God is Unchanging, 27 May 2018

God is Unchanging
D6 Series—
None Like Him
Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17

Series Overview:
This topical series focuses on the attributes of God.

Big Idea: God does not change…and that’s a wonderful thing!


In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except…death and taxes.”

There’s actually one more than that is certain in this world. It’s a word that
will trouble some of you. It’s a word that will terrify some of you. It’s a four-letter word that actually has six letters, but it can disrupt like few words can do. It’s…


You may think I’m being a bit facetious, but I’m quite serious. Many people hate change…of any kind. Sure, nobody likes change if it means a salary reduction, decline of health, or loss of a loved one. But even so-called good changes can be unwelcome or have negative consequences.

Would you want a winning lottery ticket if I had one to offer you? You might be surprised at how many lottery winners later file for bankruptcy…or worse!

I used to think stress only applied to bad change, but any change can be stressful. It can be disruptive to our lives. Many people tolerate miserable work conditions, unhealthy relationships, or even abuse because they’re simply accustomed to it and afraid of how even a change for the better may cause them a loss of the known.

Since some of you are already uncomfortable at the mere mention of the word change, take a moment and think of the things that have changed in the past twenty years. Actually, let’s only say eighteen. We are approaching graduation season and these are a few things that can be said about the Class of 2018.

1. They’ve never lived in a world with monthly texting limits.
2. They might not understand if you say, “You sound like a broken record.”
3. They’ve always had GPS.
4. “Roll down your window” has no meaning.
5. They’ve never untangled a phone cord or straightened an antenna for TV reception.

Change. Personally, I love change…except when I don’t! I love changes I make, but not necessarily those imposed upon me.

Whether you like it or not, this world is full of change.

Our presidents change.
Our weather changes.
Fashion changes.
Music changes.
Our bodies change.
Maps of the world change.
Children change.
Relationships change.
Our favorite sports teams change.

Fortunately, there’s one thing that never changes…or should I say one Person: God.

We’ve been devoting several Sundays this month talking about the attributes of God. There is None Like Him. Amen? First, we looked at the holiness of God. We said God is holy, set apart, and we are to be holy, too, fully devoted to God while being present in the world, bearing witness to God’s presence, power, love, and glory.

Last Sunday we looked at God’s sovereignty. Whether it feels like it or not, God is in control…and we’re usually not! In fact, control is just an illusion, a temporary state, but God is in control…and that’s a wonderful thing!

Today we are looking at how God is unchanging—the technical word is He is immutable—and why that’s also a wonderful thing.

“In a world of change and decay not even the man of faith can be completely happy. Instinctively he seeks the unchanging and is bereaved at the passing of dear familiar things.” - A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

That’s the bad news, family. We live in a world of change and decay where not even followers of Jesus can be completely happy. And you thought you were the only one!

But here’s the good news: God is unchanging.

Charles Wesley wrote, “And all things as they change proclaim
The Lord eternally the same.”

But how do we know? The Bible declares it repeatedly. God declares it repeatedly.

Our scripture reading for today featured not one, but three passages from various parts of the Bible.
Moses wrote in the book of Numbers:

God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)

Humans can lie. Have you noticed?
Humans can change their minds.
Humans can be hypocritical, saying one thing and doing another.
Humans can break their promises.

But not God! If we stopped with this one verse, we would know enough about God to worship and adore Him for eternity.

God cannot lie.
God is consistent.
God is trustworthy.
God is unchanging!

One of the frustrating things about change is when it wreaks havoc with our expectations. Have you ever gone to get gas for your car expecting one price, only to find the price went up? How does that make you feel?

Have you ever had your heart set on food at a particular restaurant, only to arrive and find them closed?

Have you ever waited for someone to arrive at an appointment, only to discover they forgot?

God never does this! Although we were created in God’s image, He is not human! He is dependable. He is unchanging.

In the last book of the Old Testament, God declares:

“I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. (Malachi 3:6)

God is speaking about His judgment of those who do not fear and revere Him, but God made a covenant with the nation of Israel…and that covenant will not change. They will be delivered in the day of the LORD. God is saying, “I keep my promises. My Word does not change. I do not change.”

We also heard Jesus’ half brother, James, who wrote:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Our God who created the starry universe—the heavenly lights—gives good gifts to His children, including salvation and life. He is also unchanging. Because of the movement of our planet with relation to the sun, shadows move and shift…but not the One who created earth and the sun!

Throughout the Bible we see evidence that God is unchanging.

So What?

OK, so God is unchanging, but what difference does that make? Let me count the ways!

God cannot improve.

He’s as good as He’s going to get. He is perfectly holy. He will never get stronger, wiser, or more perfect. He is the zenith of holiness, knowledge, and love.

Most of us are seeking to grow and develop. Some of you spend time at the gym, seeking to improve your figure, reduce your waistline, or build your muscles. Others of you are in school, expanding your knowledge and understanding of the world and prepare for a career. The simple fact you are listening to me says you want to grow spiritually and improve your relationship with God and others. This past Wednesday I was honored to be in the company of courageous men and women who are committed to enhancing their mental and emotional health, attending Celebrate Recovery and dealing with their hurts, hang ups, and habits. I believe every one of us could benefit from Celebrate Recovery because we’ve all got stuff. We’re all messed up. We all face grief, loss, and/or addictions because of sin and living in a broken world.

But not God! He’s not messed up! He doesn’t have room to grow. God cannot improve. As the saying goes, you can’t improve on perfection!

