We’ve been created for relationships.

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3When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—

the moon and the stars you set in place—

4what are mere mortals that you should think about them,

human beings that you should care for them?

5Yet you made them only a little lower than God

and crowned them with glory and honor.

6You gave them charge of everything you made,

putting all things under their authority—

7the flocks and the herds

and all the wild animals,

8the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,

and everything that swims the ocean currents.

Psalm 8:3-8

The Christian worldview maintains that God created people for four kinds of relationships: with God, with self, with people, and with the stuff of earth. In this Psalm of David we see this conviction present. David sets himself in Creation—the stuff of earth— and reflects on himself in relationship to God, with people, and in the Creation. All four relationships are in play in this Psalm.

The tension in the Psalm is unavoidable. David is in awe of God. Yet David feels small. God has show Himself large in the immensity of the night sky, the strength of the wild, the seemingly unrestrained space of the sky and sea. And yet, humans matter to God. And yet, God has given mere mortals glory and honour to have authority in the creation.

I’m blessed to come everyday to a community dedicated to the study of the creation and all that humanity has done with it. I am often delighted by the students and professors whose knowledge of slices of The Creation is only bounded by time and the questions they are asking. They are awesome.

Knowing God, the Creator, drives our faith forward to seek and know Him.  The writer of Hebrews says, “It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”Hebrews 11:6

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Do you know the temptation that accompanies trouble? Authentic Fellowship, Part 3

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1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.   1 Thessalonians 3:1-8

Paul was concerned, The Thessalonian church had experienced trouble from the very beginning. He was afflicted with thoughts that they may have drifted away from the faith and each other. He was concerned:

1. that their troubles would knock them off their faith and off Christian fellowship.

2. that their troubles would open them up to the Tempter’s work of emptying out their faith in Jesus.
What a relief when Timothy came back and shared the good news! The church still exists. People still remember Paul affectionately. The believers are still trusting Jesus even in their troubles.

Troubles and Temptations
Paul knows how isolating troubles can be. Its tempting to keep it all to yourself, to feel forgotten and of no value to God and others. However, authentic fellowship is the place where we can let others know of our troubles and experience the comfort and courage of the Holy Spirit together. During change and pain a circle of brothers and sisters in Christ can make the difference for our faith. But there is a vulnerability during these times. Will it knock us off our faith?

Other Apostles and Christian leaders know of this vulnerability too. James wrote of mature communal faith this way: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will rise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James  5:13-16

Praise and Prayer
Praise and prayer are experienced in authentic fellowship. Participation in each other’s good times and difficult times is part of authentic fellowship. The amazing part of authentic fellowship is that the focus both in trouble and in good times does not get fixated on the individual and his or her pain, but instead turns toward God and our graceful communion with Him—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Three moments in history and one dramatic confession.

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11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

14Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.  John 20:11-18

“I have seen the Lord.”

Mary began with a statement of fact.

“I have seen the Lord.” He said, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

And so the good news of the Kingdom was now more real, but not yet fully realized.  I’m sure they had lots of questions!

Mary’s confession is a proclamation that screams “Jesus is alive!” I imagine that their confusion would have been about both how and why? Now a search for meaning would ensue that had three historical moments to understand: The birth of Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus and The Resurrection of Jesus.

The Resurrection of Jesus requires us to examine the Scriptures and understand what His life, His death, and His Resurrection means. After the disciples met the Risen Lord they had to wrestle with the question, “What has God done through the Lord Jesus Christ?” What is this Gospel?

One of the first written accounts of the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 highlights the Gospel narrative and its rootedness in historical events. Paul writes:

1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord reaches back to a historical moment in which we believe God has acted decisively for His glory and our benefit  through the life, the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the reason we have examined the first two historical moments is because of the last, Jesus’ resurrection. It changed everything!

“I have seen the Lord.”

Three Virtues Nurtured in the Fellowship of the King

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3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.  Colossians 1:3-7

Often when the Apostle Paul uses the terms faith, hope, and love, he is using small words to gather up large amounts of information and cast a vision for the character of God’s people. Saved by grace we now are participatory creatures in God’s Kingdom and our growth. God wants us to become people of faith, hope, and love on the foundation of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
Here are some questions to consider.

Faith: Who are you trusting?
Who do you know?
Who are you into?

Hope: What vision pulls you forward?
What promises create expectation?
What are you looking forward to?

Love: How are you adjusting your life to serve, honour,
and celebrate God and people?

Growth in faith, hope, and love is not automatic, nor is it quick and easy. Faith, hope, and love are not categories that can be divorced from Christ Jesus to serve as self-righteous forms of salvation and personal improvement. Christian faith has its object and the “object” is Jesus Christ our Lord. The Church is the fellowship of the King and we are nurturing and noticing Gospel-shaped growth as people of faith, hope, and love.

 

 

Going Through the Motions

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3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;

dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

4 Delight yourself in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him, and he will act.

6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,

and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,

over the man who carries out evil devices!

Psalm 37:3-7

Tai-Chi is martial arts in slow motion. I’m always intrigued when I watch lines of people at Queen Elizabeth park going through the motions. Apparently if sped up these very motions can guard your life against an enemy. These people are training their mind and  body. They are rehearsing the motions and postures of defence and some even suggest of good health.

In matters of the soul what we rehearse can save our life and shape our character. In Psalm 37 David is concerned with fortifying the soul against the faith-killing infections of envy and anxiety. When confronted with a world that is not fair and appears to be inhabited by people who prevail through wickedness, David directs his soul into the motions of faith in God.

Trust in Lord.

Delight yourself in the Lord.

Be still before the Lord.

Wait patently for the Lord.

These motions of prayer become the motions of life that shape our character with Jesus Christ. Instead of the brittle product of self entitlement and violence you can have the flexible and responsive product David latter identifies in Psalm 37 as meekness.

Let’s go through the motions of faith daily.