Herod’s Self-Protection and God’s Sovereignty

April 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God | 1 Comment

Herod the Great is an interesting study in light of God’s sovereignty.   There are many things that could be said along that line, but one in particular stood out in my devotional reading of Matthew 2 today.  When the Magi say they are looking for the one who was born “King of the Jews,” Herod asks the priests and scribes where the “Christ” was to be born.  When he gets the scriptural answer of Bethlehem, he tells the Magi where to find the answer to their search.  All this indicates that Herod believes, at least to some degree, the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.  He believes the one born King of the Jews is the same as the Christ (Greek word for Hebrew Messiah); he believes, or maybe fears, that the Christ would come; and he believes that the scriptures which foretell of the Christ’s birthplace are accurate.  That is interesting.  Somewhere in the back of his mind, he must know, or fear, that God can orchestrate all the events of history to bring the right child to the predicted place at the right time.  If he didn’t believe that, Herod would have viewed the appearance of the Magi as some crazy Easterners who follow the myths of the stars and would have ignored them.  Instead, he feels compelled to act on their information and on the scriptures.

Yet this same Herod still believes he can overrule God’s sovereign activity by his choices and actions.  “Though God has moved the entire world to bring this about,” Herod seems to think, “I can upset his plan with one stroke.”  Do you see the inconsistency in that?

Herod’s action stems from fear and self-protection.  (Much of what he did in his reign stemmed from fear and self-protection.  For example, Herod killed some of his sons and wives because they became a threat to his throne.  So, by the way, his actions in Bethlehem, though not recorded anywhere else than Matthew, are consistent with Herod’s character.)  In other words, out of fear that God, in sovereignty, would replace him with someone else, Herod acts on his own sovereignty to overrule God.  From an outsider’s perspective, Herod’s action in this matter is completely mad.  His best and only reasonable choice would be to trust that God will carry out his plan.  But Herod can’t go there.

Now we may laugh at the seeming senselessness of Herod, but don’t we do a similar thing?  Don’t we, in many ways, believe God is sovereign, but, out of fear and self-protection, hope that he is not?  It’s good to praise God as sovereign when mountains are moved for me to get a job, but I can’t believe he is sovereign when I lose my job in what seems to be an unfair judgment (I’ve been there myself).  It’s easy to praise God as sovereign when our miracle baby is born (We’ve been there too), but it’s much harder when someone we love dies a seemingly premature death.  When good things happen, God is to be praised for his sovereign control; when something shakes our world, we hold on to our own sovereignty.  Oh that we would see God’s hand in all that happens and trust that he is in ultimate control.

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Church Complaints and Grace

April 21, 2012 at 10:17 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | 1 Comment

The past two weeks have been an emotional ride as far as church ministry is concerned.  There have been numerous complaints voiced to me:  Our church is too old fashioned; too modern; too loud; not loud enough; not evangelistic; not growing; not loving each other enough; and on and on it goes.  Nothing that our elders haven’t heard and talked about before.  Yet at the same time, I have received some of the nicest compliments about ministry.  I realize that is the life of a pastor, even though a pastor often has no control over most of what people complain about.  But when a lot of negative things come at the same time, it can make a guy feel beat up.  I was lying awake thinking about these things the other night and feeling beat up, when I finally decided to get up and read.  I’ve been reading through the Palms of Ascent in my devotions, so I opened to the next one in line, and God encouraged me through the following words in Psalm 123:  “Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt.  We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant.” (vv3-4 NIV)  Whether the complaints are founded or unfounded, true or false, or one opinion against another, God still offers his mercy.  That’s what I needed to hear that night.  Our elders will continue to pursue our calling as a church and seek to be all God wants us to be, and even where we are wrong, God is merciful.  Amazing grace.

