Thursday, September 13, 2007

Engage and Reflect on the WORD

May I ask you a question? It is from the study of Colossians that we are doing this quarter (and probably next at the rate that we are going at).

Is spiritual growth possible apart from God or His Word?

I believe that we, as North Americans and US citizens, have a huge deposit of truth. I saw a statistic recently about the % of the world's population that is Christian and the % of that number that were in North America. Staggering! We are truly blessed to have such a comfortable state. Yet has it really driven us to contemplative spirituality? By that I mean, have we thought long and hard about what it means to be a disciple of Christ?

We have been given God's Word in multiple translations with cover choices, study notes choices, color choices and even with our names embossed in gold foil. But has familiarity bred contempt or neglect? Can we truly grow without studying and diving into intense mediattion on God's written special revelation of Himself?

Want a place to start? Read Romans 11:33-35. Then think about this very insightful quote,

"What we know about God is only what God reveals to us. To imagine that we can fathom the depths of God is to posit a God too small.
Paul asserts the infinite distance between human knowledge and God's action. Humans do not counsel God. They can only, in a sense, think God's thoughts after God. God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom."

Then reflect on Isaiah 40:13; Proverbs 8:22-31; Job 38:2-39:30. That should sufficiently challenge you to engage in humble worship and a recommitment to growing in the knowledge of God.

I want to know You more,


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Is God a Manipulative Cosmic Bully?

As we study in Exodus for the eX-Men's Bible Study on Wednesday mornings, we have discussed and discovered some amazing truths about men, leaders, and God. We have been spending a number of weeks in the 10 plagues. Normally this study would be at most three weeks long. We have been here a long time.

[sidebar: When one of the men returned from an unplanned sabbatical, he inquired about our location and found that he had not missed too much textual coverage. But he had indeed missed out on some great conversations! This study is as much about accountability to get out of bed and study with one another as it is about material coverage.]

This morning in our discussion of Pharaoh and God (and their lively interchange in light of the impending doom of plague #7, hail), we discussed this question:

Is God arrogant? Doesn't it seem that the reading of 9:14 suggests that God is manipulative and using Pharaoh for his own agenda? Is God posturing in front of Pharaoh or trash-talking him or trying to intimidate him?

I believe that this discussion is helpful when thinking about those around us who reject our evangelistic efforts (technically they are not rejecting our efforts, but our Master's efforts to reach out to them). We must remember that God is longsuffering, while at the same time unwillling to wink at sin or rejection of truth. There are some consequences to rejection. Maybe we should add this after the invitation is given and rejected in our gospel presentation training!

God is unwilling that any should perish. But some are bent on it. Out of rebellious and stubborn hearts, they choose freely the way of destruction. Pharaoh is a textbook example of this posture before a patient God. God has exposed the junk in his life and called for submission. Yet, Pharaoh has refused to submit and has gripped his delegated power/authority even more tightly. In plagues #7-#10, God is beginning to unleash the destruction on Egypt. Even the "wise men"/magicians begin to see that this is a losing battle.

How like us! When God calls us to follow there are two ways, God's way (the better) and our way (the harder). Even though God's way may seem harder (requiring more effort against our old nature) it is always better. Pharaoh would have been better off if he had yielded after the pre-plague signs (snakes from rods). The results are the same -- the Israelites are released -- but the paths are different. Pharaoh could have released them willingly, but instead chose to fight God tooth and nail until the end. Then even after being bested by God, he chased the Israelites right into his own watery grave. The end result is also that Pharaoh yields -- he chooses to do it the hard way.

One of the guys commented, "Sometimes we learn better from our mistakes". While there are benefits to learning from failures, I still prefer to learn from successes! It is always much less painful and much more enjoyable. I choose to pursue excellence and growth through the pains of success than through the pains of failure.

God is not a cosmic bully. He is not simply getting his jollies watching Pharaoh squirm. He is not manipulating Pharaoh.

[sidebar: This understanding of the gods being above men's world but pulling the strngs and watching men dance is the Greek/Roman theology. Zeus is seen as a moody god, threatened in his ultimate leadership and defending it jealously with lightning bolts and bullying force. Zeus is so not my God!]

God is demonstrating a longsuffering and a mercy that is "wasted" on the stubbornness of this pagan king. Yet He still shows His character. Even in rejection, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that God is THE ONE AND ONLY GOD. God accomplishes exactly what He intends to do. Pharaoh misses out on a relationship of joy and contentment and gets the teeth of judgment. His loss. God's plan is not thwarted. God's arm is not shortened (except in His own self-restraint). God's promises are not "fluff".

Yield or be exterminated,
(I choose yielding),