Monday, January 29, 2007

Contemplation #235
So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:19

To 'suffer according to God's will' does not have to mean that God plans for us to suffer, that he designs and ordains such, though we know suffering is inevitable. Perhaps this passage should be read as saying that there is a way to handle suffering that is God's will for us. To suffer according to the will of God is first to suffer not for unrighteousness, but for fidelity to God. Second, it means that we should respond to suffering in faith and according to God's ways so that he is glorified. We are to respond to all of life, and certainly the hard times, according to the will of God as shown to us in Christ.

Contemplation #236
So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:19

We should find it interesting that Peter speaks of God as Creator in this passage. He turns our thoughts to God as the One who made us while talking about how we handle suffering. In the midst of suffering we are often at a loss to know what to do, and feeling most vulnerable. Knowing that we have a faithful Creator means that God, knowing us because he is the One who has formed us, can guide us through our most trying times. We must trust the One who is closer to us than we are to ourselves to show us how to deal with suffering.

Contemplation #237
So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:19

Ultimately Peter says that our response to suffering is to continue to do good. When we are suffering because of doing good, the greatest temptation is to stop doing the good that has brought us trouble and pain. Nothing is more natural than to alleviate our own pain. However, the One who formed us assures us that we will be able to persevere in doing good despite our doubts. We feel and often believe that we cannot continue, that we have been overcome, but God proclaims that more is possible than we know or believe. He has made us, and he knows. We have been created more in God's image than we realize.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Contemplation #232
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10

Paul says that the way we see God working in the physical world is consistent with the way he works in unseen matters. God is the Provider of both our physical needs and spiritual lives. First, we must be thoroughly convinced that God is the supplier of our daily bread or we have scant confidence in receiving what we need spiritually. Evidently the Corinthians had faith already in God giving seed and bread, and so Paul was able to simply suggest that God would do the same in enlarging their harvest of righteousness. May we begin with a trust in God's power and love to give us our daily bread, and then realize that our daily spiritual food will also be given just as surely.

Contemplation #233
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10

The store of seed and harvest of righteousness that Paul speaks of has nothing to do with rewards that come to us for our own good. In this part of the letter Paul is calling on the Corinthian Christians to be generous in giving to help poor believers in Judea. However, the Corinthians are wondering how will we be able to do this? Paul knows that generosity is a spiritual gift that is one aspect of a life of righteousness, and he knows that God supplies us with what we need to reap an abundant harvest of righteousness. He encourages the Corinthians that God will give them the spiritual gift to be generous because he supplies our daily bread. May we trust God to give us the spiritual gifts to live more righteously than even we would expect.

Contemplation #234
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion . . . 2 Corinthians 9:11

To be generous on every occasion requires that we receive from God the material possessions for us to share with others, and the inner heart of generosity that cares for others and sees their needs. The first is much easier for God to provide because it requires no willingness on our part, but we may resist God's inward gifts to make us generous. Certainly Paul is correct when he says "God is able to make all grace abound in you" (9:8) which speaks to God's willingness and sufficiency, and yet the human selfish heart may deny God all access and refuse any gift. Let us be open to not only receiving our daily bread, but the daily gifts of God that bring an abundance of grace into us, and bear the fruit of complete righteousness.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Contemplation #229
Who hopes for what he already has? Romans 8:24

The very nature of hope is to look forward to something in the future. However, we also have statements such as "Christ in you, the hope of glory" Col. 1:27. Christ in us is a present reality. So we hope for more than we experience now, but that hope is based on a taste of the future that we presently enjoy. Without any present experience our hope would simply be wishful thinking. Without any better future our present circumstances would be cause for despair. Our hope is in what we now have by grace, and yet also for blessings to come.

Contemplation #230
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:25

When true hope is in us by grace, we are able to have patience. Impatience is a reaction of desperation when hope is absent. When God is present with us and assuring us of his faithfulness and promises, we enjoy a peaceful patience through our we hope in God. When we have no assurances, and no confidence in the future, we become impatient to have immediately some comfort. Hope comforts us in the present even in the expectation of what we do not yet have.

Contemplation #231
But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Romans 8:24

Christian hope is known only through faith. Paul's distinction that there are two ways - walking by faith and walking by sight - clearly sets at odds how life may be lived. Walking by sight puts us in control, but hope only exists for those who walk by faith. They see by faith what cannot be seen with eyes, and so all the life of God becomes theirs. Anything that we can see is insufficient to give us hope, though many still place their hope is what can be seen.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Contemplation #226
"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too." Luke 3:21

The incarnation shows us the extent of God's love because the Creator chooses the lowly state of his own creatures in order to bring us peace. The incarnation is so much more than the birth of Jesus by the virgin Mary. It is also being tempted in all ways like us. The incarnation is expanded by every way Jesus participates with us. By taking on our flesh God involves himself in our lives so we might learn to join God is God's life. Jesus is immersed with everyone else, joining his creatures in this pursuit of the life of God. The One who holds that life finds common ground with those desiring the divine life of love. In this way Jesus' baptism in another aspect of the incarnation, God taking on our flesh to find us for himself.

Contemplation #227
"And as he was praying, heaven was opened . . ." Luke 3:21

Jesus was praying at his baptism. He was making the same intentional commitment to the way of God as everyone else who was coming to John. He welcomed that type of living under God's reign which he would describe as entering the Kingdom of God. Although he had no sin to repent of, no sin to be forgiven, Jesus was joining in this pledge of fidelity to God's holy ways. We can imagine that Jesus' prayer at his baptism was the expression of this direction for his life, the obedient choice to dedicate himself to the service of God. To this pledge of faith heaven opened, receiving the humble obedience of Jesus and affirming the eternal love of God. Heaven is open to us all, affirming love and grace to encourage our every step of faith.

Contemplation #228
"The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove . . ." Luke 3:22

At Jesus' baptism the Holy Spirit comes on him to lead him into the desert for 40 days of struggle. What a beginning to his pledge to accept the way of God! The words of affirming love are soon put to the test in personal deprivation and temptation. Would Jesus hold faithfully to the promise of God's love even as the hunger set in? How quickly he could have doubted the love of God. And yet, it was when God's love was shown to Israel by bringing them out of slavery in Egypt, that they were led immediately into the wilderness. The history of Israel was repeated and redeemed in the life of Jesus as he lived faithfully where even his ancestors had not. Surely he has taken on himself our sins, and redeemed our lack of faith in his perfect faith.