Friday, December 31, 2010
Galatians 4:4-7 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
This is the last day of 2010 and these verses are very apropos to the occasion because many people view the end of one year and the beginning of another to try and change their lives for the better. People make all sorts of 'resolutions' but by and large people see something wrong in their life or perhaps some place where they are falling short and quite naturally, they want to better themselves. Sometimes this process does not go as intended.
Paul previously has chastised the Galatians for trying to better themselves because the result of what they achieved fell far short of what they already had. It seems that we all can learn from this and these verse explain how if we listen to them with God's ears.
What is interesting about these verses that Paul has written here is that they are totally what we need to hear when we start making all these resolutions for improvement. "...when the set time had fully come..." How many times do we want to rush things? I remember seeing a calendar one time. You know the kind. It was one with animals on it in funny poses and there was a funny caption to each one. One of the months show an baby orangutan who was look upward and shaking his fist. It was a funny pose. The caption said, "Lord, I want patience and I wand it NOW!" Funny right? But isn't this what we do sometimes too? We see a fault in ourselves and we look to God shaking our fist and say, "Lord I want (fill_in_the_blank) and I want it NOW!".
When God the Father sent Jesus to earth to fullish His ministry, it was exactly the right time. Not too soon and not too late. It was perfect. The results speak for themselves. Jesus died on the cross and thus fulfilled prophecy and presented himself a spotless substitute for our own deaths and sins. We have salvation full and free. Paul said because of this, "...you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. "
What I am trying to say is that sometimes we have to wait until God himself helps us with our goals and aspirations. No matter what we do or want, if it isn't in God's timing, it will not be right. So this year, if you happen to make those lists (I do not), but if you do, why not bring the Lord into it and pray about it first. After all, God has pretty good timing, doesn't He? And he wants the best for us, right? So why not let go and let God? I think your results will be spectacular! Try it and see. What have you to lose?
Blessings ALL! and have a Happy and Blessed New Year!
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Galatians 3: 26-29 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul has just got through explaining to the Galatians that they were foolish for going back to things of the Law such as circumcision because if you did, he said, you needed to keep the whole Law and not just one part. He goes on to state that if they did so, then faith would not be of any benefit to them. This sets up a tension on the need for the Law at all. Paul explains that the Law was necessary in order to shut up sin. The Law was our guardian until grace appeared but once grace has come through faith we are released from the guardianship of the Law.
Then Paul gives us the beautiful pericope. Let us look at this in more detail.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There are people today who believe that we are all children of God because we are all human beings and humans were made by God therefore we are all His children. While it is true we were all made by God and all of us bear the image of God, albeit deformed and mangled because of sin and its effects, it certainly is not true, Biblically speaking, that we are all Children of God. This phrase is reserved only for people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and who have been born again. For example, when Jesus' disciples asked him how to pray, Jesus famously told them in Matthew 6:8-10 "Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven'... ." People also like to call God their 'Father', but that word is reserved only for believers as the Lord's Prayer clearly states. Do not be fooled. It is a hard thing, but there is a great difference between true believers and their relationship with God and between unbelieving humanity and their relationship with God. The relationship will be even more distinct during the end of days. True children of God are distinguished through their faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul points out.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Once we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are equals. The Jew is equal to the Gentile...the slave is equal to the free person...the pastor is equal to the laity. There is no difference in God's eyes once we become His children. The Cross is the Great Equalizer. And praise the Lord for this! But wait...because we are all equal we must realize that this goes both ways now. No longer can we point to someone and say, 'They should have been doing this or that..'. Now it is all our responsibility too to do "This or That". Certainly we all have different gifts, but those to not exempt us from doing the things of the Kingdom. We must all bear witness to Jesus in our lives to other people. We must all defend the faith. We must all love one another. No, there is not exemption here. No easy way out. We must all pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus.
If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Oh the promises of God! All the promises made to Abraham's seed are for everyone who is born again through Jesus Christ. Why? Because we are adopted into the family! And what a glorious family we have!
Are you part of this family? Will you enjoy all the benefits of being a child of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings? If you are not, why not? Well I am, and would certainly love to call you brother or sister!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This is one of my favorite verses in Galatians. In it Paul gives the reason for his existence and why he is so zealous for the Lord. Let's look at it piece by piece.
1. I have been crucified with Christ...
Just like the thief on the cross next to Jesus, Paul states that he has been crucified with Christ. His flesh is dead; the old man is dead. Long live the new man. Why was Paul crucified to begin with? Being an adherent to the Law of Moses doomed him. When he realized the true reason for the Law, this set in motion a series of realizations which concluded with his condemnation. You see, no matter how pure Paul was, it wasn't enough. No matter how much he followed the Law, it wasn't enough. There was no way for Paul to achieve absolute righteousness that the Lord required. But the good news? Christ was crucified for our sins!
2. ...and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
A great truth made even greater by the fact that Christ died for us and we must also die. Jesus said in John 12:24 "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Jesus died on the cross. Paul died to sin and shame. He was born again of the Spirit of God and new life breathed into his sinful bones. Literally, Christ living in us is what sustains our lives as Spiritual Beings. I've heard it said we are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human journey. In order for us to be the kind of spiritual beings that the Lord wants us to be, we MUST...again I say, MUST have the Spirit of the Lord living in us. We can only do that if we die and are born again from the Spirit. There is no other way according to God's Word...and that comes by means of and through Jesus, and Jesus alone. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
3. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." John 15:13 What can be our response to such a love? What should be our response? Paul stated that he no longer lives his former life, a new life has been granted by virtue of the Holy Spirit. The life that he now has in the Spirit is sustained and made possible by faith in Jesus. Since Jesus loved him and gave himself on the cross for Him, his life belongs to Him and he gladly uses it for His glory.
My friend, what about you? Have you been crucified with Christ? Are you sustained by the Holy Spirit of God? Please, please, please...if you have not made a decision on following the Lord Jesus, make one today. Don't wait for tomorrow or next week: 2 Corinthians 6:2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Make Jesus yours today!
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.Paul was under attack. Not only from complete non-believers, but especially, from people who claimed to be Christian. These people, known as the 'Judiazers' were telling the church of Galatia that Paul's Gospel was incomplete. Something was lacking in what he was preaching.
