Truth Trumps All #18

by admin on April 21, 2015

God’s Not Fair

 

 

Fairness is “the quality of making judgments that are free from discrimination.” It’s the idea that everyone should be treated equally. However, God doesn’t exactly abide by that rule. While God is inarguably just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 7:11) he doesn’t always operate in a way that we would call fair. For example:

 

1)   God offers mercy and grace when we deserve punishment.

  (John 3:16-17)

 

2)   God gives certain blessings exclusively to his people.

(John 1:12)

 

3)   God uniquely favors the humble and the poor. 

(Proverbs 3:34James 2:5)

 

 

 

All of this sounds wonderful when it applies to us. Yet the application extends further. God gives grace even to individuals we wish it would exclude or, at the very least, receive less than they are. For instance, in two different parables Jesus shows how God’s favor towards someone can be a source of contempt for another. In Matthew 20 God pays every worker equally even though some worked twelve hours and others only worked one hour. In Luke 15 the prodigal son’s brother is peeved that his father would honor the scandalous son and supposedly ignore the faithfulness of the firstborn child.

 

 

 

God has the right to be unfair. 

 

 

 

 

In both instances God is being unfair. Shouldn’t the loyal son be celebrated more than the wayward child? Didn’t the worker whose shift lasted an hour earn less than the man who worked all day? That seems logical. This is how Jesus responds:

 

 

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:15).

 

 

Jesus is fundamentally proving why he has the right to act in a manner that is considered unfair. He makes the rules. He employs the workers. Whatever he chooses to pay each worker is his prerogative. A dad rejoicing because of an incredible family reunion is his right. These parables each show that God has the right to be unfair. Therefore, how should we respond when God gives his unfairness to someone we wish he wouldn’t? We could respond with jealousy towards the other person or bitterness towards God. However, the Lord would prefer that we extend grace to these people just as he gives grace to us (1 John 2) and trust that God knows what he’s doing even if it doesn’t make sense to us.  

 

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

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Truth Trumps All #17

by admin on April 6, 2015

Photosynthesis

 

Sunflowers

 

Plants aren’t designed to get food in the same way that animals or humans do.  They have a few limitations that are unique to them. Plants can’t move from place to place. They can’t prepare a meal with a number of ingredients. Therefore, in order for them to receive the needed nourishment necessary for continuing their plant life shenanigans something special must occur: photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is the process through which plants receive light energy, typically from the sun, and convert it into chemical energy that can be used for their sustenance. In photosynthesis, sunlight naturally just comes to the plants. It gives them energy. They don’t do anything to deserve it. They don’t kill or prepare their food at all. They just sit and enjoy the light. Of course, internally there is work being done. This procedure is completely unnoticeable from the outside. Nonetheless, it is still happening. It is proven by how alive the flowers are.

 

 

“Abide in me.” – Jesus

 

 

 

Christians are like plants. We don’t get food in the “normal” way. Our growth doesn’t depend on our ability to do anything. In fact, we can toil all we want to be a good, mature Christian but that may only prove how well we can put on a show. If that’s the case then how are we as Christians supposed to stay alive spiritually? There is only one solution: spiritual photosynthesis. We need to sit in the light of the Son, the Christ, and his light will give us the energy we need to live. Similar to plants, there’s nothing we can do to earn this energy. God gives us his presence because he is a gracious God, not because we deserve it. Hence, when a Christian senses God’s presence to be with him or her, it is a remarkably delightful sensation.

How exactly do we “sit in the light of the Son”? Paul answers with, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). He then goes on to show that practically this is done by “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” James and Paul also attribute trials as a necessary avenue of developing spiritual maturity (James 1, Romans 5).

 

 

 

Christians are like plants.

 

 

 

 

Jesus himself simply says, “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4). He goes on to explain what he means but that sentence is his thesis. That’s it. That’s all we need to hear. Therefore, while it’s helpful for shepherds like the apostle Paul to give examples of what abiding in Christ looks like we must not mistake these actions as the end goal. The examples of abiding in Christ should point us in the direction of abiding in Christ, not just doing those things for the sake of doing them. Paul’s examples are merely the means to our desired end. We must not forget our end goal is to bask in the light of the Son.

“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” - 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

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Truth Trumps All #16

by admin on March 24, 2015

Forgiveness

  

What’s the opposite of holding a grudge? Extending forgiveness. However, truly forgiving someone for wronging us comes about as easily as a two year old attempting advanced calculus. With that in mind, the Bible sheds light on two truths about forgiveness.

 

 

1) If we follow Jesus, we are expected to forgive

those who offend us.

 

 

 

 2) If we follow Jesus, he gives us the capacity to

forgive those who offend us.

 

 

 

Yet why must we forgive others? We must forgive others because God already forgave us for all of our sins and because we are no better than the person who hurt us (Matthew 18). We may not have done the exact same thing in the exact same scenario but we have acted the same way in a different scenario or at the very least have wished we could.

