THE SLOW-TO-ANGER GOD

Before marrying, sit at a computer with slow internet and find out how patient he or she is. Most of us are patient–providing we get our own way. When your wife says she’s picking up only one thing, so you can wait in the car, time to learn patience. When you text someone at 8:44 and at 8:45 he still hasn’t responded, take a deep breath–and wait. When you call for health care questions, wait for an hour, and the voice message announcing, “Thank you for your patience,” say, “You have no idea!”  Of all the needful fruit of the Spirit, this gets most votes.

God was prepared to end the race. Found one righteous man and instructed him to build an ark. It took a hundred years. That’s 36,500 days after deciding to start over. Peter wrote about “when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built” (I Peter 3:20).

Moses climbed the mountain to get the law. By the time he came down forty days later, the people had made a calf. He exploded and broke the tablets. God was more angry, but His was on a slow burn. He thought of abandoning the nation, but Moses talked Him out of it. Then he added, “I’m not going if you don’t.” He asked God to show His glory. and God put him in the cleft of a rock, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…’”(Exodus 34:6,7). He didn’t say everything about His character, but He did say that He was compassionate and slow to anger. I would not have expected “slow to anger” to be among the top five.

Some time later when spies were sent out, they returned and announced that the land could not be taken. The discouraged people wanted to return to Egypt. Moses and Aaron hit the dust. Joshua and Caleb tore their garments and protested, and the people considered stoning them. God told Moses that He was done. But Moses pleaded with God, taking His words: “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared, ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion’” (Numbers 14:18).

Nehemiah rehearsed the story in his prayer at Jerusalem with the returned exiles: “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles…But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (9:17). We find the same refrain three times in the psalms, likely a part of their liturgy (Psalm 86,103,145). They had heard of the gods of the Canaanites who were so angry they had to be appeased with gifts, so they were proud of their slow-to-anger God.

He performed miracles to release the children of Israel from bondage, finishing with the Red Sea walk and wiping out the army. How long did it take for complaining to begin? As soon as they started the journey. They continued to test God’s patience. He finally decided that they would die in the wilderness, but He put up with them for forty years. That’s 14,400 days of waiting. Stop for a moment and praise the God who is slow to anger. I want to be like Him. I don’t want be quick to anger. You probably don’t either (part 2 next).

THE POWER OF THE ALMIGHTY

We often feel powerless. Then take a look at the power of God. He shows His power in…

HIS FREEDOM. “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3).  The Lord said to Abraham after he and his elderly wife laughed at the thought of having a baby, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Gabriel told Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke l:37).  Any impossibilities challenging you? They don’t challenge the Almighty.

CREATION. “…by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).  “Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary…” (Isaiah 40:28). Good to know.

NATURE.  He is the one who “makes Lebanon to skip like a calf” [an earthquake?], whose voice “breaks the cedars,” “flashes forth flames of fire [lightning], and “shakes the wilderness.” Fireworks!

PRESERVATION.  The Son sustains “all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). God asked Job regarding His power of preservation, “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb…when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther?’” (Job 38:8-11).

COMMAND OF THE ARMY OF HEAVEN. The psalmist wrote about our warrior God: “Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Ps. 24:8). Angels, powerful servants of God, join in praising His strength: “Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones [angels], ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (Psalm 29:1). Attention!

SALVATION. “The Lord will lay bare his holy arm…and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10). The gospel is “the power of God for salvation…” (Romans 1:16). Impressive!

The Old Testament refers often to two great acts of power: the creation and the exodus. In the New Testament, God’s power centers in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Paul prays that we might know “the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).

RESTRAINT OF EVIL. Kings and rulers chafe under the divine restraint.  But “the one enthroned in heaven laughs” (Psalm 2:4).  When evil blossoms forth as a sign of the curtain call of history, twenty-four elders will say, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign” (Revelation 11:17).

JUDGMENT.  St. John of the Apocalypse continues, “The nations were angry; and your wrath has come” (11:18).  Jesus is returning in “power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30) and His name will be vindicated in his judgment of all humanity.

