Friday, 10/19/18 – Tough Question

“Have we misjudged ‘judging’?”

I’ll say we have! In fact, this one is a ‘pet peeve’ of mine. Many good Christians appear to have a skewed understanding of this topic. They are very much aware of Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” But they stop at that, unaware that by doing so other believers could stray into sin.

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Jesus is here addressing nit-picking Pharisees, hypocrites who fault-find over the minutest deviations from their own excessive legalism. He warns these, “….in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He’s saying that if you intend to be that strict with others, then I will be just as strict with you!

It is a well-established principle in scripture, that God responds to us according to our own behavior and character. As David sang following a deliverance from Saul,

To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. (Psalm 18:25, 26)

Yet the Matthew passage goes on to describe a more fitting attitude…

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:3-5)

Notice, He does not say to only deal with the plank in your own eye and then to mind your own business about your brother’s ophthalmological issues. No, he says to first deal with your sin, then from this spirit of humility and with love approach your brother.

Paul exhorts the Galatians to take a similar attitude and approach…

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Gal. 6:1)

The problem is that we have confused condemnation and discernment. We have dumped them both together in the word “judgment,” and, in throwing away judgment we have thrown away discernment too! — The baby along with the bath water, if you please.

As we continue along in Matthew 7 Jesus addresses many issues which require clear judgment: narrow vs wide gates (v.13-14), true vs false prophets (v.15-19), true vs false disciples (v.20-23), wise vs foolish builders (v.24-27) and on it goes. “Judge with righteous judgment,” taught Jesus (John 7:24, NASB).

Paul even scolded the Corinthians for not judging sin among themselves,

…do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? (1 Cor. 6:2-5)

The Corinthian church had been deflecting all matters of dispute to the law courts outside the church. For this Paul levies the harsh words above. But what would a correct implementation look like? Scripture has outlined a very clear three-step process (see Matt. 18:15-17)

In John 8:1-11 we read the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus’ response to her capsulizes the perfect ‘judging’ balance between condemnation and discernment. After asking the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” she replies, “No one, sir,” Jesus says to her, “Then neither do I condemn you,” (no condemning) “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (but a clear discerning).

Press on…

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 10/12/18 – Tough Question

“What is David’s Dancing before the Lord all About Anyway?”

Pastor Steve touched on this in His message last Sunday. King David had wanted to return the Ark to Jerusalem. He had tried once, but it’s transport resulted in the death of a well intentioned man, Uzzah. (2 Sam. 6:6) Then, after seeing how God blessed the household of Abinadab, where they had left the Ark, David decided to try again but this time according to the manner proscribed in the Law. This time he was successful and David “danced before the Lord” (2 Sam. 6:14).

One commentator explained that processions of this kind were often preceeded by a dancing clown performing in honor of the person or thing which prompted the procession. This was always done by a slave. David then took the place of the slave in an act of submission and worship.

Myself, I prefer the simpler explanation: David is just thrilled out of His socks!

I always enjoy the scene in the original 1951 version of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” It is the morning after Scrooge is visited by the three spirits. He awakens delighted that he hasn’t yet missed Christmas. Running to his bedroom window he commissions a youth passing by to run to the butcher and have them send their fattest goose to Bob Cratchit.

Overjoyed he begins dancing around his bedroom. His housemaid, Mrs Dilber, has come in and after some time cautiously asks, “Are you all right, Mr. Scrooge?” Scrooge (ecstatic) replies, “I… I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I never did know anything.” He starts laughing, “But now I KNOW that I don’t know anything!” Then he begins to sing and prance about and clap his hands, “I don’t know anything! I never did know anything! But now I know that I don’t know… All on a Christmas morning!” Unsure what to do with all his pent-up joy he asks himself, “Shall I stand on my head? I must stand on my head.” He does so, and Mrs. Dilber runs out of the room screaming. – Watch the end clip of this classic film here.

