Author Archives: Michael E. Lynch

About Michael E. Lynch

I have a B.A. in Psychology and Journalism from Syracuse University (1987) and an M.Div. in Pastoral Counseling from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

Modern-Day Elijahs VI: You’re Not Alone

When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

The LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.

[1 Kings 19:13–21. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

[This study continues a series that I stopped writing about a year ago, entitled “Modern-Day Elijahs.” To read other articles in the series, click on “Modern-Day Elijahs” in the “Categories” list on this page. For the first article in the series, click here. For the last article before this one, click here.]

Prophet-Elias-Grk-ikon

Elijah on Mount Horeb, from a Greek icon. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1489939

Elijah is meeting with God, and it is a visit that will change the course of his life and the fate of Israel. Elijah has been discouraged. He feels like his ministry is a failure and that he is the last person in Israel who still worships the God of his ancestors.

Discouragement will enslave us. It will make us believe we are alone, or that we are the only people who have ever encountered our problems. It will make us exaggerate how bad things are and will cause us to overlook what is going well. Take a look at Elijah’s grievances, item by item:

  • “The sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant”—True, but when they saw the fire from heaven igniting Elijah’s offering, they confessed that “The LORD, he is God.” They were at least partially ready to return to Him.
  • They have “torn down Your altars”—But God has already shown that this is not a big deal. He had honored the makeshift altar the prophet built on Mount Carmel. Once they are ready to confess that the Lord is God, they will have no problem restoring the altars and the worship.
  • They have “killed Your prophets with the sword”—As we saw in 1 Kings 18:4, Jezebel did not get all of them. One royal official, Obadiah, was courageous enough to put God first and protect as many prophets as he could. Also, after the duel on Mount Carmel, the people obeyed Elijah’s order to execute the prophets of Ba’al. The tide was turning!
  • “And I alone am left”—Here is the greatest falsehood. Satan is the father of lies, and he will find ways to get you to believe falsehoods. Although I am usually a fan of modern literal translations of Scripture, I think the NASB drops the ball in 1 Kings 19:18, where it quotes God saying, “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” The King James Version seems to have it correct here: God had left 7,000 for Himself. (Hebrew does not have verb tenses like English does. Therefore, translators are usually forced to rely on context when determining if a verb is present, past, or future tense. This is one of the greatest challenges in Old Testament translation.)

Contrary to the voices of self-doubt and despair that were screaming inside Elijah’s head, he was not alone. He had acted like he was alone, but there were others around who worshipped his God.

The greatest mistake a man of God can make is to believe that God expects him to walk alone. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He did not slap Peter on the back and say, “Good luck, bro; it’s all on your shoulders now!” He left 11 disciples with the same set of instructions. They were supposed to wait together, and then fulfill the Great Commission together. Ministry is rarely a one-man show.

So, God gave Elijah an assignment: raise up other men to help complete the mission. He did not even have to choose them. God told Elijah whom He had chosen, and Elijah’s job was to anoint them for their ministries. He was to anoint a new king of Aram, a new king of Israel, and a new prophet to continue his ministry.

We can learn a few key principles from God’ instructions. First, God’s authority extends over the rulers of the world. Elijah was running in fear from the wife of the current king. Now, God told Elijah, “Go replace that king!” The servant of God should not cower or cater to politicians. We are called to proclaim God’s authority to the politicians and demand their obedience.

Second, God’s authority extends over all the nations of the world, including those who do not know know Him. Phillippians 2 tells us that every knee shall bow to Jesus: That includes the knees of our President, Congressmen from both political parties, Islamic terrorists, deranged dictators of third-world  nations, etc. Our mission is to speak God’s word and advance His kingdom throughout the world.

Third, this is God’s ministry: Not yours. Ironically, the only one of the three men that Elijah personally anointed was Elisha, his successor as prophet. Elisha anointed Hazael as the new king of Aram and Jehu as the new king of Israel.

When Elijah was taken up to heaven, God was not done speaking to the people. He continued to speak through Elisha and performed even more miracles through him than He did through Elijah. In fact, even though Elijah is considered the greatest Old-Testament prophet, we do not have a book by him. God chose other men to write the prophetic books of the Old Testament.

God was not done with Elijah. In fact, it was through this time of discouragement that God could reveal a greater purpose to Elijah: He was not only called to minister to others, but also to minister with others.

There is a reason why Jesus chose to assemble a team of apostles. He knew that people will give in to defeat and discouragement if they try to do God’s work alone. We are not made to serve Him as soloists. If you are facing discouragement in your walk with God, make sure you have other people around you.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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Shining the Light—John 9:1–5

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

—John 9:1–5 (NASB)

I took a mini-sabbatical from writing in August. It was an eventful period. There were plenty of events in the news that begged for commentary: the riots in Charlottesville stemming from protests against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee; the ensuing debates in response to that event; the total eclipse of the sun; and finally, Hurricane Harvey and its devastating floods in Texas.

In keeping with the direction I sensed from the Holy Spirit, I did not write a post about any of these (although I did get myself drawn into a few Facebook debates in the aftermath of Charlottesville; maybe my next sabbatical should include restrictions on other social media!). Nevertheless, even though no new posts appeared on Darkened Glass Reflections in August, it set a record for most page views on this blog in a single month.

With those preliminary comments out of the way, I have a few thoughts about Christians’ response to the flood, and to natural disasters in general. Whenever disaster or tragedy strikes, the instinctive response for people of faith is to ask, “Where is God in all of this?” Unfortunately, many approach the question from the wrong angle. We may view the world through the eyes of justice and judgment instead of mercy and grace.

