Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's All Good!

Two of my favorite Biblical characters are Joseph and John the Baptist. These men are heroes of mine. By them I am simultaneously convicted and challenged. As I read my Bible and study their lives, I am struck by the similarity and contrast between Joseph's and John's lives, particularly the fact that each was unjustly imprisoned. I found the similarity and contrast to be interesting and comforting, and I enjoyed the study so much I wanted to share it.

Let’s begin by noting seven similarities shared by Joseph and John.

Both were Born to (previously) Barren Mothers & Elderly Fathers

We read about John’s parents Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1:7. In Joseph’s case, Genesis 29:31 and Genesis 37:3.

Both were Born in Answer to Prayer

These two children were deeply desired by their parents, and when godly people desire something deeply, they pray for it earnestly to the God for whom nothing is impossible (Genesis 30:22-24 and Luke 1:13; 1:37). The births of Joseph and John are the fruit of God's omnipotence. They are proof that God can bless where it looks humanly impossible and that He does this in answer to prayer.

Both were Predicted to be Great

Before the true greatness of each of these men appeared, God had revealed what was in store; that each would be great men of God. For John case we read in Luke 1:14-15. The revelation of Joseph’s greatness was a little different from John's because as a 17 year old young man God gave him dreams (Genesis 37:6-7). God revealed that Joseph would one day be exalted over his brothers and they would bow down to him.

God revealed His purposes before accomplishing them because when they finally did come to pass, it was evident that God did it. These dreams also helped produce their fulfillment (Genesis 37:8). By that I mean the brothers’ jealous, bitterness, and hatred of Joseph became so inflamed, because of those dreams, that they sold him to Ishmeelite merchantmen who were on their way to Egypt. The irony here is terrific: by sending Joseph to Egypt so that they might be rid of the dreamer, they set in motion the very events that fulfilled the dream.

That is the way it is every time we try to resist the purposes of God. We always wind up fulfilling them. God’s purposes cannot and will not be thwarted (Isaiah 46:9-11).

The 17-year-old Joseph was sent away to Egypt. His aged father was fed a lie; having been told that the boy was eaten by a wild animal. Jacob then ripped his garments and wept and mourned for days, refusing the hypocritical comfort offered by his older sons. It's one of those scenes where you want to break into the story and say, “Jacob, trust God! Believe God! It will turn out for your good and God’s glory! Remember what the Psalmist says,

'For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.'” (84:11-12)

But Jacob cannot hear you and it will be twenty long years before Jacob sees the mercy of God in his heart-breaking circumstances.

Both were Way-preparers

Another similarity John and Joseph shared is that both were sent by God as way-preparers. About John we read in Luke 1:17; 7:27. Joseph's trip to Egypt, even though forced upon him as a slave, was also a way-preparing mission. When he revealed himself to his brothers he told them as much (Genesis 45:7).

The real significance of both was not in themselves but in what came after them. God's people were delivered from famine as a result of Joseph's mission to Egypt. On the heels of John's mission, the Deliverer Himself came to save God's people!

Both were Men of Integrity

Both Joseph and John were men of integrity. Mark 6:20 says, “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and holy.” Genesis 39:1-4 tells how the Lord was with Joseph. He was bought by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, and he proved himself so upright and reliable that Potiphar put him in charge of his whole house.

John and Joseph also proved to be men of integrity by resisting sexual sin. They uncompromisingly opposed adultery. John preached the same truth in the palace that he preached in the wilderness (Mark 6:18). John resisted adultery in public and in principle. Joseph resisted adultery privately. Potiphar's wife was incessant in her attempts to seduce Joseph in an empty house. Joseph resisted her and fled (Genesis 39:7-12).

Both were Imprisoned for their Integrity

In both cases these young men wound up in jail because the women they reproved were enraged (Mark 6:17 and Genesis 39:13-20). Herodias could not endure the continuing prosperity of a righteous man who had publicly condemned her sins. Neither could Potiphar's wife: she cried out to the servants and fabricated a story in which Joseph was the seducer and she was the victim. This caused Potiphar to imprison Joseph rather than loose face. Thus both Joseph and John were imprisoned for the sake of righteousness.

