Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Seeing Jesus in a Donkey: Blessings and Curses

Now that I've got your attention please allow me to explain my blog post title....

I had the great privilege of giving the Sunday sermon at my home church yesterday from Numbers 22-24 which covered Balaam and his donkey (i.e. "ass"). Since I didn't have much time to prepare I recycled an old sermon that I have given a few times before at various churches. It's actually part sermon/part personal testimony of how God has taken some of the greatest "curses" in my life, like my wife's cancer, and transformed it into a myriad of incredible blessings and how this dynamic is true for all believers. So, if you are in a difficult place and find yourself questioning the goodness of God in the hardness of life - please take a listen and be reminded again of what the message of the gospel really is and what it means for you today and for your future. God is in control - even when we are not. God is good - even when we are not. God is always working for the good - even if we (or others) are not.

You can listen by using the embedded MP3 player below, or you can find the archived sermon HERE or MP3 link HERE, if you'd rather download the file into your iPod/iPhone and listen later.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Jewish Moral Law and the Gospel of Christ

There are many moral laws in the first five books of the Bible (i.e. the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses, the Torah) which many people, even Christians, find confusing and others often mock as proof that the Bible is an antiquated book with little relevance to me today. This is probably best exemplified in an open letter written to Dr. Laura Schelssinger a few years ago posted below. Schelssinger is a radio personality who gives advice to those who call her radio show and this satirical letter was posted on the internet in response to her quoting Leviticus 18:22 and condemning homosexuality as an abomination. 

Dear Dr. Laura: 

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law.  I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.  When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination.  End of debate.  I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them.

1.  When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord—Leviticus 1:9.  The problem is my neighbors.  They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?

2.  I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.  In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3.  I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness—Leviticus 15:19-24.  The problem is, how do I tell?  I have tried asking, but most women take offence. 

4.  Leviticus 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations.  A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians.  Can you clarify?  Why can't I own Canadians?

5.  I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.  Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death.  Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6.  A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination—Leviticus 11:10—it  is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.  I don't agree.  Can you settle this?

7.  Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight.  I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.  Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8.  Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27.  How should they die?

While I give the writer of this letter points for creativity, wit and humor, it is misguided for several reasons. One, it completely ignores the context in which these laws were written. The Bible is not a code of moral ethics by which people curry favor from an insatiable and insecure deity. It's ultimately a story, written by and about a God who loves us and who is pursuing a relationship with us which has been broken and initiating that restoration through His Son. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Life, Death and the Glory of God

I want to share a quick story on the sovereignty and goodness of God in the midst of aching trials. When Kim was sick with cancer, we were served by some wonderful people. One of the best was our friend Jen (and her husband Rob) Stotz. She was truly a blessing to us -- constantly praying for us and greeting us with that positive attitude and infectious smile of hers. We were more than happy to partially return the favor this past year after we heard that her brother Bob was stricken with cancer and battling for his life. I did not know Bob personally but followed his journey of faith and suffering. He struck me as a godly man with a beautiful young family who loved to serve the "least of these" as proven by his dedication as a pediatric surgeon and his heart for medical missions.

Well, long (and tragic) story short -- Bob passed away last week after fighting to the end. The grace he and his sister Jen displayed through all of it is truly a testimony to the indescribable hope and peace we have in Christ. Though the outcome was not what we had hoped for, I know God was glorified by their faith. I share this because last night we got a message from Jen. Apparently, as soon as she got home from her brother's funeral a letter was waiting for her. It was from Be the Match and she was notified that she is a possible match for someone with cancer in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Jen wanted us to know since she registered when Kim was sick in 2012 when we were trying to get the word out for everyone to sign up. Only God could have orchestrated the timing of all these events. Obviously, the outcomes were very different for Kim and Bob and frankly it's something we don't understand ourselves, but one thing remains the same: GOD. God is good. God is sovereign and God is near to the broken-hearted.

p.s. If you haven't done so already please visit bethematch.org and register to be a donor. It's as simple as mailing in a cheek swab.