Is this the day the Lord has made?

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Contrary to a lot of popular opinion on the matter, this oft quoted, and heavily posted snippet of scripture is NOT about this day, today, as though God is sending us a cheerful word to start our day off right. Careful examination of the context from Psalm 118 shows that the psalmist is rejoicing in the Messianic expectation that was to come. Look more carefully at the setting around this verse:

21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me,
and art become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders refused
is become the head stone of the corner.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the Lord hath made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Clearly, this is not simply a cheery thought for the day, but is part of the greater image of the salvation of God that the psalmist expects. The Messianic bent of these words are familiar to New Testament readers who see Jesus himself quoting the passage to assert that he is the fulfillment of that prophecy (Matthew 21:42).

Such misuse of scripture is a common occurrence, especially when we start posting verses isolated from the context in which they were spoken or written. While common, it is also dangerous.  I have seen posts in which an isolated verse is posted as someone’s “message” to the world, or to their readers, and is used (abused?) simply because the poster thinks that the Bible reinforces their own predetermined viewpoint.

Think carefully before you post scripture to support your views. If the text and context agree, that’s great, but if not, then we would all be well-advised to seek affirmations of our own views elsewhere. We may have gotten our particular “favorite” from the Bible, but that does not make it God’s Word.

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Is Humility a Thing of the Past?

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:10 NRSV)

It’s hard to imagine anyone promoting the idea of humility today. Everywhere we look, someone is asserting their pride in who they are, what they have done, the choices they have made, or the things they believe. It seems no one is prepared to admit that what we are is often a corrupted version of who we could be. Gone are the notions of shame over our failures, confession that our choices are frequently wrong, and our beliefs that sometimes defy logic. James is writing to a group of people who are not that different from ourselves. There were people who insisted that their daily lives, what they said, did, and believed would all be justified by the notions that they were people of faith. He has already dealt with that idea in Chapter two with the declaration that “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-16). When our faith is replaced by pride that we know best, our ideas cannot be wrong, and our words and practices are inconsequential, then we need to take the words above seriously. Maybe you haven’t got it all together. Perhaps you are mistaken, in error, or just defiantly wrong. Think about it, and consider whether we (and those around us) might benefit by our humbling of ourselves before God, and letting Him do the exalting.

WWJP

You may remember the bracelets a few years ago that would encourage wearers to keep in mind what Jesus would be likely to do in a given situation. Emblazoned with WWJD or “What Would Jesus Do?”, the hope was to get people to think about their actions and words by comparing their intentions to those of Jesus as revealed in scripture. I’m not sure it ever had the intended effect, but their was a certain wisdom in it.

Fast forward to our present day and age, immersed as we are in electronic instant communications and it becomes apparent that a similar reminder might be appropriate for us. I would like to suggest WWJP or “What Would Jesus Post?”

I am amazed every day to see some of the damaging posts in online social media that reflect a judgmental, critical, and intolerant attitude from people who otherwise identify themselves as followers of the Lord Jesus. The seething anger toward a culture from which these people feel so disconnected and estranged is coupled with a generalized intolerance for anyone, any government, or any system that does not support their views. And so, these folks feel justified in spewing their bile out on everyone and everything that bothers or upsets them.

That is not to deny the right of any person to speak up for what they believe in, or hold dear, but when it comes out as disrespectful of others, or offensively inconsiderate of other points of view, these “(self) righteous few” do not deserve an audience.

I look high and low in scripture to see where that might be encouraged as a legitimate approach, yet I find nothing. In fact, the only time I see anything similar is in Jesus condemnation of the religious leaders who engaged in these same practices. In dealing with the world at large however, Jesus didn’t judge them, He reached out to draw them near in forgiveness and reconciliation.

The next time you are tempted to post something, ask yourself if you just want to vent your spleen no matter who you hurt, or how you damage the image of the church, or do you want others hear the message of forgiveness that came from Jesus own lips? What do you think? What would Jesus post?

