Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Remember Lot's Wife

(Luke 17:32 NKJV) Remember Lot’s wife.
This is one of those verses kids love to memorize because it only has three words.  But what does it mean?  Who was Lot's wife and why should I remember her?

The story is told in Genesis 19.  God has decided to judge the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by raining fire and brimstone on them.  Before bringing this destruction, however, God sends angels to rescue Lot and his family.  Rescuing this family turns into quite a chore, however.

First of all the men who are supposed to marry Lot's daughters don't believe him when he tells them.  They think it is a big joke and just laugh at Lot.  Secondly, Lot and his wife and daughters can't seem to get ready to leave.  In verse 16 they "lingered" in spite of the warning to hurry.  So the angels actually take them by the hand (by God's mercy) and bring them out of the city.

He wants to be saved, but not right now.

At this point the angels tell them "escape for your life..." and warn them not to stay anywhere on the plain and not to look behind them, but to run for their lives to the mountains.  But even here, Lot dithers.  He doesn't want to go to the mountains.  He wants to stay in the small city of Zoar.

He wants to be saved, but not THAT saved.

Finally, as the family is fleeing to Zoar, the fire and brimstone start falling on Sodom and Gomorrah.  I suppose that it must have been pretty spectacular - similar to a volcano erupting nearby.  (The probable location is now the lowest place on earth - near the Dead Sea.) I imagine there was a lot of ash and smoke and noise.

They should have been highly motivated to keep on going... But Lot's wife looked back - and was turned into a pillar of salt.  (I think of her when I see people who have been excavated from Pompeii - turned to rock when they were engulfed in hot ash.)

This is the history of the instruction to "Remember Lot's wife."  In Luke 17, Jesus is teaching about the coming day of judgment.  He is saying that we should be intent on escaping and not hesitate.  This will be true in the final days that Jesus is predicting, but it is also true today.

People are today confronted with the Gospel.  They admit they are sinners who deserve God's judgment.  They believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to save them from their sins.  They know they should call on Jesus for salvation.

BUT... they hesitate.  They want to be saved, but not right now.  They want to be saved, but THAT saved.

They want to be saved, but they turn back for a last longing look at their past life.

And that can be their undoing.  They don't make it.  They are ensnared in their past life.  They are frozen there - a pillar of salt at the edge of the destruction - entrapped and entombed.

Remember Lot's wife.

Don't hesitate.  Don't look back.  Give up your old life.  Give up this world's values.  Keep your eyes on heaven and run for your life!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lord, Lord...

(Luke 6:46 NKJV) ¶ “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?
I am a proponent of defining terms when we are talking to people about religious beliefs.  One of my pet peeves is the question, "Do you know the Lord?"

This question is definitely one of the worst ways to start a conversation with someone about their beliefs.  Who do you mean by "Lord?"  What do you mean by "know the Lord?"  Virtually anyone in any Christian denomination or cult will surely answer "yes."  Many people in non-Christian groups might honestly answer "yes."  (For example, the Hare Krishna mantra is devotion to "Lord Krishna.")

We need to be more specific.  "What is your relationship with Jesus of Nazareth?" 

What do you believe about him?  Who is he?  What did he teach?  Is the Bible account about him truth or fiction?  What is the meaning of his life and death?  Did he arise from the dead?  Is he alive today?  Is he coming back again?

What difference does Jesus make in your life?  Do you worship him as God?  Do you follow him as your Master?  Do you trust Him as your Savior - the atonement for your sins?  Is he the basis of your access to God and your hope in God?

"Do you know the Lord?" could mean almost anything, so it means nothing.  Those who use it think it helps them open a conversation, but in fact it stops them from having the conversations they need to have about the biblical claims for Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Snappy Comebacks...

(Proverbs 15:1 NKJV) A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Quick acceleration is admired in an automobile, but the ability to come up with a quick reply is dangerous.
(Proverbs 15:2 NKJV)  The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. 
Quick answers are usually considered "witty."  That is, "showing or characterized by quick and inventive verbal humor."  But humor is based on irony and irony is closely related to sarcasm and sarcasm is frequently employed to embarrass or even to silence another person.
(Proverbs 16:13 NKJV)  Righteous lips are the delight of kings, And they love him who speaks what is right. 
Quick answers are not necessarily righteous answers.  They depend too frequently on puns - things that were not intended by the first speaker and that add no value to the conversation.
(Proverbs 16:18 NKJV)  Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. 
Quick answers often spring from a proud heart.  But because they are QUICK answers, they cannot be carefully considered, and might be the equivalent of accelerating quickly into the path of an oncoming truck.
(Proverbs 16:21 NKJV)  The wise in heart will be called prudent, And sweetness of the lips increases learning. 
How much better to be cautious and careful with our answers!  The true value of our answer is not measured in speed, but in wisdom.
(Proverbs 16:23–24 NKJV)  The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, And adds learning to his lips. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
We don't need "snappy comebacks."  We need wise answers - well considered answers - God honoring answers - helpful answers that are "sweetness to the soul and health to the bones" of those who hear.
(Proverbs 16:32 NKJV)  He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. 
The victories we should be pursuing are not verbal victories over other people, but internal victories over our own spirit.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Glory Thieves

(John 15:5 NKJV) ¶ “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Spring is almost upon us!  The snow has pretty much disappeared.  But I haven't seen any sign of early Spring flowers - not yet.  Where are the crocuses and daffodils?  Nothing yet, but the little dogwood looks like it is going to bloom again.

