Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Another Gospel

Jesus had nothing to hide. 

I just finished reading the gospel accounts of Jesus' crucifixion. I almost stopped. I didn't want to continue. It was painful and difficult to read. Then John wrote this, 

And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. (John 19:35)

God doesn't withhold the truth. His Word is full of good and bad--good outcomes and bad outcomes, God-honoring and dishonoring people. But our churches...

Too many of us have accepted and live out another gospel. We promote goodness and peace, but practice deceit, hypocrisy, and conflict to protect that facade. Somehow appearance has become our gospel. False teachers in pulpits, leaders seeking their own reputation, people covering, fixing, and blending the lines to manage the destruction.

If we lived like Jesus, if we lived like the weak, failing, needy people we are, we would be honest about ourselves. We would be honest about others. And people would see Jesus instead of us and our trappings.(see 2 Corinthians 4)

Everyone doesn't need to know everything all of the time, but our honesty, like every other part of life, is to be governed by love: God's love for us and our love for others. The One who knows and sees it all died for our sin, guilt, and shame. If I truly believe that, I, too, have nothing to hide.

For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need. (Hebrews 4:12-16)

Monday, November 30, 2020

Simplicity as Success

One of the benefits of being a stay-at-home mom so many years was access to resources and materials. My brain was ready to learn and grow even while my body was spent.

 Book after book, page by page, with no particular destination or goal, I devoured thought-provoking, otherwise difficult reading. Hour after hour I listened to Christian radio and speakers. Thoughts, questions, and applications stirred in my mind as I scrubbed floors, folded laundry, tended to children and country chores.

 J.I. Packer's, A Quest for Godliness, was one of the most impactful. Of the words and thoughts which escape me, the message I still carry is: keep it simple. The more common and everyday our speech, the more effective we are in communicating the truth of the gospel. This was Paul's example:

 And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come as someone superior in speaking ability or wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I also was with you in weakness and fear, and in great trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of mankind, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

 Ironically, J.I. Packer is not known for his simple presentation; in today's society Puritans aren't either. But that was their focus and goal--to preach Christ simply, with purity and grace.

 That was my goal as I wrote, Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse. With a background in elementary education and a heart for individuals who struggle to learn and read, my goal is other's learning. Teaching is evidenced, not by one who teaches, but what is learned. As future educators, we were taught that the measure of our effectiveness was the success of our students.

 When individuals use code words, acronyms, high vocabulary, or share a complex/confused presentation, it confuses the listener. That is when one must assess the goal--Is it to be thought of as important, intellectual, and knowledgeable? Or is the goal effective, accessible information? With God's help, our goal should be the simplicity of Jesus Christ and His finished work.

 Our value, worth, and identity are not measured by our teaching, words, or following, but by Christ Himself. May He guide and bless the sincerity of our words and interactions with others for the sake of the gospel--and their very lives.

 For though I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may gain more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the Law, I became as one under the Law, though not being under the Law myself, so that I might gain those who are under the Law; to those who are without the Law, I became as one without the Law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might gain those who are without the Law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak; I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly; I box in such a way, as to avoid hitting air; but I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:19-27)

Friday, October 30, 2020

Obedience and Worship--in Which Order?

How many times have we read and thought about the leper that returned to Jesus to say thank you when nine kept going? Many, many. 

But today, with prayers and thoughts in my head about ministry, opportunities, and the future, I saw this one leper differently. "And he was a Samaritan." (Luke 17:16). 

This one did not belong at the temple. It was not his custom. He did not follow Jewish temple etiquette. It was not his place of worship; his home; his people. The priest had little value. But Jesus...

"Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to him. And he was a Samaritan." (Luke 17:15-16)

How often am I distracted by the approval of others, by what I have been prevented from having or doing--and when the opportunity presents itself, Christ is forgotten? How often do I get caught up in the victory, forgetting the Victor? How often do I seek affirmation of cleansing without acknowledging the Cleanser? How often do I seek to go to the temple seeing only what is ahead and missing Jesus here; Jesus now?

Today this man reminded me to turn and thank Jesus before seeking the affirmation of others; to seek Jesus before heading into the crowds, before getting on with my life, before jumping into ministry, before moving forward. Others will benefit from my praise and healing, but Jesus deserves it first. Jesus should hear it most. Jesus is the only worthy recipient of the first fruits of praise and worship. 

But weren't they told to go? Isn't that what Jesus commanded? "When He saw them, He said to them, 'God and show yourselves to the priests.'" (Luke 11:14) Yes. They obeyed and as they went, they were cleansed. But this one turned back. 

My prayer today is that I am not so set on obedience that I miss Jesus. Not so determined to pursue opportunity and God's call on my life that I forget to express my gratitude; not to busy to set aside my "to do" list and worship.