When Jesus and His disciples met a man born blind, the disciples assumed that his ailment was a punishment for somebody’s sins. Jesus’ response points out that they are looking at things the wrong way.

Likewise, whenever there is a natural disaster nowadays, many Christians try to figure out why God is so angry. Who is He punishing? The conclusions can border on absurdity. When a tornado devastated Joplin, MO, in 2011, members of Westboro Baptist Church planned to rally, thanking God for sending judgment on the city because of its acceptance of homosexuality. Having lived in southwestern Missouri for about 8 years, I can assure you this plot is too crazy even for The Twilight Zone. Did God get confused while trying to decide whether to smite San Francisco or Greenwich Village (a neighborhood in New York City with a reputation for welcoming alternative lifestyles) and simply decide to strike someplace about halfway between them?

Now, in the aftermath of Harvey, a few Christians and conservatives have wondered whether God was judging Houston for electing a lesbian mayor. Unfortunately, He was too late; that mayor is no longer in office. Besides, wouldn’t a Joplin-sized tornado have been sufficient? After all, God could have left Corpus Christi and other nearby communities alone if He just sent a twister; tornadoes tend to keep their devastation in a relatively compact area.

These are all the wrong questions. Had the blind man sinned? At some point, yes. So had his parents. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But, Jesus said their sin was not the issue to consider here. For the disciples, the real question should be, “What is our response? How now shall we live?”

Likewise, when we see disaster now, let us avoid assuming we know what God is doing to the victims, and acknowledge how we should respond to the situation. Where can we see God in Hurricane Harvey?

  • We see the image of God reflected every time concerned people follow the news to find out if the situation has improved at all.
  • We see the heart of God revealed as people volunteer to assist in the rescue efforts.
  • We see the love of God radiating as people freely donate money and resources since they live too far away to help otherwise.

I believe that this is just one manifestation of the image of God in mankind: For some reason, we can care so deeply, even painfully, for total strangers we will never meet when disaster hits them.

Do you want to see God in the midst of a tragedy? Show His love. Live as one who bears His image. Jesus did not encourage His disciples to ponder a theology of suffering when they met a blind man. Instead, He told them that we (not just Himself, but His disciples as well) must do the works of His Father. He did not answer questions about eschatology before His ascension; instead, He gave instructions for His disciples to go forth and be His witnesses. Stop pondering philosophical questions. Instead, do God’s work.

Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” He is still here: His body is His church. We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). What will we do about that?

If you are looking for a way to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, you may consider donating to Samaritan’s Purse, a reputable Christian relief organization that is sending relief workers and resources.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

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Reflection on Mark 9:38-41 (Revisited)

This post was originally published on August 16, 2013. It remains one of the most-frequently read articles on this blog.

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. (Mark 9:38-41, ESV)

Mark 9, along with its parallels in the other Gospels, has popped up often for me: In my personal devotions, sermons I’ve heard, and books and articles I have read. Maybe God is trying to tell me something. God wants His children—myself included—to confront the conflict between pride and prayer, self-seeking and selfless service, and the other spiritual battles common to growing Christians.

To see the irony of this discussion, one should consider all that had occurred earlier. John had just been one of three disciples to witness the Transfiguration, when Jesus radiated His divine glory while visited by Moses and Elijah on a mountain (Mark 9:2-8). John, more than almost any of the disciples, should have been humbled in Jesus’ presence, having seen first-hand that He was more than a great teacher!

Having come down from the mountain, they found that the other nine disciples had failed to cast a demon out of a boy. The disciples were experienced exorcists, having been sent on a ministry trip for which Jesus empowered them to cast demons out of people (Mark 6:7). Yet, they had failed because, Jesus said, this kind of demon “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).

This incident was followed by other discussions, intended to change the worldly perspective of the disciples: Jesus’ prophecy of His impending arrest, death, and resurrection (Mark 9:30-32); and instruction about the disciples’ need to be humble and childlike, instead of arrogantly seeking status (Mark 9:33-37).

Like many of us, the disciples were slow learners. Despite these instructions and their previous failures, John essentially boasts that some of the disciples had tried to stop someone from casting out demons in Jesus’ name, simply because he was not part of their travelling party. I can almost imagine the rebuke sounding something like, “Hey! Stop doing that! You don’t have ministry credentials for that. We have certificates, signed by Jesus Himself, saying that WE should do that when He’s not around. Why don’t you just go feed the poor and leave the REAL ministry to us?”

(I am sure that in the back of John’s mind, he was really thinking, “STOP THAT! You’re making us look bad? How dare you cast out a demon after my friends just had trouble with one last week? You’re ruining our credibility!”)

Jesus response calls us to the charity and unity that should draw His followers together. The disciples’ status did not matter. Yes, they enjoyed a unique relationship with Him, gaining in-depth teaching and training that others did not enjoy. Many people admired Jesus and rushed to hear His teaching. I am sure many sought to live by His doctrine, even if they did not have the privilege of travelling with Him. Yet, only 12 spent all their time with the Lord, having many hours to pick His brain.

The disciples had a special privilege and a deeper call to serve the Lord. Yet, they were not expected to claim it as a reason to exclude others. Jesus called them to serve, not to claim offices and titles. Later, Paul would write that their role was to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). John’s response to a common man’s success in casting out demons should have been, “Congratulations! Great job, brother! We need more guys like you in this ministry.”

