Tuesday, November 21, 2017

1000 X 1000 and More

I believe in Jesus.  I did not always make good choices as a teenager, but choosing Jesus way back then was the decision of a lifetime.  When I knelt by my bed just before I reached eighteen years of age and accepted Jesus as the Savior I so desperately needed, the direction of my life was turned in a new and different direction.  While it was a moment of hearing a call to ministry, even more it was a beckoning toward a way of life that put within me new attitudes, new purposes, and new hopes.  I needed some solid ground upon which to stand and build the rest of my life.  Jesus has proven to be that solid ground a thousand times a thousand and more.
Believing Jesus to be a good teacher is not that same thing as believing in Him as the Savior of the world, or the Savior who died for our sins.  Believing that Jesus died for our sins on the cross requires some pre-requisite convictions.  First, it is necessary to know our self as a sinner-- not someone who makes bad choices, or who is the victim of uncontrollable circumstances, but a sinner.  Secondly, it is necessary to know that sin separates us from God who is holy.  Thirdly, once separated from God because of sin, we do not have the  power within us to make things right again.  The choice to sin is in our hands, but the power to make ourselves right before God is not something we can do.  Fourthly, Someone outside of our self is required to do for us what we cannot do for our self.  This someone is Jesus who sacrificed Himself on the cross to take care of the problem sin causes for us.  He makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God; thereby, overcoming the separation.

While this is a bit too simple for some, it is all true.  Jesus did for us what we cannot do for our self.  We cannot save our self.  We are sinners in need of not just a savior, but sinners in need of the Savior of the world, the One sent by God to assure us of forgiveness and provide for us a reconciled life.  I believe in Jesus.  I believe a thousand times a thousand and more that Jesus died on the cross because of my sins and yours sins and that His obedience can deliver us from the power sin and guilt has over us. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Even Me...Even You

When we read those parts of the Word which tell us that God has a plan for you and me, we sometimes find ourselves wondering.  Like the believer who thinks he or she must have been behind the door when spiritual gifts were being given out, some of us feel that way about God's plan for us.  While we do not question that He has a plan for some folks, we are so immersed in what seems to be an ordinary commonplace life that we read those Words about a divine plan more with resignation than strong conviction.  Our lives are not as exciting as some who find that God's plan sends them on great journeys.  Instead, we find ourselves wandering around where we have always been doing what we always have done.
But, the truth is that God really does have a plan for each of us.  It begins with seeing Jesus dying on the cross and coming to understand what that single act of sacrifice and love means for each one of us.  As we begin to walk in that unfolding plan, we see that we are being called to a life that speaks of the heart and spirit of Jesus.  His plan is for us to be live with grace and to give grace.  It is for us to be kind and compassionate, understanding, and accepting.  His plan means living as one who is ready to forgive instead of nurturing grudges.  Actually, if we want to see something of the plan of God for each one of us, we need go no further than a reading of the Sermon on the Mount.
No single one of us is a step-child in the family of God.  We are heirs with the Son.  We are full members of the family.  We are loved by Him and if we were the only one in need of the cross, He would have died for that single one of us.  Make no mistake.  There is a plan.  The plan speaks of how we are to live loving God and loving those around us.   

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Trembling Place

When some say, "It is easy for you to talk about believing in the plan of God" because you have never been without a roof over your head, or you have never had to worry about the next meal, or you have never held your small child in your arms while she dies from not having anything to eat or drink, or you do not know what it is like to live as a refugee, I can offer no argument.  Whenever I say that I believe in the plan of God, it seems that I am standing on trembling earth.  I do not understand why some live with Job like disasters in their life and mine has been so different.
It is not that my life has been empty of tragedy, or great difficulties, or chaos.  I can look back over my three score and ten years and see some rough times, but still I know my troubles have been of a lesser consequence than many.  When I speak of believing that life is purposeful and inside the great broad plan of God, I speak not of some special treatment.  I am not claiming some privileged status in the eyes of God.  Far from it.  Like the Apostle Paul, I belong in the "chief among sinners" category.  What I speak about is not being special or privileged in my personal situation, but of a mindset which we grow into as we learn to trust in God.

There is no question that I live without complete understanding of the things of God.  But, believing in Him means that He is trustworthy.  God does not lie or misrepresent Himself.  Neither does He speak half truths, or withhold some of it to make Himself look good in my eyes.  So, when He speaks in His written Word, I have no choice but to believe it. Even when I do not understand and even when it seems to have confusing contradictions or paradoxes, I accept the reality that God speaks truth.  Neither does it change my belief in Him and the plan He is working out in my  life and yours..

