Thursday, June 27, 2013

Are You Ready? 6/27/2013 (rp)

"Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." 1 Thess 5:1-2

I have a wonderful relationship with my earthly father.  This relationship was born out of love, nurturing, teaching, provision and discipline.  I have many fond memories of being raised in his household.  There was much laughter and joy and his vocation allowed my sister and I to see parts of the world of which many can only dream. I also remember the not-so-fun times when I had to answer for some of the mistakes I made. 
Through all of it, however, I learned what love is and that my dad had plenty of it for me and the rest of our small family.  Through it all I learned to love him with everything I am.  It was because of both love and discipline that I learned to follow his directions because I knew they were for my good.  When he said to have something done by the time he came back, it was not an option in my mind to do anything less.

Beloved we all have a great and loving heavenly Father.  He likewise provides love, nurturing, teaching, discipline and all that we need for life.  And while a point inevitably comes when our earthly fathers cease raising us, we are constantly being given encouragement, direction and resources to grow by our heavenly Father.  Where that which can be provided by our earthly fathers comes to an end, it gets infinitely and everlastingly better with our heavenly Father if we heed His direction for our lives.  For this reason, just as it did not occur to me to be unprepared for my earthly father's return, we should all likewise have the same attitude for the calling of the Lord.  He has given us much to do in his absence, but has told us, "if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" John 14:3.

Are you ready?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Proper Perspective 6/26/2013

"Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.  But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned; against Job his anger burned because he justified himself before God."  Job 32:1-2

The story of Job and all that happened to him at the hands of Satan is well rehearsed.  If you know anything at all about him, you know that God allowed the Enemy to afflict him and his family when it was stated that Job only served God because of the protections and blessings afforded him.  You also know that everything but his life was taken from him in the most horrendous and violent way.

At a particular point of discussion with his friends who came to mourn with him and support him (and later berate and blame him), he began to outline all of the many reasons (in his mind) that none of those things should have happened to him.  You are encouraged to look at all of chapter 32 to get the scope of all he had to say about his own righteousness.  His diatribe of challenges to his listeners to tell him of a time that he has not been and done good reaches a crescendo when he says, "Oh, that I had someone to hear me!  I sign now my defense-let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing" Job 32:35.

Beloved, it can be an easy thing to become caught up in our own righteousness, particularly in the face of calamity.  We somehow feel that because we do our best to do good, we should somehow be spared all discomfort.  This is reflected in the classic question, "why do bad things happen to good people."  There is certainly some heavy theological lifting when it comes to any answer that may be offered to such a question but one simple perspective is that when compared to God, we have no righteousness at all.  The word of God tells us, "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins,"  Ecc 7:20.

Job seemed to have forgotten  that he was the recipient of vast blessings from the Almighty and that they are His to both give and take away.  He seemed to have forgotten that relatively speaking, his acts of righteousness are to the Lord, filthy rags.  He seemed to have forgotten that he, if for no other reason than the sin of pride he was even then displaying, deserved nothing but death.  Today, we would all be well served to have a better memory and understanding than Job did at that moment.  It was easy for him to defend himself against his friends, but he would soon hear directly from God about the matter and it was not a conversation he wanted to have.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Revelation 6/24/2013

"The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.'   Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He.'”  John 4:25-26

Picture Jesus, the very son of God, even God in the flesh (Phi 2:5-7).  Picture him venturing to a land that his people, the Jews, avoided.  Picture him engaging a woman whose heritage and personal life are of ill repute in a conversation.  Picture this conversation being about all that is available to her through a relationship with him.

Beloved, many of us saved and sanctified Christians would not bother ourselves to share the good news of God's love with anyone who does not walk up to us and specifically ask, let alone go to an inner city area, a GLBT enclave, a homeless shelter or even across the street to do so.  Yet the Savior we love, follow and emulate did just that in instance after instance.  How is it that we can claim to be his disciples and do any less?  How can we pick up our cross daily and some how leave this very important aspect out?

Jesus thought enough of a Samaritan woman at a well to find her and share with her.  More to the point, he cared enough about us, to leave heaven, seeking to save the lost, to give his life for us.  He did so without discriminating race, color, gender, religion, class, occupation, disability or national origin.  How truly blessed we are that he was willing to meet us where and how we are to share his amazing love.

