Wednesday, July 30
Here’s another paradox. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t change. Yet there is a significant difference in His working with Israel in the Old Testament and His work to establish the church in the New Testament. Let me point out some contrasts. God imposed the Mosaic Law on Israel. In the N.T., He writes the law on the hearts of men. One is external, the other internal. In the O.T., the Holy Spirit falls on people at different times for specific purposes. In the N.T. the same thing occurs with a significant addition. The Holy Spirit indwells believers. Again, something from within rather than imposed from without. In the O.T. the key word would be “obey.” In the N.T. the main instruction is to “love.” The standard for living a godly life in the O.T. is condensed into what we call the ten commandments. But when Jesus was asked by a Pharisee which was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus did not refer to the ten commandments, but to two commandments, one in Deuteronomy and one in Leviticus. The first and greatest had to do with loving God and the second was to love one’s neighbor. Again, the focus on a heart attitude rather than an imposed law. Another way to contrast the O.T. and the N.T. is “Law” and “grace.” This does not mean that God’s standards have changed. It’s just that changing a sinner to a saint requires a major change from within, something that only God can do. This is emphasized by the word “works” (man’s attempt to appease God) in terms of the O.T., and “grace” in the N.T., a term indicating God’s “work” in us. Let us remember that the O.T. is still a part of God’s revelation. There are no contradictions. God indeed does not change. His dealing with Israel in the O.T. was a necessary part of His plan of redemption. It prepared the world for Messiah, the cross, the Lamb of God Who finished the work of redemption.
Tuesday, July 29
There are quite a lot of paradoxes in the Bible. One of them is that when we are redeemed we are free. But at the same time Paul says that we are slaves of Christ. Paul says that we were once slaves of Satan and now are slaves to God. Paul also says that we are free from the Law. I have no quibble with that and yet I recognize that I concentrate on the freedom part—probably to excess. Freedom does not mean license, as Paul also makes clear. We are irrevocably and eternally bonded with Christ. It is no accident that Jesus used the analogy of two oxen yoked together as a picture of our union with Christ. The idea there is that it takes an experienced ox to train a novice ox to make straight furrows. So much for freedom. So I question myself. As I walk through each day, do I act as though I’m yoked to Jesus? Put another way: Am I going it alone and making crooked furrows? How I evaluate that and what I do with it is important. I guess the only way to deal with the paradox is to say that I am freed in order to become a slave. Getting hitched to Jesus is freedom. Maybe the difference is whether He is Lord as well as Savior. I know I’m meddling a little bit, but who is in charge of your life?
Monday, July 28
“There are times when if you are not feeling like yourself, it is quite an improvement.”—Unknown. I’m tempted to just let this one go; see where it goes. But no, it’s too challenging, so I’m going to have a go at it. Here we go. Are you ready? Is this a slam on the life I’m living or a compliment? If I view my life as fairly negative, and I don’t feel like myself today, I guess I feel better about myself than I did yesterday. But I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Am I any better because I happen to feel better about myself? If it’s just a feeling, it’s unwarranted to say that I am better than I was yesterday. It’s faulty and I am better off being realistic about my condition. On the other hand if I think of my self as fairly good and don’t feel like myself today, I am down on myself today. So I feel more negative than I should. OK, so do I deal with my real condition, or do I deal with how I feel about my condition? Confusing, right? You might have noticed that I don’t have a known author on this statement. Maybe he was deliberately not taking credit for it. Smart. I think I would feel that way, too. If there is any good in this one, it’s this. If the statement makes me think realistically of my spiritual condition, and I decide to do something about it, it’s a great statement!