On the ground I have a litter of small branches, twigs and leaves.  They litter the ground and are just litter.  Broken from the tree, they are lifeless.  They are good for nothing but to be raked up and disposed of.

Jesus tells His disciples that it is the same way with us.  Life and productivity come only from our life giving connection with Jesus.  With Jesus we can bear fruit.  Without Jesus we can do "nothing."

Nothing?  What about the people who don't know Jesus (or disbelieve in Jesus), but still seem to be able to do something?  There are many nice people in the world who do many good things, champion good causes, raise good families, etc. all without reference to or belief in Jesus Christ.

Well, whether they believe in Him or not, the Bible says that Jesus is the Creator who sustains all things.
(Colossians 1:16–17 NKJV) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 
This being true, even the unbeliever owes everything good to Jesus and this results in a surprising irony.  The unbeliever's "good" will bring them God's condemnation because they fail to give God the glory He deserves for His grace in their lives.

They are glory thieves!  When they take the credit for their good, they blaspheme the God who is the true source of all good. 

Who made them into the wonderfully complex and self aware creatures they are?  Who imbued them with a sense of right and wrong or of good and evil?  From whom did they get the life that animates their otherwise material body?

Without God - we can do nothing.  All glory for all good things belongs to God.
(Romans 1:20–23 NKJV) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Missing Opportunities

(1 Peter 3:15 NKJV) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
I like to think that I am pretty evangelistic.  I pray for opportunities to talk to people about my faith in Jesus Christ.  I deliberately go to places where I think I will have a chance to talk to people about Jesus Christ.  I read books on talking to people about Jesus Christ.  I preach to other people about talking to people about Jesus Christ.  I get excited when I do have a conversation with somebody about Jesus Christ.

I sure blew it last night!  I had the perfect chance to talk to someone and I just flat out dropped the ball!  My wife and I went grocery shopping at Walmart.  We gathered our groceries and various items.  We went through the checkout and had a nice conversation with the woman there.

Then, on our way out, we realized we hadn't been charged for eight of the nine storage containers we wanted to buy.  So - no problem - I go back into the store to speak to the woman at the checkout. 

Talk about your golden opportunities!  Her line was suddenly EMPTY.  The light was on, but nobody was lining up and waiting on us.  I showed her the receipt - she put in the code and charged me for eight more containers - I paid for them.  STILL nobody in line!  She thanked me for coming back and being honest....

...and I didn't take the chance to say, "I am a follower of Jesus Christ - He has changed my heart and I want to please Him in everything I do."

I didn't say anything about Jesus Christ at all.  I just smiled and mumbled something meaningless and left the store, kicking myself all the way.  I can't stand it!  It is TERRIBLE!

So what happened?
  • I didn't plan it as I went back into the store.
  • I didn't think of an answer fast enough when the door opened.
  • I was too willing to steal God's glory for a good deed!
  • I was too lazy to take the time & energy at the end of a long day!
  • I was a pathetic tongue tied fumbler!  Ahhhhhhhhhh!
Now I am very very sorry.... but it doesn't really help.  I didn't love that woman enough to get the gospel to her when I had a wide open opportunity.  I didn't love the Lord enough to give Him the honor and glory He deserved in that situation.

I've missed a chance that cannot be recovered.  But I can learn from it.  By God's grace I won't miss another one like that!  Lord, forgive me and help me!
(1 Peter 3:15 NKJV) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Comprehend This...

(Exodus 20:1–5 NKJV) And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 
The God of the Bible claims that He is the only REAL God and that He alone should be worshiped AS God.  He further orders that He should be worshiped as He IS - and not in any representation developed by humans.  God has revealed Himself - in His works - in His Son - and in His word.  That is how we know whatever we know about God.

But this is not attractive to many people.  This God of the Bible is too much for them.  "Eternal?  Omniscient?  Sovereign?  Omnipotent?  Invisible?  Holy?  Both transcendent and immanent?  Both merciful and just?  How can these things be!?  This God is INCOMPREHENSIBLE!"

Unless they can comprehend everything about God (and thus perfectly predict or even control Him) they disbelieve God's revelation about Himself.  Instead they take the a la carte approach to God.  "I'll take a big serving of the Love, but hold the Justice.  And leave the Omniscience on the side.  And no Sovereignty - I'm allergic to Sovereignty other than my own."

This approach is idolatry.  They refuse to accept the role of creature and cast themselves as God's creator.  They must have a God who is completely comprehensible to them.  A God who makes sense to their prejudices and doesn't offend their sensibilities.  So, if they use the Bible at all, they are constantly explaining away this and that to remove God's offensive features.

The problem is that such a god is not God the God of the Bible.  Such a god is too puny to even be called a god.  Such a god is only a figment of a person's imagination.  That god cannot help them and will not rescue them from the ONE TRUE AND LIVING GOD of the Bible.

The God of the Bible can be known - but He cannot be comprehended.  He is infinite.  We are finite.  He is the Creator.  We are creatures.  He is independent.  We are dependent.

I find this very comforting.  God is able to handle all of the problems of the world from beginning to end.  He can take care of me through every difficulty.  None of my big problems is any threat to Him.  I can rest in Him - take Him at His word.  I don't need to BE God.  I only need to BELIEVE God.
(Romans 11:33–36 NKJV) ¶ Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 ¶ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.