Friday, December 31, 2010
It seems that there is always a lot of excitement surrounding the coming of the new year. Books, magazines, websites and television shows occupy themselves with the year that was. It is a time of reflection. It is a time to celebrate the year's victories, to let go of the defeats and even to say goodbye to those who have passed during the previous 12 months.
It is also a chance to look forward. There is a sense of newness regarding potential, challenges, opportunities and efforts to accomplish goals. Most everyone has high hopes for the new year and make plans to start fresh. Even the common greeting of "Happy New Year" is indicative of the optimism we share and the well wishes we extend to one another.
As Christians, there is every reason for us to share this optimism. The foundation of our faith is built upon leaving behind what was and pursuing what is ahead of us. We were brought out of the darkness of our sinful past into the light of God's love wherein we abide still. We were lost and without hope in this world, but have not been adopted into the family of God. We were destined to suffer the wrath but are now made to sit with Christ in heavenly places. Every single day that is granted to us, be it June 30th or January 1st, is a wonderful wonderful gift.
Beloved, though reflecting on the past, be it good or bad, has its value, it is far better to look forward. It is not where you start in life, it is where you are when it ends that truly counts. May we all continue to enjoy the richest of spiritual blessings and look forward to doing great things for Him who saved us in the coming year.
Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 30, 2010
There have always been those who feel that the word of God needs supplementation. Everyone has their view, opinion and interpretation of the already inerrant scriptures and wants to share them with anyone who will listen. Books have been written, television shows produced and movies made that propagate these views and often draw us away from the original source.
Beloved, the word of God stands on its own. It is a good and perfect gift that could not possibly contain God but tells us all we need to know to have a relationship with Him. It is estimated that 100 million bibles are sold every year. This does not include those that are simply given away. Whatever anyone writes on, about or for the bible pales in comparison.
It is important that we approach the bible like the manual of the soul that it is. It contains the very words of life. We should be drawn to it like heat to flame, for all things were made by being spoken into existence. But the God of the bible took what he spoke, formed it by His hands and breathed life into it. As we are products of the word, let us always desire it. In it is found not only our origins but our eternity.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
It is popular these days to ensure that we manage our image and create the proper impression. It is not nearly as important to some that their be sincerity and truth underneath these images and impressions. It is not about what is real, but what is perceived. Because of this we are less and less shocked when the mask is removed from our heroes.
This is not a new problem. Thousands of years ago, Christ instructed the Apostle John to pen these words and send them to Sardis, one of the seven churches in Asia. They were known for being a church with all of the right appearances but incomplete works that were seemingly driven by an effort to maintain their reputation.
Beloved, let us not be guilty of this charge in either our personal or corporate lives. It would be better to be known as a scoundrel who is trying to improve than one who claims to be righteous who is really a scoundrel. Let us live up to our calling rather than down to the lowest common denominator. In truth, we are not nearly as successful at maintaining the mask as we delude ourselves into thinking. And even if we are successful in fooling the world, Jesus has said, "I know."
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The truth is that we will not always agree. The bible is our guide in so many ways, but there are many areas that are not specific and are up for interpretation.
In this case, there were two very good friends and brothers in the faith who separated over whether or not to include a young disciple. They both felt so strongly about their polar opposite opinions that they did not continue their work together.
On the face of it, this may seem a tragedy, in reality, however, it is not. You see beloved, the work continued, the number of young "interns" were doubled and separately, the two duos were able to cover more territory and do more work than might otherwise have been possible. Neither of these men who were so strong in the faith and so critical to the growth of the church were dissuaded from the faith because of their difficulties. They continued on.
Some may separate from us due to differences of opinion, but as long as the cause of Christ is served and the spreading of the gospel continues, we must trust that all things are working together for good as part of God's grand design. Let us also not give up hope on maintaining our fellowship one with another. Later, Paul reunited with Mark and described him as being valuable to his work. One way or the other, we will see each other again as long as we remain in Him.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Contemplate our lives without Christ. What meaning would there be? What hope would there be? It is only through our lives in him that we realize our purpose, potential and prize.
Our purpose in life is to glorify Him who created us. We can only accomplish this by having a relationship with the son. This is what is meant by "abiding." As Christians, Christ lives in us and we live through him.
Our potential is to bear fruit. The seed of God's word and His love has been planted in the fertile soil of our hearts. This seed must grow down to become rooted and grow up to have life. Having been exposed to the sun, we are to grow to produce fruit, the works of Him who sent us. Inside this fruit are even more seeds for planting, growing and producing.
Finally beloved, is the prize. The prize is the promise of everlasting life with him whom we are connected. Through this connection flows the very essence of our lives. With him, our lives are eternal.
Friday, December 24, 2010
We so often find ourselves using the phrase, "light at the end of the tunnel" during times of trial, turmoil and trouble. It indicates that these are dark times but we are beckoned forward by the polar opposite of our circumstances. This is represented by light.
All of mankind has been in darkness since very near the beginning of our existence. It was we ourselves that extinguished the light that was created within us. As it is with life on this earth, our turning away from the sun does not extinguish it. It is always there. How fitting that God led the Magi through the darkness of night to the Light of Men by a star in the heavens. How wonderful it is to know that they were seeking this star, that they followed it and it lead them to the source of all things.
Beloved, as we celebrate the season of the coming of the Light, we must continue to seek the Light. We must walk in the Light. We must become the light and lead others out of the darkness of their individual tunnels.
A joyous and blessed holiday to all!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Not long ago, I heard for the second time but paid real attention for the first time, to a song that is probably the most beautiful I have ever heard. It was moving to me on every level imaginable. Singing it and hearing it sung with a group of worshippers who believed it with all their hearts was an experience that nearly brought me to tears.
I thought I'd share the lyrics, written and copyrighted by Mark Lowrey and Buddy Green, with you for your "all season" consideration. May the Lord richly bless you.
Mary did you know that your baby boy would some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary did you know that your baby boy would give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
Oh Mary did you know---The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb---.
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great--I--- AM---.
Beloved, let us continually offer praise to him that is our salvation.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
To many, Christmas is all about gifts. Yes it is a time when families come together. There are celebrations of love, togetherness...and food. But the focal point is the gifts. It exceeds the scope of this writing to go into detail about the pagan origin of gift giving (or for a December 25th Christmas for that matter). Suffice it to say that some trace gifts to the benevolence of Nicholas, who would become the Santa Claus legend or the gift giving of the wise men.
We look forward with great anticipation to the things that we will receive. We are taught from an early age to make lists. When we were kids, we sat on Santa's lap and told him everything we wanted. Even now, we enter the season with many things that we desire in mind and sometimes on our lips. And on Christmas morning, we regale callers and well wishers with the great things we have received and likewise, ask the same of them. We even go so far as to mark the particular Christmas by what was received that year.
