Romans 3:4 | God is Justified

Is God of the Bible true? Is God trustworthy? These are big questions that if they are to be answered then God himself would need to provide the answer. He can’t remain silent on this topic. The good news is that God has revealed himself and his nature to us that we may know for sure that he is true and that he is trustworthy.

4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” Romans 3:4 ESV

God is the standard and truth can be measured against him. God since the creation of the world has made himself known to human kind. If an individual denies that God exists or denies what God has done to reconcile humanity through Jesus Christ then that person is calling God a liar.

There are two ways God has provided truth and answered his critics. By denying these two truths we set ourselves against God and against our own existence.

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:19-20 ESV

First God has made himself known by the very complication and creativity of nature. Where there is a Creation there is a Creator. Where there are laws there is a Law Giver. We can deny that God created and we can invent all kinds of mechanisms for how life came about but none of them are truly satisfying because apart from God who operates separate from the Creation there is only fan fiction trying to figure out how creation created itself.

10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:10-12 ESV

Second God has made himself known through the person of Jesus Christ. God being true and wanting to reconcile with rebellious man came down in the form of a man, Jesus, and then paid the penalty of sin on our behalf. Rejecting this truth leaves the individual apart from God. Jesus came as nothing and left with nothing. Yet here we are thousands of years later still talking about his words recorded at that time. God’s truth and God’s outreach to humanity remain for us even today.

One may reject or accept Christ. There is no middle ground. God has not given us any other options. The good news is that God has provided a way to be reconciled to him. The even better news is that he has given us life in this Creation and the good news of Jesus to recognize his faithfulness. Now is the time of grace to accept his outstretched hand.

Romans 2:24 | Don't be a Jerk

I am not a people person. What I mean is that I am a shy introvert. I am more comfortable behind a keyboard than at a social gathering. Yet God has asked me to be uncomfortable and to reach outside my family to connect with others and be a people person. Sometimes I get shocked responses when I tell someone I am an introvert because in public I try to be friendly and personable to everyone. Years ago my wife and I opened our home to serve and host others in the community. I have learned much about reaching out and being welcoming to people I meet in the community. I am convinced that this is the duty of all those called by God and who take on the name of Christian. It is not hard. Listen more than you talk and take people as they are.

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome is warning the young church about judging because this kind of judgement causes separation. Paul does not want this church to be cut off from the community in Rome. Specifically, he addresses the Jews who are now Christian warning them to not bring the bad habits of their culture forward into the Church of Christ.

24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:24 ESV

William Barclay in his commentary of Romans paints a very unflattering picture of how the Jewish people were despised by the average Roman citizen. The Jewish people had all kinds of special dispensations given to them by the Roman government that other people did not have. Worse yet the Jewish people had a reputation for being rude and hostile to outsiders. For example, Barclay writes that Jewish peoples were allowed to honor the Sabbath. They flaunted this rule and made the Gentile community work around their schedule. The Jews were then called lazy by those inconvenienced. This Sabbath allowance extended even to the military. Because of the Sabbath rules Jews made for bad soldiers so they were exempt from conscription into the army. One might imagine the political ramification of such an unfair imbalance among the population. Reading the gospels, it is clear that the disciples did not like Rome and wanted Jesus to kick the Romans out but on the flip side the average Gentile did not like the closed community of Jews either. General unfriendliness went both ways.

6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ Exodus 19:6a

God intended that the Jewish people, the nation that He called and blessed would be a priest that could point the entire world toward God. Paul desired that the Church in Rome would be able to fulfill that role. Here Peter puts into words what Paul may have been thinking in his letter to Rome.

9 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. 10 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.11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 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 2:9-12 ESV

Today I try to live this kind of life before the community. I want more than anything for God to be glorified. I want the community I live into to know the grace and mercy that comes from God. Whatever good deeds I may do in service to others is motivated by my desire to glorify God. If you are called by God and claim the mantel of Christian then maybe it is time to host a party at your house for your neighbors. Be gracious and listen to them. You may just find Jesus at work in their lives. Maybe it is time for Christians to join Jesus at work.

