Monday, December 10, 2007
When we are at a loss - and we do not know where truth is to be found, or even if it can be found - we must set our focus on Jesus. When chaos surrounds us, and "truth" is no where in sight, Jesus shines brightly. Only He can make a clearing where there is only darkness and fog.
Christ is the compass for a lost world.
Thank you Lord for lighting the way - and showing us Truth.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
It is one of the most dire temptations we face as christians (let alone, citizens of this world): wanting to receive approval of man over and above the approval of our Father in heaven.
We too often see what praise "gives" to another person. Getting the attention and admiration of others, can land you in the White House, get you a better job, grant you more book sales, or make you popular. The desire for acceptance is a powerful drug and creates unwitting addicts.
Its side effects are real. Compromise. Lack of courage. Pride.
In Christ, we see One who primarily sought to please His Father, by his unashamed ability to confront sinners when others would have wilted - and love sinners would others would have hated. In Jesus, we find our ultimate example of one whom the Lord commended.
"Let us therefore, leaving off all other things, aim exclusively at this --- that we may be approved by God and may be satisfied to have His approbation alone, as it justly ought to be regarded by us as of more value than all the applauses of the whole world." John Calvin
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
So it came as a big surprise to all, when - after years of dutiful submission - his life became a trainwreck as he dived into a waste-pit of sin.
Graciously, God did not allow this man to live very long as a slave. He was eventually pulled out of the mud - more needy, and free.
Asked why he plunged into a life of sin the restored and now broken man said, "I had lived my whole life for God, as if He needed me. I thought that if I did enough for God, He would in turn keep my life safe, but stay out of my way. It finally all came to a head after years of bitter disappointment in God for not meeting my expectations and for never having received 'proper' repayment of my 'dutiful' acts. I had finally come to the conclusion that I hated God - and I'd had enough."
Such is the predicament for many dutiful Christians who flip their relationship with the Lord into a transaction, as if the Lord could be bought and manipulated to serve their purposes.
We would do well to remember that it was our Lord and Savior who has done all the needed transactions and we remain - and forever will remain - the beneficiaries of them. We will never repay the Lord. Nor should we try. Our Christian lives will be lived well in a spirit of brokenness and thankfulness to the Giver. Always in thanksgiving for what He did on our behalf, rescuing us from a sure death. With that in view and with our hearts filled to overflowing in thanksgiving, we rejoice, giving praise to our Father - not out of duty - but out of broken-hearted sorrow and joyful submission to our King.
Who has ever given to God, that He should repay him?...for from Him, and through Him and to Him are all things. Lord, help us to keep our relationship with you always on the receiving end of your mercy and love. Your ways are altogether right and true. Your purposes more wise and sure than ours could ever hope to be. Lord, we are your children, desperately in need of You.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Why do we put such blind faith in a structure that is so important?
I might assume that most people wouldn't consider their faith in a bridge to be blind. Many would likely give the following reasons for their confidence:
"It has always been there"
"It appears strong"
"It held me the last time I went over it"
"Bridges rarely collapse"
All of these reasons, are experiential. Through repeated use and observation, a bridge proves its faithfulness.
In many respects, Jesus too has proven his trustworthiness.
History presents all men and women everywhere with the personhood of Jesus Christ. We all are witnesses to Christ in the way the Bible speaks of his glory and life of Truth. Never has a life been lived like this one. There is something so intrinsically truthful and real about His life that it beckons us to follow and trust.
Lord, help our unbelieving hearts trust in you alone. Jesus, you are the atoning sacrifice that gives us access to your kingdom and prescence. It is through you alone we have a hope. You are the bridge over which - and in which we cross for sweet fellowship. You took the initiative. Thank you.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
The mark of a freed christian is that he has come to the realization that it is not him who governs, or is soveriegn, or all-powerful. He has been brought low by the sweetness of purifying suffering and pain. He realizes that the void and want is large and profound within his soul and it cannot (and has not) been filled by anything in the world. All things and persons he has enjoyed only serve as echos to that void and cry out for something more meaningful, and more lasting.
It is the true mark of a christian when - at last - he has come to the end of the road (himself) and says, "I'm threw with self-love, man-worshipping and idols - none have satisfied. Give me God."
