“Engaging God’s Word consistently makes the difference in regard to lasting spiritual growth – especially in the realms of overcoming temptations and changing negative behaviors (overcoming past wounds, addictions, etc.). As for the puzzling disconnect between believers and Bible reading, I uncovered 11,000 excuses for neglecting God’s word. I also heard thousands more reasons why people do read the Bible – and about the powerful ways in which it has changed their lives.” (Arnie Cole, Unstuck, p. 55)
June 7, 2015
How do you reconcile the wrath of God with the love of God? Many are uncomfortable with the idea of God’s wrath, as sinners should be! Some choose to ignore the wrathful side of God all together. But passages like Nahum 1:6 are hard to ignore: “Who can withstand His indignation? Who can endure His burning anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, even rocks are shattered before Him.” (HCSB)
Others argue that God was judgmental and full of wrath in the Old Testament but forgiving and full of love in the New Testament. That explanation ignores much evidence and is far too simplistic. It also makes God sound as if He suffers from some form of multiple personality disorder or that His nature is changeable. Neither is true.
The truth is, because of His holiness, God is both judge AND love. It’s not an either/or situation, it is a both/and situation. God’s perfect love demands that He also be the perfect judge. Anger and wrath are sometimes used to describe God’s acts, but never His nature. His nature as the God who is love requires that He sometimes act in wrath and anger. The flood in the days of Noah is a prime example. God judged the earth and thousands died due to the judgment and wrath of God. “Noah, however, found favor in the sight of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8, HCSB)
The wrath of God is not His last word. There is always that “however,” when God is compelled by His great love to offer salvation. There is also time allowed for repentance and individuals sent by God to call people to repentance. The New Testament speaks of Noah as a “preacher of righteousness,” (2 Peter 2:5) who no doubt called his contemporaries to repentance.
The ultimate and final reconciliation of God’s wrath and His love occurred when the two collided on a cross on Golgotha. There God’s wrath was satisfied by the body and blood of His only Begotten. At the same time, Jesus’ sacrifice became a substitute for as many as believe.
“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners . . . and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.” (Romans 3:23–26, The Message, emphasis added)
June 2, 2015
“Something’s gone wrong. Praying doesn’t work anymore; I’m bored with church, and the church crowd. Half the time the Bible doesn’t make sense to me–that is, when I slow down enough to actually read it (which isn’t often). If I’m really honest with myself I don’t have a clue what God is like . . . or what He wants from me.
I play church and act as if I have it all together. But inside, I’m tired.
Tired of the fog, tired of running hard but never getting anywhere, tired of faking it, tired of missing the things I want most: real purpose . . . real life.
My faith isn’t working–and I don’t know how to fix it.” (Arnie Cole & Michael Ross, Unstuck: Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change, p. 13)
When faith gets stuck, who stuck it? By the writer’s own admission, his faith is shallow at best.
The problems with Christianity today stem from a lack of discipleship. We trust Jesus, but when it comes to thriving in our faith, we fail to launch. Somewhere along the way we’ve separated having faith in Jesus from thriving in our faith and becoming more like Jesus. We’ve separated being saved from being sanctified.
“The tragic result of this separation is seen all around us today. What we are looking at in the contemporary Western world is precisely what he himself foretold. We have heard him. For almost two millennia we have heard him, as already noted. But we have chosen to not do what he said. He warned that this would make us ‘like a silly man who built his house on a sand foundation. . . .” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 140)
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”” (Matthew 7:24–27, HCSB, emphasis added)
June 1, 2015
May 30, 2015
Iatrogenesis is sickness or harm brought on by medical treatment, like a drug side effect. It literally means “originating from the healer.” Years ago, physicians practiced “bloodletting.” They would drain blood from their patients in an effort to keep the patient’s “humors” in balance. The practice was, of course, long ago abandoned as being a harmful, not helpful, practice.
I ran across the word iatrogenic reading a book about some of the problems with modern psychiatry. I didn’t know the word existed, but I knew it should. I was glad to find it. How many illnesses today are iatrogenic, caused by medicine or medical treatment. I think far more than we know. Some estimates place iatrogenic deaths in the U.S. at 225,000 per year, making iatrogenesis the third leading cause of death! Sometimes the treatment is worse than the illness. Of course, iatrogenic illness is ironic. We take a medicine or treatment in order to be healthy or at least more healthy. Then, the treatment makes us sick!
There are surely spiritual implications here as well. Some of the things we do thinking we are “improving” our lives harm us spiritually. I’m reminded of that verse in Proverbs that says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12, HCSB) Sometimes we just get it wrong. We do something that seems right and good, but it ultimately harms us.
Spiritual iatrogenesis is more common than physical iatrogenesis because it is invisible, at least initially. First on the list is the pace of life we live. We are crazy busy. We live busy to make more, experience more, do more, provide our children with more experiences, but we lose too. We lose close fellowship with the Lord. God is not crazy busy, never has been, never will be. I love that phrase the Bible uses to describe some individuals who were especially close to the Lord. They “walked with the Lord.” It’s impossible to walk with the Lord when we are never still enough to know He is God!
May 26, 2015
In Noah, God saw a person who alone was righteous before Him in his generation. God is looking for people who can be righteous in this and every generation. That’s our challenge: for God to see in us people who are righteous in our generation.
Al Mohler described the struggles of our generation as “unavoidable challenges that will demand the highest level of biblical fidelity and theological courage, matched to keen cultural sensitivity and a deep love for human beings caught in the maelstrom of late modernity.” The challenges themselves are not new. They include:
- Defining truth,
- Continuing to fulfill the Great Commission,
- The biding authority of biblical sexuality,
- Challenges to the historicity of the Bible,
- The exclusivity of the Gospel vs. universalism.
Being keenly sensitive to and aware of the culture of our generation, how can we respond with the highest level of biblical fidelity and theological courage all the while demonstrating a deep love for human beings caught in the maelstrom of late modernity? Following the example of Noah, the simple answer is:
- We can hear God’s voice. Every time God spoke to Noah, Noah heard Him. To hear God’s voice consistently, we have to listen for Him. God will scream at no one. He speaks in a “still small voice.” Someone once said we have 2 ears and one mouth. We ought to listen twice as much as we talk. I would agree. But, in the case of God, I think the proportion is off—we ought to listen 10 times as much as we talk.
- We can obey God. These 2 simple instructions are our task as believers, even in this generation: hear God’s voice, obey God’s voice. Several times in Noah’s story, Scripture says something like this: “And Noah did everything that the Lord commanded him.” (Genesis 7:5, HCSB)
The best service we can offer our generation is to hear God’s voice and obey it! Matthew 7:24–27
May 17, 2015