Monday, January 31, 2011

The fruit of thought...

Jeremiah 6:19
"Hear, O earth!
Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—
The fruit of their thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words
Nor My law, but rejected it."

Once a thought is seeded within the soil of the mind, it is nearly impossible to change the fruit of that seed. Pride grows into selfishness. Jealously grows into manipulation or deception. Anger grows into fits of range. Lust grows into pornography, adultery and fornication. The lies we accept distort our reality and taint our fruit with fear, hurt, cynicism and such.

Israel had seeded their minds with thoughts not from God, lies of the evil one. Consequently, the fruit of their lives became rebellion, idolatry and adultery. They failed to plant within them the Word of God and incurred the wrath of God; calamity and destruction.

However, if we choose the seed of our thoughts wisely and plant within our minds the Word of God, meditating on it and watering it with worship and prayer, we will produce a harvest that honors God and nourishes us to obedience and blessing.
This idea reminds me of the words of Peter in 2 Peter 1:2-8:

"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

It is the knowledge of God; His character, His way, His will, that produces a fruitful life.

So what have I planted within my mind lately? Have I filled my thoughts with things of this world: entertainment, music, sports, cultural facts and news? Have I accepted any lies of the evil one or allowed myself to water fleshly emotions into self-righteousness and pride? If so, I must make a habit to daily weed out my mind and scatter broadly the Word and Truth of God. I must plant in my mind the Holy Scriptures which are able to save my soul. I must water it daily with prayer and worship. I must spend time daily in the Son, allowing His light to illuminate His Word and my mind.

As James 1:21-22 says, "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness,
and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."

Father, make me a man of Your Word. Help me to weed out the seeds of my flesh and the lies of the evil one. Plant within me Your Holy Word and let it grow into fruit that blesses You, Nourished others and defines my life as wholly Yours. Amen.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Jeremiah 5:7-9
“Why should I forgive you?
Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods.
I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery
and thronged to the houses of prostitutes.
They are well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife.
Should I not punish them for this?” declares the LORD.
“Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?

I once heard it said the one generation embraces truth, the next generation assumes truth and the following generation questions truth. In other words, heresy and the collapse of a church, religious movement or family line is only two generations away.
Like the people of Judah in the days of Jeremiah, many people grow familiar with the truths of Scripture and take for granted the blessings of God. Consequently, obedience becomes a philosophical concept, more abstract that concrete and practical. The following generation sees no connection between faith and reality and so rejects the precepts that connect the two. And so, God judges the generation of assumption for the rebellion of the generation that follows.
While I'd like to say that I am in the generation of those who embrace and love the Truth of God to the point of radical obedience... I'm more likely among the generation of assumption. I've taken for granted the blessings of God. Consequently, this passage concerns me.

So how do we as a church, as a movement, as a family get back to the place of pursuing, embracing and cherishing the Truth of God? It is the same for us today as it was for Israel then.
Deuteronomy 6
These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.
Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the LORD said. In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” There are a million lessons in this passage but the main message is simple; love God, obey God and diligently teach your kids to follow your example.

One final thought... Exodus 20:5-6
"for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."

Father, make me a better father to my children. Teach me to teach them well. Strengthen me for full obedience that they may follow my path with confidence. Extend to me your loving-kindness for thousands of generations. Amen.

Pretense or Passion for God

Jeremiah 3:9-10
Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the LORD.

How often have I turned my back on God; harbored a sour spirit, nurtured a selfish indulgence, perpetuated a rotten habit, wallowed in my flesh, built myself up or torn someone else down... and then returned to Him with the presumption of forgiveness, favor and blessing?

This was the problem with Judah. They sinned and returned in habit but not in heart. They honored God with their lips and hands, engaging in the shell of worship but inside were empty and void of contrition, sorrow for sin, love for their creator or desire for Him. They confessed but did not turn from their rebellion. The offered sacrifices of lambs and bulls but never sacrificed their own sinful, fleshly desires. These were never placed on the altar of God.

And to this empty ritual God said to Judah in verse 11,
"Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah."

To God, the shell of religion is worthless without the heart. He would rather have nothing than meaningless pretense. With nothing we, at the least, have no false presumption of His favor and the world is not led astray by our hypocrisy. Pretense however perverts not only our and others' understanding of God, but also our own understanding of our own unrighteousness. We fool ourselves into thinking that God is content and that we are forgiven and secure.

