September 23, 2016

Strange Things

It is Friday or as my favorite "meme" says, "FRI-YAY!" I am so glad this week is over. In fact, this has been a GREAT week for me. I accomplished everything on my to-do list, and I am well-set to enjoy a fabulous weekend celebrating my son's 23rd birthday. I am good, so very good, and in all, I feel well (despite the tummy troubles this morning). I really feel well inside, deep down in my soul, and I feel good about my life and the direction for my life.

It is funny how that happens, really. I had a period of time not so long ago when I felt absolutely miserable about my life, when I thought there was no hope, and when I believed (erroneously) that my life had little purpose, value and function. Now, though, my life has value. It has meaning. And, I feel directed and confident in my purpose. It is such a good feeling to experience, and as such, I have this sense of "wellness," an overall wellness, that percolates up through my soul and outward to my face and my very being.

Today is a good day. And, yes, despite all the racial tension, the hate, the violence taking place in our streets today, I still think we live in a great country. We live in a wonderful place where individuals, no matter race or color, can achieve their goals, their dreams, and their desires simply by working hard, studying hard, and pursuing excellence in all things. My hope is to be a light and a beacon for those that are lost in this muddied mess of post modern thought and for anyone who thinks that violence and hatred are the way to bring about change. Never in the history of mankind as evil begat good. Never, never, not once. Thus, as Christians and followers of Christ, we must make it our goal to help lead the people who are lost, who are confused, and who are caught up in this madness -- out of it -- and into a place where there is no color, no division, no separation. Yes, only in Christ is there no division or separation. Paul said it this way in Galatians 3:27-29 NIV:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

I think about all of this violence, brother against brother and such, and I wonder what our dear Heavenly Father thinks about it. I mean, does this violence in any way pay tribute and honor to our King? I think not. Even during the height of racial segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized that violence never would bring honor and glory to the Lord. He often pleaded with his audience to not take that road, because as he often reasoned, it would not lead them to victory. It was these now famous words that spawned the belief in non-violent protest. He said,

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

In truth, his words echoed Paul's words when he wrote about peace and vengeance in Romans 12:18-20 (BSB):

If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” On the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Yes, Paul reminds his audience that the Lord says, "Vengeance is Mine," in order to put the onus on God as the only One who is able to accurately assess penalty, and who is Just and Justifier of all mankind. He is saying that this matter belongs to the Lord, and warns that when we run the risk of offending our God, our very Just, Righteous, and Honorable, God, we ever we act as judge and jury in matters such as these.


Finding Peace

As I mentioned at the top of this post, I am feeling well today despite some tummy troubles. I am in this great place right now, a place where I am feeling so full, so content, and so miraculously well in every area of my life. I mean, I am content to be a professor (adjunct now, but full time soon). I am content to remain where I am in Phoenix until the Lord provides another place for me to live. I am content to finish and graduate from Regent in 2017. I am content to take care of my parents through the end of their lives. I am content to be right where God has me because I know that I am at peace whenever I am in the middle of His will. Yes, when I am in the middle of His mighty will, then I have peace.

More so, I have peace when I regularly, daily, give Him praise. The Word says it this way,

For here we do not have a permanent city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name (Hebrews 13:14-15 Berean Study Bible).

We are encouraged to continually offer praise to God -- in good times and in bad times -- as a measure of our worship and sacrifice. In the Old Testament, faithful Jews offered sacrifices of animals in order to seek the Lord's forgiveness for sins and for His continued blessing over their lives. Throughout the Old Testament, specifically in Leviticus and in Deuteronomy, we read about all the ritual sacrifices that were required by God's covenant people. In the New Testament, however, we are told that Jesus is our Sacrifice, and that it was His body and blood that once and forever paid the price (the cost) for the forgiveness and remission of our sins. In this way, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and as such, we can be reconciled and returned to peaceful relations with God.

We give praise (joyful adoration) to God for His grace and His gift of a Savior. We pray and praise God in order to thank Him for all the goodness He brings to us. So why then does this verse, in particular, call our praise sacrificial when normally our praise is spontaneous and a joyful and happy exclamation of God's goodness and grace?

GotQuestions.org says it this way:

To praise God in those times requires personal sacrifice. It takes an act of the will to lay our all on the altar before a God we don't understand. When we bring a "sacrifice of praise," we choose to believe that, even though life is not going as we think it should, God is still good and can be trusted (Psalm 135:2; Nahum 1:7). When we choose to praise God in spite of the storms, He is honored, and our faith grows deeper (Malachi 3:13-17; Job 13:15).

In other words, when we praise God during hard times, we are offering our "sacrifice" to Him because we are saying that while we don't understand what God is doing in the moment, we will trust Him for the outcome. We are to praise God regardless, yet it is much more difficult to praise Him when things are not going well, than when things are wonderful, positive, and seem to be overflowing with blessing.

Lately, I have started to praise God in this way. It is not that my life is going poorly at all, but rather, I have decided to give it a try and see if my attitude, my behavior, and my overall temperament (countenance)  as a result of sacrificially praising God. What I have found so far is that all of these things have seen a positive change. I feel better. I think more clearly. I have a much better attitude. Yes, I can say that simply by sacrificially praising God, my entire comportment has taken on a brighter, more optimistic outlook. I am blessed by simply praising God for His blessing in my life. Go figure that one...


In Closing

As I think about this good day, one thing is certain: Our God is a gracious and good God. I cannot state it enough -- He is a God who loves us so completely, covers us so willingly, and provides for us with such sufficiency. Today, thus, I lift up a sacrifice of praise because my God is my everything. From start to finish, beginning to end, He is everything to me! Selah!

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