Second, not only can God not get better,
God cannot decline. He will never lose His mind, His love, His power. He won’t get Alzheimer’s, cancer, or the flu. He won’t stop being in control or begin to forget things. It’s impossible for God to get better—or worse—because God is unchanging.

God is reliable. He doesn’t change His mind. He is consistent and reliable. If He says something, it’s true now and it will be true tomorrow.

Since I got my driver’s license, I’ve studied the annual April car issue of
Consumer Reports magazine. The top thing I look for in a vehicle report is reliability. I don’t really care how fast it goes, how comfortable the seats, or even how good the stereo sounds…if it’s going to break down, leave me stranded at the side of the road, and cost me a fortune to repair. I want a dependable vehicle, one I can trust with no surprises.

That’s like God…except the brakes will never wear thin, the oil doesn’t need to be changed…He doesn’t even need gas or insurance!

One reason I love the Bible is it is God’s Word and what God said and did in the Old Testament is true in the New Testament and is true today…because God is unchanging.

If you were to read a biography on Bill Gates, you would learn about the founder of Microsoft, but no matter what you thought of him, it’s possible that if you were to meet him, he’d be different than you expected. In fact, it’s possible that he has changed since the book was published. People change, but God is unchanging and reliable.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “But didn’t God change His mind when Moses asked Him to spare the people of Israel?” There are times it appears God changes, but I believe it’s a matter of perspective. Let me explain.

When my children were little, I insisted they use manners when they spoke, especially when they asked for something. One of them might ask, “Dad, can I have some ice cream?” to which I would reply, “No.” Then if they said, “Please” I would say, “Absolutely!” Did I change my mind? No. Did I know what they wanted and what they would do in that situation? Yes.

Because God is God and we’re not, it may appear that He changes, but in reality His character, His attributes, His Word, His promises never change. He is reliable. He doesn’t play guessing games or surprise us. He is consistent. He is unchanging.

There’s another thing that doesn’t change about God that we should all find sobering.

God’s justice and His hatred of sin never change. Have you ever been pulled over by a police officer, begging to be let off the hook? Did you ever try to weasel out of a punishment as a child? Have you ever bargained with someone, compromised, negotiated?

God is always just. He always does the right thing. Always.
God always hates sin. Public and private, big and little, He always hates sin.

He doesn’t make exceptions.
He can’t be bought or bribed.
He doesn’t show favoritism.

God always has and always will be just and He always has and always will hate sin.

Is this a good thing? Yes.
Is this a good thing for you? Maybe.

See, we all want to see justice served. We want Hitler to be condemned. We want sex traffickers punished. We want murderers to be sentenced. One day, God will exercise the ultimate justice. On Judgment Day, all wrongs will be righted, all sins will be penalized, all of the guilty will pay.

But where does that leave us? Sure, we want corrupt politicians and bank robbers to be served justice, but since all of us sin and all of us fail God’s standard of perfection, is God’s ultimate justice good…for us?

This is where the gospel comes in. The gospel, or good news, is Jesus. Jesus is LORD. God sent His perfect Son, Jesus, to our planet to pay for our sin, to receive the punishment we deserve. Since God couldn’t bend the rules and make exceptions, He had to create an alternative to eternally separating sinful humans from His presence. His plan was Jesus. Grace. Unmerited favor.

Today, every man, woman and child on our planet is given a choice to receive or reject Jesus Christ. Because God is just and hates sin, somebody has to pay the penalty of sin, which is death. We can accept Jesus’s payment or bear it ourselves.

But make no mistake, you’re not good enough. You can’t buy it. You can’t negotiate it. You can’t achieve it by trying harder. Either you pay or you let Jesus pay. But God’s unchanging justice must be satisfied.

This leads to my final point: because God is unchanging,
God’s love is unchanging. Earlier we sang “One Thing Remains.” I love those lyrics:

Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me

The Newsboys have a song with a similar message entitled, “Your Love Never Fails.” They sing:

Nothing can separate Even if I run away Your love never fails I know I still make mistakes You have new mercy for me everyday Cause your love never fails
You stay the same through the ages Your love never changes

Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

God’s love is unchanging, leading Philip Yancey to famously write,

“There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”

Why? Because God is unchanging. God’s love is unchanging. And that’s truly good news!

some ideas from D6, Robert Saucy, John Ortberg, A.W. Tozer

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • God is Sovereign, 20 May 2018

    God is Sovereign
    D6 Series—
    None Like Him
    Romans 8:28-30

    Series Overview: This topical series focuses on the attributes of God.

    Big Idea: God is sovereign and in control…but we also must be responsible with our free will.

    We are spending several weeks this month talking about the attributes of God. There is
    None Like Him. Amen?

    Two weeks ago, we looked at the holiness of God. We said God is holy, set apart, and we are to be holy, too, fully devoted to God while being present in the world bearing witness to God’s presence, power, love, and glory.

    Today we look at another word frequently used in church but less often in the culture—sovereign. God is sovereign. Great, but what does that mean? Some dictionaries may use words like ruler, supreme in power and authority, or greatest. I’m going to suggest the best way think about God’s sovereignty is to say, “God is in control.” This is great news, but it can be difficult to understand. Hopefully our time together will engage your mind and heart and cause you to grow deeper in love with Jesus.

    True or false: God is in control of everything?

    True or false: God’s will is always accomplished?

    True or false: God controls history down to every detail, micromanaging individuals’ lives?

    The Bible is clear about many things, yet others are difficult to discern. We’re talking about God, after all, and while we can know God and know Him personally, we can’t fully grasp everything about God.

    Is God really sovereign? Is God in control? If so, why are children killed by shooters at school? How can sex trafficking thrive not only around the world but right here in Toledo? What about those victims of drunk drivers?

