You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘God’ category.

giphyHC6TMXM8

Picture this. You are getting married. Family and friends have gathered. You have provided and prepared good food and wine in abundance. People will be dancing and enjoying good conversation. All will be happy for the bride and groom. Everything is going well except one very important thing: The family of your fiancée is your enemy, devoted to your personal destruction and that of your people and family, the very ones at the wedding.

If you’re the groom, what should you do? Make peace. Walk on eggshells. Don’t stir up any controversies. Maybe we can all get out of this…alive.

Or you could do what Samson did. Instead of saying, “Howdy and welcome to my wedding. Let’s all get along and have some food,” he decided to offer the members of his future wife’s family a riddle and a game to play in which they could lose a substantial amount of goods.

Just kind of a normal thing to do on one’s wedding day.

“His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. And Samson said to them, ‘Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.’ And they said to him, ‘Put your riddle, that we may hear it.’ And he said to them, ‘Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet’” (Judges 14:10–14a).1

No, “Take it easy, man” was going on here. No, “Let’s make sure we are careful in this potentially volatile situation.” No, it was, “I’m going to make trouble at my wedding. I’m going to get in the face of my guests. I’m going to try to humiliate them. Deal with it. My spouse-to-be? My family? Oh, well.”

Samson was an in-your-face, confrontational agitator. An inflammatory instigator.

This is how God made him.

Did I mention that he was supernaturally strong?

By the way. He was also a type of Christ.

Do you think what Samson did at his wedding is unwise? Crazy? I would agree. But Scripture tells us that his desire for a Philistine bride, despite opposition from his parents, came from the Lord (Judges 14:1–4).

What shall we do with that? Samson was seemingly unwise and crazy but he was acting this way in agreement with God’s will.

We don’t have the time or space to tell the whole story of Samson, but at the end of his life, he destroyed more of Israel’s enemies in his death than he did in his life. Samson pulled down their house upon them (Judges 16:30).

Now, this sounds a bit like Jesus, doesn’t it, destroying God’s enemies? “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24–25).

However, I think there is more to Samson being a type of Christ than this sacrificial death alone. I think that Samson being a confrontational agitator and inflammatory instigator is likewise a type of Jesus. Please allow me to explain.

You remember, of course, that one day Jesus decided to stir up a bit of trouble on the temple grounds: “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables” (John 2:14–15). Jesus could have kept silent and walked on by the whole greedy scene. He could have avoided stirring up a controversy. Why didn’t He? Zeal for His Father’s house had consumed Him (John 2:17). Oh, how He loved His Father—too much to let sinful things continue without challenge.

You may also remember that Jesus called the Pharisees sons of the devil (John 8:44), liars (John 8:55), and hypocrites (Matthew 23:14). Could Jesus have avoided calling the Pharisees names? Certainly. But our God is a consuming fire, to whom we should bring “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). After all, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Just ask those 3,000 Philistines who were worshiping their false god whom they thought had brought them victory over Samson, the man God had chosen.

In a similar confrontational light, consider these words from Jesus: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:12–14).

You remember Elijah, right? He’s the prophet who challenged the prophets of Baal and after their god had failed the test, killed them: “And Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there” (1 Kings 18:40).

The Christian God is a troublemaker. A confrontational agitator. An inflammatory instigator. His kingdom will come and is now underway. He will destroy His enemies. His desire is to pull down the house of the false gods in our cultures that want to destroy us and make us bow the knee. Some of His work may make us uncomfortable and turn our religious worlds, if necessary, upside-down—with love and compassion and mercy, of course.

Praise His name.

 

1All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

oh-really-now

Christians are engaged in a joyful, impossible task: Comprehending an incomprehensible God. Of course, if we could understand Him, He would no longer be God. We would be equal to Him. But that isn’t going to happen, even if all of us were ten times more intelligent that Einstein. Why? For starters, and starters is a good word to use here, He started from nothing everything that exists in less than a second.

Go ahead. Comprehend that.

We don’t even try because we have not the slimmest idea about how to create something out of nothing, much less all of the material in the universe, not to mention time. However, God has given us the ability to discover and recognize His greatness; to consider His incomprehensibility. The creation of all that exists is, as previously stated, just for starters.

