Christianity 201

August 21, 2014

Your Part in the Chain of Grace

1David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the warriors and all the brave fighting men.

2King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. 3But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’

4“Yet the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the tribe of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. 5Of all my sons—and the Lord has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. 6He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.’

I Chronicles 28; NIV; to read any verses in other translations, click the verse numbers

I wrote a few months ago about the idea of the “chain of grace” and compared it to the children’s plastic toy/game known as Barrel of Monkeys!  It’s a very popular theme when I am speaking with people but I was surprised to see how little it’s reflected in my blogs. We are part of a very huge, overarching story in which we are recipients of grace and agents of grace. We pass that on to others.

Moses led his people but only to the edge of the promised land. David served God, but did not see his dream, the building of the temple, through to completion. Acts 13:36 tells us,

We all know David died and was reduced to dust after he served God’s purpose in his generation  (The Voice Bible)

Our responsibility is to serve the purpose of God in our generation.

What got me thinking about this was the following excerpt from Love Well: Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck by Jamie George. How willing are we to build up the ministry of others instead of feeling we need to do it all? He tells the story of feeling directed to take a drive out in the country where God would speak with him.

My conversation with God went like this:

“I know You wanted to meet with me today.  Sounds like You have something in mind.  But before You get rolling, do you mind if I say something?”

Sure.

“Thank you.  One basic, overarching question.  Why did You send me to plant a church in Franklin, Tennessee?  It seems like there is a church on every corner.  I mean, people introduce themselves here and ask, ‘What church do you go to?’  This is crazy.  Why didn’t You send me to Brasil?  Seriously, why am I here?”

Are you finished?

Love Well - Jamie George“Uh.  Yeah.”

Wrong question.

“Huh?”

You need to get over yourself.

This is My story, not yours.

I will send you where I wish.

Jamie, all of your life you have told people you want to ‘change the world for God.’  And at times, your motives were pure.  But all too often, you wanted to change the world for Jamie.

I know your story.

No friends in middle school, a misfit in college, an underdog mentality from an underdog town.

Let’s be honest, much of your life has been about proving your worth.

“Oww. Okay. Yeah.

Can’t deny it.

I am sorry.

I repent.”

Rather than change the world, I want you to touch the life of someone else who will change the world.

This statement would alter my life forever.  I stared for a while at this point – at the trees, the sky, the leaves.  There was something solemn about the moment.

Touch the life of someone else who will change the world.

Do you understand what I am saying?

“Yes, I think so.  I’m supposed to empower other people and let them get the credit.  As much as I love ‘the stage,’ I am supposed to lean into subtlety and move away from the ‘big show’.  Rather than a bold and brash, clean and shiny church, we are supposed to become a quiet but confident family of faith.  Rather than wave the banner and give the cheer, we will invite the broken and steadily serve whomever we find in need.  And along the way, You will use someone other than me to influence the world.”

You have the idea.

“God, I have spent most of my life trying to become a great leader, and very little of it learning to become a great listener.  Starting today, I’ll begin seeing people not as chess pieces to move around in a grand strategy, but rather as stories that are unique and magnificent, individuals to be released to their God-designed life.”

June 24, 2014

Serving God in Your Generation

“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed” (Acts 13:36).

Barrel of MonkeysThere was a toy years ago called Barrel of Monkeys where you dump out a small barrel containing plastic monkeys, each one having a leg reaching down and a hand reaching up. You use the leg of one to pull up the hand of another — or take turns doing so — and then keep adding new monkeys to see how many can be lifted at one time. You end up with a whole bunch linked together, the foot of one holding the hand of the next.

The “overlap” aptly describes how each generation passes on the ways of God to their children, and then they teach these things to their children. In this case by “children” I also mean spiritual children, the next generation at your church or in your community. We’ve also looked at this concept as a “chain of grace” here and here.

I was drawn to this verse after it appeared a few days ago at DailyEncouragement.net.  Stephen and Brooksyne write:

Our life is a part of the overall fulfillment of God’s purpose. Consider the first part of the second daily text, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.” In the historical books we have a lot of information on David. Apart from Moses, we may have more biographical information on David than any other Old Testament personality. But the apostle Paul, preaching in a Jewish synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, makes a simple statement concerning David’s life, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.”

God places us all on this earth for a season, a period of time known as our “own generation.” The amount of time we have varies; some die young, others in their middle ages and yet others at a “ripe old age”, one of the most colorful descriptions of age in the Scriptures! (See Genesis 25:8.) But like David, all of us (except the final generation) will eventually fall asleep (die) and our physical bodies will decay though our spirits will soar.

We can live our life for self or in consecration to God’s purpose.  Many of you have heard the saying, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Today, let us, like David, seek to serve God’s purpose in our generation! I ask you, how are you impacting others for Christ and eternity?

Authors Kerry and Chris Shook write about this passage. Be sure to read this in context by clicking the link.

…Every generation must face that same challenge. David accepted it in his day. The Gospel writer, Luke, records it in Acts 13:36 when he wrote, “David served God’s purpose in his own generation….” We’ve seen how he courageously stood against the giant Goliath, became the greatest King Israel ever had and led them to become the most powerful nation in their day politically, economically and spiritually. Think about it. David could have simply coasted out the rest of his days in ease! Yet, there was one longing, unfulfilled dream in his heart. David passionately pursued his desire to build a Temple for God, a permanent resting place for the presence of God to dwell among the people of God. Up to this time, Israel still worshipped out of a tent that went back to their wilderness wanderings with Moses. Now was the time, he thought! “This will be a lasting legacy of faith for generations to come to secure the spiritual welfare of Israel!”

David’s love for God extended far beyond his own lifetime and personal comfort. He wanted future generations to know God and love Him as well. In Psalm 22:30-31, David wrote, “Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.”…

A few years ago, Australian blogger Susan Tumut wrote on this passage:

God chooses to use people to do the many different tasks that he wants completed. God doesn’t have to use people. After all he could have created robots or puppets but rather he gives us the privilege of being involved in his plans. Since God’s plans are eternal we are involved in something that has lasting significance. We can “leave our mark” on the world by being connected to the One with who has already left, and continues to leave, His mark on the world.

The tasks God gives us are not impossible. In this chapter we read that “As John was completing his work…” (v.25) and “David had served God’s purpose in his own generation” (v.36). John the Baptist and David completed the tasks God gave them to do. Vastly different tasks but both God initiated tasks. Not always done perfectly, David made many mistakes in his personal life. Yet God looked at his heart and said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (v.22).