    I’m fascinated by people who will blame God for the sins and stupidity of people. After all, God has given us freedom. We have free will. We were not created as robots, but rather we have the capacity to love…and hate. Relationships cannot be authentic without choice. So God can be in control, yet allow humans the opportunity to do good or bad. Most of our suffering stems not from God, but the sins of others—or ourselves. God is in control, but He has also given us responsibility. Can you really blame God for an unwanted pregnancy? Is it His fault you failed the exam you never studied for?

    But why does God allow evil? Why did God create satan in the first place? Did He know Lucifer, the once-mighty angel, would rebel against God and be cast from heaven (Ezekiel 28:12-19; Isaiah 14:12-14)? These are great questions I’m not fully able to answer. Again, there are things we simply cannot know—yet—about God. But there’s one thing of which I am sure:

    God is sovereign and in control, He can be trusted, and He is working for the good of those who love Him. His plans and purposes are in process. It might not seem like it today, but just wait. God is not surprised by anything in today’s
    Toledo Blade. He’s not asleep or aloof, but there is a tension between His sovereignty and our responsibility. If we seek first His Kingdom and His glory—not merely our own pleasures—we will discover true meaning and purpose. Jesus said,

    So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34)

    God is in the process of working out His plans and purposes—not necessarily ours. He loves us, but His highest priority is our holiness, not our happiness; His glory, not our gratification. But let me say again God loves us. As His children, He has our best interest at heart…even when it doesn’t feel like it.

    All parents understand the tension of discipline. We’d love for our kids to always do the right thing, but when they don’t, we must punish…out of love, not hate.

    When I was a young boy, I was so frustrated with my parents. I wanted to have total freedom to play with my friends as long as I wanted and mom said I needed to be home by dark. “My friends can stay out as long as they want!” I said. My mom replied, “Because I love you, I want you home.” I didn’t understand the boundaries at the time, but I sure do now!

    It feels great to say God is in control…until we encounter trouble in life and we ask God, “Why?” or “Where are you?”

    I must say (again) there are many things I don’t understand. I have plenty of questions for God. But I’ve also learned as I read the Bible and get to know God personally He is good. His ways are not like my ways. His wisdom far exceeds mine. He is God and I’m not. He can be trusted. That has been true when I’ve unexpectedly lost my job, when my dad died after years of battling Alzheimer’s, when my daughter was hospitalized for months, when my son struggled through the teen years, when our daughter’s leg was amputated, when our family faced an array of mental illnesses, when friends have abandoned us, …do you want more?

    Oh sure, let me throw this one in…when your airplane fills with smoke and you have an emergency evacuation, climbing out the window onto the wing, and then jumping to the tarmac! Yes, that happened…to begin our vacation in Colorado. Fortunately, the plane had landed and nobody was seriously hurt, praise God!

    But what if the cabin filled with smoke midair? What if my mom, step dad, Heather and I all perished? Would we still praise God? Would He still be trustworthy? What about those families this morning in Texas planning funerals for their children? Are they singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” this morning?

    I want to encourage you an oft-abused passage of scripture, but one which is nevertheless true. Romans 8 says,

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

    Family, please think twice about quoting these verses when someone is in the midst of a sudden crisis. Timing is everything. The passage is always true, yet often people need to grieve. Quick answers are not adequate when someone is dealing with intense suffering. Job’s friends demonstrate often the best thing we can do when a loved one suffers is be present and quiet. But let’s look at this text.

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

    God is in control. He is at work, and because He loves us, He is working for our good. But there’s a condition. The condition is that we love him and have been called according to his purpose. Sometimes things take time. Tomorrow you might understand that which you cannot begin to fathom today. Your story is not over. You’re not abandoned, even if it feels like it. This too will pass. God sees you. God knows. God is with you. God loves you. And as we’ve learned from David in the Psalms, it’s ok to let Him know how you feel. He can handle your anger, questions, doubts, and even rage. But let me declare God is at work…accomplishing His purpose.

    Now this text raises one of the most hotly debated questions in theology, the study of God. Look at the rest of the passage:

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

    The Message translation declares

    God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun. (Romans 8:29-30,
    The Message)

    God foreknew us. He predestined us to follow Jesus. He calls, justifies, and glorifies. Now here’s the question:
    does God choose us or do we choose God? If God is in control, does that mean we have no choice, no options? When God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, was it God’s fault the people of Israel remained in slavery throughout the plagues (Exodus 9:12)?

    Christianity is divided in many ways. For example, there are Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants and Messianic Jews, all deeply committed to following Jesus and the Bible, but doing so with differences in worship style, tradition, and sometimes even beliefs. There are charismatic Christians who are very demonstrative in their worship while others are very reserved.

    Another division in Christianity involves
    Calvinism and Arminianism. Have you ever heard of Calvinism? Arminianism? The issues behind the debate between the two began in the 5th century, but it wasn’t until the 17th century when it took its current form.

    Calvinism is named for John Calvin, a French theologian who lived from 1509-1564.
    Calvinism has at its core the belief that God chooses us to be saved. We really have no choice in the matter. Reformed, and Presbyterian churches generally follow Calvinism.

    Arminianism—which is not the same as being Armenian, which I am by my family of origin—places the emphasis on human choice. We can choose to accept or reject Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior. Jacobus Arminius gave his name to Arminianism. He was a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609.

    Who’s right, Calvinists or Arminians? It depends upon who you ask! In case you’re wondering, the Christian & Missionary Alliance does not take a position on the matter. You will find those in the Alliance who are Calvinists and others who are Arminians—and some who are something of a hybrid!