Let’s look at another of His impenetrable truths. It concerns what is called the Book of Life. Are you familiar with it? If you are a Christian, your name is written in it. Let’s pause for a second. You have probably signed your name a great many times in the course of your life. We don’t sign it now as much as we used to, since paper checks are becoming rare, and we don’t have to sign to use our credit cards much anymore. But there is one place, one book, where your name was entered for you. Truth is, you were unable to write it down. Truth is, you weren’t even born yet when it was recorded in this book. Neither was anything else on the earth. Yes, I used the word “anything,” because your name was written down by Jesus in a book—the aforementioned Book of Life—before this beautiful planet existed. This astounding fact was made known to the Apostle John when he saw a terrible thing in a vision. “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:5–8).1

Let’s pause for a moment. It will be a momentary pause, because we are attempting to envision an act that we quickly discover we cannot envision. At one time—I think I can write that word, “time”—your name was written, somehow, in a book in heaven. I write “in heaven” because that is where we surmise, in our limited understanding, was the location. What does a book in heaven look like? What kind of writing instrument was used? The Lord wrote it. Did an angel do so at His command? What did that look like?

No answers. Envisioning over.

Now, here is another incomprehensible truth, and it has to do with writing as well. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. ‘They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him’” (Malachi 3:16–18).

The Lord God Almighty takes notes. He takes notes—about you—in a “book of remembrance.” He takes notes when Christians speak to each other about their fear of the Lord.

Surprised?

More incomprehension. The Lord does this note-taking while being aware of swallows that fall, counting the hairs on your head, upholding all things that exist by the word of His power, and a vast number of other activities concerning life of this planet. The Lord placed these truths about writing things down in Scripture. He is not teasing or taunting us when He makes them known. No, instead, He lets us in on these glimpses of real reality to bring us joy and glorify Himself—which is always for our good. Wondrous things.

Things to think about.

But not to comprehend.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

th

“So,” I asked the little group of Christian men when we met together a few days ago, “was it the Lord’s will to flatten the Bahamas?”

“No,” one said. “It was just nature.”

“So,” I asked, “the Lord couldn’t have stopped it?”

“Yes. He could’ve stopped it.”

“Then He allowed it.”

“Yes.”

“Then it was His will.”

Questions lingered on this issue—the sovereignty of God—but all rightly agreed that we should have faith in God regardless of the circumstances or the source of all manner of disasters, whether personal or global. It was a good discussion.

I’m not sure Christians have clarity on this important topic. Recently, a missionary with a very important ministry in Southeast Asia wrote on his website:

“Why do so many Christians think that hurricanes and natural disasters are the will of God? ‘The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy.’ Jesus rebuked the storm sent to kill Him and it wasn’t sent by God! If the Father is sending and the Son rebuking, then their house is divided. No! The Prince and Power of the Air is the culprit. Rebuke that devil sent hurricane! As of this writing (Saturday, Aug 31st) Dorian is headed for central Florida, USA. In Cambodia, on the USA’s Saturday evening, the church will be in united prayer: ‘We command Hurricane Dorian to dissipate, break-up, turn and die! In Jesus’ Name, Amen! It would be so easy to just give up, and attribute whatever happens to God’s will.  But, not everything that happens on this earth is God’s will. Regardless of the adversities orchestrated by the ‘Prince and Power of the Air’ and whatever evil he throws in our path, Solomon says, ‘[we must] push on!’”

This man is right about a few things in this post, but his proclamation is biblically confused. It is true that Jesus rebuked the storm, and He knew its origin was not from His Father. It is not known that the storm was sent to kill Him—the text does not tell us this. When our brother in Southeast Asia commanded the hurricane to dissipate, break-up, turn, and die in his post, he laid claim to a power he does not possess, which was readily proved. Hurricane Dorian lingered after this declaration and completely destroyed some of the islands of the Bahamas. (As I write this, reports about the devastation continue to come in.) Sadly, many people died, and the tragic count continues. The damage was less severe stateside, but Dorian didn’t break up, turn, and die without catastrophe.