It is not surprising that the freed person in Christ has been brought to this realization through trial, pain or shortcoming. Suffering seems to be the most poignant reminder to our prideful hearts that we are not as "in control" and worthy of worship as our souls have led us to believe. The biggest killer of us all is not heart disease, but pride.
Pride has a hard time maintaining its hold in our lives, when we are humbled. When, we lose a loved one. When we see the hated and scorned, turn on their perpetrators with love. When we experience a great fall, having risen so high. And when our "functional saviors" fail us, once again.
Lord, help us not to rebuke the sufferings you have ordained for us. But, help us to learn to lean more on you - and to depend on the one who will deliver us one day from all pain; and will turn all sadness into deep, void-filling joy.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Sunday, April 29, 2007
"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
Pretty shocking stuff, coming from the President of the United States. In essence, Lincoln was assuming in his speech that the Civil War was a punishment to its people for treating one another as "less than" - or unequal.
Lincoln knew the ugliness and vileness inherent in keeping another man in forced subjection. And how it violated the very nature of goodwill and benevolence which should be attributed to all men and woman; black/white/yellow/brown. He knew too - that God would not stand for such evil. And, went as far as to proclaim the war which ensued over its "rightness" as a judgment handed down from God to redeem the wrong which had been done.
Lord, help us to see your judgments as "altogether true and righteous". That may times your judgments - which seem harsh on the onset - end up redeeming and making things new again. You are the Great Redeemer!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
One night, as he was going room-to-room putting his kids to bed, he told each - the same story.
"...and then, I got up and walked to the door.." said the father, finishing up the tale to his 3-year-old.
The boy's eyes were large and his mouth wide open.
He finished up the story - and then walked into his 6-year-old daughter's room.
"...and then, I got up and walked to the door.."
The girls eyes were intently fixed on her father.
"..and opened it..."
"Oh no! Watch out!" the daughter exclaimed, terrified.
He finished the story, tucked his daughter in bed and shut off the lights.
Lastly, the father walked into his 9-year-olds bedroom and began to weave his tale.
"...and then, I got up and walked to the door...and opened it..."
The boy smiled.
"...and behind the door...was...a lion!"
The boy's eye lit up and his jaw dropped.
"Oh, wow!" he exclaimed.
Chesterton's aim of relaying this story was to make an important point: as we get older, our heart seems to need bigger and bigger things to fill it. No longer is it just fulfilled with the big blue ball rolling on the ground. It longs for something more profound.
Our hearts were made to be in awe. And the only thing big enough to fill them is God.
"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" May we find our joy in seeking Your endless depths and riches! Only You are big enough to fill our deepest longings, O God!
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Peter recognized that some free men would use their newfound freedom in Christ as a contriving tool for sin.
Paul too writes about freedom obtained through Christ. In Romans, he writes that many might use their freedom as a means to sin and obtain even more grace (but objected by saying, "let it not be so!")
Both Paul and Peter knew full well, of the endless appetite of the heart toward evil.
Freedom in Christ does not give the Christian a license to self-gratify - but to sacrifice self for the good of others.
Freedom in Christ does not give warrant to more self-love but to more radical love of others.
Freedom in Christ does not provide cover for secret sins - but pushes for the expulsion of evil in the heart and a drive for the pursuit of righteousness.
Let our lives echo Peter's words, "that by doing right, [we] may silence the ignorance of foolish men."
Lord, help us to live as free men. Free men who love and pursue righteousness. Who expose the evil that lies beneath - for the glory of your name - that none should stumble or be "lied to" by our lives lived out for you.
Friday, April 06, 2007
When I think back about dad - I am filled with precious memories and things that I will take with me for as long as I have memory.
I find it odd, some of the things that come to mind when I think of him...
The way in which he would sit at the kitchen table, off to the side, legs crossed. How he'd wear his pants, hitched way up past his belly. The Hush Puppies. The towel around the neck in the summertime, collar flipped up. His teethy grin. The odd manner in which he would swing a golf club.
What I cherish most - and what I hold on to most is the way in which he lived his life. His was one of peace and diplomacy. His gentle, yet authoritative nature put me at ease. I thought, "if dad is here, everything will be okay."
He lived humbly. He didn't make a lot of money. Didn't seek fame or fortune.
He was devoted to two main things: Jesus first - and family second.
