Archive for July, 2016
“He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see’” (John 9:25).
Skeptics of the Christian faith most often focus on those questions for which there are no certain answers or those that, out of lack of knowledge, we are unable to answer. What is undeniable, however, is your experience. While my experience with Christ offers no objective proof of the existence of God, or the validity of my faith over other faiths, it is nonetheless my experience and offers validation to me. There are still many areas in my faith that I am ignorant and continue to seek understanding, but I’m the expert when I it comes to what has transpired in my life. Instead of being discouraged by what you don’t know, speak from the story that has been written in your own life. The power of the gospel has always been in the story of the Message, not in the persuasive powers of the messenger.
“Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13b).
Whether it’s the accomplishments of the past, hurts from the past, or failures that inhabit your past, nothing will rob you any faster of the future God desires for you than a life characterized by a past tense preoccupation. Our best days are never so good, and our worst days are never so bad, that we are beyond the need or reach of God’s grace.
“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep. For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law” (Nehemiah 8:9).
It’s a mistake to think that happiness in life is to be found in comfort and ease. In reality, our greatest growth and the vividness of life is most fully realized in times of tension and discomfort. That the hearing of God’s word brings conviction to your life is a positive, not a negative. It indicates that the Spirit is alive and actively working to shape and transform you; to move you from where you are to where he would have you to be.
“Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:6).
In congregational life, a hearty “Amen” is sometimes offered by individuals when they hear someone express an opinion with which they agree. Such shout outs, however, fall far short of the biblical amen. Amen was never intended as a vote for personal preferences, but rather, an affirmation of spiritual truth. To utter an “Amen” is to say, “Lord, let it be so in my life.”
“Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up” (Nehemiah 8:5).
For the people of God, scripture is the authoritative guide in matters of faith and practice. Because the biblical writers were inspired by the Spirit of God to record the things they had seen and heard, we have regarded the sacred text in highest esteem. This respect and awe for God’s word, however, is not proved out by whether one stands (as the people did before Ezra), or sits (as was the practice in Acts 13), but rather, as it is embraced, obeyed, and practiced in daily life. The evidence of the Spirit’s working in human lives isn’t how high you jump in exuberance, but how straight you walk in obedience.
“Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding…” (Nehemiah 8:2).
“The age of accountability” is an often heard expression regarding our responsibility before God. It is a subject, however, that has nothing to do with biological age but cognitive awareness. Regardless of age, it is when we come to understand that the God of creation is working through the person and work of Jesus Christ, and that he is calling us into a relationship with him, that we have come to the place of accountability and responsibility before him.
“And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1).
Having returned from Babylonian exile, the Hebrews were a broken and fragmented people; searching for an identity and a common purpose. It is out of the exile of human circumstance that God has called each one of us to become one in the community of faith…the church. Being his people, we have a collective and communal identity. We are part of a greater whole commissioned with the task of reaching and inviting others out of the loneliness of their exile.
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet: but one thing I do:…” (Philippians 3:13a).
Success in the life of faith demands focus. The problem isn’t necessarily one of desire, but rather, diversion. Few of us can say, “this one thing I do.” Our time, attention, and resources are diverted in a dozen different directions. While we are involved in a number of good things, these can easily distract us from the best thing — our commitment to Christ. When He is the focal point, everything else becomes peripheral.
“Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16).
Genuine worship flows forth from the heart filled with gratitude. A person truly grateful does not hesitate to humble and prostrate themselves at the feet of the Master. Along with the Psalmist, let us “praise the name of God with a song, and magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30).
“Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way’” (John 18:8).
Each of the gospel accounts are written by men of flawed faith and unfit for God’s service. Yet these very ones, who deserted Jesus in his darkest hour, go to great lengths to make sure their failures are documented for all to see; that all future readers would come to the realization that such as these are the very kind Jesus forgives and seeks to protect; that Christ alone is the one to whom faith is due.