Archive for February, 2016
“Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious…’” (Exodus 34:6).
Instead of trusting in and relying upon the self-serving opinions of what others say about God, our quest to know him is best fulfilled when we allow him to speak for himself. Eleven times in the Old Testament God’s compassion is coupled with his grace. Compassion is associated with the womb of a mother and the deep love that emerges from such a natural bond. That God wants us to know him in such an intimate way speaks to his grace and his desire to live in relationship with us.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born in adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).
From the highs to the lows; from season to season, chapter to chapter, a true friend perseveres through each. Shared pain forges a bond of brotherhood that remains unbroken over the course of a lifetime. Do you have such a friend? More importantly, are you seeking to be such a friend?
“I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the lord” (Psalm 116:13).
Jesus asked his disciples, “Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?” In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” The cup of salvation is something significant. The cup contains responsibility, commitment, sacrifice, and death. Lifting this cup is no lighthearted toast.
“They said to Him, ’Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory’” (Mark 10:37).
To view the request of James and John as a self-serving grab for power and status is to misunderstand both the text and context. The disciples of Jesus are keenly aware that the destiny of Jesus is to be realized in Jerusalem. For three years Jesus has assured them of the forthcoming victory. Why, then, would we expect them to enter Jerusalem with doubt and despair? Jesus, himself, came into Jerusalem as a conqueror, but his disciples did not yet understand that conquering would involve a crucifixion; that death would be the means of victory. It reminds us that regardless of the unexpected turns life will take, we must live with victorious expectations; knowing that God’s glory will ultimately prevail.
“Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
Forsaking and returning is perhaps the best portrait of biblical repentance. The question is sometimes raised, “Is repentance something God demands before he will take me back?” C.S. Lewis answered it best, “Repentance is what going back to God looks like.” A radical, supernatural turning of one’s life is to encounter God’s even more radical, supernatural grace.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
When it comes to discovering God’s forgiveness, the prophet reminds us that it is to be found in the simple activity of seeking and calling. While the working initiative of God’s Spirit is persuasive, he is never coercive. Thus, we must be proactive in our pursuit. When can he be found? When is he near? In the very moment of your seeking and calling upon him.
“Then they said to Moses, ‘Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt’” (Exodus 14:11).
After 400 years the Hebrews were seemingly unaware of how enslavement had conditioned them to view Egypt not as an oppressive despot; a tyrant that destroyed hopes and dreams, but rather, as a sanctuary for remaining comfortable. Thus, the Hebrews soon discovered that it is easier to speak of faith in the familiar, monotonous routines of everyday life in Egypt than it is to actually live by faith in the unfamiliar and uncharted territories of the wilderness. Faith that is content to die in the memories of the past isn’t faith but sentimentality. A living faith is always leaning forward into the pursuit of God’s future.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:7).
In economically advantaged societies, “blessed” is a loaded term; blurring the lines between those who are and those who are not. The affluent, those who are well networked, that hold positions of power and influence will often make the claim (and others will ascribe it to them as well) of “blessed” to acknowledge their privileged opportunities. While their intended meaning of “blessed” is unclear; whether a gift for which one is thankful, or a reward that is deserved, the implication of this common usage is that those who lack such advantages are not blessed. Biblically, however, such socioeconomic comparisons have nothing to do with one’s state of blessedness. Both “the haves” and “the have nots” are blessed only as their trust is in the Lord.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
When I asked each Sunday how she was doing, a lady in my first pastorate, with the most downcast spirit imaginable, would begin going through a litany of things contributing to her misery. I determined to take another approach. The next Sunday, as she was coming out the door, I said to her, “Well, look at you, girl. Where did that spring in your step come from today?” At first, she looked shocked, but then responded with a chuckle, “I don’t know but I have to admit, I do feel better today.” I never heard from her lips again a single word of woe. The heart determines the attitude; never our circumstances.
“The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Proverbs 16:21).
I confess, there were times as a parent when my passion for something caused me to raise my voice to a volume so loud that it precluded the possibility of being heard. By their reaction, I could see that my children were no longer going to participate in the conversation. In an effort to get them “re-engaged,” I would say, “Passion and volume never makes a person right; not even a parent. I still want to hear your side.” In the course of the day, we sometimes have to defuse a tense conversation with a softer, sweeter tone. It’s then we have the best chance of being heard.