I think this pretty well describes the elation that prompted David’s dancing. It was an expression of his sheer joy before the Lord. The Lord had blessed this relocation of the Ark by making it successful. No one perished on this trip for David had taken pains this time to move it according to the Law. God’s pleasure was upon him.

There is no greater joy than to live in good conscience with God.

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 10/5/18 – Tough Question

“Why?”

From Star Trek to Dr. Who or Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, War Games or Jumanji, Dark Star or Red Dwarf, The Runaways or The Prisoner — sci-fi is replete with mastermind computers experiencing meltdown because the hero asks it one simple unsolvable question, “Why?”

Listen to any four or five year old and soon will begin their unending quest of prior causes… “Why is A B?” “Well, because B C.” “Why is B C?” “Because C D” “Then why is…” You get the idea. One study reports that a typical preschooler asks some 288 questions per day! I’m sure that “Why?” tops the list!

When personal tragedy strikes, or as we observe the woes of this world, we cry out “Why?” “Why” this inner angst?… “Why” this empty spot in the soul?… “Why” am I here, only to live a brief moment, then die? Was Shakespeare right? Is life no more than “a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing?” Is this all there is? Shall we, as the song says, “just keep dancing….. just break out the booze and have a ball?”

“Why?” can drive people crazy. “Why?” can cause mortals to melt down too.

The pastor of a large church I attended some forty-something years ago now once stated,

“The Christian knows what life is all about and what he is supposed to do with it.” – Pastor Michael P. Horban, Elim Tabernacle, Saskatoon, SK.

His words initially shook me, but as I pondered, I realized they were true!

God created us simply because He wanted someone to love, and someone to love Him. God loving us is Blessedness… us loving God is Worship. That happy relationship is our purpose. As The Westminster Catechism summarises well, we were made “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

But we wandered away.

Solomon, like Neil Young, went “searching for a heart of gold.” He concluded, “God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Now our situation is better reflected by Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” – Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Confessions.

In Christ, God has answered the “Why?” question. It is the same answer He gave to Job. It is not at all the answer we had expected. In fact, we’ve had the question all wrong too. We’ve been like the preschooler asking “Why doesn’t the sky fall down?” The question must change before any answer is possible.

The question is not “Why?” but “Who?”

The Answer is “I AM.”

I know… right now it may not seem like an answer at all! But it is. Does it disturb you that you cannot get your mind around God? I would think it should disturb you more if you could!

Ah, but you can get your heart around Him – and He is able to reside within it. Ask with your heart, not your mind. Look for a Person, not a statement. He is the only way to prevent melt-down.

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 9/28/18 – Tough Question

“Does Prayer Cause God to Change His Mind?”

When I was eight I asked my parents for the things and pleasures desirable to an eight year old: an expanded train track for my electric train set, a model rocketry kit, a third frosted donut…

My strategy was quite basic. Let’s call it the ‘Ask Mom and Dad’ strategy. It went like this… I would approach my parents and say something like this: “Mom, dad, can I have a ______?” Sheer genius in its simplicity!

I don’t think I ever evaluated this approach, I simply used it and accepted the results whether favorable or unfavorable. I don’t think I ever posed such question to myself as “Does the ‘Ask Mom and Dad’ strategy work?” But one thing I understood clearly was that NOT using the strategy surely did NOT ‘work!’ Asking was the way to go alright, because a sometimes “Yes” was better than a never “Yes”.

Eventually I understood that the ‘unfavorable results’ were not due to some failure in my strategy, but resulted from the greater love and superior wisdom of my parents regarding what was best for me. Sometimes what was best for me was not some ‘fad’ toy or sugary treat, but another pair of ‘husky’ play pants, or (ugh) a plate of broccoli!

Well, you see where I’m going with this. Yes, God responds to our prayers, but He also responds to His unchanging Nature. God is good, all-wise and all-loving, and these qualities do not change. Both old and new testaments underscore this:

“I the Lord do not change.” (Mal. 3:6)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)

We must also remember that God exists In Eternity, outside of time. Time is but another of His creations (Gen. 1:3-5). This fact is important when we talk about cause and effect in relation to God – specifically, “Does God respond to our prayers?”

