Authority

Tuesday Devotional: Obadiah 1:15

bibleObadiah 15

As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.

The judgment of God has been a stumbling block for many people.  Many people never make it to the cross of Christ before turning back at the sight of a God who judges.  We prefer a God who supports us, encourages us, forgives us, loves us and provides for us.  Not a God who will judge us.  We perceive His judgment to be unfair or unnecessary.  We believe that to be a good person and to love your neighbor as yourself is the answer to the ills of humanity and the suffering of this world.

But why hasn’t this approach worked?  Have we reduced suffering in this world?  Why is the golden rule truly not sufficient for the world we live in?  The answer is sin.  Sin is not a comfortable word, but in the context of human history, it is the most sufficient explanation for the trajectory of our world’s suffering and pain.

Within us is a desire to be the judge but not to be judged.  Therefore, due to our innate sinfulness, God has no need to judge us according to His standard of holiness.  With our overconfidence in our own authority and righteousness, God simply lets our own standard be the standard we are ultimately judged by.  Every time we think that someone ought to do this or that.  Every time we think that someone should have done this or that.  Every time we make private proclamations to ourselves that we will never do what he or she did.  In these moments we construct our grading scale. This is not a new perspective on God’s judgment.  This is verse 15!  These are God’s words.  When left with this prospect of judgment, what we see is not a God that upholds a standard too high for humanity to reach, but individual men and women with such an inflated view of their own perfection and such a limited ability to exercise grace and forgiveness that none can stand to be judged according to their own standards.

According to verse 15 and an honest reflection of the self we are truly in need of a savior.  We have failed to maintain our standard of righteousness from the very beginning, and we will never successfully uphold it.  Never.  We need a mediator.  We need someone perfect.  We need someone to go before us and plead our case.  Verse 15 has nothing to do with people doing Christian things or not doing Christian things.  Verse 15 has everything to do with people.  It has everything to with the human heart.  It has everything to with our collective sin.  We are all guilty of judging those we have no right to judge.  The perfect God has always had the right and authority to judge an imperfect creation.  We are nowhere as good as we think we are, and God is so much more perfect than we think He is.  How hard is it for you to forgive someone who lied to you?  Just one.  How many more times has God been lied to by His own children?  And is the end now?  No.  Verse 15 says, it is near.  He has waited and waited and waited for us to turn from our diluted state of self-glorification back to His holiness and perfection, as the only means for us to survive our own judgment.  God is not the one with a short fuse and a readiness to judge.  We are.  God is not the one that established unrealistic standards for others to abide by while never consistently abiding in the standards Himself.  We are.  The judgment of God is terrifying, but nowhere near as terrifying as our own.

 

Tithing: Just Giving

coins

The root of our discontentment toward tithing is our selfish obsession with money that we view as our own. If we view what we have as something that belongs to us, that we guard, tithing becomes increasingly difficult as a result of this possessiveness. However, according to God, the truth is that what we see as “ours” is not ours at all.

Uprooting this possessiveness and ownership is like a game of connect the dots. For example, if I view my car as mine, and thus for no one else to drive, I must ask myself “how I was able to purchase the car?” A job. How did I get the job? Hard work and studying. How did I obtain the skills to work for the job that ultimately paid for the car? And so on and so forth…

The fact is the money we hoard does not belong to us. It has been given to us by God, for us to use in this world for his glory. In the same way that we are suspicious about someone asking for our money unless they can prove to us that in some way our money will eventually return to us with investment capital, God has simply invested in us with the intention to provide us opportunities to reinvest what he has given, to produce capital for the Kingdom of God. As Jesus illustrated in Matthew 25, what we have in this world is given to us simply to reinvest for the corporate good of the Church, not for our own personal and private profit.

Matthew 25:14-30 

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 Tithing is based on a foundation of love and trust and without love and trust we are left anxiously insecure. Our insecurity with tithing illuminates our insecurity with our relationship to God.

