Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking for Someone

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 1 Peter 1:10

As a young child walks carelessly behind his mother though a department store he is almost overwhelmed by the endless rows of tinsel and lights. Dazzled by the blink and blush of lights and advertisements titillating commercialism of the Christmas season it is hard to imagine that there is a better time than Christmas. The thought of toys, candies and cookies weighs heavily on the child's expectations. Suddenly the child wakes from his reverie and finds himself separated from his mother. The panic sets in and the child goes racing through rack after rack of pants, shirts and jeans. Where could his mother have gone? Finally, he gives himself up for lost, falls on the floor and starts sobbing loudly. Not a moment later his mother pokes around the corner, sweeps him up in her arms and chides him for not staying closer to her.

We can identify with the moment of terror and longing. As much as this sensation has befallen all of us, it only gives us a glimpse of the Jewish anticipation for the Messiah. Jewish girls treasured their baby boys because this child may be the promised one; the anointed savior that was yet to come. They comforted each other with the promises that God had given of this great prophet, priest and king that was yet to come: God's anointed, the Messiah.

As we approach this holiday season don't forget to take some time to appreciate how great the Old Testament saint longed to see the Messiah as clearly as we now see Him. That God took on flesh and tabernacled among us. That all of this was promised from the very beginning and God is always faithful to His promises. His promises to humanity to provide a Savior. His promises to Israel of land, seed and blessing which still await their total fulfillment in the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. His promises to each of us individually who have placed our faith in His Son and have been given eternal life which Paul described by saying: "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) This week lets focus on our God who is THE promise keeper.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holding Things Together

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:17

We sometimes hear this phrase, "I'm holding things together." By it, of course, we mean that our lives are not falling apart. We are doing alright, if only just. The illusion that this suspends in the air before us is our own importance. We may make this statement, or some variant of it, with the best of intentions. We think of our family, our friends, our work, our commitments, our mortgage, our responsibilities, our church, and we reflect on it all and think we are doing a fine job of keeping it all together. The trouble? We are not keeping it together. This illusion makes us the center of the center of everything. It reduces God to: "a good help to call in if things look shaky", but basically it is all about us.

We often think of self-centered people as the ones who act in their own interests all of the time. We think that the selfish person is the one who takes the last of the turkey before everyone has eaten, however there is another, more insidious self-centeredness that may look far more attractive to others. The busy-body, the workaholic, the people pleaser, the super-mover, the temptation to be self-centered in this way may be just as great or greater than all other temptations combined.

How would life change if, when we were most tempted to see ourselves as the center of the world, we were able to turn our eyes upon the One who actually does hold all things together? Remembering that gravity exists at His behest, and the planets swim through space in their orbit by His will, should readjust our skewed view of reality. Realizing afresh that it is not all about us, but that it is all about Him, is the medicine our weary soul needs when we think we are "just holding together" or when it all seems to be falling apart. Taking responsibility for things that are not ours to control is a sure fire path to frustration and pain, resting in Him is our hope.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Proverbs 16:32

How often is a difficult situation made worse by a knee-jerk reaction? How many times is a relationship hurt or destroyed on the basis of a misunderstanding that quickly explodes? Sadly the stories of influential, famous or powerful people whose quick tempers destroyed their personal lives are known to each of us. The world system doesn't help us as we seek to understand this phenomenon. Some may use their angry, fearful, patterns of their flesh as an excuse to commit great atrocities. Saying, "I couldn't help it, I was just so mad." While our culture may at times accept this excuse it is not in keeping with the Biblical view of is not what God is making us into as He conforms us to the image of Christ.

