God of Spilt Milk

God and Milk

Have you ever taken the time to observe the intricate design in a puddle of spilt milk? Do you realize, if you were to spill another glass, it would never have the same pattern? milk

There is a difference between not crying over spilt milk and embracing it as an act of beauty from a sovereign Creator.

God wants us to embrace the beauty of His creation and see Him in everything around us. This is not the same thing as pantheism (that the universe is god), but a command of God to see His creativity and beauty in the mirror of creation. Creation reflects God’s awesomeness. When Job doubts the care and love of God, how does God respond? God responds by showing Job His power through the intricate details of His creation.

How do you look at the world? Do you have the eyes of a child that sparkle with a sense of wonder? Have you lost the sense of amazement at the “simple works” of God? My 11 month old baby girl, is fascinated by lint on the floor. She takes her little hands and examines it with her tiny fingers totally enraptured by floor lint, while her parents throw it in the trash without a second thought.

We so easily take the amazing works of God and totally disregard them. Just look at how we look at snow? Snow is often viewed as an impediment to our goals or a hindrance, but truthfully it is the intricate, harmonious working of God’s hand. Take note when you pass a snow drift or see the salt stains on your car, because they will never again be the same.

God is constantly giving us a once in a lifetime display of His beauty.

Every moment of the day, God has given us wonders to observe that will never be replicated. From thewater-219733__180 pattern of maple leafs on the tree, to the swirling vortex of your sink or toilet, all are one of a kind viewings designed to show His glory.

Have you given thanks for the ordered randomness of his beauty? Paul touches on this topic in 1Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Have you given thanks for the intricate details of spilt milk, Kool-Aid stains, or a messy house?

Every action in the universe is designed to show the image and characteristics of Christ. Imagine if we had an angel’s view of the universe, and did not have the necessity of cleaning up the spilt milk, or shoveling the snow drift, or taking out the trash, would we see the splendor of the mundane?

According to Colossians 1:16, everything was created by God to show his glory. That means that the spilt milk has unlimited beauty. Everythingcoffee-691464__180 in creation praises God’s name. From the mighty super nova to the smallest atomic particle, or swirl in your latte, all creation heralds God’s fame.

Are we watching? Are we awake to the glory of God seen in the differing billows of smoke from an exhaust pipe? Do we see the handiwork of God in the cracks along the sidewalk, or the differing laugh lines in people we meet?

God’s glory is all around us in the extreme and the mundane. Thank you, Lord, for making a universe with such intense diversity.

Are You a Terrorist?

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Are you a terrorist? Would the government ever consider you a terrorist? With the incredible amount of technology and the ability of our government to spy on its citizens at any moment would they ever convict you of being a terrorist? A terrorist as defined by the FBI, “Involve(s) violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law; Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

Before you get nervous about the government locking you up for buying extra ammunition, or keyword searching your emails and Facebook, let’s break down some characteristics of terrorists.

     Terrorists have no outside authority. It may surprise you to know, that I am personal friends with several trained killers. I actually feel very safe military-81782_640when I am with my friends, and the reason for that, is my military friends do not have the luxury of killing whoever they choose. When I realize that they are under orders, I am actually safer and feel more protected with my military friends. Because they are under their commander’s authority.

How about us as Christians?  Do we continually submit our actions to God’s authority, or are we spiritual terrorists? A soldier can neither make up his own orders or get creative with the ones already delivered (II Tim 2:15). As Christians we are duty bound to follow our Commanding officer.

Terrorists fight for their own purposes. Before we get on our moral high horse and condemn the acts of terrorists (and they are wrong actions), let us take a moment to consider our own actions as Christians. Do I follow my own purposes? Do I seek to destroy people because they offended me? Do I point to other people’s wrongs to justify my own acts of hatred? Do I lash out with destructive accuracy?

If terrorists are wrong for acting on their own authority and their own purpose, should not I apply the same moral standard to my domestic acts of terror?

