary was a young girl. According to many biblical scholars, in that day, betrothal (which was like engagement) often took place as young as 12 years old, then marriage a year later.) So Mary was most likely a young girl engaged to a young carpenter named Joseph.

God doesn’t do things the way we would. God didn’t announce the birth of the Messiah to a sophisticated religious leader in the religious capital. He chose to make one of history’s greatest announcements to an ordinary unsophisticated young girl in an unimpressive small town that would have been looked down on by the religious establishment in Jerusalem.

1 Co 1:26- 28 says:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…

I said this to our church yesterday: “We are nothing great. We’re a bunch of pretty ordinary folks out here in Indiana PA. Most of the world, and most of the United States have never heard of Indiana PA. When my dad was transferred here from Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was in 8th grade I said, “Indiana, Pennsylvania? What kind of town is that? It can’t even come up with its own name but has to steal it from a state.” We at this church are nothing special. We’re a bunch of sinners that Jesus has rescued and is changing. If you’re new here and you feel like you’re not that great, then you’ll fit in just fine. Because God loves to work through ordinary folks. Even through people with Western PA accents.”

I’m so glad God chose the lowly, the weak and the foolish and those unwise by wordly standards. Because that’s me. That’s most of us who Jesus saves. And that’s who Jesus loves to use. Ordinary people. 13 year old girls from small towns. Carpenters. Shepherds. Jesus wants to use you for his glory. He wants to use you to reach and bless people no one else can reach. Ask Jesus today to use you for his glory.

Confidence in the Midst of Confusion

We live in a confused world. Has anyone else noticed? This past Friday California governor Jerry Brown signed a law stating that a child can have more than two parents. Both Massachusetts and California have passed legislation allowing transgender students in public schools to use restroom facilities and play on sex-segregated teams based on their gender of choice. Amid this gender confusion, the New York Times has recently informed us that dogs are people, too. Dogs are people…but are baby girls?

London-based The Guardian’s recent article supporting abortions for sex-selection makes us wonder if, at this particular cultural moment, dogs might be better off than babies. We could go on. According to Merriam-Webster, confusion is “a situation in which people are uncertain about what to do or are unable to understand something clearly.” Translation: we are confused. Confused about what it means to be a human. Confused about what it means to be a man or a woman. We are confused, and we’re moving rapidly forward in our confusion.

And sadly, in the midst of this confused culture, we the church often respond with just as much confusion. We react with anger, talking about losing the culture wars and about our disagreement with “them” – whether “they” are the gay-rights lobby, the environmentalists, the liberals, or the conservatives. We act as though picket lines with “God Hates Fags” signs, or so-called “zingers” like, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” are an adequate and faithful response to the confusion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other extreme, in the name of relevance we rush to accept all that the world is currently accepting. We agree with a world wracked with the cancer of sin but convinced of its health, saying: “If you think you’re fine just the way you are, who are we to disagree with you?” We can no longer be physicians of the soul because we have joined in the great lie that there is no disease.

Confusion. Confusion (often) in the church, confusion in the culture.  But in the midst of all this, let me tell you why I am not fearful when I consider the future. I am not fearful because of the words of our Lord: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). In these words, Christians have confidence in the midst of confusion.

Christ – the one who conquered death and sin, the one who is seated at the right hand of God, the one to whom all the worship of heaven is given – this Jesus Christ will build his church.

Christ will build – living stone by living stone, regenerated heart by regenerated heart, amid confusion and error – Christ will surely build his church.

Christ will build his church – his bride and treasured possession, the congregation of the redeemed, his faithful witnesses here on earth – Christ will build, purify, and sustain his imperfect yet glorious church.

Brothers and sisters, there are saddening events taking place around us. When confusion reigns, men and women and children suffer. Let us pray. Let us weep with those who weep. Let us love.  But let us never despair. Christ will build his church. The light of the gospel shines brighter amid the darkness of disorder. The true Redeemer is revealed as all-sufficient only when false redeemers fail. Christ is building his church, and confusion cannot stop him.

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