GOD’S USE OF POWER

He never abuses it. His power has not tainted His character. Our words can carry the freight of shame or guilt. By contrast, “every word of God is flawless” (Prov. 30:5).

He gives power to the powerless. Mary praised the God who “has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree” (Luke l:5l,52). Let us praise the power of God!

HOW REACHABLE IS GOD?

Friends make themselves easy to contact: “Call me any time, and I mean it.” We don’t want to overuse that privilege, but we believe it. It demonstrates love at both ends, our friend’s availability and our boldness in bothering in the middle of the night. We apologize—they take it as a compliment.

How humble of God to put Himself within reach. He says, “Connect anytime.” “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jer. 33:3). He loves staying in touch with us. We don’t have to go to a holy place or change clothes. We simply call. In fact, God says that “before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).  To get to the president, you’d go through guards and desks and memos and security checks. To get to the creator of the universe, you call. No office hours. He doesn’t take days off or leave for vacation.

I called Orlando, a finance manager and member of our board. I asked if we could meet up that day. He said, “That wouldn’t work; I am in Hawaii.” I said, “Orlando, why did you answer the phone?” He responded, “Because I have learned to make myself available to people.” What a humble response.

On the hill (D.C.), there are people who are known for their inaccessibility. Really hard to connect with them. Don’t return messages. Does that make them more important? It makes them one thing–hard to reach. It might be pride.   

The more important you are, the less available you are to normal people. The CEO of Apple can’t be accessible to everyone. Some people must choose their contacts because of their high-level job. The lower you are on the totem pole, the less likely you isolate yourself from common folk. You are the common folk. So where does that put Orlando? And where does it put God?

“God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in time of need” (Psalm 46:1). 911 is used for emergencies. So is 46:1. God has chosen to make Himself available to the needy. David wrote, “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice…” (Psalm 18:6). Thanks for listening, God!

When we see Jesus carrying a towel and basin and washing the feet of the disciples like a lowly servant would, he just put a face on God. When we see him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, we know what God is like. When we see him submitting to verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the religious leaders, then submitting to death itself, we understand that God is humble. He makes Himself available–not to the high and mighty but to the low and needy.

Important people usually only make themselves available to other important people. God does the opposite: He “is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Makes me love God more. How about you?

THE SUPREME COURT OF HEAVEN

 

TV often captures the drama of the courtroom. Destinies are weighed in the balance. The verdict can send people into a lifetime of imprisonment or to freedom. Picture the drama in the high court of heaven, when every person who has ever lived appears before the Most High God for the ultimate verdict. You will be there, your family, your doctor, your neighbor. Scripture talks more about this day than any other, including the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. Hebrews calls it a foundational doctrine (6:2). Must be important. Open to Revelation 20:11-15 for one of the most awesome pictures in all of Scripture.

WHO IS THE JUDGE ON THE GREAT WHITE THRONE?

“Earth and sky fled from his presence,”  vanishing before the incredible majesty. The person is a Man: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son…” (John 5:22,23). Luke writes that “he is the one ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).

WHO ARE THE JUDGED?

John continues: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne…” (20:12). “It is appointed for men to die once, and after comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). All will be there: Caesar and Solomon, St. Paul and Socrates. Greatness is relative, and brilliance is dwarfed before eternal majesty.  Two groups are represented: all humanity and fallen angels, including Satan. Demons encountered by Jesus knew His authority and pleaded not to destroy them “before the time.” Now the time has come–and they shudder with fear.

WILL CHRISTIANS BE INCLUDED?

We know “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The child of God “does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). But scripture also says that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The lives of Christians will come under review, not for eternal judgment, but to test works and issue rewards. How were gifts used (Matthew 25:1-30) and words chosen (Matthew 12:36)?  Paul says that “every man will receive his commendation from God” (I Cor. 4:5). Salvation is not an issue–faithfulness is.

WHAT IS THE BASIS OF JUDGMENT?

Sheep and goats are separated by good works. Paul says that the judge “will render to every man according to his works” (Romans 2:6). Works give evidence to faith.”Each person was judged according to what he had done” (20”13).

IS THERE A COURT OF APPEALS?