Beloved, why are we so focused on what we get? The question we as Christians should be asking is, "What did you give?" Surely, the giving is the superior part. In a day and age that most of have more than we need and have so many of our wants, why not concentrate on helping to provide for the needs of those who are challenged to obtain the very basics of life? Perhaps the best gift we can give is one that we ourselves have received. Let us give the gift of the love of God's only begotten, Jesus the Christ.
The season the world celebrates the birth of Christ is to many the most beloved and happiest of all times. People seem to be a bit nicer. The spirit of giving is awakened and so many feel an inner warmth and peace emanating from inside. We truly experience good will toward mankind.
Despite this season based on the bible, there are a healthy number of misconceptions and outright fabrications about what is written there concerning the advent of our Savior:
- Jesus was born on December 25th. In actuality, the bible does not mention the actual date of his birth. Many scholars feel that he was born in the September to October time frame but no one is sure. The bible, however, does mention in Luke 2:8 that there were shepherds in the field at night tending their flocks. During December, the temperature there is freezing with occasional snow. This is not typical pasture weather.
- Jesus was found in a barn full of animals. This is another guess based most likely on the manger, a feeding trough. Nowhere in scripture is a barn mentioned despite one being featured in most nativity scenes. Most animals were kept in caves or open pens. Luke 2:7 simply says that he was in a manger and wrapped in cloths.
- Three Kings were present at Jesus birth. Matt 2:1 mentions that magi came from the east. Magi is the word from which we derive magician. They are also known as wise men. The understanding at the time, was that they were men of astrology and science. They are never referred to as kings in the bible. Further, they are never numbered. Though they brought three gifts, it may have been 2 or 52 magi. Finally, Matt 2:10 says that they were led by a star to the house where the baby was. In fact, it is likely that this occurred as much as two years after the birth. Matt 2:16 says that threatened King Herod began killing boys two years and younger based on the time the magi had told him.
Beloved these are just a few examples of biblical misconceptions. The better we know the word, the more readily we will be able discern truth and recognize error. Only when we have a good understanding of the scriptures can we live lives aligned with them and in turn, correctly share it with others. Nothing less than our very spiritual lives depend on this. Let us not be guilty of having zeal without knowledge.
Monday, December 20, 2010
There are some 300 prophecies concerning Christ. As hope filled as each of them was, nothing matched the actual announcement of his birth: "But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. " This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, " Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." Luke 2:10-14.
The prophecies had been fulfilled. The Messiah had arrived. Reconciliation with God was now possible. The gift of salvation was now available. Our great benefit found its genesis at this moment. The question, then, must be, "what now?"
Beloved, I suggest that we now do what those who first heard the best of all news did. They glorified God, praised Him, and according to verses 17 and 18, they shared the good news with others. You see, it is not important when Christ was born but that he was born. God is surely to be praised for the amazing gift of his only begotten son. For our benefit as well as that of all mankind, it is a gift that can be shared with any and everyone to the glory of God.
As you consider what you will give, consider giving the greatest gift of all: the good news of the Savior.
Friday, December 17, 2010
No consideration of Christ's birth could be complete without recognition of his lineage. To the glory of God, we know that His Spirit came upon Mary and caused her to give birth to the Savior despite the fact that she was a virgin. Nevertheless, a lineage through Mary and Joseph are provided in the Holy and Divinely inspired scriptures. It requires study that exceeds the scope of this writing to prove that the Luke genealogy went through Mary but suffice it to say that Romans 1:3 unquestioningly shows that Christ is a fleshly descendant of David which would necessarily include Mary.
The point to be made here involves the individuals who are members of that genealogy:
- Tamar (Gen 38:6) was both a deceiver and a Canaanite
- Rahab (Josh 2:1,17) was a harlot and a Canaanite
- Ruth (Book of Ruth) was a Moabite
- Bathsheba (2Sam 11:12,24) was an adulteress and a Hittite
- Solomon was an idolater
Beloved, from this list, it can be seen that God's love covers both sinners and foreigners. He could very easily have inspired a purer genealogy for His only begotten, however, Jesus was sent to be an atoning sacrifice for all mankind. Our entire faith rests on the fact that our Creator put on flesh and came to this earth to save us from ourselves. And he did so, not by being born rich in a palace or as an elitist, far above the reach of the poor and wretched that needed him most. No. Even his lineage contains the poor and wretched. If the Son of Man is of us, surely he is for us. "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." Heb 4:15
Let us reflect on this amazing benefit as we consider his birth.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
It is this, a scripture that is among the greatest and most important prophecies of all time, that heralds the coming of the Messiah: the Savior of all mankind. During this time of year, more than any other time of the year, most of the world turns it's thoughts to the birth of Christ.
The goal is not to debate the timing of the birth of Christ. The bible gives us clues that it probably did not occur during the winter, but does not reveal to us the date or time of his advent. This being the case, it can only be taken that the information is not critical to our salvation or our relationship with the Lord. The relevant issue is that he was born. His birth and life, death and resurrection fulfilled all scripture.
Beloved, regardless of when we mark the time of his arrival, we should always celebrate the fact and more importantly, the result, in our hearts. He came that we might have life and that more abundantly. He came to seek and save the lost. He came to feed, heal and teach. And he came to prepare us. He came to love.
This (and all) season(s), let us give glory and honor to God for his bountiful gift of the son.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
We live in a world that is all about gratification. Celebrities that make millions and millions of dollars are our heroes. There are television shows and magazines whose whole business is watching and reporting on these people. More often than not, the more reprobate they are, the more viewers, listeners, followers and readers they will generate. Many, in turn, emulate these behaviors in an effort to be like their heroes.
We are called to a different life. When we find ourselves giving in to the desires of our eyes and our flesh and become subject to those things that increase our self importance (the pride of life), we become the enemies of God. We are counseled to resist these things. As Eve found out, they lead to death.
Beloved, we should not aspire to fame and fortune on this earth. Instead we are called upon to store up our riches in heaven. It takes discipline to follow the path less traveled. It takes will to not give in to the sensual. It takes vision to see the benefit of staying in the light. It takes love and faith to remain obedient. We are told in God's word that, "godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" 1 Tim 4:8.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding 4000 people, including his disciples who ate from the overabundance. He left the area with his disciples and arrived at Dalmanutha where he was challenged by his adversaries who demanded a sign from heaven to prove his claims. Having refused, Jesus decided to go back across the Sea of Galilee toward Bethsaida. Using an analogy, he warned his disciples to "beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." During this important teaching, the disciples were a bit distracted. You see it seems that Jesus' use of yeast in the story reminded them that they had brought no bread with them on their journey.
