Tag Archives: Jesus

Humility

humilityIn a recent article in Christianity Today, author Karen Swallow Prior says this about humility:

“The virtue of humility is thought to be the foundation of all other virtues. Humility comes from the same root word as human, one that means earth or ground, the substance of our bodies’ origin and  ultimate decay. To have humility, then, is to understand our origins and our place in the world, to have an accurate sense of who and what we are. Thus, virtuous humility isn’t just a matter of acknowledging our limitations and weaknesses; it is recognizes gifts and strengths, too. Humility is an accurate assessment of oneself in relation to the world and to God” (Prior, Karen Swallow, “The Art of Virtuous Reading,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, 37).

No wonder the Bible calls us to be humble. Consider these verses:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).

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

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5).

These verses remind me of that classic acronym for JOY we need to always keep in mind as we set priorities in our lives. We need to always remember that the hierarchy for us as Christians is: Jesus, Others and then Yourself. Prioritizing our lives in this way is the only way for us for find true happiness and joy in its purest sense. Putting Jesus first makes us remember that life is not about us; it is about him. And putting others before ourselves reminds us that life is all about serving those around us with the gifts that God has given us, not just serving ourselves.

Humility is not about putting ourselves down, but seeing that our place is to lift up Christ and others, who, in turn, lift us up. Find joy in being humble this week.

 

Plein Air

plein air

Plein air is a French expression that means “open air” and is a practice of painting in which artists work on the spot. A recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch told of an artist, Patrick Saunders, who travels around the country in his pickup with an Airstream camper, capturing moments with paint on canvas as he sees them. There are even plein air competitions hosted by cities, counties, museums and art magazines in which artists are given a period of time to paint and submit work of scenes as soon they see them in whatever weather conditions they may find themselves in. “I’ve painted out in thunderstorms, in 100-degree weather, in 30-degree weather,” Saunders says (Lewis, Jon, “Plein Air from an Airstream,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 27, 2019, B4). Plein air painting also helps artists not to dwell too much on the small details. They paint then and there and they are done.

I find this discipline rather interesting because it parallels many times what we must do as Christians in this world as we “paint the picture” for others of what our salvation in Jesus is all about. Oftentimes we are called on the spot to witness to others about our faith and we have no time to prepare. We must just in that moment speak from our heart and soul. The Holy Spirit helps us in this task. As Scripture says, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12). The conditions may not be perfect, but the message is just as beautiful no matter where you declare it. And just like the plein air artists, you do not need to worry about the minor details or the exact words. God will make your on-the-spot “word pictures” of forgiveness and everlasting life found in Jesus Christ alone a masterpiece.

Genealogies

family treeFinding out your genealogy through websites like ancestry.com and 23andme.com is all the rage these days. People have been surprised that their DNA makeup is more from one country than another. For instance, though my aunt was born a Zimmermann (a very German name), ancestry.com revealed that her heritage comes far more from Great Britain than Germany. These sites have even led to people gathering to meet far distant relatives they did not know previously to learn more about their family history.

In the Bible people were very careful to track their lineage. In fact, almost all of Matthew 1 tracks the 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, highlighting that Jesus is connected directly to the line of King David. Luke 3:23-38 follows the ancestry of Jesus all the way back to Adam through 77 tongue-twisting names.

Why all the emphasis on the genealogy of Jesus? The genealogy from Abraham to Jesus confirms the promise that God made to Abraham, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever’” (Exodus 32:13). And the genealogy from Adam to Jesus revealed the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior from sin from Adam and Eve’s offspring in Genesis 3:15 when he said to the serpent; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The good news for us as believers in Christ is that we may not be blood relatives of Jesus by birth, but we have been grafted into the family of God by the blood he shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. God’s promises of old now apply to us as well. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” Galatians 3:29 tells us. Each Sunday then becomes a family reunion when we join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate our place in the family of God. Enjoy being part of this holy heritage.

Everyone Has a Part

curtainTheology professor Kevin J. Vanhoozer wrote, “Scripture is not a textbook but the Church’s holy script, and understanding it involves reading all the books in the Old and New Testament as parts of an overarching story. It’s more than narrative, it’s drama: story made flesh, in which readers today have speaking parts” (“Letter to an Aspiring Theologian,” First Things, August/September 2018, 29).

