• sonnyholmes

They're supposed to be words of comfort, that is, when someone whispers that this too will pass. Whether it is a streak of bad weather, financial crisis, marital upheaval, some debilitating ailment, or being out of sync with the folks in the next pew, our cultural orientation is to offer a good word, provide a positive lift of some kind, or reference the transitory nature of life in general. That the dark cloud hovering over us at any moment will slip past is a truth that can steady us to suck it up for still another little while. Lost in the positive attitude whims is the opportunity to be schooled in endurance, a discipline in short order these days.

The pandemic is one clear example. When this thing landed on us it was one of the unknowns, a new twist on our shrinking world. The wordsmiths and social media gurus gave it momentary sway over our nation and we were comforted by the medical communities assurances that it too would pass. Now, months later, with new strains being predicted and increases in infections we're wondering if in fact this is some kind of new virus that will keep morphing in ever-widening circles. Today we're learning that the transitory nature of the human situation may have some longer lasting effects. Waiting for it to pass may actually be an immature means of standing by while it invades the nation and some people in our inner circle.

Genuine endurance is certainly more than standing tough during difficult times. It is, of course, a strong biblical discipline that positions us to mature and grow while dealing with difficult circumstances. To endure is to know with certainty the hope that will guide us through even the most trying life trials. Underneath the ability to endure are disciplines greater than simply waiting. To endure is to persevere as a result of God's generous and gracious provision. Enduring is reliance on God's direction as our path beyond circumstances. Note two texts about enduring---

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he

will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1: 12, ESV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay

aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the

race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who

for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is

seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners

such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12: 1-3, ESV

And, there are dozens more. The two selections, however, remind us that endurance promises God's blessings and is the result of God's provision. The example of Jesus is our beginning and ending point in enduring. We ask, will this Covid pandemic pass? Who knows. Or any other life trial for that matter. But God has equipped his people to endure and receive the blessings which only he can provide. Enduring is standing strong when this too won't pass.

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  • sonnyholmes

The human contest in perhaps our most perplexing life endeavor. Something in us needs the lift of being bigger, better, beyond the limits of the guy next door. Perhaps it's the reason there are 59 one another passages in the New Testament, this human contest that takes so much of our energy and time. It certainly is a significant faith challenge, the personal discipline to elevate others above self. With little doubt it is among our most critical daily challenges. Yes, our relationship with the Heavenly Father extends to every life arena. It is most pressing, however, in how we interact with the other humans who vie with us in this on-going human contest.

The Apostle Paul wrote much about our relationship with other humans. One of those texts captured my attention this morning because of the way it confronts me with self. At the conclusion of Romans 12:10, Paul penned this: "Outdo one another in showing honor". He had already noted that believers must "Love one another with brotherly affection". Treating the guy next door like a brother may be the opening round of this competition. Especially when our response to that neighbor is usually measured by how he treats me. You know, we humans like to balance the scales, give as it is given. It's what Jesus taught when he said, " Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6: 38, ESV). Be nice to me, and I'll be nice to you is our thing.

Then again. Paul wrote that we should go overboard in honoring others. Its the same Greek word Jesus used when he told his followers to honor their fathers and mothers. It is a term that means to fix the value of something, to revere or venerate someone beyond self. The Apostle Paul's command is that every believer should place great value on the other people in our lives and that we should do so in a manner greater than the people around us. And, that seems an insurmountable task for us score keeping humans. In our calculations that other person may not deserve my words or thoughts or actions of honor. That other person may be my most deplorable life connection.

Oops. Then there is grace. The Apostle Paul also wrote, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4: 32, ESV). Surely honoring others involves graciously overlooking their actions toward us. Outdoing each other in this regard is the trait that clarifies this honor thing. We can honor them as Christ honors us. Personal faith celebrates God's grace and the work of Christ is shifting our human nature so we can belong to him. Should this grace not also be extended to the people around us, troubling as they may be?

This human contest places us at odds with many people. Faith should direct us above the limitations of our human nature, and we should outdo one another is showing honor. If there's going to be a contest with others, let it be that we outdo one another in showing honor.

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  • sonnyholmes

So, there's visual learning. That is learning by seeing. And, I am a visual learner. The recent progression of my blog heading is an element of that educational process. It just has to look right. And, the above image looks a little more right than my first stab at it last week. Let's see if it teaches me anything new this week.

And, that's a church matter these days. The people over in the education department, as well as the execs on the advertising floor, remind us that America's younger generations, the millennials and zoomers, are visual learners too. With attention spans clocking in the mere seconds, images must capture them and teach them something fast. It's one of the reasons so many churches have screens, use Power Point and ProPresenter, and have techies on their worship teams today. Yes, there are church people of every age, like me, whose neural synapses are activated by imagery. Still, if your church wants to reach the younger generations, the profound truths of Scripture should be spoken and seen. Preaching and teaching are much larger concepts than the pastor's voice-over.

It's a delicate topic too, this idea of faith that is seen. Jesus warned about self-focused faith that is lived openly for the personal attention. He said, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6: 1, ESV). The applause of men isn't the aim of living faith. Still, Jesus previously taught, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5: 16, ESV). It is a strong element of our personal witness in this broken world, that is, living our faith out there in the mean streets where others can be influenced by a biblical example. It's not complicated. This is our Christian witness. It is more than words. Sure, we should be able to verbalize our faith (see 1 Peter 3: 15). Living it out in the open, for others to see, however, is the real deal.

It's an even greater influence these days, the openly visible faith life. You see, there's this secular mood in our culture today that permits and even encourages religious language and witness. That is, among all the other religious systems out there. But, the Christian voice is basically verboten. Sure, Christians can buy television time in certain slots but can no longer pray or speak in most public venues. Living faith does, however, touch the people around us with profound witness. It is the most vivid and convincing witness of our personal beliefs, the way we live. Jesus explained it in another context. We're supposed to be a city on a hill whose light beams in the darkness. It cannot be hidden.

Here we are, Monday in February, weather patterns blasting us, the Pandemic still an issue, and uncertainty in many life systems. And, here I am, seeking my place in it, with the clear instruction to let it shine.

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