I have no problem whatsoever with praying for a storm to go away. Asking the Lord to be merciful. To help. To rescue. To protect. But to claim that all storms are from the devil simply is not scriptural. The times the psalms proclaim that the Lord sends rain and lightning are too numerous to list here. We know that the Lord sent destructive hail upon Egypt. He did so to Israel (Haggai 2:17). He will rain massive hailstones upon the Earth, which we see in the Book of Revelation. Here’s a great verse that plainly sums up the truth that the Lord God Almighty controls the weather: “He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses” (Psalm 135:7).1

Christians are uncomfortable with the truths in the three verses below, which they think cannot be reconciled with the New Testament’s God of goodness and love.

“I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

“Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

However, these two seemingly contradictory truths can be reconciled. God is good. He is eternally and perfectly good. He was good in the Old Testament, and He is in the New. He was love in the Old Testament and He remains so in the New. He was and is perfectly sovereign and just. We will not know how all things were just and good and for His glory until we are with Him in eternity. We think suffering and death are bad. They are. But they are temporary. Everyone suffers. Everybody dies. It is how we live, suffer, and die that matter in eternity. Do we know Him? Do we trust Him?

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com.

200w

When I was watching the gentlemen’s final at Wimbledon—yes, I watched the whole thing—I saw, as everyone did, a logo for a company named Slazenger on the wall behind the players. Above the name was what looked like the image of a jaguar. I thought, “Perhaps Slazenger is the parent company of Jaguar.”

Wrong. Sports clothing and equipment.

Wrong again on the jaguar image. It’s a panther.

Wrong conception of a company based upon a name and its logo.

It was a pretty classy logo, I thought. I wondered, “What would happen if God were to put His name on the court walls at Wimbledon? What logo would He use?” My next thought was that it would be weird. It wouldn’t work.  And what on earth would you use as a logo? How would one sufficiently, properly, advertise God at a sporting event, so He could be promoted, as Slazenger was?

It can’t be done. What’s more, He has already done a masterful job of letting everyone know who He is, and it’s a lot more than a name and an image. His glory has been pouring forth every day, all over the world, all over the universe, since the beginning. All humanity needs to do is look around. Look up. With our brains engaged, look at any natural thing.

Brains engaged. I know, I know. I’m asking a lot.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1–4a).1

As cool as the Slazenger logo is, it is a piece of dust compared to the depiction that the Lord God Almighty has given us that we can see every day, every night, everywhere. It is a depiction of a God that is so mighty, so powerful, so glorious, that we are unable to conceive of the power it would take to create everything from—nothing. We should be awed by it. So, Paul wrote, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19–20).

Nevertheless, we continue to hear a common criticism about God. “Why doesn’t He reveal who He is? When I die, I’m going to ask Him why He hid from me.” Paul wrote, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). He also states that people “suppress the truth” in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Don’t believe it? If you’re a science teacher or professor, try to publish a book about creationism and keep your job.

But back to the GOAT.

After the match, the commentators discussed which of the Big Three—Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic—was the GOAT: The Greatest Of All Time. So, let’s ask this question: Among all the forces in nature, which would be The Greatest Of All Time? What are the candidates? Hurricanes? Earthquakes? Volcanoes? Tornadoes? Nuclear forces? It’s difficult to argue that any of them is greater than the One who created all these powers and the physics that make them function. What about all the so-called gods revered by humankind? The spirit of the earth? Some kind of pervasive life-energy that exists in nature, in trees and turtledoves? No, the truth is, no candidates even exist, except in our imaginations. The one true God proved His lordship over everything, not only in His creation but in His resurrection. Why? Because what Jesus said about Himself—that He was God incarnate—was proved true when He rose from the dead as He said He would.

The GOAT? All the “promotion” was done long ago in mind-blowing beauty and glory. There is no confusion about who it is based upon a wrong understanding of the depiction of Him. There are no other candidates. There is no competition and never has been.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

 

200l

The Lord God does not think the way we do (Isaiah 55:8-9). Not only are His thoughts higher than ours, His ways not our ways, our thoughts not His thoughts, but His thoughts are so much higher than ours that we simply will not be able to comprehend them, unless He reveals them to us. Thankfully, by His grace, He has made known His thoughts via Scripture. If we look closely, we will find that He will act in ways that we may view as unwise, unworkable, and even doomed to fail—at least at first.

