Flex Your Meek

Look around. It seems that, every day, there is someone (or a group of someones) flexing their muscles in order to stand up for something they believe in. Hopefully, the only muscle they flex are their vocal cords. Or course, there are a lot of finger muscles being flexed too as people let their “voices” be heard on social media. This can lead to Christ-followers to wonder: I want to stand up for what I believe in, but aren’t I supposed to be “meek”?

Perhaps the issue is that we misunderstand what the word “meek” means. When Jesus says, “The meek will inherit the earth” in Matthew 5:5, he’s not talking about weakness or timidity. After all, he used the same word to describe both himself and Moses. Neither of them were weak and timid. So what does it mean?

Meekness is the idea of strength under control. Think about a horse that has been tamed. There is incredible strength in that horse, but since he is under control, his strength can be focused on productive good instead of wild harm.

God gives us incredible strength, and he wants us to use that strength for good. What, then, does meekness look like for us? Perhaps it means we don’t join in the wild, out-of-control thrashing we see in the world. It means being reserved and focused. It means recognizing God’s power and obeying him instead of living life in our own, unbridled strength.

 

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In the Face of Fear

Many followers of Jesus find that the future is blanketed with fear and anxiety. We look down the road and see dark clouds and terrible battles before us. There is a never-ending pandemic. The political power in Washington continues to shift to that which is antagonistic to the church.

Yet, to quote Bear Grylls in his devotional book Soul Fuel, “When we know who are are, who we follow, and who we can trust, it breeds an incredible freedom, especially from fear.”

Now, you may be like me. You read that and say to yourself, “That’s a great sentiment, but it doesn’t feel real.” I believe that is because most of us forget that God never promises to give us the strength to avoid difficulty. He promises to give us the strength to go through difficulty. And going through difficulty doesn’t always end with a Disney happy ending. After all, for every Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, there have been millions of devoted Christ-followers who have been tortured, abused and murdered simply because of their faith in God. Yes, I know. That’s not exactly the kind of statement that makes it out of the Christian church marketing department.

But when we honestly begin to grab hold of this truth — that our identity and success is about who’s we are not what is happening to us — we can find freedom from fear, worry and anxiety. We can truly find ourselves aligned with words of the Apostle Paul in Thessalonians 5:18 when he writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I pray that you and I will find that freedom in the days and months ahead. We are not bound by which political party controls the Senate or the White House. We are not bound by the latest CDC memo about the coronavirus. We are not bound by circumstances. Because we belong to Jesus, and his promises will be true tomorrow just as they are today and have been since the dawn of time.

 

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Never Say Goodbye

When it comes to our attitude towards the year of our Lord two-thousand, twenty, few of us would opt to apply the sentiment of the classic Bon Jovi song “Never Say Goodbye.” We’re ready to say “good riddance” and move on to brighter, greener days.

But, perhaps, while we say goodbye to 2020, we don’t completely cut the ties. Perhaps there is something about this year-of-all-years that is worth holding onto.

The Apostle James tells us in chapter 1 of his book, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I don’t know about you, but the idea of being “mature and compete, not lacking anything” perks my interest. If that could be me! But, for that to happen, I must let perseverance finish its work, and perseverance only comes from facing trials of many kinds.

So, I suppose, my point is: Let’s not be too quick to bury 2020 in the dark corners of our minds, stored away like that ugly Christmas serving tray we got from Aunt Betty back in 1997. Instead, as we move forward, let’s hold onto the lessons of what God has taught us about our own perseverance and maturity over the past twelve months.

What has God taught you through the trials of 2020? What is it he may be still trying to teach you? Did you respond to trials well or poorly? What can this teach you about how to anticipate your response to future trials (spoiler alert, they’ll be coming)?

Say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021, but when it comes to the valuable lessons God is teaching us in his lifelong process of maturing us, never say goodbye to those. Hold onto them. Cherish them. Use them.


God Bless Me

For the most part, this has been a lousy year. But for those of us who are followers of Jesus, we hold firm to his promises and trust that he will come through in the end.

After all, we can look at examples like the one found in the early part of Luke 5 when Jesus steps in to bless Peter, James and John. After a frustrating night of fishing, Jesus tells Peter to cast his nets into the deep water and try again.

Verse six says, “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” In other words, Jesus poured out an unexpected blessing on Peter, James and John in a moment of discouragement when they needed it most.

Our response to this is probably a hearty, “Amen!” After all, Jesus loves us too. So, why not anticipate a blessing like this when we are need? There is nothing wrong with that. But are you and I prepared to respond to the blessing like Peter, James and John?

Most of us, when we are on the receiving side of a divine blessing, respond with something like, “Thank you God for what you did for me!” Certainly, appreciation and acknowledgment of God’s blessing is fine, but notice what Peter does. He says in verse eight: “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!”

For Peter, the blessing isn’t about “what I got”. It isn’t about “me”. His response is to worship and honor the Lord. Yes, God blesses us because he loves and cares for us. But, perhaps, the bigger point to any blessing is to remind us of his glory and his sovereignty while also reminding us that we are fallible and of our inabilities.

Peter says, “I am a sinful man!” This could be because he is portraying the stark contrast between man and God. That’s fair. It may also be because, in that moment, Peter recognizes his own arrogance and tendency to rely on himself for success. After all, he’s a professional fisherman. Jesus is a rabbi. When Jesus told Peter to cast his nets in the deep, the professional might have been saying to himself: “Whatever, Jesus. That doesn’t make sense. That tactic is illogical. You’re supposed to fish at night in the shallows. But I’ll do it anyway just to humor you.” Are you and I guilty of taking that same attitude towards God?

There is one other aspect to Peter’s response to the blessing that is notable. If you and I had been in Peter’s shoes, we may have realized that we had the potential for a gold mine on our hands. Jesus has blessed me, and I can turn this into a windfall that will set me up for life. Think about it. With Jesus on the payroll, the Zebedee Fishing Company was poised to rake in loads of fish day after day. Profits would skyrocket. Peter, James and John would be living the good life in posh mansions on the lakeshore while their fleet of boats kept hauling in the dough.

But that’s not what happened. See verse 11: “So they pulled their boats onto the shore, left everything and followed him.”

Wut?

Jesus tells the three fishermen that he has a different plan — a better plan — for their lives. So, despite the potential to be the Amazon of Israeli first-century fishing, they leave it all behind and follow him.

What can this tell us? Perhaps, Jesus blesses us not because he’s blessing our plans. It would have been logical to conclude: Jesus wants us to be successful fisherman. That’s why he blessed us with so much success. But, there may be another purpose for God’s blessing: to point us towards him and move us away from our plans and towards his plans for our lives.

So, when blessings comes your way — and they will — how will you respond? Something worth considering as we head towards Christmas and the New Year.

[Luke 5:1-11 (NIV)]