John the Baptist had moments of doubt. He testified that Jesus was the Son of God, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me…” (John 1:32-34). However later he was not so sure: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Yet ultimately John completed the task God gave him.

Likewise, we can complete the tasks God gives us.

Go Deeper: For more, listen to a podcast by Dr. Os Guinness teaching on three principles from the life of David derived from this single verse.

We’ll also have more on this verse tomorrow.

 

 

December 7, 2013

The Person God Elevates

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Ps. 75:6 No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
    He brings one down, he exalts another.

Every day here I always encourage you to read the various devotionals we find at their source blog. Today that is a necessity, because the original is very long, but very good (and it’s almost entirely scripture). It’s about the culture of celebrity pastors which now, dare I say, plagues us in North America.  The two excerpts below do not comprise the entire article, which also ends with a prayer. So here is the link to: Celebrity Pastors and the Glory of God from the blog Feeding on Christ by Joseph Randall.

…The Biblical and historical fact of the matter on celebrity pastors is this:  The LORD sovereignly chooses to make people great in the eyes of the world for the purpose of making His own name great and to be a blessing to the world through the Gospel.

He did so with Abraham:  “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’” (Genesis 12:1-2)

He did so with Joseph:  “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.  His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands . . . But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison . . . The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” (Genesis 39:2-3, 21, 23)

He did so with Moses:  “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh . . . .’” (Exodus 7:1)

He did so with Joshua:  “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.’” (Joshua 3:7)

He did so with David:  “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.’” (2 Samuel 7:8-9)

He did so with His own beloved Son:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

He’s done it with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and many other faithful preachers and theologians in our own day.

And He does so now with whomever He pleases:  “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.  The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.  He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.  For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.” (1 Samuel 2:6-8) …

 

The article continues:

1.  Let us remember that the LORD doesn’t need us:

“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)

“God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)

2.  Let us remember that the LORD grants all mercies, ministries, and positions in His Church as He sees fit:

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)

 “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ . . . But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose . . . But God has so composed the body . . . And God has appointed in the church . . . .” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18, 24, 28)

3.  Let us remember that the LORD delights in and lifts up the humble:

“The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” (Psalm 147:6)

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15)

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

4.  Let us consider all other preachers (and people!) better than ourselves:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

5.  Let us seek the LORD to build our ministry or all is vanity:

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

6.  Let us forget about ourselves and exult in the glory, beauty, and satisfaction of Jesus Christ alone – Who is the greatest and most famous One, but was made nothing on that cross so that we might have all in all in Him!

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

December 5, 2013

Daily Devotional Writing

Today I decided to share my heart with readers on some of the struggles of putting C201 together, but in the process discovered a number of interesting Biblical principles.

Luke 14:28 in The Voice Bible:

Just imagine that you want to build a tower. Wouldn’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to be sure you have enough to finish what you start?

When you embark on a project like this — writing every day of the week including weekends — it’s important to count the cost of what you’re getting into. I believe strongly that weekends can be a very lonely, depressing time for some people, so at various times at Thinking Out Loud, I actually added an extra post on the days that many bloggers were taking the weekend off. So the commitment here has been 7-days a week, though sometimes I do feel crowded into a box, even if I don’t actually write each post. (Sometimes the editing and selection process is more time-consuming than if I write something original.)

It’s important to know that God’s wants joyful service from us. He is not more blessed, if we do something that is drudgery. His desire for relationship precludes anything that would push us away; He longs to draw us close.

II Cor. 9:7 says:

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NIV)

  • You shouldn’t give if you don’t want to. You shouldn’t give because you are forced to. (NIrV)
  • They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. (CEB)
  • But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. (CEV)
  •  Giving grows out of the heart—otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say “no,” (Voice)

So why is what should be joyful service sometimes unpleasant? There are host of reasons why you might be doing it wrong, but I believe one of these is because sometimes you are doing it alone, when God’s plan is partnership.

Mark 6:7 and Luke 10:1

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

But it’s important to note that the disciples also brought back stories of results from their mission trip. I love how The Message describes it:

12-13 Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.

But not all missions bear fruit instantly. Sometimes we never hear of the results. When you are posting daily messages online that you know are being visited by hundreds of people each day, you don’t always know who those people are. This is not the same as pastoral ministry where you have community. The search results show that people are seeking information on different topics and may only visit here once. There may be people who only visit your church one time, but that time is pivotal and life-changing. Stories of foreign missions are filled with endings where the missionary thought that there had been no impact, only to find out years later how their ministry had affected lives; only to see the fruit of that ministry reaped a generation later.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus established the tw0-by-two pattern. Christian ministry is often a lonely vocation. Many pastors say they don’t have close friends or close relationships among their parishioners. Other pastors are moved on to new locations every 3-4 years, so deep friendships are not afforded the opportunity to bloom.

(Is this a good place to mention I’m always looking for regular contributors who can either write or source articles that fit the pattern here at C201?)

Consider what Jesus said about fruit in John 15:

  • Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
  • “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
  • When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
  • 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit…

If this ministry blesses you, please let me know. If your pastor’s sermons bless you, tell them. If a small group leader’s teachings help and encourage you, let them know.

If you are in leadership and find yourself feeling lonely or unfruitful, here is a verse to encourage you from I Cor. 15:58:

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

June 21, 2013

The Woman in the Back Row

I’ve often told people that the real ministry in the church isn’t done by the people you see on the platform or the people who are members of the church board. It’s often a woman in the back row — whose name most people don’t know — who is faithfully praying and quietly meeting other women for coffee during the week that is making a huge kingdom difference. But we tend to see the people in the pool who like to make a splash every time they jump in! The woman in today’s article wasn’t literally on the back row, but in her quietness she revealed the depth of her love for God.