Modern Christians should focus on service instead of status, on the task instead of the title. We need to recognize the gifts God has given us, and the mission He has called us to, and put that first. We must resist the temptation to let titles, recognition, and prestige distract us from the needs around us and our ability to serve.

We need to recognize, respect, and encourage the gifts God has given to others. The pastor’s job is not to do all the ministry, but to equip the saints for work of service. When somebody shows an aptitude and eagerness for a ministry, that person should be encouraged and trained, not “put in their place.”

Yes, there are times some people will try to exercise spiritual gifts they do not really have. Some churches over-emphasize certain gifts, like prophecy and healing, to a point where people feel like second-rate believers if they do not have those gifts. When a person does not have a particular gift, or is not fully equipped in a particular ministry, he or she should be trained or re-directed.

Finally, the unity of believers is precious to our Lord. Christians have a terrible history of dividing ourselves. We divide over doctrine, denominations, worship styles, etc. We divide ourselves into churches that serve a specific racial or ethnic group. We refuse to fellowship with those who practice certain sacraments or ordinances differently. We even divide within our own congregations, into cliques of clergy vs. laity, of the “in” crowd vs. the outer circles.

Jesus said, “For the one who is not against us is for us.” Let us remember that it is not our denomination or dogma that matters. It is the Lord whom we claim to love and serve. He comes first, and He calls us to serve, even as He came to seek, save, and serve.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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In the World, Not of It (Revisited)

This month, I am reposting a few favorite articles from the past. This article was originally published on July 25, 2015.

In a recent post, I shared my thoughts about how Christians should respond to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing gay marriage. This ruling reflected the state of our society: we cannot consider America a “Christian nation” at this time. Likewise, our response to the ruling should be a reflection of our faith. Neither the Supreme Court ruling, nor the Church’s response, occurs in a vacuum.

Christians should not be surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Neither should we be surprised that a growing majority of Americans have come to favor legalizing same-sex marriage in recent years and, as a corollary, have come to view pro-traditional-family Christians as bigoted, hateful homophobes. Jesus warned us that Christians would always find themselves as “outsiders” in the world:

“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:13-22, NASB).

Most American evangelicals have lived comfortably in a society that has been at least courteous to, and at times even supportive of, our faith. However, as the above passage and countless other Bible verses show, Christians should not really be surprised that society is growing increasingly hostile towards us. We should be surprised that we have enjoyed a somewhat favorable status in American society for so long. Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them.

As the world’s hostility becomes more visible, how should Christians respond?

First, I would urge Christians to begin reading the Bible from a different perspective. We have grown accustomed to reading the Bible as if it were written to people with a socio-cultural experience similar to our own. We imagine Jesus and the disciples as a bunch of working-class guys—like the working-class guys we know from our jobs. However, American comforts would have been foreign to them. When Jesus told His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” they probably took it literally: Pray for food for the day. They did not think long-term, budgeting a two-week paycheck so that you can buy several weeks worth of groceries and make your car payment. Their idea of “prosperity” was probably having leftovers after dinner. The so-called gospel proclaimed by some preachers—those who claim that faith in God will bring us health, wealth, success, and comfort—would seem odd to the first Christians. To them, faith meant that you would still call yourself a Christian and believe you had eternity with Jesus as the executioner’s sword was coming toward your throat.

The Bible was written primarily to oppressed people. The Old Testament was written to a small country, which was frequently threatened by the great empires of its day. The New Testament was written to members of a fledgling religious sect, considered extremist by many and treasonous (after all, they claimed that Jesus was their King) by the government. Their neighbors probably thought the early Christians were as odd as the Amish, as wacky as the Heaven’s Gate flying-saucer cult, and perhaps as dangerous to society as an Islamic terrorist organization.

As you read the Bible, take time to remember that Jesus is speaking to “outsiders.” Paul is writing to people who may have to sneak to church (the church in Ephesus did not run newspaper ads), whereas we casually arrive, carrying our big Bibles for all to see.

The Bible is speaking to people who hear the word temptation and think, “The Romans might threaten to throw me into an arena with lions if I say ‘Jesus is Lord.'” They probably did not equate “temptation” with an ice cream sundae.

We need to repent of a world view guided by the secular culture:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB).

Scripture should renew our minds, transforming us so that we may no longer be conformed to this world. Many Christians are shocked when the Supreme Court determines that marriage should be defined by whatever makes some people happy. Yet, how many Christians base their life choices on personal happiness instead of the “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God? How often do we try to “baptize” sinful attitudes (pride, self-righteousness, greed) and try to make them seem spiritual?

Perhaps more can be written on this topic. I expect that future posts will be written from this perspective, as it has begun to shape how I read Scripture during my daily devotions.

I will conclude by saying that the standard American brand of Christianity will not be adequate to stand against the most recent onslaughts against our faith. We need to reclaim the faith that recognizes that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world.

[PS: In my previous post, I proposed that the church should “eliminate the connection between civil marriage (which requires a license) and holy matrimony (which is a sacrament or ordinance performed by the church or other religious body).” I would like to clarify that this was not intended as approval of redefinition of marriage. Rather, it should be seen as more of an example of resistance against the ruling: Christians and other religious groups should never have allowed the secular government to define marriage for us, and we have reached a point where a state-issued marriage license no longer means what true Christian churches mean when we speak of “marriage.”]

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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Robin Williams, Suicide, and Hope (Revisited)

I originally shared this post on August 12, 2014, a few days after comedian Robin Williams committed suicide. The recent anniversary of his departure seems a good opportunity to consider some of the lessons we can learn from this tragedy.

