Tuesday, August 31, 2010
God's wisdom is so amazing. Though He is a God whose ways are as higher than ours as the heaven's are above the earth, He has always chosen to communicate and relate to us in ways that we could understand. In fact, John 1:14 states that He even put on flesh and dwelt among us. He has done everything to equip us to know Him.
In His fleshly state, He often taught in parables. The commonly understood definition of a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Even a cursory examination of the parables involve things such as sheep, farming, relationships between relatives, banquets, the poor, etc. These were all things that were then and in some cases now. We all come into contact with most of them almost daily. These stories, however, were designed to relate the principles of Christianity and godliness.
There was one small problem. There were some who either could not or would not understand. When the apostles asked why he even spoke in parables, he replied, "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. " In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING,BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.' But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear." Matt 13:13-16.
Beloved, on our personal journey to both a meaningful relationship with our Savior and to heaven, the first step is believing what we have been told about him. We must believe he gospel message. We must believe that He is. We then can go on to spiritual maturity which will allow us to shed the earthly in favor of the heavenly. Let us not disdain our eternal inheritance by wrestling over that which should be obvious, Rom 1:20.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Many times we do not realize how easy it is to slip into judgement of others. This is the case because we do it so often and so readily it escapes our notice. It is only when it rises to the level of some great moral accusation which we have been wrong about do we realize we have done it. Having it pointed out in a sermon or a message such as this can also tend to remind. David found this to be the case when his friend Nathan pointed out, "Thou art the man."
Perhaps it is easier to notice the shortcomings of another because it does not require that we first examine our own. Should we cast even the shortest glance in the mirror, we may notice blemishes that prevent us from speaking about those of others. It may very well be that our own far outweighs that of the person who has unfortunately fallen under our scrutiny.
Beloved, as Christians, we are called upon to build one another up, not to tear one another down. The world specializes in tearing individuals down. Folks outside the body can be very much like sharks that smell blood in the water. A feeding frenzy ensues at the first scent of a scandal. We as Christians should never be a part of such things, be it in a group or as an individual. We should all be careful that the mirror we fail to examine may be held up in front of us against our will. Even should this not occur, we all stand guilty before Christ.
Friday, August 27, 2010
So often in our Christian faith, we are focused on God and our behavior. Our concern is whether we are doing things "right" enough. This surely can be a full time pursuit but in and of itself could cause us from focusing on the bigger picture.
God put us all on this earth to interact with, help, love, serve and forgive each other. Often times we miss the opportunity to serve God by failing to serve and meet the needs of one another.
In order to serve one another, we must be together enough to have developed relationships that allow us to know each other beyond the surface level. We must be the family we claim to be. Only then will we be able to truly meet needs and encourage one another.
Beloved the truth is that we need each other. There are all manner of threats, incidents, occurrences and problems that we all face. We are instructed to make our supplications to God. How often in your life have you seen God show up in the person of a brother or sister in Christ? During these times of economic downturns, elevated unemployment, rising foreclosures and financial scandals, we have all the more reason to bind together as a family and provide encouragement to those who may be suffering. What happens to one of us happens to all of us. Let us do for others what we would pray that God would cause to be done to and for ourselves.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
During my recent mission trip to Jamaica, I had the pleasure of meeting a sister in Christ by the name of Shana. Shana is a nurse by trade and a Christian by calling. Her role in the medical mission was to see to the needs of the body, preparing the soil as it were, for the planting of the seed. I appreciated the way that she always seemed to have a smile on her face. She exuded the spirit of joy as she went about taking care of her patients.
I was recently informed that she will soon go on another mission trip. This time, she will go to Guatemala, not as a member of a team, but as an individual who will stay several months with a family she does not know and will heal medically and spiritually.
During a recent conversation about mission ministry, she asked two questions: "What more can I do?" and "How do I answer those who question why I pursue mission work so passionately?"
For a person that does as much as she does for the Lord and his people, the first question was amazing. My answer was to continue using the gift of healing and joy that God has given her for His glory. The answer to the second question also answers the first. "Allow your ministry and your gift to be your testimony. When those you serve ask why you do what you do, tell them that Christ left the comfortable and perfect confines of heaven to come to this alien environment to feed the hungry, heal the sick and teach the seeking." Then ask, "How could I do any less?"
