Mature enough to walk away
2Timothy 2: Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights.
Timothy, a young pastor, is urged by his mentor, Paul, to pursue maturity, focusing on things like righteousness, faith, love, peace, and prayer. He’s told to avoid “inane discussions” because they lead only to fighting. Obviously, Paul’s not talking about having serious discussions in which people have genuine disagreements and are seeking to understand one another’s positions. Still, the principle here is a good one. Believers need to avoid bickering with one another. The longer it goes on the more the two sides get entrenched. Ultimately, there’s a fracture in their relationship in which one side or both gets hurt. Others, sometimes the most innocent people of all, are drawn in and wounded even more seriously by the immature attitudes shown by people who they love, respect, and need. So, how can this mess be avoided? It’s easy, really. “Refuse to get involved.” Some things are worth the trouble and are, in fact, rather important. Most things aren’t. Paul wants Timothy to focus on the good stuff and walk away from the bad stuff. I’ll like my church better if I do that. In fact, I’ll probably like myself better too.
Take Away: Give your energies to that that really matters, file the other stuff in the “not-that-big-a-deal” file.
Friends of Jesus
Mark 3: His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary.
We don’t know anything about Jesus’ life from his childhood until he appears on the scene to begin his ministry. Apparently, he has some friends who like him and want to protect him. As Jesus explodes in popularity they’re concerned about him. People are constantly crowding in, bringing their needs to him, and demanding his attention. Jesus doesn’t even have time to eat. His friends decide that Jesus has gotten carried away by all that’s happening. If necessary, they’ll act unilaterally to rescue Jesus from the crowds. As far as I can tell nothing ever comes of it. When the mother and brothers of Jesus show up he turns it into a teaching moment: “he went back to teaching.” On one hand, I see here that Jesus knows what he’s doing and doesn’t need me or anyone else to explain things to him. On the other hand, though, I’m taken with these unknown friends of Jesus. In a day when everyone wants a piece of Jesus here’s a group of people who only want to take care of him. On this day, their conclusion is wrong, but I’m impressed with their hearts. I understand that I’m a needy person and that the greatest needs of my life can only be met by my Lord. At the same time, I want to be his friend. It’s not that I think he needs me to protect him, but I do think he appreciates it if I just want to be in his presence; to enjoy just knowing him, no miracle required.
Take Away: Am I a friend of Jesus?
Jeremiah 2: But my people forget me. Day after day after day they never give me a thought.
Jeremiah says people think about the things that are important to them. Women don’t forget that they own beautiful jewelry. Guys don’t forget that the NFL playoffs are on. Political junkies don’t overlook the New Hampshire primaries. Jeremiah says that God’s charge against his people is that they’ve forgotten him. They live their days without giving God much thought, taking him for granted while focusing on things that really do matter to them. It isn’t so much that they’ve made a decision that God doesn’t matter. They’ve just concentrated on other things and neglected the spiritual. Now, they can go for days without giving the Lord any thought at all. I imagine that all that can change in an instant. When trouble comes they can get all “spiritual” in a hurry. God doesn’t like being treated that way. He created us to live in constant fellowship with himself. Apparently, he takes it personally when I can spend a day immersed in other things without giving him a thought. With that in mind, I must discipline my mind to keep God on my mind. Lord, let it never be said of me that I can wander through my day without giving you a thought.
Take Away: I must discipline my mind to keep the Lord on my mind.
Hope of restoration
Isaiah 57: I live in the high and holy places, but also with the low-spirited, the spirit crushed.
God is the Almighty and I’d better never forget it. His ways are higher than mine and he’s right at home in Eternity. This awesome God is a demanding God. He calls me to live in fellowship with himself and his standard for me is nothing short of holiness. If I rebel it’s not his purpose that is broken, but me. However, this God is not untouched by that brokenness. He not only sits on his throne way up in Heaven, but he also inhabits the world he created. When my sins have divorced me from the Lord and I begin to realize the awfulness of those sins I find that he’s been there, reaching out to me all the time. The same God, this high and towering Being, cares for me even in my ruined state. He longs to transform my “spirit-crushed” life into something wonderful and new. His language to me is filled with powerful and welcome words: healing, leading, comforting. As I reach up from the bottom, I realize that God has been there all the time, reaching down from the top.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.
