To the One Who Seeks

“You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell, when once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgment day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God!  Not enough evidence!'”[1]

I recently completed a seminary course in Christian Apologetics – which is not “apologizing for being a Christian” – but rather the defense of the Christian faith. It was a very difficult course because I had to read and listen to messages that rejected the truth of God and of Jesus Christ. Their words in no way diminished my beliefs; if anything they strengthened my faith because I was forced to address these statements of disbelief and find reasonable and true answers I could embrace. As I confronted these counter-claims, the truths of the Bible and of the doctrines of Christianity began to take a firmer root in my heart. And as I found more and more evidences and reasons to believe with confidence, I began to “own” my faith like never before. I no longer believe just because of what I’ve heard all my life. I believe because, in seeking out the truth, I found it.

We so often hear the complaint that Christianity is just “blind faith,” and many simply refuse to believe without “proof.” Even in the church we are taught that we must never ask questions of God. But that is not what the Bible indicates. God invites us to step into faith with our eyes wide open. He issued the invitation many, many years ago, when the Israelites had fled Egypt – “If . . . you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him, if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). God does not require mindless devotion to an unseen, unproven entity. He has gone to great lengths to make Himself known.

On the night of Jesus’ birth, God announced the way for those who would accept it and seek this blessed Child. Luke’s account includes the chorus of heavenly hosts who appeared to the shepherds in the fields – and they told them exactly where to find this Baby – “in the town of David” (Luke 2:11) and how they would recognize Him – “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (v. 12). I love the angels’ words in our key verse – You will find a baby . . .” (emphasis added). And they responded to God’s revelation – “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see . . .” (v. 15). Let’s follow the evidence that God has given to us. Let’s seek Him whom the angel said we would find.

Matthew records another visible and powerful proof of Jesus’ birth as the Magi from the East declared “We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2), and he continues: “The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was” (v. 9). God not only gave directions, He led the way with a star in the sky. They were overjoyed – they sought the King with a desire to find Him, and their search was rewarded.

There is another path that God has clearly provided for man to find his Creator. That path leads up a hill in Jerusalem, to Calvary and to the Cross. God made this way clear and unmistakable when He covered that path with the blood of His one and only Son, Jesus. He has declared that this is the way to find Him – the only way. To all who will accept it, God has promised not only to reveal Himself but to claim the seeking soul as His own.

We all have questions, whether we want to admit it or not, and God does not resist our questions; but He does resist our motivations for asking them. He has provided the evidence and the way that we might find and know Him, but Mr. Russell and others like him demand proof on their own terms. God is not obligated to meet man’s demands for proof. He expects us to seek Him by following the way He has provided. He is not playing some cosmic “hide-and-seek game” with us. You see, the difference between Bertrand Russell and those who have chosen to believe is that Mr. Russell posed his questions with an arrogant and unbelieving heart trying to disprove God; for those who receive Christ, their questions flow from seeking hearts that want to find Him. God receives those who seek Him with a heart to believe. Remember what He said – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).

Holy God, on this Christmas Eve, I am so grateful that You showed me the way to the manger and the cross and You let me find You. “He has said to my heart, ‘Seek My face!’ Your face Lord, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8).

[1] William Lane Craig, “The Evidence for Christianity” be thinking, http://www.bethinking.org/is-christianity-true/the-evidence-for-christianity (accessed December 24, 2014).

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Come Together

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Ephesians 2:14

There are a lot of people in recent days talking about what divides us as a nation and how to bring some sort of reconciliation between people. We have all seen the protests and the anger and hurt. We have seen grief and sadness and bitterness and distrust – and all our protesting and postulating and town-hall meetings only seem to make the chasm wider. In this season of Christmas, this time when there should be “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) and we should “love one another” (John 13:34) we see everything but. How did we become such an angry society? What is the root of our discord? And how do we reclaim the peace we’ve lost?

We can try to lay the blame on any number of societal issues: race, prejudice, poverty, substance abuse, distrust, hatred, abuse, oppression, even down to the simple matter of differences of opinion. But the truth is there is one deeper root, one all-encompassing cause to which we can point and say: “This is the heart of all our problems.”

We stand in enmity against God.

From the beautiful Garden of Eden, throughout the history of humanity to this very day, mankind has set himself against the Creator and righteous King and declared himself as his own authority and ruler. He has turned away from God, not realizing that he has made a deadly eternal choice.   We don’t like to admit it, but the truth is that at our core, we are all sinners. We have all inherited a sin-nature from Adam and Eve, the first man and woman and the first sinners. It is not our sin that makes us sinners; it is our sinful nature that makes us sinners and leads us into sin.   It is that sinful nature that sets us against God as His enemy. It is that sinful nature that says we deserve to be punished and condemned. God is righteous and He will judge every human; we will not stand in judgment before Him in our standard of goodness, but in His.