At core, am I acting any differently than a terrorist when I want my own way? According to the FBI part of the definition of a terrorist, Involve(s) acts dangerous to human life…. Appear intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.” How many family members will I attack and tear down, in order to gain a piece of respect? How many friends will I coerce, so I can get what I want? How sweet will I be in order to get close enough to plant a bomb in someone else’s life if they do not give me what I want?

The problem with Christians is not that they have a difficult time standing and fighting, the problem is that we wage war continually against each other, in order to get what we want instead of what God wants. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your desires that war in your members? From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your desires that war in your members?” (James 4:1)

We must continually ask ourselves, “Am I upset, because God’s Kingship was called into question or mine?”

What does God want? What are the results of a true Holy War? Peace. Peace with God and then with each other. The Gospel is the message of good news of peace between God and man through the submission of my rebellious state (Rom 10:15). This submission to God through Christ, changes us from terrorists running around blowing things up for our own agendas and transforms us to mighty heavenly warriors with weapons that are unearthly. God’s weapons are those of truth, grace, and humility that can never be destroyed because they were forged in the armory of Heaven.

When I realize that I am included in the inheritance of God’s Kingdom, I do not have to fight and scrap for a measly piece of temporal ground. I become temperate and controlled as a warrior. Because I am no longer fighting for myself, I am able to boldly desire rebels (unbelievers and believers) to bow in submission to the commands of the Great King.

Ours is not a battle where the spoils are divided, but rather a call to submission where the Joy is shared.

     So back to the original question, “Am I a spiritual terrorist?” Do I continually submit to God’s authority as defined by the Bible? Do I try to coerce and force my own purposes on others? Our call to Christ’s service is clear, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (2Co 5:20).

Am I Going to Heaven?

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Have you ever doubted your salvation? Have you lain awake late at night wondering if you would be left behind? Maybe you partook in a horrendous sin, and the resulting shame pummeled your soul with waves of guilt and insecurity? To make matters worse, when you go to church the people there do not seem to struggle. During the message you don’t catch them looking at their watch, getting bored, or even lusting and coveting for someone else. They seem to have testimonies of God’s victory, and peace. And then you begin to wonder, why do I feel so terrible, why can’t I have victory, am I really saved?

The struggle of assurance of salvation is probably one of the biggest and most ill-defined struggles ofhand-792920_1280 the individual believer. The struggle is often aggravated by shallow and unbiblical answers. The urgency is also heightened because of the enormous stakes that are involved, “What if I died tonight, and I wasn’t really saved?” There are many reasons that cause people to doubt salvation but primarily these reasons can be narrowed down to a few categories in which we should never place our faith.

We doubt because we have too much faith in ourselves, in our feelings, or in our goodness.  

Before taking a look at those categories, we must take a brief look at what “being saved” truly means. Many years ago, I listened to a preacher rightfully call sinners to salvation. In his message, however, he never defined what “Get Saved” meant. Another time I overheard a youth worker mention after a youth conference that the preaching was good, but inapplicable for the saved, since it was only on salvation. Both examples clearly show that the church sadly does not understand salvation.

Take a few moments and answer these two questions. What is salvation? How do you get saved? How you answered those two fundamental questions will dictate the areas of assurance that you may be struggling.

So what is salvation? The clearest and most concise definition of the Gospel is found in I Corinthians 15:1-4. There Paul defines the Good News as Christ being slain to pay for mankind’s sin, and the promise that as Christ rose from the dead, so shall all who believe. So what are we saved from? We are saved from living under the wrath of God and the curse of sin.

The wrath of God is the default position of every person because we are born sinners. Jesus told Nicodemus (a teacher of the Bible) in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believehellth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” When we recognize that we deserve God’s wrath because of our sin and rebellion against God, we must then submit our way to God. The recognition of our guilt before God, and the realization of our inability to rescue ourselves should lead us to call on Christ’s mercy to rescue us. God then applies His Grace and saves us because of the payment Christ made.