His was not an uncommon life lived amongst the daily grind. Yet there was a peace about him that was uncommon and unwordly.
And, even in his death, that peace endured. On the morning of April 5, 1997, he told my mother, "Jesus is going to take me home today." And so it was fitting that he went to be, where we all belong - back into the arms of our Savior.
Lord, I pray that you were honored in my father's life and death. And, I pray, that you might make all your children shine forth your love and that when we die - your name would be lifted up and not ours.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
In a recent magazine article, author/theologian N.T. Wright was asked about the popularity of the Gospel of Judas, which has given rise to an interest in Gnosticism. His response:
"The Gnostic conspiracy theory says that orthodoxy hushed up the really exciting thing and promoted this boring sterile thing with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And of course there's a great lie underneath that. In the second and third centuries, the people being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake and sawed in two were not the ones reading Thomas and Judas and the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. They were the ones reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Because the empire is perfectly happy with Gnosticism. Gnosticism poses no threat to the empire. Whereas Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do. It's the church's shame that in the last 200 years, the church has muzzled Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and turned them into instruments of a controlling, sterile orthodoxy. But the texts themselves are explosive."
Lord, help me to be satisfied in your explosive, unchanging, foundational - and rock-solid truth. Guard my heart - and seal it. Seal it to thy truth above!
Sunday, March 18, 2007
In fact the whole of the testament makes way for and demands the entrance of a "redeemer". There needed to be One who could perfectly fulfill the Law - and do that which God had commanded. And, there needed to be One who could appease the wrath which had been stored by the forebearance of God through sins previously committed.
That "redeemer" came in the person of Jesus. All of Scripture proclaims and points to Him.
Without our Redeemer Jesus, we would still be dead and enslaved.
Thank you Lord, for setting your people free!
Sunday, March 11, 2007
This is one of the most beautiful displays of mercy and self-forgetfulness in our King found in the Bible. Jesus having just been given the news of John's beheading, retreats to a solitary place, only to find a mob of needy people waiting for Him there. What does He do? He shows them compassion.
For me - who sometimes drowns in self-absorption - the picture of Jesus, forgetting about His need to mourn the death of a beloved friend, and instead, reaching out to a needy people is so unworldly.
Jesus had plenty of "reserves" to draw on. He was acting out of the power and through the love of His Father. He knew His mission - and He knew it would soon be over. There was an urgency about everything He did.
Lord, please give us the heart and eyes of Jesus. To see those in need and to forget about ourselves. You have equipped us and given us what we need - we have more than enough "reserves" to draw on, in You. Thank you.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Once, while the young soldier walked among soldiers who had been wounded, he became jealous of the way in which they seemed "peculiarly happy".
Crane writes, "he wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage."
It is true that we all want to stand the test. We want to endure to and not lose hope. We want the prize awaiting those who have not given up - but have pressed on, in future hope.
As christians, we may be encounter various trials. Some of them, we may run from. But we should not lose hope.
"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison," wrote Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.
We know that Jesus ultimately went before us - enduring our shame and our penalty. He took our wounds. He is our red badge. Our courage.
With Him, we can endure - to the end. With Him, we have a future.
Thank you for saving us Lord!
Sunday, February 18, 2007
When Peter returned to the place where Jesus was staying, the Lord turned the episode into a teaching lesson and then a great miracle (one that is easily overlooked, if you aren't paying attention).
"What do you think Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?"
"From strangers," was Peter's response.
"Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me."
What's this? Did Jesus just say to pay the tax - and to find that money in a fish?
Puzzling stuff. Odd for that matter. Yet all the while, vintage Jesus.
Amazing as that miracle was - which no doubt underscored Jesus' soveriegn control over all - He teaches an interesting lesson.
We can clearly see that Jesus was saying this: tax collectors get their money from strangers - not their sons and daughters. While at the same time, a correlation can be made that those who are sons and daughters of the heavenly King (Jesus) are exempt from paying their "tax" (wages of sin is death) through Christ.
But what about this statement?
"However, so that we do not offend them..."
Was Jesus really concerned about offending a tax collector? Was Jesus so concerned about how others felt that he wouldn't confront them with the truth?
