Friday, February 21, 2014

Is God Love?

God claims to be compassionate, but in the Bible we see him be cruel.
                God sends the angel of death to kill all the Egyptians first-born sons
God claims to be forgiving, but we see him be petty.
                God kills a man for touching the ark of the covenant to settle it when he wasn’t the right person to touch it.
God claims to be gracious, but we see him be harsh.
                God commands death for small crimes, such as picking up sticks on the Sabbath.
God claims to be good, but we see him be evil.
                God commands the genocide—killing of men, women and children as well as animals—of entire nations.

Yes, God is shown to be loving as well. 
                God delivers an undeserving nation from slavery.
                God forgives a man for murder and adultery.
                God provides food for the hungry.
                God raises children from the dead.
                God pays the debt of a widow.
                God establishes a great nation out of nobodies.
But the very nation God established was patriarchal, bloodthirsty and warring. 
They’re ancestral heroes are lying, cheating and disloyal.

I’d like to say that there is an error in the Bible.
  That some events were attributed to God when they really weren’t.
  That people penned God’s name to sayings he never said.
  That God experimented in different methods to train humans to love, and many of them failed.
  That God could do what humans could not do because He was creator.
But these are all excuses for an unloving God, or, at best, a God that was learning how to love.
  A God who did not know what compassion, grace, forgiveness and good really meant.
  Or a God who was sorely, even deceitfully, misrepresented.
Frankly, I just don’t know.

But this I do know:
The God I worship, adore, obey and imitate is displayed in full glory in Jesus.
Jesus is the perfect demonstration of the love of God.
Jesus is the God who transforms the occasionally harsh law into pure love.
Jesus is the God who heals the sick and feeds the hungry.
Jesus is the God who supports the poor.
Jesus is the God who welcomes the sinner.
Jesus is the God who sacrifices himself for the sake of the world.
Jesus is the God who forgives completely, without punishment.
Jesus is the God who exuberantly, abundantly, enthusiastically loves.
And there is no other God but the God whom we see in Jesus.

Jesus is the complete fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Jesus turns deceit into Truth.
Jesus turns disloyalty into Faithfulness.
Jesus turns selfishness into Sacrifice.
And Jesus turns a broken God into a God broken for us.
In Jesus we see the Compassionate, the Gracious, the Merciful, the Forgiving.
This is the God I love, the God I seek, the God I pray to.

There is no other.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Humble and the Powerful: A Scriptural Guide

James 1: 9-12
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Psalm 73:1-19
Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart!
But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat.
They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them.
Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot.
They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high.
They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth.
Therefore his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them.
They say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence;
For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.
When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight
Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.
How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!

Isaiah 2:11-17
The proud look of man will be abased And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased.
And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up, Against all the oaks of Bashan, Against all the lofty mountains, Against all the hills that are lifted up, Against every high tower, Against every fortified wall, Against all the ships of Tarshish And against all the beautiful craft.
The pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased.

I Samuel 2:3-8
Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are shattered, But the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven, But she who has many children languishes.
The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, And He set the world on them.

Luke 14:11
Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 6:20-26
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

Luke 16:25
Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

I Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled [j]for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.