Sunday, October 30, 2016

God's glory in our small lives

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,or who has been his counselor?”35 “Or who has given a gift to himthat he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36

Since early Christianity consisted mainly of Jews who recognized Jesus as their savior and messiah, the New Testament discusses in depth the rejection of Jesus Christ by the Jews. The apostle Paul, in the eleventh chapter of Romans, discusses how the rejection of Jesus by the Jews was actually necessary in order that the gentiles can come to the saving knowledge of Christ. The important point is that although our birth, culture and society dictates much of our lives, God is well aware of every step and thought that has ever existed or will exist, and He is using all of it for His glory. Even the rejection of Christ by the Jews will one day result in a God glorifying reconciliation.

I baked a cake this morning, and as I was baking this cake, I thought about the scripture above, and about the events that were described in Romans 11. I realized that I baked this cake because:

1. Someone figured out how to harness natural gas and use it for cooking.

2. Someone designed the stove that I use.

3. Someone started a business that sold the stove.

4. Someone developed a cake mix that I used.

5. Someone marketed the cake mix that used, and someone from the store where I bought the cake mix agreed to stock the cake mix.

6. My mother met my father and I was born.

7. All of my mother’s ancestors, and all of my father’s ancestors were at a particular time and place in history so that each child born to them and the lives that they lived ushered in my life.

8. For every person whose lives and ideas touched stove and cake mix, there are lineages, stretching back through time. Each of these people in some way touched the next generations in order that I could bake the cake this morning.

Most people would agree that baking a cake is not a historical event, and yet it really is. God is continually using our small, inconsequential lives to achieve His own magnificent kingdom because He loves us and wants us to live with Him forever!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Joy is strength

James, a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion: Greetings. Regard it all joy, my brothers, whenever you fall-into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith is producing endurance. James 1:1-3 (Disciples Literal New Testament).

As James introduces this letter, he uses the word slave to describe his relationship to God and Christ. In our modern culture, the word slave carries the connotation of oppression, and many modern Bible translations use the word servant instead of slave. During the first century, slavery was an economic condition that required to the slave to be totally dependent upon his/her master for everything—food, clothing, shelter. The loyalty of a slave was a quality that was highly valued by a master because a loyal slave was productive and helped the entire household or business to prosper.

The first verse of this letter could possibly hold this meaning: James, a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, because I am utterly dependent upon Him for every faction of my being, and since He provides for me in such loving and astounding ways, I am forever loyal to Him.

The twelve tribes in the dispersion indicates that James wrote to the Jews who continued to worship God in Gentile lands. James’s position as a slave of God is a very common posture for Jewish prayer, and this would have been familiar to the Jews whom James addresses. However, James’s positions God and the Lord (Master) Jesus Christ equally—James is a slave to both. This sends a clear message to the Jewish Christians that Christ is God.

After establishing the sovereignty of Christ, James immediately exhorts the brothers to regard their trials as joy. When I read this passage, that statement always hits me in the face like a rock. I think this is because I have just grappled with the oppressive connotations of being a slave to God and Christ, and then I read that I am supposed to be joyful when I face trials. It almost seems as if James is saying that we are supposed to allow ourselves to be beaten to the ground and be happy about it.

However, I believe that James is providing us with a prescription for victory. When we regard our trials with joy, there is no foothold—not even a notch—for Satan to grab and hold. Joy is a defense that Satan has no power to thwart. In fact, as verse three states, joy produces endurance. We are strong and able to withstand. Really? Joy can do that?

I want to be a joyful slave to God and Christ. I want to be strong and endure. I know what it feels like to be sick, and I know what it feels like to be strong and have endurance, and I want the strength. Since that is what I desire, then bring on the joy!