Archive for January, 2022

BUILDING MUSCLE MEMORY

“knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:3).

Technically, there is no such thing as “muscle memory.” Memory is an activity of the brain. Practically, however, “muscle memory” is what enables you to regain strength and muscle mass at a faster rate than when first beginning a regimen of resistance training. Life, itself, is resistance training for the soul. Every disappointment, wound, and hardship, “toughens” us up spiritually; strengthening us for the next challenge looming on the horizon. Every adverse circumstance, and whether it adds to, or takes from, your spiritual stamina is determined by you and the attitude you choose to have when facing it.

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AN EXPECTED ENCOUNTER

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2).

Adversity isn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” It’s one of the harsh realities of this present life. Job said, “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1). To anticipate hardship isn’t to have a morbid outlook of dread toward life but, rather, it is to prepare oneself in advance for the offering forth of a response fitting to the hope of our faith. Without forethought, the odds favor a reaction expected from those who do not know Christ—anguish and despair.

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A COMMANDING CONSIDERATION

“Consider it all joy, my brother and sisters, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2).

Just as Paul, standing before King Agrippa, considered himself fortunate (Acts 26:2), and as he admonished believers to “consider” one another as more important than yourselves (Phil. 2:3), and as Christ did not “consider” equality with God as something to be grasped (Phil. 2:6), and as Sarah considered God faithful (Heb. 11:11), and Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:26), James now offers forth an imperative to this audience of messianic  Jews; that they “consider” joyously the adversities of life, with the anticipation of how these things are but a part of the “working out” of God’s greater providential purposes.

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NEW THINGS

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you” (Isaiah 42:9).

The proclamation of the Lord is always a hopeful word for tomorrow and never a haunting word about our past. What is more significant for us than a new year is a new day; the opportunities before us, right now, to seek the transformation God desires to bring forth in our lives.

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VALUING GOD’S FUTURE

“I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, the praises of The Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he has granted them according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7).

Isaiah understood the pain and sorrow of exile; those experiences that steal away all things familiar; taking us to a place we have never been nor imagined. Instead of despairing and becoming disillusioned, the prophet is resolved to take another path—to speak of the abundant expressions of God’s mercies as a remembrance that it is God’s choice to include us in his unfolding purposes. Your exile experience will eventually become a post-exilic experience that far exceeds your pre-exilic existence. His future far surpasses our present.

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FOLLOW HIS LEAD 

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Galatians 5:18).

Though liberated by Christ from sin and the law, the struggle is nonetheless real in this present age and the temptations of the flesh. It’s not unlike those of slave status within the pages of history, who, even upon being set free, found themselves psychologically held captive by a spirit of servitude. Paul, however, asserts that because of the indwelling Spirit of Christ we are not hapless and defenseless puppets on a string. Following His lead moves us from victim to victor.

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LIVING YOUR DESTINY

“and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17).

Just as the work of the Spirit accomplishes for believers a transformed identity (vs. 15-16), he is also inspiring and empowering us to a transformed behavior. For the followers of Christ, faith is never just a set of doctrinal beliefs to be affirmed, but convictions to be practiced and lived out. Regarding the work of the Spirit, Paul’s emphasis isn’t upon ecstatic manifestations but, rather, the fruit being borne out of one’s life (Gal.5:22-23). The destined always live differently.

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A PATIENT SLOWNESS

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) just celebrated the third anniversary of the YUTU- 2 moon rover and its landing on the far side of the moon. In three years it has traveled some 1,000 meters/3200 feet of the lunar surface; that’s 2.9 feet a day! I cannot even imagine the patience some engineer must have, going to work each day knowing, that in the name of exploration and discovery, his/her objective over the next 10-12 hours, is to “drive” YUTU-2 less than a three foot distance. While of vastly different scale, it can, perhaps, help us appreciate the patience of God, who, in the name of redemption and the recovery of souls, continues to move slowly over the entirety of creation; that we might discover what he desires to give.

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ACCEPTING WHO YOU ARE

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father’” (Romans 8:15)!

Apparently, even the Greek speaking Roman Christians were familiar with the Aramaic term for father, “Abba,” a term used by both Jesus (Mark 14:36), and Paul, even when writing to Gentile Christians (Gal.4:6). It’s a term that captures the most personal expression of intimacy with God and, for Paul, embodies the spirit of the adoption first formulated in 2 Samuel 7:14, and what would be the scope of God’s relationship with the coming Messiah. This prophetic declaration from Nathan to David, Paul now views as being no less true for the followers of Christ: “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me” (2 Cor.6:18).

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OWNING WHAT’S RECEIVED

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father’” (Romans 8:15)!

In a hostile world divided by identity politics, and confused by gender identity, the notion that one can have a self-identity rooted, and settled, in the person of Jesus Christ sounds like a heresy of common sense (Orwell). It becomes reality not when we offer verbal and intellectual assent to the claims of scripture regarding such things as grace, adoption, forgiveness, victorious living, and eternal life but, rather, when we embrace these truths and appropriate them to our own lives; when we move from acknowledging them in general, to applying them actively in daily life.

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