Just six days ago we posted an item from the blog We Are Soma. Yes we do have a six-month rule for re-blogging, but they have a variety of authors at this site, and I want to encourage you to visit. This article is by Steve Hart and appeared under the title Fierce Love: Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Soma is a network of 18 U.S. churches, and Soma School is for existing or potential church planters. Learn more at WeAreSoma.com

As a church family, we’ve studied the Gospel of Luke this Spring. We’ve seen again and again the Fierce Love of Jesus as he goes toe to toe with the religious leaders of his day. It is easy for us to distance ourselves from those conversations by putting ourselves in the shoes of the disciples and cheering Jesus on as he goes after “those guys.” The reality, however, is that the scribes, teachers of the law, and the pharisees would fit well in our churches, small groups, and ministries. They love and study the bible. They are zealous in their devotion to God. They tithe regularly, serve faithfully, and pray beautifully. And Jesus says it is all a sham:

“And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:45-47 ESV)

In contrast, Jesus points to a poor widow putting 2 copper coins into the treasury. She is destitute, the poorest of the poor, a societal drain, a religious outsider, but she becomes the model of self-forgetful, humble, genuine gospel faith:

 ”Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4 ESV)

Here is a woman who gets grace. She isn’t looking for the praise of men or the praise of God, for certainly no one would be impressed with her gift! She doesn’t even seem to notice herself – and that is the beauty of what she is doing. She’s self-forgetful, and she’s giving everything – the greek word is “bios”, her very life! Jesus holds up this poverty-stricken, seemingly God-forsaken woman as the example of gospel faith.

Taking these two stories together, we see that the fierce love of Jesus invites us to be utterly realistic about our twisted motivations and to be bluntly honest about how much of our obedience is little more than play-acting, trying to prove to God, others, and ourselves that we aren’t as bad as we know we really are. Jesus calls us to an honest confession that promotes a radical, self-despairing humility so that we might forget ourselves, and give all we have as a response to his gracious acceptance.

And as we receive, again and again, the gracious, one-way, unconditional, unmerited, un-earnable love of God in Jesus, we are increasingly freed from our sin and our self-righteousness. We give up on ourselves and efforts to “get better,” and we throw ourselves fully onto the finished work of Jesus in our place. Consider these words from Martin Lloyd Jones:

“We can put it this way: the man who has faith [in Jesus Christ] is the man who is no longer looking at himself and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he once was. He does not look at what he is now. He does not even look at what he hopes to be as the result of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, and rests on that alone. He has ceased to say, “Ah yes, I used to commit terrible sins but [now] I have done this and that.” He stops saying that. If he goes on saying that, he has not got faith. Faith speaks in an entirely different manner and makes a man say, “Yes I have sinned grievously, I have lived a life of sin, yet I know that I am a child of God because I am not resting on any righteousness of my own; my righteousness is in Jesus Christ and God has put that to my account.”

The gospel free us to give up on our abilities and merits, and to look to Jesus alone for our righteousness, worth, and significance. And as we do that, all sorts of surprising fruit begin to grow up in our lives – evidences of genuine love, service, and self-sacrifice.

Our cities don’t need more churches of people working hard to be good and save themselves, either through dialing in their doctrine, being more committed to missional living, or refining their programs. Our cities need people who’ve been humbled by the fierce love of Jesus, people who’ve given up on themselves completely, found a beautiful new righteousness credited to their account, and so, like the destitute widow, give their whole lives in joyful self-forgetfulness!

June 12, 2013

Even the Obscure Bible Characters Have Significance

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We’ve talked before here about the Bible’s affirmation of itself that all its words are inspired and beneficial. Most readers here would not question that principle, but do we really believe that all parts of the Bible benefit us, or are some just trifling details, conjunctions getting us to the next part of the story?

Yesterday at Daily Encouragement, Steven and Brooksyne Weber looked at an obscure Bible character who is mentioned only once, in a passage that most of us would hurry past.  Yet look at all he derived from from this one reference in the Bible study below. You’re also encouraged to read this at source — with pictures! — where it appeared under the title, Onesiphorus.

“The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me—the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

Typically I (Stephen) prepare these messages first and then Brooksyne sharpens them up by adding content and editing. Last night I told her I was going to write about Onesiphorus but she didn’t know what I meant. Even though she is an avid Bible student it is certainly not one of the usual words in the Bible. She thought it sounded like the botanical name of a flower, osteospermum, and then she guessed it was a color before I told her it was a Bible name. The light came on as Brooksyne recalled where she had seen the  name. It’s also easy to confuse Onesiphorus with Onesimus, two names found in the Bible that I have never heard used as a proper name since then.

Onesiphorus is referenced only here in 2 Timothy yet this brief passage highly commends him, and speaks of his blessing to Paul and to others in Ephesus. When reading the Bible we tend to gloss over these brief passages wondering what relevance they may have for us. In view of that observation I see that I have never written about Onesiphorus so I reckon it’s about time.  (I’ve kept a log of these messages since 1996!)

We learn from Biblical examples, both positive and negative, such as the negative reference made in the verse prior to this concerning two otherwise unknown men: “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (1 Timothy 1:15).

In this reference and the only other reference to Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 4:19 Paul refers to “the house of Onesiphorus”. Some speculate that he may have died by this point but the phrase could also be a way of saying how his entire household had been a blessing. In our years of Christian service we consider households that just seem to minister together as a family, especially married couples, such as when our ministry friends from New Jersey come to mind, we don’t think of Jim only, but we refer to them as Jim and Dorothy.

Let’s look at four characteristics we can glean about Onesiphorus in our text:

    1. “He often refreshed me.” Don’t overlook the little word “often” (pollakis) which means many times, again and again, time after time. It conveys a vivid picture of Onesiphorus’ servant heart that he extended to Paul.  “Refresh” translates a word that literally means “to cool again, to make cool or refresh.” The Living Bible paraphrase draws a word picture, “He visited me and encouraged me often. His visits revived me like a breath of fresh air.” Onesiphorus’ visits into the squalid conditions of the dungeon prison was like a “cool breeze” reviving Paul’s spirit and soul. A great promise to the refresher is a Proverb that states, “Whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25b).
    2. He “was not ashamed of my chains.” Knowing the rest of the story I can’t imagine being ashamed of Paul’s chains. We have the whole record since Paul’s imprisonment is now history, but the full understanding of all his sufferings was subject to one’s own interpretation. Some were embarrassed, afraid or even ashamed of his situation. What a great privilege it would have been to to know Paul and to continually refresh him in his otherwise drab, insufferable surroundings.  May God give us boldness and discernment to stand with those who suffer, as we by faith see the rest of the story even before it happens!
    3. “He eagerly searched for me and found me.” It must have taken some effort to locate Paul and Onesiphorus did this eagerly. Many times meaningful ministry to others takes effort. We need to go out of our way or in some way be inconvenienced whether it involves our time, finances, roadblocks or whatever other setback we must overcome in the process.
    4. “You know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.” As mentioned above the only reference we have to Onesiphorus is here in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, but perhaps that’s because Onesiphorus was already so well-known and highly regarded among the people. Paul briefly alludes to their familiarity with him through the services he offered in Ephesus. Can you think of people well-regarded because of their service for the Lord?

