“…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:3
Here’s some bad news: left to ourselves, we’re not very good shots when it comes to living. We are, at the core, sinful, which explains why we lead such “ready-fire-aim” kind of lives. We are a lot like the village idiot who prided himself on being a great shot. After he shot his arrow at the side of the barn, he would then paint a bull’s-eye target around the arrow, painting the arrow into the center of the bull’s-eye.
But the bull’s-eye of life is not an I-want-my-life-to-be-like-this-thank-you barn-side painting. The bull’s-eye for life as it’s meant to be is already painted by the good and righteous ways of God. And since we are not inherently righteous, but rather fallen and frail, missing the target is a regular event.
In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, the character named Cassius gets it right when he explains:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Most of us excuse our miscues, or mistakes, by assigning them to fate and random bumps from the circumstances of life: “It’s not our fault. We’re victims. It’s in our stars.” But God’s take on our lives is that the fault does lie in us! Not that we are underlings as Cassius points out, but that we are born sinful, fallen, frail, and broken. By our very nature we’re wrong-headed. I have come to realize that my first instincts in a given situation are probably wrong. Granted, they don’t seem wrong. It seems right to get even; to stash away as much money as I can; to make sure that I am recognized and affirmed; to seek pleasure for myself; to live life to the full on my own terms; to do everything to dodge suffering and then resent it when suffering does invade my life; to try to be as strong as I can, because only the strong survive; and to yell at people who yell at me. But here is the warning: God says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12)! And we are reminded in Isaiah that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).
So let’s fess up! We need help. Because we are bent in the wrong direction, we are in desperate need of God’s wisdom to live right-headedly. And, where is that wisdom found?
Paul makes this clear when he writes that he desires that our hearts be encouraged so that we “may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that [we] may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).
Jesus knows the way. He has the wisdom to see life the way it should be lived. But beware! His wisdom will not seem right to you. He says to turn the other cheek, to die so that you can live, to give that you might gain, to forgive the same offense 490 times, to love your enemy, and to find meaning and productivity in suffering. Sound upside down to you? Sure it does. But it sounds that way, not because Jesus is upside down, but because we are.
The bull’s-eye of life is Jesus! Seek His wisdom and turn your “ready-fire-aim” life into blue- ribbon target shooting!
|APRIL 27, 2015
Give Yourself Permission to Slow Down
“Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:3 (NASB)
During my son’s basketball practice, I made my grocery list, returned text messages, checked work emails, read an online devotion and scrolled through Facebook. In the midst of my frenzy, a photo of my friend’s vacation stopped me in my tracks. I could almost feel the warm sun and hear the clear water lapping the shore.
My shoulders relaxed and my mind rested for just a moment before the referee blew the whistle, and I was off again. Though tired, after the practice I headed to the grocery store, post office and garage for an oil change. I tucked the picture of the beach in the back of my mind and reminded myself that I needed to take a Sabbath — a full day of rest.
Does taking one whole day off sound foreign to you? I struggle with it, too. That’s because we have lost the rhythm of life, which includes a day of rest. As a result, we are tired, overworked, disorganized, confused and sleep-deprived.
What has happened to the Sabbath? Where did the ideals of a day of rest go?
With bills to pay, broken things to fix, kids to care for and work deadlines to meet, it’s difficult to give ourselves permission to slow down. Celebrating the work we’ve done seems like a waste of time. But God said to rest and celebrate. He even modeled it for us.
We are given an example of the Sabbath in Genesis 2:3: “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” The word “blessed” means praise, salute, kneel or bless oneself. The Lord gave Himself permission to rest and to celebrate the work He had done on the other six days of the week.
Pausing once a week helps to clear our hearts and minds. This “white space” enables us to focus on praising and worshipping the Lord. We find room to rejoice in the work He has enabled us to complete, which balances discouragement over unfinished jobs. It aligns our perspective with what is important and reminds us that these tasks will still be there when we return to work.
Make plans to schedule a Sabbath rest for yourself. Mark your calendar now and set that day aside for praise and worship, prayer and Scripture reading, naps and knitting (or whatever is restful for you). Most importantly, set your Sabbath state of mind on the Lord and honor Him with a day of rest and celebration.
The One Who Lives
From: Streams in the Desert
The Lord’s care of His people
‘He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye.’ Zechariah 2:8
Suggested Further Reading: Ecclesiastes 8:10–14
I am not one of those who look upon everything that happens in this world as being a judgment from God. If a boat goes down to the bottom of the sea on a Sunday, I do not look upon that as a judgment on those who are in it, any more than if it had gone to the bottom on a Monday; and though many good people get frightened when they hear one affirm this doctrine, yet I cannot help their frights, but like my Master I must tell them that they who perish so are not sinners above all the sinners that be in Jerusalem. I looked the other day at Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and I saw there an illustration of that deeply-rooted mistake of Christian people, concerning God’s always punishing men’s sins in this life. Foxe draws a picture of a Popish priest who is insulting the faith, speaking lightly of the blood of Jesus, and exalting Mary, and he drops down dead in the pulpit; and Foxe holds him up as a picture of a great sinner who dropped down dead for speaking lightly of Jesus, and the good man affirms the wicked priest’s death to be a judgment from heaven. Well, perhaps Foxe is correct, but still I do not see the connection between his dropping down dead and the language he employed, for many a preacher who has been exalting Christ has fallen down dead in the pulpit; and happy was it for such a man that he was engaged in minding his charge at the time. The fact is, providence smites good men and bad men too; and when the storm rages, and the hurricane howls through the forest, not only are the brambles and briars shaken and uprooted, but goodly oaks crack and break too. We are not to look for God’s judgments, except in special cases, in this life. This judgment is in the world to come.
For meditation: Beware of jumping to false conclusions. The apostle Paul was the frequent victim not only of persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23–25), but also of natural accidents (2 Corinthians 11:25–27). The latter were not inconsistent with him being in the centre of God’s will (Acts 27:21–26).
Sermon no. 452
27 April (1862)