The real thing that they thought was lacking was that Paul's preaching did not include being Jewish and following the Jewish ceremonial food laws and other Jewish ceremonial laws such as circumcision. In other words, the Judiaizers were teaching a different Gospel from what Paul was teaching and were saying that because Jesus was Jewish, then to be a true Christian, you needed to be Jewish first and then you could become a true Christian.
Paul preached a Gospel of grace and grace alone to be saved. As he stated in his letter to the Ephesians 2:8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." There was no mention of being Jewish first.
Paul goes on in the 1st chapter to tell the Galatians about his former life as a Jewish Leader and how he first persecuted the church and tried to destroy it. Later when he was traveling to Damascus, Jesus himself appeared to him to reveal the true Gospel message and from that point forward, Paul was a changed man; Living for Jesus whom he preached to all the gentiles.
How about us today? Are we changing the Gospel message from that which we first received? Are we preaching "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast."? Do we add to the Gospel message?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we are faithful. We pray that you will keep us humble and true to your Word because your WORD is truth; Your WORD is LIFE. To add to that or subtract away from that is pure folly. Help us all to remember the Gospel message and live it out in Spirit and truth in such a way that when people see or hear us, the see and hear Jesus himself.
In Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen.
Monday, December 27, 2010
1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
In almost every letter that the Apostle Paul wrote, he set out to establish himself as a true Apostle. Make no mistake, it was important for him to reiterate this fact at every opportunity because there were those who were working against him and his ministry by saying he was just a charlatan, an impostor, who went out on his own and did not have the Lord's blessings as the original Apostles did.
As you may recall Paul, who was originally known as Saul, began as an enemy of the Church and went around arresting and even putting to death Christians who were preaching the Gospel. For more background on this, read Acts 7, 8 and 9.
However, Paul never stopped with just establishing his Apostleship among the brethren. He also went on to give them a blessing and to restate the Gospel message which he was spreading among the gentiles. This also is quite common for the letters that Paul wrote to other churches as well. Let's look at each of the phrases that make this up in Paul's letter to the Galatians.
Galatians 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Grace and peace. Who's grace and peace? God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Paul was not talking about his grace and peace. It would have been polite, but secular. Paul goes one step further in establishing his own relationship with the Lord. As his Apostle, is was within his power to grant the grace and peace that comes directly from the one who sent him. Apostle, means literally, the one who is sent, or the sent out one.
Do Christians today have the right to extend grace and peace to people? Absolutely! In fact, we are almost mandated to do that if we preach the Gospel or if we present the Gospel message to someone and ask them to follow Jesus, aren't we? How in the world can you ask someone to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior if you do not offer them the Lord's grace and peace? That is what Jesus did for us! We must do it for others as well.
Paul goes on to explain in the next 2 verses his rationale for offering this Grace and Peace.
Galatians 1: 4-5 ...who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Grace and Peace offered to us because of what the Lord himself has done, not by our will, but by the will of God the Father. And indeed to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen!
Saturday, December 25, 2010
We had an awesome Christmas eve service at Church last night! http://bethelprinceton.com/
This morning I woke up at 3:00 AM. For me, that's a little late, but I was excited about Christmas and particularly, excited for my grandchildren. I get to see them later today when we bring the Christmas meal over to my son's place. There we will open presents, have a meal and have fun. I will be trying to impress on my 6 grandchildren that the reason we are celebrating, is because this is Jesus' Birthday. If it were not for Jesus, not one of these children would be here today. I can state that with absolute certainty of fact.
If it were not for Jesus, I may not even be here today. Jesus was the one, who, when he came into my life when I was 27 years old, changed me and brought about such a quantum change in my behavior, that I am convinced, that with out His loving kindness, I would have self-destructed. I am not alone. I know many people who have had the same experience.
So apart from all the eating, celebrating, gift-giving and craziness of this world today, think on this: Jesus came into this world cradled in his mother's arms, but he left on a Cross. He came into this world in darkness but He left this world with light. He came into this world unknown but He left this world to be known by many. He came into this world without friends and left this world alone, vowing to come back to His friends. Amen! Come Lord Jesus!
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There's just something about that name. Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there's just something about that name!
Friday, December 10, 2010
You may be aware that I have been feeling under the weather the past few days. Nothing serious, just a bad cold that consists of common symptoms like a stuffy-head, sniffles, coughing and body aches. Bah humbug! I'm a man and men don't let these things stop them. My Dad would have made me run in the snow without a shirt or jacket and then would have sent me out in the woods to find my breakfast. He was TOUGH. Ex-Marine. Just their nickname, Leathernecks, brings to mind people who are beyond human.
However when you are like me, that couldn't be further from the truth. I'm a baby, at least when comparing myself to the former generation who went through the Great Depression and WW II. No comparison. But one thing my Mom used to do for me when I was young and sick with a cold like this, was to make me her "Special Poached Eggs". These were not your regular poached eggs...oh no! They were poached in whole milk in an old cast-iron pan on an old gas fired range, then set on a bed of toast...burned toast. And not just slightly burned..Oh no. Burned to a crisp...catch on fire burned...smoke filled kitchen burned...totally black.
Mom used to make burned toast for me every breakfast. She used to say that it was special toast. It would make my hair curly and black just like my Uncle Dave's hair. I really liked that idea. I had dishwater blond hair...straight as a board and greasy. Curly back hair would have been wonderful. It never happened.
Years later my mother confessed the reason she made burned toast was because her toaster had always burned the toast, especially if she forgot it. This was before the new toasters where you could set it for the doneness you wanted. It never popped up on it's own. If you left it in a minute too long, it would actually set fire to the bread. Rather than throw the toast away, she made up the story about changing my hair. I believed it, eventually enjoyed it, and my Mom saved money and effort.
To this very day, burned toast gives me comfort and brings back warm and fuzzy feelings about my mother, who always came through when I was sick. Even now, when I get sick, I make myself some poached eggs...in milk and set on a bed of...burned toast. Not the same as Mom's, but still good.
How about you? What gives you comfort when things go wrong or you are sick? If there are certain things in this world, one of them is that it is not friendly and things will assuredly not go your way all the time. In the Biblical text there are many stories about this very thing. Read the story of Joseph when his own brothers took him and sold him into slavery. He never let it get him down. In fact, years later when he had rose to a prominent position in among the Egyptians, he never even held a grudge.