Spurgeon comments on Onesiphorus, “This good man is here immortalized. When he risked his life to find out and succour a poor despised prisoner, he little knew that he would live forever on the page of the church’s history. His cup of cold water given to an apostle has received an apostle’s reward. Are there any yet alive like Paul to whom we might minister in love after the manner of Onesiphorus?”

Spurgeon’s challenge is one we issue to all our readers today.  Is there someone you might minister to in love just as Onesiphorus often did toward Paul. Don’t delay.

April 16, 2013

Slave: A Bible Word Study

Lots of text today, but you need to click through to read it. This is from the blog of Clay Gentry where it appeared under the title Slave: The Christian’s Identity in Christ. Note the difference between the way the word was understood then as compared with today.


I recently presented a lesson to a small group on the slave metaphor used in the New Testament that describes Christians as Slaves of Christ. Below is my PowerPoint outline from that presentation. I did not intend for this to be an exhaustive study. Rather I hope that it will wet ones apatite to study this rich metaphor even further.

Several Metaphors Used to Describe Christians:

  • Sheep,
  • Soldiers,
  • Athletes,
  • Brothers, and
  • Workers.
  • However, Slaves is the most common…

Two Primary Greek Words Establish Christians as Slaves:

(1) kyrios: “master and Lord.” To confess Jesus as your “Lord” is to say He is your “master” and “owner” and you are His slave.

(2) doulos: “slave.” The Primary word used in the NT to describe Christians as slaves of Christ (124x). For the most part it is missing from the pages KJV and to a certain extent the NKJV, ESV, NASB and HCSB. Often times doulos, or its congugents is simply translated servant, or serve. In this lesson well jump around between various translations to show slave language.

American Verses Roman Slavery:

(1) Roman Slavery:

  • Non Racially Based,
  • Encompassed All Professions,
  • Everywhere in the Empire,
  • Hope of Freedom

 (2) American Slavery:

  • Race Based,
  • Primarily Agrarian in Nature,
  • Geographically Limited to the South,
  • Little/No Hope of Freedom

(3) Similarities Between the Two

  • Exclusive Ownership by the Master,
  • Complete Submission to the Master,
  • Total Dependence on the Master.
  • These are true of physical and/or spiritual slaves

Slaves of God in the Old Testament

Slaves in Jesus’ Teaching:

(1) An Element in 13 Parables (Here’s a sampling):

 (2) An Aspect of His Commands:

Slaves of Christ in the Epistles:

(1) Self Descriptions:

(2) Teachings Concerning Slavery:

(3) Various Verses:

Slaves of Christ in Revelation:

Suggested Reading:

January 19, 2013

For Such a Time as This

for-such-a-time-as-this
Today we begin an occasional feature where we will take a particular scripture verse and see how different pastors, authors and bloggers reflected on it. If you have a verse you would like us to consider, let us know.
“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Pastor Greg Laurie writes:

When Esther won a beauty contest and ascended the throne in ancient Persia, she was a Jew. But she kept that information quiet. And one day, because of the wicked efforts on the part of a man named Haman, there was a plot conceived to have all of the Jews in the empire destroyed.But Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, came to her and essentially said, “You are there in the palace. You are in a place of influence. You can go to the king and speak on behalf of your people.” But then he added this telling statement: “If you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

The idea behind Mordecai’s statement was this: “God put you where you are for a reason. Now, are you going to leverage that opportunity for God’s kingdom, or are you going to keep it all to yourself? Guess what? If you don’t do it, the Lord will find someone else.”

God has put you where you are today. You have a sphere of influence. You have a circle of friends. You have neighbors around you. You have coworkers and others with whom you come in contact on a regular basis. Will you go to them? Or will you run from them?

You might ask, “Well, if I don’t go, will the job still get done?”

As a matter of fact, it will get done. The reality is that God doesn’t need you. Certainly God doesn’t need me. But God does want us to participate in the process.

When God says go, what will you say?

Blogger Shanda Hasse adds:

This is SO powerful because I have known that I have a calling from God to reach out to this dark world for His glorious Kingdom, as we all do, and I have really been praying into exactly what he wants from me, as his faithful servant. I definitely know that direction, but it isn’t fully clear yet as to when and how to take action. Money is a large portion of the wait, but I know God will provide me in His timing with all of the resources I need to take flight with this calling.I just love the articulation, “you were made queen for just such a time as this” — we are called as followers of Christ to reach out in His name and not stay silent. This is such a relevant command, especially in the wake of the disaster our world is facing through these perilous times. We are to be queens & kings for Christ now more than ever . . . by that I mean LEADERS. We are to lead people to Christ and the abounding, endless love and hope that he has for all those called according to His purpose — that CAN be everyone if they choose!!

SO, get out there in this mess, don’t try to hide or segregate yourselves and your family from what is going on now with the economy, government and society. We must dive in and radiate Christ’s light and help those in panic and need. The jobless, homeless, seniors who have lost all of their retirement money and many others come to mind. Seek these people out, and help them in Jesus’ name. Pay for their dinner, help them look for a job, point them to the limitless resources of our merciful God. We are being called to serve a powerful purpose in such a time as this, so let’s get out and show the weak, lonely, desperate, lost and so on, the love of our AWESOME God. You go, you Kings & Queens of Christ.

Blogger Suzanne Benner writes:

This is a great verse. Esther was afraid to approach the king and ask him to save her people because approaching him without being asked was risking her life. When Mordecai answers her, it shows a lot of faith. He’s basically saying… if you don’t do it, God will still save our people, but you and I will die. And maybe this is the reason that God has put you here. As it turned out, it was. … I think that is a good thing to ponder as we approach all of our problems. Yes, it is very true that God will accomplish his purposes on this earth without us, if need be. But being where we are, and who we are, we all have unique opportunities to participate in his work. And perhaps we are exactly where we are for such a time as this. Today, wherever we are, and whatever position we are in, let’s overcome our fears, and stand up for God and his work.

