Archive for the ‘QT’s’ Category

Woe and Wonder

Posted: December 4, 2013 in QT's
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I am sitting in my reading chair as I write this. I have been praying and studying in preparation for Sunday’s sermon. I am listening to instrumental Christmas music, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out the back window. The sun is coming up and turning the morning sky a mixture of blue, white, pink, and orange. The temperature is mild and it’s a beautiful morning.

Blue_Jay_Rd_018I also know that a winter storm is on it’s way. The temp has already hit it’s high and will begin to drop. It’ll get bitterly cold and tomorrow the rain and sleet is supposed to hit. It will be cold and miserable. Certainly a good time to stay inside. Unfortunately life goes on, even in the midst of a winter storm. I will undoubtedly have to get out in it as will most everyone else. I’m not looking forward to that.

However, even in the midst of the danger and misery of a winter storm there is beauty. The weather man (if he can be trusted) says we may get 3 to 6 inches of snow on top of the ice. That means the kids could get out of school. If that happens they’ll be getting their sleds out and looking for hills and thrills (and there are plenty of those here in the Ozarks).

Our little corner of the world will be transformed into a winter wonderland. My family will gather together in the evening for dinner and then watch an old Christmas movie, or better yet, read from one of our favorite Christmas stories. Hot chocolate and laughter will flow accordingly.

We’ll also be watching to see how long the storm will last and when it will pass and, be assured,  it will pass. That’s the way life is isn’t it? Storms come and go and even though they are difficult there can also be beauty in them. It’s usually in the storms that we stop and consider the things that are most important in life. Storms have a way of getting our attention and we forget about all those other things that can distract us from the things that matter most. If not for the storms, we would miss much of the beauty.

Whatever storm you may be facing in life, hunker down, hold on, and try to see the beauty that can come from it.

“When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
but the righteous is established forever.”

Proverbs 10:25, ESV

th

Ith grew up in East Texas. It’s not like other parts of Texas, more deep south than west I guess. Instead of flat plains, tumbleweeds, deep canyons, and big skies there are rolling hills and tall pines. I now live in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas where we have four seasons; in Texas there seem to be just two, hot and not as hot. I remember summers when you didn’t want to leave the air conditioning for anything, where just getting out of your car to walk across the parking would require a water jug. I mean, it was hot. My uncle told me how he once picked up a hitchhiker in the middle of that kind of heat and when the young man got in the truck my uncle said, “It’s too hot to be walking.” To which the young man replied, “Oh sir, it ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

While he certainly meant “humidity” instead of “humility” his statement has not only caused me to laugh a little, it’s also given me something to think about. There are situations that we all face in life that will cause us to be humble, whether we want to be or not. There are always those circumstance that remind us that we’re not “all that” after all. We’re just people, trying to make our way through this life. We all have our ups and downs, our victories and defeats, our successes and failures. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we goof up. We all experience humility at times. It’s part of life, and while it may not be enjoyable, it’s not a bad thing either. Humility, being humble, is a good character trait to have, it’s a godly character trait that’s born out of humbling experiences. I recently had the opportunity to think about this trait as I have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew with my congregation.

We are now in Matthew 5 and are spending some time in what’s called “The Beatitudes” which refer to the first 12 verses, the opening statement of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. These verses contain nine statements that begin with “Blessed are…” The word “blessed” actually means “happy”. Jesus is teaching those who would be His followers how to be happy. What we are learning is that true happiness comes from knowing God through faith in Christ and experiencing His presence and work in our lives. Part of that experience is learning humility. In verse 5 Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

humilityThe meek are those who have learned to be humble. He is in essence saying, “Happy are the humble.” To be humble is to have a right attitude about who you are in relation to God and to other people. The humble person is one who has experienced brokenness over sin and forgiveness in Christ and as a result is able and willing to show that same grace to others. It’s a gentleness of character that should be a trait of all those who call themselves followers of Christ.

I’ll admit, I often fail at this and it bother’s me. Maybe realizing that in and of itself is part of the humbling experience. I certainly hope so. Realizing a failure, being broken over sin certainly isn’t pleasant, but it is a necessary part of the process and with God, the end result is always worth it. Like a wise man once said, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

If you could choose to be lucky, talented, smart, or wise which one would you choose? There was a time when I would have probably chosen lucky or talented. I mean, if you happen to be lucky things just seem to work out for you and if you happen to be talented enough, some things tend to come easy. Since I’m not really either one of those I thought maybe I could study hard and become really smart. So I did, study hard I mean. I put a lot of effort into trying to learn how to read well, write well, and reason things out. I studied history, science, psychology, philosophy, and theology. I obtained a lot of knowledge but at the end of the day, what good is a head full of knowledge without knowing how to use it? That’s where wisdom comes in. Wisdom is knowing what to do with what you know. If I could choose to be any one of these things, I would choose to be wise.

ThreeWiseMenblueskyandstarsIn Matthew 2:1-12 we have the story of some wise men who came seeking the “King of the Jews”. These were men from afar who had obviously studied Old Testamment prophecy as well as many other things, who had seen a sign, and who had been led by God to find Jesus. These men were wise, they not only had knowledge, but had the sense to act on what they knew, and so they did. As a result they came face to face with God’s Son and when they did, they worshipped Him.