He stated in Genesis 50:19-21 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. "So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
You see Joseph did not allow the circumstances of this world interfere with his mission. His mission was to glorify the Lord in whatever he did...no matter the circumstances. In sickness or health, in good times or bad, it did not matter. What an example for us today. What an example for me when I feel sick and sorry for myself that the world is treating me wrong.
So again, I ask you, What is your burned toast?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I came across this interesting quote this morning.
Erich Fromm-- "If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?"
It brought to mind how we humans are so caught up in the world. I mean think of it.."I am what I have..." To many people this is the goal of life, to accumulate as much wealth and things as possible because after all, I am what I have and if I have more, then of course I am worth more and my status in the world grows proportionately. Bully!
But think about it a moment. This is exactly opposite of what Jesus taught, isn't it. Time and time again Jesus showed this thinking to be foolishness.
For the Christian, it is not what you have, but who you have, (and who has you!). It is not what you've accumulated, but what you have given away. It is not what you have stored up, but where you have stored it.
Indeed for the Christian, status in the world is already guaranteed. The Lord has said we all have status by virtue of us being children of God. We do not need to earn that. That is ours. As a Christian, we have the Seal of Redemption; The Holy Spirit of God living in us. The treasure we store, the most important treasure of all, our soul, we store in Heaven. As Jesus himself said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:19-20
Maybe I was wrong at the beginning, maybe we are what we have. But what we have as Christians is not something we earn. What we have is not something we can brag about. What we have may not give us much status in this world. But what we have is priceless and was bought with a the greatest price that was ever paid.
Meditate on this during this Christmas time. Be thankful for what the Lord has done. Above all, take care of your treasure. The birthday we celebrate during this time of year was a gift to us, beyond measure.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
My cousin, who has always been a little whacky, but in recent years even more so, sent me this story about the 12 days of Christmas. I knew the song, almost everyone does, but did you know this?
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol...so pass it on if you wish.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
"The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
"How true." I thought. "Where in the world have the years gone?" But the Lord, is full of grace, isn't He? "Surely the people are like grass...But the word of our God endures forever."
And a wonderful Word he has given us. In this world where you can not count on tomorrow, God's Word stands firm and eternal. His Word is His bond. He has promised that he will always be there..even to the end of the world. He was there in the beginning, he will be there in the end as well. Not only will He be with us, He will never leave us alone...ever. Once we have come to Him as little children, we are His. Period.
So even though our lives may be short, we can have this confidence. Not in our wisdom. Not in what we can accomplish or not accomplish. We have confidence in the Lord. None other.
This is the good news that He has brought us. Remember this during this CHRISTmas season and whenever your birthday assaults you.
Friday, November 26, 2010
You have to wonder what Paul meant by that when he wrote the 2nd letter to the Corinthian church. He himself wondered in his epistle to the Romans, 7:22-24 "For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death"
The battle is always there. Always the struggle. We will not be rid of it within the confines of these mortal coils. That's the bad news. The good news is that through Jesus and a firm relationship with Him, we can be assured that this will not be our fate through all eternity. Paul goes on to say in Romans 7:25 "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
You see, it is impossible for us to save ourselves. Many people still believe that we can be perfect and satisfy God's demand for justice. Still more believe that we do not even need to repent for our sins. Both of these thoughts are incorrect according to the Biblical text. Not only are we guilty because a just and loving God demands payment, that payment is beyond our reach. But it is not beyond the reach of Jesus. He paid for our sins once and for all on the cross and when we repent of our sins and believe that in our heart, we too are saved because of our adoption in to the family of Christ.
So when Paul says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" is he wrong? No! Our spirit is born again. Not as a sinful being, but as a sinless being standing before the judgment seat of the Lord. He declares us righteous; sets us apart for holy work and we trust Him for that.
This Christmas season as we go through the celebration of Jesus' birth, remember to put that thought ahead of all. You are a new creation. Created as originally planned and even better, since now Jesus has risen from the dead and once and for all, we have no need to worry about our eternity.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The Bible, and especially the New Testament has a lot to say about peace. We all know that peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and we all know that Jesus spoke about the Meek inheriting the earth, (Matthew 5:5) and we may even know Paul spoke much about it as well in his letters. But balancing this word, 'peace' with our everyday lives is a real challenge. Here are some points to ponder.
1) We must live in harmony and peace with brothers and sisters in Christ.
The quote from Peter is talking about living in harmony or peace, within the context of believers. So to extend that to all people would not be accurate. What Peter is encouraging here is Christian harmony with each other. The rest of the New Testament is consistent with this view. We should get along with everyone (to an extent) but particularly with people who are Christ's followers.
This makes sense. If we are continually at each others throats, we will be ineffective at encouraging other people to follow Christ. It would be silly of us to expect to expand the Kingdom if we ourselves can not get along. And it is important to acknowledge that when we do have issues, they are mostly ego-based and silly, prideful arguments. That is one reason Jesus attempts to nip this in the bud by telling His disciples that whoever wished to be great among them, must be the servant of all of them. (Mark 9:35)
2) We must live in peace with everyone*
Paul seems to be making that point in Romans 12 and 13. However this has very specific restrictions or conditions.
It's fairly easy to live in peace with people who think and act like you. When I was in Seminary, every morning we gathered in the chapel for worship; we started every class with prayer; we constantly talked about spiritual things. I thought, "Wow. This is how heaven must be like!" But Jesus did not call us to stay in seminaries or in cloistered Christian communities until He returned. He said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" --Matthew 28:19 and "...you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." --Acts 1:8
So in a very real respect by doing the Lord's work, we put ourselves in harm's way. Everyday. We put ourselves into situations which are fraught with danger and conflict and there is very little we can do about that. But Jesus also gives us a clue when he says in Matthew 10:34-35 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'-" Paul continues this in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
Neither Jesus nor Paul are expecting us to find peace at all times. In fact Jesus says specifically that was not the reason why He came in the first place. He came to establish God's Kingdom on earth and if we are out doing likewise, as He commands, we will not have peace either.
