Archive for September, 2018
“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).
Can you imagine the difference it would make if, in any circumstance, you could hit the pause button, and reflect upon this promise, before reacting? Our reactions to the ever-changing circumstances of life are telling. I call it our Situational Reaction Effect (SRE). How we react in any given situation has a consequential effect on us and those around us. Everyone has an action plan, or game plan, for how they want life to look, but it’s our reactions to the unexpected turns that determine the life we get. Our one constant is knowing God is in control.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Also translated as “humble” or “meek,” scripture utilizes the word “gentle” only twice in reference to individuals. The first, Moses, was a reluctant leader, who demanded of Pharaoh, “Let My people go” (Ex.9:1). The other was Jesus, who made it clear that he was no victim; that no one takes his life from him, but he lays it down, and he will take it up again (Jn.10:18). Do not confuse meekness with weakness. It is an approach to life that emerges from the strength of character.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Granted, mourning doesn’t appear to be much of a blessing, but the greater reality of this promise is to be found in the provision of comfort offered by the Holy Spirit and the abiding presence of our Heavenly Father. His comfort, during our present mourning, is but a foretaste of the final fruition of our faith and the eternal inheritance to be received.
“And He told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector’” (Luke 18:9-10).
When Jesus tells a story prompted by arrogance, pride, and self-righteousness, you just know it’s not going to end well. Many are still shocked that the outright sinner, and a recipient of such public scorn as a tax collector, has better standing before God than does the religious establishment that perform their piety to gain the admiration of others. The irony of God’s favor is that it’s only by declaring spiritual bankruptcy that one can partake in the riches of God’s grace and mercy.
“For lack of wood the fire goes out” (Proverbs 26:20a).
If you neglect a campfire it will eventually die out. If schoolwork is neglected, grades will suffer. If a constant emotional investment is not made into a marriage, it will eventually lose all of its life and vitality. It is a timeless principle with broad application—some things demand our constant time and attention—and it is nonetheless true in our relationship with Christ. Daily attention to word, walk, and worship are key to stoking the fires of faith.
“To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey” (Matthew 25:15).
A continued reading of this parable reveals that when it came time to settle, that of the servants having received the five and two talents, each one needed only 14 words to account for the responsibility entrusted to them. The one who did nothing, however, utilized some 42 words to explain his irresponsible behavior. We either seize the opportunities that each day are presented to us to act faithfully and responsibly, or we spend each day filling the pages of our life history with the verbosity of making excuses and blaming others.
“John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us’” (Mark 9:38-40).
By the actions of some, you are left wondering if they have ever really listened to a sermon, bible study, or been transformed by the gospel of Christ. Like these disciples, they’re the first one to run ahead with the news of something being done that isn’t to their liking or, worse still, by people unlike them. Jesus has little patience with religious types more concerned about appearances than effectiveness, maintaining preferences than being merciful to people, status for some rather than justice for all, who are more caught up in pretentiousness than broken in humbleness. We are better off seeking to carry our own spiritual baggage without taking on the added burden of someone else’s.
“O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause; You have redeemed my life” (Lamentations 3:58).
Lamenting for the way things were is a waste of time and mental energy. To truly be used by God, as an agent of influence and a facilitator of change, within his redeeming purposes, necessitates starting where things and people are. Such acceptance doesn’t mean accepting what they’re doing, but it keeps our focus on the redemptive possibilities that lie ahead instead of an irretrievable past. Playing the shoulda, woulda, coulda card never helped anyone move forward.
“Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent” (Proverbs 17:28).
While some are only thought foolish, others open their mouth and remove all doubt. While we are all susceptible to foot-in-mouth disease, it is primarily the insecure, inexperienced, and fearful that need constantly to interject, interrupt, and talk incessantly. That we have two ears and one mouth is a clear indication of which should be utilized most often.
“He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,…” (Matthew 5:2).
What Jesus introduces in the verses following (The Beatitudes) are the keys to real happiness. Nine times out of the next eleven verses, Jesus uses a word, “blessed,” that means happy; fortunate. Western culture’s humanistic deification of self-fulfillment has perpetuated the mythical idea that happiness and the highest good is to be found in self-expression; that happiness awaits those whose external circumstances match up with their inner “feelings.” Instead, Jesus offers a realization of happiness based upon the presence, practice, and continuing pursuit of things that are of Divine origin.