Saturday, May 25, 2013
Rom. 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
This entire passage in Romans is called "Slaves to Righteousness." Here we find a contrast between being slaves to sin vs. being slaves to righteousness. For the follower of Jesus Christ everything has changed, they have been set free from sin. The pull of sin is exchanged by the pull of righteousness. The pull of righteousness effects the way in which we live our lives, and the result is a life full of the fruits of holiness. This is the benefit of being a slave to God -- a holy life. By being a slave to God we may once again become the holy people of God that he intended us to be. And the telos of it all is eternal life. This is the goal or the end game -- the result of the life of holiness is eternal life.
This verse makes me reconsider the way in which we have so often presented the gospel to people. We ask them if they were to die would they know for sure that they are going to heaven. Of course this can be valid in light of the fact that this becomes the "end game" but it leaves out so much along the way. Somehow we jump from being a slave to God and a benefit of holiness to the final result. Isn't the true gift, the benefit which is mentioned here, the life of holiness? The central focus of this verse is truly on the transformed life. We are invited into the new kingdom to live as the holy people of God. This is the true joy and benefit of being a slave to God. We can already live an abundant life within his kingdom here and now. The problem with focusing on eternal life is that we make it about a gift of going to heaven. No, the point is that we reap the benefit of holiness in this life and that holy life will then continue throughout eternity. What begins now is eternal. We are not waiting for that moment to leave the earth, but instead we are engaged in the holy transformed life while here on earth.
The "normal" state for every believer should be holiness. We have tried to make that terminology about some special people and yet it truly is the desire of God for every one of his followers. Sadly it is those who have adopted the term "holiness" about themselves that have tended to give the word a bad reputation. Unfortunately some people who call themselves "holiness" people are some of the most unhappy and downright mean people I have ever met. And this is what the world sees and says that they don't want anything to do with that -- and can we blame them? But maybe we have allowed the true concept of holiness to be misconstrued. There are times we have basically turned this verse around and put it in a different order. We have made being a slave to God mean that we are going to heaven with the end goal of holiness. When that happens our focus and energy is in the wrong place. Instead the energy and focus is supposed to be on living life in obedience to God and being blessed with the fruits of holiness. God knows that if we are made holy, if we are sanctified, that we will experience transformation which will allow us to live life as a reflection of Jesus Christ in this world. The emphasis should be on how we live our life! It is possible to live a life that is not enslaved to the world or to sin. Instead, it is possible to live a life focused on God in which we are transformed in the here and now.
Can you imagine what would happen if the world saw followers of Jesus Christ in this way? A true follower of Jesus Christ who is reaping the benefit of holiness should never need to declare that they are holy; it should be visible in who they are. This is what it means to reap the benefit of holiness. Focus on being a slave to God and the benefit will be holiness.
Lord, may I simply focus on serving you this day. Amen.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Psa. 136:1 ¶ O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psa. 136:2 O give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psa. 136:3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa. 136:4 ¶ who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa. 136:5 who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa. 136:6 who spread out the earth on the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa. 136:7 who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa. 136:8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa. 136:9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
As Solomon's Temple was completed there was a time of dedication. The musicians were instructed to play and sing "The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever." This was to be repeated time and again. Here we find the same phrase within this Psalm. While singing about the great works of God, every attribute of God is reinforced with the phrase, "his steadfast love endures forever."
This Psalm becomes a template for us when it comes to our worship and prayer. We must take time to focus on the good things of God and worship him for who he is and what he has accomplished. Too often we leave out the praise of God and jump right to the requests. But when the people of God begin to stop and pray into his very nature we become overwhelmed with who this is that we are worshiping. Our own self-centeredness tends to take the focus away from God, and on ourselves. This is why we want worship in church to be the way we like it and our prayer time becomes a litany of requests. Instead, our focus should be on God, on who he is, and thanking and praising him for what he has done. When this happens the focus of attention is God, and not us!