So in fact, there is this tension in the New Testament. One one hand we are to live as God's people in peace, but on the other hand, if we are truly God's People, doing God's work, then we will not have peace, nor will we live in harmony with every person. I do not view this as contradictory nor incompatible or unachievable however. It simply is our lit in life. If we choose the path of a disciple of Christ, we must expect that we will have conflict from time to time. Which brings us to the final and most important point.
3) We must first and foremost live in peace with God.
Henry David Thoreau was a naturalist and author. When he was dying his aunt came to see him. She was a good Christian. She asked him, "Henry, have you made your peace with God?" He answered, "I didn't know that we had ever quarreled."
My college English teacher tried to portray Thoreau as a wise and learned man, but this story shows what a fool he really was. I think that many people think the same way; that they have no quarrel with God, when in fact they do. We all do. Not so much because of what we have done, but of what we did not do...could not do. Pay for our sins.
Paul in Romans says this: Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". If we do not have peace with God, all is for nothing. We could be the most peaceful, calm and loving person in the world, get along with everyone we meet, live in complete harmony with others, but it would count as naught.
I am not saying it's easy to live in harmony and peace with others. I am saying we need not stop trying because it is hard. It's supposed to be hard. That's why we have the Lord. And if you do not have the Lord, examine your own life and make a decision today. Choose life. Choose love. Choose peace with God through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. Do it today.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Love and Obedience
John 14:23: Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."
You don't hear mention too much about the second part of this quote. Today we all hear about LOVE and PEACE and BLESSING. But Jesus make a bold statement in this quote in John by giving us an IF...THEN statement which I believe we gloss over way too quickly.
Jesus is making a very hard point plainly here. IF you LOVE HIM....THEN you will OBEY HIM. How does that sit with you? If you are like me, I hang my head in shame sometimes. Because I KNOW my obedience needs work. Oh, I thought my LOVE was all right, but Jesus took that and shook it upside down like an etch-a-sketch! The slate has been erased. Let's all start from square one, shall we?
What does love have to do with obedience? What does love NOT have to do with obedience? Love is all about obedience. If we LOVE, then we must be doing the things that JESUS wants us to do. Read the New Testament. Jesus has given his disciples a whole boat load of things he wants done. What are those you ask? Well, lets see...off the top of my head...
1) Take care of Children. (Mt. 10:42)
2) Bear good fruit (Mt. 7:16ff)
3) Take care of the less fortunate (Mk 9:40ff; Lk 10:25-37)
4) Go (Mt 28:18-20)
5) Make Disciples (Mt 28:18-20)
6) Teaching them (Mt 28:18-20)
7 to...OBEY (Mt 28:18-20)
There are tons of Scripture references where Jesus puts the cross hairs directly on our obedience. So the next time you are examining your faith. Don't just examine your LOVE, also examine your OBEDIENCE. Make course corrections now if you need to, but do not miss this point.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know."
This passage is one of the most familiar of the Old Testament. Ezekiel, however is not that well known, even though this book is about his ministry to Israel in a very turbulent time in their history. One of my OT professors called Ezekiel, "The 'nut' of the Old Testament". He meant this in two ways. 1) His actions and the way he illustrated certain things in his ministry certainly qualified him as being eccentric in his actions. Over the top. Outrageous. Crazy, some people might say and 2) This is a very complex man and a very complex message that he brought, and while the way he illustrated it, could be interpretted as complex and erratic, the message was clarion clear and unwavering.
In this passage, he presents all of Israel as dead. So much dead and long dead, that there was nothing left but dry bones...as far as Ezekiel looked in the valley. Scattered...dry...once human bones. Of course the reason they were like that was because of sin. They did not follow the LORD's commands and decrees. The very worse parts of the Old Testament had come true and now they find themselves in this predicament. Dry. Used up. Abandoned.
The LORD asks Ezekiel a simple question. "Son of man, can these bones live?" From a human perspective, the answer was clear. "No!" There was no way that these very dry bones could once again life. But Ezekiel was not having a conversation with a human. He was conversing with the LORD All Mighty. Maker of Heaven and Earth. Supreme in all the universe. The great I AM. Because of this, Ezekiel answers wisely. "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know." Just because it was impossible from a human perspective, Ezekiel, knowing the true nature of the LORD, answers that he did not know, only the LORD knew the answer to that question.
I bet many of you feel sometimes that you are 'dry', when it comes to the spiritual things of the LORD. I know I have felt that way at different times in my life. You might even have felt that there was no hope for you; that the LORD had abandoned you, that there was nothing left.
But if you take the passage at it's face value, you see that with the LORD there is always Grace. Always Hope. No matter how you feel, God is still there. He still wants to use you. His Word can restore you. If He can raise the dead, He can certainly put a fire back inside you and give you Hope and a Mission. In this case, he not only restored Israel and made them live again, but he brought them together as a fighting machine for His Glory. He brought them to their land which they lost and he now restored their place in the world. Ezekiel is all about restoration. The LORD is all about restoration. Restoration and Mission.
How about you today? Where are you at in your walk with the LORD? Do you feel dry? Do you need restoration, life and purpose? That's what the LORD wants for you as well! If you have not been attending church, go out and find a Bible believing and preaching one where the people of God can minister to you and help restore you to the proper place in God's Kingdom. If you have abandoned reading the Bible, God's Word...start reading today. If you have stopped praying..start today. Let others pray for you...remember about getting to a good church...they can help. Don't waste another second feeling left out or useless. Get back into the ministry the the LORD wants for you...do it today!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
I don't know about you, but I am glad the LORD does not judge me by my looks. One glance at my profile pic could mean a world of hurt for me. But the LORD does not look on the external things like we do. He looks at the heart.
We see that over and over again in scripture. In fact when the Nation of Israel was chosen as God's very own people, he said to them in Deuteronomy 7:7 "The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples." So it is clear that God does not take into account what the world calls great of good, but rather, by His own gracious choice.
We on the other hand, because we are human and fallible, often choose wrongly. It is in those times where we can learn the most. Not only about ourselves and our way of thinking but about others and what makes them precious. Probably most importantly, we get a glimpse of how God does it.
If we are diligent to realize we are flawed and that we need the help of the LORD to really see, we can take this opportunity to pray and ask Him for the true Eyes that only He can give.