Once an individual transfers the deed of his life over to God, he is saved from the destruction of His soul that God would bring because of rebellion. Salvation is the deliverance from living under God’s wrath. At salvation, an individual is transformed from a rebel enemy at war with the Almighty, to a loved child wrapped in peace. Paul explains the idea further when he instructs believers to stand up against the doubts of the Devil. “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15) He tells believers to remember to firmly plant themselves on the fact that they stand at peace with God.(1)

Secondly, those who are saved are freed from the curse of sin, which is death. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6. We are free in Christ to be able to do what Christ would have us to do (Gal 5:1). The very fact that the Epistles (written primarily to believers) are filled with admonitions on how to live show that Christians will fail, but through Christ are able to serve and overcome.

That brings us to the second fundamental question, “How do we get saved?” Paul makes it very clear that I am not working my way to Heaven by any cosmic scaling system, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Ga 2:21) The entire history of religion is replete with examples of mankind trying to build a tower that would allow them to reach Heaven. Biblically that does not work. As Paul points out, if we could be good enough to get into heaven on our own, we have an even bigger problem to deal with. God killed His Son for no reason, and we have made God the worst pedophile in history. So God is not waiting for me to be good enough to earn or keep my salvation. The only person who was good enough to keep His salvation was Christ, and He is the very one offering it, free of charge. Anything else maligns the character of God and confirms mankind’s rebellion against Him (John 10).

That is why Peter calls the very same group of people who crucified Christ to repent in order to receive pardon from God’s wrath (Acts 2:38). Once a criminal is pardoned, they will not face double jeopardy in God’s courtroom. Since I cannot earn it, that means I am saved by grace. As Paul brings out in Galatians 3:3, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” So not only am I saved by grace, I am kept by grace, because any amount of works to keep salvation, would actually be bribing God.

God has made salvation very simple. In response to a Roman soldier on the verge of suicide, Paul answered hMEDION DIGITAL CAMERAis question. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:30-31) Even though it is simple, because of our rebellion, it is very hard for mankind to entrust the keeping of their souls to God. It seems too easy.

This brings me to an area that I especially struggled with. I believed the truth of Scripture that salvation was by grace, and salvation was all of God, but the one who I questioned was not God, but myself. Did I do it right? Did I really mean it? Was my prayer sincere enough…. John Piper puts it well in his blog on assurance, “The most agonizing problem about the assurance of salvation is not the problem of whether the objective facts of Christianity are true (God exists, Christ is God, Christ died for sinners, Christ rose from the dead, Christ saves forever all who believe, etc.). Those facts are the utterly crucial bedrock of our faith. But the really agonizing problem of assurance is whether I personally am saved by those facts.” (2)

One well-meaning answer that I was given was, “Did you call on Christ to save you? Does God ever lie? Then quit doubting God.” Even though it is very possible to doubt God, my main tension wasn’t a doubt of God’s ability or even God’s promises, it was a question of if I had really trusted God in the first place. This is especially true of those who were saved at a young age, as it is difficult to remember what exactly you said or what you confessed.

The problem with the “Quit doubting God” answer is it does not take into effect the paradigm that maturing believers begin to see that they cannot trust themselves. Continued failed attempts at holiness, and verses such as Jeremiah 17:9 (on the wickedness of the heart) cause the believer to question his sincerity or the effectualness of his prayer. Because after all doesn’t James 2:17-20 tell us that faith without works is dead? (3)

Ironically, one of the great comforts for the doubter is that they are incredibly wicked. And the realization of this wickedness should lead them to depend more on the Savior who bought them. As a high school basketball coach this principle was vividly portrayed by the starters. Those on the team that were the best, were the most acutely aware of their failures and weaknesses. They did not question if they were on the team, they systematically worked on their errors because they were mature enough to see them. For a dramatic example of this principle see Isaiah 6:1-10 where the righteous prophet of God falls to his face begging God for cleansing.