How often beloved, do we miss the high spiritual messages that the Lord puts right in front of us because we are too concerned about very basic physical needs? It is clear from his use of parables that his messages were often targeted to those who were sincere of heart and discerning in spirit. At least one of these requires that we lift our gaze beyond our stomachs (or other base needs) and attend to the things of God.
Jesus chastises them by questioning their faith in view of the fact that they were so recently fed to the point of satisfaction after witnessing him feeding so many with so little. We, like they, need not worry about that which he supplies in abundance. He knows our needs before we do and he supplies every one. He reminds," ...when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." "When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven." And He was saying to them, " Do you not yet understand?" Mark 8:19-21. To be sure, this is a question worth careful consideration.
Monday, December 13, 2010
A man by the name of Dan Seaborn is widely credited with organizing a grassroots campaign that came to be known as "What Would Jesus Do?" back in the 90s. This was not, however, the first time the phrase was heard. In 1896, Charles Sheldon published a book entitled "In His Steps" but was subtitled, "What Would Jesus Do?" It is likely that it was heard even before that. Clever slogans and book titles do not the Christian faith make, though even the most casual adherent can certainly appreciate the sentiment behind it.
To be a disciple is simply to be a learner or pupil. In order to be a disciple of our Lord we must first be willing to learn from him. God, in his great benevolence has supplied us with everything we need in the person of the Holy Spirit and the word of the bible. The more we attend to it, the more we learn about Jesus. The more we learn about Jesus, the more we can become like him.
Beloved, learning is not the entirety of the matter. Along with learning, there must be doing. It does us no good to ask what Jesus would do in any given situation if we are not willing to do likewise. Our highest goal, privilege and blessing is to be like our Savior. From our studies, we know what Jesus did. We can take principles from what he did in order to determine what he would do. Only when we do what he did and would do to the best of our ability are we truly his disciples.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Jonah suffered from what used to be know as a hard head. It is clear from scripture that Jonah was God's man; he was a prophet. A prophet's whole reason for being was to carry out the will of God, in part, through the sharing of His word with the people. God sent him to a place called Nineveh, home of a people who were the enemy of God and His people, to preach repentance. Because Jonah did not agree with what God said to do, he found himself pursued, then caught by God and ultimately banished in the belly of a great fish.
Beloved, how often in life do we think we know better than the Father? How often do we decide to go our own way despite what He has told us to do? Sometimes we think ourselves crafty and somehow able to outsmart Him by hatching and executing our own plans. Nevertheless, things always seem to catch up to us: "For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light," Luke 8:17.
Be careful about attempts to confound the will of God. As Christians, we should especially know that His will be done, if not by and through us, then certainly by and through someone. And if you find yourself in an uncomfortable and restricted position not of your choosing, give the air a sniff to see if you detect the scent of fish. God may be trying to get your attention.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
When Jesus made his triumphant yet ill fated entrance into Jerusalem, the bible records that the people spread their clothes on the ground for his mount to walk upon and that "they began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen." Naturally, not everyone felt that same jubilation. In fact there were those who did not understand what all the fuss was about and were clearly irritated. They asked Jesus to shut them up.
Beloved it is right for the people of God to praise Him. The scriptures are replete with encouragements to "praise ye the Lord!" There are also many scriptural examples of people who stood against the Lord and those that praise Him. Now as then, the sons and daughters of the Almighty should never allow anyone to legislate nor dictate our adoration for the Lord. He is indeed worthy of any and all glory and honor we can muster, for He is the great I AM! The redeemed of the Lord who have seen His mighty hand ought to say so!
If we do not praise our Father for all He has done, is doing and is about to do, the very stones of the earth will cry out. I don't know about you, but I'm not about to let a rock out praise me!
PRAISE THE LORD!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Being a parent is one of the most challenging blessings many of us will ever enjoy. Even while we remember the struggles of our own childhood, often recalling with a wince the things we put our parents through, we still contend with our own mightily. Every generation seems to have its own unique set of circumstances that put a strain on the relationship between parents and children. Some may recall the differing perspectives (depending on what side of the generational gap one finds oneself) regarding things like blues music, rock and roll, recreational drugs, "free love," hippie and psychedelic culture, rap music, parental advisory lyrics, the advent of the Internet and reality television. It is these and other things that contribute to driving the wedge.
Parents often attempt to keep the negatives at bay in a variety of ways, one of which is the use of severity. We criticize their choices, influences and activities and often proactively punish them without fully understanding the culture and times in which they are growing up. We seem to have lost sight of the fact that we wished our parents would try to understand our lives when we were growing up. This is not to say that certain activities do not need to be addressed or even nipped in the bud, but the bible speaks about the way this is to be done.
A Christian parent's role is to guide, direct, instruct and correct if necessary. To punitively punish when it may not be warranted is to provoke the children to wrath, which typically serves only to push them further away. This usually happens as the children enter their teen years and sometimes become more subject to the influences of friends and other outside sources then that of the parents. Though we need not necessarily endorse their choices, it is best to first attempt to gain understanding which, in turn, will provide a platform to discuss those choices from a godly perspective.
That having been said beloved, if these occasions prompt the introduction of God into the home, the proverbial horse may have already left the barn and closing the doors at this point is tantamount to an exercise in futility (though hope springs eternal). The clearly stated key here is to nourish the children with the sincere milk of the word of God as part of their diet throughout their growth and maturation process. Doing so will fortify them against the many negative influences that society is continuously refining and redefining. Of course, the children will, as we did, make their own choices and ultimately have to make their own way, however, it is our responsibility to put them in proximity to God in the hopes and prayers that their own relationship with Him will ignite and burn brightly, warding off the darkness that so vigorously pursues them.
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
2 Tim 4:3
The apostle Paul gave this great warning to his young protege, Timothy. Though it is a message to ministers even to this day, it is likewise a message to all believers. In fact, the men of God have always been unpopular among some. Noah, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Jesus, among others, come to mind as those whose message was not welcome.
Now as then, people do not want to hear the things of God that are contrary to the sensual way they wish to lead their lives. Whether it involves worshipping other gods, indulging in immoral lifestyles, failure to obey or consistently indulging in a variety of temptations, most have no desire to hear that they are wrong and that their habits are outside the will of God.
This is a big enough problem but it multiplies exponentially when we warp the worship of God around our indulgences. Whether this is building a religious organization around something God condemns or simply hiring a preacher that only talks about the "good and happy stuff," the issue is the same.
Beloved, all of God's word is for us. Through it, He blesses us and chastises us. He does both of these because He loves us. We need to hear that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We also need to hear that we were lost because of sin. We need to hear that all of our needs will be supplied. We also need to hear that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We need to hear that we should love each other. We also need to hear that we should love our enemies.
Let us always pursue the whole will of God and not just the parts that we want to hear. The soundness of the doctrine (teaching) is in its truth and its completeness.