    A.W. Tozer, in his classic book
    The Pursuit of God, began by saying,

    Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.

    Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.

    We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. "No man can come to me," said our Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him," and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the out working of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: "Thy right hand upholdeth me."

    Does God pursue us? Yes.
    Do we pursue God? Yes.

    I actually believe it’s not an either/or but a both/and scenario. It’s two sides of the same coin. Like a dance, God leads, and we join Him…or not!

    Why am I married? Is it because I asked Heather to be my wife, or because she said yes?

    Since the Alliance refuses to take a position toward Calvinism or Arminianism, it behooves us to follow their example and say there’s room for both at First Alliance Church. God is in control. God can be trusted. Even if it doesn’t feel like it today.

    D6: The fact that God’s authority supersedes all other authority demonstrates that He is the Sovereign Lord of all.

    D6: God’s actions and characteristics in Exodus 15* illustrate that He is the Sovereign Lord of all.

    (*look it up!)

    We can rest in the fact that God is in control. He knows and understands all things and has the power to make all things work out for His glory.

    I know many of you at this moment are questioning God. Life is not what you expected. You can’t harmonize God’s goodness and sovereignty. If He’s really in control, why is He allowing my life to be such a mess—or maybe even causing my life to be such a mess? I get it. Really. I’ve asked God questions through tears. I’ve cried out to Him so many times, failing to understand Romans 8:28…or much of the Bible. At this moment I still have questions for Him…but I’ve learned He can be trusted. The things He allows today will not be permitted forever. Judgment Day is coming—for all of us—and I urge you to repent and trust Jesus Christ to be your Savior and LORD if you have not yet done so.

    If there’s any injustice, any scandal, anything that doesn’t make sense, it’s why God would send His only Son, Jesus, to live and die and receive the punishment for our sins. If anyone had reason to question God’s sovereignty, it was Jesus on the cross! But praise God the story of Jesus didn’t end on the cross…He rose from the dead and is alive today!

    Likewise, your story is not over. As Laura Story sings in her song

    Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

    I started to cry just reading those lyrics again as I reflected upon God’s faithfulness.

    Recently Pastor Soper in Mission 119 stated regarding Numbers 22-24:

    When God has determined to bless a people, nothing but nothing but nothing is ever going to interfere or block that plan.

    Nothing will ever thwart God’s purposes and plans. He may use a talking donkey, a pillar of fire, plagues, the changed heart of a leader, miraculous healing, …but God is ultimately in control.

    My friend Lewis Winkler writes in his blog

    Herein lies the secret to finding real safety, in the arms of a good and loving God.  But being in His arms is not actually intended to make us feel safe.  Sometimes it does, but at other times it feels like the most dangerous place on earth.  That’s because His goal is to make us more like Jesus, and that’s often an uncomfortable and unpleasant process.  It doesn’t necessarily feel fun or safe.

    It might not look or feel like God is in control today, but whatever we experience is shaping us—it is for our good if we are truly following God.

    So What?

    Because God is sovereign, we don’t have to be! I often say, “God is in control…and I’m not!” I don’t always appreciate that in the moment, but I’m certain it’s good.

    And God is good…even when it doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes we must simply wait.

    We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. (Psalms 33:20-21)

    God and His plans and purposes are worth the wait. I have many questions for God and I bet you do, too. There are some things we simply won’t understand today—or maybe in this life. That’s where trust comes in. That’s where faith comes in—not a blind faith, a leap of faith, but rather a step of faith which trusts God above our limited understanding.

    Still, there are other times when our questions
    are answered and we get glimpses of God’s will, His plan, His purposes in the midst of what appears to us to be anything but good.

    Here’s a great example:

    Alliance Video

    Credits: some ideas from D6, Robert Saucy

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • God is Holy, 6 May 2018

    God Is Holy
    D6 Series—
    None Like Him
    Psalm 99:1-5

    Series Overview: This topical series focuses on the attributes of God.

    Big Idea: We are to be holy…because God is holy.

    We will be spending several weeks this month talking about the attributes of God. There is None Like Him. Amen?

    God is holy. Have you ever heard that before? What does it mean for God to be holy…and what difference does it make in our lives? That’s our focus this morning. If your small group is using D6, you’ll note we’re skipping ahead one week. Our scheduled message is on God’s love, a topic we have covered extensively in recent days, so we’re covering next week’s topic, the holiness of God.

    What comes to mind when you hear the word “holy?”

    Holy Bible
    Holy Spirit
    Holy Rollers
    Holy Cow!
    Holy, Holy, Holy
    Holy of holies

    Webster’s dictionary defines holy as

    1: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness 

    2: divine • for the Lord our God is holy —Psalms 99:9 (King James Version)

    3: devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity • a holy temple • holy prophets

    4 a : having a divine quality • holy love
    b : venerated as or as if sacred • holy scriptureholy relic

    5 —used as an intensive • this is a holy mess
    —often used in combination as a mild oath • holy smoke

    Often, it’s difficult to merely look at an English dictionary to understand a biblical word. In our scripture reading passage, the word “holy” is qadosh, to be sacred, consecrated, dedicated, set apart.

    The Holy Bible is sacred, set apart from all other works of literature.

    God is holy, sacred, set apart. Jesus invites us to call the Father “Abba” or “Daddy” or “Papa,” but that doesn’t mean we are to ever be disrespectful or flippant. I’m afraid sometimes we treat God too casually. It’s been said that we take ourselves too seriously and we don’t take God seriously enough.