I don’t have enough goodness to be in Christ. That is the very reason I need to be in Him.

When Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and told us to look at their fruit in Matthew 7, they would not admit their errors, so much so that they felt justified in rejecting and crucifying the Savior. Rejection of Jesus is the sin that condemns people to Hell. Saved people, have an acute sense not only of what they were saved from, but Who saved them. They realize they cannot begin to rescue themselves and that condemnatory belief, through God’s grace, causes them to continually call upon the name of Christ.

But what happens when I still feel guilty? After all, doesn’t God say to examine yourself to see if you really are in the faith? A verse commonly used to support that idea is 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” In this passage, Paul has defended his own salvation and Apostleship and then asks the Corinthian church to see if they are growing spiritually.   Dr. Constable explains this verse well, “He told them to examine their works to gain assurance that they were experiencing sanctification, that they were walking in obedience to the faith.”(4) When you think of it, if they were dead and unbelieving, according to Paul’s writings in Ephesians 2:1-4 they would be far too dead to determine if they were saved or unsaved.

Paul is responding to those who are questioning the authority Paul has to command the church. As Hodge points out, “After twelve chapters in which Paul takes their Christianity for granted, can he only now be asking them to make sure they are born again?”(5) Nowhere in Scripture is a believer commanded to search his own heart. We are commanded throughout Scripture to submit our hearts and actions to God and His Word. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14) The Word of God is the powerful Sword that cuts away the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb 4:12).

But our feelings still gnaw at us, and cause doubt (particularly after sinning). How do you know when guilt shows up if it is Satan or the Holy Spirit? Guilt is a natural result of walking away from God and His commands. Satan has twisted physical love (designed to bring couples closer to God) and turned it into lust (which drives a wedge between man and God). In the same way, Satan can take guilt and turn it into a barrier to meet with God. Guilt is designed to bring the believer back to Christ. But Satan has hijacked man’s operating system.

So how do we know if guilt is from God or Satan? If we take a look at two examples of guilt, the answer becomes clear. Judas and Peter both denied Christ (in fact Peter denied Christ 3 times as many as Judas did). They both fled Christ, they both went out and wept bitterly, but they did not both have the same end result. One felt guilty and ran to death, the other felt guilty and ran to Christ. Are you running to Christ for assurance or man and systems?

So how do we now if the uneasiness and sense of guilt and insecurity is from God or Satan? We know by where we run to in our guilt. If our guilt causes us to run to Christ, it is from God. Paul made the Corinthians feel terribly guilty for partaking in sin. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Cor 7:10) Paul rejoiced that the Corinthians felt guilty because they ran to Christ!

Satan wants you to feel guilty about forgiven sin, God wants you to feel guilty about unrepented sin.

This is why most of the doubt of one’s salvation comes associated with some sin of a believer. Proper guilt should cause me to run to the feet of my Savior and confess that I tried to do it on my own again and failed. The ondirectory-466935_1280ly place I will “feel” forgiven is in the presence of the all forgiving Savior. Satan knows that he cannot stand before God and he cannot reach us in God’s presence, so his best diversion is to make me think God can’t stand the sight of me. This has been Satan’s strategy from day one. After Adam and Eve sinned, they ran from the very person they walked with. They hid, and covered themselves in scratchy leaves. Their actions resulted in two common traits, fear, and guilt. Those two traits turn off the faucet of God’s love because they cause us to run from the very God, who is willing to clothe us in His righteousness.

Satan was able to cause our ancestors to fear God, so that they would not experience God’s love. He tries the same trick on us today by causing us to run from God’s love. We have nothing to fear. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (I John 4:18) Because Christ drank the whole drought of God’s wrath, there is nothing to pour out unto believers, but God’s love. Which is exactly Paul’s argument in Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Could it be that the reason you are doubting your salvation is that you are not currently trusting in Christ? There are two ways for believers to express their doubt of Christ. The first is in outright rebellion by choosing sin. If a believer is continually partaking in willful sin, it should be no surprise that they are struggling with feelings of assurance, because God cannot give perfect peace to those whose eyes are not fixed on Him. The lack of assurance will be a result of discipline (Hebrews 12:7).

