Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Idol of Power



What is power, and who is guilty of desiring it? We often think of power as referring to prominent politicians or tyrannical dictators. But even ordinary people can be involved in exercising power over others. Husbands over wives or wives over husbands, parents over children or children over parents, employers over employees or employees over employers, pastors over congregations or congregations over pastors. None or us is immune. Now that does not mean there should not be positions of authority in society. God commands such structure (Colossians 3:18-4:1; Hebrews 13:17; Romans 13:1-7). But Scripture turns the normal pattern upside down and makes the leader the servant (Mark 10:42-45; Ephesians 5:25-32; 1 Peter 5:1-4). The ultimate example of this is Jesus Christ, who is God Himself but humbled Himself to pay the price for our sins (Philippians 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 8:9; John 13:1-17).   

But we live our lives in the midst of petty power struggles. We also commonly live with the fear that if we do not fight back, we will be run over roughshod. If we do not play office politics, we will lose our job, or at least our chance of advancement. If we do not find a way to control our spouse, we could lose our marriage or at least be henpecked or dominated. If we do not control the lives of our children, we can lose them to all those damaging influences out there. If we do not steer our church in the right direction, we will be spiritually stunted. If we do not force people to do what we want, we will lose out on any hope of personal fulfillment. And the irony of this is that by trying to manipulate these things, we can bring about everything we are trying to avoid. We can ruin our jobs, our marriages, our children, our churches, and our lives. It seems the harder we try to hold on to something by pure human effort, the more likely we are to strangle the life out of it. What we really need to do is step back and trust God with these things (Psalms 127:1,2; Proverbs 3:5,6; Matthew 6:25-34). Now what I am advocating is not total passivity but approaching life with a new attitude. One of not worrying if I am in control but trusting God that He is. This results In facing problems with calm assurance rather than self-centered desperation (Philippians 4:6,7; 1 Peter 5:7; John 16:33). And we will then have confidence to do but not overdo the things that need to be done. I am far from claiming to have reached this point. I still have the strong temptation to want to run my own life and to turn to God only when I have run it into the ground. Be if we really accept that God is in control of our lives, we can begin to break the habit of wanting to control everything and everybody ourselves.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Motherhood



Motherhood has fallen on hard times in our culture. Once considered a high and exalted calling, it is now considered an encumbrance, something that hinders a woman from developing her full potential. Underlying this is a fundamental issue on how we approach life. Is the fundamental issue in life our personal fulfillment or our willingness to love and serve others? On this issue Christianity has historically come down clearly on one side. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Christianity claims the only path to real personal fulfillment is to love and serve others. We serve a God who, though He needed nothing, was willing to leave His throne and a life of perfect joy to become a human being to deliver us from the deadly predicament we were in (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18). He did this even though we had brought this on ourselves, due to our rebellion against Him (Romans 5:6-8; 3:23-26; Isaiah 64:6). Now He calls on us to be like Him (Ephesians 5:1,2; Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10).   

It is easy, if our focus is personal fulfillment, to see the issues as money, things, worldly success, and fame. But Scripture sees the most important goal as being a servant to others (Mark 10:42-45; John 13:4-17; Philippians 2:3,4). This changes our perspective not only toward motherhood, but also toward many other things in life. Our goal is not to ensure our own fulfillment, but to live a life of love for God and other people (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13,14). This is motivated by our love for God (1 John 4:19; Roman 12:1,2; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15) for offering salvation to us through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). Also, God works in our live to give us the ability to become who God wants us to be (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Peter 1:3). But how easily we forget that this means living our lives in service to others. This is because we have all we genuinely need in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:9,10; Ephesians 1:3; Romans 8:37). Therefore, we are called to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:7; Proverbs 22:6). Now not having any children myself, I do not feel I can tell people in detail how this should be done. I can only say it is an important task and should not be looked down on or neglected based on the world’s opinion. Because it is God’s opinion that really matters.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Touch of Humor - Lack of Conclusion

How do we deal with the fact we want our questions answered now and do not get this? Where do we go from there?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Old Erich Proverb - Odds

Whatever the odds, whatever the difficulties, God will bring us through in the end.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Voice from the Past - Chrysostom

Seest thou by how many ways He hath bound us together? Nevertheless, not even this sufficed Him, but He likewise made us to stand in need of one another, that thus also He might bring us together, because necessities above all create friendships. For no other reason neither suffered He all things to be produced in every place, that hence also He might compel us to mix with one another.

John Chrysostom, 347-407 AD, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, XXXIV, 7 (translated by Rev, Talbot W. Chambers, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Philip Schaff, Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, First Series, Vol. 12, p.205)

Does God want us to depend on one another? How should we respond to that?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Finding Ourselves



What matters is not what others think of us, or even what we think of ourselves, but what God thinks of us. It is easy to get caught up in the treadmill of trying to please others. We act, look, and dress in such a way as to please other people. And we always fail, because it is just not possible to please everyone. Also, let’s face it; most of us do not fit the image our society has of the perfect individual. In fact, I suspect that the image is rigged so almost no one can live up to it. But we can spend our whole life trying to get that carrot on a stick. What, then, do we do when we recognize this and become disillusioned?   

So we reach that point where we reconsider whether we ought to live our lives to please others and decide we are going to just be ourselves. But then we must face the question of who we are if we eliminate what other people think of us. And we decide to find ourselves, but we are not quite clear where to look. The idea that a person can define themselves is like thinking we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps when we are not quite sure if we have hands or bootstraps. We need some grid, some focus point to define ourselves by. Also, it is hard to avoid the sneaking suspicion that we ourselves may not be quite as good as we ought to be. That deep down in our souls there may be things that really should not be actualized. But if we cannot be sure we can trust ourselves, who can we trust?

It is at this place that God comes in. First, He does not just flatter us. He sees that imperfect character deep within us, sees it more clearly then we see it ourselves (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6) and loves us anyway (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). As a result, He sent His Son to pay the penalty for all the wrong things we have ever done (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He can therefore offer salvation freely to those who put their faith in Him (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Philippians 3:9). This results in our being declared righteous in the sight of God (Romans 3:28; 8:33,34; Galatians 2:21). We are made His children (John 1:12,13; Romans 8:14-17; Ephesians 1:5). And because of that, it is His judgment that really matters, not what other people think of us or even what we think of ourselves (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 14:4; James 4:11,12). Now if we put our faith in Christ, God will begin to work in our life to transform it (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14). But our identity is not based on what we can do, but on what Christ has done for us. And it is only in this that our identity is secure.