Friday, January 30, 2015

Should We Fear God?

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. (‭Exodus‬ ‭1‬:‭15-17‬ NIV)

God shows his power and finesse in this part of the story. The most powerful ruler in the world gives an order that two Hebrew midwives defy. It easily could have resulted in death.

They feared the Lord more than they feared Pharaoh. What would you have done?

What does it mean to fear the Lord? I think these beautiful ladies show us very well.

It includes respect for authority and power. There is a great sense of awe in it. So much so that one is moved to worship.

There is also legitimate fear involved.

This last part (legitimate fear) is the part that gives people trouble. They think, "We shouldn't be afraid of God, should we?" And I can see why they'd ask. But I think the answer is, "Yes. It's good to be afraid of God." As long as you realize that he's also the omni-benevolent, holy God of the Bible. Yes, it's good to fear him.

Just like a young child fears her good and loving father when she's done something worthy of punishment, we should fear a holy God who will also lovingly punish us. It's a matter of trust.

The Hebrew midwives feared Pharaoh, to be sure. But they feared him not only because he was powerful but because he was also wicked.

But they feared the Lord even more. Pharaoh could kill them. But the Lord could do even more than that.

They trusted the Lord. They knew that they had to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord over what Pharaoh wanted. So they risked their lives trusting God with the results. That's what living with a healthy fear of the Lord looks like. And it often results in very good things. In this case, it saved a child. And that led to the deliverance of over a million slaves and the birth of a nation. The nation that God would bless the world through.

If they'd not defied Pharaoh, Moses would have been murdered. But he wasn't because they trusted and obeyed their Lord over a powerful, wicked king.

So what?

We too face decisions that rest in the fear of the Lord. How we will respond to an unscrupulous boss pushing on us corrupt business practices? Or a coach who bends the rules? Or a spouse who wants to cheat a little on their taxes?

We face these kinds of decisions all the time. And God sees it all. The question is, "Do we believe that his knowing matters? Do we fear the Lord?"

The answer will be seen in how we respond. How will you face your fears (of man vs. of God)? Who do you fear more: people or God?

Will we trust and obey the Lord over anyone else regardless of what we think the consequences will be? I pray we will.

What is God saying to you?

What will you do about it?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thank you Angelina Jolie for making #Unbroken

Thank you #AngelinaJolie for telling Louie Zamperini's story in the movie #Unbroken. In light of the criticism you're receiving from some Christians, know that this Christian is grateful. I pray you'll find Louie's faith, if you haven't already.

For those who want the rest of the Louie's story, including his motivation for forgiving his torterous captor, read the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (especially the last 30 pages). 

His Grace May Surprise You

Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭48‬:‭11‬ NIV)

Jacob never expected to see Joseph again. And yet he was not only seeing Joseph but his sons too. Things did not end as he thought they would.

We often talk like we know how things will play out in our lives. We really know very little.

Perhaps instead of talking like we know how things will play out (for good or for bad) we should simply walk with God each day and trust him with the outcome. His grace may surprise us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Scandalous Grace

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. (‭Genesis‬ ‭45‬:‭8‬ NIV)

Joseph shows great confidence in God's sovereign hand at work here in the survival of Israel. But that's another sermon.

He also shows a lot of grace. Dare I say too much? Yes, I think too much.

Scandalous Grace

What amazes me is how Joseph so totally lets his brothers off there hook here. They were going to kill him!

It was only after one of them figured out they could make some money on Joseph that they sold him into slavery. How much do you have to hate your brother to kill him or sell him into slavery?

When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers 16 years later, he puts it all on God--letting them off the hook in the process much to my dismay.

He says, "Don't be angry with yourselves for selling me here..." (No doubt they were still guilt-ridden) "...because it was to save lives that God sent me."

Yes, Joseph, it was. Go God. But aren't they also accountable for their actions? Don't you want revenge? And you have all the power now. Aren't you tempted to get them back? They sure deserve it!

Here is where grace shines.

Yes, they are accountable before God. Yes, they owe Joseph more than an apology. Yes, they did behave like wicked men.

But Joseph had a choice in how he would respond to them. He flirted with revenge. He tested them repeatedly to see their heart and frame of mind. But in the end, he showed them mercy and grace. Scandalous grace. He totally let them off the hook. Totally.