Blogger B. Kessler (whose blog’s name is taken from this verse) writes:

…Esther did end up going to the king and because of that the Jews were saved. I am not the kind of heroine Esther was. In fact, I would describe myself as pretty average. But I do realize that by Ethiopian standards I live in a palace. I have luxuries I take for granted. In fact, compared to most of the world I live like a queen. It leaves me to wonder why I have so much when others have so little. Do I deserve more? Well, you may not know me but let me assure you the answer to that is no. I can’t give a good reason for why I was born in the U.S. and not some remote village in Africa or some country where the people are so oppressed they can’t even worship God without fear of being beaten or even killed. I have been thinking lately, as we pursue the adoption of an orphan whose name I don’t know and whose face I have never seen, maybe God has placed me here in these circumstances for “such a time as this”.

Finally,  from Truth and Freedom Ministries:

There are those in the Bible that were right on time, others went ahead of God’s appointed timing, and then there was One, born in the fullness of time

…Esther’s words – “…if I perish, I perish.” gives me assurance that she believed this was God’s timing for her to act. In her words you don’t see an assurance that everything will work out in her favor, but you do see the character that it takes to step out in God’s timing and leave the results to Him.

January 17, 2013

What’s In It For Me?

It’s great when readers submit original work here. Kim Rogerson returns for the second time in what just might be a recurring role!  This passage in II Kings deals with Hezekiah’s rather strange reaction to Isaiah’s prophecy. Verse 19 is key, and if you miss the nuance, the NLT and Message get to the heart of that verse.

2 Kings 20:16-19

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

19 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

New International Version (NIV)

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 2 Kings 20:19 – Hezekiah’s reaction to Isaiah’s prophecy. Hezekiah is a King of Judah who has witnessed God’s deliverance first hand. When the Assyrians invade Judah and threaten to destroy Jerusalem, Hezekiah turns the matter over the Lord and prays. God answers Hezekiah that He will defend Jerusalem against the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:35) and He does! The angel of the Lord kills 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp and their army withdraws (2 Kings 19:35 & 36). Hezekiah is also healed from a terminal illness (2 Kings 20:1-11).  Politically and personally, Hezekiah knows that God is working powerfully in his life. Yet his attitude to Isaiah’s prophecy that his progeny will be carried off as exiles to Babylon is surprisingly congenial apathy. It’s as if he is saying to himself, “Oh, well. So sad for them, but I’ll be all right.”

Contrast Hezekiah’s response to his great-grandson’s response to the same prophecy. During Josiah’s reign the Book of the Law is found in the temple. When it is read to Josiah, he is overwhelmed with grief and sends to enquire of the Lord about what is written there. The prophetess Huldah tells Josiah that God will punish Judah for not following Him (2 Kings 22:15-20).

15 She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”

So they took her answer back to the king.

However, Josiah’s reaction is different from Hezekiah’s. In 2 Kings 23:1 it says, “Then the king …” and Josiah gets busy. He makes sure everyone hears the word of the Lord and then he starts obeying what it says. He gets rid of the idols in the temple and the pagan priests practicing there. He goes into all the country and smashes the altars made for other gods. He celebrates the Passover with the people of Judah with whole-hearted enthusiasm. In 2 Kings 23:25 it says of Josiah, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” What an epitaph!

Imagine if we truly cared about what is written in the Bible and turned to the Lord with all our heart and soul and strength? We can’t stop the fulfillment of prophecy, but we can get busy and put God’s Word into action, especially Jesus’ commands to love God and to love each other (Matthew 22:37-40).

If you missed it, link to Kim’s previous article about David and Joab.

October 23, 2012

Building Your Platform — Without God

As a blogger I often see articles about “building your online platform.” Perhaps you know people who have dedicated themselves to building an offline platform as well. Like the tower-builders at Babel, they long to “make a name” for themselves. So I was attracted to this article at SermonIndex.net which begins with a verse many of you know by heart, but adds an extra verse of fuller context.  To read this article at source, click here.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” (Zechariah 4:6-7)

There is a busyness that we are all prone to in the work of the Lord. Though there is nothing wrong with being used of God and sharing His truths with others there is a pit of self-promotion that we can fall into.

We can act like it’s by our own strength, power and influence that we will make ourselves successful.

There can be a feverishness of activity in someone wanting to build themselves a a platform so they can promote their messages for God. Yet God’s calling and purpose could be 100 miles away from this person’s present activities.

It can seem from our perspective to have a voice in Christianity world seems impossible. Unless we have a radio show, tv program and best selling book with endorsements. Yet God says “What are you, mighty mountain?” (Zechariah 4:7). God is able to raise up any leader overnight for the entire nation to hear. With God anything is possible as we trust Him.

Sadly the Church takes it cue from worldly business methods much faster then it sits at the feet of Jesus and hears the quiet promptings of the Spirit. I do not believe it is wrong to do simple steps that are practical in building a platform. Yet the dangers are great when we are fixated on these things.

It is God who gives us a platform. His sovereignty even sets up circumstances for us to be used in His plan. God is concerned with primarily with His Church and has had an eternal purpose in Christ before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:9).

There is a great rest that can happen when we can trust Him for a platform and simply say to the Lord we are:

“only servants…” (1 Corinthians 3:5)

Servants are only mindful of what their masters want. That is a great test to see if you are a servant of the Lord is if you are preoccupied with what God wants not what you desire. May God keep us in His will as we desire to be used of Him to spread His Good News. Here are some practical points in summation:

1. We are only servants.

2. It is not by our strength but by God’s Spirit

3. It is God’s message, not ours.

4. Busyness does not mean success.

5. God’s ways do not always match up with worldly methods.

6. God has an eternal plan, we can trust Him in that.

7. God raises up leaders in the body of Christ.

Consider this prayer to the Lord today we seek to be useful for Him in His work:

Lord, we are so thankful for the great salvation that you have given us. We only want to show our appreciation for your love to us by doing a work for you. Please us me for your glory so that I can bring your Good News to others and share your truths. Lord please empty me of myself so I can be usable and mouldable in your hands. I accept it is your will if you will give me a platform to speak for you. Amen.

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.  Ps. 75: 6, 7 ESV

September 12, 2012

Life is Short, Some Lives are Shorter

Psalm 90: 12 Teach us to realize how short our lives are.
    Then our hearts will become wise.  (NIrV)

The NIrV is a simplified NIV for children and people for whom English is a second language.

Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (NIV)

ooo

Psalm 139:6b    … all the days ordained for me were written in your book  before one of them came to be.  (NIV)

About six weeks ago we attended a backyard party that was hosted by a woman whose life was greatly changed by the ongoing influence of a group of people who took the time to enter her world — at the time a dilapidated motel in a factory district — and offer her encouragement and friendship. She wanted to say thank you to the people who had helped steer her life in a better direction, and that included my wife, who with two other women co-founded what has now become a community organization that provides all manner of support to people living on the margins. It was so encouraging to see the upward movement in this woman’s life, and to know the efforts of so many of us combined together to make a difference.

Then, today, we attended her memorial service.

She had no idea when she hosted that party that she wouldn’t be around weeks later, and neither did we. Her health took a very sudden turn, and suddenly we no longer have her smile to look at. For my wife, it was a shock that is still hard to fathom.

This particular memorial was more inter-faith than Christian and did not contain prayers or hymns, though there was a reading of Psalm 23 from The Message. However, the presence of people I know to be true Christ-followers in the audience today was a reminder of how much God’s people have been involved in the birth of various social service initiatives and agencies, and how much God’s people are involved on a continuing basis in giving compassion and concern.

But you never properly attend a funeral or memorial unless you use it as an opportunity to look in the mirror, to look at your own life. Am I making each day count? Am I moving closer to the cross? Is my life bearing fruit? Am I becoming more of a person who reflects the grace of the gospel? How would my life be remembered?

I had an English teacher in my senior year of high school who never specified the length of written assignments.  We would ask, “How long does it need to be?” and he would answer, “As long as a piece of string.” 

Life is like that. It’s as long as a piece of string. Your life. My life.

Later, I would learn the expression, “We should not talk in terms of long lives and short lives, but we should speak of small lives and big lives.” For kingdom people, for Christ-indwelt people, for Holy Spirit-led people, we should aim to live overflowing lives. Because life is short, and sometimes even shorter than that.

Eph 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),

16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. (Amplified Bible)

(same passage)  Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. (J. B. Phillips translation)

~PW

July 23, 2012

Constancy

Anyone who has worked with mathematical or scientific formulas knows that often there is one factor which is known as a “constant,” sometimes represented by the letter kConstancy, or if you  prefer, consistency, should be the mark of every Christ-follower. People should see our ‘k-factor.’ Today’s post is ‘borrowed’ from Daily Encouragement, my go-to click that starts most days online. It appeared there under the title Delilah Road.

“After this it came about that he (Samson) loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Judges 16:4).

“When he (King Darius) had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?’” (Daniel 6:20).

I just read the inspiring story of a businessman who took a bold, principled stand against the grain of political correctness and confusion abounding in our land. When criticized rather than backing down from his convictions or capitulating he merely stated, “Guilty as charged.”

Wednesday, on the way to the shore, we passed a road sign in New Jersey that caught our attention and prompted some good-natured teasing in our van. Delilah Road is a most unusual name and I can’t help but wonder if it was named after a real person or even the Delilah written about in the Bible. I teased my friend Jesse and said, “We must not go down Delilah Road.” (The ladies amened that in the second row!)

It’s interesting that we saw the sign as we were headed in the direction of Atlantic City just before we got on the Garden State Parkway and down the shore about ten miles to Ocean City, which is very different than Atlantic City!

Delilah was the temptress who beguiled Samson. (See Judges 16).

Today let us consider two famous Bible characters, both who had great potential. The first person, Samson, had faltering faith and is more famous for his weaknesses than his strengths. The second person, Daniel, is one of the sterling characters of the Bible who consistently served God in his worship and lifestyle as characterized in the phrase from the daily text, “your God, whom you constantly serve.”

This is a remarkable testimony from the lips of an observant secular king! Daniel had spent his entire adult life in the service of a series of secular kings and had acted with absolute integrity. His enemies were unable to bring a charge of any dereliction of duties for “they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (6:4). They finally found a way to trap him in regard to his religious convictions yet he faithfully stood the test. He faced a hungry den of lions rather than compromise his lifelong, steadfast walk with God.

Today I want to especially take note of the phrase, “your God, whom you constantly serve.” Daniel had been faithful to the king in regard to his employment. But the king noticed something additional. Daniel had demonstrated his faith in God with continual service. This was toward the end of Daniel’s long life, after being removed from his homeland during the Babylonian exile and his conscription into service, first for King Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar of Babylon, and at the changing of the kingdom, under Darius, king of Persia. His early resolve not to defile himself with the king’s food established a pattern of lifelong, uncompromising obedience to God’s commands (1:8).

What do those around you observe in your life?  Are you steadfast in your walk? Is your testimony consistent with your lifestyle or are you like a chameleon trying to blend into every setting. By the grace of God and with a resolute heart we will be faithful to His cause even when we’re in the minority. After all it’s been that way throughout the generations, so why do we expect it to be different for us today? In agreement with the Psalmist I pray in earnest, “Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!” (119:5). Will you join me?

Daily prayer: Father, though there are many ups and downs, highs and lows one thing we hope others observe about our life is that we are continually serving our Lord and Savior no matter what. May we never sell out to appease others or due to fear regarding the consequences of our public stand for You. More important than what is spoken about us on this side are the words we long to hear You say in the hereafter, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of heaven…” How we look forward to that future blessed event, through the mercy of Jesus our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.

 ~ Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

May 25, 2012

Apostolic Passion

Some of you will recognize the name Floyd McClung in context with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) or more recently, All Nations.  Today we discovered Floyd and his wife (of 40 years) Sally are bloggers, and found this article.  This is lengthy, and you need to click here to read the article in full; what appears below are just a few sample paragraphs:

What is Apostolic Passion?

The term “passion” is used to describe everything from romance to hunger pangs. I don’t know what it means to you, but for me passion means whatever a person is willing to suffer for. In fact, that’s the root meaning of the word. It comes from the Latin paserre, to suffer.  It is what you hunger for so intensely that you will sacrifice anything to have it.

The word “apostle” means a sent one, a messenger. To be “apostolic” means we are sent people. The apostolic calling of the church includes forging new ways for how we do church and pioneering new places where we do church. To be apostolic is to be radical, to be adventurous, to think strategically and to listen prophetically.

