Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sound Doctrine





Scripture

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.
(Titus 2:1 NASB)

 

Observation


Here is an admonition to preach and/or teach sound doctrine. Why would this have been necessary in the early days of Christianity? Wouldn't the Christian faith have been pure at this point and time? Actually, in those early days Christianity was learning to co-exist in a very pagan world and there were those who did not want to give up their pagan ways, and yet, wanted some of what Christianity had to offer. Therefore the Christian doctrine was constantly being threatened by the secular world and those who had learned about Christianity needed to be encouraged to hold on and to be strong in what they truly believed.

 

Application


Interestingly we live in a day and age where people seem to view the word "doctrine" as if it were a dirty word. I don't know how many times I've had people say to me that they don't want to go to a church that teaches any kind of doctrine, they just want to hear the Bible preached. Thus the appeal of non-denominational churches where many attendees believe that they are getting "pure" Bible without any doctrine. The reality is that every time a preacher gets up to preach they are interpreting the word from a particular doctrinal perspective, whether that is advertised or not; and that is why it is important for us to understand the calling to "sound doctrine."

Those who have been able to articulate "sound doctrine" are those who have had a lasting stamp of influence on the Christian world. Think of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, John Wesley, John Calvin, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, etc. These are people who passionately lived out their faith and in attempting to articulate their faith were able to express doctrine. It is important that we take the time to learn from those who have gone before us and have struggled through many of the same issues with which we may struggle to come to conclusions regarding their faith. This is how doctrine is hammered out within the life of the church; and doctrine informs our practice of faith.

Within the Wesleyan/Holiness world of Christianity we embrace the concept that the kingdom of God is already here, but is not yet come to completion as we await the return of Christ. This concept or doctrine helps us understand that we are already workers within the kingdom while we live here on this earth. We believe that as we are Christ to our world, then the world already has the opportunity to catch glimpses of the kingdom. As we interact in an incarnational manner with the world around us, the world is touched by the kingdom. Therefore we are not waiting to be "raptured" out of this world to be taken to the kingdom, but instead are excited to be already in the kingdom here on earth and realize that we want to help usher in the kingdom through what Christ asks us to do on earth. I am "in" the world, but not "of" the world, and my hope is found in a daily relationship with Jesus Christ, not in waiting around and speculating about when I'm going to leave. This is how my doctrine informs my practice and my life. This is why there has always been an admonition to know and then to teach/preach sound doctrine. What we really believe about faith does make a difference in our daily walk with Christ -- and in the very future of Christianity.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help us not to shirk from the study of sound doctrine, which comes from you. Amen.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Who is a cow?




Scripture

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, “Bring now, that we may drink!”
(Amos 4:1 NASB)
The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness, “Behold, the days are coming upon you When they will take you away with meat hooks, And the last of you with fish hooks.
(Amos 4:2 NASB)

 

Observation


The Israelites continued in their destructive behavior and now a prophet compares them to cows on the mountain. These cows were of a special breed and were especially fat. They did little but lounge around on the hillside and eat. The imagery here is fascinating, that the people, who were to be the people of God had become fat and lazy cows, lounging on the side of a hill. Not only did they eat what was around them, but they were enjoying gains received by corruption. By accepting bribes they were able to enjoy an even more luxurious lifestyle. "Bring now, that we may drink!" They sent out members to bribe surrounding communities simply so that they could fulfill the desires of their sinful flesh, for bribery is not used for useful gain, but only for selfish!

In contrast God's nature continues to be revealed. The people will be judged by the holiness of God because their nature will not be able to exist within the holy presence of God. God is not wrathful, but instead the people are being warned that this type of behavior cannot exist within the presence of God and the cows among them will be taken away with meat hooks. Of course, there may be those who have not been quite so bad and they will only be removed with fish hooks. All the same, they will be removed.

 

Application


This story of the cows on the mountain appears to be quite extreme. The "cows" -- both men and women, had become so accustomed to a corrupt lifestyle that they did not even realize the extreme nature of their "fattened" lifestyle. Nothing was ever enough to satisfy their wants and this led to incredible levels of corruption. These people even raided the local hospital for their own personal gain.

This all seems so over the top for us, doesn't it? And yet we must ask ourselves whether we live or act in this way -- and whether our mountain is simply far removed from the "little people" from whom we are taking our goods? It doesn't take traveling very far in the world to discover that much of the rest of the world is not as "fat" as we are. Literally we are a "fat" people, both physically and materially. In most places of the world people have to eat to live, whereas we tend to live to eat. Eating is not a necessity of sustenance for many of us, it becomes more of entertainment for us as we decide what we will eat today! I'm certainly speaking to myself here.

Next, I am using my mac products this morning. Luxury items for much of the world! And where do these products come from? From the "little people" who live half-way around the world and who struggle to eek out a living. They are working for a small wage so that I can be a cow with all of my fun items and live up on the luxurious hill?

I didn't start this out this morning thinking of myself as the cow on the hill -- but come to think of it, maybe I am! There are such advantages in life which I enjoy because of the lovely hill on which I live. Along with the hill comes great responsibility. Will I act responsibly on the hill, or will I become a fattened cow? I think that's really the question. I must recognize that I have been blessed with resources beyond what most of the world experiences, and sometimes at the expense of the rest of the world. If I don't allow God to help direct me and my life and the use of those resources for his good -- then I simply become a cow enjoying the lush hill on which I live. My desire is not to be a cow, but instead to use the resources of the hill and to share them. Only when those on the hillside could step into a relationship with the God of holiness could they survive. This is the only way that we too can survive. We have much, but it must be placed under the authority of a holy God who will lead and direct in all things. Only in this way can I avoid becoming a cow!

 

Prayer


Lord, please keep us from becoming cows. Amen.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fulfilling your Calling





Scripture

But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 4:5 NASB)

 

Observation


These are just a few of the final instructions given to Timothy regarding his ministry. They are quite clear and concise. He was to remain sober -- maybe an encouragement to take his work seriously and to have a sound mind about the things in which he was engaged. He was to endure hardship. Why is that? Because often fulfilling your calling means straining ahead, and putting up with difficulties. It's not an easy task and those who are going to do what God has called them to do must realize that they must put up with difficulties along the way. He was also to do the work of an evangelist. This was a mind-set -- one of intentionality when it came to encountering those who needed to know Christ. In doing this, Timothy would fulfill his calling.

 

Application


Everyone who has been united with Christ has a calling -- and that is to be obedient to the heart of Christ. These final instructions to Timothy sound much like the heart of Christ. Therefore these challenges are not just for one who is called to "professional" ministry, but to everyone who has a calling -- which is every follower of Christ. We are to be sober -- to take very seriously our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There is absolutely nothing else in life that can compare to our personal walk with him. Nothing else should take priority over our personal relationship with him.

