Christianity 201

July 1, 2019

Keep Busy and Know that He Is God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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In the last 12 months, I’ve noticed a spike in interest in giftware products containing Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God;” along with many people commenting on the deeper context of the verse and how all these “trendy scriptures” (such as “For I know the plans…) are taken out of context.

Still, (pun intended) there is value in stillness. One of my favorites is Isaiah 30:15b

…“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength…” (NLT)

So why the title of today’s post?

July 1st is Canada Day and in the U.S., July 4th is… well, it’s better known simply as “The 4th of July.” (Independence Day to be precise.)

Many times people feel very lonely and even severely depressed on holidays, especially when they (a) have no one to share the time with and (b) they don’t have the distractions of their job.

If you are single and you think marriage is the cure for this, think again. For many years, my wife and I would have said that we currently do not have any other couple that we, as the kids would say, hang with.

Being in a crowd doesn’t help. Many times it simply reinforces the detachment or loneliness that some experience. Holidays simply aggravate this current state of social affairs, and as I type this, we’re actually dealing with another byproduct of having no one we call on to help with a particular need.

The Psalmist understood this; Psalm 73: 25 says

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Some might argue that the key to this verse is “in heaven;” that Asaph is comparing the God of Israel to other gods. But I believe he is also contrasting “friends on earth” to having a “friend in heaven.”

A similar passage is in John 6:68, when Jesus has asked the disciples if they wish to leave

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Cynics would say that Peter is simply saying he has no other options, almost implying that he might leave if something better came along.

But time will prove the prophetic nature of his statement. Jesus remains faithful to Peter even when Peter doesn’t remain faithful to Jesus. Peter messes up but Jesus restores him. Truly, this is a friend who stays closer than a brother.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:2

Typically, people have seen a Christological element in this verse; that the friend described is the Son of God Incarnate, now seated at the right hand of God.

That’s the kind of companion you have in Christ, even on a holiday when waves of depression roll in.

So again the title of today’s post…

…I believe that times of loneliness and depression are best defeated by engagement in activity. That hand-in-hand with Christ we can avoid the over-intensive introspection that comes with idleness and the temptations that often accompany solitude.

Mental health issues are not to be taken lightly. Sometimes medical intervention is necessary in cases of depression. But the ‘holiday depression’ described here is something I believe we can remedy through a change of attitude and by getting out into the community — and away from our computer screens (ironic here I realize) — still knowing that He is God.

Have a blessed Canada Day, 4th of July, or whatever holidays present themselves where you live.
 

May 26, 2017

A New Kind of Family Gathering

It’s been three years into his ministry working with the same core group of twelve guys as well as several women who also followed him and helped finance his ministry.

And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
 ~Luke 22:15

We get the “before I suffer” part. He has information he wants to impart to them. But more importantly, he wants to impart a symbol to them. He knows what he will do. He knows he will break the bread. He knows what he will do with the third cup. The Jews for Jesus website explains this to us Gentiles:

The third cup is referred to as either the cup of redemption or the cup of blessing…The New Testament names one of the cups—the cup taken after supper, which is traditionally the third cup. Jesus calls this cup “the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20)…Both Jesus and Paul draw on something from Jewish tradition to provide insights not previously understood. By calling the cup “the new covenant in my blood,” Jesus makes a direct reference to the promise of Jeremiah 31. God had declared that He would make a new covenant because the previous covenant had become “broken” (Jeremiah 31:32).

But forgive me for stepping back from the more meaningful, to something you may find simply superficial. Let’s delete “before I suffer” for a moment, and we’re left with: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.”

The commentary Gill’s Exposition of the Bible offers a hint of where I’m going with this (emphasis added):

“…though he had kept many Passovers, yet of none of them did he say what he does of this, which was his fourth Passover from his entrance on his public ministry, and his last: two reasons are suggested in the text why he so greatly desired to eat this Passover; the one is, because he should eat it “with” his disciples; an emphasis lies on the phrase, “with you”, to whom, and not so much to the Passover, and the eating of that, was his desire; as it is to all his people: it was so from everlasting, when he desired them as his spouse and bride; and in time, when he became incarnate, suffered, died, and gave himself for them: his desire is towards them whilst in unregeneracy, that they may be converted; and to them when converted, notwithstanding all their backslidings and revoltings.”

