Category Archives: Sunday

Negotiate? [Pray?]

Genesis 18:25 Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 

Did Abraham speak to reassure himself or God?
“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous” the Lord chose to go and check it out for himself.  It’s personal for him.  “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

It’s personal for Abraham too.  The fruit of the promise the Lord had given him long ago is in sight.  “…the Lord said to Abraham…I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”  Two of the guests had left for Sodom and Gomorrah but “Abraham remained standing before the Lord” to negotiate? [pray?] about how many righteous people it would take for the city to be spared.   His heart was filled with concern because now this would be his son’s future too. 

Did Abraham speak to reassure himself or God?
The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Fifty righteous people became 45, then 40, 30, 20 and finally  Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”  He [God] answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home” …to wait for the future. 

Did Abraham speak to reassure himself or God?
The answer to my question is “both.”  We negotiate? [pray?] to reassure ourselves and the Lord that we do care about the righteous and the unrighteous no matter how shortsighted our faith is as we wait for the future and wonder “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 

Serpent’s Test

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [NIV]

“Did God really say…? [fill in the blank]  Isn’t this question the beginning of any test for a believer in God and a follower of Jesus Christ?  The problem isn’t the question itself.  The problem is desiring options that will give us the answer we’d rather have.

The woman had the truth from God.  She had the right answer but the problem was the serpent‘s test had a trick question: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”   Did you notice the crafty option in the serpent’s lie…the word “any?”  The serpent cleverly twisted reality from the one tree God warned them about to “any” tree.  One small lie was enough to become the fruit of doubt with the power to make desire a more palatable option than God’s truth.  Word’s matter!

Installment Plan

II Corinthians 5:4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Installment Plan: Life is God’s first installment in our eternity. He’s provided us with that line of credit so we can obtain and enjoy something of value now based on trust in the reliability of this contract: “God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”

Documentation of need: “we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling”

Collateral: ourselves as proof of the desire to satisfy “the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose”

Limited Terms: a schedule of devotion over hours, days and years in which that line of credit is satisfactorily concluded “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life”

Unmasked

2 Corinthians 3:12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. [NIV]

A veil is a piece of material worn to protect or conceal the face and certainly must affect the ability to see clearly.  “Veil” is a prettier word, but “mask” better describes the man-made barrier between us and God that can dull the mind and cover the heart. 

Moses covered his face with a veil to hide “the end of what was passing away” but “we are not like Moses” because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed…”   

“…Since we have such a hope,” we can be “very bold.” Are we bold enough to be unmasked?  Are we bold enough to trust God at work in us and let others be witnesses of “the end of what [is] passing away” as we are changed “into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  May it be so.

Another Option

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. [NIV]

* Confidence [the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something]
* Competence [the ability to do something successfully or efficiently]
* Letter [actual literal terms or wording]
* Spirit [the implied elements of thought and attitude] 

The Apostle understands the comfort of trying to obey the law is a much clearer standard to cling to than the mystery of obeying the Spirit.  The human option is to use obedience to the law to define our competence and give us confidence that our behavior will save us.

The Apostle reminds us there’s another option: our new covenant of obedience to the life we have through Christ.  That obedience defines our confidence in the sovereign reliability of God’s competence to change our thoughts, attitudes and behavior from the harshness of the literal to the Spirit of life in Christ…and that will save us…and others.

The Real Purpose

NASB Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8 is one of the most meaningful chapters of the Word of God for me.  It’s the ultimate message of just how loud the love of Jesus is.  It all starts with verse 1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  I have joked that I was raised to be in charge of peace in the entire free world.  That exaggerated sense of what I should be able to control and my inability to manage that responsibility has been the source of personal condemnation for me more than any unacceptable personal behavior.  Maybe you’re there too.  Let me comfort you with this truth.

Jesus would never, NEVER use condemnation to correct you.  Period!  The one who has placed his own Spirit inside you has invested himself completely in changing your mind about the real purpose of his life in you.  “By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he [Jesus] offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God.ª”  

That’s the assurance of the correction that will change your mind about the reality of what loving God, Jesus and, yes, even yourself looks like. 

ªHenri Nouwen – Spiritual Formation.

Fearless Inspiration

NRSV Ephesians 2:10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

• God has created you in the likeness of perfection to insure you will be of value and succeed.
• He’s trusted you with abilities and talents unique to you.
• Your whole way of life is the inspired field of operation God has prepared for your good works.

Do you believe that?

Maybe it’s just me but doesn’t it sometimes seem the entirety of life from birth to death is graded on some sort of curve that eats away at the joy of “doing” because of the aspiration to be of value and succeed?  There are certainly times when that aspiration has negatively dictated my choice of whether to proceed in what I was doing.  I’m still learning the reality of good works and doing everything “heartily as unto the Lord.”  Sometimes you succeed beyond your wildest dreams…and that’s a blessing.  But, sometimes you fail so “heartily” you’ll never be asked to do that again…and that’s a blessing too. 😍. 

Artist: Gail Stanghelle

I’ve owned this piece of art for many years now but I’m still touched by the words “Do not be afraid to use what talents you possess…” I move it time to time from one prominent spot to another so that my eyes are reminded not to miss it’s inspiration.  It’s good to aspire to be of value and succeed but that’s not a required part of “good works. ” Fearless inspiration  is.

This is the fearless inspiration that transforms our aspirations into good works: NLT 2:13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.