Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Offer You Cannot Refuse 3/28/13 (rp)

“'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the LORD. 'Though your sins are as scarlet,they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. If you consent and obey,you will eat the best of the land;'"
Isa 1:18-19

There is nothing simpler than the "if/then" proposition. God instructed the prophet Isaiah to inform the people of Israel of His discontent with their behavior. God had given them everything and had made them a chosen people. Despite this, they continued to rebel through idolatry, vain worship and immoral living. The utter nonsensical nature of this is made unmistakably clear when he says, "The ox knows its master, the donkey its owners manger but Israel does not know, my people do not understand" (1:3). Despite all of this, God condescends to appeal to their simple logic. He offers them a deal based on obedience.

Beloved, God is still offering that same deal. The majority of the Bible is talking to or about those who believe. As Israel once held the sole designation of God's people, now it is all who call upon the name of Christ. Doing so, however, does not exempt one from the same bad decisions and misbehavior of our progenitors. In fact, because of the freedom we experience in Christ, the argument could be made that we are more likely to be out of step with the Father.

For us, He has given His son. Through him He has given truth and salvation. It is important that we do not deviate from the path in our daily living. We must be on guard against our former destructive habits, sinful ways and attraction to that which is not godly. After all, does our Father not provide for our every need? Has he not gifted us with His Holy Spirit? Has the Lord not gone to prepare a place for us? Is God not available to us through prayer and present with us always? Is there anything in this life or the next that can exceed what God so generously gives?

Come now and let us reason together.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Eternal Ramifications of Discernment 3/27/13

"He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal." John 12:22

There are many things that our Lord said that require discernment.  Because there have been people throughout history who have opposed him based simply on his claims and what he stood for, things that need not have been controversial have indeed become so.  This is of course said with full realization that many things he said were indeed controversial because it challenged the then current (and present) understanding of life, religion, God, love, service and even himself.  As a result, for example, an exhortation to simply set aside a portion of a common meal to remember him and his sacrifice for all mankind became a charge that Christians were cannibals.  Because he cast out demons, he himself was called a devil.

Beloved it is important that we look deeper into the word that is the man Jesus and discern the truth and spirit of what he is still saying to us.  A casual listen to any empaneled talk/news program or a perusal of any on-line story with comments enabled, even Facebook, will prove that everyone has an opinion and not all opinions are rooted in facts.  Often we are predisposed to a position without looking into the particulars of any given subject.  Even within and perhaps especially including religion, controversy rages.  Is baptism necessary?  Should women hold leadership positions?  What is the "churchs'" position on homosexuality?  What about divorce and remarriage?  To be sure, there are answers to these questions, but if they do not fit our preconceived notions and heartfelt position, cases are made to support them and whole religious movements are built around them.

Each of us will one day stand in judgment for the things we have done, lived and believed.  The word of the Lord will be the standard and Almighty God will be the judge.  It is critical that each of us develop our own understanding of who Jesus is and what he had to say.  Marriage to our earthly based opinions can be fatal.  A heavenly perspective can extend life forever.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When You Are Down, Look Up 3/26/2013

"For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." Psa 30:5

David was a man of vast experience with God.  He is well known as one who was "after God's own heart."  Also well known are both his triumphs and his utter failures, yet he maintained his vast love for the Father and never ceased trying to please Him and live according to His will.

There were times that David endured the depths of despair.  There were times when he was literally punished by God, but the love between them never ceased.  David realized that among the most temporary things in life were God's anger with him and the commensurate suffering he endured.  Vastly more prevalent was the grace and mercy given and the resultant joy experienced.

Beloved, we all have times in life when we are down.  Sometimes it is because we have brought it upon ourselves.  Other times it is due to happenstance.  Regardless of the causality, we must remember that we are God's own and that He will never leave us or forsake us.  If we be chastised know this: "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" Heb 12:11.  If it be happenstance or even persecution know this: "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Each life is filled with things that are good and things that are not so good.  It is part of the human existence.  The Christian, however, has hope in the One who made all.  When you are down, look up.



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Working Through Opposition 3/13/2013

"Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews.  He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?" Neh 4:1-3

Nehemiah took it upon himself to come to the aid of both the cause of God among the people of God as well as the people themselves.  The city, walls and people were in dramatic disarray and Nehemiah set about the task of rebuilding each.

Inevitably, there are those who do not want to see God's good accomplished and will take steps to foil it.  Sanballat was such a man.  He was the man in charge in the area and profited from the sorry condition of the city and the people.  When Nehemiah began to rebuild, he came out against the effort.

Beloved, we should not be surprised when there are those who would stand in the way when we try to do good.  Whether for their own gain or as agents for the Enemy (or both), there has always been an effort to foil the overall plan of God.  Those efforts ultimately never succeed.  Let us not be put of from doing what God would have us to do out of fear, intimidation or wearying under the weight of opposition.  We can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us.



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No Christian Left Behind 3/12/13

"Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.  Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.  For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.'"  Rom 15:1-3

One of the things for which the Bush Administration was famous was the concept of "No Child Left Behind."  Though the execution and results were questionable, the doctrine was sound.  The idea is not unlike the teaching of Paul from which it must have been inspired.  We have been taught that no Christian is to be left behind.

Paul was addressing a church that consisted of both Jews and Gentiles who were trying to come together.  His admonition to all was that we are brothers and sisters with a common Father and that we are to take care of one another.  Though there are differences between us in heritage and habit (evidently considered weakness by some), it is critical that we band together to build one another up so that no one is left behind.

