Saturday, March 30, 2013

I will remember...

Today is given many names in various cultures. I grew up hearing the church folk call it "Holy Saturday." Early in my faith walk, I began calling it "Silent Saturday." (A couple of the best days of my entire life were celebrating today by remaining silent and reflective all day.)

Some people call it "Easter Eve." In the Philippines it is called "Black Saturday." In Slovakia it is called "White Saturday" and is traditionally a day in which many are baptized.  

In many Eastern Orthodox traditions, today is called "The Great Sabbath" because it is held that Jesus rested in the grave from all His work of obedience in His life and with His death. 

I like these perspectives and I love the idea of "The Great Sabbath." God is resting (again) after doing a great work. 

We all know when God finished six days of creation, He rested (Genesis 2:2). Creating the universe was easy work for God. He hovered over the void and simply made everything by the word of His power, and He made it for Himself and He Himself sustains it (Genesis 1:2, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:3). Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." All created things are a work of His hands. He crafted it with His word and with His fingers. 

Then, He rested. God made all that is, and He rested from His work and said it was very good. 

It's a beautiful thought to think God was pleased with His work of salvation. I like the image seen in Isaiah 53:1, "Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" I love this thought: in Creation, God did a work of His voice and hands and fingers, but in salvation, He rolled up His sleeves and bore His strength in defeating sin, hell and death!

It makes sense to me that Jesus rested. His work was good. His work was VERY GOOD. He ran the race. He indeed did finish His course. He could say, like no one had ever said, "It is finished."

Whatever I do today, I want to remember His good work. I thank God that it is finished. I thank God that He created life and rested. Man has created death and remains in toil. Jesus killed death, and rested. Whatever I do today, I will remember and honor this great work and rest of Jesus. Thank You, Father. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Faithful much?

Something missing today is "faithfulness." In a culture where we demand the next-new-best thing NOW, we are rapidly losing the value of working and waiting patiently. It's evidenced everywhere.

For example, I often counsel would-be-wise soon-to-be-married young people not to fall for the trap that they must through debt today have the same things their parents have attained over the course of 25 years; then, promptly, many don't listen and buy a house and car and _________ they cannot afford and get into the rat-race-stress-cycle of trying to afford it all (not to mention, forgetting we weren't even created to be leisure-hogs or mass consumers).

Other examples abound. We can't wait in traffic without losing our cool. We get hot food in less than 5 minutes and complain about how "long" it takes. We have phones that allow us to talk to people on the other side of the planet, but get angry when the signal is imperfect (HELLO! they are MILES away from you!). On and on and on...

God values faithfulness. We need to consistently do the right thing and patiently wait for the right result.

"Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored." (Proverbs 27:18 ESV)

When we plant, in due season, we will reap. Water. Till. Pray. Wait. Repeat.

For those who have ears to ear...a reading for today:

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:35-48, ESV)

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Blink, blink

Are you familiar with the tradition of blinking or flashing your headlights to warn other motorists of a trooper or law enforcement officer? I'm familiar with it. I've appreciated just such a warning many times in my life. I've given that warning to other motorists, too. (It's illegal in some states, and always illegal on multi-lane highways, by the way. North Carolina does not currently have any position on it, except for the multi-lane rule.)

I'm not the law. I do not think I am the law. I am not the judge. I do not think I am the judge. I am not a law enforcement officer. I do not think I am a law enforcement officer.

I'm simply a traveler warning of potential scrutiny upon one's actions. I'm a traveler; I'm simply saying, "There's someone up ahead looking into what we are doing on the road."

Are you ever angry at someone for giving you a warning like this? Do you consider it "judging" you?

Why then is there anger in us when someone warns us of moral law? Why then is there anger when someone would give a warning of impending judgment?

I know why...

We might say, "What right have you to tell me that your understanding of moral law applies to me?" We might say, "I do not believe in your moral law. I do not care about your moral values."

I'm learning to appreciate the warnings and the opportunity to consider my actions.

In life, I am a traveler. I'm fairly certain there's someone up ahead looking into our actions as we travel along the roadway of life.

Blink, blink.

"My conscience is clear, but that doesn't prove I'm right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide." -- 1 Corinthians 4:4, New Living Translation

Friday, March 01, 2013

Refusing to Reconcile?

Christians in conflict are a burden to each other and a block to lost people coming to Christ.

What's worse, it gets swept under the rug more often than it gets dealt with. Shame. I mean, I know why...we'd rather have our pride than victory in Jesus.

(sculpture at Duke University)
Now, what often is going on is that one believer says the other one is not a believer, and vice-versa. That's the "cop out" version of reconciliation. It's childish, too. I mean, hey, I know we're children of God, but GET OFF THE BOTTLE and grab a fork; meat's a waiting!

You treat someone like a believer if that's their testimony until they absolutely prove they are not one. Sometimes, people are really immature, not lost. Sometimes, people are struggling, but not lost. Either way, let's treat each other according to our testimonies -- like  I said -- until it's absolutely clear we cannot. Perhaps refusal to attempt reconciliation is a sign. Maybe?


Okay, so conflict happens. Let's not pretend it doesn't. We are sinners. We are imperfect. Sure, we're perfectly forgiven, but we are not perfect people. That day will come for us, but it ain't today. Conflict happens.

For example, something caused conflict between two women among the believers in Philippi: I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2 ESV)

It doesn't tell us what the conflict was about. We do know both of these women had served with Paul in gospel ministry (Philippians 4:3). And, apparently the church at Philippi was fairly healthy. So, here we are, in a healthy church with people pursuing the gospel and there's conflict. Imagine how much more often conflict happens in unhealthy churches.

I think the same can be said of Christian relationships. Where the gospel is the focus -- both in living it out and sharing it -- there is less conflict. The gospel is God-oriented when so many other things are self-oriented. I almost digress (one cannot digress when one is talking about the gospel!).

Conflict happens. I am appalled at the number of believers who get divorced. Very few even try to reconcile. It's a shame, really.

I am amazed at the arguments by believers in social media. Very few ever reconcile.

It's a disgrace how many believers argue about sports. Very few ever see that sports absolutely do not matter at any level, and very few ever reconcile their differences (that little annoyance lies hard between "serious" fans).

Have you ever juxtaposed the amazing truth we preach with the pitiful way we live? Consider this one point: we tell people we really believe God is going to resurrect our decayed bodies from the grave, BUT we don't believe a relationship can be mended. Hmmmmm....

What may be the biggest shame is how all these broken relationships ruins our witness as the church. Jesus said that our unity would cause the world to believe He came from God. Consider this:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." (John 17:20-23 ESV, emphasis mine)

Earlier in John, Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 ESV) Love covers a multitude of sins! God is love! Between faith, hope and love, the greatest is love!

Where's the love? Where's the humility? Where's the faith that believes God can work miracles?

I've been studying 1 Corinthians lately. It's full of conflict! That's the entire reason the letter was written to the church at Corinth. I'll blog on that, too.

What conflict is there in your life that you refuse to reconcile? Who is that person that you absolutely will not humble yourself with? Look, don't ruin your witness!

I know, you might be saying, "I've tried! I've tried! They won't reconcile." Okay, I've seen that. When we've done all we can, there is usually something left we're unwilling to try. There's usually pride or failure to act in accordance with Scripture somewhere (such as fasting and praying -- you know, for more than a lunch). I know this much; when we've honestly pursued every course possible, our hearts rest.