Monday, May 16, 2022

The Joy of Christ

 Even as we head with great enthusiasm into Spring and Summer, I think it would be profitable to take a look back at the Easter holiday that we just celebrated.  Christmas and Easter are the historical bookends of the Christian faith, and it is vital that we live in their truths even as we go about our lives post-holiday.


Easter is a glorious celebration, but it absolutely depends upon Good Friday: If Jesus doesn’t die, He can’t be resurrected.  And Good Friday gives us plenty to think about.  Jesus—the Creator and Lover of the universe—is subjected to the most humiliating treatment and the most agonizing death.  Astonishingly, we mark it with Good Friday.  Not Bad Friday; nor Black Friday.  And it is good, very good, as far as we are concerned.  Jesus’s submission to this treatment and death pays our sin debt; that, along with His resurrection, opens for us a path to heaven to live in the company of the Holy Trinity for eternity.


But more astonishing still is that Jesus considered that long-ago Friday good.  The author of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him.  Our Lord and Savior wanted restored relationship with us so much that He paid for that joy with His dignity and His life.  And while Jesus’s death and resurrection have glorious eternal consequences, the events of Easter weekend are relevant to us in the moments of our lives in the here and now as we walk toward heaven.


Jesus challenged His disciples with these words: Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”  (Matthew 16:24).  If we apply Jesus’s future modeling to this passage, then we have some serious issues to consider.


Just as Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, He invites us to view a life of faith as one of pursuing joy.  I am afraid that I, for one, too often settle for comfort, for peace, for happiness.  C.S. Lewis observes: “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  


So what does it look like to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus?  While most of us will not be asked to submit to execution for the kingdom of God, there are plenty of opportunities to practice the denial of self that enables us to follow Jesus and experience His joy.  Can we put aside our pride and apologize when we have done something hurtful, intentional or not?  Can we put our hurt in the Lord’s redemptive hands and forgive someone who has hurt us?  Can we offer kindness and patience to someone we really don’t like?  Can we put aside our plans when the Lord calls us to use our gifts in His service or move out of our comfort zone to minister to someone in need? 


It is important to be clear that choosing self-denial in random fashion will not generate the joy we are looking for.  It is the self-denial that we practice at His bidding that makes us able to follow Christ faithfully that brings His joy.  And the joy of Christ often comes at the cost of discomfort.  This concept is counterintuitive and difficult for us accept let alone welcome.  But if we remind ourselves that the willingness to be uncomfortable, and even to suffer, is a privilege that brings God glory and us the joy of heaven.








Friday, April 15, 2022

A Life of Faith in Uncertain Times

 "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

                                                                                Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Biblical Financial Advice

 "Money's meant to be spread around.  The more happiness it helps create, the more it's worth.  It's worthless as old cut-up paper if it just lies in a bank and grows there without ever having been used to help a body."

                                                                                                          Elvis Presley


Friday, April 8, 2022

A Study in Contrasts

 We have recently welcomed the vernal (spring) equinox of 2022.  This marks the point in our year when the sun crosses the northern hemisphere, when in the journey of the earth around the sun, the northern hemisphere receives direct sunlight.  The spring equinox represents the transition from winter to spring, a most welcome contrast.  Although seasonal transitions and contrasts are not universal on our planet, I do believe that the contrast of seasons shows us something about the way the Creator likes to do things.


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth; morning and evening; dry places and wet places.  Even the quickest perusal of creation floods our senses with contrast: mighty oak trees and delicate lilies; hot springs and cold glaciers; blue jays and cardinals; deserts and rain forests; lions and lambs.  


In His Word, God uses contrast to illustrate His truths and highlight our choices.  Moses challenged the Israelites to choose life as he set before them the blessing and the curse (Deuteronomy 11:26), life and death (Deuteronomy 30:15).  King Solomon’s Proverbs are characterized by the contrast between the upright and the wicked, the wise and the foolish, the Godly and the godless.  When the Apostle John introduces Jesus in the beginning of his Gospel, he describes Jesus as the Light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5).  The Apostle Paul uses contrast to teach the young believers in the churches under his care: We are justified by faith, not by works (Romans 3:27); believers are dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6); believers are to lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12); believers are to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit rather than manifest the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-23) and to lay aside falsehood and speak truth (Ephesians 4:25); believers are set their minds on things above and not on the things on the earth (Colossians 3:2); we are to remember that we are call to sanctification and not for the purpose of impurity (I Thessalonians 1:7).


As bond-servants of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God, we have an opportunity in the here and now to be light in a dark world, to answer Christ’s call to be salt in a world that needs spiritual preservation.  And in doing so, God’s way of contrast is one of our potent strategies.  When we encounter anger, we can respond in peace; when we encounter impatience, we can offer patience; when we encounter discouragement and despair, we can offer the hope of the Gospel; when we encounter lies, we can communicate truth; when we encounter critical spirits and/or narrow minds, we can apply grace.  May the Holy Spirit guard and guide us as we offer ourselves to Him as He seeks to save the lost.


Monday, April 4, 2022

The Challenge and Cost of Change

 "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."                                                                                                        

                                                                                                         Maya Angelou

Sunday, March 6, 2022

An Observation in Regard to Political Discourse

 "It is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man that can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot."

                                                                                             Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

A Thought For Right Now

You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will too late.

                                                                                          Ralph Waldo Emerson