My posts come from my personal daily scripture readings and a part of my personal accountability. If we are going to grow as followers of Christ, we must be in the Word! If you miss these a few days, something has kept me from it; but if they're gone for too many days, call me on the carpet. We need to hold one another accountable. I follow the readings and journaling from lifejournal.me. Join me on this journey as our lives are to Reflect the Image-and Jesus IS the image. Peace, Carla Sunberg
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.
(Titus 2:1 NASB)
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.
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.
Lord, please help us not to shirk from the study of sound doctrine, which comes from you. Amen.
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)
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.
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!
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 4:5 NASB)
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.
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
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.
Lord, please help me today to know your heart and to fulfill the call. Amen.
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)
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.
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!
Lord, please draw me into deeper intimacy with you today and each and every day! Amen.
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)
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!
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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!
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.
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)
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?
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.
Lord, may I seek you today with all my heart and may rest contentedly within your presence. Amen.
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)
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!
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
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.
Lord, please help me to act responsibly, and care for the needy! Amen.
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
(1 Timothy 4:10 NASB)
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.
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.
Lord, please help me to enjoy the intimacy of fellowship with you on a daily basis. Amen.
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
(1 Timothy 3:16 NASB)
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.
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?
Lord, may I have an opportunity today to share my confession of you! Amen.
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
(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)
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.
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
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
Thank you Lord for your care and providence in the lives of the faithful. Amen.
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)
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
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.
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!"
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.
Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
(Colossians 4:17 NASB)
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.
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 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
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!
Lord, thank you for the calling and for the grace to fulfill that calling. May you be glorified today and every day! Amen.
Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
(Colossians 3:14 NASB)
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!
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!
Lord, thank you for the possibility of that perfect bond and may we step into that relationship of love with you. Amen.
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
(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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
(Philippians 4:22 NASB)
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?
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
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
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
(Philippians 3:15 NASB)
however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
(Philippians 3:16 NASB)
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.
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!
Lord, please help me on a daily basis to continue the climb toward you. Amen.
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
(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)
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.
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.
Lord, please help me be willing to listen to good, sound advice that makes an eternal difference. Amen.
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)
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
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
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.
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)
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.
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?
Lord, may this day be led and guided by you in all things. Amen.
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)
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
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!
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.
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)
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.
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.
Lord, please help me to keep on the path with you today. Amen.
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)
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."
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
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?
Lord, please help me today to love the church and embrace her with your love. Amen.