Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stepping on Toes

It continues to amaze me at the way the Word of God, written ages ago, is relevant to my generation.  After all the years that have passed, every lesson God taught the earlier generations, are lessons we need, too.

Today's scripture text is a prime example.  The words come from the mouth of Ezekiel, and they come in one short verse.  "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”   Ezekiel 16:49

Those who were inspired by God to pen the scriptures, had a way of getting a message across to us, seemingly without regard to "stepping on toes."  The truth of their message was delivered  in a straight forward way and the importance of the message can be understood when we know these are the words from God who spoke through the prophets.

Look at their problem.  Ezekiel said it was the same problem of the people of Sodom.  Look again at the things Ezekiel used to describe them:

1.  Arrogance -- Don't we need to know today there is no place for arrogance when we stand before God?  If the sins of our lives have been forgiven because of the blood of Jesus, through the love and grace of God, where is there any room for arrogance?  We are delivered, not because we were strong enough, rich enough, smart enough, or important enough to make it happen.  It happened because God loves us even though we are sinners.

2.  Overfed -- While we are a people who love to eat, and sometimes to excess, look beyond just the eating part and understand this could also include any and all of our over indulgences.  Note also how the progressive nature of our list is growing.  Arrogance was the beginning point, then it grew into indulgences, and it keeps on growing.

3.  Lack of Concern -- Apparently Ezekiel was surrounded by a majority of people who simply did not care about others.  They were an unconcerned people.   Often, our words profess that we care, but our lack of concern shows through our facade when we do little or nothing help those who suffer, those who struggle, or those who have nowhere to turn.  

4.  They did not help the poor and needy --  We as a church are to be concerned with the needs of others. True, our message is the truth of the gospel, and we believe it, practice it, cling to it, and try to make it the core of our existence.  But what we say we believe and live by, loses its believability when we do not accompany it with whatever help we can provide.  Didn't Jesus spend most of his earthly ministry in the company of the poor and needy?  Additionally, it is good for the church to recognize the needs of others and assist when they can, but this message is much more personally applied.  Ask yourself, "What am I doing to help those who do not have enough food?  Those who are homeless?  Those who are sick?"  Think of someone you can help in some way, today.  Not only will you be a blessing to others, but you will be blessed, too.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mapping out the race....

The writer of Hebrews is nearing the end of his letter. He has covered some important issues in what he has written, some perhaps more difficult to understand and apply without some intense study.  However, one thing stands out above the rest and that is the supremacy of Jesus the Christ. 

Further, the Bible's best definition of faith comes from this letter.  Hebrews 11 begins, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  The rest of the chapter speaks of Biblical characters whose lives were testimonies of the working of faith in them.  

Some of the most powerful words of encouragement come to us in Hebrews.  Hebrews 12:1-2, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The final chapter, 13, is one that is filled with exhortation of doing right things. A reading of the entire 13th chapter is recommended as we see issues covered ranging from loving one another, to offering a sacrifice of praise to God.  Also issues from marriage to supporting our leaders. 

I want you to see how the Hebrew writer intends for you to appreciate and remember Jesus.  Read closely, as he is closing out the letter.  Hebrews 13:20-21 "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

He really is a God of peace.

He really did bring Jesus back from the dead.

Jesus really is the great Shepherd of the sheep.

He really does equip us with every good thing to do his will. 

He really does work within us the things that are pleasing to him. 

To Him be glory for ever and ever. 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Holy Huddle

The Great Commission, given by Jesus, is the command for Christians to spread the gospel to all people of all nations in our world.  Some will recognize the seriousness of Jesus' words, and begin the task with prayer and enthusiasm.  Others will not accept those same words of Jesus as their personal responsibility. 

At church, we were given a simple wrist bracelet that reminds each of us that "We are the body of Christ called to be Jesus in every neighborhood in our city and beyond."  It's a little reminder that goes with us to motivate us in a mission that is not limited to the four walls of a church building on a given street corner in the town where we live.  Our mission, Bible ordained by the Son of God himself, is to reach the world with the saving grace of God.

