Friday, April 01, 2005

Sorrow and Joy

Good afternoon. The message today is rather long because I am confronted with a Bible passage that challenges me to balance my responsibility with God's Sovereignty. I know that I can do nothing without Christ, but I can do all things with Christ. This is a complex matter. Smarter people than I have wrestled with it for entire lifetimes and have not reached satisfactory conclusions. So, I don't intend to resolve this timeless discussion in one short article. However, I sincerely hope that any readers will take this issue before the Lord in careful and considerate prayer.

This thoughtful struggle leads into today's helpful Bible study practice. After prayer, careful reading of the Bible passage, and reflection on what you have read, consider other readings or commentaries, and insights received from other Christians. Most importantly, continue to think about what God is saying to you.

Bible Study, Ezra 3:1-13
What is the main point? The captives who returned to Israel have worked on the temple construction for two years. At this point, they have completed the temple's foundation. More importantly, they prepared a foundation of obedience to God's word (verses 2 and 10). When they dedicated the foundation, they were filled with that unique emotion of joy that comes when a sinner is released from the captivity of sin, coupled with sorrow from the realization that it was sin that caused God's great grief.
What does God reveal about Himself? God is enthroned upon the praises of His people, Israel (Psalm 22:3). In His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). And He is able to keep us and restore us with great joy, if and when we do fall (Jude 1:24). I believe it brings Him great joy too (Luke 15:10).
What insights into my life? I could easily fall into a trap here. I could wrongly draw a conclusion that somehow the good works performed by the people caused God to respond. I have to frequently remind myself that I can't make God perform to my wishes if I say or do the right things. The simple truth remains that it is by faith I am saved, not by good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
How can I honor God with this information? This passage causes me to confront my daily challenge. What is my responsibility and what do I leave in God's sovereign hands? I don't like what happened to Terri Schiavo. I think wrong decisions were reached and great harm was caused, needlessly. I believe my responsibility today is to forgive those who I believe did wrong. Also, I must be willing to let God correct my perception because I could be wrong in my judgment of Terri's case because I lack God's wisdom and understanding of the truth.
Where is God working today? This morning I learned that the Pope is not doing well. I pray that God's will, is done with His servant. With this latest news, I believe the Holy Spirit is moving throughout the entire world causing people to deeply consider what they believe about the value of human life. Are we just cosmic dust that happened to come into being without meaning or purpose? Or, are we the beloved handiwork of the Master Creator God who has fixed His unfathomable affection upon us for all eternity? Nothing we can do will cause Him to cease loving His creation or divert Him from His plan and purpose for the redemption of mankind.

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