Cleansing Waters

Genesis 6: 17

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.

Was the flood an act of grace? Does that sound like a ridiculous question? I received a comment mixed in with the prayer requests this week. The author was perplexed at how God could “kill” so many people especially since murder is a sin. It set me to thinking and hence the question I first posed.

How would you analyze this problem? Well, I began by knowing that God is love. If you believe the story of the great flood is true, then do you also believe 1 John 4: 8, “God is love”? I do believe God is love, that His very essence is this thing called love. I also believe that He can do nothing apart from His essential self, love. How, then, can this loving Father have been responsible for the great flood?

I believe it was an act of grace and as you study the Bible, I think you will see more of this. The earth was in bad shape. In fact, it was on the brink of catastrophic destruction. When Satan rebelled and was cast from heaven a host of angels went with him. Later, these spiritual beasts decided that human women were beautiful and so visited earth and fornicated with human women. The result was a race of people who were violent and evil. They killed off many of God’s people and rained havoc in the earth. They would have destroyed everything God created, including humanity, had God not intervened. Only by destroying life on earth could He save it. Therefore, it was because God loved human beings that He sent the flood.

What do you think? Can you see how grace, love and mercy forced God to act in a dramatic fashion? Had He not acted, none of us would be here today as the entire human race would have been wiped out.

When you try to figure out God and the events in the Bible, look for love. The love signature will always reveal the truth of these events.

Anger to Compassion

Psalm 56: 7

They don’t deserve to get away with this! Look at their wickedness, their injustice, Lord. In your fierce anger cast them down to defeat.

This verse stands alone well enough but take in consideration the previous two days’ verses because all three of these have been from Psalm 56. David said that people attacked him, plotted against him and twisted his words against him, hounded him, slandered him and sought his life. He had it pretty rough and surely, he was angry and wanted vengeance. He wanted God to punish them for what they did to him. I’ve been angry like that before too and I’ll wager you’ve been in a similar situation at some time in your life. Sometimes you just want God to pay them for what they’ve done, you want them to get what they deserve. Oh, but God has introduced us to a new way of life. It is a life full of God’s compassion and forgiveness.

David wanted God to make those people suffer for all the wrongs they did to him. We know David knew God personally so he would have known God is compassionate and eager to forgive. David’s songs reflect his own experience with God’s unending mercy. Why, then, would David pray for an angry out lash from God?

There is some basis for David’s prayer. In Chronicles God warned, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm,” (1 Chronicles 16: 22). David probably meets the requirements of each of those offices, and he was the king designate, anointed by Samuel. David respected the office of king, prophet and those anointed by God. He wouldn’t harm Saul even though many would have thought him justified simply because Saul was the king who was appointed by God. David did want God to strike his enemies though. However, God doesn’t have to send a lightning bolt from heaven to strike those who touch his anointed. God’s warning was given as a protection measure just as you warned your children not to touch the hot burner on the stove. God’s anointing carries protection with it so that when someone harms the anointed, there is a backlash against the offender. God doesn’t have to unleash His anger. The anointing is potent enough.

David was angry and wanted God to strike those who harmed him, but he probably also knew that their own acts would betray them. Seeds of aggression always bite the aggressor. Always! Sometimes it appears they have gotten away with it, but it isn’t true. Those offensive acts, like a snake, turn and bite the hand of the wielder. That is why we should pray for these people. As much as we don’t want to, as surely as they don’t deserve it, they need God’s grace and mercy more than anyone. If they have harmed you, plotted against you or twisted your words, they have an axe of doom hanging over them, an axe of their own making, no doubt but a sharp, severing blade none the less. They have sown the seeds of their own demise. Pray for God’s great compassion to wrest them from their deserved harvest. Let your heart feel compassion for them because they are truly wretched, pitiful creatures. Pray that God’s forgiveness and mercy will save them.

God’s heart is not for punishment but for rather for saving grace. He doesn’t want to vent His anger. He wants to redeem. You are His beloved and anointed. Use your standing to save those who have brought the curse on their own head. They don’t deserve kindness and forgiveness but then, neither did we.

Peter and Judas

Mark 14: 10

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them.

Have you ever wondered about the disciples’ reaction to Judas’ betrayal? Jesus was amazingly nonchalant about it but then, he knew it had to be. I wonder about the Sons of Thunder though. I cannot imagine them taking it well. What about Peter? He was not one to keep his feelings hidden. Remember that he drew his sword when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. His intention was clear. He meant to fight for Jesus’ freedom. What do you suppose Peter said about Judas?

As I was reading recently that idea captured me. We can be snared by our own judgments of others. Truly, it is hard to live without judging people but that is exactly what Jesus told us to do (Luke 6: 7). Refraining from judging others is how we avoid being judged ourselves, but it must have been very hard for the other eleven disciples to contain their criticism of Judas. I imagine harsh words were spoken.

