God Is In The Messy

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. (Proverbs 26:11)

 

Where can I go from your Spirit? 

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)

 

God wants YOU.

He wants ALL of you.

He doesn’t just want the nice, clean, sweet-smelling you that you present to the church on Sunday morning … No.

He wants your pain, your mess, your agony.  He wants to be Lord over ALL your life (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly).


God is as much Lord over your messes (and mine) as He is Lord over the neat, clean, and tidy.

He is with the child who’s undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.  He’s with the soldier who’s had an arm blown off in combat.

God wants to be Lord of your WHOLE life.

 

 

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours. (St. Teresa of Avila, 1515–1582)

 

DON’T Do It … Even If It DOES Feel Good.

 

“If it feels good, do it!”

This is the mentality … the ethos …that has driven America since the 1960’s (Wanna shoot heroin?  If it feels good, do it!  Extramarital sex?  If it feels good, do it!  Damn the consequences!)

Consider films such as Dirty Harry and the Death Wish series.  People in an earlier era might’ve just shrugged off gun violence and gone on with their lives.

Not Harry Callahan.

Not Paul Kersey.

The underlying message of these films is, “Don’t bother with the police … Don’t bother with the system.  If you want justice, you have to take the law into your own hands.

“If going out and wasting the quote-unquote ‘bad guys’ all by yourself is going to make you feel good … do it.”


That’s NOT how the real world works.


I’ve given a great deal of thought to our nation’s recent spate of mass shootings (the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the recent shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas).  I believe a great many of these incidents are rooted in this mentality of “If it feels good, do it!”

We have people killing people in large numbers for no other reason than they thought they would get a thrill out of it.  They thought it would be something to add to the proverbial “bucket list” (“See Europe?  Check.  Blow away a crowded room full of people?  Check.”)

We have people who cannot abide the idea of living ordinary lives.  They crave recognition.  They crave attention.  As far as they’re concerned, if mowing down innocent people with an AR-15 rifle is what it takes for them to hit the “big time”, so be it.

And hit the big time they do.  Our society rewards their destructive behavior by showering them with the attention they so desperately crave.  Their lives and backgrounds are probed and exposed for all the world to see by the media (all in an effort to find a “motive” … a reason … an “explanation” … for their evil, criminal behavior).


It’s ultimately a matter of attitude.  We’ve ceased seeing people as human beings.  We don’t see people as individuals who have families and loved ones.

We as a society are losing our capacity for empathy.  We spend so much time relating to people through screens that we’ve forgotten how to relate to the living, breathing, flesh-and-blood, human beings that are all around us.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing people as a means of achieving OUR ends (as opposed to being ends in and of themselves).

Real Life is not like the movies.

God Is Not a Lawyer

The Ten Commandments is a binding contract … and God does not allow loopholes.

There is no such thing as “kind of sinning”, “sort of sinning”, and “sinning a little”.  Sin is sin is sin is sin.  You’ve either sinned or you haven’t.  It’s just that simple.

You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. If your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him. Thus you shall do with his donkey, and you shall do the same with his garment, and you shall do likewise with anything lost by your countryman, which he has lost and you have found. You are not allowed to neglect them.You shall not see your countryman’s donkey or his ox fallen down on the way, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly help him to raise them up.”  (Deuteronomy 22:1-4)

 “Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  (Deuteronomy 5:12-14,21)

The Ancient Israelites weren’t all that different from you and I.  The reason God has had to denote His Commandments in exasperating detail is because — just like modern man — the ancient Israelites went looking for loopholes and escape clauses (no doubt some Israelite asked the question,  “Ok, I can’t work on the sabbath … but the fields need plowing.  Can’t I have my kids or my farm hand work on the sabbath?  What about my wife?  Can’t any of THEM do it?”)

Truly living without ANY limits whatsoever is like trying to drive a car that has no steering wheel and no brakes at 200 miles per hour (good luck trying to stop the thing).

The consequences of sin can be catastrophic (just ask Adam and Eve — one wrongfully eaten apple brought death upon mankind).  How many marriages have been ruined because one spouse had an affair?  How many lives have been lost because of suicide and/or drug addiction?

God is a loving Father who wants to protect his kids:  you and I.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  Would we be not wise to trust him?

 

Whose Vision Are You Living?

“I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances.  I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need.  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:11,12)

 

What is a life well-lived?

Whose vision are you living?  Whose dream are you living — yours or Corporate America’s?

