Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who is the greatest?

Who is the greatest?

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
So I ask you. Are you sure that you have a faith like a child? Have you changed, given up your all too human tendency for pride and put yourself completely into he Father's hands? Really?
If you are like me, I need to give myself daily to this task. It certainly does not come naturally for a child.

Blessings all!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Greatest FulFillment

Romans 12 (New International Version)

Romans 12
Living Sacrifices
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?

Blessings All!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THIS is the LORD!

This is the LORD your GOD.

Exodus 34:5-7
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.

Blessings all!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence day

Psalm 33:12
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.

Blessings All!