Thursday, November 29, 2012

Psalm 8

O Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your glory above the heavens! From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease, Psalm 8:1-2.

The Psalmist’s thoughts soar above the heavens and then descend to the smallest and weakest and least noticed of humanity, infants and nursing children. In both places God’s glory is found by those who seek Him; displayed for all to see but found by relatively few. Jesus quotes verse two in Matthew Chapter 21: “And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they became indignant and said to Him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise?’”

Picture the lame and blind and children in the temple, in the seat of religious, political, and economic power. Jesus has just thrown the money-makers out of the temple, saying: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” As the religious merchandisers exit, the disenfranchised enter – the outcasts, the ignored, the children who know no better, the blind who can’t see common sense, the lame who can’t keep pace with the world – those who have no use enter the temple and Jesus heals them and accepts their praise. The useful leave and the useless come and God is glorified.

God’s glory in the heavens may humble me, but does His glory in infants humble me? God’s glory in great and mighty mountains and oceans may humble me, but does His glory in a child humble me? If I am humbled by the expansive it is because I am small; if I am not humbled by the small it is because I think I am great; I am be overwhelmed by that which is bigger than I am, but am I humbled by that which is smaller than I am? If the great and the small are both the work of God then should I not be humbled by both?

I may wonder at the Golden Gate Bridge, but I may also wonder at a Faberge egg. I may wonder at Mount Everest, but I may also wonder at a butterfly. I may wonder at a cross-continent trip, but I may also wonder at my own backyard.

When the infants and children and lame and blind have no place in the temple, when the disenfranchised are not offered a front-row seat, we crowd the glory of God out of the temple; whether it be the temple of the church or the temple of individual lives. God has ordained His praise and chosen to display His strength through children, through the small, through the disenfranchised, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians Chapter One: “…but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meditations on 1 John – VII

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments  is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him; the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk even as He walked, (1John 2:3-6).

In Jesus’ Great Commission of Matthew 28:16 – 20 we read: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe [keep] all that I commanded you...

Biblical conversion and discipleship cannot be separated. The idea that Jesus can be one’s Savior and yet not be Lord has no Biblical basis. John is merciful in saying, “The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…”; just as John is merciful in 1:6 in writing, “If we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth…

John’s writing is merciful because it is mercy to tell the truth, mercy because the truth of Jesus Christ can set us free if we respond in obedience to Him. In John 8:31 – 32 we read, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Whatever measure of belief in Jesus the people in this passage had, it was an unconsummated belief, consummation could only come by obedience to Jesus Christ, and in obedience to Jesus Christ they would know the truth and through the truth they would know freedom. The response of Jesus’ audience in John Chapter 8 was rejection of Jesus – in fact they tried to kill Jesus; so much for their belief.

In a world of moral and spiritual ambiguity we need unambiguous statements, in a world and church drunk on the wine of moral, ethical, and spiritual promiscuity we need the sober declaration of truth in Jesus Christ. People in our churches need to know that a profession of belief in Jesus Christ that is not consummated through obedience to Him is akin to a couple in a wedding ceremony who never find their way to the marriage bed. In my vocational industry of real estate, common law has long held that simply signing legal documents at a settlement table does not consummate the transfer of real estate, the new owner must “take possession” of the real estate in order to consummate the transfer of title. Yet we encourage people to give what amounts to lip service to Jesus Christ and consider the conversion deal done, and we say, “Now that you are a Christian you need to read your Bible and pray and attend church,” where in the Bible do we find this thinking? Jesus commands us to make disciples and yet we appear to be engaged in signing people up to a magazine subscription. We want them to just say “yes” with their mouths rather than say “yes” with their mouths and their lives. The marriage bed translates the “yes” of the ceremony into action, taking possession of a house translates the signatures of a settlement table into action; how have we come to think that a verbal “yes” to Jesus need not be translated into obedience to His commandments?