Beloved, we are all charged with mission work. We are all responsible for broadening the borders of the kingdom of heaven by seeing to the physical and spiritual needs of those who are all around us. Though the bible teaches that we are to go to all nations and teach and baptize, those nations may begin right next door, in the next desk or the next cubicle. Christ left all for us. In order that we might gain him, how could we do any less?
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
What an eloquent verse this is that describes the requirements of the Christian faith.
First, you must believe. Heb 11:6 tells us that "He that cometh unto God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Following Jesus necessarily involves belief. No one would get on a plane that they did not feel could fly nor a boat they did not think could float. The desire to follow him means that the individual has been compelled to do so by recommendation, personal experience, need or fear of the alternative. All of these have belief as a foundational component.
Denying oneself contextually means to die to oneself. Clarity is found in Rom 12: 1 where we are told to make our bodies a living sacrifice. Otherwise said, we are no longer our own but now are to lead lives dedicated to the service of the Lord. Through baptism, we die to the flesh spiritually, are buried as dead and are resurrected into the newness of life even as Christ was. In so doing, we live lives dedicated to the accomplishing of his will rather than our own.
Taking up our cross demonstrates that our commitment is not to be entered into lightly. It involves the gritty reality of suffering, pain, ridicule, persecution, sacrifice and potentially, literal and figurative death. The cross is a heavy burden, but it is one that Christ shouldered for us. He now invites all that are weary and burdened to come to him from whom rest is available.
Finally beloved, we cannot just talk about it, but we must be about it. Calling ourselves Christians is meaningless without living the life that exemplifies that calling. A young man of many great possessions and authority was once invited to follow Christ but turned it down, once he heard what it involved. We must follow him in word, thought and deed regardless of the cost. Remember that we are bought with a price paid for by the blood of our savior.
One might ask why we should endure such things since they have already been done for us. The answer is that we should endure such things because they have been done for us. By taking up his own cross, Christ serves as an example for us. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. Though we may sometimes find our faith to be challenging to maintain, we will find that the benefits to doing so are out of this world.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Whether you ever knew that the "Golden Rule" came from scripture or not, you will recognize this most basic tenant of both Christianity and humanity. It makes so much sense that it is difficult to fathom why we do not all ascribe to it.
We spend so much time being unhappy in our relationships. Usually this is because someone has done something to us or failed to do something for us. We start out being displeased, then upset, then disagreeable and then hostile. We begin to display un-Christ-like behavior and could potentially lose our faith altogether, not because of what Christ has or has not done, but because of man. Is our faith so weak? Are we so short sighted?
The real tragedy is that we often view ourselves as passive in these situations. We take the stance that these things just happen to us through no fault of our own. What we fail to do is to examine our role in relationships that are less than optimal and less than loving. We rarely ask ourselves the tough questions, "What could I have done to prevent this?" or "What can I do to fix it?"
Beloved if we spent more time being the friend that we desire, we might find that we would have the friends we desire.
- Do you want someone to celebrate your accomplishments with you? Celebrate with others.
- Do you want your birthday remembered? Acknowledge others'.
- Do you want to be forgiven when you offend? Be forgiving.
- Do you want help when it is needed? Lend a hand to someone else.
- Do you want visits or phone calls when you are down? Be there for your brothers and sisters.
- Do you want understanding? Provide it.
- Do you want to see God? Be His representative to those in your world.
It takes more effort to maintain grudges, to remember to be hard hearted and to remain angry than it does to cast those things off and decide to be happy. This is the way of God.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Have you ever done something for someone and walked away feeling un(der) appreciated? Oddly enough, this is particularly likely if you are doing the work of the Lord. Christ himself experienced this phenomenon:
- "As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When He saw them, He said to them, " Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine — where are they? " Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" Luke 17:12-18
The good news beloved, is that God never forgets. The scriptures tells us that the things done in secret are rewarded publicly by the Lord. The key, however, is to do things for which to be rewarded. Though salvation is full and freely given by the grace of God through faith, not of works, we were indeed created for good works and have been encouraged to "work out" our salvation. In short, we need to be busy for the Lord, just as those who have shared with us have been busy.
