Never Changing

Never Changing

For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Malachi 3:6

Recommended Reading – Romans 8:35-39
One of Rembrandt’s final paintings is considered by many to be his finest: The Return of the Prodigal Son. It illustrates the climax of the parable of Jesus recorded in Luke 15:11-32. The power of that parable is found in the father’s unconditional love for the Prodigal Son who returns home after profligate living. He returns not knowing what to expect—whether the father would still love him or not.

Jesus told the parable to Jews and their leaders whose ancestors had, a few generations earlier, returned from exile in Babylon. Most of them, born in Babylon, had not known the God of their fathers personally. Would He still be angry over the sins that sent Israel into exile? The answer was no: “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” God’s love is not based on their or our goodness or sinfulness. It is based on God’s choice to love unconditionally. He had told them through Jeremiah that His love was as constant as the universe (Jeremiah 31:35-37). When they returned home to Judah, they discovered God’s love had not changed.

His love does not change toward you either. Rest today in the unchanging nature of God and His love for you.

Oh, the vast, the boundless treasure of my Lord’s unchanging love!
Robert Robinson

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Don’t Work a Day in Your Life

Don’t Work a Day in Your Life

A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Recommended Reading – Ephesians 2:4-10
Confucius said, “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” When you’re doing what God wants you to do, there’s work; but there’s joy in the work. We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

When evangelist George Whitefield was going to speak to a large crowd near the end of his life, someone commented on his feebleness. He acknowledged the observation; but, clasping his hands, simply prayed: “Lord Jesus, I am weary in Thy work, but not of it. If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for Thee once more.”1

We don’t always know the dates God has set for accomplishing His plans for us, but we know He has a perfect plan. We may grow weary in the work; but the joy of the Lord is our strength as we press on to finish our course.

Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.
George Whitefield

1Helen C. Knight, Lady Huntington and Her Friends (New York: American Tract Society, 1853), 208.

Sing!

Sing!

The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him (Exodus 15:2).
You will want to sing when you see what God is doing in your life, because He is your Song of victory. Just as Israel recognized her helplessness in the face of an enemy, so you must realize you will face opposition from the world, the flesh, and Satan. Just as Israel recognized that God gave her a great victory (Exod. 15:1), so you will sing praises when you overcome your enemies. Just as Israel exalted the Lord after a victory, so you must praise Him in song when your enemy is defeated and when you win a great battle (Exod. 15:2).
If you have no song to sing, it’s because you don’t see the Lord working in your life. When you are happy, the Lord is your Song of rejoicing. When sorrows break your heart, the Lord is your Song of consolation. When you meet the Lord in prayer, He is your Song of worship and adoration. There is no better theme to sing than to sing about the Lord. There is no better purpose to sing than to sing to Him.

Sing about the Lord and to the Lord.

Created In His Image

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One skeptic referred to humanity as a “Happy Accident,” meaning that there is no real purpose behind humanity, and in that sense, humanity has no real meaning or special place on the planet. I suppose that could be, but then there’s really no reason for me to care then. We are starting this study “Humanity: What Is It? to examine humanity from the lens of scripture, particularly Genesis 1-3.

We are doing so because there is much confusion as to what humanity is, who we are, why are we here type questions. I do not purport for this to be definitive or to persuade the hardened skeptic, because not only does the honest skeptic eschew meaning, they deride ‘religion’ for trying to give life meaning. So be it, I guess we all have a gospel to tell.

Also this study’s scope in no way will answer all of the questions regarding Genesis that a more exegetical study should offer. Let’s suffice it to say that the writer(s) of Genesis in no way meant for it to answer questions 21st century science is attempting to answer. And as believers it would behoove us to stay away from the debates in regard to science and the bible since the two are not at odds with one another, and our goal isn’t to win a science debate. It may be even possible to agree with the late Stephen J. Gould who was an atheist and eminent Harvard professor of Paleontology when he wrote, “Science and religion can be seen as nonoverlapping but equally valid means of understanding the world around us, and neither should encroach upon the domain of the other.” Christian Theologian RC Sproul once said that, “When people ask me how old the earth, I tell them I don’t know, because I don’t.” Not a bad tactic. As believers let’s stick to the gospel and not arguing subjects we know nothing about. The bottom line is the bible teaches us that God is the Ultimate cause of the universe, whereas science is trying to determine the Proximate cause.

