Archive for December, 2021
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked for himself to die, and said, ‘Enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers’” (1 Kings 19:4).
Just as the depletion of physical energy leaves one exhausted, the draining of mental energies can leave one depressed. An inaccurate estimation of his life has left Elijah with the opinion he is a failure. His skewed thinking has come to a point of crisis; believing that a remedy is to be found in only the most extreme form. No matter what you may “feel,” as those created in the image of God, failure is never our benediction; it is but the invocation of what’s in store from the One who makes all things work together for good. What was true for Elijah is, nonetheless, true for you.
“And he was afraid, and got up and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah; and he left his servant there” (1 Kings 19:3).
What’s most surprising about the despondency of Elijah, the iron man of the Old Testament, is that it comes following his greatest high, the defeat of the prophets of Baal (Chpt.18). Such is often the case. In athletics, teams are most vulnerable after an emotional victory. For those highly motivated and goal-oriented, once an objective has been achieved, depression is a common malady. None of us are exempt from the negative emotions generated by this present life. Even the apostle Paul felt so excessively burdened, he despaired even of life (2 Cor. 1:8). Running is never the remedy. Even in the valley, we must continue looking to the hill from whence our help comes (Ps.121:1).
“Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away with; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
That love never fails speaks to its established permanence. Love is not like a petal from a wilting flower that falls to the ground. Love never loses its strength like a traveler who grows weary from a long journey. Unlike a military sentinel who becomes distracted and leaves his post, love never abandons its place of responsibility. While everything else fades, love finds a way.
“Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
In verses 4-7, Paul utilizes some fifteen verbs to describe the kind of love that he, insistently, sets forth as the identifying quality of Christian behavior. In some of these descriptions of love, we find a passive dimension, as in “patience.” It is a long-suffering quality; unwavering in the face of ever-changing circumstances. Other expressions, however, are active in nature. For example, to be “kind” emerges not from a love rooted in an emotional “feeling” but, rather, a commitment to practice, intentionally, the love of Christ that has been extended even to the likes of us.
“And if I give away all my possessions to charity, an if I surrender my body so that I may glory, but do not have love, it does me no good” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
As Paul culminates this listing of spiritual gifts the Corinthians counted as preeminent—tongues, prophecy, miracle-working, philanthropy, and martyrdom (v.1-3)—it’s only as these are performed out of love, and for the common good of the church (12:7), that they have any relevance at all. Done without love, the exercise of spiritual gifts becomes just another form of self-aggrandizement. Without love, the church has nothing to say or offer to the world.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same (Matthew 5:46)?
Anyone can treat well those they like. But what of those for whom we have no affection, or feelings, or even dislike? As those called by Christ, and as a people being renewed by the working of his Spirit, our pursuit is to be equally lovable to any of those that might cross our path. When intentionally practiced, it will bring forth a growing affection where there has previously been none.
“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Asked to consider your best Christmas ever, is to invite a flood of memories. Perhaps it was the year you received the baseball mitt you always wanted; the football, the video game system, the doll house, the swing set. Maybe your fondest memory isn’t material but relational—the husband, son, or daughter returning home from the front lines of battle; the wayward child returning home unexpectedly; a gravely ill parent getting out of the hospital and joining the family for what would be the last time. As wonderful as these memories of Christmas past might be, they pale in comparison to the very first Christmas, when God’s love was presented in a way it had never been known before. I pray this will be your best Christmas ever.
“He will not fear bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).
The angelic pronouncement of good news, received by Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds, was preceded by an admonition to not be afraid. Because it has no confidence in the ever-changing landscape of circumstances, to trust in the Lord is to have a steadied heart. When troubles arise, Jesus doesn’t tell us to look at the ostrich, and how it sticks its head in the sand (Greek myth) until the danger has passed. Instead, he tells us to look to the birds of the air. In other words, keep your head up. Only then can you see the faithfulness of God’s care proved out.
“But as for me, I trust in You, Lord, I say, ‘You are my God’” (Psalm 31:14).
Giving oneself to the enactment of the kingdom of God in this present life is a deliberate act of trust. To the world it appears to be an irrational pursuit; lacking objective evidence. Such is the nature of faith. To trust only in the rational, the provable, the measurable, the definable, requires no faith whatsoever; belief is compelled by the evidence. Even so, just as I don’t need a scientist to prove the physics at work in the universe, or a private investigator to prove the faithfulness of my spouse, I have determined to have a relationship with the Lord based upon love and trust. Something is always going to be your god. I simply choose to trust in the One who is Spirit, rather than the ones that can be seen.
“Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous” (Matthew 20:15)?
Jesus opens with a theological question, anticipating an affirmative response that a sovereign God may do as he pleases. The second is an anthropological question, exposing the sinful nature of humanity. Like the eldest son in the parable of the Prodigal Son, such are these in the parable of the Laborers In the Vineyard; begrudging those who receive so much while having done so little. Worst still, they consider the Landowner unjust for having done so. Until you recover the gratitude that has been stolen, you will never know the joy grace desires to give.