If we do His work, not out of the expectation to receive, but because we have ALREADY received His great love, sacrifice and bounty, we will find that God is generous in His recognition and appreciation.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Most of us who serve God assume that everyone does or at least acknowledges Him in some form. We know that there are many many people who are not living according to the commands of God but still at least believe that He exists.
It seems that more and more this is not the case. Yesterday as I scanned the radio dial, I ran across an evidently popular commentator (he had his own show) giving his opinion about the proposed Muslim cultural center being considered for a spot near Ground Zero in New York. His opinion about this issue is of no importance at all. What jumped out at me was what he said about religion in general and Christianity specifically. Again, I will not give platform to those views in this forum other than to say that he does not believe that God exists and is critical of any organization, group or system that propagates the endorsement of belief in a supreme being.
A number of months ago, my wife and I went to see a popular comedian of whom we were fans. Very near the beginning of his routine in front of an audience of hundreds, he felt the need to regale those present with his thoughts about God. In short, not only is he not a believer but felt that many in Europe, from which he hails, had "grown beyond" the need for the concept of a god. He even challenged God to strike him down on stage if He exists. Needless to say we quickly lost interest in anything else he had to say.
Beloved, we cannot assume that everyone knows and loves the Almighty. Noah and his family were not the only humans on earth at the time of the flood. In fact, "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." Gen 6:5,6. As we all survey the world in which we live, do things seem materially different today?
Surely God has promised not to destroy the earth and its inhabitants with water again but there is another reckoning on the way. On that day, "every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to God." Let us follow the example of Noah in both his manner of life and his efforts to share God with all with whom we come into contact.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
1 John 2:1
Let me be perfectly clear: God hates sin. It is an offense to Him and there is no way that any of us can ever justify it. The root word invokes an image of an archer shooting at a target and missing. It is God's desire that we are never wide of the mark that He set for the pattern of our lives. Adam and Eve missed the mark by going outside of what God commanded and we have been missing that mark ever since.
That having been said, He knows that we will sin. It is part of human nature to do so. Though He does not condone it, He recognizes that it is part of our condition to do so. Be careful not to think that you have somehow defeated sin in your life. "If we say that we have no sin then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us," 1 John 1:8 Likewise, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" Rom 3:23.
Beloved, the GREAT news is that God is so loving, so benevolent, so caring and so long suffering that He sent a remedy for our sins. Nothing else could redeem us, nothing us could purchase us out of slavery to sin, nothing else could wash us clean but the blood of His son, Jesus the Christ. It is a full and free gift to those who believe, are baptized and lead righteous lives according to Mark 16:16, 1 John 1:7,8 and Revelation 2:10. To those who have already believed and been baptized, particular emphasis needs to be paid to the lives we lead. The continuous cleansing that we require is available as long as we "walk in the light as He is in the light."
That having been said, the question was once asked, "Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound?" The emphatic answer was, "By no means!" Our goal must be to please God through our love and obedience. We should "by no means" fall into the trap of living sinful lives with plans to continually apologize and ask for forgiveness. That is a plan to fail. But for those who just need a little help as we put all of our efforts and energies into leading Godly lives, there is an Advocate. Praise God for this unimaginably wonderful gift!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
In this passage of scripture, Jesus was admonishing the scribes and Pharisees. Though they were the religious and moral leaders of the Hebrews in the first century, they themselves were not living up to the standards they so onerously placed on God's people. They took God's law and added their own interpretation, requiring much more of man than God intended. In short, they neglected the spirit of the law in favor of the letter of the law. Even so, they were not keeping the law of which they were keepers.
Beloved, I wonder if that sounds like us today. Among the people of God, how many of us can be found saying one thing but doing something altogether different outside of the worship service and other Christian gatherings? How many of us are pious in the assembly but partying among friends. Do we criticize the drunkards yet imbibe ourselves? These questions are better asked directly from the scriptures:
- "You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?" Rom 2:21-23
We must live our lives according to the Christianity we profess. When we fail in this area, it is we who cause the name of God to be reviled and blasphemed by non believers. This is the exact opposite of our purpose for living.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Prayer is the ultimate communication vehicle. Think about it. Though we serve a God that is omniscient, prayer gives us the ability to initiate the sharing our thoughts with purpose. We certainly are not telling the Almighty anything He does not know, but He is pleased that we choose to interact with Him. Prayer also gives us the opportunity to praise Him and give Him due honor. Clearly, there is an element of worship in our prayer to our Father.
