Fairness, Entitlements, or Grace ?
Life is not fair...and that's a good thing.

I deserve this.

                     I earned it.

                                            It’s my right.

A sense of entitlement. We see it in political debates about whether certain government benefits are a “gift” or have been earned.

It shows up in marriages and other relationships as individual people focus more on their rights than on the relationship.

We see it in our culture as people promote their own “right to privacy” over the sacredness of someone else’s life.

We even see it in our relationship with God, although we don’t always admit it.

But a sense of entitlement isn’t a new wrinkle in human development. Way back when the ancient Israelites left Egypt, their sense of entitlement was as strong as ours today. First they complained about a lack of food. Well, okay, I can understand a desire for daily sustenance in the middle of the desert. But after a year of God miraculously providing daily food in the form of manna, they complained about a lack of variety!

That account started me thinking. How often do I carry a sense of entitlement into my relationship with God? Of course, I don’t call it that. Instead, I say things such as:

It’s not fair!

                  Why did this have to happen to me?

                                          When is this suffering going to end?

Fair? Where did we get the idea that our Creator and Redeemer is fair? Think about it. Innocent animals died to cover Adam and Eve’s sin, pointing to the time when the perfect, sinless Son of God would die in our place for our sin. If a relationship with God were based on fairness, we would not have a relationship with Him at all. Instead, our future would hold nothing but judgment.

Fair is not the same as good. God is good. He is perfect. And He is sovereign.

One of the names of our great God is Adonai, the sovereign Lord. It means He is in control. Because I’m a Christian, He is not only the sovereign Lord, He is my sovereign Lord.

Each time I complain about my circumstances, in effect I’m saying I know better than He does about what is best. That’s a bit arrogant on my part, isn’t it? My finite assessment versus the viewpoint of the infinite, sovereign Creator of the universe.

I may claim to trust God’s leading and provision, but I’m ashamed to say, too often I allow my situation to distract me from remembering His faithfulness. Like the ancient Israelites, I grumble and complain, not because I don’t believe He is Lord, but because I don’t like the circumstances my Lord has engineered for me.

The sense of entitlement I criticize in others is just as ugly in me.

The demand for my rights to be honored is just as conceited in me.

Worst of all, every time I complain about what the Lord has allowed in my life, I become arrogance personified.

But demanding what I deserve is not really what I want. Because if God were to give me what I deserve, it would mean living without the assurance of His salvation through Jesus Christ. The result would be spiritual death and eternal separation from Him. It would mean living without His indwelling Holy Spirit, His love, and His guidance, and everything else He provides to His children.

I may be foolish at times, but I’m not stupid. I don’t want what’s fair. And I don’t want what I deserve. Thankfully, in God’s mercy and grace, He doesn’t give me what I deserve. And that’s just fine with me.


 
Asking the Provider to Provide
Provider

What was the last thing you asked God for?

Health?

Finances?

A relationship?

After all, one of the names God revealed for Himself in the Bible is Yahweh Jireh, our Provider, right? And let’s not forget what James wrote: “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2 NIV).

But how do we respond when God does not give us what we ask for?

When a loved one dies.

Or when a child, raised in the faith, rejects everything he was taught.

When we don’t get the job we need to pay our bills.

Or when a spouse walks out on our marriage.

Do we become angry? Resentful? Do we feel as if He betrayed our relationship with Him because He is our Father and we are His children in Christ?

Let’s go back to the first place in Scripture God reveals Himself as our Provider. It first appeared in Genesis 22:14, where God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. Just as Abraham is about to kill Isaac, God stopped him and provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice.

Abraham sacrificed the ram, and called that place “The Lord Will Provide” (Yahweh Jireh).

We often forget the first mention of God as Provider was not in relation to material things. Rather, this name was first and foremost associated with the provision of a substitute sacrifice, pointing to the time when God would provide a once-for-all substitute sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:11-14).

So here’s the $ 64,000 question for those who are Christ-followers:

If God never granted another one of your requests, would the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ—which restored us to the Father—be enough? Would His provision of our salvation be enough? Would the gift of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit be enough?

