“In the beginning, God created the heavens
and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
The Bible opens
with a burst. In 10 short words, the Scriptures introduce us to a cornucopia of
truths that are instrumental to understanding ourselves, our world and our God.
words of God’s Word swirl with life, sound and truth.
First, we see the
sovereign instigator of all things is God. He is the first. Before all things
were, He was.
Second, we see
God is active. He does not sit idly. God creates. He purposes, designs, forms
Third, we observe
that God created everything. God created the earth and all it contains. God
created the heavens and all they contain. As John says of Jesus in the opening
words of his Gospel, “All things were
made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made”
The writer of
Genesis wants readers to know God is King. There is none beside Him. God alone.
What follows are 66
books full of color. These pages flow like an intricately orchestrated
symphony. One finds loud, brash crashes as well as the soft whispers of ethereal
strings. Throughout the sonnet, a single melody weaves its way—dancing as
though entirely central, yet found as clearly at the periphery as the middle.
This melody, we learn, is the Word that would be made flesh—God the Son, Jesus
verses after the opening words of Genesis, the Bible reaches a final lyric. The
Bible’s benediction is as concise, yet powerful as its invocation:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen”
What began as an
explosion of sound, birth, joy and light ends on a suspended decrescendo. Yet,
just as the dust settled from the opening rupture, we find foundational truths in
between the beginning and the end of the Bible is not in God—He remains the
same. We know God in His power, uniqueness and glory from Genesis 1, but
consider what the closing verse tells us about this God.
the beginning and the end of the Bible, this God has disclosed Himself in a
personal way. He is Jesus. He is gracious, and that grace does not stand at
arm’s length from us—waiting for our merit. The grace of God is with us.
God with us. That
is the theme whispering itself through every melodic turn and struck chord of
the Bible’s symphonic exploration. From the angels’ climactic burst of song as
Jesus arrives, through the screeching of the cross, and the crescendo of the
resurrection, the Bible tells us not what has changed, but what has transpired.
In the beginning, God. But by the end of the Bible we learn—God with us.
Advent is a
season of hope. It’s a season of waiting. Just as boys and girls go to bed on
Christmas Eve anticipating the fulfillment of their expressed hopes and dreams,
so too Advent anticipates an arrival of a far-eclipsing magnitude.
Advent holds the
truth of Genesis 1:1 that God is and
holds it up in the hope of God with us.
The end of the
Bible tells us plainly that all of our wildest hopes are true in Christ.
The grace of the
Lord Jesus is with us all. Amen.
Lately, I have been acutely aware of the power of words. Matt. 12:36 has been ringing in my head a lot.
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”
That is serious. The way we talk to one another really does have implications on our lives. The words you and I speak to each other truly can set us on one of two different paths.
If we use words that lack grace and are filled with poison, our path will be filled with potholes and extremely tumultuous.
“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of
deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse
people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:8-9).
It doesn’t take much to throw us off course. How many of us have been in a
place where we were praising and worshiping the beauty of who God is and then,
within half a day, we lost our minds on someone because they made us angry? I
I’m not trying to justify that kind of behavior. I’m simply stating that God’s Word was proven right. The only one who can tame the tongue is the Holy Spirit. If God doesn’t control our mouths the results will be that we spew restless evil to everyone around us. You don’t have to be a follower of Jesus to recognize this conduct will end badly for everyone involved.
On the other hand, if we use words that are seasoned with grace, our path can and will be a much more fruitful.
“The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:23-24).
You don’t have to cave on your convictions in order to have gracious speech. When we communicate with the goal of redemption and reconciliation, our talk will sound different. It won’t be short, hurtful and mean. Rather, it will long to see men and women find grace.
Christians have an ability
to use their theological understanding about the things of Jesus Christ in such
a way that it sometimes feels like the Miley Cyrus song “Wrecking Ball.” We
just blast into a conversation sometimes and destroy everything, because we
have the desire to be right.
I honestly think we need to
change our approach. We need to use our words as a skilled surgeon uses a
scalpel with the desire to see healing and people being put back
together. When we have “judicious speech,” it brings sweetness to the soul
and health to the body.
Allow the words we use this holiday season to be filled with grace and humility
and see where God will take us.
