Live in Peace

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Have you ever felt worried, distressed, or anxious?

Yes, I know that might seem like a ridiculous question. In one way or another, we have all experienced worry, distress, or anxiety. These real experiences of our lives are the sort of things we encounter throughout the Scripture. In fact, the writer of Psalm 4 expresses thoughts we all likely relate to:

Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

Where do you turn to find peace in these times? Often, we turn to friends or family for support, or look to distractions like television or reading a book. In themselves, none of these things are bad. However, within Psalm 4, we are directed in another way. The psalmist instructs us in the way we should turn in our distress.

God’s Strong Presence
First of all, the psalmist shows us to whom we should turn. “Of course,” you might say, “you are going to say that I should turn to God.” Yes, that is true, but it is not enough of the truth in this case. The psalmist says Read More »

The Learning Journey of Discipleship

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When I was in second grade I began taking piano lessons. My teacher helped me understand that effectiveness in playing the piano takes practice, learning through one-on-one lessons, more practice, playing in front of others at recitals, learning more through lessons, more practice, growing through listening to great performers, learning more through lessons, and more practice. You probably get the idea: learning an instrument takes effort. Learning an instrument well takes a lot of effort. Becoming a master at one’s instrument takes strenuous effort.

All through that, a great teacher, who knows more than you do, will help you see develop and improve, even as you practice and practice until certain skills become infused with muscle memory.

Discipleship is similar to this. We learn from the greatest of all teachers, Jesus the Messiah, and then put His lessons into practice daily in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit until we naturally respond to our circumstances like Jesus would. It is learning journey that takes a lot of practice.

At the end of His mission on earth, after the cross and resurrection and just before His ascension to the Father, Jesus said to His disciples:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

In the midst of this Great Commission, Jesus invites His disciples to become disciple-makers, just as He has done with them. Discipleship is truly a learning and growing process. It is an intentional journey of growth, like a student learning from a teacher or an apprentice learning from a master.

A disciple is someone who follows Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus. It takes effort on our part, but it is all the grace of God from start to finish.

The first time I played at a recital in front of my fellow students as an eight-year-old, I fumbled through my music and cried afterwards. By the time I stopped taking piano lessons at the age of sixteen, I was playing with adult jazz musicians and, much to my surprise, holding my own. Unfortunately, my skills have faded a lot since then because I have not kept learning, growing, and practicing.

When we begin the journey of discipleship, we may fumble our way through things with God. Sometimes, we may even want to cry out our inabilities or failures. Yet, as we stick with Christ daily, and allow Him bring His life into our life, over time we may be surprised at how we have grown.

Paul writes to the Philippian believers: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). Let’s take those words to heart and carry forward on the learning journey of discipleship.

The Life I Live in the Body (Galatians 2:20, part 3)

Today, I conclude my reflections on Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 with attention to the final phrase: “the life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

If we have been crucified – killed – with Christ, and if we have been overtaken by the resurrection life of Christ, then our daily, bodily lives must be different. Christianity is not an abstract philosophy, but an embodied approach to living. We cannot rust to heaven and live like hell. If our body-living is not reflecting the present, dynamic life of Christ, then there is a problem.

Paul declares our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit while calling the Corinthians to repentance from sexual sin. Paul’s exclamation at the end of this challenge is: “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20). What does honoring mean other than letting God’s plans be preeminent and God’s presence be pervasive in our daily living? Our physical life – eating and drinking, work and rest, affection and sexuality – must all honor God.

“Faith in Christ” is the theme of Galatians, permeating the entire letter. The word ‘faith’ or derivations of it appear over 20 times in this brief letter. Paul lives by the words of the prophet Habakkuk: “the righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).

Yet this faith is not a generalized faith in ‘something more’. Rather, it is a faith rooted in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He faithfully lived without sin, displayed the truth and grace of God, died through crucifixion, was buried, and rose victorious over sin and death. It is this Faithful One in whom we place our faith.

Yes, we know that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16), but here again Paul gets personal. Jesus “loved me and gave Himself for me” [italics min]. Through the cosmic truths of God that echo from eternity in Christ, we experience the personal love and sacrifice of Jesus. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:26).

Lord, thank you for buying me at a price.
May my living in my body reflect my relationship with You.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your faithfulness to the Father that gives birth to my faith.
Help me to live each day full of faith in You, my living Savior.

||40days|| week six: live in trust

If I told you to sit in a chair at my dinner table, I’m confident you would be more than happy to take a seat. But if I told you to sit in a chair that was rickety with only two good legs, you might reconsider. One chair is trustworthy but another is not quite so worthy of trust. Trust is only as strong as the object in which it is placed.

At this point in our world, many uncertainties flood around us: the economy, the political landscape, questions about employment, questions about relationships, and thoughts about our future. In all of the uncertainty what might we trust in?

The past few weeks, I’ve been pondering some familiar verses from the book of Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart,
Lean not on your own understanding,
In all your ways submit to him
And he will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6)

In the Hebrew language and culture, the word trust derives its meaning from the concept of “lying helplessly face Read More »

||40days|| week six: live joyful

In the midst of our pursuit of God, we can sometimes focus so much on the seriousness of discipleship that we miss out on the joy of our life with God. Of course, there are good reasons for that.

First of all, Jesus called us to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Him. That is a serious call. Second, in this world we at times encounter suffering or difficulty, neither of which are light or easy. Thirdly, our discipleship is serious because, as Paul points out in his letter to the Ephesians, we are in the midst of a spiritual conflict.

Yet for all the seriousness of the pursuit of God, it is also true that God is the creator of joy. The ||40days|| journey reminds us that for all of the seriousness of following Jesus, it was Jesus Himself who said that following Him brings complete joy:Read More »

||40days|| week six: live thankful

Every year in the US, we mark out a day to celebrate what we have been given. Thanksgiving Day, in my opinion, is actually one of the most culturally amazing moments where we take time out from work and normal routines to simply celebrate and enjoy God’s goodness. Of course, like all things, Thanksgiving can be trivialized by commercialism, but it is still a fascinating moment in our country’s history and experience.

The wonder of the life with God is that each day spent following Jesus propels us into thanksgiving. The abundance we have received from God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is beyond words. Today, as we continue our ||40days|| journey, we want to come alive with thankfulness.

Throughout the Scripture, we encounter many sacrifices offered in worship of God. In Psalm 50, however, we encounter a different kind of sacrifice:Read More »

||40days|| week five: follow the charge

There are few things which set the blood pumping as much as watching a team make a heroic charge to victory. Whether it’s an underdog basketball team surging to an upset or a football team pushing down the field in the last two minutes of a game, such an effort is quite a thing to behold.

When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He is inviting us into an effort like that. Jesus’ mission was “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He did not do that by standing at a distance but by drawing right into the enemy territory and bringing salvation through His life, death, and resurrection. He accomplished His mission, but He invited His followers to join Him in that charge.

Even before the Cross, Jesus called out and trained twelve closest followers. He sent them out as part of His charge into the world: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16). From there, He gathered a larger group: “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go” (Luke 10:1). The final words of Matthew’s gospel, Read More »