Both were Young Men

AT least they were during their imprisonments. Most likely both were in the neighborhood of thirty. We know that John was six months older than Jesus, and Luke 3:23 tells that Jesus was about thirty when he began his public ministry. Genesis 41:46 says that Joseph was thirty when he was released from the dungeon. He was probably twenty-seven or twenty-eight when he was locked up (Genesis 41:1). These were young men. (Younger than I am. Which is why this similarity grabs me the most.)

That is the end of their similarities, however; and we have arrived at the one decisive dissimilarity between these two great men of God. This dissimilarity may seem shocking, especially in relation to their several similarities.

Joseph was exalted. John was beheaded.

God worked for Joseph in prison. Indeed, God prospered Joseph all the way to becoming the de facto ruler of Egypt, and all because of the wisdom God had given him. From dungeon servant to palace ruler is an amazing turn of affairs.

The turn of affairs for John was also amazing. Late one night in John's dungeon cell the sounds flutes and lyres and tambourines and the raucous cheers of Herod's cronies could barely be heard, as Herod threw a big drunken bash for his boys and they all lustfully gazed at Herodias’ daughter as she danced before them. Herod, in a drunken stupor no doubt, promised the young woman whatever she wanted, up to half his kingdom (Mark 6:22).

The young woman sought her mother's counsel (Mark 6:24-25). Not a bad idea, usually, but not when one's mother is Herodias. “What shall I ask?” And Herodias, with her eyes flashing and her wicked heart bursting with vicious delight, instructs her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist served up on a platter. That request caused Herod to sober up fast. The lustful monarch was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her (Mark 6:26-28). So John the Baptist, forerunner to the Christ, was decapitated.

Now remember: John is thirty or thirty-one years old. He spent the early part of his life in the wilderness in devotion to the Lord and preparation for his ministry. When he was about twenty-nine he came like a whirlwind of righteousness through Israel and within a relatively brief period of time he was in prison and beheaded. Twenty-nine years of preparation for just one year in the ministry?! This just and holy man, the forerunner of the Messiah, beheaded after his faithful service. Beheaded on the whim of a lictenious king, who was goaded by some sex kitten whose strings were pulled by a vindictive adulteress!

Did John cry out in rage: “So much for serving the living God! He takes a man from his mother's arms, drives him to the wilderness and after a moment's service, flings him away on the trash heap of the world!” Or did he summon all his wavering faith, bow in submission and hand over his agony and his life to the one who justly judges (1 Peter 2:23)?

We don't know. We do know what Jesus said about John. Luke 7:26-28,

“But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet...For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.”

The more pressing question before us is this: was God only with Joseph and not with John? Did God preserve Joseph and abandon John? No! He did not!

God was faithful to John even through that seemingly meaningless death. Hebrews 11 teaches that people of faith sometimes have Joseph's experience and sometimes they have John's experience. By faith God’s people have, Hebrews 11:34 says, "Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” God prospered them like Joseph and caused their enemies' hearts to be turned.

But Hebrews 11:36-37 says that others with just as much faith “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” That is, God chose not to intervene, but instead chose to take them out of the world.

Lessons Learned

By comparing and contrasting these two lives we can draw the following lessons.

First, do not assume you will have a long life. Both John and Jesus died in their early thirties. None reading this post, and certainly not the author of this post, are as obedient as Jesus Christ or John the Baptist. On the other hand, Joseph lived to be 110! The point is we cannot assume long life. Do not put off living for Jesus. Begin today.

Second, God is the ultimate giver and taker of life. Take it from Job (Job 1:21) if you would rather not listen to me. God gives it as long as our mission yet remains and He takes it when our mission is accomplished. John's mission as the forerunner was done. John himself had said as much(John 3:30). Still, I assume that was a more swift and decisive turn than John had expected. God will keep us alive precisely as long as it is good for us. When our mission is done, He will take us.

Third, those who love God and are called according to His purpose should never believe that a wrenching and painful turn of affairs is a sign that God is against you. On the contrary, it is God's hand at work for you and for His glory! There are three things that make this hard to believe but which these stories prove.