It probably goes without saying, that's a big job.  Perhaps the magnitude of the responsibility causes some to shy away or disregard the command completely. Others may pass the responsibility on to the "hired help," thinking the church has people hired to fulfill that job.  Then there may be some who dwell on the words of the Great Commission and actually take Jesus' command seriously, involving themselves in  a lifestyle of sharing Bible truth, Christian values, and even personal testimonies with everyone they meet.

One of the preachers used a phrase this past Sunday I hadn't heard or thought of in a long time.  He was describing some of the priorities of our church in teaching the lost, and referred to those who do not see the mission of the church being involved in the Great Commission.  The indication was those are the folks who are in "The Holy Huddle."   Perhaps football season is about over for this year, but picture your team, playing on offense, and making plans and strategies for their next move.  Usually someone on the sidelines will signal a play toward the huddle and the quarterback will tell the team in the huddle which play has been called.  That's a secret to the opposing defense and they are left with a guessing game as to the manner they will defend against the offensive play.

Are we like that when we are negligent in aligning ourselves to be people set on serving Jesus.  Do we who are  safely in the church and on our way to the promised land, huddle ourselves inside our churches, and keep the lost, the weak, the needy, the homeless, and those who do not fit the mold of what a church member should be, on the outside?   Are we in our "holy huddle," keeping the message of salvation a secret to those who really need him?

You may be the one God is calling on to lead a missionary effort in another country.  Maybe you have been put where you are, to reach the family living across the street from your house.  Perhaps you have the job you have because God put you there to be a witness to other workers.   I don't know all the where's or when's, not even the why's.  I just know Jesus expects each of us to share the gospel message of his loving sacrifice, and that mission reaches into your home, your school, your office, and your life.

May our prayer always be, "Here am I, Lord......send me."


Monday, January 26, 2015

This Time

Colossians 4:5

"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time."  (KJV)

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity."  (NIV)

The same verse from two different translations, giving us the perspective from which Paul wrote on the way the Colossian Christians were using their time.   In speaking of redeeming the time, he was teaching them to make the most of every opportunity.

How about that subject matter, the subject of "time."  We live in a specific point in the picture of time when humans like you and me never seem to have enough time.   We have our digital watches, smart phones, microwave ovens, automatic this and that, all to give us more time.  All of the labor and time saving devices we use these days do a pretty good job of giving us more free time.  The problem lies in our lifestyle of trying to cram too much into the time we have.

We are all given the same amount of time in which we are to work, rest, play, learn, etc.  Yet some seem to have some time left over for leisure or "time on our hands."   So what about your use of time?

It's relatively easy for us to see why Paul would encourage making the most of time and opportunity when writing to the Colossians.  Apparently some of their time was devoted to celebrations and festivals, new moons, or sabbaths.   Paul considered these things a useless waste of time.  If he could see that as a problem in the Colossian church, is there a chance that we also have some time-wasting things going on in the church and in Christian lives today?   Consider these examples:

1.  When time isn't's wasted.  We've already noted that our generation is one that is obsessed with time-saving gadgets so now you are asked, what do you do with all that saved time?  You are living in the age that has the most wasted time, since time began.  It may be because of laziness, or non-productivity, or any number of things, but we have time given to us that we simply do not use.

2.  When time is's wasted .  How about you?  Do you ever realize after a specific time is passed, you could have done something more beneficial?  Maybe your time was not spent in sinful practices, but was rather spent in what has been described as a "profitless expenditure."  We certainly know what that means in regards to money, and it means the same thing in regard to time.  This does not mean we should never do anything fun, like leisure or recreation.  We need those things, too.

3.  When time is's wasted.   We all have busy seasons and times, and that's to be expected.  I'm referring to the one whose time is wasted when he becomes a workaholic.  Not that his work time is wasted, but his time with his family, his prayer time, his rest, even his values and priorities can be out of control.

Now we know why Paul told the Colossians and us, to redeem the time by making the most of every opportunity.   Seek the face of God in prayer, as you consider your use of time.


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Weekend of Love

This weekend, let's take a look at Bible verses dealing with love.  Read the list of scriptures and especially as they relate to you, your circumstances, your work, your hopes.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 3:16  For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Romans 8:37-39  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 3:1  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Each verse carries a special message, teaching us how much God loves us.  As you make your applications of these verses to your situations, you will catch a glimpse of how much God loves us individually and collectively.

