Another View of God’s Caring Side

As hard as it is to believe, there are those who only see our heavenly father as a domineering, demanding, law making God waiting to punish them at the slightest infraction.  What joy comes from living that kind of life?

Jeremiah 29:1-14 presents a different picture of a loving God, encouraging His people while they were in an exile in which He orchestrated.  Even in the discipline process God’s love for His own is seen in the words of Jeremiah’s letter.  The first thing they were told is that even though God had sent them there they were to be a blessing there.  They were to continue life as normal by building homes, planting crops, marrying and having children.  They were also to seek the peace of the Babylonians and pray to the Lord on their behalf.  The words of Jeremiah state, “for in its welfare you will have welfare.”  As the Babylonians go, so would go the tribe of Judah.

In addition, Jeremiah encourages them with the promise that at the end of 70 years God would visit them and bring them out of captivity and back to the land of Canaan.  The Lord does not leave them without hope.  Judah would not be relegated to being in Babylon or even another country by way of Babylon being conquered.  That’s the love of God who has plans for His people “not for calamity, but for a future and a hope.”

That’s not all we read in Jeremiah’s letter.  God has given them encouragement to look for His deliverance, but He has also given them a clue as to how this will come about.  In verse 12, Jeremiah repeats the word of the Lord, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  Them you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” 

God has always had the good of Man at heart and in this text is becomes clear.  He loves us and as a result the man that searches for Him with all his heart will be truly blessed.  How much heart are you putting into your search for the God that awaits your coming? (See Matthew 22:37, 38)  Less than all may not be enough.

Copyright © 2003, Nolan P. Rutter

Moved By Fear

I remember a time while growing up when our 4 year old neighbor ran out the front door of her home with Mom close behind, shouting “Come back here, or I’ll paddle you.”  The little girl being pursued responded “It’ll only hurt for a little while!”  That was a typical response of a parent 30 years ago.  In order to obtain a particular behavior, a threat of punishment was presented.  Sometimes this was effective, but as seen by this story, it doesn’t always work!

This is often the approach used to reach the spiritually lost or keep those who have chosen to follow God.  I ask myself why that is and the best answer I can come up with is that it is so easy for many.  I even find myself at times taking the approach that God is just out there waiting to drop the hammer of justice on us.  While it is true that God is just and that those not seeking His mercy and grace will find His wrath, the true essence of God is in His love.

The best approach seems to a balanced approach.  Fear is a tremendous motivator but the result is a selfish one, one that seeks self preservation.  Fear that brings one to God is good in that we are reconciled to Him as He desires (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).  But we are to grow beyond that fear (dread) to a respect and reverence for God.  We are to grow in both the grace and knowledge of our savior.  Growing in grace means increasing in our understanding of the “unmerited favor’ we have received.  Appreciate it more and more each day as it comes to mean more to us.

One last point that occurs to me is the tendency of an individual to avoid that which is feared.  If we are filled with a dread of God we will respond just as the Israelites did at the base of Mt Sinai when they pleaded for Moses to speak to them rather than God.  They wanted to be at a “safe” distance, yet in His good graces.  Remember, James tells us to “draw near to God and He will draw near to us.”  Are you too fearful to let that happen?

Copyright © 2003, Nolan P. Rutter

Prophecy Made Simple

In the book of Acts, chapter 8, we find the Ethiopian eunuch reading a passage from the scriptures that began “He was led as a sheep to slaughter…”  When Philip approached and heard him reading this passage from Isaiah, he asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading.  Do you remember the eunuch’s response? He responded with “How could I, unless someone guides me.” 

I am truly thankful for the scriptures “which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  2 Tim 3:15 (NASB)   I am even more grateful that I don’t have the disadvantage of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time.  In addition to the same writings they had, we also have the writings of the apostles who recorded the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and were guided by the Holy Spirit to reveal more perfectly to the Lord’s people how to live their lives as His children. 

Isaiah 59 was our passage for study this week as we looked at the advantage we have over God’s earlier followers.  Our comparison of Isaiah’s prophesy with actual events in the Gospel accounts was designed to help us realize how God revealed His will through the prophets so that God’ people could know when it unfolded.  The sad part of the scenario is that when the events occurred, they went unnoticed or were rejected altogether.  This was especially true with the greatest of all prophecies that being the one to reconcile man to his Creator, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.  How sad it is to know that those chosen of God to bring about and herald the coming of the messiah wanted absolutely nothing to do with Him.  They were responsible for the death of the Son of God and when some heard that message in Act chapter 2 they were pricked in the heart and immediately sought what they should do.  Read Isaiah 59 again for yourself and see his portrayal of God’s salvation and reflect on how it played out nearly 780 years after it was foretold.  You’ll appreciate it more every time you read it!

Copyright © 2003, Nolan P. Rutter

Activate Your Faith

There is a story that involved an area that was in need of rain.  The crops were dying, wells were drying up and things were coming to the point of desperation.  The local church decided that a prayer meeting which concentrated its focus on their need for rain was in order.  As the members filed into the building for the prayer meeting, one little girl was noted carrying an umbrella.  She was the only one!

Walking by faith is not a passive process!  Walking by faith is active and involves effort on the part of individual’s claiming to have it.  In a recent morning lesson we looked at the fact that saying we have faith but not doing anything to demonstrate it makes it a dead faith (James 2: 17). 

We also looked at what the driving force is behind our faith.  Paul says “…if I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  (1 Corinthians 13:2) 

My friend, God’s love is demonstrated toward us in many ways and when we respond to that love with our own love, it will drive our faith in Him.  Our love and faith combine and will naturally result in works that “perfect” or “complete” our faith. 

If you find yourselves claiming to have a saving faith in God, but aren’t doing your part to feed and clothe your brothers and sisters (James 2:15-16) or obeying the direction of God (James 2:21-23) you are only fooling yourselves. 

I encourage you to “activate your faith” if you haven’t done so already.  Give God the glory by truly loving one another as He has loved us.  May God bless you in your “walk of faith!”

Copyright © 2002, Nolan P. Rutter

Lead Responsibly

You may remember being asked as a child by one of your parents, “If your friend Jimmy jumped off a roof, would you have to jump off too?”  While this question wasn’t meant to be answered, it should make us realize the effect of those around us who have an influence on us.  Many look at themselves as merely followers and in no way a leader.  Upon further investigation of what constitutes a leader, we find that anyone who sets an example which someone else adopts, makes that person a leader.  They have “shown the way,” or “marked out the path.”  If we are honest with ourselves we will realize that we can lead by our actions and words, even if we don’t intend to.  We also need to realize that our actions as such make us accountable or responsible.  We looked at several passages in which the Apostle Paul was very clear on what his actions would be if something he did would be a stumbling block for another.    He would never let himself put a block before another of God’s precious souls.  Jesus taught this principle in the Gospels, primarily in dealing with children.   Jesus’ answer was that it would be better for that person to have a “millstone around their neck and be cast into the sea” rather than to cause one little one to stumble.  A person’s death would prevent that source of stumbling to occur and Jesus said that would be better!  What does that tell us?  We need to continuously evaluate our lives, our words and deeds to insure that what we do leads one closer to Christ rather than away.  We need to realize that leadership carries with it responsibility.  Won’t you lead someone closer to God today?

Copyright © 2002, Nolan P. Rutter