Jesus said to Peter, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me,” (Luke 22: 4). When that rooster crowed, Peter was grieved down to his bones. He, like Judas, failed Jesus. He must have felt like a traitor himself. Maybe he had been very critical of Judas. We probably wouldn’t be surprised. At the moment of his own betrayal of Jesus, did he cringe at the words he spoke about Judas? Did he regret his words? Did he, for a moment, see into Judas’ delusion?

Look at it the other way. Maybe Peter kept his criticism of Judas to himself. Then, in the moment of his failure, I can imagine that he would have been very happy that he kept his condemnation of Judas to himself.

The grace we extend others is the grace we get to draw upon when we fall flat on our faces, which, we all do. We don’t want to fail Jesus any more than Peter wanted to but in the hour of his trial, he just couldn’t help himself. His fear got the better of him as it could any of us. We don’t condemn Peter because we know we might have failed too. Judas’ is a tragic character who realized the great error in his thinking and his actions. He betrayed the Son of God and that realization destroyed him.

None of us will ever so graphically betray Jesus but we have our own ways of letting him down. When I think of Peter possibly criticizing Judas and then having his denial of Jesus recorded for all the world to read over and over again, it makes me shudder. I know I am no better. I am glad no one is putting the account of my discipleship in the Bible for everyone else to read, but I have to ask myself, “Am I any better a steward of God’s grace than Peter was? How many times have I failed Jesus dramatically?” Sometimes it is really hard to extend grace to people. Let’s be honest, there are some real jerks out there and some of them even call themselves Christians. The question becomes, am I treating them like Jesus treats people or am I judge, jury and executioner?

I hope walking in Peter’s shoes for a few moments will help you think through this difficult subject. I do not mean that you should cease to check people’s fruit. I am not saying you should pretend they are not acting in ways that Jesus does not sanction. I am just saying that we should pray for them A LOT and keep our judgments to ourselves. You don’t have to hang out with them, you definitely do not sanction their bad behaviors. That would be bad. We don’t have to be in denial about their bad acts, but we don’t have to make a sport of them either. Just don’t gossip about them. Don’t criticize them. Keep your mouth from sinning. Don’t put yourself in the position of condemning them because as you judge, you too will be judged. Let them answer for their sins, but keep your mouth from judgment so that you will not be in their shoes later.

Keep Your Rock

John 8: 3 – 11

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no on condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”

The moral of this story may be “Take care at whom you throw rocks.” This woman (and presumably her partner) was caught in sin. They violated one of the Ten Commandments. Borrowing a bit from David Letterman, I like to call the Commandments God’s Top Ten List. So, there was no gray area here. They had broken the letter and the spirit of the law. But Jesus’ coming ushered in a new way of thinking about sin and grace.

Take care when you begin to throw rocks at others. Be careful about judging them for you may find all too quickly that Jesus is taking you to task over your judgment. He gave us one commandment and that is to love. I doubt you can stand in judgment and love at the same time. Besides which, none of us has been called to sit on the throne of judgment. That is God’s job alone. So even if someone is in such an obvious sin as adultery, mind your attitude. Pray for them (not about them). Ask God to save them and rescue them. Ask for his grace and mercy to cover them at the same time. Before you cast the first stone remember the times that God’s mercy has covered you because you weren’t perfect either. Pray people into grace rather than condemning them to hell or you may find yourself in the same shoes as these Pharisees; standing in opposition to Jesus.

And finally, if you are the one in sin, there is great grace and mercy for you but take note. Jesus’ last comment to the woman was to “sin no more.” He didn’t just turn a blind eye towards her behavior. Don’t use God’s grace and mercy as an excuse to keep on in sin. Don’t kid yourself. Get yourself right and thank God for his everlasting mercy.

Save the Wicked

Psalm 10: 15

Break the arm of the wicked and evil person. Punish his wickedness until you find no more.

This doesn’t seem a very Christian concept, does it? Yet, I wager most of us have felt the emotions articulated by this psalmist. You may wish to read the entire psalm, it isn’t long, in order to get the full flavor of this psalmist’s sentiments. He sees the poor and down trodden, the innocent, taken advantage of. He witnessed the arrogance of the wicked and their boasts that there is no God. No wonder in the last verses he adjures God to “Rise up.”

Why doesn’t God reach out his hand against these wicked people? Why doesn’t he just wipe them from the earth. I perceive two reasons why God does not simply obliterate them. First, He is love. If you know God and know that He is love, then that is always the first answer. Everything He does is colored by love. He wants these people saved rather than condemned. He wants all people to come to the full knowledge of His saving grace.

Second, He wants to give us room to exercise the authority He has given us. It sometimes appears that He is standing far off, but He actually is acting. He is nudging us, through His Holy Spirit, to defend the oppressed. We have been given the victory in Jesus and God’s plan is that we would enforce that victory. We have the sword of the Spirit and another mighty weapon, prayer. God is attempting to grow up His children so that we can take over the family business, now and through eternity. He has ministering spirits standing by, ready for action whenever we exercise our Kingdom Authority. That authority enables us to save the wicked and redeem the persecuted. We are not administrators of hate but rather of love and love is the most powerful force in the universe.