    Our scripture reading from Psalm 99 says

    The LORD reigns,
    let the nations tremble;
    he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
    let the earth shake.
    Great is the LORD in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
    Let them praise your great and awesome name—
    he is holy.
    The King is mighty, he loves justice—
    you have established equity;
    in Jacob you have done
    what is just and right.
    Exalt the LORD our God
    and worship at his footstool;
    he is holy. (Psalms 99:1-5)

    These are powerful depictions of God. He reigns. Let the nations tremble and the earth shake. He is exalted over all the nations. His name is great and awesome. He is mighty. Exalt the LORD. Worship Him. He is holy.

    The book of Isaiah has an incredible scene we’ll briefly examine. In chapter six, the prophet Isaiah writes,

    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. (Isaiah 6:1-2)

    And they were calling to one another:

    “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)

    At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:4)

    “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)

    That should be our reaction to the holiness of God—woe, awe, reverence.

    A.W. Tozer, in his classic
    Knowledge of the Holy, said,

    “God is not now any holier than He ever was. And He never was holier than now. He did not get His holiness from anyone nor from anywhere. He is Himself the Holiness. He is the All-Holy, the Holy One; He is holiness itself, beyond the power of thought to grasp or of word to express, beyond the power of all praise.

    Language cannot express the holy, so God resorts to association and suggestion. He cannot say it outright because He would have to use words for which we know no meaning. He would have to translate it down to our unholiness. If He were to tell us how white He is, we would understand it in terms of only dingy gray.

    It was a common thing in olden days, when God was the center of Human worship, to kneel at an altar and shake, tremble, weep and perspire in an agony of conviction.

    He continues…

    We come into the presence of God with tainted souls. We come with our own concept of morality, having learned it from books, from newspapers and from school. We come to God dirty; our whitest white is dirty, our churches are dirty and our thoughts are dirty and we do nothing about it!

    If we came to God dirty, but trembling and shocked and awestruck in His presence, if we knelt at His feet and cried with Isaiah, I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5), then I could understand. But we skip into His awful presence. We’re forgetting holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

    Then Tozer prays…

    O God, soon every person must appear before you to give an account for the deeds done in the body. Father, keep upon us a sense of holiness so that we can’t sin and excuse it, but that repentance will be as deep as our lives. This we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.” 

    Oh, that we would get a glimpse of the holiness of God—and be transformed as a result.

    Echoing the Isaiah text is a famous passage in the book of Revelation.

    Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

    “ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8)

    What an image! Day and night the holiness of God is declared. It seems like the only appropriate response is for us to pause, meditate on God’s holiness, and declare it with the angels.

    “Holy, Holy, Holy”
    “Holy is the LORD”

    So What?

    I suppose we could go home now with the knowledge of God’s holiness in our heads, but I think God wants more. Sure, He wants our worship and adoration. He wants our respect and praise. But He also wants our hearts. He wants us. He wants our obedience. He wants us to be holy. God told Moses in the wilderness,

    “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)

    Scot McKnight, in his new book
    Open to the Spirit, writes,

    Holiness is first and foremost devotion to God.

    We could translate the word holy as “devout” and we would be accurate. So we see that separation from the world is the impact or result, not the source, of holiness. Devotion to God doesn’t mean isolation or withdrawal, as one finds among some sects. Rather, holiness means that in this world one listens and dances to the music of the Holy Spirit instead of the music of the world.

    I love that! We are to be holy, not holier than thou! We are to be in the world—loving and serving our neighbors—but not of the world.

    McKnight suggests three dimensions to growing into holiness:

    1. Practicing spiritual disciplines or practices. These help us turn our eyes off of ourselves and focus on God. Spiritual disciplines include prayer, Bible reading, fasting, meditation and contemplation on God, and silence. In a world where we typically seek pleasure and comfort, the disciplines are often sacrificial activities not done to earn God’s favor, but rather to acknowledge it.

    2. Discipline ourselves to practice acts of goodness, holiness, justice, love, compassion, and beauty. This includes being mindful of what we consume—food, entertainment, social media, the news—and engaging in healthy friendships and activities.

    3. Remembering we do not make ourselves holy. We grow into holiness through the grace of the Holy Spirit in us, repenting of our sins and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

    As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

    Sound familiar? Holiness is primarily about being devoted to God. Not just for an hour on Sunday, but daily…always. And it means following Jesus in the world, not escaping from it. In the next chapter, Peter writes…

    Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)

    To be holy means to be separate, to cut, or to separate. God is a cut above the rest, and He invites us to be the other, to be outstanding, to be morally pure, and to be devoted to Him. Every act of loving God, others, self, or creation is holiness. To quote Scot McKnight, holiness is “love done well.”

    To be holy is to be devoted, and this morning we close with a song of devotion, of surrender, of awe and reverence, of worship to the holy One who gave it all for us.

    Credits: some ideas from D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Harmony, 20 September 2015

    Harmony: Christian Togetherness
    Series: What In The World Is Going On? A Study of 1 Peter
    1 Peter 1:22-2:10

    Series Overview:
    God’s grace is present in the midst of suffering.

    Big Idea: When persecuted, we have not only hope and a call to holy living but also a harmonious family of God we are to love.


    This morning we continue our series on 1 Peter, “What In The World Is Going On?” This short letter to the early, suffering church is a powerful message not only to an ancient people but is increasing relevant to modern Christians as we face persecution. We may never face the horrors of ISIS victims, but nevertheless we can—and perhaps should—feel in the minority as followers of Jesus in a world consumed with money, sex and power. The theme of this book may well be called hope and grace in the midst of suffering.