The challenge to endure hardship is for all of us as well. There are times when life will be a challenge and there will be hardships. As those who are called, we are not promised a life of luxury or ease. Instead, there may be times when we literally live without most of the conveniences of contemporary life. We must learn to adjust and have a good attitude when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances. The circumstances are not a punishment, but rather, our calling.

Finally most of us shrink from the idea of evangelism. Somehow we believe that this is the work of those who have a special call, however that is not the case. Why wouldn't everyone who has encountered Jesus Christ desire to share that news with others? If we have been transformed by our relationship with him, the passion and desire for others to be transformed should literally ooze out of every pore. We must be praying for opportunities on a daily basis to let others know about Christ. When we do this, God brings people across our path who will ask questions or have a desire to know about Christ. When that happens -- do the work of an evangelist -- that is, simply share the "good news."

We all have a calling but the challenge is to fulfill that calling. It's too easy for the activities of life to become a distraction to what God may be asking us to do. Let's put all of that aside and with soberness evaluate what the heart of Christ may be challenging us to do today -- and in doing so, we will fulfill our calling.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me today to know your heart and to fulfill the call. Amen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

He did right -- but not with a whole heart.





Scripture

Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem.
(2 Chronicles 25:1 NASB)
He did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.
(2 Chronicles 25:2 NASB)
Now after Amaziah came from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought the gods of the sons of Seir, set them up as his gods, bowed down before them and burned incense to them.
(2 Chronicles 25:14 NASB)
Then the anger of the LORD burned against Amaziah, and He sent him a prophet who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of the people who have not delivered their own people from your hand?”
(2 Chronicles 25:15 NASB)
Then Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem and tore down the wall of Jerusalem from the Gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate, 400 cubits.
(2 Chronicles 25:23 NASB)
He took all the gold and silver and all the utensils which were found in the house of God with Obed-edom, and the treasures of the king’s house, the hostages also, and returned to Samaria.
(2 Chronicles 25:24 NASB)

 

Observation


Amaziah was the King of Judah and we are told that he did right, and "yet not with a whole heart." The Lord had told him to trust in him for the battle against the Edomites, and Amaziah and the warriors of Judah came out victorious. Originally Amaziah had purchased the assistance of troops from Israel, but God had told him to simply trust in him and not in the additional troops. Amaziah listened and he sent the troops back and fought the battle with the Lord on his side. That's why his response seems so incredibly odd. Included in the spoils are the gods of the Edomites. Amaziah brings them home with him and sets them up and burns incense to them. Why in the world would he do this? One of the foundational teachings of the children of God was the Shema, "Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one!" This is what they were to have known from the early years of their lives -- God was constantly trying to help them understand that he was the only God! They were to worship no others. This was to be as sacred as a marriage relationship -- the children of Israel were in a marriage relationship with God and him alone. Yet, they were constantly committing adultery with the gods of other nations. Amaziah was in love with God -- and yet not with his whole heart. He was willing to have an "affair" with the gods of the Edomites. Was it worth it? God allowed the warriors of Israel to come back and to attack Amaziah and tear down Jerusalem as well. The destruction was devastating. Half-hearted devotion to God is no devotion to God.

 

Application


How often is this true. We find that we want to serve the Lord, and we want to do the right things, but sadly, that only takes us so far. We are not willing to serve him with a whole heart. Instead, we want to serve him when it is comfortable for us. The reality is that it is either all or nothing. Just as in a marriage relationship you can't be "sort-of" married, or married part of the time. You must either be whole-heartedly committed, or the marriage won't work. You must also be completely and whole-heartedly committed to God, or the relationship won't work. That's why we can't choose to do a few things right, and yet do what we want during other periods of time. It's not about picking and choosing to do right "things" and that's where Amaziah got it wrong. Walking with God is about a relationship with God and such intimacy that we simply do the things that we do out of the depth of that relationship. We don't do "right" things because we are ordered to, but because we so love him that his nature becomes our very nature and the desire to do right is who we are.

If we try to live in a world where we pick and choose when we do the right thing, we will be like Amaziah and we will get it wrong because it will not come out of a personal relationship with God. We must take the time to walk in the depths of a relationship with God who will transform us as we love him with our whole heart!

 

Prayer


Lord, please draw me into deeper intimacy with you today and each and every day! Amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do You Have Good Reason to Be Angry?





Scripture

The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
(Jonah 1:1 NASB)
“Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
(Jonah 1:2 NASB)
But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
(Jonah 1:3 NASB)
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk.
(Jonah 3:3 NASB)
Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
(Jonah 3:4 NASB)
Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.
(Jonah 3:5 NASB)
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.
(Jonah 4:1 NASB)
He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
(Jonah 4:2 NASB)
“Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”
(Jonah 4:3 NASB)
The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
(Jonah 4:4 NASB)

 

Observation


Jonah was angry that God had saved the people of Ninevah. Jonah was a reluctant servant in the first-place but he had his own personal prejudices against the people of Ninevah. Therefore, he tried to run away, and after his terrible sea experience, he went to Ninevah and preached what he had been told to preach. He preached the words, but one might guess that he did not preach them with much enthusiasm, or he may even have preached them hoping that no one would respond. But they were not his words, they were God's words and the people did respond. This made Jonah mad and finally God had to ask him, "Do you have good reason to be angry?" The answer was "no" -- but still, Jonah was mad!

 

Application

We may think that this is an extreme situation but let's put this into a modern context. What if God called you to go to the city of Mosul, Iraq to preach the gospel? This is the modern city located near the ruins of Ninevah. As much as we may not want to admit it, there would be many within the Christian world who would be prejudice against the Muslim people of Mosul. Why would God call us to go there and tell them about Jesus? Don't they deserve to have the punishment that God has planned for them? No, they are God's children just as much as we are God's children and the love of God can reach out and transform them as well. However, they need to be told the good news.
But let's bring this even closer to home! What about someone that you really don't like? Someone who has wronged you in life and done mean things to you? What if God calls you to reach out to them, to love them, to share the news of his salvation with them? Are you willing, or would that make you angry?

When Christ is living in you, your response becomes that of Jesus Christ. He was willing to go to death on a cross for his very enemies. He did everything that he could to save them. When our hearts becomes united with his heart, then this becomes our cry as well. God doesn't even have to call us to go to our enemies. We don't become angry over what God asks us to do, instead it becomes the very longing of our heart to do what he wants to do. Our heart breaks over Ninevah, just like his did. Our hearts break over those who have wronged us, just like his does. We can't wait to reach out to those who have wronged us because we want them to know the Jesus that we know at such a deep and intimate level.

Jesus would have had every good right to be angry -- but he wasn't. If Jesus is in us, we won't be angry either. Instead our hearts will break for the things that break his and we will move with compassion in a world that is in desperate need of healing.

 

Prayer


Lord, please live in and through me. May I go with you wherever you desire and may my heart break for the things that break your heart as well. Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Great advice!