The fact is the bible has proven itself well from an accuracy and historical perspective. There have been many skeptics saying the opposite, but the skeptics have most often had to change their positions when all the facts came in; like the existence of the Hittite Empire, which was spoken of often in scripture, but skeptics derided until 1948 when archaeological discoveries were made proving the existence of such an empire making the skeptical claims null and void. We can trust the bible for our “Life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), and trust it to place a mirror before us explaining who we are, what we are created to do and why we don’t have the joy we are seeking as humans. The authority of scripture is either a real part of our lives, especially as it relates to the many issues in our culture today, or it’s not.  Of course we always have the prerogative to discard scripture and go our own way, but it can’t be based on the fact that scripture isn’t accurate, or is a book of horrible advice as some say.

In our passage today (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7), we are exploring the meaning of the “Image of God.” What we are taught in the first couple of chapters of Genesis is that God is infinite and separate from His creation and the uncaused cause of all matter (Which is finite), which makes Him very different than many other gods. And that He created humanity in His image.

Being created in the image of God is the believers foundation for our identity, and for treating ALL people with dignity, love and compassion. This is an area I believe a purely macro-evolutionary theory has to trade in its foundational belief to make work. If we really are just “Happy Accidents,” and no different than the animal kingdom then there is no real, philosophical basis for me to care about the other person, especially if that person is ‘unfit,’ and not pulling his weight in the culture. Bible authors use this idea of being created in God’s image to stop murder (Genesis 9:6) and the cursing of humanity (James 3:9). Thus we are to see all humanity as created in God’s image!

 To be created in God’s image is to be ‘Like” Him. We are told to be “Perfect” like our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:48). Thus God’s communicable attributes are part of what it means to be made in His image. Attributes such as love, holiness, goodness, truthful, rational, personal, merciful, free, etc. are all part of what it means. But, while many church fathers and theologians have included the above, as well as, reason, intellect, free will and the ability to rule over the creation as what it means to be created in God’s image, I think our context speaks more clearly to this.

First, I think the image means that we have ‘Dominion” (Co-Regency) over creation. This is certainly part of it, but not the whole. We will discuss this more next week. Being made in His image also carries a second idea. which is the essence of who God is. He’s a triune being unlike humanity. God is a perfect community in of Himself, with no need for anything else. He created out of His creative personality (Another attribute humans share with Him), and out of His pleasure and will, not because He needed anything. He exists perfectly as three distinct personalities united in one being. This isn’t a contradiction, yet it is hard to comprehend, which is what we’d expect from God. This is also very important to who we are as humans. We are created for community and personal interaction, like God. God therefore, created diversity as a good thing. Distinction is important to Him, as it is united in diversity. Things like marriage are two distinct and diverse people coming together as ‘one flesh.’ The church is “many members, yet one body.” This idea of God being diverse yet one is unique. These aren’t three different illusory manifestations, but three real persons, distinct from one another, yet unified in one. Theologian Karl Barth wrote, “God is in relationship, and so too is the man created by Him. This is divine likeness.” This then brings us to our third likeness in our context and that is the idea of being male and female. Genesis 1:27 reads, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” He defines that image as two distinct and different, yet unified persons. Distinctions and diversity are not evil. The fall has created this tension between people, God is in the business of redeeming that.There is something at the foundational core of God that desires diversity, distinction and oneness. The world is clamoring for it to be “One,” but doesn’t have a clue of how to make that happen. In our day and age when we have been promised that computers, jets and the internet would make us globally one, we have developed more factions, tensions and wars as the cultures have crashed into one another. As one song says, “The world is heading for mutiny, when all we want is unity.”