So here is my prayer for all of us today:
Father, I ask in Jesus' name that you would help us all to see with Your eyes. May we not look at the outward appearances of people from this time forward, but may we look at their heart, their motives and their spirit. Help us to discern as you do. Above all Lord, we ask that we see people through Your LOVE and may you work in us to change us into the people you want us to be.
Monday, August 2, 2010
We started out with Peter as he is portrayed in Matthew's Gospel. I think that since Matthew's Gospel is geared toward the Jewish mind, this would be an excellent place to start.
Below are some snippets ideas we have come up with so far.
1) Peter was curious and eager to learn.
Matthew 15:15 Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."
Jesus never discouraged his disciples from asking questions.
2) Jesus was not afraid to ask the hard questions.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
3) Jesus was liberal with praise for right answers.
Matthew 16:17ff Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.4) Jesus was not slow in rebuking incorrect thinking.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Interestingly this chapter juxtaposes Jesus praising Peter for his confession that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God." and Jesus smacking-down Peter for his incorrect thinking of why Jesus was here in the first place, "Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!..."
5) Sometime when Peter said something stupid, Jesus just chose to ignore it. He never purposefully tried to hurt his disciple's feelings.
Matthew 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
I probably would have said, "What? Are you that stupid? These are spirits and you are suggesting to make shelters for them? Come on Peter! Have you learned nothing?" Good thing I wasn't there, eh? :-)
6) Even when Jesus knew Peter would fail, he allowed him to make his own mistakes.
Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
" 'I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' 32But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
7) Jesus not only allowed Peter to fail, but also allowed him to suffer the consequences.
Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"
Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.8) Even though Peter failed, Jesus made sure to restore him in relationship.
"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' "
Jesus made sure to get the message to Peter that he was still loved and valued as a disciple. He still needed him and He still had a job for him to do.
How about our relationships with people God has put in our lives? Do we follow these principles of interaction in our small group setting and when we are one-on-one? Ought we?
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Matthew 18:1-4...At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
I imagine that when the Disciples heard these words coming from Jesus, were shocked and at the same time dismayed. Certainly many of the Scribes of the day were up in arms. Think about it. Here they were studying day and night to know the Scriptures. When I say "studying", that word really doesn't do it justice.
In order to be considered a scribe, you needed to memorize the books of Moses and be able to write them word-for-word. That's right, you needed to memorize the first 5 books of the Hebrew scriptures. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers. I have a hard enough time remembering my PIN Number! But these dedicated people actually took tests to make sure they knew their stuff.
The Disciples were no different. They were dedicated to know the Scriptures as well, just as we are today. So to say you first had to have faith like one of the children that Jesus had called to himself was a double shock.
But was Jesus actually saying you had to know nothing in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven? Not really. If we look at if more closely, He actually says that, "unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
So here is how I see it:
- You MUST turn and change. Not only repentance is included here. You must become child-like in your faith. Stop looking at things like an adult. You are not going to be saved by how much you know or hoe much people look up to you.
- Humility. Like my post yesterday about what Paul wrote in Romans 12. If you are going to exalt yourself, how in the world are you going to exalt Jesus at all? Just like in Highlander (the movie) "There can be only one." That "one" is Jesus. No, not you or me.
- Dependence. Just like a child is dependent upon adults for protection, food, shelter, clothing, in fact, children depend on their caretakers to make the right choices for them and to provide a good and safe environment for them, we must depend upon the LORD for those things. There are many examples in both the Old and New Testaments where this is stated in plain words. Give up your INdependence and give yourself over to the care of the LORD. Like a real parent, He will not steer you wrong or mislead you.
If you are like me, I need to give myself daily to this task. It certainly does not come naturally for me...like a child.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Whenever I read these verses I am reminded of the Chris Christian Song, Living Sacrifice. The link will take you to a YouTube video of the lyrics and song. It a beautiful and inspiring message and dovetails with the message that Paul conveys to us in Romans 12.
It is not by accident either that Paul goes on to say in the verses that follow that we are not to think more highly of ourselves. Rather we are to be humble and submit ourselves to God's will for our life. Remember the context of this. Jesus, God's only begotten son, ruler of the entire universe modeled for us all the example of a humble servant.
If Jesus had exalted himself, he would not have been the model nor the acceptable sacrifice for our sins. But because he was obedient, even to death on a cross, the Father Himself exalted him. It was because of this selfless act of obedience to the death which opened the door for us to enter into fellowship with the living God!
And so it goes with us as well. If we are pompous, if we exalt our own attributes and standings; if we put ourselves before others, we cannot and should not expect the Lord's blessings in our lives. However, if we humble ourselves before the Lord and even before others, we will find ourselves in the midst of ministry! We will find that the Lord will use us, His Holy Spirit will guide us and open doors for us to witness to God's work in our lives. Isn't that what it's all about? Isn't ministry of the Word for the benefit of God's Church the active focus of our lives here on earth?
I find this truth in my own life. Take it or leave it. And that is this: I find the most satisfaction, the most profound feeling of fulfillment, in giving my life away. By sacrificing my time, energy, talents and gifts to....others. It is by this that I am made whole and complete. By being obedient to what God has called me to do. However, I also find that my own hubris constantly fighting with me and that I need to actively humble myself before the Lord in order to keep it under control.
What about you? Where do you find your greatest fulfillment in life?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
I am sometimes confused when people read something about God in the Old Testament and state to me that God is wrathful, angry and mean. Some of them even say that they can't follow a God like that. I simply tell them they have a warped sense of who God is. Anyone can go through and pick out verses which seem to support their prejudicial views, but when taken in it's entirety, we see that the anger and wrath that God displays in the Old Testament was in direct response to people's sins and their unforgiving and obstinate ways. Anger is not part of God's character. In other words, that does not define who He is.
The verse above, I think, exhibits the normative Old Testament theology of God's character. He is a God who shows compassion and is loving. The Old Testament translation of the NASB gives it a word of "Lovingkindess" The LORD's 'Hessed' as it is called in Hebrew. Roughly translated in New Testament as the LORD's 'agape' love toward us.
The New Testament expands on this knowledge of the LORD's love for all people, but especially 'His children'. People, like the Old Testament Hebrew nation who were chosen as His very own. Not because we are so great, but because he loves us with a love beyond our imagination.