  1. First, it is hard to believe God is for us in our tragedies if they last for thirteen years or twenty years. Joseph was a slave and prisoner for thirteen years, and who could have ever convinced Jacob that the loss of Joseph was for his good, for the good of his family, for the good of the world, and the glory of God? It was twenty years before God showed him that this was so. Do not put a time limit on God. He operates on His own time schedule and we must adapt accordingly.
  2. Second, it is hard to believe God is for us in our tragedies if several of them come in a row. Just when we are getting over one heartache, trial, or persecution, another one strikes. But look at Joseph. At first he lived as the apple of his father's eye. Then he was sold as a seventeen year-old into Egyptian slavery. He prospers in Potiphar's house, but just when things look bright he is falsely accused and thrown into the dungeon. How easy it would have been for Joseph to throw in the towel and quit trusting God. That would have been easy, but it would also have been foolish because behind every setback God was moving to bring His purposes to pass. When you suffer setbacks for the cause of Christ, be assured that God is moving you to glory.
  3. Third, it is hard to believe God is working for our good when our setback does not give us life, but, as with John the Baptist, leads us into death. But I believe with all my heart that Genesis 50:20 is just as true for John the Baptist and Herod as it was for Joseph and his brothers. Herodias meant it for evil; but God meant it for good. There is no greater comfort than to know that no matter how absurd and irrational circumstances may seem, God is in control and means it for our good and His glory.
It’s all good! It may not be all pleasant, but it is all good. Let's always trust in Him.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Go

According to 1 Timothy 4:7-8 the purpose of spiritual discipline is godliness.

“The present benefit of spiritual disciplines is a fulfilled, God-blessed, fruitful, and useful life...[and]...will carry on into eternity. Although many people spend far more time exercising their bodies than their souls, the excellent servant of Jesus Christ realizes that spiritual discipline is a priority.” - John MacArthur, Jr.

Nothing is greater than the worship of Almighty God. The only thing comparable is telling someone about Jesus Christ. We call that evangelism/witnessing. The two work together, because nothing glorifies God so much as His salvation of a lost soul. To communicate the Gospel to others is BOTH evangelism AND worship.

More than any other spiritual discipline, evangelism creates massive discomfort for most Christians. Still, Godliness requires that we discipline ourselves in the practice of evangelism. Every believer, each church member, regardless of ministry or giftedness, is to evangelize whether or not they are gifted as an evangelist. Consider the following passages of Scripture:

Evangelism is not optional. It’s not always easy, but it doesn’t belong on Mike Rowe’s list of dirty jobs either. Witnessing may be difficult, especially at first, but is also glorious
“According to the New Testament, evangelism is just preaching the Gospel, the evangel. It is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God’s message of mercy to sinners. Anyone who faithfully delivers that message, under whatever circumstances, in a large meeting, in a small meeting, from a pulpit, or in a private conversation, is evangelizing.” - J.I. Packer

A simple definition of evangelism is communicating the Gospel. What is the Gospel? It is the good news that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in His image to know Him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from Him. In His great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law Himself and taking on Himself the punishment for our sins. On the cross Jesus satisfied God’s holiness so God could extend mercy to lost sinners, and He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted His sacrifice. Jesus now calls us to repent of our sins and trust in Him alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone we will be born again into a new and eternal life with God.

That really is good news! Do you believe that? If you do, are you afraid to share it? If you are, why? Here are a few possible reasons, some or all of which may apply to you.

  1. No confidence.
  2. Fear of man.
  3. Uncomfortable with a certain evangelistic methods ("Cold calls", door-to-door visits, etc.)
  4. Evangelism’s seriousness is frightening.

How do you gauge success in evangelism? Faithfully sharing the Gospel is successful evangelism! Some plant. Others water. Only God gives the increase. Conversions are the fruit of God alone. All Biblical evangelism is successful, regardless of the results.

The power of evangelism is the Holy Spirit—Acts 1:8. Evangelism is expected of every Christian because every Christian is empowered to evangelize. This does not mean that all evangelism must be done the same way—same method—by everybody, but it does mean that all believers have been given power to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.