How do you understand who you are? What or who is your identity in? Looks, fame, money, success, accomplishments, relationships? What gives you worth and meaning? Our identity is not in our sexuality, our jobs or our lineage, it is the God and creator of the universe. We are accepted, because He accepts us in Christ. It is because of this that we have no right to judge others and look down upon others as ‘sinners,’ since we are just as fallen as anyone else, yet loved and accepted in Christ Jesus.

Since that is true then, we must become the community that God has called the church to be. Instead, many are running away from the church, when in reality God has called out (Eklesia) the church to be a family of sinners saved by God’s grace. We are called together to love one another, bear one another’s burdens and to proclaim to a dying world the truth of God’s story; that Christ has come to redeem the world, so that there would be “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). That’s God’s goal for the world; what’s the goal of evolution for humanity?

A Clear Path to Grace – Forgiveness

A Clear Path to Grace—Forgiveness

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

Recommended Reading – Ephesians 4:25-32
According to a report in New York Magazine, scientists have been studying the patterns of forgiveness and reconciliation in the animal kingdom. Most of the research has involved gorillas and chimps. They often fight each other only to later embrace and continue their companionship. Similar behavior characterizes goats and even hyenas. The researchers have found only one species of animal that doesn’t seem to ever forgive—domestic cats.

If you’re a cat lover, you may not agree with that research, but you’ll probably acknowledge that we humans have the same problem. We’re all sinners, and we need God’s forgiveness. When we’ve truly received and experienced the forgiveness gained by the blood of Christ, we can learn to forgive others too.

Yes, some people rub us the wrong way; but the Bible says, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:16, NIV). If you’re upset with someone or if past injustices have left a bitter taste in your heart, think about how wonderfully God has forgiven you. Visualize His grace. Utilize His clear path to grace: Forgiveness. As Ruth Bell Graham once said, “Every cat knows some things need to be buried.”

Whatever has happened in your past, remember that you are the loser if you do not deal with an unforgiving spirit.
Charles Stanley, in The Gift of Forgiveness

Jesus: Greater Than Our Father Abraham

Jesus: Greater Than Our Father Abraham

“Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:53, 57-58).
Abraham was one of the greatest patriarchs in the Old Testament. He is the Father of Israel, for all Jews came from him. Abraham perhaps had the greatest faith in God of all Old Testament believers. He is known as the Friend of God (2 Chron. 20:7; James 2:23) and God called him “my friend” (Is. 41:8). But Jesus was Greater Than The Father Abraham because Jesus was the great I AM; Jesus is God.
The Jewish leaders rejected Jesus even though they witnessed His miracles. They refused to accept Jesus, even though He proved to them from Scriptures who He was (Matt. 21:23-22:46). The Jewish leaders called Jesus a sinner, accused Him of being born out of wedlock (John 8:41), attributed His miracles to Satan (Matt. 12:24), and said He had a devil (John 8:52). They sarcastically asked, “Are You greater than our father Abraham?” (John 8:53). Jesus replied, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day” (John 8:56). They said, “You’re not fifty years old, how could you see Abraham?” Jesus answered, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). To Jesus’ response, they picked up stones to kill Him. What is your response? You must either pick up stones to cast at Him or fall at His feet to worship Him.
Because Jesus is greater than Abraham, you must worship Him as the great I AM.

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:26 NKJV).
The Holy Spirit is a person. He is not like smoke, fog, or a cloud, or any other false idea that people have of Him. He is the Third Person of the Godhead. Use the pronoun He when you pray to Him, because He is a person. The Holy Spirit is a person who has the ability to think infinitely; therefore, He knows all about you. The Holy Spirit is a person who has the infinite capacities of emotion; therefore, He feels deeply for you. The Holy Spirit is a person with the divine power of will; therefore, He can choose to do wonderful things for you when you obey the commands of Scripture. What would you like for the Holy Spirit to do for you today?
The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity. He can be denied (2 Tim. 3:5), lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Gen. 6:3) and blasphemed (Matt. 12:31). Because He is a person, you can obey Him (Heb. 3:7-11), desire Him (John 7:37-38), and follow Him (Gal. 5:16, 25). Call on Him today to help you glorify the Father.
We should pray to the Holy Spirit as a person.