Not as Children

Ahh…the Kingdom of Christ.  I’ve had the opportunity to interact with children who consider themselves kings.  (They live in our homes, attend our churches, play soccer together – you get the picture.)  They may know about discipline, authority and obedience; maybe even that those things come from God and return to Him in worship.  Yet, inevitably (when a sibling perpetrates a self-defined no-no) the real views of the little regents become clear: my rules, my judgments, and my kingdom.  So much of their experience of joy in this life is wrapped up in their comforts, their peace, and their prosperity.  Of course, they are just like the rest of us only it’s usually easier to see in them.

What makes them childish in their thinking is they lack the vision to see how temporal joys and discomforts fit into the bigger picture.  I find grown-ups who think this way.  The John 10:10 Life is the here-and-now life.  We’ve seen how this thinking extends to our parenting: our efforts and goals with our children do not extend beyond the planes of the here-and-now-plus-maybe-high-school-graduation.

The gospel directly affects kingdoms.  It brings one that we didn’t know anything about right into the throne rooms of our kingdoms – it swims the moats and scales the walls subduing all the guards.  Its presence there is beautifully crushing: over time, all the vestiges of our former reign melt under the weight of the glory of the kingdom of God.  Its effects transcend time and space unlike our own pitiful realms.  Whereas its approach was unexpected and unknown, in Christ, we have been given this kingdom via the indwelling Holy Spirit.  In Christ, it is as much yours as your two lips!

I was reading in John Calvin’s Institutes about Christ as King (book 2, chapter 14, paragraph 4).   Here’s a sample of what he wrote:

…the whole course of our lives [is] to war under the cross, our condition here is bitter and wretched. What then would it avail us to be ranged under the government of a heavenly King, if its benefits were not realised beyond the present earthly life? We must, therefore, know that the happiness which is promised to us in Christ does not consist in external advantages—such as leading a joyful and tranquil life, abounding in wealth, being secure against all injury, and having an affluence of delights, such as the flesh is wont to long for—but properly belongs to the heavenly life. As in the world the prosperous and desirable condition of a people consists partly in the abundance of temporal good and domestic peace, and partly in the strong protection which gives security against external violence; so Christ also enriches his people with all things necessary to the eternal salvation of their souls and fortifies them with courage to stand unassailable by all the attacks of spiritual foes.

We should not be child-like in thinking that this new realm’s reach is only as small as our own peace, comfort and affluence; that the keys are no worry, no pain and no effort.  While in this life trouble might be a large portion of our lot, it will always be mingled with the grace of God in the face of Christ.  And beyond?  Trouble we will leave behind and all that we longed for here and now (that make terrible gods) will be ours because He will manifestly be ours.  Praise God for His steadfast and enduring love!

Rest Reflections

Wow is it hard to take a Sabbath when your work day is the Christian Sabbath. The risks though to avoiding or neglecting it make me nervous. These last posts have generated heat and (maybe) some light. But they take a toll on all. You combine heart-ed discussion with the myriad other demands and rest seems far away. How do you find your way to rest? Not the TV (trust me; the Bourne Supremacy is good for many things but rest?)

God was kind to me this day and I “stumbled” upon another man taking a Sabbath and decided to read what he wrote.

Psalm 92:1 A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath day. It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;

2 To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night,

3 With the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, With resounding music upon the lyre.

4 For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.

5 How great are Your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep.

6 A senseless man has no knowledge, Nor does a stupid man understand this:

7 That when the wicked sprouted up like grass And all who did iniquity flourished, It was only that they might be destroyed forevermore. 8 But You, O LORD, are on high forever.

9 For, behold, Your enemies, O LORD, For, behold, Your enemies will perish; All who do iniquity will be scattered.

10 But You have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil.

11 And my eye has looked exultantly upon my foes, My ears hear of the evildoers who rise up against me.

12 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13 Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green,

15 To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Some Sabbath reflections.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, the most High God. My problem is often that when I am caught having eyes of flesh rather than faith, I don’t know for what to thank Him. To recognize, however, that He is full of lovingkindness in the morning and faithfulness at night gives me volumes to declare.  Seriously, do I have NOTHING for which to thank Him?  That’s crazy (I wish I knew a word stronger than crazy).

His works are like Him, they are good. Here’s where stumbling is easy – is it all good, O Lord? Sleepless markets that go lower than we’ve seen before – good? Iraq arming with nuclear weapons – good? Slippery political candidates of all kinds – good? A house that just won’t sell – good? Your thoughts are very deep.

To misunderstand His works makes me like a stupid man, a fool. I’m caught and rightly labeled.

To long for the green grass of ease or comfort or security more than all else, makes me an enemy of God. This is what happens to me when I fail to give thanks. And I fail to give thanks when I don’t rest.  Weariness makes thankfulness next to impossible, right? When I believe that God should act as I have or how I think He should and He does not, I become His enemy. I fail to see and I fail to thank. How can it be that having been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ I can be His enemy? Never finally His enemy, but like a right fullback on the soccer field who won’t listen to the captain’s instructions, I buck His agenda. How stupid (I need to be benched).

Holding fast to God in all times puts me in the path of His blessing: anointing, victory, righteousness. I get to see and know His progress in kingdom expansion. I get to be exalted with His chosen ones. I will watch the downfall of wicked and the expiration of those who hate Him; those who hate me.  I’ve seen these things and they surpass low oil prices, lemme tell you.

For those who will cling to Him, who will give thanks to Him, they will be men and women of mission. Who doesn’t want to “flourish”?! I’ve spoken to many who want to “make a difference” in life with their lives.  No doubt.  Who flourishes?  The righteous.  Not the influential or the powerful (unless they are righteous).  That’s a level playing field that no one but God can create.  So I need Christ to make me righteous and then I need to work to produce it (James 1:20). I want to bear fruit in all ages, want to be engaged at all times – active as a blooming tree in the Garden of God. This will cost me, though. I have to stay planted in His garden and I’ve never really thought of that. How often do I uproot myself in my thinking? Do I pursue other agendas for other reasons?

What are your Sabbath reflections?