The “Yet” Factor

AaronGospel, Life, Theology, Uncategorized1 Comment

Today I was studying through the book of Habakkuk, which is becoming one of my favorite books in the Old Testaments.  The book chronicles the prophet Habakkuk who cries out to the Lord and asks for vindication.  As Habakkuk looks around he sees nothing good around him and evil seemingly triumphing. Throughout the book God uses what we would think of unusual means to accomplish His perfect will which causes Habakkuk to further question God.  Without question all of the circumstances that surrounded the prophet were dismal at best.  However, as one finishes reading the book the prophet determines to fix his eyes on his creator and not his circumstance.  In fact, twice in the last four verses of the book the prophet uses an incredibly powerful word—“yet”.  Despite all that was around him as the enemy was on the verge of invasion “yet” Habakkuk would quietly wait on the Lord (3:16), and despite desolation all around “yet” Habakkuk would rejoice in the Lord and found his joy in the God of his salvation (3:18).

Without question all of us have at one time or another felt like Habakkuk.  Life was falling apart and not making sense and no matter how hard we tried to follow the Lord it seemed like nothing would go right for us and it was in fact evil that would win out.  However, just as Habakkuk had to fight for his faith in God we too must learn to fight the good fight of faith.  We must realize that to be a Christian is to fight.  A good friend of mine has observed that Evangelical Christianity has become no different then a form of functional karma.  We feel that as long as we do XYZ everything will work out for us and God will have to bless us in this present life.  We feel that God’s sole purpose is the bless and glorify us.  However, that is far from the Biblical truth. Throughout the Scriptures we read that the followers of Christ do not have it easy, life does not always work out to plan, and in fact often times it seemingly does not.  Many of the prophets had ministries marked by discouragement and pain.  The same held true for the New Testament Apostles as they faced beatings, imprisonments, and death.  In fact, it was the Apostle Paul that was so burden beyond his strength that he even despised life itself (2 Cor 1:8).

So why is it that God would allow his children to go through difficulties in this life?  Why would God put his followers on the easy street?  While I do not pretend to know the sovereign plan of God and all of his purposes I think often God is bringing us to the same “yet” determination as Habakkuk.  Despite everything that is going on in life I will “yet” trust him, “yet” wait on him, “yet” follow him, and “yet” praise him.  God’s desire is for he alone to be our greatest treasure, and in this life we have to continually fight to keep God as that treasure.  To do that we must continually remind ourselves of the gospel, that God himself would die in our place, and take the punishment we deserve of our sin, so that we could have forgiveness of sin.  We must continue to remind ourselves that in reality because of our sin the only thing we truly deserve is God’s wrath, and we must continue to remind ourselves that this life is not the end or our true home.  We must live as Habakkuk 2:4 tells us by faith.   We must fight to keep the “yet” in our lives.

Don’t Miss the Point

AaronResources, Theology, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

Last week my oldest daughter Madison was in Vacation Bible School.  One night after VBS, I was taking Madison home, and I looked in the rear view mirror and could see that she was deep in thought.  As a Dad my heart started to lift.  I began to think that Madison must have been contemplating the great truths she learned that day.  After a few moments I decided to ask her what she was thinking about, just knowing it was going to be something great.  However, I got a much different response than I imagined.  Instead of thinking about the things of God, Madison told me that she was thinking about getting some cotton candy at the baseball game which we were going to that night!  In many ways Madison missed some of the point of being in VBS all day.

Too often as Christians we also miss the point when it comes to the Scriptures.  We reduce the Bible to a book that solely gives Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.  We make the Bible to be a book that solely gives good moral and practical advice.  When we reduce the Bible so that we are missing the point.  While indeed there are instructions, morals, and advice found throughout the Bible it is soooo much more than just that.  The Bible is the great book that reveals to us not only who we are but more importantly who God and his Son Jesus Christ are.

As you read through the Bible I encourage you to look and meditate on the different attributes of God you find as you read.  Look for promises God has made to his people and follow how he fulfilled those promises.   Look for the gospel, which is the good news we desperately need.  As you read the Bible remember that it is consisted of 66 separate books, each book with an author who is writing to an original audience.  Read the Bible as a book filled with books and not just filled with verses.  I cringe when I hear how Christians open the Bible to some random place and read whatever is before them as part of their daily devotion time.  Read through different books from beginning to end.  Find out the context of the book and follow what the author is communicating.  It is our job to understand how the original audience would have understood the book and how that would apply to them.  After getting this understanding, apply what you read to your life.  At times this takes work, but anything worthwhile always requires work.  Follow the advice that Paul gave to Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Bible is such an amazing book, let us not miss the point!