Contextually, this scripture comes at the end of the apostle Paul's description of our spiritual armor. This armor is needed because we are pitched in a spiritual battle. The importance of mentioning prayer here is that it is an indispensable part of our protection. This is why it is said that we are to include our requests and to remain alert. Again, God knows our needs even before we do, but praying to Him demonstrates our acknowledgement that all good things come from Him. It demonstrates our reliance on Him and our faith in Him.
Finally, it gives us a chance to do for others. It is fine to pray for ourselves, however it is a virtue to pray for others. In fact the more we stop thinking of ourselves and start thinking of others in our communication with the Father, the better we will all be. No soldier ever goes into battle alone. We need each other to protect, defend and help watch out for one another. Said otherwise, we need to cover each other's backs. Beloved, let us cover each other in prayer. Just as God has encouraged us to pray, surely there will be an answer.
Monday, August 16, 2010
So often we find our selves relaying information. In fact, our society would not be what it is (particularly in the most positive sense) without communication. These days communication is virtually instantaneous. Any major event that happens anywhere around the world can be found on cable news networks, the Internet, Facebook or Twitter within minutes. Even our television news reports are crowded with additional information streaming across the tops and bottoms of our screens.
The question must be asked, however, what really is being said? Beloved, the fruit of our lips should be professions of the goodness of God. Time and breath would not allow us to share everything the Lord has done and is doing for us, but nothing prevents us from trying. If we sat and really thought about where and what we are in the Lord versus where and what we were in the world, we could fill libraries with our testimony.
Satan gets more than enough press. Our great and mighty God's love for us endures forever. Let his redeemed make it known from the neighborhood to the mountain tops.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Certainty can be a difficult thing to grasp in life. There are so many things on which we rely that are in and of themselves unreliable. We are often certain of our abilities to move about and do the things we set our minds to do. Failures of health, accidents and afflictions can remove that in the blink of an eye. We put our faith and trust in leaders who themselves are fallible men and women. We think that if nothing else, we have our homes to which we can retreat. A natural or financial disaster can quickly separate us from this. Even tomorrow is not promised to any of us.
What, then, can we count on? What in this life is sure? What is the firm foundation of our existence? Beloved, we must know that God is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, Heb 11:6. We must know that our Lord has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," Heb 13:5. We must know that he has promised to prepare a place for us and to return to retrieve us, John 14:2-3. And we must know that we have, "...eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began," Titus 1:2.
Everything that we are and everything that we believe must rest on these facts. Simply put, our hope is built on nothing less than the firmest foundation of God's love through Jesus Christ, our Lord. This knowledge, this certainty should bring peace and joy to us all despite the tenuous and temporary nature of everything else in life. God has done all to make sure that you know.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The work of an ambassador necessarily involves taking up temporary residence in a country other than his or her own for the purpose of representing the home country to the foreign one. The ambassador is responsible for sharing the domestic message among other things. When the tour of duty has been completed, it is the ambassadors great pleasure and privilege to return home, resting on a job well done.
As Christians, we have been given citizenship in heaven. The scriptures record that we are to be in this world but not of the world, John 17:16. In fact, Eph 2:6 records that we have been raised up and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Beloved, this makes us ambassadors. As ambassadors we have work to do until we are called home by the master.
I have returned home from my first mission trip and have brought with me memories that will last a life time. It was wonderful to arrive home and greet my wife and children. I also look forward to reuniting with my church family. Though there is still much to do, we celebrate the work that has been done, the glorification of the Almighty, the safe travel and the safe return. One day we will all leave the mission field of earth and celebrate our heavenly home going. Let us be sure that we have done the work for which we were sent.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
As the mission trip continues, one of the benefits of being in a foreign country, immersed in a culture quite a bit different than your own, is the ability to experience those differences. They range from the side of the road that is driven on, to the language (or accent in this case), to the food.