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Plan

We all have plans for our life.  It does not matter whether we are 18 or 81, we still make our plans.  It is as if the reality for tomorrow demands a plan.   Sometimes our plans work out as we planned and, sometimes, there is no evidence of them in our life.   It is true what the old poet said about "the best laid plan of mice and men,"  "they oft' go awry."   I have watched some of my plans come to fruition, but I have also seen them like shattered glass on the ground.  One of the reassuring things about which the Word speaks is God's plan for us.
For some it is a bit too much to think that life can somehow be understood as being inside the plan and purposes of God.  Is it not too much of an ego trip to think that God with all He has to do to keep the universe going would have a plan for individual people like you and me?  Could it not be a way of avoiding responsibility for a life poorly lived by simply shrugging the shoulders and saying life is as it is because it is God's plan?  If God has a plan, then why should we make any at all?  Maybe all we should really do is sit back and let Him work out His plan in our life. 
Of course, there are numerous passages which point to God having a plan for our life.  One is certainly Romans 8:28 which reminds us that not even difficult times can mess up the plan of God.  And then in Jeremiah 29:11, there is that often quoted verse which says, "For surely I know the plans I have made for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."  As I was going forward into the future, I spoke of such being true, but mostly I spoke with hope.  As I find myself now looking back and seeing more past than future ahead, I am convinced that my life has been no different than yours.  Too much has happened for good beyond any control of mine not to be convinced that God was working out His plan and purposes for my life.  More than ever, I believe in the plan of God. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Question

The gospel of John can be read and understood as a writing which underscores the importance of belief.  The many narratives tell us about different folks who made different choices.  Some chose to believe.  Some chose not to believe. The choice was not regarded as inconsequential by the writer of the gospel and neither should we think of choosing to believe as something that really does not matter.  The truth is that our choice not only affects the way we are able to live in the present moment, but also through eternity. 
Unfortunately, we live in a day and midst a culture that is so oriented toward today that catching a glimpse of something as big as eternity is an impossibility.  We are a people with a short term view of what is ahead.  We buy our automobiles without any real consideration as to the total cost over the years, only how much it is going to cost to make the monthly payment.  We pay for stuff with plastic because what we want we want now.  We bulldoze through life making a way forward that works best for us today.  While we may give some consideration to putting up money in a retirement fund, we mostly make choices without much consideration to the consequences.  We figure when we get to the future, we will figure it out just as we are figuring out the present.

When we start living with faith in God, trusting in Him, making personal the ancient creed which begins with the words, "I believe in God"  a whole new world opens up in front of us.  We begin to realize that the Kingdom of God is not something which will begin one day, but know that it is something which has already taken root in our heart.  Believing in God moves our reason for living from living to serve self to living to serve God.  We realize that what we do in the present moment will have consequences that will be felt after we are gone from this earth and into the far reaches of eternity as well. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Backup

To affirm "I believe in God" is to speak of a willful decision made not only in the past, but one which is continually made.   We are not born with belief in Him within us, it is something we must choose.  To speak of it being a willful decision may seem to isolate it in the past, but instead, it is a choice which has forever consequences in terms of our lifestyle.  When we decide to believe in God, we are no longer the same.  A change has been made.  Before choosing to believe in God, we lived as a person who believed in self, or some other person, or some thing peculiar to appeasing our ego.
Perhaps, this is why Jesus preached a message of repentance.  We cannot truly live as one who believes in God without repentance.  To declare belief in God screams in the face of everything that was a part of our life prior to the moment of choosing to depend on God.  As we seek to understand what believing in God is all about, that word "depend" truly seems to be an appropriate word.  We depend on God not as one who has a hand out ready for some spiritual handout, but as one who understands that God is the One who gives life, sustains life, and provides all that is necessary for the living we do.  It is in this sense that we depend on God.
Prior to believing in Him, we depended on ourselves.  And even after we choose belief in God as a lifestyle, it is a struggle as we often end up trying to do the thing the ancient Hebrews did as they worshiped Baal and Yahweh.  When they worshipped Baal, they did not throw Yahweh away.  They just kept Baal around in case Yahweh did not deliver on giving them what they thought they needed.  So are we tempted to live.  We say, "I believe in God," but we often end up as if we believe first in ourselves to provide and keep God around as backup in case things do not work out. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

More Than Awareness

While I can remember being aware of God at age seven or eight, it would be a big stretch of the truth to say that I believed in God back then.  Belief or faith is a big concept for a child.  At least it would have been for me.  Awareness is a better word.   My first thoughts of God were filled with images of this big guy peering over heaven's white clouds to see what I was doing.  In one hand He had this big black book and the other a pen to write down what I was doing.  As a child I had no sense of being in a relationship with God as relationships belong to the adult world and not to the world I knew as  a child.    I knew He was there, wherever there was, and that was enough when I was not yet ten years of age.
It was not faith or belief that guided me in my childhood search for God.  Looking back the theological concept which took hold of me before faith was love.  I grew up hearing that this God who was there somewhere loved me.  Not only did He love me, but He wanted me to love Him.  Love is what pushed me forward toward that moment when I would be able to say, "I believe in God" at some personal moment instead of inside the community moment of reciting "The Apostle's Creed."  I do not remember exactly when, but I do know that when I first believed in God it was the God who had revealed Himself in love.

For a long time now I have lived with the words, "I believe in God."  Of course, it is more than just a set of words.  To speak of belief speaks of dependence on Him to be who He has declared Himself to be.  It speaks of surrender to a will that trumps my will.  To affirm "I believe in God" is the fundamental building stones of my life.  Everything begins and ends with those words.  While I am still very much aware of His presence, He has become the One around whom my life turns.  I believe in God.  Those few words say everything about who I am.