Archive for February, 2016
“I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind” (Jeremiah 17:10)
The observance of institutional religion is a worthless, self-righteous pursuit; satisfied with the veneer of piety. It is not interested in the mission of the church, but rather, the maintenance of the past. A biblical faith, however, is a matter of the heart; facilitating the transformation of every facet of one’s existence. We are wise to test our thinking about religion against the practice of a real faith. It is a test the Lord, himself, will administer.
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and who heart turns away from the Lord’” (Jeremiah 17:5).
The deliberateness and intentionality required to be a unique presence and distinctive voice in contemporary society requires the utmost attentiveness of God’s people. If not guarded, we can find ours on a slippery slope of trusting human systems — technological innovation, social status, economic achievement, military power, or partisan politics — as the means of security and purpose. Living to such ends is a cursed existence, for it is driven only by selfish desires.
“Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here’” (Genesis 50:25).
Moses would fulfill the request and take with him the bones of Joseph, and those of the other patriarchs according to Acts 7:16, from Egypt to the Promised Land. By so doing, the Hebrews had with them a constant reminder that a seemingly uncertain future is but a part of God’s proven past. So strong was the patriarch’s belief in the promises given by God to Abraham, that God’s people would someday inhabit the land of the Canaanites and the Philistines, these ancient figures desired more to be buried in the future of God’s people than in the past of their own experiences. We can never allow our hope to be buried where we are. It must always aspire to where we are going.
“Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:18).
Ancient maps indicate a northeasterly path out of Egypt as the most direct route to the promised land of Canaan; perhaps two weeks of travel. Instead, knowing the Hebrews were emotionally and spiritually unprepared to battle as a conquering army; that they didn’t want to leave Egypt in the first place (Exodus 14:12), God providentially directed them southward, away from the Philistines and Canaanites. The course upon which God sets our life is rarely, if ever, a straight line to the promise land. It’s only as we look back at the winding journey of our lives that we recognize how God protected us from what we did not know and what we could not see.
“Now when Pharaoh let the people go…” (Exodus 3:17).
That Pharaoh let the Hebrews “go” doesn’t adequately capture what has taken place. The word translated “go” is much more emphatic in the Hebrew text; having a literal meaning of “hurling” or “driving” away. Unbeknownst to Pharaoh, he wasn’t just permitting, but rather, enthusiastically participating in the providential purposes of God’s plan of deliverance for his people. It’s just another example of God’s oversight despite the desperate circumstances that would seek to enslave us.
“He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20)
Have you read the morning paper? The USA Today? The Wall Street Journal? Your online news sources? If this is all that is read, it can easily skew one’s perspective. It conditions the lens of the eye to see only the worst; to view others with cynicism and suspicion.
Have you read even a portion of scripture today? It offers another perspective; one that sees the good; the possibilities; a state of blessedness because it trusts in the Lord.
“Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
You have had life-experiences that I haven’t and vice versa. In facing the adversities and demands of everyday life we need not think we are alone or plowing new ground. Others have been there before, and it’s these varied experiences that God brings across our path each day. Wisdom comes in wide-counsel. Don’t be afraid to ask.
“If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).
The work of salvation accomplished by God through Jesus Christ brings eternal life to that destined to die as a result of sin. It is not an either/or, but rather, a both/and as death and life exist simultaneously in this present state. Even so, as God Incarnate has entered into our natural existence, and delivered within us the gift of grace, we discover the needed strength to not only overcome the destructive longings of natural desire, but to victoriously obey the leading of his life-giving Spirit.
“But it is still my consolation, and I rejoice in unsparing pain, that I have not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10).
Remove the cross, listen only the pleasantries of false prophets, and the result is a comfortable, pain-free Sunday religion that accommodates any lifestyle. The pursuit of a biblical faith, however, is quite often disruptive and sometimes painful. Luther compared scripture to a surgeon’s scalpel. This is even more descriptive when recalling that the statement was at a time when there was no anesthesia. Painless religion is poor substitute for a cross-bearing faith.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6).
While writing of a forthcoming, eternal inheritance reserved in heaven (v.4), Peter now alludes to our current condition. It is one filled with brokenness, disappointment, grief, and all other forms of trial. Even so, we greatly rejoice because the reference point of our joy isn’t found in what is, but rather, what is to come. In the light of eternity, the pain of today is just a little while.