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A Perfect God to Help You Cope in an Imperfect World – Part Three

Philippians 4: 19

Job suffered and demanded of God an explanation. He extensively questioned God asking why. Thereby, he implied God was inadequate and didn’t have an answer. Inherent in Job’s demand for an answer was the implication God didn’t have love or wisdom.

God didn’t give Job an answer. Instead He asked Job a question: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!

Who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job 38: 4, 5).

What is God saying? He is saying, “Job, turn on the Discovery Channel. I have the wisdom, power, and love to do what is right and I always do.”

To properly relate to God is not to get the right answers to our questions. It is to learn to ask the right questions. Such questions as: 

“Does God have the right to govern as He wills?”

“Do I believe that all of God’s actions are born out of love and knowledge and are always right?”

“Do I trust Him even though I don’t understand His working?”

Sometimes we ask “Why” hoping an answer will prevent a recurrence. When a bad thing happens to a friend we are sometimes motivated to pray for that one in hopes we can formulate a prayer of correction and knowing it use it to help prevent such a misfortune in our own life. 

Those reputed friends of Job who questioned him didn’t see him as a friend to be helped, but as an embarrassment they desired to avoid personally.

Why is often posed because something has disrupted our smooth running life to which we feel entitled. God motivates faith and encourages prayer as means of doing His will. We want to use them as means for controlling our lives. Occasionally we use them as magical incantations or rituals like primitive people who feel they can please or appease their gods. They become a means by which we attempt to control our world. In reality they are means of submitting to the God who does control the world.

Because Christ suffered He can relate to us in our suffering. Conversely, because we suffer we can relate to Him. In our suffering we have fellowship with Him.

At the time of Paul’s salvation the Lord said, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Amid his trials Paul wrote that they were allowed “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…” (Philippians 3: 10). Forewarned of his pending sufferings Paul nevertheless resolved to accept even them as a means to an end.

When things bad or good happen question God. However the question to ask is not why, but rather how. How can this be used to help me conform to the likeness of Jesus.”

A Perfect God to Help You Cope in an Imperfect World – Part Two

Philippians 4: 19

We live in an imperfect world with our perfect God to guide us.  Our American mentality prompts us to want to avoid trials or find an easy escape from them. What do you do when you can do neither?

James 5: 14 says we should anoint the sick with oil and pray for them. We should do what the Scripture says, but what does it mean?

There are two Greek words for “anoint.”  One is ALEPHO. The other CHRIO.

Chrio is the root word for the Greek name Christo which is translated Christ. It was used to describe putting olive oil on the brow of prophets, priests, and kings to designate their office. The name Christ means “the anointed one.”

Alepho is also translated as “anoint.” It meant to massage or kneed with oil. Rabbis writing in the New Testament era revealed the many medical usages of olive oil. An example was the man found on the road to Jericho by the Good Samaritan who anointed his wounds with olive oil. It was one of the best medicines of the time. The meaning of James 5: 14 is pray for the sick and use the very best medical treatment available. Then you will have done all expected of you by God, and if it pleases Him healing will result.

Simply putting oil on the brow and praying is not in compliance with this text. That is why many don’t do it.

If our God is a perfect God and He can make all things perfect, why doesn’t He? Because it is not things He is trying to perfect, but people sometimes imperfect means have to be used to reach a perfect end.

When something imperfect happens in what we expect to be our perfect world we want to summons God, put Him on the carpet, and demand to know “Why?”

“God, our generation believes in ‘the public’s right to know.’ Now, I want to know why this happened and why you haven’t corrected it?”

What we fail to realize is God isn’t part of this generation. He doesn’t deal in a “right to know” basis, but on a “need to know basis.” Problems arise when we feel we have a need to know and are entitled to know, but God doesn’t.

Consider this question and some possible answers. Why do you ask God “Why?” 

We sometimes ask “Why” in order to vindicate yourself.  It implies God has done something wrong. He owes us an explanation. When life’s smooth running joy car runs off the road we want to ask, “Why me, God? Why did a bad thing happen to good little ole me?”

It rarely occurs to a person to ask, “Why NOT me?” After all, you know God doesn’t really owe you. What did you do to indebt God to you?