Monday, December 6, 2010
What must it have been like to cause His only begotten to "become sin?" Everything we know about our God involves holiness and righteousness. We also know that he cannot be around sin and ultimately forsook Jesus, for becoming the sin he came to earth to be.
Interestingly enough, it is we who first committed sin. Through the temptation of Satan, our ancestors committed the unpardonable and passed on to every living human being that very same nature. Over time, we progressed from lying and disobedience to everything we know sin to be today. This being the case, we find ourselves outside of the original relationship God designed for us to enjoy with Him.
Beloved, God still desires that original relationship. Due to His requirements regarding truth and justice, it was necessary that a sacrifice be made, a payment be given to satisfy the debt we created. Due to his perfection, Jesus' was the only sacrifice sufficient to pay that debt. He was able to do so by taking on (becoming) all the sins of mankind. What a marvelous and remarkable gift! Through Christ, the righteousness that we once lost is now available to those willing to reconcile through him. Praise be to the Father for His unsurpassed love, grace and mercy.
Friday, December 3, 2010
The thought of being a "born again Christian" still has resonance in our society, but what does it really mean? Aside from the fact that Christians are not born again, but created through sinners being born again, what is the relevance of the phrase?
Jesus famously told Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council who came inquiring of him under cover of darkness, that it was necessary. He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3. If we ever want to see our creator, our original birth is necessary but wholly insufficient. There must be a second creation to live a second life.
Nicodemus understandably asked how this could possibly be accomplished. Jesus replied that it involved water and The Spirit, saying that things born of the Spirit are spirit. Rather than get into the argument about the presence of water at our original birth, suffice it to say that when we are baptized, we come into contact with water by immersion and the Spirit meets us there. Physically, we simply get wet, but spiritually, a great transformation takes place when we are brought out of the water by the Spirit, leaving our past lives dead and buried in the water while we experience being reborn into the Spirit by coming newly created and alive out of it. It is the closest we come to Jesus' resurrection until we all experience it ourselves just before judgment.
It must be said, however beloved, that being baptized, in and of itself, neither saves your soul, nor makes you a Christian. You must first believe and then a transformation must take place in your mind, heart and body. Revelation 2:10 states that we must live faithful lives until death to receive our great reward. And that great reward, consisting of far too many things to list here, is what being born again to become a Christian is all about. Oh blessed be our God and Father who loves us and His son who sacrificed that this may be possible.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
What an amazingly elegant but simple metaphor for Christian duty. One of the great things about Christ and his method of teaching is that he always used common examples and parables to make deep and relevant points. They were simple enough for a child to understand, but could confound those whose hearts were not humbled and whose vision was not tuned to the spiritual.
In this case, there are truths that we all understand about salt. First, it adds flavor. We as Christians have been both empowered and commanded to enrich the lives of others. We have the responsibility to provide an other-than-worldly view and example. Through our relationship with the Lord, we can share a way of life that accomplishes good and looks to eternity. What has become known as the beatitudes in Matt 5 come to mind.
Salt also preserves. Before there was refrigeration, there was salting to keep meat fresh and consumable. To be sure we are preserved against the fate of those who do not believe. Similarly, by sharing the faith, we can, "...let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." James 5:20.
Finally, salt was once used as currency because of its surpassing value and necessity. We have the ability to add value to whomsoever we meet. We do so in a variety of ways that include being examples, "doing good to all mankind," "loving others as we love ourselves," being more blessed by giving than receiving and sharing the good news of the gospel of Christ.
Beloved, we must also know as Christians that without these and other qualities, we serve no purpose but to be walked upon in disregard. Let us always endeavor to be the salt of the earth.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Imagine being on the mountain of transfiguration and seeing wonders never before seen by anyone. Our Lord, with whom the disciples walked, was for the first time revealed in his glorified state. To compound this, they saw men of their own history (Elijah and Moses), revealed, present and talking with the Lord. This must have been a sight their minds could scarcely contain.
Jesus' closest friends thought it appropriate to build three tabernacles to commemorate this occasion. It was then when God Himself spoke those immortal words.
You see beloved, the apostles, even after the time spent with him, still did not fully understand who Jesus is. Tabernacles are worship places. They were conceived and designed by God for His worship. Ultimately, they gave way to Temples. The apostles, in their enthusiasm, were ready to set up worship places for other men. As famous, historical and spiritual as they were, they were still just men.
Sometimes it is necessary for God to redirect us. Too often we want to worship the wrong thing or person. There is only one God. He has only one begotten son. It is in him whom we live, move and have our very being. Though it will be exciting to one day see Moses, Elijah and all of our other spiritual forefathers and heroes, it is Jesus who will have made it possible through his ultimate sacrifice. It is all and only about him.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It has been said that church (organized corporate worship) is fading into irrelevance. Today there are so many distractions that take away from our coming together. People are choosing social media to connect. Many stay at home and watch televangelists, citing no need to go to a house of worship. Then there are those that consider the Christian lifestyle and the belief in Jesus Christ as too restrictive and tend toward a more open "spirituality." Finally, there are those who do not believe at all. These are the folks you see playing golf, going to the gym, tailgating at professional sporting events, etc., on your way to worship.
Somewhere along the way we have forgotten (or turned our backs on) the importance of worship. There was a time when this was the center of our lives. Our social, spiritual and even physical needs were met via the gathering of ourselves together. The church was with whom we communed while communing with God.
Beloved, there is no substitute for our corporate worship: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Heb 10:23-25. Let us always endeavor to meet together and learn of our God and then share what we have learned with all whom we meet.
Monday, November 29, 2010
So often in life today, people are concerned first and only about themselves. To borrow a phrase from a popular entertainer, "I've got mine [fool], you gotta get yours!" This is the epitome of worldliness. It has everything to do with selfishness, greed, materialism and a complete disregard for the needs of others. This is outside what Christ has called us to be.
In reality, God has given us all various gifts and talents. No one possesses them all and no one is without one or more. What most fail to realize is that those gifts are not for ourselves alone but for the benefit of others.
Beloved, consider this thought: if everyone looked to the needs of his brother and sister, no one would have unmet needs. Surely this is a righteous thought that leads to righteous acts. The Lord has said, "Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (the meeting of your needs) will be added unto you." His work and His promises are revealed in us, particularly when we obey His commands. Remember, we are to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
In this day and age, we busy ourselves with all kinds of pursuits. They are many and varied in their content and scope. These activities often involve setting goals, creating action steps and measuring impact or results. This is what every job teaches us to do. That training filters into our family life and becomes who we are.
I submit to you that there is a missing component in all of our grand planning. Too often, we fail to consult God. Surely he has equipped us with ability, however, the greater gift is His ability. The scriptures are replete with examples of times and events where God's direction was sought in prayer and times when it was not.