In Matthew 28 Jesus says, teaching them to observe [keep] all that I commanded you. Teaching someone to do something is more than telling someone to do something. In John’s first letter he uses the word “walk” repeatedly, we are to walk in the light and not in darkness, we are to walk as Jesus walked; if we are to teach others to keep His commandments then we must walk as Jesus walked so that others can walk with us. This is teaching by walking, a concept familiar to those in ancient times but one that has little place in our Western world that lives in slavery to the tyranny of time. We are called to invest our lives in others and those who desire to keep His commandments must invest themselves in us; this is not ego, this is koinonia. Paul was invested in Titus and Titus was invested in Paul; Jesus was invested in John and John was invested in Jesus; we all know Jesus today because our predecessors in the faith had mutual investment in others.

John’s focus on keeping God’s commandments, and on loving God and others, continues throughout his letter, in the last chapter he writes, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whosever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe [keep] His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

Of course we cannot in and of ourselves keep His commandments but in the mystery of our union with Christ we can experience what it is to walk in the light, what it is to love one another, and what it is to keep His commandments - living in koinonia with one another in the Trinity.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Psalm 7

Yahweh judges the peoples; Judge me, O Yahweh, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me, (Psalm 7:8).

There are some Biblical passages that I can’t pray as they are written; I don’t say that others can’t pray them, I only say that I can’t pray them as they are written; this is one of them. In this instance I can’t base my approach or my appeal to God on my own righteousness or integrity, for at my core I don’t have either – yet at my core I have both in Christ.

Because I am one of those included in the Scriptures, All we like sheep have gone astray…and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, because I know my capacity for rebellion against God, and because like Chesterton’s Father Brown I know that I am the criminal in all crimes, I simply cannot appeal to my own righteousness or integrity in my approach and appeal to God. The Good News is that I can appeal to Jesus and that I now approach God in Jesus – my Advocate, my Righteousness, my Integrity, for my life is now “in Christ”. So when I pray words such as Psalm 7:8 I pray them with a consciousness of both my incapacity for righteousness and of the righteousness of Jesus Christ – resting in the latter in my appeal and approach to God my Father and not dwelling on the former. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2Corinthians 5:21; see also 1Corinthians 1:30 – 31).    

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meditations on 1 John –VI

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world, (1 John 2:1b – 2).

The ideas of sin, transgression, penalty, and satisfaction for the one transgressed or sinned against are foreign to our therapeutic society. We may still understand to some degree the idea of restitution when reduced to monetary terms, but repentance escapes us. We may look for emotional and mental catharsis via social media, but we tend not to seek spiritual cleansing and healing from God – but rather His approval for our transgressions; after all, God wants us to be happy.  

And so the idea that Jesus Christ the righteous is the propitiation, the satisfaction to God, for our sins is an idea that we can gloss over with the thought, “Well of course He is.” We quickly forget the Cross of 1John 1:7…and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. God is propitiated and we are cleansed in and through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the object of the judgment of God for us, taking humanity and the sins of humanity on Himself, and by trusting in Him we can experience cleansing from sins.

A quick review of translations reveals that there are three preferences for translating the Greek word for “propitiation”; propitiation, sacrifice, and atoning sacrifice. My preference is “propitiation” for that is the best English equivalent, while the idea of sacrifice is certainly present in the Biblical idea of propitiation, John writes: He is the propitiation…; John doesn’t write: His sacrifice is the propitiation. While the death of Jesus Christ the righteous on the Cross is central to Him being our propitiation, John is pointing to the Person of Jesus in this passage and not an act of Jesus, though the act is bound up in the Person – He is the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. Jesus is our Advocate, Jesus is our propitiation. Jesus satisfies God on our behalf, that is, because we have sinned we have incurred a penalty which we are unable to satisfy – God is holy and we are sinners, incapable of keeping His law, incapable of “making it right” when we transgress His law.

Because the blood of Jesus cleanses us, because Jesus is our Advocate with the Father, and because Jesus is our propitiation, we can have peace with God: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life, and not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the reconciliation, (Romans 5:1; 8 – 11).

Because of Jesus we can also live life in intimacy with God with a clean conscience: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, Hebrews 10:19 – 22.

