Friday, July 30, 2010
Consider our behavior when we are trying to impress or to please. We will marshal the very best that we have in order to give it to another. I am reminded of preteens as they discover members of the opposite sex. The same gifts for which they used to sacrifice in order to show their adoration for a parent are now replaced with afterthoughts or nothing at all, while a new girlfriend or boyfriend receives the fruit of long labor. I am reminded of adults who give the best of themselves at their jobs, applying every skill and cheerfully working overtime in order to gain favor that will lead to a promotion. They will even give to the local charity or political action fund, not because of a deep seated belief, but because it is the "company" thing to do.
A person's priorities can always be seen in how and where they spend their time and resources. It becomes very clear what is most important in their lives. Abel famously gave the very best that he had to God while his brother evidently did not hold the Lord in as high esteem. Let us always remember that God has given us His very best.
Why then beloved, do we cheat God in the giving of our best? Be it prayers, resources, works, representation or obedience, we consistently treat Him as an afterthought. This would be unacceptable to our bosses, spouses and the IRS and in most cases, we would not think of giving less than our best. Why do we not reserve our very best, our first fruits for Him who gives us His? Surely we must re-prioritize our lives.
As the saying goes, "give God what's right, not what's left."
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Far too often we are settled in our Christianity and in our faith. Once we have "made it in," we tend to have a seat and wait for whatever is coming. Though we are grateful, we sometimes feel entitled and that we have done all we need to do. Surely our benevolent God will provide for all of our needs and send us through a minimum of inconvenience and discomfort, right?
I wonder if we are acquainted with God at all. Throughout the divinely inspired scriptures, He is shown to be a God of action. He is never one to sit idly by and just let things happen. There is always a purpose for what He does and what He allows. Further, a casual survey of the scriptures reveal that He almost always requires something of us. Noah had to build the ark. Abraham had to leave his country. Moses had to lift his hands to part the sea. David had to pick up the 5 smooth stones. God is fully capable but requires us to do our part.
Beloved God is not looking for us to do things grudgingly nor out of necessity either. He loves it when we give of ourselves cheerfully. I believes that He enjoys enthusiasm and zeal as well. When we are commanded of God, we should run to the task like no other. Never should we shrink back and do the minimum if anything at all. God has given us so much that there is no task from which we should run as Jonah did, but in all things do as Isaiah did and volunteer to be sent!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians with a powerful exhortation espousing the many benefits of being a child of God. His enthusiasm comes across like an infomercial about Christian privilege that is not to be purchased but given as a free gift.
Beloved we must know and celebrate who we are in the Lord. It is not that we are anything in and of ourselves, but who we have been made to be in Christ. By God's grace through faith we have been shown the light, called forth from the darkness, rescued from the hand of Satan, saved, been made righteous through Christ's sacrifice and adopted into the very family of God. Being able to claim sonship and daughterhood of the living God is an extraordinary gift.
Surely we must keep uppermost in our minds that one day we will be liberated from the mortality of this flesh and all the aches, pain and sin that so closely accompany it. We must cast our eyes toward an inheritance that is not worthy to be compared with that of some rich uncle who has completed his journey and gone on to be with the Lord. We must hold close the knowledge of the power that caused Jesus to be raised from the dead because that power is alive and at work within us.
As you go through your days, remember who you are in the Lord.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
More and more we live in a "what have you done for me lately" world. Far too often we base what we do for someone on what they have done for us. Did you ever miss recognizing a friend's birthday only to immediately have the thought thereafter that, "oh well, they missed mine last time?"
What someone does for us should be no basis for anything, with one notable exception. We should endeavor to live our lives for Christ because he died for us. In so doing, he redeemed us. That is to say, he bought us out of slavery to sin by paying the ultimate price. He shed his blood. We are now his bond servants who should serve him with sincerity of heart and reverence.
Beloved this extends beyond our worship service and our personal prayer life. This command extends perhaps even more effectually into the other aspects of life. When you go to work, work not for your boss, but for the Lord. When you go to school, study not for the teacher, but for the Lord. When you visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, do it not for favor of the brethren, but for the Lord. When you take care of your family and treat your spouse tenderly, do it not for the recognition of being a loving couple, but do it out of appreciation to the Lord for so blessing you.