The other expression of doubt is much more subtle, and therefore much more common. That is the idea that after salvation, we have the ability to make ourselves holy. Many Christians live like God bought the ticket, but they have to land the plane. Paul addresses this mentality in his epistle to the Galatians, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel…. Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 1:6, 3:3).

We must remember, that the power that saves us is the exact power that sustains us (Eph 5:18). Far too many Christians try to live the Christian life on their own. They seek through self-discipline, Bible study, prayer, sacrifice, and other forms of evangelical Penance to make themselves acceptable to God. (6) Their actions may be good, but in truth they are living in direct rebellion against the commands of God, and robbing Him of the glory of finishing His vessel (Jer 18:4, Eph 2:10).

The lack of assurance when we are living such a life of self-propelled Christianity are the mercies of God in disguise that will not allow us to have peace, when we are in actuality running from God.

Jesus loves us too much to allow us to continue to try to lift the burdens of sin on our own.

I am not so vain as to think that I could answer every question relating to assurance in this brief post, but I would love to help you see the beauty and joy of walking in the fullness of Christ’s Love.

Why Ravens

What Could God Want with These Scavengers?

Have you ever wondered why God puts certain details in the Bible? God doesn’t waste ink. God’s Word has incredible riches sometimes laying out in the open, and then there are times when He has us dig a little. Today I want to ask you to roll up your sleeves and dig a little with me as we answer the question, “Why Ravens?”

In I Kings 17:1-6, Elijah has his debut and is introduced as a prophet of God. God commands the new prophet to go and deliver a message to the wicked king Ahab who has chosen to reject the God of the Bible and institute Baal worship. After Elijah tells the king that there will be a drought and Jehovah God is in control of the rain, he is told to run and hide. (Good idea after telling a king that he is a wicked pagan, and that his economy is going to tank.) Then we see in verse 4 that God in his faithfulness is going to provide for all of Elijah’s needs and that God will send his servants to feed Elijah in the wilderness.

Elijah trusted God. He trusted when it made sense vs. 2-3. He trusted God when it didn’t make sense vs. 4.  raven-1312094Imagine the prophet of God, “What’s the Word?”  “Talk to the king, run hide.” “So like you got robin Hood hiding out in Jordan forest? How am I going to eat?” “I am going to have my servants bring you the food.” “Wow, room service. I can do this prophesying thing.” I will send Ravens.” “What they are unclean, I can’t eat that.” “You won’t have to, they are the chiefs.” “What?” “Go.”

After God tells Elijah His plan, he obeys and Elijah gets to see God fulfill His promises (6). The Word of the Lord came to pass (6). The moment God spoke the words into existence it happened. God never forgets His promise. As extraordinary as this plan sounds, God promised it in verse 4, and we see it coming to pass in verse 6 and 7. There was no rain, and there were always birds. They came twice a day. Gbread-1329360od ensured that for hundreds and hundreds of flights, his servant was fed. God promised, and delivered.

Because of Elijah’s trust, God provides a lesson. First of all, God provided protection. The first specific mention of Ravens is in Genesis 8:7, “And he (Noah) sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” God protected the Raven species through impossible odds. Think of it. There are only two ravens alive on the ark, one bird leaves without coming back. Assuming there was not a nest of baby crows in the rafters, somehow the raven mate finds the other raven after the most catastrophic disaster in history, build a nest, and survive long enough to have baby ravens in order to provide for God’s prophet close to 2,000 years in the future. God protected His servants in order to provide for His prophet. (We can all be thankful that God didn’t choose the Dodo bird as his messengers.)

