Friday, April 5, 2024

Challenge For The Day

 Spiritual fitness requires us to exercise our "NO" muscle.  We can only say "YES!" to God if we learn to say "NO," at appropriate times, to ourselves and others.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Get. A. Head.

 A theme that runs through our culture is that of getting ahead.  We are told to attend to our school work and study hard so that we can get ahead.  Many work long hours in order to get ahead in their career of choice.  Athletes train hard in order to get ahead of the competition.  And truth be told, I like the feeling of getting ahead on my week’s housework.  But at the same time, there is often compromise: if we can’t get ahead, at least we can feel okay if we keep up.

 As broken, fallen creatures, it isn’t so easy to feel good or even okay about ourselves.  Even in our most pretentious moments, we know deep down that we are not as good as we try to look.  That’s what this getting ahead or keeping up thing is about: feeling good about ourselves.  It is important to recognize that as we look to get ahead or keep up, we are—consciously or unconsciously—comparing ourselves to others.  If we are getting ahead, we are winning!  And if we are keeping up, we are at least not losing….  But comparing ourselves to others in order to boost our ego means that we are putting our emotional well-being into the hands of others.  And since those others are also looking to get ahead/keep up to feel good or okay about themselves, they are hardly trustworthy with our all-too-fragile emotional stability.


I would like to suggest that we trade in a getting ahead mindset for a getting a head mindset: to use what we know from Scripture to determine how to think about ourselves.  Please consider what we learn from the following passages:


Genesis 1:26; 2:7; 2:18, 22-25—God has made us in His image in the most personal way, with His own breath, for relationship with Him and others, and for significant work.


Matthew 1:20-21--God sent His own Son to save His people from their sins, the very sins that make it hard for us to feel good about ourselves.  


Romans 5:8—God loves us and values us so much that He died to cover our sins even as we were in our helpless, sinful, and least attractive state.


Ephesians 2:10—God has created us for significant work, planned personally by Him.


Matthew 20:20-28—While status in the world is about position and power, status in God’s eyes is about love and service.


Luke 22:24-26—Competition has no place in determining our position before God almighty.


Philippians 1:6 and Colossians 2:10—The Lord has promised to complete the work of sanctification that He has begun in us; and that work is so certain that it can be proclaimed as completed!


Romans 8:16-17—We are children of God and heirs of His kingdom.  


John 8:12-14—Jesus—God Incarnate!—was unrecognized and rejected by others, most particularly the religious professionals of His day.




Revelation 22:1-5—Believers can look forward to the day when they will see God face to face, worshipping Him and reigning with Him for all eternity.


As I consider what we have in Christ—our identity, value, and future—it is hard to imagine why we would bother to try to find these things in a counterfeit.  But our sin nature, and with it our desire to do life independent of God, remains with us.  We must make the choice, moment by moment, day by day, to look entirely to Christ for all that we are and are becoming.


And then as we find our identity and value in Christ, as Christ found His identity and value in His Father, we will be able to enter into genuine, intimate relationship, to love and be loved.



Friday, March 1, 2024

March The Lion and the Lamb

 We all know the old adage: “March—In like a lion, out like a lamb.”  Or, sometimes, vice versa.  And while the weather of March can make for some interesting conversations, I think the echoes of Biblical truth in the adage are far more significant.  


The weather adage is a way to emphasize the drastic change that March brings.  Winter to Spring; powerful to mild.  The lion and lamb metaphors in the Bible refer to the two natures of Christ that are both eternal and simultaneous.   He is the Lion of Judah.  The I AM.  He is also the Lamb of God, meek and lowly, sacrificed for the sins of the world.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He was, is, and will always be both the Lion and the Lamb.


In our fallen world and in our minds, lions and lambs do not go together.  They are entirely incompatible.  Lions eat lambs.  Lambs are terrified of lions.  Christ as both Lion and Lamb is a sign to us that He has, inconceivably, done the impossible!  The Creator of the world is also its Redeemer.  The lion and lamb metaphor in the Bible enables us to imagine and visualize the miracle.  Before the fall, it is conceivable (depending upon your theology) that there were no predatory relationships among the newly-created animals.  But when Adam and Eve made their fateful choice, the entire creation fell with them.  God clothed them with the skins of animals who were sacrificed to provide Adam and Eve with material protection.  And all heaven wept.


The fall has generated a dog eat dog world of fear and shame.  Whatever your position on evolution, survival of the fittest has became all too commonplace in our world.  The strong use and abuse the weak for their own benefit.  The rich become richer while the poor become poorer.  Lions eat lambs.


But. God.  Jesus as Lion is not merely the King of the jungle; He is King of all creation, all the universe.  And as Lamb, He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  (Philippians 2:7-8).  Jesus as the perfect Lamb became the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system for sin, dying once and for all.


The weather is not the most remarkable feature of March.  We are in the season of Lent, preparing to commemorate the death of the Lamb of God and celebrate the resurrection of the Lion of Judah.  This is an ideal time to ponder with gratitude our Lord, the Lion and the Lamb.  It is also a good time to turn our face in the same direction, to use whatever power the Lion gives us to serve Him: “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  (Luke 10:3).  As we do so, may we look for the day when lions and lambs will dwell in peace (Isaiah 65:25).




Friday, February 2, 2024

A Question of Timing

 February has arrived, and we find ourselves in the “Love Month.”  As I have thought about this, I find it puzzling that February has become associated with love in general and romantic love in particular.  I know no one who declares February as his/her favorite month, but many people hold love in the highest regard.  At least in our part of the world, flowers are available only if you want to purchase hothouse grown or imported varieties.  Taking a romantic walk on the beach or in a garden has little appeal in February.  February may be the Love Month, but it is easy to understand why most weddings are celebrated in the summer months.


And so I did some research about the history of Valentine’s Day.  I expected to find that February was somehow associated with a St. Valentine.  But there is a good bit of debate as to what historical figure is really connected with our celebration of Valentine’s Day, and the association with February is even less clear.


If I ran the world, would I move Valentine’s Day to a warmer and fuzzier month?  Although Valentine’s Day is largely a secular holiday, I think I can make a good Biblical case to keep it right where it is.  God’s love is unconditional and remains consistent and passionate regardless of circumstances.  And He calls us to love with His love.  Regardless of cold temperatures, grey skies, trying circumstances, and “unlovable” people, we are to love.  The love God lavishes upon us and calls us to share is not the sentimental (and sometimes insincere) love that is commonly expressed on Valentine’s Day.  God’s love pursues the “target” and works for his/her good; it expresses acceptance and grace; it offers second chances. 


Valentine’s Day in February is a helpful reminder to us that love is not about easy, or comfortable.  It is also an encouragement to rejoice in our Lord’s love for us and to invite the Holy Spirit to enable us to bear His fruit of love not only on Valentine’s Day, not only in February, but every day and every month.  Indeed, this unbelieving and hurting world desperately needs to see God’s love in us, among us and through us.