God Fights For Us

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Fights for Us

1 Corinthians 3:17

When my son Josh was in 7th grade, we were living in a small town in Indiana. One day he was in line at school, I believe they were in the lunch room, the kid behind him was joking around and gave him a shove. When he did, Josh fell into the kid in front of him. Clearly, Josh didn’t hurt the kid, he just bumped into him. This boy turned around and punched Josh in the nose, breaking it. Josh did not provoke it, nor did he retaliate, he just stood there holding his nose.

Well, to make matters worse, after they were both taken to the Principal’s office and had both explained their side of the story, they were both given three days of in-school suspension. When I found out what had happened, as a father, I was furious. I was mad at the kid who hit Josh, but even more angry that the school would punish him for this incident.

Michelle and I marched down to the school and gave that Principal a piece of our collective mind, but he stood his ground. He said that Josh was “rough housing” and was equally to blame. We made it clear that this was not true, that getting shoved isn’t “rough housing,” and that Josh was a victim, not an instigator. None the less, Josh had to serve the three days of in-school suspension and life went on. It was a great example of what I always told the kids as they were growing up. If they would say something wasn’t fare, I’d tell them, life isn’t fare, but we have to deal with it.

The point is that, as parents, Michelle and I were livid and marched right down to that school to defend our son. I’ll be honest, I’ve never wanted to hit a 12-year-old so bad, but I restrained myself…with the help of Michelle.

The Hebrew people of the Old Testament never thought of God as their Father, that’s why it was so strange for the disciples when Jesus gave them the model prayer in Matthew chapter 6. When He told them to Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.” Matthew 6:9. They had never been taught to think of God as their Father.

Later, we see that Paul embraced this thought system when he said, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8 15. You see, the Hebrew people looked at God as an angry taskmaster, but He always wanted to be their loving Father. This term, “Abba! Father!” is a term of endearment, it’s like saying, daddy. And, notice that Paul says we were all adopted as sons. Paul wasn’t trying to cut down women here, he was showing us our place with God. You see, back then, the sons got all the inheritance, they figured that the daughters would marry men who got their inheritance. But Paul is telling us that we all, men and women, are adopted as sons. We all get the full inheritance! Isn’t that awesome?

So, in our passage today, 1 Corinthians 3:17, we read, “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God, our Father, our Daddy, will destroy anyone who tries to destroy His temple…His sons. That’s how much God loves you and me, He won’t just defend us, He will destroy anyone who tries to hurt us. And, in case you think that God has changed since the Old Testament times, Moses told the Hebrew people in Exodus 14:14, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” God wanted to be their Daddy, but they wouldn’t see Him that way.

Here’s the thing about God, He will never force us to love Him, He will never force us to obey Him. Why do you think He put the two trees in the middle of the garden? It wasn’t to tempt Adam and Eve; it was to give them the choice to love Him. You see, if you don’t give someone the choice, that isn’t love, it’s slavery.

What does John 3:16 say? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Do you see that word? He gave His only BEGOTTEN son. We are His adopted sons, but Jesus was His only begotten Son, and He gave Him for us. That’s how much God loves you and me. He gave the life of His only biological Son so we could be adopted…wow!

I recently had someone tell me that the God of the Old Testament was an angry God, always smiting people. So, I took him to my favorite verse, which happens to be in the Old Testament, Zephaniah 3:17, which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Look at this verse. God isn’t up in heaven pronouncing judgement on us, He is living among us. The verse goes on to say that He is my Mighty Savior, that He takes Delight in me with Gladness, and that He Calms All my Fears. And, then, as if that isn’t enough, it says that God, the creator of the universe, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, will rejoice over me with joyful songs! When I read this verse, I think of a father holding his baby son in his arms and singing to him. That’s what God wants to do to me, that’s what God wants to do to all of us. Does that sound like an angry God to you? To me it sounds like a loving Father.

Be Thankful & Trust the Plan

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Give Thanks & Trust the Plan

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I wanted to interrupt our study of Ephesians to talk about giving thanks. Here’s the thing, Thanksgiving is not turkey day. It’s not about the huge Thanksgiving dinner, even though I love a good Thanksgiving dinner…or any dinner for that matter. It’s not about the football, or the gathering of the family, or even the pilgrims. You see, none of these things are bad, I love food, and family time, and even football, not so much in the last couple of years, but Thanksgiving is a day that our government set aside to give thanks to God for what He has done for us. That’s right our government set aside a day to give thanks to God, so don’t let anyone tell you that this country was not created as a Christian Nation. In fact, just a side note…no charge, the first joint session of the U.S. government consisted of a five-minute speech by George Washington at the Federalist Hall in New York City, followed by all of them walking two blocks to the St. Paul’s Chapel where they prayed for their new country for the remainder of the night. Also, did you know that the first Bibles printed in this country, were printed by Congress to be used in our public schools? Just a little food for thought.

