Archive for August, 2014
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
Of those with whom we must abide the most difficult is the one who is always right or, worse still, the one who thinks himself always right. As a people called to live in fellowship with one another, the Spirit of the living Christ teaches us to value right relationships more than being right. While we like to affirm ourselves in that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we tend to forget that the same is true of everyone else.
“And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).
Mary’s affirming response to the declaration of the angel offers much insight into a faith that is willing to say “yes” to the revealed purposes of God. An affirming faith accepts God’s assessment of one’s life. That Mary had favor with God is true not only of her but you. An affirming faith focuses on the possibilities not the problem; God’s answers instead of human questions. An affirming faith recognizes that it is not alone in the Divine drama—even her relative Elizabeth was being used by God. It is a faith not stifled by fear but driven by trust.
“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you” (Luke 10:19).
We should not hear these words as a license to practice reckless behavior but as an assurance of God’s faithful provision and protection. The cup from which we drink and the cross we carry, while sometimes bearing the bite and sting of hardship, are metaphors offered by a victorious Savior, not instruments of destruction from a defeated enemy.
“The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with a baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mark 10:39-40).
What God has in store for our eternal reward is best understood in the light of today’s obedience. In fact, Jesus offers no promises to James and John regarding eternity’s seating arrangements. Such belongs to God the Father. What Jesus desires is to prepare his disciples to face today’s battles and responsibilities. Stand up in faith to these challenges of today and and where you sit in God’s tomorrow will take care of itself.
“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
In offering a corrective response to those Corinthians whose display of spiritual gifts had become self-aggrandizing and, thus, disruptive to the corporate worship experience, Paul reminds the church that the purpose of such gifting is for the common good of the congregation. Ecstatic displays that call attention to oneself are a poor substitute for edifying expressions that benefit everyone.
“And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13).
As believers we must guard against an attitude toward the body that is more Greek than biblical; that the body must be negatively viewed as something from which one must escape or the soul awaits release like a caged bird. To depreciate the body is to fall short in fully appreciating the implications of the incarnational Christ. It is through the body that we present our spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1). There is no such thing as a disembodied faith.
“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new… And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Isaiah 43:18-19; Revelation 21:5).
From his prophet, to his Son, to his Eternal Kingdom the purposes of God are always oriented to the future and not a recovery of the past. While this seems to be a common sense observation many are held hostage to the past by the earthly inclinations of sentimentality and nostalgia. Faith requires of us an intentional forward leaning into His unknown, unfamiliar, but certain future.
“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 5).
For too long the confessing church in western culture has associated knowing with believing; that acknowledging and offering intellectual assent to the historical reality of Jesus, and even the biblical assertion that he is the Son of God, is to be a believer and the only thing necessary to wear the label, “Christian.” In today’s text, however, Jude offers the needed reminder that biblical belief is associated not with knowing certain things but, rather, true belief is translated into an obedience that emerges out of relationship.
“I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).
In boxing, the contender is the one vying for the championship; the crown. It is the one toiling, laboring, practicing fastidiously the discipline of self-denial to reach the highest level of performance. To contend for the faith doesn’t mean we work harder and harder to attain the favor of God but, rather, as a product of God’s grace and the transforming power of his Spirit, I never reach a point of arrival. There is never a point that I can be satisfied in the journey of faith. I must embrace and live it as a contender.
“But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16).
Whatever the women of Corinth were failing to do in regard to their hair or head-covering, it was such an egregious breach of culturally expected behavior that it became a contentious matter of distraction in the corporate worship experience. Paul’s teaching in this chapter is a reminder of the distinction that exists between private and corporate worship; that the notion we are free to do whatever we want in corporate worship is not only without biblical merit, it dangerously impedes the clear communication of the Gospel. Corporate worship values tradition (v.2), subjugates individual expression and emphasizes, instead, complementary expression (v.3-15), and is to be attended with a teachable spirit (v.16).