Do you remember the story of Achan in Ai in Joshua 7? Achan stole away some of the devoted things from Ai while spying it out and God removed his favor from all of Israel. They went into battle with a presumption of favor and strength but the pretense of Achan rendered them vulnerable and weak. It wasn't that Achan engaged in full out idol worship - he just didn't obey God completely. He cut a corner to God's blessing and took matters of blessing into his own hands. It was a matter of trust... or perhaps distrust. But the greater sin was the presumption of blessing in the midst of his pretense.

Am I guilty of coming to God with pretense rather than passion?
Is my desire to win God over or to be won over by Him?
Would I rather that God hear me or that I hear from God?
Am I more concerned with the appearance of my habits than my heart?

As I consider these questions I can't help but hear the words of God to Israel in Jeremiah 2:2-3,
"I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the desert,
through a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the LORD,
the firstfruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the LORD."

Does God still have my heart the way He did when I first fell in love with Him?
Am I still willing to storm the gates of Hell with a squirt-gun in response to His call?
Is my heart still full of love for Him... or am I leaking?
Do I long for His Spirit?... or have I grown accustom to my flesh?
Is the offering I lay before God passionate or pretentious?

Father - capture my heart and fill me again, daily with Your Spirit and Love. Convict my heart of my pretentious offerings and teach me to be sober-minded as I approach Your throne. May my offering be pleasing and acceptable to You. Amen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cisterns & Springs

Jeremiah 2:13
"For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water."

In Israel, water is a rare commodity with only two sources. The first source is rain which typically falls in the mountains during the short rainy season and then trickles down to through the valleys in streams called wadies. The ancients built aqueducts to redirect this rainwater to cities, pools and in-ground cisterns hewn out of rock and stone. The water was not cool, fresh or clean but it was wet and would due for their needs. The cisterns would provide a place where sediment could settle out and people could find water for cooking, drinking and watering. A cracked or broken cistern didn't hold water for long. Slowly, water would leak and seep out and the owner may never even realize it.

This is a cistern at Herodium, the palace of Herod the Great, just south of Bethlehem. Water was diverted from the hills of Jerusalem down to Bethlehem via aqueducts and eventually to Herodium to this cistern. This was a very large and impressive cistern that could have held three buses stacked. The stairs are so that servants could collect water as the level dropped during in the non-rainy seasons.

The second source of water in Israel is the spring. There are many springs in the far North near Dan and Mount Hermon. This area is lush and green and never lacks vegetation or fresh, cool and clean drinking water. There are a few springs in Judah as well but they are not as abundant. Where there are fresh water springs central and southern Israel we find wells. Jacobs well in Sychar in Samaria was a good example of a well spring (John 4). This is where Jesus spoke of living water that only He could provide. I wonder if He had this passage in mind as He said that to the Samaritan woman? Another example would be the well of Elisha in Jericho which spoiled but Elisha made well (2 Kings 2:19-22). Perhaps the most famous and important spring in Israel would be Gihon at the base of the city of David in Jerusalem that feeds the pool of Shalom. This is the spring that David used to enter Salem and overthrow the people to make Jeru-salem his capital. This same spring Manassah walled in to protect it (2 Chron. 33:14) and Hezekiah diverted via a tunnel under the city to a pool withing the walls (2 Kings 20:20 2 Chron. 32:30).

This is the spring at Cesarea Philipi just south of Mount Hermon and North of Galilee.

This is the spring at Gihon on the South end of the City of David in Jerusalem. Just as it says in 2 Chron. 32:30, the spring and the tunnel still work to this day. You can walk down into the spring cool, fresh and clean water and through the tunnel all the way to the Southwestern corner of Jerusalem.

This is simply a memorial that stands in Jericho where the story of Elisha's well is still remembered and celebrated.

God is a fresh, clean, cool spring that brings life, health, growth, joy and peace. He is a never-ending source of life that we must guard and protect and cherish. (Prov. 4:23)

Friday, January 21, 2011

More than an invitation... (the calling of God)

Jeremiah 1:4-5
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
“ Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:
“ Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant.”