Sunday, July 27
“Past experience should be a guide post, not a hitching post.”—Anonymous. Too many people live in the past. I have noticed that when I refer to something that happened in Bolivia in my missionary career, people’s eyes tend to wander. I’m losing them (the people, not the eyes). I have learned a lot by experiences in past years, both in areas of failure and success, and have also learned a lot by observing others. I remember a couple in Bolivia (here I go again) that were constantly recounting past experiences. They did this so much that both husband and wife knew each others stories by heart. They were relishing past experiences, which is OK, but maybe they over did it a bit. Paul often spoke of past experiences, but always with the present circumstances in mind. In Phil. 3:4-6 he refers to his earlier life as a dedicated, legalistic Jew, and uses that to give credence to his Jewish theology. So there is a legitimate reason to refer to the past. We can do that with the future too. It’s good to look ahead and plan, and it’s good to dream, but if our focus is on the future to the neglect of the present, it’s not worth it. The point is that your life is to be lived in the present. Paul puts all three tenses together later in Phil. 3 in proper perspective—all in one sentence. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me.” Phil. 3:13-14. We can’t change the past; the present is when decisions are made for good or for bad. That’s why the Scripture encourages us in this direction. The hitching post is a relic of the past. Let’s leave it there.
Saturday, July 26
My sister Carolyn’s granddaughter is getting married today. That can be good or bad. Maybe we won’t know for a few years whether it’s good or bad. Young people have a tendency to see things through rose colored glasses and I guess there is no remedy for that. In this case, Hannah, the bride to be, is a solid, faithful Christian, and has dated Kenny for several years. He, too, is a godly man, highly motivated, responsible, and has a strong desire to serve the Lord. So we are impressed and pray that God will guide them as they enter into this lifetime commitment. I ask you to stop right where you are as you read this and add your prayers to ours that this young couple will be faithful to each other and to the Lord as they set out on their life’s journey together. Pray that they will never waver from their desire to serve God together throughout their lives and that God will use them to touch many lives along the way. Thank you!
Friday, July 25
I guess my title today should not be a surprise to you. I’m guilty. I know I’m guilty. You know I’m guilty. I know you’re guilty. You know you’re guilty. We’re all guilty. We all know we’re all guilty. Big deal! But you’re probably wondering why I’m proclaiming to the world that I’m guilty right now. It’s because every time I think about a guy like John Bunyan, I realize how little I use my opportunities to share the gospel with people on the road to hell. John Bunyan was not only often in prison, he was in danger of death on a daily basis. Yet he was so motivated to preach the gospel that he defied the enemies of the gospel to stop him. Why can’t I be like that? OK, so I’m guilty. Guilt is a provocative phenomenon. I know that a man can feel guilty without being guilty and I know a man can be guilty and not feel guilty. Why has God, who never had any reason to be guilty or feel guilty introduced guilt into the human arena? You might question that statement, but although God did not initiate sin, I believe He did initiate guilt. Guilt serves a good purpose. It is designed to make us regret a sinful action. It is designed to cause us to do something about that sin. It’s like pain. We do every thing we can to alleviate pain, but pain tells us that something is wrong in our physical bodies. Guilt tells us that something is wrong in our spiritual lives. Unfortunately, man has a way of alleviating guilt just as he does with pain. There’s a proper way to deal with pain and there’s a proper way to deal with guilt. With pain, get at the source of the ailment and get rid of it. Then the pain is also removed. Likewise with guilt. Go to the source. Why am I guilty? Deal with that and the guilt will also go away. In my current case, I need to get busy sharing the good news. Not doing that means the guilt will and should remain. NOT a good picture! Pray for me!
Thursday, July 24
“The value of persistent prayer is not that he will hear us . . . but that we will finally hear him.”—William McGill. I’ve always been puzzled as to why God expects us to pray. He knows far better than we do what needs to be done. He’s sovereign and can do anything. He has an agenda that will be carried out to perfection. He will have total victory in the end. What is the point of praying? Then we have the admonition to pray persistently. To me, that means over and over the same prayer. Surely God doesn’t need reminders. He doesn’t need to be persuaded. He doesn’t need our input as to how to solve a problem. Are you with me? Do you understand the dilemma? Now, let’s take another look at William McGill’s statement. God may have set up prayer so that we would learn more about Him. When a prayer is apparently not answered, our reaction should not be that God isn’t listening, but what is in the way of His answering. Am I asking the wrong thing? Am I doing something that hinders God’s answering? Eventually maybe we’ll stop long enough to say “God, what do you want to teach me?” At that point, prayer all of a sudden becomes more meaningful. Battling through this way is a means of opening the door to a more meaningful relationship with God. Knowing God IS important.