In doing so, we bring not glory to ourselves but should endeavor to, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matt 5:16. It is not about us, but about glorifying our God who is indeed worthy.
Monday, July 26, 2010
This passage comes immediately after the parable of the talents. You will recall that a number of talents were given to three different individuals. Two of them produced a return and one did not.
Beloved it is important to know that the Lord gives us all ability; talent if you will. We are all blessed differently but blessed we are. We have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to do a number of things. "Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:" Rom 12:6. Many of us don't think past our selves when it comes to using these gifts. It should be known, however, that there will be an accounting.
He who has given the gifts will one day arrive to see what has been done with them. Have you multiplied what has been given? Have you used it for the glory of God? Have you given Him the credit for all you have and been able to do? If so, He will give you more. If you have not, what little you had will be taken away.
We are in this life to grow personally and to produce fruit. The Lord is not looking for those who merely claim things, but they who accomplish them.
Friday, July 23, 2010
It is a well known biblical account that Peter was the only man other than Jesus to walk on water. It is important to note, however, that there are important facts surrounding the event:
- They were physically separated from Christ when the storms arose in that he had gone to pray and sent them ahead. The account as recorded by Mark in 6:48 reveals that Jesus was aware. Let us take heart that Jesus is always aware of our condition, whether stormy or bright.
- Christ came to them walking on the water. It is important that we know, understand and believe that our Lord, by whom nothing that was made was made, is the master of space, time and the elements. He can walk across and through the storms that terrify us, not simply for the sake of doing it, but to get to us. Let us take heart that Jesus never forsakes us.
- The disciples were terrified at his appearance, imagining him to be a ghost. Far too often we fail to recognize his presence. We mistake him for fate, destiny, providence, luck and happenstance. He is none of these things. Let us take heart that our Lord is a deliberate savior who has not given us the spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind.
- Peter had enough faith to leave the relative safety of the boat to walk on the waves his master controls. With faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. We just need to learn to rely on God instead of ourselves. Let us take heart that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
- Peter took his eye off the Lord and began to succumb to the storm. Jesus is a bright and shining light. Whenever we remove our gaze and become distracted by the darkness, we are in danger of being overcome by it. Let us take heart that Jesus is the light of the world and in him there is no darkness.
- According to the account in Mark, they welcomed him into the boat and the storm ceased immediately. According to the account in John, they were then immediately at their destination. Know that things are better in the company of the Lord than out of the company of the Lord. Though we will all endure adversity from time to time, we are never alone. If we welcome him into our lives, he will eventually guide us to our destination. Take heart that he has prepared a place for us, that where he goes, we may be also.
Beloved, think on these things in times of trial and tribulation. Think on them more in times of peace and prosperity.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Beloved we serve a God of promise. He has made available great things from the vast storehouse of his rich blessings. He provides for our every need and many of our wants on a constant basis. These promises are a gift and cannot be earned.
We do, however, have an obligation to work out our soul salvation. This concept involves many things. We can see that this is not only a directive to be obeyed for spiritual purposes, but there are practical applications that are tangibly beneficial as well. An example is the Old Testament requirement to not sow seed in the Jubilee year. This had the benefit of allowing the land to rest and replenish itself. This was also a time to retire debts giving everyone a fresh start.
We must give heed to the commandments of the Lord. Jesus has said that we are his friends if we obey his commandments. The are designed to benefit, protect and to provide for us. Through obeying God, we obtain access to the ultimate promise, an eternity with him.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Christ uttered this statement after wandering through the city blessing and healing the people and noticing that they were "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." To this day, there remains harassed and helpless people that are in need, yet without leadership, love or hope.
Within the context of this scripture, we Christians are not those sheep. In fact, we are the workers that are few. Many of us forget that we are the called according to His purpose. We are not called to be "resters," "sitters," "talkers," "vacationers," "loafers," "slackers" or "sluggards" but workers. We must remember that, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." Eph 2:10. We were created for a purpose and the meaning of life is to live out that purpose.
