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Weekly Word

Entries in God (5)

Tuesday
Sep202016

Society under Siege: The Littlest among Us

Genesis 9:6-7; Luke 1:36; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:4-5.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 18, 2016.

Today we are going to talk about the topic of abortion.  I am convinced that, given enough time, future generations will judge our generation for abortion as harshly as we judge previous generations for slavery.  Some of the judgments are true.  However, sometimes we overlook the context of how people can be blind to that which is socially acceptable.  We also often overlook that many people worked within the system in order to overturn it.  The reason I bring this up is to point out that in some ways our society has gotten better and yet in other ways we have gone backwards.  Abortion is one of those areas in which we have fallen backwards.

The taking of the life of a child, whether in the womb or shortly after birth, is a practice that was not invented in the modern era.  It has happened on into the recesses of history at the altars of the fallen gods of antiquity.  Instead of looking down upon our ancestors with moral certitude, as if they were brutish, unthinking beasts, we should recognize the ways that we do the very same things ourselves.  They may not be the exact same things or in exactly the same ways, but we share a likeness to them.  When one objectively looks at a society that aborts a million babies a year, it becomes clear that something has declared war upon the littlest among us.

Human Life Is Sacred

The Word of God to Noah after the flood is an important passage.  Along with other passages in Genesis are critical because they are foundational to how we live our life.  In this country we have been building a society that no longer sees human life as absolutely sacred.  We have intellectually reached a point where we can only say, “Some human life is sacred.”

In Genesis 9:6-7 God reminds Noah that mankind has been created in His image.  This alludes back to Genesis 1:26-27.  This passage helps us to see that the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden did not cancel out this issue.  Even in his fallen state, man is designed to be an “image-bearer” of God.  So what does that mean?  Neither passage completely explains it other than to make it the clear distinction between mankind and the animals.  Throughout history theologians have come up with an answer that divides the attributes of God into those attributes we cannot share (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence) and those that we can.  These are often called communicable attributes because they can be shared with us.  They are things like love, goodness, rationality, knowledge, mercy, justice, language, truthfulness, and wisdom.  This list can easily be expanded upon further thought.  Though the fall of mankind definitely impacted our ability to be “like” God, it did not change our design and status as image-bearers of God. 

In this passage God makes this point to deal with the subject of murder.  Before the flood we recognize that God gave Cain (who murdered his brother Abel) a punishment and yet also mercy.  There was no capital punishment.  Yet, the whole earth became full of violence.  So after the flood, God institutes the command that murders must be put to death by mankind.  A society (whether family or larger) would be responsible to uphold the sacredness of the image of God within mankind.  Here we see that an attack upon a human is an attack upon God by extension.  There are many today who believe that abortion is not wrong, but who are staunchly against capital punishment.  They will often point out the “hypocrisy” of a God who would say in Exodus 20:13, “Thou shalt not kill,” and then sanction the death of the murderer.  Of course this is a simplistic treatment of what God is saying.  First, it is better to translate the Exodus verse as, “You shall not murder.”  Anyone who murders other forfeits their right to life because they have sinned against the image-bearer of God.

Now notice how many of these same people will promote the sacredness of life to the degree that not even a murderer should be killed.  Yet, they only believe life is sacred when it is outside of the womb.  Even this idea is challenged by many who believe that the value of a person (rather than sacredness)is dependent upon one’s ability to help society.  Ultimately, under this kind of thinking, only certain lives are sacred, and that will always be defined by the powerful in the end.  God’s point is that the taking of a murderer’s life is righteous.  You may disagree with that, but it is far more intuitive than the idea that it is okay or good to take the life of a fetus.  Is the taking of the life of a fetus ever righteous?  What have they done that is worthy of death?  Even in the case of incest or rape, why would you punish the child for the actions of a wicked person?  Is having a baby something that will destroy a person’s life?

Though these arguments may not be persuasive enough to change a person’s mind, at least they ought to help you see that it is easier to make the case for capital punishment than abortion.  According to God the taking of a human life must only be done in response to murder and abortion fails this test.

Human Life Is Recognized In The Womb

All throughout the Bible the baby in the womb is recognized as human.  In Luke 1:36-37 the angel Gabriel has finished telling Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God.  Gabriel then reveals that Mary’s relative Elizabeth has “conceived a son.”  The language of the angel is important.  He not only refers to the product of conception in human term, but even further, in gender terms.  It is interesting that science has demonstrated that gender is determined at conception based upon which chromosome comes from the male parent.