Therefore prepare yourself and arise,
And speak to them all that I command you
Do not be dismayed before their faces,
Lest I dismay you before them.
For behold, I have made you this day
A fortified city and an iron pillar,
And bronze walls against the whole land—
Against the kings of Judah,
Against its princes,
Against its priests,
And against the people of the land.
They will fight against you,
But they shall not prevail against you.
For I am with you,” says the LORD, “to deliver you.”

Such is the calling of Jeremiah and those whom God calls into ministry as His mouthpiece to His people. His calling is not simply an invitation but creation, sanctification, ordination, inspiration, preparation, fortification and habitation.
God created Jeremiah with certain physical attributes, talents and abilities that he would need to fulfill his mission.
God sanctified Jeremiah and set him apart as a holy tool that He would preserve, protect and promote for His purposes.
God ordained Jeremiah among His people so that He might be recognized as His mouthpiece and might be revered among the nations.
God inspired Jeremiah with the words he would speak and though he was young gave him also the wisdom and favor of age that his words might be powerful and effective.
God prepared Jeremiah through His very words and presence; training him to hear the voice of God and to see the visions God would use.
God fortified Jeremiah and strengthened him for the struggles and trials ahead guaranteeing not the success of his ministry but the completion of it.
God dwelt with Jeremiah and made His presence his hope and comfort.

Such is the call of those whom God chooses to use. Amen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the presence of God

2 Corinthians 13:14
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen."

These are the closing words of Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth. This letter is filled with rebuke, strong persuasion and warning however Paul closes the letter with this powerful reminder of the nature of God; three in one.
It was the grace of Jesus Christ that empowered Him to give His life as a substitute and sacrifice for us (Rom 3:23-24). It was the love of God that compelled Him to give us His one and only Son (Jn. 3:16). It is the communion of the Holy Spirit, His oneness with the Father and Son, that enabled His indwelling within each believer (Jn. 17:20-23).
Not only are the grace of Jesus, the love of God and the communion of the Spirit the compelling forces that connect us to God, but they are also the results of such a connection. When we receive Jesus, we receive grace and become more graceful. When we receive the Son from the Father, we receive His love and become more loving. When we receive the Spirit's indwelling, we receive His fellowship and communion and become more united.
Consequently, those things which compelled God to connect with us should compel us to connect with one another in like fashion. Conversely, if we do not see grace and love and unity among us, can we claim to have truly encountered and accepted these things from the hand of God through the Son and empowered by the Spirit?

God - be fully present in me. Amen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pleasure in pain

2 Corinthians 12:10
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I wonder how long it took for Paul to conclude that such sufferings were pleasurable if purposed in Christ? In verse 8 he confesses that he prayed three times for God to remove a thorn in his flesh, a tool for keeping him humble. Three times? When I'm suffering I'm not sure I could count all my prayers of deliverance. This conclusion was not a matter of acceptance, but decision. Paul did not conclude at the end of a long battle with his thorn that he would just have to accept such pain. Instead, he made an intentional decision to listen to the voice of God saying, "my grace is sufficient for you" and find strength in following Christ's example of suffering.
And so Paul's pleasure came in the unique opportunity that suffering produced; through which such a demonstration of God's grace and sufficiency would not be possible.
Is this how I view my struggles? Do I decide to change my perspective or do I continue to petition God for a change? Do I embrace my opportunity or do I resist God's grace? How can I find pleasure in pain and learn to trust God is His sufficiency and sovereignty?

Lord - teach me to trust fully in You and find my sufficiency in You alone. Amen

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jealous for you...

2 Corinthians 11:2
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

When we consider jealousy it's most often a negative emotion. However Paul claims a jealousy that is good and even Godly. That's because there is a difference between being jealous for someone and jealous of someone. Jealously for someone has their best interest in mind and brings us heartbreak when that person cheats him/herself out of the blessing that God has in mind for them. Jealousy of someone has my own best interest in mind and brings hurt when I think I'm not getting the blessing that I think belongs to me.
Jealousy for is what was spoken of in Ezekiel 36:6 when God revealed, "“Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations.” God intended Israel to be the glory of the nations and to be the light of the world yet in their sin and wandering they became shame and curse.
God has our best interest in mind and ultimately His glory. We are most alive and fulfilled when we live out our identity as kingdom bearers for Him and reflect His image and glory.
Am I jealous for my students and parishioners as Paul was? Do I have their best interest in mind or my own. Do I desire, to the extent of personal sacrifice and loss, to see them as a light and blessing to the nations?... or do I desire my own glory at their expense? Do I burden them for my own gain or do I accept the burden that they may be lifted up to experience His glory? Where is my heart for the people God has entrusted to me? Am I jealous for them or of them?

