Thursday, February 15, 2018

More Than Words

The Christian faith is one that focuses on words.  We focus on a precision with our words.  One of the early church disputes was over one letter in a word – a letter that suggested Jesus’ essence was similar to that of the Father or without the letter, a declaration that Jesus was of the same substance as the Father. 

Another church dispute was over one Latin word.  The Eastern Church affirmed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.  The Western Church said the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (a single Latin Word). 

My point?  Christians try to be careful with their words. 

But the Christian faith is more than words.  The words that we affirm, the statements that we believe must impact the life that we live.  Bruce Waltke has written, “Jew were marked out by three practices: circumcision, Sabbath, and kosher-laws, not by their confessions. Christians are to be marked out, says Jesus, by the way in which they love each other, not only by their confession that ‘Jesus is Lord.’" 

Our confession is important.  But a right confession that is not followed up with a right (God-honoring) practice, is certainly suspect.  The prophet Isaiah denounced the people of his day for honoring God with their lips but not with their hearts (Isaiah 29:13). 

Jonah was a prophet who got tripped up in this right confession, but wrong action.  Jonah was commanded by the LORD to go to Nineveh. Instead, Jonah fled to Tarshish.  

When confronted by the sailors, in the midst of the storm, Jonah said, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9).  His confession was right. The LORD did make the sea and the dry land.  Later, Jonah will add that the LORD is “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness” (Jonah 4:2). 

But the knowledge of who God is and what His character is like, did not impact Jonah’s actions.  God is looking for His servants to serve Him with more than words. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Olympic Lessons

Thursday night my family gathered in front of the television to watch the first images of the 2018 Olympics from PyeongChang.  Since the programing was ice skating, that is what we watched.  Personally I am not a big fan of ice skating, but I have always enjoyed the Olympics. 

The Olympics are fun, in part because of the hard word that each athlete puts in, in order to compete.  Each one comes to the games with the hope of victory.  Now certainly, each one is realistic. And some of them know the only way they will take home a metal is if they have the competition of a lifetime and the “picked favorites” stumble badly. Nonetheless, each one goes to the games hoping to win. 

I appreciate that hard work.

And I appreciate the beauty of the games.  It is hard to do what these athletes make to look easy. 

And I enjoy the national love that is displayed by each athlete.  As an American, I enjoy seeing the Stars and Stripes waving behind the athletes. And I especially enjoy hearing our national anthem played when medals are awarded. But I can also appreciate the non-American’s love for their country. 

And through the games, I am reminded of the way the Scriptures use sporting images to teach us about the Christian life.  We are beckoned to “run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24).  As the athlete has given up many pleasures over the years to seek that medal, so we are called to give up the passing pleasures of life as we seek the crown that does not fade or rust or diminish.  As Christians, we are called to live disciplined lives – lives of greater discipline than any Olympic athlete. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

White As Snow

Winter has set in in Central Ohio – and many other places around the country.  I must confess that I have mixed feelings about the season.  There is part of me that loves the snow.  I like to watch the snow fall. I like to play in the snow (though I don’t do that as much as I used to). I enjoy shoveling the snow.  But there is another part of me that dreads the cold temperatures. 

Part of the time I turn over the line from CS Lewis’ book, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, in which Narnia is trapped under the spell of the Witch.  It is “always winter but never Christmas.”  The dreaded side of cold weather presses me towards those thoughts.

On the other hand, at other times, I think about the words of Isaiah, “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Thought your sins are as scarlet, They will be white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18). 

Jesus shed His blood on the cross of Calvary. Through His blood, those who look to Him in faith are cleansed of their sin.  Through the blood of Jesus, we are made white as snow. 

And so as I look at the blanket of snow lying on the ground, I am reminded of the cleansing which is mine through Jesus.  And that reminder presses me to tell others about the good news that Jesus lived and died and rose again to save sinners from their sins.