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Grateful I follow a risen Lord

April 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Resurrection by PIERO della FRANCESCA

Resurrection by PIERO della FRANCESCA

On this Monday after Easter, I am grateful that I follow the Overcoming One.  By His resurrection, He has removed the fear of death that must inevitably come for all of us and His resurrection life is a foretaste of our own future resurrection life.

Heb. 2:14-15 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

1Cor. 15:19-22 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1Cor. 15:52-58 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 

The problem of impatience

September 10, 2013 1 comment

Flemish 17th century

Flemish 17th century on Num 21:4-10

Can anything good come from impatience?  I imagine someone saying, “yes, when you are impatient with mediocrity.” Even if that is true, does not patience still needs to saturate our words and actions since we all know that patience is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22)?

As I reflected this morning about my own habitual cultivation of impatience, I yearn to see patient people distinguishing themselves as counter cultural beacons.

“And the people became impatient on the way” is the phrase from Numbers 21:4 that started my thinking this morning. A few of my own conclusions about impatience.

Why am I impatient?  I am often impatient because I am discontented, ungrateful, proud (thinking my self and my time as more important than others), and because I am not led by the Spirit.

What are the consequences of my impatience The short answer: sin.  Yes, when I am impatient, I sin; I sin against others;  I cause others to sin (when they get impatient with my own impatient–you know how that goes).
How can I avoid impatience? Go slow (driving, walking, eating, talking).  Practice simplicity (see Richard Foster for more on this). Be alert (to the Spirit’s leading, to what is happening around me and within me). Consider others (as more important than myself from Philippians 2).

And finally, how wonderful to mull over, What happens when I am patience? Four words come to mind. Joy. Contentment. Compassion. Humility.

Lord, I do not know if I can pray for patience but I do long that others would see me to be a truly patient man.

Your thoughts on impatience are welcome.

What happens when we forget that it is all about God

May 15, 2013 Leave a comment

abandoned tennis court by dietmar eckell

abandoned tennis court by dietmar eckell

What happens when we forget that our ministry is God’s? When the ministry become more about us than about God?  We have all done it. And we do so to our own peril!  When Jehoram (son of the great King Jehoshophat) became King in 2 Chronicles 21, he ended his leadership with a lonely and agonizing death.  As verse 20 says, “No one regretted his death.”

Raymond Dillard in the Word Commentary series offers a devastating summary of Jehoram’s life,

“Irony permeates the account of Jehoram’s reign. Rather than enlarging the scope of his power through seizing his brothers’ cities, he loses control  over Libnah and Edom; rather than securing the succession of his own children by slaughtering his brothers, he sees them suffer a similar fate; rather than securing life and happiness for himself, he suffers an agonizing and premature death; rather than gaining the devotion of his subjects, he dies unmourned and without the customary honors attending a royal funeral (McConville, 198). So it is for those who forget that the kingdom is God’s (1 Chr 10:14; 17:14; 28:5; 29:11; 2 Chr 13:8)”.

What do you do in order to not forget that it is all about God and not about you?

The Magnetic Messiah

July 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Fellowship with Jesus enables me to enjoy my relationship with Jesus.

According to Dave Anderson, God gave us 1 John to “show us how to have intimacy after the fall.” As he says in the first chapter of his book, Maximum Joy, “the security of being loved leads to a recognition of our significance.”   According to Anderson, 1 John focuses not on relationship but on fellowship.  Not that relationship is not mentioned–it is! But relationship is a secondary theme in 1 John unlike the book of John in which relationship is the major thrust (John 1-12; 18-21) and fellowship is the secondary theme (John 13-17).

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—” (1 John 1:1 ESV)

Anderson suggests that 1 John 1:1 is revealing the Magnetic Messiah in which the author shows us the progression of getting closer and closer to Jesus physically as a metaphor for spiritual truth.  Hear—See—Look—Touch! Jesus is drawing us closer and closer to himself.

As believers in Jesus Christ, God has introduced or led us into a relationship with Jesus, a relationship that is secure (John 5:24-25), a relationship that is permanent since we have been adopted by Him as sons and daughters (John 10: 27-30; Rom 8″14-17).  But, as Anderson says, “to enjoy that relationship, you need His fellowship.”

