Saturday, May 02, 2020

Share the Suffering

The Gospel of Peace. The Gospel of Reconciliation.

Who would have thought such a Gospel would bring suffering and division? Our carnal thinking says it wouldn't. Our natural inclination, when confronted with suffering because of the Gospel, is to assume we've done something wrong.

Certainly the enemy and the world all around us is happy to jump on that band wagon. It is a common cry and judgment amongst those who don't believe His Word. "This isn't love!" "You call yourself a Christian? Those words aren't loving!" "If this was truly God's plan it would not have resulted in such public outcry, in such strife. He is the bringer of peace, remember!"

As of late I've been reading through several of Paul's letters. Paul? Oh, let me clarify: the Apostle Paul, writer of much of the New Testament. Esteemed teacher and leader. The one who boldly declared (and through the Living Word declares still today), "Imitate me as I imitate Christ."

Share in the suffering, he says. I, Paul, am imprisoned. But don't be ashamed of me, rather be bold and look for God's strength so you yourself might face affliction for the sake of the Gospel. 

This is not the suffering of sickness, poverty, or sentimental disappointment, though those are all real enough. Paul is talking about persecution and affliction because of the Gospel.

It is true. This is the Gospel of Peace. But let's be clear. It is the Gospel of Peace with God. Once we have partnered in this covenant of peace and reconciliation with God, we become His --  His own people.

Simply put, those at enmity with God are now at enmity with us as well.

So let us hear Paul and wake up. There will be affliction and suffering for those who declare the truth of the Gospel. Stop dreaming and drinking the Kool-Aid. There is no Utopia and there will be no Utopian world culture. We will never evolve into sinless creatures. Ever. No matter how long this earth exists, man will always have sin. And sin is the basis of enmity with God. A covenant that removes sin allows us to be friends living in peace with God, but those who cling to sin remain in enmity.

Are we called to be peace makers? Yes. But can we make peace between the enemies of God and ourselves? We have only one means to do so: the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, the Prince of Peace. The outcome of that preaching is not in our hands. Through that preaching many others will enter into peace with God. With them we must learn to live in peace. But it is through that same preaching that we will find ourselves at enmity with those who cling to sin and are contrary to God. It is inevitable. The Word guarantees it to be so.

Again, let us hear Paul who wrote again and again, exhorting the church to share in the suffering he himself experienced.
So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, either, even though I'm in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 1 Timothy 1:8

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Joy That Lasts

It's Easter today. A joyous day always.

Today that deep joy, the kind that anchors your soul, is my portion. It isn't readily felt; no giddiness, no somersaults, no sunny day happiness. But I search through the weightiness of a heavy heart, the blue feelings I am carrying to find it holding me steady, keeping me moored in the midst of this trying season.

Quarantine aside, it is a challenging season. Add a quarantine and one could feel pretty disoriented.

And I most certainly do,
But for abiding joy,
Joy that is the strength of my life.
I am kept, I am not moved.

Jesus Christ the risen Savior is my joy. Forevermore.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

It Ain't Over Yet

My heart is aching a bit tonight. Life is oftentimes long and hard. Well, often enough at any rate, often enough.

How is it we can be so far along in years having had so much practice and still make the same mistakes we've made so many times before?

And how is it that we are still so readily undone by careless words, and even more, how is it we then recompence with harsh accusation, leaving our opposition floundering in a wake of bitter contention.

Human relationships require so much care, so much maintenance, so much effort. Spouses, children, siblings, friends, neighbors -- every single one, if you spend much time together, will bring you to a point of tension now and then. It appears to be confrontation with another person, but honestly, if we step back and look elsewhere, it is an opportunity to confront something even more personal, something deep within ourselves.

Ask Him to show you. He will help you understand. Whenever we respond poorly, there's something to be found. The list of possibilities is long:
Self-centeredness masquerading as insecurity.
Jealous envy.
Oh, the list is long. Much longer even than that.

You may have been wronged. True enough. But this isn't about getting "even Steven" (and poor Steven, how did he get stuck in that saying?) This is an opportunity to discover something about yourself and your need for God's cleansing and empowerment. That other person in this equation matters, too. They have their own need for God. And you both will need to do some housekeeping, some maintenance, to get that relationship back on track. That is very true and must be tended to.

But first, take care of your stuff. Go to God and straighten it out. That confrontation was for you. A rough edge needs to be smoothed. A sin needs to come to light.

So here I am, learning afresh that it's not over till it's over. Even if you've been at it for years and years, the smoothing continues and stuff is still coming to the light. And that's good. His goodness.

Why? Because we are being conformed to His glorious image. And because we serve a faithful, loving Father who is accomplishing that very thing in us. That's why.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

They Must Not Know This Man Called Jesus

Up early.
Praying for loved ones.
Especially for those dear friends and family who do not call Jesus Lord and know Him as friend.
Praying Scripture on their behalf.
Specifically, Ephesians 3:14-19:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being , so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people,  
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

When my children were young they listened to a musical about Easter called Little Tree. My daughter Brietta would often sing a song from that musical with the following lyrics. The character from Little Tree is puzzled and wonders how it is that people could treat Jesus cruelly and mock Him. At last comes this realization:
If they had known Him like I do,
If they had felt His gentle touch
If they'd only seen the love in His eyes.
Well, I hope some day they will, and like me they'll understand
What it is to know this man called Jesus...Jesus...
Oh, they must not know this man called Jesus.
And so today I pray that many might have the power to comprehend, to have knowledge of,

to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. 

I pray that they might know this man called Jesus.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Be Still And Know, Pt. 2

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
~ Psalm 46 ~

Be still, stop your fighting, cease striving, desist -- and know, recognize, perceive, understand that I am, am God.  

"I, even I, am the Lord,
And besides Me there is no savior."
~ Isaiah 43 ~

Plainly stated by the Lord of hosts: I -- I AM the Lord. There is NO OTHER deliverer, NO OTHER savior. 

And I can say only this. We would do well to remember who He is. We should humbly acknowledge that He is God and not we ourselves.

Oh, and what a God He has proven to be --  a God of power and gentleness, purity and mercy, faithful and never-changing, with arms always open to those who come to Him with a humble heart. 

But oh, the proud He resists. He will not be less than God because the Lord is who He is. He must be true to Himself. He must be God, He must be Holy, He must endure forever and ever.

So He made a way for us who are unholy in our own ways, ever bickering over our own ideas, to be made holy and learn holy ways. Humbly ask Him and He will show you Jesus. 

Once again, He calls: 

Stop fighting! Stop pushing your own selfish ideas!
Cease to strive against one another and against Me!
"BE STILL and PERCEIVE that I am God."

Watch and see. He WILL BE exalted in the earth!