Archive for May, 2011
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples are you’” (John 18:25)?
Has your life ever crossed paths with someone who made you feel uncomfortable? Embarrassed by the things they say or do? Or, maybe, even by their mere presence, made to feel that you were in a threatening situation? Peter understands these negative emotions that threaten friendships, challenge allegiances, and highlight the flaws of our character. It often seems easier to remain in the comfort and warm surroundings of the crowd than it is to stand alone in the cold of isolation and do the right thing; to be a solitary voice of support when the crowds are crying for someone’s crucifixion.
How willing are you stand against the crowd because of your commitment to and relationship with Christ?
“From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Christ” (Galatians 6:17).
My body bears physical marks from various events that have taken place over the course of my life. There is a scar from a dog bite; another from a swing-set accident; one in my brow from multiple stitching. There are other scars, invisible, left by the wounds of various life experiences. The scars we each possess are part of our identification; they tell a story of who we are.
Paul’s “brand-marks” were real. He received countless beatings—five times the thirty-nine lashes of the Jews, three times beaten with rods and once stoned (2 Corinthians 11:23-25). These were the direct result of his service and commitment to Jesus. These marks declare whose he is and whom he serves.
Beyond your baptism is there anything, by the way you live and the choices you make, that marks you as servant of Christ?
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36).
We are now twenty-four hours removed from the May 21 Harold Camping prediction for the Day of Judgment. It was nothing new. The graveyard of history is littered with the tombstones of doomsayer’s and prognosticator’s, though there was an inordinate amount of media coverage due to the nationwide billboard campaign by Family Radio. In reviewing these ongoing, misguided attempts to figure out, calculate, and decode what Jesus himself confessed to not knowing, we should consider the lessons to be learned. The most glaring, from my perspective, has to do with the hermeneutical task of rightly interpreting the sacred text for its intended purpose—heralding the preeminence of Christ and His exalted role in the redemptive purposes of God. This is the goal of the Law and the prophets in the Old Testament (“For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John” Matthew 11:13). Continued efforts to make the ancient text into some kind of predictor of global disasters, Arab-Israeli relations, or a premise for a uniquely American eschatology preoccupied with multiple returns of the Lord, wars of Armageddon, and seven years of tribulation as depicted in the Late Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind novel’s dishonors the sufficiency of our Lord and all that was fulfilled in his death, burial, and resurrection. The words spoken by the prophets of old were but pointers to the One who would be the Word Incarnate. The greatest testimony of our confidence in the sufficiency of His redemptive work isn’t to pass the day with calculators and charts in hand that we might, to the day, anticipate his return but to live obediently each day with the anticipation that this is the day.
I would not begin to guess the day but I know the day is imminent. Live accordingly.
“Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).
The direction we choose to live our lives will determine the stability and certainty of the path before us. When life is lived with a passionate desire to please the Father, we find that our feet are steady and sure. We cannot live life with an unbridled, reckless abandon; a life that faces the day without any consideration for the Lord and then act mystified and troubled when unfavorable consequences come against us. We are a people designed to live with purpose and direction.
Each day brings a various distractions so watch your step.
“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Deuteronomy 24:15).
You and I will make a variety of decisions in the course of a day. For the preponderance of these we will offer little consideration—what to eat, what to drink, what to wear. But, on occasion, there are decisions that require greater contemplation—decisions that set the course and direction of your life; that define the kind of person you are; that determine how you will be remembered. What is most telling about decision of these kind is they reflect the way you sense the future. If you are a person who lives with hope and the anticipation of what God is doing and accomplishing it will be evident in the quality of those decisions you make today. Only those who live with a sense of despair for tomorrow base their decisions on the convenience and expediency of the moment.
The choices you make today tell the story of what you think about the future.
“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1Thessalonians 2:7)
As a pastor, I receive a great many pieces of artwork and notes from the children in my congregation. There is an oft repeated statement found on their handiwork—“I love my church.” Nothing more thrills me than to pastor a people where the children enjoy their Sunday School class, look forward to attending worship services; where they say without hesitation, “I love my church.”
Many, if not most, in congregational life will proclaim their love for the church and, yet, some will do things that indicate otherwise. They will fail to attend regularly, speak ill of her at any opportunity, live a lifestyle that diminishes her witness in the community, malign her leadership, etc. Today’s passage indicates that love and care for the church is something to be “proved” out. Thus, our declarations of love must be more than a word spoken but an action taken.
Do you love your church? Prove it!
“Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
The discovery of God’s mercies is linked directly to our confidence in the sufficiency of all that was accomplished in the life and ministry of the resurrected Christ. It’s only those trusting in their own righteousness, religiosity, and merit that come to the throne of God with uncertainty and trepidation. To trust in Christ, and none other, is the only means of receiving mercy and finding grace. Of this, you can be confident.