Archive for November, 2015
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1).
A group gathered all together in one place does not mean they are unified. Sporting events and political rallies, for instance, are made up of people holding different opinions. The community of faith, however, comprised of individual believers from varied walks of life and a diversity of experiences, are unified by the distinctive work of the Holy Spirit, who has providentially gathered them together for the primary task of fulfilling the Great Commission mandate given to the church. We have been all brought together that we might all go forth.
“For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalm 136:1-26).
Scripture challenges us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” With the varied circumstances that can come against us, have you ever wondered how this is even possible? From God acting in creation, to the highs and lows of Israel’s history, the psalmist describes twenty-six various circumstances and, yet, for each one the prevailing attitude is one of thanksgiving. Why? Not because of circumstances but, rather, this — “For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” In all our circumstances this is the one thing that prevails.
“The idols of the nation are but silver and gold, the works of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, nor is the there any breath at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them” (Psalm 135:15-18).
Idols have nothing to do with statuary but everything to do with that which receives the very best of our time, energy, giving, thoughts, and actions. By this definition, we are all guilty of idol worship. If we idolize the risen Christ, we have a mouth that offers words of hope; eyes that see both brokenness and possibilities; ears that hear the despairing cries of those victimized by injustice, and a breath that shouts for those who have no voice. It is true, we become like the One/one in whom we place our trust. Choose the One that transcends this earthly realm.
“The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all is His works” (Psalm 95:8-9).
The integrity of God’s character is evidenced in the consistency of his goodness and mercy. His goodness is available for all, not some. His grace is not partial and limited, but inclusive and unlimited; available to any who respond in faith and trust. His mercy is over all things, especially those things that are broken and in need of his redeeming touch.
“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2).
Thanksgiving should be understood as more than a day off work, or even a chance to gather with family. Thanksgiving is the attitude and perspective on life that best facilitates a meaningful prayer life. A true spirit of thanksgiving isn’t determined by the ever-changing circumstances of one’s life but, rather, the enduring relationship we share with our heavenly Father. With this, we are rescued from the shallowness that views prayer as the rabbit’s foot for getting something from God, and brought to the more enriching place that understands prayer as the means of getting with God. Thus, everyday is to be a day filled with thanksgiving.
“They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power; to make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom” (Psalm 145:11-12).
The collective voice of his people is the means by which God makes known the testimony of his work. Just as a great symphony requires an orchestration of individually unique and distinctive parts, so is the orchestration of our voices as the church. Following the lead of the heavenly Maestro, the sharps and flats of our individual faith are arranged into a majestic presentation of grace-filled hope.
“Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:2,4).
As devoted followers of Christ, our legacy is to be one of living out the story of God’s redeeming grace and glorifying His name. In other words, we are responsible for His legacy; a legacy that will impact and shape the forthcoming generations. For this to be carried out, as the psalmist says, “forever and ever,” it must be intentionally done “every day.” An every day faith is the launching pad to a lasting legacy.
“But whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Jesus set a child before those disciples concerned with greatness (v.1). It was intended as a lesson not about innocence (such sentiment betrays the rigors of carrying the cross and the hardness of the world in which faith must be lived out) but, rather, having an eye for ministry that focuses on the littlest (mikron) of people and our responsibility before them. This isn’t so much a biological (age) issue as it is sociological (position). Ego wants to do big things for big people; that one’s status might be elevated. Little things for little people, however, who can offer nothing in return, is the only true Kingdom work. The question of greatness is itself a stumbling block because it introduces a concern for status that God’s kingdom does not even invite.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
One of the most cherished experiences life can offer is that of a treasured friend; one with whom you share and experience, together, the seasons and chapters of life. From this one you can receive even painful words of truth because you know they speak for your benefit. We are better because they are part of our life. In contrast to such a faithful friend, beware of those who offer the kiss of flattery. As portrayed by Judas, such kisses are not what they appear to be.
Blow farewell kisses to those who come to you in deceit. Embrace and nurture your true friends.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them and they will never perish; and no will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
During an Easter event, I was playing with a group of children trying to pry candy from my hand. With a vice-gripped clench, I didn’t think it could be done. Yet, finally, one was able to get hold of my finger and wrench it in such a way that I had to open my fist and the candy fell out.
I’m grateful that by no amount of wrenching or scheming can the evil one pry us from the Father’s hand. Forty-three times in the New Testament salvation and the Christian life is described as eternal life or everlasting life. By definition, these two terms mean that the life of salvation is something that can never be lost. That one could have it then lose it would imply not eternal and everlasting, but temporary and conditional. We can face each day with the confidence that He has a firm grip on our lives.