Don’t forget what you’ve walked through

Last week our pastor was challenging us to learn from the Israelites’ spiritual amnesia. What a tragedy it was that the same generation that walked through the sea on dry land lost their faith and was prevented from entering the Promised Land.

It’s easy to judge their foolishness. They had seen extraordinary deliverance, and yet, as the years passed, they forgot.

I was challenged as I realised how true this is in my own life. In fact, the parting of the red sea was only a precursor to a far greater deliverance that was to come. Thousands of years later, God in the flesh hung on a cross, and as he uttered those final words ‘It is finished,’ the curtain in the temple was supernaturally torn in two. This curtain had long divided the people from the God who was their deliverance. Then, suddenly, without warning, the curtain was parted, so that anyone who desired to know God, could enter, covered by the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice.

I first walked through that proverbial curtain as a child, just as many of the Israelites walked through the red sea as children. And just like them, how many times have I forgotten since, what miracle God performed in my life? Too often I approach my creator with such flippancy that it is clear I have forgotten how divided I once was from Him, and how graciously he has made the way for me.

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Why would God destroy a city?

Sodom and Gomorrah are two famous historical cities known for their destruction. The account of their demise begins in Genesis 18, when the Lord says to Abraham, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me.”

I was reading this passage as a part of our church’s Genesis study, and this question was posed: ‘Why would God be so concerned about the reports coming from Sodom and Gomorrah?’ I was stumped at first. Sure I know that God hates sin, but evil is just a part of our world, right? Why did He feel the need to destroy them so dramatically?

As I pondered this I was suddenly reminded of something Jesus said: “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.”

Sin is not static. It spreads like a cancer, sometimes slowly, but surely. It seeps into a culture until it moulds minds and consciences and lulls people into deception, saying, “You can live as you like” and “There is no consequence.”

God’s destruction is always characterised by two things: justice for evil, and protection of that which is good. Just like a cancer in the body must be killed, in order for the body to be saved, so has God worked throughout history to restrain the spread of evil, so as to protect his people and offer salvation to all.

On the dislike of teenagers

I was sitting with a group of (lovely) ladies a few weeks back and the topic of teenagers came up. Perhaps forgetting that I actually choose to work with this vicious species on a daily basis, they described them in less than complimentary terms. One lady piped up “Well, you must remember, we’re living in the age of the narcissist.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with her premise, but her accusatory tone made me feel surprisingly defensive of this generation that is both loathed and feared by much of society. Teenagers, beneath their narcissism and behind the luminous screens of their smart phones, are precious individuals who are finding their way in the world and forging a new path for our future.

Teenagers hold our future whether we like it or not, and before we despair or shake our fists, we do well to look at where they came from. If a teenager is narcissistic, who did they learn it from? If they can’t function without technology, who gave it to them? If they are undisciplined or entitled or lacking respect, who is the generation who raised them?

The last thing that teenagers need is our condescension. They are not the enemy, and if we treat them as such we draw battle lines for a war that will have no victor. Teenagers need the love and support of society. They need freedom and boundaries, encouragement and discipline. Our condemnation foolishly despises that which we, as a village, have raised ourselves.

Before the Throne… so many have been struck down.

Ancient-Aliens-ark-covenant

I sometimes have difficulty reconciling the God of the Old Testament, with the God I know. I’ve just read about this horrible string of events in Samuel:

  • Israel was defeated in battle
  • The Ark of the Lord was captured by the Philistines
  • Eli the priest and his two sons died.
  • The Philistine god Dagon was found bowing and broken before the Ark
  • They were tormented with tumours and ‘the Lord’s hand was heavy upon them.’
  • Cities were thrown into panic and they decided to send the Ark back.
  • On its return to Israel, seventy men were killed when they looked into the Ark.

Imagine the people’s fear as they said ‘Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up to from here?’

I was meditating on this question as I turned my music on and was captivated by these words:

“Before the Throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a great High Priest whose name is love, who ever lives and pleads for me… I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”

The fearsome God of Israel is no less the God of today, but while nations trembled and many died in his presence, we are invited into his very Throne room finding no condemnation, only grace.

