"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Holding It All Together

Recently we dismantled our satellite connections inside and outside of the house. The process was way more involved than I imagined. I would have thought that all I needed to do was to unplug my receivers and send them back. But with this particular company I had to do that plus remove a mother board looking thing from the outside of my house, as well as some noise reduction gadgets from each satellite dish. (I had some help from a friend with one of these that exceeded the reach of my ladder.) To my surprise, most of these items, standing out in the elements for many years, were held together with one or two small screws! I am amazed they held together as long as they did in our Colorado weather.

There are times in our lives that test the metal of the screws that hold us together. The array of problems that parades through the typical counseling office astound the most seasoned among us: indescribable pain and unutterable losses revolving around seemingly unbearable circumstances. It is in walking through these bleak seasons that people discover the reality of their faith and the truth of sustaining grace. The presence and comfort of the Shepherd who walks with us through these dark valleys (notably not around or away from) reveals the tangible nature of deep and abiding relationship with him. It is when nothing else works for us that we realize that Jesus is the force that holds us together.

Paul wrote to the Colossians:

"17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." Colossians 1:17-18

Jesus Christ was before all things--present and active at creation. He is also active in holding all things together: the balance of the planets, especially earth, suspended at just the right distance from the Sun to sustain life and allow the cycle of our water planet to work; the intricate balance of nature providing all that is needed (micro-organisms, oxygen, water, light, photosynthesis, gravity); seasons, and on and on. What we call the natural order might be described as the character of Christ.

Have you considered that Christ is also holding you together? Literally, every atom (each an inexplicable miracle in its own right) just where it needs to be to serve a unique function as part of an organ contributing to the greater needs of the body which in turn is capable of interacting with the environment and other organisms. Virtually, Jesus holds you together through the storms of life as well. At those times he speaks: "I'm right here. Will you trust me?"

Don't misunderstand--this Colossians passage is all about Jesus--his deity, his timelessness, his role as creator and sustainer, his place as head of the body (the church), the firstborn among those who will rise again, supreme over all.

But isn't it good to know that the "all things" he holds together includes you and me?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Exalted Matters

Mary, my wife, has had a couple of chance encounters with celebrities. At a music camp in a remote location, I found her sitting at a table with one of the male stars of the television series, "Lost." On one of our jaunts to a Nashville music store, she complimented a young man on his choice of guitars--without realizing it was Brad Paisley. My wife: celebrity magnet.

The rarity of these coincidences aside, what we noticed most were the gentle, humble personalities of these men. The Lost star was in several music classes with me and, actually seemed a bit insecure, frequently whispering in my ear, "Do I sound okay?" Mr. Paisley, incognito in standard ball cap, blue jeans and tee shirt, could have been any guy on the block. He accepted Mary's compliment with grace and wished us a nice day. I know men in my own community whose life stance is, "Do you know who I am?" But these celebrities did not need to flaunt their fame or superiority. They walked among us as fellow humans, laying aside any celebrity status.

The second chapter of Philippians contains one of the most beautiful chapters in the New Testament, which speaks of an even more dramatic example of this principle. The apostle Paul is encouraging the believers in Philippi to adopt the same attitude. Not only does it speak to how we should do life, it speaks volumes about Christ:

Philippians 2:5-11
New International Version (NIV)
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

He is, in his very nature--God! In terms of rank, he is equal with God. And because of his willingness to empty himself, to become one of us, submitting to God the Father all the way to the cross, God has given him a place of exaltation--a name above all names and a promise that every knee will bow and acknowledge him as Lord.

Jesus Christ is not just a man who practiced holiness and became like God. He was God before he came to earth. He is not merely another great philosopher, though his teaching changed the world. He is not just another prophet, foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age, he is the fulfillment of all prophecies. He is not our buddy, our therapist or, our imaginary friend. He is God and exalted King.

The love of God is seen in this--while living in perfect bliss in heavenly realms, Father, Son and Spirit colluded in a conspiracy to restore fellowship with a fallen world and its broken inhabitants. God loves the world this much: He gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will never perish, having eternal life. Your decision about whether you believe this or not is yours, he gives you that freedom. But your decision about who he is does not change who he is, any more than our initial belief that Brad Paisley was just another guy cancelled out his true identity.

One thing about that decision? What you choose to believe about Jesus has eternal consequences for you. Choose wisely.