Since I have been here, I have had a variety of foods that I've never tasted. Some of the selections are quite good. I never thought I would like goat, especially prepared curry style, but I found it to be delicious. Rice and peas are also big in the Caribbean and this is satisfactory as well. Other native items were not so appetizing. Breadfruit is a staple here, but its soft yet solid texture left an after taste that reminded me of vinyl. Likewise, their fruit punch really is a variety of fruit juices mixed together. The only problem with it is that it includes a generous portion of ginger. I never though much about ginger one way or the other but such a massive dose of it was really off putting and I suspect I'll be sensitive to it from now on.
The real food here, however, is the work that is being done to help God's people and expand the borders of His kingdom. "Jesus said unto them, 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to accomplish his work.'" John 4:34. His food is satisfying to the soul.
Monday, August 9, 2010
This passage of scripture immediately follows an effort by a certain man to entertain guest at a fabulous feast. In this analogy of heaven, each of the invited guest had an excuse as to why they could not make it. One had just bought land he needed to survey, another bought oxen that had to be tried and still another had just married a wife.
Beloved, the cares of this world will cost many their heavenly reward. God has invited us to the biggest banquet imaginable. Can you imagine not being willing to go because of materialism? You will recall the rich young ruler that walked away from the heaven he sought because of the earthly possessions he was unwilling to leave behind.
Those who do not live a life of opulence have no such hindrances. The certain man commanded that the less fortunate be sought to attend the banquet, ensuring that it would not go to waste. As I continue on this mission trip, it is not the well to do that are coming to the Lord, but those who have no one else on whom to depend. The maimed, halt, hungry and blind line up for hours to get medical and dental attention. They also receive the word of God. It is amazing how many of them believe.
As for those who would make excuses, "For I say unto you that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper." Luke 14:24
Jesus had just spent 3 years teaching disciples and apostles alike what thus saith the Lord. They were able to witness many miracles and hear heavenly wisdom. Jesus empowered them through the Holy Spirit to themselves be able to perform miracles and bring others to Christ. There was a time, however, when their school was out.
Jesus had told them many times that there would come a day when he would depart. As the day approached, he gave what was among their last lessons when he said to take what they had learned and go to the masses to share it with them. In fact, he told them to leave the comfort of their own familiar territory and share the good news with the world.
The fact that you are reading this is evidence that they did just that. The word of God has spread across the planet. Billions acknowledge Him. Beloved, this would not be possible if those who believed did not continue the mission of going to all nations and teaching.
Today I will be in a place called Independence City, a small town outside of Kingston, Jamaica. I am working with the International American Medical Mission who take medicine, doctors, dentists, nurses and most of all, the word of God to those who might not otherwise receive it. To be sure I am far away from home and definitely out of my comfort zone, however, this is the command of the Lord. I solicit your prayers.
Not everyone has the opportunity to leave the country but everyone has the opportunity to carry the word to someone that does not know it. It is called the Great Commission and it extends to you and I today, just as it did to the 11. Help save someone today.
Friday, August 6, 2010
It is a beautiful thing to go about your life taking care of your responsibilities to God, family and man in peace and harmony. To do anything less is a denial of the faith and causes one to sink to the level of an infidel, 1 Tim 5:8. God designed our lives to be lived in a way that we would never know want, pain, hunger or even extremes of temperature. He intended for us to always be in close physical proximity to Him as He cared for us. As evidence of this, consider the ethereal existence in Eden. Even the word is used as a metaphor for the perfect paradise.
Tragically, we could not be satisfied with having all of our needs met. We began to experience want. When these misguided, ill advised desires (lusts) caused us to reach beyond our grasp, we violated God's law and cost ourselves perfection. For a mere bite of fruit, the consequences amounted to the worst relationship and real estate transaction in the history of time. We were shut out of paradise and forced to labor and travail for our needs.
Beloved, we can all come up with things that we want despite having our basic needs met. There is nothing wrong with wanting to provide your family or your fellow man nice things in life. When we lose sight of what is important and commanded of God, however, we make the same mistake our progenitors did. When our desires outweigh our obedience, we fall into idolatry and again cost ourselves paradise. Then as now, for all our efforts, all we will end up with is a handful of hot wind. Let us bend our backs to His righteous labor. He will supply all of our needs and many of our wants.