Let’s look at Jonah. We all know the story: Jonah ran from God because he did not want to pronounce judgment on the Ninevites. Not that he cared for the Ninevites, but he knew the Nature of God. He knew that the Ninevites would repent, and God, being merciful, would relent… not sending judgment upon them after all. Jonah wanted to avoid giving this message and then in the end look stupid because his predicted judgment did not happen! Talk about ego!

Anyway, after the whole episode with the whale, Jonah delivers the message and indeed the people repent and God responds just as Jonah knew He would.

“When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10, NLT)

Here we see the immutable (unchanging) Nature of God responding to the sincere repentance of man. Key to understanding this is to focus on the Word “When.” Let me ask you this, WHEN DID this all-knowing God “see what they had done”? Was there ever a “time” this eternal God did NOT see the response of the Ninevites?

Big thoughts indeed, but perhaps we can begin to see that, Yes indeed, “the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16) But prayer is not a strategy that one ‘uses’ to get God to perform for you. Rather, it is our communication with a loving heavenly Father Who is all-wise and has our best interests always at the forefront of His thoughts — and He is seeking fellowship with us!

Let me repeat what I stated earlier: Yes, God responds to our prayers, but He also responds according to His good, all-wise, all-loving, and unchanging Nature.

The “how” and “when” of all this may be beyond our ability to understand, but He has given us this curious yet reassuring promise,

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” (Isa. 65:24)

Press on…

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 9/21/18 – Tough Question

“How could Jesus ‘learn obedience from what He suffered’ and be ‘made perfect’? (Heb. 5:8)
Was there a time when Jesus was disobedient, or imperfect?”

20180918_193624I stopped by a yard sale one day a few years ago and noticed a toaster oven that looked like a good deal. “Does it work?” I asked the seller. “Yeah, you can try it out if you like. Got an extension cord right here.” So, I plugged it in, ran it through its settings – toast, broil, bake… checked out the timer… “ding!” Yep, it worked just fine. “OK,” I said, “I’ll buy it.” And that old toaster oven served us well for several years.

I’ll get back to this later, but now let’s look at the passage which prompted today’s question…

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 5:7-10).

In English the word ‘perfect’ generally refers to a thing that is ‘flawless,’ but the Greek word τελειόω used here for ‘perfect’ has a much wider meaning. It can mean to make perfect, but also to carry something through completely, to accomplish, or to add what is yet lacking in order to render a thing full or to bring it to fulfilment.

Elsewhere in scripture Jesus said He had not come not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17). Sin still required a sacrifice to atone for it, but now Jesus Himself would be that sacrifice once and forever more. During his sojourn on this Earth he would show himself to be that ultimate high priest as well.

Suffering is a part of human experience. If Jesus were to fulfill the role of high priest, then sharing in suffering would be a necessary part of it. In order for Jesus to share in human suffering he had to be incarnate and live for a time among us. This He did for thirty years – from babe to man — prior to beginning His three year ministry.

Although Jesus was perfect in his very nature, to become our high priest he had to experience the temptations and suffering of our humanity and yet not be conquered by them as was the first man Adam. He had to demonstrate in practice what He knew He already was. Only in this way could he prove that he was indeed our sinless High Priest.

Where we failed when tested in the Garden of Eden, Jesus succeeded when tested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thus He qualified to offer Himself a Sacrifice in our stead.

Barnes puts it like this,

Yet learned he obedience – That is, he learned experimentally and practically. It cannot be supposed that he did not “know” what obedience was; or that he was “indisposed” to obey God before he suffered; or that he had, as we have, perversities of nature leading to rebellion which required to be subdued by suffering, but that he was willing to “test” the power of obedience in sufferings…

Like the toaster oven I mentioned above, He had to be “tried” in order to prove His worth.

Thank the Lord that Jesus always passes every test and — if we have made Him our Lord — He now dwells within us and helps us to do likewise.