Long ago, we sang a praise chorus based on Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” That was it, that one verse sung a couple of times, maybe three if the song leader pressed it. It was a “bring-them-in-from-the-parking-lot” chorus, for those unfamiliar with church-speak. However, again, to my shame, I never bothered to investigate the passage’s context. Here it is:

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day that the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:22–24).1

Do you see why believers are to rejoice?

The builders rejected the stone that the Lord had provided. What stone is this? Paul wrote, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19–21).

The stone is Jesus. Israel, “the builders,” who should have installed this rock, rejected Him.

Jesus told His disciples in Luke 20:9-17 that the rejection in Psalm 118 spoke of Him. He taught them a parable about a land owner who let his vineyard out to tenants and  “went into another country for a long while.” When the harvest was ready, the owner sent his servants to collect some of the fruit. The men overseeing the land in the owner’s absence beat up one servant, stoned one, and killed another. The owner sent more servants, and the overseers did the same to them. Finally, the owner sent his son, whom they killed. Then Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22 about the rejection of the cornerstone. A cornerstone, according to the Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon, is “the cornerstone or capstone of a building, essential to its construction.”2  Israel would reject the One who was crucial to their lives; nevertheless, their plan would fail. His would succeed. He would be installed—exalted—as the cornerstone. This was to be marvelous in our eyes.

It is.

Think about that for a moment. The Lord made the day when He Himself would be slaughtered on a cross. He created the day of rejection of Himself, so His victorious purpose would come to pass. This is not snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat; this is planning the defeat that will lead to a victory.

Who does that?

Counter-intuitive, I-will-plan-My-own defeat thinking.

We—none of us—would ever make a plan so we would purposefully fail in order to gain some kind of victory. The outcome would be too uncertain. It sounds like insanity, doesn’t it? Only one Person possesses the high-as-the-heavens-are above-the-earth thinking as well as the ability, to pull this off.

It was a day the Lord made. It is marvelous in our eyes. We will rejoice.

All glory to the sovereign Creator of all things.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 87). New York: United Bible Societies.

200w

The Christian God is a most extraordinary being.

I state the obvious. Or as the current meme says, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.”

Here’s something extraordinary about Him for us to chew on. Jesus, God Himself who came to the earth in the flesh, is our servant. Let me hasten to add that He is also our Lord, our God, your King, and our Savior, who gives us eternal life and His own righteousness, freely.

Now, some readers may exclaim, “Right. So, I can just tell Jesus to do my bidding. He’ll do whatever I tell Him to do, like a servant would. You are one crazy individual.” Or words to that effect. No, Jesus is a servant in the ways He chooses. Are these two ideas incompatible? To us that seems certain.

Now perhaps the reader may understand one reason why the Christian God is so extraordinary and so perplexing to us. To help us out, the Lord tells us why we will be perplexed:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9).1

We don’t think the way He does. He is a servant. He is The Servant.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:26b–28).

Jesus says here that His primary example of servanthood for us was to die for us. He did this in His wonderful love because “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

However, did Jesus’ servanthood stop after His cosmos-changing sacrifice and resurrection?

No. After His resurrection, He did this:

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:9–12a).

Scripture doesn’t tell us how he got the fish or the bread or how He made the fire. Did He say, “Let there be bread, fish, and fire?” Perhaps. But He served His disciples nonetheless. This is God Himself fixing breakfast for His followers.

His servanthood did not stop after His ascension, either. One day, Jesus will serve us dinner:

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them (Luke 12:37).

Jesus will not do this because we tell Him to. He will do this because He wants to. He will do this because that is His nature. I wonder if at that time we might want to respond as Peter did when Jesus was washing His disciples’ feet: “Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet’” (John 13:8a). However, keep in mind how He responded to Peter’s objection: “Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me’” (John 13:8b). Interesting thing for Jesus to say, isn’t it? Concerning that word “share,” the Louw-Nida lexicon says, “to experience along with others— ‘to experience together with, to share in experiencing.”2 Servanthood is part of Jesus’ character—and should and will be part of ours as we grow in Him. As we experience His servanthood for us, we share in the knowledge of who He is, always has been and always will be, for eternity, it seems, as difficult as that may be for us to grasp.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 808). New York: United Bible Societies.

