ramblings from the noisedoctor

August 17, 2009

and what do you do the rest of the year???

Filed under: Bible study, Christianity — noisedoctor @ 4:47 pm

I was traveling this past Sunday and was unable to get to our church. As I was driving, I was listening to a local Christian station (a really good one) and they had a church service on. I had never heard this church before (there is one on that station that we often listen to on the way to church which is really good). One thing caught my attention. I may not quote it precisely, but I think this is what the pastor said:

Today we’re going to continue with our summer series to get into the Word of God.

um… You’re the pastor of a church and you need a special series to get into the Word of God? So the rest of the year, you get into… what exactly?

I know there are a lot of churches that don’t really focus on “The Word” in their services. I grew up in one (they’d read 3 short passages and then the pastor would speak about some topic that maybe related to the verses). I guess I was really surprised to hear it on the radio. But, I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised–just disappointed. I am so thankful that I found a church that goes verse-by-verse through the scriptures.

April 21, 2008

what if i don’t want to be happy?

Filed under: Bible study, Christianity, infertility — noisedoctor @ 8:41 am

I’ve been trying to get caught up on some of the recent teachings by John Piper from the book of Romans. He’s been talking about Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…” He mentioned a quote by Jeremy Taylor:

God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy.

That really piqued my interest. I wanted to research that a little bit, so I found a reference on Piper’s site to a verse that Taylor was referring:

Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity… Deuteronomy 28:47 (NIV)

I know that verse continues on into a specific list of repercussions for Israel’s disobedience. Yet I think that there are lessons for me to learn in there. My gut reaction is that God is saying something between, “I gave you all of this, and you won’t be happy?” and “what is it going to take to make you people happy?”

Though I have plenty of room left to grow, I think that’s an area of my life where I have grown a great deal over the past few years. I think this was particularly evident in the 18 months where my wife and I were unsuccessfully trying to conceive a child. Yes, there were times I was bummed and frustrated, but overall I made conscious choices to be happy and joyful.

I learned to appreciate other things in my life more: my three nephews, my wife, the wonderful house and property I have, etc. Yes, I didn’t have what I was hoping for the most at that time, but how infinite the other blessings I had. Why should I sit and mope until I get that one desire?

Now that we do have the child that we so hoped and prayed for, I think that I am even more joyful and happy. I think that I notice, appreciate, and praise God for little things that would have never caught my attention before.

I don’t recall the exact situation, but I was talking to someone recently about my son. I mentioned how good he was, how well he was sleeping, and things like that. This person asked if he got fussy. I said that all babies get fussy, and he was no exception. I forget exactly what this person said, but it was something to the effect of, “I bet there are times you wish you could trade him in,” (or “send him back” or something similar). I didn’t even have to think before I replied, “never, not once.” I think that’s because I’ve started to learn to live happy by choosing to be happy. I’m not waiting to “feel” happy. I’m looking for the positives, the blessings in my life and just being happy.

I have a long way to go, many more blessings to recognize and praise God for, and many, many other areas in which to grow, but I hope I never hear the Lord say to me, “Because you did not serve Me joyfully and gladly in your time of prosperity…”

January 30, 2008

turning down help

Filed under: Bible study, Christianity — noisedoctor @ 10:06 am

When you’re doing almost any kind of work/project and someone offers to help, it’s very natural to accept. Of course, there are exceptions there–most notably when small children are involved. But when the project is something important, particularly something you are doing for God, it’s not wise to accept help without careful consideration.

In my experience, I’ve seen problems arise time and again when help has been offered by people:

  • who aren’t really skilled in that area
  • who aren’t really dedicated to the “cause”
  • who are big on getting their way
  • etc.

Today I was reading Ezra 4, which brought this all to mind. The Jews were ordered to go and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans were opposed to this, and tried to get in on the project so they could sabotage it.

Ezra 4:1-2 (NIV)
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

This made me think. If I were out there with this mammoth task of rebuilding the temple and folks came and offered to help, saying they were seeking God, how would I have reacted? My initial thought probably would have been “Wow. Great. More help, that’s wonderful.” I hope that I would have taken up that matter to God in some heavy-duty prayer before responding, though. I usually do in big matters like that. But, how tempting just to accept without talking it over with God?

Yet, it’s interesting that the heads of Israel didn’t even need to pray about this matter. They simply turned down the offer:

Ezra 4:3 (NIV)
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

To me that shows that they understood their mission and knew it was their job to do it. We can speculate whether that was out of faith in God or a strict adherence to the command of King Cyrus. Either way, they were firm in their commitment to building the temple and weren’t easily swayed by an offer of help simply to lighten their work load.

This is something I want to remind myself of next time I’m involved in some work for God. I think one thing I’ve noticed as a social trait in the churches/Christian groups I’ve been involved in is that we’re afraid to turn someone down: “oh, we don’t want to hurt their feelings” or “the more the merrier” or “maybe God can actually use this person in this situation.” Yes, we need to be careful not to hurt people’s feelings or be exclusive, etc. But, just welcoming the help without consideration and prayer–that’s just unwise.