So, what does the Bible say about giving thanks? First, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Did you see that? It says to give thanks in all circumstances. So often we let our circumstances dictate our attitude, but God tells us to give thanks, no matter what is going on around you. Okay, how is this possible? How can we be thankful in every circumstance? Look at Hebrews 12:26-28, 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed so that only unshakable things will remain. 28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our, God is a devouring fire.” See what it says? “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable”. No matter what happens on this earth, our Kingdom is unshakable! We can always be thankful because we abide in an unshakeable Kingdom. There’s an old song called, His Word Will Stand, and the lyrics say:

His Word will stand
His Word will stand
Though stars should fall
And mountains turn to sand
Though no man believes Him
Still, God will be true
His promise is sure
His love will endure
And forever His Word will stand.

God’s word will stand…always, even if no one believes it, He is unshakable, and His Kingdom is unshakable. This verse goes on to say that, since we have this unshakable Kingdom, we must be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe. We throw around the word awesome a lot, but only God is truly awesome…only God is worthy of our awe. So, when we worship God and give thanks, we please Him, and that should be our ultimate goal in life. Let’s face it, pleasing God is why we are here, that’s why He created us.

Colossians 3:15 tells us, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” This passage is telling us how to live a new life in Christ. It tells us that, as different parts of one body…there’s that unity thing again, we must live in peace, and always give thanks…ALWAYS! The next few verses go on to tell us to let Christ’s message fill our lives. What is the message of Christ? The gospel, the good news. Notice it doesn’t say to read about the message of Christ, or to listen to a pastor preach about the message of Christ, it says we must let it fill our liver, verse 16, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” This verse goes on to say that we need to teach and counsel each other, as one body, and sing praises to God with thankful hearts. Then he ends this thought with verse 17 which says, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” So, if you are a follower of Christ, you are an ambassador, whether you know it or not. You represent your Lord to this world, so give thanks!

We can’t allow the things going on around us to dictate our feelings. Remember, no matter what is going on, God has a plan. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Most of us know this verse, but have you ever read on? Look at the next 2 verses. Jeremiah 29:12-13 say, “12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Don’t just trust in His plan but seek him wholeheartedly! What does Matthew 7:7-8 say? “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Yes, be thankful because God’s got this, but what good is God’s plan if we don’t know what it is? God is not going to force you to do His plan, He wants us to seek after Him and keep on seeking. He wants you to desire to know His plan for your life more than anything. So, to live a happy life, be thankful and seek God’s plan!

But God…

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

But God!

I’ve been sitting in a meeting room at a hotel near Disney Land all day doing continuing education for my day job. One of the things the instructor told us is, when speaking with employees, never use the word, “But”. His reasoning is that managers and administrators should be using the old, “compliment sandwich”. We should be opening with things they are doing right, then telling them what they need to correct and close with another compliment. He said that if we use the word, “But”, the employee will forget about the praises and prepare themselves for the correction.

While this is fine as a management style, God doesn’t work on our playing field. Remember, Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” You see, we can’t even fathom what God is thinking, or how He works. God often tells us the horrible state we are in, then negates it with the statement, “But God.”

We see this phrase, “But God”, sixty-four times in the Bible. We see in Genesis 8:1, “But God remembered Noah…” and in Genesis 21:12, “But God told Abraham…”. We see it in Psalm 73:26 where it says, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” In fact, we see this phrase used over and over throughout the Old and New Testaments telling us of times throughout the course of history when God stepped in.

The passage that I would like to focus on today is found in the first few verses of the second chapter of Ephesians. Verses 1 through 3 talks about how we were once dead because of our disobedience and sin. It says we used to live in sin like the rest of the world does, and that we obeyed the devil who is the “commander of the powers in the unseen world.” Don’t forget what we talked about a couple of weeks ago regarding this word, “power”. The word used here is that word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” So, Satan’s power is just the power that God is allowing him to have, for now, none the less, the world follows him whether they realize it or not. Why is this? It tells us in Ephesians 2:2 because “He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” You see, if a person doesn’t know God, if they haven’t accepted what Jesus did for them on the cross, the Devil is “the spirit at work in their heart.” Remember also that Satan comes to them as an angel of light. He fools them just like he did to Eve in the garden, playing on their pride. Remember what he said to eve? In Genesis 3:5 Satan told Eve, “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” He played on her pride and told her that if she goes against God’s word, she will be like God…that’s how he works.

Paul ends those first three verses by saying in verse 3, “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature, we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” Doesn’t that sound like the world today? Aren’t they always saying, “Do whatever feels right to you” and “Do whatever makes you happy”? That’s Satan working within them!