Scripture

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 1:13 NASB)

 

Observation


This verse is a powerful nugget of truth. For many of us we have received sound words of instruction throughout our lives. We have studied the word and listened to many a sermon. The question always seems to be what we will do with that knowledge or information. Timothy had received instruction from a great mentor who had taken time to share the truths from life which had been experienced in faith and love which had come from Christ himself. For many of us there are those who have gone before us who have shared that faith and love with us and we must ask ourselves what we will do with what we have received.

 

Application


I think of the standard of faith which I have received from my own parents. My parents were never ones to simply talk about their faith, but they lived it out wholeheartedly. One of my earliest memories as a child was someone knocking at the door at dinnertime in Germany and begging for food. There were many war veterans who had returned home to Germany to discover that they had nothing left -- no family -- no home -- nothing and in those days they would live on the streets. We had very little ourselves and mom was always doing everything she could to stretch the family budget. But if anyone were ever in need, she would do everything she could to help them. It might be a big piece of German bread slathered with butter, and it would be given with great love and grace. I have never felt that my parents simply preached a gospel, they lived it!

Just last evening I called my parents who are now in their upper 80's. They had spent the day in Sunday School, Church , then out with the grandkids -- they had held another service in the afternoon at the "home" in which they live - and now were spending the evening listening to CDs of the Bible. They always feel as if there is more to learn. I know that if I call around eight in the morning I will catch the two of them reading the word together and having prayer, going over that long list of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren with the Lord. Then, dad will go to work where he will be a minister of Jesus Christ and show love to people who are needing compassion during times of financial crisis in their lives. Later  he'll take a box of donuts to the guys selling used cars and hang out and asked what's going on in their lives!

These words were a challenge to Timothy and they are to me as well. The standard is pretty high -- but it usually is when it's Christlikeness! A standard has been handed to all of us. What will we do with it? We are challenged to continue to live out our faith through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the only way in which this life can be lived. We cannot live out our faith by trying to live up to a human standard, but the standard is knowing Jesus himself. This occurs when we focus on the intimacy of a relationship with him that becomes the highest priority in our lives. Good advice!

 

Prayer


Lord, may each day be one in which I draw closer to you and may my daily life reflect you to the world around me. Amen.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Godliness and Contentment





Scripture

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
(1 Timothy 6:6 NASB)
For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
(1 Timothy 6:7 NASB)

 

Observation


There are a number of things for which people in this world will strive and most of them are not to our benefit. However, when we strive for godliness, this is worth it. Why? Because the result is that we become more and more like Jesus himself. When that happens, our desires become his desires and no longer do work and/or strive toward things of this world, but instead our entire focus becomes Jesus. When Jesus becomes the focus of everything that we do, we become content with life. There is no great need for many "things" in this life -- whatever we accumulate during our lifetime will be left here on this earth when we die so why work so hard for things that we will lose?

 

Application


Throughout the years there have been a number of personality tests whose popularity have come and gone. One of the latest seems to be the strengths finder. I tend to, rather reluctantly, take these tests when encouraged to do so -- usually for a class or training session of some kind. The reason I really don't like to take these tests is that I think they can become excuses for behavior. We want to explain away our reactions or responses because we are simply that type of a person. Somehow I believe the grace of God can even overcome those innate behaviors which are exhibited within us. Back to the strengths-finder. I took that test and I discovered one of my top five was "achiever" and that sort of bothered me. You see, I do realize that I tend to have this drive in me that wants to get things done! However, if that remains unbridled, then where might it lead me? Hopefully it can lead me to today's scripture. It is okay to be an achiever, if the goal is to get to know Christ. The problem with being an achiever is when your focus is on the wrong thing you can suffer from discontentment. You continually push with your own human strength to try and achieve and sometimes there are results and sometimes there are not. That's why the author of this Epistle has it right. The only way that the achiever becomes content is in knowing Christ -- in seeking after godliness.

We must place the goal before us -- and the goal is Jesus, himself. We are to seek him, to seek after his face and simply get to know him in a deeply intimate relationship. We are not called to go out and change the world -- we are called to know Jesus. Jesus is the one who changes the world. When we spend time becoming intimate with him, we will discover that knowing him is the greatest achievement there is -- for anyone. In the quiet moments with him we learn that he already has everything under control and he is already working and moving, we've just been too busy to see it. It is in this place that we find peace and contentment and can simply join into his movement and we discover that we don't have to achieve. The very creator of the universe is already achieving and he says come and join me!

Relax. Get to know Jesus and he will transform you into godliness. Here you will find incredible peace and contentment.

 

Prayer


Lord, may I seek you today with all my heart and may rest contentedly within your presence. Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Whose Responsibility?





Scripture

If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
(1 Timothy 5:16 NASB)

 

Observation

This epistle contains much practical advice for the function of the church, much of which can be contextualized and applied to us today. This particular verse reveals the place or role of responsibility which is placed upon the church. The church is to be responsible when there is no one else left in someone's life, however, if there is family around, or if the individual is capable of doing work and caring for themselves, this they must do!

 

Application


Taking responsibility, whether it's for one's own actions or for their own lives these days seems to be rather rare. We live in a society which shirks responsibility and is constantly looking for someone else to blame, or someone else to care for our needs. These principles are sound and they exist so that the "church" or the "system" is not overloaded. We all know that there is only so much that a local church can do in caring for the needs of those around them. The church wants to be able to reach out and meet the needs of the neediest but it's always a surprise when those who have been in the church for years and have children who can be of assistance are the loudest complainers when they feel the church has not done enough to help them -- because the church "owes" it to them. Really? Are we part of a church community for years so that we receive "paybacks" when the time comes?

The church is struggling these days to truly be the church. The resources are limited and when people almost "demand" certain services, then the church ceases to function as she should. This epistle said that if we become overburdened caring for those who have relatives who could care for them, then the church cannot assist those who are really in need! It's not about assisting those who have been a part of the church for a long time because we "owe" them -- but about assessing the needs and ministering to those with the greatest needs! It may be someone who has been a part of the church for a long time -- but it may not.

When people take responsibility as they should, then the church, and even society can function much better. However, when people become selfish and self-centered then things become out of balance. Those with the greatest needs become left-out because others take the resources. As followers of Christ we must be responsible and not work to overburden church or society when we are able to be responsible for ourselves. At the same time, we must be sensitive to care for the neediest.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to act responsibly, and care for the needy! Amen.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Worldly fables and old women.





Scripture

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
(1 Timothy 4:7 NASB)
for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
(1 Timothy 4:8 NASB)
It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.
(1 Timothy 4:9 NASB)
For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
(1 Timothy 4:10 NASB)

 

Observation


Coming near the close of this Pastoral Epistle we find a contrast in what it means to be living the godly life. The godly life is one which involves spiritual discipline. Should we sit around and gossip with the old women? No, we are to show self-discipline and be prepared for godliness. Is this a bodily discipline? No, because that is not eternal, rather we are to be disciplined in our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the relationship that is eternal! Only the eternal should be worth our focus and attention.

