Archive for September, 2018
“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalms 121:1-2).
As life beats us down it is natural for the eyes, head, and shoulders to drop; to view life only in terms of what is front of us. Faith, however, challenges us to lift up our eyes; to view things from another perspective, a higher perspective; to see outward and upward to a horizon of possibilities.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired” (Isaiah 40:28)?
Our weariness is now. Our fatigue is this moment. Our circumstances are upon us. In response, we cry out to God for immediate action and relief. Yet, need we be reminded that the purposes and strategies of God point to the ages and not to the moment? For those who know, they are sustained by His strength and patience.
“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16).
Plagiarizing is a kind of theft; taking someone’s words or ideas as if they were your own. For students it can result in expulsion and a tarnished reputation. Spiritual plagiarism is of far greater consequence. To steal a confession of faith, in the absence of a supporting walk of faith, is to be denied entry into the hallowed halls of eternal life. Religious rhetoric is a far cry from real faith.
“I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us” (2 Corinthians 7:9).
There is a disturbing distortion taking place within the American culture. It is the growing over-reaction to label subjects, opinions, and ideas that are unfamiliar, or challenge long held beliefs, as threatening, upsetting, and unsafe. Some universities are now requiring verbal and written “trigger warnings” when such subject matters will be addressed, and providing “safe” spaces for students dealing with the “trauma” of new ideas. I suppose this is my written “trigger warning” to all who would hear the gospel; it will make you uncomfortable, challenge you, and it will be a very real threat to your chase of the “American Dream.”
“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1).
In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, an exchange of satirical letters between a senior demon, Screwtape, and his nephew, Wormwood, a junior demon-in-training, the senior tells the young novice that in leading the “patient” away from the “enemy” (Jesus) to “Our Father Below” (Satan), “the sense of ownership is always to be encouraged.” Obviously, such counsel stands in stark contrast to today’s passage and the teaching of scripture, which emphasizes stewardship—our managing of all things entrusted to us by God. The first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt.5:3) is the very essence of Kingdom life. Only by declaring spiritual bankruptcy do we find true wealth and security.
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
While it is something freely given by God, and received by us, grace does not fulfill its task until we freely extend it to others. To claim grace for oneself but to withhold it from others is to come up short. The tragic result is that the soul fattened on bitterness cannot pass through the narrow gate that leads to life.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Because of its clear declaration in what separates the religious from the faithful, this was the favorite Beatitude of the Early Church Fathers. It describes the new nature of the life of faith. In contrast to religion, which compartmentalizes itself from “real” life and appears only at scheduled times and places, faith is systemic to the entirety of life; leaving no facet untouched by the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
“I have become a marvel to many, for You are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with Your praise and with Your glory all day long” (Psalms 71:7-8).
Disappointed by the betrayal of friends? Overtaken by negative emotions that leave you feeling like a castaway; forsaken? Ever sensed that adversaries are overtaking you? Have trouble and distress left you in the depths of the earth? Such were the circumstances of the Psalmist and, yet, those around him marveled at his testimony to the faithfulness of God. Today, you are or will be facing some adversity. For those around you, how you respond is a witness and testimony of your faith and confidence in the provision of God. Let them marvel.
“And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus” (Luke 5:18-19).
Institutional religion requires everyone to come through the front door in ways that bring no disruption. It prefers the uniform, the standardized cookie-cutter approach that assumes everyone is of the same background and experience. It stands in stark contrast to the message and mission of Jesus. Ours is to be a missional faith; willing to improvise, take creative measures, and unconventional approaches that others might have the opportunity to meet the Savior. Find and become a part of a church that is intentional in the performance of its missional task and is willing to raise the roof that others might see Jesus.
“When you said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek’” (Psalm 27:8).
What does running in place and sitting at a desk for 10 hours have in common? They both give the appearance of working hard while remaining in one place. It begs the question, is anything really being accomplished? Thus, while some would say tenacious effort is the key to getting where you desire to go, a more compelling argument is one of passionate pursuit. Yes, running in place or sitting at a desk for long hours requires effort, but such endeavors can become habits that hold you hostage to the same ruts and familiar routines. A passionate pursuit, on the other hand, such as seeking to please the Lord in all our endeavors, moves us forward into the experience of joy, fulfillment, and the meaningfulness that we all desire.