God also protected through uncommon means. Leviticus 11:13-15 states that ravens were unclean animals and could not be eaten by the Jewish people. Sometimes God’s laws don’t seem to make sense, but He has a plan. Just work with me here. If the Raven could be eaten what do you suppose would have happened during a famine? They would have eaten God’s messengers. I am sure some of the Israelites disobeyed God and were eating ravens, but for hundreds of years the Israeli “DNR” had posted no hunting signs, in order to keep Elijah fed. Even with God’s amazing provision, Elijah learned that he had to trust God daily.

God delights in putting his people in positions that do not make sense, so that they will trust Him more.

     In this very short story, God showed that He was in control. A seemingly insignificant prophet stands up and obeys God. Who knows how many child sacrifices were stopped or souls are in heaven because of that one act of obedience. The ravens obeyed and allowed for God to be glorified and provided for the next phase of Elijah’s spectacular ministry.

If we stopped there, we would be able to gather many nuggets of truth and be comforted that a faithful God provided for faithful servants.  Even though that is true, if we dig a little deeper, the immensity of God’s power resounds through the story like a thunderbolt.

Why a drought? Why didn’t God answer quickly like He does in the next chapter with a ball of fire? Why ravens? God could certainly have used the 7,000 servants who had not bowed down to Baal for food and shelter. If we step back to I Kings 16:30-32, we would see that this story about the ravens is predicated by the official establishment of the Canaanite worship of Baal.330px-Baal_thunderbolt_Louvre_AO15775

In the pantheon of gods, Baal was the chief deity. His name actually means lord or master. Many ancient religions held to the idea that differing deities were in charge of various aspects of life. We see this idea in I Kings 20:23 when the Syrians attempt to conquer Israel in the plains because they believed Jehovah was only the god of the hills. Baal’s area of power centered on three specific areas. He was in charge of rain (he is often pictured with a thunderbolt), grain, and fertility especially the first born.(1)

So when God sends Elijah to make a proclamation of drought to the king, he is claiming ownership over Baal’s territory. This story is not simply about the faithfulness of a beginning prophet, or the fate of a nation. This is a territorial battle of the gods, because Jehovah struck directly at the center of Baal worship. If it rained, Baal was God, if it didn’t Jehovah deserved worship. Even in God’s judgment He is merciful. He gave the nation of Israel 3 ½ years to observe that He ruleth in the affairs of men.

Because the rains didn’t come, the grain failed. Once again God is “allowing” Baal to answer on enkihis home turf. Every morning as the men of Israel woke up from hunger pains and watched the dust blow across the plains, they had to admit that Jehovah had defeated Baal. To make the story even more intriguing, Canaanite worship revered ravens as the messengers of the gods.

After the brook dried up, Elijah then is commanded to go to Phoenicia the center of Baal worship. (2) While there he finds a starving widow, provides an endless amount of grain for her, and then through the power of God, raises a boy to life. All in Baal’s home court. It’s as if God stood up in the heavens stuffed Baal and proclaimed, “Not in my house!”

How have you seen God working in miraculous ways?  I would love to read about the way God has used “ravens” in your life.

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1). As Baal was worshiped and adopted by many pagan religions his name, and responsibilities did vary, but the three major areas were that of rain, grain, and life

2). F.C. Fensham, “A Few Observations on the Polarization between Yahweh and Baal in I Kings 17—19,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 92:2 (1980):234

3).  Also see Constable’s electronic notes on I Kings 17 soniclight.org

Immortal Believers

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What would you do if you knew you would not die? A promise of ‘immortality’ was given to a man in the Bible. Luke 2:25-26 states, “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Simeon was immortal. He had been promised by God that He would not die before the Messiah came. I cannot help but imagine as he wakes up and his ancient wife looks over at him and asks, “So honey, what are you going to do today?” “I think I’m gonna go bungee jumping, without a cord, and then maybe go down to the Dead sea salt pits and do some BMX cameling, and then if there is time, maybe play a little pin the tail on the centurion!” And that is why God hasn’t given me the promise that I would not die. Simeon cherished the privilege God had given him. He continued to live a life focused on God. It seems that every day he was at the temple, it was like he was preparing to meet the King.