Romans 2:1 | No Excuse Judgment

I would hate to be a judge. I can’t imagine presiding over a court where the judgment might alter life of an individual forever. Sentencing someone to life in prison is harsh. What kind of hope and what kind of future is that for the one life we have to live? Yet I do judge and I do condemn but thankfully I don’t have authority to imprison and thankfully some of the most judgmental people I know are not in charge. We should all be circumspect before writing others off or judging someone as not worth an effort of relationship.

Paul after detailing what a sinner looks like in Chapter 1 of Romans pivots on his audience and tells them to not to judge the sinner. Casually reading Romans his warning is well timed because right after the details on how people rebel against God and what that rebellion looks like my mind started to think of certain people or certain types of people that fall into these sinner categories. But that is not what Paul wants the reader to think so he drops a rebuke on that.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1 ESV

Lest I forget I am a sinner also Paul puts a hold on his narrative to warn the reader. Because when I go back to Chapter 1 I can find myself in this list.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Romans 1:28-31 ESV

I have gossiped. I have been greedy. I have been deceitful. I have been arrogant. I have been loveless. I could continue… So Paul provides a well-timed rebuke to me. Do not condemn others because you yourself are in the same boat. It is like two people in a life raft in the middle of the ocean and me pointing to the other person and saying “You are a looser and you are going to die in this raft.” When the same reality applies to me as the other person is the same situation.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:37-38 ESV

Jesus talks about my judgement toward others as a negative response. If all people are created in God’s image. If all people are descendants of Adam and Eve then no matter what they have done they are still of the same flesh and blood that I was made from. Jesus contrasts the negative judgment and condemnation done by me, with the restorative and positive of forgiveness and giving. Jesus is saying don’t judge your neighbor but forgive your neighbor because God has forgiven you. Give love and compassion to your neighbor because God has shown love and compassion to you. God wants not that we tear each other down but God wants his followers to build up.

Jesus then jumps into one of the most famous parables

41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:41-42 ESV

Look at how Jesus challenges the listener to get themselves right so they can help the other person. It is about building up. If I can only condemn and judge the other person to tear them down where is God in that? How is he glorified?

While I am not a judge (thankfully) there is a real judgement against all of us sinners. A righteous judgment that only God can give because only God is sinless and perfect.

7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Romans 2:7-8 ESV

Paul is telling us that as followers of Christ we must be persistent in seeking God’s glory and God’s kingdom and he tells us what that looks like by describing what a judgmental sinner looks like.

Self-Seeking: Judging others is selfish. God made us and saved us to reflect the love, the mercy, the grace, and the forgiveness he has poured out through Christ who is the perfect embodiment of love, selfless sacrifice, grace, and mercy.

Reject Truth: God has told us what is right and what is wrong. Yet those who are judged by God willfully reject his truth and what is right. By rejecting what is right they reject God. Christians do not judge others for rejecting truth we double down with more selflessness, more mercy, and more forgiveness as an overflow of what God has already given us.  

Follow Evil: It is never enough to reject God and God’s truth. It necessarily follows that by rejecting truth that those condemned by God will choose what is evil. There is no middle ground of neutrality. Following what is evil proves that God’s judgement is justified.

I am not here to judge but I know the Judge. I am not here to condemn but I do plead and witness to anyone who will listen how to meet the Judge’s standards. I am a witness to the good news that Jesus died taking on my shame and my sin to make me right before the Judge. That good news is available to all who would seek his glory.

Romans 1:8 | Faith Recognized

What kind of Christianity do you practice? Freewheeling anything goes or rigid rules driven judgements? Critics of Christianity paint Christians as cold judgmental rule keeping hypocrites and those that want Christianity portrayed in a positive light make Christianity out to be a love anything and everyone unjudgmental religion. Do either of those descriptions define Christianity for you? Reality is always more complicated than the caricature. If Christians should ever be painted in any light it should be as people of faith. People who trust God above all else.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. Romans 1:8 ESV

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome tells them that their faith is recognized all over the world. This church these Christians are recognized by their faith. What is the church in American recognized by? I am not one to travel the world so I can’t answer that question. I might guess American Christians are recognized as wealthy. If nothing else is true then Christians in America are generous. I think Christians are recognized for being political, for being worshipful, but would anyone say the Church is known for being faithful?

