by Max Lucado
He placed one scoop of clay upon another until a form lay lifeless on the ground.
All of the Garden’s inhabitants paused to witness the event. Hawks hovered. Giraffes stretched. Trees bowed. Butterflies paused on petals and watched.
“You will love me, nature,” God said. “I made you that way. You will obey me, universe. For you were designed to do so. You will reflect my glory, skies, for that is how you were created. But this one will be like me. This one will be able to choose.”
All were silent as the Creator reached into himself and removed something yet unseen. A seed. “It’s called ‘choice.’ The seed of choice.”
Creation stood in silence and gazed upon the lifeless form.
An angel spoke, “But what if he … ”
“What if he chooses not to love?” the Creator finished. “Come, I will show you.”
Unbound by today, God and the angel walked into the realm of tomorrow.
“There, see the fruit of the seed of choice, both the sweet and the bitter.”
The angel gasped at what he saw. Spontaneous love. Voluntary devotion. Chosen tenderness. Never had he seen anything like these. He felt the love of the Adams. He heard the joy of Eve and her daughters. He saw the food and the burdens shared. He absorbed the kindness and marveled at the warmth.
“Heaven has never seen such beauty, my Lord. Truly, this is your greatest creation.”
“Ah, but you’ve only seen the sweet. Now witness the bitter.”
A stench enveloped the pair. The angel turned in horror and proclaimed, “What is it?”
The Creator spoke only one word: “Selfishness.”
The angel stood speechless as they passed through centuries of repugnance. Never had he seen such filth. Rotten hearts. Ruptured promises. Forgotten loyalties. Children of the creation wandering blindly in lonely labyrinths.
“This is the result of choice?” the angel asked.
“They will forget you?”
“They will reject you?”
“They will never come back?”
“Some will. Most won’t.”
“What will it take to make them listen?”
The Creator walked on in time, further and further into the future, until he stood by a tree. A tree that would be fashioned into a cradle. Even then he could smell the hay that would surround him.
With another step into the future, he paused before another tree. It stood alone, a stubborn ruler of a bald hill. The trunk was thick, and the wood was strong. Soon it would be cut. Soon it would be trimmed. Soon it would be mounted on the stony brow of another hill. And soon he would be hung on it.
He felt the wood rub against a back he did not yet wear.
“Will you go down there?” the angel asked.
“Is there no other way?”
“There is not.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to not plant the seed? Wouldn’t it be easier to not give the choice?”
“It would,” the Creator spoke slowly. “But to remove the choice is to remove the love.”
He looked around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with the wind.
Men clad in soldiers’ garb sat on the ground near the trio. They played games in the dirt and laughed.
Men clad in religion stood off to one side. They smiled. Arrogant, cocky. They had protected God, they thought, by killing this false one.
Women clad in sorrow huddled at the foot of the hill. Speechless. Faces tear streaked. Eyes downward. One put her arm around another and tried to lead her away. She wouldn’t leave. “I will stay,” she said softly. “I will stay.”
All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity poised to protect. But the Creator gave no command.
“It must be done … ,” he said, and withdrew.
But as he stepped back in time, he heard the cry that he would someday scream: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) He wrenched at tomorrow’s agony.
The angel spoke again. “It would be less painful … ”
The Creator interrupted softly. “But it wouldn’t be love.”
They stepped into the Garden again. The Maker looked earnestly at the clay creation. A monsoon of love swelled up within him. He had died for the creation before he had made him. God’s form bent over the sculptured face and breathed. Dust stirred on the lips of the new one. The chest rose, cracking the red mud. The cheeks fleshened. A finger moved. And an eye opened.
But more incredible than the moving of the flesh was the stirring of the spirit. Those who could see the unseen gasped.
Perhaps it was the wind who said it first. Perhaps what the star saw that moment is what has made it blink ever since. Maybe it was left to an angel to whisper it:
“It looks like … it appears so much like … it is him!”
The angel wasn’t speaking of the face, the features, or the body. He was looking inside—at the soul.
“It’s eternal!” gasped another.