The line which is repeated over and over again in this Psalm is truly a reminder of who God is -- of his very nature. God's nature is eternal, holy love. We are invited to be partakers of this divine nature, to participate in this nature together with God. And so this Psalm is a reminder to praise God for who he is, but it is also a reminder of God's intent for us. If we are to participate with God in his nature, then his steadfast love is what should define us.
When I think about the word "steadfast" somehow my mother comes to mind. My mother has always been a rock. The quality of her character goes right to the core. She is a holy woman of God; and a hard-working woman of God at that. Her life has been so consistent before me that I understand the word "steadfast." God is steadfast as well, his nature is who he is, all the way to the core. God's nature does not change.
God is steadfast in love. I have to stop and ponder that a moment. I think that we have a hard time comprehending the love of God. It's so much more than human love. There is a depth that is beyond our comprehension. The Psalmist sang about all the things that God had done, and yet that wasn't enough to describe God's steadfast love. God has been reaching out to humanity in steadfast love from the Garden of Eden to this day. Evidence of his love surrounds us on a daily basis. This includes the stars in the sky and the beautiful spring flowers budding in the fields. Everything cries out to us that God loves us!
And this love from God will never ever go away. Even in the midst of our difficulties we can be assured that his love will be eternal. Even in Tornado torn communities such as Moore, Oklahoma God's eternal love endures and reaches out to every single individual. Even in the midst of a funeral for your dearly loved spouse, the eternal love of God is present. And this love draws us into God's future, a place that he is already preparing for us where his love will continue to stretch out infinitely. No, not even in heaven will we fully comprehend the steadfast and eternal love of God. We will simply be invited to continue to participate in the experience and nature of God for all of eternity, for "his steadfast love endures forever."
Lord, I praise you for your steadfast love which endures forever. Amen.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
2Chr. 7:12 ¶ Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.
2Chr. 7:13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
2Chr. 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2Chr. 7:15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
2Chr. 7:16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.
2Chr. 7:17 As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances,
2Chr. 7:18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, ‘You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel.’
So often the focus of this scripture is on verse 14, but it is interesting to look at the paragraph in total. This response to Solomon's prayer by God is not immediate. Solomon has to wait for quite a period of time for this answer from God, and God sets up an expectation regarding the entire community of faith. The children of Israel are called to be God's holy people and as a people they are to be different from all the others of the earth. God makes provision for non-Israelites to be a part of the holy people, if they will serve God. The very existence of a holy people of God on the earth is evangelistic. The presence of God among them and God's care for them would be a light, drawing all men to God. This was God's intent for these people. Therefore when the corporate people of God do not follow God's commands and are disobedient, there will be consequences. These consequences included drought, locust infestation, and other types of pestilence. But note -- the consequences were corporate. All of these are not consequences for a single individual, but the entire people of God suffer for corporately not being the people of God.
Now God brings them to the necessary understanding of corporate repentance. As God's holy people, as his called-out ones, they are to humble themselves before him, and seek his face. Therefore there is a cry that goes out to God, one in which there is the desire for a restored relationship with God. But it doesn't end with prayer, the people, as a whole, must be called to action. True repentance includes a change in behavior. The wicked actions must be left behind and only then will God accept this true sacrifice of repentance and the corporate healing will occur.
God promises that he will be attentive to the prayers that are offered in the Temple. If only people will cry out to him -- he will hear! Not only will he hear, but his eyes and heart will be present in the temple as well, so that God can see our actions, and with his heart sense and know our motivations.
Finally God gave instruction to Solomon -- the leader of this corporate body. With his role came great responsibility. He was to be the shining example for all the people to follow. His life, his daily practices were to be completely and totally dedicated to God -- he was to keep all of God's statues and ordinances. And if he did this, the personal promise was that his family line would remain over Israel forever.
We, especially in American, tend to view our faith in a very individualistic fashion. In this scripture we find both the individual and the corporate. There was the responsibility of King Solomon, as an individual, to maintain the faith and to be an example to his people. At the same time there was the sense that corporately the Israelites were the holy people of God.