If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalms 94:17-19)

Robin_Williams_(6451536411)_(cropped)

Robin Williams, 1951-2014. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Williams.

Over the last 27 hours, I have joined millions of fans around the world who mourn the sudden death of Robin Williams. As I logged onto my computer last night, I saw the shocking “breaking news” alert at the top of my Yahoo! homepage, that the popular comedian/actor had committed suicide.

While I have been a fan of his for many years (“Mork and Mindy” was one of my favorite TV shows during my youth), his death disturbed me more than others. Perhaps that is because “there but for the grace of God go I.” Like Robin Williams, I have battled depression at various times in my life. At times it has cost me dearly. Even in my best moments, I have to think of my depression as being “in remission,” not really “cured.” Thanks be to God, though, even in my worst moments, I could not succeed in ending my life.

It is ironic that a man who devoted his life to bringing happiness to others suffered through so much deep-rooted despair that he eventually surrendered to the lying spirits who told him that death would be better than life. Despite that, maybe it should not come as a surprise. He did not hide his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. He regularly made jokes about his struggles as part of his stand-up act.

Social networking sites have been ablaze lately with posts reminding people that there are millions of people like Robin Williams. There is nothing like front-page news to bring an issue out of the closet and place it before the masses. I can only hope that Williams’ death raises some red flags so that some people get the help they need to avoid his fate.

With this in mind, I would like to offer the following thoughts:

  1. The Body of Christ must do a better job of ministering with compassion and mercy to those who suffer from depression. Some of the most asinine posts I have read recently have come from those who think they are writing in Jesus’ name. Yes, suicide is a horrible act. I do not want to imagine the agony his wife and children will endure for the rest of their lives. For all I know, maybe Williams is in hell. But, I honestly hope I’m wrong about that. I would like to find out some day in eternity that, at some point, Robin Williams came to have a personal relationship with Jesus and is now in heaven, even if he did have to receive forgiveness for the way he arrived there. We Christians should be eager to find ways to populate heaven, not look for excuses to damn people to hell.
  2. Out of that compassion, we should understand the pain of depression and other mental illnesses and reach out with God’s transforming grace. I know churches that do a great job ministering to drug addicts and alcoholics. They recognize that there is a certain physical healing process that must occur alongside the spiritual and emotional healing that accompanies repentance. Yet, when somebody struggles with depression, many a Christian responds that we need to “snap out of it.” We do not need medication or counseling; we need more faith. The fields are white unto harvest, but we bury the crops in condemnation. (Really, you do not need to judge or condemn someone with depression; many of us do that quite well on our own, so we do not need your help.) As I began writing this post, I was thinking of ministries to the emotionally and mentally ill I could endorse. Unfortunately, I could not think of any.
  3. Take note of the warning signs of suicide. A good list is provided at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/learn/warningsigns.aspx.
  4. If you read those warning signs and it reminds you of someone you know and love, do not gossip about them. (That includes sending a prayer request to all of your friends.) First, go talk to them. Be open; be honest. Ask them outright about their feelings. Many suicidal people find hope when a friend allows them to verbalize their feelings. I can think of a few people who are alive today because I or someone else had the guts to actually ask them if they were considering suicide. (Feel free to pray for them before speaking to them, but before asking others to pray, obtain their permission.)
  5. If those warning signs sound like they describe you, get help. I would recommend seeking a godly Christian counselor: preferably one with a strong relationship with Christ, the appropriate spiritual gifts, and adequate training. Suicide is serious business, a life-and-death issue. A quick fix by quoting one or two Bible verses out of context will not solve your problems. It requires compassion, wisdom, insight and TIME.
  6. Finally, even if you are not at high risk for suicide, but have prolonged issues related to depression, seek help. Much research suggests that there is a biochemical aspect to depression which must be addressed. One can debate whether a chemical imbalance causes depression, or depressive thinking causes the chemical imbalance. Nevertheless, a healing process is necessary.

Finally, remember that you are not alone. Even Elijah struggled with despair and asked God to take his life (1 Kings 19:5). As long as you have breath, you have hope. As long as God is with you, healing and restoration are freely available.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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Through a Glass Darkly (Revisited)

The following is an article I originally posted on August 9, 2010, at https://michaelelynch.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/through-a-glass-darkly. During this month, I will share a few favorite articles from previous Augusts. This article provides the inspiration for the blog title, “Darkened Glass Reflections.”

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NASB).

When I began following Christ, I dreamed of becoming a Christian rock musician. I have often thought that the perfect debut-album title would be “Through a Glass Darkly” (inspired by the King James version’s wording of the verse above). I recently tried to create a new blog here on WordPress with that name but, alas, others beat me to it. Maybe I will find a good alternative soon enough.

The concept that believers see “through a glass darkly” should encourage us. Questions often assault our faith: “Why? What are you doing to me, God? When will you do what I thought You would?” These are the questions that shake our faith, perhaps more so than the intellectual or philosophical challenges to our faith. The fact that we worship an unseen God, Who usually chooses to work in subtle ways, is perhaps the greatest challenge to our faith.

Faith grows as we go from knowing about God to knowing Him personally. This forces us to stretch and strengthen our spiritual muscles as we seek to see Him “through a glass darkly.”

Knowledge is Not Power, but the Love of God is Powerful

The last few years have been a long lesson in learning to accept the fact that, no matter how smart I think I am or how much I study the Bible, my knowledge will always be deficient. I am learning to accept that as a blessing. God is not looking for knowledge as much as He is looking for His holiness to be manifested in my life. Any knowledge about Him is intended to foster a relationship with Him. For example, I grow more by discerning Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, than I do by trying to analyze how the bread and wine can be His body and blood.

