Key of G

Notes on Life…

Thoughts on Joy….

Philippians 1:1-11

  Throughout his life, my father was able to impart plenty of wisdom in a variety of caring and colorful ways, but this memorable maxim will always be at the top of my list: “Son, always remember who you are and whose you are.”  Apparently, the apostle Paul was a purveyor of his Father’s wisdom as well…his heavenly Father, that is! Paul’s letter to the Philippians, penned to encourage a fledgling church in a hostile world, begins with an interesting and challenging introduction:

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…”

 To me, it’s interesting because of one word: servants. The Greek word is doulos, which literally means, slave. Slave? Sounds kind of depressing and demeaning, doesn’t it? Why not, “Paul and Timothy, Champions of Christ Jesus!” or perhaps, “Paul and Timothy, Distinguished Emissaries of Christ Jesus!” or maybe, “Paul and Timothy, VIP’s for Christ Jesus!”? Please, allow me to ask you a question. Do you like to be recognized; to stand out in a crowd and be seen and thought of as someone special and important among your peers? On occasion, I surely do! But, when position becomes more important than purpose, ego becomes the cornerstone of a relational foundation that will inevitably crumble and fall; a foundation built upon selfishness and devoid of the mortar that strengthens and sustains: Joy in Christ. Enduring many trials and temptations, Paul discovered that real joy can be found only in a heart that has completely surrendered its will to God’s will; a heart that is totally and completely obedient to the commands of Christ; a heart that is enslaved to Jesus. To truly love God and love people is to be a slave, bound not by chains of oppression but by bonds of devotion, relationship, community and service to God and His people for the purpose and glory of Jesus Christ. Paul knew who he was, and most importantly to whom he belonged, which helped him establish the joy of serving Christ as a pillar of support that would lift up and encourage the church in Philippi.

–          Where have you come from and where are you going? To whom do you belong?

–          Do you have difficulty identifying and embracing joy in your life?

Advertisements

Anatomy of a heartbeat…

“It’s right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart…” -Philippians 1:7

  In my office stands a glass front cabinet filled with the overflow of what’s held in my heart. There are pictures of my parents as newlyweds, threadbare books and a Holy Bible savored and studied by my great grandfather, a pipe-cleaner heart on a string of colored beads, a God’s Eye made of popsicle sticks and yarn, one grandfather’s handwritten diary of poetry and prose along with a soldier’s Bible carried by the other through war-torn France in 1917. On the top shelf, there’s a picture of a girl who’s more beautiful today than she was the day we were married. On the center shelf rests a baseball-sized rock still covered in colorful crayon; a gift for Father’s Day, 1968. I was the six year old artist and my dad was the pleased and proud recipient. I found it in one of his dressers shortly after his death in 1994, carefully tucked into a corner of the top drawer. What a wonderful gift to discover! What joy swept over me! To be reassured that I was carefully tucked into a corner of my father’s heart…held for a lifetime.

The apostle Paul cherished the Philippian church. It was the first one he planted and his desire was to make sure it would continue to grow and flourish, to overflow with the love of Christ to a world in need, to understand that they were held, not only in his heart, but in the Father’s heart as well. What a gift to discover! What joy swept over them! What a blessing to be loved by God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

A galaxy far, far away…

I love looking at the stars. Every time I focus my telescope or peruse the pages of NASA’s Hubble gallery, I am reminded of the wonder, beauty and creativity of God. I’m also cognizant of the great distance which separates the earth from the majority of its stellar neighbors; thousands, even millions of miles or light years. The chasm is immense…much like the moral abyss between us and God. When thinking of a loving God, who is also a just and righteous God, the view through my telescope represents Him well; the beauty of the heavens proclaim His grace, mercy and provision, but the distance between the gazer and the grandeur bemoan the sin that demands condemnation; sin born of a separation worthy of the eternal punishment of Hell. D.A. Carson explains:

“Hell is not a place where people are consigned because they were pretty good blokes but just didn’t believe the right stuff. They’re consigned there, first and foremost, because they defy their Maker and want to be at the center of the universe. Hell is not filled with people who have already repented, only God isn’t gentle enough or good enough to let them out. It’s filled with people who, for all eternity, still want to be at the center of the universe and who persist in their God-defying rebellion. What is God to do? If He says it doesn’t matter to him, then God is no longer a God to be admired. He’s either amoral or positively creepy. For Him to act in any other way in the face of such blatant defiance would be to reduce God himself.” –as quoted in, Hell? Yes! , by Robert Jeffress

The fact is it does matter to Him. Sin will send you to Hell. That’s why Jesus came; so that the penalty would be satisfied and a Savior would be glorified; that God’s love and God’s justice could come to fruition.

Who’s at the center of my universe? Who’s at the center of yours? Perhaps we should focus our spiritual telescopes and see what’s revealed.

-Selfish or selfless? Which one has the sharper focus in your life?

Does peace have a chance?

