Archive for June, 2013
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
Jesus’ “I am” statement is a declaration of divine identity utilizing the metaphor of a door to emphasize the necessity of passing through him to discover and experience those things we most desire. To be saved is to be in a place of safety; the ability to go in and out implies freedom; finding pasture is to know satisfaction. It is through this door, to the exclusion of all other doors, that these things are realized.
“Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Proverbs 19:20).
Much of what qualifies as wisdom is the capacity to learn from the life experiences of others. There is perhaps no more egregious an error than to assume that life’s questions and hardships are unique to the time in which we live. Such chronological snobbery deprives one the opportunity to draw from the well that has been dug by those who came before us, with questions as searching as ours. Even scripture must be read with this spirit of humility if we are to benefit from the cumulative wisdom of those have hungered for God and been filled.
“Woe to you scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).
The various and worthwhile causes that compete for our time, attention, and resources can soon take on a “flavor of the day” appeal. The advocacy for justice, mercy, and faithfulness that Jesus envisions, however, isn’t cause driven but is a comprehensive and pervasive reality that is to exist because of who we are in Christ Jesus.
“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:3-4).
In days of political unrest consolation replaces despondency when we recall the contrast between mortal rulers and their temporal kingdoms and the eternal God and his everlasting Kingdom. Whether a prince of a monarchy or the president of a democracy, worldly powers utilize processes and means to achieve ends that stand in opposition to the kingdom of God. If one must be partisan (and we must), be partial to the Kingdom that Jesus said is not of this world.
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
The kinship we have with the rest of God’s created order is that we are both sustained by the faithful provision of God. Our greater value, however is evidenced on several fronts: we are created n the image of God; we are ascribed a mission and purpose of service that the rest of creation is not; to hear the One that speaks through his living Word means we possess that which does not arise from the natural order of things. When you take the time to look, it is easily seen.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
To be sure, God has a design for marriage that honors him. While providing marriage counseling, several men have pointed a blaming finger at the wife and boldly quoted the verse of scripture about wives submitting to their husbands. Strangely, I have never heard a man quote the above verse, which I consider to be the greater burden of responsibility in a marriage. Every devoted follower of Christ, married and single, should commit this verse to memory and understand it as the guiding principle for the home committed to the Lordship of Christ. Ladies, this kind of man will diligently seek to protect your reputation and your witness and would never ask you to compromise either of these for the sake of convenience or his needs. The man who understands what it is to give himself up would never ask you to give yourself up to cultural practices over biblical expectations.
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
It is a far simpler life to be a bond-servant of Christ than to live in the stranglehold of the masses. Living to gain the favor and approval of others is a meaningless and directionless existence that allows anyone to trip the wire of the performance trap. To lose one’s identity in the whimsical demands of all the various personalities that populate one’s life is to, ultimately, lose one’s soul. In the end there is only One opinion that matters.
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; sick, and you visited Me; in prison, and you came to Me. To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:35-36; 40).
We all desire that God would use our lives to make a difference; leave a mark; impact the lives of others. Too often our egos would have us thinking and praying about this in grandiose terms; something monumental; something compatible with the bigness of God. Sometimes our eyes are so fixed on the horizon of possibilities that we miss the obvious needs that cross our path each day. In the Lord’s judgment, the biggest Kingdom impact is made when we do the littlest of things for the least of those among us.
“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us” (Romans 5:5).
While one would never hope to suffer, hope is to be found in suffering. The apostle Paul’s formula for hope–tribulation bringing about perseverance; perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope (v.4)–emerges from his personal experiences with pain. What God is creating us to become in eternity isn’t an afterlife project. It is underway here and now as the crucible of life is endured, the dross is burned away, character is forged, and hope remains.