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Justice Not Judgment

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though once we regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Image result for light handGod is just, and He made us in His image. We are to act justly, as our gracious heavenly Father does. That is, we are to behave according to what is morally right and fair.

Who determines what is morally right and fair? Our just God–Creator of all that is. His character is our standard of morality. His person defines what is good and separates it from what is bad.

So how can we, as sinful human beings–prone to doing wrong–know what is good and right?

We develop a personal relationship with God through prayer and studying His Word [Hebrews 4:12]. We meditate on those things that His Word defines as good, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy [Philippians 4:8]. We allow the Holy Spirit to prick our consciences and to counsel us in God’s wisdom [John 14:26; Acts 2:37].

Yet while God is just and has charged us to live justly, justice–like vengeance–is not ours to mete out [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19]. That does not mean that we are not to establish courts of law or punish criminals. On the contrary, upholding impartial criminal justice is a part of living justly. But we are not to judge others [Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 6:37].

When we judge how others are or are not measuring up to God’s Word, we invite that same judgment back on ourselves. Even Jesus did not come to judge the world, but to save the world through Him [John 12:47]. He proclaimed that God the Father would be the ultimate judge in the last day, and because of this, He would not retaliate for the wrongs suffered at the hands of men [John 12:48].

We can get so busy being judgmental of others and the sinfulness all around us. We can be so bound up getting revenge on those who wrong us, that we miss the fact that we ourselves fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. If it weren’t for God’s grace in my life and in your life, we would be nothing more than unforgiven sinners just like any other unbelieving person [1 Corinthians 15:10].

And God is just, but He is also gracious, merciful, loving and compassionate. He forgave us our sins and spared us our death penalty [Matthew 26:28; John 3:16; Romans 5:12-21 & 6:23].

Knowing this, how can we possibly stand in judgment on any other human being? Not that our condemnations will last past this life. And not that our judgments of them matter in light of their eternity anyway. Instead, the role that God has called us to play in His justice is simply this: to be an ambassador of His reconciliation message.

Do you play judge of the world? Or do you live justly, a light guiding others to a saving knowledge of Jesus?



If We Knew What Was Good For Us

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9-12

Image result for oopsGod is good–infinitely good. And we are created in His image to be good.

Yet sin spoiled our hearts, so that we are averse to God from birth. Everyone has gone astray to their own way [Isaiah 53:6], and though, as Christians, we all still ultimately fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23], still goodness calls from deep within us to our Heavenly Father [Psalm 42:7].

Eternity is seeded in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11].

We each know that good exists, and while we understand just a glimpse of true goodness, we hunger and thirst for more of it. We want it all for ourselves. Though some are willing to see others’ need for goodness and to meet it [Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31; Romans 5:7], many sinfully look to no one’s good but their own.

These same people often believe that if God is good [which He is], then nothing bad should ever happen. They want to define a good God as one who walks around like a Bubble-wrap Fairy Godmother, ensuring that nothing ever goes wrong for them personally.

These same people often reject the idea of their own sin nature. They then reject the understanding of sin’s evils manifest in the world. From here they blame God for not really being a God at all or, if they can’t in good conscious deny Him, then they accuse Him of not really being good and refuse to know and love Him.

How ironic that it is the very goodness of God that cause so many to reject Him when His goodness is what every heart longs for.

Jesus assured his hearers that not only does God know how to, He actively gives of His infinite goodness to all of Creation without fail. And certainly when we ask, we receive of His goodness. Herein lies the rub. Because what we demand of God is not always good for us. And the worse consequence that He can give us is to give us exactly what we insisted on outside of His will to begin with.

So why do so many think that God is only good if He is their personal genie of the lamp, granting their every whim?

He gave us life and He sustains it in every way. He show us the way, the truth and the life [Genesis 2:7; Acts 17:28]. He gives more abundant life each day we spend with Him [John 10:10]. He gives eternal life when we lay our earthly selfishness aside and recognize Him for who He is. When we ask for His forgiveness for our sinful natures–yes, the ones we were born with–and believe on His Son Jesus, and Him crucified [John 3:16].

When you pray, do you seek God? Or do you hand Him a laundry list of your good ideas for life? Do you trust God to guide you in the best that He has for you?


Divine Transcendence

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on heaven and earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of His people.” Psalm 113:4-8

hand animal wildlife finger green insect macro butterfly invertebrate caterpillar crawling worm larva macro photography moths and butterfliesGod is transcendent. He exists outside of His Creation and He is not subject to its constraints.

