God in the Box

ark of the covenant

If you’re my age, you remember sitting in the movie theater and watching Indiana Jones.  Harrison Ford portrayed a rugged, good-looking, adventurous archaeologist drawn into a search for the illusive Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis found it.

The Bible says that God gave the golden Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites to remind them of His presence among them (Exodus 25:10-22).  Over time – and it didn’t take long – Israel began worshiping the symbol of God’s presence instead of worshiping God. They replaced God with the “box”.

God doesn’t come wrapped up in a pretty box, nor does He dwell in houses made with hands (1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1).

We face the same danger as the Biblical Israelites. We replace faith in God with faith in our faith. We worship our worship rather than the worthy One. Religious jewelry is worn to signify an outward appearance of godliness. Catchy tunes hide the empty words being sung from empty hearts. Church buildings become sacred places because we think that’s where God is. Sunday services are filled with safe and familiar ritual and repetition as if drawing near with our lips alone is sufficient. The symbols of Christ supplant Him.

He is too great to be stuffed into a box – even the Ark of the Covenant. God is more than all the ideas we have about Him, who He is, and what He does (Isaiah 55:8-9). And how fearful to think that He is right in front of us and we miss Him completely because we’re busy honoring the box instead of Him!

CS Lewis wrote in his book, Surprised by Joy:

God in His mercy kicks out the walls of the temples we build for Him because He wants to give us more of Himself …. My idea of God is not a divine idea.  It has to be shattered time after time.  He shatters it Himself.  He is the great iconoclast.  Could we not almost say that His shattering is one of the marks of His presence?

Rest for Your Soul

Rest for Your Soul<br />
Photo by Richard L Rice, 2014

In the Beginning, God created Adam and Eve as “good”, knowing nothing of evil (Genesis 1:27, 31). They were innocent.

He created mankind to have fellowship with Him. He walked and talked with the man and his wife so they could know Him intimately. God didn’t need their fellowship, for God is not dependent upon anyone for anything; He is the All-Sufficient One, but man needed God.

Then sin entered the heart of man. Adam and Eve disobeyed the commandment of God and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-5). The serpent suggested that God’s Word was not sufficient or complete. God was guilty of withholding something from the first couple: being like God, knowing good and evil. 

In an instant, Paradise was lost. The pair lost their home, their innocence, and their fellowship with God and each other. Rather than tending and cultivating the Garden, they would labor to live. There would be no rest. The struggle to survive would consume their existence (Genesis 3:17-19). Knowing the difference between good and evil wasn’t what Satan suggested, but it was exactly as God promised. It was death to everything they’d known.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus made an astounding offer. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

His promise isn’t rest from the labor of life, from hard work, or the struggle to survive. Christ’s promise is rest for your souls – not your bodies. His blessing is spiritual – not physical. His peace is the cessation of conflict between your soul and Him caused by sin. The offer is the restoration of a right relationship with the Father lost in the Garden of Eden.

One day, we shall find rest from the labor of this body (Romans 8:11, 29). Physical prosperity is not now; it comes in eternity. Today, however, is a day to experience the greater liberty: restful peace with God in your soul.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

The Cult of Personality

Mike Malone

I received the following email. It is provided here just as it was received, from a man I do not know, have never corresponded with, nor have any idea why he wrote me. The man, from Houston, Texas, is pictured above and attends the church of a popular television motivational preacher.

Dear sir I read your criticitizem of Joel Olestien.It seemed unjustified and made you appear very unChristian.Who do you think brings more people to Christ?who is more successful and who is a published author?i have this last month finally gotten to like Like the church enough attend regularly and be a part of the body.People like you are why I have stayed away all these years.Take you’re attitude and go join ISIS. You are nothing special.

Today, truth is determined by popularity. Church attendance substitutes for new birth. Godliness is based upon wealth. Worldly achievement is the measure of the Spirit. The Word of God is replaced by the slick speech of a snake oil salesman pawning feel-good half-truths. Redemption from sin in Jesus alone by grace with the promise of Heaven is replaced with here-and-now greed-fulfilling prosperity. It doesn’t matter what a person avows or teaches, image is everything. All the while, sound doctrine lies raped and disemboweled in the gutter.