Within the man, God had placed a divine seed. A seed of his self. The God of might had created earth’s mightiest. The Creator had created, not a creature, but another creator. And the One who had chosen to love had created one who could love in return.
Now it’s our choice.From In the Eye of the Storm
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 1997) Max Lucado
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Romans Chapter 11
- Did God reject Israel? No! God chose Israel at the beginning and He never cut them off.
- When Elijah was being hunted down, he cried out to God that all of Israel were trying to kill him. God said, no, there were still 7000 left who had not worshiped Baal. There were still a faithful few.
- It is the same today. Not all people of Israel (or anywhere else for that matter) have rejected God.
- footnote- “God chose the Jews (“His own people”) to be the people through whom the rest of the world could find salvation. But this did not mean the entire Jewish nation would be saved; only those who were faithful to God were considered true Jews (11:5). We are saved through faith in Christ, not because we are part of a nation, religion, or family.”
- Why? Because God's grace remains. It is through Grace (undeserved kindness) and not because of works or genealogy. Grandma can't save you... only Christ can save you.
- If God's favor and salvation were based on works, then grace would not be what it actually is: free and undeserved.
- footnote- “Do you think it's easier for God to love you when you're good? Do you secretly suspect that God chose you because you deserved it? Do you ever think that some people's behavior is so bad that God couldn't possibly save them? If you ever think this way, you don't entirely understand that salvation is by grace, a free gift. It cannot be earned, in whole or in part; it can only be accepted with thankfulness and praise.”
- Luke 7:36-50
- Galatians 3:23-29, 4:1-12
- Philippians 3:1-21
- Acts 3:1-26, 4:1-12, 5:29-32, 10:34-43
- On whom or on what are you depending for salvation?
- Do you see yourself and those around you as deserving of God's grace?
- Are you working your way to heaven? Or have you accepted the gift?
- vs. 7-10
- Not all the people of Israel maintained favor with God.
- A few... but the rest... God hardened their hearts.
- footnote- “'The hearts of the rest were hardened' was God's punishment for their sin. It was a confirmation of their own stubbornness. In judging them, God removed their ability to see and hear and to turn from sin; this they would experience the consequences of their rebellion. Resisting God is like saying to Him, “Leave me alone!” But because God is always and everywhere present, His answer to that prayer might be to agree and make that person less sensitive, more hardened to Him. The very possibility of that happening ought to keep us asking God specifically for ears that really hear and eyes that really see—openness and responsiveness to Him.”
- footnote- “These verses describe the punishment for unresponsive hearts predicted by the prophet Isaiah (Is. 6:9-13). If people refuse to hear God's Good News, the eventually will be unable to understand it. Paul saw this happening in the Jewish congregations he visited on his missionary journeys.”
- Be careful that life doesn't take over. Sometimes our lives get so busy that when God speaks to us with instructions... we tell Him we're too busy, or we put it off til the next week, or we tell Him to ask again when things calm down a little bit...
- You know... slight side note... I've heard married couples joke about men's selective hearing... around the time the wife starts giving him the honey-do list, the husband suddenly can't hear in the next room... I heard a comedian once say that he pulled it off so well that his wife made him go for a hearing test because she really thought something was wrong with him... ha ha.
- Sometimes I think we have selective hearing with God. Oh yeah, we'll go visit someone who's sick, or we'll send money to kids in Africa or flood victims, or we'll donate to a food bank around Christmas or maybe even go work in a soup kitchen for a week around Thanksgiving... but that's just scratching the surface...
- if God asked you to witness to your sister? Your mom? Your next door neighbor? A girl in your class? A friend you've known for as long as you can remember? The lady at the grocery store? Is your heart ready and responsive to the call? Or will you have selective hearing and only hear what you want to hear?
- Don't let your heart become hard to the things of God.
- Paul is explaining the reasoning behind God letting the Gentiles have a place in the kingdom. (side thought... isn't it wonderful to think that God had this all planned out from the very beginning? He knew Christ would come, knew that He would be rejected, and knew He would have the opportunity to offer salvation to the whole world through a perfect salvation... wow.)