Back in the day, maintaining a spirit of gratitude was much
easier than it is today. The absence of
social media made it much easier to focus on what we had instead of what we
didn’t and might never have.
We lived in and among the present and tangible, our
blessings ready for the counting.
Now, it’s harder.
Just when you get your gratitude on and your mood starts to
lift, a social media gust reminds you the Enemy is alive and well and that people
all around you are enjoying what is and might always be out of your reach,
knocking you back on your tail feather.
When you find yourself in this position, the most irritating
thing someone could possibly say—in my opinion—is “Be thankful for what you
have,” which is just a spiritualized way of saying “Look on the bright side.”
We should be
grateful for what we have, of course, as the Lord, in His sovereignty and
infinite wisdom, has allowed our current circumstances for whatever reason, but
the command to do so should really only come from the Lord Himself and precious
few others, those who have walked with you a while and earned the privilege of
correcting you. After all, “be thankful”
is an admonition. We don’t say it unless
we think the person we’re talking to may have forgotten to do so.
This being true, I’m not going to tell you to “be thankful,”
“look on the bright side,” or even to “count your blessings” this
Thanksgiving. I assume you, like me, want
nothing more and are working to maintain the right focus daily, hourly,
Let me encourage you instead by admitting I’m right there
with you. Life is really, really, really
hard, much of what you want you’ll never have or have again, and very little
that happens in this life is “fair” as we imagine “fair.” What’s more: until Jesus comes back, there
will not be peace on earth because we all want our own way and can’t all have
it at the same time.
There’s no way around all this, and it stinks, but I’ve
found a couple of verses that help me when any effort I might put forth to rise
above it all seems a waste. Maybe they
will help you, too.
“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened”
There’s a way up and out of discouragement and darkness,
friends, and it doesn’t require you to pretend things are better or life is
easier than it is. All you have to do is see God for Who
He is, acknowledge what He’s done, and thank Him for it so others will do the
Doing so may not change your circumstances, but it will
enlighten you and carry you over them, each unexpected gust turning tail wind
as it adds meaning and power to the sacrifice of praise you offer.
You see, gratitude isn’t so much about mustering excitement
over what you have as it is embracing purpose in Whom you know.
Sometimes life feels like a bad dream, the plot absurd, each
step an agony.
Like whispers of the wakeful, bright thoughts and spurts of
energy flow near and through you once in a while, but dissipate quickly. When they pass, you struggle to take hold,
desperate to pull yourself from the slog.
Then you remember.
heartless, reality weighs you down again like a lead apron, suffocating
any present hope of happiness. Head full
of cotton, heartbeat an ache, you feel the sting of pain and look down to find
your fingers, grasping nothing, have squeezed in on themselves, biting flesh.
I’ve been there.
In seasons like these, it’s hard to believe circumstances
will ever change, that you will ever again experience the peace and joy you
once knew, that you could ever again be the person you once were.
Don’t cringe. I’m not
going to tell you He will fix everything and take the pain away. He may not.
I just want you to know that He’s there (Prov. 18:24, Rev.
3:20, Matt. 28:20).
And He gets you (Heb. 4:15).
Yes, God sent Jesus to earth to live a sinless life and die
a slow, torturous death in your place so you could experience eternal life
through Him (2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 6:23), but that’s not all the Father required.
Get this: God
required Jesus to be human for a while—fully God at the same time, yes (John
1:1)—but human! Can you imagine? Glory for grunge…33 years of it!
Now, Jesus may not have had the exact thoughts and/or
experienced the same doubts you and I have—He did have the benefit of deity,
after all—but He did experience all the gross stuff that comes with being one
of us—fatigue, hunger, loss, anger, sadness, disappointment, rejection, persecution,
isolation, and pain, etc.—in a very real, sometimes intense, way.
So He could be there for you, not just rescue you and be
gone, but walk with you in, through, and beyond the muck of being human (Heb.
The Enemy wants you to believe you are completely alone,
that no one understands you, that God has abandoned you, that you are not
loved, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
Before you ever even knew you needed a friend and Savior,
God saw you, loved you, and was preparing a friend and Savior for you. Just as He sustained Jesus against a skilled,
hateful, relentless Enemy in the wilderness when He was sapped of all strength
and ability to reason on His own (Luke 4), God will sustain you, arming you against
the temptation to despair and choose your own path by the power of His Holy
Now, I’m not going to lie.