I think we must be careful to not interpret this scripture today in nationalistic terms. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were the ones who were called to be God's Holy people. But Jesus came and ushered in a new kingdom, the kingdom of God, into which all people had the potential to be grafted. Jesus established the Church to be the bride of Christ. Therefore, instead of looking at this scripture in terms of a nation, now, as we live in the era of the new kingdom, we must interpret it in light of the Bride.
Corporately the people of God, the Church, the Bride of Christ, are to be God's holy people. Corporately we are to live our lives in such a way that God's presence in the midst of us. And the world should be drawn to God's holy people because the world sees God's hand of care upon them. But could it be that the Church has not always been a faithful representation of the presence of God to the world? Does his glory truly fill the Church, or might we find churches with walls but no shekinah presence inside? If so, might there be a place for corporate repentance as the people of God.
I believe that even in Solomon's day there were those who were seeking the face of God on a regular basis. This core group of individuals could help to draw the corporate body of faith into the direction in which God was calling them -- to seeking his face and asking for forgiveness. Today I believe that God has already called a core group to begin to pray for the corporate repentance of his church. They are humbling themselves and praying and seeking his face. But as the people who carry the label "Christian" we must also turn from our wicked ways. The statistics for things such as divorce, pornography and child molestation should not be the same in the church as they are in the world; and yet they are! It was not the responsibility of the people in Solomon's day to point fingers at the neighboring pagan communities, but it was the responsibility of the people of God to live holy lives.
Today we are not called to turn a nation to God, we are called to turn the Church back to God! This is where we must begin -- this is the corporate body that so desperately needs to be seeking the face of God. And if the body of Christ, corporately, and globally would humble themselves, pray and turn from their wicked ways, then the nations of the world would be changed! There is a place for corporate repentance. Maybe we need to begin with admitting that the holy people of God have not always lived as the holy people of God. May we then seek his face, ask for forgiveness and turn from our wicked ways. Then we will see the healing which we so desperately need!
Lord, please forgive us for when we've put the spotlight on others and failed to look at our own need for you. Amen.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
2Chr. 5:13 It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever,”
the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud,
2Chr. 5:14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.
Solomon was dedicating the Temple to God. Elaborate worship and sacrifice had led up to this very moment when the musicians began to play their instruments and the vocalists sang. The focus, energy and attention, it was all on worship of God. A psalm of praise to God was sung in which they praised God for his goodness and recognized that the loving nature of God is eternal. As they sang this song of love and praise to God, his presence began to fill the temple. The glory of God became so thick that the priests could not stand to minister. God had come home and rested in his new dwelling place here on earth.
There are lessons to be learned from this scene regarding the worship of God. Too often people attend churches and think that they ought to be looking for the right worship styles for themselves. However, this should not be the case. We ought to be participating in the right worship for God. We are there to worship him!
One can only imagine how loud and exciting the worship was that day at the dedication of the Temple. The trumpets had played, the cymbals had clanged and then the people began to sing. Our praise and worship of God must include a focus on the positive attributes of God. Worship of God should not be about us! Instead, we need to focus on who he is and how we can praise him. This is even a lesson for our times of prayer. Our focus should be on God and who he is and our praise of him, and not on our own personal desires. Here, the people of Solomon's day focused on the goodness of God. God is good! And God's love, his very nature will never change. When the people genuinely worshiped God, his presence completely filled the temple.
Isn't it amazing that when the presence of God so fills a place that the priests can no longer stand and minister! The glory and presence of God is so overwhelming that it displaces human worship. When we begin to experience this type of glory in God's presence we will realize how small and insignificant we are and our worship of him may be. His glory, his presence is all consuming and transforming. If we truly worship God, we will discover the truth of this glory. But to get to this place means that we have to open ourselves up in vulnerability, and genuine love and worship of him. And when God's presence fills the place, we must step back and simply let God do his thing! That's what happens when the glory fills the house.
Lord, I praise you today and worship you. Please help me to be patient and relax in your presence, waiting on you. Amen.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
2Chr. 4:2 Then he made the molten sea; it was round, ten cubits from rim to rim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely.
2Chr. 4:3 Under it were panels all around, each of ten cubits, surrounding the sea; there were two rows of panels, cast when it was cast.