 

Application


It can become incredibly easy to become caught up in the small talk of the world. Why would the author of this letter specifically point out older women and fables? Just go to any church gathering and there are more senior women around than there are men! That's just a normal reality of life, women tend to live longer than men. So what happens when a group of retired women get together? What are they doing with their lives? Most of them sit around and talk and tell stories of what's going on -- or share thoughts on how the younger generation could be handling things, etc.

There are times when people, no matter what age or gender, act this way in regard to their spiritual lives. We want to hang out together and gripe about things without any intent of improving anything. We just like to hear ourselves gripe! How in the world do we avoid this? By finding something useful to do with ourselves and with our time, and doing something useful doesn't necessarily refer to simply being busy, but it relates to the spiritual realm. We need to be willing to be self-disciplined enough, throughout all of life, to make our relationship with Jesus Christ the most important factor in our lives. We will never be too old to spend time with our Lord! We should never be too busy to spend time with him! We should never have more important things to do than to be with him! (Because there is NOTHING more important -- even doing good things!) It is good if this discipline can begin early in our lives so that when we do become older, we are not drawn away by the temptation to gather with the older women and share fables. Instead, we will be so enticed by the intimacy of our relationship with Jesus Christ that we will desire him more than anything in this world. The result is that we may not hang out with the crowd, but instead, will be about Christ's business here on earth until the very day that we go home to be with him in heaven.

Avoid those worldly fables and old women!!! That discipline begins even today.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to enjoy the intimacy of fellowship with you on a daily basis. Amen.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What is your confession?





Scripture

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.
(1 Timothy 3:16 NASB)

 

Observation


At the end of this letter to Timothy we find this early confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Later on the church would develop formal creeds, statements which followers of Christ would make which would declare their faith. Today we still recite the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds as professions of our faith. However, in those early years these creeds were not yet developed and this simple statement, an early creed, comes from the heart. 

 

Application


How do you describe the One in whom you believe? That is a very good question. As a follower of Jesus Christ, what is my confession? If I had to express my faith in Jesus Christ in one sentence, what would I have to say?  We must step back from this question a moment because there is another question. Is it possible to have any kind of a confession without a personal relationship? I'm afraid that we may find it possible to recite creeds or quote things we have heard, but what about a very personal confession of our relationship with Christ? The world is hungry to know that there is something out there that really is transformational. There is nothing transformational about simply describing something that we have never personally experienced. Our Christ-walk is a very personal relationship with the Son of God. No matter who we are or what we have done, the love of Christ reaches out to us and transforms us into his very likeness.

If someone were to sit across from you and ask you what makes you different, would you have an answer? How could you express your faith in the transforming power of Jesus Christ to them? Every one of us should be able to have our own personal confession which we are ready and willing to share with a needy world. If Jesus has transformed us and filled us with his love and we are passionately in love with him -- wouldn't we just want to share that with everyone we meet? Are you ready to share it? What is your personal confession?

 

Prayer


Lord, may I have an opportunity today to share my confession of you! Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Sons of the Prophets





Scripture

Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
(2 Kings 4:1 NASB)
When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.”
(2 Kings 4:38 NASB)
For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, And those who hate You have exalted themselves.
(Psalms 83:2 NASB)
They make shrewd plans against Your people, And conspire together against Your treasured ones.
(Psalms 83:3 NASB)
Fill their faces with dishonor, That they may seek Your name, O LORD.
(Psalms 83:16 NASB)
Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, And let them be humiliated and perish,
(Psalms 83:17 NASB)
That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, Are the Most High over all the earth.
(Psalms 83:18 NASB)

 

Observation


God's prophets, those who had been faithful to him, had really taken a beating. Life was difficult for them. We enter into this chapter with Elisha and discover that the stories alternate between miracles for the sons of the prophets and miracles for others. Mixed into this story we discover God's care for those who have been his servants. Life has been tough for them. The widow of one of the sons of the prophets doesn't know how she will survive. Her husband is dead and the creditors want her to pay bills. There is no money, but God provides for the bills and for she and her son. Next we find the sons of the prophets with nothing to eat. They are starving during the time of famine. God provides another miracle and they are fed with a large pot of stew. Not only are they fed, but there is enough to feed others. And finally the Psalmist records that there are those who make war against God's people, and yet, God provides protection.

 

Application


The sons of the prophets represent a remnant of people who were faithful to God, even in the midst of terrible circumstances. They literally watched as their fathers were persecuted and killed because of their faith. Still, they did not give in, nor did they give up their faith in God. They were faithful and yet when the land no longer produced crops, when the rain didn't come, and there was no food -- God lovingly cared and provided for them. In this chapter there were four miracles -- two for the families of the prophets, and two for complete foreigners. What is the message here? That God remains faithful to the faithful -- no matter who they are or where they are from. The children of Israel were his chosen people -- but they were no longer faithful. They were suffering from the famine but did not cry out to God. But God's people cried out to him and he came and he cared for them.

God is still a God of miracles today and reaches out to help and sustain his servants. We must remain faithful to him in the midst of all the circumstances of life. We must hold on to him in the famines of life and allow him to be the Sustainer of all things. And when God provides for his people, and there is more left-over, may we be willing to share the rest with a hungry and needy world which surrounds us on a daily basis.

 

Prayer


Thank you Lord for your care and providence in the lives of the faithful. Amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Don't call someone a "baldhead!"





Scripture

Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!”
(2 Kings 2:23 NASB)
When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.
(2 Kings 2:24 NASB)
He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
(2 Kings 2:25 NASB)
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
(Psalms 82:3 NASB)
Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
(Psalms 82:4 NASB)

 

Observation


This seems to be a rather strange story to me. Elisha passes by Bethel and some young men from the town come out and mock him. They make fun of the fact that he is bald. To put the story into perspective, Elisha is now God's man of the hour. The mantle of spiritual leadership for the land has been passed from Elijah to Elisha and now, this is God's man. This story isn't just about a group of young men, but about an entire nation who has turned their backs on God with no respect for the things of God. Therefore, as the Holy Man walks past their town, the young men come out and shout mocking comments in his direction.

The next part seems quite odd. It may seem against God's nature, but I believe that the mocking had gone deeper than just the human Elijah, but in reality the boys were mocking God himself. Two female bears suddenly appear and they attack the boys. In the Psalm reading we read about the justice of God. It is God who vindicates and rescues the weak and the needy. It is God who rescues from the wicked. Whether in this scenario or any other, it is God who responds and God who vindicates in the face of evil.

 

Application

The point here is not really about calling someone a "baldhead" or not. However, it does have to do with mocking God and picking on those who are weak. These are two very distinct points and I'm afraid that there are times when it becomes easy to go with the crowd and make fun of the "man of God." We must be ever so cautious about this type of behavior. We may not always agree with everything that the person God has called to leadership has in mind, but that is no cause for mocking. No, for when we mock God's person for the hour, we are mocking God himself and there are dire consequences to this behavior. Instead, we must be willing to stand alone, to move away from the crowd and hold God's people in respect.