You may not feel or sense the power, but it is there! This is because the Gospel is unlike any other message in the world—Romans 1:16. God blesses the message of the Gospel like no other words! God is bigger than our sins, our ignorance, and our pride. He will honor His word in our mouths.

“Sharing the Gospel is like walking around in a thunderstorm and handing out lightning rods. You don’t know when the lightning will strike or who it will strike, but you know what it’s going to strike—the lightning rod of the Gospel.” - Donald Whitney

The most powerful ongoing Christian witness has always been the speaking of God’s Word by one who is living God’s Word. Both our words and our ways are unavoidably bound together in witness. The way we live is a primary aspect of our witness, but our living God’s truth is to be coupled with telling God’s truth. The airplane of Christian witness has two wings: our lives (conduct) and our lips (conversation).

Matthew 5:16 is not a passive command. It calls for action! Discipline yourself to be an intentional instead of just an accidental witness. If you do not discipline yourself for evangelism you will find it very easy to excuse yourself from ever sharing the Gospel with anyone. Purposefully demonstrate with your lives, and describe with your lips the Gospel. Think of ways to steer conversations toward spiritual matters—not to debate nonsense but to declare Jesus! Never forget this: more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar.

Consider These Things

  1. Will you obey Jesus Christ and be an intentional—not just accidental—witness?
  2. Will you faithfully share the Gospel—by your conduct and with your conversation—and trust God to save souls?
  3. Will you discipline yourself to evangelize for the purpose of Godliness?
  4. List five people with whom you need to talk about the Lord, and then talk to them about the Lord.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Here We are to Worship

As a new bride, a woman in a remote village dreamed about the security and happiness her marriage would bring. Perhaps her expectations were unrealistic. Maybe she was too preoccupied with her own ambitions to recognize the first signs of tension in her marriage, but the tensions mushroomed. Eventually she and her husband made the agonizing and dream shattering decision to divorce.

The friends of this young woman tried to convince her that “time heals all wounds.” She hoped that were true, or that time would, at least, lessen the pain. This lady did pull herself back together emotionally, and she met a man who seemed to have all the qualities that her first husband lacked. This marriage would be a success!

It was not.

The foundations of her second marriage began to crumble. Before long, this woman who thought that she would never divorce, found herself to be a two-time divorcee. Because of the times and cultural climate, this not-so-young-anymore woman could not find employment. She could not get an education. She could not move on to a different community. No, there was no escape from the gossip, the glances from the corner of the eye; all she knew and all she could know, were household chores.

Her decision to marry a third time was easy to make. By this time she had become bitter towards God and disgruntled with men. Hey, if this marriage didn’t work (“and it probably won’t”, she thought) then another divorce would rescue her from the bonds of meaningless vows. Predictably, she experienced a third divorce…then a fourth…and then a fifth. When she met yet another man, they decided not even to bother with the formality of a wedding. The two simply began to live together.

Then this woman met Jesus Christ. She met Him at the well just outside of her town, and at that well Christ offered her living water. He said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst; but the water that I shall give him will be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

This woman liked the sound of that! Although she did not fully understand what Christ was offering. She thought Jesus had some magic or mystical drink that would forever quench her physical thirst. Then Jesus asked her to get her husband so He could talk with both of them.

As you may well imagine, this struck a nerve with the lady. She simply and stifly retorted, “I don’t have a husband.”

To which the Lord replied, “That’s all too true; the man you’re living with now is not your husband, but you have had five husbands before him.”

Once the lady picked her jaw up off the floor, she made a rather obvious statement, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”

The quickest way to the heart is often through a wound (Proverbs 27:6), and concealed sin keeps one from seeing the light of Christ (John 3:20). Having now been brought under the conviction of her sin the woman tried to take Jesus on a detour of religious debate. Because, as everyone is well aware, it is much more comfortable to debate religion than to face one's own sin. She said to Him, “Our tradition is to worship in Mt. Gerizim, but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place for worship.”

The great "Soul Hunter" is not deterred by the detour. He knows the hearts of all men. Adultery is not mentioned again. It was a thrust against the heart's door, and now that his foot is in He deals with the issue of worship. Jesus answered the Samaritan woman's question in John 4:21-24:

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

This passage records Jesus' definitive word on acceptable worship. To this adulterous woman and to all who hear it, Christ extends an invitation to become a worshipper. What an invitation!