Your circumstances may not change, you probably won’t ever
experience the kind of peace and joy you once knew, and you definitely won’t
ever be the person you were again.
But if you admit your need for a Savior—even in your present
circumstances—and accept His rescue through faith, God will give you victory
through the struggle and make your obedience count for the Kingdom (Eph. 1:11). Your peace and joy will deepen as your
intimate knowledge of God’s power and faithfulness increases, and God will
continue to transform you into something better than you were, the very image
of His son, your friend and Savior Jesus, until He calls you home, where you
will be made perfect (2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 1:6).
The wait feels like forever when you’re hurting, I know, but
this life is just a breath (Jas. 4:14).
Hang in there. Keep
trusting. Keep obeying, even when the
Enemy whispers, your mind plays tricks, and your emotions refuse to fall in
line with what you’ve chosen to believe by faith.
Soon—when God says it is time because life is His alone to
give and take as Creator—you will stand, fully awake (1 Cor. 13:12), in the
very real and lasting brilliance of His glory, bad dream over, this present
pain a distant memory (Rev. 21: 4, 23).
Thanksgiving is upon us! For most young adults looking
toward the holiday, we all know what is coming—the dreaded kids’ table at
grandma’s house. If I lean way back from the knee-high kids’ table, squint my
eyes and tilt my head, I can sometimes catch a glimpse of the illustrious adult
Ah, yes, the adult table. With its fine linen table cloth
cascading down the edges of the waist high, hardwood table. The food is out
family-style, sans fear of grubby little hands grasping at the delicacies. As I
rest my chin on my tucked-in knees, I can just imagine all the leg room and
elbow space permitted at the extravagant adult table.
The food is the same and absolutely delicious, though it
seems to taste different on my little, palm-size plastic plate. It’s no heavy-duty,
10”, Chinet platter plate—like the ones the adults have.
If I carefully tune out my little cousins’ bickering on the
topic of Disney’s Frozen characters,
I can barely hear the deep conversations and adult-appropriate banter at the
grown-ups’ table. I’m reminded I am only a spectator of their conversation when
one of my little cousins pulls me from my trance by accidently spilling her milk
on me. Good thing it was a sippy cup spill and not a grown-up cup spill—I may be
exaggerating a hair.
I really don’t mind the kids’ table at Thanksgiving. It used
to have its charm and glory. After all, long ago I was stuck in a high chair
but grew and found myself at the kids’ table. My knees didn’t always jam into
the side of the plastic table, and my comrades around me weren’t always two
feet shorter than me.
There was a time when it was right for me to be there at the
kids’ table. But there was also a time long past that I should have been too
old for it. I’m finding that my walk with the Lord is not unlike this very
Hebrews 5 finds its author rebuking some longtime Christian
adults tucking their knees to fit at the baby Christians’ table. In verses 11-12,
the writer tells them, “You have become
too lazy to understand. Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you
need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You
need milk, not solid food.”
The author is not wagging his finger at a bunch of baby
believers that must work harder or become something for which they are not yet
ready. Rather, he is chastising a group of believers who, by now, should be
much further in their walk with the Lord than they are currently. The writer
continues on in verses 13-14, “Now
everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about
righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for
those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.”
Essentially, he is telling the Hebrew believers, “It’s time
to grow up.” He all but drug them from the kiddie table, to plop them down at
the adult table.
Why did the author feel that it was necessary to do so?
After all, wouldn’t the immature prefer to be striving toward maturity? What is
it that keeps the spiritually young from growing? Why would “baby believers”
choose the milk of their new belief over the meat of a mature faith?
For the Christians in the text, and many professing
believers in the world today, the author spells out the reason. He tells them,
“You have become too lazy to understand.”
Laziness. Scripture tells us many things about laziness and its destructive
effects on our spiritual walks (Prov.10:4-5, Prov. 12:24, Prov. 13:4, Prov.
14:23, Eph. 5:15-17, 2 Thess. 3:6-10).