At the same time we are to act justly with those who are weaker. All of us are weak in our own way. We may have power in some areas of our lives, but at the same time we are weak in others. There will most always be others, those that we can support who are weaker than ourselves. We must be grateful for those who have gone out of their way to support us, and in return we must be protectors of those who are weaker than us. God's nature is to do justice and to rescue the weak from the hand of the wicked. If we are clothed in Christ and are united with God, then his nature is in us. Our response should be his response. Injustice should make us as angry as a bear! We should come out ready to protect those whom the world might mock. There are dire consequences to calling God's servant, "you baldhead!"

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to see the world in the way that you do, and to be a servant who helps to protect the weak. Amen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What has God asked you to do?




Scripture

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
(Colossians 4:17 NASB)

 

Observation


The closing greetings are being added to this letter to the Colossians, and those greetings include an admonishment to a gentleman named Archippus. He has been given a ministry by the Lord. We don't know what that ministry was, but certainly Archippus did and there may have been some struggle when it came to embracing what God had truly asked him to do. He was being encouraged to confront the ministry which God had for him. He was to accept the calling from God and move forward and fulfill it.

 

Application

There are times when God asks us to do things and we may not want to respond. There can be numerous reasons why we don't want to respond, but the root is generally something related to self. There can be a lack of self-confidence. On the other hand there may be a self-centeredness that makes it difficult to give ourselves wholeheartedly in service to him.

What has God asked you to do? I know that throughout my life God has asked me to do some things that have made me pretty uncomfortable. They were certainly outside the realm of my personal ability and yet, I felt that I had to move forward in obedience to him. The truth is that if we move forward with him, he will provide all that is necessary for the task. We are asked to do things for him, so that he gets the glory, and now us. That's why he takes us in our weaknesses and asks us to do things that we would never have thought possible. That's why when he asks us to do things we make think -- there's no way! You're right, there's no way for us to do this, but with him there is every way to do this!

This message certainly speaks true to me today. This morning we embark on our first day of District Assembly on the East Ohio District -- our first day to be Co-DSs at an assembly. In my wildest imagination I could not have seen that God would have opened up this kind of opportunity for ministry. It pushes me into places where I have never been before and the shy little girl inside of me tries to tell me that I can't really be doing this. No, I can't be doing this -- but God can do this! Therefore, I offer myself as a servant to the Lord and may he do with me as he wishes. May the Lord help me to fulfill the ministry which he has placed before me, and may it bring glory to the one who calls us.

God calls all of us who are his followers to be be faithful to him -- in ministering before him. What has God called you to do today? May you fulfill your calling in him!

 

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the calling and for the grace to fulfill that calling. May you be glorified today and every day! Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Perfect Bond





Scripture

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
(Colossians 3:14 NASB)

 

Observation


There are so many thoughts running through my head right now. There are so many different ways that we hear and/or experience the word bond these days. Of course, there is James Bond -- and there would be those who would argue about who was the perfect Bond (Sean Connery of course). There are those advertisements for "Gold Bond" but I don't think that relates to what we are seeing here. Then, of course there are those incredible examples of super glue which create a permanent bond. Also -- not the case because here we find the perfect bond, the one that perfectly unites God's people, and that is love!

 

Application


In a nutshell this is what God desires for his people. He desires a perfect bond, which means that they are united together, straining forward to what God has in store for them. Sadly, there are times when this bond of unity seems to be lacking within the lives of God's children. Too much time is spent picking on one another and arguing over little things. This is simply the divisive tool of the enemy. If every single follower of Christ were to put on love and allow the love of Christ to bind them to one another, then we would want to move forward with a singular mind and purpose to do his will here on this earth. The world would be able to look at followers of Christ and say, "Look how they love one another." This is the perfect bond. It is more perfect than any other bond which can be found here on this earth. That's because it is not from this earth. It is not human love that will bind us together, and if we try to love one another from our own resources, it simply won't happen. But it is Christ's love, the love that died on a cross for you and me, that when it fills every crevice of our being, becomes transformational and bonding. This love is perfect and it will change the world. It already has!

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for the possibility of that perfect bond and may we step into that relationship of love with you. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The far-reach of God





Scripture

The LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram;
(1 Kings 19:15 NASB)
and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.
(1 Kings 19:16 NASB)
“It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.
(1 Kings 19:17 NASB)
“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
(1 Kings 19:18 NASB)

 

Observation


Elijah had been victorious on Mount Carmel and over the prophets of Baal. It was an amazing moment, but afterward he ran and hid. God came and spoke to him and told him what he was to do and how he was to move into the future. God wasn't finished with his people, and his reach went beyond the Israelites, and God had a plan for the people of the earth. Elijah was to go and anoint Hazael to be king over Aram. This was a neighboring kingdom and yet God wanted Elijah to go outside the bounds of Israel and anoint a man king. Then he was to go to Israel and anoint a new king, Jehu. Finally he was to find Elisha and he was to place his mantle on him so that Elisha could take up the work of Elijah, moving into God's future. God continue to reach out to the faithful ones for there were those, 7000 of them, who had not adulterated themselves with Baal. But God recognized that helping those 7000 meant that there had to be a broader reach and so Elijah was instructed to go out and in obedience prepare the way for God's work.

 

Application


Often we are the ones who have the limited eye-sight. We think that God can only do "so much" or work within a particular realm. This story is striking because God is sending his prophet to a neighboring kingdom, to anoint a king. God was willing to do this, to have his influence be far-reaching because of the handful of faithful which remained in Israel.



Often we put God in a box, or imagine that he can or will only respond in a particular way. We may believe that he is able to respond within the life of the church, but can he really do anything about those who are not in the church? God sees a much broader landscape than we do. He understands the intricacies of the relationships and interconnections which will make a difference for the future -- his future. And there is also an important point. The future is not our future, it is his future. God is inviting his faithful followers to be a part of what he already has planned in the future. He is already out there in front of us working and trying to draw us into what his far-reaching plan. The problem is that so often we get caught up in our own lives that we fail to see that God IS at work. We miss the fact that he is actively working all around us, both inside and outside the church. He is simply asking us to open our eyes to what he is already doing and to join into his movement and into his future for all of us. That future is much more wide-reaching than any of us could ever imagine and at times that may be shocking. But we need to trust him and remain faithful, just as the 7000. In doing so we will personally experience the far reach of God.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you that you would even want to include us in your far-reaching plans. May I remain faithful to you each day. Amen.

Friday, June 15, 2012

It was a trivial thing...





Scripture

It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him.
(1 Kings 16:31 NASB)

 

Observation


These are the words which describe the reign of King Ahab. He was ultimately more evil than any king who served before him and his wife, Jezebel...her very name has become synonymous with evil. Sadly the leap wasn't too far because gradually from generation to generation the people of God had kept moving away from him until this final leap which was so evil became a trivial thing.