Press on…

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 9/14/18 – Tough Question

“Are Dinosaurs in the Bible?”

Whether or not you believe dinosaurs are found in the Bible their remains are certainly found in museums and archeological digs around the world. Some ancient cave deawings may also depict them. We cannot dismiss them.

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But whether or not the Bible mentions any animal neither proves nor disproves its existence. Many creatures are not mentioned in the Bible; the common house cat may be one of them, though there is one staring me down right now — our own “Miss Molly” wants her morning scratch.

One theory is that dinosaurs roamed the earth very early in its creation – In fact all within Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 during a sort of failed ‘first attempt’ at creation resulting in the earth being ‘without form and void.’ Personally, I have a hard time accepting a God Who botches up!

The book of Job is understood to be the oldest book in the Bible. Chapters 40 and 41 describe two creatures: one a land dwelling herbivore and the other a tightly scaled see creature. We have only been able to guess just what these are. Some have suggested the elephant or hippopotamus or perhaps a large crocodile. But the descriptions could equally apply to a few species of what we call dinosaurs.

God is actually challenging Job in these chapters, pointing out His own might by a sampling of things He created.

In Job 40:15-24 He describes the “Behemoth.” This creature “feeds on grass like an ox,” has mighty muscular strength, it’s tail “sways like a cedar,” it’s skeletal system is like bronze and iron. It stands firm in the Jordan, resisting the strongest raging of its waters.

Job 41:1-2,7,12-32 describes the “Leviathan.” This beast has an impenetrable skin of scales, powerful jaw and “terrible teeth all around.” It “sneezes” out flashes of light, and from its mouth “sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.” This creature “makes the deep boil like a pot” and “leaves a shining wake behind him.” Psalms 74:14, 104:25-26, and Isaiah 27:1 also mention this one.

What ever happened to these animals? Did they perish in the great flood? (It is difficult to imagine these beasts also on the ark!) Short answer is: we just really do not know. Just as there are many things about the future that we cannot know now, there may also be many things about the past that we cannot know until all is revealed in eternity.

One thing for sure though, we serve a powerful God Who demonstrates His strength in creations past, present and future.

Press on!

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 9/7/18 – Tough Question

“How can a person get past a sense of unworthiness and receive all that Christ wants to give?”

I’m sure that on some level we have all felt this way. “For me!? Oh you shouldn’t have!” Some extravagant gift was given for which we feel unworthy and to us this graciousness seems wasteful or unnecessary. But despite your protests the deed is done and all you can do is express your humble gratitude.

But when it comes to the graciousness of God the stakes are raised to the nth degree! I a sinner and the free gift eternal life! Further transforming gifts of love, joy, peace, endurance, guidance, safety and courage… answers to prayers for provision, healing, direction in life!

The Truth is we are unworthy! And the more we realize this fact the more thankfulness and love our joyful hearts should generate.

Luke relates an episode in Jesus ministry where while dining in the home of a Pharisee, a sinful woman approaches with a jar of expensive perfume. Coming up behind Jesus she weeps her tears onto His feet, wipes them with her hair, kisses them, then pours on the perfume. All of this is her expression of thankfulness and worship. Jesus responds with a parable about two debtors then states this principle: “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” The more one realizes one’s unworthiness, the more one apprehends God’s Grace and the greater will be one’s gratitude. (Read the whole story: Luke 7:36-50)

God delights in bestowing His goodness on those who cannot repay! Remember the story of the man who gave a banquet but the invited guests refused to attend? He told his servant to go out to the streets and alleys and gather the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. (See Luke 14:15-23) — and He tells us to do the same:

“…When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:12-14)

God doesn’t want repayment, He simply wants us to feel the joy as we express our gratitude back to Him and worship Him with our hearts, our words, our lives! Someone has stated: “Abundant life is God’s gift to you, what you do with it is your gift to Him!”

Do you feel unworthy? You are, but you are also in the best position to return to Him the greater praise and love!

Be thankful — and Press on…