Father, humble me and allow me to serve and sacrifice for those you have entrusted to me. Fill me with a jealousy for them that would drive me to greater ministry and self sacrifice. Teach me to identify with your jealous heart for me. Amen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Internal Warfare

2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

How do I wage war? How do I fight? How do I win?
The question alone presupposes quite a bit. By this we presume that God wants us to win... and fight for that matter. We might presume that we understand when to fight and what to fight for. We presume that those we oppose are not favored by God or at least not being used by God to discipline us. There are plenty of presuppositions here.
Presuming that God is on our side and those who oppose us are not, and that we do understand when and why we fight, how should we fight?
We don't use lies, manipulation, deception or physical violence to advance our agenda. To do these would be sin and would place us on the wrong side of the battle lines with God. However we don't even fight as we might presume to fight nobly. The battle Paul describes here seems to be far more internal than external... taring down and taking captive even thoughts and intentions that oppose the ways of God. The battle Paul speaks of is an internal one in which we conquer our sin nature and force our spirit to submit to the Holy Spirit. It is in this battle's victory that we are drawn to prayer and faith and find God mightily at work in promoting His agenda and defeating His enemies. We don't have to wage war as the world does. We can faithfully submit to God and wait on Him to move the obstacles before us. But first we must conquer our own sin nature; our pride, our envy, our greed, our ambition, our doubt, our fear, our hurt. For then our prayers are powerful, our aim is accurate, our words are effective and our motives are pure.

Father - strengthen me in my internal battle. Help me take captive every thought that arises in me and stands against You. Teach me to tare down strongholds that have locked me out of fellowship with you. Protect me from the arrows from the towers of doubt and guilt in my mind. Help me to win the battle inside that I might be a powerful weapon in Your hands for advancing Your kingdom. Amen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sow what?

2 Corinthians 9:6
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

The principle here is this; the more I give, the more I get... the less I give, the less I get.
It may be easy here to interpret this as metaphoric. When we give materially, we receive back the joy of giving. After all, the very next verse says, "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." Cheerful joy then becomes a bi-product of faithful and generous giving. While this is true, it ignores the principle set out also by Paul in Galatians 6:7, "whatever a man sows, that also he will reap."
On the other hand, we might assume that this principle is similar to the saying, "what goes around, comes around." In other words, when we are generous we will produce a generous environment or community where generosity is fostered and promoted and we are the eventual recipients of the generosity we inspire. In this case the harvest is real and tangible but the process takes time and may or may not be realized.
While both of these principles may be true and motivating, I do not think either was Paul's main point. I believe the purpose and point of this principle was far more comprehensive, literal and tangible. When we give materially, God blesses materially. Verse 9:8 bears this out; "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." When we give materially we will reap materially from the hand of God and in every other way so that we may be generous in good deeds, joy and again materially.
This further begs the question of joy and cheerful giving. Far too often people work their hearts over to fabricate a joy before they give generously. This is backwards. We must first give and then let God's reward be cheerfulness. The cycle begins with sacrifice, not sufficiency. Generous people are generous because they have experienced the joy of giving, not because they experienced they joy of plenty.

Sow what?... what will I do with what God has given me today?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rich man, poor man

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Christ was rich and became poor that I, who was poor, might become rich.
Is it therefore true then that as I become rich in Christ, I must become poor so that others might also become rich in Him?

Life, abundant life, is to be given away.
The blessings of God are not to be hoarded or lorded but re-warded to others.

How can I give myself away today?
To whom can I pass on the blessings of God?
Where can I make a blessings transfer today?

Lord, make me generous in all things; in time, in treasures, in talent and in tenderness. Amen.

Friday, January 7, 2011

perfecting holiness

2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

The promises of God that Paul speaks of are guarantees of forgiveness and sonship or adoption. When we are faithful to separate ourselves from the world by living a godly life (rather than a worldly life) we will be called children of God.
This promise should drive us toward perfecting holiness. We may never be wholly perfect in this life but we should strive and strain with all we have to cleanse ourselves from the filth of our flesh and spirit; both desires and attitudes. The truth is, we cannot truly cleanse ourselves. Only the blood of Jesus can truly cleanse away sin. But for the believer who has already been washed in the forgiving blood of Jesus, cleansing comes by regular self evaluation, confession, repentance, resolution and remembering.
We evaluate to discover our sin.
We confess to demonstrate our awareness.
We repent to denounce our old way (to turn away from our sin).
We resolve to display a new character and direction.
We remember to dwell on the character of God, producing Godly fear and reverence.