This quote is a good reminder to those in church work that implementing programs that call for parishioners to read the entire Bible over the course of a certain period of time is a valuable and worthwhile exercise even when slogging through the book of Numbers. We as Christians need to see the big picture and be reminded of it again and again. This is not some new story of salvation. It is the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

The other part of this quote that I like is that it reminds us that the Bible is not something to put on a shelf to collect dust somewhere. It is not just something to read in a college course and box up in the basement. It is not just a sweet story that you read to kids at bedtime from time to time. It is living and active and something that is a part of us and a part of our lives here and now.

The best part of the quote for me is that it declares to us that everyone has a part to play in the drama that began in the Bible. This divine play does not end with the last word of the book of Revelation. It continues with each one of us who have faith in Christ and believe in him. No believer is left out of this play. Everyone has a part. The story of what is yet to come on the Last Day when Jesus calls us home to be with him as his forgiven and loved brothers and sisters still needs to be told to audiences all over the world in many and various ways. Some have speaking roles. Some sing in the chorus. Some pull the curtain open to reveal a truth about our salvation to someone. We are on the world’s stage for a reason. And it not to signify nothing, to paraphrase Shakespeare. But what we have to share signifies everything. We only need to wait for the curtain call when Christ returns with endless applause.

All That Matters

all that mattersDear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

When I lead Bible class in my church, there are times when the only answer I have to a difficult question someone has is: “We will have to ask Jesus that one when he returns in glory.”

We as humans are an inquisitive bunch. We want to know and understand everything right away. But there are simply some things that we will never know this side of heaven.

What we need to remember is not so much what we do not know, but what we do know:

• We are children of God.

• Christ will appear to take us home to heaven.

• We are dearly loved by our Savior.

• We are forgiven and saved from all our sins through the suffering and death of Christ.

In the end, no questions about what we don’t know really matter, because what we do know is all that matters.

Moon Rocks

Moon rocksI read an article recently that after Neal Armstrong brought back moon rocks from the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, they were distributed to all 50 states, but many of the mementos vanished. Saddened by this development, intrepid rock hunter Joseph Gutheinz made it his mission to find the missing treasures. He has successfully located all the states’ rocks, except for 2, New York and Delaware, and he hopes to find those by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019.

While some of the rocks were stolen, amazingly, Gutheinz discovered that an estimated 40 states did not record where they put the moon rocks, and they simply lost track of them.rock plaque

How could this happen, we ask ourselves. But the truth is that something similar can happen with the treasure of our faith in Christ that we have been given by the power of the Holy Spirit through our baptisms.

Our precious faith can sometimes get ignored under that piles of work assignments, school activities and personal hobbies. For instance, if you can’t think of where to find a Bible in your home, then perhaps it is time to put the Bible front and center in your living space to remind your entire household that our faith is precious and needs to be honored and recognized.

The same goes for those who have wondered away from the faith or whom we have simply lost touch with. If you haven’t talked to a special friend in the faith for awhile, it is probably time to set aside some time to search for them and reconnect with this treasured person in your life.

I am reminded of the parable of the woman searching for the lost coin. Like Getheinz with the moon rocks, she is determined to keep looking for the coin until she finds it, and then she is overjoyed when she does.

Our attitude should be the same in our re-embracing of our faith and our fellow followers of Christ. Never let the Word of God or the bonds we have with others disappear from our lives!

Hesed

hesedThe Hebrew word hesed is translated lovingkindness in most Bibles, but it is so rich in meaning that the word cannot be adequately described in English. Other translations have used the words covenant faithfulness and steadfast love. It is a type of love that is quite literally beyond words.

In a new book from InterVarsity Press called Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness, author Michael Card explores what the word means about God’s character and how the word relates to God’s people.

What it reveals to me about God’s character is that he loves us beyond measure, beyond what we can even comprehend. It is a love that can never be matched fully in human terms. It is a love that will stop at nothing to care for us and protect us.

That is the reason why hesed is most fully realized in the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus is hesed in the flesh. And he went to the greatest lengths of all out of God’s great love for us to save us. He went to the cross to suffer and die and sacrifice his very life for us all. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” the Bible says (John 15:13). But God’s hesed went beyond even the grave when he rose Jesus from the dead on Easter morning.

Now that Christ is alive and alive in each of us, God’s hesed has transformed each of us to live a new life of deep and divinely inspired love, care and compassion for others. We love as we have been loved: with our whole selves, giving our all for one another in the name of the God of hesed. That is the beautiful plan for us from the heart of our God.

