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Friday, June 13, 2014

Patience of God

I stared at the lawn mower, breathing heavily.  A single bead of sweat rolled down my face and in my current state of frustration even the gentle tickle across my cheek drove me to new levels of fury.  I picked up the small reel mower over my head and paused, muscles tensed, my face the pure picture of barbarian anger that is entirely unique to modern man’s experience with difficult technology.
Pictured: Me, with barbarian fury.
I was going to make this mower pay dearly for what it had done to me.

With a (imaginary) battle cry, I hurled the mower across the yard, picturing vividly a scene of masochistic dominance over the (inanimate object) enemy that had dared to defy me.  I asserted my will and reestablished my place as the master of my household.  Let my other tools see my fury and shrink back in fear.
"Save us from his righteous wrath!!!"
Let me explain why I was angry.  My reel mower is a piece of crap.  I bought it because it was cheap and I have a tiny yard, so I figured a gas mower was unnecessary.  What I found, though, is that the reel mower is regularly foiled by such obstacles as rocks, stumps, large sticks, small sticks, twigs, particularly crunchy leaves, dandelions, other weeds, and grass.  At some point, I ran out of patience.

The lawn mower survived its two foot flight, fortunately, because I still needed it.  Granted, it deserved its fate.  But all humanity is protected from a fate we deserve because of the greatest patience the world has ever seen.  I’ll pause for a moment to let you admire that segue.

Pictured: You, admiring.
God’s patience is something that astounds me whenever I think about it.

Now, my first thought when thinking about God’s patience is that it can’t be quite the same as human patience.  After all, one key element of human patience is being at peace with the passage of time.  Time is precious to us because—at least from our earthly human perspective—we only have a limited supply of it.  It is the ultimate limited resource and we value it highly.  Like many of the things that change when we become children of God, patience starts with recognizing that this life is not all there is.  Once we begin thinking and living in the context of eternity our habits should start to change and patience should follow. 

Because you’re reading my blog, though, studies indicate that you are above average in intelligence and also incredibly handsome (or beautiful).  Because of this superior intelligence (I would like to reiterate that this is very common among people who follow this blog—I’m not saying reading my blog causes great intelligence, but you never know . . . .) you may realize that God is not bound by the confines of time and has omniscience.  That means that patience isn’t quite the same thing to God as it is to humans.

The words used in the Bible to convey patience convey a sense of “long-suffering”, of being slow to anger.  You can see this connotation in verses like 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:20, Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22.  What does an infinite God have to be patient about?

Unfortunately, the answer is humans.  We have rebelled against God for the entire existence of our species, save for a short precious time at the very beginning.  From the beginning, God promised that the result of rebellion is death.  But He remained patient, again and again, and instead of destroying us like He was in the right to do, He crafted a beautiful salvation to free us from the worst consequence of our rebellion.  Keep in mind, we weren’t just breaking some rules.  Every time we sin, we are effectively telling God that we would rather die than live eternally with Him.  Humans have spit in His face, both literally and figuratively, and even Christians do it on a regular basis.  Think for a moment how long it’s been since you last rejected God.  Odds are, it hasn’t been that long when you consider that sin is rejection. 

Patience is a characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13:4) and like no human can love like God, no human can have patience like God.  No human can withstand constant rejection and active hostility for their entire lives with such great patience.  Despite our constant rejection and our constant hostility, though, what did God do when He came to earth?  He looked over the city that was about to do physically what they had done in spirit for thousands of years cried.  He cried for the people who had rejected Him and would crucify Him.  I can’t help but come very close to the same thinking of the scene.

I'll just leave this here.
Take a moment and reflect on God’s patience and long-suffering, and think about what in your life is testing that patience.  Though if you are a Christian you cannot exhaust either the love or patience of God, does it befit us as adopted children of God to continue to test it?  Realistically, we are a work in progress until the day we die (Phillipians 1:6), but that doesn’t mean that we cannot strive to fulfill our purpose as servants, slaves, and indeed children of God. 

Starting with being more loving towards my lawn mower.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Beginning With The Gospel

In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.  he created man and woman and a perfect world for them to care for and have dominion over.  They walked with God Himself, learned about the universe from the One who created it.  Yet they decided to question God--essentially rejecting His authority and therefore separating themselves from Him.  It wasn't that they ate an apple--they chose knowingly to rebel against God.  This was the first sin, that is, an act of rebellion against God.  The result of that was exactly was exactly what Adam and Eve had been warned.  Death entered into the world.

Maybe Adam and Eve didn't understand what death was because they had never seen it happen before.  What were their thoughts when they saw the first thing die in front of them to provide them with clothing?  With that image and the knowledge that the entire creation--the creation that was their job to oversee--was doomed to the same, it must have been heart-wrenching.  Worse, they were cut off from the presence of God.  They, like all of their descendants, were created to be with God and the emotional strain of their purpose and meaning being torn away from them must have been brutal.  Since the first two humans first tried so long ago, mankind has been trying and failing to create its own purpose and meaning to replace what it lost.

God cannot allow anyone who has rebelled against Him to join Him.  He prescribed the punishment as eternal death long ago and He must keep His word, because He is perfect.  God did not respond to mankind's rebellion the way a human would, though.  He responded in perfect love.

Becoming a man Himself, He took the full punishment of mankind's rebellion on Himself.  As a man He could pay and as God His death was enough to pay for everyone.  With Jesus dying on the cross, our debt to God was paid.  With His resurrection, our meaning and purpose was restored.  We can join Him.

See, a lot of people don't see any need for God.  This is especially true in countries like America, where we are very secure financially and physically compared to much of the world.  We think that we can live by the power of our own strength.  And that is true, to an extent, but consider this:

I mentioned that God is holy and nothing impure or anything that has rebelled can join Him.  Now, God judges us by our intentions, our attitudes, our internal thoughts more than by our external actions.  The right deed for the wrong reasons is reprehensible.  It also carries the same punishment because all sin, big and small, is a symptom of the larger sin of rejecting God's rule.  This means lying, lust, jealousy, dishonest, anxiety, unkindness, and anything else short of perfect love and consideration for others.  That's basically what being holy is--perfect love and consideration for one another, caring more for each other than yourself.  None of us can meet that standard, so none of us can join God.  We cannot make up that deficiency once we have rebelled.  Because we've rejected God we are forever alienated from God unless He steps in and does  something about it Himself, of His own accord.  And that is where Jesus comes in.

If we believe that Jesus died and was resurrected for the payment of our own sins and seek to rejoin God through that payment, God considers our debt paid by that death.  This kind of belief, if honest, does involve a drastic change in attitude.  The Bible says that we are set aside by God to become His children, heirs to God's kingdom.  This is the good news of the Gospel.  This is the amazing love that Christians talk about--that God takes people who have openly defied Him and does immense work to bring them back to Him despite their indifference and open hostility.  If you are not a Christian, this is the amazing work of God that you should hear.  If you are a Christian, this is the amazing work of God that should bring back memories of who you were and what you've become and remind you of what He has done.  We cannot bring any message greater than the Gospel; we cannot write a greater story than this.