6 And [Abraham] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 ESV

God recognized Abraham, the father of faith, as faithful. Abraham simply trusted that God. Nothing is simple but the truth here is that Abraham has faith in God. We know that God’s love for Abraham and Abraham’s love for God is based on faith alone because this is hundreds of years before Moses and the Ten Commandments. Abraham had no rules or judgements to follow. He had only his relationship with God.

Many people view the God of Abraham’s time, the Old Testament, as a God of laws, wrath and judgements. Critics claim this God is not worthy of following. Yet Abraham found the God of the Old Testament as a trustworthy and faithful God. Yes, the Ten Commandments were given in the Old Testament and the law has its place speaking to us what is right and what is wrong but all of the Heroes of faith loved God and trusted him because of faith. They did not follow rules to follow rules. They listened to God and responded to him with humility and thankfulness.

Many others point to the God of the New Testament and say this is a God of love that approves of whatever we may want to do. Rules and laws have no meaning because God does not judge. This view of God is not faith. This is ignorance and it is deadly. Faith is a relationship with God the creator. Faith is a desire to follow the law because God promised that doing so, even when hard, would result in life. To obey and submit to Jesus is an act of faith and trust. Here is my prayer I have prayed many times and it is a reflection of what is in my heart. “Father, I want to live my way and according to what I see fit but God I will give up everything to follow you. I trust you even over my own heart. Help me be who you created me to be. Forgive me of my sins. I need you for life here and now but even more I need you for the life that is to come. Thank you, Jesus”.

17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17 ESV

I know the law, but I do not live by the law. I know God therefore I live by faith trusting him with both the small every day issues and the big major events. God is faithful. I pray that I would be known by my faith because that faith comes from God and it is a reflection of him.

Romans 10:8 | Spoken Commitment from the Heart

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This year will be the 19th anniversary that I have been married to my friend, companion, and wife. We have lived some awesome days and some incredibly blessed days together. These last few years have not been as much fun for various reasons but the stress has not separated us. We are still drawn to each other and we are still committed to this life God has given us together. We promised each other that we are committed to this marriage until God separates us in death. Thankfully God has given us much grace and mercy to follow through on that promise up to this day. In a world where opinions change daily, where people will change jobs every few years, and where marriages are fewer with more ending in divorce commitment seems to be tied directly to how we feel at the moment. Mad at your boss? Quit. Spouse not living up to your perfect expectations? Leave. Worse yet no attempt is even made to commit by many. The many commit to nothing dodging all responsibility or requirement to serve anything or anyone other than themselves.

There is one commitment that no one will be able to dodge forever and that is the commitment to Christ. No amount of self service and avoiding a commitment to others is possible in the end. God likes paradoxes. He has a rule that the person who serves others (the person who is last) will be the person most highly exalted (the person who is first). God also likes to set the example so he humbled himself and took on the form of man to serve all of humanity.

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8-11 ESV

Because Christ is the name above all others because he committed his very life to the world we should rightly submit to his leadership and authority. We should commit to him and his cause. When I married my wife 19 years ago I did so with the knowledge that this commitment would consume the rest of our lives. It was not a commitment taken lightly.

While I have been married for these 19 years I made a greater commitment even earlier in my life and that was to Christ. I acknowledged him as the King of kings and as the rightful owner of my service and devotion more than 30 years ago. This commitment while not fully understood at that time has grown over the years and the commitment has become even more powerful as I mature and more fully grasp the power and majesty of God.

My hope is that anyone and everyone reading these words would commit to Christ now in the time of grace. Saving grace is at hand already secured. Serve him freely and commit to his plan because he deserves the commitment. Christ will change your life for the better and for eternity.

