14 July 2020

God's Sovereign Goodness

After the earth began to be repopulated by people after the flood, the people banded together in Shinar.  They decided to make bricks, build a great city with a tower that reached to heaven, and make a name for themselves so they would not be scattered across the earth.  God knew their plans and decided to miraculously disrupt them and bring about exactly what they worked to prevent.  Genesis 11:7-8 reads, "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city."  The name of the unfinished tower was called "Babel" because it was the place God confounded the languages of the people.

The inability to understand one another ended the singleness of mind and purpose the people once shared.  Without anyone to translate what they said and meant their efforts turned into a ruin.  This incident, more than merely showing how the multitudes of languages in the world came to be, reveals the importance of communication.  This can be seen in marriages, families, the workplace, and church.  God was observant of the reason behind the building project in Shinar, and He also is keenly aware of what His ultimate plans are for His glorious kingdom.  The people wanted to unite all in one place, yet God was determined to send them forth.

The situation at Babel is a good reminder of God's sovereignty and plans that are infinitely better than our own short-sighted goals to make a name for ourselves.  I recently read a biography of David Wilkerson and he once attended a church filled with notable preachers and worship leaders.  The church did not last long and one of the senior members put it like this:  "Too much salt."  Jesus told His followers they were the salt of the earth and they were pleased after His ascension to remain in Jerusalem.  It was not long after the Holy Spirit came upon them in power great persecution arose against Christians who scattered and brought the Gospel with them to Jews and Gentiles alike.  I do not suggest this to justify church "splits" or irreconcilable differences among believers which hinder fellowship but to say God's ways are higher than ours.

We can be content to make a name for ourselves and settle down when God has other plans.  I was very settled and content in the east county of San Diego before God moved me and my family to Australia.  Instead of finding rest in a marriage, job, house, or familiar surroundings God intervened to teach us to discover rest in Him wherever He places us.  When we first came to Australia I was connected to pastors who also had ministry in Australia on their heart and sought to plant a church in the Sydney CBD.  It was like the A-team huddled up and was on mission to minister for the glory of God.  But for whatever reason, it did not come to pass as imagined.  Those pastors are now scattered across four nations (at least!) in fruitful pastoral ministry.  I am convinced their efforts were not a failure because their uniting led to seeking the LORD and He moved them according to His will.

How awesome are the works of God who does glorious things!  The confounding of languages led to friends moving apart but new friendships and horizons were discovered.  Trying circumstances and upheaval led to exploration and visions of grandeur far greater than a tower made with bricks and slime.  In the breakdown of the building project many other leaders were forged.  Without the comforts of city walls people looked to the LORD for guidance and protection in ways they never needed to in the past.  Blessed be our God whose mighty, redemptive works are beyond our desire.  When we look back with eyes of faith, our great regrets of unfinished works can miraculously melt in His sovereign goodness.

13 July 2020

Replaced With Praise

God is better to us than we know.  Even when we credit Him for all good things we have received by His grace He is infinitely more worthy of praise and honour than the thoughts in our heads or the words on our lips.  Every day provides countless opportunities to praise and honour the God who does everything.

I was impacted by the song of David in Psalm 144:9-15:  "I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. 10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword. 11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: 12 that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace: 13 that our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: 14 that our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets. 15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD."

David sang of salvation and deliverance given him by God.  He prayed to be rid from those who spoke vainly, for prosperity, and that there would "be no complaining in our streets."  The mouth that compliments can also complain, and it is a shame we would use our mouths given us by the grace of God to complain rather than speak praise from a glad heart.  Lying and gossip says something about the sinful condition of our hearts and complaining is the same.  Complaints show a lack of appreciation and thanks for what God has given us; it reveals discontent and ultimately reveals a lack of faith in God's provision, power, and wisdom.  The very nature of complaining puts self in primary focus and how our expectations or perceived needs have remained unmet.  David prayed for deliverance from vain talkers (because they were around) and would not join them in their disgruntled murmurings.

