Archive for November, 2013
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
The stories that inspire and motivate us are, most often, accounts of human kindness. These viral experiences become known because the beneficiary of such a hospitable act went on to tell others. Don’t wait until you see wings and halos to act kindly. An angel is a messenger, and every person treated with unexpected kindness has the potential to go forth from such an experience and tell the message of God’s gracious provision.
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
We have all heard that if there is a will there is a way. So if it is the will of God that we be thankful for all things then there must be a way for this to become our reality. I’m convinced that gratitude and thanksgiving is an art form. When I observe the work of any great artist, my first thought is “this person sees things differently; lighting, angles, forms, and interpretations I would have never noticed.” My eyes are opened to a different perspective. I believe a person whose life is characterized by gratitude is no less an artist; seeing past the flat, one-dimensional perspective presented by the circumstance of any particular moment. No matter what your situation, from the right vantage point, you can give thanks.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).
“Who are you?” It’s a simple question complicated by an age of enhancement. From digital to surgical enhancement to the image enhancement of social media, we portray what we want to be but it rarely captures who we are. Because so much energy is exhausted on marketing and selling what we are not, who we are can easily be lost. It’s a game of deception that ultimately deceives only yourself. To know Christ is to know who you are.
“And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
When it comes to our eternal well-being, the most fraudulent source of security is that which comes from one’s own religiosity and the dressed-up performance offered each Sunday to gain the approval and affirmation of others. Self-satisfaction leads to self-deceit. God’s righteousness, however, is realized in the person of Jesus Christ and is received by a broken spirit that cries out in humility, asking for God’s mercy. Having been received, it then becomes the reference point for every moment and every area of one’s life. It isn’t your religion; it is your life.
“He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments; who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow” (Psalm 147:16-18).
Snow, sleet, and ice are equal to other glorious displays of God’s creative wonder, yet, they present a unique paradox. They are both burden and blessing. The harsh conditions presented when these wintry forms of precipitation first appear soon melt away and become liquid nourishment. Such is the word of God and the blowing of God’s Spirit to heart’s grown cold. It is from these receptive hearts that living waters flow.
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1).
Walking, standing, and sitting depict three ever deepening levels of association with those having no regard for the things of God. To walk with the wicked is a casual acquaintance; standing in the path of sinners is to associate with them more closely, while sitting with scoffers is to accept the lifestyle of those who are cynical and mock God. While being salt and light thrusts us into this world, these must not be our closest and most meaningful relationships. It’s synergy from the sheep that gives us energy among the goats.
“I will give You thanks with all my heart” (Psalm 138:1).
For the psalmist, David, there was not a specific day circled on the calendar that anticipated the gathering of family so we might remember to give thanks before an overindulgent feast. Instead, thanksgiving was something that sprang forth from the core of his being; it was the heartbeat of his existence. Gratitude is a foundational perspective on life from which every other virtue emerges. Don’t want on the calendar to say, “Thanksgiving.” Say it from the heart.
“‘But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.’ They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them” (Mark 10:31:32).
It is a powerful visual–Jesus teaching his disciples about the cost of discipleship; of a life poured out in sacrifice to others; that allegiance to him supersedes all familial ties; an abandonment of all human agendas set before you. The world will look at such a life spent as a waste, yet, you will have gained more than the world could have ever offered. Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, himself, models this paradoxical teaching–offering his first/last last/first analogy while walking ahead of his disciples. For those who achieve worldly preeminence–Congratulations! Now, please, just step to the back of the line.
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe;…” (Acts 2:42-47).
We long for the experience of connection; feelings of intimacy, nearness, oneness with our Lord and Savior. Many, however, seek such an experience while never having practiced, as a rhythm of life, the disciplines necessary to see such an experience accomplished–historically accurate bible study, shared communion, the messiness of fellowship, prayer. In other words, many want a self-serving experience without the rigors of discipleship; emotion without devotion; connection without a cross; blessings without the burdens; belonging while rejecting the responsibilities and rigors of congregational life. It’s only as we are continually devoting ourselves to the disciplines of our faith that sensationalized moments can be replaced by feelings of a genuine and lasting experience.
“Put on the full of armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
The evil perpetuated by the devil is schemed. It emerges from a methodology (“method” being the Greek origin of “scheme”); it is planned, calculated; deliberate. In contrast, the work of God is open; it is done in the light; it is transparent. Jesus never schemes to gain our allegiance. He, in fact, challenges us to count the cost before we would follow after him. When the commitment is made, however, we must counter the deliberate evil of this world with deliberate expressions of all things good, right, and holy.