And if that were not enough, he personally revealed himself to this lowly and lost individual.  Imagine what it would be like for God to come to your door, job or favorite restaurant, strike up a conversation with you and then reveal that He is the creator of the universe and that He desires a close relationship with you.  This is exactly what He did with the woman at the well and with you and with me.  Let us then be about the business of allowing Him to reveal Himself to others through us.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Called to Be Different 6/11/2013 (rp)

"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Eph 4:1-3

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus from prison, encourages them (and us) regarding the way we should live our lives. As Christians, there are different expectations of us then those who are not. To be sure, God desires that all people would be saved and therefore come into compliance with His will, however, it is not realistic to expect someone to follow a manner of life in which they do not believe. This makes it that much more important that those who do believe do just that.

Paul models the very behavior he calls for despite his incarceration. Even under the worst conditions, he gives God all of the glory. While he is confined, he is unashamed. And from his cell, he prays not for himself, but for those who would be exposed to his words (the Ephesians were instructed to circulate the letter to other churches). He prays that they would be strengthened through the Spirit and that Christ would dwell in their hearts in order that they might fully understand what they truly have in him.

Beloved, the words and actions of a prisoner would not be given much credence today, however the Holy Spirit moved this man to write these very things from God. The words implore us from across the centuries to be who we have been called to be. In so doing, we glorify God. In so doing, we will come to the realization that He can do immeasurably more that all we could ask or imagine and that we can be filled to the measure of all of His fullness. Lastly, by doing so, we can be an example to all of those who do not believe. Perhaps there will be one who will look at you and ask about your faith.



Monday, June 10, 2013

Are Your Children Safe? 6/10/2013

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  Eph 6:4

As a product of a military family, I had the privilege of growing up in many different parts of the world.  One of the places that stands out is Germany.  Of course there are many reasons why this was a memorable experience but one of them was that there was one American channel, which only broadcast in black and white, and every night at 10 PM, just before broadcasting concluded for the day, a message came across that said, "It's 10 o'clock.  Do you know where your children are?"

Beloved, just as those were the last hours of the day, these are the last days of the age.  And just as an inquiry was being made about the safety of the children, today, we must ask the same question.  Naturally we are concerned about our children's physical and emotional well being, but do we know where our children are spiritually?  The reality is that by the grace of God, they will one day become adults.  As we teach them everything else, from walking to speaking to reading and running, we must ensure that a relationship with God is just as important if not more than everything else we stress.  As we are held accountable by God for our behavior and belief, so to will they be.  It is therefore critical that we prepare them.

Some may be unsure how to go about giving the kids spiritual training.  The answer is that it is accomplished the same way we teach them everything else.  They must be able to observe it in us, receive direct instruction from us and that it be a part of their every day lives.  Better put, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" Deut 6:6-9.  As much as we might be satisfied with taking the kids to worship with us and letting the bible school teachers provide their training, we must understand that the responsibility belongs to the parents and that the church is merely a help.  So much more is accomplished in the day to day at home than in an hour on Sunday.

Finally, it is important to start early.  As children age, the influences from outside the home will grow to equal and perhaps surpass the influences at home.  A firm foundation can help guard against those things that are counter to the will of God.  This foundation can only be established by parents.  It's 10 o'clock.  Know where your children are because of where you have placed them and because you are there with them.



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Don't Judge Me 6/6/2013

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7:24

It is kind of a running joke in my family that when someone makes a goofy mistake, there comes a loud and defensive, albeit joking, "Don't judge me!" by the perpetrator.  The reply, invented by the youngest of the kids is, "It's too late.  You've already been judged."

In Christianity, we advocate the avoidance of judging others and cite scriptures like Matt 7:1-2 but then we do it anyway.  Jesus addressed this contradiction by referencing the fact that there were those who wanted to kill him for miraculously healing someone on the Sabbath, a day on which no work was to be done.  He pointed out that they circumcised babies on the Sabbath when the 8th day after birth fell on that day in order to keep the law but they wanted to destroy him for obeying God's ultimate law of love.

Beloved, it is not that we should not judge, but how we judge, be it favorably or unfavorably.  When Jesus said, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged" in Matt 7:21, he was cautioning against having an attitude that results in unjustly looking upon  the character of another and making rash and unloving judgments about them.  To be sure, we must take a stand for righteousness and be able to correct our brothers and sisters when it is needed (Prov 27:6, Gal 6:1-2); however, we must consider the spirit in which this is done.  Do we jump to uninformed and mean spirited conclusions based on what we see on the surface, or worse, what we have heard from others or do we apply love to the situation and treat others as we would want to be treated?

