Tuesday, November 17, 2015

IN the world, not AT the world

One sometimes hears Christians describing their way of life as "in the world, but not of the world."  And there's a helpful distinction and an important point to be grasped there.

But in the day of social media rants, perhaps we need to reflect on this aphorism as well: "IN the world, not AT the world."

In Jesus Christ, God became flesh.  He can INTO the world, fully invading all the dark, sinful, yucky places of fallen society with redemptive love, eternal truth, and saving grace.

He actually entered into the brokenness.  Himself.  At his own cost and sacrifice.

He didn't merely yell or post or scold or fume from the safety of his armchair or from the sterilized moral high ground of social media.  He didn't merely give us something to read.  He didn't merely throw more laws at us.  Louder this time.

He came himself, entering into a world that was suffering under its bondage to corruption.  He came himself, weeping.  He came himself, bearing the curse with us and for us.

So... if we're attempting to follow him, we're going to have to do more than spout (or spit?) truth AT the world.

We're going to have to actually embody his love, his truth, and his grace... IN the world.

Ranting on social media is easy.  Any child can do that.

But visiting the bedridden neighbor?  That requires a bit more of you.

As does asking the homosexual to lunch.  Or making and delivering a meal to the ailing.  Or giving deeply to the needy.  Or assisting the single mom with childcare.  Or truly grieving with the broken-hearted, when everything is really going just fine with your life.  Or investing your time and love in the lonely and easily forgotten.  Or comforting the depressed.  Or running errands for the burdened.  Or coming alongside the frayed marriage.  Or asking the lost friend if he or she is interested in an honest, no-holds-barred exploration of the gospel, with Bibles opened.  Or discipling a younger believer.  Or getting down on our knees and praying.

IN the world.

Not merely AT the world.

Welcome to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Triumphal Return

In 2 Corinthians 2.14, Paul says this: "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere."

A "triumphal procession."

And yet, there's an amazing irony here.  When you look at what Paul's been writing about, since the beginning of the book, you see language like this:

  • the Father of mercies and God of all comfort... comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction... 
  • we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings... 
  • If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
  • we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
  • For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. 
  • we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer...
  • I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears...
  • we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs...
  • my spirit was not at rest...
There you have it.  That's the immediate context of Paul's "triumphal procession."  From the world's point of view it may not look very "triumphant."  

But it was.  

For as Paul says next: "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ."

The DeMars are returning from the missions field.  And from the world's point of view, it may not seem overly "triumphant." 

But it is.

In the Roman world a "triumphal procession" would look like this: a general would return home from military service abroad, and everyone would come out to welcome him back, with great joy and celebration.  He was serving the King well, and is now worthy of a "triumphal return!"  The aroma of incense is in the air, and the party is on!

The DeMars are likewise returning home from difficult service abroad.  They have served the King well.  The aroma you smell is of Christ, as Paul says above.  

Yes, they have suffered in this service (as Paul did), but such suffering is a sweet aroma to the King who voluntarily laid down his own life and was slain for his people.  

Get ready to celebrate.  Make this a "triumphal" return for those who have served the King well.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Orphan Sunday

Orphan Sunday will be observed in beautiful fashion this Sunday at Decatur Presbyterian Church.

Come join us.

"In you the orphan finds mercy."
The Prophet Hosea

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
The Lord Jesus

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'"
The Apostle Paul

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
The Apostle James

"Orphans no longer fatherless, Nor widows desolate."
Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand 
# 323 in the Trinity Hymnal 
by Henry Alford