Archive for January, 2021
“But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life, like collegiate athletics, had a transfer portal; that when confronted with conflict, adversity, and competition, you could just transfer out to a place you naively assume none of those things are to be found? As disciples, we, hopefully, understand that the character of faith is developed not just in the working out of our salvation; that is, manifesting outwardly the reality of our inner transformation but, also, in the enduring of life’s hardships. This is done with the conviction that God, as he did for Christ, will transform the indignity of our suffering to dignity, and the humiliation of powerlessness into a hopeful waiting.
“And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left’” (Matthew 20:21).
Having just predicted for the third time his impending suffering and death, we are appalled to hear such an ambitious and self-serving request from the mother of James and John. In fairness, she may not have been privy to the things Jesus had just spoken to his disciples. Also, isn’t this just like any mother; wanting only the best for her children? Thus, the question of Jesus is made all the more relevant…what do you want for your children? Do worldly and secular models inspire and frame your desires? Or faith-based, kingdom principles that glorify God and serve the greater common good? They will drink from one cup or the other, and each one has its own destiny.
“and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up” (Matthew 20:19).
The Kevorkian birthed right-to-die movement contends the only life of value is one characterized by doing, acting, achieving, producing; that to be a passive recipient of others actions is to exist in humiliation and without dignity. The life of Jesus says otherwise. In a word utilized over 40 times in association with the passion of Christ, he was delivered, betrayed, and handed over…handed over to the religious leaders, who handed him over to Pilate, who handed him over to be crucified. If this were not enough, he was first handed over by God (Rom. 8:32). In this we rediscover that even in the face of unjust suffering, both his and ours, the purposes of God will be fulfilled.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death” (Matthew 20:18).
This third prediction of Jesus’ passion is preceded by a parable about spiritual pride, followed by a request that exposes the ambition of his disciples. Within this passion narrative is the centerpiece of Christian theology and the life of faith we are to pursue as the followers of Christ—the cross. To have a firm grasp upon the theology of the cross isn’t to have a theory about its meaning but, rather, it is to understand the centrality of the cross and how it comes to bear upon our particular perception of the world, how we interpret and reflect upon the entirety of life and, ultimately, our destiny as a people.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
While the term pardon is normally used in association with criminals, it also describes the action of God toward sinners. Provisionally, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for anyone, regardless of what has been done. Potentially, the gospel pardons everyone who believes.
“Pray, then, in this way…” (Matthew 6:9).
Prostrate, standing, lying down, seated, kneeling—in scripture these are the varied positions from which people prayed. In the model prayer offered by Jesus there is no suggestion of a posture that lends itself to more effectual praying. What emerges, however, is the posture of one’s heart. To properly reflect the spirit of the model prayer requires a heart that is rightly positioned in relationship to the Father.
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).
In perilous times, the nature of one’s relationship with the Lord is clarified. The metaphors utilized by David reveal a warrior’s mentality toward the life of faith; an intentional pursuit and battling for the things of God. Instead of passive victims to the circumstances and forces that would act against us, we are confident infantrymen on the frontlines of engagement; marching forward in the assurance of God’s protection.
“Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).
Someone has said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” If this adage is accurate, we would do well to consider all those things in daily life that shape our minds and, thus, influence our behavior…what we read, the programming we watch, and the voices to which we listen. The greater good is accomplished only as we aspire to higher things; more noble things. The demise of a culture is accomplished not when we want too much, but when we settle for so little.
“While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2).
Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were two very different personalities; entrusted with ministries no less unique and distinctive, but fitting for who they were. Their common connection was being set apart by the Spirit and sent away by the church (vs.3). It’s the needed reminder that our unique personalities are needed and necessary as we go forth into our respective worlds, and spheres of influence. Stooping to be a copy when God has made you an original is a disservice to both the One who fashioned you in your mother’s womb, and those with whom you providentially intersect each day.
“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3).
For people of faith, John has offered forth the most basic and foundational premise for our understanding of the universe and its origin. Again, it is a faith proposition, holding forth the belief that God is the agent acting in creation (the same premise found in Genesis 1:1). When embraced, it need not be viewed as conflicting with scientific inquiry. Arguably, a faith assumption, in regard to origins, is the only fitting tribute to the vastness of the universe, and opens the windows of the mind to far greater possibilities of discovery than does the limiting scope of what can be proven with scientific postulations. Scientific discovery is not a threat to faith, but a continuing celebration of God’s majestic and infinitely creative wonder.