The Proverbs warn us that the person who is controlled by his emotions alone is in danger. This is not to say that anger is bad, but it is an extraordinarily powerful emotion and left unchecked can be incredibly destructive. In Ephesians 4:26-27 we are told: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." So we know that to feel the sensations and feelings surrounding the emotion of anger is by no means sin, but it easily leads to sin. By what means can we hope to control it? Counting to 10 never seemed to work for Donald Duck. Deep breathing and excusing yourself when you feel you are getting to hot? These types of methods may have some value, but the Bible offers us a more lasting solution:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Notice all of these wonderful characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit! How does fruit grow on a branch? Why by remaining connected to the Vine (see John 15). Self-control is the character of someone who is resting in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not controlled by anger, or the passing winds of any emotion. The one who is walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) is able to experience anger, not be controlled by it, yet act appropriately to resolve it. On rare occasion it may exhibit itself as it did when Christ turned over tables, but most commonly the appropriate and Christlike response will be lead to a more peaceful conclusion.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sovereignty and Shipwrecks

"'My good children,' I replied, 'we must not despair, although we seem deserted. See how those on whose skill and good faith we depended have left us cruelly to our fate in the hour of danger. God will never do so. He has not forsaken us, and we will trust Him still.'" Johann Wyss in The Swiss Family Robinson

I grew up watching the Disney production of The Swiss Family Robinson. I loved the adventure and the resourcefulness of this family. However, it wasn't until recently that I picked up the book and found something thrilling! The film version glossed over the most powerful and important part of the story*. How was this family able to overcome these great obstacles and difficulties? In the book we see that this family is carried through every trial and triumph by entrusting themselves fully to the amazing sovereignty of God! Thanking God each morning and evening they entrust themselves to His care and go about the business of dealing with the day. Because they trust in the sovereignty of God they are able to live without bitterness towards the sailors who abandoned them, and think upon them in charity. Amazing!

We see this same fortitude and faith in the person of Joseph. How could a man be dealt so many ill turns and still move forward without bitterness, hatred and despair? Even to the point of assuring the very brothers who sold him into slavery that he bears them no ill will. Truly amazing! Yet Joseph was fully convinced of the sovereignty of God, and trusted in that. Assuring his brothers: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore do not be afraid, I will provide for you and your little ones." (Genesis 50:20-21a)

So the question for you and I is: "How big is our God?" Is our God big enough to work good through every tragedy, difficulty and heartache? Is our God big enough to redress every wrong, and free us from the need for retribution? Is our God big enough to give us assurance in times of political turmoil and financial difficulty? The God of the Bible decidedly is greater than even these meager worries necessitate. So the only question left is whether or not we are willing to trust Him.

*It should be noted that there is some disagreement as to which edition is closest to the "original" and whether certain themes were added in later editions

Monday, November 1, 2010

Of First Importance...

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received..." 1 Corinthians 15:3a

How many times have you gotten all the way out to your car before you realized that you left your keys in the house? It is frustrating to realize that even though you are in the right place, missing the main point (the fact that you need the keys to run the car) means that you have to go back inside. Modern Christian pop culture has clearly missed the point, and thus Christianity at large is becoming worthless (even if it is moving towards greater "relevancy"). One recent Christian topseller tells us how we should be doing more nice things for people, because THAT'S what the gospel is about (said author neglects to mention what the Bible says the gospel is about in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Another trend in pop Christianity is to attempt to come up with a "green Christianity". Based on the error that the Church has replaced Israel, and the assumption that Jesus is not coming back the gospel is warped to involve how we take care of our planet. A popular Christian periodical will do everything to attach the importance to some "experience" that one must have. Other Christian books get believers wrapped up in evaluating God and the Church in terms of self-centered therapeutic methods, rather than remaining focused on the Lord.

The math hasn't changed: Jesus plus anything equals nothing.

The gospel is under attack from every direction, and each of these attacks attempt to take the focus away from Jesus and put it on ourselves. We must be aware that just because something is called "Christian" or is sold in a "Christian Bookstore" doesn't mean that it has anything to do with the faith of the Bible and the Savior revealed therein. It is because of what Jesus did on the Cross that we are forgiven, and created anew. It is because of Him that we have fellowship with our loving Father God, reject anything that takes your eyes off of Him and puts them on the world, the institutional church, the flesh or yourself. Look at Jesus.