Why do these things happen?

Quite a few people are asking this question in regard to the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Sandy over the past couple of days; why?

I’ve heard people say that God must have a plan in all of this… but what could it be?

Personally, I do not pretend to have any of these answers.  In fact, I’m not even sure they are the right questions… there are lots of things that I neither know nor understand. Having a close family member in harm’s way, I have paid this disaster more attention that I might otherwise have had however, and I have wondered what God’s thinking is about these kinds of things.

Alas! He hasn’t seen fit to share His thinking with me… or has He?

We often like to boldly discuss God’s plans for our lives, but in truth, God’s plans are only made clear in His Word, and there only in a generic sense: His plans for us all. Does He have specific plans for me or you?  Maybe, maybe not.

As far as we can say with absolute surety, God’s plan for us is that we should serve Him by sharing the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ with others.  We also know that we are to serve one another in brotherly love, to give aid and comfort to those in need and to do everything we possibly can to make disciples and build His Kingdom. We also know that we may well suffer from time to time in His service, and that we must serve Him and put the interests of others ahead of ourselves until we are called home, because the servant is not greater than the Master, and this is what the Master has shown us.

I am confident that if our priorities are upon the Plan we know about, and if we actually serve Him, then any particulars that He has planned for us individually will become clear in due course. For now, let us do what we are able to do to relieve suffering and need, and let us be in prayer for those who are hurting that we cannot directly aid.  Let us show the love and mercy of our God in practice, that we may gain a hearing to share our faith.

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Rejoice and be glad!

This is the day the LORD has made; 
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

(Psalm 118:24)

How much joy do we take in life?

How much joy do we have in worship?

OK, I agree that not every situation in life can be joyful, for there are also many sorrows and hardships; I also realize that many of us are undergoing severe trials these days.

Yet even in sorrow, hardship and trial we are the redeemed of the Lord if we have entered relationship with Jesus Christ.  Is there any hardship or trial that can compare with all that He has done for us?

I would never want to make light of suffering, nor would I ever want to let someone forget how great our God is!

Here… let’s try an experiment:  Let’s decide that we are going to celebrate our great and awesome God no matter what trial we are dealing with.  Let’s even go another step and commit ourselves to praising God in every situation; even the ones we don’t really like that much…

This is the day the LORD has made; 
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

We’ll know you tried this experiment when we see the big smile on your face!

Today is a Great Opportunity!

Yes indeed, it is a great opportunity to sing praises to our God!

To some today might seem like just another Monday; yuk.  To others it may be a day of some anxiety with the storms approaching the US East Coast, and the rest of us certainly extend our prayers for everyone’s safety.  Yet through all of this, whether it’s the start of the work week or the danger of the big storm, it is still a chance to praise our God.

We praise Him for all of the things He has blessed us with, for the opportunities that He has given us to serve Him, and for His mercy that was shown by the work of Jesus on the cross.  We praise Him for taking notice of us, for hearing our cries and prayers… When we praise Him, we take our attention away from our problems, from our Monday blahs and from the storms that mar this earthly life; we focus only upon His glory.

Praise the Lord.

Praise, O servants of the Lord,
    praise the name of the Lord.
 Let the name of the Lord be praised,
    both now and forevermore.
 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Psalm 113:1-3

Sunday Class Notes: October 28

How do I Live?

Today’s Text:              1Peter 1:17-2:3

Introduction

Last week’s text ended with a call to action: Be Holy!  This is where we pick up this week; be Holy!

God judges with impartiality.  He doesn’t care about the things that affect your reputation here on earth, but rather His judgment derives from what we have done.  Be Holy, do what is right in God’s eyes and forget about what this world approves of.  When you meet God face to face, He is the only one whose opinion counts.  Remember that the view of the world is the view of the enemy from God’s point of view.

Points of Interest

 

17-20:  ‘Live as a stranger while you are here on earth’ reflects the thought expressed in our introduction.  It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of us, for we are citizens of a HeavenlyKingdom.  It is not our purpose in this life to please men, in fact if we are concerned about the praise of men we are not servants of Christ! (Gal. 1:10). We were bought by the blood of Christ Himself, and this establishes a higher responsibility than anything this world can claim; live up to it!

