There, but for the grace of God…

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There, but for the grace of God…

John 6:60–71 (NRSV)

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

As we get closer to Holy Week and Easter, in our journey through Lent, it is important for us to not think too highly of ourselves, especially since the main purpose of this journey is learning humility. That may seem ridiculous, but our feelings do not always follow logic. I can remember several occasions when the thought popped into my head, Wow! Look how humble I am today!. That kinda defeats the purpose. If you struggle with those kind of thoughts, humility can seem like an unattainable task. Pride gets you when you are proud and when you are humble.

Do not lose hope though. Getting this far in life has been dependent upon God’s mercy and grace from the beginning and it is only by His mercy and grace that we will make it anywhere in life. When the challenges ahead of us seem to big, sometimes it is because they are too big. We were never meant to get through this life on our own, without God and without the help of our brothers and sisters around us. This business about eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Jesus was one way Jesus taught what Paul spoke of in his letter to the Philippians where he wrote:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)

We only get this strength from Jesus. We only get Jesus because He found us.

(Pause for a brief moment while the theologians pull out their 18th and 19th century theology books to prepare for a fight.)

I’m not making an argument for or against free will here. I’m just saying we are all playing hide and seek and Jesus is ‘it’. We do the hiding, and have done it since Genesis 3 and God has been in the business of finding us ever since then.

Our problem is not figuring out how to make Jesus find us. He is pretty good at finding people, even the ones who will fall away and/or betray Him. He is not incredibly picky about who He chooses. No, our problem is that once we are found, we like to wander. 60% Divorce rate in our country among Christians. We like to wander. Getting lost and found has become a game to many of us. Once saved, always saved, and baptized 13 times just to make sure… Tried out 28 different churches too while I was at it. These are just symptoms of a heart that won’t stay fixed on the one and only love that can fulfill it. Left to our own devices, we would hide from life forever until what little we had was taken from us. We may only need salvation from our sin once, but we need to be saved from ourselves every day.

What temptations is God keeping you from today?

What do you need to seek His help in?

God’s War on Terror

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God’s War on Terror

Deuteronomy 7:17–26

17 If you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how can I dispossess them?” 18 do not be afraid of them. Just remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out. The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send the pestilence against them, until even the survivors and the fugitives are destroyed. 21 Have no dread of them, for the LORD your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God. 22 The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to make a quick end of them, otherwise the wild animals would become too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God will give them over to you, and throw them into great panic, until they are destroyed. 24 He will hand their kings over to you and you shall blot out their name from under heaven; no one will be able to stand against you, until you have destroyed them. 25 The images of their gods you shall burn with fire. Do not covet the silver or the gold that is on them and take it for yourself, because you could be ensnared by it; for it is abhorrent to the LORD your God. 26 Do not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be set apart for destruction like it. You must utterly detest and abhor it, for it is set apart for destruction.

-The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Dt 7:17–26). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The Old Testament can be tricky for us to interpret and apply as Christians. It is hard to know which laws were canceled (or fulfilled) for us by Christ’s sacrificial death. It is often difficult to decipher which prophecies Jesus already fulfilled and which ones have yet to come. Here is a really quick over-generalized perspective on how to interpret these books:

  1. Genesis-Deuteronomy: The Torah, the Law of Israel was written like a combination of national history and constitution given to them by God. If you are not part of that people, and perhaps part of that land in the Middle East, these laws will not automatically apply to you. However, there is much to be learned about the nature of God and people in general, and you will not find a better example of what God’s desires for a holy nation are than within these stories and commandments.
  2. Joshua—Esther: These books are largely historical material about the rise and fall of Israel as a nation. Again, quite instructive about God’s character and the good and bad lessons we can learn from reading about another nation’s experience trying to be faithful to God, but not everything can be taken as directly applicable to ourselves.
  3. Job-Song of Solomon: It’s been debated whether Job is a historical book or not, but either way, it serves as an excellent example of how God’s people deal with suffering. Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes also deal with suffering, and many other parts of the human condition, but in the form of prayer or short teachings. Song of Solomon is a strange book compared to other biblical examples. It is a love poem that some have used as an example of God’s love for His people. For me personally, it may be the hardest book in the Bible to preach and teach well.
  4. The rest of the Old Testament, Isaiah-Malachi, are the prophets. These are collections of teachings by God’s messengers to the people of Israel, and occasionally their gentile neighbors, during the history of their nation and following their fall as they were taken into captivity. Their message could probably all be summarized as “Put your hope in God, not in yourselves and your own strength.” That is a message we can apply directly. The rest needs to be worked through contextually.

For more detailed info, check out some of these books

So, if you take all this into consideration when reading the passage above from Deuteronomy, I think we can understand this as a warning to God’s people (Israel), not to be led by fear, rather than a warning to everyone else, not to mess with Israel. It also says specifically that God would do the clearing ahead “little by little”, not that the people were to rush in and conquer everything overnight. Indeed, they would not be destroyed with weapons of war, but by their own fear and panic.

Moreover, this passage begins with a call to remember Egypt and the work God did there. The Hebrew people did not fight a war with Egypt, God did. Not only were the people kept out of it, but God gave the Egyptian leader(s) 10 chances to simply let their Hebrew slaves go to avoid any causalities. Each opportunity was met with miraculous signs. In the end, it was Pharaoh’s own stubbornness in fighting against God that led to his downfall and the release of the Hebrew people.

Does that mean we should never fight or defend ourselves? Probably not. But you won’t find justification for violence here unless it is in regard to cleaning out the idolatry from our own lives. That is one of the few things God appears to have little patience for in the Old Testament.

What enemies cause you fear?

What things in life to you fear to give up?