I have been going through an identity problem lately. I didn’t notice it for a while. I knew I was discouraged but I could not put my finger on the root source. The Lord’s kindness has been at work to mercifully reveal and heal over the last week. Yet, even now I fight it off and strive for a life of overflowing grace. God used his word to expose this.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, to give him instructions and encouragement as he served at Ephesus. We read in 1 Timothy 1 beginning in verse 12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
A charge without encouragement is never enough. Paul needed to remind Timothy that his identity was not the pastor at Ephesus but rather a saved sinner by the mercy of Christ. This is hard sometimes to see because you don’t really know what your identity is until it is gone. So how can we know day to day what we are finding our joy in?
Here are some observations from Paul’s identity described in verses 12-14.
- Thankfulness: Paul gave thanks to Christ for the strength given to him. This is an acknowledgement of the source and the need. Paul also was thankful for being appointed as servant of Christ. How long has it been since you were thankful for being a servant of Christ? A heart of thanksgiving comes from a heart that knows that all things are from God…life breath and everything. In other words, a heart of that overflows with the grace of God gives thanks. So, the first evaluation can be “Am I thankful?”
- Acknowledging the past: Paul’s freedom to speak of his former life (and without making light of sin) was astounding. He easily took on the chief of sinners title. If you would have stopped Paul on the road to Damascus two minutes before he meet Jesus and asked him if he was the chief of sinner he would probably have said, NO. I am the most righteous man you have ever met! Yet, a man who finds his identity in Christ and overflows with grace calls himself the foremost sinner in the world. So, the second evaluation can be “Do I remember who I was?”
- Praise/doxology: Upon saying these things, Paul then broke out in worship–1 Timothy 1:15-17 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. You might discover your identity problem if you haven’t genuinely and often worshiped Christ the King…even brought to tears over how merciful he has been to you.
Even now God’s mercy and grace attends to your soul. May your life overflow with grace and put on display Christ’s perfect patience. The one whose identity is in something other than Christ will not display these things stated above. You will be like me: joyless because what I was identifying in was not going very well. Praise be to God that he doesn’t leave us to ourselves. His mercy is abounding!
There will be some who do not regard the days of Holy Week as anything special. They attempt to say that they regard every day alike. Their argument is that we don’t know the specific date of these events; that we are not commanded to observe these days; and that the events of this week should be remembered every day.
All of that is true. I must confess that I do esteem these days as significant. It helps me worship Christ. I am weak. So weak that I need these reminders. I confess that I do not think of the resurrection as often as I should. In fact, I do not think of all that God is as I ought.
I am thankful that Christ died and lived again for us both. These days that I esteem are “to the Lord.” I will boast in my weakness. For when I am weak, He is strong! Christ is my only hope. Praise be to God that Christ laid in that cold, dark tomb this day some 2000 years ago for those who would put their hope in him. All I have is Christ!
Romans 14:5-9 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
This is an excerpt from my introduction to the Elihu speeches. I have been wrestling with this text for weeks. Here are some things I think I have learned.
I have been thinking and praying each week trying to figure out what these texts mean. As I pondered over the big picture yesterday, I thought again how hard the speeches were to understand. Much of the difficulty comes from the fact that the speeches were written in Hebrew poetry, but not completely. The other main reason for struggle is that people are complicated, especially when we are hurting. Job’s pain and suffering cause confusion because these things cloud his mind with darkness. He oscillates between hope and despair. We can’t remember our own discourse with people much less all that they say. Our memories fail us no matter how young and smart we may think we are. We begin our argument and find that we lack adequate resources to debate so many words. From chapter 3 to the end of 32 we have about 12,000 words exchanged. The human element is obvious. It’s not a matter of whether the writer of Job can write for us words that are comprehensible. Rather, he seems to let stand the difficulties of conversations among men. I say all of this because I want to understand what Job says. I want to understand so that I can make clear to you what Job is saying. It’s hard to apply God’s word if we don’t know what it’s saying. Yet, I think that is a point in Job (the difficulty of the speeches). Understanding this helps me. I hope it helps you. I asked this question of the text because I realized the YHWH speeches are not so hard to understand. They are written in Hebrew poetry too. So, I conclude that God is far more clear than man. And we are to see a contrast between the speeches of men and the speeches of God. I’m looking forward to walking through those next week!
Job 23:10 “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” May this be so of us!
A Guest Post from my daughter Lydia Snider:
The radio was on and we were cleaning up the house. We turned it to a Christmas station and the song Here Comes Santa Claus was just coming on. We worked and listened and when it came to the part where it says, “Peace on earth will come to all if we just follow the light, so lets give thanks to the Lord above that Santa Claus comes tonight.” We started laughing at the way they had mixed Santa Claus and God; two things that really don’t go together.
