Monday, July 21, 2014

Different View of Favor

 The purpose of this is to maybe set askew the common thought that God's favor somehow implies ease in life.

 Starting off early, we have Noah. Honestly, if i witnessed what he witnessed, i'd have preferred to have been swept away by the waters. All his friends and neighbors, extended family, everyone; wailing and screaming in fear as the first few drops began to fall after the doors of the boat were supernaturally closed. The cries would've grown louder as the rain grew heavier; as the earth itself split to release the firmament from below, the shrieks of men, women, and children would've faded into the roar of water crashing against the sides of the ark. It's hardly a wonder one of the first things he did (after setting up an altar to God) was begin fermenting beverages.
 Next would be Jacob, ever-shadowed by his elder brother, the hunter-gatherer, Esau. His mother, nigh as deceitful as himself, devised a plan to get Jacob the birthright. But what good is a birthright if he leaves his home? He works for his uncle for the better part of a decade, only to get the wrong girl, and then another seven years he labors for the girl he truly wanted--and her womb was closed up. Leah bore him child after child, and yet Rachel, his love, is left without child for decades. She became desperate (as did Jacob) and, after Leah had stopped bearing children, offered Jacob her slave-girl, Bilhah. He bore two sons through her. And Leah then offered her own slave-girl, Zilpah, who then bore two more sons. Eventually, Rachel is able to conceive, and her son is named Joseph, who is betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, leaving Jacob to mourn his faked-death. Joseph, the favorite of Jacob, eventually led the Hebrews into Egypt.
 Next comes Moses, that one fellow who was abandoned as a child, raised by those who oppressed his family, flees, marries a woman of another land (and is ridiculed for it), and mocked by his adopted brother.
 Job, the besieged, is chosen to be the target of Satan because God saw him to be a faithful man. God favored him, therefore torment was everywhere in this man's life as Satan wreaked havoc in all the authority that God allowed him to have over Job; wealth, possessions, family, health, everything. Boils upon boils, resulting an insatiable itch covering the entirety of his body that would've felt as an acidic burn if he'd tried to scratch. This man was favored by God. This distraught, helpless, poor man sitting in the ashes of his life.
 Ezekiel's wife dies, and he's commanded not to mourn or weep for her.
 David is hunted by his king like an animal.
 The author of Lamentations, presumably Jeremiah, describes his skin having sloughed off, his bones broken, his teeth shattered by gravel; he speaks of children fainting in the streets, begging for something to drink, dying in the arms of their mothers ("gasping out their last breath in their mother's bosom"); "the children I held in my arms and raised, my enemy has destroyed," he says. If there is a more tragic sight (other than that of a Father watching His only begotten Son, blameless and holy, beaten and tortured, naked and nailed to an execution stake like a criminal) i'd rather not know of it.
 Paul is described as not knowing what he would suffer for Christ's sake, and yet was one we would call favored.
 The greatest affliction, that of Christ on the cross (dubbed his "being glorified"), dripping with the sin of the world; this Man, the only begotten Son of God. Hardly an image of favor. Or is it?

 In all these examples, it would seem the greater the suffering, the greater the favor God has for the object of affliction. We are told in Romans 5 that tribulations bring...hope.
 God promises to withhold no good thing from those He favors, and that all things work out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Some examples of good things are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control; what of these do not come about except through some sort of suffering? 1 Corinthians 13 says love is, first and foremost, long-suffering; that, if we love, we will suffer long for it. Understanding of joy does not come unless one knows misery. Peace does not come without war; patience without situations that would call for great unrest; kindness without circumstances where one has been treated cruelly; all of these qualities require a grasp of their antonym, an understanding of their absence.
 And God will withhold no good thing from those He favors. Those who love Him and are called according to His good purpose are guaranteed scenarios in which these fruits of the Spirit will have the fertile, volcanic soil where they may blossom and grow (intense struggles). He also promises that, through perseverance, these fruits will set.
 Without rain, there is no harvest. Without trial, no judgement--or mercy.
 He will not leave His favored ones without struggle, or else they would bear no Spiritual fruit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Going To The Romans As The World . . .

