Paul writing to the Ephesian church said, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”(1:17-19) I can say this is also my prayer for all of you. It is really a prayer that I pray for myself as well. That the eyes of our hearts might be opened more and more to the real presence of God working in our daily lives. We do not serve a God who is far off or unconcerned. He is God with us, God of wisdom and strength sufficient for all of our needs. He is God at hand to be worshiped and praised. He is our redeeming God who has called us to Himself. May the eyes of your heart be opened more and more to see Him.
At one time Jesus prayed, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was you good pleasure.”(Luke 10:21) Jesus was always reversing things. The world exalts the powerful. Jesus looked to the weak. The world regards the wealthy and accomplished. Jesus looked to the poor and humble. The world wants to be with the respectable. Jesus spent His time with the sinners. Who was right? Was Jesus missing something? In the beginning of his ministry the devil tempted Jesus with all the glory of the worlds kingdoms, and with a spectacular miracle that would make many believe in Him. He rejected both.(Matthew 4) Yet He is the One to whom Scripture tell us that “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(Philippians 2:10-11) No, Jesus was not wrong in the company He kept, and it is a lesson for us in the ones we look up to in this world.
In the corner of my office I have a floor to ceiling bookcase. There are seven shelves holding a few hundred books. Everything on those shelved could be contained within some number of megabytes on one of the new tablet devices. A book would be instantly available by a touch of the finger, and pages turned by the swipe of a hand. It would free up a number of square feet of floor space. Convenient, yes. Part of the wonders of our digital world, but I think of what would be lost. Those volumes have been collected over many years, from many different situations and needs. Some are gifts from people who are important to me; some signed and dated. I look at each shelf, I know what it contains and where I can find what I need. The very top of the shelf holds four wedding picture of couples I’ve married. They too could be in the digital file, along with thousands of others. The digital world is here to stay, and in many ways is very helpful, but as with all technological advances we also need to be careful what we lose by its use. God created man for relationship, first with Himself, then with others, and with all aspect of His created world. We should not let any technology harm that.
People go to all kinds of lengths for excitement and challenges. A record has been set for the most bungy jumps is a short period of time, also for the number of back flips across a football field. Certainly not something I ever would have considered trying. Even so it highlight something in our nature that craves a challenge, that thrives on excitement, and that desires to be singled out for a good accomplishment. Being a part of the nature God created, these desires are not wrong. The problem with so much of mankind is that we seek fulfillment in the wrong places. The Lord offers us all of these in His service. If you read the Gospels, the life Jesus is offering His followers is a constant challenge. A life of faith comes with no guarantees for an easy time, and without any knowledge of what is ahead. We enter a walk with the Lord where His central instruction simply says “trust Me”. From here He takes us in directions we never dreamed, but if we are willing to follow His path we will hear the only commendation that really matters, “Well done good and faithful servant.”.
I’ve been reading again the Old Testaments accounts of the various kings of Judah and Israel. There was a very simple formula repeated over and over. If they followed the ways of the Lord they prospered. Their armies succeed, their crops did well, they had food, and there was generally peace and prosperity. When they did not follow the Lord the very opposite happened until the nations itself was destroyed. In many ways that formula has always been true whether for nations or for individuals. I know we then get into the discussion about, why we see good people suffering. We also know that we live under the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and not under the Law. Life is complicated, and we don’t understand all the ways our Lord chooses to work with us. But that doesn’t change the basic formula for life. In His holy Word he has given us a way of life that is for our good. If we come before God in humility, in repentance for our sinfulness, and truly desire to understand and live by all God has said for good, then we do have peace and prosperity. We don’t do it for that reason, we do it because we have been called into a personal relationship with our Lord who loves us deeply and we love Him in return. It doesn’t mean that we will never have problems or suffer, but even in the midst of difficulties our peace remains and we can trust the Lord to bring all things to their right conclusion.”The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” (Psalm 33:11-12)
We are told that having a positive self image is important. It affects all we do in life. We have confidence in ourselves when we undertake a project. Teachers try to build this in their students. But perhaps it would be better to build the God image in people. For in that we were created. What greater image can we have than knowing we are God’s child through faith in Jesus Christ. Almighty God knew us from before we were born. He created us. He has called us into an eternal relationship with Himself, and made that possible through the sacrifice of Jesus, His Son. There is no greater self image than knowing that we are God’s child for Jesus sake. This doesn’t puff us up with pride because it is nothing we have done. It is what we have been given. If we begin teaching this to our children from their earliest age they grow with a confidence, not in themselves, but in God. God has given each of us certain talents and abilities. We can use them with confidence for the Glory of God and for the good of others. Go about your tasks today knowing that Almighty God has made you and called you to be in eternal fellowship with Himself. Do your best in all you do and let God’s love shine in your life.
We often see the cross worn as a piece of jewelry. I have a number of cross lapel pins. Military cemeteries will have row upon row of white cross grave markers. It is a prominent symbol, and sometimes one wonders what it means to the one wearing it? Because at its core the cross is offensive. The cross confronts us with our sin and our separation from Almighty God. It shows us who we really are, and that we are incapable of making ourselves acceptable. The cross strikes us at the very core of our pride, and humbles us before the God by whom we were created. The cross also confronts us with the overwhelming grace of God who did something for us that we are incapable of doing for ourselves in making atonement for our sins . This is why crosses are torn down by persecutors of our faith. Yet, when we really understand the meaning of the cross, and wear it knowing the gift of life we’ve been given, we can joyfully sing the words of the Gospel song “So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross Till my trophies, at last, I lay down I will cling to the old rugged Cross And exchange it some day for a crown.”
They say, “like father, like son”. I can remember when I was a kid, I wanted to be where my dad was and doing what he was doing. If he was out in the yard, that’s where I wanted to be. I learned how to splice an electrical wire from him, and to change a wall outlet. We did a number of basic carpentry things together. Dad took the family to church each week, and led the music in the Sunday School room. What was important to my father was important to me. What he didn’t particularly care about, sports in particular, neither did I. Like father, like son. All of this is to emphasize the importance of the leadership role a father plays in the life of his children, both sons and daughters. It is the only place they really learn what a man is supposed to be. Above all, a father is to be a man of faith leading his family into the only lasting values that truly matter. All of the fun times will one day be only memories. All of the financial security is a passing and shallow comfort. What last is that which gives them hope and security in Jesus. That is the lasting legacy fathers have to give.
How we are plagued by Romans chapter seven! This is the description of Paul’s struggle with his own flesh, but it is applicable to us all. “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”(vs.15) When one desires to live in a way that pleases the Lord this is the struggle we face. It is proof of the sinful nature that resides within us. But the problem is still deeper. Paul says that he does what he does not want to do. In reality, that sinful nature really does want what we knows is wrong. This is the source of our battle with sin. “In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind”(vss.22-23) Each of us must see this truth working in our own lives. We each know the sins we struggle with. We realize that we really do want that which we know is not pleasing to God. In this realization we cry out with St. Paul, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”(vs.24) It is when we are truly aware of this struggle that we can also shout, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” In Christ alone is our hope. His work on the cross has taken our punishment, granting us forgiveness and new life in turning to Him.