Yet . . . God, who is righteous and holy in His nature and His judgment is also loving toward all His creation – toward Adam and Eve and every person throughout human history, right down to you and me. His holiness demands judgment, but His loving heart passionately desires to be merciful.   And that is the heart of the Christmas story: God’s mercy breaking through man’s sinfulness and rebellion like the star that cast its light on the face of an infant in a manger. Jesus. All God’s love and mercy was wrapped in human flesh and swaddling clothes.  And He later wrapped Himself in mankind’s sin – your sin and mine – and died on the cross to take away our sin and break our sinful nature; to bear our punishment and condemnation. God gave Jesus as His gift to humanity to reconcile the creation with the Creator. To bring us peace. And when we are restored to God, when we have peace with God, we can then be restored in our human relationships and have peace with one another. But not until we first receive the gift of Jesus into our lives.

The apostle Paul said “God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). This is not reconciliation between men, but rather a ministry of reconciling man and God as Paul also said: “His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:15, 16-emphasis added). Restoration and peace between angry people will not be settled as long as we are out of fellowship with God. The root cause of all the hostility in the world is man’s hostility toward God, and the fighting and hatred will never stop until we are reconciled to God. True peace will never come until we have peace with God.

The season of Christmas can become the starting point of a new life, of being reconciled to God and of having true, lasting, real peace – peace that spills over onto those around us. Come to Jesus, not just the babe in the manger, but the man on the cross – and let peace on earth start in your heart today.

Holy Father, please stir in our hearts a desire to be reconciled to You, to know and share Your peace in this angry, hurting world. I pray that the person who reads this will come to receive Your gift of love – Jesus Christ – who alone will bring “peace on earth.” Amen.

Trading Gold for Bronze

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. . .” (Romans1:25).

I love to watch the Olympics.  I love to see people with great skill and talent at their best.   I admire the determination and dedication they show to hone and strengthen their skills; I am encouraged by their single-minded focus and discipline. Thousands of athletes come with the hopes of winning a medal for their country, with the gold as their ultimate goal. Silver medals are awarded to second place and bronze for third, but gold medals are the pinnacle of success in the competitive world of athletics. Gold is far more valuable than silver or bronze, thus it is awarded to the most worthy athlete.

Gold is also a show of one’s wealth. In fact, that can be taken to ridiculous extremes with gold cosmetics, gold clothing, a gold coffin, gold teeth caps or a gold slinky. And if you really want to show off, you can put a roll of gold toilet tissue next to your gold toilet. Silver and bronze just won’t cut it if you want to really make a statement.

Solomon was the wealthiest of all the Old Testament kings, so much so that the Bible says all the articles for his personal dwelling places were made of gold because “silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s day”(2 Chronicles 9:20).  Solomon had wealth that today’s richest billionaires can only dream about. I found a particularly interesting note in 2 Chronicles 9:15-16 which says: “King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold . . . he also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold.” Gold shields – that’s pretty wealthy, don’t you think?

Solomon eventually died and his son, Rehoboam ascended to the throne in his place. The young man did not inherit his father’s wisdom, nor his grandfather David’s love for God. 2 Chronicles 12 tells the story of Rehoboam’s turning away from the Lord – “he and all Israel with him abandoned the Lord” (v. 1). They soon came under attack from the king of Egypt, and God spoke through a prophet declaring, “You have abandoned me; therefore I now abandon you” (v. 5). At this the King and people recognized their sin and turned back to God for His protection. God relented and rescued, but they still were made subject to the Egyptian king for a season as the Lord said, “so that they may learn the difference between serving Me and serving the kings of other lands.” (v. 8).

While the Egyptian king did not destroy the people, he did strip them of much of the wealth that Solomon had amassed. Verse 9 says, “Shishak king of Egypt . . . carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord . . . and of the royal palace. He even took the gold shields Solomon had made.” Wait, did you catch that. The gold shields – Solomon’s gold shields – were claimed as booty by the king of Egypt. Look at the next verse: “So King Rehoboam made bronze shield to replace them” (v. 10). Because of the sin of the king and his people with him, the royal gold shields were traded out for bronze – an inferior metal for an inferior king.

There are two points to consider here: first, God allowed the people some time with the enemy king so that they could see how much better they had it under His authority. Where they had once been the most feared and respected nation under David and Solomon, they were made a subservient nation under Egypt. Their freedom was taken from them and they were made to pay tribute to the Egyptian king. Their harvests were divided so that Shishak received his portion, whether or not they had any left themselves. The second point is this: they had been the wealthiest and most prosperous nation, but they had been forced to trade their gold for bronze because they turned away from their God. King Rehoboam’s entry ends with these sad words: “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (V. 14). They squandered all the blessings God had given them for the false pleasures of the world. And in the end they lost more than all those worldly treasures were worth.

So I ask you – Are your trading gold for bronze – or even less? Are you trading the blessed life God longs to give you for the fool’s gold of the world?   The world we live in is ruled by an evil enemy – Satan, and he is constantly at work taking men and women captive under his cruel banner. God has offered us the safety and security of His Son, but we must set our heart on seeking Him, and receive His loving offer. We must turn to the Lord and commit ourselves completely to Him. I promise you will find that serving God, living under His authority and His golden shield is far superior to anything the world could offer you. Don’t throw away a golden life for worthless trinkets and momentary pleasures. Grab hold of the blessings God has for you and you will never lose the greatest treasure of all.

Holy Father, the world dangles worthless stones before our eyes, and so often we grab for them and forget about the real treasure that You give. Please help us to recognize the difference between fool’s gold and the pure and perfect gold that is only found in You. Amen.