The Year of our Lord 2017 is now officially over. The New Year has begun. And while nothing feels different—the air is still chilly and life is still the same—it is the beginning of a new chapter in life. But before we look forward, let’s take a moment and look back over the past year.
Over on my Google Plus page* I’ve been sharing a few A.W. Tozer quotes which have encouraged and challenged me as I’ve been reading through Warren Wiersbe’s compilation titled “The Best of A.W. Tozer (Book One)”. One of the quotes I shared last week reads as follows:
“When God’s sheep are in danger, the shepherd must not gaze at the stars and meditate on ‘inspirational’ themes. He is morally obliged to grab his weapon and run to their defense. When the circumstances call for it, love can use the sword, though by her nature she would rather bind up the broken hearted and minister to the wounded. It is time for the prophet and seer to make themselves heard and felt again. For the last three decades timidity disguised as humility has crouched in her corner while the spiritual quality of the evangelical Christianity has become progressively worse year by year. How long, O Lord, how long?”
That word easily tumbles out of the mouth of a toddler as he runs to greet his father with a bear hug or spills out in the delighted squeal of a little girl as her father relentlessly tickles her tummy. Whether it’s uttered in joyful abandon, frustrated anger, deep-hearted sorrow, unwavering trust, or warm affection from the lips of a child or adult, the connotation remains the same.
As we continue to march through the days of June and prepare for summer, I look outside and am astounded by the abundance of greenery and beauty that accompanies spring and early summer. The songbirds have returned from their winter migration and fill the skies with their graceful aerial acrobatics and complex melodies. The deer and other wildlife have little ones by their sides, and the trees are budding forth with new leaves. All these speak loudly to me of one thing: LIFE.
Yesterday, I shared an epiphany that occurred while standing before the traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was a scene that opened my eyes to see each name and wrap my heart around each life that was given. However, there was an aspect of the story that I did not tell you, a part of my contemplations that I did not share.
This iconic image from World War II has come to represent the tenacity and loyalty of America and her comrades-in-arms. But it is also a representation of sacrifice.
Today, as we reflect on the victories that have made America the world power she is today, we must also remember the millions of lives sacrificed in the process. This is what Memorial Day is all about: remembering those fallen in combat.
After a painful good-bye with promises to keep in touch, I climbed into the car and drove away from their lives. For the first two months after we moved, there were video calls every week. After that, however, it turned to phone calls. But those, too, became less and less frequent. Until in a matter of months the only messages were texts from me, as I tried to keep up. At first they were answered, but that became less and less frequent as well. Eventually, I felt like I was nagging my beloved friends. I felt like my messages were just another thing they had to do, and I should maybe send less of those as well. Now, I might hear of their lives from other people, but they don’t really know me anymore.
The other night my family and I were discussing what Scripture meditation actually means, what it looks like, and it’s place in the Christian life. Personally, I believe that Scripture meditation is simply opening God’s Word, reading a passage of verses, and then being still before God. It’s a time when I ponder the meaning and significance of the passage in front of me, the biblical importance and background, and the personal application.
As a young adult, I often get questions like: “What are you doing with your life?” “Are you going to school?” “What are you interested in?” And so on. My response as of late tends to be “I’m interested in ministry and currently keep a devotional blog called So I Fix My Eyes…” However, after a recent conversation with my mom about future life goals and passions, I began pondering what ministry actually means.
A stone rolled away…an empty tomb...abandoned burial rags…a missing body…
These timeless reminders of Resurrection Sunday and the events that took place often lose their luster and become ordinary, expected, and predictable, especially if you’re like me and grew up in a Christian home. We become so familiar with these icons of Christianity that they lose their wonder, awe, and splendor in our eyes. But this should not be! We should never grow weary and calloused to the glory, awe, and miracle of the empty tomb, but must remind ourselves of what really took place and become re-amazed by the wonder of it all.
Two pieces of wood, one planted vertically and the other attached horizontally two-thirds up the first. Once a symbol of Roman cruelty and torture, now an emblem of divine love, the simple image of the cross holds much meaning and significance. Especially today, as we remember and hold sacred the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood poured out for us.
We make many assumptions. Too often we assume that as Christians, we don’t experience the same problems unbelievers face. It’s easy to think that once we are redeemed from our sins we don’t have as great a need of God’s grace as others do. We know that those who don’t trust Jesus for forgiveness have been blinded and hardened against the truth (John 12:40, Ephesians 4:18). However, when Jesus stilled the storm in Mark 6, the disciples were surprised at Jesus’ power because “their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:52). This begs the question, “Can Christians have hard hearts as well as unbelievers?” Hebrews 3:14 indicates we certainly have the potential, so I don’t think we can remove ourselves from this dangerous category. Instead we should know what it means to be hard-hearted, what we can do to prevent it, and how we can be restored if we have sinned by having a hard heart.
Life. Death. Fleeting days. Unending eternity. These are all topics that we’ve covered so far in our three-part mini-series on the brevity of life. However, by this point you may be thinking, If life is so short why can’t we just enjoy it? Or What sort of difference can I possibly make with my little life and why would it matter? Why can’t we spend life loving the Lord and longing for heaven?
“It’s not the years in a life, but the life in those years.” So states this widely known and used maxim. While its original author is unknown, this adage utters much wisdom and perspective on the priorities of life. People from most walks of life, both Christian and non-Christian, have resonated with this concept, hence the quote’s popularity and broad usage. However, while the latter clings to this as the one thing that matters, the last hope, and the end goal, the Christian recognizes a deeper truth and meaning.
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
Sent into exile, thousands of miles from home, captives in a foreign land, and separated from the God of their fathers. The Israelite exiles in Babylon had every reason to feel discouraged, lost, and broken. Even though this was because of their own sin, they probably felt far away and distant from God and rejected by Him.
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