Skillful at Work; Useful to God

My mother has not walked in over a year. She has been in a wheelchair, the victim of severe arthritis and a fall that broke her hip. The pain was so persistent and severe she could not sleep at night, and over the last week she told me three times she just wanted to die.

The orthopedic surgeon in Indiana told her there was nothing he could do for her. She would not walk again, and her pain would only get worse.

But on Tuesday, I watched her take her first steps in more than a year, and by Wednesday, the pain-inspired frowns and forced smiles she had worn for the past year had been replaced with a joyful smile, and the ebullient attitude of one who had begun to live again. This transformation happened because an orthopedic surgeon in Houston, Texas was skilled enough to do what many other good orthopedic surgeons could not—perform hip replacement surgery on an 86 year old with a fused, severely arthritic hip.

Ezra returned with a group of Jewish exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem under the imprimatur of Persian king, Artaxerxes, where God would use him to restore the Jewish religion in Judah. While Artaxerxes gave Ezra permission to lead, the Bible makes it clear the Lord was behind it and that He chose Ezra “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:9-10. In other words, the Lord chose to work through Ezra because Ezra had developed the skills necessary to make himself useful to God.

Continue reading “Skillful at Work; Useful to God”

An Implication from the Resurrection

“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” “You can achieve anything you want if you believe in yourself.” “You can be whatever you want to if you put your mind to it.” We’ve all heard these sayings, and they make people feel good. Unfortunately, none of them are true. 

There is, however, a truth hidden amongst these facile, feel-good statements. While it is not true that what you believe can make everything achievable, it can certainly make anything unachievable. For example, if you think something is not possible, you might not even try, or if you try, you might give up prematurely because you think further effort is futile. What you think is possible matters.

In his letter to the Roman Christians, the Apostle Paul said:

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:11-13. Paul is reminding the Roman Christians that because the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead resides in them, even though they are living in bodies marred by the effects of the Fall of Man, they can put to death sin in their life. This is not a statement proffered by a motivational speaker but one guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus. 

Continue reading “An Implication from the Resurrection”

On Palm Sunday and Cleansing the Temple

Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. See Matthew 21:4-13. Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead, and the word of His miraculous powers had spread. People were convinced Jesus was the king the Scriptures had promised would liberate them from the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people waved their palm branches and worshipped Jesus, calling Him the King of Israel in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. See Zechariah 9:9. The religious leaders asked Jesus to correct those worshipping Him, but Jesus refused because the people were correct: He was their King, He had come to establish His kingdom, and He was worthy of their worship.

I’ve stood on that path leading up to Jerusalem, just under the walls of the city, and as I stood there I realized just how bold Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was. There would have been Roman soldiers stationed on the walls as Jesus rode into the city being hailed by the people as their new king. It was gutsy. It was bold. But it was entirely appropriate. Jesus was the King of kings, even over the Romans.

For the people watching these events unfold on Palm Sunday, it must have been very exciting. They must have thought Jesus was going to topple Herod and then take on the Romans.  A man who could raise another man from the dead was certainly capable of all of that. They must have tingled with anticipation of how Jesus would use His power to assert His kingly authority.

Continue reading “On Palm Sunday and Cleansing the Temple”

The Russian Orthodox Church and the Invasion of Ukraine

It’s no secret the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has supported Vladimir Putin and his barbaric invasion of Ukraine. Excepting the brave dissent of a relatively few clergy, who have signed a petition against Putin, the remainder have either supported Putin’s Make-Russia-Great-Again-inspired aggression against Ukraine or remained silent.

It is disheartening to say the least. I don’t think we can blame Patriarch Kirill’s support on ignorance or the result of Russian propaganda; Kirill has sufficient connections to the outside world to know the truth. From one of his most recent sermons, it appears Kirill is attempting to rationalize Putin’s aggression because Ukraine has permitted Gay Pride Parades. My guess is Kirill is smarter than that and he simply doesn’t want to cross Putin.

Whatever his motivation, his actions have placed him and the Russian Orthodox Church in the same league as the German Lutheran clergy who supported Adolf Hitler, as he ravaged war on Europe in the name of German nationalism.

I don’t envy Kirill or the circumstances in which he finds himself. He must know if he crosses Putin, he would likely be killed (secretly poisoned perhaps?) or jailed. But as Christians in a fallen world, we often have little say on whether and when history will thrust on us such a choice.

Continue reading “The Russian Orthodox Church and the Invasion of Ukraine”

Kingdom Lessons from The Saudi Golf League Controversy

If you don’t follow professional golf, you probably haven’t heard. There is a new professional golf tour being backed by the Saudis and the money they are offering the best players in the world to join is staggering. For example, it has been rumored the SGL has offered Bryson DeChambeau $240 million just to show up.

Reportedly, the top 100 professional golfers in the world have already been contacted by the SGL, and it looks like many will jump ship from America’s PGA Tour to join the SGL. What has been most interesting to me and most relevant to this blog is the criticism coming from Americans against those who are thinking of leaving the PGA Tour for the SGL.

The main criticism coming from Americans is that these professional golfers are making the decision to join the SGL purely for the money. “Are the millions they already make not enough?,” people ask. Although I suspect most people raising the criticism do so hypocritically (as most people make their own career choices and job changes based on money), their criticism is based on the money.

One of the fundamentals that applies to work in the kingdom of God is that Christians are called to do their work sincerely. Colossians 3:22. This means Christians should do their jobs primarily for the purpose for which that job exists in the kingdom of God. One should perform the job of a trial lawyer to ensure justice is done on the earth, a doctor to heal, and a pastor to pastor. Getting paid for such work is appropriate (Luke 10:7; I Tim. 5:18), but it is not the purpose for which we work.

Continue reading “Kingdom Lessons from The Saudi Golf League Controversy”