Beacons

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14,16) NRSV

What an awesome responsibility! God shines light into this world through His people. People who are looking for light in the darkness of this world need help to find the true source of light and life. We are invited to help them by shining as lights pointing to that ultimate Light, Jesus Christ. They may not come to your church, they may not be helped by radio or TV messages, but they still have you. You have the privilege of lighting up the path to someone looking for God. Don’t let your light grow dim, the world doesn’t need judges or critics, it needs light, the light God has put in you.

Stayin’ Alive

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. (Psalm 119:93) NRSV

We live in a culture that is very health-conscious, and focused on preserving a good quality of life for as long as we can. Not only is that understandable, but such concerns to maintain and preserve health are laudable goals for anyone. Unfortunately, we often overlook the one true source of all life worth living. God’s word, applied to our hearts on a daily basis is a life-giving thing. Sure, we can take care of our minds and bodies, disciplining and exercising our physical selves with some benefit, but the effect is limited to this present life. We will die one day, regardless. The life Scripture speaks to is reaches far beyond the cradle to grave experience common to all humanity. The Psalmist saw it, and thus reflects the deep-seated reality that real life comes from only one Source, what the New Testament refers to as the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ, God Incarnate (Heb. 12:2). His precepts, His word, His truth is the source of genuine, and eternal life. Listen to Him, He’s speaking to you right now.

On our way

I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14 HCSB

Paul recognized that his journey was one that would last for his entire lifetime. He consistently held the goal of God’s call in Christ as the focus of his life. In doing so, he could freely admit that he had not arrived, but was always on his way toward that goal (vv.12ff). It takes great humility of spirit to admit that we do not have all the answers, we have not yet taken hold of our prize, but we are on our way. Strangely, we hate to confess that there is so much more to know about Christ, about our faith, and about our living out that call. We prefer to show our supposed expertise, our depth of knowledge and so on. Such people, in other words, like to think they have arrived, though they would never say that aloud. To be unteachable is to be unreachable. Let us, with Paul, rejoice in our weakness and insufficiency (2 Cor. 12). Then, and only then can we  be the malleable people God wants us to be.

Living in Fellowship

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 KJ21)

What a blessing it is to live in fellowship with those around us. We share the wonderful grace of Christ’s life and love flowing in us and through us. We celebrate the forgiveness of sin, and a real joy in simply being together.

It is interesting to note that John’s words of admonition are going to a group of believers who knew intimately how difficult it can be to live out this high calling in an unbelieving world. Fellowship was about the only thing they could hang onto and it was, and remains, a priority within the church. Sadly, the groups and factions that make up the present day church around the world seem to have forgotten this critical point. It often seems to me that we spend an inordinate amount of time and energy distancing ourselves from those who differ from us. We want to make the point that our theology is the correct one, our beliefs about secondary matters are the only correct way to live out our faith. And so, we criticize, and judge those who do not agree with us. We hurt one another, we divide the church, and we are more interested in proving ourselves right than we are in walking in the the light as He is in the light. John tells us that this will result in fellowship in Christ, and that fellowship stretches far beyond the walls of our particular place of worship. Perhaps we are not walking in the light where we thought we were, and have contented ourselves to get used to seeing dimly and feeling our way along in the darkness we have created. May God wake up His church in every nation, tribe, tongue, denomination, and splinter group before it is too late.

Ay, there’s the rub

When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. John 15:10 NLT

“How can I better show my love for Jesus? He is so amazing, and he does so many wonderful things, I could just burst with joy and appreciation. How can I show him how much I love him?”

Did you ever feel the desire to show God your love for him? Jesus doesn’t mince words here. You don’t need to write a new song, or create a beautiful work of art. If we really want to show God our love for him, what you and I need to do is to OBEY him. And as our good friend Hamlet would say – “Ay, there’s the rub!” Showing our love for God is not a matter of generating warm fuzzy feelings for the creator. It’s not something that comes from our sense of creativity. It is absolute, complete submission to God in obeying everything he commands. That is how Jesus demonstrated his love for the father, in obedience – even obedience unto his death on a cross. Did anyone ever love like the Son loves the Father? Take a cue from Jesus, if you really love him, then listen to what he is saying, and then obey. This is love in action.