Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The list of grace

Now, this is what the Lord says, the one who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, for I will protect you. I call you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (NET)

In the early 1980’s, a situation comedy, Night Court, aired on television. The leading character, Judge Harry Stone, was an unconventional judge who presided over a circuit court that was held at night. In the very first episode, Judge Stone described how he was appointed judge. It seems that on a Sunday evening, which was the last day that the mayor of New York was in office, he needed to appoint a judge. The mayor had a list of 1000 candidates, and he began calling each name on the list, but nobody answered. Finally, the mayor called the last name on the list, which was Harry Stone, and Harry answered the phone. It seems that the most unlikely candidate for judge won the appointment because he was home and answered the phone.

However, Harry makes a point that is worth thinking about. He said: “You know, my name was at the bottom of that list of prospective judges because I haven’t had much experience really. But, every candidate goes through a screening process, and whatever anybody thinks of that list, I was on it.”

The point is not that Harry was at the bottom of the list and answered the phone—the point is that Harry was on the list and answered the phone. He was qualified for the appointment, no matter how the appointment came about. This is a wonderful analogy for God’s saving grace. Christ died on the cross for all of us. We are all qualified to be on the list because God personally wrote all of our names on the list with the blood of His own son. God calls each of us by name—each and every one of us—to an eternal appointment, but it is up to us to answer the call.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Rooted in Christ

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:6-8 (NRSV)

The longer we do something, the more attached we become to that which we do. For example, it is easier to move into a new home if we have lived in our former home for only a year. If we have lived in our former home for 40 years, there is 40 years of living that must be dealt with. Not only are our belongings hard to part with, but our living in the home has created memories and emotions that are attached to the trappings of the home.

In the passage of scripture above, our lives must be attached to Christ by living each moment and each day in communion with Him. This is the way that we become rooted in Christ. Each small increment of faith and thanksgiving allows our roots in Christ to grow deeper and wider until the world has very little effect on us.

Our Christian walk takes time. In fact, it takes our whole lives. It is our walk that allows our roots to grow firmly in Christ, and each moment, each step and each memory helps us to build a lasting relationship with the Lord.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Knowledge of God

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
 For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95:1-5 (ESV)

Sometimes I wonder how we came to know that there is a God. We cannot see Him with our eyes, nor can we feel His touch. Yet, since human civilization began, there has been evidence that people have believed in a greater being—a power greater than people themselves.  And, for thousands of years, there have also been people who do not believe in a greater power. Why, with all of the opposition to God, the unbelief, and the lack of a visible, touchable deity, does belief in God continue to persist?

Although science and scientists may question or refute the existence of God, science not overshadowed the knowledge of God because many learned scientists have a very strong faith in the Almighty God.  Suffering and persecution cause many people to abandon God, yet the same suffering and persecution has drawn many people closer to God. Many people who were raised by atheist parents have grown to have very deep beliefs in God. Many people who were raised by very devout believers have become atheists or they believe in other deities. Faith in God seems to have no pattern, no rhyme, nor reason. This makes me wonder why, in spite of all the uncertainty, faith in God still exists.

The Bible answers these questions.  It is because God made us and He made everything we see and touch. We have faith in God because He made us to have faith in Him. The Bible is the only piece of ancient literature that gives an interpretation of how the world began that corresponds to scientific evidence.  God has given us the ability to know Him, and the choice to turn our backs to Him.   But the knowledge of God is still proclaimed throughout all creation, whether we acknowledge it or not.  Knowledge of God will never fade because He created it!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Obedience and our love for God

“1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1 (NRSV)

“22 And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed than the fat of rams” 1 Samuel 15:22 NRSV

One great theme, arguably the greatest theme of the Bible, is the sovereignty of a loving God over the entire universe. God created everything to in order to worship Him. There are many scriptures in the Bible recounting the praise and worship of a God much greater than man can comprehend. Psalms 99-100 and Revelation 19 are among the scriptures that deal with the praise and worship of God on a grand scale.

The scriptures above talk about obedience and worship (sacrifice and praise). When we think about obedience, we often think about a list of rules that we need to follow in order for God to view us as good. Actually, God views our obedience in a different way. According to Romans 12:1, we are to present our bodies (our physical being, including our thoughts, actions) as living sacrifices. Obedience consists of putting all of our spiritual and physical efforts toward pleasing God. When we do this, God delights in our effort.

When we strive to obey rules, our intention is to make ourselves look good. I am ashamed to admit that I have, on more than one occasion, given a tithe to church with the thoughts of how I would rather be spending the money. My intention to give the tithe was not to praise God for the bounty He has provided for me, but to fulfill a self-imposed duty so I could feel good about myself, or that my husband or family would be proud of me. This kind of obedience has never worked well for me. However, each time that I have given a tithe with a song of praise in my heart for the blessings that God have given for me, the joy I feel always surpasses any enjoyment I may have gotten from spending the money on something I wanted.

Our obedience is the greatest praise that we can give to God because it is what God desires from us. He desires our love and companionship. Obedience provides an opening for God to pour His blessings into our hearts.