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:8-10 ESV

There is only one way to make this commitment and that is by speaking out loud what is happening in your heart. The body and the spirit will agree with God who will then act to transform your selfishness into a new saved life that cares for others. It is a scary idea to give up your plans but really how is that going anyway? My plans and commitment to myself always ends in a mess of broken relationships.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 ESV

Romans 5:10 | Enemies Reconciled

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Life creates friends and enemies. Movies are made of the most epic friendships and enemies. Stories are told of war and the bond of brothers who fight enemies both physical and psychological. But even normal people like myself find that some relationships become estranged or alienated for minor reasons. Family relationships seem to be the effected for me. Why all the walking around on egg shells and not dealing with the situation because someone was hurt? Most of these hurts start unintentionally. I have done my best to reconcile hurts and slights that I have stumbled into but sometimes that is not enough so the relationship remains estranged and broken. I forgive and I move on with my life ready to restart the relationship if the other parties are ready.

My poor choices and selfish desires have also caused a rift between myself and the Creator. Paul in his letter to the Roman church states that my sins are greater than just a rift.

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:8-10 ESV

My choices and life have made me an “enemy” to God. I have destroyed the relationship and walked away from him. I have crossed the line and joined into a camp if not at war with God then ready to be at war. It is a harsh word to call someone an enemy but that is how God views the situation and my actions toward him and others demonstrate it is justified. The situation is epic and greater than any Hollywood movie could ever depict.

God however does something unexpected. Instead of treating me like an enemy He confronts the situation head on and he harbors no ill will. In fact God’s perfect love is demonstrated in the fact that he dies on a cross for me while we were still enemies and sinners. God covers over the offence. God restores me. Paul uses the word “reconciled” to describe what God has done. God’s love reconciled his enemies and no longer are they called enemies but sons and daughters is the plot line of this epic story.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV

God has done all the work. He has opened lines of communication. He has paid the price that justice demands. He has bridged the gulf of separation. If he would do this for us when we were enemies then now that we are reconciled how much more will he do? If you have not come home to Him and rejoined the family as a child of the one true Father then now is your time. One can state it no better than Paul does here “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”.

Self-Driving Cars: Programmed to Fail

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The next big life changing advancement in modern society must be the self-driving car. When I was growing up I thought cars would fly but that practicality has never materialized. The idea that a car could drive itself is even now at this moment something many may scoff at. Except the technology is already here. Cars are on the road driving themselves based on destination information provided by a user. The technology is being integrated into production cars at a fast pace. In production now are cars that will stop on their own to prevent a crash, cars that will parallel park themselves, and cars that auto pilot once on the interstate. This technology is a game changer. A car could be ordered and it would arrive at your location without the need for a driver to bring it. The application of the technology in long haul trucking or other businesses is far reaching. Proponents claim that computers will be safer than human drivers and that may well be the case at some point however self-driving cars will still never be perfect. There have been deaths in the past due to errors in the computer programming and there will be deaths in the future.

However, what is more interesting about this technology is that developers will need to make ethical choices in the computer logic. They have programmed the car in the right situations to crash endangering the driver verses a crash that might hit something else.

Self-Driving cars will never be perfect. They will always fall short of being perfectly safe. Just like the self-driving car that will never be perfect we are not perfect. We fall short before God’s perfect expectations.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23 ESV

It is a sad state that is hard accept. All have sinned. All are broken. All fail. All are second place. There is no way that we can be perfectly safe any more than 100 years of self-driving cars can be programmed to be 100% safe.

But God is better than the best programmers. Programmers are stuck working with the laws of physics and limited knowledge of what other cars or people are doing. So they must write code that could decide death for the passenger. God does not need to deal with the ethics of programming failure. God is literal perfection and his solutions will always be perfect. He knows all things so there are no surprises that he must account for. So what is the solution? How does God break out of our earthly failure to give us heavenly perfection?