Court proceedings often drag on for years. Deliberations in heaven’s court last one day. The judged are not standing trial; they are hearing the verdict. No cross-examination, no postponing the court date. Trials are sometimes declared invalid due to a technicality. He who judges “the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:11) speaks flawlessly.

WILL SOME REALLY BE LOST FOR ETERNITY?

Judgment day means destruction for the ungodly (2 Peter 3:7). Jesus will make a clear separation between the destiny of the righteous and the condemned.

WHAT SHOULD A CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSE BE?

Some will be thankful they barely made it (I Cor. 3:15). Paul expected a crown and couldn’t wait. Time for the awards banquet. If we have been abiding in Christ, we will have confidence and not shrink back in shame (I John 2:28). Even so, come Lord Jesus!

GOD THE PLANNER (part 2)

 

Are you good at making plans? God is really good. Check it out.

HE HAS REVEALED HIS PLAN TO US.

“He made known to us the mystery of his will…” Ephesians 1 uses the word “will” three times. God has three kinds of wills: His decreed will (the plan that will certainly happen), His desired will (such as all being saved), and His defined will (commands to be obeyed). He hasn’t told us everything about His plan, as Moses shared with Israel in his farewell message (Deut. 29:29): “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law”[defined will].

GOD’S PLAN IS PERFECT.

It comes to pass. God’s word goes forth and accomplishes its purpose (Isaiah 55:11).  My plans sometimes bomb. Paul expected to travel east into Asia, but God sent him west instead, a much better idea. “The counsels of the Lord stand forever, the plans of his heart from generation to generation” (Psalm 33:11). God has surprised me numerous times, with major changes in my plans to carry out His will. And as Job said, “No plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

GOD’S PLAN IS ETERNAL.

My plans are for a month or a year. God plan goes from eternity to eternity. “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please…What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned; that will I do” (Isaiah 46:10,11).

GOD’S PLAN CENTERS IN THE CROSS.

Jesus is center stage in God’s plans. God connected with a man named Abraham and said that his seed would bless the earth. Jesus was of the seed of Abraham and engaged in a rescue operation from sin and Satan through his perfect life, atoning death, resurrection and exaltation. In doing so he would “bring many sons to glory” to praise Him forever. Even the death of His Son came in line with His eternal purpose: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:28). Is that fate? No, it is wisdom mixed with sovereignty, foreknowledge, and preprogramming.

GOD’S PLAN BRINGS US GOOD.

It is so good, that even when people interfere with God’s plans, they work together for good to those who align themselves with His purpose (Romans 8:28). Because God plans, we also plan, but we hold our plans lightly. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

GOD’S PLAN IS REVEALED INCREMENTALLY.

Biblical prophecies give clues to His plans. The sacrificial system pictured the coming atonement of Christ. Jesus prophesied the end of the world, and the book of Revelation tells what it will look like.

GOD’S PLAN ENCOMPASSES EVERYTHING.

My plans for a vacation impact my wife and children. God’s plans cover the landscape and are incredibly woven together. They reveal His wisdom, love, and eternal purpose: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36). Praise God for His marvelous plans. You are included!

GOD THE PLANNER (part 1)

Is it good to make plans? In fact, it is godly, because it is like God. No one plans like God. “He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ…In him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:9,11,12). This tells us six truths about God’s plan:

HIS PLAN IS A MYSTERY.

And the mystery continues even after the plot is revealed. No one says, “Crazy, I should have thought of that.” No interior logic would ever come up with the plan of God. His ways and thoughts are light years higher. We can only marvel at infinitely superior wisdom and love.

HE LIKES HIS PLAN. IT GIVES HIM JOY.

God is neither bored nor boring. To read His love letter and call it boring says nothing about the letter and a lot about the reader. God is not grouchy, nor is He having a bad day. And He is looking forward to spending an eternity with His family. It is to His “good pleasure.”

HIS PLAN CENTERS IN HIS SON.

His Son brings Him great joy. And His fullness of joy increases as we are made to look more like Him. He purposed His plans to center in Christ. The way we fit into His plans is to “hope in Christ.” No other way. No Lutherans, Baptists or Catholics in heaven, only children marked by the blood of Christ and spared from a Christless eternity through Calvary love.