This is an age of the personality cult. Mention that Jesus isn’t the eternal God or the only-begotten Son, that your words create reality and can knock God off His throne, that Jesus is not the only Way to God, that there are 9 members of the Godhead, reject the Trinitarian formula of water baptism, teach that Christ’s death on the cross didn’t save anyone or that you become a god at salvation, and the followers yawn**; question the un-Biblical teachings of their favorite television heroes and they will threaten to gun you down.

Any gospel that ignores the historic teaching of the Word of God also ignores the God who gave it!

Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17-18).

** Teachings of prominent tv personalities: Kenneth Hagin, Paula White, Jesse Duplantis, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, TD Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, and Creflo Dollar.

Greg Milliron’s Eternal Soul

Heaven or Hell

Pastor Milliron was one of my favorites. He was young. He had a pretty wife and a new baby. He also had a special way with us kids. Pastor Milliron contracted meningitis, and after a long hospital stay, committed suicide. All I knew was that his pain was so great, so unbearable, that he took his own life.

I grew up being taught that salvation was by grace, but staying saved was dependent upon my ability to please God through obedience. Growing up in such a church made Pastor Milliron’s mortal sin difficult for a boy to understand.

Since my days of childhood, I’ve discovered in God’s Word a few things about Him, His salvation, and His grace. These discoveries have convinced me that if God saves a man, He keeps that man’s soul, even if that man kills himself.

  • God chose whom He would save before the world was created (Ephesians 1:4-5).
  • God elects to salvation through grace apart from anything we would be, do, or ever could do (John 1:12-13; Romans 9:15-16; 11:6).
  • When God saves, He forgives all past, present and future sins; at the cross, all of your sins were yet future (Colossians 2:13).
  • When God saves, He predestines the elect to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29-30).
  • When God saves, He begins a work He completes to the praise of Hiw own glory (Philippians 1:7; Ephesians 1:6).
  • When God saves, He makes the redeemed His children; and once His child, always His child (John 8:34-36).
  • God’s salvation is not temporal, but eternal (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 5:11).
  • When God saves, nothing can ever separate the redeemed from His love (Romans 8:38-39) – not even sin.
  • When God saves, He reserves a place for in Heaven for His child and keeps that one saved by His great power (1 Peter 1:3-5).

This is by no means an endorsement of suicide, but if Jesus died to save the soul of Pastor Greg Milliron, he is safe in the arms of Jesus in Heaven today.

The King and His Castle – Ezra

king

I remember the excitement of when my son was born. I’d waited so long to be a father and was thrilled to finally bring my little “Squeaker” home from the hospital. It was summertime, and Daniel easily fell asleep on my bare chest. The only sounds he made were tiny squeaks. It was wonderful.

After a short time, things changed. He cried when he was hungry. He cried when his tummy hurt. He cried when his diaper needed changed. He cried when he was tired. It didn’t matter what time it was on my clock, he cried when he wanted. And for about a year, my son controlled when I ate, slept, showered, and worked. The king of the castle had been deposed by a baby! Now, almost 16 years later, I’m still waiting to be king again.

Earthly kings are certain that they are in control of their kingdoms. That kingdom may be as large as a nation, as wealthy as a corporation, or as localized as a house. In reality, no matter who the king is, or the extent of his kingdom, he is not really the master of all things.

Ezra 1:1 begins by noting that it was the first year of Cyrus king of Persia. Cyrus had ruled the tiny kingdom of Persia (modern Iran) for several years. The great neighboring empire of Babylon had been in decline due to high taxes, corrupt leadership, and people who consumed rather than produced. When Cyrus attacked Babylon, the people so despised their own government, that they didn’t oppose the invasion.

Without opposition, almost overnight, King Cyrus became ruler over the greatest empire in the world. But he wasn’t really in control. In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia … the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom: “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me …” (Ezra 1:1).