“All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

  With those words, in July of 1969, The Plastic Ono Band debuted what would become a signature song of protest for peace movements around the world. John Lennon’s prolific poetry gave voice to the angst, frustration and militancy of a generation forever marred by the mindless menace of violence which plagued the trying and turbulent 60’s. Assassinations, civil rights abuses, political upheaval and the ravages of war left an indelible stain upon the hearts and minds of Americans. Our society was in peril as it desperately searched for understanding, meaning and a better way of life.

  “If only we would give peace a chance…”

  Speaking at the City Club of Cleveland on April 5th, 1968, one day after the brutal slaying of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy’s eloquent words challenged a shocked and stunned nation:

  “Too often we honor swagger, bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings…but this much is clear: violence breeds violence; repression breeds retaliation and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our souls.”

  Society needed a cleansing. Forty years have passed since then…and it still needs a cleansing. “Give peace a chance” is not the song for this time and place. We need a new song; a beautiful melody about a peace which has more than just a chance; a peace that rules:

 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”       Colossians 3:15-17

 It’s time to get clean. Let Christ’s peace rule in your life.

How tolerant are you?

How much will you put up with? What are you willing to permit? How long are you willing to endure? Tolerance has been on my mind lately. In fact, it has become a thorn in my side; a painful reminder that I allow too much garbage to clutter my life. I try to justify it, but Justice won’t let me. I’ve been reading an interesting book, Hell? Yes! …And Other Outrageous Truths You Can Still Believe by Robert Jeffress. He explores the necessity of taking the reality of Hell seriously and while dodging labels of intolerant bigot and uneducated arrogant, he makes a very good point regarding our perceptions of tolerance:

“In today’s culture we think it is a virtue, not a vice, to be nonjudgmental and accepting of other people’s flaws. So instead of turning away from immorality or violence, many of us turn toward it and tune in to it via television, movies, and the Internet. But our willingness to tolerate evil is due not to our righteousness, but to our unrighteousness. Our ability to dismiss sin in others as well as in ourselves is evidence of our un-holiness, not our holiness.” –pg. 80

 To assume that a loving God would not send anyone to eternal punishment is to suggest that God is as tolerant of sin as we are; a notion that is fatally flawed. Sin always demands punishment. Jesus Christ willingly accepted that punishment on our behalf by dying on a cross so that we could live lives free of condemnation. The ordeal of the cross reminds us that God has absolutely NO TOLERANCE for sin. As Christ hung upon the cross covered with the sins of the world, God had to turn away:

   “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” –Matthew 27:46

If God can’t tolerate the sin borne by His own Son, how likely is it that He will tolerate the sin in our lives? We shouldn’t tolerate it either.

Time’s a wastin’!

For there has already been enough time spent in doing the will of the pagans…”

                                                                                              -1 Peter 4:3

  Let me ask you something. How much time have you wasted? I asked myself that question and didn’t like the answer. I can’t even begin to count the hours I’ve spent in hot pursuit of what Peter calls “unrestrained behavior” and “lawless idolatry”. On occasion, I’ve even bragged about them; those days when I mistakenly thought I was bulletproof while drowning in 90 proof. In fact, I have a terrible habit of calling those moments of misspent, misguided, misdirected youth my “Glory Days”. Maybe you can identify with me the next time you find yourself in a conversation with old college buddies reliving your days of revelry, wine and roses; the stories are grander, the grass is always greener and the heart grows fonder for a bygone era as it yearns for the past (insert sigh here).

 Why do we often struggle with wanting to recapture the past? Perhaps it’s not a question of “sowing wild oats” with you. Maybe it has to do with returning to “better days”. Sometimes the desire for better days becomes an object of worship. That’s idolatry and there is no glory in that.

 May I suggest a new way to think? When the urge strikes to wallow in nostalgia… don’t. Enough time has been wasted. The “Glory Days” are ahead of us and God has a plan for the future:

 “Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same resolve- because the One who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin- in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.”        1 Peter 4:1-2

 There’s the plan; living for God’s will, not man’s. “The best is yet to be…” the poet writes, and I can hardly wait! It’s time to stop wasting time and start making time to live for God’s will and let the Glory Days begin!

Snapshot #5…

FLASH!

Our final snapshot captures the beauty of Joseph’s long-suffering and God-honoring faith in the radiant and golden light of maturity. Webster’s Dictionary defines maturity as being fully grown or fully developed as a person. When I think of spiritual “grown-ups”, Joseph immediately comes to my mind. His faith was tempered through trial and perfected through practice; a practice which honed and refined his trust in God; a practice whose presence insured Joseph’s inclusion to the Hebrews’ “Hall of Faith” on the very first ballot! By the end of his life, Joseph’s trust in God was so faithful that it unhesitatingly focused on the future; a future that would culminate in the redemption of an enslaved people through the power of an almighty and loving God. Genesis 50:24-26 and Hebrews 11:22 are scriptural companions in the telling of this wonderful story and I believe they leave us with a better definition of maturity than Mr. Webster could ever provide:

Maturity:  a faith in God that is no less committed, excited, expectant and strong at the end of life as it is in life.

 –Is your faith maturing or do you still struggle with adolescence?