But the mixture of these two things didn’t start in the last verse. In the very first verse, in the same line, we hear, “Hang your stockings and say your prayers cause Santa Claus comes tonight!” After listening to the song, you begin to wonder if kids are going to pray to God or Santa (the latter most likely). The Santa Claus story is almost more appealing for kids, isn’t it? Santa brings presents every year, presents that, by the time next Christmas rolls around, have long since been forgotten. Santa will love me whether I’m rich or poor (verse 3). And I don’t mean to say that gifts aren’t good and memorable, they are! But let’s talk about a better gift.
God sent us a gift greater than any Santa could bring: He sent His Son as a baby to be born in a lonely manger in a little town called Bethlehem. It’s sad that such a great God could even be compared to Santa Claus. God sent a gift that would never grow old or be forgotten, a gift that is there for us every morning (not just Christmas morning).
And so to finish, lets remember: 1) Giving gifts is a great thing to do. 2) It’s not loving or kind to say that Santa is coming because he has never come, he’s not coming this year, and he never will come. 3) The story of Saint Nicholas is a wonderful story. He was a person who cared more about others than himself. The way the world has taken this story and turned it into a lie is sad. 4) “Let’s give thanks to the Lord above because he sent his Son to us!”
Merry Christmas ~Lydia
You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
He’s gonna find out
Who’s naughty or nice (Sinatra sings “naughty AND nice” to increase the vagueness?)
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
This song is always in the mix of Christmas songs that we hear this time of the year. Many of them, even this one, I don’t run to the radio or CD player or whatever media from which it comes and turn it off. I see it as a teachable moment. Guarding my kids (and myself) from such things is not the answer. Nor is the answer letting them figure it out on their own. Assuming this has no effect on us is dangerous.
So, what is so malignant about this melody? You have to admit it’s catchy. Fun. Helpful to parents that cannot otherwise get their children to obey them any other time of the year. Who knows what shopping would be like if the parents could not remind the kids about the premise of this song– “You’re not getting anything if you are naughty.” So, is Christmas about giving a gift or a wage? Are we to earn a gift? No. And that is why this melody is malignant (among other things).
I’m assuming the first three lines of the song are phrases used by Santa Claus (and parents) to remind them to straighten up because Santa Claus is coming. I don’t like the equating of crying and pouting. They are not the same. As a parent, crying is allowed and encouraged. There is nothing wrong with crying. It’s needed and good oftentimes. Pouting is different. Pouting is trying to persuade where crying is a response to pain of some sort. Pouting is fake; crying is not.
I don’t think I have to persuade any readers of this post that Santa Claus is not coming. However, the close similarities of what we Christians often talk about is the fact that Jesus Christ is coming again. If you hold off until He comes to “straighten up” it is too late. It is absurd that Santa or Jesus are okay with kids being “nice” only in the month of December (or at least the day before Christmas for the unruly kids). How much is enough to earn the gift? Is a gift leverage? Are the days leading up to Christmas threats? Nice isn’t it?
This is just a side note: how can Santa see and know if you are awake and asleep and have to “find out if you are naughty or/and nice”? Just saying. It seems he should know that too. While we are here, I also cringe that Santa is given such attributes. Only the Triune God has such attributes and to ascribe them to another is troubling and fatal.
“So be good for goodness sake” is another spin or twist of this Christmas story. I thought we were to be good so we would have presents under the tree. I’m not being “good” for nothing. “If I am going to be good it’s going to cost you mom.” What reason do parents give five seconds after the “gift” is opened and the receiver hates it; it is not gift he asked for and throws it aside as rubbish? Being good for goodness sake will not work here or ever. That would be like saying I go to work everyday just to work; not a paycheck. I intentionally do not say thank you to my boss for my wages. They are not a gift. I earned them. Grace and job must be kept separate on this level and together on other levels. This leads to the issue.
One problem with this whole scenario is the meaning of gift. A gift is undeserved. Of course, you are welcome to celebrate Christmas however you so choose but you might want to change the vocabulary. Start calling the presents wages or earnings. That will help them not confuse things. Gifts are gifts. How one responses to a “gift” is a reflection of your love for the giver or your love of the gift. Is it really loving to give a gift only if the kid has met some undefined, ever-changing standard? No. It’s not.
The fact is no one is good. No one. If we get what we have earned that would be eternal punishment. If we receive the gift of salvation that is mercy. And that mercy comes from Someone. When God chooses to love someone for no reason that is grace. Of course, the grace that saves is the grace that transforms. This is the perfect season to describe this. Many have Christmas trees in their homes. We hang ornaments on the tree. Some even look like fruit. You could even hang a real apple on the tree and you should think it odd if someone thought that a Frazier Fur produced an apple. Everybody knows that it can’t do that. Only a real apple tree can produce an apple.