Pull out your sword and defend the weak. Wield your weapons and save the heart which is turned away from God for that is a brokenness that can be repaired by love.

Plea for Mercy

Psalm 6: 2 – 4              (TPT)

Please deal gently with me; show me mercy, for I’m sick and frail. I’m fading away with weakness. Heal me, for I’m falling apart. How long until you take away this pain in my body and in my soul? Lord, I’m trembling in fear! Turn to me and deliver my life because I know you love and desire to have me as your very own.

A friend of mine turned me on to the Passion Translation and I am so glad she did. I really love to read the psalms from it. I think you may be able to see why.

Have you ever felt like this, felt like you were falling apart both body and soul? I have and so I can relate to David’s cry for help. David had something many of us have not fully realized. He knew that God wanted him as His very own. Isn’t that a heartwarming thought? Can you truthfully say the same thing about yourself? I know it is true. God treasures you, but do you know it?

If you know that God loves you and desires to have you as His very own, does that give you greater confidence that He will answer your prayers? David was confident. Verses nine and ten from the God’s Word translation demonstrate this, “The Lord has heard my plea for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be put to shame and deeply shaken with terror. In a moment they will retreat and be put to shame.” He really did trust that the Lord would meet whatever need presented itself. I can imagine David standing before his enemies saying, “In a moment you will retreat and be put to shame!” I think he believed it that strongly.

What will you say? What will you declare when you look into the mirror this morning? Do you believe the Lord will restore your soul? Is He going to heal your body? Will your enemies turn and flee in terror? Your declaration determines whether these are truths in your life or simply wishes. What is God’s role in your life? Is He a partner or a spectator?

Get excited about the God of your life. Meditate on His love and desire for you. Let that thought fill you. He will hear your plea for mercy and help and rush to your aid. That is the Father, your real father, the one who created you before the beginning of time.

Who is Your God?

Ruth 1: 13, 21         GW

My bitterness is much worse than yours because the Lord has sent me so much trouble. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi when the Lord has tormented me and the Almighty has done evil to me?

This is classic Old Testament confession. The people of those times didn’t have the years of history we now have, nor did they have the written Word. They are the history we read. They didn’t know about Satan. They actually knew very little about the Holy Spirit. Of course, they didn’t know Jesus. How different their experience is than ours. When something happened, either for good or for ill, the only cause had to be God.

It chagrins me more than I can express to tell you the whole truth in this regard for I have found that we are not that far removed from our ancestral roots. Despite the years of experience of the saints, the coming of Jesus, the sending of the Holy Spirit, page upon page of revelatory writing by the prophets, disciples and apostles, we still hold very close to Naomi’s confession.

Recently, I attended a prayer breakfast for the National Day of Prayer. It was a great event. One of my friends, though, said something that bothers me. He told me about a gentleman with cancer then followed up by saying that He thought God used disease to help us grow. After all, he told me, we don’t grow in the mountain top experiences but in times of trouble.

Well, first of all, I don’t believe that is true for me. I find my greatest extensions on the mountain top communing with Jesus. Under intense stress, I withdraw and that is not where I find growth. His statement really hurt my heart and I pointedly did not agree with him. I told him that I believe God is good and that He is good all the time. Moreover, God doesn’t have cancer in heaven to give us. To which he remarked, “Yeah, there are no tears in heaven.” There is a revelation in there. We agreed that regardless of the cause, we know he who is the answer.

I am still bothered by this dynamic though because I hear it more frequently than I hear statements of faith and belief in a loving God. Or are people saying that God loves them so much that He gave them cancer so they would grow? That seems ludicrous to me. After thousands of years, the Messiah and the Holy Spirit, we still sound like Old Testament people who knew no better. We are Old Testament believers when we should be thinkers who have been renewed by the gracious good news gospel of Jesus Christ. Will someone give me an Amen!?

There is death and doubt in our churches and if that doesn’t pain you perhaps we should be asking why. Why are we claiming calamity in the name of God Almighty, the merciful? We are no longer ignorant. Are we? We know there is a devil out there and that his full intent is to rob, kill and destroy (John 10: 10). How is it, then, that when we see destruction, death and robbery we attribute it to God?

Somewhere along the line, each of us needs to decide; do we believe in a good God, one who is merciful and full of lovingkindness or do we believe in a cruel task master? Who is your God? That is the question. Let me introduce you to mine. He is love – all the time. He wants to protect and keep you. He said He has good plans for you, plans for your well-being rather than calamity, a plan for hope and for a future (Jeremiah 29: 10). That verse cannot be reconciled with a God who gives you cancer. So decide. Who is your God?