How marvelous that God pursues us! Again, Anderson writes, “The marvel is that He could actually know what is inside of me and still want to pursue me and use His magnetic power to draw me closer and love me for who I am, not because of what I can do or have done, but love me simply for my essence and my being.”

Trying not to avoid the problem

June 11, 2012 Leave a comment

David and Bathsheba by Marc Chagall

Psalm 51:3 “I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.”

Ah yes, I know but do I admit I know! There are few occasions when I sin that am unaware of what I am doing.  Not that I don’t have my blind spots. But most of the time I know what I should do when I don’t and I know when I don’t do what I should do!  I am trying to be honest here but I am struggling to put this in words.   What does this reveal about me or reveal about sin and my avoidance of it?

Honesty is what is needed, brutal honesty, an admission of my own wrongness, an admission that I have sinned against God and against others.

I think I do okay when I am confronted with my sin–I understand God’s forgiveness and know how to appeal to him to appropriate his grace and mercy but my greatest issue seems to be recognizing when I have sinned, that i am wrong.  Why is that?

Is it because I have isolated myself and need more community? Well that would help but I can still deceive others and myself.  A few things that keep me from recognizing my sin:

1. Pride–I expect that everything flows from this sin.  Pride keeps me hiding my head in the sand with regard to my sin.
2. My pursuit of comfort and relief from pain keeps me dishonest about the way things are within.
3. Fear and shame keep me dishonest and in denial.  Somehow shame whispers to me to push aside the dis-ease I feel inside and hide.  Busyness is a one of the prime tools that I use to avoid dealing with the inner dark realities.  Noise in my life is another way I avoid dealing with stuff.

4. Continued exposure to God’s word. How faithful is God to speak to me in his word and through other people–his church.  He speaks straight into the heart of my self-deception–if only I will listen. Open my eyes and my heart Lord and give me courage to face the darkness within.

And so, it is no wonder that silence and solitude are wonderful gifts that God has given to me (us).  In silence and solitude, it is difficult for me not to be uncovered.  I must admit to God in the stillness and silence the true state of my soul.  I have no place to hide in the desert.

What keeps you from an honesty about your own darkness? And how have you experienced the grace of God in this journey?

Watch out for those unexpected attacks

June 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Eve Don’t listen to the liar by Paul gauguin

Genesis 3:1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field”

Assuming that the serpent is a figure of the devil–perhaps a big assumption, I am foolish if I expect that I am going to win a head to head battle against him on my own (I have been watching too much tennis lately).  He and his evil companions are crafty, sly, deceitful, liars and they hate God and all of us who call upon His name.  Although the imagery of him as a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5 warns me of his danger–he really does want to maim, kill and eat me up!

But the serpent’s slyness should warn me that his attacks are rarely frontal assaults.  His normal attack

is by the use of deception and this holds true in the Genesis 3 story.  With Eve, he creates doubt–“has God really said?” He whispers lies so that others cannot hear (did Adam hear the conversation?).  He tries to isolate me from others.

The evil one preys on those who don’t know God’s word or who know it incompletely.  If we misunderstand God’s word either by neglecting something or by adding to God’s commands, as did Eve when she said that God told them not to touch the tree, then Satan will either entice us to sin in a direct way contrary to the word we do not know or he will lead us into the bondage of legalism.  He contradicts God’s word.

When we are weak and vulnerable, when we are facing loss, these seem to be the times w

adam and eve by rembrandt

hen the evil one suggests we should question the goodness of god.  When we begin to think that God may be witholding something that is good for us, we should expect that the tempter is behind these wrong thoughts.  So, when God’s goodness is in doubt and I am not sure what God’s word says to do, I am vulnerable to the evil one’s temptation.  Temptation seems to offer relief or comfort or power or control but it does so apart from the will of God.

I need to be aware of my vulnerabilities.  I need to keep reminding myself of the goodness of God (Psalm 103) and I need to be aware of the deceptive and sly strategies of the evil one.  And I need to remember that with every temptation, God provides me with a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13).