Gif courtesy of giphy.com.

 

afro crazy

Is the Christian God crazy? All Christians would likely join the chorus, shouting, “No!”

So would I.

However, I hope that after reading this post you will agree that, from a human point of view, the Lord does some things that are very…what’s the word? Curious? However, there is a reason for His “curious” behavior, as we shall see.

To begin the discussion, I want to look at the marriage of Samson. Now, Samson’s parents had been contacted twice by an angel before his birth. The wife—we’re not told her name—experienced the first visit. (She was barren, by the way.) She was given some basic instructions about how to raise this boy. He should drink no wine or strong drink. He should eat nothing unclean. His hair should not be cut. He would save Israel from the domination of the Philistines (Judges 13:2-20).

Well, the day came when this God-chosen deliverer wanted to get married. He’d found a woman who was beautiful and desired her. One major problem existed, however. The woman was a Philistine. The Philistines were not only one of Israel’s enemies, they were pagans. They worshiped Dagon. Not much is known about this god, but The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary says, “As divine ruler of his land, Dagon was responsible for king and people; this is well attested in spheres of military expansion, fertility, living and deceased human rulers, and divine advice (Kupper 1947: 150–52). A number of messages from Dagon to his territory have survived. By dream, by ecstatic possession, and by oral command, male and female prophets and commoners related Dagon’s messages on topics ranging from war and peace.” 1

The parents, however, knowing how distasteful this was to God, urged their son to relent. He did not. So, they went to Timnah to secure Samson’s heartthrob. In my opinion, they gave in to this unrighteous request because they knew, based upon their two encounters with the angel, that this man was chosen and called by God. However, was this behavior unrighteous? Read this: “His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel” (Judges 14:4).2

So, let’s get this straight. God chooses Samson as the man to deliver Israel and is going to use his marriage to a pagan enemy of Israel to do it.

Right. Happens all the time.

Thus, a wedding was arranged. Just before the joining, however, Samson told the bride-to-be’s relatives that he had a riddle for them. I mean, everybody does this, right? Just to add to the oddness of this account, the riddle had to do with a lion Samson had killed with his bare hands and the beehive he subsequently found it its carcass. Just normal, everyday stuff. These men did not know the answer to Samson’s riddle, so they told Samson’s wife-to-be that unless she spilled the beans, she and her family would be burned alive.

That’s called incentive.

So, she cajoled Samson, and he gave up the answer to the riddle. Then he responded the way the Lord wanted him to: “And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house. And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man” (Judges 14:19–20).

But it doesn’t end there. Samson catches three hundred foxes, ties their tails together, attaches torches, and burns up the Philistines’ stacked grain, standing grain, and olive orchards.

Do you know of anyone who has, without the aid of a trap, caught a fox, much less three hundred of them? Then tied their tails together? It’s clear—this man had supernatural enablement.

It doesn’t stop there. He kills one thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey. Right. John Wick with a jawbone. At least Wick finally got shot. Samson did this with no one stabbing him or shooting an arrow between his shoulder blades.

Feel free to read the Samson account, but it ends with the now blind Samson pushing on two pillars in the temple of Dagon, destroying it and killing about three thousand worshippers. Again, this man was enabled by the Spirit of God. No one is that strong.

Why would the Lord do things this way? It just seems crazy.

No, not crazy. The Lord God Almighty goes out of His way to inform us that He alone performs His work, so He alone will be glorified. Consider Gideon. His pots and torches were great, I’m sure, but they are not effective war weapons. Break the pots. Shout. Hold up the torches. The enemy is defeated. Good job with those pots and torches, men!

Right.

We could go on. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt by a man holding up his staff. I mean no disrespect, but I’m sure Moses would not think holding a staff up accomplishes, on its own, anything.

Defeating an enemy city, Jericho, by marching around it, shouting and blowing trumpets. Great work on those trumpets, guys! And the shouting? Awesome!

Could the Lord make it any clearer? He alone brings victory and deliverance. He alone, not us, is to be glorified.