The contrast is dramatic. How radically has Jesus Christ transformed the way we may relate to God!

I need more boundaries

385428_10150435859463143_1946831023_nLast year I completed my ‘no shopping’ challenge. As you’d know, I found it easier than expected and enjoyed feeling liberated from my consumerist lifestyle.

Then the end of the year came.

I was free.

And as I have so often found before, freedom without boundaries leads to bondage.

Restarting shopping came with several unexpected pitfalls.

Judgement: People who had watched my ‘non-consumerist’ journey, now felt free to judge my every purchase. All of a sudden I was a hypocrite.

Extravagence: Over the year, I’d had a build up of things that I needed, so when the end of the year came, I bought a lot of stuff. I felt myself begin to slide down the slippery slope towards the pit that I’d spent a year climbing out of; my love of shopping came oozing back.

That sick, icky, guilty feeling: I loved shopping again, but I wasn’t feeling good. I felt like someone who had been on a healthy diet for a year, and had then gone out and eaten cake, and chips, and chocolate. Not in excess… I wasn’t being excessive, but my body was used to better things.

So now it’s the end of January, and I know I need boundaries. This year, apart from op shopping, I’ll buy only one new thing per month. And if it’s clothing, I’ll do it ethically. I want to be calculated and think about what I need. And I want to be free to give more.

I Wish the World Were Black and White

border-fence_19-136576I wish the world were black and white

Because I like compartments and squares and boxes.

I like to know what is what and where is where, and which side you’re on and which side I’m on.

I like to control and segregate, and separate and articulate.

I like to say black is black and white is white and wrong is wrong, and right is right

and you can be either one or the other.

I want to say ‘I’m whiter than you’ or ‘you’re blacker than me’ but at the end of the day, let’s face it I’m grey.

And I want the world to be black and white, but I want it to be gracious to me while I’m grey.

So perhaps I should return the favour.

What has the right to judge me?

smallLet’s face it. We don’t like to be judged.

We live in the age of relativism. What’s right for me is right for me and what’s right for you is right for you, but you know what all that really boils down to? An innate, inner desire to have ultimate authority over our lives.

The relativist looks at the world around them and says: If I see it, if I feel it, if it’s within my realm of experience, then it is truth. Right and wrong can be whatever I want them to be.

Even Christians are far more prone to this than we like to think. Sure we look to the scriptures, but too often we hold them in one hand, balancing them against a hand piled high with reason, experience and feelings.

This makes me think of one of my favourite quotes by Tozer: ‘[The scholar] may compare scripture with scripture until he has discovered the true meaning of the text. But right there his authority ends. He must never sit in judgement upon what is written. He dare not bring the meaning of the Word before the bar of his reason. He dare not commend or condemn the Word as reasonable or unreasonable, scientific or unscientific. After the meaning is discovered, that meaning judges him; never does he judge it.’[1]

May we never bring the Word of God under the judgement of our own corrupt reasoning.


[1] Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy, p24

Thoughts on Hell from the Hottest Place on Earth

1186903_28200330Today I’m apparently living in the hottest place on earth. With temperatures predicted to soar to 46 degrees Celsius it’s definitely a scorcher.

But you know what? Although it’s definitely hot, sitting in an air-conditioned house I’m hardly feeling it; I’m not being hit with the reality of 46 degrees.

This reminded me of a sobering passage from Jonathan Edwards’ famous 1741 sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God:”

 

‘There is the dreadful Pit of the glowing Flames of the Wrath of God; there is Hell’s wide gaping Mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, not any Thing to take hold of: there is nothing between you and Hell but the Air; ‘tis only the Power and mere Pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of Hell, but don’t see the Hand of God in it, but look at other Things, as the good State of your bodily Constitution, your Care of your own Life, and the Means you use for your own Preservation. But indeed these Things are nothing; if God should withdraw his Hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin Air to hold up a Person that is suspended in it.”

How great is the grace of God that holds us out of hell! And how fearful the day that He removes His hold from those who, by their own will, have rejected it.