That’s a great story but unfortunately that’s not all of it. You see, there are two other kinds of people mentioned in the same passage. I call them the wicked and the complacent. The first is represented by a man named Herod who happened to be the ruler over the Jews under the authority of the Roman Empire. He was not a very nice person. History reveals that he had many people killed during his reign, including members of his own family. This man sought knowledge from the leading Old Testament scholars of his day concerning prophecies of God’s Messiah but for very different reasons than the wise men. Herod pretended to want to worship Him but really only wanted to destroy Him. Herod actively fought against what God was doing. He was certainly lucky, and maybe even a talented political leader, but he wasn’t very wise.

The third group, the complacent, are perhaps the saddest of all. This group is represented by the same Old Testament scholars that Herod consulted. These were the religious leaders of the day. These were the men who were the smartest when it came to the word of God, and yet they seemed to care very little about it. Oh, they were religious alright, but they were so religious that they completely missed what God was doing. They were happy, and complacent, with their own religion and knowledge. They were smart, but they weren’t very wise.

I saw a bumper sticker once that said “Wise men still seek Him”. Simple, but true. God has sent His Son into the world in order to save us, to actually seek us out. It would be foolish not to act on that knowledge.

wisdom-large-3Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. (Proverbs 4:5-8, ESV)

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5, ESV)

One of the cool things about getting older (notice I said older) is that you’ve been around long enough to see some things come and go like hairstyles, fashion, TV shows, music, and technology. One of the things my older friends enjoy doing is playing a game I like to call Remember When?. That’s when we sit around and go, “Hey, remember when…?” It always brings a few laughs and sometimes some old pictures even get broken out. Then it’s not always funny anymore.

searchingAnyway, I was reminded of a song the othr day that I haven’t heard in years. It’s a song called Sweet Dreams by a band called The Eurythmics. Remember them? It’s kind of a catchy tune but I have to confess that the lyrics never made much sense to me. There is one line that stands out though and it was this line that came to mind. It goes like this “I’ve traveled the world and the seven seas, and everybody’s looking for something.” I do believe that the writer stumbled on to something there. Everybody is looking for something. People are looking for things like happiness, love, peace, and satisfaction. I think that everything we do is ultimately a result of longing for these things in our lives. We get married, have kids, go to school, pursue a career, buy things, get involved in activities, clubs, church… you name it, all to hopefully find these things. Unfortunately none of these things ever do bring us the ultimate satisfaction that we’re looking for. Oh these things can bring us happiness and love and peace, at least in a sense and for a while, but none of them, by themselves, ultimately fulfill  us. That’s because we were made for something more.

In Matthew 1:1-17 we run across one of those “begat” passages that are boring to read and frankly don’t seem to offer much in the way of answers, at least at first glance. However, as is often the case when it comes to God’s word, there is more than meets the eye. What I see in tis passage is the answer to what everybody is ultimately looking for. That answer is not found in a thing but in a person. Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior.

imagesIn these opening verses we read about the ancestry and geneology of Jesus, which is broken down into three segments of Jewish history. What Matthew is trying to show is that the promised Savior that God’s people have long been waiting for and looking for has arrived. Jesus is the one that we were all made for and it’s in Him that we will find our ultimate fulfillment. It’s in Him that we find true happiness, love, and peace. When we find our fulfillment in Him, then we can find it in those other things like marriage, family, and careers. Knowing Jesus is the key.

Do you know Him or are you spinning your wheels looking everywhere else and still coming up empty? If you find that you’re still looking for something then I encourage you to read through at least one of the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and meet the One you are looking for.

truth-and-grace-300x300Are you a grace person or a truth person? Have you ever even thought about it before? You may be wondering what that even means. Let me explain. This is a question that was asked during a Bible study that we’re going through at my church. You see, people tend to be one or the other, or at least lean more towards one or the other. So what is a truth person or a grace person?

A truth person tends to see the world as black and white. There is right and wrong; dark and light , good and evil. There are rules and there are those who keep them and those who break them. Truth people want to keep the rules and they want others to keep the rules too. That is what’s right after all.

A grace person tends to see the world more in shades of gray. It’s not that they don’t believe there’s a right and a wrong, it’s just that the lines between the two may not always be clear. A grace person doesn’t want to break the rules but if one gets bent every once in a while it’s okay. We are all human after all and nobody’s perfect, right?

So which are you, a grace person or a truth person?

I’m definitely a truth person. I think right and wrong are clearly spelled out for us in Scripture. Even if you don’t hold to the same belief in Scripture that
I do it’s clearly spelled out in our own conscience. We know when we’ve done wrong. Therefore, we should do right, right?

Do the two have to be opposed to each other though? Couldn’t there be a balance between the two? The answer is, yes. Read the following verses from the Gospel of John:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John1:14,17 ESV)

Did you see that, both grace and truth existing together in the person of Jesus Christ? He is both. He’s not part grace and part truth. He is full of grace and truth.

woman-caught-in-adulteryJesus never once compromised truth. He never once broke any of God’s commandments, or told anyone else to ,or told anyone it was okay if and when they did. At the same time He was always ready to forgive, always ready to show love and patience to those who needed it most. He told the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” There it is, the fullness of grace and truth in Jesus Christ. Go through Scripture and look at the life and words of Jesus and you will see it over and over again. We even see both in the cross. There Jesus is, meeting all the requirements of truth, paying the penalty for sin and yet He never broke one commandment. Grace and truth.

I’m a truth person. And yet I am continually overcome by grace. There’s nothing wrong with the truth, it’s a good thing, but without grace truth will always bring defeat. Grace brings victory and salvation. It’s not one or the other, it’s the fullness of both in Jesus.

My desire and prayer is that both would be seen in my life and heard in my words; that I could/would be more like Jesus.