Archive for December, 2020

GRACE IN PROGRESS

“Now we know that You know all things and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God. Jesus answered, ‘Do you now believe?’” (John 16:30-31).

On the basis of what they think they know; the disciples overconfidently proclaim their belief. What about those times when you don’t know? When you’re confused or don’t understand? Can he still count on your faith? While he doesn’t doubt their belief, what he’s questioning is the quality of their faith. In light of the test they will soon fail, abandoning Jesus in his darkest hour, their assertion is naïve, immature, and premature. Even so, grace abounds as the eventual resurrected Christ takes them from where they are to where he desires them to be. What grace did for the disciples then, it is doing for us today. Let us learn and re-learn; that grace might have its victory through our failed tests.

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THE MOVEMENT OF SALVATION

“I came forth from the Father, and have into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father” (John 16:28).

Jesus’ statement affirms not only his divine origin but it depicts, also, the full movement of the believer’s salvation experience. What began in the heart and mind of God, before the foundations of the world, is to now be lived out with missional intent throughout our earthly days, culminating with the beginning of life in the eternal dwelling place of God’s presence. Understanding this life as but the middle stage of a three-part journey better enables us to stay on task as the church and, individually, to persevere through the challenging seasons of life, inspired by the knowledge of what lies ahead.

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THE FATHER’S LOVE

“For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father” (John 16:27).

What a beautiful endorsement honoring the love of God. We must surely dispel the often-held view of God as ill-tempered ogre and Jesus as the benevolent nice guy; that the love of the son makes up for the Father’s lack of love. It is, in fact, the Father’s love that initiates, births, and sustains the entirety of creation; a love that is the sole basis for the life and ministry of Jesus.

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MORE THAN WILLING

“In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf” (John 16:26).

Ours is not a reluctant God, withholding from us the desires of his heart and expectations of all those who would live in relationship with him. His greatest desire is to make himself known to all humanity; thus, the sending forth of his son and the inspiration of scripture. If, as a loving but fallible father, I am able to make clear to my children the expectations of the parent/child relationship, and the necessary guidelines to live and flourish within our family and extended community, then, certainly, our loving and infallible Father has done nonetheless.

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MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

“These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father” (John 16:25).

As a Master teacher and disciple-maker, Jesus utilized a variety of figurative language in his training—metaphors, similes, hyperbole, parables, proverbs, etc. In so doing, he reminds us that the word of God and its understanding for life is multi-faceted and multi-layered. Whether his teaching was spoken figuratively, or plainly, which Jesus did most often, the disciples would correctly understand neither until the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Richer and fuller still would their comprehension become with the passing years of life, the enduring of hardship, all while abiding faithfully in Christ. When it comes to God’s word, you know what you know, but don’t settle for what you know. Allow it to grow in you through the seasons of life and your eyes will be opened all the more to his faithful presence.

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PAY DAY TODAY

“Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:36).

It is soon discovered by those who embrace and live their faith as a missional pursuit that there is a reward to be realized “already.” The reward for faithful living isn’t for the after life only but life here and now. We are being paid already with a deep satisfaction of living a life that matters.

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GOD’S REASON

“Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).

Have you ever wondered why God performed the work of salvation in your life? The temptation is to contemplate this introspectively—focusing on one’s own life, merit, potential, or just the plain wonderment that he did it at all because we are so undeserving. Yet, Paul offers this reminder that salvation is never really about us, even if we refer to it as something personal. It first is about the sovereign reign and goodness of God and what he is accomplishing. Secondly, it is the example our salvation provides for others in the hopes that they, too, might believe. In other words, he has saved you for the benefit of someone else.

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THE TIME DRAWS NEAR

“While they were there, the time came for her to give birth” (Luke 2:6).

It was “while they were there,” in the monotonous demands of daily life, that God miraculously entered into this world. Yet, Christ’ having come is only half the meaning of Advent. As confident as we may be of his first coming, it is with no less certainty we must anticipate his second. Like Mary and Joseph, just know that wherever you are, the time will come. Such is the nature of time; it always draws near.

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GAME PLAN EXECUTION

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his way” (Proverbs 16:9).

A football coach strategically constructs a game plan based upon the strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of the opponent; a plan the team is capable of executing, even though the players may not understand the larger tactical concepts. When not executed properly, or when players ignore the directives of their coaches and follow, instead, their own intuition, games are lost. In similar fashion, our heavenly Father entrusted to us a game plan for a victorious life; a plan based upon his knowledge as Creator of the universe; one our finite minds cannot fully fathom. His plan, however, will not be thwarted by our failure to execute and choosing to go our own way, but the path to victory is made smoother when we choose to be good teammates.

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PRESENCE AND RESPONSE

“For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me” (John 12:8).

What began with a wedding feast and culminated with a post-resurrection grilled fish fest by the Sea of Galilee, along with all the dining experiences in between, it can be argued that meals played a central role in the ministry of Jesus; to the degree that even the religious leaders maligned him for dining with sinners. At such table events it became obvious he was offering a faith experience established religion could not—something personal, intimate, relational, applicable to the most mundane events of everyday life…even eating. Mary recognized that having supper with this One was a unique, special, and worshipful moment. While he was there with them, she wanted him to have the very best of what she had to offer. I cannot help but wonder, do we have that same desire? That while he is here with us; this One who said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” do we want him to have the very best of what we have to offer? Not the leftovers, not the afterthoughts, not the crumbs off the proverbial table of life, but the very best of what we have to offer.

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