Designer Deities and Tailor-made Theology

It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who said, “God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.” Unfortunately the French philosopher is correct. We live in the age of the designer. We hear of designer babies and even designer dogs. The concept is quite simple. We handpick all the desirable characteristics and discard the rest. We see this in every area of life. For some it is just personalizing a particular item; adapting it to better fit our personality and express our uniqueness. There is nothing wrong with that. Why stick with the factory model when you can customize it? Manufacturers known they can maximize their profits when they cater to the whims of the consumer. But what happens when this designer mentality collides with theology and what we know about God? The answer is, we prove Rousseau’s point.

Like never before, we are witnessing a redefining of Christian theology in which God is being re-cast according to the dictates of our culture. In recent weeks, 4 major denominations willfully rejected God’s Word and embraced their own concept of who God is. Following in the steps of so many who claim to be forward thinking and open-minded, they have bought into a new and improved designer deity. They have handpicked those characteristics of God they deemed desirable and discarded the rest. However, in doing so they are no longer worshipping or following the God of the Bible. They have created a new god, made after their own image. They have created a god, tailored to fit their liking. That my friend, is idolatry. God has revealed Himself through His Word. Any attempt on our part to embellish or impoverish that revelation leads us to the feet of a false god. The God of the Bible is the God of love, but He is also a consuming fire. He is the God of mercy and grace, but He is also the God of judgment. Don’t be deceived into accepting a designer deity –study God’s Word and allow Him to reveal Himself to you.



The Strength of Weakness

The Strength of Weakness

Several years ago, my family and I had the opportunity to visit California. One of the places we stopped to see was Yosemite National Park and the giant sequoias. These trees are considered to be the most massive living things on earth. Their size and longevity literally boggles the mind. The giant sequoias can live more than 1,000 years and equal a 26 story building in height. Its bark is impervious to bugs and is naturally flame retardant. Seeing these mammoth trees towering above you is an unforgettable experience.

The strengths of the sequoia are many. Perhaps its greatest strength is in fact its greatest weakness. It is easy to find pictures of loggers standing at the base of these evergreen giants. An enormous wedge is cut into them as they prepare to fell the mighty tree.  I can understand why loggers would gravitate to a tree weighing as much as 2.7 million pounds. That’s a whole lot of lumber from one tree! The reality is, there is an important reason lumberjacks did not clear the forests of the sequoia a hundred years ago. You see, the sequoia is so brittle that it is subject to shatter upon impact when cut down.

Consider that for a moment. Its greatest weakness is actually its greatest strength. Because of its weakness it has survived and many of those same trees that were passed over are still standing today. This unique characteristic of the sequoia reminds me of something the Apostle Paul wrote. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is very transparent about personal difficulties and weaknesses. Three times he asked that they be removed. In verses 9 and 10 we read the answer the Lord gave and Paul’s response to it. The Bible reads,

  • “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Paul found strength in weakness because in his weakness the power of Christ was revealed. It is true for us as well. You too can know that same strength. ‘For when I am weak, then am I strong.’  It is our weaknesses that compels us to trust the Lord. It is our weaknesses that drives us to seek God. When we do, we find His grace is sufficient and His strength is perfect.



Are You a ‘Toy’s R Us’ Kid?

Consider Ephesians 4:13-16.

A casual reading of the New Testament reveals a clear emphasis upon growing up and maturing as God’s people. This is a desire every parent has for their children. I remember a very catchy jingle I heard as a child. It was part of an advertisement campaign by a large toy retailer. The main thought went like this, “I don’t wanna grow, I wanna be a Toys R Us kid.’ Even now as you are reading this, you can hear the music playing in your mind. It was a very powerful and successful jingle. Perhaps, too successful.

During the 1970’s ‘adolescence’ was commonly defined as that period of youth and development stretching from age 13-18. According to today’s standard, adolescence is that period of youth and development stretching from age 13-30. You read that right! Adolescence runs clear to 30 years old.

This shift did not happen overnight. During the 70’s, movies and television programs featured 8-13 year olds engaged in immature/comical behavior. In the 80’s the age increased to include the ‘Brat Pack’. In the 90’s it was ‘Friends’ and the twenty-year olds. Today it is grown men featured on the big screen acting as if they were children. That may be all for entertainment, but it illustrates a definite move in our culture. No one wants to grow up, ‘because if we did, we couldn’t be a Toy’s R Us Kid’!

It is called ‘Perpetual Adolescence’ or ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’. Here is the question we must ask ourselves, “Is this healthy?” More important, “Has this spilled over into the church?” Sadly for many of God’s people, it has. Too many Christians are content to remain infants in Christ. Like the world around us, we have created a culture of immaturity in the pews. Friend, God desires for us to grow! To grow in grace. To grow is faith. To grow in our knowledge of God and His Word. To grow up into Him in all things.  Let us make a conscious effort to mature in Christ! Unite with a local church where God’s Word is taught. Study His Word on your own. Find a place where you can use your gifts and talents for the LORD. When you do, you will discover growing up is not bad at all!



Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

It seems a bit strange to our generation and the current culture, but this was the title of a hit song during World War II. ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’ by Kay Kyser debuted in 1943 and quickly rose to the top of the charts. By today’s standards this song would be dismissed as propaganda, hypocrisy or even hate speech. But in the era of the ‘Greatest Generation’ this song was a natural expression of their reliance upon God and personal responsibility. They unashamedly held public prayer meetings asking God for protection and perseverance in their global struggle against the enemy of freedom. Added to their prayers, was a sense of duty –a sense of personal responsibility that compelled them to action.

Fast forward seven decades and our culture lacks both. We have lost our reliance upon God as well as the general concept of personal responsibility. Unfortunately this has also taken root in many churches today. While many would be quick to pray and beg God for revival, they do little to secure revival in their own heart. While we sing songs that highlight the plight of the lost and readily acknowledge their need of salvation, so few are willing to speak one word for Christ. The point is this: we need to pray and trust God to move in our communities but we must also put legs to our prayers. We must own our responsibility to be the man of God, the woman of God, the child of God –He has saved us to be!

So then, let us, Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’! Not that we are fighting human enemies, but that we are engaged in a spiritual battle that requires both reliance upon God and personal responsibility.



What Language Does God Speak?

Have you ever given any thought to that question? Thinking about the world in general, some countries are more religious than others. Some are cold and indifferent while others are completely governed by their religious faith. No matter which faith it might be, all them envision their spoken language to be the first language of Heaven. The Muslim will tell you Arabic is the divine language. The Jew will cite Hebrew. The Hindu’s first thought would be one of the languages of India. So which is it?

There are as many as 6,700 recognized languages in the world today. Which one is the language of God? If God has 6,700 languages to choose from, which one did He choose?

The answer is illustrated in Acts 2:5-11. There were representatives from at least 15 nationalities and languages in Jerusalem during Pentecost. Yet all of them heard the message Peter preached in their own native tongue. What language does God speak? He speaks every one of them because He is not willing that any should perish, but that all might come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Let that sink in. What a tremendous privilege is ours. What a glorious honor for any country to be able say, ‘God speaks my language.’ And He does. God speaks and His message is clear,

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” –Isaiah 45:22

What language does God speak? He speaks your language. Are you listening?



A New Beginning at the Potter’s House

A  New Beginning at the Potter's House

Jeremiah 18:1-6

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”

The prophet Jeremiah lived at a very difficult time in Judah's history. The revivals led by King Josiah were a distant memory. Idolatry and immorality plagued the nation. They were following in the footsteps of the Northern Kingdom and soon judgment would meet them. In Jeremiah chapter 18, God issues a very solemn plea beckoning His people to return to Him. History tells us they refused to repent and would not return to the Lord. As a consequence, Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were taken captive by the Babylonian Empire.

The beauty of this passage (chapter 18, verses 1-6) is that God is reaching out to His people –even well into the 11th hour! The message that God had for Jeremiah was a visual sermon at the potter's house. God is offering His people a fresh start. We all want a new beginning. We have all said something or acted in a particular way and afterward wished we could take it back or do it differently. We have all had times, happy times and wonderful memories that we would like to re-live.

As much as we all would like to turn back time to re-live a happy moment or take back hurtful words –we cannot. You and I are at this moment the complete sum of every decision we have ever made. No matter how much we want to make a brand new beginning for ourselves – it is impossible. The good news is: “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). God is able to give you a new start! That is the message God is preaching to His prophet Jeremiah.

This visual sermon has but three main contributors. Consider them briefly.

The Master Potter

Perhaps Jeremiah had seen this particular potter before. No doubt Jeremiah was familiar with the work of pottery as it was very common in that day. In fact, the Old Testament uses no less than 30 references to this skill in conveying spiritual truth. But on this day, it was different for Jeremiah. This day, God was preaching to him. At the potter's wheel we see the potter's ability. Not everyone can make a piece of clay into something desirable. An even smaller number of people are able to create a piece of artwork that is sought after by museums and collectors. The potter is a man of ability.

At the potter's wheel we also see his sovereignty. That wheel is the potter's universe in a sense and he is in complete control of what is taking place. The speed of the wheel; the shape into which the clay is moulded –all these are completely subject to him.

These are valuable lessons for Jeremiah to learn. Because the potter he was learning about was no ordinary potter. The master potter in this sermon was not the man in the shop. The Master Potter has a different identity. Consider Isaiah 64:8

“But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

The Master Potter is the LORD. He has infinite ability and sovereign in all things.

The Marred Clay

It takes 9-12 months to prepare the clay. As it is found, it is completely unsuitable for the potter's wheel. The clay is dug out and goes through a detailed process of filtration and refining to remove all the unwanted debris. The clay is tread under foot to increase its plasticity and then left to weather for months. So much care is given to preparing the clay.

