Is God An Unfinished Project?

Several months ago, well, maybe a couple years ago, my wife asked me if I would refinish the Hutch and table I had built for her the first year we were married, 43 years hutch  ago. She wanted it to look more Amish like. She had ideas in her head of what she was looking for. She attempted to describe them to me and tableexpected me to transfer those descriptions to the furniture. I have resisted for a long time and finally unfinished chairdecided to delay no longer.

I am delighted to say that after a few weeks of work on the “almost antique” furniture the project is nearing completion. And I am glad that it no longer falls into the unfinished project category.

chairsFor several months there has been a line of old chairs along the fence in my backyard. They are chairs salvaged from the cleanup and restoration project of our new ministry center. Since last year it has been my intention to begin restoring these chairs and putting them to use. Finally the project is underway. Two chairs to date have been completed and a third is in the restoration pipe line. Though the  chair restoration project has a long ways to go it is at least moving forward.

Do you finish everything you start? I imagine not. And to be honest, some things are worth finishing.

But don’t think, even for a second, that you can put God in your collection of unfinished projects. For starters, he isn’t a “project.” Besides, he’s not going to sit on a shelf contentedly waiting for you to give him your attention once the kids are grown or the retirement is funded or other task are completed.

The Israelites learned that lesson the hard way. They returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the temple. They started strong but in time turned their attention to other endeavors. What was important to God became unimportant to them.

16 years past without any work being done on the Temple. So God allowed drought and downturns and difficulties to come upon them. And he said, “give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 5:7).

God is either the main thing in your life or he is nothing. At the end of the day, each of us are responsible for our own schedule. There is really no such thing as partial obedience. God begins as the priority and then we scheduled time with him and around him. We schedule the things that are important to him. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33).

The Jews eventually got back to God’s priorities and took part in one of the greatest works of heaven. You can to. There are some things worth finishing. Get on with it.

Adopt a Revolutionary Motto for Your Life

mottoIn the early formation of our nation George Washington had the opportunity to become king of the burgeoning nation. But given the young nation’s experience with England and because he had a robust prayer life he knew there was only one King, so he declined the offer.

King Jesus

The people of the land apparently knew the same. “In a 1774 report to King George, the Governor of Boston noted: ”If you ask an American, who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ.” The prewar Colonial Committees of Correspondence soon made this the American motto: “No King but King Jesus.”

The story of God’s chosen people might have gone very differently had they chanted the same motto. Instead, they wanted a king. Over the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah there were thirty-eight kings. Only five of them were good. Of the others a refrain heard throughout the Old Testament goes like this: “They did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

I Am The Lord

Prophets appeared exhorting the people to turn back to God. God spoke through one prophet—Isaiah— to tell the people of Judah that they would be captured and deported to Babylon but afterward he would bring them back home. The purpose? “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed. Then the whole human race will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:23).

In Isaiah 53 the prophet depicts the coming Messiah. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53: 2, 3). God did not want the people to miss him. But they did. And still do.

God On The Throne

Our nation would have gone a much different route had Washington agreed to be king. But he seemed to know what many others didn’t. When we displace God on the throne of our lives, the outcome will go horribly wrong. But when we put God on the throne in our lives, we put ourselves in the best possible position for godly success.

Maybe our American ancestors knew the best way to start a revolution. Adopt the motto “No King but King Jesus” in your life. See what changes that ignites in your life.

Married to a Seducer

HEARING gODVerizon Wireless created one of the most memorable marketing campaigns ever in 2005. In their commercials a so-called “test man,” accompanied by a crowd of network engineers, travels the country asking the simple question, “Can you hear me now?” in an ongoing exercise to determine the reliability of the mobile phone carrier’s network.

The “catch phrase” caught on. The company’s market share went up and employee turnover went down. It seemed people could relate to the struggle to connect. Folks were tired of dropped calls and unreliable communication systems. And Verizon sent a message that they wanted desperately to connect with its subscribers and wanted its subscribers to be able to connect with each other.

PROPHETS

At the risk of selling him short, God has done the same. Even when the Kingdom had split in two, he kept sending his message. He gave the people of the Divided Kingdom some 208 years to decide whether they would “accept” or “reject” his call. He sent his own “technicians” to get the message out. We call them “prophets.”

PROSTITUTES

The job of the Verizon technician is unique. But not nearly as unique as the task given Hosea. Hosea, himself a prophet, appeared in a down time in the nation of Israel. The reality is that people often hear best when things are at their worst. So Hosea signed on with God. But God gave him a most unusual assignment. Hosea’s life would be his message. He was to marry a prostitute named Gomer and love her. What an incredible request! (Just imagine a young man with a sePROSTITUTEminary degree in hand trying to explain that one to a pastor search committee.)

The tough assignment was made even more difficult as Gomer left Hosea. She would conduct her ‘trans- actions’ with customers and all the time in her mind believing they were the ones supporting her. In reality, though, it was Hosea who continued to care for her and provide for her necessities even during her times of unfaithfulness.

