comparing one’s self with others

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10-13 was an expose by the Apostle Paul, of false teachers, false apostles. Paul himself did not measure up to their standards. For one thing, he was weak, when they were strong. Paul’s refute of them is classic, and more than memorable words. We must take them to heart.

I don’t have enough patience with those who put down this or that servant of God as not measuring up to their standard. Usually such people have a propensity to look down on others, as if they themselves are above them. They need to humble themselves.

Paul went right after them, not mincing words. The gospel was surely at stake, since these false apostles were attacking the messenger, Paul. But also what was at stake is what it means to follow Christ, and be a true servant of Christ.

A true servant of Christ helps others to focus on Christ and the gospel, and not on themselves, or how great they are. We are servants of Christ, and of God’s word, and through that, of others (2 Corinthians 4).

The right focus is to celebrate the Lord’s working in everyone who belongs to him in whatever form that might take. The most ordinary may be more imbued with the Lord’s voice and power, than the one who has a celebrity status. Our focus needs to be on Christ and the gospel, and on God’s word. And out of that, be thankful for the many gifts God gives. Real spiritual, Spirit-directed discernment will often find the Lord’s voice, presence and power in people who don’t measure up according to worldly standards.

In so doing, we seek to be true followers of Christ Jesus. In and through him, and the gospel.

 

Advertisements

goodness precedes knowledge in Christianity/ in the faith

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

2 Peter 1

Most Bible scholars/ commentators insist that the order in 2 Peter is unimportant, that what the writer says we’re to add to is beside the point, that we’re simply to have all of those things. I beg to differ, but even if they’re correct, the Bible not only supports but comports (makes sense) in the truth that goodness precedes knowledge.

Of course in our society, even our liberal democracy, for all the good in that, this is turned around. They insist that knowledge is the key to goodness. Yes, there is much one can learn to help one do good, and do better. But I would argue that knowledge alone insures nothing. And that even in “real life,” as some people might want to put it, goodness can make the difference needed, so that the knowledge which follows will be put to good use.

In the story in Genesis of Adam and Eve in the garden, we know the fall occurred when Eve took of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and ate from it in defiance of God’s command. In that case, the serpent suggested that knowledge had priority:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3

Eve was deceived, as she acknowledges in this narrative. She wasn’t careful to take God at his word, and it is evident that she doubted God’s goodness. God had not told her she couldn’t touch the forbidden tree; maybe she had added that to keep her from the danger of eating it. And the serpent seems to clearly suggest that God is withholding what is good, and is thus less than good himself, in forbidding what the serpent seems to argue would be good. Deception, for sure.

The ultimate good scripture points to is of course in God and the good news in Jesus for a broken world. The good we bring on our own ends up harming us, because all good comes from God. Our insistence that we can handle it puts us in the place of God, something we’re incapable of fulfilling either pre or post-fall (Genesis 1-2, or 3 and after). We are made in God’s image, but God alone is God. And what goodness we have is all a gift from him in both creation and new creation.

The Peter text quoted above suggests that goodness comes from faith, that is, it’s a gift from God. And after goodness comes knowledge. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 8 that knowledge puffs up, brings conceit, whereas love builds others up, for their true good. And he suggests that no one knows as they ought to know apart from such love, such goodness.

The goodness we need is found in Jesus and the gospel, and we’re also helped to that goodness by the Spirit ironically through God’s word, meant to be spoken or read out loud, so that faith is formed and awakened. All is a gift. If we think we can go to scripture, and simply by knowing it, arrive, we are only kidding ourselves. We need faith to receive the gift from believing God’s word, which puts us on the track of goodness in and through Jesus, and through which we can begin to understand and live in God’s good will for us in him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the need for humor

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

I have heard (or, read) that Jews make the best violin players, and the best humorists. It is likely that many of them are among the best of those. It seems like the people who suffer the most, can have the most appreciation of something which not only takes such suffering seriously, but honors it, such as a good violin piece. And the gift of humor is especially important for those who can find little or no humor in life at all, or who have suffered much.

They say that laughter releases endorphins which are good for one’s physical well-being. At least there needs to be a sense that all is well, or at the very least that one does not have to be on the edge of disaster, but is somehow taken care of. Faith lends itself these gifts. When I’m beside myself over some matter or another, usually one at a time, I simply keep plugging into scripture, into the word, and sooner or later such trouble dissipates. What eventually replaces it is a sense of well being because of a faith that God will take care of it, more precisely usually a mind that is turned toward some truth about God through the gospel in scripture, and therefore a mind off the troubles.

And out of no where can come the gift of humor and laughter. As long as it’s not coarse, as in dirty, or denigrating of others, as well as not profane, then I think it’s open, and surely in some measure a gift from God. It is not something I try to force. It comes and goes. I take it that there’s a time for abject seriousness, and there’s a time for unbridled laughter. We need both. And we need a regular dose of the laughter, because the serious side is the default and place where we all live. But we can trust in the God who laughs, and know that in the end all is well in and through Jesus.

