Morning Musing: Romans 5:3-4

“And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

How do you handle it when things don’t go your way? Are you the kind of person who can pretty much just roll with it, or are you more of a worrier? The fact is, sometimes life doesn’t go our way. And while those departures from expectation are usually fairly minor and little more than inconveniences, occasionally they are far more bothersome than that. Sometimes these setbacks take the form of various trials and tribulations; they appear as painful persecutions. What do we do then? Paul offers some counsel here that sounds really odd, but in the context of a relationship with Jesus makes perfect sense. Let’s talk about it.

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Reading the Fine Print

So far in our journey over the last few weeks, we have talked about how and why to stay plugged in to Jesus. This week we’re shifting gears a bit to talk about what it looks like when we get it right. As it turns out, along their walk from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told the disciples one thing it would look like. The picture He painted, though, wasn’t pretty. Yet this picture has formed the reality for a great many of His followers over the centuries. Let’s talk today about the sometimes tough reality of what staying plugged in to Jesus looks like when we get it right.

Reading the Fine Print

What would you do if your faith was put to the test? I’m not talking about some kind of a pen and paper test. I’m talking about the kind of test where you are challenged to live and act in a manner consistent with your faith with the full knowledge that doing so is going to bring trouble into your life as well as the lives of the people around you. Over the past fifteen years, our culture has seen several Christian individuals put to just this kind of test. They have been approached by one person or another and asked to provide a service or involve themselves in an action which their core Christian convictions informs them is morally impermissible for followers of Jesus to take part in. In several of the most high profile of these cases, the believer courteously refused to participate in whatever it was. You can perhaps guess what was the response of the world. To put it mildly, it wasn’t good. 

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Morning Musing: Hebrews 12:2

“…keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Think for a minute about the last time you had to do something you really didn’t want to do. How was that experience for you? Enjoyable? Boring? Unbearably awful? How did it leave you feeling afterwards? Were you glad you did it? Were you grateful it was over? Did you regret you had to give any of your precious time to it? Sometimes in life we have to do things that aren’t our first choice. Occasionally they are our last choice. And then there are times we face the prospect of doing that and God is the one leading us to do it. Not wanting to do something God has called us to do may bring guilt – especially in light of what we see in this verse – but let’s take a look at it this morning because there’s something here we don’t want to miss.

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Digging in Deeper: Luke 1:60-63

“But his mother responded, ‘No. He will be called John.’ Then they said to her, ‘None of your relatives has that name.’ So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all amazed.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

I saw a chart the other day from the Pew Research Group showing by comparison the percentage of Americans who claim Christianity as their religious identity versus those who claim no religious identity at all. The former has been on a steady decline, and the latter, a steady rise, since the turn of this millennium. In other words, for the first time in our nation’s history, we are finding ourselves living in a culture that is increasingly more likely than not to push back against us for seeking to live out our faith in public and meaningful ways. The question for us is not whether we can turn back this tide, but how we will respond to it. As we continue into the final week of our Advent journey this morning, we are reminded that this is a place God’s people have found themselves before.

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Strong Where it Counts

As we wrap up our series, Standing Firm, this week, we find the apostle taking a turn from everything he’s been talking about for the past nine weeks. But then again, he’s not doing that at all. Instead, after spending the rest of the letter telling us how to stand firm in our faith without sacrificing our Gospel witness, Peter closes things out by talking about where we can find the strength we need to do it. I’ll give you a hint: It comes from God, but it isn’t found inside of us. Keep reading to find out what is the source of this strength.

Strong Where It Counts

Some of you are builders and so you understand the ins and outs of building and building materials better than I do. But from my rudimentary understanding, concrete is a pretty good building material. It’s stable. It’s sturdy. It’s strong. It holds up pretty well under a whole variety of weather conditions. It doesn’t degrade much over time. It’s low maintenance. There are all kinds of advantages to it. If you’re building something that requires extra stability and support, though—perhaps because of its size, for instance—concrete isn’t enough by itself. It needs a little bit more to make it up to the task to which you are applying it. Specifically, it needs a steel skeleton. To add this, you build an internal rebar frame inside your concrete mold and pour the mixture over it. With the rebar encased in the slab or structure, its strength is increased many times over concrete by itself. Now, this doesn’t mean that concrete alone isn’t still really strong stuff. It is. But when it has that extra element of support, it can withstand just about anything that might be thrown at it.

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