Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflection and Anticipation at New Year's

Each year about this time, I think back over what has transpired and look ahead to the prospects of a new year. I keep in mind certain constants that, for me, set defining limits.

First, God is God. By this, I mean that as Lord, He can do whatever He desires. For me, I am reminded that the Lord has no limitations, so dream big and anticipate the unexpected. Corresponding to this is the fact that nothing will happen to me that God either causes or permits. Either way, whether times of trial and adversity, or breakthrough and advance, He is near. We should be ever mindful that God who is God is near. He is near to encourage, to comfort, to guide, to correct, to lead, to challenge, to reveal, to love, to create, and to save. The list could go on and on. After all, He is God!

Second, I am not God. This reminds me that at best, I am absolutely dependent on Him. It is a call to look for grace and exercise faith. What am I trusting God to do? What am I hearing Him say? Where am I seeing Him at work? What is God's will? What does He want for me and from me? What part do I play in His plan? My significance comes as I am rightly related to Him.

Finally, I must face reality. This is the distance between the first two constants. As a Christ follower, one truth is abundantly clear. I cannot reproduce what I want; I reproduce what I am. Therefore, it is imperative that I am not just being, but doing what is right. There must be an alignment between what I say and what I do. There must be an alignment between what I believe and what I practice. There must be an alignment between God's will and my will. No doubt, there  is a nonnegotiable alignment preparation and performance.

When my father passed away last year, I became painfully aware of my own mortality. The truth is, we are all here for a very short stay in light of eternity. Moses' words, " Lord, teach us to number my days that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12) has become a constant reminder of Jesus' words, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day, for the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). We do have all eternity to celebrate our victories but only a moment in time to win them! So think big, pray big, plan big, and aspire big; then trust God with all you are and with all your days!

Monday, December 17, 2012

God's Perspective On Newtown

The unspeakable tragedy in Newtown brings to the forefront an age-old question/dilemma. If God is all powerful and all-knowing (and He is), and He is all good (and He is), why did He not prevent this senseless act of violent carnage (and He could have)?

First, this tragedy did not catch God by surprise. God did not cause it, but He did permit it. He is powerful enough to have stopped it.

Second, this tragedy is a symptom that something is incredibly wrong with the human race. In biblical terms, we live in a fallen world which is marked by sin in its manifold manifestations. To make matters worse, an evil presence in the world drives this entire enterprise. Jesus identified him as the "thief [who] comes to kill, steal, and destroy."

Third, the whole purpose of God coming in Christ was to redeem us from this fallen world with its symptoms and consequences. In this present age, we live in a world in revolt against God. God in His patience is permitting the revolt all the while holding out His hands and beckoning humanity to return to Him. In God's timing this world as we know it will come to an end, either with God's ultimate intervention (the time is unknown) or our personal departure (which is certain). Then, the God of the universe will right all wrongs.

Fourth, in the meantime, God stands ready to comfort, heal, forgive, restore, and intervene when invited. And humanity must still deal with the consequences of sin. Every act of sin with its painful consequences is one more invitation from God, "return to Me!" Only God can bind up broken hearts! Only God can heal this severe hurt! Only God can assuage this incredible grief!

Finally, if nothing else, this senseless tragedy is a wake up call to how desperately the world needs its Savior who alone can free us from the "law of sin and death," and who alone can bring good out of such profound evil!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One More Look at Jesus

Last year, I spent most of my devotional time in the Gospels asking the question, "If Jesus is the expressed image of the living God, how did He treat people?" Some might think this an irrelevant question but for me it drives to the very heart of the contemporary discussion on the doctrine of salvation and the extent of God's desire to save.

The result was a paper I delivered at last year 's Evangelical Theological Society in San Francisco entitled," Seeing the Father in the face of the Son." I built the study on Jesus' words in John 14:9," He who has seen Me has seen the Father." One presupposition that played into the conclusion was that Jesus demonstrated graphically exactly how the Father relates to individuals. I looked at the way Jesus related to people and concluded the Father relates to people in the same way.

This year I returned again to study the Gospels and added Acts as well. This year's question, to put it succinctly, was," Jesus, why did You come?" Specifically, "what was Your purpose in coming to this earth in the Incarnation?" I knew some of the reasons like Luke 19:10,"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." I actually only thought I would discover a dozen or so answers to the question. Yet, upon reading the Scriptures slowly and deliberately, I was surprised to discover over one hundred answers to this nuanced question. One principal conclusion that I have walked away with is that it is God's intention for each of us to look at all of life through the lens of our relationship to Jesus Christ.

It is true that when a person in childlike faith prays to receive Christ (John 1:12), they are transformed in a moment into a child of God. With this, however, comes God's intention that every purpose of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ is to be pursued and lived out. It is a life imparted to us with the expectation that ours will be an ever increasing conformity to our Master. We are to reflect Paul's declaration as our aspiration that "it is Christ in you [which is] your hope of glory," with the end that we might be "complete in Christ" (Col.1:27b,28b).

How will you live out God's purpose for you today?