Friday, May 17, 2013

Psalm 26

Vindicate me, O Yahweh, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in Yahweh without wavering…But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity (26:1 & 11a).

If we have any integrity, any true integrity, its source is our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to live with integrity and we ought to be able to confess that we do so – this is a theme throughout the Scriptures, we are to live as sons and daughters of the light. And yet we must never lose sight of the source of all true integrity – Jesus Christ. The instant I begin to think that I am the source of my integrity, pride and arrogance and self-sufficiency will destroy my integrity as swarming termites will eat a house of wood. As with termites, while I may not at first see my rottenness it will eventually manifest itself by the collapse of integrity.

Examine me, O Yahweh, and try me; test my mind (the inner person) and my heart, (26:2).

Integrity that is examined and tried is integrity that is maintained. Because of our propensity to fall back into the gravitational pull of earth we must be ever vigilant in fixing our eyes on the eternal and ever seek the examination of the Holy Spirit in the light of the Word of God. God’s Word is living and active and pierces deep into our inner beings (Hebrews 4:12-13), it judges our thoughts and our intentions, it lays our motives bear before our Creator – it judges our integrity and it corrects our attitudes and actions. True integrity checks occur as the Holy Spirit searches our hearts and minds in the light of God’s Word. Daily integrity checks ensure ongoing integrity.

I am reminded of the concert pianist who said, “If I don’t practice for a day I know it, I can tell when I play before others. If I don’t practice for two days other concert pianists know it. If I don’t practice for three days the audience knows it.” Daily time before God in His Word is integral for integrity.

A life of integrity forms our souls in the image of God, obedience to God’s Word transforms us from the earthly to the heavenly (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; James 1:21; 1Peter 1:22-25). Such a life is only possible when it is submitted to the hands of the Potter and when it recognizes Jesus Christ as its one and only source (John 15:1ff; 2Corinthians 5:17ff; Galatians 2:20).

Have you had a Divine integrity check today?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Meditations on 1 John: XXII

No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit…Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us, God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Concluding our reflection on the word “abide” in John’s first letter:

Loving one another, the giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit, confession that Jesus is the Son of God – these are all dynamics of abiding in the Trinity. Abiding in the Trinity is to be our naturally supernatural sphere of life, our breath, our heartbeat, our joy, our daily vision and delight. While abiding in Christ is remarkable, it is not to be thought of as the exception in our lives but rather the rule, the norm, for the one who follows Jesus.

The theme of abiding in God is woven throughout John’s first letter; it is also prominent in John’s Gospel. Jesus says, Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing, (John 15:4-5).  

We have a peach tree in our yard on which peaches are forming. Suppose I cut off a branch that has fruit in the process of formation – what can I expect from that branch? What can I expect from it today, tomorrow, next year? Can I expect the fruit to continue to form and ripen? Can I expect to eat sweet and juicy peaches from the branch? Can I expect the branch to bear fruit next year? They are absurd questions because I can expect none of these things. It is also absurd to think that we can bear fruit outside of Jesus Christ, it is absurd to think that we can sustain that which God has begun apart from His ongoing abiding presence and grace (Galatians 3:1-3).

Consider the love that the Father has for the Son, what a love it must be, a love that surpasses our comprehension. Do we know that Jesus loves us as the Father loves Him? Do we know that the Father loves us as He loves Jesus? Jesus says, Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love, John 15:9. Jesus also says, I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me, John 17:23.

Do we gloss over these words of Jesus? Do we think them unattainable? Impractical? Impossible? They are only unattainable in the sense that we cannot produce that which Jesus promises, we can only receive His words and abide in them by His grace and the Holy Spirit. We can respond to His life, we cannot produce or sustain His life. His life is to be our life, our Way of life – abiding in Him is our home, our address, our biosphere. Oh what joy there is in Jesus; and what liberty to forget ourselves and to love Him and others.

What is the point of living in a beautiful home if it is not to enjoy it with others, if it is not to practice hospitality? A home is made beautiful by peace, love, and contentment. A home may be palatial but cold and without the warmth of love and care – true beauty includes correspondence between heart and eye. Are we inviting others to come and live with us in Jesus? Are we practicing the hospitality of witness? Or do others pass the door of our heart daily without so much as an invitation to have a cup of cool clear water from the Throne (Revelation 22:1; Isaiah 32:1-2)? Would we hide a source of inexhaustible pure water from desert travelers? Then how can we hide the Living Water from those who we see every day?