And then he invited them to come live with him in Egypt for the next five years so they'd thrive in the midst of the seven year drought. It's just too much for me. It's just scandalous!

What do I mean by scandalous grace?

Every time I read this passage, I get angry at how Joseph doesn't exact punishment or take revenge on his brothers. I want justice! I want them to get what they deserve. I show my forgetfulness...

I am the brother.

I am the brother who has hated my own brother and wanted to kill him as a young man. Brothers fight and argue regularly. And my brother and I sure did growing up. And he knew how to push my buttons and provoke me. So sure there were times when I wanted to wring his neck. And given the opportunity while in a fit of rage I probably would have. That's how wicked I was.

But, by God's scandalous grace, I'm changing.

So while I'm being transformed into the likeness of Christ, I'm still a long way from there. I still want justice. And that's often appropriate--just not for me. I personally want grace and mercy. But I'm okay playing judge. That's a character flaw God is still working out in my life.

So what?

So who do you want to see get what's coming to them? What does that say about you? Do you want God's forgiveness? His mercy? Or do you think your good and don't need it?

What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What Drives You?

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. (‭Genesis‬ ‭25‬:‭32-34‬ NIV)

Esau and Jacob--two competitive brothers showing their true colors in this exchange. But what really got my attention today was Esau's lack of faith in the blessing he had coming. His foolishness is on full display.

Esau had the spiritual birthright as the oldest son. This was a given and he was to get it one day when his father decided to bless him. This was a big deal and God recognized and honored it.

But to Esau, it had little to no value. After all, he couldn't see this God his father talked about. So what good was it. Especially when it would buy him a feast.

Esau is young, yes. But not all young people are as foolish as he. And it appears that if Isaac taught him things of faith and God Esau didn't believe it much if at all.

This is seen in that he traded his birthright away for a bowl of stew. Clearly he was famished. But I don't care if you haven't eaten in a week. If you believe that God will bless you once you receive your spiritual birthright, I think you might hang on to it even when famished. Easy for me to say, I know. But then the fool thinks with his stomach. He is short-sighted and driven by fleshly desires. Esau is the fool.

Jacob on the other hand did believe in the power, provision and wisdom of the birthright. We could certainly question his motives and methods. But we can see he truly values God's blessing even if his methods leave a lot to be desired.

What about us?

I wonder if I really believe in the value of the spiritual blessing that only God gives. His promises. He wise ways. His example.

Do I pursue the wise path of God's blessing over the foolish path of my fleshly desires? Do I orient my day around God's mission and wisdom--or my appetites? What drives you?

Monday, January 19, 2015

God Answers Specific Prayer

May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭24‬:‭14‬ NIV)

 God answers specific prayers specifically.

Abraham's most senior servant is on the mission of his life. He's looking for a wife for Abraham's son Isaac. His only son by Sarah. The promised son.

Abraham gave his servant very specific instructions. And his servant clearly wanted to please his master. But he also wanted to succeed. Abraham was asking a lot.

As the servant approaches a well in the area that he thinks he'll find Isaac's wife, he prays. Apparently he trusts Abraham's God to not just guide him but to actually pick out Isaac's wife. (Abraham does promise an angel will guide him (v. 7)). But he doesn't just pray--he prays a very specific prayer. 

"May it be that when I say to a young woman, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too.'--let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master."

The servant is trusting in the God to bring success to his mission. It appears that he genuinely believes that God can and will answer his prayer. God surely does!

So what?

God answers specific prayers specifically. The servant asked God for help in finding Isaac's wife. So he asked God a very specific prayer request. And God answered it specifically.

Not only did he answer the prayer, he answered it immediately. "Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out..." (v. 15) God was ready--even eager--to answer this prayer.

What about us?

God wants to bless people through his people. God's desire to bless the nations through Isaac was seen in his answering of the servant's prayer. 

God wants to bless people through us. He will answer our specific prayers specifically--one way or the other. Especially when they are in accordance with his will to bless people through his people. 

When we engage his holy search and rescue mission to lead people far from God to know him, he will answer our prayers. Therefore, let's walk with God and not be afraid to ask for his help--his very specific help--in prayer.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Be Prayerful

We'll pray bolder prayers when we believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing God who one day taught us how to pray. (Matthew 6:5-15)