 

Application


This is the way that evil works in our lives. Rarely does anyone begin a journey with the desire to become extremely evil. Instead, we begin a journey, and if we do not keep our eyes on God, we will incrementally get on the wrong track. This wrong track may not take us too far off of the path, but what are we establishing for the next generation? Will they ever be able to see and understand what God truly desired for them? Instead will they also follow a trajectory that takes them down a path that ends in an even greater distance from God's intention? Finally, one like Ahab comes along and it becomes a trivial thing for him to walk in evil. It becomes a trivial thing to marry a woman like Jezebel. It becomes a trivial thing to murder the followers of God. It becomes a trivial thing to build idols to the pagan gods. It becomes a trivial thing to break all of God's laws.

We think that this story is incredibly extreme -- but is it? How far away is contemporary society from God? Have we slipped into an attitude of complacency and would our forebears be shocked at our attitudes toward the encroachment of other gods into our lives? Has it become a trivial thing to accept the things of this world as normal?

For us to be faithful followers of God and to be able to pass our love for him to the next generation, we need to be wholeheartedly sold out to him. We cannot be Sunday only Christians (Or every other Sunday Christians!). While being a follower of Christ is not only about church attendance, church attendance does speak to our commitment. What is our commitment? Is it to ourselves and our desires for a fun weekend, or do our children see that we are wholeheartedly committed to God and to serving him? Do they see that God is a priority in our lives?

The sad truth is that if we are not careful, it will become a trivial thing to move off into the direction of sin. It's the way the enemy works -- by slyly and cunningly leading us down a path that we can so easily justify. May God help us to remain on the path he has for us and for those who will come after us. May it never become a trivial thing to walk in evil paths.

 

Prayer


Lord, please keep me on the path today and everyday that leads toward you. I pray for my children that they too would keep you ever before them. Amen.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Saints in Caesar's Household





Scripture

All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
(Philippians 4:22 NASB)

 

Observation


Paul is making some final greetings and comments to the Philippians. One of those greetings comes from the "saints in Caesar's household." Paul uses the word "saints" to refer to those who are followers of Jesus Christ. One who is a follower of Christ is one who is "holy" and therefore a "saint." The miracle is that by this time there are those in the very heart of the Empire who have not only become "believers" but have grown in their faith to the extent that Paul would call them "saints." The big question which must be asked is how in the world did this happen? Who had access to the very heart of the Empire?

 

Application


The answer to that question is Paul. But the circumstances by which he had access to the heart of the Empire were not the most ideal. The reason he had access to many within the Empire is because he had become a prisoner of the Empire. He was placed under house arrest with twenty-four hour guard detail. Paul must not have wasted any time. He used the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with every single one of those guards. It becomes obvious that many of the guards were becoming "believers." They were not keeping this good news to themselves but instead were sharing it among their entire circle of influence. The result was that the very core of this pagan society was being infiltrated with the gospel.

It is vital to examine our circumstances and see how they can best be used to God's advantage. Paul could have complained about being in prison, but he didn't. Instead he realized the great opportunity that prison provided. Had he not gone to prison in Rome, there would not have been saints among Caesar's household. That's the simple truth. Obedience to God is not always an easy journey. There are times that we are called to go places and do things that may make us very uncomfortable but they take us to the place where God wants to use us to make a difference in our world.

Too often as followers of Christ our lives become rather sterile. We spend all of our time with others who are "like" us. There are times that we may need to walk through open doors to places that make us very uncomfortable to be obedient to God. We must pray for opportunities to get to people and places that we may never have thought possible. In radical obedience we must be willing to go to our own "prison" experiences to bring the gospel to places where it is virtually unheard of. What might that require of us? Moving outside of our comfort zone and our safe world and intentionally entering the world of those who so desperately need Jesus Christ. Sometimes that's a very poor and suffering world, but sometimes it's a world of influence such as Caesar's household. Paul had earlier mentioned that he'd learned to be content in any condition. He had learned to minister to the poor and to the rich, while always keeping his focus on Christ. A broad array of people need to know Christ, and we must be willing to be God's faithful servant with the good news of Christ anywhere he may send us. It may be to the bar down the street, or to the heart of our government -- it all demands the same level of obedience. How else could there be saints in Caesar's household?

 

Prayer


Lord, may every day be a walk in obedience with you so that there would be more saints in places that we never would have thought possible. Amen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Keep Going





Scripture

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12 NASB)
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
(Philippians 3:13 NASB)
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:14 NASB)
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
(Philippians 3:15 NASB)
however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.  
(Philippians 3:16 NASB)

 

Observation


This passage is an encouragement to all of us to continue, on a daily basis, in our walk with Jesus Christ. We understand that we have not yet reached "completion" or "perfection," but that does not keep us from pressing on and moving forward in our walk with the Lord. This section ends with the statement, "let us keep living by the same standard to which we have attained," which seems to be an admonition to keep moving forward, and not to move backward.

 

Application


This question of "backsliding" has existed for centuries. Is it possible for a follower of Christ to turn their back on Jesus Christ and go the other direction? I believe that what we are reading here is a prescription against just that. It is an encouragement for all followers of Christ to continue with a forward moving momentum, one which continuously leads us in the direction of Jesus Christ. For hundreds of years different authors and theologians used ascent language to describe this Christian walk. That is, the entire Christian life is seen as an ascent up a mountain. To be on the journey with Christ on a daily basis means that day in and day out you continue the climb, and perfection or completion comes when we reach the goal, which is the summit where we find union with Christ.

There would be some who would question whether this ascent language is compatible with the concept of entire sanctification. It is completely compatible because the concept includes crisis and process and we cannot leave out one or the other. There is no climb or ascent if one never embarks on the journey! Even people like Phoebe Palmer talked about the need for daily growth in our relationship with the Lord. Gregory of Nyssa commented that a lack of spiritual growth is actually a sin. This is a huge challenge, but the challenge is placed before us by those who have experienced a deeply intimate walk with the Lord. They have experienced this type of relationship and the depths of the relationship with Christ which simply draws them onward. They want others to have this experience as well, so they encourage us onward, to heights which we have yet to experience. Not because it is difficult for us, but because of a deep love of Christ and he himself becomes the goal of our lives.

Yes, there are times that life can be discouraging, but let us continue to press on toward the very goal of our lives, Jesus Christ! Keep Going!!!