 

1Handy, L. K. (1992). Dagon (Deity). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 1–2, pp. 1232–2). New York: Doubleday.

2All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

200

God doesn’t think like we do. In response to this statement, you might say, “No duh, Jim.”

Or words to that affect.

But God’s thinking should influence what we do as Christians and how we think. The way of thinking I’d like to address in this post is our of-the-world reasoning that bigger is better.

Consider these things:

God Almighty in the flesh, Immanuel, descended from heaven and took on the body of a man. Jesus demonstrated His power over the material world many times: Increasing the substance of bread, walking on water, stilling a storm, changing water into wine, healing people, and raising them from the dead. All of this was done to glorify the Father and to prove Jesus’ deity. However, this Almighty God chose only twelve men to whom He would entrust the continuation of what He had initiated and made possible. Why only twelve? Or eleven, if you exclude Judas. Why not one hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? This is Almighty God, after all, and this was Jesus’ only opportunity to gather lots of people. Eleven men? Really?

Why only three years? Again, this was His one and only opportunity.

The wonderful, glorious answer lies in a passage in Judges when the Lord behaved in a similar way with Gideon.

The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many” (Judges 7:2–4a). 1

Ten thousand was still too many, so He reduced the number. Three hundred against how many enemy soldiers?

And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance (Judges 7:12).

Now, you know as well as I do that this just doesn’t make any sense. However, it made perfect sense to God, who only does wondrous—and perfect—things.

Does God need big numbers of His people to work His work?

Well, if the lives of Gideon and Jesus have any meaning for us, no.

Well, then, why do we think He needs large numbers?

The simple answer: We don’t think like God does.

Second answer: We think we will get more done for God.

Third answer: In our it-makes-sense-to-get-the-numbers way of thinking, comes a shift that is subtle but calamitous: We will get more done for God.

Again, this makes perfect sense to us. We’re working hard, right? We’re praying, right? God wants to expand His kingdom, right? God will to be glorified in big numbers, right? Big numbers equal, um, success.

Full stop.

I’m pretty certain that if Gideon and his ten thousand men had beaten the Midianites, they would have said, “All the glory goes to God,” in much the same way we do now. However, the Lord knows our hearts better than we do. He knew the temptation that Gideon and his men would face if He didn’t make it absolutely clear that He alone was bringing the victory. Think Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea. Think marching around Jericho. Think David and Goliath. Who brought those glorious victories? Men? No. God alone.

This way of thinking is so radical that we can’t imagine how to implement it. What? God could do glorious things through a handful of people? No. We need to get together as many as possible—God’s great army of believers.

No, Gideon’s army of believers.

What does this mean for the way pastors and leaders do ministry? All I have to offer is the truth of Scripture. What believers do with that truth, well, that’s their choice.

 

1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy of giphy.com

giphy

The other day I was reading in the Book of Deuteronomy, near its end. I came across something the Lord said to Moses that caused me respond in wonder. Surprising, huh?

He told Moses to write a song.

Well, all right! The Lord God Almighty is a song writer. I’d never thought of Him in this way. A little unexpected. Here is the reason the Lord told Moses to write down the lyrics He was going to dictate:

When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them (Deuteronomy 31:20-21).1

So. God writes songs. He wants this particular song to be sung so His people will know that evil will befall them when they turn away from Him after experiencing His blessing. Well, it’s worse than that. Destruction will come. (Deuteronomy 32:23-24).

Then, in this song, God Almighty makes this beautifully awesome, fear-inducing, sovereign announcement to a people who have wrongly trusted in other gods:

Now see that I, even I, am He,

And there is no God besides Me;

I kill and I make alive;

I wound and I heal;

Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand

(Deuteronomy 32:39).2

Yes. He is the One who blesses. He is the One who takes blessings away. The Almighty God takes full responsibility for good and bad things that occur. He kills people. He also brings life. God rules the universe—only He and none other. Nothing happens on the earth or in the universe that He doesn’t cause or allow. However, for those who know they are called according to His purpose, all things work for good (Romans 8:28). Thus, true good is eternal, not short-term, human-understanding good. When we do not see the good come about as we would like, we believe that we will comprehend when all things become known.