Isn’t it strange we seldom, if ever ask such a question about good things.

What’s Your Story? 10/4/98

Luke 15:11-24
Page 1529 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ was a masterful story teller. He could take the simplest circumstances and make it ring with reason.

As fish live in water so we live in stories. Everyone enjoys a good story. Stories shape our lives. They come from literature, history, politics, family lore, and alas TV. Stories from our childhood live with us all of our lives.

Few people decide “Do I want to be good or bad?” What they really decide is “Who do I want to be like?” Who is your role model?

Few realize they are themselves a story in process. Your life is a drama in which you are the main character. Play your role well.

Jesus knowing this used stories to teach us. A story of pain, pathos, and pleasure was told by Him. In it most of us can find our self represented by one of the characters. It is known as the story of the prodigal son. Actually it is the story of a dysfunctional family.

Before sin ruptured relationships and brought thorns and thistles, the family arrived on the earthly scene as a divine gift. The family was God’s idea and He doesn’t have bad ideas. As intended by God it will transcend time because it is rooted in eternity.

The family has been under valued in our current society. As a result its worth to society has been underestimated. Functioning families are an economic blessing to society. They reduce the welfare rolls and cost of law enforcement while aiding the education environment.

The family has been played down by the culturally elite who insist that we must remain non-
judgmental and avoid preferring one relationship over another.

I have five degrees from colleges and universities but my major learning came from another source. I learned to tie my shoes; dress myself; not play with fire; pick-up and put-up my toys; not hit my brother; stand up to the bully down the street; and how to be quiet when adults were talking. In effect, I learned how to be a worker, a citizen, a neighbor, a friend, a parent, and in general a civilized human being. I learned all these things at a university called — the family. I learned all this before I ever went to school. That is what the family is for.

In some schools secular sociologists are speaking of the family as outdated and an obsolete institution. It is far from such. It is challenged and constantly under attack.

Educator Delores Curran sent out 500 questionnaires to obtain material for her book Traits of a Healthy Family. She received back 551. The 110% is incredible. She sent them to pediatricians, pastors, educators, teachers, social workers, counselors, and volunteer workers with families. They made copies and shared with friends who joined them in responding because the survey was considered important. Most of the characteristics of a healthy family revealed it to be the restored relationship of the prodigal son and his dad.

Let’s quickly look at some of the traits this cross segment of society said typify a healthy family. Such a family:
They communicate and listen. They value table conversation.

They affirm and support one another.

They teach respect for others.

They develop a sense of trust.

They have a sense of humor, play, and share leisure time.

They have a sense of shared responsibility.

They teach a sense of right and wrong.

They have strong sense of family traditions and rituals.

They have a shared religious core.

They admit to and seek help with problems.

Let’s observe the family developments of the boy known as the prodigal son to learn some things that make for a happy family.

This is the story of a broken family and what it took to restore it.

“Then He said: ‘A certain man had two sons.’ And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (Luke 15:11 – 13).

After the son hit the bottom reality dawned on him. “Hey, things weren’t so bad at home after all. I’m going home.” The result:

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

For any relation to work certain factors found in this story have to be applied.

“His father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (vs. 20).

Cool, cute, coy, or crazy are characteristics of a TV family. That is a pretend world. In the real world the characteristic that provides a bonding glue is compassion.

Compassion expresses itself in certain ways. Your answer to these questions will reveal whether you have it.

Do your family members regularly receive more strokes than knocks from you?

Do you share pleasant leisure time?

Do you usually settle disagreements with mutual satisfaction and no bitterness?

Do you make others feel wanted, loved and appreciated?

Do you work ambitiously at contributing to making yours a happy home?

The father of the prodigal was forgiving. He had been wronged and doubtless embarrassed, even disgraced. Yet, he forgave.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 14, 15).

There are distinct evidences we are losing our will to forgive: Marked increases in requests for marriage counseling, the state of mental health in America: depression, hypertension, and anxiety are on the increase, and child abuse is on the rise.

NO relationship exists long without tensions.
NO community continues long without conflicts.
NO human interaction occurs without possible pain, injury, suffering, and alienation.

Hurts happen. Misunderstandings occur. Trouble is inevitable.

