Archive for December, 2014
“The Spirit of the Lord God upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).
So significant was this descriptive passage in quantifying the life and ministry of the One who would be the messiah, Jesus quoted it at the inauguration of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:18-19). If this then is the standard for measuring the authenticity and effectiveness of the One who be the messiah, then it must certainly be the standard for evaluating the authenticity and effectiveness of his church. Dashboard highlights taken from the corporate boardroom are antithetical to the criteria established in the throne room of God.
“Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations, and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:4).
Remodeling is both messy and, oftentimes, more costly than leveling and starting over. Such is a life committed to the service of others. It can lead to unforeseen issues and complications that cost more than was ever imagined. Because God has birthed within us such incredible potential and possibilities, he does not destroy and start over. He transforms and rebuilds. Even while doing this work in our lives, he desires to use us as his subcontractors to accomplish his remodeling in the lives of others.
“For I, the Lord, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offerings; and I will faithfully give them their recompense and make an everlasting covenant with them” (Isaiah 61:8).
While denying justice is a moral wrong, a greater sin might be our silence in the face of injustice; having the opportunity, position, influence and power to be an advocate for those who have no voice and choosing to do nothing. God’s truth, the transforming power of the Gospel, and the presence of Christ in his church can, and does, accomplish more by accident in the arena of social justice than does any government program on purpose.
“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day” (1 Chronicles 16:23).
As disciples the song of our heart emerges not from the the shakiness of our ever-changing senses but the abiding certainty of our never-changing Savior. Ours is a song of salvation that transcends our circumstances. Whether or not we sing is never the result of a stylistic issue but a spiritual condition.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
The enduring and future-oriented character of God’s word is made evident in the lives of his disciples. While most see, understand, and respond to things on the basis of personal bias, favoritism, preferences, current thought or popular opinion, our worldview is shaped and being shaped by the dynamic activity of God’s word being made alive in us. It is the very thing that distinguishes us as the community of faith.
“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (Matthew 24:6).
For Advent to be truly appreciated it must be understood as the anticipation of God doing more. A spirit of Advent begins when we no longer want what we currently want. It is the understanding that God is working to accomplish something that gloriously exceeds anything we have ever known or currently exists. Advent is the hope embraced by those who do not cling tightly to the offerings of this world.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper…that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
Though the Spirit cannot be seen, he is evidenced through the lives of his disciples as his work his executed in their inner lives. It is the Spirit that proves or disproves the integrity of our confession. We cannot speak of loving the church while not attending; of being gifted for ministry but not participating; of being redeemed but having an irreconcilable spirit. The Spirit of truth is what separates disciples from Spirit-less religious people concerned with the perpetuation of their own deceptive self-righteousness.
“Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear” (Isaiah 40:9).
Isaiah 40 is a source of comfort to a broken, disheartened, exiled people. Even in such despair, when the intuitive desire is to lock the door, draw the curtains, and pull the covers over our head, we are challenged to get up on a high mountain, a place that is visible, a place where our voice will carry, and proclaim that the bad news of our present circumstances is but a precursor to the forthcoming good news God is accomplishing. Our proclamation of God’s faithfulness, offered in the transparency of our own suffering, becomes a source of healing redemption for both the herald and the ones hearing our voice.
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming’” (2 Peter 3:3-9)?
Mockers mock and scoffers scoff. It’s who they are and what they do. Unlike the critics and skeptics, our view and interpretation of life isn’t determined by appearances but the word of God; not by the watch or calendar but the eternal purposes of God. Sadly, mockers fail to recognize that their critical taunts of a God who is seemingly inactive and delays, is the very God who acts patiently for their benefit; in the hope that even the scoffers might come to faith.
“So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5).
Praying for one another is no small thing in congregational life. The exchange of Sunday pleasantries, smiling faces, and the putting forth of our best behavior can leave the impression that all is well among the saints. The more likely reality is that the greater number crossing our path are imprisoned in various forms–fear, grief, disappointment, anxiety, worry, addiction. If a rock like Peter needed the prayers of the church, so do we. It is from lives intertwined by a common faith that a fellowship of prayer springs forth.