Archive for December, 2019
“The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will not” (Proverbs 10:7).
Someone from days gone stirred your heart with the wonderment of what it is to be counted among the people of God. On our best days it is these for whom we give thanks that they were providentially placed in our lives. It is their memory that, on your worst days, offers you the encouragement to press on. Soon, each of us will be but a memory. Let us live each day inspired; that we, too, might be a blessed memory to those who will come after us.
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3).
Whether one has been appointed king, elected king, declared king, or thinks themselves king, word of a real King (v.1-2) is troubling for all concerned. I believe this is why Christmas is celebrated by the masses but an exalted Savior is followed by so few. No one is threatened by a cooing baby in a manger, but a crucified, resurrected Savior, who now sits at the right hand of God, demanding our allegiance and attentiveness under his Lordship is something altogether different. It’s the difference between a one day observation and an everyday pursuit.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 13:15).
In other words, just because one thinks himself right doesn’t mean he is right. And, just because you don’t like the answer someone offers doesn’t mean the answer the wrong. I was once told of a now deceased university president who, upon receiving correspondence from outraged faculty, donors, or other individuals, would quickly reply with a personal note, stating simply, “You know, you may well be right.” It’s an ingenious response; offering just enough affirmation to defuse the most antagonistic of personalities. For some, it seems that being right ranks with food, water, and shelter as an absolute necessity for life. While Jesus celebrates those who come to faith and the pursuit of truth, we do well to remember his disdain for the religious types who presumed to have cornered the market on truth.
“Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24).
The disciples had not yet asked for anything in his name because, at this point, they didn’t really know him. Oh, they knew him well enough to call him by name, but his name was never intended to be a code or password that, if shouted numerous times, with just the right inflection, somehow obligated God to grant every whimsical desire. The resurrection, along with the coming of the Holy Spirit, would be their ah-ha moment; opening their eyes and filling in the blanks of most of their previous questions regarding his person. Knowing him in this way—his heartbeat, his motives, his mission—transforms prayer from a mere reaction to the unfavorable circumstances of life to a proactive seeking of “Thy will be done.” Only then is our joy made full.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy” (John 16:20).
The “you” is emphatic; you will weep, lament, and grieve. Faith does not afford us an exemption from the harsh realities of life. When such times inevitably come there are those who respond by walking away from both the church and their faith. It’s unfortunate because, in so doing, they never experience the constructive side of pain. “But” is a significant word of transition. For those who “stay in the game,” Jesus promises not that what causes the pain will be replaced but, rather, the pain itself will become the very source of what gives birth to joy. We never have to speculate whether or not pain will be forthcoming. The real question is, what will pain do to you upon its arrival?
“Some of his disciples then said to one another, ‘What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me?’ and, ’because I go to the Father’?” (John 16:17).
Seven times in four verses (16-19), we find the expression “a little while” utilized. While most would look to circumstances as the determining factor in “happiness,” Jesus is leading his disciples to the understanding of a joy that transcends circumstances. Whether things are right now good, or whether this is the most challenging, despairing, grievous time in your life, there is one certainty—it will change in just a little while. From their side of the cross, the confusion of the disciples is understandable; from our side of the resurrection, however, “a little while” is filled with hopeful anticipation.
“Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’” (Psalms 126:2).
Why would someone even question whether or not God has a sense of humor? Oh, don’t be misled by the sour, fatalistic expressions of the religious types that occupy so much space in so many churches. Having entrusted his Kingdom’s work to the likes of us reveals much humor and only affirms that his work is just that—his. To be enlivened by his Spirit is to draw others into the wonder of his creation. You can’t help but to laugh out loud.
“He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
With the incarnation of Christ, God became more real to the world. Partial glimpses were seen in a variety of offerings—creation, Israel, the voice of the prophets—but it was in Christ that the world was offered the full revelation of God. Humanity desperately needs Jesus to be real in their lives. He becomes visible when we shine as his light and exude the fruit of his Spirit.
“And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Isaiah 2:4).
At the earliest stages, we begin learning the nuances and subtleties of living at war with others—us and them, winners and losers, the haves and the have nots, who belongs and who doesn’t, who to hate or, at least, hold in suspicion—and how to maintain those lines of distinction. Whether it’s the lingering and wary stares, disparaging comments, the cutting words of diminishment, sowing seeds of discord behind the scenes, posturing for self-promotion and the illusion of importance, all are intended to separate, divide, and perpetuate conflict. With so much to remember and put into practice, it’s little wonder there is enough time to go to church and worship the God who offers a peace that passes all understanding.
“And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation…” (Isaiah 2:4).
Isaiah’s prophetic vision of peace rests not on the most dominant military armament but active expressions of trust. “In God we trust” is an expression that rolls off our lips and is even imprinted on our money, but what we do with money offers a more truthful testimonial of where our trust lies. Even with nuclear warheads at our disposal, the most powerful weaponry in the world, we must now fear those who might have them and who might be developing them. Go ahead and buy the best available, but guns, locks, and walls are never big enough, and alarms are never loud enough to offer the peace for which your soul so desperately longs.