To be clear, prayer does not guarantee the success of our plans. The point is that He may have other plans for us or the situation. We are but a small component of the His grand plan and we do not often see or understand our place in it. This is where faith comes in. We must rely upon our Father to know what is best and to do what is best.
When you plan pray. When you pray always pray that your righteous desires will fit within the will of the Almighty.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Beloved, we all experience times when things seem to be at the worst. Despite our best efforts (and sometimes because of our worst efforts), we find ourselves walking through the valley of the shadow of death. To be sure, this is a metaphor for difficult times.
We all have our own way of handling these times. John the Baptist, while in prison, sent his disciples to the Lord to inquire whether he was the expected Messiah. Gideon asked for a sign from the Lord. Most of us, however, look to our trusted friends.
When Job was at the lowest of low points, 3 of his good friends came to comfort him. What a blessing friends and brothers can be at times like these. We are told in the word of God that we are to bear one another's burdens. We are also told to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. The truth is, we need each other. We need to know the privilege of serving others when they are in need and the humility of accepting help when we are in need.
Perhaps the greatest example of all was Jesus. In his darkest hour, he was accompanied by three friends. It is true that they slept on the job a bit, but they were there, just as they so frequently had been. May the Lord be thanked for true friends that are there when needed.
Monday, November 22, 2010
While incarcerated, Paul wrote two letters to his young protege, Timothy. Among the final thing he had to say in life were these last words of encouragement to a young preacher charged with a great responsibility.
Though many who pursue the ministry use the "Timothies" as a "how to" manual, there are words of wisdom for us all. We are, in fact, a royal priesthood to whom all of the word of God applies. For instance, Timothy is advised to be sober. This means to be watchful. We should always keep an eye out for any type of threat to the cause of Christ and our own steadfastness. Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Those threats, as outlined in both letters, were both internal and external to the church and the person.
He then advises endurance through hardship. The scripture is replete with advisements even from Christ that the Christian life is not always a walk in the park. Being a minister certainly has its challenges. Being a Christian living a godly life likewise involves joys, heartaches, temptations and triumphs. The key, however, is to not allow those challenges to derail you from the faith.
What is the work of an evangelist but to share the word of God with a world of sin sick people? We are all familiar with the Great Commission. As Christians, we are obligated to teach, baptize and teach again. As the glorious benefits of the Lord were shared with us, so should we pass it forward.
Finally beloved, we are to fulfill our ministry. There is not one of us who does not have one. God has gifted us each with certain gifts and abilities. This gives us both the opportunity and the responsibility to employ these blessings for the expansion of the borders of the Kingdom and the benefit of others. It is not enough for us to simply claim Christianity, we must be what we claim. This can only be accomplished by demonstrating our faith by our works. Let us consider these things.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Back in the seventies, there was a popular saying, "The Devil made me do it." The originator of this phrase is lost to history but it was certainly made popular by comedian Flip Wilson. In a time of free love, drug experimentation, social change, etc., it was indicative of the struggle we have with right versus wrong. The phrase itself indicates an awareness and perhaps even a regret at having committed some act. But it simultaneously shifts the blame and provides an excuse.
Today, we still employ a form of this mentality. We should know, however, that long before today, or the seventies for that matter, God saw to it that this fallacy was addressed.
- James advised submission to God and resistance to Satan: "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7
- Jesus put Satan in his place: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me:" Matt 16:23
- Jesus also responded with the word of God: "It is written," Matt 4:4
- Joseph was wise enough to run away: "And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside." Gen 39:12
Beloved, Satan cannot make any of us do a single thing. Though he uses influence, we make the choice. Let us not look to blame anyone or anything for the things that we choose to do or not do. It starts and ends with us.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
A person's walk is no less than their manner of living. Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded to:
- walk orderly-Acts 21:24
- walk while you have the light-Jn 12:35
- walk in the newness of life-Rom 6:4
- do not walk according to the flesh-Rom 8:4
- walk by faith, not by sight-2 Cor 5:7
- walk by the Spirit-Gal 5:16
- walk in a manner worthy of the Lord-Col 1:10
- walk and please God-1 Thes 4:1
- walk according to His commandment-2 John 6
- walk with Me in white-Rev 3:4
Beloved, it is not enough to live. We must live our lives a certain way. And we must always be in motion rather than sedentary. Let us follow the dictates of our Lord. Surely our walk along His path will lead us to Him.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
There was a woman once whose son came home with the type of news no proud parent wants to hear. He had received a one day suspension from school for horseplay. It seems that he caused a young lady to fall and hit her head. Unfortunately this required stitches.
As you can imagine, the mother went into full frantic mode. "Is the girl alright?" "Is my son in trouble?" "Will the parents sue?" "Will my son be brought up on charges?" Things were made worse by the fact that there was an attempt to phone the mother of the young lady, but the call was neither answered or returned.
To be sure, it is good and right to be concerned about the welfare of another, particularly in an at fault situation. Concern, however, is the immediate neighbor of worry. Worry, in this context, is composed of anxiety. Anxiety my beloved, is like foam; it is derived from something real and tangible but is both useless, temporary and full of air. You see, unlike fear, which can prepare the mind and body for fight or flight, worry simply weighs one down with no benefit. It consumes energy and interrupts the thought process. It derails logic and threatens faith. It accomplishes absolutely nothing. No amount of worrying influences any outcome.
As it turned out, the mother of the young lady eventually called. She said that she was over being upset. She also said she did some checking to see what kind of young man the woman's son is and found the reports to be good. As a result, she felt sure that it was an accident and that everything was OK.
Just like that, the woman's worry, like foam, evaporated, having served no purpose and accomplishing no good. It had only caused discomfort and exasperation...and then was gone. Jesus asks, "And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? "If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?" Luke 12:25-26. Perhaps a better use of our time in situations like these is prayer.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Joshua was in the process of being charged with the leadership of God's people due to the recent death of Moses. God had a number of commands for him as it related to the leadership of the people, but this particular command was directed at Joshua in particular. It is a command that we would do well to follow ourselves.
We must first speak God's word both to ourselves and each other, Eph 5:19. In so doing, His word and His commands are always top of mind for us. Deut 6:6-9 provides us with the priority this should hold in our lives. It is only when we pursue familiarity with the word that we can truly benefit from the word. So many claim, "If God said it, I believe it and that settles it." In reality, we know far less of His word than we think. In fact we know more about current events and the latest ball game scores than we do about the Word of Life.
Beloved, prosperity is tied to our knowing and doing the will of the Father. This can only be accomplished through the reading, studying, meditating, speaking and keeping of the teaching contained in the Holy and Divinely Inspired Scriptures. Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me." If you want prosperity, seek it out in His word. That prosperity is spiritual and eternal.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Beloved, the judgment is surer than our next breath. Many live their lives as if there is no such thing. There are far too many that believe death is the end of existence. The scripture has revealed to us that, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment," Heb 9:27.