Marriage consists of a series of actions and reactions motivated by our conscious and subconscious minds. The more active and creative people are the greater are their chances of conflict. Fighting is not the answer. Forgiveness is.

Without forgiveness relationships can last only where persons involved are cautiously and constantly superficial.

With forgiveness we are free to relate to each other with integrity.

Any movement toward forgiveness begins with the awareness we are in this pain together.

A second step is the acknowledgment of your own part in causing the conflict.

Most often adults want to deal with problems as they did when children. “He hit me first.” That is fixing the blame and exonerating self.

It is estimated that 90% of Americans spend much of their time trying to find someone to blame for failure and problems.

The father of the prodigal son had suffered because of the decisions of his son but he was quick to forgive.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

“…bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).

“But when he had come to himself…” is one of the most beautiful lines in literature. When he reflected on his core values he realized he was in the wrong relationship. His was the wrong character in the story. A character change was in order.

He didn’t decide to simply find a new job or clean up his act. He determined to go back to his father and his father’s values.

Remember God cleans fish after He catches them.

The turning point was “when he came to himself.” That is, he made a right choice. Basically it was: “This is stupid. I don’t need to live like this. I have a father and a home. I’m returning.”

“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son'” (Luke 15:21).

Translated, “Hey, dad I blew it!”

Sooner or later in some situation we all need to say it: “I was wrong, forgive me.” Or, “It was my fault, I apologize.”

Even Tarzan had to say that to Jane.

Let me make a spiritual application at this point. It is a good day when a prodigal becomes disappointed with the world and says, “Is this all there is?” Only to hear the Heavenly Father say, “Of course not. Come on home.”

There are no perfect relationships. None! No perfect families. No perfect marriages. The only perfect marriage was that of Adam and Eve.

He never had to listen to her tell of all the other guys she could have married and she never had to listen to what a wonderful cook his mother was.

Marriage isn’t a 50-50 relationship. It is a 100-nothing relationship. We should give ourselves 100% to making others happy and expect nothing in return. The result will be your own happiness. If you want love, don’t look for it, give it, and you will get it. If you want friends, don’t look for them to be friendly.

“Have you hugged your kid today?”

This prevents parental false-pride. Be expressive, demonstrative.

Husbands and wives need to be expressive to one another.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

AGAPE = love is associated with giving of self. Love gives with the idea of meeting others needs. Everyone needs acceptance.

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19).

“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (I Peter 3:7).

Expressiveness is essential if a relationship is to last. A special word of encouragement needs to be given dads about this.

Dads needs to be expressive. One of the best ways to be transparent to your family is to pray with and for them.

Many children feel like the little Indian girl who had asked to be taken to the brook to die and pleaded: “Father pray, Father, I am going to heaven soon and I want to tell Jesus, when I see Him that my father prays.”

For any relationship to last all parties have to be responsive and rewarding to the others.

The wise person realizes when he is lost, understands the cause of his or her homesickness, and returns to the one who loves him or her.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The son had been trained right and now it was about to pay off.

TRAIN means to discipline. Discipline and disciple come from the same root. It means to teach.

The way to the Father is often through the far country. The “far country” doesn’t have to be moral dissolution. It often is however. The far country is the point in life when you decide what character you want to be in your life’s drama. It is the point when you say, “Is this where I belong?” and pause long enough to hear the Father say, “Of course not. Come on home.”

A soldier killed at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain sent a message to his dad: “Father, meet me in heaven.”

The reunion of the dad and son is descriptive of the response of our Heavenly Father when we come to Him responsively.

He put a ring on his finger. This was a ceremony of adoption. It was a time of celebration.

A robe was put upon him. A robe of righteousness is given us when we come to our Heavenly Father.

The father provided shoes. This is a symbol of service.

Victor Frankl said, “Life only has meaning if there is a task, the more difficult the task, the more meaningful the life.”

The Father knows this and offers us meaning by affording us a task.

A Perfect God to Help You Cope in an Imperfect World – Part One

Philippians 4: 19

Jesus lived in an imperfect world and was subject to all of its inconveniences, isolation, hunger, and the extremity of man’s inhumanity to man: crucifixion.