Then spend some time in prayer, thanking God for his unending, unconditional love, which is a picture of how we are to love each other. 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Let's Grow Up

It is no sin to be a spiritual infant.  When we begin our new life in Jesus, we may be strong and tall and abounding in intelligence.  We may have lots of friends, we may break records in sports, we may even drive the nicest of cars.  But escaping spiritual infancy isn't going to happen any more than escaping physical infancy. 

Problems arise when we develop physically but remain infants spiritually.  Sadly, many of our churches are filled with people who have been in membership for years, yet still are in their infancy when it comes to spiritual development.
In the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesian  Christians, he addresses this issue.  His discourse uses a phrase we are familiar with..the phrase, "Grow Up."  It is easy for us to understand a child doing childish things, but when an adult does them, he is told to "Grow Up."  Likewise, when Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus, he felt the need to tell the Christians there, "It's time to grow up." 
Look at Ephesians 4:14-16
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

A quick inspection on our part will tell us where we are in our spiritual growth process. There are some revealing questions we must ask ourselves if we are going to be brave enough to see where we are and where we need to be.  Do you feel a closer relationship with God now, compared to the relationship you had with him when you first became a Christian?  Is Bible reading more important to you now than 10 years ago?  Do you sense the guidance of the Holy Spirit  in your life more and more as you open yourself to Him?

When we are honest in our answers, we all easily see there are needed improvements.  The encouragement I get from reading the above passage is that when we speak the truth in love and grow up in Jesus, we are well on our way to the spiritual development that pleases God.

Each of us, using our God-given talents, doing our respective work which God has chosen for us, following closely after Jesus, are going to more fully appreciate verse 16.  Read it one more time, in the form of a prayer for your spiritual growth.  

"Lord, as we grow into your likeness, may we as your body of believers, each with different talents and gifts, use them as supporting ligaments for the body and build up the church in love.  Amen"


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A bit of acceptance

We were having the usual staff luncheon that week.  I think there were seven of us present and we had all ordered iced tea.  Soon, our waiter came from the kitchen carrying a tray with our tea glasses, and started passing them around.  He was standing behind me when the tray tipped to one side and the only remaining glass on the tray turned over, emptying the full glass down the collar of my shirt.  I shook all over and could only think of the Gatorade bath being administered by a team to their winning coach.

Without all the details, I will just say the tea and ice cubes drenched my back, and when it was all over, I was sitting in a chair that had caught a lot of the liquid.  I felt like I was sitting in a kiddy pool.  I do was COLD!

Waiters seemed to come from all directions with towels.  The waiter for our table assured me I didn't have to pay for my lunch that day, and there were apologies from all the employees.  I told everyone it was okay, and I knew it was accidental, but one by one they kept coming by to make sure I was good.

We went ahead with lunch, even though I was not real comfortable in my wet clothes.  They all kept apologizing and I kept assuring them I was fine.  But that was not the end of this story.

A couple of weeks later, I returned to the same restaurant for lunch and was met quickly by the waiter who had attempted to baptize me.  His words caught me off guard as he said, "I am so glad to see you here.  I didn't think you would ever come back here for lunch."   His words prompted me to say again, "I know it was an accident and you are forgiven." 

When the drenching took place, I could have easily voiced displeasure toward the waiter, demanded to see the manager, or even stormed out of the restaurant in a rage.  It causes me to wonder how many times I have reacted negatively in such situations.  Could I have thrown my fit, rightly so, because I had been wronged?  

I know some of the verses which Jesus taught about forgiveness, and they carry some implications that we can actually measure our "forgiveness level."   Look at the verse that teaches, "If you do not forgive another his trespasses, then you will not be forgiven your trespasses."  Another implication from the forgiveness verses  is really to the point.  "Ask for forgiveness only in the measure you are willing to extend forgiveness."

The words of the waiter taught me something, too.  When he said he didn't think I would ever return to that restaurant, it let me know, more than forgiveness, a bit of acceptance can extend forgiveness more than words. 

I still run into people who were in the restaurant that day.  Most of them have stated I handled the situation better than they would.   I just smile and remind everyone that all of us are subject to making mistakes.  And everyone needs to understand how God longs to forgive our mistakes, and that's how we should be forgiving to those who wrong us.