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me on a daily basis to continue the climb toward you. Amen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Genuine Concern for the Welfare of Others





Scripture

So they sent and summoned him. When Jeroboam and all Israel came, they spoke to Rehoboam, saying,
(2 Chronicles 10:3 NASB)
“Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”
(2 Chronicles 10:4 NASB)
Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?”
(2 Chronicles 10:6 NASB)
They spoke to him, saying, “If you will be kind to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”
(2 Chronicles 10:7 NASB)
But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him.
(2 Chronicles 10:8 NASB)
So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?”
(2 Chronicles 10:9 NASB)
The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to the people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter for us.’ Thus you shall say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins!
(2 Chronicles 10:10 NASB)
‘Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”
(2 Chronicles 10:11 NASB)
For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.
(Philippians 2:20 NASB)
For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 2:21 NASB)
But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.
(Philippians 2:22 NASB)

 

Observation

The passage from Chronicles is one in which we learn much about management and caring for others. There are two ways to go about things. One is to love those people who are under your care or responsibility. As you love and care for them, they respond to you out of that love and they desire to work together with you. However, too many listen to the advice of others who say, "pile it on!" "Teach them whose really the boss." Sadly those results are incredibly destructive and Paul hits the nail on the head when he talks about Timothy. He wants Timothy to come and see the believers in Philippi because he knows that Timothy will have their best interests in mind. Paul knows that when you don't -- then you are simply being self-centered. When leaders throw down a heavy yoke on their people, it is not out of a desire to make things better for them, but for control and power.

 

Application


Sadly power does nearly always create corruption. The question is, as a follower of Jesus Christ, is it possible to avoid that corruption? The kings of the Old Testament were not able to avoid the corruption that came with their power and the result was a divided kingdom and the eventual destruction and captivity of Israel. The corruption of power came from self-centeredness which no longer saw their responsibility as the care of their people, but of the peoples' responsibility to care for their king. The kings got it backwards as a result of sin. Paul, on the other hand, saw it quite differently. He realized that his life was to be a reflection of Jesus Christ to the world. That reflection of Christ did not include worldly power. Paul refused to take anything more than what he needed from the people and often worked his own way through ministry by making tents. He remained a very humble servant, even when he could have exercised greater control or power in many of his circumstances. Instead, when the people of a community grew too accustomed to him and what he could do for them, he moved on, so that the focus would be on Christ, and not on him.

Paul was genuinely concerned about those for whom he had responsibility. He loved them and wanted them well cared for by someone who would not use them for selfish gain. That is why he trusted Timothy to come and care for the people in the church. Timothy had learned what Paul had learned, and that was how to love and care for those within his sphere of responsibility. And this is the example to all of us. We may have family members within our sphere of responsibility, or we may be a leader over others on a more professional level. May we take time to learn from the past. May we learn to serve humbly and with a focus on those who are within our care, and not on ourselves. May Christ so fill us that we have genuine concern for the welfare of others.  And may we be willing to listen to the sound advice given to us from those who have experience.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me be willing to listen to good, sound advice that makes an eternal difference. Amen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A foot in each world





Scripture

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21 NASB)
But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
(Philippians 1:22 NASB)
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
(Philippians 1:23 NASB)
yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
(Philippians 1:24 NASB)

 

Observation


Paul knew he was coming to the end of his life as he was living under house arrest in Rome. He had time to think and reminisce over his life, while at the same time sharing the gospel with this who were guarding him. Many of those who surrounded him had become followers of Christ and the good news was being spread. Therefore Paul lived in this tension. He had fought the good fight, he had been faithful in serving Christ and desperately wanted to be with him, while at the same time he wanted to continue to tell others about Christ. This was his dilemma and Paul was living with one foot in each world, enjoying the benefits of each.

 

Application


As we walk with the Lord, we too, will find ourselves in this kind of tension. The more we spend time with him, the more we desire him and him alone! It is so sweet to be in his holy presence and experience him and his incredible love for us. We find ourselves wanting to go back to that quiet place over and over and over again. Yet, at the same time, we are called to be in this world. Every one of us is called to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to this world. We are to be Jesus to this world and every day, and every moment of our being should be wrapped up in faithful service to him.

Sometimes I know that we wonder how we can be ministers of the gospel on a daily basis, but Paul provided that example for us. He was locked up under house arrest and did not allow that to keep him from sharing the good news. Instead, he testified to every single person who was there to watch him, and they were becoming believers in droves.

There is a pattern here -- one in which we find the joy of the time spent in Christ's presence -- in his world -- which charges us up -- to go out into this world and be Jesus. In this way, we are to be like Paul who had one foot in each world. Someday we will get to be with Christ all the time and what a wonderful time that will be -- but until that day -- I will serve him faithfully taking the good news of Jesus Christ to a sick world that so desperately needs his healing touch.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for your amazing love and the joy of your presence. Please, help me to bring you to the world today and everyday. Amen.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Via Media





Scripture

Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?
(Ecclesiastes 7:16 NASB)
It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.
(Ecclesiastes 7:18 NASB)

 

Observation

If there is something that great Christian leaders throughout history have encouraged, it is the "via media." This does not mean the use of social media, or the internet, or television but instead, it means the middle road, or the middle path. Throughout history we have seen the damaging results of those who go to the extreme. John Wesley was one of those who encouraged via media. Gregory of Nyssa encouraged via media and there have been many more. Today's scripture does the same thing. Anything, even something good, which is done in excess is destructive. We are admonished not to be excessively righteous. Why? Because those who focus too much on personal righteousness tend to miss the point of God's message. Their become self-focused and not God-focused. This leads to ruin.

Another example comes in the form of wisdom. How much wisdom or knowledge is enough? Just this week I've been reading a book called "Outliers." In this book you may read about a study which has been done on people with amazingly high IQs and their "success" in life. Interestingly, there seems to be a threshold level over which "success" becomes completely dependent on other factors, and not on intelligence. In other words once you're smart, being really smart doesn't make much of a difference.

 

Application

While growing up my parents always emphasized that we were to do a good job in school, but we were never pressured to get straight A's. Actually, getting at least one B a semester was consider healthy in our household. Personally, I watched those straight A students who felt that they had failed at life when they got their first B. I appreciated my parents' attitude toward our education because they wanted all of their children to do well, but they also wanted their children to be well rounded and intuitively they understood that this meant that there was more to education than what simply happened in the classroom.

At the end of the day there must be a balance in our lives. The balance must come in the form of our relationship to Jesus Christ. This personal relationship must be the central feature of our lives and we will discover that Jesus found a via media. The overly righteous criticized him for hanging out with the "wrong crowd." The overly educated couldn't figure out why he knew so much. At the same time, Jesus knew how to connect with the ordinary people of his day. In many ways he and his followers did not go to extremes, instead they tried to mingle in with the masses of needy people of their day. This becomes obvious when the leaders can't even recognize Jesus. He had found the way to the via media. What about us?

 

Prayer


Lord, may this day be led and guided by you in all things. Amen.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Filled Up with Love





Scripture

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
(Ephesians 3:17 NASB)
may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
(Ephesians 3:18 NASB)
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:19 NASB)

 

Observation


The transformational work of Jesus Christ is seen here in these verses. Christ may dwell in our hearts! How does that happen? When we step out in faith with the result that we become rooted and grounded in love. Over and over we hear about love. Christ is in us, and therefore love becomes foundational to our lives. Love is truly beyond our comprehension, at least Christ's love is! His love is more than anything we can imagine with our own minds and it is not just about "luvin'" the things around us. His love is the real deal and when Christ is "in" us we begin to see what real love is. We begin to comprehend the infinite nature of love. It is higher than we can imagine, it is longer than we thought, it goes deeper than our minds can comprehend and knowing the love of Christ surpasses all education, wisdom and knowledge that exists. Holy love is the goal and when we let Christ into our lives; when we allow him into every single nook and cranny of our being; we are filled up with God, and that means love.