Later in verse 44 we see Elizabeth use the term “baby” used of the baby in her womb.  I bring this up to point out that the Greek term translated baby is the same term “baby” used in Acts 7:19 in reference of a baby that had already been born.  The language of the early believers clearly demonstrates the belief that they saw the baby in the womb the same as a newborn baby.  Although there is a distinction between them (i.e. whether birth has occurred), there is far more commonality.  Both are human and extremely vulnerable.  They require total care.  But this is only the beginning.  When we look deeper into how God and the Bible speak about life in the womb, we are amazed at what is said.

God Has A Plan For Each Life

Psalm 139:13-16 is a powerful song of David.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he describes the depths of God’s knowledge of our lives.  Any time you are tempted to think God has forgotten about you, sit down and slowly, meditatively read Psalm 139.  In this portion we are told that it is God who “formed” David’s “inward parts” and “covered” him in his mother’s womb.  Though the development of the unborn baby is hidden to the eyes of man, it is not to God.  In fact God is actively involved in the formation of the child. 

A further point is made.  Even when a child is still being formed, the days that have been “fashioned” for it are written down in God’s book.  This idea that God had a purpose for the child even before it could demonstrate ability is a marvelous thing.  David does not elaborate on this point, but let’s look at another passage in Jeremiah 1:4-5.

“Now the Word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”  Here we see that God not only knows a child and how long it will live, but God also has a purpose for that child.  It would be easy to say that God only has a purpose for great people like Jeremiah, Abraham, Moses, or Jesus.  However, this flies in the face of all the Scriptures which speak of God’s purpose for all mankind.  In destroying the lives of unborn babies we squelch a part of what God wants to do in our lives. 

So where does this horrible idea come from that we should abort about a million babies a year in the USA and 59 million since 1973?  Countless societies throughout history have purposefully killed, sacrificed their children to the God’s of their time.  Perhaps we have created our own new God called comfort and ease.  Clearly a war has been declared and is being waged against our babies.  This war is waged by the same spiritual being that convinced Eve that the fruit would make her life better.  Women today need to see through the deception of the serpent and the destructive lies that he has promoted in our society.  Abortion is an evil that will only bring death and destruction into your life.

Of course there are difficult situations that can make this issue complex and challenging.  I've mentions the cases of rape and incest earlier.  No matter how traumatized a young girl may be, we only traumatize her further when we encourage her to terminate her pregnancy, which is a euphemism for killing the human that has been conceived within her.  Abortion may make her life “easier” in that she doesn’t have to go through 9 months of pregnancy and give birth to a child she hadn’t planned for.  But, it does not make her life easier in getting over what happened emotionally and even physically.  Let me be clear.  Having a baby will not “fix” a woman in this case.  But trusting God and going forward can.  Giving love and life in the face of evil is the greatest act of defiance against our spiritual enemy.  Likewise, to turn to death as a solution to evil is to be overcome by it.

What if a woman’s life is in danger?  We must admit that this can happen.  The point here is not against a child ever dying.  There are some choices that only God should make.  If a woman’s life is in danger, the doctor should do their best to save the baby without endangering the mother.  If the baby is lost, at least it is lost over all our efforts to give it a chance at life.  This is the exact opposite of an abortion.  Even when we approach childbirth with a great respect for life, and looking to God for help, some die during birth and some even before (both babies and mothers).  Such tragic times may seem like God is not involved, and that they had no purpose.  But this is not completely true.  Yes, tragedy causes some to become hard and angry towards God.  But tragedy has also caused some to become a source of comfort and care for others that would not have come about without it.  God does not always step in and miraculously protect because He wants us to grow in ways in which we become more like Him.

Let me close by recognizing that our battle is not against people.  To save babies we do not have to fight women.  The deception of Satan is great in our land.  Although a punishment was given to Eve, God also gave her grace.  One of her offspring would one day crush the serpents head.  God would redeem Adam and Eve back from their unwise choice.  God is still the same today.  Christians must be a heart of compassion towards women who have had abortions.  Yes, it is wrong and even evil.  But they have been deceived by a world that could care less about her.  The truth can set her free.  God loves her and will even still give her true healing if she will turn to Him.

The Littlest among Us audio

Tuesday
Sep062016

Society under Siege: Racism

Acts 17:26-28; Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 9:11-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 28, 2016.

Today we begin a new series entitled “Society under Siege.”  In this series we will look at different social issues and try to answer the question, “What does God’s Word say about this?”  As Christians, we ask this question because we want to be like Jesus.  We want our thinking to change and become like His thinking.  We want our actions to change and become like His, and we want our inner man to change and become like Him.  Thus Christians who are looking to Jesus for direction will have a different world view than the society around them, to one degree or another. 