HIS PLAN IS PREDESTINED TO BE FULFILLED.

That means it is going to happen. A new earth has been planned. We’re not going to get a text from heaven saying, “Sorry, it is not going to work out as planned.” Peter called the plan imperishable, unfading, and reserved for us. It is not subject to mold, rust, or deterioration. Not my program. Karen and I planned to go to Washington. Never got past Oregon. Had to call and cancel. It doesn’t offend me that God has made perfect and preprogrammed plans for me. I’m in! Predestination is a mark of his love (Eph. 1:5).

HIS PLAN INCLUDES US.

In fact, we were chosen before the foundation of the earth. It was not a last-minute decision to get us in before the deadline. That should prop up your self-image. Choice implies worth. My friend Gary was chosen last at recess in junior high because he couldn’t swing a bat. Never mind that he was smarter than the rest of us. It didn’t feel good to not be chosen. If you are reading this, I suspect that you are!

HIS PLAN BRINGS HIM GLORY.

We get chosen–He gets praise. We can only rejoice at His compassion. The only thing holding Him back from sending Jesus to earth today is that He desires even more children in His family. He’s a Father, and He happens to really love His kids. And His kids bless Him–forever!                     (More about this great plan in part 2).

REFLECTING ON THE FATHER LOVE OF GOD

 

  1.  Finish the sentence: God would love me more if I____________________. If you can complete the sentence with anything, what does it say about you and your God?
  2.  What do you hear God saying the most to you? “When are you going to get it together? Why are you always blowing it?” Or do you hear affirmations, like, “I am proud of you? I am glad you’re in the family. Keep up the good work.” Does anything need to change in how you are receiving your Father’s love?
  3.  Once Erikka asked me after she had been disobedient, “Do you love me now, Daddy?”  I reassured her of my love. Do you find it difficult to accept God’s forgiveness? Is it easy for God to forgive you and for you to accept it and go on?
  4.  Satan purposes to deface your picture of God. Did it for Eve. He wants to turn God into a permissive, punitive (punishing), passive, or performance-oriented Father. Where has he been successful with you? God is more like a boss than a father to some. We just don’t feel that close. Or he is a policeman, trying to catch us doing wrong, or a judge hoping to pin us to the wall. Do you have any pictures of God (policeman, prosecuting attorney, etc.) that have been distorted? The elder son treated his father like he was a boss, not a dad. How about you?
  5.  God not only loves you—he likes you?  He likes being with you, spending time together. How do you handle that? Do you believe it or do you struggle to receive it?
  6.  A boy forgot to feed the dog. Instead of been forgiven, he was beaten. The punishment did not fit the crime. He has decided that his father doesn’t love him. And he has decided that he doesn’t love his father. He doesn’t want to be around, and he can’t wait until he can leave—for good. Has any bitterness lodged in your soul in a similar way? A teenage boy lives with his grandmother because the parents are separated and the mother can’t afford to keep him. His dad promises to come by and take him fishing. After waiting in the living room for three hours, he decides that Dad isn’t coming. Dad calls the next day and gives a lame excuse. The promise to take him shopping before Christmas ends the same way. After a variety of episodes like this, he decides that he isn’t worth the time. As an adult he is still trying to prove to his dad that he is worth spending time with. Do you identify?
  7.  Marsha can’t call God “Father.” Her father was abusive, and it hurts too much to use that title for God. Do you feel that way? How can that change?
  8.  A father wants his daughter who is pulling A’s at a prestigious eastern university to go to law school at Harvard. She feels a call to the mission field but does not want to disappoint her father. He has his own image of what his daughter will be, not necessarily God’s idea. She feels burdened under the expectations of her father, who seems to have this need for his daughter to make it big. Have you ever been made to feel that way? Do you feel that you are performing for God rather than simply receiving His love?

I wrote “Healing From A Father Wound” (five pages) to help people who suffer from father (or mother or significant other) wounds. I’d be glad to send it to you. pa@harvestcommunities.org.