Mercy and Truth

I recently heard the choral piece “Mercy and Truth,” written by composer Philip Lawson, commissioned for the Salisbury Cathedral in England. Based on Psalm 85:10, it overlays the words of the text in unique ways for moving effects.

The text is: “Mercy and truth are met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Take a listen:

The song resonates because it reminds me that the mercy of God is always in line with ultimate truth. We can never hide the truth from God, but the truth does not take away the mercy of God. He always loves us and forgives us, even when he knows the truth of our sin and knows that we have failed him time and again. He is faithful and will always return to find us when we have strayed to bring us back to him.

The first couplet Psalm 85:10in this verse (mercy and truth) is tied with the second paring of righteousness and peace, which kiss each other. I find this connection interesting as well because it acknowledges that when we are found righteous in the sight of God through Jesus, we find peace. And this connection is not cold or indifferent. It elicits an outpouring of love and compassion. There is a bond of love that happens through a kiss, and knowing that righteousness and peace kiss each other means that those who find righteousness and peace together have a loving and holy bond. We and God are reconnected through his love found in Christ.

What I like most about this song is how the words are sung on top of each other by different sections of the choir. One part starts immediately when one is done with the couplets and some parts come in while others are halfway through. Isn’t that just like life and how things get jumbled up and mixed together and we are not sure when one thing begins and one thing ends? While it sometimes may seem confusing, the reality is that God is in control and his mercy and his truth, his righteousness and peace will always be a part of our lives as his followers.

Are We Suffering from Chronological Snobbery?

chronological snobberyIn discussing religious perspectives of his day, C. S. Lewis’ friend Owen Barfield referred to the peril of “chronological snobbery,” the assumption that the present age is to be held superior to the past merely because it came later—that history is a record of uninterrupted progress (“The Well-Read Christian,” Modern Reformation, 55).

This assumption might seem laughable at first glance, but upon further reflection I found myself susceptible to it myself. Without even realizing, we tend to assume that we know better than those of the past when it comes to many things, not just religious things. But that, of course, is not always the case.

That is why we often need to reorient and recalibrate ourselves to what is known to be true and right and solid theology. To combat chronological snobbery in ourselves theologically, author Rick Ritchie suggests, “Aside from a rereading of the new Testament, a reading of old Christian authors is probably the best way of challenging our own complacency with our understanding of the good Christian life” (“The Well-Read Christian,” Modern Reformation, 55). Ritchie recommends we turn to the writings of C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and John Warwick Montgomery for trustworthy insights into our faith that have stood the test of time.

Above all, of course, it is the Word of God that must guide our faith no matter what age we find ourselves in and no matter what “in vogue” teaching may be popular. We must hold all current messages regarding religion up against what we know to be true from Scripture. For we know that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

So don’t become a “chronological snob,” and think that somehow we know better than God’s Word simply because we are living in “modern times.” As one of my favorite songs, “Ancient Words,” says:

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world,
They resound with God’s own heart.
Oh, let the ancient words impart.

So let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you remember that the biblical truth that Jesus took our place on the cross for our forgiveness and salvation will never change or fade away or be replaced throughout the passage of time.

 

Comfortable Words

come unto meThomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and Edward VI, is well-known for coining the term “Comfortable Words,” which he outlined in the Book of Common Prayer as a preparation for Communion. Here is what he wrote:

Hear what comfortable words our Savior Christ says to all that truly turn to him. “Come to me all that travail, and are heavy laden, and I shall refresh you.” God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son to the end that all that believe in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. Hear also what St. Paul says, “This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Hear what St. John says, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins”  (Book of Common Prayer, 111-20)

These words of comfort are a wonderful collection for us to remember as we come to the Table of the Lord in gratitude and praise for what he has done through his Body and his Blood.

These Comfortable Words from Matthew 11:28, John 3:16, 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 John 2:1 are good for us to recite and remember at other times, too, of course: in the morning, at bedtime, when feeling sad or frustrated or when starting to doubt.

Everything in our lives comes back to the comfort that the Gospel provides. Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross for our sins is all we need to know to find true comfort in our lives and in any situation we may encounter.

Think of ways that you can incorporate these Comfortable Words into your daily or weekly routines. And be comforted by them again and again.