Archive for March, 2014

Happy Saturday!

Sunrise, March 29, 2014. 57/3652.

An evenly distributed, gray sunrise today. The sky looks like it was perfectly spray painted.

Another familiar, striking reminder of faithful God—ever present, able to meet every need, and longing to be near to those who place their trust in Him alone. Why—so what? “…I press on…because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12).

Happy Saturday!

Sky Talk

Sunrise, March 27, 2014. 55/3652.

How many different kinds of clouds can surround a squinting yellow-pink sunrise?! It is both a question of wonder and a statement of amazement.

“Madame Day holds classes every morning…Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded. But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.” Psalm 19:2-3 (The Message paraphrase)

What do you think God is saying about Himself to us this morning?

Being Loved For a Happy, Long Time

Being Loved For A Happy, Long Time

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:32

 If you are not married please read on. I am going to talk about marriage on earth, but I want you to really live in this reality: the Bible says if you a follower of Christ, you are His bride. How wonderful is that?!

First, a little fun. I wanted to title this: “Old Love: Lessons From Being Married Forever.” But two things came quickly to mind: my wife is not old (I am close to old, but I married someone considerably younger than me) and, if I did use “Old Love,” I wouldn’t have any fingers left to write a column again. Pray for me when Cheryl reads this.

 Last weekend, Cheryl and I went away for our anniversary. Forty-one years of marriage and another year and a half of dating. I often say “I married up.” And I truly did. Thank You Father, for over forty-two years with Cheryl. You did your best work when You made her, and I will be forever grateful.

God believes in marriage, so much so we are called His bride and He is our bridegroom. I know, the language is figurative. But such language for marriage describes the holiest of relationships: a follower of Christ and Christ Himself, intimately related in a bond that is indescribable, immeasurable, and “profound.”

I have used good books on marriage with couples and Cheryl and I have read some together ourselves. We’ve been to an excellent conference, too. Here’s my humble take on what makes for a great marriage: the best, most complete, satisfying, joyful, healthy, God glorifying, successful marriages are those where each person is increasingly like Christ. Every teaching on how to relate to others becomes our marriage manual. Every instruction and encouragement on how to walk with Christ matures us and builds our relationship with our spouse. Without negotiation, the passages specifically about husbands and wives become our mission. What Cheryl desires and needs from me, and what I desire and need from her is for each of us to live and walk and talk by the power of God and in the likeness of Jesus Christ and His Scriptures to us.

The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22f, is a good start. Rather than walk by the flesh (impatience, selfishness, etc.) we can walk by the Spirit, which is the fruit of Christlikeness. Again, it is by the power of God as a yielded life to the Holy Spirit is controlled by Him, bearing the likeness of Jesus.

I believe couples sometimes need counseling. Most do not. As husband and wife are committed to each other, to Christ, to the Word of Christ, and to applying the character, words, and life of Christ, a troubled or bored union can find healing. When these things are pursued, marriage will never be “old”—no matter the number of years.

Isn’t this so as we faithfully follow Christ?

Walking

“For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.” Micah 4:5 

The walking track on Delaware Avenue provides some real interesting sights. Young mothers jog with baby strollers. Lots of people have ear buds in and miss my wise cracks and greetings. I am not especially fashion-minded, so I put on sneakers and walk in whatever I was wearing before walking. Some have the coolest athletic apparel your credit card can buy. I’ve seen hearty souls with canes; last week one lady used two walking sticks. Every step looked a chore, but how great she was doing it. Warm temperatures bring out a crowd; there aren’t too many on the cold days (my favorite walking time).

The physical act of walking is important to our health, but Scripture has a deeper meaning. Yes, the Bible speaks of walking with God, consistently keeping in step with the Spirit of God (Galatians 5). Certainly, we could add walking with Christ includes exercising spiritual disciplines (Bible study, prayer, etc.) for personal spiritual growth and exercising spiritual gifts for a healthy life within the Body of Christ.

Of course, there are many men and women who walked by faith and pleased God—Hebrews 11 is, after all, The Heroes Hall of Fame. But can you guess which two people in the Bible have the designation of having “walked with God”?

Noah was one. He lived an ordinary-turned-pretty-dramatic life and died in the usual way. But Enoch is especially interesting because he walked with God and didn’t die! Poof, God just took him one day. Wouldn’t you like to have a DVD of Enoch, going about his life pleasing God in his thought life, decisions, and actions—and then, without warning, disappearing into the sky?

Micah 6:8 has been our text for several sessions. This week, the phrase to describe the life God requires is, “walk humbly with your God.” Walking in Hebrew has the idea of intimacy. Micah signals us to walk intimately and humbly with God. Like Enoch and Noah. The New Testament brings it home: “…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)

Do you know the chorus to “In the Garden”? It sings: “And he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share as we tarry there—none other has ever known.” It reminds me of Psalm 42:1: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul for you, O God.” I ache for more of this. Do you?

So, deer one, let us do whatever it takes to walk—to grow in intimacy with Christ—pleasing him in all of life. Whatever it takes.

Sunrise Today with a Twist

Sunrise, March 14, 2014. 42/3652.
 
Today: Blindingly rich yellow sun with softly painted light pink clouds painted to the end of the horizon (Were they slightly purple?). Viewed from the Tennessee River bridge, the river was steaming with life, and the air wonderfully cold. Is this our last gasp of winter?
 
