Archive for January, 2016
“You visit the earth and cause it to overflow; You greatly enrich it; The stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth, You water its furrows abundantly, you settle its ridges, You soften it with showers, You bless its growth” (Psalm 65:9-10).
As the dryness of our soul is quenched by Living Water, so our parched land is thirsting for sweet rain from heaven. As the Psalmist was fully confident of God’s abundant provision, let us pray and wait with that same certainty.
“Remember also your Creator…Remember Him…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1,6).
We are inundated with information. THINK magazine states the human brain, over the course of a lifetime, has the ability to store 700 images a second with no strain whatsoever. In practical terms, however, it seems we forget more than we retain. Even so, the Wisdom writer reminds us of the one thing we must never forget. It is the uninterrupted memory of our Creator, the One who gave his Son, that informs our every decision, attitude, and spoken word.
“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants’” (Matthew 11:25).
At a time when things were not going well; when he was misunderstood by even John the Baptist; when people were unresponsive; when he could have found a reason to whine, Jesus chose, instead, a reason to give thanks. While the world is a source of anguish, it is the sovereign reign of the Heavenly Father that is forever our encouragement and hope. Faith in man will always give you a reason to whine, while faith in the Heavenly Father will always give you a reason to praise.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35).
Religious zealots are a danger to people of all faiths, as well as those of no faith; co-opting isolated passages from their respective sacred texts as a means of justifying violence, spreading hatred, and inciting mayhem. Such extremists can be identified within each of the three major monotheistic world religions. The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, at least when it’s not hijacked by political demagogues, promotes a love of God that transcends our learned hate and the impassioned fear-mongering that is imposed upon us.
“How shall we picture the kingdom of God…It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade” (Mark 4:30-32).
The impact of Jesus’s ministry and the effectiveness of his church is best seen in small things — food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothing for the naked, an invitation to the stranger. In a culture of over-sized everything, including egos, we must guard against looking so far to the horizon for the opportunity to do something grandiose for God that we miss the little things in front of us that can be done now. From the least of these to the mustard seed, we are taught that the sum of little things has a far greater impact than the one big thing that we may or may not have opportunity to perform. If you desire to make a lasting difference, think small.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
It was to the impoverished that Jesus proclaimed the enriching good news of the gospel. While poverty is a social condition that evokes compassion, it is a dilemma resolved not by a shift in the economy but a transformation of the community of faith; when natural selfishness is replaced by supernatural generosity and obedient stewardship. Just as the poor lack purchasing power, so do the poor in spirit. Thus, when we recognize the poverty stricken of our spirit; that we do not have the means to acquire the kingdom of heaven, only then are we in position to receive the gracious and generous offering of eternal life that our Heavenly Father longs to give.
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in” (Matthew 25:35).
As the followers of Christ, we find ourselves in a cycle of life where we are both invited and inviting. The circumstances of those lives with which we providentially intersect on a daily basis invite us in to be the presence of Christ. In this context, the Spirit of the living Christ invites the broken, grieving, disappointed, and despairing to consider hope, faith, renewal, and transformation. With an eye for the littlest of things in the human dilemma, we can make the biggest difference.
“And He said to them, ‘When you pray…’” (Luke 11:2).
It is the assumption of our Lord that we will be a praying people. Prayer is the life-breath of the child of God. Our very life in Christ was birthed by a prayerful heart longing for and crying out to God. Throughout our day, it is that same spirit of prayer that focuses our hearts and minds toward actions and attitudes that bring delight to Him and glory to His name. Pray always and never let it become a matter of “if.”
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
It seems such a harmless petition. We have recited it so repetitiously that it has become innocuous. Its disruption to the present kingdoms in which we live our lives has been lost. Perhaps you are unaware of your kingdom. It is the matrix and framework in which you live your life; offering you a sense of security, manageability, and predictability (words that stand in contradiction to the life of faith). It is a kingdom you seek to preserve and strengthen, and it stands in opposition to anything that brings disruption. Now, pray again the passage.
“Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and heart” (Psalm 26:2).
Using the language associated with the smelting and refining of metal, the prayer of the psalmist recognizes that while faith forges who we are as a people of God it is the hardships and trials of life that become the pressure test for the integrity of our faith. With testing the depth, quality, and richness of our faith becomes evident. Every hardship strengthens our faith and prepares us for the trials that will certainly follow. There is never a time when life isn’t putting faith to the test.