Archive for September, 2013
“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
In the struggle against principalities and powers many within the church become fearful and insular; they entrench, dig in; embracing a timid defensive posture. It is a response Jesus never intended from his church. Fear is best faced in the field of battle not in the sanctuary of cowardice. The church is on the offensive; fueled by a Great Commission that has deemed the world as our field.
“Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers” (3 John 1:6).
Acting for the benefit of those with whom we are familiar and have a relationship is normal and even expected. The life and teachings of Jesus, however, as well as the inspired writings of the apostles, indicate that a greater degree of faithfulness is revealed in our actions towards those who are strangers; those outside our normal context of association. How long and often must we hear it to know that true faithfulness isn’t our perfunctory religious performances but our practices toward others.
“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).
Though each word is translated as “anger” the apostle, Paul, uses three unique and distinctive Greek words in chapter 4 (see verse 26 and 31) to help us better understand the nuances of anger. Two of these are to be avoided and one diligently pursued. Verse 31 speaks of a raging anger associated with losing one’s temper. This stands in contrast to the repressed anger of verse 26 that stews and simmers beneath the surface and keeps you up at night. The one required of us in verse 26 is a righteous anger. What separates this from the other two forms of anger is that righteous indignation is always directed at an injustice and never a person.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).
The duration of any physically demanding task is dependent upon ones’s endurance. When strength fails, performance falters. In the life of faith, however, our strength is from the Lord. In fact, as followers of Christ, it is only when human strength has failed that the strength of the Lord can flourish. Sometimes the first enemy to be faced in a battle is ourselves.
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:19).
Because we are so consumed with the benefits of a particular product, we fail to heed the warnings that are often associated with its use. Such is the life of faith. While everyone is interested in eternal life few give consideration to the cost of discipleship. Jesus gives ample warning that following him is no walk in the park; that because, as his followers, we are not rooted in this world we will be hated. Remember that the symbol of our faith isn’t a feather-bed but a cross.
“When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (Psalm 73:16-17).
A sanctuary offers what a theater, coliseum, auditorium, or civic center cannot. Living as salt and light isn’t all spice and bright lights. Seeking to glorify the Father in a world hostile to the things of God is spiritually, emotionally, and physically draining; creating confusion and conflict. What we need in order to recover, recharge, regroup, and refocus isn’t another event to be attended, in the hope that we might entertained, but a sanctuary where common minds worshipping a common Savior find refuge, rest, and renewal.
“One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord” (Proverbs 19:17).
When considering the poor our minds are conditioned to think in terms of financial hardship and economic challenge. Sometimes, however, the greater need of the poor is to be graciously acknowledged with warm courtesy, kindness, and politeness. In fact, I would consider this to be a universal need. Thus, “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even to the least of them you did it to Me.”
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
In our affluent, consumer, me-first culture the idea of giving one’s life and resources to the building of an eternal portfolio presents a unique challenge. How we give is a reflection of what we love; of that to which we are committed. It aligns with our life mission; it is the evidence of where we want to make an impact and what we desire to see accomplished. Giving is but the action that springs forth from the divine quality of generosity that dwells within every believer.
“Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, ‘When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground’” (Joshua 4:20-22).
On their way to Jericho, God performed a great miracle enabling the nation of Israel to cross an overflowing Jordan river on dry ground. Yet, no memorial was established at the river site. That the memorial stones were placed at Gilgal, between the Jordan river and Jericho, is significant. It served as a reminder not only of where they had been but where they were going. God’s time is linear. The One who is making all things new has no interesest in preserving the past but leads his faithful to the discovery of their future.
“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
The comprehensive scope of God’s desire that all would come to salvation should never be underestimated. To hold that the salvation God offers is for some but not others is to suggest that the atoning death of Christ was lacking; insufficient; inadequate; limited in it’s effectiveness. It is incomprehensible that God, who condemns the sin of partiality in James 2, would himself practice partiality.