Archive for June, 2016
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘This people says, ‘The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt’’” (Haggai 1:2).
That God’s house had fallen into disrepair was but another indicator of the state of disrepair that had come to characterize the life of God’s people. “Now’s not a good time” was but the defeated cry of those who failed in the development of the “long look” from an eternal perspective. Waiting until the time is right results in nothing ever getting done. Faith dares to reach forward regardless of present circumstances.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Coffee, tea, carbonated sodas, alcoholic beverages, sports drinks, and juices; fruit, vegetables, beef, fish, poultry, dairy, and desserts. Who would have ever imagined food and drink being a venue through which we bring glory to the Father? Such is a holistic approach to life — the mental, physical, and spiritual inextricably bound together in a symbiotic relationship requiring a nutritional balancing act that feeds and nurtures the totality of our being. Whatever we take in to nourish each of these areas must be guided by the desire to bring forth the glory of the Father.
“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate” (Psalm 145:5).
Scripture alludes often to meditation as a spiritual exercise associated with both the word and works of God. Contemplation differs from the discipline of memorization. The former concerns itself with the teaching of the text and its obedient practice and application to life, while the latter focuses on recitation of the text. Contemplation is a deliberate and prolonged reflection that will lead to memorization, but memorization itself requires no contemplation. A knowledge of scripture should never be considered an end in and of itself. It is the means by which we build up muscle memory to respond appropriately as a people of God to the circumstances of life.
“Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly,…” (Isaiah 40:30).
The independence, strength, and confidence of youth will eventually fail. These being described by the prophet were the most select of the strongest and the fittest; the elites that would serve in military service or athletic contests. Isaiah sets this vision of youthful vitality before us to show its vulnerability on the larger stage of suffering and hardship. In this context the brightest, strongest, and most gifted among us will finally hit the wall; exhausted and beaten down by the blows life has brought against you. Once this broken state overtakes you, when the realization dawns that you can’t do this on your own, it is then you discover a new strength in the Lord.
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned” (2 Timothy 2:8-9).
Too often we allow our circumstances to imprison our attitudes, and thus our behaviors. How we respond to unexpected adversity reveals the depth of our character and maturity of our faith. Our reaction to hard times is of eternal significance and becomes a means by which the word of God is proclaimed to those who inhabit our lives.
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
Many seem to waste their day in the “if only” mode. “If only” points to that segment of the human experience that cannot be altered. It’s an incredible waste of time and opportunities. A more positive approach to dealing with failure is the perspective of “next time.” “Next time” is still fluid and open; it has yet to be shaped. Whatever your past, our Father wants you to use it not as an occasion of condemnation but learning. Today, exchange your “if only” laments for a “next time” kind of hopefulness.
“A truthful witness saves lives” (Proverbs 14:25).
The most impactful and effective communication of one’s faith emerges from the language of his or her own struggles, fears, searching, and experience. Individuals are not swayed by doctrinal diatribes or impressed by theological soundness. In sharing one’s faith the place to begin is with what you know. What you know best is what you were looking for, what was missing from your life, and what you discovered in Christ Jesus. When it comes to these things, you are the expert.
“But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
In a culture of growing secularism, our familiar vocabulary of faith, words such as atonement, saved, sin, grace, gospel, etc., should now be considered a second language. To do the work of an evangelist, and without throwing out the baby with the bathwater, we must labor to creatively communicate the doctrinal truths of our ancient and cherished words in ways that best fit the context of those with whom we are seeking to communicate. Evangelism in the New Testament is always a verbal exercise. Introducing a second language in a post-church culture requires our practice of a second language that they might understand.
“Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her, and they were rejoicing with her” (Luke 1:57-58).
Though Zacharias and Elizabeth were advanced in age and, supposedly, beyond “normal” child-bearing years (v.7), the prayer they had long prayed (v.13) was finally answered. It’s but another reminder that only by perseverance do we have the opportunity to see the mercy of God prevail over adverse circumstances in ways unexpected and unimagined. A faith that is steadfast; that sticks around; that keeps swinging; that keeps pushing, this is the one that sees the gracious birth of a new day and the understanding of how all things work together for good.
“But the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John’” (Luke 1:13).
How easy it is to slip into a repetition of praying for the same thing, over and over, with no real sense of expectancy. The prayer of the aged Zacharias has finally been answered with the pronouncement of a forthcoming child. Instead of joy and gladness, the news is met with doubt and consternation. Hope prays with expectation. Faith prays with imagination. Belief prays with the trust that God is working to accomplish his purposes.