PIMPS

God tells Hosea to go and demonstrate his love for her, so he does. Now picture this scene, as ugly as it is: Hosea pays some Hebrew “pimp” for some time with his wife, Gomer. When she enters the room expecting her next customer, she comes face-to-face with her husband. It is then that Hosea tells her again he loves her and wants her to come back home.

PICK IT UP

It’s the lived-out message that Hosea later gives in words. And it’s the same message God sends today. He loves us—even in our extreme unfaithfulness. And he wants us to come back home, even though we have abandoned him. But much like a call on your cell phone, you can hit the “accept” button or the “reject” button. You have the power to send God to voicemail and make him wait. Or you can answer his call today. The people of Israel had 208 years to pick up and they never did. The network is clear. The message is reliable. Can you hear him now?

CHRISTIAN OR CHRIST-CENTERED?

family 2It is not enough to be a Christian home, especially in our culture. The only thing that is enough is to be a Christ-centered family.

THE DIFFERENCE

Now, you may be saying, “What’s the difference? I don’t see any difference.” Well, there really shouldn’t be a difference but unfortunately, in our culture today, the word Christian doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Some 80 percent or more of our culture says, “Oh, I’m a Christian, I mean, I’m not something else so I must be a Christian.” But you’d have to agree that 80-some-odd percent of our homes would not be called “Christ-centered” in the way we do life.

What is a Christ centered home? Jesus isn’t just a part of our life, HE IS OUR LIFE. We are fully devoted, following and serving and knowing, and bringing glory to him. In a cultural Christian home, in a home that’s Christian in name only, when there is a hard time, we just write somebody off. “Well, just screw them.” “Forgot them.” “We are not going to mess with them.” “Forgive them? I mean, after what they did, I would never forgive them. They’d have to come back to me, crawling on their hands and knees and then I’ll just make them pay for a little while.” And that’s normal. In a Christ-centered home though, we say, “What does Jesus teach us about how to do relationships?” And he said, “Blessed are the peace makers.”

IT DEPENDS ON YOU

Paul said something very complimentary in Romans 12:17-18 and verse 21. He said, “Do not repay evil for evil,” which is what everybody had been taught to do. Heth said “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” Now, here’s the power statement. He said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,” what are you to do? He taught, you live a life at peace with everyone.

If you are thinking at this point that you know a lot of people who sure need to hear this, you have missed the point altogether. He says, you let God speak to YOU. As far as it depends on you, you do everything possible to live at peace. Then in verse 21, he said, “Do not be overcome by evil but instead,” we’re going to overcome evil with good. Blessed are the peace makers for they will be called children of God.

THE DECISION

So, do you want to be a Christian home or a Christ-centered family? Make the distinction one choice at a time.

DO YOU HAVE A PURITY STANDARD

RIGHT AND WRONGIs there any better question to ask in our culture than the one asked by the psalmist in Psalm 119: 9-10. He asks, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” Man, if you’ve got kids you’re a young person, that’s a great question to ask. How in the world, with all the temptations in this world, can we stay on the path of purity?

CULTURE SAYS!

Well, here’s what culture would tell you. Here’s what culture would say about everything: “Hey, just follow your heart. You’ve got a good heart. Follow your heart.” Listen: That’s the dumbest advice you could give anybody. Don’t follow your heart; your heart is deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says this: “The heart is deceitful above all things.” It will deceive and lie to you just to get its way.

I’ve seen so many married couples who followed their heart right out of marriage into adultery. Why? “Because my heart said, “He’s hot.” My heart said, “She smells good.” Don’t follow your heart. How can a young person keep their way pure? Here’s how the psalmist says, God, “by living according to your word.” Here’s what I’m going to do. “I will seek you with all my heart. Do not let me stray from your commands.”

THE FAMILY

Let’s applied that verse and translated it toward the family just for application. Here’s a different translation of this verse for the family. “How can our family stay on the path of purity?” Here’s the answer: Not by following our hearts, but by living according to your word. “We will seek you with all of our hearts. God, do not let us stray from your commands.”

UNMARRIED

Now, for those of you that aren’t married and don’t have a family right now, you might be thinking, “Yeah, sock it to them because it doesn’t matter to me because I purity 2don’t have a family yet so I can do whatever I want and then later on, I’ll get things right. I mean, right now I can sleep with who I want, I can drink what I want, I can smoke what I want, I can watch what I want. I can say what I want, I can do what I what.” “I can hang out with because, I’ll get it right later on when it matters, I mean, later on when I have a family.”

Listen to me: What you do today matters. You don’t build a life of righteousness on a foundation of sin. That’s so important I need to say it again. You don’t build a life of righteousness on a foundation of sin. If you want a harvest of righteousness in your family later, you plant seeds of righteousness in the ground today. “How can a young person stay pure? By living according to your word.”

What is going to be your standard of purity?

(Adapted from “Bless This Home” by Craig Groeschel)

Let’s Cohabitate!

The “Wise” Solomon

cohabitation 2Solomon is revered as the wisest man who ever lived. But was he really? When we look closer at Solomon’s choices we see a man who rejects God’s direction, especially when it came to love, sex and marriage. I mean, Solomon took polygamy to a whole new level. Right? I mean, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And God defined marriage differently than that.