“Apostolic Passion,” therefore, is a deliberate, intentional choice to live for the worship of Jesus in the nations. It has to do with being committed to the point of death to spreading His glory. It’s the quality of those who are on fire for Jesus, who dream of the whole earth being covered with the Glory of the Lord…

Floyd then lists some ways you can tell when you’ve lost such passion, and then begins describing the process of getting it back:

…Paul says in Romans 15 that it is his ambition, his passion, if you will to make Christ known. It began for him with a revelation of Jesus that he nurtured all his adult life. Paul not only encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he kept on meeting Jesus every day. This revelation of Jesus, and his study of God’s purposes, gave birth to Paul’s apostolic passion. Knowing Jesus and making Him known consumed the rest of Paul’s life. He “gloried in Christ Jesus in his service to God” (Rom 15:17). By comparison, everything else was dung, garbage, stinking refuse. Paul’s ambition was born from his understanding that God longed for His Son to be glorified in the nations. Paul did not waste his passion, but focused it on spreading the glory of God to the Gentiles, that they “…might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:16).

Human enthusiasm cannot sustain apostolic passion. When God invests His own passion in you, you must build and develop what God has given you. Four things will help make that happen:

1. Apostolic Abandonment

Too many people want the fruit of Paul’s ministry without paying the price that Paul paid. He died. He died to everything. He died daily. He was crucified with Christ. This strong-willed, opinionated man knew that he must die to self. He knew that in his flesh, he couldn’t generate the revelation of Jesus; he couldn’t sustain the heart of Christ. So he died. He abandoned his life. He abandoned himself…

2. Apostolic Focus

The greatest enemy of the ambition to see Jesus worshiped in the nations is lack of focus. You can run around expending energy on all sorts of good ministries, and not get one step closer to the nations. I don’t have anything against all the projects and ministries out there done in God’s name. God’s people do them, and I don’t question their obedience to God. But the Church has an apostolic calling, an apostolic mission. God has called us to the nations. We must focus, or we won’t obey.

Focus on what? I believe God wants a people for Himself. Activity for God without a sharing God’s passion to have a people for Himself is good activity, but it’s not the mission of God. You can have evangelism without fulfilling God’s mission. You can care for the poor without connecting with God’s mission. You can do short-term outreach without obeying God’s mission…

3. Apostolic Praying

A young man in Bible school offered to help David Wilkerson years ago when he was ministering on the streets of New York City. Wilkerson asked him how much time he spent in prayer. The young student estimated about 20 minutes a day. Wilkerson told him, “Go back, young man. Go back for a month and pray two hours a ay, every day for 30 days. When you’ve done that, come back. Come back, and I might consider turning you loose on the streets where there is murder, rape, violence and danger. If I sent you out now on 20 minutes a day, I’d be sending a soldier into battle without any weapons, and you would get killed.”…

Paul said that he prayed “night and day with tears without ceasing with thankfulness in the Spirit constantly boldly for godly sorrow against the evil one.”

4. Apostolic Decision-Making

If you live without a vision of the glory of God filling the whole earth, you are in danger of serving your own dreams of greatness, as you wait to do “the next thing” God tells you. There are too many over-fed, under-motivated Christians hiding behind the excuse that God has not spoken to them. They are waiting to hear voices or see dreams all the while living to make money, to provide for their future, to dress well and have fun…

…Apostolic decision-making starts with a passion for God’s glory in the nations, then asks: “Where shall I serve you?” Most people do the opposite. They ask the where-and-when questions without a revelation of His glory in the nations. Is it any wonder they never hear God say “go!” They have not cultivated a passion for the passions of God. Lesser desires are holding them captive…

Read the entire article

Here’s a short article by Floyd  on this subject for church leaders.

May 23, 2012

Always Ready to Give a Defense

Moving along in the Christian pilgrimage may mean different things to different people. To some it might be:

  • spending more time in God’s presence; more effective and disciplined in prayer; growing in faith; an ever increasing awareness of being loved by God and knowing His ways

while for other people it might be:

  • going deeper into God’s word; developing a mastery of scripture; being able to provide answers to new believers and skeptics alike.

Most people would suggest that the former is the “higher” aim, but to cling to that goal at the expense of Bible study can be folly, especially when friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers ask us questions that we can’t answer, or our answers seem to them as though we are dodging the question, or are intellectually less than satisfying.

My contention is that you can’t have a deeper life without also being active in developing a deeper apologetic; that heart knowledge can’t develop entirely in an absence of head knowledge; that both Spirit and Word need to be involved in spiritual formation.

So I was glad to see this at Eric Bryant’s blog, pertaining to a series at Gateway Church.  I encourage you to read this at source, and then bookmark the site in your browser so you can connect with forthcoming messages in this series. There’s also a link to the sermon audio, but I wanted the outline (below) to be preserved here for a greater number of readers.  The question is:

How Do You Know The Bible Isn’t Propaganda?

Today we began a series called “How Do You Know?” John Burke shared insights in response to the question: “How do you know the Bible isn’t propaganda?” Here is some of what he shared:

“Smart people vehemently attack the Bible; and incredibly smart people who were once atheists or agnostics have become convinced it’s of Divine origin. Our society is filled with references to the Bible, but has the authority of the Bible been dethroned for good? Or in fact, is the reason it’s the most widely translated, widely read, widely quoted book of history because there is something Divine about it? How do you know?

God claims to have revealed Himself through Scripture.

In Genesis 12, 4000 years ago,: The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’

No other sacred scriptures speak to all people’s of all cultures, but this God says he’s creating this nation, the Jewish Nation out of 2 people, for the express purpose of blessing the whole earth. How? In two ways: This nation would preserve His Words—and He gave explicit instructions for a class of people (the scribes) who did nothing but this, and through this nation God would come in the form of a man to reveal Himself and restore all willing humans to right relationship with their Creator.

1. The Bible has been amazingly well preserved

  • We don’t possess the original autograph copy of any ancient work, but the more copies we have, the science of textual criticism can determine its accuracy. We posses 24,000 copies of the New Testament—more than any other work of history (the second closest is the Iliad with 643 copies).
  • Bruce Metzger, New Testament Scholar says of the 20,000 lines of the N.T., 40 are in doubt. 40 out of 20,000 sentences. This means 99.5% of the New Testament you read textual critics are confident was what original authors wrote.
  • What about the Old Testament? Prior to 1947, the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew OT (Masoretic Text) had been copied in 916 A.D, but in 1948, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we found parts of 38 of the 39 books of the Old Testament dating from 300 B.C. to 150 B.C. (so all Messianic prophecies predated Jesus).
  • So the big question, how much copy error had crept in over 1000’s of years? Notre Dame professor Eugene Ulrich, who did an Oxford series on the Dead Sea Scrolls said, ‘The scrolls have shown that our traditional Bible has been amazingly accurately preserved for over 2,000 years.”
  • The nation of Israel didn’t play the phone game. All the laws and classes of scribes and lawyers were created for the very purpose of preserving what they believed to be God’s word, revealed through the prophets.