Let us live today in full assurance of faith in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Psalm 6

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline in your wrath. Be gracious to me O LORD for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.

I think there is a Psalm for every mood of life, every season of life, every emotion of life, every hope and dream and fear and despair of life. A Psalm that I may not resonate with today may be one that I completely identify with tomorrow.

Often in the church we hear, “Oh, you shouldn’t think like that”, “You shouldn’t talk like that”, “You shouldn’t feel like that”. We get legalistic with our thoughts and feelings and words somehow thinking that if we deny the negative that God will bless us – that is paganism and superstition. We are to wrestle with our souls, with our hearts and minds; we wrestle we do not deny. There is a Psalm for just about every situation, every wrestling match of life as well as just about every joy of life.

It is sad that the church does not know the Psalter. Not to take anything away from composers and lyricists, but there is no music and there are no lyrics that compare to the Psalms and songs found elsewhere in the Scriptures. What? You do not hear the music in Psalms? Try spending more time in Psalms – weave them into the tapestry of your life.

There are places in the Psalms, such as Psalm 6, when our frailty and fear is expressed, along with our desperate need for God; we are in the valley of humanity looking up to heaven. There are other Psalms when we find ourselves seated in the heavens and looking down on earth; our need for God is no less; in these Psalms of exaltation and victory we see things from God’s perspective – acknowledging that He is the source of overcoming, joy, and salvation.

I may not be “in” Psalm 6 when I read it today, but I may very well return to Psalm 6 this evening in pouring out my soul to God. Psalm 6 may be one I share with a friend in need today, showing him that for ages we have cried out to God for help in our fear and weakness and weariness. The Psalms portray the human condition and the Divine Character, the essence of humanity and the nature of God – Psalms was once the hymnal of the church, we would do well to know it as the hymnal of our lives.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Meditations on 1 John – V

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, [2:1b].

The Greek word translated Advocate, parakletos, usually meant an advocate in a court of law. Jesus uses this word to refer to both Himself and to the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John: 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. In these Gospel passages the translation “helper” is a better translation since the idea of a court isn’t present, but since the legal image is present in 1 John 2:1 “advocate” is the best translation.

Unlike earthly legal systems, money cannot purchase legal representation before God the Father, nor does wealth dictate the quality of legal representation – Jesus is the advocate of the poor and the rich. Unlike the legal systems of this world we do not pay Jesus to represent us, the reverse is true; Jesus Christ paid to represent us. Here is an advocate who so deeply desired to represent us that He gave His life, that He took our sin and lawlessness upon Himself; He not only intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25), He has paid the price before the heavenly bar of justice for our criminal activity – He has satisfied the court by the Cross.

The basis of Jesus’ advocacy is the Cross with all that the Cross entails; Jesus Christ the righteous became sin for us in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus paid the price of His life to represent us; Jesus paid the price of bearing our sins to provide the court with total satisfaction that justice has been done in our case.

We can understand a lawyer desiring to represent a poor innocent man at his own expense, but here is a Man giving His life to represent the guilty; in the giving of His life the guilty are transformed into the innocent – it isn’t only as if this man or this woman or this child has sinned and the price has been paid for the sin, it goes far beyond that – reaching into the depths of the heavens - for justification means that when we come to trust in Jesus Christ that we stand before God in Christ as if we have never sinned and as people who have always kept the entire law of God.

Whether in role of advocate, as in 1 John 2:1, or in the role of helper as in the Gospel passages, Jesus and the Holy Spirit come to us, they come alongside us, and they come to live in us. They come to us, we do not come to them; and when we do come to them we come to them because we are drawn by the Father, otherwise we are incapable of movement toward God.

Do I appreciate the fact that today the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are my Helper and Advocate? Do I consider that they have come to me, are coming to me, and will come to me? They come because they love, they come to the guilty to make them righteous – how can this be? How can they love the guilty? How foreign this love is to me! How little I know of the love of God! What a fool I am in my judgments of others, my attitudes toward others – am I an advocate in prayer and in life for the guilty? Am I willing to lay my life down not only for the innocent but also for the guilty? How little I have learned. How vast the love of God (Ephesians 3:14-21); how small my love for others. Thank God that Jesus Christ is our Helper and Advocate, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Meditations on 1 John - IV

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous… [2:1].