Tithing is established in Genesis 14, when Abram meets Melchizedek:

Genesis 14:17-24

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodomcame out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
   Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
   who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Aside from the mysterious nature of this King of Salem, the impulse for Abram to give the King a tenth of what he worked for in the previous battle is even more surprising. To the reader this is akin to working overtime, and then handing a tenth of the hefty paycheck to a random stranger on the street. It defies financial logic. Unless, that is, Abram viewed what he had as not his own. Abram knew that the victory on the battlefield was not his own but was God’s. Thus, everything that came as a result of that battle was God’s also. In the end, to Abram, keeping everything to himself would have been as shocking to him as it is for us to see him parting with the tenth to Melchizedek. To Abram, giving to the King-Priest was entirely justified, whereas to keep everything for himself would have been the definition of injustice.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Ezekiel 43

Read Ezekiel 43bible

1Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. 

We are easily overcome by two things: what is powerful and what is beautiful.  When we are in the presence of something more powerful than we are, it is easy to submit to its power.  When we are in the presence of something more beautiful than we are, it is easy to submit to its beauty.  When Ezekiel had this vision he noticed the power of God’s voice and then he noticed the radiant glory that His presence brought to the land.  Many of us have read the Bible and have yet to experience the power of God’s voice.  Why is that?

Perhaps we must ask ourselves if we even want to experience the power of God’s voice as it is meant to be heard.  Or do we know that to hear the voice of God unobstructed might mean that the authority of His power and voice would override ours, and tell us what we don’t actually want to hear? Might that voice lead us where we don’t ever want to go?  There is undeniable power in hearing the uncompromised voice of the living God, and there is unavoidable authority with that power.  If we want to experience the power of the living Word and the voice of God we must listen to Him.  If we listen to Him, we will be overpowered by Him.  Not the power that takes life, but a power that transforms and creates NEW life.

Many of us have sought God in our spirit and in the Bible and have found nothing but a judgmental, angry and violent God.  We have yet to find the beauty that Ezekiel witnessed in this vision.  How can we experience His beauty?  The first answer seems obvious.  First, we have to look at Him.  We cannot rely on the second-hand illustrations and compositions, and testify to have seen God and an ugly God for that matter.  We have to gaze upon the LIVING God as He was and is.  If we observe His anger, ask yourself, “Why is He angry?”  If you observe His violence and anger, ask yourself, “What preceded His anger and violence?”  “Was He always angry?”  “What made him angry and was the violence justified?”

To know God’s beauty we have to look upon God and witness Him completely.  Second, we have to see His impact on His surroundings.  Notice that verse one did not merely say that He possessed glory but that He brought glory to the land.  Something of beauty beautifies its surroundings.  People will climb up dangerous, foreboding cliffs in order to capture a photo of a rare and stunning plant or animal.  Something of beauty brings out the beauty in the things that it encounters.  God does not simply desire that we find Him beautiful.  He desires that we see His beauty in creation and that through His creation we ultimately see Him as the most glorious figure in our lives.  To know God is to know His power and be overcome by it.  However, without an awe for His beauty and the beauty of all He touches we cannot attest to having known Him as He is.

Jesus is God in the Flesh: the Authority

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the divinity of Jesus Christ. 

source

If you profess faith in the Christian message, yet lack this belief about Jesus’ identity, you expose a complete lack of understanding of the very Bible wherein you find the figure of Jesus in the first place. The Gospel narratives leave no possibility to reject the deity of Jesus. Rather, they appreciate, rely on,  and believe in the message that he spoke.

We can better understand this vital truth about Jesus with these four points concerning Jesus and his teaching.

  1. The man of “The Name”
  2. The man of Authority
  3. The man of Unity
  4. The man of Forgiveness

For the next several weeks, we’re going to reflect on these indicators that support the divinity of Christ Jesus.

The Man of Authority

We find in the Gospels that Jesus was not just careful with the words he chose, he was precise and deliberate. His words are not the categorical babble of the megalomaniac. They wield the same power, precision, and beauty of a sword. Realizing this, we become even more dumbfounded by his claims.

Aside from his words of authority concerning sickness, death and sin, Jesus claims the authority of certain knowledge that only God could possess. He recounts the falling of Satan in Luke 10:17-20. He recounts his personal use of prophets, calling them into service in order to preach his truths to Israel and the world in Matthew 23:34. He professes his longing to shelter all Israel as a hen shelters her baby chicks in Luke 13:34. Jesus even goes so far as to openly assert that he existed before the Patriarch Abraham in John 8:58.

