How big is your God?

One of the earliest names for God in the Bible is God Most High (Genesis 14:18-20). It’s such an awesome description. No matter what we can see or imagine…He’s higher, bigger, and stronger. By the time of the first century, the Hebrews had learned a lot. God had revealed his personal name to Moses; He had delivered them from slavery and given them His Law. Afterwards, they went through the Kingdom years and were currently dealing with Roman oppressors. On the surface, it appeared they still served the same God, but did they? 

In Luke 5:17-26 the story is recorded of the paralytic being lowered through the house roof by his friends. With a pressing crowd and religious experts watching, Jesus did something unexpected; He forgave the crippled man of his sins and caused the scholars great distress. Why? It was because His action didn’t fit their well-defined, predictable template of God. They were thinking “only God can forgive sin” which is true; they just missed the fact that He was standing in front of them. Jesus went on to say, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…I say to you, arise, take up your bed and go to your house.” (v.24) Now consider their reaction in verse 26, “And they were all amazed and they glorified God and were filled with fear saying, ‘we have seen strange things today’”. 

Now before you think I’m slamming the scholars, I must admit, I would have also struggled to reconcile the event with widely held beliefs of the time. So, what does it teach us about God and His ways? Well, in Isaiah 55:8-9 God says of Himself, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor My ways your ways. For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” 

In the Old Testament accounts prior to the first century, God didn’t fit the template of what was expected of a “god” either. The reason is simple…He’s not a “god”, He is God Most High. His ways of looking at things are unique and complete as was Jesus’ in the Gospels. He didn’t fit the template of a “messiah”, but He was and is the Messiah. His mission was unique and complete. He said and did unexpected things, not because He was a rebel, but on the contrary, He was the only one whose heart was not in rebellion. 

Jesus not only healed physically, He healed completely as with the leper in verses 12-15. At the time, skin diseases were thought to be a physical manifestation of inner corruption. The leper asked Him if He was willing to cleanse him…not heal, but cleanse. Jesus answered “I am willing”. What incredible words to hear, “I am willing” and He even touched him while saying it. 

What about us? Is He really God Most High to you? I’m often tempted to offer prayers lacking in Kingdom value and eternal-difference-making-power. Is God truly big to you or is He just slightly larger than a pressing personal problem? What image do you see when you pray? Do you see Him “high and lifted up” in awesome glory as Isaiah did? Or something less? If we’re not careful, our view of God can become very “Hallmark”, but His true nature as King of Glory is SO much higher, bigger, and stronger than that. 

Our communities don’t need “Hallmark Christians” armed with clichés; they need bold believers who’ll speak truth in love while praying big. Jesus is still in the cleansing business and transformed lives are the result. I’m very thankful He’s graciously tolerated my small prayers, but now it’s time to pray bigger. How about you?

Series: Thoughts on Luke – Luke 5:1-26

What does “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” mean anyway?

I’m a Patriot. There are many reasons why (like an appreciation of our founders and a family history of soldiers dating back to the Revolutionary War), but for brevity I’ll narrow it to one…purpose. It’s stated in the thoroughly-deliberated-over, intentional words of the document declaring it: 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As Christians, it’s important for us to be able to articulate what “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” means in view of scripture. Sure it means opportunity, but not to fulfill materialistic dreams. It’s a chance to live a life reflecting God’s precepts and pass along a great heritage.  

First, is the “created equal” part which many progressives claim while pushing their agenda. Yes the “equal” part is important when discussing human rights and discrimination. However, if the “created” part is left out, then all that’s left is a humanistic “you-can’t-judge-me” philosophy. The truth of being created is the sole premise of “endowed” and “unalienable”. That’s why our position should be to celebrate life…old, young, unborn or infirmed. Life is a precious gift from God and we should never accept the idea that there’s a right to take it on demand. Along with the gift, as Creator He also designed the family unit to care and nurture young life through the growth process. This is a sacred trust given to parents and not to be taken lightly.

“Equal” also means that followers of Christ have a seat at the table in the public square. The battering ram of political correctness is a weapon used by many to silence opposition. The pressure is on for us to sanitize our message and empty it of the true reason for the “why” behind the Gospel. Our love of country should motivate us to share truth in love, declaring that sin is real and our need for a savior is paramount.