The only things we know of Simeon are the things that matter to God. “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout” He was a man of right character. His faith in God applied to real life. He had an inside out relationship with men. His just actions flowed from a right heart. His faith in God affected his conduct, what he believed about God came out in his actions. His actions were a monument to all who met him, that he had complete trust in his God.  

When I continually choose sin, I have erected a monument that tells everyone around me, God is incapable of delivering me.

“Same man was just and devout.” He was a man of right standing with God. Could you imagine being called devout by God? That description only comes through a sole focus. He wanted to know God and please God. He was not distracted by the peripheral things of life. He knew how to worship God in spirit and in truth. Not only did he have right actions (just), he had the right focus. Because of Simeon’s devotion, he had just actions and right motives.

Right motives without right actions are pointless, right actions without right motives are a lie.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon…. waiting for the consolation of Israel:”  Simeon was also a man of hope. His hope came from believing God. Simeon had lived before the Roman occupation, he had seen the corruption of the priests and civil leaders.  He longed for the day when God’s true King would come. All throughout this turbulent time, he had been listening to and waiting for the consolation of God. Simeon’s mind was saturated with the promises of God from ancient text. God had promised peace (Isa 9:6), He had promised light (Isa 9:2) He had promised a deliverer (Gen 3:15), He had promised restoration. Simeon’s hope destroyed fear.

Simeon’s faith left no room for fear. He announced the King in the capital city of the tyrant king Herod who killed his own kids because he was suspicious of treason. Simeon may as well have signed his death warrant, but he couldn’t keep quiet after seeing Jesus (2:30). His hope came from listening to God. His future hope caused his present faithfulness, and at the end, he once again found God to be faithful, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:” (Luke 2:29)

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” He looked forward to his reward. Simeon was ready to die, because he knew how to live. (Phil 1:21). He was not afraid of death, because he looked for the King of Life. He was at peace with His maker. Imagine Simeon with his crutch and over-sized robe clinging to his ancient body happily limping home that night, probably singing a song of David. We don’t even know if he made it home to tell his family, but I am sure that when he did pass on, there was a smile on his face. And then fast forward into the future, Simeon no longer limps, and his cataract filled eyes are all healed as he looks up at the face of his Savior and exclaims, “Hey you’ve got a beard now.”

So what would you do for God if you knew you were immortal?

Don’t eat the Cookie!

Can you resist...?

Our desires seem like assassins who know us so well, and at the end of the day, they are waiting for us when we least expect them.  

Have you ever sought to please God and vowed to stop a particular sin? Then the next time you are tempted your spirit and mind undergo an intense battle, and you are left broken and bleeding as the enemy carries off your banner of righteousness and mocks your very existence?

   I remember an intense battle with lust as a college student. I had memorized Scripture verse after Scripture verse that told me of the wiles of the devil (I Peter 5:8) and the end of the sinner (Proverbs 7), but even though I wanted deliverance, it seemed like I was trapped in quicksand and the more I fought, the further I sank.

This battle continued to rage until one afternoon as I was preparing for my first youth sermon on the joy of knowing God from Psalm 34:8. God graciously opened my eyes to the truth that I was fighting the wrong battle. The Psalmist declares, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” I was trying to outthink and outmaneuver my desires, nothing I produced or program I could come up with would be powerful enough to overcome the flesh and the devil. The only thing that was going to deliver me from temptation was a desire for God to fill my “stomach” with Himself. This is where the fork meats the table, because my taste buds had been trained to follow after “junk food.” I had forgotten the taste of God. This principle was dramatically portrayed one night when I was making a batch of cookies.

