Friday, May 24, 2013

One More Note on the Generous Widow

This lady’s lesson concerning her scant offering, described in one scant verse, Mark 12:42, has grabbed hold of me now for a couple of weeks. We eat, and pray that the calories will not hold. But we preach, and pray that the lessons will.

The commentaries say that her offering had the value of 1/64 of a day’s wage. Using rough math, based on a 10 hour day, her offering was equivalent to what a laborer would earn for 10 minutes of work. “Here, I’ll come pull weeds in your garden for 10 minutes. How much will you pay me?”

I would not be surprised to hear you say that it would not be worth your coming. The amount of the work would hold next to no value. It’s hardly worth measuring.

And so one could have said to this widow, your offering is not worth giving. It holds so little value that you may as well keep it yourself, not that it is of much value to you either. You can scarcely pay a bill or buy a vegetable with it. Maybe just throw it on the ground.

And then I thought, how long do I pray in the morning? Ten minutes. How much time do I spend in consideration of God and His Word? 1/64th of a day? And would you be surprised if God were to say, “don’t even bother, it’s of so little use, so little value, you may as well spend that time on yourself, or just throw it on the ground.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trophies of Grace

Go into most schools and many churches, and you will see a trophy case. Some are getting pretty tarnished, but they denote real accomplishments, albeit from the past. Tastes differ, but I think they look kind of gaudy. I think the trophy business needs a new look.

There are better trophies out there. Trophies of grace. Lives stuck in the mud who have been rescued and redeemed. Sinners made saints. Worshippers of self turned glorifiers of God. Earthen vessels possessed by the Spirit of God, now doing the will of God in the power of God, all the while pointing to Jesus.

Trophies don’t make themselves, and they don’t testify to themselves. Children of God are made by God, to give testimony that there is a trophy enterprise that is full of grace and wonder and beauty.

What a privilege this past Sunday to hear a couple tell the story of God’s grace, and how God laid hold of poor, lost souls to create trophies of grace that “shine like lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time to Re-Set?

I like words. And I like to notice when a new word becomes hot. “Re-set” is one of those words. This word may have been around for a long time, though I don’t remember it. But I hear it a lot these days, whether it has to do with the economy, or relationships with the Russians, or with Congress, or in telling a story that explains our condition. We need to re-set.

I guess it’s a word. I’m not sure it’s a true word, or, a word that has real meaning. I don’t believe suddenly being kind after being offensive results in harmony, or that suddenly telling a new version of truth after old versions have been exposed gives birth to trust - I don’t think that re-set works. The crook or sinner from five minutes ago is still a crook or sinner. Maybe he has learned a lesson, but he still may remember a number of his old lessons.

But I love “re-” words. And I love the ones that are actually a part of intelligent literature, and I especially love the “re-” words of the Bible. Let’s take a look at these three: re-pentance, re-conciliation, and re-demption.

Repentance is telling the truth about my sin, and turning away from it. It is agreeing with God about the fact of my sin even as I admit that my actions/attitudes were a lie and an offense against God’s truth. Repentance does not lead us to a vacuum, but to faith, a turning toward God even as we turn away from ourselves. It is a humble act of submission that comes about as God in His Spirit graciously breaks down the hardness of our hearts and shines His light into our darkness. Repentance is real because it is not merely a human activity initiated in order to paint over our own messes. It is initiated by God to “bring me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay” (Psalm 40:2). It is God’s rescue operation.

Reconciliation is putting back together what has torn apart. We fail to remember that most of our fractures cannot be self-healed. We desperately need outside help. My major theological illustration of this is good old Humpty Dumpty. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” Neither can you, and neither can I. But God does. He goes to the root of the problem and plants a new root. He does not placate the enmity, but destroys the enmity, “by abolishing in His (Christ’s) flesh the enmity” (Ephesians 2:15), “having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). God is able to create true and deep peace where there was only fear and suspicion. I love this word. It’s a true word with real meaning.

That brings us to redemption. We are, by nature, imprisoned and enslaved people. That’s what it means to be a sinner. We don’t just make bad choices. Our whole existence is defined by bad choice. We are a bad choice. We are part of Satan’s choice to rebel against God; part of of Adam’s choice to have his own way. We are a product of bad choice, and an expression of bad choice. And then, in our own experience, we confirm bad choice time and time again, even when we don’t want to. But God, in redemption, embraces “bad choice.” “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). He embraces you. He embraces me. He pays the price to redeem you from your slavery and imprisonment into a new experience of love and forgiveness; to a new life of purity and freedom on a new path, never alone, but in constant contact with His Son, Jesus.