Think about the statement from the Lord Jesus Christ in John 4:23. He said that the Father seeks worshippers. We know from Luke 19:10 that the Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. That is why we find Him striking up a conversation with a Samaritan woman who came to Jacob’s well to draw water for the day. As the Son engages in witnessing, the Father seeks worshippers.

Do you see that the end of evangelism is worship? God desires worship above all else, and as followers of Christ take the good news of their Lord and Savior to their neighbors, both here and around the globe, as we must in obedience to the Great Commission, the driving motivation for this evangelism is that those who embrace Christ may come to worship along with us. We need to understand that worship and witness are irrevocably linked in the purposes of God. A wedge cannot and should be driven between the two, because as we witness, it is God seeking true worshippers.

As we ponder the timeless and definitive words of Jesus Christ in John 4:21-24 we should realize that:
  • Worship is the constant activity of Heaven
  • Worship is the chief business of the Lord’s churches
  • Worship corrects our man-centered theology

If you are asking yourself, “What on earth is man-centered theology?" here is the answer. Man-centered theology is worship that begins with man and his needs instead of with God and His glory. That is the wrong focus.

The focus of our worship must be God, not us, and acceptable worship begins with God and His glory, not with man’s needs, interests, or preoccupations. Worship must be orchestrated and conducted with this vision before us that the mighty, holy, creator God would be pleased, and above all, glorified by our worship. Everything in our worship should flow from that understanding. The Puritan Stephen Charnock said it best,

“When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship, then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us, rather than we for Him.”

What about our needs then? Listen, when we worship and adore God in spirit and in truth, His blessings will well up in our souls so that we leave exalted and blessed. But this is a byproduct of worship, not the goal of it goal, and is further evidence of God’s generous grace and love.

God is seeking true worshippers; those who worship in spirit and in truth. Over the course of the next few Sunday posts I'll endeavor to answer the question: So what does it mean to acceptably worship God ?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Travis' Bracket



March Madness begins today! Click here to view my bracket (it may not be viewable until the games start). Because of IU's basketball-downturn the tournament has been bittersweet for me the past few years, but I still enjoy the madness.

This past season has been an unusually busy time for our family. I have not watched much basketball as a result of moving to Texas and acclimating to our new surroundings and our wonderful new church - Rodgers Baptist. I've watched a little college ball but not a lot. Based on what I have seen, as well as what little I've read, here are my Final Four picks.

In the East regional West Virginia will beat the University of Kentucky in the regional finals. Appalachia will be uproarious! UK is far more talented that the Mountaineers, but they are also extremely young. Da'Sean Butler will hit big shots and Huggy Bear will lead his alma mater to the Big Dance.

Out of the South will come Duke in a tightly contested match against Big East hardened Villanova. I realize that 'Nova struggled at season's end, but they are a proven team with an outstanding, mature guard in Scottie Reynolds. In the tournament strong, steady guard play is essential. But big men are key also, which is why Duke will prevail. (You don't know how hard that was for me to type!)

The victors from the West will be K-State led by their dynamic duo of Clemente and Pullen. I'm becoming more and more impressed with the Big 12, and Kansas State has certainly impressed this year. Crazy coach Frank Martin may hurt himself, but the Wildcats will peel the Orange in the regional finals to advance to the national semis.

In the Midwest Rock Chalk Jayhawk will crack the Buckeyes. OSU's Evan Turner is impressive, but Kansas is loaded and Sherron Collins is proven. Of all my Final Four picks, this is the one of which I am most confident. (Of course, that doesn't mean anything!)

The state of Kansas will be euphoric as the Big 12 title game is replayed, only this time in the national semis. The result will be identical, however, and Kansas will advance to the final. I've picked the Mountaineers over Duke mainly because the Big East is so much stronger than the ACC. West Virginia conquered that brutal conference, and in crunch time that will enable them to overcome the Blue Devils.