2Chr. 4:4 It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east; the sea was set on them. The hindquarters of each were toward the inside.
2Chr. 4:5 Its thickness was a handbreadth; its rim was made like the rim of a cup, like the flower of a lily; it held three thousand baths.
2Chr. 4:6 He also made ten basins in which to wash, and set five on the right side, and five on the left. In these they were to rinse what was used for the burnt offering. The sea was for the priests to wash in.
Solomon's temple is taking form and the furniture is being made. One of the items for the temple is the molten sea. This is to be a large bronze container that will hold 3000 baths of water, the equivalent of 18,000 gallons or 66,000 liters of water. There are those who believe that the panels of the sea included depictions of the ten commandments. Therefore we see the symbolism for the priests were to wash themselves in this sea, representing the cleansing through the law of God, and then be able to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.
Just a few years ago while in modern-day Turkey I was walking through the ruins of an ancient church. There in what would have been a holy back room was a very large basin let up on a pedestal. While reading the scripture today I could see this large basin in my mind. It would not have been as large as this sea and yet it was quite significant in size. This basin I had seen in Ephesus and was used for baptism. Could there be a significant connection between the sea and the baptismal basin?
The sea was created for the use of the priests alone. They were the only ones who could be purified by the cleansing of this water and go into the very presence of God, placing sacrifices before him. It is believed that the sea itself was a container for the water, but that the water came out of the sea as a type of fountain which provided for the cleansing. Only after having been cleansed could the priests move forward with their responsibilities. The water sprang forth from a sea which contained the ten commandments on the sides; a reminder that the cleansing of the priests also came with obedience to the law of God.
That sea no longer exists, and neither does Solomon's temple. Jesus had said that the temple would be destroyed but that he would raise it up again in three days. We all know that he was referring to himself and that he is now the living temple! No longer does a priest have to make sacrifices for us, but now we are invited into the "priesthood of all believers." We don't need an intermediary because we may have a personal relationship with Christ and go direction to him and he intercedes for us with the Father.
If we are all priests, then it would make sense that we are all invited into this symbolic cleansing. The sea is replaced with the baptismal font and instead of the priest being cleansed, we are the ones who are made clean, and instead of the ten commandments being written on the walls of the sea, they are written on our hearts. This is the sign of the new covenant. The old has passed away and all things are made new. And we are not cleansed by the water, but we are cleansed by stepping into the fountain of the Holy Spirit who washes away all the filth of our lives and leaves us clean in the presence of God.
It is not a select called group of individuals who are called to bathe themselves and to be in God's presence. We are all called to be bathed in the Holy Spirit and to be cleansed so that we can be in God's presence today. We celebrate this through the sacrament of baptism. The temple is gone, the new has come. Sadly, some of us are still trying to make our way to God through the old system. We are trying to follow the legalism of the past without wanting to step into the bath ourselves. Somehow it seems easier if we don't have to get wet ourselves -- let someone else do it for us! But Jesus has called us to jump into the deep end -- to be so filled with his holy presence that we are bathed in him day in and day out.
And the result of this soaking, or this standing in the fountain on a regular basis is an overflowing love for God and love for others. Today we are overwhelmed at the loss and devastation in Moore, OK. There are parents who are crying out in pain because their children never made it home from school. There are children weeping over the loss of a parent. Many are in shock as they look around and discover all that they had owned is now gone. It is time for the people of God -- those who have been through the bath -- to splash some Jesus around. What would Jesus do in the midst of this tragedy? He would be -- and IS -- right in the middle of it all. And we as God's people are called to go where he is. We must help, we must respond, we must be Jesus in the midst of tragedy. This is what those who have been through the bath do! Their lives genuinely reflect a change. They become living panels of the ten commandments and the world sees Jesus in them.
Her is a practical way in which we can all become involved today:
Have you had your bath?
Lord, please help those who are hurting so desperately today. Our hearts break for them. Please, help us to respond with your heart. Amen.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Samuel Oketch, NCM AEF Coordinator wraps labels across homebank tins meant for BottleaAid Campaign. Looking on is Collins, our security guard.
