Saturday, March 10, 2007

Knowledge & Love

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

I’ve known a lot of very smart people in my life. I had a friend in high school who got straight A’s even though he never listened in class. He was too busy reading Greek philosophy. I had a physics professor in college who knew 7 languages (including Sanskrit). I had a professor in seminary who not only taught theology, but had a thriving law practice.

As smart as these people were and as much as I admired them, they did not have as much as an impact on my life as people who simply shared the love of Christ with me, no matter how worldly wise they were.

St. Thomas Aquinas, who is himself considered perhaps the greatest Christian philosopher in history, put it well --

“Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Truth Hurts

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
(Acts 7:54-58)

Stephen spoke the truth to the religious leaders and the crowds, people who had been complicit in the death of Jesus or had simply been afraid to stop it. They didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t want to acknowledge that he was speaking the God-honest truth. They responded by silencing him.

One of our church fathers, Tertullian, noted --

“The first reaction to truth is hatred.”

When we feel a sense of hatred towards someone, perhaps they are simply trying to tell us something we don’t want to hear.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

An Offering of Prayer

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:2)

Last Wednesday, a pastor friend spoke at our weekly Lenten Soup Suppers. He asked people to get into the posture they often use when they pray. Some people bowed their heads. Some pretended to be driving. Some were at a loss, maybe unsure of what they look like when they pray.

I took the posture of typing at my keyboard. For me, my daily devotions are my prayers. As I write the words of Scripture, I say them to myself. I go back to them and reflect on their meaning in my life. Sometimes I say them aloud and imagine God is speaking directly to me (which He is). Doing devotions helps me quiet my mind and leave the cares of the world behind, even if only for a few moments. It’s the best way for me to be still and know that God is with me.

William Barclay writes --

“Prayer is not a way of making use of God; prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest we wait in silence for God's voice to us; we linger in His presence for His peace and His power to flow over us and around us; we lean back in His everlasting arms and feel the serenity of perfect security in Him.”

Let your prayers, no matter what form they take, be an offering to God and God will no doubt find this pleasing and acceptable.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Soul Music

"It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High.; to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night." (Psalm 92:1-2)

Music is an essential part of worship. It always has been and always will be. Music lifts us up beyond the cacophony of noise that has become the norm in the world. Noise disrupts human community. Music, when it is lifted up to God as an offering of praise, feeds the body of Christ and the souls of believers. No matter what style of music we play in worship, we need to make sure it is meant to inspire, not to entertain.

Bach put it very well --

"The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging."

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

For God's Sake

As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
(John 9:1-3)

When Jesus healed someone, it was not so that they might become indebted to him. It wasn’t an “I’ll scratch my back, you scratch mine,” arrangement. Instead, it was purely a gift for the glory of God. Healing in Scripture was intended to free up the one healed to get closer to God, to give praise and honor to the Lord.

Antoine De Saint-Exupery wrote this –

“Charity never humiliated him who profited from it, nor ever bound him by the chains of gratitude, since it was not to him but to God that the gift was made.”

When we give what we have to give, do we do it for our own sake or for God’s?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Looking for God in the Wrong Places

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 8:33)

The Apostle Peter, the rock on whom the Church is built, nonetheless had mistaken notions of who Jesus was. Peter was looking for a triumphant Messiah, God’s Chosen One, who would come with military might and overthrow the corrupt political system of Roman rule. When Jesus started talking about His suffering and impending death, Peter didn’t want to hear about it.

But Jesus persisted, even insisting that Peter was so mistaken in his thinking that he was representing Satan (a genuine devil’s advocate).

The foundation of the Church is not only built on Christ, it is built on false notions of who Christ is. Eugene Petersen writes --

"In our religious striving, we are usually looking for something quite other than the God who has come looking for us."

Are we looking for the true God or just a God we want to find?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Purpose in Life

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

People in the world today desperately desire purpose in their lives. The success of such a book as The Purpose-Driven Life and other related material is just one piece of evidence for this. As people of faith, we have a purpose. Our purpose is to follow God wherever He leads us. In Christ, everyone has a purpose; every event has meaning; this life is moving forward towards ultimate fulfillment in the life to come.

Former U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold once wrote -- “Destiny is something not to be desired and not to be avoided. It is a mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.”