Toward the end of this song, in Deuteronomy 32:36, the Lord utters these gracious words, words that help us understand what He will do when we cease our dependence upon false “gods,”—things in which we have trusted when we have stopped trusting Him:

For Yahweh will judge on behalf of his people, and concerning his servants; he will change his mind when he sees that their power has disappeared, and there is no one left, confined or free.

Once His people realize how weak and in need of Him they are, perhaps they will call upon Him. Seeing their humility, the Lord will relent and turn toward them. He is forgiving and gracious. The Lord knows it is for our own good to trust Him and turn to Him—yes—for our own good, not because He is an evil dictator who loves cruelty.

And He wants us to sing about it, all of it.

 

1The New King James Version. (1982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

2Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New King James Version. (1982). (Dt 31:20–21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

200m

If God really existed, would you like to know His mind?

Well, He does and Christians can.

Now, I am not saying that believers in Jesus can thoroughly know the mind of God. He is just too immense. For example, He possesses perfect knowledge of everything that occurred at Creation. No one on earth knows the how and workings of this event. Where did all this in which we live and breathe come from? We would have had to been present before Creation to know these things, but since we are created beings, that is clearly not possible. Although this is just one example, it is a very large one.

We could continue. How does the Lord God go about knowing the numbers of the stars? Human beings cannot count them all. Well, if you want to attempt it, go ahead. Inform me when you finalize your results. Even if we could count the ones we can see or detect, we would still fail, because some stars—even galaxies—are too distant. The universe is expanding at the speed of light, so these stars will continue to evade detection.

And how does the Lord God Almighty know about every sparrow that falls? How does He do that? What process does He use to count the number of hairs on everyone’s heads? (And perhaps the unbeliever should ask, ‘Why does He care?’) We are talking about an intelligence—a spiritual intelligence, not an AI computer intelligence—that we just cannot comprehend. I hope you believe me when I tell you that no matter how intelligent computers become, they will fail to do these things.

So, it should be no surprise that this immensely knowledgeable Lord has given us the ability to know His mind in a way we can understand. We can know enough of God’s mind to know the truth, truth that teaches us how to live in Him and with people here, on the earth. How? We can know His mind by reading the words He spoke to and through His prophets and apostles. He spoke to them in words they could understand, and they wrote them down. This is how we know God’s mind—at least enough to live this earthly life.

Knowing God’s mind about this life is not difficult. However, our hearts have been darkened, and our sinful brains reject simple truths, the simplest of which is that God exists (Romans 1:21). At one time in my life, I rejected this truth, as well. If I’d taken the time to look at the creation that flourished around and above me and thought about it, the reality of God would have been difficult to deny. But I was a fool. These are some words from the mind of God: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1).1 Now, the word “corrupt” here does not mean the kind of corruption we talk about when a government official is accused of taking bribes. Corrupt here means “ruined,” or “spoiled,” or “decayed.” So, I was being ruined when I denied the existence of God, and that ruin would have continued if He hadn’t graciously rescued me. The word “abominable” carries with it the meanings of “loathsome” and “abhorrent.” Even though I didn’t think this way about myself at all, I was. And, looking back at my life, I cannot help but agree. And, unfortunately, my old sinful self still wants to pull me to ruining, loathsome ways. When I don’t heed the words that God clearly spoke to His prophets and apostles, I leave what I know God’s mind to be. I ignore it. I justify my actions. Please allow me to be brutally honest. Sometimes I love ruin and abomination.

Would you agree that this is foolish?

May the Lord be merciful.

The last part Psalm 14:1 tells us that none of those in this condition can do good. True. How can a man or woman who is decaying and abhorrent perform something good? I mean, a stinking, decaying corpse has nothing to offer but food for fly larvae.

I write this brief look at a verse from Psalm 14 to help us grasp how we can know the mind of God. Believing He exists is the beginning of a process that will keep us from the ways of the fool. Ignoring His words leads us to one place and one place only—decay and abhorrence. There is no other destination. He does not want that for us. He wants to pull us out of a ruinous place, a place akin to a garbage pile on its way to the incinerator.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

For more about the books

POSTS BY THE MONTH / YEAR

POSTS BY CATEGORIES AND TITLES

Follow me on Twitter