What Christ has Accomplished through Me

August 27, 2009 at 10:02 am | Posted in It's All About God | Leave a comment

Romans 15:15-18 Paul talks about “the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God.”  I think it’s great that Paul’s gifts and ministry role are seen as God’s grace.  He was the apostle to the Gentiles and knows that role is a gift from God.  The only reason we have ministry is because God gives it; he gives both the talents with which we minister and the places where we can do it.  My job as a teaching pastor is a result of God’s grace, and I thank him for it.  But Paul doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to state the purpose of that grace, “so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  It is not just that he can proclaim the gospel; the job isn’t done until some respond in obedience to the gospel.  That is why he can say, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done.”  God does it all: he gives the talents; he gives the opportunities; he even gives the results.  Our use of the spiritual gifts he gave us is not complete until all of those are accomplished.  When they are, one other thing is accomplished as well: God gets all the glory.  “Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.”  God has given me the talent to proclaim his word and the place from which to do it.  May I see a great expansion in the results; may more and more people become an offering acceptable to God; may they be led to obey God by what I have said and done; may God get all the glory.

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Phantoms and Figments can’t Eat!

August 24, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Theology | Leave a comment

            I’ve spent a lot of time in Acts recently.  My most recent Sunday morning class was a video overview of the book; I’m preaching through Acts; just a few weeks ago I read through it on my devotion reading schedule.  I’ve enjoyed it so much that I decided to read through it again while on my recent vacation.  Here’s one phrase that stood out to me though I hadn’t thought about it before.  When Jesus gave his apostles instructions to wait for the Spirit in Jerusalem, he was eating with them (1:4).  The book’s author, Luke, tells us this detail right after saying “he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.”  In the book of Luke, we’re told that, when the disciples did not believe he was alive, only a ghost or a phantom, Jesus asked them for something to eat.  Though none of the other gospel writers mention Jesus eating anything after the resurrection (John 21 may imply he did), Luke, the physician, mentions it twice.  In other words, one of the convincing proofs that Jesus was alive was his ability to eat solid food.  Phantoms and figments of imagination can’t do that.  The eleven were so convinced of Jesus’ resurrection that they were later willing to die for their testimonies to the fact.  They were certain Jesus was alive because they’d been with him, they’d seen him, and they’d even eaten with him.  Jesus is alive!

When the Foundations are Being Destroyed

August 19, 2009 at 9:43 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

Psalm 11:1-3.  Verse three of this psalm is an interesting verse, and I have heard it often quoted in the context of our culture.  “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  I have always heard this verse cited as a reason to take up arms in the political fight against the moral decay in our culture.  Certainly the reason for the moral decay we see around us is the attack of wicked people, and that is also the context of this statement.  Note the previous verse that says “the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.”  I appreciate those who take an active political role in fighting the destruction of our moral foundation, and I see more of that destruction today that ever before in my lifetime.  However, this poem is not about taking up arms.  Those who advocate such a fight need to find another verse for a rallying cry.  This passage is about finding our refuge in God.  Read the first verse: “In the LORD I take refuge.  How then can you say to me: ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain?’”  David, who wrote this poem, is not calling men to fight in the battle of the foundations; he is stating the best and first thing to do when the foundations are being destroyed.  We don’t first flee to the mountains, nor do we first take up arms in the political battle; the first thing we must do is take refuge in God.  Verse three is not a call to arms but a call to refuge!  First, take refuge from the battle in God, from that reference point further steps can be determined.

          Two more thoughts on the battle for our moral foundations:  First, as Christian people, we can’t fight the battle of the foundations ourselves; we simply are not strong enough to fight it.  However, when we find our refuge in God, he can fight that battle for us, and we can more clearly see our part in it.  Second, since studying church history, I’m not convinced that God always wants us fighting that battle on the political front.  The church has almost always done better spiritually when an evil regime is in power. Who are we to say that God’s kingdom will move forward better when the government is righteous?  Such thinking denies the pattern of history and can easily confuse our worldly kingdom with God’s kingdom, as though the USA was God’s kingdom on earth.  Let’s commit to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

Recent Random Reflections

August 18, 2009 at 11:22 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

          Here are some recent random reflections from my devotions in Mark.  After feeding the five thousand, Jesus walked on the water and calmed the storm.  The disciples shouldn’t have been too surprised at this, because they’d seen him calm storms before, and the multiplying of the loaves proved once and for all who he was.  But still “They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” (6:52)  I wondered about people I know who don’t understand who Jesus is, in spite of the evidence in front of them.  I prayed for one man who is a part of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and with whom I’ve had some conversations about Jesus; I prayed for a long-time friend who reads the Bible but has yet to see Jesus as the One who completely paid for his sin; I prayed for our congregation, because there are probably many who hang around church but don’t really know who Jesus is.  Even after a second meal of multiplied bread, the disciples still didn’t understand that God would use his resources to meet their needs. (9:21)

          “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”  Jesus had compassion on the lost crowd.  He also had compassion on the individual sinner.  Of the rich young man inquiring about eternal life, we are told that “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (10:21)  I often see the sinful crowd as hostile to Christianity and in the way of what I should be doing.  I often see the individual sinner as one who should stay lost.  Not Jesus.  He loved the crowd and he loved the individual.  May I have the same compassion for those without Christ!

          Jesus’ attitude about the above is also reflected in this famous statement. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45)  I hope my attitude toward others, both in and out of the body, grows more into one of serving.  I like serving the body with my gifts, but serving those outside is sometimes harder.

Men in Midlife

August 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

            We’ve been out camping and vacationing for the past week, so I’ve done no writing on this blog.  One morning I was reading and pondering Psalm 39 and these words spoke to me about men in midlife crisis. “Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Each man’s life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.  But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” (vv 5-7)  So many men in our culture get to middle age and begin to realize that their life is short – a mere handbreadth.  They also begin to wonder what they are so busy about – why they are heaping up wealth to no purpose.  They question what they have been investing in for most of their lives.  I’ve seen it with some friends of mine.  For many men, that leads to a complete questioning of all life – a reevaluation of purpose and meaning.  I can’t say I will never be there, and so far I have been graciously preserved from that; however, I can make David’s prayer my prayer.  “Lord, show me how fleeting my life is.”  We all need reminders that life as we know it is temporal.  That most of what we pursue will never last.  If a time of complete reevaluation must come into my life, may I do it with an understanding of things eternal.  Help me, God, rather than heaping up temporal wealth, to invest in eternal things, and ultimately to put my hope in you.

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