April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
The encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8:26-40) is one of the Bible’s profound accounts of true companionship. No discernment (wisdom; understanding) without the guidance of an other (8:31). That is the true Christian significance of companionship. Where two or more are in conversation with the Word of God in their midst, you can anticipate the risen Lord to appear beyond the literal text. And when that happens in relationship with others, true Christian community is formed. In the Acts story it leads to baptism, the mark of Christian identity (8:36-38). In our time, we can expect the Spirit of God to still do the same. Where you and I are sent into relationship with others, we are giving the opportunity to form Christian community in which we will discover how the living God is showing up in our world today.
April 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
Love is… Jesus Christ laying down his life for us (1 John 3:16). Brian Peterson comments, “Jesus himself defines the character of the church’s life… The church proclaims and lives love not as a vague ideal rooted in the human potential for good. Love is identified and known by what Jesus has done, and that act is the ground of all Christian thought and hope.” Therefore, 1 John 3:16 is not complete yet with the first sentence above. It continues, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Above all, our love for others rooted in God’s love for us in Jesus Christ is not some vague feeling or good intention. It is concrete, particular, and practical: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?… Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). Too often we hear ourselves saying, “I love him or her, but…” The “but” in our sentences is usually the excuse to escape love’s concrete obligation rooted in Christ’s self-sacrifice. Who is God calling you to today to love in a very concrete and practical way?
April 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
Psalm 23 is probably one of the most familiar passages from the Bible because of its comforting words. At the core of the comfort it provides is the realization “for you are with me” (23:4). A fascinating aspect of this Psalm is that, in the original Hebrew language, there are exactly 26 words before and after the “for you are with me.” This is symbolic of the Psalm’s bold declaration that God being with us is at the very center of our lives. Everything depends on and is determined by that. Therefore, the Psalm starts off with the belief that, because the Lord is my shepherd (the One who is always with me), “I shall not be in want” (23:1). And yet, this belief is one of the most difficult to live out in everyday life. Because we live in a culture of “I shall want”: I want, I shop, and when I have it, I want yet again. I shall never stop wanting because the consumer world entices me with ever new, shiny, unnecessary objects. I want and I have. In such a world, you and I are challenged to put our main focus on the One who is always with us – the One who guarantees that in His presence we lack nothing.
April 24, 2012 § 2 Comments
Jesus as the gentle shepherd is one of the earliest images found of Jesus. It is probably fair to say that most of us do not have any experience with shepherds and their sheep. But when Jesus uses this imagery in John 10:11-18, he was speaking to people who had everyday experience with this. And their experience with sheep involved more than just animals who are good for nourishment. Sheep were essential for important religious rituals too (for example, in preparation for the Passover meal – Exodus 12:3). The first hearers of John’s message knew what an important and dangerous job it was to be the shepherd of a flock of sheep. For Jesus to be the Good Shepherd means that He cares and protects us, and also searching for us when we get lost. These are comforting images about Someone who is willing to lay down his life for us. It is comforting to know that He is risen and alive today in your life and mine, and that we do not go through this day all by ourselves, but that He is there to guide us and protect us.
April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
There is power in every place. The only question is whose power and what kind of power. In Acts 4:5-12, the religious leaders ask the power question to Peter and John: “By what power or what name did you do this?” (4:7). Maybe they have asked this question because they confused the power of their own positions in the religious establishment with the power of God, and therefore, rejected the possibility of God’s power working in ways that they cannot understand or control. We all have that problem. We become suspicious when the Spirit of God apparently moves in a manner that goes beyond our frameworks of understanding. But the story of Acts is a story of how the Spirit of God cannot be domesticated and that the power of the Spirit takes us beyond human capacities. How open are we for the movement of the Spirit in and around us?
April 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Sometimes people associate children of God with those who have made a choice to believe in God. Not so in 1 John 3:1-7. The declaration children of God is purely something that God initiates. The foundation for this identity or status comes in the first verse: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” Because God declares us to be His children, therefore we are His children (3:2). The choice we do have is whether we choose to live according to this identity that God gave us or whether we choose to live according to identities obtained through sinfulness and lawlessness (3:4-6). The terrifying reality, which makes us dependent on God’s graceful declaration every moment of our lives, is indeed that we constantly find ways to undo the status we have in Christ: “Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (3:10). Pray today that God will equip you to live up to your status as child of God and that He will forgive you when your life is not reflecting your true identity in Him.
April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Here is part of a Walter Brueggemann prayer based on Psalm 4:
O God, We dare pray that you will do for us and among us and through us what is needful for newness. Give us the power to be receptive, to take the newness you give, to move from womb warmth to real life. We make this prayer not only for ourselves, but for our school at the brink of birth, for the church at the edge of life, for our city waiting for newness, for your whole creation, with which we yearn in eager longing. There is a time to be born, and it is now. We sense the pangs and groans of your newness. Come here now in the name of Jesus. Amen.