Our society has embraced a world view that sees this world and mankind as cosmic accidents that have no absolute meaning or purpose, except that which we make for ourselves.  Morality is defined by what we think is best for us at this point in time, and the only destiny that awaits mankind is that of extinction within a universal/”multiversal” heat-death.  This is in direct contradiction to the world view of God and His Scriptures.  The Bible tells us that God created the universe and particularly mankind for a purpose, and that purpose is for us to become His children, bearing His image, and ruling over the earth while taking care of it in His stead.  Of course this purpose has run into many problems along the way, the main one is our sin and rebellion against it.  We are going to look at a particular sin today, racism.

This is a deep-rooted sin that has persisted throughout mankind’s history since we spread out and differentiated in appearance and customs.  Last year, on a Wednesday night in June, a 17 year old, white teenager stepped into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  After sitting in on a Bible study and as the church began to pray, the young man pulled out a gun and pointed it at 87 year old Susie Jackson.  Her nephew Tywanza Sanders, stepped in between them and tried to talk the young man down.  However, this was to no avail. Nine people were killed that night.  What was the murderer’s desire?  He wanted to ignite a race war and get rid of all black people.

It isn’t just certain white people who have given in to the sin of racism.  This summer in Dallas, Texas, during a Black Lives Matter protest, a 25 year old, black man parked on the street and ambushed a group of police officers.  He continued moving and targeting police officers and rapid transit officers until he holed up in a college building nearby.  He murdered 5 officers and injured 9.  What was his desire?  He simply wanted to kill white police officers.  Both of these devastating sins were committed on people who had done nothing but be a certain color.  It is obvious that these things are wrong and yet many are sucked into the twisted logic that one race is better than others, or that any race is morally superior to another.  Let’s see what the Scriptures say.

Racism Rejects our Common Creation

In Acts 17:26-28, Paul is in Athens, Greece, at an area where philosophers gathered and shared ideas.  This place was called the Areopagus, which literally means “Mar’s Hill.”  Paul is reasoning with these philosophers about God’s plan for mankind.  Why should these Greeks listen to Paul, a man from another race?  Paul points them back to the reality that all the nations and races have been made by God from “one blood.”  Thus we all trace our existence back to a common ancestor.  Whether you point to Noah, or to be technically correct, Adam, the Bible teaches that we have a common ancestor that is not an ape.  Though DNA has differentiated over the years, we are still related to one another.  Racial lines tend to focus on ancestry because this is how the different lines of DNA are passed on.  People scattered into groups that were isolated (whether geographically or purposefully).  Evolution emphasizes the differences and fractures our commonality.  It’s natural progression of logic leads to eugenics and the extinguishing of (in the terminology of Charles Darwin) “unfavored races.”  Thus early evolutionists created things like Planned Parenthood, not to help the poor and “inferior races.”  But rather, they wanted to stop the proliferation of inferior genes and eventually extinguish them.  The Bible, on the other hand, emphasizes that genetically we come from the same source, and that we are different from animals.  Animals do have the breath of life, but they were not created with the ability to bear the image of God.  Humans, as well as the angels, have the ability to act in particular ways that are like God.  All humans bear the image of God (no matter how much we tarnish it) and therefore are sacred to God, whether they are born or unborn.  Thus we should hold people of all races as having the same level of sacredness.

On top of this, Paul brings out that God has determined the nationalities, their times, and their borders.  Thus it is God, whom we are supposed to be like, who created all these differences.  So why did God do this?  Paul says that God did this so that we would seek for Him and find Him.  The differences and separations are intended to cause us to search for God and to recognize that no one people had the corner market on what God was like.  Of course mankind fell for deceptions that were given to it by fallen angels.  Thus God used Israel to bring the truth back to them.  Yet, even Israel did not have all the answers.  Christianity is not about having all the answers, but rather, knowing that God has acted within space and time in order to save mankind.  It is about trusting Him even though we don’t have all the answers.  Mankind has historically trusted itself rather than God, despite what it may look like to the modern observer.  The Devil uses our differences to cause us to destroy one another, but God uses our differences to break us out of our self-centered and sinful thinking.  In other words, He did so to challenge us.  Thus the white man needs to quit ignoring the cries of black people, and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Yet, the black man needs to quit blaming everything on white people and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Each of us needs to learn to deal with our own hearts before God rather than letting the enemy stamp his image upon our hearts through racial ignorance.

Racism Rejects the Great Commission of Jesus

In Matthew 28:18-20, we see another reason that racism is a great sin.  When we embrace racism we fight against the commands of Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority over heaven and earth.  Whether we like it or not, we are under the authority of Jesus.  Of course Christians believe this and embrace it.  However, Jesus is Lord over everyone, Christian or not.  Now Christians have sworn allegiance to Jesus and resist joining in the rebellion against His authority.  If you look at Jesus in the Scriptures, you will not find a single issue in his life that can be properly interpreted as racist.  Yes, ignorance and sinfulness have caused many who claim to follow Jesus to operate in rebellion to their Lord.  But this can never change who Jesus is and what His commands are.

