“The Song of Moses,” which was to be rehearsed and memorized by Israel, tells of the rebellion of the nations against God, and of his selection of Abraham to build a new nation, a people belonging to himself. That new nation was to be upright – Jeshurun – having the very character of God himself. Instead, when Israel prospered by the grace of God she rebelled in her prosperity, becoming the image of the fallen nations rather than the image of God. “Jeshurun grew fat and kicked.” How often does prosperity lead to (or at least contribute to) pride, stubbornness, selfishness, moral failure, and worship of gods that are not God? Unfortunately, prosperity and rebelliousness often go hand in hand. Israel is by no means a unique example of a people who were upright in their dependancy upon God in trials, but then “grew fat and kicked” while enjoying the blessings of prosperity. Selfishness and godlessness, envy and conflict, tend to grow and flourish when people are blessed with prosperity. Prosperity offers no assurance of peace and harmony and goodwill among humans and certainly no assurance of obedience to God.
As we look back at the last year, what has this done to our churches? Are we stronger or are we weaker? Has our faith increased or has it been weakened? Has our love abounded to one another or have we allowed the divisiveness of the world to creep into our hearts? The point of the exercise isn’t to encourage criticism. I’m not suggesting we assign some sort of grade or rating to our congregations. I don’t believe any of us has the discernment or information to make this kind of a judgment — we cannot possibly see what Christ saw to judge those congregations. But what we can reflect on is our own behavior, and the question we can ask ourselves is how have our actions impacted what Christ would see if He looked at our congregation as He did with the congregations in Asia?
We will spend our entire lives remembering things, but it’s crucial that we keep at the front of our minds that God the creator fashioned us individually. When speaking on Mars Hill, Paul doesn’t start with the cross of Christ, but with the creation. After that, he proceeds to the gospel of Christ. While it’s easy to forget so many things, let us never forget that the creator God has come to us in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 17:24-26).
To be sure, we do need all the Scriptures, and I am not trying to diminish the rest of God’s Word. If one only had access to these two verses, they would need more information to help them pursue this Creator and the Son He gave to the world. However, if one considered these two verses in earnest, they would indeed lead to one searching for more information. I just thought it was an interesting exercise as we consider God’s glorious message to His most precious and beloved of His creations.
Unlike the gods of Egypt where she was born, the Lord paid attention to ordinary people like Hagar, cared about her personally, and had plans and purposes for her and her progeny.
Hagar did as the Lord directed, went home and bore Abram a son, who was given the name “Ishmael” by Abram (Genesis 16:15).
Growth for this work does not happen without active work on our part. We have to want to change. We have to look at the challenges life brings us as opportunities to grow. Not just the tragic events in our life. Those have a way of sharpening our senses, focusing our attention and drawing us closer to the Lord. What about the other times when things are going well? How do we take advantage of the relatively calm times to grow?
In May, 2017, The Gospel Message published an article entitled “The Church & Our Sisters” in which I offered what I believe to be the Bible’s answers to the following two questions: (1) What does it mean to be “in church” (1 Corinthians 14:28, 35)? and (2) What is the role of our sisters “in church”? In response to that article, as well as to public teaching on the subject before and since, several questions have consistently come up which deserve attention. In this article, I’d like to take up just a couple of those (and, perhaps, in a future article, we can address others).
In Luke 15, Christ tells the parable about a man who goes to his father with a presumptuous request: to receive his inheritance now. His father grants his requests, and in a short time the son leaves home and squanders his inheritance on, as the Bible describes it, prodigal living. Just prior to the man making a change in his life and going back to his father, we find him penniless and feeding pigs. He is even jealous of their food because it is better than what he is eating. What brought him to this place, or started him on this path, can be traced back to that first decision: he decided that he wanted what he felt like was his right now. Had he never made that decision he probably would not have found himself in the company of swine, jealous of their food.