Or would we feel cheated if God did not continue to grant our requests? As if eternal salvation is not enough?

When James wrote, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (v. 2), he followed it with, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (v. 3).

Wrong motives. What motive could be more wrong than thinking God “owes” us? The God who provided His own Son has given us more than we deserve: a grace gift eclipsing anything else we could ask for because it’s eternal.

So the next time we find ourselves quoting God’s name, Yahweh Jireh, let’s remember His greatest gift—the one He provided before we even asked.


 
Shepherds in the Headlines – the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
Shepherds

One of the most significant roles described in the Bible is the role of shepherd.

But it’s one that can also be abused.

Lately, our present-day news headlines have been filled with accounts of the worst possible abuse by 21st century pastor-shepherds.

For years, many Christians have watched the Roman Catholic church struggle with a tsunami of scandalous charges. Accounts of gross sexual immorality by clergy who have not only neglected to shepherd their congregations, their abuse of the flock has been egregious.

This past week, a protestant denomination has also been in the headlines. The curtain has been torn away to reveal similar charges of sexual immorality that must grieve the heart of God in ways I can only imagine.

Back in the Old Testament, the prophets of God spoke judgment on religious leaders appointed to shepherd God’s people. For example:

“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?… I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock”
(Ezekiel 34:2, 10 NIV).

But God also identified Himself as a shepherd:

“As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them,
so will I look after my sheep” (Ezekiel 34:12 NIV).

And, of course, Jesus said:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I know my sheep and my sheep know me”
(John 10:11, 14 NIV).

If earthly pastor-shepherds are a picture of God’s care for His people, surely the abuses seen today bring sorrow to His heart.

The Puritan preacher, Thomas Watson, once said, “The sins of the wicked anger God—but the sins of professing Christians grieve him.”

There are shepherds—flawed and sinful.

Then there’s the Good Shepherd—perfect and holy.

The question is, will we allow the flaws of earthly shepherds to turn us away from the Good Shepherd? All too often, that’s exactly what happens. Or we judge all earthly shepherds by the failings of a few.

Sometimes, it’s not about the shepherd at all. Sometimes it’s about the stubbornness of the sheep.

This week I was challenged to let the Good Shepherd shepherd me. To submit to His leading. His prompting. His correction. To listen for His priorities rather than push ahead with my own. To examine my good intentions in the light of God’s intentions.

Will I read Psalm 23 not just as poetic literature, but as an instruction for life?

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (ESV).

I was challenged to surrender to the Good Shepherd in thought, word, and deed. Sometimes this means listening when He tells me to lie down and rest. Sometimes it means following as His Holy Spirit leads, even when I feel too tired to continue. But what will never change is that I—a stubborn sheep—am loved, cared for, and belong to the Good Shepherd who is always at work for my ultimate good and His eternal glory.

Don’t allow corrupt shepherds to tarnish your view of the Good Shepherd. And don’t place human, flawed shepherds—even the best of them—on a pedestal so high that they are set up for failure.

Instead, our pastor-shepherds need our prayers and our encouragement as we all love and serve the Good Shepherd together.

So now I extend this same challenge to you. Regardless of the examples of earthly shepherds—good or bad—will you allow the Good Shepherd to shepherd you?


 
But God

But God

One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “but God.”

The phrase is peppered throughout Scripture. And it makes my heart smile every time I come across one of those verses.

They bring a vertical perspective to my horizontal circumstances.

They remind me that my circumstances are not permanent.

And they proclaim that when my situation appears hopeless, the God of hope is still on His throne.

Check out some of my favorites:

  • Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…

  • Psalm 49:15 (ESV)

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.

  • Psalm 73:26 (ESV)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

  • Romans 5:8 (ESV)

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  • I Corinthians 1:27 (ESV)

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.

 

Life is difficult, but God is real.

Problems multiply, but God is the original problem solver.

People will disappoint, but God is faithful.

Satan attacks, but God is our defender.

 

What other “But God” statements can you add to this list?

 


 
Next Page »