In the Great Commission, Jesus gives us the duty to make disciples of all nations.  The term translated as nations is the Greek word “ethnos,” where we get the world ethnicity.  It is a reference, not to DNA, but rather to those who live in close association to the point that they have their own customs and manners.  Thus it is more than a political word, and more than a biological word.  Jesus has given his followers the command to go to all ethnic groups in order to invite them into His kingdom.  Thus God is drawing people from every ethnic group into a new people or nations who carry out His customs and manners.  People of every race, do not have a savior from their race, or a different gospel.  We are all called to the same Lord, saved the same way, and called to the same work.  Thus a black person or a white person who comes to Jesus is stepping out of their own people and entering into a new kingdom of Christ.  It is not “the white man’s religion.”  It is the way of Jesus that we are called to follow.  The way of Jesus will offend all cultures and all nations.  Some have looked at this plan and have called it ethnocide.  But that is a silly charge.  Christians are not trying to get rid of the nations of the world.  We are offering them the truth of a better way.  In fact, the ethnicities of this world are doomed to destroy themselves.  But those who embrace the way of Christ will not only survive, but thrive.  They will enter into the only Eutopia that can truly exist.

So what does God think of Christians who persist in the divisions and rivalries of this world?  In Acts 10:34 we see that God had revealed to Peter that it was not biology that made one clean before God.  It was those whom God called clean, regardless of their race or ethnic background.  Yet, Peter had some trouble living out what he knew to be true.  In Galatians 2, a situation is revealed to us where Peter had allowed his fear of what other Jews might think to affect how he treated some gentiles.  Peter could have claimed ignorance before this, but now he was simply being a coward and yielding to the stubbornness of other men.  Peter ends up being rebuked by the apostle Paul.  However, he is really being rebuked by the Holy Spirit.  Unless we repent of our own stubbornness in these matters of racial relations, the Lord will bring discipline, rebuke, and eventually judgment upon us.

Racism rejects the Character of God

In Matthew 9:11-13 we are reminded of the true character of God, rather than that which is demonstrated by those who are supposed to represent Him.  Mankind was created to bear the image of God.  Of course, it is understood that there are ways in which we cannot be like God: omniscience and omnipotence are a few examples.  But we can take on His character.  In fact, if we are following Jesus with full faith in him, then we need to be courageous enough to take on the character of God.  Though many ignorant and reckless people accuse the God of the Bible of being an angry, hateful God, this is far from the truth.

Jesus points this out to the Pharisees.  They could not understand why Jesus would interact with sinners and tax collectors.  He didn’t do it to become like them or because he liked how they were.  Rather, he was displaying the compassion of God for those who are sick, hurt, and trapped in sin.  The compassion of God can only amaze those who have become convinced of the sinfulness of mankind and our ability to fix ourselves.  The Pharisees had the truth right in front of them, but their eyes were blinded by their own sin.  Thus they had segregated themselves from the “others” around them.  “Those tax collectors have betrayed their nation and their God.”  “Those sinners aren’t trying to be holy like we are.”  They were willing to let others die and miss out on fellowship with God as long as they had it.  It is true that God will judge every single person.  However, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to faith in Jesus Christ.  His compassion causes Him to go to such great lengths that He would even lay down the life of His own son in order to make it possible for “others” to become the children of God.  Racism displays the opposite of such compassion.  Do I demonstrate such compassion for “others” in my life?  Or am I stuck in the distinctions of this sinful world?  It was the Pharisees own sin that deceived them into a lack of compassion.

God is also love.  He doesn’t just exercise compassion as some high and mighty person helping the poor.  Rather, he truly loves them and wants to raise them up to his side.  John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world so much that He would give up His One and Only (unique) Son to die in our place so that we wouldn’t have to perish, but have everlasting life.  Which of us loves that fiercely?  Which of us looks at the others around us and refuses to let them perish?  Which of us lives a life of sacrifice to help them?  This is the character of God.

God is also forgiving.  We cannot talk about the love and compassion of God without forgiveness.  All ideas of love and harmony are dashed on the rocks of sin, offense, and the hurtful acts that people do.  God teaches us to let go of the wrongs done against us, by first calling it to the attention of the person doing it.  Then, we leave the rest to God.  I can’t control people, and I don’t have to let what they do rule my life.  When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like he was at the mercy of their actions.  But the truth is, they were at the mercy of His actions.  When you forgive people and move on, you are not absolving their sins.  Rather, you are letting God deal with it and refusing to let the enemy poison your heart with bitterness, anger, and rage.  At the same time you are doing what you can (sometimes there is nothing left to do) in order to save them from the judgment that they are headed towards.  This is the character of God.