Here’s what God says in Genesis 2, the very beginning of time, the first marriage and God defines marriage and he says, For this reason a man (singular )will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (not wives, wife), and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) This word “united” is a strong word. It means to be bonded or glued together. And it really doesn’t allow for there to be more than one. It is this idea of one and one being united as one. And that’s how God designed it. That’s how God created it. That’s how he defines marriage.

“I Want to be Happy”

And Solomon decides, I want to do things differently. I want to be happy. My heart tells me this is what I should do and so that is what I’m going to do. And so in his pursuit of happiness he ignores what God has said.

And Solomon pays a significant price because he doesn’t do things God’s way. God says, “Here are my directions,” and Solomon says, “Yeah, well, I think this will work.” And you can just hear Solomon. He knows what God has said but he just loves her, he just loves her. “God I know what you have said but I just love wife number 274. I love her. I love her.” And he puts his hope in his own understanding, in his own feelings even though that violates what God has said.

I want you to think for a moment, what is kind of a cultural equivalent to this? In other words can you think of an area in our culture, in our society that goes against what God has said when it comes to marriage that we have kind of decided that we know better? We have kind of decided that how we feel about it makes the most sense. We have ignored what God has said. Can you think of an area like this?

Cultural Equivalent

I think of Cohabitation as an example of this. Couples living together before they are married. That has been on the increase since 1970. There is a 700% increase in couples that live together outside of marriage. Now when I sit down, and I have a number of times, and talk to couples who are living together and are not married and I just talk to them a little bit about here’s what God’s word says and here’s why he says this and here’s why these directions are best for you. And when I talk to these couples, one of the things I love about them is that so often they have a heart for commitment. They are taking marriage seriously and in their minds they don’t want to risk it. They don’t want to be part of a divorced generation like their parents. And they just want to be sure. And I appreciate that spirit.

And then you just start looking at the evidence. And the evidence just reinforces again that God knows what is best in this area of our lives. There is a Scripture verse in Proverbs that goes like this, it says, There is a way that seems right to a man (there is a way that feels right to us. It seems to make most sense. It seems to make the most rational approach. There’s a way that seems right), but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

And I think we can really paraphrase that verse and contextualize it for our application here and I think it would be fair to put it this way, “There’s a way that seems right to couples but in the end it leads to divorce.” Because that’s what we’re seeing.

The Research

This isn’t Christian or biblical research. This is secular research. University of Wisconsin reports that those who live together before gettingcohabitation 5 married and then get married have a 75% divorce rate. They also found out that 15 out of every 100 cohabiting couples who are living together right now, only 15 out of every 100 will eventually get married and 10 years from now 85% of them won’t be married. And they just conclude that really this isn’t a good way to prepare for marriage. This is secular research and God is like, “Yeah, because I gave you these directions way back when.”

And the Bible tells us in numerous places about guarding the sacredness of marriage. Hebrews 13:4, Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. (Message) God’s oneness, this one man, one woman becoming one is really a beautiful gift that God gives us as a husband and as a wife but it has to be protected. It’s got to be guarded, that if we treat it lightly we lose out on what God wants for us. And so in his directions God said, “Look you’ve got to protect this. You’ve got to guard this. It valuable and sacred.”

And I’m sure Solomon thought, well maybe the next one, maybe the next one, maybe the next one. But the irony is that the more he added the less likely he was to discover the joy of that intimate relationship that he so desperately longed for. So you get to the end of his story and do you know what Solomon says at the end of his story, “I should have followed the directions. I should have done things God’s way.”

Thoughts?

(Adapted from “The King who had it all” by Kyle Idleman)

Your “Third Week Of March”

bathshebiaWhen Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered the web address http://www.BenedictXVI.com, thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing some to question what the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.

Cadenhead didn’t ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a few things he would trade for: 1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel. 2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop’s hat). 3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.1

Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987? Me too, but does it really matter? Most of us have at least a week for which we’d love to have total forgiveness.

We discover in The Story that David did. One day when the army is at war, David, who is the commander of the nation’s military, neglects his duties and stays behind. He sees Bathsheba, seduces her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband, and tries to cover up his actions by deceiving his general and soldiers. Then he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child.

It looks as if David will get away with all of this. But he doesn’t. God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David by telling him a story about a poor man with one lamb. David knows something about sheep and shepherds, so he listens. Nathan says that the poor man has a rich neighbor who needs to slaughter a lamb to feed a guest, but instead of taking one of his many sheep he steals the poor man’s one lamb.

David is incensed and says that man should be put to death. Nathan then declares, “You are the man!” At that moment David must have david repentswished he had bought a domain name that he could swap for absolution. He may have wanted to make excuses. Explain things away. Blame it on Bathsheba for taking a bath in broad daylight where he could see. But instead of making excuses, David confesses. “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).

And God did with David’s sin what he will do with yours and mine. He put it away (Psalm 103:12-13).

You can do what David did. Whatever your “third week of March” might be, sit down with it, yourself and God. Confess your sin. And then let another shepherd from Bethlehem forgive it. That’s better than any domain name you might secure.