Who Do You Love More?

“The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear. If my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself.”– Oswald Chambers –

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Thankful

“…give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) 

            Let’s face it; it’s easier to give thanks in certain circumstances than others.  But God’s Word says we are to give thanks in all of them.  What Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 has a tendency to strike us the same way as when James writes, “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).  The call to obey is clear, but obedience to that call is much easier said than done.  In fact, without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible.  Last week, as part of our thanksgiving service at church, I had the opportunity to hear several people share testimonies of their thankfulness for God’s work in their lives.  The first testimony was very easy to listen to; the last two, not so much so as they were from families dealing with difficult and uncertain circumstances related to illness.  But in spite of that, they testified that although they may not know what today holds, they are certain as to what the future does.  They testified to the faithfulness of God.  I left the service realizing the problems that I do have aren’t really problems at all.  I also left encouraged that it’s God who authors our circumstances and whether those circumstances have us on a mountaintop or in the valley, He is always there. 

            “…give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) When we encounter passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and James 1:2, it’s tempting to apply our own meanings or to put boundaries around the passage.  Paul’s teaching to those in the church at Thessalonica was not that they were to give thanks for everything that happens, but to be thankful that God is working to bring good out of whatever does (Romans 8:28).  It’s the same with us.  As a child of God, this life is about preparation for the next, living with an eye on eternity, being made more like Christ, realizing that whatever happens here cannot compare to the promise of heaven, “the glory that is to be revealed” (Romans 8:18).  I believe those who suffer realize this more fully.  I believe this was the testimony of these families.  And I know that it’s all made possible because of God.  God doesn’t put boundaries around these passages because they have to be understood in light of who He is.  Understanding that will help us to give thanks in all circumstances, even the difficult ones.  When you give thanks during this thanksgiving season, remember how much you have to be thankful for: your health, your family, your friends, your church, your job and much more.  But more than anything be thankful for what God has done for you in Christ, and for the  glorious promise of what is yet to come.       

Prayer

Lord, your Word tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, not just the good ones.  It also tells us to rejoice always and to pray continually.  Lord this is difficult when we suffer, so we ask for your Holy Spirit to help us.  God, all your purposes are good and we know that this world is not our home.  Let our knowing what awaits us be an encouragement for today.  But until that time, in good times and bad, help us to be thankful in all things, knowing that you are making us more like your Son and enabling us to live for your glory.  Amen!

The David Petraeus Affair: Lessons From The General

            After a stellar military career, serving as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and widely held to be a formidable future candidate for high political office, it all came to an abrupt end last Thursday for General David Petraeus.  As a result of the disclosure of an extramarital affair, Petraeus resigned his position as CIA director.  Since the time of his resignation, much has been learned and more will be learned as to the possible wide ranging implications of his indiscretion.  Those are important issues, but they are not the interest here.  We often put people on a pedestal, believing that they are above reproach.  By all accounts, General Petraeus was one of those people.  I’m sure that over the years many have benefited from working under his leadership.  I imagine many of the lessons he has taught have been invaluable to others.  Perhaps he’ll have an opportunity to teach those lessons again.  But David Petraeus has a valuable lesson to teach right now.  He happens to be the latest example of a high profile and powerful person committing a moral failure that should serve as a warning to all of us.  This lesson doesn’t have to wait.  Hopefully we can learn from it.   

            You see, David Petraeus is susceptible to what all of us are; sin.  You may find it easy to think that he got exactly what he deserved, but before you do, consider what it is you and I deserve.  We weren’t owed the forgiveness God gave us, but He gave it anyway.  We are not even owed the grace for today’s sins, but He gives that as well.  Certainly our media’s focus will be the “soap opera” aspects of this story.  And our political leaders will seek out answers to any potential national security violations and what lessons may be learned if they in fact occurred.  But for us, there are lessons as well.  What happened in the case of David Petraeus should be a reminder of the human’s susceptibility to sin.  That is the first lesson. The truth is that if not for God’s grace, you or I could do the same.  When we look at the general’s situation and think that what happened to him could never happen to us is when we’re vulnerable.  We are capable of sin every bit as great as his.  That leads to a second lesson, our need to seek God daily in His Word and pray for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to keep us from temptation and sin.  We have to put on “the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11).  Lastly, instead of condemning General Petraeus for his sin, pray for him and his family who have to live the consequences of that sin.  Why is it our tendency to sometimes find other people’s sins a much greater offense to God than our own?  To wish grace for General Petraeus doesn’t condone what he did, nor does it mean there aren’t consequences.  There already have been and there will be more that you and I will never know.  Ultimately though, we need to remember that all battles are spiritual.  General David Petraeus lost this one.  He put on the wrong armor.  What about you?  Are you fit for the fight?  Have you put on His armor?  If not, you need to.

