Archive for October, 2021
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
We have all heard, “If there is a will, there is a way.” If, then, it is the will of God we be thankful for all things, there must be a way for this to become our reality. I’m convinced that gratitude and thanksgiving is an art form. When I observe the work of any great artist, my first thought is, “this person sees things differently; lighting, angles, forms, and interpretations I would have never noticed.” My eyes are opened to a different perspective. I believe a person whose life is characterized by gratitude is no less an artist; seeing past the flat, one-dimensional perspective presented by the circumstance of any particular moment. No matter what your situation, from the right vantage point, you can give thanks.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).
“Who are you?” It’s a simple question complicated by an age of enhancement. From digital to surgical enhancement, to the image enhancement of social media, we portray what we want to be but it rarely captures who we are. Because so much energy is exhausted on marketing and selling what we are not, who we are can easily be lost. It’s a game of deception that ultimately deceives only yourself. To know Christ is to know who you are.
“And in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over every ruler and authority” (Colossians 2:10).
With over 42.4% of adults in the U.S. being obese, physical health is a very real issue. Globally, mental health has reached critical status. In the U.S., alone, over 25% of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. Even so, it is a mistake to divide human existence into the physical, mental, and emotional. If being created in the image of God means anything, it’s that we are the crowning achievement of his created order; designed to live in fellowship with our Creator. Having fully revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, we can never really experience the sense of fulness and completeness God desires for us apart from a life moored to his Son. Apart from Him, life will always be fragmented, disoriented, and without foundation.
“I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
Jesus’ upper room prayer was not only for those eleven disciples gathered around the table, but for all subsequent generations of those who would be his followers. A unified voice is of absolute importance for the church, as ours is one of eternal consequence. No other organization, no matter how noble their work, has been entrusted with the gospel and the good news of eternal life. If we fail to proclaim Christ, no one else will pick up the slack. We are not like charitable organizations that have multiple streams of support. The missional force that is the church has only two streams for the support and performance of her assigned task—you and me.
“While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name, which You have given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled” (John 17:12).
During his earthly ministry, Jesus was able to keep his disciples on task and focused upon the purposes of God. His upper room prayer, for the protection and continuing guidance of every generation of disciples, is being answered by the ever-present ministry of the Holy Spirit and the inspired sacred text of scripture. The work of God’s word and the Holy Spirit is to keep the body of Christ focused upon its missional task of making disciples. Anything else is just busy “church” work, requiring neither the word nor the Spirit to see it accomplished.
“For the words that You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me” (John 17:8).
The words of this prayer serve as a reminder that we are products of the words entrusted to those eleven in the upper room. Trace back the spiritual lineage of all who took the responsibility of sharing the gospel with you; being an influence in your faith journey, and you will find that the origins of your ancestry began in this upper room. This is why every follower of Christ has a vital role in the spreading of the gospel. What has been received must be given.
“I have revealed Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have followed Your word” (John 17:6).
Just as we have come to understand that praying in Jesus’ name is to pray with the understanding of his person, nature, character; according to his missional intent, Jesus has made known to his disciples the name of God; that is, his person, nature, and character. As a result, they have “bought in” to the role he has for them, and have, themselves, become an answered prayer for the witness of God’s redemptive purposes in the world. As the followers of Christ today, we continue on the responsibility of being the answer to Jesus’ prayer.
“And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
When it comes to our eternal well-being, the most fraudulent source of security is that which comes from one’s own religiosity and the dressed-up performance offered each Sunday to gain the approval and affirmation of others. Self-satisfaction leads to self-deceit. God’s righteousness, however, is realized in the person of Jesus Christ and is received by a broken spirit that cries out in humility, asking for God’s mercy. Having been received, it then becomes the reference point for every moment and every area of one’s life. It isn’t your religion; it is your life.
“He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments; who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow” (Psalm 147:16-18).
Arctic temperatures, snow, sleet, and ice are equally glorious to other displays of God’s creative wonder. Yet, they present a unique paradox; they are both burden and blessing. The harsh conditions encountered when these wintry exhibitions first appear soon melt away and become liquid nourishment. Such is the word of God and the blowing of God’s Spirit to heart’s grown cold; it is from these receptive hearts that living waters flow.
“And now You, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world existed” (John 17:5).
“Glory” is a central theme for John; utilizing the noun some 18 times, while employing the verb, “glorified,” on twenty-three occasions. What Jesus holds forth for his followers stands in stark contrast to the glory sought by humanity. Instead of full rights and privileges, prominence, and preeminence, Jesus models a glory achieved when one who is entitled to being high and lifted up, instead, lowers themselves to a place of service and sacrifice, enduring even the shame of a cross. Beyond the strident form of nationalistic cultural Christianity portrayed today; an expression that clamorously demands its rights, and fuels the fires of hateful rhetoric and division, the world deserves from the church another display of the life of faith; a demonstration rooted in the teachings of Jesus; that understands we are his ambassadors, his witnesses; that we do not speak or act on our own behalf, but his. It all depends on who you’re seeking to glorify.