How much does the LORD love his people? Enough to send His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross in our place. A place which we rightly should have occupied. Because of His sacrifice, I can know that my sins are forgiven and because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I can know that I have been adopted into His family and His dwelling place.
Is that a God of wrath, anger and revenge? No. But do not be mislead. There will be a time of wrath and justice for those who have not accepted His Son into their lives. God's justice can be delayed, as it is now, while people around the world are given the choice to follow His ways or not, but God's justice will not be denied. His word will come to fruition.
What about you? What choice have you made? Read both the Old Testament and New Testament with an open mind and heart. I am confident that you will make the right decision.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
I find myself during this 4th of July thinking about my Dad. He was in World War II and was wounded during duty, earning a Silver Medal and a Purple Heart. I am very proud of what he did. I am sure that if were here today he would be pretty disappointed in the direction America is taking today.
He was never one who drew attention to himself, but he was not shy about his viewpoints. He was strongly patriotic and at the same time very narrow minded. He was one of the people who would agree with, "America, Love it or leave it!". I was just a tad bit less than that and we continually disagreed with what needed to be done in America. We probably still do now as well.
But one thing we could agree on: We both loved this country and its people, even though we would disagree about God and His relationship to it. Dad would never agree that God had anything to do with the status of a nation, especially the United States of America. For him, what made this nation great was its fighting men and women. Particularly the Marine Corps.
There are many people today who would agree with him on that point, but I maintained and still do, that without God and His principles and blessings, we would not be the nation we are today. Whether or not you believe that, does not make it any less true.
So tonight before you go to bed, make sure to thank the men and women who have sacrificed so much so that we can live in a free country like the United States, but also thank the Lord for His blessings and pray that we who believe, will maintain faith and never take that for granted.
Monday, May 24, 2010
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Many of you know me as Elbert LaGrew, but do you know my middle name? I'll give you a hint, it starts with 'D'. OK, that's not really fair. My middle name is DeWitt. Elbert DeWitt LaGrew. For those of you who are interested, another blog posting will deal with my First and Last Names...yes, there is a story behind that as well.
Growing up I never knew exactly where that name came from. Nobody in our family is named 'DeWitt' and that is really not a common name at all anyway. In my early school years I was teased without mercy when people found out my middle name. I heard, "Ha, ha! Elbert 'De Witt's not so witty!." or "For a Wit, you are pretty dull." Or many other variations along those lines. As a kid, these were really hurtful and of course drove me into even more desire to stay away from people. I realize now, looking back, that I spent much of my childhood in self-loathing and misery. I made a good front of fighting it by over compensating to the point of being just a loud-mouthed buffoon, which of course only served to alienate me more than I already was.
When I was in High School and after a particularly bad day of being teased and trounced, I had had it and I worked up the courage to ask my Dad just where that stupid middle name of mine came from. Why did I have to have such a name that caused me so much pain and teasing. My father told me this:
When I was in High School, I joined the Marine Corp. I knew I was going to get drafted anyway and I didn't want the government telling me which branch of service I could be in, so I enlisted. I was barely over 17 but they took me anyway. I went through boot camp and I thought I was so tough. I was in great physical shape and of course I had my greatest asset, my teen age intellect.
I was shipped to the South Pacific. On our way over there in the transport ship we ran into a typhoon. It was the only time I got seasick, but it was mainly because everyone else was so sick, you just couldn't help it. We were in rough seas for about 5 days. When we arrived we found out our first assignment was on Saipan. I had never been in combat before, but I sure was looking forward to fighting.
Combat turned out to be nothing like I had imagined. It was the most horrible experience of my 17 years of life. One night, a group of us were sent out on a silent reconnaissance mission. Basically, what we were expected to do is to travel behind enemy lines at night and try to find out more about our enemy. We were not to shoot our weapons...we were to travel unseen and unknown. It we were caught, we were expected to fight, but it would be hand-to-hand.
My Sergeant, was named Sergeant DeWitt. He was a massive man, about 6 foot 6 and about 250 pounds. He was also an old man at 26 years old, at least compared to me. I was 5 foot 9 and about 150 soaking wet and I didn't know it at the time, but I was wet behind the ears as well.
While we were on patrol, we had the misfortune of running into some Japanese soldiers who were on the same mission as we were..silent reconnaissance. It was dark, but there was some moonlight when the fighting began. I suddenly found myself surrounded by 5 Japanese soldiers and I knew...I KNEW I was going to die. There was no chance for me to fight them all. I was well trained and had youth on my side and even my expectation of immortality, but it all left me that night as I stared certain death in the eye.
All of a sudden, from no where it seems, there was Sergeant DeWitt! He, without hesitation, jumped between me and the enemy soldiers...in a few seconds it was all over. I surveyed the area in unbelief...there were 5 dead Japanese soldiers all killed by Sergeant DeWitt. But there also lay my Seargeant...I craddled his head in my arms as he was dying and I promised him with all my heart, "Sarge, if I ever leave alive from this hell-hole and get married, I will name my first-born son after you.". And that is how YOU got your name...son.
I was crying by this time and of course I was embarrassed to do that in front of my Dad. But I will tell you one thing..I was NEVER embarrassed to have that name! I never again felt badly about that, because you see, if it wasn't for Sergeant DeWitt, I would never have been born. I carry that name with pride and with the knowledge that I bear the name of one of the bravest and selfless men my father had ever known.
I will tell you something else. When I first became a Christian, I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I was a Christian, but then I realized that I bear the name of Christ. If it wasn't for the selfless act of one man, I would never have the opportunity to be Born...Again! I think that if people knew the sacrifice that Jesus made for them...the Cost...they too would never, ever be ashamed of the Gospel. How can you be ashamed of bearing the name of the person who saved your soul? I know I am not...I will not....I can not be ashamed. I am Proud!
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.Blessings All!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
One of the big objections I get from people when I tell them about Jesus is that there are too many rules. Too many don'ts and just too restrictive. That is not how the Israelites thought about the Lord and his ways. In fact, one of the big graces that the Lord gave Israel was a clear path to what was good and right and what pleased HIM. Read Psalm 119 and tell me they thought the LAW was burdensome! If you can find it there, let me know. I don't think you will.