At the judgment, no one will be exempt and a great separation will occur. It will be a glorious day for those who have clothed themselves in Christ. After all, the very purpose of him leaving heaven was to make this opportunity available to those who would simply accept it.
I pray that we all find ourselves among the sheep on that great day.
Friday, November 12, 2010
It is said that this is one of the most difficult passages in the book of Ecclesiastes. How do we take its advice and remain the holy people God has called us to be? A careful examination of what is being imparted to us reveals this: avoid extremes.
Throughout the course of history, every religion has adherents who tend toward asceticism or an exaggerated and feverish form of religious life. A person like this "denies himself all pleasures through the fear of sin; he separates himself, not merely from vicious indulgences, but from occupations and amusements which he admits are innocent enough and lawful enough for those who have not the end in view he has set before himself. He is not content with the good works commanded by the Law of God; he must have his works of supererogation [doing more than duty requires]." (from The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.) You may have met this person in Luke 18:9-14 or perhaps in your own congregation. The purpose of such behavior is to store up merit and to place oneself above others in both the affections and rewards of God. It does not work that way. God is not subject to the extortion of good works.
Concerning wickedness and foolishness, many will take the sometimes lack of immediate consequences as license to misbehave. Solomon gives this advice because he says, "I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness." Eccl 7:15. It sometimes seems that the worse a person is, the more that they are rewarded. Without the conditioning of immediate reward for good and punishment for bad, many tend to do what feels good and is right in their own mind rather than follow the instruction of God. His patience and longsuffering should not be taken as unawareness or in any way interpreted as His level of concern. His overriding justice may be slow but it is sure.
Beloved, we are to lead moderate and temperate lives. We must judge the expediency in all things. The object of a godly life is neither to attempt to deserve God's grace nor to see how much we can get away with that His grace may abound. He has given us this life to enjoy , and to live in manner that glorifies Him and expresses our adoration. Think on these things.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Contextually, Solomon is extolling the virtues of wisdom while simultaneously imparting it. Here we are cautioned to not pay too much attention to the expressions of others where we are concerned. Very often we actively seek or present an inquiring ear for the positive things people say about us. It is human nature to want to hear flowery compliments about our personality, abilities, accomplishments, expressions and the like. This can lead to a false sense of security and reputation that does not represent the whole picture.
Likewise, we must not give undo credence to those who would criticize. People are very quick to form opinions and express them, often based on limited experience and understanding regarding that which they speak. Giving undo credence to these can lead to an ill advised response or an unnecessary alteration.
Perhaps the greatest wisdom contained in the passage is the gentle reminder that we ourselves have been guilty of speaking out of turn about others. The scripture says this has been the case "many times." Sobering. It is well known that everyone has something to say about everyone else. We are card carrying members of "everyone."
Beloved, let us take the whole of Solomon's advice. The apostle Paul put it this way, "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."
1 Cor 4:3-4
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Beloved, as Christians, we are called to a higher standard. All around us we see sin and debauchery. It is the fad, style or trend to behave in ways that are not in keeping with godliness. The word has also correctly stated that, "...you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." 1 Peter 4:3. Because we have done these or similar things and have been saved for them, we should never choose to go back to the death they represent.
Instead, God offers us an alternative filled with peace, promise and prosperity. He offers a better way to behave and live. It is a life connected to salvation. Jesus has said that the yoke is easy and the burden is life. What an apt description for leading a sensible and righteous life.
Let us not be called back to that from which we were called.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Jesus was in the middle of one of his many exchanges with the so called leaders of God's people when this question was asked. It began when they challenged him about why his disciples did not wash their hands before they ate. Jesus responded by posing his own query to them. He struck right at their hearts by quizzing them about why they failed in one of the most fundamental commandments, honoring their mothers and fathers. He then quoted Isaiah by saying, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;their teachings are but rules taught by men."
As you might imagine, those who were in authority, those who were highly educated, those who publicly professed piety and love of God were seriously taken aback by this unlearned carpenter's son. Since they could not resist the words that were being said, they could only be offended at having had them spoken to them.
Too often beloved, we are more concerned with political correctness than truth. In this day and age, we don't want to offend. We don't want to go against what society favors. We want to maintain the status quo. Jesus, however, gives us all the example we need. He called people out when they were wrong. He spoke the truth regardless of how unpopular it might have been. And he left people without a doubt about where he stood.
Think about it. Had we as Christians stepped up for what we believed in, there would still be prayer in schools and there would be no same sex marriage. These days, there are consequences for praying in certain public places and anyone who stands against homosexuality is publicly castigated. Is not the United States "one nation under God?" Further, those things have invaded the church. We want to spend less time in worship and some religious organizations are allowing gays into the clergy. Galatians 4:9 warns us that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Sometimes, maybe we need to offend some people. Maybe we need to start in the pews and then work our way outward. Jesus did.
Monday, November 8, 2010
There is quite a bit of speculation regarding the particular ailment suffered by the apostle Paul. Many feel that it was an affliction of his eyes. Nevertheless, Paul asked God to relieve him of his discomfort. Unfortunately for Paul, the answer was no.
Hearing "no" from God can be an awfully disconcerting thing. Over time, we have come to a belief that if we were to pray earnestly enough, God will grant us our every desire. After all, why wouldn't He? We put all of our hopes into the fact that He will cure the illness of a loved one, grant us the employment position we desire, repair the relationships in which we participate or simply fix whatever our problem might be at the moment.
Where did we get the idea that the Creator of the universe exists to simply take and fill our orders? That having been said, there is certainly no intent to trivialize our darkest times. Our needs are real. Our pains are real. But so must our faith be real. We must trust our Father to know and do what is best. His ways are higher above our ways than the heavens are above the earth. Though it sometimes seems that we have been abandoned by Him, perish that thought.
Beloved, if God's eye is on the sparrow, it most certainly is on us. We must ask ourselves how many times have we felt disappointed only to look back and realize that things went the way that benefited us most in the long run. Maintaining our faith can certainly be challenging, particularly when it seems that God is saying "no" or "not yet." Just know that He is in control and that He has never failed.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Beloved, do we cast a constant gaze toward our Redeemer? In this life it is so easy to become distracted. The world is filled with shiny and tinkling things that so easily divert our attention. Some of those things beckon us to sin. Some cause us to doubt. Some cause us to fear. Some interest us more than God.
Let us be reminded of Peter, whose great faith allowed him to step out of a boat during a storm, only to take his eyes off the Lord and begin to immediately suffer the consequences. To whom else shall we look?