Second, is the “pursuit” part. Since we do indeed have a Creator, what are His precepts for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”? Consider:

  • Work – In the beginning, man was made to work. Yes, believe it or not, Adam was made to work and have a God honoring purpose before sin ever entered into the world. Work is not a punishment for sin, but a hard-wired part of our DNA. Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” The difficulty and struggle of doing work came with sin (Genesis 3:17-19). There is great value in differentiating between the two events for ourselves and our children. The principle Paul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “…If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” is one we should model and promote in society. We should honor God through our work ethic.
  • Freedom – This one costs. Many brave men and women paid the ultimate price for our liberty. The truth is though, some of the freedoms enjoyed by people are not ones I personally practice or consider healthy. Even some of their speech is offensive, but I’m not interested in silencing them. Why? Because the scripture shows from the beginning; God gave Adam freewill to make choices and has continued that model through history. Jesus coming to pay for our sin was a direct result of Adam and Eve’s choice. Freewill is a fundamental part of God’s design and I’ll fight for truth not silence.
  • Attitude – We must choose to be content. Greed and envy fuel much of popular opinion surrounding us. Whether it’s “punishing the rich” with more taxes or feeling entitled to something not earned, there’s a growing spirit of covetousness. The underlining factor is old-fashioned selfishness and we should model a pursuit of happiness that looks different. We’re called to be people that do not love the world or conform to its pattern (Romans 12:1-2 & I John 2:15-17).

The words “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” initiated a long costly battle for the ones who signed onto them. I pray we have the same mettle to carry that heritage forward!

Finding Hope in 2013

I must confess, I’m struggling to have a hopeful attitude toward 2013. When considering our nation’s cultural and political status, I’ve found myself wishing I could simply turn-on a positive outlook, but reality demands more than simple will-power. It requires something solid and practical, not cliché. With that being said, I offer a simple story from last Saturday.

Recently, as we were taking down Christmas decorations, I went to the basement to build some shelves to stack them on. As I started cutting the lumber, I heard my six year-old son say “Hey Daddy, can I help?” Of course, as a Dad I wanted his help, but navigating the “how” part (with an obvious skill level limitation) required patience. Thankfully last Saturday, the Holy Spirit reminded me to value the time and spend a few extra moments to do it right (in the past, I’ve often let mission-mindedness interfere). My son used the tools I’ve set aside for him to “build” something of his own and then he helped me in a practical way by holding tools and handing me nails. It was great and I’m glad he was there. As we were finishing, I thought about how it mirrored my relationship with God.

As the Master Carpenter, the Lord is busy working on a grand project and I’m standing there holding a hammer asking “Can I help?” Of course in His patient way, He brings me over, gives me a small project to work on, but soon I’m tempted to look at the big stuff He’s building. Simply because I’m in the workshop, I start thinking I’m qualified to critique His work. This past year has been one where I don’t understand a lot of the project. There have been some very exciting things, but many confusing moments too. That’s where Luke 4 comes in.

While teaching through Luke, I read some commentary from Charles Swindoll concerning Jesus’ ministry method that started me thinking. If you want something solid to stand on this year consider how Jesus went about His work in difficult days. It’s very applicable for all of us as we look toward 2013. In Luke 4 we get a snapshot of His recurring habits and here are 4 things I hope to steadily do this year:

  • Teach Truth (Luke 4:31-32) – Jesus’ teaching was different. Of course being God He handled the scripture with authority, but His style was to teach from the text. The spiritual leaders of the day spoke mostly of what the “chain” of interpretation was. There was minimal focus on the scripture itself. The Word should always be front and center. In every area of life, whether personal, parental, or vocational; my foundation should be the scripture, not just general attitudes cobbled together from various sources. It starts with honesty and first letting the truth speak to “me”, then to others.
  • Confront Evil (Luke 4: 33-37, 41) – Evil is real. Jesus dealt with it directly. In our society the norm is to deal with symptoms or consequences of evil, not the source. Jesus was always about the source. He had the authority then, He has the authority now. Suit up daily with His armor to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-18).
  • Demonstrate Compassion (Luke 4:38-40) – Jesus often healed and ministered simply because of love. In verses 38-40 He’s busy healing late into the night. It wasn’t because He wanted to be validated or else He would have let the demons declare it in verse 35. It was compassion. I need to show compassion out of love…simply out of love that comes from Christ.
  • Renew Strength (Luke 4:42-44) – Jesus often retreated for renewal. Time with the Father was an absolute priority for Him. Rest and solitude is a key ingredient for a proper attitude. The temptation is to be “on” all the time and let other people or circumstances dictate the agenda. Simple moments spent with the Lord, can neutralize a lot of anxious thoughts.

This year, I want to stand in the doorway of 2013 with a big smile on my face (like my son did), and say to the Lord, “Daddy, can I help?” I’m confident He knows just how I can.

Series: Thoughts on Luke – Luke 4:31-44

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