Only a grace-given, mercy-receiving, justified sinner can produce righteousness…fruit. If it comes for external show, it is not true fruit. Granted, it is hard to tell the difference sometimes. Nevertheless, we should be fruit inspectors.
Dear friend, every breath you take today is a gift. A GIFT! Gifts come from Someone and that Someone deserves thanks. How you celebrate Christmas boils down to who you love. Your perspective is different when you understand who you are and who God is. Your ideas of Christmas change when you understand the meaning of gift and love of the giver. We should be eager to give gifts this Christmas season because we have been loved and love; not for goodness sake.
Sermon Introduction for Job 2:11-3:26:
We enter a new scene. Job is alone. Satan is gone. The children are gone. The possessions are gone. The wife is more than likely gone. The whole community, including his extended family, have abandoned him. Little kids spit at him. All that is left are memories. You can’t easily erase those. You could wish the memories to be taken like the rest but it will not work. The darkness seems to illumine the memories. The silence seems to make the voices you are hearing louder and louder. Death would be a mercy at this point. You think the immediate trauma is the hard part. Yet the shock seems to aid the sanity. The insanity comes in the wake of the days that follow…when you are alone. No wife to talk to. No children to check on. Silence.
Even with people around it can be lonely and painful. Mere presence does not replace relationship and fellowship.
Don’t over expect on days like this day. Don’t take everything they say too seriously. Yes, Job really wished the day of his birth to be cut off. Yet, during their conversation his tone changes. This is the initial outburst of a hurting man. Wait them out. Be patient. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(If you are familiar with Job, you know that he is declared blameless and he is not in the meeting or in the presence of God. Here Jude says Jesus is able to keep you from stumbling and present you to God blameless. I think it is an amazing connection to see and believe!)
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 begins early voting in Tennessee. I normally do not blog things like this. However, we Tennesseans have an opportunity to make a step in the right direct with Amendment One. In our local paper, an opposing view was given about three weeks ago. While I disagree with this person’s view, I did not want it to be the only view presented. So, I wrote a very short letter to the editor. I post it here for those who might read this through other means:
A Letter to the Editor,
“January 22, 1973 – The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, affirms the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.” I was born in September 1974 (you can do the math). Some years later, I wondered what my mom thought about me in the months during her pregnancy. There was legal opportunity for her to abort. So, I asked if she considered abortion. “No,” she said. “It did not even cross my mind.” My heart warmed with that answer.
I had little doubts that she had considered abortion. Yet, with the newness of the decision and a movement that was gaining speed, I wondered how all of that affected her. I think the decision to allow abortion encouraged abortion. So, someone like my mom who, I believe would have never considered abortion could have considered it because it had been legalized. That option was now put on the table for her. Now that option has been etched in the very hearts of all Americans.
Obviously, my desire would have been a denial of legality for a woman’s right to have an abortion. Nevertheless, my question is since this is the law, “How can we make the option of giving life more appealing than death?” First, I would like the option of life given with the same emphasis as those who give the option to abort. Second, I would like the option of death to be harder than easier. Decisions in haste are often regretted and in this case it is a decision that is not reversible.
I want to encourage Tennesseans to vote Yes on amendment one. You cannot imagine how thankful I am to be alive. My mom chose life and I hope all Tennesseans will too. Voting yes on amendment one is a vote for life. See www.yeson1tn.org/ for more information.
I would urge you to please vote. It is your responsibility.
While living in Fort Worth, Tx, my family and I were members of Wedgwood Baptist Church. Many people have probably heard of this church because of the tragic shooting that occurred there. However, they are known for more things than that.
Just before we arrived, it became known to WBC that a fellow church near by was in danger of closing its doors. I don’t know the details of why this was so. However, I did see the response of Wedgwood. The pastor asked the congregation of 700+ if any would be willing to move their membership to this struggling church (Now that’s Kingdom-minded). The best I can remember 100+ accepted.
This struggling church was in a prime location. It was in need of people and life and funds. A light had grown dim but this surge of people brightened things up. Again, I do not have details but what I do know is the church is thriving and reaching people for Christ. Praise God for Kingdom-minded churches. Thank you Wedgwood.
I encountered a similar opportunity. The example of Wedgwood greatly influenced me to consider being Kingdom-minded. We were members of a great church. Great relationships. The decision was h.a.r.d. You would hope it’s hard to leave a church. Trust me…it was.
I promised in the last post to give more context to the decision I wrote about. As you can see, God used Wedgwood in that decision among many other things. We followed their example and are blessed. This was a precious gift…a gift by way of example…the gift of Kingdom-minded.