Beloved we should have the compassion of Christ. We should see the same thing he does; a sin sick world in need of healing, a bounty in need of harvesting. We should be ever busy accomplishing His will, for the bible has said that we must work while it is day, for night comes when no man can work. Let us do all that we can while we can to share Christ with others as was done for us.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
As mere humans, we tend to think of God as some wholly distant and unreachable being that is so far beyond us in every way imaginable that He is reduced to a concept. We are aware of his activities and interaction with mankind in the Old Testament writings, but we have nothing that compares to his cloudy, fiery, trumpeting, rumbling and lightening (among others) manifestations in our lives.
Beloved, let your faith close this distance. We have been adopted into His family. In ancient Hebrew, Roman and Greek cultures, even as it is in ours today, adoption was a frequent practice. Those who had no family and even those that did, were taken into the family of another and given all the rights and privileges of being a member of that family just as if they had been born into it. As members, they received their fair share of inheritances. Surely God has accomplished this in us, Rom 8:17.
This gives us the position and the privilege to call out to Him not only as God, but as Father and not just as Father but Abba. This word is derived from how infants referred to their fathers. Simply put, it is Daddy. The distance is closed by this familiarity. God is not just some far away, all powerful, all knowing Deity, but is our Daddy. His Spirit has verified this in us.
If you have viewed the Father as distant, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you," Jas 4:8.
Monday, July 19, 2010
It is only Christ that has truthfully said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." It was true when he said it, true today and true until he returns for his church. In truth, it was necessary for him to leave us physically. Born in the flesh, he came to this world for a specified time and purpose. His everlasting work of redeeming us was accomplished on the cross. Subsequent to this, he returned to the heavenly home from whence he came.
Before he left, however, he said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. "And you know the way where I am going." John 14:2-4
Spiritually, he remains with us. He is at the right hand of our Father and advocates for us against Satan's accusations. He has sent he Comforter, that He may abide with us forever and remind of all things taught by the Lord. And he has left us the promise that he will return for us that we my be with him always.
Beloved, take heart in the knowledge that the one who died that you may live, himself lives and awaits the appointed time to unite with us. Let us look forward to that day.
Friday, July 16, 2010
There are times in all of our lives that we wonder if we are going to make it. Life can at times be so oppressive that we begin to lose both hope and faith. Typically these times are when we are alone and the feelings are amplified in the dark of night. If you are anything like me, you add anything that could possibly be the slightest inconvenience or discomfort to the plate and just worry about it all at the same time.
Beloved we must know that we have one who knows and cares. Recall Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even the son of God suffered mightly under the weight of things that plagued him. His suffering was amplified by the fact that those closest in the world to him failed him by not staying awake and watching with him as he prayed. How utterly alone he must have felt. Is this anything to with which you can even come close to identifying?
The Lord has been where you are and felt what you have felt. As Christians, we at no time should think that we are alone in whatever situation we may be enduring. The Lord knows. The Lord cares deeply. You will find him to be a very present help in a time of need. "...weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning." Psa 30:5
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Have you ever uttered the words, "Good Luck?" Of course you have. We all have. We tend to think of luck as some sort of positive happenstance that will bring fortune our way. We've written books about it, written songs about it, made movies about it and developed all sort of symbols of it. One of example of a good luck symbol is the rabbit's foot; apparently not too lucky for the rabbit.
I submit to you that for the Christian, there is no such thing as luck. In fact, luck is a pagan and idolatrous concept. The Roman goddess Fortuna, also known as Tyche to the Greeks, was the personification of luck in the religion of Rome. It was said that she could bring fortune or misfortune; good luck or bad luck. In fact, she was at times depicted blindfolded much as our image of Justice is represented in drawings and statues. She came to represent the variability of life, chance and fate.
Beloved we do not serve a God who is in any way capricious in nature. He is a God of certainty and one whose are eyes are never shut. Our great blessing is to be able to go to Him in the name of Jesus and ask for that which we desire. Whether the answer be yes, no or not yet, there is no luck, chance or fate involved. There is the very certain and deliberate nature of the Father's actions as it relates to how He interacts with us.