When Jesus healed despite the Sabbath, the rules of which had been extended far beyond what God stipulated by man, he did so out of love for someone who was hurting.  His adversaries were upset and accused him of having a demon, being a blasphemer and many other things.  This was done out of hatred, using the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law to persecute him.  Worse, it was the law that they set aside or reinterpreted when it was convenient to do so, often for much less noble reasons.  Everything about this type of judgmental behavior is to be avoided.  Jesus has said that when we do that to others, the same will be done to us.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Just Say "No" 6/5/2013

"Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."  James 4:7

It is well known that the Adversary means us no good.  We are encouraged in Paul's letter to the Ephesians to "put on the full armor of God" in order that we might resist the fiery arrows with which he is actively attacking us.  Despite this metaphor, he is not nearly so overt.  The attacks of Satan come quietly and often times attractively..  He appeals to things that are already desirous to us be it because of how it looks, how it can bring us physical pleasure or feed our ego.  Once we give in, the attack has been successful.  And once he has been successful, the target that we are becomes easier and easier to hit.

Beloved, there is no reason that we should make it easy for Satan to destroy us, particularly since there is a refuge available in God.  Not only does God equip us with armor but He also limits the attack and provides a retreat if we need it.  Scripture reveals, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" 1 Cor 10:13. 

The greatest threat then, is not Satan, nor is it his powerful ability to tempt.  The greatest threats are the choices we make.  We have to choose to put on the armor.  We have to choose to take the escape.  We have to choose to not give in to that which looks, tastes and feels good to us when it stands in opposition to godliness.  And just as the Adversary is embolden by the success of getting us to submit to his attack, the word of God tells us that he is discouraged when he is unsuccessful.  Would you like to deal with less temptation in your life?  When it comes, just say "no" to it and you will find that it will pop up less and less until it stops all together.  When the armor is on and the darts do not work, he will look for an easier target.



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Hope in Calamity 6/4/2013

"For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Jer 29:11-13

Jeremiah was led by God to write a letter of encouragement to those who found themselves ripped from their homeland and taken into captivity by a foreign king.  It was not enough that the people were in shock and mourning for their homes, their nation and their relationship with God, but there were false prophets who were adding to the doom and gloom.  It is true that the people were being punished for their rebellion but even under these difficult circumstances, the love of God shines through.

Beloved, there are many times that we feel as though we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  Be it health related, relational, financial, sufferings from natural disasters or even suffering the consequences from our own errors or sins, but God never forsakes us.  We do not always know why we must endure certain uncomfortable situations (and sometimes we know exactly why) but faith requires that we know that God is ever with us even when it may seem that He is not.  I remember being terrified of going to the doctor because I did not want to get a shot.  But I remember my parents being with me and promising ice cream when we were done.  I also remember getting into trouble and being punished, but again, my folks were always there loving me and protecting me from real harm and when it was over it was over.

None of us were ever promised a challenge free life.  What we are promised, however, is that our loving Father is ever with us and that though weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning.  Let us remain faithful to Him who is faithful to us.



Monday, June 3, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough 6/3/2013 (rp)

"Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God." 1 Sam 30:6

Though a powerful fighter and commander, the as yet uncrowned David was a troubled and conflicted person. As is the case with many leaders, godly or otherwise, when things go wrong the blame lands squarely on the shoulders of the person in charge. David and his mighty men left their wives, children and possessions in what they thought was a safe place while they went off to fight. They returned to find that an enemy had raided their base, stolen their possessions and kidnapped their wives and children. David himself had two wives captured.

Beloved, we all know what it is like to go through bad times. Any number of things can send us into despair. Suppose a critical and costly error is made on the job. Imagine an at fault car accident that causes someone to become badly hurt. Consider the occurrence of a situation that jeopardizes your ability to provide for your family. These and many other things can cause even the strongest person to fall apart. The loneliness in such a situation is profound. David, however, is an example of what to do in situations like these. We must remember who we are and whose we are. God has never failed us. All any of us has to do is look back across our lives to see that He has delivered us EVERY time. In fact, our ability to look back is proof in and of itself.

There may not always be a person or persons around to console and comfort us. There may not be those with whom you can consult in a time of trouble. It may be that everyone is not only looking to you to resolve a situation but they may very well array themselves against you for lack of a better target for their anger and pain. It is at times like these that we must encourage ourselves. It is at times like these that we must tap into the presence of God within us and remember. Having done that, as David did, we must take it to God and then move according to His will. Not only did David (and his people) ultimately prevail, they exceeded their previous position and possessions and had enough to share with the elders of Judah who were their friends.