Grace for the exhausted

March 14, 2012 Leave a comment

“Tender words to the tired heart” is how Max Lucado describes the story. After reading posts last week by Max Lucado and Eugene Peterson, (actually excerpts from previous books) I finally had time to look at this story of grace for the exhausted found in  1 Samuel 30.

Not a story of strength and power and training like in Men of Valor.  It’s a story about broken men, weak and tired, unable to  do what we (and their companions) expected of them. “As Lucado writes, How tired does a person have to be to abandon the hunt for his own family?”

But a story of grace for the exhausted.  I know many of you understand this exhaustion. An exhaustion that I have much more experience with this year I would have chosen.  An exhaustion that is no sparer of person nor of calling.

Two hundred men left at Brook Besor, too exhausted (stressed out ? to use a modern day term), to pursue the men (Amalekites) who had kidnapped their wives and children (30:10). While the 200 are reduced to being supply guards, David continues pursuit along with 400 others.  David succeeded in recovering everything and everyone that had been taken (30:18) just as the Lord had promised success (30:10). David declared plunder was to be equally shared between those who fought in the battle and those who guarded the supplies (30:24, much to the disgust of evil men and trouble makes among his group (30:22). David’s reasoning–our victory was of grace, God has given it all to us (30:23), why not share?

Peterson comments about the final scene:

Just then David stepped in. His intervention is the climax to the story. David intervened at the Brook Besor, and his intervention is pure gospel. David ruled that everybody at the brook that day — the two hundred who had been unable to continue and had been given the undramatic, behind-the-scenes work of watching over the supplies at the brook 1 Sam. 30:24) and the four hundred who had fought for their lives — were equals and would share everything equally: “Everything we have is a gift from God; we share it with all who are saved by God” (1 Sam. 30:23-25).

The ringleaders of the “fairness” policy are called “wicked and base fellows” (1 Sam. 30:22). Strong words, it would seem, for what sounds like common sense and plain justice. Until we remember who these people are and where they are: these are the men of Ziklag with nothing in their backgrounds to be proud of, all of them picked up from a disreputable life and brought, through no merit of their own, into the net of God’s providence and salvation. And the Amalekite chase itself? They had started out wanting to kill David, and only through David’s prayer with Abiathar and their desert hospitality to the Egyptian had they gotten their families back

Everything they experienced was sheer grace. How could they talk about dividing things up fairly? God was treating them with marvellous and generous grace; David would see to it that they treated one another with marvellous and generous grace.

David at the Brook Besor anticipates Jesus: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt. 11:28-30, The Message).

At the end of his post, Lucado writes about how in the church we have men (and women) who are exhausted like the men left behind at the Brook Besor.

The church has its quorum of such folks. Good people. Godly people. Only hours or years ago they marched with deep resolve. But now fatigue consumes them. They’re exhausted. So beat-up and worn down that they can’t summon the strength to save their own flesh and blood. Old age has sucked their oxygen. Or maybe it was a deflating string of defeats. Divorce can leave you at the brook. Addiction can as well. Whatever the reason, the church has its share of people who just sit and rest.

And the church must decide. What do we do with the Brook Besor people? Berate them? Shame them? Give them a rest but measure the minutes? Or do we do what David did? David let them stay.

Lucado provides life giving words to us all when we are exhausted.

If you are listed among them, here is what you need to know: it’s okay to rest. Jesus is your David. He fights when you cannot. He goes where you cannot. He’s not angry if you sit. Did he not invite, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest” (Mark 6:31 MSG)?

Brook Besor blesses rest.

Brook Besor also cautions against arrogance. David knew the victory was a gift. Let’s remember the same. Salvation comes like the Egyptian in the desert, a delightful surprise on the path. Unearned. Undeserved. Who are the strong to criticize the tired?

Are you weary? Catch your breath. We need your strength.

Are you strong? Reserve passing judgment on the tired. Odds are, you’ll need to plop down yourself. And when you do, Brook Besor is a good story to know.

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