The next time you think you are the king of your castle, remember that both our worldly kings and their kingdoms – whatever their size or scope – still belong to Jesus, the King of king and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

Prince and a Prayer

German Shepherd

As an adult, my experience with dogs has been anything but pleasant. The only dog I like today is one named Oscar Mayer, found resting quietly on a soft bun and smothered with chopped onions, ketchup, and sweet relish. But it wasn’t always so.

During my childhood, I wanted all the usual pets American children dream of having: a horse, a pig, a hamster, and a dog. I spent many a day at my grandparent’s home as I was growing up, and one particular time a big German Shepherd made it’s way into the yard. My uncle, who is 4 years my junior, and I immediately took possession of the animal, named him “Prince”, and set about training him to be our faithful forever pet.

I don’t know about Andrew, but I was nervous about having to go inside and eat. What if Prince ran away in the 10 minutes we were inside? But Prince remained loyal to his new masters. We played with Prince all afternoon until again, we had to go in to eat. This time, when we got back outside, Prince was gone. We never saw him again.

Prince came to mind the other day. I went into the bathroom to pray and take my shower. Lo and behold, I discovered that someone had bathed and wadded the towel up on the towel bar so it didn’t dry overnight. I interrupted my prayer with an important request: “Lord, please dry this towel for me and stop so-and-so from doing this again.”

No sooner had the words spilled past my lips and I realized I was treating the Sovereign God of the universe like a dog. “Sit.” “Stay.” “Dry my towel.”

Prayer, rather than a command to the Commander, must be a humble conversation of devotion and love.

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given … For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:8, 14).

One Day I

One day

One day I decided to go to church with my friend.

One day I listened to the pastor talk about God’s wonderful plan for my life.

One day I wanted to go to Heaven.

One day I believed in God.

One day I raised my hand, I walked forward, I repeated a prayer, I accepted Jesus.

One day I chose to give my life to Jesus.

One day I was saved.

Who was this “one day” about? Who received the glory on this “one day”?

God said, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy (Romans 9:15-16).

Friends Far Away

Lisa Lock

Yellow rubber boots splashing through muddy puddles.

Skeins of yarn crocheted into rainbows.

Dreams of flying dragons and visiting new places.

Books and coffee, blood sausage and understanding.

The love of a mother reflected in the smile of her daughter.

Pictures of geese and trees and meadows and a little girl in a red coat.

Thoughts of friends far away, but always near in heart.

If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11)

Faith in Symbols

bling cross

There are people who believe that outward symbols of Christianity make them a Christian. These symbols may include wearing a cross, being baptized in water, joining a church, or taking Communion. But symbols merely point to something else, something real, the true destination. Faith in symbols is not faith in Christ.

In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation (Galatians 6:15).

Valiant Men – 2 Chronicles

tank man

In 1989, the people of China stood up against their socialist government. Those who watched by television will never forget the image of the lone valiant man standing against the tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square.

Uzziah became king at the ripe age of 16. He was bright, talented, politically astute and he did what was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chronicles 26:4). It was a very good beginning for the young king, but it’s not so much about how you start, but how you finish that defines a person.

The enemies of the nation of Judah had reason to fear. God had blessed King Uzziah with military victories over his enemies. His fame as a leader spread and as it did, his pride grew. His pride led him to barge into the temple, thinking there were no boundaries for him. He was good enough to approach God on his own merit.

Eighty-one priests bravely confronted the king, who became enraged. These men couldn’t tell the king what he could and could not do. He was the king! But the men would not bow down to the king for his ungodliness.

God struck King Uzziah with leprosy, a skin disease that made him a social outcast for the remainder of his 52-year reign.

After so many millennia, not much has changed. We have leaders who begin well, but power corrupts them into thinking they can do anything they choose, even when it is illegal or ungodly. They forget that their authority comes from God (Romans 13:1).

We have people who believe they can approach God on their own terms and in their own self-righteous merit without regard for what God says. They disregard the notion that grace alone through Christ alone provides entry into the presence of God (Ephesians 3:12).

All we are missing today are the valiant servants of God who will confront the king and not back down.