22:  In this verse, we are commanded to love one another.  We have here the Greek imperative form: “you must love one another”. This is one of those cases where the Greek word agape is used, which indicates the highest form of godly love.  Note that it is commanded to be done.  This should indicate to you that it does not involve a mere human emotion, but a choice that must be made; a decision we must make to love one another.  Note also that this concept runs counter to the worldly concept of what love is, a feeling or a longing.  Godly love is a decision to love one another even if we aren’t always ‘loveable’; a command that we must keep if we want to be imitators of Christ.

23:  This verse gives us the “why” for the last one: Because you have been born again you must do this. You are no longer ‘of man’ but instead you are now ‘of God’.

24-25:  A quotation of Isaiah 40:6-8 comparing flesh to grass to indicate the temporary nature of life on this earth.  Then, the text draws a contrast between the temporary nature of human life to the eternal nature of God’s Word.  Peter’s emphasis is to cite this comparison to illustrate what happened to us when we were born again.  Going back to the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve before the Fall would live to serve God forever, but then they rebelled against God and were cut off from the Tree of Life, indicating that they were now mortal and would die.  Jesus died and rose again to rule Heaven and Earth forever.  When we were baptized into His death, we died with Him and rose again to eternal life.  Therefore we are not of this world any longer, but are citizens of Heaven who happen to be stationed here to accomplish a mission for God before returning to “Home Base” which is Heaven, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  “And this is the word that was preached to you.”

2:1-3:  Here, Peter sums up the first chapter: because of all of this, get rid of all the worldly nonsense and get serious about your new life! He follows this with a comparison of spiritual maturity to physical maturity using the image of a baby’s diet.  Just as a newborn baby, we should crave the pure milk of God’s Word that we may be nourished and grow (rather than the poisonous nonsense of the world). Fill yourself with God’s Word until you become one with it. This is the recipe for spiritual growth.

You Can’t Tell a Book by its Cover

Don’t you find that people sometimes jump to conclusions about other people without really having enough information to know anything?  You know, take someone who is dressed in dirty clothes, maybe unshaven or unkempt looking who might talk a bit rough: Aha! a bad person!

Once upon a time, I was inspecting a house for an appraisal.  A young guy let me in; he looked to be in his late 20’s, and spoke just like a really young guy. It was a very nice home on a Tahoe golf course, and I had no idea who this guy was, but he had been expecting me…

He asked if I needed anything, and I told him that no, I didn’t, but that I needed to go through the place, take some notes, measurements and photos.  He said that was fine, and that he was going out in the yard to collect errant golf balls, whereupon he took off his shirt and pants and walked to a closet and grabbed a pair of shorts and a bucket and went outside.  I thought at the time that this was a little different, but OK he must be the owner’s son or employee.

It turned out that he was in fact the owner of the house, of the Sacramento Kings and the richest man in Sacramento!

Sometimes you just need to reserve judgment on these things…

We may run into people who need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and who look a little scary.  Many would avoid such people thinking that they must be dangerous.  Jesus didn’t do things like that, He approached everyone with the Good News.  Other times, we might gravitate towards people who appear to have everything together and don’t share our faith because they look so ‘perfect’ that they don’t need to hear about Jesus, only to discover later that they weren’t what we thought.

The ‘moral of the story’ is that we need to boldly share our faith no matter what a person may appear to be.  We cannot take the position that we are too good to approach some people and not lofty enough to approach others; God has put them in our path for a reason.

Autumnal Reflections

Autumn has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember.  There’s so much about it to like; pumpkins,

changing leaves,

football,

the World Series,

seasonal cuisine

and all of this is spite of the fact that we had to go back to school!

When I was a kid, I always wanted to go somewhere that had the fall colors in nature…

kind of like this:

 there aren’t many scenes like this in LA!

Gotta love this one…

I always thought of Fall as the beginning of the holidays; lots of fun to look forward to.  There’s just something about this season; it’s sort of the culmination of the entire year… it even smells good! There’s only one thing about it that isn’t great: It’s followed by winter!

If you didn’t know that winter was followed by spring and summer, that would really put a damper on things, at least for me.  You could say that Fall is a time when the world seems to be dying away in a blaze of glory… and then everything will be dormant for a season.

After a season of dormancy, there is rebirth!

There’s a lot we can learn from the season: there’s a time to live, a time to die, and a time to rise again.

Isn’t it amazing how God teaches eternal truth in nature?  It’s no wonder that Paul wrote: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. ” (Romans 1:20)