A new thought to me today about sunrise…We often quote Romans 1 and Psalms (Cf. 65:5-8) to note the glory of God in creation–His “invisible attributes.” What struck me this morning was this: glory has to do with the visible manifestation of the presence of God–God in the richness of who He is–His “brightness, brilliance, or splendor” (I did some research–I don’t think up this kind of stuff on my own…). But as much as sunrises are glorious and tell of His majesty, our glimpse is only partial. In the future where we will dwell with the Father and Son, the glory of God will lighten that city, and “the lamp is the Lamb [Jesus]…and the nations shall walk in the light thereof…” (Revelation 21:23-24). We can’t imagine such “brightness, brilliance, or splendor.”
 
Bring it on! 

Sunrise, March 13, 2014

As the sun was waking up, a friend called this morning to tell of a funny interaction with her high school son. Delight was had by all, including me.

It made me think of the Father and Son’s delight as they painted tiers of blue-gray clouds for the sun to peak through this morning. With angry clouds westward, racing away yesterday’s rain, the delicate colors and entrance of today’s wake-up call were a sweet promise of blue sky.

“When the morning falls on the farthest hill I will sing his name, I will praise him still; When dark trials come and my heart is filled with a wave of doubt I will praise him still.”  –Fernado Ortega

To Love Love

“He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” Psalm 33:6

I have been waiting to talk about this subject with the impatience of a kid in toy store who has been told to not touch anything.

We’re back in Micah 6:8 this week. It gives a tidy summary for the Christian walk from an Old Testament perspective: do justice (last week’s column), love kindness (today’s), and walk humbly with God (next week’s column unless I get carried away with this week’s). Thanks, again, to my friend for the stimulus to think about a Micah 6:8 life in 2014, and for telling me about it. Listen to the prophet one more time:

   “He has told you, O man, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you

    but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?”

There is an interesting word-play in this week’s phrase, “love kindness.” Translations vary, reflecting the depth of the main word attached to love: “love mercy,” “love goodness,” etc. It’s a fascinating word with over two hundred uses, reflecting both the depth of God’s character and the wideness of application for His followers—over eighty times in Psalms alone. Often, it is translated “loyal love” or “steadfast love.” The Message shows the difficulty of putting this huge concept into a single word, and restates today’s phrase “be compassionate and loyal in your love.” Micah could easily have written, “Love love.” (But it would only be a start.)

God is steadfast in His grace-mercy-compassion-faithfulness-loyalty-love (hesed), and we bask in the richness of this constant sunshine of vital light. Amazingly, Micah tells us we get to love and imitate this ourselves.

So, the prophet brings in a deep word-concept (hesed) to say to us in contemporary ideas: “God’s people, like God Himself, live out your days, relationships, situations, and opportunities in gratefulness to God who has rescued you. Be faithful to love loving to its fullest extent, be merciful in your relationships, stay steady in reflecting Christ’s life and word, gracious and forgiving as much as possible.”

I must ask myself what this could look like in my marriage and household, work and recreation, financial life, relationships in the world outside Christ, within my church family, or in retirement (ouch).

An encouraging spiritual sister sends me song clips. Many times she is a messenger from God. She sent this one last week: “You only get just one time around/you only get one shot at this/one chance to find out the one thing you don’t wanna miss/One day when it’s all said and done I hope you see that it was enough/One ride/One try/One try/One life to love.”

And, I might add: One life to love loving as Christ did.

“More Peas”

“He got more peas than I did,” bellowed the upstairs youngster in the apartment with thin walls. If I would complain about the food we didn’t have, my mother would tell this story from her childhood. In her day, the times were hard and every garden pea mattered.

With the exception of my grandchildren, all kids have “That isn’t fair” genes and chromosomes. Anyone who was a child, has raised a child, or seen a child knows this is true. Normally, we grow up—sort of. The genes and chromosomes swell, and the message becomes more polished but self-absorbed. For example, when offended we put our foot down and clench our fist before God and say, “I demand justice.” The truth is: We couldn’t handle true justice; we need mercy.

In our mini-series on Micah 6:8, we are at the phrase, “do justice.” As part of a simple summary, justice is one aspect of what a “good” man or woman does to please God and to respond to His outpouring of love toward us.

In context, the heart of a man or woman of God is the offering God desires the most. And, it takes on hands and feet. Listen in to Micah 6:

  6:6: “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?

         Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

  6:7: Will the Lord be pleased with one thousands rams, with ten thousands of rivers

         of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin

        of my soul?”

  6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you

         but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Here’s a thick summary of justice for well-caffeinated souls: Justice (or righteousness) is who God is, how He always acts, and what people created in God’s image start doing when they follow Jesus. The gold standard is God. Followers of Jesus, armed with their new right standing before God (justified), keep in step with the Spirit of God and do what is right. D.W. Diehl says it nicely, “…the believer grows in the likeness of Christ…and becomes righteous in actual moral character…”

So, for example, I do justice when I treat Cheryl like Jesus would because it is the right thing to do—and how I respond to the traffic laws, how I relate to my nasty neighbor, what I feed my mind and body, how I spend my time, and so on. Doing justice is so hands-on (and convicting).   

Should he or she have been a master theologian, the kid who received only a few peas at dinner might have said a prayer of thanksgiving for what God provided, knowing that He always does what is right—and then given some peas to a bigger sibling who needed them even more.    



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