NCM AEF is engaging Kenya Nazarene churches to contribute towards GBV Project by way of BottleAid Campaign. The Campaign was launched by Samuel Oketch at Madungu Centre in Lake Victoria district on 12th April, 2013 during pastors regular meetings. 60 pastors at the event admitted the reality of GBV in our society and agreed to drive the campaign in their churches. To show their seriousness, each and every pastor picked a home bank tin for their churches. So far we have distribed 250 homebanks tins to 250 Nazarene churches in three of our six Kenyan districts. We are yet to launch the campaign in Rift Valley, Western, and Central Districts. Central District Campaign launch is scheduled for this Saturday May 25th at Central Church of the Nazarene during pastros’ regular meetings. There after we are going to organize with our District Superintendents on how to do a similar event in Rift Valley, and Western Districts. This campaign is driven by our pastors, and NCM district Coordinators. We are hoping to reach atleast 300 Nazarene churches with this campaign in Kenya and another 10 non-Nazarene churches.
The non-Nazarene churches are being reached by volunteers who have shown interested in raising awareness on GBV in our society. Recently Faith Wafula, a university student heard of our GBV campaign awareness through a friend and came to express her interest in helping us raise funds. She said, “I am always interested in supporting GBV activities and especially fund raising that I am very good at.” We are hoping that through her, we can get BottleAid Campaign spreading to universities.
For More information
NCM AEF Co-ordinator
Rom. 1:4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
In this opening greeting to the church in Rome we find this section which is a defense of the nature of Jesus Christ. He is fully God and he is fully man. Most affirm that the statement, "the spirit of holiness" exists to affirm the divine nature of Jesus Christ. However, there are those who would argue that the term ought to simply be the Holy Spirit -- or they read it to be the Holy Spirit. But this is not the case. This is not a description of the action of the Holy Spirit, but this is a description of the very nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ's nature is a spirit of holiness. It is holiness which defines who he is, and if this defines his nature -- then the invitation which we find later in 2 Peter 1:4 takes on clearer meaning:
2Pet. 1:4 Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.
We are invited to become participants, or partakers of the divine nature. If the divine nature is a spirit of holiness, then this is the nature of which we are to partake. The spirit of holiness was used to describe Christ, but it also becomes available to become a descriptor of those who have united with Christ and are participating in his nature. And this nature includes resurrection power, a power that can transform any life. This is why Paul declared:
Phil. 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,
To know Christ is to participate in the spirit of holiness.
The word "holiness" has not been the most popular in the last number of years. Popular culture has not been kind to the concept of "holiness" depicting people believing in holiness as crazy snake handlers, or rigid, legalistic dirty old men. On the other extreme "holiness" seems to mean saints who live such extraordinary lives that there is nothing to relate to the ordinary individual. Therefore the word is reserved for places like the Roman Catholic Church where we can refer to the Pope as "His Holiness." In the meantime the ordinary "Holiness" church has become increasingly reluctant to use the term. But could this be a problem of our own making?
Could it be that we have allowed the faulty concepts of "holiness" to so win the day that we have stopped seeking our personal participation in the spirit of holiness found in Christ? This would be the worst thing that could happen to us! Personally, I think that the message of holiness is so powerful and so transformational that it is exactly what the world needs today and that probably most people would be shocked if they discovered what true holiness means. This is a call to every single follower of Jesus Christ, that we are invited into this spirit of holiness. It is the spirit of Jesus Christ, it is his nature, and we are to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ so that his very nature flows from every single one of us. That means that we are called to live in the spirit of holiness. It is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Holiness is not some option for just a few individuals, it is the calling for all of God's people. We are called to be a holy people.
If God's people would lean into this life of holiness in the way in which he intended, I think that the popular perception could be changed. We shouldn't be afraid of what God wants for us because of what others might say. The world said all kinds of bad things about Jesus. We should move forward in boldness and in resurrection power, embracing the spirit of holiness.
Lord, please help me to live in the power of your spirit. Amen.