Archive for December, 2013
“And He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:49).
As the new year approaches many are in the process finalizing their resolutions. Most of them are safe, sensible, and a cosmetic dress-up of the life we have designed for ourselves–diet, exercise, budget. What we need is the resolve to embrace one final resolution for our lives–to be about the Father’s business. It is this alone that gives purpose to all that we do.
“I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, the praises of The Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he has granted them according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7).
Isaiah understood the pain and sorrow of exile; those experiences that steal away all things familiar and take us to a place we have never been nor imagined going. Instead of despairing and becoming disillusioned, the prophet is resolved to take another path–to speak of the abundant expressions of God’s mercies as a remembrance that it is God’s choice to include us in his unfolding purposes. Your exile experience will eventually become a post-exilic experience that far exceeds your pre-exilic existence. His future far surpasses our present.
“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens…Praise the Lord from the earth. Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven (Psalm 148:1,7,13).
From high to low, and all things in between, the entire spectrum of the created order is designed to offer forth praise to the Creator. Found twelve times in Psalm 148, “Praise the Lord” is not only to be life’s central theme, it is also an imperative verb that commands praise. To praise the Lord is a significant gesture for it displays what we were created to do.
“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!
Each of the four gospels open with an incarnational word…God in the flesh having been birthed into the world. From the accounting of this birthday, which we call Christmas, the gospels proceed immediately to the baptism of Jesus–the initiation of his public ministry. It’s an appropriate reminder to the church as to what we are to be about the day after celebrating Christmas. As he was born to sacrifice his life for us, we have been born-again to serve him.
“This cup is the covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).
While there is much to ponder regarding the Child born to a virgin and the implications of the incarnation–God with us in human form–it is his death and not his birth that we are told to remember. Without his death and resurrection there is no Christmas. The celebration of the Child must, ultimately, give way to cruelty of the cross.
“Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25).
God, through his prophet, long ago gave the assurance of restoration. Messianic hopes and expectations were fulfilled in the incarnation of God in Christ. It was his response to a crying, broken, crushed, and oppressed people. The promise of a resurrected life is a gift that takes us beyond the wounds of a painful past.
“O Lord God of hosts, how long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and you have made them to drink tears in large measure” (Psalm 80:4-5).
The tendency of most Christians is to suppress their complaints against God; that expressing them would somehow indicate a lacking in one’s faith. The protests of the psalmist, however, remind us that our laments are, in fact, expressions of faith in God’s provision. Our crying appeals to God are based upon our knowledge of him as a God who has spoken to and acted for the benefit of his people. Even our crying out in frustration keeps us leaning on him in trust.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11).
To live as a witness for Christ is to advocate truth; it is to be a counter-cultural presence. To those who do not follow Christ, we are a confounding mystery. And what people don’t understand, they fear and persecute. Might we live in such a way that the only plausible explanation is the existence of God.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same (Matthew 5:46)?
Anyone can treat well those they like. But what of those for whom we have no affection, or feelings, or even dislike? Our pursuit, as the ones who have been called by Christ and are being renewed by the working of his Spirit, is to be equally loving to any of those that might cross our path. When intentionally practiced it will bring forth a growing affection where there has previously been none.
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar” (Psalm 139:1-2).
After hearing a sermon or reading scripture, have you ever had the sense that someone was reading your mail? Such is the nature of God’s word. It reveals how deeply and intimately he knows us. From the most mundane routine of our day–sitting and standing–to our innermost thought, he knows us. This is our inspiration to get to know him better.