As theologian A.W. Tozer put it, “[God] is as high above an archangel as He is above a caterpillar, for the gulf which separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite.” He goes on to explain that both caterpillar and archangel are created and, therefore, they themselves are not God. So God is infinitely above them both as He is infinitely above all things.

Hierarchies exist only in creature understanding. We rank things in our mind as a means of prioritizing or categorizing. We view levels of authority in this life. But all of this is just a dress up game in light of eternity.

God does not show favoritism because all is subject to Him [Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11]. When humans show favoritism it’s a jockeying of position within the hierarchy–you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Or if I’m seen with someone more popular, then I will appear more popular too.

But God has no need of favors or ego and popularity boosts. He transcends, exists outside of the social strata-sphere. Regardless of what people think of Him, He will always continue to be everything that He is–perfectly and infinitely. No one and no thing will ever compare to our great God.

Is God limited by your imaginations of Him? Is He confined to the highest rank on your finite hierarchy of authority? Or do you know Him to exist outside all created limits?


Conduits of Power

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Image result for water hoseGod is omnipotent, that is, He alone is almighty or all-powerful.

And He gives us His Spirit [Numbers 11:17; Judges 14:6; Acts 1:8; et al], enabling us, by His power, to bring glory and honor to His name.

By His Spirit, Moses and David led Israel [Numbers 11:17 & 25; 1 Samuel 16:13]. Samson tore apart a lion, effortlessly broke through sturdy rope bindings and battled dozens of men all at the same time [Judges 14:6 & 19, 15:14]. Mary bore the Christ-child [Luke 1:35]. Demons were cast out [Luke 4:36]. And we are empowered to live as witnesses to the truth of the gospel [Acts 1:8].

God’s Spirit doesn’t hide timidly inside us. So neither should we shrink back from a contrary world. Our friends and family might not want to hear about God anymore than they want to hear that eating vegetables and exercising are good for them, but they need us to speak God’s love boldly. They need us to live out the blessings–extreme joyfulness–of the godly, self-disciplined life.

Because–just like we once did–they need God. They need His power to transform their sinful hearts and finite lives into the eternal ones they were made for.

The power of God’s Spirit overflows us with that hope [Romans 15:13]. Did you hear that? Let me say it again. The power of God’s Spirit overflows us with hope!

By God’s power alone we have peace in a war-torn, hating world–even while we ourselves are persecuted for that peace who is called Jesus [Ephesians 2:14]. By His power alone we have joy–though we ourselves get sick, face financial hardships, lose loved ones, get mistreated and threatened for our faith. By the power of His Spirit in our lives we have an abundance of hope that exceeds our finite capacity to hold it, and He keeps pouring the power and hope in and through us until we overflow with hope to everyone around us!

The power of God was never meant to lift us, whimpering, out of the gutter of self-pity or guilt–but it does. And it will do so faithfully and without criticism time and again. When it does–and we have been filled with all the power, joy, peace and hope that we can possibly need–then it’s time to go to work. It’s time to walk around like a fountain with legs and gush God’s power and love into the lives of everyone we meet.

Anything less is denying God’s power in our lives. Anything less is disobedience. Anything less withholds our blessing, locked within the timidity of our hearts.

Are you ready to be a walking conduit of God’s power to this lost and dying world?


A Pinch of God’s Power?

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: ‘Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love;’ and, ‘You reward everything according to what they have done.'” Psalm 62:11-12

Image result for pinch of saltGod is omnipotent–that is all powerful. He is the Almighty because all might [aka power] is in Him alone.

How many human beings have dreamed of attaining to God’s power? Just watch the superhero movies and read the magical fantasies. We as people want so bad to have just a pinch of His might in our beings because it would make us stand out from every other created being. Because then we wouldn’t have to be afraid of anyone or anything else. Because we believe that we would be good enough to wield such power on behalf of our fellow man.

But, if we’re honest with ourselves, at the core of the desire to possess super-human ability is Satan’s lie that we can be our own God [Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 14:14]. The same lie, repackaged with a shinier bow, promising that we can possess power above all others.

Not possible. Any power that we possess is given to us from and ultimately returns to our Creator God.

He alone has the power to make everything out of nothing. He alone has the power to hang planets in the vast expanse of the universe and to light the flame of sun and stars. He alone has the power to create life. He alone has the power to conquer death, hell and the grave.