Further, it is He that delivers us from all snares. We are released from those things that have held us captive and have been made to be free in Him. Let us always look to the hills from whence commeth our help.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Nehemiah, having just received troubling news about the Jewish remnant that survived exile as well as the state of Jerusalem, was heartbroken and weeping. After days of fasting, mourning and praying, he besought the Lord with great specificity. It is worth noting that his prayer included praise, request for attention to his prayer, confession of sin and demonstration of knowledge about His word as it relates to His relationship with His people.
Nehemiah then asks for success in an upcoming endeavor and favor with one who could be the greatest help or hindrance. You see Beloved, he was ultimately praying for the ability to reunite God's own people which, in turn, would bring glory to Him.
His prayers were answered in ways that were exceedingly above and beyond what he expected. To be sure, God has told us to bring our burdens, cares and supplications to him. Note, however, that Nehemiah's prayers were for that which would ultimately glorify God. How powerful our prayer lives would be should they be closely aligned with the will of the Father.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
All things are possible with God, the great lover of our souls. There is nothing beyond his capability and His power. Not only did He accomplish the unbelievably expansive and impossible, but His eye is on the smallest detail. As moons revolve around planets that revolve around stars that revolve around great black holes at the center of galaxies, electrons revolve around their nuclei as atoms make up molecules and molecules substances, substances that make up moons, planets and stars.
It is this God that spoke light into existence. It was not darkness that defined light but the absence of light that defines darkness. The two are separate and distinct, separated by God. Where one is, the other cannot possibly exist.
Just as this is true in the physical realm of stars, moons and planets, it is also true in the spiritual realm of hearts, minds and souls. You see we were, "THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS (who) SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED." Matt 4:16. And God? He being the creator of Light, he being Light defined, as He spoke it into existence in the physical realm, He became the Light in the spiritual realm among men. It was manifested that, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1:4-5
Beloved, just as the darkness was separated from light, so were we. The Lord has called us from fear, hopelessness, slavery, guilt and destruction into joy, peace, prosperity, hope, sanctification, adoption and the heavenly realm. Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." John 8:12. We are children of the Light, meant for the light, meant to be the light to others. Let us rejoice in this and never return to that from which we have been saved.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
God, having set Moses' path from birth, eventually called him to Himself. It was the beginning of a beautiful and historic relationship. Interestingly enough, however, it started with Moses expressing a lack of confidence. He offered numerous excuses when God told Him what He wanted him to do. Among those excuses was that he was not equipped.
How well does this mirror the beginnings of our own walk with the Lord? Did we not fail to understand how He could love and forgive ones such as we? When faced with the daunting task of living a Christian life and sharing the gospel with all the world, did we not shrink from the task? Few of us thought that we could ever accomplish anything for the Lord.
But God shows us just as He showed Moses. He used what Moses had to do His will, that He might be glorified. All Moses had was a simple shepherd's staff, but God turned it into a miracle. He used it as proof of His own existence before Pharaoh. He likewise uses what we have, as simple and as insignificant as it may seem to us, to do His will. It may be your ability to cook, fix things, empathize with others, teach, run fast or just be kind. By these things, He shows Himself through you.
Beloved, never discount God's wisdom. You are the called according to His purpose. If you are called (and you are through your obedience to the gospel), He most certainly has a purpose for you. And if He has a purpose, He most certainly will equip you. More often than not, it will be by making use of what you already have. Remember David's five smooth stones, Aaron's budding rod and the boys' fishes and loaves. Our responsibility is to recognize what we have from Him and use it for Him.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Matt 15:11 reveals that, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man." It seems that most sin is either rooted or expressed in words. James likewise records that, "And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." Surely words can be dangerous and hurtful to both originator and target and should be chosen and measured carefully.
Words also, however, can be good, uplifting, edifying and encouraging. It is through and by words that the good news of the gospel is shared. Likewise, faith is established through words. It is with words that we bless the Lord as the psalmist cried out, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." And it is with words that we confess, both our sins and our faith to our Father who knows both.
Beloved, let us choose our words carefully. The good that they do and the evil that they can accomplish are more closely at hand that we realize. Let us pray that the Lord will help us keep watch.
Friday, October 29, 2010
It would be a great speculative exercise to wonder where the priest and the Levite where going as they passed someone in such distress. One should have no trouble determining what a priest is. For those who do not know, however, a Levite was one whose tribe members were responsible for attending to things associated with the temple, the worship that took place there and the needs of the priests. Where could they both be going?
Before that is further pursued, the fact that they "passed by on the other side," away from someone who had been injured is of particular note. Certainly tradition holds that this took place on a road that was frequented by robbers. Perhaps they were both concerned about their own safety and decided to give the situation a wide berth.
Suppose they were just in a hurry. Suppose they were in a hurry because they were late. Suppose they were in a hurry because they were late for a temple worship or class. Suppose they were in a hurry because they were late for a temple worship or class where they were scheduled to discuss how to treat one's fellow man. Just suppose.
Beloved, Christianity is not a claim, it is a calling. It is not for show but for shouldering. It is not just for hearing but for helping. It is not just for believing but being. I wonder how often we pass up the opportunity to do good on the way to "church"...where we are told to do good.
Faith without works is dead.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Jesus had just accomplished what arguably was his greatest miracle; he brought a dead man back to life. There are three other instances of bringing a person back to life in the bible. Elisha was the first to do it in the case of the widow's son. Jesus brought back to life a young girl and Paul a young man who fell out of a window. What distinguishes the case of Lazarus is the length of time he was dead. Popular Jewish belief stated that the life force lingered near the body for 3 days. Jesus waited four days to resurrect him despite having had the ability to prevent his death. Further, the scripture says that the body had begun to stink from decomposition at this point. This is what makes it such a tremendous miracle.
This, however, is not the focus of the message. The focus is about the effect all of this had on the people that witnessed it. There were those who "believed in him" on the strength of seeing him do the absolute impossible. They were also fully aware that he attributed the ability to do this to God. Jesus once told Thomas, who doubted, that he was blessed because he had seen and believed. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, many believe that the reason Jesus did so many miracles was to prove who he is. When John asked if he was the Messiah or whether they should wait for another, Jesus instructed John's disciples to report back to him with what they had seen him do.
The other effect was that there were those who saw the same thing that immediately fled and reported the events to the ruling council. One must question the motive for doing such a thing after witnessing something never before or since seen. It was no secret that these men were the enemies of Christ. Were the tattlers advising the that their end was near because of the great power seen in Jesus, or were they merely gossipping and in so doing, warning the council that it was "their move?" Who can say? But the telling thing about all of this is that belief in him was not attributed to them. We know that without faith, it is impossible to please Him.