Point and counterpoint, point and counterpoint; throughout John’s letter is point and counterpoint, an interplay of juxtaposition. Some of the juxtaposition is straightforward: light and darkness, love and hate, love for the Father and love for the world, truth and falsehood. Other juxtaposition is nuanced:

Walking in the light as He is in the light doesn’t mean that we don’t ever sin – not in this passage, for forgiveness of sins is central to the passage.

If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.

I am writing these things that you may not sin.

If we confess our sins He will forgive us and cleanse us.

We have an Advocate with the Father.

The one who says I know Him and doesn’t keep His commandments is a liar.

John is writing that you may not sin and yet at the same time he brings God’s provision for our sin (Jesus Christ) into focus. John doesn’t exhort us to live in a pretend world where we delude ourselves into thinking that we are experientially perfect; nor does he lead us down the dangerous path of calling evil good and good evil – of excusing our sin. Also note that John does not write that sinning is a forgone conclusion – that is a proposition that disciples may spare themselves from pondering, our focus is to be on Jesus and on obedience to Him.

There are two extremes, the first says “I am sanctified and I cannot sin”, the second says, “I’m a sinner saved by grace and being a sinner I sin all the time.” The second errs in that the Biblical identity of a disciple of Christ is “saint” and not “sinner”. With sinners obedience is the exception; with saints sin is the exception. The first errs in that it confuses our heavenly perfection in Christ with the realities of that perfection working itself out on earth; we are becoming who we are in Christ, but who we are in Christ is not fully manifested until He is fully manifested: Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is, 1 John 3:2. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory, Colossians 3:4.

Legalism is often the result of denying the reality of sin and of insisting on sinless perfection in the here and now; law and tradition are substituted for mercy and grace in an effort to maintain righteousness and holy living – condemnation and insecurity are the results. On the other hand lax discipleship and rationalization of sin can be the result of the “I’m just a sinner saved by grace and sin is part and parcel of my lot in life.” The Apostle John does not let us get away with either of these two mentalities: Walk in the light as He is in the light and you will have cleansing, confess your sins and He will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Knowing that we have an Advocate with the Father frees us to live righteously – it does not free us to sin. Confession of sin is not mere mental acknowledgment of an act having transgressed the law and holiness of God, confession is a heart and mental acknowledgment – a soul acknowledgment – that I have sinned against the God of light, life, and holiness. When I realize that Jesus Christ is my righteousness and my Advocate I can take my eyes off myself and fix them on Jesus and on others, then I have freedom to live righteously and am delivered from the fear that I have to produce and maintain my own righteousness, I am delivered from the torment of having to atone (a futile proposition) for my own sin – godly freedom produces obedience in Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Bloody Tunic

A couple of weeks ago a friend called me feeling down and angry; he and his wife are recovering from leaving a church where they had served, a church where my friend was an elder. Internal conflict had gotten to the place where it was probably best that they leave since resolution did not appear likely. They’ve been gone a few months and have not heard from one person, including those they considered friends. This is the norm in church life, whether it is a member, a staff member, or a pastor – generally when people leave the door is closed. Yes, there are wonderful exceptions, but the norm is “out of sight out of mind”; or perhaps it should be “out of heart”.

I suggested my friend renew his acquaintance with Paul’s second letter to Corinth; suffering plays a role in our lives, how we respond to suffering is the question; we all have hurt, how do we allow God to use hurt for His glory and the blessing of others?

It is a mystery to me how we can hurt one another and not have any sense of what we’re doing. It is a mystery that we can be so blind to others when we are called to love one another as Jesus Christ loves us. I know I’ve hurt people and I’m afraid I’ll hurt people again – how can these things be?