In the case of the Israelites in Ezra 4, accepting this offer of help would have hurt their work. Obviously Satan was behind the deception there as he tried to oppose the work of rebuilding the temple. I’m not suggesting that Satan is behind every offer of help we get as we do our “Kingdom work” but, we should be careful. I know I want to be careful and take these situations to God.

January 26, 2008

God uses those who don’t even know Him

Filed under: Bible study — noisedoctor @ 8:50 am

I’m reading the book of Ezra. I know, not on everyone’s top 10 list from the Bible. Heck, not that long ago, I had the woefully misconceived notion that “Wasn’t Ezra a woman? It sounds like a woman’s name.” Having gotten my facts a little more in order, I thought I should read the book.

The first chapter begins thusly:

Ezra 1:1-4 (NIV)
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:

2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you — may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'”

I found Matthew Henry’s commentary on these verses quite interesting (emphasis mine):

Whence this proclamation took its rise. The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus. Note, The hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord, and, like the rivulets of water, he turneth them which way soever he will. It is said of Cyrus that he knew not God, nor how to serve him; but God knew him, and how to serve himself by him, Isa 45:4. God governs the world by his influence on the spirits of men, and, whatever good is done at any time, it is God that stirs up the spirit to do it, puts thoughts into the mind, gives to the understanding to form a right judgment, and directs the will which way he pleases. Whatever good offices therefore are, at any time, done for the church of God, he must have the glory of them.
(from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

This, of course, prompted me to look up Isaiah 45:4 (emphasis mine):

Isa 45:1-6 (NIV)
1 This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: 2 I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places,so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. 4 For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, 6 so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.

God said he would work through Cyrus, even though Cyrus didn’t know Him. And, it wasn’t just for some random “hey, I’m God, and I can do whatever I want” thing–it was another instance where God decided to act to show that He is indeed God.

I’m sitting here thinking how awesome that is. But I’m also thinking: God, I don’t want to make it so You have to act in spite of me, I want You to act through my submission to you–but all for Your glory, not mine.

June 27, 2007

who are you to talk back to God?

Filed under: Bible study, Christianity — noisedoctor @ 7:27 am

I was reading in Romans this morning. It’s a book I’ve read several times–probably my favorite book in the Bible. This section really jumped out at me. I always cringe when I hear people say things like: “I can’t believe God would do that” or “I can’t believe that God would make us like that” or “I can’t believe God wouldn’t allow everyone free will.” In this passage, Paul emphatically challenges those sorts of statements, implying that anyone speaking in such terms has an inflated sense of his/her importance.

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?‘” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

Rom 9:10-21 (NIV) [emphasis mine]

When I hear people say these things (in the first paragraph above), I can’t help but think that they are trying to conform (or make) God into their image of who “God” should be, rather than spending time in the Bible trying to learn who God really is. Saying “That’s not what I want God to be like” or “I couldn’t believe in a God that does that” really doesn’t change God in any way. It’s much like me saying, I can’t believe that my state government would ever (insert action here). My saying that wouldn’t suddenly cause my state government to blink into nothingness or reverse an action they had taken just because I can’t fathom them doing a certain thing. That’s just reality and I can choose to believe it or deceive myself.

March 24, 2007

why do we perform good deeds?

Filed under: Bible study, Christianity — noisedoctor @ 8:46 am

If you are a Christian, then you should have a desire to good deeds. But why is that? Or, I guess what I’m asking is what is the motivation there?

Do we want to “pay back” God for our salvation? Do we truly desire to be more righteous? Do we want to glorify God? Or, do we think that we can “win souls” to Christ?

I’ve heard lots of people through the years say that they’re trying to “win souls” to Christ. They want to exhibit “Christ-like” behavior in order to make an impression on people so they’ll be open to accepting Christ. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.

Well, this all came to mind this morning as I was reading in Matthew:

[Jesus said] “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matt 5:14-16 (NIV)

This is from the so-called Sermon on the Mount, right after the Beatitudes. Why does Jesus ask us to perform “good deeds?” Yeah, so that people “praise your Father in heaven.” Not so that souls are won. Not so that you feel good about yourself. So that God the Father is glorified.

March 15, 2007

who do you pray to? (and in whose name?)

Filed under: Bible study, Christianity, soapbox — noisedoctor @ 7:31 am

(apologies to the grammatical purists if the title should start with “To Whom do you pray”)

I have two things that mildly bother me about the way some Christians (including several pastors and other church leaders while leading their church congregations) pray.

  1. Praying to Jesus, or mixing the recipient through the prayer: Jesus, God, Father, etc.
  2. Ending the prayer “in your name we pray.”

(more…)

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