Archive for June, 2015
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth” (Psalm 73:25).
Where he is now, emotionally and spiritually, is vastly different from an earlier period in the psalmist’s life. Then he was disoriented by the inequities of life and how the wicked prosper; consumed by the lingering bitterness of envy. It is the folly of the young and uninitiated. Life eventually teaches us what the church has been telling us all along…the things of this world come and go. God alone can fill our deepest longings.
“rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer” (Romans 12:12).
In the extensive catalogue of qualities that should be evident in the life of the believer (v.9-21), my eyes are continually drawn to the third clause of the above verse…”devoted to prayer.” Confessionally, it is the one from which I am most easily distracted. I suspicion that because we are so “connected,” we create our own disruptions. While each one is but a brief moment, just “checking” our incoming tweets, email, texts, and Facebook posts, in the effort to keep with what is happening on the timeline of our “friends” lives, can add up to a great deal of wasted time. We must recapture our lives and no longer be held hostage by the tyranny of the urgent.
“After he had dismissed the crowd, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).
Considering the throngs of people with whom we interact each day — from family, classmates, coworkers, to social media — the idea of being alone, and the need to be alone, can easily be lost. If, however, it was a compelling need in the life of Jesus then we, too, must intentionally “dismiss” the crowd that we might have time alone with the Father.
“You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).
This is a definitive statement. He doesn’t say this is what you ought to be, should be, or could be. He says, “You ARE.” Grace prevails in this declaration. The journey before us is one of becoming what we ARE, not what we can be. The distinctive teaching of the Christian faith is that God’s gracious work of salvation is a gift bestowed at the beginning of our pilgrimage and not at the end. Jesus tells us who we are before he tells us what to do. He blesses before he commands. He assures us before he challenges us. Embrace who you are. Go out and spice things up today.
“‘What are your multiple sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats’” (Isaiah 1:11).
Sacrifice is a significant theme through the entirety of scripture. While the Old Testament outlined an elaborate and detailed sacrificial system, the advent of Christ, and his atoning death as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world, rendered the old order unnecessary. Even so, the principle remains. No longer does God require the blood of dead animals but, rather, that we might present ourselves to him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). It is a one-to-one relationship — He died for us; we live for him.
“Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel…” (Isaiah 1:18,19,20).
Reason is often left to catch up with emotion in matters of faith. Sadly, for some, it never does. For these, any intelligent approach to the faith discussion is an anathema. Emotion wants to claim the promises of God without condition. Reason, however, recognizes the necessity of an accompanying premise to any promise. Rebellious living is incompatible with loving God and the life of faith. No matter how strongly we desire to wish it away there is a biblical divide between sheep and goats, saints and sinners, believers and unbelievers. Even the prodigal had the intellectual capacity to come to his senses.
“Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly, I hate your new moon festivals and appointed feasts…” (Isaiah 1:13-14).
The people of God have forever drifted towards a form of worship that seeks to incorporate holidays and observances that are more secular and sentimental than sacred and holy. That God hates such things is the needed reminder that ours is a jealous God; that the sanctity and exclusiveness of Christian worship must be preserved; embodying the spirit of the Fourth Commandment — to remember the sabbath and to keep it holy.
“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches” (Psalm 63:6).
While research has long extolled the physiological benefits of sleep, the psalmist awakens us to the spiritual benefit of those nights when we cannot. I, too, have found this to be true. The pen on my nightstand can bear testimony to some of the richest thoughts and most formative moments that the Heavenly Father has given me during these times of nocturnal unrest; moments that have eventually become sermons but, more especially, have first impacted and shaped the direction of my life. Before counting sheep try listening to the Lamb of God.
“My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).
Emotional and spiritual immaturity is characterized by the need for immediate gratification; the constant sweet tooth that is never satisfied; moving from one carb experience to the next; filling up on empty calories. Substantive and lasting satisfaction, however, is experienced in God’s abiding presence which the psalmist compares to the richest foods. While Levitical laws forbade the eating of fat (Lev. 7:23) and was to be used as an offering to God — “all fat is Yahweh’s” (Lev. 3:16) — it is the life lived as an offering to God that finds true nourishment and fullness.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
A confident future is best realized by living well in the present. As the apostle, Paul, looks back over his life; having endured beatings, stoning, being shipwrecked, and various other hardships, he does so with the satisfaction that through it all he has remained faithful in his commitment to Christ. Looking ahead to a likely death sentence, he does so with the confidence of what he knows is coming — a crown. Often it is in life that we must look past the pain of the moment to the prize at the end. Stay faithful and face your day with confidence. Your coronation is coming.