Which Jesus do you Follow?

AaronGospel, Life, Questions, Theology, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

Just recently I was talking with a guy about my Christian faith and my devotion to Jesus.  As we talked he told me he was an atheist but did appreciate Jesus as a great teacher.  He talked about some of the morals that Jesus taught and how valuable they were to mankind.  He even told me that he, in some ways, followed after Jesus.  However, as we talked it was clear the Jesus that he followed was much different than the Jesus that I follow.

Currently our Sunday night gathering is working through Mark’s gospel.  As we came to the start of Jesus’ ministry at the Sea of Galilee in Mark 3 we saw the people each followed a different Jesus.

At the beginning of this passage, we read about a crowd of people who followed after Jesus as he gave them healing from diseases or from demons.  Mark tells us twice that not only was it a crowd that followed Jesus but it was a “great crowd”.  This great crowd came from all over the region.  It must have been an amazing site.  People all around Jesus, following after him.  As you read through the beginning chapters of Mark you get the impression that Jesus must have had many loyal and committed followers within the crowd, but as we continue to read we see this great crowd of people around Jesus become smaller and smaller.  In fact, as we get towards the end of Mark’s gospel we once again see a crowd (Mark 15), but this time they are calling for the crucifixion of Jesus.  You see there are those out there who will follow after the Jesus that only serves them in this physical world.  When Jesus is there to bless them they will happily gather around him, but when he is not providing the physical healing that they want, they want nothing to do with him.

Is this the Jesus that you follow?  Do you only want a Jesus who serves you?  Do you only want a Jesus who blesses this life?  I challenge you to examine your prayer life.  What are you praying for?  Do all of your prayers revolve around God blessing you?  If so, then you are no different from the great crowd.  I would imagine that when you do not get what you want you are quick to curse God and are filled with anger.

The next group of people we read about is Jesus’ earthly family.  When Jesus was out with the great crowd we read about his family as they told Jesus that he was out of his mind for doing what he was doing.  I imagine that his family thought he was too much of a radical, he was doing too many things, and if he kept it up he would make people upset.  I imagine his family was happy for Jesus to be doing good things for people but probably wanted him to play it a little more safe.  After all, who wants to follow a radical?

Is this the Jesus that you follow?  Do you follow a Jesus who plays it safe?  Is that how you live your life?  Do you love a Jesus who only gives safety and comfort?  Are you happy to be a Christian only if it is in the confines of a church building or around other people who profess Christ?  I challenge you to once again examine your life.  How radical do you live your life for Christ?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes for the cause of Christ?

Finally we read about the disciples who are following after Jesus.  This Jesus is much different than the Jesus the other groups see.  This Jesus is the Divine and Sovereign God.

One of the things I love to read in the New Testament is how Jesus acts in much the same was as YHWH (the Hebrew word for the personal name of God) does in the Old Testament.   Just as YHWH called people to himself (ex. Moses, Samuel, David) now Jesus in Mark 3 is calling those to himself whom he desired.  Just as YHWH changed the names of his followers (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel) Jesus changed the names of those who followed after him (Simon to Peter, James and John to The Sons of Thunder).   Just as YHWH was sovereignly in control of all things, now we see Jesus who is in control of all things.

This is the Jesus we need to see.  We need to see him as the Divine Son of God who rules and reigns.  We need to see Jesus as our great King who demands us to follow after him radically.  We need to see Jesus who now sits on the throne and whom we are to serve–not the other way around.  We need to see Jesus for who he is and follow after him.

Is this the Jesus that you follow?  Jesus is much greater than just a moral teacher, much greater than just a physical healer, and much greater than one who plays it safe.  Jesus is our great King and only hope for this life and the next. I plead with you if are not following the Jesus of Scripture turn to and follow after him today.

Our Greatest Need–Rest

AaronGospel, TheologyLeave a Comment

This past week my family and I got to go camping in northern Wisconsin.  We had really only one goal–rest.  It was great to enjoy God’s creation and get away from the busyness of life.  Because of our mortal bodies we need times to step back, recharge the batteries, and rest.   One of the more popular sayings of Jesus is found in Matthew 11:28 as he says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest“.   However, is the rest Jesus is offering to us similar to the rest we experienced camping?  Is the rest Jesus offered a rest from the daily grind?  I would argue, no.  It is a much greater rest.