21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. Romans 3:21-22 NLT

God’s solution, his heavenly perfect solution, is to save people apart of the laws that highlight our failures. No longer is second place a problem. No longer is my brokenness a hinderance. My sins are no longer held against me.  God has made me right when I placed my faith in Jesus Christ. It is not works, privilege, power, money, or family. Faith in Christ is freely available to all no matter where or in what time.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 ESV

Aliens Prove We are not Alone

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There have been a rash of aliens in the news the last few weeks. Not the terrestrial illegal kind Trump rails against but the little green men from another planet type. The mainstream media is growing a narrative that is breathlessly waiting on proof that “we are not alone”. Here are a few recent examples…

These speculative stories receiving attention from credible news organizations is new and it is a direct result of a popular worldview that society has been raised to accept. My prediction is that these “UFO” stories will only increase in the coming years and larger portions of society will be gripped in fear or will want to worship the supposed visitors.

The alien story line will grow in significance because of the dominant evolutionary view that if random life could evolve here on earth with the almost infinite size of the universe then statistically speaking there is no way we are alone. Taking that worldview to conclusion scientists began speculating on where to look for life in our own solar system. The first mainstream news stories that took on air of credibility occurred in the early 2000s where scientists, breathlessly claimed they had found microscopic life on a Martian meteorite.

The news was sensational like many scientific claims that are reported as fact only later to be proven wrong but the imagination is captured and NASA was in desperate need of new funding. Falling short of finding actual life the narratives started to focused on finding water. If there is water on this planet or that moon then it is possible that life could be found. This narrative became the staple for many years.

Being raised in an education system that assumes the animate sprang from the inanimate it is no wonder that many professionals both in the science community and in the journalism community would see this line of reasoning to be natural and acceptable. Taken to conclusion then seeing aliens in every unique or unexplained occurrence is not a far speculative leap especially when the media needs to sensationalize for clicks.

So where does the truth fall? Are there aliens is there life out there? The short answer is “Yes” and “No” depending on how one defines “life out there”.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1 ESV

God created everything. The universe and mankind. Could God have created Aliens and alien life? Yes of course, He is God and He can create anything including a universe so large it is not comprehensible to the human mind.

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. 5 Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? 6 What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone 7 as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7 NLT

The Bible tells us that he created Angels and Humans but is silent on any other “beings”. When one asks the question is there life out there the answer is Yes in that there is a spiritual world that interacts with our physical world and we know that God, Angels, and Demons (fallen Angels) mysteriously interact with our physical realities. Is there intelligent life on another planet that evolved then the answer is no. Did God create other planets with life like earth? The answer to that is also no with the caveat that God can do as he pleases. The reason that this is unlikely is the theological implications that intelligent life outside of angels presents to the complete framework of the Bible and the saving work of Christ.

Why was Jesus – Emmanuel, God with us, born? His mission is two fold. First is to save people from the curse of their sins. ‘Second Jesus will return to establish God’s kingdom and in order to establish God’s perfection all that we see today the physical realities must be undone and then recreated in an unblemished and un-cursed way.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:20-23 ESV

7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly … 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 2 Peter 3:7;10 ESV

If there are Aliens living on another planet in another galaxy then they have two unjust impacts placed upon them and that would be outside the character and nature of God. First they are forced to live in a universe that is cursed because of something Adam and Eve did on the day that SIN entered the world. God could have just cursed the Earth but he went further cursing the entire creation. Second when Christ returns Peter states that the universe will “pass away with a roar” and the earth will be consumed by fire and destroyed. The poor aliens who did nothing wrong and were placed under a SIN curse are now destroyed when Christ returns on Judgment day not ever knowing anything about this planet or God’s promises here. This is the Biblical narrative. The information that God himself wants us to know about how important we are. The vast universe was created so we might marvel at just how big and how powerful he is.

Maybe it is time for all of us to pause and give to God the adoration he is due and praise such a wonderful creator who came with a plan to save not only each one who calls on his name but also to restore everything that our sin broke in the universe.

