August 2, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord; His mighty power is with us. Put on the full armor of God. In doing so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Rather, it is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God. When the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground; and after you have done everything, you will be able to stand.” (Ephesians 6.10-13)
So, as I reread yesterday’s reflection, I couldn’t help but hear the question “So, what do you stand for?” Talk about a loaded question and the word “stand” taking on powerful meaning. It truly is about context. What is the true context of our living and thinking as mighty ones of God and followers of the Way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son. Each time I profess that title, I cannot forget that my context has been transformed from “existing” to “purposeful living.” Existing is what we do as a living being. It is in our DNA to “fight for survival.” In a fight, we become willing to do anything to stay alive but our choices are not always selecting the “right” thing. If we are oriented toward making ourselves the “fittest” according to worldly standards in order to survive the longest, then we will always be in a conflict between ourselves and others. We probably don’t even take the call of God into our survival kit inventory except as a last resort. In that moment, we no longer have the good sense to read the instructions. We just take God out and throw Him at whatever is coming at us. Little wonder why our results in surviving fall pitifully short and are woefully ineffective. Existing is merely trying to make it moment by moment with whatever we can scavenge from the world around us while watching the challenge loom larger and larger over us and around us. There is no escape if all we are trying to do is exist. You realize it was not always this way, right?
When Jesus spoke of the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and how God cares for them, He was speaking of the beauty of their existence abiding in the very nature which God created for them. Even the riches and finery of the wisest man on earth, King Solomon, could not compare. He would say “If God does such a great job in providing for them, then how much more will He do for those whose value to Him is far greater? Are you not worth more than two sparrows or five sparrows which can be purchased for a few simple coins?” Of course, I know the allusion Jesus was making there when He asked that question because I read the story of the day He was presented in the temple for His baby dedication. In Leviticus, we read that an offering should be made of an unblemished lamb or two doves for such an occasion. For those who could not afford such an offering, two sparrows would be acceptable. Hey, surely you can afford sparrows, right? What a bargain, two sparrows for one penny and five for two pennies! There is consumerism in action! And what was the problem? Well, if “sparrows” were sufficient and cost effective, then why spend “good money” on a sacrifice to God when I could buy a lamb and some pigeons for my dinner instead and use the change to “honor God” or “go through the motions of honoring God.” No one eats sparrows, so there are plenty to go around. Talk about “cheapening the value of life!” So, Jesus was speaking about the value we see in our own lives. Then He spoke about the value God sees in our lives. We may not be able to afford more than sparrows but God couldn’t afford anything less than a lamb. It wasn’t about the financial cost. It was about the spiritual intent. It wasn’t about existing and going through the motions, especially at a minimal level. It was about doing the most and the greatest requirement for the maximum effect. What is that effect? Our purification, sanctification, justification and salvation! When God looks at us, He does not see “existing” beings unless they exist only for Him trusting in His provision for their lives as naturally as He does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
But, that “existence” is far different than the world’s understanding of existence. The world’s understanding of existence is a clamoring for the top position. Even those who declare they are willing to “settle for less than the best” are still oriented in their thinking about the “climb to the top.” In both cases, there is never enough to merely exist. There is always something else needed or at least perceived as needed. There is the drive to have more in order to be more and that being more means having more. What is that saying about a “dog eat dog” world? I have this suspicion that it isn’t really about a dog eating other dogs so it will be the lead of the pack. If that dog keeps eating dogs, that dog will be the pack. And if you stop to think about that, that is exactly what Satan is doing. He is consuming others to feed his insatiable desire to be number one, top of the heap, king of the hill, A Number 1. No wonder the scripture speaks of sin crouching at your door (Old Testament) or on the prowl like a ravenous lion or wolf or….dog (New Testament). No, the danger of a “dog eat dog” world is that the dog begins to consume itself. First, it chases its own tail then catches it. It begins to gnaw in a hunger of senselessness first the tail, then a paw and then before you know it, “I’ll be dog gone!” My friend, if we see ourselves only as existing then we are a people going to the dogs. Jesus said there is more to us than such a worldly existence. We have far more value than flowers and birds. And that doesn’t mean that flowers and birds have little or no value to God. Just the opposite is true or else He wouldn’t care for their existence at all. He wouldn’t have created them in all their finery nor create a place for them to flourish. He also grieves when people turned the earth into a world of their own and make it harder for even flowers and birds to exist. And if they are struggling to exist, then what does that say about us? It says “there has to be a better way!” And there is. And that is for tomorrow’s reflection on how do we see ourselves as we are meant to be- “clothed in righteousness.” Until then, shalom.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
The miracle of life is no miracle to You, o God, it is normal, natural and expected. What we think is extraordinary in this world is merely ordinary in Your world as simply expected. To “exist in Your world” is a life of peace, joy, love and all the fruit of the spirit and it is far sweeter than honey that exceeds the honeycomb. How we lament that we have set that life aside in the pursuit of existing in this world being consumed by our passions and emotions and false concepts of our worth and value. Thank You for sending us Your Son, so that we might see ourselves anew and renewed and be born again into the opportunity to live beyond a worldly existence. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven and let it begin in me. AMEN.