Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Presence

At the River Church we are going through a series called The Presence. It is basically about how Christmas and all of life is not about what we recieve (hence, "presents" as in the ones given at Christmas) but about the presence of God in our lives.

Today we talked about how Christ has been so merciful to us that we really have no real option but to be merciful to others. We talked about Isaiah 52 and 53 and about God laying His arm bare and stepping into time not with all-consuming power, but with humility and service.

It was a pretty powerful word and I pray that I have eyes to see and ears to hear it and am able to recieve what was being spoken today. I was somewhat distracted because I was running the slides today but even apart from that, they were not easy words to take in.

My flesh wanted to scream out: "But who do other people think they are? Dare they mistreat the great and wonderful Brad? Not without me turning away from them!" Oh how I wanted to justify myself in my mind for how I live. I live in such contempt for God and His mercy. We all do, if we are honest with ourselves.

37"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

39He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

43"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

46"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."
(Luke 6 NIV)

This past week I have struggled with some news I have gotten about a person I was close to in my past. There is a lot of hurt, jealousy, betrayal and also a sense of genuine concern for them in my heart. It is sooo easy for me to get mad at them and upset with God for what all has happened and I have done a bit of both in the past several days.

However, what has been different about this rough patch that I am going through is that God is teaching me to praise Him in and for all that His happening. In the Bible, after Job recieves his first attack from satan he responds with the following words:

And he said,"Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
(Job 1:21-22, ESV)

After Job is attacked a second time, this time in his body with severe boils covering every inch of him, Job responds in the following way in a conversation with his wife:

Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"

In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
(Job 2:9,10; ESV)

Job knew something about God that many people do not. Job knew that God was absolutely sovereign over what satan was doing (i.e. "the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away") and Job knew that God was for him. Romans 8:28 tells us:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (ESV)

Job knew what it meant to fear God. John Piper desribes the fear of God like this:

In Isaiah, the fear of the LORD is the key to true life.

"He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure."

"And he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure."
(Isaiah 33:6, NIV, ESV)

In the tulmutuous life we live in, Christ is our only sure hope of any good that will come to us. Whether we have issues we are dealing with involving world events, issues in our community, issues with people in our own neighborhoods or churches, people who live under the same roof as us or even people who used to live under the same roof as us but for many reasons are now gone,all that we have is Christ.

We are undeserving sinners living in a broken and chaotic world. Do people in our lives deserve the wrath of God? Of course! Do I? Of course I do. Even in writing this right now I am hesitant to write it about myself. It is so much easier to say that other people deserve it more than I do. But that is not how God views things. We all deserve to be consumed in the fury of God's wrath.

But the Word also tells us:

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10, NIV)

God has given us a rich hope in Christ and gives us the task of propigation, or in other words, of going out to others on God's behalf to tell people all that God has done for us and how much we need Him each and every day.

If I am honest with myself, and if every one was honest with themselves, we would confess how much we need to turn away from our sin and how we need a new heart from the LORD to know Him with and to share that with others.

From a person who has spent the past few days working through a wide range of emotions and sorting out my heart in regards to a lot of issues, this is my prayer and I hope it is yours as well:


No comments:

Post a Comment