Violence struck our nation recently in El Paso and Dayton. Armed madmen took innocent lives. Immediately the debate began about gun control and laws to govern their use. It has been an ongoing debate for years. How can our nation be the home of such senseless killings? It is a puzzle that has yet to be solved.
The question has polarized our country into increasingly angry voices. Two sides yelling at each other seldom result in a reasonable conclusion. As tempers flare and the temperature rises, a door is opened for the peacemaking calm of Christians. We may not have the answer on a national scale, but we can affect the lives we touch if…and it is a big IF…we have ourselves under control.
We must not let circumstances take control of us. It is easy to do. Stress mounts, and words come out that never should have been said. Their impact is immediate and never forgotten. They cannot be un-said. They make an indelible impression on all who hear them. Nearly everyone has memories of verbal assaults that left deep scars.
What has control of us? That is a decision that must not fluctuate from situation to situation. If it does, then our surroundings are in charge and we are puppets of our environment. If everything around us is to our liking we’ll behave appropriately. If it doesn’t suit us, we won’t. That is an unhealthy, erratic way to live. There has to be a way to rise above that.
“For the Love of Christ controls us…(2 Corinthians 5:14-15).” There has never been another totally selfless love of His type. It was not dependent on the response of the people to whom He offered it. He died for everyone. He indiscriminately brought His love into a world that neither desired nor appreciated it. It was met with rejection and hostility, and He brought it anyway.
He did so in order to deliver humanity from the dictatorial enslavement of selfishness. Self is a relentless master that is never gratified. The “successful” may have all that this world offers, but when the lights go out they feel an indescribable emptiness. It is an itch that they cannot scratch. Those who pursue contentment in such a way will always have an inner hunger and thirst that they cannot satisfy.
A focus on Christ and His love will lead us to yield our lives to His control. Violent outbursts will never be in our picture. Peacemaking will be. We will walk by His Spirit, and the fruit of that lifestyle is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Our steps will be different in a world that desperately needs them to be. Answers about gun control may be beyond our area of expertise, but self-control is not. Give ourselves to the Lord. Follow His path. It will make us and our nation better, one life at a time.
The family of the faithful operates on an entirely different set of principles than those who walk by sight. Convinced of unseen realities, we step through the visible world with assurances that unbelievers will never know. The word of the Lord has revealed facts upon which we base our actions, and we trust the invisible God to know better. History bears witness to the certainty of that conviction.
Some of the Hebrew Christians were on the brink of giving up. Tough times will thin the ranks of those without firm roots. Their experiences had been rough. They knew what it was to have possessions confiscated simply because they had acted on a new set of spiritual facts. They had not only accepted the plundering; they had maintained a positive attitude through it. How? They knew that they had something better (Hebrews 10:34).
Their circumstances had put their beliefs to the test. Some had been ridiculed and exposed to public humiliation. Others had actually been thrown in prison. It is hard to watch, much less experience. Property was seized. The pressure had mounted, and some wavered. Their own history revealed the value of acting on the right set of facts. There is something much better and long-lasting at the end of the journey. Stay faithful. Don’t quit. What had gotten them through the persecution? What they knew.
What do we know? We have a book full of facts. Have we learned them? Do we know about the eternal home that awaits the faithful? The situation in this life can be very discouraging if we do not have the right information in our heads, and the Lord has provided precisely everything we need to know (2 Peter 1:3). We have it in our hands, but it is useless until we put it in our minds.
Internalizing the word of God gives us a different perspective. Trials and tribulations can sour our attitude unless we see them through the Lord’s eyes. We feel the struggle. He tells us that there is a process underway that will ultimately be for our benefit (James 1:2-4). It develops us in ways that nothing else will. It is important to know that or we’ll become disillusioned. That is why He told us.
Everything serves a positive purpose when analyzed with the proper information. God uses the pleasant and the unpleasant to shape and mold our character into Christlikeness (Romans 8:28). Our part is to love Him through all of life’s experiences and trust Him to work it out for His purposes. We know that He will. His word assures us.
Life can be mysterious. Some things do not make sense from a human perspective. That’s why we need to see things differently, and the Bible gives us that different viewpoint. It is a look from above, but it will never help us until we know what it says.
“A One of a Kind King”
In a world that is changing at breathtaking speed, we seek a constant. Something that is consistent provides us with a sense of security and stability. So, we are plagued by insecurity and instability. We find ourselves unsteady on our feet and uncertain about our futures. We pop a few more sedatives and antacids while we watch newscasts filled with the doom and gloom of the day. It circles the globe and lands squarely in our laps. If only there were a counter balance, something that was not always changing. If only…
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).” He is rock solid in a very wobbly world. No need to worry about Him pulling the rug out from under us with a sudden change in who He is. From His first cry as an infant, He has been all about loving people. Of course, it was that passionate love for humanity that brought Him into the human arena to begin with. God took on skin and bone to show us: He is consistently love, always and forever.
Human relationships come and go, ebb and flow. Our closest friends a decade ago may be nearly forgotten today. Those near and dear to us drift away. All are destined to eventually give way to death. The Lord never will. Jesus rose never to die again. He has passed through that gate and showed us that it is not the end. Death is not a period but a comma. We can be certain of it. He lives forever.