Being reconnected to God
Isaiah 49: I form you and use you to reconnect the people with me.
The man of God looks to the coming of the Messiah and his words are filled with hope. The Promised One’s coming will impact lives as nothing else could. The broken relationship that exists between the Creator and the Creation will be repaired as God comes to us in the Messiah. The greatest need of humanity is that this broken relationship be repaired. Everything that’s messed up about us is messed up because we’ve become disconnected from the Source of Life. The solution isn’t that we try harder, or figure out how to fix things, or somehow appease the Lord. While being forgiven of our sins and receiving the promise of heaven is a part of God’s intention for us, it’s only a part. We’re created to live in fellowship with God and that fellowship is broken. We broke it and in so doing, broke ourselves. Only he can provide a solution to this problem. When I receive this “Re-connecter” into my heart, cooperate with him day by day, and let him do his work in my life his mission is being completed in me.
Take Away: We’re created to live in fellowship with the Lord.
Return on investment
Ecclesiastes 11: Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns.
The Lord is wonderfully generous to us. He’s given us the world and all its beauty and life itself. His greatest gift to us is salvation. This gift cost him everything as is seen at the cross. This is God’s investment in us and his charity toward us. Solomon says “charity yields high returns.” God gave everything and he has every right to expect big returns on his investment. What is the return he expects? He expects human beings to respond to his great act of charity by giving their hearts to him in loving devotion. From the very beginning God has desired willing fellowship from us. That relationship is so valuable to the Lord that he gave everything (invested everything) that that relationship might be restored. It’s my positive response to that sacrifice; my responding in love and thanksgiving, and my walking in continued fellowship with the Lord that he considers to be a “high return.”
Take Away: Am I giving the Lord a “high return” on his investment in me?
There’s good news
Leviticus 26: I’ll set up my residence in your neighborhood…I’ll stroll through your streets.
There’s a bit more to Leviticus but this section is really the grand finale. Chapter 26 is the “blessing and the curse” chapter. Here, God says, “If you do this…then I’ll do that. If you do that…then I’ll do this.” To me the finest part of the blessing is God’s promise to move into their neighborhood and stroll through their streets with them. This is the Creator promising to be fully engaged with his Creation. They wouldn’t go to visit God down at the Tent of Meeting, and he wouldn’t just make special appearances at big events like the Passover observance. This is the promise of continued fellowship with their Creator in all the affairs of life. Amazingly, God wants to walk with us even before we’re aware of him and certainly in spite of the truth that we’re not worthy of such a relationship. What we see promised here is fulfilled to a great extent in Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us. It’s further fulfilled when I receive the fullness of God, the Holy Spirit into my life. It will be gloriously completed when I experience the last pages of the book of Revelation. Lord, make yourself at home in my life now, and then.
Take Away: The Lord invites me to an intimate, daily relationship with himself – what an honor!
Come out, come out, wherever you are
Genesis 3: God called to the Man: “Where are you?”
I’m created for fellowship with God. Somehow, in ways beyond my comprehension, God desires a relationship with me. God, you see, is all about relationships. In the Creation he seeks relationships so much that he creates beings with free will. Only such creatures can genuinely connect with him. In the Garden Adam and Eve enjoy the fellowship with God, functioning as they’re created to function. When they sin, they break that fellowship and distance themselves from God. What will he do? Will he press the “reset” button on Creation and give it another try? No, instead, we see the Almighty’s commitment to us. According to the Apostle Paul, that commitment was made before the first act of Creation. Adam and Eve don’t have to sin. They’re created to live forever and to enjoy constant fellowship with their Maker. However, before the very first “Let there be light” words are spoken the Lord has considered the possibly that if he makes beings with free will that that they might just reject him. What will he do if that happens? Out in pre-creation eternity the Lord decided that, no matter what happens, he’ll remain committed to his Creation. Before the first moment of time, he has a plan to “seek and to save that which was lost.” When we hear him calling “Where are you?” we’re witnessing the very first step in that plan to restore the broken relationship that now exists between God and humanity. It’s the first step, and in the distant future, we see a cross.
Take away: God wants more than obedience from me…more, he want to be in a relationship with me.