Archive for September, 2014
“Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1).
When a cross stands as the most recognizable symbol of our faith, why are so many shocked by the pain and hardships of life? The life of faith isn’t a simplistic, Americanized formula; that if we go to church, daily read our bible and pray, God will then exempt us from the unexpected challenges of life. Much more so, it is a life of enduring faithfully; waiting for the unfolding purposes of God to be revealed.
“There was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.‘ And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed’” (Luke 5:12-13).
While twenty-four of twenty-five personalities in the gospel of Luke thus far have names, this man is identified by the weakest and worst moment of his life. It is a terrible thing we do as human kind; to freeze people in time, defining them by their worst moments or biggest mistakes. In contrast, it is the most wondrous thing of God’s redeeming grace; that he redefines us in the light of what Christ has done and not what we have done.
“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector’” (Luke 18:9-10).
Both of these characters will be in church Sunday. We are one or the other. The tax collector will be back because that’s what grace does. Having experienced it, we want to grow in it; recognizing that something is being accomplished in our lives. The Pharisee will be back because that’s what religion and self-righteous does. His state only grows worse with each passing week.
“But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
Because eternity is long and time is short the church can ill-afford to soft-peddle and “slick up” the gospel in the hope that it might appeal to consumers and build a crowd. With great clarity our preaching and teaching must explore the depths of the human condition while telling the story of God’s sufficient grace. Only by conviction and conversion can His Church be built.
“But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Corinthians 14:3-4).
While not diminishing the legitimacy of glossolalia (tongues), the apostle believes it to be a spiritual gift best utilized at the altar of private worship so as not to become a distraction. For corporate worship, he advocates intelligible speech that clearly communicates the word of God, as opposed to unintelligible words that are of no benefit to the larger body of assembled believers. Biblically, corporate worship was never intended to be a showcase of our individual expression, but an altar that calls all attention to Him.
“You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” (Romans 2:21).
God’s desire isn’t that we might offer our gifts to him, but that the gifts he has so graciously bestowed upon us might be manifested in our lives. As a people who so reverently venerate God’s word and so zealously defend and proclaim it, we must all the more allow it to shape our attitudes and actions.
“Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household’” (Genesis 41:51).
The human capacity to remember is both helpful and hurtful. It is helpful in the recall of things we need to know and hurtful when remembering things best forgotten. Joseph chose to forget the many hurtful things perpetuated against him by others. In Hebrew it carries the idea of being “oblivious to” or “unmindful of.” Storing up bitterness becomes a cancer of the soul. It’s akin to you eating rat poison and hoping the rat will die.