I am writing this on my laptop. It was a great laptop a few years ago. Unfortunately, time has taken its toll. Several keys are missing, but the switch under the label is still there, so that isn’t the worst problem. Recently, some keys have uit working all together. (See, the missing “q”?) To get that letter, I must find it on another site or document and copy it into this one. Now other keys are getting slow to respond. Thankfully, I have a new keyboard on the way and will soon be typing without those hassles.
As I think about it, I wonder if that I how God feels when using us to impact our world? He wants to send a message of love and to so serve fallen humanity. Unfortunately, we too sometimes garble the message. In dealing with our own sin nature, we send the wrong signal. The amazing thing is that He uses us anyway! You know, in some ways it is like my keyboard replacement. God fixes the brokenness and as He conforms us to His image, we are made new. The more He has shaped us, the more clearly we can show His love to others.
Maybe that is part of what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 5:17
“17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” ESV.
I’m grateful that God doesn’t give up on us. In the meantime, I’m going to look at the tracking information on my keyboard!
Spring brings the dreaded testing season in Texas’ public schools. Every year, our staff and students are confined from 4-5 hours per test to give a so called standardized test. The students much pass to move on in many cases and in high school must pass in order to graduate. Even the schools are assigned a grade based on students scores. The odd thing is that a simple passing % such as 70 isn’t the way it is scored. After all have taken the test and the difficulty of each uetion is analyzed they assign it a point value. They then tally the points set a score deemed passing by how many points are earned. In other words, they make a standard after they can see the results! Each version of the test through the years has been more difficult and filled with trickier questions. In fact, much time must be spent on how to spot wrong answers to eliminate them instead of teaching the curriculum. The whole system feels punitive and designed to increase failures rather than having any real benefit for the students.
We face a different kind of testing season in our spiritual lives. God allows us to face trials and troubles which test our faith. He discussed this in James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Notice the purpose of the trials. They are to produce steadfastness. Our growth is the aim of the tests which God allows. He is working to strengthen us. In the end, rather than assigning a grade to us, He is building us until we become “complete, lacking in nothing”. He is equipping us to serve Him for His honor and glory.
So count it all joy when you face trials in the knowledge that God is working to make you all He wants you to be.
I was sitting on the deck in my new furniture (Thanks Craft Baptist Church!) and enjoying a fine spring morning. As birds welcomed the new dawn, the sun filtered through every shade of green imaginable. It seems everyone loves spring. The dreary dead winter is ending and the world is bursting forth in new life. At the same time, it brings its own share of troubles. The beauty of the flowers and trees have brought with them spikes in the pollen counts. Some of the new life emerging are mosquitoes and fire ants. Spring storms are rolling through with sudden fury. Along with the beauty, come reminders of the brokenness of our world.
It wasn’t always that way. When God created Earth, He made a special place for Adam and Eve. This paradise of creation was in perfect harmony. Imagine bees without stings, roses without thorns, and life without death. But sin broke that. Adam and Eve brought death into the world through their sin and have passed that to us. The ramifications of that act still reverberate to this day.
The good news is that it will not always be that way! God will restore the brokenness in human existence and all of creation. Paul spoke of this in Romans chapter 8.
“22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” Romans 8:22-24
Last Sunday, we celebrated our Savior’s resurrection. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and rose again as the down payment of the future restoration of creation and eternal life to all who are in Him. We have hope for the future. We live to make things better now, and know that ultimately He will restore creation to its former glory.
For now we enjoy the rose and avoid the thorn and sneeze our way through the beauty of spring, but remember, the restoration is coming! Don’t lose hope.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “The darkest hour is just before dawn.”? The disciples felt that they were in the darkest hours imaginable in the hours before dawn on the first day of the week after Jesus was crucified. They had just gone through the worst of all weeks. That had gone from the high of the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday, to the kangaroo court which condemned Him and the cruelty of the cross all in one week. They had rushed His burial in the moments before Sabbath had begun. To the world, it looked like it was over. Jesus was dead. Now that the Sabbath had ended and the only thing left was for the disciples to finish the job of properly burying Jesus as they wondered what would happen to them.
Then came the morning. A group of devout women dared to return to the tomb with spices to finish the burial rituals with Jesus. Let’s pick up the account in Luke 24:2-7.
“And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’” ESV
He is not here, but has risen! Those words change it all. Because He rose, He still lives and actively keeps all His promises. He saves all who call upon Him in repentance, He is preparing a home for God’s children, and He will come and take us home.
Today is Easter. Celebrate our risen Lord!
How do you walk? Sounds like a silly question doesn’t it? If you have ever had an injury or illness which hindered your ability to walk it isn’t so simple. When I had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, I was unable to even turn over in bed. Walking was out of the question. As I began to improve, I was very unsteady and had to think about something I had taken for granted. Each step had to be contemplated and taken with a conscience effort. I praise the Lord that I made a full recovery, but recently, as I read Ephesians, I came across the following instructions God gives us through Paul.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV
Our lifestyle is brought into focus in this passage. We are challenged to purposefully walk worthy of our calling. It struck me that we need to pay attention to each move we make in life. We need to intentionally choose steps which conform to the call of God and His purpose. Our attitude is mentioned as well. We are to walk in humility, gentleness, and patience. We are to ensure our steps maintain unity with our brothers and sisters. Each move must be focused on God and the needs of others.
So I ask again, how do you walk?
I began wearing glasses in elementary school. I had no clue all that I had been missing. Apparently, I had two conditions working to blur my vision. My lens focused the image in front of the retina causing me to be nearsighted. I could see things which were close, but at a distance, it was all a blur. To further complicate things, I had astigmatism. My cornea causes further distortion of my vision. So near or far, I had bad eyes and they have only gotten worse. I remember putting on my first pair of glasses and suddenly seeing the world with much more clarity.
Spiritually we can also need to have our vision adjusted. In Proverb 14:12 God says, “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death” ESV
Human vision is faulty in spiritual matters. Sin distorts our perception of right and wrong. Seeing circumstances through the lens of God’s word gives us a clear vision of the world. When our perception aligns with His, we see the world as it really is. It is easy to allow the world’s influence to skew our perception. We grow more comfortable with the world’s point of view and less comfortable with God’s. That is one of the reasons it is crucial for us to stay in God’s word. Scripture regularly realigns our focus and keeps us on the right path.
Tradition can be a double-edged sword. It can be both comforting and reassuring to have something firm in an unstable world, but it can also be an anchor which weighs us down in the past.
Jesus took the Pharisees to task for that very reason. They were following their traditions to the exclusion of following God. “And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”” Mark 7:6-8 ESV
The problem was that they let their traditions take the place of God’s word. They were so focused on keeping traditions that they no longer worried about what God had said. They taught as doctrines the commandments of men. They kept the traditions, and that made them feel good, but they were disobeying God.
We can easily fall into the same pattern. We can get so focused on doing what we have always done that we grow complacent. We can think all is good when in truth we are no longer obeying God. How sad if it can be said of us that we honor God with our lips, but our heart is far from Him. Let us obey Him with our whole heart and not just give him lip service.