P.S. If you have been sharing this devotional with friends and would like them to receive it automatically, have them click here or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the group.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Beloved, we often fall into the "at least I..." trap. At least I am not as bad as him or her. At least I don't do that. At least I make sure I always do this. The problem with this type of thinking is the word "least."
Why is it that we are so ready to get by with the least effort, energy and resources that we possibly can when it comes to living godly lives? We like to live our lives right up to the line. Some of us cross that line but take comfort in the fact that it is just one toe over.
I submit to you that we should be found well inside the borders of God's will. The boundaries and their sometimes tantalizing features are the stuff of death and destruction. It is very much like slowing down to see a traffic accident, standing close by to watch a fire or running toward an altercation "just to see." Do you not know that those are the very best places to get hurt?
There is safety in the middle of Gods will. Pushing the limits and crossing the line, no matter how slightly is still a violation. If you do that, you might as well jump in mind, body and soul. The effect is exactly the same.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Jesus had just healed 10 lepers. It is difficult for us to understand the significance of this act. First, lepers were prohibited from intermingling with those who were not like themselves. This was due to the potential for spreading the disease. In fact, those with leprosy had to announce themselves as having the affliction whenever they came near those without it. They were required to shout "Unclean! Unclean!" Second the disease was absolutely incurable. It meant a life of desolation, ostracization and suffering.
Jesus took pity on them and healed them. Only one, however, thought to thank. The scripture records that the one was a Samaritan, implying that the other nine were of the people of God.
Beloved how often do we fail to return to our Lord to express our appreciation? How often do we take his goodness and benevolence toward us for granted? How many nights have we cried out for healing and relief, only to forget all about the Healer the moment we were made whole? It is a tragedy when the people of God are guilty of this. It is worse when those who are not members of the household of faith are more charitable towards our father. After all, has he not given us the cure for destruction?
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name." Ps 100:4
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
It is a natural human reaction to hit back when we are hit. Many of us walk around with a chip on our shoulder and hair trigger fingers. We are prepared to instantly pounce if anyone offends, insults or in any way inconveniences us. How did we develop such aggressive responses?
Be assured beloved, that these ways are not of God. Christ encourages us to turn the other cheek if we are struck on the one. Paul asks the rhetorical questions, " Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" 1 Cor 6:7.
We need only follow the example of Christ for inspiration to endure suffering at the hands of others. It is not necessary to replay the entire crucifixion account to make this point. Know simply that Jesus endured ridicule, derision, false accusation and repeated death threats, yet never did he return evil for evil. In fact, he went so far as to ask for forgiveness for those who were involved in separating him from his life.
The question may have arisen in your mind, "Why should I have to suffer at the hands of someone else?" There are many possible answers to such a question. Perhaps the best is that through our peace in the face of such situations, God is glorified and souls may be won. Would you be more drawn to what is in a person that fights or that forgives? If you are a Christian today, you have already answered that question.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Who among us does not love to receive? We look forward to occasions to receive, established in part, for this reason. Valentine's Day, Mother's, Father's and Grandparent's days are all relatively recent inventions designed with recognizing and receiving in mind. Do you remember what it felt like to not receive on on of these occasions or a birthday or anniversary?
Let me ask you another question: Do you think God likes to receive? Of course what does God need that any of us have? The psalmist has quoted God in saying, "For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. "I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. "If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains. Ps 50:10-12 What could we feeble humans offer Him that He does not already have?
The answer comes in the form of another question: "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings." Mal 3:8
You see beloved, God has no need where we are concerned, but He does have desires. He desires our love. He desires our obedience. He desires our praise, honor and glory. And He desires our care for one another. Malachai reveals that tithes and offering are to be brought into the storehouse that His house may be filled. Whom do you think are the recipients of His full house? God says, "test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." Mal 3:10
When we receive on gift giving occasions, that is typically the end of the story. When God receives from us, however, we receive right back from Him. Make no mistake, our goal in giving to God should not be just another means to receive, but instead, a happy by-product. We give out of gratitude, praise and honor and He returns out of a love we could not possibly understand.
Perhaps that is why we should be cheerful.