Big

It seems like it happens this way every year.  There are still lots of leaves on the trees, and then there is a big storm that takes them all down.  Sunday the wind blew ferociously, and overnight it produced a noticeable change.  Although it has happened this way time and time again, it is easy to forget that this is the way it commonly happens.  Those leaves are supposed to come down, but sometimes it takes a big event to make it happen.

Big events in life are also landscape changers.  Sometimes these events are chosen, while other times those events may just seem to find you.  Graduations, marriages, the birth of children, the death of someone loved, all of these things are going to change the landscape of lives.  And even though those events may have been previously witnessed in your life or in the lives of others around you, it is still easy to forget that the landscape will change.  When those events occur, you really have two choices: let things continue on their natural course, or reshape the landscape to your liking.

Of those leaves that have fallen, the vast majority will remain where they now lie (or wherever the wind may blow them).  No one will be there to pick up the pieces, no one will clean up the mess, and for the vast majority of those leaves, no one will even care.  And it should be noted that any analogy can only be carried so far, we will purposefully ignore the fact that these fallen leaves play an integral part in our ecosystem and will fulfill their own purpose in time.  Besides, those are not the leaves that should concern you.  No, the ones that should concern you are the ones that can damage your environment by clogging your gutters, filling your ditches, and creating a haven for pests and rodents.  You see, big events have the potential to lead to bigger messes in our lives.  On the other hand, the changing of a landscape also provides an immediate and convenient opportunity to reshape the landscape to your liking.  Things are already in a state of transition, and changing things for the better in such times is easier than starting from scratch.

Be on the lookout for big events!  Whether in your life or in those around you, big events happen.  And whether these big events are by choice or not, they will always reshape the landscape of lives.  Change is already taking place.  You may have the opportunity to help someone—or yourself—to reshape their life for Jesus.

Saints

I love the book of Ephesians.  It is a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus reminding them of how important they are to the church and the church is to be to them.  Paul opens it by describing the Christians in a very special way—saints.  It is fitting that Paul should so describe them, for the church is for the saints and the saints are for the church.  The saints are literally “holy ones,” made so through the grace of God and not from any merit they have earned.  God chose them to be so (Ephesians 1:4); adopted them to be so (Ephesians 1:5); made them accepted in Christ to be so (Ephesians 1:6); redeemed them to be so (Ephesians 1:7); abounded grace to them to be so (Ephesians 1:8); revealed His will to them to be so (Ephesians 1:9); and gathered them together to be so (Ephesians 1:10).  When we talk about saints, we’re talking about a group in which God has invested a lot, and it is a name that is not lightly given.

We jump to the end of Ephesians 2 and we find out more about these saints.  A lot of chapter 2 is spent describing how Jesus brought a scattered people together, and in verse 19 Paul emphasizes that is a thing of the past.  If we are saints, we are not strangers.  If we are saints, we are not foreigners.  No matter how much of an outsider you are, may have been, or feel like you might be, in Christ Jesus you don’t have to be.  If you are in Christ Jesus, you are a fellow citizen with the saints; you are not a second-class being, you are a saint.  You are an essential building block of the household of God built upon the Chief Cornerstone.  Without you, the building cannot grow, and without being built together, there is no dwelling place for God on this earth.

That leaves a couple of conclusions.  First, if you are a child of God, you are a saint.  You are a holy one.  You are chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, graced, informed, and gathered.  You cannot be any one of these without being the others.  Therefore, do not sell yourself short.

Second, if you are a saint, you have the privilege of living as one of God’s holy ones.  Counting the blessings that God has ascribed to them, you should live as one who is chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, graced, informed, and gathered.

Third, if you are a saint, you are important!  You are important to the church as a building block, and you are important to the other saints as a fellow citizen and member of the household of God!  Literally, the church cannot exist without you, nor can you exist as such without the church.

So go be a saint.  Be one of God’s holy ones with confidence because that is what God wants you to be.

Wonderful Words, Beautiful Words, Wonderful Words of Life

I love the book of James.  Not only does James provide for us a perfectly harmonious depiction of the life of a Christian in action, he also uses some of the most beautiful language to describe it.  Just as you or I may have our own quirky little way of speaking or communicating, James shows his personality by using some words and phrases unique to him.

Take, for example, James 1:21.  “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).  (Note: I chose to use the KJV just because of its literary distinction.)  How many different things can James throw into one verse?  Notice just a few.

“Filthiness.”  While this is not a particularly unique word, at least to us, it is in the Bible.  This is the only time it is used, and it describes dirty, plain and simple.  James takes it and applies it to our morality, our conduct, our language, and/or our thoughts.  While some may brag of their “dirty mouth” or “dirty mind,” James says we should be laying that aside, throwing it off, getting it out of the way.  Sometimes things in life make us physically filthy, but there is no need (or excuse) for choosing to stay that way.

“Superfluity of naughtiness.”  Literally this means “a superabundance of badness.”  The words he uses conjure an image that almost cannot be described with words.  Picture a bottle of soda that’s been thoroughly shaken.  You can’t stop it; you can’t contain it; and James says, Get rid of it!  Ah, but you may be saying, “I may be a little bit dirty here or there, but I do NOT have a ‘superabundance of badness.’”  The point that James is driving home is that dirty is dirty, and there is no room for dirty in the kingdom of God.

“Meekness.”  Actually, there is nothing special about this word itself, but it provides a stark contrast to the attitude that so often accompanies a superabundance of anything.

“The engrafted word.”  Something that is engrafted has come from one source and has been made part of another.  The word has come from God and you must become its host.  The two must become as one.  If the word of God is separate from you and your life, then the ability it has to save your soul is negated.  It must belong to you and in you…and BE you.

Beautiful language?  Yes.  Unique and memorable?  Yes.  The truth of God’s word?  Absolutely!    Paul stated it a little differently, but just as truthfully in Colossians 3:16-17—“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”