What human or angel or creature or demon can do any of those things? None. No one but God is able.

And yet, God is willing–no more than that, God desires to imbue us with His power from on high [Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:7]. He desires to work in and through us [Ephesians 3:20]. He desires that we will share in the work of Christ and do even greater things–beyond what we can ask or imagine–to His glory and honor [John 14:12].

Who is like the Lord [Psalm 113:5]? Who can stand against His mighty power [Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5; Romans 8:31; Ephesians 6:11]? Where does your strength come from [Psalm 28:7 & 121:1-2]?


Omniscience vs. Predestination–Part 2

“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed one.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak Your word with great boldness.” Acts 4:24-28

Image result for tack on mapFaith without free will is no faith at all. Love without free will is no love at all. And God desires both from the joyful submission of our free will to Him.

Here after Peter and John were released from prison, they prayed with fellow believers. And they acknowledged that, from the beginning, God knew exactly at which point in human chronology He would send Jesus. God sent His Son when the Roman-centric world would swallow up His chosen people, Israel, and both cultures would converge to crucify Him.

Because it was all a part of His plan to redeem His Creation.

Though–being all-knowing–He knew who would carry this out, God didn’t choose to villainize or destine people or force anyone to do the job. Everyone who denied, denounced and destroyed Jesus’ physical body did so of their own free will. Just as everyone who comes to Christ also does so of their own free will.

Faith is absolute certainty in what we hope for but cannot see. But it must stem from the free will of our intellect, for without faith it is impossible to please God [Hebrews 11:6]. So if God chooses who will have this faith and who will not, then it is no longer faith. It is coercion.

Love, by necessity, is a choice. No one can force someone else to truly love them. But each person comes to love another purely as an expression of their own free will. We each choose whom we desire and how to demonstrate that affection. So if God chooses who will love Him and who will not, then it is no longer love. It is coercion.

But God is self-sufficient–He needs no one. God does not show favoritism [Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11]. He sent His to die on the cross for whosoever would believe in Him [John 3:16] and He doesn’t want anyone to choose to perish in the lake of fire [2 Peter 3:9].

And even knowing what we will choose, He still acts mercifully with all of us. Indiscriminate of our ultimate decision to accept or deny Him. He still loves each and every one of us. He still lets us choose for ourselves whom we will serve [Joshua 24:15].

Whom have you chosen?


God’s Not Tinker Bell

“For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship–and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:23-25

Image result for hear no evil see no evilBorn of a baby’s laugh and sustained by a child’s faith. When children stop believing in her existence, she begins to fade, until–wait, that’s Tinker Bell. Not God. God is self-sufficient. Unlike Peter Pan’s fairy, God exists whether people want to believe in Him or not.

And many do not want to believe in God, because they don’t want want to have to admit that they’ve been wrong–even though this truth would free them. And because they certainly don’t want to give up control of their lives–even though it would bring them great joy.

Our understanding of who God is and what He desires for each of us only serves to elevate us. Whether or not we take the time to get acquainted with or honor Him does not diminish His existence in any way. He is no less God. He has no less authority. He is no less holy and good just because someone refuses to acknowledge Him, or chooses turn away from Him, or decides to disobey Him.

For just as He is and has always been, God will always be. People, on the other hand, disappear in a heartbeat [Psalm 37:2, 90:5, 102:11 & 103:15; Isaiah 40:6; 1 Peter 1:24]. Unlike God, we have a beginning and an end. And in the short span we exist in between, we need things outside of ourselves to sustain our life.

Perhaps the one commonality that we have with God, in this sense, is that we exist whether others want to acknowledge us or not. This is the bit of eternity in each of our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11] that cries out against inhumanity. When people suffer at the hands of fellow human beings, when slavery is rampant and genocide looked on with indifference, the eternity God sowed in our hearts begs to be seen and heard. I am here whether you choose to recognize me or not.

In the story, when children stop believing in fairies, Tinker Bell fades away. Peter Pan encourages everyone to clap to show that they do believe, and she comes bounding back to uproarious applause. But just as being ignored does not erase my existence, so no amount of fame and ovation can sustain it. One day, my end will come.

And God will keep on keeping on, more constant than the North Star that He created. People can choose to disregard the evidence in the world and refute His Word, but that does not dethrone Him as Sovereign of all. We can’t ignore God into nothingness.

He doesn’t need us, but He loves us. And we need Him. As human beings, our greatest need is to recognize our sin and reconcile our hearts to God. Have you?