The Psalms are filled exhortations (encouragement, urging) us to be thankful and to praise God. We can easily gloss over the many examples and frequent reminders that we should give thanks and praise to God. We can easily miss the essence and significance of thanksgiving.
The decades and generations that have passed may have dulled our memories of the brutal reality of the Civil War. More Americans died in the Civil War than any other war. Anyone who has seen a Civil War surgeon’s tolls can imagine the brutality of it. Beyond the physical toll, Americans experienced the collective anxiety of a nation coming apart at the seams. The Civil War divided a nation, divided families and threatened an uncertain future.
The Psalms were penned (many of them) by King David, who reigned at the height of the glory of the Jewish nation. But David’s life was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Continue reading →
“[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject[i] itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so…. (Romans 8:7)
[C]reation was subjected[ii] to futility[iii], not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free ….” (Romans 8: 20-21)
Life and death, the universe and all the “stuff” that is, ever was and ever will be are “in God’s hands”. That is another way of saying that God created everything. God is timeless and immaterial and has created all that is material out of nothing, including us.
But the material world, the world as we know it, is passing away, even from the moment it was created!
And that is all part of God’s ultimate plan, though we, being only part of the material creation, have a hard time seeing it.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7
Verse 5 ends with the statement, “The Lord is near.” Then, it continues with, “Be anxious for nothing….” The Greek word translated “anxious” means to be literally drawn in opposite directions. It conveys the idea of being divided, pulled apart and distracted which is what worry does. Worry distracts us from faith and trust in God and His promises.
The word translated, “anxious,” is in the present imperative, meaning to stop (right now!) being anxious. Stop being divided in your affections. Stop being distracted and pulled in different directions. Stop it, right now! Stop, being distracted by worry and fear.
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. (Exodus 15:23-25)
Moses had just led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea that God parted for them. All the women had taken up timbrels and followed Miriam dancing and celebrating, exalting God for rescuing them from the Army of the Pharaoh. From there, Moses began to lead the newly freed nation into the wilderness.
They had wandered only three days, but it was three days without water. They found water at Marah, but it was too bitter to drink. So, the people began to get restless and “grumbled” to Moses. This is only the beginning of the grumbling, a theme that would continue throughout the years wandering in the wilderness. Even after God did miraculous things, like part the Red Sea and rescue them from certain capture and calamity, the people were quick to fall back to the habit of complaining.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
Although we have the choice to receive God, those who receive God do not grasp on to something that they have uniquely divined. We cannot boast in receiving God. Gaining knowledge of God and becoming a child of God has more do to with God than us.
When people claim that Christians are exclusive and boast of a righteousness and holiness that is exclusive, bigoted and intolerant (to put it in modern terms), they do not understand what they are saying. God presents Himself to us, and we either receive Him or not. It is not our choice (not by the will of the flesh or of the will of man).
The righteousness does not come from us. God extends the right to us to become His children. Continue reading →
In the Sermon on the Mount (where Jesus spoke to His disciples, not the crowds that also followed Him) a couple of the subjects that Jesus addressed seem contradictory at first blush. They both relate on the surface to the way we act in public, before other people. He said, on the one hand:
You are the light of the world…. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14, 16)
Jesus, on the other hand, gave the following negative instruction:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1);
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The tendencies of the self work within us and the forces of the world in which we live press upon us to move us along the broad and wide way. This way is easy and feels familiar. It is the milieu into which we are born and operates according to the customary and usual ways of our culture and society. Continue reading →