For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. –Acts 20:27
A friend going through a difficult time sent a message concerning a situation she was facing. Toward the end of the letter, making a case for straight-shooting from my direction, she said something I will not soon forget.
Pray for me if you like. Send me scripture if you like. Put me on a prayer chain if you want. But please don’t lie to me about God.
She was not trying to be dramatic, only to convey how strongly she wanted the truth. Even if it hurt, even if it went contrary to everything she was doing and believed, she wanted to know.
You have to respect that.
My impression is that so many doctrinal inquiries we preachers get are merely asking us to confirm what the questioners are already doing, to endorse all they have previously believed.
God help us not to lie to others about God.
“And they went and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (Matthew 27:66)
For good reason, God’s people learn to rejoice in adversity and to thrive under persecution.
Fire burns brighter under pressure. Ask any ninth grade physics student.
Sometimes those intent on stamping out Christianity end up assisting it.
Scripture teaches that the opponents of the Lord remembered that He had predicted He would rise from the dead. (Matthew 27:62-63) It appears the wrong guys were taking literally the things Jesus had said! The poor disciples, forgetting the Lord’s promises, were mired down in their sadness and grief, all of it the direct result of not understanding and believing Jesus’ promises..
When the opponents of the Lord went to such lengths to secure His tomb, they inadvertently provided additional evidence for His bodily resurrection. Note their three actions: they made the grave secure, they put a Roman guard in place, and they set a seal on the stone.
“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42
God sends no road map to His obedient; we walk by faith. He gives no GPS to the faithful so they will always know where they are and what’s going on. They will see “through a glass darkly,” but walk on.
Thy will be done will be their guide.
Those four words.
Take the Lord Jesus, for instance…
In novels, every loose end must come together and be tied up. In real life, they almost never do.
My friend Holly, a wife and mother and piano teacher, was telling us about her son Andrew’s snowglobe. The music it puts out “drives me nuts,” she says, “as a musician with certain OCD tendencies.” The snowglobe’s music apparatus plays “White Christmas,” but not completely.. After the line “May your days be merry and bright….” it just ends, then repeats itself. Holly asks, “What evil genius in the music box factory decided they couldn’t put in those final nine notes? Gaaaah!!!
I smiled. Holly’s father is a pastor and her heart belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why I felt comfortable in sending her my little lesson on Andrew’s snowglobe music box.
“What a great metaphor for life, where maybe ten percent of anything ‘resolves.’ Novelists must make all the threads come together at the end, but in real life, that rarely happens. So, Andrew’s globe is sending him a message: ‘Get used to it, kid.’
“Only at the end, the ‘real end,’ will all things come together and all accounts be settled. When that happens, every eye shall see Jesus, every knee bow before Him, and every tongue confess Him as Lord. Amen.”
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
So, what have I learned about how God works over nearly six decades of ministry?
In two sentences, it’s this:
When God gets ready to do something great and lasting, He loves to a) start small, b) with ordinary people, c) using any methods He pleases, and d) taking HIs own good time about it.
Only people of faith will work with Him on this and still be there at the end to see what God has done and to behold His glory.
Two sentences that encompass a thousand things God has done and is doing.
It’s important to note that these principles are illustrated all through scripture.
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. –C. S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”
God rarely does anything as we would have done it or expected it.
In the 8th century B.C., God told Israel, “Your thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
So, when God got ready to put His earth-saving plan into effect, we may expect it to be different. Vastly different from how we would have done it.
The problem is spelled out in Psalm 50:21. God says the people lied and cheated and did a hundred bad things. Then, “These things you have done and I kept silent. And you thought I was just like you.”
We think God is like us. The ultimate folly. We expect Him to do what we would do. It just seems reasonable.
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26). “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30).
Ask any scientist.
Nothing is too small for God to take notice. If the atom obeys set laws and the microscopic universe is predictable to us humans, if the computer can be reduced to an astonishingly tiny entity, if hummingbirds and honeybees can do all they do, surely the Creator God has charge of the details.
The details are pretty impressive, I think you’ll have to agree.
Every baby in the womb. Every child. Every widow. Every elderly. Every prisoner. Everyone.
Every word. Every act. Every leaf of every tree. Every flower of every meadow.
God is big enough to handle the little things.
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits!” (Psalm 68:19).
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
A friend prompted me to write something about how the Lord takes care of His children. And he gave me story after story of the Lord doing that in his life.
–Like the time he asked the church leadership to help him get that needy family into a house and pay the deposits, requiring an outlay of $468. When they refused, he paid the sum himself. A few days later, the bank informed him they had misfigured his mortgage insurance and refunded him in the amount of $468.
–Or the time he asked the leadership to purchase a new van for the church. He explained that he and the youth minister were racking up heavy miles on their personal vehicles and the church should do this. When they refused, God gave him a vehicle. The local power company gets rid of one of their passenger-hauling pickup trucks each year, and our friend won it. “It had 200k miles on it,” he said, “but had been meticulously maintained.” Last year, he put 20,000 miles on it in the Lord’s service.
That sort of thing. On and on.
Yes, He does take care of His own is my response to my friend. But….
“Come now and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).
“Why should it be thought incredible by you that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8).
If there is a God, and if this God is the omnipotent Creator of the universe, then a thousand questions are settled.
–If God is God, then raising the dead should be no big deal. After all, He made the universe of nothing and made humans from the dust of the earth, so anything after that should be a piece of cake.
–If this God exists, then the Person of Jesus Christ with all that Scripture affirms about Him is completely logical. Jesus said, “No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, even the Son of Man,” referring to Himself (John 3:13).
–If God is God, then a Virgin Birth is no more miraculous than any other birth, which is to say, every birth is a miracle of the highest order. Ask any new parent holding their treasure for the first time.
–If God is God, then the miracles Jesus worked during His earthly years were little more than child’s play. Turn water to wine, feed thousands with a child’s lunch, heal the blind, raise the dead. This is the God who spoke the worlds into being (Hebrews 11:3). What’s the problem?
“Hear and understand. Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matthew 15:11).
How’s that again, Lord?
It would be easy here to say the Lord Jesus did not understand microscopic things like bacteria, viruses, and germ warfare. Louis Pasteur was still eighteen centuries in the future.
Surely what we put into our mouths matters.
If Jesus were Who He claimed to be, and the One Scripture declares Him to have been, He knew the importance of cleanliness and purity.
It’s little things like this that trip up some modern readers. Reading the Bible, they get hung up on terms like “the four corners of the world,” “the sun rising,” and heaven being “up there somewhere”–all colloquialisms which we understand and use every day, but which cause problems for those looking for some reason to disbelieve the Holy Word.
But that’s not the entire story.