Posts Tagged With: family

Revelation 19: A Chorus of Hallelujahs

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Merry Christmas!

I was fortunate that both of my sets of grandparents lived in the same small town, a few hours away from my childhood home.  Every Christmas included a visit with both sides of the family in a grand two- or three-day holiday.  The celebrations with each family couldn’t be more different.  Christmas with my mother’s family was loud with laughter and stories.  There was always an endless game of road hockey, and some of the best cooking you ever would have.  I enjoyed our Christmas visits with my dad’s family just as much but the traditions were very different.  My grandfather would hold court in his living room around a warm fire, where all were invited to solve the world’s problems with appropriately conservative answers.  We children would escape to the basement to shoot pool until we grew old enough to have opinions we could support.  To this day, though, what I remember most was that my grandfather always had classical music playing.  Royal Canadian Brass.  The Boston Pops.  Handel’s “Messiah.”  When my grandfather passed away last year I was given a nut-bowl I had turned him in the seventh grade in woodshop, and a collection of CDs he used to play at Christmas.

George Friedric Handel

George Friedric Handel

Arguably the most popular part of George Friedric Handel’s “Messiah” is the “Hallelujah Chorus.”  Handel set the music in 1741 and his friend Charles Jennens provided the lines of verse.  Interestingly, the three most famous lines of the “Hallelujah Chorus” come from Revelation, and two are found in today’s passage:

Alleluia!  The Lord our God, the Almighty, has become king [reigneth]! (19:6)

On his robe, and on his thigh, is written a name: King of kings, and Lord of lords. (19:16)

Now the kingdom of the world has passed to our Lord and his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever. (11:15)

Amidst the oracles of doom and judgement, the grotesque beast and powerful celestial beings, it is immensely fitting that the fall of Rome ends with the flourish of praise to Christ the Victor we find running throughout this passage.

I enjoyed solving the problems of the world in my grandfather’s living room sipping apple cider and listening to Handel.  I am infinitely more thankful that there is a white rider with a blood-drenched robe who truly can right the world again.  No beast or false prophet can stand against him.  And that is worth a lifetime’s chorus of “Hallelujahs.”

What a great gift for Christmas!

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2 Thessalonians 3: May the Lord Give You Peace!

There is so much to be thankful in a day.  There are days I doubt that, but then something usually happens to remind me of the abundance in which I live and how minor my concerns are compared to so many people around me.

I am blessed to have three families, all of which are precious to me in various ways.  I am blessed with a wonderful wife and two great boys who are gifted in their own ways and who are growing day-by-day into great young men.  What a blessing to have the friendships, teaching, and worship-filled encouragement that I do at the church I attend.  My job at a Christian high school is hardly a job.  It is part ministry, part church, and three parts family.  I am blessed to spend my days alongside my dearest friends and mentors doing God’s work in Memphis.  I have so many other blessings — health, wealth (at least a bit), freedom, comfort, and safety — but all of these pale in comparison to the people who make each day more blessed.  You are some of those people, so today (and most other days as well) I say thanks to God for you.

Paul ended this short, second letter to the Thessalonians with the words that hang outside my classroom door as a greeting and that express my wishes for you today:

Now may the Lord of peace give you peace always and in every way.  The Lord be with you all. (3:16)

What did the Thessalonian letters teach you? 

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1 Timothy 5: Be A Family

Life in a family works best if everyone plays his and her role, and the younger the family the more adjustment there is to those roles we must play.

In today’s chapter Paul gives Timothy instructions for the life of the church.  The interesting part is that he uses the analogy of a family to describe how Christians should relate to each other:

Don’t rebuke a senior man in the church, but exhort him as you might do with your father — or, in the case of younger ones, with your brothers.  Treat the older women as mothers, and the younger ones as sisters, with all purity. (5:1-2)

If this church is a family, they are a young family, still figuring out how to play their roles.  Here are some of the instructions Paul gives:

  • Give older men and women respect (5:1-2)
  • Brothers and sisters of similar age are to be treated with kindness and purity (5:1-2)
  • Take care of your biological family financially before seeking assistance from the church (5:4, 16)
  • Don’t take advantage of the church financially just to support self-indulgence or laziness (5:6)
  • Understand realistically the sexual and companionship needs of single family members and do not consign them to a life of sacrifice too soon (5:11)
  • Bridle one’s tongue and occupy one’s hands lest gossip and meddling take over (5:13)
  • Take care of financially those who lead and educate the church family (5:17-18)
  • Trust the leaders strongly, but deal with sin seriously if necessary (5:19-20)
  • Banish favoritism (5:21)
  • Be discriminating in how quickly you yoke yourself to others (5:22)
  • Know that people’s true character will come out in the end (5:24-25)

The church as family is a metaphor that takes on special meaning for those of us for whom it has become a literal reality, not just an image.  Some have had to walk away from a biological family in order to follow Jesus.  Some of us have moved far away from blood and are left without those natural bonds in close proximity.  Others do not have functional, loving families of their own.  When this is the case, the bonds of love found in God’s family are especially dear.