May we strive everyday to reject the sinful thinking and distinctions of this world.  Instead, may God help us to display His character to a world that desperately needs it.

Racism audio

Tuesday
Jun232015

A Father and His Son

June 21, 2015-John 5:19-23

Today we are celebrating Father’s Day and so we are taking a break from the Gospel of Luke this week.  Much work goes into the raising of a child and much work goes into keeping them raised.  However, one thing is very clear.  A child will become an adult regardless of the intention of the parents (short of tragedy).  Many parents lack intentionality in the raising of their kids and coast on the sheer momentum of physical and intellectual growth.  Yet, God calls us to something much greater than creating a random, accidental generation.  Rather, we are to stamp an image upon the lives of our children that is good and points them to their heavenly Father.

Now my dad was a DIY kind of guy.  He was a musician, avid outdoorsman, and he loved family.  These things have definitely left their imprint upon me.  Of course, there are negative things that can leave imprints in the lives of kids as well.  It is important for young people to recognize that the imprint of bad qualities in our parents do not have to be bad in us.  A child who grows up in a home where love is never expressed can be imprinted passionately towards demonstrating love.  Thus kids make choices as they grow up and those choices are just as much a part of the imprint as the actions of the parents.

In today’s passage Jesus gives us insight into the interaction between him and God the Father.  The leaders of Israel were angry that Jesus kept comparing himself to God.  They called this blasphemy and sought to kill him.  Yet, Jesus responds with the truth that it is only natural for a son to be like his father.

A Son Cannot Help But Be Like His Father

The underlying message of these 5 verses is that instead of being blasphemy it is only natural for a son to be like his father.  In this context Jesus is talking about himself as being the Son of God.  Thus he will demonstrate the same qualities, nature, and activity as his heavenly Father.  Although the passage is only about Jesus and the Father, we also know from other passages that the Father is working to make the disciples of Jesus to be like Jesus.  In Ephesians 4 the apostle Paul describes why God has given leaders to the Church.  “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…”   Notice that the work is “till” we come to the full measure of Christ.  He does not mean physical height here, but rather, character height.  We are being made over into the image of Jesus who was a perfect representation of the Father in heaven.  Thus we will use this passage to remind ourselves as earthly fathers how we ought to be.

In verse 19 Jesus points out the activity of God the Father.  Jesus has seen the activity of the Father and is now doing the same thing.  Notice how the activity of a Father imprints itself upon a child.  Now Jesus is a perfect Son and thus he perfectly acts like the Father.  But let’s focus on the father side.  If my activity is going to leave an imprint upon my child then I should take care what that activity is.  Even the lack of activity can leave an imprint in the same way that we recognize failing to plan is planning to fail.  Children of this world may intend to avoid becoming like their fathers for good or for bad and a father can’t control it.  Yet, a father can fill his life with activity that will impact the child for good regardless of what he chooses.  Jesus is the perfect son who only does what he sees his father do and only speaks what he hears his father say (John 12:49).  We wouldn’t expect kids to be a perfect copy of their earthly fathers.  But that is not where God intends it to go.  God intends for us to see this natural tendency and to use it to point our children to their heavenly father.  He is the one that we all need to see and become like.  Thus God has sent His perfect Son to help us imperfect prodigals and lead us back to right relationship.  So fathers, your activity will either point your kids to their heavenly father or it will point only to yourself.  When you fill your life with the activity of God, you will point them to something greater than yourself and imprint them for good rather than for bad.

In verse 20 Jesus points out the love that the Father has for him.  The Father has shown the Son things because He loves Him.  The intentionality of the father is important in a kid’s life and is best when it flows out of a heart of love.  If you love your kid then you will not just be active.  But that activity will be done in such a way as to intentionally involve them in our activities and point them to God.  This is not easy.  It always takes longer to do something if you involve someone you are trying to teach.  However, the child needs this from their parents.

Next Jesus points out in verse 21 that he has received power to do certain things from the father.  In this case it is the power to give life and raise up the dead.  No earthly parent can give such power to their children.  However, a father can empower his child.  You give a child the tools they need to accomplish to accomplish a particular purpose.  Thus if we are partnering with God to accomplish His purpose in their life- to make them like Jesus- then we will take time to give them the tools required to accomplish that.  How can a child become like Jesus?  What tools do they need?  First we can give our kids the information that they need to come to know God.  We can give them instruction and yet even something as simple as teaching them to read enables them to read and discover God’s Word for themselves.  Teaching them how to communicate rather than running away from difficulty is important.  Teaching them discipline and control of their emotions and decisions is also important.  Other tools that children need are the coping skills of perseverance and the ability to selflessly love another.  These kind of things will go a long way to empowering a young person to know God for themselves and to become like Jesus.  Too often young people go into life with only a few tools and many of them may be warped and twisted.  Praise God that Jesus will help even those who lack the tools to come to know him and be like him, if they are hungry for Truth.