And, here comes the “But”. The next two verses say, But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” So, we used to follow the Devil and live for ourselves, “But God is so rich in mercy”. Isn’t that beautiful? Romans 5:10 tells us, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.” Do you see that? He restored our friendship, while we were His enemies…that’s mercy.

Why does He have this great mercy toward us? Look at the end of verse 4, because “he loved us so much” He loves us, even though we are totally unlovable. He loves us in spite of ourselves. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17, it says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Do you see that? “He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” God sings over us, that’s how much He loves us.

So, God had such great mercy on us because He loved us so much that, even though we were spiritually dead because of our sin, He gave us new life…wow! I heard a pastor once say that God doesn’t give us second chances, He gives us New Beginnings, isn’t that beautiful? That’s what this is a picture of. He doesn’t say that we were dead in our sin, so He gave us a do-over, it says that He gave us a New Life. This isn’t a mulligan, this is wiping the slate clean and starting anew.

And, how did He accomplish this? By raising Christ from the grave! Remember what Paul said just a little earlier, that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is in us. You see, everyone else that people worship died and is still in the grave, but Christ is the only one who overcame the grave. He is the only one who ever defeated death, and that’s because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last!

I love the parenthetical at the end of this verse, “It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!” That sums it all up, if it wasn’t for the grace of God, we would all be on our way to hell. Many ask how a loving God could ever send anyone to hell, but the truth is, He doesn’t. He made the way so easy that even a child could understand, but remember, Satan plays on our pride and that’s what sends people to hell.

We don’t need to be standing on a street corner shouting, “repent”, we need to be telling everyone we meet about the overwhelming love of God.

Our God Is An Awesome God!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our God Is an Awesome God!

I know, I’ve been on somewhat of a kick of old worship songs, but this is another one I’ve always loved. Rich Mullens wrote this song back in 1988 and many only know the chorus, but I think the verses say so much. The first verse says,

When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain’t just putting on the ritz
(Our God is an awesome God)
There’s thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
(Our God is an awesome God)
And the Lord wasn’t joking when He kicked ’em out of Eden
It wasn’t for no reason that He shed His blood
His return is very close and so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God

Then the second verse says,

And when the sky was starless
In the void of the night
(Our God is an awesome God)
He spoke into the darkness
And created the light
(Our God is an awesome God)
Judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an awesome God

Isn’t that powerful? Our God truly is an awesome God! I want to look at what Paul says about this, and it is picking up where we left off in his prayer last week. Look at Ephesians 1:19-21 where Paul continues his prayer and says, 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

So, he starts out by saying that he prays that we understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe. Remember that one of the attributes of God is that He is omnipotent, which means, “All Powerful”. For those who have been following me for a while, you might remember a series I did on the names of God that are used in the Bible, and how each of these names describes one of God’s attributes. Many of those names speak of His power, names like; Jehovah Jireh – The Lord is my Provider, Jehovah Rapha – The Lord is my Healer, Jehovah Sabaoth – The Lord of Angel Armies, El Elyon – The Most High God, and one of my favorites, El Shaddai – The Lord is More Than Enough!

Some translations of Ephesians 1:19 say “exceeding greatness”. This is a picture of throwing beyond, going far past what we might expect. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Do you see that? God can work through us weak humans to do infinitely more than we could ask for, or even think possible…Wow! If we look back in John 14:12, when Jesus was telling his disciples that He was going to send them the Holy Spirit, He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

The word used here that was translated “power” is the Greek word, Dunamis, which means “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth”. This is the word that we derive the word dynamite from. It is explosive power and a power that naturally occurs. In contrast, whenever the Bible talks about Satan’s power, it uses the word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” You see, Satan’s only power is the power that God allows him to have for a season. God’s power, on the other hand, is an explosive power that naturally occurs within Him.

Paul goes on to say in verse 20, “This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” So, the power that is within us, His children, is the same mighty power that He used to raise Christ from the dead, the power that ascended Christ into heaven, and seated Him at the right hand of the Father. That power is in US!

Then he goes on to say that because of this power…the power that we also possess, “he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come” verse 21. Christ is far above all other rulers. The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is the God we serve, and because we serve Him, His power is within us. Acts 4:13, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” So, Peter and John were obviously uneducated men. We’ve all known people like that, as soon as you look at them you know they are uneducated, maybe a little backward. But, have you ever known people like that, who confound you in their boldness and knowledge of scripture? People who have obviously been with Jesus? That’s how we all need to be! It’s not about our wisdom! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” Remember, it’s not about you!

We all must ask ourselves, “When the world looks at me, do they see that I’ve been with Jesus?” That must be our goal!

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