There is no such thing as luck. There is, however, one God and Father who is above all, through all and in all. So the next time you consider wishing someone the best of luck, pray that it will be in God's will to grant them specific blessings.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Our God is an awesome God. In him are found wonders that are too fantastic to imagine with our limited minds. His ways are farther above ours than the heavens are above the earth. Nevertheless, he condescends to know every hair on our heads having known us from the womb. He provides for everyone of our needs. God is the very definition of love and demonstrated this by sacrificing His only begotten son, even while we were yet in our sins.
Those of us who call upon the name of Christ, those of us who have been grafted on to the vine, adopted into God's family and reborn into the kingdom of heaven, should rejoice every day. Our lives should consist of doing His will and sharing His love that others might come to know Him.
Beloved there is one more thing that we must remember. Our God is also a God of justice and of wrath. And though He gives every one of us the ability to choose, there is a consequence for remaining among the defiant, reprobate, unbelieving and rebellious. "The Lord said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. "But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin." Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made." Ex 32:33-35
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The term "religion" has taken on a number of different connotations over the years and not all of them positive. Usually when we are described as religious, it is in the tone of, "you know the type" and accompanied by a roll of the eyes.
Did you know that when the word "Christian" came into use, it was with the same derision? Over time, however, believers in Christ and followers of the Way began to wear the label with pride. Eventually it took on a more positive presence in the societal lexicon. Christians became known for the fervor of their belief and the good things they did for others in service to God. This would never have happened if Christians did nothing or worse, lived down to the lowest common denominator.
So it is with being religious. The word should not be used simply as a descriptor of a belief system but of action. The selected scripture reveals that religion is about what you do as a result of your beliefs. The question now beloved is are we truly practicing our religion or just professing it.
Talk is cheap.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Beloved, professing Christ is easy to do. One only need say it in order to have a profession made. In this life there are many that profess to be and do any number of things, but that does not necessarily make those professions true. A profession alone does not a Christian make.
Jesus tells us that there must be some action associated with the words. Has it not been translated and passed down as human wisdom that actions speak louder than words? The terrible fact of the matter is that not everyone that claims to be a Christian will see heaven. It may be in fact that the person that sits next to you in the pews may not be your neighbor in heaven. Jesus has said, "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left," Matt 24:40-41.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Let us busy ourselves doing the will of God.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Last night I visited a member of our congregation in a convalescent home. She is not there because she is particularly old. She is there because she has some fairly debilitating health concerns. She is confined to an electronic wheelchair and has been in need of similar assistance for the majority of her life. She has had a number of surgeries and procedures recently that have proven largely ineffectual as it relates to improving her lot in life. Compounding matters, she can no longer work which subsequently means that she has recently had to endure the loss of her home.
Last night I visited a member of our congregation in a convalescent home. I've rarely met someone who seemed so full of love for the Lord, so full of hope and faith and interestingly enough, so full of peace. Let me be clear. I am not saying that I've rarely met someone in her circumstances with such an amazing attitude and outlook. I am saying that there are few I've had the pleasure of meeting like her period.
Beloved I felt ashamed, in all of my "able bodiedness" and physical well being, of my internal complaints about all I have to do, endure and suffer. I asked myself, "How dare I?" while I listened to her heap lavish praise upon the Lord for all of his blessings despite all that she has had to and in fact is enduring. I was humbled further by the fact that she wants to tell the story of God's love in her life through publishing and speaking. So many of us are not willing to do that out of our health and abundance.
Surely we can take a lesson from our sister. There, but for God's grace, go any and all of us. She finds that same grace sufficient for her life.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
These days more than ever, what we need is not the material or that which can be bought, but that which comes from the Lord. Too often we rely on what we think we know, what we think we can do or what we think we have. Surely the more we rely on ourselves, the more limited we are and the farther away from God we grow.
Solomon once stated,"For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her" Prov 8:11. Surely he knew whereof he spoke. You will recall that in
2 Chron 1:7 that God appeared to Solomon and directed him to ask for whatever he desired. He famously asked for wisdom to rule God's people. The Lord went on to cause him to become the wisest man that ever lived and gave him the riches for which he did not ask.
Beloved, when we approach God with the desires of our hearts, let that desire be for wisdom and understanding. With these we will come to know that we have all that we need except a closer walk with Him and greater knowledge of Him. With wisdom comes all of the virtues we need to live lives pleasing to God.
