Archive for February, 2022
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5).
Sound doctrine and the ability to defend one’s faith is important, but it will not capture the attention of the world. In a world of hostility what will be noticed is a gentle spirit. What is true of gentleness is no less true of all other virtues identified among the fruit of the Spirit. In a world of hate, unhappiness, war, haste, meanness, evil, infidelity, and excess, those characterized by a spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control will stand out from the masses. This is part of what it means to be a counter-cultural people of God.
“For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
I believe “grace” is the best one word commentary on God’s new covenant, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Grace offers a more comprehensive understanding of God’s saving action than 2000 years of church history, theology, or language studies. It is received from God and not earned. It is given by us and not withheld. Grace pretty well covers it all. Be gracious about it.
“Opening his mouth, Peter said, ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality’” (Acts 10:34).
It’s important be a church with an open door; that upon arrival any and all are made welcome. Of greater importance, however, is to be the church of the open mouth. The mission of the church is fulfilled by an active army that goes and tells, not passive pew dwellers that leave the door open should, perhaps, anyone want to come and hear. We are the church of the open mouth when we express the mercy we have been granted, exercise the the privilege gained, and execute the order’s given.
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth” (Psalm 115:1).
Arguably, there has never been a more timeless and prophetic word than Psalm 115. It is well worth reading in its entirety. Today’s text is, indeed, a stark contrast to the self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, and selfish preoccupation of our present culture. My suspicion is that if this psalm were penned today, it might read, “Not to You, O Lord, not to You, but to my name give glory because of my neediness, because of my preferences.”The psalmist indicts such as these because their idols are silver and gold (v.4); because they have have eyes, ears, noses, hands, and feet, but they cannot see, hear, smell, feel, or walk (v.5-7). The time is upon us, Church. We must join the psalmist, and declare with him, “But as for us, we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forever. Praise the Lord” (v.18)!
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10).
Most would believe that the key to understanding scripture is dependent upon the teacher; that if one with the most popular podcast can be found, there will be an ah-ha moment and the discovery of some secret to biblical understanding. The sacred text of scripture, however, was not inspired and given that we might pass an academic test, but that it might offer instruction as to how life should be distinctively lived as the people of God. Our understanding of God’s word is never proved out by our knowledgeable answers but, rather, our obedient doing.
“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).
In the last years of his life, a friend shared with me words of wisdom that only elderly saints understand: “Life eventually gets you to the place the church has all along been trying to take you.” He was speaking, of course, of coming to a place of utter dependence upon the Lord. While we may have used the language of faith, and trusting in the Lord, the presumption of youth is the sense of being invincible, unconquerable; an inexhaustible confidence and vitality. Then life hits you in the mouth, and it continues hitting you in the mouth while the decades roll by. As it happens, inch by inch, life steals away all those things upon which you ever depended, and strips away all such arrogance. Like the psalmist, it’s here, at your lowest and nearest the grave, you discover the high ground of having confidence only in the Lord.
“If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence” (Psalm 94:17).
Because the work of evil doers is real, and injustice so pervasive, waiting for God’s justice to prevail is challenging. Even in such a time as this, however, the experiential reassurance of the psalmist is the presence of God to help, hold (v.18), and console (v.19). Though the enthronement psalms may hold God forth as King, Creator, and Sovereign, portraying his glory, power, and majesty, the psalmist desires us to experience God as he has; not as one detached, aloof, and above it all, but as the One who is a comforting presence in it all.
“Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble” (Hebrews 12:12).
Seeking to inspire a discouraged community of believers; that they might keep pressing on and run with endurance the race set before them, the author opened with a stirring and exhilarating image borrowed from athletics: a stadium filled with inspiring spectators; a prevailing excitement hanging in the air as the runners prepare to start the race (12:1). Within eleven verses, however, the enthusiasm surrounding the start of the marathon has now given way to the true test: who will finish. In a race of endurance it’s never those who go out fast but those who, even in their pain and brokenness, find a way finish. In living the life of faith you learn to play hurt, knowing that at the end of the race you will be fully healed.
“He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom” (Proverbs 18:1).
Faith was never intended to be lived in isolation but, always, in the context of community. Withdrawn and disengaged, the natural tendency is to become self-absorbed; preoccupied with one’s own wants and desires. Only by active participation and engagement within a fellowship of believers is “self” kept in check, and focus maintained on the greater missional task of the church. We are not consumers in the marketplace; we are the sales team of “the company of the committed”.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
As difficult as exile had been for God’s people, the return to Jerusalem and the effort to rebuild proved to be no less despairing. Their posture is one of defeat and hopelessness. The voice of God’s prophet is a call to stand up, get on your feet, assume a position that reflects trust in God’s provision, and confidence in the future he has in store. The counsel of our parents was truly wise…standing up straight really does make a difference; it communicates confidence and preparedness for whatever comes.