First Corinthians 13:12 appears near the end of one of the most famous chapters in the Bible, Paul’s famous discourse on love. In that passage, Paul emphasizes that love is much more important than many of the “marks of spirituality” to which some Christians cling.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit? It is a blessing to speak in tongues, and one can be a blessing if he has the gift of prophecy or can reveal the deep mysteries of the faith to others. But, without love, it is just a lot of noise.

Faith? We need it for salvation; if we do not have faith in Jesus, we are lost. It is wonderful to have the sort of mountain-moving faith that tears down strongholds and prays miracles of healing and other supernatural blessings down from heaven. Without love, though, I am nothing.

What about a self-sacrificing spirit? We should be eager to give sacrificially to those in need, and I admire those great men and women of faith who were willing to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel. But, without love, it profits them nothing.

Paul goes on to describe love (vv. 4-7). Next, he shows that it will last until the end of the age, and even into heaven, although other marks of spirituality will pass away (vv. 8-10).

When we get to heaven, there will be no seminaries: no job openings for theologians or philosophers. In fact, I am sure that theological debates and reflection will look pretty silly when Jesus is seated just a few feet away, right next to His Father. We will see them both in all of their glory. Philosophical discourse will be done. Exegesis and analysis of biblical passages will come to an end. Our deepest questions could probably be answered by turning to the throne and saying, “Excuse me, Jesus, I was wondering….” Just wait for the audible voice of God to answer.

Instead of debate, there will be devotion: eternal worship and praise to God, and direct fellowship with Him. Love will endure.

We Bear the Image of God, but It Is a Marred Image

In June 2010, Joyce and I were on a flight from New York to Florida, where we sat with a man from Italy. He was quite a talkative fellow, so we had a long conversation, which lasted most of the flight. On a few occasions, Joyce guided the conversation to spiritual matters. During a few of those discussions of God and faith, he referred to “the divine within us.” The belief in such a “divine within us” is quite common today, and is accepted by many who profess to be Christians. But, it is not a biblical or Christian notion: certainly not in the manner it is usually defined.

The Bible teaches that we are made in the image of God. Yet, that image is marred. It is like looking at a severely weather-beaten picture. Imagine finding an ancient fresco, buried under thousands of years of rubble and dirt in an ancient Roman village, depicting the face of a local dignitary. The image may show you what the man looked like, but you would have to scrape away centuries of dirt. A major restoration project would be required to restore the man’s image. Perhaps parts of the image are missing, and we have to guess what the rest of the image looks like.

Or, perhaps, we should imagine looking at our own image in a mirror. However, the mirror is hundreds of years old: cracked and covered with rust and dirt. We can glimpse a reflection in the mirror, but it is a dim reflection.

The great danger, when we try to understand God by relating to “the divine within us,” is that we are basing our awareness of God on a dim reflection, or a marred image. It is an image with pieces missing: a reflection that has  been beaten, cracked, and distorted by the rust and grime of sin.

Our Perspective Is Limited By Our Imperfections

In addition to the corruption of our “image of God,” there is the limitation of our perspective. God is eternal; He existed before the beginning of time. We are not eternal; although we will live forever, each of us has an existence that began at a specific moment in time. God is omniscient (all-knowing). We are not, although sometimes we act like know-it-alls.

Our finiteness gives us a limited view of God and His purposes. I can think of no greater example of this than Job. The Old Testament book of Job tells  the story of a man who served God faithfully. As a result, Satan accused God of being unjust: after all, Satan reasoned, Job only served God because He blessed him. To prove that Job’s faith was genuine, the Lord allowed the devil to afflict Job. In one day, Job lost almost everything that mattered to him: his possessions, children, and a host of other things. Next, Satan took his health. It seemed like all Satan left for Job was a nagging wife and some self-righteous judgmental friends.

After Job and his friends had engaged in a prolonged argument about why God allowed this suffering, God decided to answer Job’s questions:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
“Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop’?” (Job 38:1-11).

Job felt God was treating him unfairly and wanted God to explain  why He was doing this. His friends had other suggestions for his suffering: perhaps Job was harboring a secret sin which God needed to judge; or Job was proud and needed a swift kick in the butt.

God did not answer Job’s questions directly. Instead, He pointed out that He has a much broader perspective than Job could even imagine. When our faith is shaken by unanswered questions, we should take comfort that, even if we do not understand everything, God knows all. God’s answer to Job lasts several chapters, during which He points out how He is concerned with the intimate details in the lives of all His creatures. God is concerned about the most mundane creatures on our planet. He is also concerned about the most mundane details of our lives. Does He care? Yes, He does. Can He answer our questions? Yes, He can. Are we ready to hear the answers? We might think we are, but since we have such a limited perspective, maybe we should just trust Him.

After God pointed out how little Job understood, Job had his chance to respond:

Then Job answered the LORD and said,
“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1-5).

How often we need to hear Job’s confession and make it our own! How often we Christians, in our attempts to understand the Bible, twist it into something we can explain. Instead, we should say, “This is what it says. I cannot explain everything in there, but I know God is true. Someday, when I see Him face to face, I will understand.

How often do we try to explain God’s ways, but we do so in a way that justifies our own actions! How often we place God in a box that we can carry.

Instead, we should seek to know God as Job came to know Him. Instead of seeking to know about God, let us just come to Him by faith. Faith enables us to see through the glass darkly, glimpsing a shadow of God’s glory, with the assurance that there is more to love than we can imagine.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Sabbaths, Sabbaticals, and Seasons of Refreshing

“For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed” (Exodus 23:10-12, ESV).