Those of us who understand the Grace of God, who have been touched by his gentle, yet mighty hand know full well what a blessing it is to have the guiding of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Does that mean that I always do what is right? I wish I could say yes. I can not and I think everyone, if they are honest with themselves will say the same same thing. But look at what he ASKS of us. To fear him, to walk in his ways, to service him with all our heart and soul and to observe His decrees. Why? "For your own good."! Is that so hard? Is that so wrong?
I ask people how hard it would be to give up something that is killing them. They almost always say that if it was killing them, they could give it up in an instant. Yet when I tell them that sin is killing them, the fact that they are not following what God wants for their life, is actually killing them, they back away thinking that there must be some catch. "You mean to tell me that if I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as my ne Lord and Savior, I could be saved?!" "That's all?", they exclaim in unbelief. You see, the Gospel is too simple for most people to grasp. "All I need to do is love the Lord with all my heart, soul and strength?" "You've got to be kidding me." Nope, I tell them...that's about it. The rest will come as you grow in grace and knowledge.
I have a firm belief that if I told people there was a lot more to being saved than that, they would believe me faster. For example, if I gave them some sort of secret mantra and I told them to memorize it then to hermetically seal it in a mayonnaise jar and bury it in the backyard during a full moon...then each full moon for 6 months they would need to go out where it was buried and dance around the jar at midnight and chant the mantra, they would have no problems with THAT. After all, that is something THEY would do. They would be in control..it would make sense to them. But the fact is, there is nothing you can do. It has all been done by Jesus when he hung on the cross and was raised from the dead. All you have to believe and accept that; accept Jesus as Lord of your life...that is the part that people really have problems with.
No. The requirements of the Old Testament for people to be saved really have not changed much. They relied on Grace and faith they same as we do today...it still was not anything THEY did for salvation...it was all the LORD's doing.
How about you today? Where are you spiritually? Have you given over your life to the Lord? Have you tasted of his grace? Have you faith in Jesus Christ? How is that working out for you? Have you found it to be burdensome, heavy, unfulfilling, unworth the time and the effort? I know I have not! If you feel the same way...tell someone. Not tomorrow...today. It is the most fulfilling thing in the world. And you know what? That is not a burden either!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I hate freeway driving. For one thing I come from a small town with about one stop light. I remember when Burger King came to town and McDonalds never even was in the town until I left after college. So when I drive on the freeway, it is just a stressful place for me.
It's so unsavory for me to drive in traffic, that I have actually arranged my work day so that I start early and I end early so that I can miss most of the traffic. So you will find me going to work at 2:30 AM and coming home around 2:00 PM. That is perfect for me...really.
One of the things I hate the most is following too closely to the car in front of me. I love it when there is a lot of distance between me and the car in front. Why? Because I am assuming the other guy is an idiot. And my assumption is not wasted. I see so many accidents in good and bad weather that are caused by people not paying attention and following just too closely to the car in front of them. Many people lose their life in that way. So in general, it is not too good a practice to follow idiots too closely.
In this very familiar passage of Scripture, we see Jesus saying in essence..."Follow me closely." In general practice, as I just explained, that would not be a good thing to do. But in this case, I assure you, it is not only the right thing to do...for the Christian, it is the ONLY thing to do!
The thing that makes this an essential thing to do is that Jesus is no idiot. While it is true that you should never follow idiots too closely (if possible, don't follow at all), in this case Jesus tells us in paradoxical terms that if we wish to save our life, we must actually lose it for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. While Christians generally see this as a good thing to do, I am afraid the world will see you as an idiot if you do this. Don't expect people to encourage you too much in losing your life for Jesus' sake. They simply will not understand.
What makes this such an essential task for the Christian; Picking up our cross, following him and losing our life? Our soul. Jesus, in other parts of the Scripture states in no uncertain terms, this is the most prized and precious thing we have as human beings. Don't waste it. Don't squander it and certainly don't lose it...nothing...nothing is worth more than that! But here is the rub. We gain life by losing it. We keep our soul safe by giving it away...giving it not to the idiots in traffic on the freeway...not to our bankers...not even to the people we care most about on this earth. We keep our soul safe by giving it to Jesus...lock, stock and barrel. We need to keep our soul safe by following Jesus closely....very, very closely! Remember the words of Jim Elliot...
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."Blessings All!
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Her name was Norma. Norma Stoffel. You won't find her name in any book of people with great faith. Nor will you find her name in a book about great missionaries or extraordinary minds. You will find her name written in the Book of Life which Jesus will read during the end of days.
Norma was already 75 years old when I met her back in 1982. A retired missionary from Honduras and Guatemala, she had spent the last 35 years there. She was teaching a class in the Psalms at my home church in Ironwood, MI.. She loved the Psalms...she stated once that one of her favorite Psalms was Psalm 22.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel. [a]
4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed....
She told me that this was her favorite Psalm. "Why?", I asked. "Because this Psalm reminds me that I need to stay near the cross.", She told me. I thought...wow! if this lady of the faith must stay near the cross, how much more do I?
Norma eventually left the church where I attended. She went back to Guatemala. She said she felt more at home there and she missed the friends, who were more like family to her. She also felt God had called her there. The only reason she came home was because the Mission decided it was her time to retire. It was not God's timing however, and Norma could not refuse her Lord when He called.
I am sure that Norma is with the LORD now. Happy, secure, blessed. I think of her often. She was one of the FaithWalkers I will be talking about in this series of posts. She had a profound influence on my life as a Christian. She showed me what it really means to be a fully devoted and developed follower of Christ. She did not say it in so many words...she showed it in so many actions. She modeled Jesus for me and as a young Christian at the time, that meant more to me than knowing the theological implications of Jesus' return and the eschatology of Revelations. A whole lot more.
So remember as you go through this life...it's not so much what you say that counts, it's what you do and what you do it for. Norma Stoffel. Not a name written in a book about people with great faith, or great missionaries or great minds. This is a name that is written on my heart because she showed Jesus to me in a way that no one else could at the time. I pray that I can be exactly like her with someone in my life. I will never know. Norma knows now.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Acts 2:36-40 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Joel Spolsky: "An idea isn't worth that much. It's the execution of the idea that has value. If you can't convince one other person that this is something to devote your life to, then it's not worth it."
