He is risen! He is risen indeed!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:1-7
Our pastor recently preached from this passage, noting that most sermons this time of year tend to come from the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). He referred to this scripture as sort of the “Gospel of Paul.” His emphasis was on the “fullness of time” — How everything had been prepared for the arrival of the Messiah and the rapid spread of the message of hope in Christ:
Then he concluded his sermon with an unexpected twist. He asked us what “the reason for the season” is. After the congregation answered “Jesus,” he said he was not surprised at the answer and that it was not necessarily wrong. But he pointed back to the scripture above, and noted we celebrate Jesus’ birth because of what it means for us — a chance at redemption and adoption. Before God ever said “let there be light,” He already had the Incarnation and the Cross on His mind. From God’s perspective, WE were the reason for this season — why He went to all this effort in the first place.
As we look at the swirl of world events around us, it’s encouraging to remember this promise: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Hurricane Irma is scheduled to start her run Sunday up the spine of Florida–a State I have many ties to. It’s a unique display of the destructive chaos of a fallen universe. I don’t put much stock in leaders who often jump to declare individual disasters as specific judgments from God for specific failures of a group of people. The Bible certainly confirms He has done so in the past. And we live in an age literally hell-bent on thumbing our nose at God. But I believe in this age of Grace we now live since the sacrifice of Christ, these “acts of God” are less often conscious action on His part than they are inaction to stop the built-in consequences of a creation frustrated under the weight of sin.
There are two things to consider here from God’s view. First, the world increasingly rejects anything to do with Him. Second, times of catastrophe focus us on what’s truly important and necessary far more than do times of calm and comfort. So rather than seeing God as a cosmic killjoy looking for excuses to hurl lightning bolts at wrongdoers, I believe the better analogy is one of a rejected Lover who has sadly granted our world’s desire to leave His presence and prescriptions, and as a consequence lose His protection as well.
But that’s the “big picture,” so to speak. The wondrous part of all this is that God doesn’t just deal with humanity. Or a specific nation. Or a specific city. He treats with each of us individually, desiring a personal relationship based on reciprocal love. This is unlike any “religious” conception on earth: the Creator desiring individual communion with His created. Despite humanity’s sinful nature He cares for us and hears us — our needs, wants, fears, and confessions. Just this week a family I know was stranded far from home with a broken car well after business hours. Yet God answered their pleas for help with an amazing turn of events that brought the right people (including an off-duty mechanic) and provided the resources to get them safely on their way again.
So in the midst of the storm; in the midst of the effects of the rule of this present darkness, we all have the privilege to seek shelter through prayer in the love of the Father, made possible by His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s not simply a “get out of jail free” card, or some kind of magic spell to ward off tragedy. No, this presence He offers provides comfort, perspective, and strength regardless of what happens physically:
(King) Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
That is the comfort and strength I’m talking about: the confidence to trust God, obey Him, and let Him work all things for the good of those who love Him. It may not be the “good” we think we want. “Unfair” things will happen. We may lose our jobs. Our earthly possessions. Even our life. But for those who love God and trust Him, any and all of that pales in comparison to the eternal joy that awaits us when we see Him face to face.
Everyone reading this is facing storms. It may not be a Category 4 hurricane, but we each have pressures that threaten to crush us. Know there is a God who cares for you, who is far more powerful than any storm you could face, and who desires what He knows is the best for you. Ask Him for peace. For calm in the midst of the storm. And *Even If* it seems the storm has taken everything away from you, know that if your trust is in God you already have everything you need. There is nothing that can take that away from you.
May the Lord bless and keep us all, according to His good will.
Presented with no comment other than this.
Like many Christians who use social media, I have been deeply saddened to see how many of my personal contacts jumped on the bandwagon last Friday and changed their personal icon to include a rainbow overlay. Many have gone further than that, posting links to scribblings by nominally ‘Christian’ leaders who are attempting to rationalize accommodation to this latest phase of the Sexual Revolution that has all but destroyed social support of the traditional family in Western Civilization. Some of these are children of dear friends of mine, who I am fairly certain were taught the scriptures at home and should know better. But it should not be surprising how powerful the pull of this world is. Since last week, I have occasionally offered private messages to a few of these, seeking to show them what scripture says.
This author, however, has summarized very well the questions these people need to be asking themselves. So I offer it here for reference and for some serious soul-searching.
The bottom line, though, is this question: what do you recognize as authoritative? Public opinion? The tortured justifications of nine unelected officials? The musings of celebrities? Your own sense of right and wrong? Or something greater? Despite all the efforts to say otherwise, scripture is very clear about God’s view of homosexuality — and of adultery, greed, slothfulness, etc… the full range of how our sinful nature manifests itself. None of these are to be celebrated. God is also clear about our inability to free ourselves from this sinful nature, and how only by approaching Him through faith in His Son and the sacrifice He made on our behalf can we be saved from the death and decay all around us.
So, fellow Christian: the question ultimately is to Whom or to what do you really bow? For at some point everyone will bow and acknowledge God’s authority. Some will do so on that day out of long practice. Others will grudgingly concede the fact after a lifetime wasted serving other masters. And some will protest that they served the King, only to have Him say “depart from me, for I never knew you.”
Which will you be?
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
“Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, (former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg) said with a grin: ‘I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.’”
— New York Times, April 16, 2014
I haven’t read a harder-hitting example of Man’s tendency to un-Biblical self-righteousness in a long time. May this Easter season show the aging nanny-state activist his need for Grace… and the need to show it to others as well. In the mean time, we would all do well to look for more humble leaders…