Do not love… the things in the world…

Standard

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16 for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

I tend to think that consumerism is a new idea in modern America. This passage makes it clear that consumerism, or love of stuff, is nothing new. In fact, there are many times when pursuit of life with Jesus will mean less material wealth or well-being, not more. Yet there are some in the modern church who say that living as a disciple of Jesus leads to prosperity (wealth, good health, favor with people, etc). This passage speaks in opposition to the idea of faith and wealth ALWAYS going together. It’s simply not true and I believe those who teach otherwise will be held to account.

That said, I like stuff as much as the next person. I understand the temptation of “things in the world”. Lord let things never come between you and me. Amen.

I have gone astray like a lost sheep…

Standard

Psalm 119: 173 Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. 174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. 175 Let me live that I may praise you, and let your ordinances help me. 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. 

This is a really LONG psalm. 176 verses worth, the longest of them all. And through most of this psalm the writer has been emphasizing his total dependence on God. How does he demonstrate his dependence on God? By following God’s laws, statutes, decrees, ordinances, commandments, precepts… etc. In short, by walking the straight and narrow. There are a few things that surprise me in this passage.

First, there is the notion of God’s law as “my delight”. It expresses an emotional attachment to the law, which I find interesting. He doesn’t experience the law as confining or limiting, but as joy.

Then there is “I have chosen your precepts” and “I do not forget your commandments”. He’s all in with God’s law. It is his answer to just about all of life’s questions. What do I do when the way is unclear? I follow the law and I will be well. Simple right? But then there’s the whole of v.176

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant for I do not forget your commandments.”

See the tension there? Here is a person who pledges in-depth knowledge of, and fidelity to the law, yet admits he has not kept it. He has “gone astray”. I totally get that because it sounds like me. I am well versed in the ways of God but fall short of them all the time. It’s not that I don’t try, but my flaws are so many. Seriously. It can get depressing. And if it weren’t for knowing that God’s grace through Jesus is greater than my sin, I would be a “lost sheep” like the psalmist.

Lord today I share the prayer in v.176 asking for you to “seek out your servant”… one who is lost without your grace and mercy through Jesus. Amen.

Give us grace. To wait.

Standard

2 Peter 3:But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.

Peter is writing to Christians who didn’t understand why Jesus had not returned in their lifetimes. It was said that Jesus was coming – any day. What was the holdup?! So Peter offered this verse to explain why the “Day of the Lord” was taking a lot longer than a day. I’m pretty sure the original readers would have freaked out to know that 2,000 years after this letter was written we would still be waiting.

But our God thinks in terms of eternity, not hours and days. A lifetime for us is like a tick of the clock in the context of eternity. I get the logic of it, but it’s not very satisfying. Particularly for those in Peter’s day who were waiting for the Lord to bring relief from struggle and hardship, waiting was very difficult. I realize whatever struggles I have pale in comparison to persecuted early Christians, but the waiting is still hard. But wait I must. Wait you must. Wait we must.

Lord Jesus we need you. We anxiously anticipate your return to bring an end to sin and death once and for all, to right the many injustices of our world, to bring relief to those who struggle. Give us grace. To wait. Amen.

The sum of your word is truth…

Standard

Psalm 119:160 The sum of your word is truth; and every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.

The psalmist has been emphasizing his complete dependence on the word of God for direction and guidance in the midst of his struggle against faithless people. This is an interesting verse in that vain. If you want to know the truth then know the word of God. Simple. That’s one reason why we take time to read and reflect on scripture every day, right? (BTW I know I’ve missed a few days – sorry)

However, if you actually take the time to read scripture from cover to cover some things become obvious. It’s one thing to read the word of God, but it’s another thing to understand it both in its original context and in its proper application in our world today.

There are places where scripture can be confusing or even contradictory. I can recall many years ago approaching scripture for the very first time expecting the black/white truth – and being disappointed. Mind you, the deficiency is not in the word itself, but in my capacity for understanding, but it’s still does not offer the 2+2=4 kind of simplicity I was looking for.

So this morning I’m reflecting on this verse above. I believe it is a thoroughly correct statement despite my inability to grasp it fully. Yet.

Lord open our minds to understand the truth of your word. Amen.

For a little while…

Standard

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Peter is writing to Christian believers who are suffering for the faith, perhaps feeling the temptation to leave the church. Today v.10 got my attention, particularly the meaning of “all little while”. I’m pretty sure God’s understanding of “a little while” and ours is different. I’m tempted to think the suggestion here is that suffering will only last a few hours or days, but that’s not what we know from history. History tells us that many Christians have suffered for long periods of time over the last 2,000 years – and many suffering to the point of death.

But then I think about God’s perspective, which is eternal. From the perspective of eternity our life on earth is a tick of the clock, a moment, an instant, “a little while”. Tomorrow I’ll be going to Austin to visit an old family friend who is slowly dying of Alzheimer’s disease. His health has been deteriorating for years, particularly the last two years or so. I hope he’ll recognize me when I see him. We’ll talk for a bit and I’ll pray for him before I leave. It’s hard to watch a process of death unfold so slowly.

And yet I know the day will come when Jim will die and his suffering will come to an end. Furthermore, the day will come when my life will end. And, as sons of God through Jesus Christ, we together with all the saints will have an eternity free of disease or death. Lord help us to hang in there… “a little while”. Amen.

Persecution… a growth strategy

Standard

1 Peter 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), 2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

Peter is addressing Christians who are suffering for their faith. And so he reminds his readers that Christ suffered for the sake of us all, therefore Christians should be prepared to suffer as well. I expect some believers were tempted to abandon their faith to ease their suffering (completely understandable), which Peter describes as succumbing to “human desires”. To remain in their suffering Peter equates to living “by the will of God”.

If find it interesting how the harsh persecution of Christians correlated with the rapid growth of Christianity. Today, particularly in the Western world, the opposite is happening. Christianity is generally met with apathy more than hostility – and the church is shrinking (at least the more institutional expression of church which has dominated the West for 1,500 years).

If you’re a student of the bible you know that God is not above sacrificing human lives for the sake of larger objectives. We see this all over the Old Testament and even in the New Testament. I wonder if the Lord may ultimately usher in a new wave of persecution of Christians in the West so that Christianity might thrive here once again. I know. We don’t want to think that our God would do such a thing, but it’s not out of the question based on God’s actions in the past.

Lord wake your church from its slumber that we might be renewed for the sake of the gospel. Amen.

Jesus made a proclamation to the spirits in prison…

Standard

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison…

We see in these verses the basis for a portion of the Apostle’s Creed that says of Jesus, “he descended to the dead (or hell)”. It was there that he “made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” (prison being a euphemism for hell). Yep, Jesus bore the full weight of our sin before being raised to life on the third day – including time in hell. It’s a humbling thing to ponder, don’t you think? Amazing love indeed.

Lord Jesus thank you for your submission and obedience to death that we might live. Amen.