    If you’re read through the book of 1 Peter this past week as I challenged you last Sunday, you may have found it lacking order. I was relieved to read one writer who said,

    Once again, Peter’s style here—weaving in and out of topics, exhorting and then stating the foundation for the exhortation, and digressing to cover important ideas— prevents many readers from finding any logical sequence. (Scot McKnight)

    If you like a neat, organized, three-point sermon with each point beginning with the same letter or forming an acrostic, you will not find it today or probably in any sermon in this series. You’ve been warned! But don’t take that to mean this letter is disorganized or unimportant. The messages are timeless, timely for us today, and a true treasure.

    Two weeks ago the focus was hope. Last week the key word was holy, being and living different, set apart lives reflecting Jesus.

    We ran out of time last week so I want to begin by looking at verses 17-21 before diving into today’s text.

    Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. (1 Peter 1:17)

    This fear does not mean anxiety or scary, but rather awe. Dad is watching us now, and one day He will judge each of us. We can have awe or desire the approval of the world as citizens or we can be in awe of and seek the Father as foreigners; visitors.

    For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

    We have been redeemed, purchased with a price. Jesus died, shedding His blood for us. Our redemption makes us grateful for not only forgiveness but adoption into our new family and a desire to live in holiness and awe before God.

    Our Father is the standard. He is holy. He shows us through Jesus what it means to truly be human, to live as we were created to live, full of faith, hope and love. He shows us the benefits of salvation, an eternal hope that cannot be taken away.

    Is your faith and hope in God…or in the stock market?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your friends?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your job?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your social media popularity?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your stuff…the house, the cars, the vacations?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in our president, governor, or political party?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your gifts, talents and abilities?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your education and diplomas?

    Is your faith and hope in the present…or in the future?

    Peter encourages us to be aware of the future—God’s righteous judgment of our lives and also the hope of the joy of final salvation. The best is yet to come.

    Today’s word is

    Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1:22-23)

    Children of God have been born again (John 3). We have been born again through the word of God. Notice Peter connects obedience and loving one another. As we’re going to see, following Jesus is more than an individual journey. We are a part of a family. We have not only a Father and a Big Brother, Jesus, but also spiritual brothers and sisters we are to love…deeply…from the heart.

    If we could just do this one thing—love one another deeply—we’d be almost done! The two greatest commands are love God and love others…and we love God by loving others.

    The word “deeply” cannot be overstated. We use the word “love” in English to describe so many things, yet this is a radical commitment, fervency, constancy, and effort. We are to share both philadelphia love—brotherly love—and agape love which is godly sacrificial love. Loving deeply is not tolerance; it may be the opposite of tolerance!

    When we are adopted into God’s family we experience a new birth, receive a new family, and are given an unconditional love we are to share with others.

    When we were born naturally, we were given bodies that will die. When we are born again, we are given the eternal Word of God. Some modern Christians call the Bible the Word of God—and it is—but the same word, logos, is used in John 1 to describe Jesus Himself.

    Remember, Peter’s readers did not have YouVersion on their iPhone or a leather-bound NIV Study Bible! He quotes Isaiah 40:6-8.


    “All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
    the grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

    And this is the word that was preached to you. (1:24-25)

    We’re like the grass. We will eventually die. No matter how strong, smart, cool, or talented you are, you’re going to die. God and His word are eternal.

    Therefore, …(2:1a)

    What’s it there for?

    Because this world is temporary and God’s Word is eternal…
    Because born people will die but born again people will live forever…
    Because we are not merely children of our parents but children of God…

    Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (2:1-3)

    We need to get rid of sin.

    Malice is congealed anger; an unforgiving spirit. Are you bitter? Is there someone you need to forgive. They don’t deserve to be forgiven, but neither do you! That’s grace. That’s agape love from God. Get rid of malice. Give it up. Surrender it to God. Replace it with God’s grace.

    Deceit is guile. Ananias and Sapphira were deceitful (Acts 5). The devil is a deceiver. We are to be filled with the truth.

    Do we need to talk about hypocrisy? One of the greatest criticisms of Christians by non-Christians is we’re hypocrites. We say one thing on Sunday and do something different on Monday. None of us is perfect, but when children of God screw up, they confess and make it right.

    Envy. This is one of those somewhat acceptable sins, perhaps because it’s easy to hide. Look around. Whose job do you want? Whose paycheck? Whose car? Whose family? Whose body? I believe the opposite of envy is gratefulness and contentment. God has showered all of us with a vast array of gifts, beginning with Jesus and continuing to our freedom to worship today.

    Slander…of every kind. Gossip. Behind-the-back criticism. If you wouldn’t say it in their presence, don’t say it in their absence!

    We need to get rid of all sin in our lives and replace it with Jesus, with the fruit of the Spirit, with character and godliness…because we’re God’s kids, children of the King!

    I love Peter’s metaphor of spiritual milk. He’s not writing to new Christians, but instead acknowledging how newborn babies crave milk. They long for it. They cry for it! Because we’ve tasted that the LORD is good! We used to crave sin and now we are to crave prayer, obedience, serving others, sharing Jesus…God. We can fill our lives with vices or virtues.

    The psalmist famously wrote in Psalm 42:

    As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. (Psalm 42:1)

    The LORD is good! He’s so good! He’s greater, smarter, stronger, more present, more loving, more kind, more compassionate, more powerful…than anyone or anything.

    One reason we gather is to be reminded we are children of a mighty God!

    This week you may have faced criticism, bills, broken cars, broken bodies, bad news, sickness, addictions, temptations, fear, anxiety…but God is greater! The LORD is good! We must run to Him. We must flee sin and run into the arms of our Daddy who loves us unconditionally!