Does God’s Sovereignty Demand My Silence?

            I believe God is sovereign over all things.  I know He is in control and I know that nothing on earth can thwart His plan and the fact that everything will end in His glory.  But today, my heart hurts for our country.  It hurts because I truly believe that the election results from Tuesday speak volumes as to where we are as a nation, but also as to where we are headed.  Our country is changing, and not for the better.  Under the leadership of President Obama, not only has religious liberty been trampled on, but so have things such as God’s design for marriage and the sanctity of life just to name a few.  These are indisputable facts.  It’s not to say that prior to his presidency we weren’t headed down this road, but under his leadership the speed at which we are traveling has greatly increased.  To say leading up to and since the election passions have been running high would be an understatement.  Social media sites have been overwhelmed with comments.  Something I’ve noticed during this time were the many references to trust in God’s sovereignty no matter how the election turns out, and now that it’s over, trust in His sovereignty in spite of it.  I’ve referenced that truth in my own comments, doing so because from one end of the Bible to the other, God’s sovereignty is made crystal clear.  But I have to say, I have been confounded by some of the comments I’ve seen as they seem to have implied that belief in God’s sovereignty somehow makes it ok to be passive as it relates to our politics, that somehow belief in God’s sovereignty should keep one silent.  So, does God’s sovereignty demand our silence on political issues?  Because we know He is in control, should we not speak out? 

            First, let me say, I respect anyone’s right to their opinion and it’s quite possible that I have mistaken their comments to mean something they don’t.  But I believe wholeheartedly as a Christian that passivity and silence on matters of faith and politics is not an option.  In fact, I would contend that the churches silence on many issues is the part of the reason we are where we are today.  We can’t afford to be nor should we be silent.  The apostle Paul knew God was sovereign in salvation, but he wasn’t passive in sharing the gospel.  The prophets weren’t passive when they spoke of Israel’s unfaithfulness to their covenant with God.  And when faced with opposition, Jesus wasn’t passive when it came to defending truth.  Now we’re not an apostle, a prophet and certainly not Jesus, but neither should we be passive as it relates to our governments dismissal of biblical principles.  We are to honor our president, we are to submit to government authorities, but we are to submit first and foremost to God.  We are to be humble, care for the needs of others and respect all people, but that doesn’t mean we have to lay our Christian faith down like a doormat for people to trample on.  Christians are to enter every area of life prepared to engage in the defense of biblical principles.  We are to stand in every manner for righteousness and the cause of Christ.  Does God need me as His political ally?  No.  Does He need me to fulfill any of His purposes?  Certainly not! 

            If what was meant by the comments made by some were only that we need to moderate our tone, I agree.  Though Christians can’t be absent from public discourse, we should always be mindful of the spirit in which we enter it.  So I contend we do two things.  First, we pray for our President.  Only when his heart is changed will the policies he advocates change.  It always comes down to what God is doing on the inside, not only for President Obama, but for all of us.  The cure is always Christ.  If you believe in the power of prayer, then you will pray.  Second, continue to be light in a dark world and stand for truth in spite of opposition.  Enter in the debate fully aware that God is sovereign.  His sovereignty does not demand our silence; it assures us in moments of doubt and disappointment that there is hope.  I trust in my God who is sovereign.  Furthermore, I know that one day, not only will He make all things new, but He will also make them right!

What Elections Can’t Change

Some things may change.  One thing never will.

On Tuesday, Americans go to the polls to exercise one of the most basic fundamental rights as citizens; the right to vote.  On Tuesday, opinions matter and votes count as we elect the man who will lead our nation for the next four years.  I imagine there are very few who remain undecided as to whom they will cast their vote.  There are certainly critical issues at stake for our nation.  We can, however, be assured and take comfort in the fact that we have a God who is in control of everything, this election included.  Whoever will be president will only be president because God has sovereignly ordained it.  God sees beyond where we are able, and no matter what happens on Tuesday, the ultimate end of all things will be His glory.  But God has also called us to pray, so we should, both for our nation (2 Chronicles 7:14) and for the man who would lead it, be that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.  Though our minds may be made up, let us pray that whichever man we elect as president would be gripped by the grace of God.  Pray that he would love Jesus.  Pray that instead of seeking his own wisdom, he would seek and submit to God’s.  Pray that the president would desire to uphold the Word of God just as he is sworn to uphold the Constitution.  But most importantly, let us also remember, though we are to pray for him and respect him, it’s not a president we serve, but rather a King, the “King of kings and Lord of lords”, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16).  His reign is neither subject to a vote tally, an opinion or a term limit.  His reign is eternal.  And it is to this King that one day we all will bow (Philippians 2:10).