2. God’s been foretelling what he’s doing in real, verifiable history.

A study of the top 10 psychics predictions over a 3-year period found that 98% of their predictions were totally incorrect! Humans just aren’t real good at predicting how history will unfold. But God is!

God alone lives unbridled by time. God alone can proclaim what is to come, and remarkably incorporate our choice into his eternal plan. God says to Moses 3500 years ago, here’s how you’ll know: ‘The LORD said to [Moses]…. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him… You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken’. – Deuteronomy 18:17-22 (1500 B.C.)

The 66 books of the Bible, written over a 1500 year period by 40+ prophets, contain over 1,800 individual predictions concerning over 700 separate subjects.

From 1000 to 400 BC, God sent prophets telling specifically of this Messiah who would bless all nations. Copies of all these books were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls which predated Jesus. Here are some of the prophecies:

  • The Messiah will be God’s Son and all nations will be his inheritance. (Psalm 2:7-8, 1000 B.C.)
  • All his bones will be out of joint as villains pierce his hands and feet and divide his clothes (Psalm 22:14-18, 1000 B.C.)
  • He will be born a child, live near Galilee, be called Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:1-7, 780 B.C.)
  • He will not only restore Israel, but bring salvation to all the nations (Isaiah 49:5-6, 780 B.C.)
  • He will be so disfigured, no one will recognize him (Isaiah 52:14, 780 B.C.)
  • He will bring Good News to the poor, give sight to the blind, set the oppressed free (Isaiah 61:1-2, 780 B.C.)
  • He will suffer and die to pay for our sins, he will be buried, but will rise again to see the light of life and bring many children to God (Isaiah 53, 780 B.C.)
  • He who existed from eternity past will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, 750 B.C.)
  • A messenger will come before him (John the Baptist) then the Lord will come to His temple in Jerusalem (Malachi 3:1, 470 B.C.)

These are just 9 of 61 prophecies foretelling Jesus’ coming. Without God’s miraculous intervention, how else could you get 40 writers to pre-write accurate history before it happens?

Jesus is mentioned in history books not included in the Bible. In fact, From non-Christian, extra-biblical sources, we can conclude:

  • A man named Jesus, of the town of Nazareth in Galilee, lived during the reign of Tiberius Caesar.
  • Jesus was a contemporary of John the Baptist, a prophet who attracted a large following among the Jews and was beheaded by Herod.
  • Jesus had a brother named James who became a leader among the Christians and was martyred for his faith in Jesus as Lord, God and Messiah.
  • Jesus was recognized as a wise teacher who accurately predicted future events, lived a virtuous life, challenged the teaching of the respected Jewish religious leaders, and attracted a large following among the Jews as well as the Gentiles.
  • Jesus performed miracles (Jewish Talmud).
  • Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem.
  • His crucifixion was overshadowed by a great darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour.
  • After His death, His disciples continued to proclaim Him as the Messiah, worshipping Him as God, and claiming that He had appeared to them as risen from the dead.
  • The impact of Jesus’ life upon His disciples was so great that within 16 to 80 years after His death, vast numbers of His followers were willing to die for their conviction that Jesus lived, died and rose again on their behalf.

This is not mythology. This is not religion. This is history – God’s story foretold.

The question remains: what are we going to do with the Scriptures?

To the religious leaders who killed him, Jesus said, ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me… How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’

Jesus says the real problem is that we get so caught up in seeking praise from other people that we get distracted from pleasing God.

The Bible is God’s Word, God’s History, God’s Love letter. Do you seek God through the Scriptures?

If you are not sure that you believe, read Luke or John’s eyewitness account and ask God ‘If this is really you, help me have eyes to see.’ If you seek him honestly, watch how he meets you.

If you claim to believe but make no real effort to seek God regularly in his Word, get on reading plan, jump into a small group, and/or ask for others to keep you accountable to do so.”

If you want to watch or listen to the entire message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

…For some, today’s thoughts may seem very basic, very elementary; but they are necessary to be able to field questions from doubters. Of course, a life of love lived in submission to God is also a powerful apologetic, and it’s important that we build our faith and our confidence not exclusively on external proofs, but on an inward reality: “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.”

 

March 5, 2012

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Today we’re introducing you to David Rupert who blogs at Red Letter Believers, where this post appeared recently under the title, Can’t Find Satisfaction at Work? You’re Right on Track.

Last week, I opened up the book of Ecclesiastes and read the yearnings of Solomon. A man on the outside that looks like he had it all. But really, he was a sorry sap, a man looking for satisfaction in all the wrong things.

“Vanity of Vanities,” he wrote.

“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.”

As I pulled my pants on this morning and buttoned my shirt, I have to admit that some similar thoughts ran through my head. Does it really matter what I do? Am I making a difference? Isn’t it true that if I were to leave, then 100 would be ready to step in my place — many of them better suited for the work?

Maybe Solomon was right. What do we get for all the toil and anxious striving? In today’s age, when the pay doesn’t go up but the workload is increasing not just in percentages, but exponentially as company’s continue to make do without hiring. Sure I get a paycheck at the end of two weeks, but that just makes me a hireling — a man who will do anything for money.

But I know better.

I enjoy what I do. Like a beaming third grader, I do my work well so the boss will be happy. I want the company to succeed, even prosper and do my part to make it function. I like my coworkers and anticipate my time with them.

However, I am not a person who finds his satisfaction in his work alone. I cannot put my trust in my labor, hoping that it satisfies the ache in my soul

If I do, I’ll be found wanting in the end. That was Solomon’s quest, his fruitless pursuit.

“There is a God-shaped hole,” Pascal wrote. And that hole cannot be filled by anything less than a relationship with Jesus. My job, profession, or occupation will never fill it. That’s why work can feel so hollow at times. It was supposed to be like this.

So when I get frustrated today, it will be a reminder of where my passions should be. Sorry boss, but it’s not in my office. I’ve my eyes focused on distant fields.

Does your work satisfy you? Does it fulfill you? Or is there something missing? Comment here. 

Related articles, Looking for God in all the wrong places

~David Rupert

  • Take this to the next level with these thoughts by Jeff Lyle who blogs at Transforming Truth, with this piece, Success That Endures.
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