Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hope is a Person

I haven’t written for my blog for a few weeks.  We have been extraordinarily busy and while I have had a few ideas of things to write about they haven’t risen high enough in priority for me to actually think them through and post them.

We are moving.  I have been called to serve as the pastor of the Jicarilla Apache Reformed Church in Dulce, New Mexico.  Today, Sunday, has been our fourth day on the road.  We are in southern Colorado and will arrive in Dulce, our new hometown, sometime tomorrow morning. 

In one way of thinking our days of travel have been a bit of a respite.  The past few weeks were busy with packing, and tomorrow the unloading and unpacking will begin.  Everything we own is on a truck and inside a 26 foot-long box, packed completely full, with a little bit more stuffed in the cab of the truck and our car.  Tomorrow we start the process of unloading and “getting settled.”  After 16 months in “temporary” housing we are excited both about having our own place, and also to begin living among the people of Dulce. 

Today we drove through Denver and I was listening to the radio.  I found a station that was playing music by Chris Tomlin so I settled on it and listened for a while.

After a number of songs there was a segment of a man speaking, something that caught my attention, to say the least.  Unfortunately, I didn't find his message very compelling.  It sounded okay at the beginning, but as it developed a critical piece was missing. 

The man’s starting point was suffering, and he asserted that everyone is either going through a time of suffering, has recently gotten through some suffering, or will soon be entering into a time of suffering.  I didn't quite agree, but every message has to have a starting point and that is where he chose to start.

The he started to talk about suffering having a purpose, and that everyone has a purpose.  How do you know you have a purpose?  According to this man you know you have a purpose because you are breathing.  As simple as that.  You are breathing, and therefore alive, so you have not yet achieved your purpose.

That is where this whole line of reasoning got me thinking.  He was teaching that if we are alive we have a purpose, a purpose that hasn't yet been reached, and that we will continue to live until we achieve that purpose, whatever it may be.  The unsaid assumption was that life ends upon achieving the purpose.  Maybe it is sort of like the Greek runner Pheidippides, the legendary inspiration for the marathon, who ran a great distance to carry news of victory by the Greek army, and then died after achieving his purpose, or at least his purpose for the moment.

I was listening to this message on a Christian radio station and I think that the teacher was attempting to provide encouragement to his listeners, particularly as they consider the times in their lives when they suffer and wonder if there is any reason, any purpose, for the suffering.  Christians do need comfort in time of suffering, and they can have a perspective on their suffering that has much to teach to non-Christians.  But I was more taken with the notion of “purpose.”

What was missing from this whole discussion of purpose was any mention of a person, or rather the Person, the person we know as Christ Jesus.

Good times and bad, it is He who gives purpose to our lives.  The work He accomplished on the cross, for our salvation, is what makes us whole before God.  Everything else, absolutely everything else, flows from that singular action.

Our purpose is not some unknown event out on the horizon of our life, but rather is something that we as Christians are called to do right now, to live each moment of our lives to the glory of God.  May you live into the purpose that the Person of Christ Jesus makes possible.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Everlasting Love

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Those words of Jeremiah 31:3 stood out for me when I read Jeremiah 31:1-30 this morning.  Jeremiah is telling the Hebrew exiles to Babylon that God will one day redeem them.  In spite of the sin that led to their exile, and the fact that their exile is a punishment for their ongoing sin and disbelief, God has continued to love them.  They are a suffering people, taken from their homeland and forced to serve a foreign people, and yet Jeremiah’s words remind them of the central fact of their identity.  Even in exile they remain God’s chosen people.  Their faithlessness has not had any effect on His faithfulness.

As a Christian these words have rich meaning to me today.  They are not just old words from an old prophecy, spoken to a people and set of circumstances thousands of years ago and with no relevance to my daily life.  These words are quite the opposite.  They are not just meaningful to me now, to my daily life, but they point me to the future of eternal life. 

Much like Jeremiah’s original audience, I stray from God’s ways, and I know full well that I am doing so.  But in His mercy He grants forgiveness without limit.  I don’t have license, or “freedom to sin,” because I know that God will forgive.  In truth, misery is often the companion of awareness of my sin. 

This morning God’s word reminds me of the truth as clearly as Jeremiah spoke it to the Hebrews. God’s love is everlasting.  God’s faithfulness endures my wayward heart.

Everlasting love isn’t just a phrase, or an idea.  Everlasting love is a person, the person of Christ Jesus, who laid down His life and was raised from the dead. 

Because of the everlasting love and the faithfulness of Christ we can believe the promise written in Romans 10:13,

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

May you know, today, the mercy and everlasting love, of Christ.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.