 

Application


Every single one of us is called to a deeper walk with Jesus Christ. This infinite nature of his love must challenge us to desire him in all things. However, when we begin our walk with Christ we are very limited in our understanding. This was true for the Apostle Paul as well. However, by the time he writes this letter to the church in Ephesus we comprehend that there is so much more to the Christian walk. Paul is encouraging those who are reading the letter to go on to a deeper relationship with God through Christ. We must pray together with all the other saints (Holy Spirit filled believers!) that we will begin to comprehend the overwhelming love which comes from Christ -- which is his very nature. This is holiness -- to be filled to the brim with the love of Christ so that we can find no end. We are made his holy people when we allow that love of Christ to fill every single corner of our being -- when we are united to his infinite nature of love -- and that love goes on and fills us to the very fulness of the nature of God. God's holy people are those who are filled to the brim with him!

So often these days we hear of the progressive nature of this relationship with Christ and how this love slowly creeps into our lives. There is some truth to that, but there is also truth to the fact that there may be a moment in time when we realize that we simply have not jumped all the way in! It's that moment of awareness that we have held back a part of who we are from being completely filled with Christ's nature. For some reason my mind goes back to playing as a child and building a sand castle. I remember building a moat around the castle and waiting for the water to come. A barrier was built during the time of building so that only a little bit of water could surround that castle. But when I really wanted to fill things up, I had to tear down a piece of the protective wall which I had created and allow the water to flow. When that happened, the water flowed all the way around and you could watch as it filled every little low area that existed. Some of us love Jesus, but have put up some barriers that do not allow the Spirit to flow all the way through us. There are moments when we must tackle these barriers -- lay them down, or allow them to be destroyed -- so that the Spirit can flow and the nature of Christ, and the fullness of God fills us all the way up!

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to walk in the fulness of your love today -- and may it splash out and around to the world around me today. Amen.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Walking in Good Works





Scripture

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
(Ephesians 2:8 NASB)
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:9 NASB)
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

 

Observation

We are constantly reminded that we are saved by faith and not by works. Verses eight and nine were to be memorized as a part of "Evangelism Explosion" years ago and were a part of the gospel presentation. The emphasis certainly is on the work of Christ in our salvation. We are not saved by our own works, but only by the grace of God because of the work of Christ. It is by this grace that we are saved if, in faith, we are willing to receive this gift from God. But right on the heels of this comes verse ten which then says that once we have received this gift from God we are revealed as God's workmanship. We are once again God's beautiful creation, restored to the image and intent which God had for humanity. What happens when we are restored and we reflect the original image? We are restored for good works so that we can walk in them.

 

Application


The new life in Christ which we receive by faith is a transformational life. We are to stop sinning! Why is that? Because when we are in Christ, we are restored to the creatures that God originally intended us to be. To be fully human means that we fully reflect the image of Christ, and Christ did not sin. Often we use the argument "I'm only human" as an excuse for behavior. Sadly, that should be "I'm only a fallen human" because to truly be human would not be an excuse. The life of the transformed Christian is one in which we do good works, not because we want to be saved, but because we ARE saved. Our lives after coming to Christ should be ones in which we no longer do the things which we did in the past. God said we were to walk in good works. Now that is certainly a challenge, to ask God to keep us in such a close relationship with him on a daily basis that we are able to walk in HIS good works! This is not about human effort, but about a God - human relationship in which we remain in such close contact with him that we walk the journey of life which he has laid out for us that only leads us into a path of good works.

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me to keep on the path with you today. Amen.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What is the church?





Scripture

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
(Ephesians 1:22 NASB)
which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
(Ephesians 1:23 NASB)

 

Observation


The church in Ephesus was an interesting group. They had established themselves against the culture of the day which was all about goddess worship. This infiltrated their business culture as well and when Christianity came along it turned everything upside down. These people had come to know Jesus and nothing was comparable to him. He had been raised from the dead and resurrection power defined who he was. God placed all things in subjection to Christ and made him head over the church, which is Christ's body. The church is to be the very expression and fulness of Christ, the one "who fills all in all."

 

Application


To truly understand the church, we must try to comprehend the greatness of Christ. The final line, the one "who fills all in all" is quite mind boggling. We've already been told that everything -- and we mean everything -- is placed under Jesus' feet. That is, everything that we see, everything that we experience, every human authority or power is subject to Jesus Christ. But human powers and authorities are not the crowning jewel. The crowning jewel is the church for this is the expression of God's love for his son. The church is to be the very body of Christ. The church is to be physically and emotionally connected to Christ, who is the head. The church is simply an expression of Christ himself to the world.

If this is true, then we must stop and examine how the church is functioning, and what our role is in the life of the church. First of all, is the church truly functioning as the body of Christ? Or, sadly, has the church taken on a life of its own, trying to exist without having a head? When we become so overwhelmed with protecting the structure and not the founder we have a problem. Jesus doesn't need us for the church to continue to exist. Rather, he chooses to use us for his glory in the work of the church. But all that we do must be done in accordance with him and to his will and purposes for his church. It is not ours!

Once we understand that we must let go of trying to "save" the church and instead, keep our focus on the founder -- Christ -- then we must ask ourselves what our role is in the very life of the church. That role can only be taught us by Christ. We are to have such a personal and intimate relationship with Christ that he, the Head, can lead us to that place where we understand what HE wants us to be doing in the church. This is not something that we are to figure out on our own, but only under the guidance and the leadership of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The One "who fills all in all" is the Head of the church. It is probably quite difficult for us to imagine what filling all in all might look like but I believe that we must understand that Jesus is the ruler, he is the power, he is the authority over everything that has ever been created. Everything that we can see with our eyes, feel with our hands and sense with all the abilities God has given us comes from him. There is nothing that can come from human works alone. This One -- who has done absolutely everything he can for us, the One who fills everything around us -- He is wanting to be the Head of our lives. He is inviting us into fellowship with him through life in the church.

It's far too popular these days to walk away from organized church. Yes, there have been times that the organized church has failed us and there are times when the church gets too hung up on protecting the system -- but can we be a part of the solution, instead of leaving her? She is a wounded body that is in need of healing. If we, as God's people will seek his face and submit ourselves to the authority of Jesus Christ, we will be able to make a difference as we fulfill our role within the body. Don't give up on the body -- instead fulfill your role to the very best of your ability and may this be your worship of our dear loving Savior. He has done everything for us -- he died on a cross for us -- what are we willing to do for him so that his body might be alive and healthy?

 

Prayer


Lord, please help me today to love the church and embrace her with your love. Amen.