We see the apostles changed attitudes and the power with with they preached after the day of Pentecost. But what about our own lives? Have we changed after we became Christians? How? How Much? Would other people around you notice the change?
I remember when I became a Christian. For me it was like a bolt of lightening...a 180 degree turn around from where I was and to where I was going. People around me suddenly didn't know who I was and what I was doing and frankly, that scared them...it even scared me! But in a way it was comforting knowing that the Lord had changed me in such a radical way. It gave me confidence that He was actually there with me. Little did I know that He was not finished with me and from the moment I accepted Him into my life, that my life not only would never be the same...it would never be the same from day to day or year to year. He kept changing me little my little and continues to this very moment. Praise the Lord that I am changing!
How about those around me that I interact with every day or at least regularly? Do they also notice the change or am I the only one? If I am the only one, then it is a wasteful and squandered gift, isn't it? If I am truly being changed in to the likeness of my Lord and Savior, then I KNOW he would want me to share that change with others? Why? because that is what HE did...that is what the Apostles did and that is what every faith-filled person in the Bible did! Certainly even in History, we see courageously changed, spirit-filled men and women doing exactly the same thing...sharing their faith, changing people and the world around them. Taking the Gospel to everywhere and anywhere God has placed them.
Make it a goal of yours today...not tomorrow...now. Right. Now. To share your faith and your life with at least one other person today. May the Lord grant you wisdom, strength and grace while you do it.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
Barnabas was an encourager, but he encouraged people when he found out they were following the Lord Jesus. He did not encourage people for just any reason. I think we lose sight of that fact today. We are always so willing to either completely condemn someone's actions or on the other hand, completely accept someone's actions. From my point of view, we need to encourage those behaviors which we agree with and try to discourage those behaviors which are self-destructive, selfish or just plain wrong.
Barnabas was not afraid to confront those things which he deemed wrong or incorrect, but he was also very liberal with praise. In doing that, people knew exactly where he stood and what he stood for.
How about us? Do people know what we stand for; what or whom we support? Or do we give so many mixed messages that people are confused? We need to decide what we believe it and what we support. As the scripture say, we should not be blown around by every wind of doctrine...and we know there are many, many doctrines out there today to be blown around by.
Take a stand. Encourage that which you know to be right and true and good. Discourage those behaviors you know to be wrong, selfish or wrongly motivated. Keep the faith...keep up the good fight.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
The Lord Jesus has always called Christians to a higher standard. Even when we seldom want to go the extra mile, that is when Jesus' words ring in our head. We are an obstinate and stiff-necked people, aren't we? And human actions have not really changed in over 6,000 years. We are still like that. Bot thanks be to God, who does not let us remain stagnant! We are constantly changing, learning, growing. All actions attributable to the Holy Spirit and not really to us. Once we become Christians, the Hold Spirit continues the process of making us more and more like Christ Himself. I don't understand all the ways He does that, nor do I always agree with the way He does it! Hey, I AM human after all...but I have to believe that God loves me and wants the best for me. So even though I may not agree with the methodology...I always must agree with the reason and ultimately, with the result.
Here I am Lord Jesus! Do with me what you will. Your decisions are always best. Amen.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
There are few things in life that you can or even should, count on. One of the things the Bible is absolutely crystal on is the fact that God is consistent. Simply put He never changes...ever. We can't say that about us or about anything else we can see around us...but God simply is. His promises, what ever they may be are absolutely trustworthy. Always...forever. Just like He is...and was and always will be.
Meditate on that today. I know I will.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Hubble Telescope is 20 years old this year. I love the pictures it has produced and the science it has done in those 20 years. Really. I can't imagine anything so awe-inspiring as to see just part of the universe our great God has made. Thank you Lord!
Another thing the pictures have reminded me of is that we are pretty tiny when compared to the universe...you might even say we are like microbes that only can be seen by an electron microscope in the vast scheme of things. Think about that! And yet God knows not only our place in the universe, our beginning and end, but he knows the hairs on our heads. In my case, a lot less hairs than I had 20 years ago. Yet, HE still watches over us and cares for us. What a great God we serve! What a special place he has made for us. May we never, ever take it for granted.
It boggles my mind when people look at the same thing I am looking at...the very pictures and information that inspires me to praise the Lord, and for them, it all appears as just a bunch of data points in space. They deny the existence of God...unbelievable! Yet some not only deny His existence, but mock those of us who believe in the all-mighty Creator and sustainer of all life everywhere. I pray that I can in some small way represent the life that God has granted me in a way that would point people to Him. A life that lifts Him up where ever I am and whenever I am there. May people find Jesus through me. I know He knows where they are...I just need to find them.
Monday, April 26, 2010
It's hard for us to trust. We have been let done and hurt so many, many times in our life and we realize that we will experience that same hurt and feeling again.
When it comes to Jesus. He has never failed. Look back and search your heart. You know this to be true. You know you can trust Him. He has never lied to us; he has never let us down. Place your trust in Him today and be assured. Not only of your salvation, but of your future here on earth. Do it...now.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Compare this to how God works on your life. It is exactly opposite, isn't it? How many times have I gone in to a particular situation knowing full well that I did not stand a chance. I did not even consider God or count on Him since I was under the impression that I was on my own. It was then that God turned things around for me and gave me victory over something I knew was going to do me in. Absolutely convinced. Why is that?
Maybe I can trace this pattern of behavior back to my childhood where I was forced to do things for my self. It was the old, 'Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, boy!" attitude that first impressed me with this. Maybe it has to do with some of the ego-oriented sense of pride I have. Maybe it has to do with the feeling that I some how don;t deserve God's blessings in my life. It is probably due in part, to a little bit of all of these. The fact remains I still struggle with this feeling, and yet I know that God really want for me to depend on HIM.
Perhaps you struggle with the same condition that I struggle with. If so, take heart! I realize the more I struggle with this, the more that God makes himself real in my life and the more confidence I have in HIM and his working in me. So while we all struggle, the process that God is working, takes time and with time and patience we will prevail. Mark my words the next time you feel that there is no way out. God will use that very moment to teach you His truths. he is loving and wants only the best for you!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
We will see where this takes me, but I have had much encouragement from my Twitter family. If you'd like to see what I write there, and there is much, please follow @elagrew on Twitter at:http://twitter.com/elagrew