I would like you to imagine someone in your home gets the desire to make some cookies. You hear the clinking and clanging of ccookie 2ookie sheets and bowls as the cookies are being prepared. You happen to walk into the kitchen hoping to get a bit of the dough, and before you are showed out, you notice that the chef has doubled the recipe and added twice as many chocolate chips before wrapping each ball of dough around a piece of caramel. For the next few hours the smell of cookies permeate the house, and all you can think about is the gewy tenderness of fresh baked cookies. You enter the kitchen once again, this time with a new strategy, you ask if you can help in exchange for a tender morsel. Once again you are unceremoniously showed out of the kitchen and told that under no circumstances are you to touch a cookie.

For a few minutes you might be able to block the thought of a cookie from your mind until the oven opens and a fresh batch of cookies sends its aroma seemingly straight to the core of your being. It almost feels as if the cookie is beckoning you to simply hold it in your hand and feel the warmth it exudes and begs you to pull it apart as the chocolate and the caramel drip from its cookity freshness. I would venture that right now you are having a hard time not thinking about a cookie. If I were to pause this story and ask you not to think about the aroma of a freshly baked cookie with luscious chocolate chips and caramel mixed together in a perfect blend of chewy goodness, you probably would be thinking about the dessert I just described.

Temptation works much the same way. We cannot will away our temptations and choose not to think about them. Just like thinking about how you are not going to eat the cookie draws your thoughts toward the cookie, thinking about resisting a temptation will cause us to desire it. There may be times where we will feel we are starting to forget or have victory, but then someone opens the oven door and with a squeak we smell a fresh batch of temptation, and the cycle starts all over again. Are we to just limp along in our Christian life hoping that someday we will find a strategy to win over our sinful desires? No! God has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, the secret is to change our desires.

Let’s go back to our story. As you are sitting there trying your best to not think about cookies, you are told you cannot have a cookie, because your family is planning on going to a Brazilian steakhouse. Now if you have never been to a Brazilian steakhouse let me describe in miniature what such a restaurant entails.

They are more than an all you can eat bonanza. After you proceed through the salad bar which is loaded with delicacies such as, fresh mozzarella cheese which squeaks in your mouth, Grecian salads lightly tossed with seasoned oil, shrimp mixed with an endless selection of dips and sauces, fresh vine ripened fruits and vegetables, you continue on to the hot plate section and smell the fragrance of a myriad of creamy soups prepared by award winning chiefs. Once your plate is loaded with the finest from around the globe, you go to take your seat and are offered a red and green, laminated piece of paper about the size of a coaster. As long as the paper is green side up, waiters in tuxedos walk in time with live violin music holding onto skewers with freshly cooked meat. There are fifteen different kinds of choice meats, all of which have been marinated and seasoned to perfection. Filet minong wrapped in bacon, so tender you could cut it with your soup spoon, leg of lamb soaked in mint sauce, pork roast seasoned and broiled to perfection, roast beef slathered in its own gravy, salmon and halibut complete with homemade sauces, slow roasted chicken dripping with flavor.

After sampling these fine meats and finally having thirds on your favorite, you push your lobster soup and Italian bread aside and flip the little piece of paper to red, signaling you have had your fill. All the while not once thinking about your lack of cookie.

   If my strategy for resisting temptation is simply trying to ignore it, I am doomed for failure. However, if I shift my focus off of my sin and unto my Savior, then I can go to the buffet line of God’s goodness time after time, and feast on His goodness, and mercy, and dwell on His holiness, and feel his love, and see His wondrous blessings. I will not only have fed my soul with the choicest of meats (Psalm 63:5), but I will have no room for another morsel of temptation.

In regards to some desires (wealth, fame, intimacy, happiness, etc.) God may even decide to allow me to have a cookie, but only after I feast my soul on God’s greatness. If I follow after God and seek His face, I have access to the buffet line of God’s greatness, with or without a cookie I therewith will be content (Psalm 23:5).

 

Holiness cannot be an end of itself, God is our destination, and holiness is a result of pursuing Him.”