OK, Fine! I’m Sorry!!

By Scott Armstrong

“Listen, my people, and I will speak; I will testify against you, Israel: I am God, your God. I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me” (Ps. 50:7-8).

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(Read Psalm 50:7-15)

I am very lucky to have a brother.  Since he is only two years younger, we had many of the same friends and many of the same interests when we were growing up.  We played together a lot and are still good friends to this day.

But obviously we had our moments of fighting, too.  And I remember as my mom broke up many heated wrestling matches, she would look at me and demand, “Say you’re sorry, Scott.”  Of course, as an obedient son, with true remorse in my heart at what I had done, I would grudgingly mutter, “I’m sorry,” and then wait for my mom to leave before making a face at my brother.

If you have a sibling, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  There are ways to say “I’m sorry” genuinely, and ways to say those words without meaning an ounce of them.  There are times we have asked for forgiveness and meant it and times when we just did it because it was what we were supposed to do.

This is a theme we have had twice in the past week.  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6).  In the psalm we just read, God is pleading again for obedience.  If I tell my brother, “I’m sorry,” and yet five minutes later do the same thing in order to irritate him, do I really mean it? God is dealing with the same thing.  So many of his people are praying to him or, in the Old Testament context, sacrificing bulls and goats, without ever having the intention of obeying him.  He desires thankfulness; he wants us to “fulfill our vows”—in other words, obey (v.14).  When we sincerely call on him, he will deliver (v.15), but he wants us to come to him in genuine humility and with a real desire to obey.

What has your relationship with God been like recently? Have you been serving him because you know you should or because you genuinely want to? Has your obedience come from your heart or merely been external? God wants us to obey him out of love and thankfulness for what he has done.  Pray with him right now.  That kind of relationship with him can begin today.

 

News Flash: Noah Saved by The Grace of God

By Scott Armstrong

“God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways” (Genesis 6:12).

(Read Genesis 6:9-22)

I always wondered why the story of Noah was a kids’ story.  Isn’t this about the judgment and wrath of God? While Noah and his family are cooped up as temporary zookeepers, the heavens are opened, the waters start to rise from the earth, and everybody else drowns.  Can you imagine how terrifying that would be if we told little Billy all the details? I guess it’s the animals.

But that’s not the only thing that strikes me as strange in this story.  We have to acknowledge that God is ticked off here.  He’s grieved, and his heart is filled with pain (v.6).  The wickedness was so bad that this same “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love…” (Ps. 86:15) puts his fist down and shouts, “Enough!”

Here’s the weird part: in the midst of sharing with Noah his plans to destroy humanity, he stops and gives detailed instructions about the boat Noah is supposed to build.  “I want three decks on this baby, Noah, and you have to use a certain type of wood….”  And then after specifying how Noah is supposed to gather his family and all the animals, the same God who is absolutely furious…waits.  Most scholars agree that it took Noah 120 years to build this massive ocean liner.  Why didn’t God just wipe everyone out when his anger was boiling? Or why didn’t he just tell Noah, “Build an ark, Noah; I’m sick of this”?

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The answer is the key to the story.  Even in his anger, God can’t not be gracious.  He loves his creation.  The very essence of his character is love.  So he takes the time to stop and tell the one guy who’s living a holy life what he needs to do to save mankind.  Isn’t that awesome? That means, as God’s children, we do not have to serve him out of fear, but are free to serve him out of love.  We can obey him, like Noah did, simply because we truly love him.  Are you at that point in your life?

Remember: even in judgment there’s grace.  Even in wrath there’s love.  And even a child’s story can teach us that.

 

New Beginnings

By Scott Armstrong

Need a new beginning in your life, in your city, or in your church? God specializes in helping us start afresh. 

God gives us fresh songs of praise.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” (Ps. 40:3)

God is in the heart-transplant business.

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ez. 11:19)

In the driest wilderness, God’s refreshing fountain springs forth!

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Is. 43:19)

God changes minds, attitudes, and entire selves so that we are like him!

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24)

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God truly makes ALL things new.

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Is. 65:17)

In Christ, God gives us a fresh start.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

The new beginning does not have to wait – God’s mercies are new every morning!

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23)

Even at the end of the story, God starts another one.

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Rev. 21:5)