Taxes, Luxury and King Rehoboam,

April 11, 2012 at 10:54 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

I finally worked up my taxes yesterday.  For me this was late, but with some funerals, some procrastination and some general busyness, that job got shuffled to the bottom of the pile, until the last week possible.  It wasn’t a good year tax-wise for us.  There were some credits we could take last year that were no longer available, and even though our income was the same, we had to pay more this year.  Not only that but we have to budget a significantly larger amount for taxes next year.  (Pastors are considered self-employed and have to pay their own estimated taxes.)  That is due to more credits disappearing and less possible deductions.  If the current debt and spending trends continue, those matters will only get worse in the future – more and more tax breaks will disappear.  There’s a lot that can be said about that, but this is supposed to be a devotional and theological blog that avoids a lot of political commentary.  Just know those things were on my mind all day yesterday and again when I read my devotions this morning.

In 1 Kings 12, King Solomon had died and his son Rehoboam was on the throne.  He asked his father’s advisors what he should do but didn’t like their wise advice, so he appointed his own advisors who were his age.  The younger generation gave completely different counsel, which Rehoboam followed.  That led to the rebellion which brought about a division of Israel into two nations.  What was the bad advice that he followed?  The people made a request of young King Rehoboam.  They said, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” (v4 – When it says “heavy yoke,” read “taxes.”)  This was the question the King took to his father’s advisors.  They said, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” (v7 – read “favorable answer” as “lessen the taxes”)  But Rehoboam and his friends had grown up wealthy from that heavy yoke, and weren’t about to give it up.  “Tell them,” his young counselors advised, ‘”My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.” (v10 – read “More taxes to maintain our lifestyle.”)

The lesson, both devotional and political, is this, “Once someone tastes the luxuriant lifestyle, they can’t give it up.”  Or as one financial advisor put it, “A luxury once experienced becomes a necessity.”  On the political front, when the luxuriant lifestyle is lived on tax money by those who can increase taxes, taxes will always increase along with more controls and less freedoms.  Because of that fact, government will almost never get smaller without a revolution of some kind.  In our Bible story, the Northern Tribes rebelled against Rehoboam, to become the nation of Judah, because of that burden.  In our history, it was the ever increasing tax burden and control over the Colonies by England that became the chief reason for the American Revolution.  And in our future history, if there isn’t significant change, it will be the ever increasing tax burden and control by the federal government that will eventually lead to trouble.

On the personal and devotional front, we must be careful about the luxuries we find necessary in our lives, so if financial collapse does come, we will have a shorter distance to fall.  Our hope and security must be in Christ and not in the things of this world.

The Foolishness of God

April 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Wisdom, Worship | Leave a comment

Here are the words to the Michael Card song we played before the sermon in church today.  These are great lyrics for an April first Sunday.

God’s Own Fool  (by Michael Card)
It seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life as the wisest of all of mankind,
But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to men He must have seemed out of His mind.
 For even His family said He was mad, and the priest said a demon’s to blame,
But God in the form of this angry young man could not have seemed perfectly sane.
Chorus:
When we in our foolishness thought we were wise,
He played the fool and He opened our eyes;
When we in our weakness believed we were strong,
He became helpless to show we were wrong.
 So we follow God’s own Fool, for only the foolish can tell.
Believe the unbelievable! Come be a fool as well!

Come lose your life for a carpenter’s son, for a madman who died for a dream;
Then you’ll have the faith His first followers had, and you’ll feel the weight of the beam.
 So surrender the hunger to say you must know, have the courage to say, “I believe.”
For the power of paradox opens your eyes and blinds those who say they can see.
Chorus:
When we in our foolishness thought we were wise,
He played the fool and He opened our eyes;
When we in our weakness believed we were strong,
He became helpless to show we were wrong.
 So we follow God’s own Fool, for only the foolish can tell.
Believe the unbelievable! Come be a fool as well!

If you want to hear the message called, “The Foolishness of God,” check here.  That message should be posted by midweek.  Happy Palm Sunday and April Fools’ Day.

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