 "But in the prophets of Yerushalayim I have seen a horrible thing — they commit adultery, live in lies, so encouraging evildoers that none returns from his sin. For me they have all become like S’dom, its inhabitants like ‘Amora.” (Jeremiah 23:14, CJB)
 Adonai-Tzva’ot says: “Don’t listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are making you act foolishly, telling you visions from their own minds and not from the mouth of Adonai. They keep reassuring those who despise me, ‘Adonai says you will be safe and secure,’ and saying to all living by their own stubborn hearts, ‘Nothing bad will happen to you.’" (vs. 16-17)
 Adonai’s anger will not abate till he fully accomplishes the purpose in his heart. In the acharit-hayamim (latter days), you will understand everything. (vs. 20)
 When [someone from] this people, a prophet or a cohen (priest) asks you, ‘What is the burden of Adonai?’ you are to answer them, ‘What burden? I am throwing you off,’ says Adonai. (vs. 33)
 I will lift you up, burden that you are, and throw you off, away from my presence — you and the city I gave you and your ancestors. (vs. 39)
 There's more, but i encourage each person that reads this to read the chapter (or, better yet, the book) for themselves.

 There are many modern ways of evangelizing. And, lately, many have become caught up in "going to the Romans as a Roman." They mistake this for "going to the sinners as a sinner" or replace the word "sinner" with "world." This may be of the best intentions, but it is no less dangerous than a false doctrine.
 At the church i visited this past weekend, it was said that, "salvation is not by our works, so there are no works we can do to lose it." Another interesting quote was, "It's impossible to disappoint God. He knows your past, He knows your future, and so you can't surprise Him. If you can't surprise Him, you can't disappoint Him."

 Even with this kind of warning as given through Jeremiah, we still have so many social clubs operating as churches. People, preachers, saying, "God told me..." and following it up with some sort of infectious doctrine that would not encourage God's people to become too unlike the world for sake of looking "too holy," or "holier-than-thou," (and we dare not consider it a race, or should we refresh ourselves on 1 Corinthians 9:23-25?) and by doing so dissuading others from Christianity. But i tell you in the words of my Savior, "If you belonged to the world, the world would have loved its own. But because you do not belong to the world — on the contrary, I have picked you out of the world — therefore the world hates you."
 If the world loves you, there may be a problem. If the worldly look at you and aren't confused, perplexed, hateful, or angry, it wouldn't be a gamble to say that Christ hasn't picked you out of it just yet.

 Anyone who says you can be in Christ and not only live with your sin but be comfortable with it (even worse, that any facsimile or measure of worldliness as a good thing . . .); they're nullifying the sacrifice of the Messiah, the God-sent Holy Man, Immanuel Himself, Jesus the Christ, beaten and tortured and killed. If what they say was true, why did Jesus even hang, naked and bloody, on the cross? The answer is simply void. By His wounds, yes, by His stripes, by His resurrection we can be called children of God. If there was no way by our works to fall from salvation, how, then, did David cry out, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation" after he had committed murder for the sake of having adultery? David felt God's salvation abandon him, and with it God's peace, joy, and Holy Spirit.

 A friend of mine shared this on Facebook. It's a snippet from Eric and Leslie Ludy;
 As Christ-followers, why should we think that friendship with the world is something to be proud of? When Hollywood and the secular music industry feels comfortable with us (and we feel comfortable with them), it means that something is wrong with our Christianity. Many of us have come to believe that we must participate in the things of the world in order to reach it for Christ, and that the more attractive we are to the culture, the better witnesses we will be.
 But Jesus said something quite different. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-29). And, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Let us remember that true Christianity will influence the world - but it will never be applauded by the world.

 And this is true.
 Some may say, "But we have to attract the world!"
 To them, i say, "You go. Attract the world. Be loved by them."
 "The Lost" is something wholly different from "the World." The Lost are those who would seek to be found. The World is that which believes it already is found.
 Many preachers would do well to consider, when trying so desperately to fill pews, that Jesus offered bread, and all ate till they were filled. John 6 tells us that the crowds followed Him, and Jesus would give them no more physical bread, but rather Himself, the Bread of Life, and they became angry and bitter. It says that many turned away and no longer followed Him. And Jesus' response was rather unexpected; He let them go and kept to His twelve. The reason He lets them go is because, as He says in the very same chapter, "Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will certainly not turn away."
 All who see and trust in Him will not be turned away; those who make the decision that they will starve the flesh to feed the Spirit; those who take up their cross daily and follow Him; those who trust upon His name; these are the ones He will raise up on the Last Day. The Father's will is that none should perish; we are to turn to Christ and repent of our sins or else we will perish not by His will but by our own.
 This choice is given each of us. And we would do well to share it.