Abiding in Christ is not an unattainable ideal – it is our desperate necessity; it is also the delight of our lives.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Reading the Bible

I’ve been asking Christians, “What are you reading in the Bible?” “How often do you read the Bible?”

Seldom do I get a definitive answer to the first question, it is usually along the lines of, “Oh I read here and there.” To the second question seldom anyone says that they read the Bible daily, for most people Bible reading is sporadic at best. Some folks will tell me that they read a daily devotional with a Bible verse but that they don’t actually read from the Bible – a daily devotional may be nice but it is not the same as reading the Bible.

I read the Bible out of desperation; I read the Bible and ponder it and meditate on it because I desperately need God and desire to live in union with Jesus Christ. I read the Bible because I know the gravitational pull of sin and death and this age will suck me into its mental and emotional vortex if I do not abide in the Vine. I read the Bible because I know that His Word must be preeminent in my life if I am to be of any help to others. I read the Bible because I am a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, a neighbor, a friend, and an employee – I desperately need the indwelling Word of God to fulfill those roles, to be the person God has called me to be in those relationships.

Yes, I realize people can know the words of Scripture and miss its message and spirit – but there isn’t much danger of that today because few people actually know Scripture.

Some folks may read the Bible legalistically, thinking that they are gaining merit or favor by doing so – that is a trap.

In one sense, for the Christian, reading the Bible is like eating food – we eat food to live; we meditate on God’s Word to participate in the life of Jesus Christ. I have never felt legalistic when eating food – I usually enjoy food.

Reading the Bible helps form our paradigms of life, it helps fashion the things we think about and the way we think about life, it prioritizes our words and deeds, it guides our decisions, it directs our energies. If God’s Word is not doing the foregoing then other things are and those other things, while they may not always be evil and while they may even appear good, are generally not the things of the Kingdom of God and do not have Jesus Christ as their focus.

What does Bible reading look like in your life today?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Psalm 25

Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed…For You I wait all the day…For I wait for You, (25:3, 5, 21).

Waiting is a motif in this psalm of intimacy. When we love someone we wait for them with longing, when we are intimate with someone our heart desires his or her presence. Biblical waiting is anything but passive, it is anything but complacent, it is anything but status quo; Biblical waiting is longing, expectation, looking, searching the horizon – it is visualizing the appearance of our Beloved. When will He appear? How shall He appear? Through whom shall He appear? In what set of circumstances will He make Himself known?

We are not a generation that is keen on waiting; we want action and entertainment. Do we mistake excitement for His Presence? Do we confuse emotion for His embrace? This is not to say that we should not be excited in His Presence, nor that our hearts should not be lifted up in joy when we sense Him palpably – it is simply to ask whether or not we have a propensity to confuse emotional religious hormones with intimacy with God.

When a loved one has not arrived when expected and we have had no communication with him or her, when we anxiously look through the window for our beloved’s arrival – what is it we desire if not our beloved’s presence?

Waiting for our beloved accepts no substitute. If I am waiting for my wife no other arrival will satisfy my longing and yearning for her; no other friend and certainly no other woman can dampen the desire of my heart for my wife – my eyes search the road for my wife and for her alone. Do I wait for Jesus alone in the depths of my being? Do I yearn for Him today? Do I wait for Him? Look for Him? Expect to see Him any moment?

The other day a friend dropped in to visit while my wife was on a daytrip – it was toward the end of the day and I was anticipating my wife’s return at any moment. While I was delighted to see my friend, whom I had not seen for a few years, and while he had my focus and attention during his visit, my heart and mind continued to look for my wife’s return. I visited with my friend within the framework of looking for my wife. Am I living today in the framework of looking for Jesus every hour, every minute, every moment? Do I love His appearing on a daily basis?

There is much to distract us in life, much to seduce us, much that beckons as substitutes for Him in the form of instant gratification with us at the center – this is true within and without the professing church – is He our heart’s desire? Are we waiting for Him?