Happy is the people whose God is the LORD:  the LORD who saves and delivers from vain talking and from our own habitual complaining.  God desires we would grow to maturity and be spiritually fruitful, that we would be pure on the inside as well as polished on the outside.  David sang in Psalm 35:27-28, "Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant. 28 And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long."  God has pleasure in our prosperity, yet we ought not define prosperity in the narrow sense of health and wealth.  God has prospered us in body, soul, and spirit enough to praise Him all the day long.  Complaints fade in hearts touched by the grace of God and are replaced with praise.  Believer, through our Saviour Jesus Christ we are most blessed!  May we live to magnify our LORD with praise.

12 July 2020

Worship in Vain

"Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

Matthew 15:7-9

Jesus minced no words when He addressed self-righteous Pharisees and scribes who sought to destroy Him.  They put great emphasis on having a clean exterior according to the Law of Moses but neglected the condition of their hearts.  Jesus perceived the greed in their hearts which moved them to seek the praise of men over the glory of God.  The religious rulers drew near to worship God with their mouths but their hearts were far from Him.

The worship of the self-righteous rulers Jesus said was in vain:  empty, worthless, fruitless, and ineffective.  Their worship of God was vain because they taught as doctrines the commandment of men.  God has provided the Bible to reveal sound doctrine (teaching) concerning God and His righteous ways.  When Jesus applied the words of Isaiah to the Pharisees it must have been deeply shocking and confronting.  Jesus exposed their words as empty because their hearts did not match.

No matter how much we know or how long we have followed Jesus, there remains the potential our worship of God is in vain because of hypocrisy which blinds us to the truth.  I am grateful Jesus does not pander to those ensnared to hypocrisy so they might recognise their need for repentance.  Jesus has given us new hearts through faith in Him and He enables us to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, owning sin we never saw as sin before.  How good is our LORD and gracious to speak to the Pharisee in each one of us so our worship will not be in vain.

10 July 2020

Shut In by God

Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.  Enoch walked with God and was not (translated into heaven) and God saw fit to allow Noah to remain by His grace.  According to God's revelation and instruction Noah built an ark so people and animals would be preserved from coming judgment.

While the exact amount of time Noah spent building the ark is unknown, it spanned many decades.  He was a builder and also a "preacher of righteousness" according to 2 Peter 2:5.  He publicly proclaimed the word of the LORD a great flood was coming and his faith was demonstrated by building a massive ship on dry ground.  After the ship was completed, seven days before the flood, God told Noah and his family to enter the ark along with other animals God drew there.  Genesis 7:8-10 reads, "Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, 9 two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth."

One significant aspect of Noah and all the animals entering the ark was the door remained open for boarding for seven days.  I imagine Noah's construction project provoked great curiosity of all who saw it, and the diverse kinds of animals streaming into it was a unique event.  Noah, being a preacher of righteousness, was willing to explain the reason behind this strange phenomenon to confirm judgment from God was coming.  Because no one but Noah's immediate family was willing to enter the door of the ark, it seems his words fell on unbelieving ears.  After many decades plus seven days of invitation to board Genesis 7:16 says, "So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in."

After 120 years from the first proclamation of judgment (Genesis 6:3), God shut Noah in.  The focus is not on all the animals or unbelieving people who were shut out.  When God shut the door of the ark it meant peace, safety, and deliverance for Noah and all who demonstrated faith by obedience.  It was not at Noah's discretion but God who determined the time for judgment and brought salvation.  I am reminded how Jesus Christ said in John 10:9-10, "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  Jesus has the keys and opens doors no man can shut, and shuts doors no man can open (Rev. 3:7).  To all living today the Door to salvation is open wide, an invitation to be saved from wrath to come and be saved for all eternity by grace through faith in Jesus.

How tragic it was for people who viewed that open door for years to find Noah shut in and to be shut out themselves when the skies opened and the waters rose.  When God shut Noah in his future was set for good.  Everyone has the opportunity today to walk through the door of salvation through Jesus Christ, the One who died for the sins of the world so those who trust in Him will live.  Only God knows when our lives will end or when judgment will come, and all those who repent and rest in Jesus by faith will be preserved safe and have fellowship with God now and forever.  Praise God He shuts us in!