- Israel was disobedient. They were acting like spoiled children. They wanted all the benefits without the heart obedience.
- So God wanted to make Israel jealous. So He in effect, turned around and gave part of the inheritance, an equal share, to the neighbor kid.
- So the gentiles profited from Israel turning down God's salvation. Because of their rejection, salvation was offered to the whole world. (Paul's side note to this is the fact that there will be a great blessing when the nation of Israel also turns to God for their salvation.)
- We never fall too far to be helped back up. God won't ever turn His back on you if you ask for help.
- Acceptance of salvation means life for those who were dead. Dead how? Dead in sin, dead spiritually, dead to the life Christ brings to your soul.
- Acts 7:2-56, 13:16-41, 15:14-18
- Colossians 3:1-17
- Galatians 3:6-14
- Isaiah 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55 (I know there's a lot there, but it's all about the coming of Christ and His relationship to Israel and the Gentiles.)
- footnote- “Speaking to Gentile Christians, Paul warns them not to feel superior because some Jews were rejected. Abraham's faith is like the root of a productive tree, and the Jewish people are the tree's natural branches. Because of faithlessness, some of the Jews have been broken off, and Gentile believers, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. Both Jews and Gentiles share the tree's nourishment based on faith in God; neither can rest on heritage or culture for salvation.”
- You are not the root. You are a branch. Don't think that God won't break you off. You're not any more special than anyone else. Having salvation once doesn't mean you are free to sin as you please. You still have to remain obedient.
- The original branches were broken off because of unbelief. You were grafted in because of belief... but if God didn't spare the original branches because of unbelief, He won't spare you either...
- God is kind. He is loving. But He is also strict and severe. He is severe towards those who disobey, but kind to you who continue to trust in His kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off.
- If the people of Israel will turn back to believe, they will be grafted in again.
- By nature we are not to be grafted into this tree. We were a wild tree and He is grafting us into a cultivated one. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature, how much more ready will He be to graft the original branches back in?
- Proverbs 16:18
- John 15:1-17
- Paul is stressing this point to bring forward the idea that we are to remain humble in our faith. Don't become prideful about your walk.
- “All Israel will be saved”. This could mean more than a few things... could mean the nation of Israel, or could mean the spiritual Israel, which would include us... but regardless of who it means... the fact remains that through belief in Christ, God will rescue us and we will be saved from sin.
- Even though Israel are now enemies of the Good News because of unbelief, they are still the chosen people. God still loves them. Why? Because he chose their ancestors and God's gifts and call can never be withdrawn. They are forever.
- we the gentiles used to be the ones in rebellion against God. And then the Israelites denied Christ. Who was then offered to us. So now, Israel is in rebellions, and we have been shown mercy instead.
- Paul makes this statement, “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so He could have mercy on everyone.”
- What? God made us disobedient? God gave us free choice. He gave us free will. Which gave us the option of disobedience.
- Why in the world would God do something like that? Why would He give us a choice to be disobedient? To give us the option to cause Him pain?
- Galatians 4:21-31, 5:16-26
- God's wisdom and knowledge so far surpasses ours. It is impossible for us to understand His decisions and His thought processes. We can't give Him advice. And He doesn't owe us anything.
- footnote- “The implication of these questions is that no one has fully understood the mind of the Lord. No one has been His counselor. And God owes nothing to any one of us. Isaiah and Jeremiah asked similar questions to show that we are unable to give advice to God or criticize His ways (Isaiah 40:13, Jeremiah 23:18). God alone is the possessor of absolute power and absolute wisdom. In the final analysis, all of us are absolutely dependent on God. He is the source of all things, including ourselves. He is the power that sustains and rules the world that we live in. And God works out all things to bring glory to Himself. The all-powerful God deserves our praise.”
- God has a plan and a purpose for all things. A plan and purpose which stretches so far beyond what our feeble human minds can comprehend. I think the below Max Lucado excerpt is a pretty good explanation for the heart of God in deciding to allow us free will...