    We are to desire the word of God, spiritual milk. We need to grow and will discover the goodness of the LORD. We need to worship. We also need to get into the word of God!

    I often pray the prayer of a father who exclaimed to Jesus,

    “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

    Does your passion for God grow when you’re with other believers?
    Does your passion for God grow when you’re in God’s Word?
    Does your passion for God grow when you worship?

    LORD, I want to want You! Give me a passion for You such that knowing You is truly the greatest thing in my life!

    Now Peter shifts gears.

    As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (2:4-5)

    Precious is an interesting word, especially for a fisherman, but Peter used it liberally. Jesus said He would build His church. Peter was a little stone like us. God is building a living temple. A better translation is “build yourselves.” Take action. We are to come together as living stones connected to the living Stone to form one spiritual house where—like the old temple—God dwells.

    Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
    “ ‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
    the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

    “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:42-44)

    The foundation is salvation. You come to the Stone broken.

    The stone of judgment is also coming according to Daniel.

    For in Scripture it says:

    “See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
    and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.” (2:6)

    Jesus is this stone.

      Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

    “The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”


    “A stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.”

    They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. (2:7-8)

    These aren’t rolling stones but stable rocks.

    We all choose to accept or reject Jesus. He’s a stepping stone or a stumbling stone.

    Psalm 118:22 speaks of the temple.

    The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:22-23)

    We live in world that rejects Jesus. Peter’s audience was rejected by the world. We may be rejected, too, but the world’s rejection pails in comparison to the Father’s acceptance. The story is still being written. Vindication is coming.

    Now we come to our focus today.

    But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (2:9)

    We are a chosen people/generation. An elect race. These people are a scattered diaspora but they’ve been chosen like the people of Israel. We choose Jesus because He’s chosen us. We love Him because He first loved us.

    We are a royal priesthood. In the Old Testament God chose the nation of Israel to be priests. They sinned so God chose God fearing Jews and Gentiles to become priests. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a priest. We are royalty. In Peter’s day, royalty was inherited, but we have been adopted as sons and daughters to be not only children but priests who serve God.

    Scot McKnight says, “To become a Christian is to be raised to the ultimate height in status because we suddenly become children of the God of the universe, and we have direct access to him because we are his children.” Hallelujah!

    We are a holy nation. We’ve never been fully holy in conduct but we are holy in our relationship with God. Jesus is our righteousness.

    Our purpose is to declare God’s praises. We are to announce good tidings of peace and joy. We are to show the light to our dark world. Some will accept and some will reject.

    We are special people, a peculiar people, people of His own, a special possession. We are a ragamuffin collection of broken sinners who have found salvation in Jesus. We are God’s. We belong to HIm. He invites us to not only be with Him but also to love the people of this world and one another. This reminds me of Jesus’ prayer recording in John 17:

    “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

    “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:20-24)

    This is my favorite prayer in the Bible because Jesus prays for us! He says we have been given to Jesus by the Father.

    Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (2:10)

    God is rich in mercy. Paul wrote

    But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)


    God has not created us to know Him in isolation.
    God has not created us to live in isolation.

    God exists in community—Father, Son and Spirit—and created us to do life together, to be a family, a nation, a people, a group of priests that know God…and make Him known.

    No matter what trials we face, we are to be a united, harmonious family, faithful to Jesus. We are God’s people. We are a priesthood, a nation, a people. We the people! Let’s live like it!!!


    Some ideas from

    Be Hopeful (1 Peter): How to Make the Best of Times Out of Your Worst of Times (The BE Series Commentary) by Warren

    Thru The Bible audio messages by J. Vernon McGee

    1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary) by Scot McKnight

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Trials, 10 July 2011

    Big Idea: Trials are meant to help us grow, not harm us.


    First, it was written by...James! That may seem obvious, but many New Testament books are named after their recipient, not their author. In fact, most of Paul’s writings such as Titus and Ephesians, were written to a man named Titus and a church in the city of Ephesus.

    James is the author, believed by most to be Jesus’ half-brother. Imagine the sibling rivalry in that family! Actually, James was skeptical of the deity claims made by Jesus and later in life became a devoted follower.

    James is probably the earliest of the New Testament writings. Where Paul wrote about inner saving faith from God’s perspective, James wrote about outward saving faith from the perspective of man.

    I love the book of James because it is very practical and easy to understand, though challenging to completely obey. Many biblical books are written to a particular person or group in response to a particular situation. Therefore, we can’t just read and apply without understanding the context. James, however, begins with a very clear and broad audience.

    The early church was the recipient, those Christians in churches around the world. In other words, James writes universal truths that are essentially for all people. It was clearly written for public reading as a sermon and authoritative. In fact, there is, on average, a call for action in every other verse in the book! It is both passionate and picturesque with rich metaphors, similes, and dozens of references to Nature.

    He begins...

    James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

    To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:


    Here we see that he is clearly a Christ-follower. He was a well-known, authoritative figure in the early Church. He actually led the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15). He calls himself simply a servant, the Greek word “doulos” meaning a bond-slave. He was God’s property.

    He is writing to the twelve tribes, a reference to the Jews that were scattered from their homeland among the Gentiles.

    He then writes, “Greetings.” He is obviously a friendly man!

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (1:2)

    Wait a minute! Did we read that correctly?

    Did he write joy and trials in the same sentence? Are you kidding me? If you’re like me, you do everything to avoid trials. My flesh wants life to safe, comfortable, and convenient. I want things to go smoothly. Any unexpected interruption to my life is not a joy but a pain in the rear end! Trials in my life are met with groans and complaints.