God gave Israel Ten Commandments. Most Christians will at least verbally acknowledge nine of them. (We say coveting is a sin, but most Americans treat it like a sacrament.) God said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” but many of us will say, “That was just for the Jews. Let’s go shopping after church! Why is Chick-Fil-A closed?”

Hard work is part of the American ideal, but we do not value rest. Americans work more hours than people in most countries, yet we are not legally entitled to any paid vacation or holidays. Many of our employers provide these benefits—some are quite generous—but I wonder how many Americans actually receive the 38 paid vacation days and holidays that are mandatory in Austria.

It is easy for us to fall into the burnout trap. We can even allow things we love doing to become an obligation. When burnout hits, we can just begin to coast along, with no sense of direction or clarity.

God commanded the Jews to rest on the Sabbath. Every Saturday, they were commanded to rest: They were not allowed to do any work; they could not make their servants work. They were supposed to relax, worship God, and get refreshed.

He also commanded the Jews to take a “Sabbath rest” every seven years. After seven years, farmers were not supposed to plant anything: during that resting year, they could eat whatever grew on its own. According to God, even the land needed to rest. (From what I understand, this is the inspiration behind the modern agricultural practice of crop-rotation; it allows part of the field to recover after years of usage, and avoids depleting it by varying the crops grown in a particular area.)

As a writer, every now and then I find my well running dry. I try to post something every Sunday, but some weeks I have no fresh ideas. Other times, I lose motivation.

Although we are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14), we can learn a lot from the Old Testament. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Even though Jesus freed His disciples from the burden of legalism regarding the Sabbath, He acknowledged that it should be a blessing.

With that in mind, inspired (in principle, if not in time-span) by Exodus 23:10, I will begin instituting some Sabbath months into my writing ministry. Every seven months, beginning in August 2017, I will take some time away from writing blog posts. This will allow me time to weigh ideas for series or other ways to keep readers interested.

During my Sabbath months, I intend to repost older articles, with minimal updating. I plan to have them finished in my drafts folder before the month begins, so that I can just click “publish” and move along.

When I return in September, I plan to begin writing several series of posts. They would be based on ideas I have had for books, which may not have the commercial demand for traditional publication. The blogosphere is not affected by exactly the same set of market forces that drive the religious-book-publishing industry. Topics that have been covered by other authors in the past, or that may be too long for an article but too brief for an entire book, often find life online.

For my friends and family who have encouraged me to publish a book: I have a few other more unique ideas for books. I plan to write those, separate from this blog, and pursue more traditional publishing routes for them. More news as those projects develop.

For those of you with whom I have connected through the world of blogging: Thank you for your words of encouragement, comments, and for clicking the “Like” button.

It may not be a completely perfect approach. But, perhaps all of us should consider looking at our commitments and ask God, “Should I take some time away from this? Do I need a season of refreshing?”

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Dressed for Success

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NASB).

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2).

chariots_2275729b.jpg

In Chariots of Fire, Harold Abrahams (left) takes his eyes off the finish line briefly, slowing down enough to be passed by Eric Liddell (right). Christians, like runners, cannot afford to be distracted; we need to keep our eyes on the goal.

Americans love sports. Baseball, basketball, football, and hockey are big businesses. Fans watch because we find a way to connect with athletes who savor the thrill of victory. We want to feel victorious with them.

Sports can point us to spiritual truths as well. For one thing, sports can introduce us to champions who “overwhelmingly conquer (or, in the words of the King James Version, who are “more than conquerors). When we see a champion breeze to victory, we can say he is more than a conqueror. He overwhelmingly conquered. He dominated the match. He did not merely struggle to finish—he creamed the competition!

According to Romans 8:37, we should be “overwhelming conquerors.” Yet, many Christians suffer defeat in some area of their lives. Some live in financial despair, unemployed and afraid they may soon sleep on a park bench. Others are overwhelmed by fear about their health. Others worry about the stability of their  families. Still others are enchained by addictions or other sinful habits.

This is not God’s will for you. God declared that He wants you to be more than a conqueror. God did not plan for His children to wallow in defeat, looking forward to the final buzzer (so they could slip off into the locker room, relieved that the game is over). He planned for us to triumph. He equipped us to trample on the heads of our foes (Luke 10:19), not to cower in tears begging them to stop bullying us.

So, why are we in defeat? How can we escape defeat and race to victory? Again, the sports world reminds us of a lesson from Scripture.

When I was a teenager, I ran in many long-distance races. I ran expecting to bring home awards. To do so, I dressed for success. I travelled light. I would not wear blue jeans or a button-down shirt to a race. Instead, I would wear lightweight shorts and a sleeveless tee-shirt. My clothes were not designed to keep me warm. They were supposed to keep me comfortable without adding weight or hindering my range of motion. Also, I would wear racing shoes: I had a special pair of shoes set aside for races, designed to provide maximum support for my feet without adding unnecessary weight.

These are the keys to any runner’s uniform: his clothes must weigh as little as possible; they must provide protection where it is needed; and they must allow him to move freely (nothing should hinder his ability to move his limbs freely).

Some sports demand such light uniforms: Swimmers, like runners, wear very light outfits (bathing suit, goggles, and a swim cap) to compete. Other sports, like football and hockey, demand extra padding for protection, so their uniforms are heavy. Imagine an Olympic swimmer wearing a hockey uniform during a race. He would lose miserably! Hockey equipment is not designed to float: it would drop to the bottom of the pool, dragging the person wearing it along. Hockey equipment is helpful when you are being body-checked or while blocking a slap shot, but it is worthless in a pool during the 100-meter backstroke.

