Archive for January, 2014
“For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace (John 1:16).
I believe “grace” is the best one word commentary on God’s new covenant, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Grace offers a more comprehensive understanding of God’s saving action than 2000 years of church history, theology, or language studies. It is received from God and not earned. It is given by us and not withheld. Grace pretty well covers it all. Be gracious about it.
“Opening his mouth, Peter said, ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality’” (Acts 10:34).
It’s important be a church with an open door; that upon arrival any and all are made welcome. Of greater importance, however, is to be the church of the open mouth. The mission of the church is fulfilled by an active army that goes and tells, not passive pew dwellers that leave the door open should you want to come and hear. We are the church of the open mouth when we express the mercy we have been granted, exercise the the privilege gained, and when we execute the orders given.
“He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom” (Proverbs 18:1).
Faith was never intended to be lived in isolation, but always in the context of community. Withdrawn and disengaged, the natural tendency is to become self-absorbed and preoccupied with one’s own wants and desires. It’s only by active participation and engagement that this is kept in check and the body of Christ maintains its focus on the greater missional task of the church. We are the sales team of the company of the committed, not consumers in the marketplace.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
As difficult as exile had been for God’s people, the return to Jerusalem and the effort to rebuild proved to be no less despairing. Their posture is one of defeat and hopelessness. The voice of God’s prophet is a call to stand up; get on your feet; assume a position that reflects trust in God’s provision and confidence in the future he has in store. Our mother’s were on to something…standing up straight really does make a difference. It communicates confidence and preparedness for whatever comes our way.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a).
Like an erupting volcano that spews forth, or a torrential rainstorm that leaves you drenched, the riches of God’s grace have been lavished on us. To be entrusted with such wealth is to embrace the responsibilities of managing and investing the grace that has been received. The verbs that describe God’s activity of grace, bestowed (v.6) and lavished, should be the very verbs used to describe the grace coming forth from our lives.
“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 2:7; 3:19).
Dust is most often viewed as that which must be cleaned. Other times we must wait until the dust settles to see the true result of the dustups that life often sends our way. Yet, beautiful things also emerge from dust. Abraham was called from the dust of the desert. Jesus came forth from a dusty tomb. God breathed life into that which had been fashioned from dust. Might our lives be a dust storm that leaves the world a more beautiful place once we have blown through?
“And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village” (Mark 8:22b-23a).
Having heard about the miracle-working power of Jesus, these friends of the blind man thought they knew what to expect—Just a simple touch from Jesus and their friend would be healed. Perhaps they trusted more in the touch of Jesus than in Jesus himself. We can all be guilty of imposing our expectations upon Jesus and the methods by which he must work. The blind man got far more than the expected touch. He had the opportunity to hold the Savior’s hand; to walk with him; to look into his eyes and converse. In other words, he gained a relationship that would forever change the course of his life, and he began to see things clearly. What are your expectations of God? If you are patient enough to wait, he will exceed them.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).
I admit that the “outdo” caught my eye because of its competitive tone. While some political views and educational philosophies have sought to “level the playing field” by eliminating competition, society has been the beneficiary of man’s natural competitive spirit. Are not the advancements of science and medicine but the result of human drivenness and competition? Would not our world benefit if every believer accepted Paul’s challenge to “outdo” one another in all things good and honorable? It would be an edifying pursuit since, ultimately, every competition is fought within oneself.
“My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled. I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:8b-9).
Chapter 11 is God’s description of what it is like having Israel as a child. While there is the ever-present tension between wrath and mercy, which every parent understands, what trumps God’s fury is his tender compassion. The temptation is to hear this and think, “This is the kind of parent I should be with my troublesome child.” Often it is that we “read” ourselves into bible stories in a way that was never intended. This is no lesson on general parenting. This is God’s story and we are the rebellious child. I am Israel and so are you. Our Father is compassionately redeeming us.
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4).
The significance of being chosen by God is best appreciated from those life-experiences when we were not chosen. Whether it was on the playground, the senior prom dream date, applying to a certain school, or interviewing for a job, we all have known rejection. These wounding experiences are made all the more painful because they are based upon performance in comparison to others. God picked you before you did anything worth even evaluating. He chose you because of who he is.