God is not Fair

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An objection I hear from time to time is that God is not fair or he is unjust.  A great of example of this objection is when Abraham lies to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Because of the lie Pharaoh takes Sarah, Abraham’s wife and future mother of the nation of Israel, as his wife because Abraham told the Egyptians that Sarah is his sister. Because Abraham lies to the Egyptians God punishes the Egyptians with a plague. Here is the relevant passage that shows God’s supposed unfairness…

11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. Genesis 12:17-20 ESV

God justice is bigger than the lie of Abraham. Is Pharaoh innocently and righteously living before God? Absolutely not. Why did Abraham fear Pharaoh and decide to lie? Because Pharaoh is a treacherous man who may not be above killing another man to take that man’s wife. God is never unjust or unfair. Pharaoh is just as accountable to God as Abraham. Here a few examples of this higher idea from Jesus in the New Testament.

8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Matthew 20:8-14 ESV

The parable Jesus is telling is of workers who agreed to a wage and then were hurt when other who worked less received the exact same wage. It their mind it was an unfair distribution. Jesus responds that it is his right as the owner (God and Creator) to pay each as he sees fit. In addition, these workers agreed to work for that wage because it was a good wage. When we are comparing our lives with the lives of others discontent and “fairness” questions arise but that discontent is unjustified because God is always just. Here is another example of Jesus dealing with this “fairness”.

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:20-22 ESV

Peter asks Jesus what the fate of John would be. Peter wants to compare his own life to the other Disciple that is closest to Jesus. Refusing to answer the question Jesus insinuates “what does it matter to you?” or “Would you call my answer unfair and would it rob your joy?”. Jesus looks to Peter in the same way he looks to all of us and tells Peter “You follow me!” Stop using fairness and justice as an excuse to stay unengaged with God. Christ sees the full picture and he knows the father’s plans for each and every person. Truth be told if God was fair to each and every person all of us would be dead and punished in Hell for all eternity. Paul states it perfectly when he speaks about the wages of our sin leading to death. But God’s unfair gift is eternal life through Christ.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV

The Groans of Prayer

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Prayer is difficult for me because most of the time I do not like the answer. Even still I know God knows better than me and I have on many occasions been driven to my face on the floor before Him in anguish, pain, frustration, desire, and anger. Prayer in those moments has been raw and mostly wordless. Paul describes the prayers of the Holy Spirit on our behalf as groanings. Prayer for me at its most powerful moments might be described that way.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 ESV

The only other time this word for groanings is used in the New Testament is in Acts when Stephen who is about to be martyred is recounting the Jewish history to his accusers. Stephen says that God sent Moses to free the people after He heard their groanings within the bonds of slavery.

34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ Acts 7:34 ESV

We are simple people limited in time space to right now. Our vision is limited our knowledge is limited. How do I know what to pray for? How could I know what is right for me? When Israel prayed to God it was from desire deep within them to be free. God answered that through Moses but I guarantee none were praying for Moses to rescue them. So it is with us. How many times has God provided an answer that was not the way one would have solved the problem? The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and prays for us what we would want to pray for and about if we knew it.

Additionally notice the end of the verse in Romans “according to the will of God”. The Holy Spirit is not praying our will with a groaning. The Holy Spirit is praying for what we should be praying according to God’s will for us. The Holy Spirit is not groaning that I win the lottery because that is what I desperately want. A pastor of my youth once said that prayer is not the time that you change God’s mind but the time God changes yours. The more time you spend in prayer the more the mind of God through the Holy Spirit is revealed to you. Prayer results in a longing to be with God. Prayer before God shapes the person praying in the image of Christ. Prayer opens our eyes to the eternal perspective that this life is not our home. Our hope and expectations look to more than a job, spouse, kids, and money because we start to see the world through the eyes of God Himself.

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23 ESV

As we pray we start to groan with all of Creation with the realization that this world is temporary and there is a desire and anticipation for something better and more wonderful. The Holy Spirit aligns the heart with a desire for God and the things that are important to Him. The Holy Spirit testifies that we are children of God to whom we can cry out Father!

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:14-16 ESV

It is this groaning that leads people to become radical for God. The kind of people who quit jobs and move family to the ends of the earth. The kind of people who put family above worldly success. The kind of people who have love and compassion for the unlovable. Prayer of this kind is a dangerous thing that will make one ruined for ordinary self-absorbed living.