Even though such attention is given to its preparation, sometimes small rocks and other debris remain in the mix. These go completely unnoticed until placed upon the potter's wheel. As the potter begins his work of shaping and moulding, suddenly the rubbish is brought to the surface and in a moment the new creation is marred. A deep groove is cut into the vessel and the smooth surface is suddenly out of shape.

I heard of a man who was stuck at the bottom of a steep hill and needed to be towed to the top. At the top of the hill, the driver of the tow truck said, “I didn't think we were going to make that hill.” The driver in the other car replied, “Neither did I, so I kept my feet on the brakes to keep us from rolling backwards!”

That may sound silly, but you and I behave that way more times than we would like to admit. God desires to mould us and make us after His will, but as God looks forward we are looking backward. The apostle Paul, said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” in Philippians 3:14. But before he could press forward, in verse 13 he declares: “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

Let go of the past, relinquish your plans and yield yourself to the hands of the Master Potter! Sometimes the clay is marred –not because of a mistake of the Potter, but because there was a bit of debris leftover from the former life still in it.

The Miracle on the Wheel

What happens when God finds a little rubbish in the clay? It's obvious. He annihilates it. Utterly destroys it and casts it away. No. He does the exact opposite. Note again verse 4. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” The Master Potter did not throw the clay away. He started over with the same lump of clay! We have all made a mess of things at times. Attitudes and actions of the old man, the sin nature, comes to the surface. But God in His grace and mercy, with tender hands removes the rubbish. As we confess our sins to Him and yield to His plan –He rebuilds and restores. God has a plan in mind for you.

2 Timothy 2: 20, 21

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

We are embarking on a brand New Year. In many ways it is a clean slate –a fresh start. We cannot tell what 2010 will hold for us. We do not know what challenges we will face, what mountains we will climb or what valleys we will endure. But I do know this: God is still God and His ways are perfect. I know that He is still at work and His hands do not rest. The wheel of time continues to turn and as I will yield to the Master Potter, He can make something beautiful in me. I know that I am prone to failure, but God will not throw the clay away. God will continue His work; day by day, making and remaking me into a vessel that is fit for the Master's use.



Trust in The Lord

It's simple. It's short. Yet it's incredibly powerful. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible–with good reason. It sets forth a life-changing truth that is worthy of our attention. Spend three minutes reading this article, and see if you agree.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Let's break down this life-changing truth to make sure we understand it.

 

Trust in the Lord.

It starts with trust. Any real relationship has to start with some level of trust. It's the only way a friendship will endure. It's the only way a marriage will work out. It's the simple reason why an employer hires workers, or why the workers stay employed. It's all about trust. Trust in the Lord, however, takes on an entirely new dimension. This is our trust in an eternal, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving God. He is worthy of our trust. The trust is important, not just because of who God is, but because of the way in which we must trust him: with all your heart. It involves every fiber of your being. That's the kind of trust we can have in God–a complete, unshakable, deep, abiding trust.

If you are a Christian, you trusted God for salvation. You can trust Him with the rest of your life, too–every detail.

 

Read part 2, Don’t Lean On Your Understanding



Do Not Lean on Your Own Understanding

Read part 1 first, Trust In The Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

Don't Lean on Your Understanding

The verse involves a positive–something you must do. But it also involves a negative–something you must not do. Don't lean on your own understanding. Basically, the verse is telling us that we ought not to be self-reliant. We cannot pursue a course of action, a financial decision, a business move, a relationship, or an educational choice, simply based on our own understanding. It must be founded in our trust in God.

Self-reliance is such a deceptive trap. We begin to pride ourselves in something–our savvy, our looks, our intellect, our spirituality, our family, whatever. And when we do, it takes away our trust in the Lord. It has become trust in self. The result is a dangerous compromise that will lead to destruction.

 

Instead, Acknowledge God. In Everything.

The antidote to this self-reliance is found in the first command of the verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Which is developed in the next verse: “In all your ways acknowledge him.” The word “acknowledge” isn't merely a polite tip of the hat to the Man Upstairs, or a few words of grace over your meal, or even perfunctory attendance at church to let Him know we're still cool with what He's doing. It's way more. It's allowing Him access, control, command, and involvement in all your ways.

What's the result of this? Will God ruin your life? Will he be a Sovereign Killjoy? Will He rob you of fun? The verse ends on a promise. What is it?

 

He will make your paths straight.

The promise is put in the form of a metaphor. What does it mean to have straight paths? Several things. First, paths lead toward an end–a destination, a goal. Thus, trusting God wholeheartedly in every area of life gives your life a sense of purpose and priority. Second, it indicates that there will be a clear understanding of where you are going and what you are doing. It makes daily decision-making an easier and less painful task. You realize you are trusting Him. He, in turn, is making your paths straight. Thus, the way ahead is more apparent. Third, “straight paths” suggests moral purity. It suggests a life that has less of sinful compromise and more of wholesome attitudes, actions, and behavior.

That's the kind of life that God promises. It's the kind of life that you can have. It begins with trust. It involves acknowledging God in every way.




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