Our society has no concept of “enough”.  It’s not enough to have a house; Corporate America would have you believe that you must have a twenty-room McMansion in order to be a complete and “successful” human being.

It’s not enough to have a car.  Corporate America would have you believe that in order to be “successful”, one must have a Mercedes, Ferrari, BMW, or some other car that costs as much as most people’s mortgages.

What do YOU want?  What appeals to YOU?

 

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
           “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

 

The “preacher” who wrote these verses in the Book of Ecclesiastes is none other than King Solomon.

Solomon had wealth beyond imagination.  He had hundreds of wives (it is said that he fathered children by every single one of them).  He had gold.  He had jewels.  He had mines.  He had the best of everything.

Whatever he wanted, he possessed

“Vanity” is translated in the original Hebrew as “vapor”.  In essence, what Solomon is saying is that life comes and goes like vapor, like the mist.

 

“Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?  Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:18,19)

 

This is the fate of all who strive after riches — You Can’t Take it With You.  Your kids will be fighting over your “stuff” long after you’ve passed away.

 


 

How much of what we think we want in life is the result of our being programmed by Corporate America?  Madison Avenue spends billions of dollars every year to convince us that we are an “aspirational” society.

What is it that we should “aspire” to … gold-plated toys?  Trinkets?  Is having the latest model iPhone really worth working 90+ hours a week?   Is the BMW that’s parked in your driveway worth the time you’ve spent away from your spouse and children?

 


 

“I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11)

“Righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1)

 

The mere accumulation of possessions is not enough to fill the emptiness in one’s soul (it didn’t work for King Solomon).  Expensive toys can never fill the God-shaped space in one’s heart.

We would do well to heed the wisdom of the Apostle Paul in Philippians Chapter 4:  a life well-lived is one that is lived modestly.  We should strive to be content in all circumstances.

God CAN Change His Mind

 

“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” (Psalm 115:3).

 


 

“Job replied to the Lord:

‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted’ ” (Job 42:1-2).


 

“ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’  declares the Lord.  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).

 

Many a preacher has made the mistake of proclaiming, “God would NEVER allow that to happen!  It says so right here in Chapter Three, Verse Eight of (Insert Book Here).”

God can and DOES change His mind.  In Acts 10:10-16, God does away with the Jewish dietary laws in one fell swoop.  In this passage, Peter has a vision of a sheet being lowered from heaven.  The sheet contained animals of every sort (clean and unclean alike), as well as reptiles and birds.  (No devout Jew in Peter’s day would be caught DEAD eating a snake or a lizard!)

A voice from heaven commands Peter to “kill and eat” (Acts 10:13) the animals that are now on the sheet that is lying before him.  Peter protests, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean” (10:14).  The voice from heaven fires back, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (10:15).

God doesn’t stop there.  He orders Peter to see a Roman centurion named Cornelius (10:22).  Cornelius was a Gentile and one of the despised Roman oppressors.  (n.b., Jews and Gentiles in Peter’s day usually had little to do with one another.  Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 was regarded in his day as being nothing short of scandalous.)

By the end of Acts 10, Cornelius and his entire household had been converted to the faith and baptized by the Holy Spirit (10:44-46).


God is still speaking today.  Have we the courage to listen?  In many respects, Peter is a reflection of the church today.  Prior to Acts 10, long-standing “tradition” prohibited Jews from eating certain animals (Deuteronomy 14:7-8, 10, 12-18, 19, 21).

How many outdated, hateful, and unjust traditions is God calling us to discard today?  Has the sun fallen out of the sky because women are preaching the Gospel and serving as priests and ministers?

It is not man’s place to dictate to God what He can and cannot do.  He cannot and WILL not be hemmed in by man’s “doctrine” and/or “tradition”.

Is our church truly to be a “church universal”, one that encompasses all peoples (men AND  women) in all times and in all places?  Or is it to be frozen for all time in the manners and mores of the 1st Century Near East?

Are we Christians willing to yield to God’s call for the church to change …. or are we going to be like the “stiff-necked” and disobedient Israel of the Old Testament who heard God’s voice (via the prophets Malachi, Amos, Joel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, et al.) and refused to listen?

God is still speaking.  Are we too arrogant to listen?  Are we too full of ourselves to hear His voice?  Are we willing to heed the calls of the Malachis, Isaiahs, Amoses, and Joels that are among us and speaking today?

God changed His mind once.  What is to keep Him from doing so again … and again … and again?

Pray for our Nation

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

“If you search for good, you will find favor.  If you search for evil, it will find you.”  (Proverbs 11:27)