To understand what Jesus is offering we need to follow the theme of rest throughout the Scriptures.  The first time we see rest is in the opening pages of Genesis.  After creating the world and all that is in it, Scripture tells us that God “rested” on the seventh day.  Now God being all powerful obviously did not need rest to recharge his batteries; rather, this rest was one of fellowship.   God had perfect fellowship with his creation which included mankind.

However, as we continue to read Genesis we read that sin had entered the world. Because of sin there was now pain and death.  Because of sin the fellowship mankind once had with God was now broken.  There was no more rest, rather there was separation.  Man was found in a hopeless situation, and the question is now asked, “how does man get rest with God back?”

As we continue to read through the Old Testament we see pictures of rest that provide some hope.  God gave the children of Israel the 10 commandments, with one of them being to keep the Sabbath Day (Exo 20).  On every seventh day, God’s people were not to work; rather, they were to rest and keep that day holy.  However, while the Sabbath was a blessing from God, even if one kept it perfectly they could never restore what was lost at the fall.

After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Joshua led the Israelites into the land God promised them as they fled from Egypt.  As Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, God told his people that he was giving them a place of “rest” (Joshua 1:13).  However, once again as we continue to read through the book of Joshua we see anything but rest.  We read about wars and death.   Just as the Sabbath was a blessing, the land given to Israel was a blessing; but it did not restore what was lost at the fall.  Mankind still was separated from God.

The next time we once again see this “rest” language is found in Psalm 95 as the psalmist tells mankind to not harden our hearts as those have in the past.  Because of our hardness of heart, Psalm 95 tells us that we will not enter into God’s rest and are in fact under his wrath.

All of this brings us to Jesus.  As mentioned earlier, mankind is in a hopeless state.  The fellowship mankind once enjoyed with God is completely broken.  While God gave mankind some pictures of rest throughout the Old Testament these pictures were not enough to bring about restoration.  However, praise be to God that he sent his Son into the world, to live a perfect life, to die a perfect death on the cross, to rise again from dead, and to offer rest.  The rest Jesus offers is much greater than any rest we could receive on vacation.  The rest Jesus offers lasts throughout eternity.  The rest Jesus offers restores the relationship mankind once had with God.

Today if you have not trusted in Jesus I plead with you to forsake your sin and the rotting treasures of this life and come to him.  It is through Jesus and him alone that there can truly be rest between you and God.  Where would we be without Jesus?

Conditional Love of God

AaronGospel, Theology, Uncategorized1 Comment

This past Monday was Memorial Day–a day we celebrate the freedom we have in the United States.  Often we are reminded that freedom is not free.  There is a huge cost paid so we can have this freedom.  Lives have been laid down by many to purchase and ensure freedom.  Freedom without a doubt is anything but free.  Likewise we need to realize that the love of God also did not come free.

Of all the different attributes of God perhaps the one most talked about is his love. In fact, I think almost all religions claim that their deity exemplifies what love is.  Most religions also claim that the love of their god is an unconditional love.  However, for the Christian the love of God toward us is very much a conditional love.

I realize saying that the love of God is conditional makes most people uncomfortable.  We want God to love us for who we are, and we want God to love us despite our sin.  We tell people that they should come just as they are to God, and because of God’s love he will unconditionally love them.

However, Biblically speaking this could not be further from the truth. While it is true that God is love, for us to know that love, there is a great condition. Yes, we plead with people to come to Jesus empty handed with a broken heart, but the only way we could ever experience and receive the love of God is based on the cross.  You see if it was up to me and my righteousness I never could stand before a holy God.  I need Christ, and I need his righteousness–desperately.  This is the message of the Bible.  Our sin is the separation from God, but the cross of Jesus is the great condition that we have no hope without.

By wanting this unconditional love we want God to love us without the cross.   If there was no cross there would be no forgiveness, there would be no hope, and we would never truly experience God’s love.  The Scriptures tell us that whoever does not put their faith in Jesus the “wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Without the cross of Christ mankind is under the condemnation of God and outside experiencing and knowing his love.

As you think about the love of God do not belittle this love by making it unconditional; rather be amazed by the love God has for us, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Spend time meditating on and glorying in the sacrifice Jesus made for you.  For us to know the love of God a huge price was paid, the eternal Son left the comforts of heaven, lived a perfect life, died a humbling death on a cruel Roman cross, only to rise from the dead 3 days later.  This was anything but unconditional; rather this was the greatest of all sacrifices.  This was and is the greatest love.  This is the greatest of all conditions.

Today if you never trusted in the work of Jesus would you turn to him and make Jesus your greatest treasure?  The good news of the gospel is that if you trust in Christ the love of God will be perfectly upon you from now and throughout eternity.  Praise God for his conditional love!