His love for the human family will never cease. It is a drum beat that permeates the psalms. Psalm 136 strikes the same beat in every one of its 26 verses. We long for such an assurance, and there it is. It is the motivation behind the incarnation. A Father willingly sacrificing His Son for the repair of a sin-torn world. The Son cooperating with such a plan. Only love would take such a drastic step. His knows no bounds and has no expiration date. God is love (1 John 4:8); pure, simple and never ending.
We yearn for the good ole days when we could trust a person’s word. That seems to belong to a bygone era that is lost in the dust of history, but the word of the Lord belongs in that trustworthy category. It is forever settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89), and does not change with the times. Right is still right, and sin is still sin. Satan always lies. People do sometimes. The Lord never does, and His word will stand into eternity (1 Peter 1:21-25).
Jesus revealed the Father to us (John 1:18). It is a revelation that eliminated the guesswork. God is on our side. He consistently loves us, and that will never change. He and His truth are consistent and reliable forever.
The road to greatness is paved in unexpected ways. In a culture that promotes self-interest at all cost, it seems to take us in the wrong direction. We are taught from an early age to shove aside anyone who hinders our success. Step on a few, destroy others. It is another dimension of Darwinism, the survival of the fittest. The ultimate goal is the top rung of the ladder, or so we are told. We do not realize that it is a delusion until we get there with a string of casualties behind us. “They” tell us something else, too: It’s lonely at the top.
Mrs. Zebedee wanted the best for her boys. Normal moms always do, and she requested the choicest seats in the kingdom for her sons (Matthew 20:20ff). The two were certain that they could measure up to the Lord’s example, and this whole scenario ruffled a few apostolic feathers. Ambition and intervention for these momma’s boys had rubbed the other ten the wrong way. Besides, that was not for Jesus to say. That decision was in other hands, but He knew the way to real success. It wasn’t what they thought.
Jesus offered up the ways of the world as an example but not as we might think. He did not instruct them to learn and imitate authoritarian oppression but to avoid it. Instead, the greatest assumes the role of a servant. Demand respect? Nowhere in the conversation. Humility runs throughout. The Lord did not discourage their aspirations, but He did redefine the means accomplishment. He didn’t just teach them; He showed them.
The life of Jesus was one of service from His birth in a stable to His death on a cross. He gave up the glory of heaven to endure temptation and torment at the hands of the enemy. He did not just preach it. He practiced it. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, raised the dead and washed feet. He did not just plead for forgiveness for the wayward and wicked. He loved, touched and forgave them. This, He said, is greatness. Now, you do it.
His servant mentality was never on greater display than on the cross. He agonized in the garden of Gethsemane as He felt the heavy burden of what lay ahead. He would take all of the sins of all people of all times on His shoulders. He alone was free of guilt, and He was the one punished. Forgiveness and reconciliation poured from His wounds. It was the price of being a servant. It is a costly commitment.
Service and sacrifice. It doesn’t fit neatly into our concept of what it means to be great. We will be out of step with our neighbors. Friends won’t understand. Giving without getting seems a little weird to them. Not to worry. God is looking, and He thinks it’s great.
Gratitude is one of the greatest mood boosters in the world. Whenever we’re feeling down and out thankfulness will lift our spirits like nothing else. The psalmist repeatedly urges it based upon all of the blessings that we receive from God. Christians have even more reasons to be grateful because our blessings are even greater. The Lord has withheld nothing from those who are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3 ff).
Atop the “Thank you, Lord” list is our adoption into His family. Jesus relinquished all of the glory and honor that He shared with the Father to make a place for us. Sin had robbed us of a place at the table. We were estranged from the One who loved us the most, and we were powerless to resolve it. The Son of God did. He stepped into the human family to enable us to be part of the heavenly one. For that, we give thanks.
We shudder to look at the brutality of the cross. The sinless One endured the most inhumane treatment imaginable at the hands of those He came to save. He prayed for their forgiveness. He did not simply suffer; He died for our sins. It took His life to save ours, a brutal death to make eternal life possible. The love of God and His Son prompted it. We benefit. Thank the Lord.
The empty tomb stands as an everlasting testament to what He can do. The great love that He displayed at the cross steers His indescribable power. He can raise the dead, and what He did for His Son is exactly what He does for Christians. Sin defeated us and took our life, a dilemma without a human solution apart from God. He flexes His resurrection muscles with each baptism. No matter the situation, there is always hope with an omnipotent Lord.
Sin tears the world apart. It ruins relationships between people and alienates them from God. The morning paper reminds us daily of the world that has forsaken Him. It quickly degenerates into chaos. Keeping a loving Creator at arm’s length will never work out well. It is a problem that He sent His Son to repair. He reached out to a rebellious world and brought reconciliation. He repaired what we broke.
Before us is an eternity in the presence of God. It is unimaginable. We have already experienced a storehouse of blessings, and the best is yet to come. We could never take it all in. If we could lay them end-to-end, they would go on forever. Human words can never do it justice. It will be simply heavenly. Paradise once lost has been restored, and it is in the future for Christians.
Psalm 100 overflows with thanksgiving. Our hearts should, too. After all, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Thank you, Lord for giving us everything.