I’m reminded of this passage in Genesis 37: So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” The brothers must have been convincing, perhaps convincing to the point of half-believing what they were saying themselves. We found this – oh please. And yet how often have I in effect said to my heavenly Father regarding others, “I found this. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know where my brother went, what my brother needs, why I’m no longer in relationship with him,” when all the time I either did something to my brother or I failed to do something for my brother. I wonder how many bloody tunics are lying at our Father’s feet? I wonder how many I’ve put there?

I want, by the grace of God, to endeavor to be faithful today to my brothers and sisters. I don’t want to be the source of any more bloody tunics. If I find a bloody tunic then I want to seek the brother or sister who it belongs to and bind up their wounds, pouring in oil and wine (Luke 10:33-34).

What will it be? Shall we be sources of pain in the lives of others, or fountains of healing and peace? By the grace of God I desire to never again be the reason for a bloody tunic.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Meditations on 1 John – III

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [1John 1:9].

I recall preaching on this passage a few years ago in Massachusetts. After the service one of the leaders of the church came to me, excited about the promise of 1John 1:9; it was as if he heard a new truth that morning. The reason I’ve not forgotten this man’s excitement is that it reminds me that the foundational truth of our faith bears repeating; it also reminds me that we should never take for granted what people know. I’ve known this passage for decades – but then have I? Maybe I’ve only known it for a few moments. Maybe I don’t really yet know it. Because this is a verse that is often quoted and memorized it’s a verse whose depth can be missed – we think we are skipping over a shallow stream when the water is actually many fathoms deep. That which is familiar is often that which is not really known.

If we confess our sins…In verse 7 we have an image of continuous cleansing as we walk in the light as He is in the light; in verse 9 we see that conscious confession also has a place in the mystery of forgiveness of sin. We have been cleansed, we are being cleansed, and we shall be cleansed. There is an unconscious cleansing that is part of our daily life in Christ, but there is also a time for confession of sin. We are aware of some sins when they occur or shortly thereafter; there are other sins of which perhaps we are never aware. I’ve had moments when the veil of time has been pulled back and I’ve seen myself years ago and thought, “Oh my, Lord please forgive me for that action, for that thought, for causing that pain.”

He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins… These words can only be written in the light of the Cross of Christ. Without the Cross God would be righteous to consign us to judgment without mercy for when we sin we are worthy of judgment. However Jesus Christ has died for us, He has paid the price for our sins, and mystery of mysteries He has taken our sins upon Himself; the judgment for our sins has been poured out on Jesus Christ. In light of the fact that our sins have been borne by another, when we confess our sins God righteously recognizes the Christ of the Cross and forgives our sins. God’s faithfulness is to His Son, the work of His Son, the price His Son paid, and to His own promise and word. God’s faithfulness is also to those who have believed the Word of His Son and who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ – God is faithful to those who trust Him.

And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness… There is a place that I think only God sees; at any rate there are places that I cannot see. I cannot see the hearts of others, and I cannot even see my own heart. When I think my heart is pure I am a fool, when I think my heart is wicked I’m also a fool. Certainly outside of Christ my heart is desperately wicked, but now I am in Christ and I have His cleansing. I can believe my thoughts and feelings, I can believe the thoughts and feelings of others, I can believe what the enemy would like me to believe, or I can believe Jesus Christ. How can I be cleansed from all unrighteousness? I don’t know, not really. I have a rudimentary knowledge of Good Friday and Easter, but the veil is so thick, the glass so dark, that I understand little.

C.S. Lewis struggled with how something someone did 2,000 years ago could affect him in the 20th Century; I don’t know that Lewis ever figured that out but I do know that Lewis experienced the reality of the effect of the Cross and Resurrection. I can’t explain it. It is bigger than me; I’m an ant and the mystery is Everest. Too many clouds, too many wind currents, too many peaks and hidden crevasses. I can pitch my tent on the mountain and experience the mountain, but I cannot traverse the entire height and depth and width of the mountain. I can follow the paths of those before me; I can travel with companions today; I can look backwards and see others coming; but I cannot master the mountain – it is big and I am small.

