Many years ago J.B. Phillips wrote a small book called Your God Is Too Small. In it he outlined various people’s views of how they see God – as a policeman enforcing laws, as a benevolent grandfather, and so forth. All of these are inadequate and as Phillips said, “too small”. God may have aspects of each of these small views, but we dare not confine Him to any one of them. God is a God of perfect justice displayed in the commandments He has given for life. God is a God of perfect love displayed in the redemptive cross He has given that we might be a part of Him. He is not a God that can be made light of. He will not overlook sin and rebellion forever. But He is a God who invites us to come and find our true life and peace in Him. Above all He is our God who calls us to trust Him for all times of life even when we can’t understand the full magnitude of His being or see the extent of His will for us. He is a God who can be trusted.
What do you have on your schedule for today? We generally have a series of items on our list, some required, some flexible, some for fun. Paul wrote “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…”(Colossians 3:23) Think about that along with your To Do list. We do the best we can in whatever the task to give honor to Jesus. Is this a normal work day? You are working for Jesus and not for the company. Are you a caregiver at home? You are serving in the love of Jesus and to Him. Are you grocery shopping? Not always fun, but in Jesus’ name it is to Him and for the good of the household. Are you just kicking back and relaxing? That too is for the Lord in renewing the body He created. Is the task pleasant, or frustrating, or just routine daily living? It is all in the Lord. He gives us our day and the grace we need for it. We do it heartily as to the Lord.
I’ve listened to a few financial programs on the radio where people call in for advice. It is not uncommon for a caller to have a credit card debt of tens of thousands of dollars and want to know what to do. We also hear it today with student loan debt. Suppose the one to whom the debt was owed would come and simply cancel it. How would one feel about such a gift? A debt far too high to pay has just been canceled. That is just what our Lord has done for us. Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians that God has “canceled out the (our) certificate of debt “.(2:14) In the original language the “certificate of debt” is a legal term, an official document, just as binding as any business loan. But this debt, our debt to the Lord, is so great it is totally impossible for us to pay. The thirteenth verse says that “we were dead in our sins”. Our debt of sin had totally separated us from God and there was nothing, nothing we could do about it. But God, in His amazing grace, took our certificate of debt and in the blood of Jesus Christ wrote”canceled” across it. People with a canceled credit card debt might say they have been given a new lease on life. For us, we have literally been given a new life, made alive in Jesus.
Talking with one of my people a while back they were saying it was difficult for them to pray to God, the Father. They had no image of the unseen Father they could visualize. This friend said all their prayers were to Jesus who was a clear picture of a person for them. I think all of us struggle a bit with explaining or visualizing God as three persons of the Holy Trinity, yet only one God. I’ve likened it at times to an ant trying to understand a human. But God, who desires a true relationship with us, in the depth of His grace, did what only He could do to make Himself known. Paul wrote “…Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, … made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”(Philippians 2:5-7) Jesus is God. In theology we say the second person of the Holy Trinity, but Jesus is the way we know who God is and what He is like. All of the Bible is centered in the person of Jesus Christ. The concept is God, the Holy Trinity, is important, but my friend was doing well to direct their devotion to Jesus.
We’ve all seen a variety of sayings on bumper stickers. Some are humorous, others caustic. Some are intended to make us think, or inspire to action. A fairly common one is “Practice random acts of kindness”. A good admonition. Another I saw on the tire cover on the back of a Jeep – “Life is Good”. It made me think about the depth of some of these slogans. By themselves they contain some truth, but ultimately are pretty shallow. Acts of kindness are certainly commendable wherever they are found. But they are not going to start of crusade of kind actions that changes the world. It doesn’t recognize the sin that resides in each heart that can only be changed by Jesus. Life if good, certainly, but can we say that in the midst of a tragedy? Only if we understand that our Lord is in the midst of all life giving strength in good times and in bad. Slogans can be fun, but let them stir you to think more deeply than the surface sentiment. What do they mean in our life with Christ?
At one of the most uncertain times in the lives of Jesus’ disciples He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.(John 14:27) That is a wonderful thought, but it also leaves us with a question. How do we get there? How do we have that kind of peace? I think it is something we all want. There is a supernatural peace that the Lord gives at certain very difficult times in life. It is an assurance of His presence and care. But we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are also to be purveyors of peace. How can we, in the normal course of our day, bring a sense to peace to the places where we are? It starts with our own eyes focused in trust on Jesus. The more we look to Him in in trust and hope the more His peace will reflect through us wherever we are.
When one reads the newspaper or internet headlines they always seem to lead with the bad news. The latest murder, traffic accident, scandal, flood or tornado. I know those things are there. We do need to know what is going on and take proper precautions where necessary. We live in a broken world, and that brokenness touches all of us in a variety of ways. But that is never the end of the story, and it should not be the lead story in our minds. In whatever situation we find ourselves we are in our Father’s hands. Jesus has told us not to worry, not to be anxious, to put complete trust in our gracious Lord. No, it is not easy in the face of fearful things. There is strength in Jesus. We are called to patience, and hope in our Lord who has shown His love for us in many ways. Rather than the latest headlines how about reading Philippians 4:4-8.
St. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21 “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I attended a funeral this past Friday of a pastor in our community. Bud had been in this area for almost 50 years. There was no one else I know that could be called the town’s pastor. He had a local church, but he knew, and had ministered to, most of the business owners and many others in the town. He didn’t have an easy life. He and his family always lived on a very tight budget, faced a number of family problems, and had been driven from one church by internal conflict. Yet for him to live was Christ. It was a joy to meet and talk with him. The name of Jesus was in his heart and on his lips. The packed church testified to the impact the Lord had on many through his life. And the funeral service was glorious! For him to die was truly gain. Paul’s words are not just for preachers. He was writing to a normal Christian congregation. What he said is a witness for us all. Life is not easy. Trials abound. Yet Jesus Christ is in the midst of life, and by His Spirit He is in the midst of us. To live is Christ, and death is not feared. It can only be gain.
Who are you? Obviously you have a name indicating your family background. There are numerous other items that describes who you are. But one above all is vital. The Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian Church that you “were once darkness and now you are light in the Lord”.(5:8) I alway thought this a striking statement. It is not “you were in darkness”, but “you were darkness”. That was your identity. That is who you were. In our sin we were nothing but darkness, and there was nothing we could do to change it. If we were just “in darkness” we could walk out, but Paul is saying that is not the case. Darkness is who you were. It is only the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ that brought light into your life. “This is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”(2:8) We can’t claim anything from the Lord. We can only rejoice in the wonder of what He has done. Now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light. That is who you are.
We do what we can to help the needy. We are aware of needs for food and shelter in our own country. We give what we can. Our church is currently working on a project to help a church in Tanzania. So, we are aware of various needs, and try to help. But there is a deeper question. Are you needy? We probably don’t think of ourselves that way. Most of us have a lot more things than we really need, and as far as food is concerned that is pretty abundant. There is another sense in which it is necessary that we see ourselves as needy. David, King of Israel, had an abundance of material things, but he would write, “Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.”(Psalm 86:1-4) We are not sufficient in ourselves to live a life pleasing to our Lord. We are daily dependent upon the grace of God for understanding, wisdom, guidance, and strength. It is only in seeing ourselves as needy that we continue to “walk humbly with our God”.(Micah 6:8)