In verse 22, we see that even though God is the righteous judge of all mankind by right of Creation, He has delegated this to the Son.  All judgment will be done through Jesus Christ.  This ability to delegate can be very challenging for a father.  Sometimes we refrain or take back such delegations because of fear of failure.  At age appropriate times, it is important to delegate household chores to kids.  It teaches them to find their place within the home and work with others.  It helps them to have some skin in the game.  Plus it teaches them how to accept the things that God has delegated to us through Jesus.  Now, not all kids are going to grow up and work alongside their father like Jesus did.  However, a father can teach a kid how to work with others.  Ultimately your child needs to grow up and become a fellow worker with you and coming alongside the heavenly father.  It is we who are helping Him in His business.  His work is to point people to Jesus as the answer for their sin and judgment.  Jesus delegated this task to his disciples when he ascended to heaven.  He said, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the commands I gave you.”  Matthew 28:19-20.  This risk of putting the salvation of others in the hands of humans may seem unadvised to us.  Yet, God is not absent.  He works in us and through us by His Spirit to aid us in bringing others to relationship with Him.  Thus fathers should ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in accomplishing this task that has been delegated to them.

Lastly, it is the honor of the son to become like his father.  On this earth a child grows up and eventually takes the place of their parents on earth because of death.  Of course, our heavenly father never dies.  So this is not about replacement.  Yet, we see that God wants us to share in the honor that is already His.  He invites us to come work alongside Him, all the while, we are becoming like Him.  Ultimately we will share in His glory.  1 John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him, purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  All believers will stand side by side and experience the joy of recognizing that we are like our Father.  As good as this feeling can be with an earthly father, we must make the connection with God the Father.  He is sharing His glory with us by making us to look like Him.  Thus the apostle John reminds us that if we have this hope in us we will purify ourselves.  Fathers, take time to clean up your life.  Sometimes we even need to prune off good things so that we can be more fruitful in God’s work.  When you live for the honor of God, you will enable your child to understand what it means to live honorably.  So don’t give up hope and by all means don’t let failure cause you to quit.  It is God Himself who pledges to help you.  Blessings!

Father and son audio

Wednesday
Jan072015

Why You Should Not Worry

Luke 12:22-34.  If an audio link exists it will be at the end of the post.

In today’s passage Jesus speaks to the issue of worry or anxiety.  We often let stress build up in our lives to the point that we can even make ourselves sick.  Here are some recent statistics on stress in America.  20% of Americans say they feel stressed out every day, 60% say they feel stressed out once a week.  Research clearly shows that “stress deteriorates our immune systems; people under constant high stress show lower T-cell counts, which are essential for immune response.”

We use the term stress in two very different ways.  First, we use stress to refer to the person, thing, or situation that is the “stressor.”  This use focuses on the external thing that presents a challenge to us in some way.  However, the second use of this word refers to an inner response to that challenge.  Thus someone is “stressed out.”  It is to this inner aspect that the words “worry” or “anxiety” refer.  Now in some ways people can stress out about some of the silliest things.  I don’t say that to put them down because I do it myself from time to time.  That said, there is much in this world today about which we could reasonably worry.  In fact, the Bible describes the last days as, “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth,” Luke 21:26 (NKJV).

In our passage today we see that God intends His people to have peace in their hearts about the things in their lives, especially when the world is falling apart.  Paul describes the Christian life in Romans 14:17 this way, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Worry is one of the main ways that we miss out on the peace and joy that God wants us to experience.   In fact, verse 22 starts out with the Lord’s command to not worry about things in our life.  So let’s look at eight reasons why we should not worry as followers of Christ.

Your Life Is More Than Food And Clothing

Look at verses 22-23. The word “life” here refers both to the living force within us (staying alive) and the internal soul and its will, emotions, desires, etc.  Whether the concern is physical survival or simply the desires of our heart, we fear the things that can affect both.  Here Jesus uses the issues of food and clothing.  In Matthew’s account of this sermon he adds shelter.  Notice that all three of these issues can be issues of survival or simply issues of what we desire.  I want better food or even yummier food! Or, I want nicer clothes!  Perhaps I want the best clothes so that I will be noticed?  Most people shoot way past survival when it comes to picking out shelter.  In fact, no one calls a house their “shelter.”  So we could add to this list that Jesus starts: entertainments, wealth, investments, vacations, holidays, boyfriends and girlfriends, spouses, and the list goes on and on.  Jesus is not discounting the necessity that exists within these things.  However, he tells us that our life is greater than those things.  The things that make four our being physically alive and our soul prospering are not fulfilled by such things alone.  In fact, the case could be made that they play the smaller part.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father.”  Thus if I have bread, but not the Father, I am in severe trouble.  Yet, if I have no bread, but have the care of the Father, then I have nothing to worry about.  And, that is the problem with worry, it shrinks our life down into small trivial things and we become a small trivial person swimming in a sea of problems.