We also live in an imperfect world. Our frustrations are heightened when we hear persons saying blessings, you can name it and claim it. Claim you are wealthy and you will be. Claim healing and you will be. Many try it and it doesn’t work.

A good simple test of the soundness of preaching is if it won’t preach in Bosnia, Botswana, Zaire, or Ethiopia it shouldn’t be preached here.

Can you imagine telling the impoverished hungry hoards of Ethiopia claim you are wealthy and you will be? 

Face it, there are mysteries God doesn’t choose to explain in full. He thus gives us opportunity to walk by faith, not by knowledge.

Consider healing for example.

We all want to be healthy and live in a near perfect body. It doesn’t always happen. Does that mean God doesn’t love us? NO! He does love us.

The apostle Paul was a man who loved the Lord and lived for Him. He had a major problem which he descriptively called his “thorn in the flesh.” (II Cor. 12: 7). He said he prayed three times that God would remove it. God didn’t!

A study of the Book of Galatians 4: 13, 14 reveals that he had some physical problem that was discomforting for him and distasteful for others:

“You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.”

In coming to Galatia Paul landed in Pamphylia (Acts 13: 13) and traveled through marshy mosquito infested country to get to Galatia. Paul’s thorn in the flesh may well have been a bad case of malaria resulting in seizures. 

His thorn in the flesh may have been bad eye problems. In Galatians 4: 15 he referred to the church members as being so empathetic they were willing to “pluck out your own eyes and give them to me.” In Galatians 6: 11 Paul referred to “what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!”

He wrote thanking the church for receiving him when he wasn’t a pretty sight to have around. God never removed Paul’s thorn. Yet, Paul was faithful and God was loving.

Whatever Paul’s problem he referred to it as his “trial.” The word translated “trial” can also be translated “temptation.” When applied to the work of the devil it is appropriately translated as temptation. When it relates to the work of the Lord in a life it refers to being tested in order to show God’s sufficiency and our submission. 

God used a physical trial in the life of Paul to prove Himself adequate and allow Paul to show faithfulness. Is it unreasonable to assume God may still use this technique? If so, He will show His sufficiency. Be sure to show your submission.

A Great New Work

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2: 8 – 10

An understanding of the Christian experience of salvation is necessary if we  are to follow the exhortation to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We should take great pride in being a Christian, that is, being children of God. Reflection on becoming a Christian should inspire persons to trust Jesus and motivate those who have trusted Him.

The process is by grace. Grace is the opposite of merit.  Grace excludes all merit on the part of man. To be saved by grace cannot take into account any merit either before salvation, at the time of salvation, or after salvation. 

Grace is a benevolent act of love which bestowed mercy on the undeserving. It is given freely while expecting and demanding nothing in return.

By it one is saved.  It is an act complete in the past with permanent continuing results. This is what it means to be saved and what salvation is:

Salvation is a crisis experience – I have been saved.

Salvation is a continuing process – I am being saved.

Salvation is a culminating victory – I shall be saved.

This grace given is appropriated by faith. Faith is the channel for the operation of grace. It is the instrumental cause of salvation. It is man’s response to Christ as the object of their faith.

Salvation is a gift. It is a present from God that can’t be acquired by merit. 

It is not of works. Salvation has to be entirely of grace or entirely of works.  It cannot be a combination of both.  The Bible plainly says that it is not of works, but of grace.  “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”  (Gal 2:16)

This leaves no room for boasting, that is, glory or exalt proudly. 

We are His workmanship, “poiema,” creation, handiwork, piece of work.

God  is the Workman. He is the One who is fashioning. It is a wonderful picture of God as a kind of Artist.

We are not saved by works, but we are saved to work. Note “unto” not “by.”  Be patient with God.  God had to work in Moses for forty years before His could work through him. All the good works in the world cannot make you right with God, but once a person is made right with Him through His creative grace, there is something wrong with the person who has no good works. 

Walking in good works speaks of conduct in life.

Take an inventory.  Which of the four works are you experiencing?  Is sin working AGAINST you because of your failure to trust Christ? Have you experienced Christ’s work FOR you?  Are you patient as He works IN you?  Will you allow Him to work THROUGH you? Reflect and respond appropriately.