What hit you in a new way in this chapter?  

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1 Corinthians 3: One Big Family

On my bookshelf I have a book that chronicles my family’s history from the mid-1970s back to the 1800s when my ancestors moved from the United States to southern Ontario to farm and do millwork, to the 1700s when my forebears came from the Old World to Philadelphia as Quakers, and even to the 1600s in England.  My sons now like to look through our family history as much as I used to when I was their age.  But what I can’t do is go through the book and rip out the pages of ancestors who are embarrassing, eccentric, or outright egregious.  I can’t pick and choose my ancestors.  They are all right there, and each played a part in the varied tapestry of my heritage.  I am a part of something bigger than just my own life.  Sure, there are aunts and uncles I have been closer to than others, skeletons in my family’s closet I am content to keep locked away, and even a great-grandfather who sold land on the moon (a story for another day!)  But there they all are, and it is only the collection of them all that makes a family.

The Corinthians were simplifying matters.  They had chosen one part of their history and were exalting it above the rest.  Maybe that part was the heritage of Paul in their midst.  Or Apollos, who it appears came along after Paul and became the steady leader in the church.  Peter (or Cephas) might have spent time in Corinth or was just well-known as the chief apostle of sorts, and some pledged allegiance to him.  Others went all the way back to Jesus himself and limited their focus to him (c.f., 1:11-12).

Paul corrects the Corinthians, though, in this chapter.  They can’t pick and choose from their family history.  Paul brought the message of Jesus, then Apollos picked up where Paul left off, and maybe Peter did as well.  Each of these leaders were parts of the whole.  Paul uses a building metaphor to make that point; each is one part of “God’s building” (3:9), one brick in the wall if you will.  All of these leaders belong to them:

So don’t let anyone boast about mere human beings.  For everything belongs to you, whether it’s Paul or Apollos or Cephas. (3:21-22a)

Of course we have people in our families to which we feel a greater affinity, people who have shaped us more than others.  To apply this more directly to our churches, of course we will probably favor our churches over others, prefer our denominations over others, appreciate some preachers and teachers more than others.  But to use this as grounds and means to divide suspends the reality that God’s family is much larger than our preferences and division does nothing to honor God and develop the spiritual mind:

You’re still determined to live in the old way!  Yes, wherever there is jealousy and quarreling, doesn’t that mean you’re living in the old way, behaving as any merely human being might do?  When someone says “I’m with Paul!” and someone else says “I’m with Apollos!” are you not mere humans? (3:3-4)

May we be the people who work to bring the body of Christ closer together, not add to the fragmentation.

What caught your attention today?

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Luke 14: Upside-Down Sayings

This Jesus we follow has made us a part of an upside-down kingdom.  There is what we know to be normal and conventional; Jesus’ way is usually the opposite.  I am drawn to the many sayings of Jesus that really illustrate this.  They speak such truth.  They are attractive in how contradictory they are to everything we know.  At the same time, they are also maddening because they call us to a new way of thinking that is uncomfortable and disorienting, so they are not how we would normally go about life.

Today’s chapter is full of those upside-down kingdom statements:

  • Don’t let your traditions guide all you do (14:3-6)
  • Don’t take a good seat at a party (14:7-11)
  • Don’t expect those most like you to accept your invitation to dinner (14:12-24)
  • Don’t think family is most important (14:26-27)
  • Don’t try to hang on to your possessions (14:33)

Jesus way may be upside-down to the way we normally think, but could it be that this makes all the difference?

What caught your eye in this chapter?

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Colossians 4: Everyday Grace

As he did in Ephesians, at the tail end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4, Paul ends this letter with a reminder that new life in Christ also affects our everyday relationships.  In the middle of that section — technically called a “household code” — Paul says this:

Whatever you do, give it your very best. (3:23)

Good relationships take our very best.  Husbands and wives can’t expect to have a good relationship if there is little effort put into their marriage.  Parenting is too challenging to think we can find success with only our leftovers.  Tired, distracted fathers find it too easy to “provoke their children to anger” (3:21).  The workplace can easily become tyranny if the boss isn’t trying to give her employees the best, to their benefit and to the mission of the organization.

But how is that possible?  We don’t always want to give our best. Quite frankly, there are many situations where the people in our life don’t deserve our best. Paul knows this and his answer comes in the very next phrase:

Give it your very best, as if you were working for the master and not for human beings. (3:23b)

We give our best out of devotion to God, not because other people deserve it.

That’s grace.  It isn’t just some concept we pull out when we want to talk about the conceptual matter of how God saves our soul.  Grace is also the very practical, unmerited blessings we give the people in our life in the nitty gritty of day-to-day life.

What did you learn from Colossians this week?

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