 

pain before promise

When a woman gives birth there is inevitably pain before the precious promise of the baby arrives. Regardless of how the birth is done, somewhere along the line there is signficant pain for the pregnant woman. So it is with us in Jesus. God’s promise will be fulfilled, but not without experience of significant pain on our part. Jesus used the same allusion when speaking to his disciples about his departure from them which he was about to fulfill through his death and resurrection and ascension, with the promise of what that was to bring (John 16).

And so when we’re going through the pain, we need to remember that such is often the prelude to God’s promise. And quite often the greater the pain, the greater the promise. Not that we are the source of the good that is to happen; only God is, from whom all blessings flow. But the gift somehow involves a process which changes us (cf: Genesis 32-33). The faith involved in receiving it, is a faith that comes not without struggle, a struggle that somehow not only meets us in our place of great need, but also meets the place of the world’s great need. So that in the end the blessings received are not only from God, but through, in and for God. So that the result is more than the world could imagine or achieve on its own.

So natural birth mirrors what spiritual birth is like from God. It may even seem painless at the time, but the gift brings with it inevitable suffering followed by the glory given both present and future in and through Jesus.

God’s faithfulness in the inevitable upheaval of life

Right now in the United States, there is surely one of the most contentious elections ever, people up in arms on both sides- frustrated, and thinking something of the world will end if so and so gets elected, or at least that it will be bad, to say the least. I too share in something of that concern. And there’s the ongoing difficulties and occasional trials which we all face. Oftentimes first-world problems for us, but even those of the first-world sometimes face situations which seem life threatening to some extent, and at least possibly life-changing in ways which are not desirable, or necessarily good. And we look at the world today: There seems to be a move more toward an isolationist mindset, which can make the scene ripe for dictators to step in and take over. Everyone wants easy, quick answers to difficult problems which either don’t go away, or crop up again, after supposedly being nipped in the bud.

What do we in Jesus need to count on, and keep counting on as long as life lasts, and  beyond- not only in the world to come, but in this world for our loved ones and for everyone else (which we’re to love, too, as neighbors) who is left behind? God’s faithfulness, that’s what. We need to count on the reality that God is going to be faithful, come what may, and God is present to see everyone and everything through to a good end, even through the worst and most challenging of times.

Everything good comes from God: the measure of health that we have, the basics for life, the enjoyment of life, the wonder of creation, etc. Of course we don’t rest easy because many don’t share in the same blessings we have. Rife injustice is seen in such evil as human trafficking, along with a host of other evils. What we have to count on in all of this, not just for us, but for others is the faithfulness of God. Which means that we are to pray, and act in ways that might be God’s answer to our prayer, counting on God’s faithfulness to us and to the world in and through Jesus.

The key to God’s faithfulness is in Jesus. The Father sent the Son into the world, and the Spirit is sent by the Father through the Son. We are not alone: God is present in Jesus. Other things people place their confidence in come and go over time. A danger can be when an institution goes on and is so successful, so that people put their confidence in that, rather than in the God from whose faithfulness every good gift/thing comes. We rest assured on one reality for sure, whatever else may happen: God is faithful. God will deliver us from all evil, and in the end deliver the world from that as well, and bring us and everything else through judgment and salvation in Jesus safely into his heavenly kingdom. We can count on that.

meditation on the Epiphany

The Epiphany  is about God’s promise to the world being fulfilled in the birth of King Jesus. Kings would come to his light, but in this case, Magi, who were not necessarily kings, but who studied the stars, and as such were astrologers of their time. God had revealed to them through their discipline that someone special would be born, indeed, the King of the Jews.

It was certainly a time that the Gentiles would come to the light of God made known through this king, who ultimately is to rule over all.

We see that they came with gifts for the Christ Child, which surely helped sustain the holy family for some time to come.

We do well to bow now before God’s Presence in the Child (probably close to two years old by that time) Jesus, indeed the King of kings, and Lord of lords. And to offer to him what gifts God has provided for us, first and foremost the gift of ourselves, of our lives. And to spread the word of God’s glory and the good news in him to others.

attention on Christ

We who follow Jesus can get quite caught up in godly and gifted persons in the church. We can even get caught up at times in God’s work in our own lives in such a way that we may think ourselves as special in a way that we’re not. There is always such a tension here, because in a sense we in Jesus are all gifts from God through Jesus by the Spirit, and we can and do take delight in God’s people. But we also know that all is a gift from God, that everything is of grace in and through Christ, that all the glory (and here, etc.) certainly goes to him. That strictly speaking, in and of ourselves we are always beggars, always in need of Christ. At the same time, being clothed with Christ in baptism, we are one with him, and becoming more and more like him, as well as gifted by the Spirit for good works for Christ’s body- the church and for the world.

The older I get the more I know that it is not about me, or because of me. It is about Christ; he is the theme: the way and the truth and the life. By faith we are taken up into him, and we enjoy that. But we’re like little children finding our way in all the Father’s gifts and gifting. It is a God-breathed existence, full of God’s love.

And so if our attention is ever turned in on ourselves as if we are the source of anything, then we’re off track, and we will (hopefully) figure that out soon enough. We do live in God’s love, a love from which we both love God and others in and through Christ.