So, how does this relate to the Christian walk? Many Christians fail to run or swim triumphantly through life because we overburden ourselves. We carry the weight of another lifestyle and expect to live successfully as Christians. Living victoriously in Christ, while clinging to worldly values about finances, relationships, etc., is like trying to swim in a hockey uniform. You will drown!

Hebrews 12:1–2 says “[L]et us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Here we see several principles for overcoming in Christ.

First, we must lay aside every encumbrance AND the sin which so easily entangles us. Some of us do well to avoid committing the big sins. We may not violate any of the Ten Commandments. We avoid smoking and drinking. However, that is where we stop. We lay aside the sin, but we hold onto the encumbrances. We watch TV when we should be praying. We surf the Internet when we should be reading our Bibles. Even harmless entertainments can become encumbrances when they take priority in our lives.

Many worldly values encumber us. We are eager for more money so that we can buy more luxuries. Instead, Scripture instructs us to learn contentment and use whatever God gives us for His glory (1 Timothy 6:6–10). We allow society to define our needs, instead of seeking that information from God’s Word. We seek Dr. Phil’s guidance about marriage and relationships, rather than following God’s guidebook. We cannot triumph in the 100-meter backstroke if we try to play by a different sport’s rules.

Second, we must run with endurance. Victory is not easy. The 1980 US Olympic hockey team—perhaps one of the most memorable gold medalist squads in Olympic history—did not cruise easily to victory. They had to grind our victory day after day and overcome fierce competition. The Soviet team was not willing to give the USA a gold medal on a silver platter. They had to earn victory.

The apostle Paul did not write Romans 8 to armchair theologians who sat around drinking Perrier and discussing abstract ideas while growing rich off the stock market. When he wrote that “we overwhelmingly conquer,” he wrote it to people who endured trials and persecution. Few were wealthy. Some would be slaughtered for their faith. They did not overwhelmingly conquer by this world’s standards. They triumphed by the Kingdom of God’s standards.

Therefore, we must focus on our goal. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Also, we must keep our eyes on our goal in heaven.

In a memorable scene in the film Chariots of Fire, two sprinters, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, are racing for the first time. As they approach the finish line, Abrahams glances to see where Liddell is. At that moment, Liddell passes him and wins the race. Instead of looking to the finish line, Abrahams looked away, thereby slowing his pace, and he regretted that simple mistake.

We will not triumph spiritually if we focus on what others are doing. Neither will we triumph if we keep glancing over our shoulders at the past. We must keep our eyes on the finish line, focussing on Jesus and our reward in heaven.

Look at the battles you are losing today. You can be victorious if you play by God’s rules. Maybe you are losing because you keep fighting the wrong battles. Maybe you are losing because you keep looking back at the lifestyle God called you out of. Maybe you are losing because you carry excess emotional weight (fear, bitterness, regret). Lay down your excess weights. Tear off the heavy clothes that keep you from running as you ought. Dress for victory and claim your place on the champion’s platform.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping the Trolls Under the Bridge

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9, NASB).

The internet has brought many benefits to society. Thanks to social media, we can keep in touch with old friends whom we would probably never see again if not for Facebook or similar sites. If you need information quickly (or are just mildly curious about something), a quick Google search will provide links to numerous articles about the subject.

Fifteen years ago, if I wanted to publish a book or article, I would have to submit it to a publisher and hope they accept my work. If they agreed to publish my work, it could take months before anybody could read it. Today, I can write an article on this blog and watch it reach people across the globe within a few days.

On the other hand, the internet has its downsides. It used to be easy to know which sources were trustworthy; now, it has become so hard to discern serious journalism from fake news, that most people merely put their faith in whatever websites reaffirm their presuppositions. Also, while blogs and other websites give almost everybody a platform, it has provided an opportunity for trolls to stop hiding under bridges.

When I was growing up, “trolls” were creatures in fairy tales. Many of the memorable ones were big scary ones who lived under bridges or hid in the woods, pouncing on unsuspecting travelers. The term has now been applied to persons who pounce on people across the internet. In a recent post on publishing-industry blog The Scholarly Kitchen, Kent Anderson describes them as follows:

“A sad hallmark of the Internet Age has been the emergence of what have become known as ‘trolls’ — individuals or bots that aim to derail or dominate conversations with shocking, inflammatory, ad hominem, profane, and/or hateful attacks.”

There seem to be several kinds of trolls. Some jump at any opportunity to respond to an online article with a full-fledged verbal assault. They may hate the writer, or those who share his worldview, so much that they will simply bully and harass total strangers with demonic hatred. Others may just have a personal agenda they are trying to push, and will try to lure people into arguments. Maybe they just like arguing. Maybe they think they have stumbled upon some truth that they must share, and will hijack anybody’s platform to get their point across. Some may simply have too much free time on their hands and want to waste their time showing off how smart they think they are online.

Christians circles are not devoid of trolls. Far too often, the discussion about an article on a Christian website deteriorates rapidly: a few people thank the author for his wisdom, encouragement, or insight; another shares how the subject relates to a crisis he/she endured in the past or recently; another politely challenges one or two of the author’s points, citing Scripture verses and asking how the author responds; another attacks the author, or one of the commenters. Before you know it, people accuse one another of blatant heresy, and at least three evangelists have damned one another to hell. The author of the blog is trying to glorify God and draw his readers to Christ, but some of his followers have given spiritual seekers very valid reasons to go looking elsewhere for truth and give up on Christ. The most hostile commenters, of course, do it supposedly “to the glory of God.”