    Do you know what I mean? Perhaps that is why James needed to write these words!

    The Greek word for trial here is
    peirasmo/ß, peirasmos, It means trial or temptation or test.

    How many of you like to take tests in school? If you’re like me, there have been one or two tests that you actually looked forward to taking, the ones you studied hard for and felt confident and prepared. The purpose of a test is not to be a hardship or reveal your stupidity, but to show what you know. A test is given to see if a student can pass, not pass out! Trials are not to be seen as tribulations but tests. Our attitude is critical in the midst of trials.

    James does not say to be happy, but to be joyful. He doesn’t say to be joyful for the trials, but in the midst of trials.

    How do we find joy in trials?

    ...because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (1:3-4)

    Tests have a purpose. If you pass your third-grade tests, you demonstrate your readiness for fourth-grade. If you pass the bar exam, you prove that you can be an attorney. James reminds us that endurance is one product of trials. James’ readers know this (notice “because you know”) but I’m afraid we’re not so quick to think about the benefits of trials in our culture. Athletes might be the exception.

    No pain, no gain.

    In this case, the testing is not done to prove our faith but to approve it. We develop endurance, but the goal is to be mature and complete. I think we all want to be complete, but it doesn’t just happen. Even physical maturity requires growing pains. It’s all part of God’s plan for our lives. He wants us to grow and mature and becoming complete in Him so He allows trials and testing to accomplish His purposes.

    “But wait,” you might say, “I thought God loves me.” He absolutely does. Love is looking out for the best interest of another. He wants you to grow, become strong, and be a blessing to others.

    Five years ago if you told me about your trials, I would’ve done my best to be kind and understanding, but I had no idea what real testing was all about. Through several events in the past few years, I have a completely different perspective. I know suffering. I know testing. It has changed me. It has transformed me. I’d like to think that I’m done, but I know there are more trials ahead.

    Friends, you are either in a trial, coming out of a trial, or about to experience one. Don’t face that as bad news. It’s all part of God’s plan to make you more like Jesus, the One who faced the ultimate trials and testing.


    The testing of our faith produces patience and perseverance. Faith is like gold. Gold endures no matter how hot the fire. Peter—who understood trials as did all of the early church leaders, most of whom died as martyrs, wrote

    In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

    When gold is heated, the impurities rise to the surface. The metal worker cannot take their eyes off of the gold, knowing that it is pure when they can see their face reflected in it. That’s what God does. He refines us through trials until all that is seen in us is Jesus.

    Let me pause for a moment and say that there are two types of trials—those that come to us and those that are self-inflicted. I’m always amazed when I hear of teenage girls that say, “God, how could you allow me to get pregnant” or the person angry at God because they got caught speeding or stealing. Our actions have consequences. There are other things, however, like tsunamis, diseases, and the drunk driving of others over which we have no control.

    We can face trials with joy because it will mature us and our faith to the point where we lack nothing.

    But that’s easier said than done, right? How?! Fortunately, James continues….


    If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (1:5)

    Wisdom is not merely knowledge but the application of knowledge. Do you seek wisdom?

    King Solomon had an Aladdin experience. He was given one wish from God.

    That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
    (2 Chronicles 1:7)

    Solomon said

    Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

    God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”
    (2 Chronicles 1:10-12)

    What does this verse promise us about asking for wisdom? God gives it generously to those who ask.

    My greatest prayer is for wisdom. I pray daily for God to give me wisdom as I seek to lead my family, Scio, and most of all myself!

    Keep in mind that the context of this request is in the midst of trials. If you’ve ever asked “why?” you have sought Godly wisdom to understand your situation. God loves it when we ask for wisdom. He loves to hear us pour out our hearts. He loves honest, authentic prayers.

    Perhaps you’ve been told that there are certain things that appropriate to tell God. He knows it all! Keep it real! He can handle the truth!

    But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (1:6-8)

    We must seek God and His wisdom in faith. One writer says that our answer from God depends upon our assurance in God.

    I can tell you from experience that God can be trusted. He is love. Following Jesus doesn’t mean life will always be easy, but it will be satisfying. It will be filled with purpose. It will contain hope and meaning.

    If you’re in the midst of a trial right now, I want to remind you that God is real. God cares. It might not feel like it, but I promise you that He does. I often think about a child at the doctor’s getting immunizations. Love is the last thing that they feel, yet the shots are actually the most loving thing a parent to can allow, providing endurance and strength to avoid devastating diseases.

    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
    (Jeremiah 29:11)

    We may experience hurt that God allows to shape us but never harm. There is one that wants to harm us, though.

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

    The Rich

    How many of you are rich? Compared to the rest of the world, the poorest in this room are filthy rich.

    If you make $25,000/year, you are in the top 10% richest on the planet!
    If you make $50,000/year, you are in the top 1% richest on the planet!

    Of course, rich does not always refer to finances. We can be rich in health, friends, or spirit. James continues…

    The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. (1:9-11)

    Most of the Jewish converts were poor and perhaps considered their lowly position a hindrance in enduring trials. James reminds them that God honors the persistence of even the lowliest of people. The rich, on the other hand, are trusting in their riches which will whither and fade away. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

    Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (1:12)

    And everybody said…amen!

    To summarize,

    • - trials DO arrive in our lives
    • - our attitude is critical, seeking joy and God
    • - God is not out to harm us, though we may hurt
    • - we can ask for wisdom when we ask “why?” during trials
    • - we will be blessed by enduring trials and transformed through them
    You can listen to the podcast here.