We don’t see any mention of Jesus celebrating previous Passovers with The Twelve. This was, as we would expect from our family observances of Christmas or Easter, a time of family gathering.

Luke 2:41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.

I am speculating here, but I would think that most of, if not all the disciples would have spent this time with their immediate family. But Jesus is instituting a new family order:

Luke 14:16 If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.

Think about that for a moment in a modern context. Can you imagine the pastor of a multi-staff church walking into a staff meeting sometime in early November and saying, “This year, I want us all as a team to spend the Thanksgiving meal together at a special location I’m going to reserve.”

Peter, who we know had a mother-in-law (in other words, married) might be torn on a holiday between two sets of family with which to observe the feast. But instead, Jesus is saying that his core group, his spiritual family presupposes a new type of family gathering.

Here again our friends at Jews for Jesus again provide some help in a different article:

A common Jewish view was that the messianic era would be preceded by a time of disharmony in family and social relationships. In other words, things were going to get worse before they got better. In his sayings quoted above, Jesus was announcing the messianic age and his own messiahship. In doing so, he was quoting from the Old Testament prophet Micah who spoke of the messianic age in the following terms:

Put no trust in a neighbor;
have no confidence in a friend;
guard the doors of your mouth
from her who lies in your arms;
for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
Micah 7:5–6

Here’s the backstory: Micah had been speaking of God’s judgment that would come on Judah because of the nation’s corruption and moral failure. According to Micah’s words earlier in his book, this judgment would take the form of a military siege by an outside enemy. In this context, social relationships would fall apart and even close relatives would no longer trust one another. Social deterioration would be the end result of Judah’s moral failure.

In much Second Temple and rabbinic Jewish literature, this same passage and similar descriptions characterize the final “day of the Lord.” Before the Messiah arrives, or during that time period, there will be a time of  social dislocation. (See the section “Going Deeper” below for citations.)

Jesus is not encouraging hate. Rather, he is saying that social networks will be torn apart because the time of Messiah is now here. People will be divided over Jesus and his call to repentance and faith. Social unrest was not Jesus’ goal. But when God’s kingdom comes, sin stands out in sharp relief.

They then go on to remind us that Jesus affirms the commandment to honor father and mother.

So this is yet another issue in the Christian life where a place of balance is needed.

What could we take from this? Are there times we need to prioritize our spiritual family on special occasions or special events? How many times do people miss out on serving the needs of the poor or the lonely on a holiday because of perceived family obligations? Could we balance the two models by opening our home on special days to non-family members?


Go Deeper: Read the entire article at J4J regarding “hating” parents.

 

July 1, 2010

Holiday Depression

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:37 pm
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July 1st is Canada Day and in the U.S., July 4th is… well, it’s better known simply as “The 4th of July.”  (Independence Day to be precise.)

Many times people feel very lonely and even severely depressed on holidays, especially when they (a) have no one to share the time with and (b) they don’t have the distractions of their job.

If you are single and you think marriage is the cure for this, think again.   My wife and I currently do not have any other couple that we, as the kids would say, hang with.   Holidays simply reinforce this current state of social affairs, and as I type this, we’re actually dealing with another byproduct of having no one we call on to help with a particular need.

The Psalmist understood this; Psalm 73: 25 says

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Some might argue that the key to this verse is “in heaven;” that Asaph is comparing the God of Israel to other gods.   But I believe he is also contrasting “friends on earth” to having a “friend in heaven.”

A similar passage is in John 6:68, when Jesus has asked the disciples if they wish to leave

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Cynics would say that Peter is simply saying he has no other options, almost implying that he might leave if something better came along.

But time will prove the prophetic nature of his statement.   Jesus remains faithful to Peter even when Peter doesn’t remain faithful to Jesus.  Peter messes up but Jesus restores him.   Truly, this is a friend who stays closer than a brother.

That’s the kind of companion you have in Christ, even on a holiday when waves of depression roll in.