There are unseen things on the mountain of the mystery of the Cross. A throne room before the ages, a distant garden, a future descending city; strange creatures around the throne, a Lamb slain, a Lion, a Baby in a feeding trough, blood running down a body crowned with thorns, a piercing cry that it is finished. Countless Biblical images of things familiar and unfamiliar – the Passover, the Day of Atonement, and the Ark of the Covenant…how long is the list? Images from God that condescend to make the unknowable approachable – I may not understand the mystery but I  can approach it; I may enter the Holy of Holies by the blood of the Lamb – I think I would do well to enter it face down.

In 1John confession of sins is in the context of koinonia; there is cleansing and forgiveness because our heavenly Father and Lord Jesus desire fellowship with us; we are saved and redeemed to know the fellowship of the Trinity, and in knowing the fellowship of the Trinity we know fellowship with one another; in knowing fellowship with one another we know the fellowship of the Trinity.

When we are spiritual infants we may confess our sins to be saved from judgment; as we grow in Christ we confess our sins because our hearts long for fellowship with Him and with one another.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Psalm 5

Oh LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

The first moments of liftoff at Cape Canaveral are critical; so are the first moments of our day. What will our trajectory be? Will it be oriented toward our heavenly Father or will it be toward self? Will our focus be on His kingdom and His Word, or will it be on the latest news, sports, email, or work?

When I tell myself that I’ll focus on other things in those pristine moments and then spend time with God and His Word a bit later I invariably deceive myself – once first impressions are made there is no more room for first impressions; what do I want my first impressions to be – of God who has created me for eternal relationship or of this transitory world? The tyranny of time can rob us of the treasures of eternity; the anxiety of the moment can rob us of the peace of Christ…if we choose to let them. The chaos of society creates rudderless lives; Christ bids us to be steadfast in Him.

The sacrifice that we prepare and offer is ourselves; Paul writes that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God; Paul tells us that this is our logical response to the Gospel – the blood of Jesus Christ the Lamb has purchased us, we are His, so we offer to Him what is already His – we offer Him ourselves anew every morning. In that same passage in Romans 12 we are exhorted to be transformed through the renewing of our minds – first impressions matter. Will my mind be renewed in Christ in the morning or will it be formed in the images of the world?

Is there anything in the morning that I need to know that is more important than knowing God? Is there an email or a Facebook status or an election outcome or anything else that is more vital than reading the God-breathed Scriptures and listening to the Holy Spirit communicate the Word and life of God to my heart and mind? What does the fabric of my life look like? What does the fabric of my mornings look like?

When God comes to meet me in the morning will He hear my voice giving Him a welcome? Will He find a sacrifice?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Psalm 4 - Joy

You have put more joy in my heart then they have when their grain and wine abound, Psalm 4:7.

This verse has challenged me for decades, yes, decades. I recall reading it when I was a teenager and thinking, “Is this true of me? Do I have more joy in God than people have when they pick the right door on Let’s Make a Deal? I don’t know if that game show is still around, but there are many like it today that offer contestants the chance to win lots of money and other prizes. When someone on television wins the big prize they laugh, they cry, they jump up and down, they hug, they kiss – and I enjoy watching them rejoice. I also wonder how something like that might change their lives for good or ill.

Financial rewards and windfalls can put joy in hearts; but David writes that God has put more joy in his heart than people have that reap financial rewards – for abundant grain and wine translates into wealth – is my treasure in God or is it in material things? Is my joy in God or is it in material things? As I pondered this question years ago I wrote a note in the margin of my Bible asking myself whether what was true of David was true of me. I still ponder this question. I can be so fickle, allowing the things of the world, the transitory things of this life, to dictate my thinking and feelings and actions.

Jesus tells us to not lay up treasures on earth because they will rust and waste away, but rather to lay up treasures in heaven where they are kept securely by our heavenly Father. Earthly gold, in any form, is fools gold; heavenly treasure, whether a cup of cold water given to the thirsty or a word spoken in due season or a visit to the prisoner – that is gold that will last forever.

Jesus tells us that He wants our joy to be full. O Lord, put your joy in our hearts, a joy greater than all the wealth of the world can give us, a joy more enduring, a joy more sure, a joy we can share with others.