Friday, July 21, 2017

Search Me, O God

Friday, July 21, 2017
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24(NLT)
The Psalmist invited God; you know, the all-powerful, ever-present, and all-knowing Creator of the universe – that God, to know everything about him from the inside-out.  He invited God to check out all his faults and bring them out for debate and correction!  That would not be a fun time for an introverted, private person like me!  It’s like appearing on national television, emotionally-naked as the day you were born.  
What the Psalmist wrote…pretty scary stuff, I’d say.  After all, why would you want to expose your worst side to the One who could remove you from the universe without breaking a sweat?
But then, notice the end of this invitation: 
…and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
What’s going on in this prayer is that the writer instinctively understands that the grand prize and privilege of eternal life and joy with God, creator and sustainer of all that is seen and unseen in the universe, carries with it the hard work of removing obstacles that would block that relationship.  Sometimes you’ve just got to undergo surgery if you want to get well!
And that’s the whole issue with being in relationship with God; sickness, anger, lust, greed, sloth…all those and more; those are just not welcome in the presence of He who is holy!  And so the Psalm-writer makes it a point to fast and get ready for the operating room, where the Holy Surgeon is going to open his life for examination and cure.

For You Today

When is the last time you opened yourself up to God like that?
If you’re ready…block out the time; hang out the do not disturb sign; turn off the cell and home phones; make sure the TV, CD, DVD, IPad, IPod, and every other usual distraction is turned off…and then hit the knees and write that invitation across your heart:  Search ME, O God!  Then…be quiet!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!
NOTES

[i] Title Image: Pixabay.com

Thursday, July 20, 2017

God's Election

Thursday, July 20, 2017
“But now, listen to me, Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one.  The Lord who made you and helps you says:  Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, O dear Israel, my chosen one.  For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields.  And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.  They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank.  Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord.’  Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’  Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands and will take the name of Israel as their own.”  Isaiah 44:1-5(NLT)
To be one chosen is to place the outcome in someone else’s hands.  In the case of our political choices we hold elections to determine who we want to govern.  It’s a freedom we enjoy and hold dearly.
God’s people, Israel, are referred to as The Chosen People.  God chose, or elected them, not because they are better, worse, more talented, faithful, or special, but rather He elected them to be His voice; God chose Israel to be His witness to the world of God’s goodness and love.  In that same way the Christian Church was also chosen, or elected to be God’s Kingdom witness, because God wanted the world to understand the cost of forgiveness, the cross of Christ.
As with most blessings God has poured out on humankind, we tend to make a shrine out of it, and thereby get it wrong.  The doctrine of election has stood (and been misunderstood) as God’s blessing of His choice to draw us near to Himself.  We tend to wear it as a badge of status and invincibility, something that makes us privileged.  In short, we take God’s offer of blessing and turn it into our little pocketful of power.
So, preacher, what are you getting at here? 
Well, I’m glad you asked; I’d like to remind us today of at least one aspect of election, over which many parts of the body (denominations, sects, scholars and other divisions) have argued for generations…what does it mean to be elect?
My short answer is always:  HE Chose…we chooseGod made the big decision; He loved and wanted us close to Himself.  He made that available to us and simply invites us all to also choose to be near him. 
I learned this from a dear saint, Dr. Herschel Hobbs, a revered Bible scholar and preacher of the Gospel who came to our church in 1979 to conduct a revival.  During that week Dr. Hobbs conducted an early morning Bible Study through the Book of Galatians.  I attended that study and heard plenty of humor, and plain-speaking explanations of Biblical truth, backed by a long ministry of Biblical exposition.  During one session Dr. Hobbs was asked a question about what God does in election, and this is what he answered:
Well, it’s simple, really; God held an election held a long time ago about saving all of humanity.  God voted for you, and the devil voted against you; and God has given each of us the deciding vote to determine the outcome.
Election – the pro-active (prevenient), grace-filled move of God to take our place of death we originally choose because of our sinful nature, followed by a gracious offer to allow us to reject or receive God’s love.
Dr. Hobbs’ humor was a bit dated (as is mine), but his theology, and incredibly crisp and understandable way of defining it was anything but lame.  From that moment I heard about the cost of my deciding electoral vote in being saved from the wages of my sin, I began to look at personal responsibility for my actions with a whole a new priority.  In many ways that simple, down-home explanation of a complex doctrine changed my life.

For You Today

You may have already cast your ballot.  Did you vote “yes” or “no” to God’s offer of salvation?  If you voted “no” the good news for you is that God allows U-turns. 
Care to vote again?
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!
NOTES

[i] Title Image: Pixabay.com