Far too often cleansing is only limited to confession. However, confession without repentance, resolution and remembrance is incomplete. We can have no hope of perfecting the holiness we have received through the blood of Christ if we do not practice the full process of cleansing.

Father, teach me to cleanse myself daily and wholly. Help me to see my sin and to see it for what it is. Guard me from self righteousness. Convict me where I have justified my sin or taken it lightly. Remind me of Your grace and forgiveness, your holiness and justice. Teach me to walk in Your ways. Amen.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where is my threshold?

2 Corinthians 6:3-10
We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.
But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God:
in much patience,
in tribulations,
in needs, in distresses,
in stripes (beatings),
in imprisonments,
in tumults (riots),
in labors (hard work),
in sleeplessness,
in fastings (hunger);
by purity,
by knowledge,
by longsuffering (patience),
by kindness,
by the Holy Spirit,
by sincere love,
by the word of truth,
by the power of God,
by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
by honor and dishonor,
by evil report and good report;
as deceivers, and yet true;
as unknown, and yet well known;
as dying, and behold we live;
as chastened (physically punished), and yet not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

For Paul, there was no scenario where his Christian witness could be compromised. His desire to honor God and draw all men to Jesus Christ was so resolute and strong that he was willing to endure all things for that end. Paul's resolution is not only to refuse to turn his back on God, but also to refuse to compromise in the little things like kindness, patience and love; in the face of both cursing and blessing.
Where is my threshold? How far am I willing to go to uphold my Christian witness? What am I willing to endure for the sake of God's glory and the salvation of those around me? Far too often an overly physical play in a soccer game is enough to make me lose my temper and my witness. Fatigue and hunger an make me grumpy. Being overlooked can make me self-righteous and indignant. Feeling abandoned or alone can make me resentful. Forget about beatings, imprisonment, sickness and death - I'd hate to see what those would do to me!
So where does resolve like Paul's come from?
Have I taken seriously enough the great salvation Christ has provided?
Jesus said, "he who is forgiven much, loves much" (Lk 7:47).
Perhaps this resolute love for God and others comes from dwelling on God's great love and forgiveness for me. If this is the case, it would be wise and helpful to think about my own sinfulness and spend time in confession and worship to remind me of the great mercy and grace of God. Perhaps if I'm busy searching my own heart and identifying my own shortcomings I would not be so quick to identify others. Perhaps if I was busy praising God I would not be so quick to lift myself up.

Father, draw me in to confession and worship. Let me be always mindful of my sinfulness and need and Your Holiness and Worthiness. Teach me to keep my eyes on You and off of self-righteous me and others. Strengthen me and make me more resolute to maintain my testimony in all situations, at all times. Amen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

This mortal tent...

2 Corinthians 5:4
For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

When Paul speaks of "this tent" I wonder if the tabernacle came to the minds of the Jewish believers he was writing. The tabernacle was the temporary tent of meeting that the Israelites carried through the wilderness on their journey to the promised land (home) and a permanent Temple where God would dwell. It was not glorious by any stretch of the imagination. It only served its purpose; to provide a temporary and momentary connection with God. It was not meant to be clung to or elaborated. It was meant to remind Israel of the hope of a permanent home and a place where God would dwell with them forever. It was a shadow of the future glory that would be Solomon's Temple.
Similarly, our bodies are not glorious. These tents are temporary shells that provide momentary connections with God as we await our homecoming and a new body that will be eternally united with Him. To those whose hope is Jesus Christ, the disease, decay, dying and groaning that we experience in these tents are not swallowed up by death, but life. Therefore, these should not produce in us despair, but hope, knowing that each day and each trial bring us closer to home and eternal oneness with our creator, redeemer and friend.

Lord, fill me with hope of the promised land to come. Teach me to view each trial and struggle as a momentary reminder that I am not yet home... but will be. Help me to live each day with the promise of heaven and the joy of recreation in You. Amen.