"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy." James 3:17
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
How seldom we do meditate on the greatness of God. He is the one that formed all that there is simply by speaking it into existence. From the greatest galaxy full of the most stars to the smallest component of the atom, our Father is the creative force and the power behind it all. And there, at the pinnacle of His creation, stand we, former mounds of dirt, without whose living breath, would still be just dirt.
He is a God that has provided everything pertaining to life. There is nothing that we need that he does not supply. He provides us with love, assurance, protection sustenance, a savior, a body to which to belong and an inheritance. He guides our footsteps and answers our prayers. He cares for us more than any of us know.
Why then do we focus so much more on the things provided than the Provider? All too often, we fit the description of those, "whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things." Phil 3:19. It is the material and temporal that become our lower case gods; gods that cannot save nor provide. It is by these gods that we become acquainted with the idolatry we so often read about in the word.
Beloved God is greater than any created thing. God is greater than we can know or imagine. Let us not live below our privilege but live up to it by praising, worshipping and serving Him with whom we have to do. Let us reflect on His greatness.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Too often we suffer from spiritual myopia. In our shortsightedness we are too focused on things that are right in front of us rather than the things that are yet to come. To our human side, this is understandable. How could one not be concerned with the things that are happening now? To our spiritual side, however, it should be another matter entirely.
Contextually, Jesus is preaching his famous sermon on the mount and relating how "blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." The two important things to note here are the fact of persecution and the reason for it.
If we are living our Christian lives correctly, we should expect to be persecuted. Jesus has said that the world will hate us because it first hated him. This will only happen, however, if you are actually doing the work of the Lord.
Beloved the point of all this assumes that we are leading Christ like lives. The encouragement is to not be downtrodden of heart. Many of our spiritual ancestors experienced the same and worse. The Savior is telling us that we should be glad to be counted worthy to suffer for his namesake. It is true that no one wants to suffer, but this is the kind of pain that comes with great gain.
Know that Christ suffered the ultimate for you. Any stripes you may endure have already been healed. If we would look just up the road a bit, we would see the light of our awaiting reward.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Beloved we were not meant to walk this Christian journey alone. Part of God's plan for each of us is each other. The scriptures are replete with examples of how we are to take care of and look after one another.
- Acts 4:34-35- For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
- Gal 6:1- Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual,restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
- Heb 10:24-25-... 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 3:13- But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
- 1 Cor 12:12- For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
- 1 John 4:20-21- If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
More succinctly put, we need each other. When we are down, we need someone to encourage us. When we are happy we need someone to celebrate us. When we are outside the will of God, we need someone to correct us. Perhaps most of all, we need someone to need us.
When we play an active role in each other's lives, we strengthen one another in the Lord. We build each other's faith and thus our own. We please our Heavenly Father who wants all of His children to love one another. We are sharpened and honed for the journey ahead.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
It is now as it was then that we live in a wicked world. One need scarcely cast a glance to see that the effects of sin are all around us. It is piped into our homes via the television and the internet. It is broadcast into our ears via the radio and popular music. Our eyes are assaulted by morally impure billboards and magazine covers. None of us need go looking for its evidences. It is all around us.
So it was in Lot's time. You will recall that at the time it became necessary for he and his uncle Abraham to part ways, Lot was given a choice. He chose the lush and fertile plains and "pitched his tent near Sodom." Chapter 19 finds him sitting at the gates of and ostensibly living in the city itself. It was already well known what type of place this was yet he evidently chose to live there.
Beloved we must be aware of our proximity to wickedness. Often times we watch certain movies or television shows, listen to certain radio programs and read certain books and maintain certain relationships that are not in keeping with what is best for our spiritual development. We tell ourselves that we are mature enough, strong enough and discerning enough to glean from them without becoming subject to them. 2 Cor 6:14 asks, "What fellowship does light have with darkness?" What would we be missing from our lives if we rejected and eliminated the unholy and the impure from our lives?
Lot began his life in close proximity to God. By the end of his life, he had lost his possesions during the destruction of the city, his wife, who could not distance herself from her past and he unknowingly fathered children by his wicked and incestuous daughters. From these children came the Moabites who then became enemies of God's people. These are ample enough reasons to watch your proximity to wickedness.