Beloved, miracles are done in our lives every day. Let us allow them to build our faith and strengthen our belief. That is what they are for.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Jesus is addressing some issues in Thyatira, one of the seven churches in Asia discussed in the book of Revelation. It seems that they had some problems with immorality of both a spiritual and physical nature. Far too often we who know better because we have been taught better, fail to do better. This is particularly true as it relates to things that become popular in society. It has become unpopular and politically incorrect to criticize homosexuality in our country for example. As a result, their are some religious organizations, claiming the knowledge and love of Christ that give their consent to that lifestyle and even have gay clergy. Clearly they have not read the first chapter of the book of Romans.
Ahead of Christ's admonition, however, he says, "I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first." Rev 2:19. This demonstrates two things. One is that they knew better and the other is that they were doing better and better. It is clear that under the best of circumstances, sin still has the ability to creep in. It is also worthy of note that the effect was not limited to individuals, but can be attributed to the congregation.
Fortunately beloved, there is always a remnant. God ensures that there are a precious few who will maintain the cause of Christ. To these, the encouragement is to hold on to their deeds, love, faith, service and perseverance. It is these things that are pleasing to God and that distinguish us from those to whom stern warnings and grave prophecies are given.
Monday, October 25, 2010
It is not important where we are from or what we do for a living. It is important that we worship our God. We must always worship Him in spirit and in truth for He desires such. It is our faith that separates us from those that do not believe. There is a difference between being a child of God and those who are not.
In our worship, we must be attentive to that which God has to say to us. He has many ways of communicating with us. We must attend to His word, be it preached, taught or read. We must also pursue active prayer lives, for truly the Spirit conveys His will to us. He will send the spirit of discernment by which we can learn to hear God above the noise of life's many distractions.
When we accomplish these things we will find that our hearts will be opened. And what is it to have our hearts opened but to have our minds opened? The scripture does not refer to that which pumps blood to the body, but to our intellect, our understanding and our emotion. Once we have an understanding of who God is, limited though it may be, and what His purpose is for our lives, we will have no choice but to respond.
Beloved, we were made through love, of love, by Love. By the grace of Almighty God, through His son and our Savior, we respond to Love.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Beloved, we are called to be examples. Through his sacrifice and our faith in him, Christ rescued us from the darkness and filled us with his holy light. As the ultimate source of fire, he lit each of us as candles to, in turn, light others. As those filled with light, we are to push back the darkness and rescue others from it by pointing them to Jesus.
By letting our light shine, others will be able to see. They will be able to see past their circumstances and witness the joy that can be seen in us. They will be able to see that we have been equipped to accomplish the will of God. They will see eternity through the things that we do. It is not, however, about us. It is about glorifying God.
When others ask who we are and why we do the good and beneficial things we do, the answer is both simple and profound: because of Him that made us and because of Cavalry. All we do and all we are is purposed and designed to glorify God. So be sure to let your light shine!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Last night, a dear friend shared with me that he considered today's scripture to be one of the most difficult things to carry out in all of scripture.
It did not take long to agree. As people of God, we are called upon to be optimistic. In reality, we have so much about which to be positive. Among the countless blessings, God has assured us that all things work together for good for those of us who love Him and are called according to His purpose. This means that even when we look at our various situations which would seem to be less than positive, knowing that we will overcome them should bring us joy. Knowing that we are being shaped and molded by our Father through life circumstances should make us happy that He knows us and cares for us.
Beloved, it can certainly be hard to smile sometimes. Rising above our circumstances can be challenging to say the least, however, if we would just have faith, we would find that we can move mountains. Even in the midst of walking in the valley of the shadow of death, know that He is with you and will never forsake you. Allow His love to fill you, His goodness to comfort you and His provision to satisfy you. Keeping this top of mind will keep you joyful, come what may.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Contextually, Moses is relating the history of the house of Israel since the Exodus. In this particular passage, he reminds them that though God had given them full assurance that He would be with them as they crossed into the land which He had promised as they moved to take possession of it (and He had a great track record of doing exactly what He said He would do...every time).
As it turned out, the people more readily believed the reports of adversity and challenge than motivation and confidence in the Lord. They rebelled and grumbled amongst themselves.
Beloved we must be careful with our murmurings, which can be indicative of our failure to recognize our blessings and possibly, our lack of faith in God. Note that the people still have their exodus from Egypt and concerns about threats from their enemies on their minds. How quickly they seemed to have forgotten that they were in slavery in Egypt. How quickly they seemed to have forgotten that God had vanquished their enemies over and over again after miraculously delivering them from bondage. They seemed to have forgotten that He gave them food and water out of His own hand, yet still they they felt they had things about which to grumble amongst themselves.
Sometimes we need to take a good, strong, sober look at where we are and what we have compared to where we were and what we lacked. We may not be living in the best of times and conditions but we are by no means anywhere near the worst. We must adopt the attitude of Joshua and Caleb who were confident in the Lord and what they could do in power of His might. This they recognized despite what might seem to the weak in faith as insurmountable odds. Anyone can grumble in a tent. The difference is made by those who are willing to take up the charge, obey God and be part of the solution.
We must choose reward or punishment: "But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go. "Then the Lord heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, ' Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the Lord fully.'" Deut 1:32-36
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Scriptures like these can have a depressing effect on Christians, particularly those who are either new or weak in their faith. It can give one a "glass half empty" view of the faith. It may cause some to ask if it is worth it to pursue the kind of life that seems to necessarily include suffering.
A more careful view of the scriptures can alleviate some of the concerns brought to bear by passages such as these. First, it is important to know that this particular verse is found in the book of Revelation. Suffice it to say that there are several different ways that people interpret this book. One such way of looking at it is called the "preterist" view. In short, it states that the events in all but the last four chapters of Revelation occurred some 2000 years ago, shortly after John penned it. Therefore, the specific suffering and commensurate jailing by the devil was a warning to the people of that time.
Second, advice and direction is given which will enable those subject to suffering to endure: be faithful, even up to death. When we think about the fact that Christ never faltered in his faith and that he maintained it throughout the entire crucifixion experience, he is our example and encouragement. Though the message was to the people of that time, it represents a transcendent principle that still applies to us today. We are told throughout scripture to maintain our faith.
Finally, we are reassured of an eventual reward for maintaining our faith. The bible records that we will receive a crown of life. We will receive the promises of God that include our salvation, everlasting life and entry into His presence forever and ever. Is this not the goal of leading the Christian life?
Beloved, we are so often blown off course by the things and circumstances around us. We must see past the difficulties that Jesus told us would be ours in order to receive the blessings which he likewise told us would be ours. Most of us know nothing of the suffering endured by our ancestors in the faith. It is not likely that we know or have even heard of anyone who has been martyred. We must therefore then, thank God for His goodness and his protection and look forward to that which He has promised, despite any discomforts that may be associated with living the Christian life. This is not a "glass half full" faith, but one that is in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over!