But, what he may have been concerned about was removing any obstacle or "tool" of rebuke which may have caused the unbeliever to stumble in their acceptance of Himself as the Son of God. Imagine the whispers in the crowds:
"He is truly amazing. He casts out demons, heals the lame and even forgives sin!..."
"But I heard that He won't pay the temple tax."
The apostle Paul too tried to remove any stumbling block that an unbeliever might have in hearing the gospel account by his witness. He spent much of his ministry as a tent-maker and paid much of his expenses as he preached from city to city - thereby removing any chance for people to say, "He's only doing it for the money."
Lord, like Paul, help us to remove those "obstacles" which may be hindering our witness. Though we are yet to be perfected, help to keep us above reproach, for your namesake. Thank you.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
We see some of this in how we demand equality for all and a level playing field for jobs and education.
And yet, we all know that in reality, life is not playing itself out the way we had idealized. Some children die before the age of 2; jobs are oftentimes given to the one who knows the right person - but who may not be the most qualified; a child is being born to an impoverished family - while another, to milllionaires; a healthy man in his prime, suddenly becomes stricken with terminal cancer. The list goes on.
So what does this all mean? And, what can we learn?
The very fact that we all demand fairness and things to be just - and yet they are not that way - leads us to a conclusion that all is not right here. Our inherent imperative is not being met.
We try to make things right. We institute laws which forbid discrimination and unequal hiring practices. We dictate that all are created equal - and thereby deserve fair treatment.
And yet - we fall short. With all our might, we still cannot make it all better.
This will only lead to a resignation or a hope-filled outlook. As christians, who see a Creator which loves and pursues justice, there is hope for an unfair and oftentimes cruel world. A God who redeems and makes all things new, is really our only hope to quell this inherent desire for all things to one day be made right.
Friday, February 02, 2007
However, in many of those verses, He makes it a point to address motives.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
People - set free in Christ - no longer crave the temporal rewards found in the praise of man, personal property or climbing the ladder to the top. Free people seek one thing. The Psalmist said it well:
"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple."
With eyes fixed on Jesus and doing His will out of the outpouring of Love which He first bestowed on us, we will begin to serve and give and obey. Not so that we may be seen as righteous, but that our grip on this world would be loosened and we would begin to crave after a life with Christ, "...who sees what is done in secret," and rewards.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
While there were many who viewed this act as immature - yet innocent - others viewed it as an act of defiance that needed to be punished.
The teenager, Emmett Till - a black - had just joked with a white woman. In Mississippi.
Three days later, the clerk's husband and a friend took the teenager from his relatives house, and decided to teach him a lesson. After driving him to a riverbank, they pistol-whipped Emmett and saw that he was still defiant. Angered, they told Emmett to take off all his clothes.
"You still as good as I am," asked one of the men.
"Yeah," Emmett replied.
A loud "pop" ripped threw the air and Emmett hit the ground.
Four days later, Emmett's body was found in the river by a couple of boys who were fishing. Around the teenager's neck was a cotton gin fan, tied with barbed wire.
That January - 6 months after the killing - LOOK Magazine published an article with the confession of the two men who had been acquitted of all murder charges just months prior.
No one ever served time for the murder.
Everything in my being wants to cry out at injustice. Acts of injustice demand justice.
Hebrews 10:30 says, "For we know Him who said, 'Vengence is Mine, I will repay.'...It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
These men did not go free. They will be delivered into the hands of the Almighty. And, it will be terrifying.
Lord, guard our hearts from feeling pride at the fact that someone will "get their due" - and cause our hearts to break for those who may meet your wrath head-on. May it cause us to be more winsome and burdened for the lost.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
After a few of these thoughts, I rest and trust, knowing the odds are likely in my favor.
But, my trust is short-lived - and misplaced. If I continue in these thought patterns, I will have to perform mental cartwheels, every time I fear, distrust, or find myself worrying. I need a firmer foundation.
The Psalmist writes, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."
and, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge."
It is an indictment on my heart that I take my refuge in chances, in odds and the ingenuity of fellow man - and not my God - my Rock.
When planes lose engines, and bridges fall, when cancer strikes all the bones, and sickness never seems to end - whom will never falter or sway? It is our Lord, our Redeemer, or Stronghold. In what or whom else can we trust?
Lord, give me a heart that trusts in You above all else. In times of plenty and times of want. Thank you.