 

 

The first statement is proven in the sample prayer Jesus gives to his listeners (Matthew 6). In verse 12 he says, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In other words, Jesus guides us to pray, “God, forgive us in the same manner that we forgive others. If we forgive them whole-heartedly, forgive us whole-heartedly. If we don’t forgive them at all, don’t forgive us at all.”  Now, we know that once Christ has redeemed us, it is against God’s nature to not forgive us. Thus, the heart of this prayer is really, “Lord, teach me to forgive others to the extent that you forgive me.” This also sheds light on the second statement. Jesus will give us the capacity to forgive when we ask him to (Matthew 7:7).  

 

 

Therefore, in order to forgive others we must pray for God’s help in that area. Furthermore, the apostle Paul tells us that we need to “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13). Paul illustrates a three-fold process.          `

 

 

1) Remember who you are in Christ. You are:

 “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.”

 

 

 

2) Assume the characteristics that are fitting for a child of God:

    compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, etc.

 

 

 

3) Bear with one another and forgive each other.

 

 

What can we say about forgiveness then? Namely, it cannot happen on our own. Likewise, when we our hearts do become more inclined to forgive others, forgiveness is not the only byproduct of that growth. The more we are able to forgive the more we are able to give compassion to others. As we mature in Christ in one area, growth will naturally be witnessed in other areas as well (2 Peter 1).

 

 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

– Ephesians 4:31-5:2

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Truth Trumps All #15

by admin on March 10, 2015

Anger

 

We live in a world in which we are constantly fed the ideology that my primary concern should always be myself. You should be most concerned about yourself. Sure, we’re expected to be a good person, help others, give to charity, etc. but it’s often more about making ourselves feel good than it is about actually doing blessing someone else. Advertisements all over the place pervasively argue that all we need is the newest ______ to make us happy. The ad says, often quite convincingly, that our lives will benefit tremendously with the addition of this product no matter what it is. But the bottom line is that I should be most concerned with me. You should be most concerned with your own wellbeing. Additionally, since this line of thinking compliments our own natural selfishness, it is extremely easy to just conclude the world should, at least generally, revolve around us without actually thinking through the pros and cons of that reality.

 

 

Do we have the right to be angry?

And if so then for how long?

 

 

 

When we are unable to get what we want or when life doesn’t go exactly according to our plan, our natural tendency is to become angry. While anger is not inherently wrong, it is exceedingly difficult for us to let it influence our decisions in a godly manner. That’s why the Bible only categorizes anger in lists of things we should avoid or put to death in ourselves (Galatians 5:19-21, Colossians 3:5-8) Since our natural tendency is to become angry, the apostle Paul writes a concession in Ephesians 4:26, quoting Psalm 4, essentially saying, “When you become angry, don’t let it lead you to sin.” However, a few verses later he commands that we “put away” anger and wrath (Ephesians 4:31). So if Paul desires for us to be less offendable how do we stop that habit? Paul points us to David’s writing for the answer.

 

 

            “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.”

– Psalm 4:4-5

 

 

David suggests that we must simultaneously “offer right sacrifices” and “trust in the Lord.” We should labor to make sure our sacrifices, our worship, our service to God, and our intentions in doing so is pure. When this is prioritized our trust in the Lord is fueled, which in turn fuels our ability to serve Him with a pure heart.

 

 

 “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”

– Proverbs 29:22

 

 

However, whenever we interact with another human being, it is highly probable that at some point their brokenness will offend us by something they say or do, or vice versa. Do we have the right to be angry with that person when it happens? And if so then for how long? If my first priority is keeping myself happy then yes, I do have the right to be angry with them. But if I truly believe that God proved he really wants what’s best for me, specifically on the cross as well as by my own personal experience with him, then my right to be angry is lost in the command to “offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.”

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Truth Trumps All #14

February 24, 2015

The Root of Bitterness   “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is […]

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Truth Trumps All #13

February 10, 2015

Sheep/Wolves   How much do you know about wolves? How much do you know about sheep? The Bible mentions both of these animals several times, often juxtaposed against the other. It’s important for us to understand some of the distinguishing traits of these animals in order for us to get a better grasp of why […]

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Truth Trumps All #12

January 27, 2015

Coveting   To covet means “to desire earnestly, criminally, exceeding reasonable limits what belongs to another.” Arguably every human being covets. It can be extremely difficult not to. However, one of the Ten Commandments is dedicated to the prohibition of this practice, which means that coveting is something we should strive to purge ourselves of. […]

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Truth Trumps All #11

January 13, 2015

Why TTA?   Truth Trumps All. The simple phrase has been the title of our blog series this school year and by now you may be wondering why. If you want a short answer, it’s because the phrase is accurate and easy to remember. A more in depth explanation is in the paragraphs below. But […]

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Truth Trumps All #10

December 26, 2014

What if We Treated God like Facebook?   The concept sounds absurd but think about it. Why do we use Facebook? Do we use it as a means of procrastinating? For a reason to pull out our phones in awkward situations? For entertainment when we’re bored? Do we desire the ease of keeping up to […]

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Truth Trumps All #9

December 16, 2014

Jesus was Born to Die   During this holiday season we celebrate the fact that the Son of God came down to earth from heaven. Let us not, however, forget the reason he came. On one hand there were many purposes for his incarnation. Everything he did on earth had meaning behind it.   Jesus […]

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