You Are Valuable To God

In verse 24 Jesus turns to the birds and teaches us a lesson.  The raven is a bird of little value.  He doesn’t use the peacock or some other rare, expensive bird, but simply a raven.  He reminds us that God cares for them.  In fact, they don’t build barns and plant crops.  They simply live off of what is provided for them every day.  How much more will God carry us through who are more valuable to Him than a raven?  This rhetorical question is clearly intended to be answered with a resounding, “much more!”  But it is purposefully left hanging for us to meditate and chew on.

When we think about how God did not spare His own Son, but asked Him to come down to earth and become a man, and then to be put to death on a cross for a mankind that had rebelled against him, we ought to be amazed at the price God has paid for us.  When we think about the Son, without coercion, agreeing whole-heartedly to such a plan, we ought to be amazed at the value he places on us.  The value of each person is more to God than perhaps we can imagine.  Many times at the root of our worry is the fear that God cares for others, but not for us.  Some may challenge this premise that the birds owe their thanks for food to God.  But, they would be those who are not in relationship with God.  If He is your Father, then can you not see that He has made provision for you as well?

Worry Will Not Help Your Situation

In verses 25-26 Jesus points out the futility of worry.  Whether it is a foot to your stature or a million dollars to your bank account, worrying doesn’t do anything to help.  In fact, it does quite the opposite.  Worrying will always make the situation worse.  It ruins our attitude and hampers the response that we can make.  It can affect the people around us.  Like the Peanuts character “Pigpen” our attitude of fear and worry surrounds us like a cloud and sends those around us either fleeing or catches them up in our cloud.  Worry blurs the lines between what we can change and what we can’t.  It has negative affects upon us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  In fact, I don’t believe that anyone worries because they think it will help.  They worry because they think they have no choice and no power over their situation.  Now let’s be clear.  Analyzing a problem and choosing a response is not equivalent to worrying.  It is a proper response to any stress to figure out if there is anything we can do to mitigate it.  However, we often run into situations where there is little we can do.  It is at this point that we can slide into anxiety and worry.  We cycle around and around about a problem with no solution and underline our powerlessness in our mind, until we are paralyzed and depressed.  It can become habitual like a rut in the road that, no matter how many times you pop out of it, it quickly sucks you back down into itself.  Worrying really is a foolish response when we think about it this way.  Why would I want to make a bad situation worse?  I know that no one does it for that reason.  But perhaps we can stop for that reason?

Worry Lacks Faith In A Faithful God

In verses 27-28 Jesus draws from another nature analogy.  As ravens are to food, so flowers are compared to clothing.  You might think that Jesus is really stretching it for this analogy, but go with Him for a little bit.  Clothing can be about warmth, but in most cases we want to make a social statement with how we dress.  It is a big part of who we are.  Jesus says that the lily is clothed with greater spendor than King Solomon ever was.  Notice that a lily cannot lay claim to why it is so beautiful.  Of course we could point out many beautiful flowers throughout creation.  All of them have been given a unique beauty and glory from God.  Will not God so clothe you with unique beauty and glory?  Our problem is that we often look to clothes to do what they really cannot do.  Clothes can only impress the superficial.  The things that make for our true “social statement” are not our clothes.  Again Jesus hammers home the point of our value to God.  Flowers are frailer than even mankind.  Yet, Jesus asks how much more will God clothe us?  I won’t take time to go into it, but there appears to be an implication that reaches forward to the Resurrection, in which we will be “clothed with glory” and “this mortal will put on immortality.”

Now Jesus ends this with the phrase, “O you of little faith.”  Here he points us to our lack of faith in a God who has proven Himself faithful many times over.  God is asking His people to trust Him, not just in a blind faith.  He is faithful everyday to his creation.  He even causes it to rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  God’s provision is spread throughout the cosmos.  In fact, we might even call it wasteful as an immeasurable amount of energy, that we will never be able to harness, is cast into the void of space.  But it is not wasteful for God because He is infinite and it is He who has made provision for us.  How greatly do we trust God?  Many Christians have been stripped of their clothing, houses, lands, freedom, and even their lives.  They could have completely despaired God’s care and concern for them.  They could have “cursed God and died.”  Yet, they testified, over and over again, that God was faithful to them through it all.  Our life is greater than things that can be taken away from us in this life.  Jesus promises that anyone who loses anything for His sake will be paid back in this life and in the Age to come.  Imagine the great glory we will have in the Resurrection ruling in power with Jesus Himself when He returns.  The small losses of this life are trivial in light of the great glory that is coming to us.

