Archive for July, 2019
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).
What began with all things being “handed over” to Him by the Father (Matthew 11:27) culminated with His being “handed over” to be crucified (John 19:16). The Good News is that three days later death handed him over to the glory of the resurrection. What has been handed over to us must now be handed down to others.
“But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart” (John 16:5-6).
Jesus’ dismay stems from the disciples seeming lack of imagination in matters of faith. So troubled are they by his failure to live up to their Messianic expectations that they cannot even consider what, maybe, God is doing in their lives and the world. Disappointing circumstances will always change but we must never lose the curiosity of unimaginable possibilities.
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
A community is forged and held together by the pursuit of common values and convictions. As evidenced in the current events of our day, when these are absent a spirit of anarchy and civil unrest abounds. Whether it’s done in the name of freedom, democracy, intellectual inquiry, political correctness, or any other myriad causes, previously understood moral absolutes have been criticized and removed from the public square by the brokers of cultural influence. We then wonder how we came to be a society plagued by irresponsibility, the absence of human regard, and no fear of consequence. To quote C.S. Lewis, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful” (The Abolition of Man). Bemoaning society accomplishes nothing. Living out the commandments of God is the only appropriate response for all of us.
“And he said to them, ‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean’” (Acts 10:28).
Peter’s eyes were opened to the difference between institutional religion and the gospel of Christ. Institutional religion is homogenous, neat, clean, predictable, pristine, sanitized, sanctified, and comfortably lived out in a climate-controlled sanctuary. Biblical faith, and the missional task given to the church, however, is played out in the unpredictable messiness of a broken humanity; among people who do not know the “Sunday School” answers to the crises of life faced each day. Institutional religion is self-satisfied with having attended, while the church on mission lives restlessly among those who do not yet realize that the only way out of their quagmire is up. Instead of judging, engage; instead of dog-piling, lift up.
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7).
There is an assumption in the second clause of this verse; that the disciples of Jesus will be together on Sunday. God’s people have always been a gathering people; as a community of faith, it’s part of our identity. As a child, I didn’t go to church. It’s not that I rejected the church; I wasn’t even aware of the church. For this there is no indictment. Yet, what about those, especially adults, who confess to know Christ, but each week make an intentional and deliberate choice to be absent from church. Just the amount of calculated excuse-making and the mental energy necessary to justify such a decision is exhausting, shameful, and guilt-inducing. It seems the simpler task and, certainly, the more obedient, is to do the very thing that would be assumed of anyone confessing the name of Christ—participate in the gathering of the saints.
“Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding” (Job 12:12).
Life at sixty makes one more contemplative and, hopefully, intentional about finishing strong. Because aging and maturity are not synonymous, my desire to mature well. I pray daily that the diligent pursuit of my faith has immunized me against the “wilderness plague”; that insidious illness that steals away present tense gladness and covers the eyes with a reflective lens that enables one to only see backwards. I pray that I will forever celebrate the way God is working and speaking through a new generation; that I might embrace the discomfort of an ever-changing present tense as but a stepping stone to the promise land of God’s future; that the confession of my heavenly hope will not be betrayed by constant conversations of days gone by.
“Ah Lord God! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jeremiah 32:17).
The science of astronomy has forever both inspired and intrigued me. Sky and Telescope magazine is each month filled with the latest research—from black holes to dark matter; zombie stars to exoplanets; from nebula to superclusters; from gravitational waves and their disturbance in the curvature of spacetime, to everything in between and beyond. This entire field of study, and the physics involved, is far too complex for my finite mind. It’s then I remember, nothing is too difficult for Him. When God stretches, a universe is born.
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth” (Job 19:25).
Insulted, wronged, victimized, broken, despairing, uprooted—hardly the experiences and feelings that bring forth such a timeless declaration of faith. Yet, here is Job offering a redeeming perspective. While the world stands against us, ours is a Savior who stands over the earth.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Days and seasons of hardship visit us for the duration of life’s journey. While in their midst, we pray for deliverance, only to discover that these are the very things that God, the Good Shepherd, uses to forge us into the people we are becoming. He is a present tense reality that brings meaning to every experience of life.
“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).
Long before it would become a nuanced classical philosophy, and though not writing specifically on matters of creation, the author of Hebrews makes a foundational statement to the cosmological argument for God. That is, an argument from first cause or, in more practical terms, the intuitive notion that nothing comes from nothing. Scholarly philosophical debates abound on this subject; each side compelling in noting both the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments held forth by the other. While lacking a terminal degree, what the inspired biblical writer possessed was a keen sense of observation, rooted in common sense. On matters as complex as the origins of the universe, Who could have imagined that one of the most persuasive arguments for God would be achieved by simple observation?