Such trolling has no place in the Kingdom of God. In his pastoral epistles, Paul warned Timothy and Titus to avoid arguments and controversies. Titus 3:9 (at the top of this post) is just one example of this instruction:

“But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:23–25).

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth…” (1 Timothy 6:3–5).

While I welcome discussion, I have no time for arguments or fights. I have better ways to use my time and am not interested in wasting it on debates. I can devote only a few hours per week to blogging and refuse to waste my precious time.

With this in mind, I have adjusted a setting on this blog to require moderation for all comments before they appear “live.” To ensure that your comment is approved, please follow these guidelines:

  1. Your comment must be directly related to the post at hand or comments related to it. Irrelevant comments will not be approved. If you try to hijack one of my posts to use it as a soapbox to begin a an unrelated discussion, it will be rejected.
  2. Please keep your comments courteous and polite. If they seem insulting, offensive, unnecessarily confrontational, etc., they will be rejected.
  3. If you disagree with one or more of my points, feel free to express your opinion politely.
  4. If you are going to challenge me to back up or defend a statement (i.e., you are challenging me to a debate), keep it brief. Recently, somebody chose to bombard me with an excessive number of points he wanted to argue about, including terminology in the Greek New Testament. Again, I have a job, family, life, and ministry: I refuse to be cornered into wasting my limited spare time arguing. There are web forums that welcome arguments and fights. Please take it there.

By sharing these guidelines with you, I am binding myself to live by them as well. I hope this will encourage discussion, thoughts, and feedback whereby we may all grow in God’s grace. I hope I am able to bless those who read this blog, and look forward to being blessed and exhorted by you as well.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remaining Alert—Luke 21:34–36

“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34–36, NASB).

 

A few weeks ago, I was concluding a blog post when a friend called on the phone. To allow myself time to finish my article, I let the call go to my answering machine. We spoke a night or two later, and he asked a question he has asked several times in the past: Someone told me that Sharia law is coming to America. Do you think that will happen? (On other occasions, he has asked questions like “Do you think ________ is the antichrist? My friend said he is.”)

In response to such questions, I usually repeat my belief that Sharia law will not come to America in the foreseeable future. I also express my doubts that the evil-politician-of-the-month is the antichrist. During my 33 years as a disciple of Jesus, I have lived through too many second comings, raptures, and antichrists. Numerous “prophecy experts” has made false pronouncements. This is a major reason why I generally avoid getting involved in debates about end-times prophecies. They can be divisive, and people get passionate about things that end up never occurring.

Such conjecture also distracts believers from the here-and-now. We can be overly concerned about living through the Great Tribulation, but first we need to survive the temptations of today. If we cannot overcome sin and Satan in today’s small conflicts, how can we overcome if full-blown persecution comes to our country?

Christians in America have enjoyed an unusual history. Unlike many of our brethren throughout the world, we have experienced limited hardship. The New Testament was written by and for people who were familiar with persecution. John the Baptist was beheaded; Jesus was crucified; almost all of the apostles died violent deaths for the faith; and many ordinary Christians faced death because of their beliefs. The Christian life was not easy by any means.

To this day, Christians throughout much of the world face many of the same dangers. While American preachers sell books promising “your best life now,” followers of Christ in many countries remain steadfast in their faith realizing that their best life will come beyond the grave. In America, though, we are complacent.

We face numerous temptations that may lure us away from Jesus. He warned his disciples that they must be on guard so that they will not be weighed down by “dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life.”

The Greek words for dissipation and drunkenness (κραιπάλη and μέθῃ) have similar meanings. Some Greek lexicons suggest that they are essentially two different words for “drunkenness.” Jamieson-Fausset-Brown’s commentary describes “surfeiting, and drunkenness” (the KJV’s translation for these two words) as “All animal excesses, quenching spirituality.” Jesus may have emphasized overuse of alcohol or other intoxicating substances here, but He frequently warned against the misuse of any natural pleasures. Many people who would never abuse drugs or alcohol may be lulled into complacency by sports, music, television, social media, or a host of other earthly pleasures. Even though they may be essentially harmless in moderation, they can become addictions that distract us from following Christ.

We can also be distracted by the “cares of this life.” We have bills, responsibilities, and needs. We need money to meet our basic daily necessities, and this usually requires work. However, some people get caught up in workaholism or other drastic approaches to solve their problems in their own strength. Some may become so concerned about paying their bills that they work two or three jobs, neglecting their relationships with God and their family. Their marriage may collapse and faith may be shipwrecked. Our obsession with our pleasures and problems can distract us from following Christ and doing His will.

Christ urges us to remain on our guard, to keep alert at all times, and to pray. Trials and temptations will come. The earliest disciples did not avoid hardship by becoming Christians. In fact, the life of faith brought extra problems. They prayed, not for the problems to go away, but for the strength to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of crises. (See Acts 4:24–31, where we see how the disciples prayed when they were threatened.) We should pray, not to avoid problems, but to have the strength to endure and persevere.

Hard times and trials will come. We will face them in our daily lives. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say “Give us this day our daily bread.” That same one-day-at-a-time urgency applies also when we pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We will face temptation and evil today. Let us face today’s temptations before focusing on the trials and tribulations that may (or may not) come in the future. God will give us the strength to persevere in the trials we face today. As we develop faithfulness and perseverance, we will be prepared if and when harder times come.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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