These claims tend to get lost in between the longer sermons and parables, but not because they are unimportant. Rather, they may be overlooked by some because of the apparently casual manner in which Jesus says them. Jesus speaks these words in the same way we would recount our day at work or our meal at lunchtime. To him, his identity was so obvious that to say such things needed no ceremonious delivery. He spoke these words to anyone, anywhere, because it was his very nature and identity. Not who he claimed to be or who his followers believed him to be. To disbelieve these claims, or to insist that Christ made such claims falsely or mistakenly, is to celebrate a complete maniac that has no grasp on reality whatsoever. This man would never be worthy of a person’s faith or worship.

Tuesday Devotional: Hebrews 2

Read Hebrews 2:5-18bible

Man was not created to be alone.  There are far reaching implications of this truth, both for good and bad.  Even times of joy may be followed by emptiness when what is being enjoyed or experienced cannot be shared with someone else.  Similarly, in times of trouble make us desperate when what we suffer cannot be shared with another person who can understand or empathize.  God has not given us the luxury to look him in the face and tell him, “You don’t understand.  You don’t know!”  In times of suffering, our desire to be rescued from our pain is sometimes matched by our desire to be isolated in our suffering, to feel an odd sense of superiority in being the only one who can understand what is happening and what we are feeling.  When we indulge in our suffering, knowing that no one can understand our suffering allows us to avoid healing and rescue, leaving us self-obsessed in our pain, which belongs only to us, and self-satisfied in knowing that only we can understand ourselves.

But God has not allowed us the luxury of wallowing in our misery and claiming exclusive right to our suffering.  The beauty and glory of God being truly Emmanuel is that, despite his majesty and authority, in order to bridge the gap between his creation and himself, he lowered himself so that man would never have be able to claim a sense of advantage or authority over him.  It was in his submission to man’s authority, the authority of the life and death of man, that he sought to firmly establish his everlasting authority over it.  It was in his submission, in lowering himself physically to wash the feet of sinful man, that he ultimately brought all of his creation under his own feet.  Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there is absolutely nothing that we can claim to possess that Christ has not already possessed.  There is nothing that we can claim to have experienced that he has not already experienced to a much higher degree than we have.  There remains nothing that can separate us from the life and love of Jesus Christ. 

This truth was not established to remove our excuses.  This truth was established so that in times of joy and in times of suffering we would always know that the God that presides and reigns over all of creation is a God who is with us, in everything. He gives us permanent and everlasting fellowship in both our joy and suffering.  He suffered, not so that we would never have to, but so that we could come to the realization that this world we live in has been overcome by his suffering and salvation, and we can live in this world being slowly transformed into a new creation, with hope in the life to come.  God does not demand that we come to him and exemplify his perfection.  God came to us.  He came to us taking the form of man, bearing man’s sin and imperfections, so that we could need nothing else except for the truth of himself and his Gospel.

Tuesday Devotional: Mark 1

bibleRead Mark 1:21-28

The world is a mystery that has inspired and driven humanity, from the scholar to the young child, to question and ponder the difficult questions it poses.  In seeking answers, we all develop our own understandings or reach our own answers to satisfy our curiosity, no matter how unreasonable they may be.  Our many questions lead to comparatively much shorter list of answers. In a landscape so barren of sure foundations, to adopt a position of authority and confidence on any topic is received with suspicion and criticism.  Unless, that is, the answers to our questions are accompanied by both power and undeniable truth.

As Jesus began to speak in the Capernaum synagogue, both of these elements were present.  His teaching came with an authority that confidently knew, not a presumptuous attempt spurred by curiosity.  He spoke with an understanding of a time before any of our problems existed.  More convincingly, his teaching came with the power to reverse the problems of this world that demand our attention and inquiry.  In his being was simultaneously the answer before the problems and the answer to the problems.  The teachings of man cannot access the before and after, and thus are left in infancy.  The teachings of philosophers and religion can begin to understand, but are left far short of the ability to confidently explain and resolve.  The synagogue of Capernaum was filled with certainty.  The God of the ages was present. There was no doubt for those watching and listening that this was new, this was different.  This was not of man.  When the Holy Spirit is unleashed in the minds of men there is nowhere else to look.  The work of the Holy Spirit demands attention, and receives it, because the power and truth of almighty God always comes with healing.  The fear of the Lord does not terrorize, and the people in that synagogue were not feeling terrorized.  Their fear of the Lord was that of awe and amazement.  In the presence of something so supernatural there is no other reasonable human response.