Those Who Are Separated From God Worry

In verses 29 and 30 there are actually a couple of reasons not to worry.  The first is in the reference to the nations.  The Bible reveals that the nations of the world had walked away from God.  Thus they were separated from Him and in darkness to their true condition.  They had been given over to the “god” of this world.  However, Israel was a unique thing.  God created a nation who would not only belong to Him, but also be a light to the darkened gentiles.  In fact the term “nations” was a Jewish idiom for all other nations who were outside God's kingdom.  Jesus challenges his disciples with the recognition that we can be guilty of acting like the lost.  Now it makes sense for those who are lost and in darkness to worry.  God is not their Father and the “gods” (actually demons) that do rule over them are heavy taskmasters.  On top of this they are enemies of the One True God.  In that sense they have every reason to worry.  Such should not be for those who are the Children of God.  Why would His people worry?  Perhaps we are not confident in our relationship with Him.  In fact many trials test our ability to keep our confidence in God’s faithfulness.  Too often we let these small issues define whether God loves us or not.  However, when He was hanging on the cross, what did Jesus have that would enable Him to be confident in God’s promises to Him?  Everything that we could use to comfort ourselves was stripped from Him, except the very Word of God itself.  Thus He says to us, "pick up your cross and follow me."

God Knows About Your Needs

The second thing in verses 29 and 30 is the phrase, “Your Father in Heaven knows you need these things.”  It is not just that He knows, it is He who designed us with these needs in the first place.  Yes, our desires and wants often sprint on past our needs.  Still, it doesn’t change the fact that God knows exactly what our needs are, even better than ourselves.  Therein lies part of the problem.  God always provides but not always at the levels we desire and seek after.  God always meets our greatest needs, but His list and our list are generally not the same.  We often seek fulfillment in the things that should be at the bottom of the list at the expense of the things that should be at the top.  God loves us too much to satisfy our every wish.  He has greater plans for us.

Our Life Is Found In Seeking The Kingdom Of God

In verses 31 and 32, Jesus points us towards what we should be seeking after, the Kingdom of God.  Worry focuses our life on exactly the wrong things.  So what does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God?  We seek to have Him ruling in our hearts and our life by reading His Word and prayerfully incorporating it into our life.  We seek to understand the reasons behind his commands and designs.  We seek to fulfill the commission that He has given us by sharing His act of love with those who are lost and in the dark to these things.  In short we choose His way over the top of our way, or even the way of the latest self-help guru we may admire.

Jesus uses a term “little flock.”  This term is intended to be an extremely tender term.  In fact the word flock is a diminutive form.  To coin a term it is like him calling them a “little flocklet,”- my apologies to the English language.  They are few and little, not even a full “flock.”  These are the very kind of things that cause us to worry.  Yet, here we see it is precisely what makes them dear to our Lord.  Have you ever thought that the very things you fret over are exactly what make you precious and dear to the heart of God?  The tenderness of Jesus here is the tenderness of the Father towards all who suffer things in this life for His sake.  Even in seeking His kingdom we must bear in mind that we receive it not because of our ability, but simply because it pleases Him to give it to those who are the “weak” and the “poor” of this life.  We are often guilty of striving to obtain in this life what we cannot at the expense of even greater things in the life to come.  As Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  This was written by a man who would die at the hands of an unreached tribe in the jungles of Equador.   Was it a tragic loss?  On the natural plane it was.  But in the spiritual plane of the Kingdom of God it was a nuclear bomb that brought an entire village out of the Kingdom of Darkness and into the Kingdom of Jesus.

Worry Ties Our Heart To This World

In the last verse Jesus seals the deal.  Where is your heart?  Our worries and anxieties are like carbon cords tying us to the “stone” of this world.  This world and the cares of it are passing away.  If we allow our hearts to be lashed to the mast of a ship that is going down, then we will perish with it.  Thus, Jesus has brought his disciples full circle to the Rich Young Fool in verses “12-21.”  This man’s heart was tied to this world without thought for the things of God.  When his judgment came he was found lacking and judged as a fool.  Worry is a foolish thing because it jeopardizes our soul.  Yet, it is easy to give into it because of the frailty of our flesh.  Even though this is a clear command from Christ, it is given in a far more tender way.  This is not the command of a master, but the tender heart of a Father who doesn’t want to see us fret when He has pledged Himself to us.  May God help us this year to do much less worrying and much more trusting so that we can focus on what really matters in this life!

Why You Should Not Worry Audio