Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Focus on Rejoicing

The shortest verse in the Bible is not John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” Counting letters in the original language, there are 16 characters in three words. But the Greek text of 1 Thessalonians 5:16 includes only 14 characters in two words, typically translated, “Rejoice always” (ESV, NAS, NKJV, NIV, NRSV). The variations are not really that diverse: “Rejoice evermore” (KJV) and “Always rejoice ye” (YLT). Though it’s the shortest, it may be the second most difficult command to obey in Scripture after loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

This command comes in the final chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians and near the middle of 17 different exhortations. We ought not separate it from its context but we can focus on it. Rejoice. Always.

How have you done rejoicing in 2014? What percentage of proactive rejoicing have you done? Are you faithful to schedule (and practice) rejoicing with God’s people on the Lord’s Day? Do you make rejoicing the agenda at your meal times and holiday get-togethers? What percentage of reactive rejoicing have you done? Do you rejoice with others when they receive good news, or is envy a more likely response? Do you mix rejoicing in with your burdens or reports of bad news? Paul said he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Rejoicing does not eliminate heaviness (see 1 Peter 1:6), but it does flavor, lighten, and transpose that heaviness.

You may or may not use the changing of the year to take stock of your sanctification. But you absolutely must hear the will of God as revealed in His Word and measure your walk accordingly. Are you the grinch, the grouch, the grumbler? Or are you the glad, grateful, again and again rejoicer?

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Trimming the Fat

We are at the threshold of a new year, a customary and fitting time to evaluate if we were worshipping any idols over the last twelve months that should be dethroned. Call it resolutions, call it repentance, we should examine if we are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Many new year pledges seek to unseat the gods of gluttony and lethargy. So many July garage sales will be stocked with treadmills and stationary bikes onto which so many January hopes were placed. And, if you have been laying around like the cows of Bashan that the prophet Amos addressed, then you probably should trim the fat, sure. Let’s just not get carried away considering where the cow came from.

Paul addressed some Roman Christians who were divided over food, over what was clean and unclean. They were concerned whether they were eating food offered under the shadows of altars to false gods. We have taken on a similar concern in our culture. We want our food (coffee) grown under shadows, and we didn’t even have to cut down or carve the tree into an alter or totem pole first. How convenient for us, and how pleased Terra Godessa is with us.

But Paul said, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). This isn’t to say that eating and drinking, what or when or how, is amoral; we can glorify God in it or not, just as in whatever we do. But we glorify God or not based on what is in our heart, not based on what we put in our mouths.

So whether you need to cut down on the sweets or drink more wine or take a couple laps around your neighborhood or whatever you repent from and resolve to pursue, do it for righteousness more than your waste line. Do it for peace’s sake, not because you’re ashamed of harvesting practices. Do it for joy, because that will show whether your new year plans pursue His kingdom or yours.

Categories
Enjoying the Process

High Altitude Assessment of 2007

The last couple years I’ve made resolutions, posted them publicly, then reviewed my progress publicly as well. This is good accountability especially since there are some significant consequences of breaking resolutions even though it’s so easy to do.

We are always to be progressing in our devotion to Christ and good resolutions are made with that in mind. Spiritual transformation and progress is essential–not optional–for Christ followers. Therefore it is not only beneficial to consider our failures, weaknesses, and sin and address them, it is needful! And it is needful not only on a yearly basis, but on a weekly basis, a daily basis, and even an hourly or moment-by-moment basis. Examining our lives once a year is like examining our course from 30,000 feet–we get a good view but we’re too far away to change much. Of course from the five foot view we can deal with a lot of things but we can’t always recognize past patterns and potential pitfalls.

So a multi-prong, near and far examination is good, and the following is my bird’s eye, end of year assessment. I made five resolutions for 2007; here’s how I did.

  • Less fiddling

My first resolution was also my most successful. My fingers have done minimal tweaking on my blog template or the one28 site. Almost all under the hood work on those sites was purposeful and productive. Likewise I have been employing a stable GTD set-up for more than the second half of the year. With the help of Google Calendar, Basecamp, and my iPhone I’ve actually done more working on my tasks than working on my task list.

  • More (hand)writing

There were two parts to this resolution: writing more and writing more by hand. I definitely progressed in handwriting, using an Italian fountain pen on yellow legal pads or in a Moleskine notebook. Every sermon I’ve preached in the last few months was scribbled first on paper. The conentration and joy I get from the writing process (not the penmanship) is worth the extra time and something I plan to continue. As for actually writing more? There was nothing prolific so I’m headed back to the writing board.

  • More (offline) reading

Book reading is back in a big way and my blog subscriptions are slipping in the right direction. Nevertheless I still find myself filling small banks of minutes with the banality of Google Reader or “opening all in tabs” instead of traversing another four pages of really beautiful or beneficial ground. Maybe some daily, personal internet protocol is in order for the new year.

  • More (out-loud) praying

Spontaneous prayer has been strong in the last couple months of 2007, and I’ve especially embraced my role as “head” prayer at home for meals or bedtime. I also know that time with God in private whets my mind, calms my worries, and quickens my affections yet scheduled times of struggle and lingering are still lower than desired. All that to say, I made progress with spacious room for improvement.

  • Be (radically) thankful

I have been thankful, and I’m thankful for that. I am both content with what I have and appreciative of an almost innumerable collection of tangible and intangible gifts from gracious people over the past year. As my kids grow and as my complete helplessness is further exposed, I’m thankful for God’s care. The repetition about the fear of God has not been in vain for me as I am really enjoying the process more (though not perfectly), whether traffic or interruptions or accidents as well as the obvious goods.

So overall there has been progress. I love my sheep, my family, and my Lord more than the same time last year. I think the increase in gray hair demonstrates that I’m (at least a little) wiser, not just older. I’m tired but eager to keep moving. I praise God for His strength behind my strides and blame my own sin for any and all steps back. Thank you, Lord, for being faithful to conform me into the image of Your Son; please don’t stop.