Beloved, the need for this teaching and its associated action is more relevant today than ever.  There are so many that are falling away from the Lord.  Distractions and deviations seem to multiply daily and once faithful believers are being recaptured by the enemy.  This ought not be so.  As any of us would protect and nurture the young ones in our blood families, we should all the more hold on tightly to those who are weaker in the faith.  Imagine what it would be like to be at the judgment as depicted in Matthew 25 and look over and see someone who used to sit next to you in worship in line with those who did not visit, feed, clothe, etc. and are headed for everlasting destruction.  We have a responsibility to one another.  This is modeled by Christ who stands between us and Satan's accusations.

Let us do all we can to ensure that not only no Christian, but no individual is left behind.



Monday, March 11, 2013

Don't Major in Minor 3/11/2013

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." Rom 14:19

Unfortunately, it is human nature to be critical of one another.  When we see the way someone is dressed, how they do a certain thing or how they interact with others, our minds often go to the way we would do it as opposed to what we are witnessing.  Further, we can become judgmental of individuals who do not do as we would do.  This can lead to discord, damaged relationships and dis-fellowship.

As Jews and Gentiles began to come together in Christianity, there were numerous differences between them.  Gentiles, for instance, had no problem eating all sorts of meat without regard to its origin or previous use in sacrificial ceremonies.  Jews, on the other hand, avoided meat in an effort to remain ceremonially clean as thousands of years of heritage taught them.  Paul made the case that God had long since given his permission to eat all kinds of food, but that those who knew this should not be critical of those who held on to their heritage and in so doing, served God in their way.

For this reason beloved, we must do all we can to seek peace and unity in our common faith.  In some worship services it is common to wear suits, ties, dresses and hats, while in others, it is "come as you are."  Some have the service arrayed in one order while others another.  Some have praise teams while others have a single song leader.  As long as we are adhering to the apostle's doctrine (the essentials of the Christian faith) and accomplishing God's good, we should be more tolerant of minor differences and not divide over "disputable matters."  Even Jesus was criticized for being a friend of winebibbers, prostitutes and tax collectors.  His goal was to seek and save the lost.  This should also be our goal and there is more than one way to reach it.  Let us seek to build one another up for the Christian task and avoid tearing each other down to the delight of the Enemy.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Source of True Nourishment 3/6/2013 (rp)


Contextually, Satan is appealing to Jesus' human need for food after a 40 day fast in the wilderness. His effort was an attempt to get Jesus to sin. One of the three main ways we are tempted is the lust of the flesh (the other two are the lust of the eye and the pride of life according to 1 John 3:16). How many of us submit ourselves to sin because of the things that our flesh craves?

Jesus lifts the conversation by indicating that there are more important things in life than the satisfying of what the body needs. We are not just physical beings but spiritual beings also. Long after our current bodies have gone the way of decay, our spirits (which will be housed in glorified bodies) will continue on into eternity. The best way to determine how that eternity will be spent (and whether we get the glorified body) is found in our attendance to the word of God.

Beloved, so often we allow our attention to be distracted by things that have questionable benefit. We suffer from a type of spiritual ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). We need not be concerned about the needs of the body. The Lord has said, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you" Matt 6:33. The psalmist likewise said, "I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread" Psa 37:25. God knows exactly what we need and He does provide. Ours is to focus on His word wherein true nourishment is derived.



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Patient Living 3/5/2013

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,"  Titus 2:11-13

There was once a specific incident that occurred while preparing to go to worship when I was a kid.  Mom made sure my sister and I were bathed, fed, dressed and combed.  The instruction was as it always was: "Now sit there and wait for your father and I to get dressed, and whatever you do, don't get dirty."  Back in those days, people wore their Sunday best and they made sure that their children grew up knowing that it was important to be your best and present your best before the Lord.

On this occasion, I was a bit restless.  I had a new toy truck I wanted to play with and besides, it always took mom and dad forever to get ready.  I grabbed the truck and headed for the door.  My sister said, "Boy you heard what Mom said!  You better not go out there 'cause you're gonna get dirty and then you're gonna get it." "Shut up," I replied and went my way.  You can just about guess what happened.  I went out there as carefully as I could but came back in with dirt on the knees of my suit pants. Suffice it to say that Mom was not happy, punishment ensued and I was not at my best for the Lord.

Beloved, God has given us all we need to have the desire and motivation to lead righteous lives.  We have been equipped with knowledge, instruction and wisdom.  We have been given a choice as to whether to obey or not.  And we have been given promises and assurances backed up by every day provision and answered prayers that if we would just wait on the Lord, the rewards would be everlasting.  Let us not be like those who become restless and impatient.  Let us not be disobedient and rebellious toward our heavenly Father.  He will do what He said He would.  We must be loving enough to obey and faithful enough to look forward with great anticipation to His deliverance.



Monday, March 4, 2013

The Source of All Things 3/4/2013

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you."  Psa 32:8

Among man's greatest philosophical pursuits are the purpose and meaning of life.  Countless books have been written and an even greater number of opinions have been rendered about these subject yet there has never been a consensus.  It seems to have never occurred to many that the Creator of life should be consulted.

Beloved, God has always desired a close relationship with we who are the pinnacle of His creation.  This can be seen in the fact that He created us with His own hands and made us alive by His own breath.  It was God who walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the Garden.  And it was there that He began to educate all of humanity regarding the meaning and purpose of life.  Unfortunately, there was another voice.  It's introduction and communication have had ramifications that are still seen and felt today.  It is the voice of dissension, opposition, confusion and rebellion.

Let us turn to the Creator.  Let us return to the original manufacturer.  It is only there that we can truly know for what we were created.  It is only there that we can know what we were designed to do and what kind of life we were made to have.  It is only with and from God that we can truly understand what love and relationships are supposed to be.  He has made His great wisdom and knowledge available to all who would request it.  Therein are found answers to all of our questions.