Laziness is perhaps one of the saddest avenues on which I
could miss out on the work of the Lord. It’s sad, simply because it wasn’t that
I wasn’t working hard enough or was too busy. I missed out on working alongside
the Lord only because I was too lazy.
Spiritual laziness looks different for everyone, but
consider these statements:
- I was too lazy to pull Scripture apart for
myself, so I just grabbed the same old devotional off the shelf.
- I was too lazy to glean something from the
sermon last Sunday, so I scrolled through Instagram during service.
- I was too lazy to engage in deep conversation,
so I left the theological discussions to others.
- I was too lazy to find a mature mentor or
advisor, so I just leaned on my own understanding.
How miserable to stand before the throne of God with nothing
but a sippy cup of spiritual milk and a handful of self-righteousness, both
spoiled from an inappropriate amount of time wasted.
At Thanksgiving, I guarantee if I were willing to muster up
the confidence, I could grab that heavy-duty, 10”, Chinet platter plate and
take a seat at the adult table. Likewise, I mustn’t let a simple step in
obedience, in initiative, to keep me from a deeper walk with the Lord. I don’t
want to live off of spiritual milk forever. I want a big, juicy slice of God’s
Word to sink my teeth into and offer me fuel for further growth.
Later in Hebrews, the author continues to address his dearly
loved brothers and sisters. He voices his longing for them as he writes, “Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the
same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end, so that you
won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises
through faith and perseverance” (Heb. 6:11-12).
Diligence. Faith. Perseverance.
What powerful tools against the Enemy’s scheme to keep us
lazy and useless before the spiritual harvest of plenty. Get up from that kids’
table, my brothers and sisters! Strive for wisdom (Psalm 51:6). Increase in
maturity (2 Pet. 1:5-8). Grow in knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18). Be diligent (Gal. 6:9).
Have faith (Luke 17:5). Press on in perseverance (Col. 1:11-12).
What’s your calling? This a very “Christian way” to ask how
you participate in the work that God is already doing in this world.
I ask this question regularly, and most of the time the only
response is, “I don’t know.” It seems strange that we still struggle with this
because we’ve taken spiritual gift tests, been to seminars or had a pastor help
us get “plugged in” at our local church.
In spite of all of these things, many people still just
don’t know where they fit in.
Perhaps I was lucky when it comes to this. I’ve always been
a talker and a writer, so talking and writing about God was an easy match. It
also helped that I had no other skill to fall back on, if this course of action
did not bear fruit.
It’s possible that the ease with which I found a way to be a
part of God’s work has some implications to those who are struggling. God wants
you to do what you enjoy doing. Although that advice is simple, I do think I
might be able to be even more helpful.
As I thought longer about this, I realized that, although I
do love to teach and write, those are simply the gateways to do something I
find even more fulfilling. The way I serve God the most is by helping people
see God more fully.
My vocation isn’t my calling. However, it does allow me the
opportunity to get one-on-one time with someone and to help them move forward
in their life. It would be easy for me
to sit in my office studying and writing all day without talking to anyone. The
real joy doesn’t come from the sermon I preach or some article I write. The
real joy comes from talking with someone, anyone about why I love God so much.
Using your gift to find your place in the church isn’t your ultimate calling.
Loving those around you with the love of God is.
Perhaps we have made it so complicated because everyone
thinks they need to find that one thing, that one area of ministry, so that
they can serve God with their full potential. Yes, it is great if you find your
niche, but it’s even greater if you just love those around you.
Oftentimes we tell someone that if they are good at
budgeting then help the church budget their money or teach a class on godly
finances. There is some truth to such advice, but what about those who don’t
like their jobs and are not really sure what they are good at?
I do think this is one of the areas where we have painted with too small a
brush. Your calling is the same as mine. My main calling is not to be a
preacher—I know this because eventually I will retire—but I know I still have a
calling on my life.
My vocation does not define me. My calling is to love God
and to love my neighbor. If you want to figure out how to serve better, start
by loving people better. Be more patient, kinder, more generous. As you do
these things, talk to friends and coworkers about your love for God. Then your
words and actions will combine to be a beautiful light in the darkness.
This is the calling we all have on our lives, and if you are
able to be more specific then great! If not, that does not make you less
important to the Kingdom.