Kansas will roll West Virginia in the title game. Bill Self will have his second title in three years. I'll be chomping at the bit for next year. IU will be back, baby!

Get Wi$dom about Your Money

Many of you may be familiar with these words:

Money, get away.
Get a good job with good pay and you're okay.
Money, it's a gas.
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.
New car, caviar, four star daydream, Think I'll buy me a football team.
Money, get back.
I'm all right jack keep your hands off of my stack.
- Pink Floyd "Money" from The Dark Side of the Moon

Sadly, the foolish words of a '70s rock song are more familiar to most people than the wisdom of God's Word. What's really foolish is that many Christians can probably recall the Pink Floyd's lyrics to Money easier than they can recall God's wisdom from the Proverbs about money. Scripture, the Proverbs in particular, has a lot to say about money: how to gain it, how to value it, and how to use it. Sixteen of Christ's 38 parables speak about money or possessions. The Bible contains more than two thousand references to wealth and poverty. What we do with the things and the money with which God has blessed us is important to Him.

Yet many people are extremely confused when it comes to money. Money is the chief cause for the break-up of marriages, the splintering of churches, and the ruin of families. It is not that the actual paper and coins wreak all this havoc, but the love of and misuse of the paper and coins leads to destruction. Concerning money, we need to "get wisdom and to get understanding."

Money has the potential to destroy an individual. Many people, famous, infamous, or otherwise, have had millions of dollars but were still miserable and led destructive lives. Consider these statements from rich men:

  • W.H. Vanderbilt"The care of $200 million is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it."
  • John Jacob Astor"I am the most miserable man on earth."
  • John D. Rockefeller"I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness."
  • Henry Ford"I was happier when doing a mechanic's job."

The following statement was taken from a 1978 People magazine interview:

I sit in my house in Buffalo and sometimes get so lonely it's unbelievable. Life has been so good to me. I've got a great wife, good kids, lots of money, health, but I'm lonely and bored. I've often wondered why so many rich people commit suicide. Money sure isn't a cure all.

The man who made this statement in 1978 was Orenthal James Simpson.

From these quote, but especially from God's Word, we learn that money which is not honestly earned, accurately esteemed, and generously shared will destroy you.

Does money have the capacity to destroy an individual? Absolutely! Money that is earned through dishonest means, like gambling and cheating will destroy a person. Money that is esteemed inaccurately (loving money) often becomes the god of a person's life. Money that is not generously shared is often selfishly hoarded or indulgently spent on one's self.

Consider this: the average American consumer has four credit cards. Credit card debt has reached $1.2 trillion! And this plastic craze is not fueled by people who are just trying to make ends meet. 49% of all credit card debt is held by people with incomes greater than $50,000. You have heard of the haves and the have-nots, but now our society has a third group: the have not paid for what they haves!

Wise up about your money from the Proverbs:

Proverbs 22:7 – If borrowing leads to bondage our society is in a deep pit, and so are many Christian families.

Proverbs 15:6 – What kind of trouble? The trouble that comes to people with money but no righteous plan to use it. Christians are in this category! They should not be.

Proverbs 11:4 – No amount of money can purchase escape from God's judgment and wrath on sin. Having a lot of money and being a Godly Christian is possible. Many of us will not have to worry about having a lot of money; however, we should all be worried about the destruction that the love of money brings. Not being destroyed by money is possible you honestly earn it, accurately esteem it, and generously share it.

Earn it Honestly!

Proverbs 13:11,

"Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labor shall increase."
Generally speaking, what is honestly earned is wisely spent, and what is gained dishonestly is unwisely spent (lottery, gambling, crime). To gain money honestly is not just to follow honest business practices. Earn money honestly in the sense that you live for the Lord and not for wealth.

Proverbs 28:6,

"Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich."
You may sometimes be faced with a tough decision: be honest and lose your job/account or be dishonest and keep your job/account. This verse leaves no doubt as how to make that tough decision.

Money needs to be honestly earned and honestly used. This lesson needs to be transmitted to our kids as well. It's been said that "Money isn't everything, but it's one way to keep in touch with your children!"

That is painfully true in some families. Parents should not think that showering their kids with more money and more things than they could have imagined at their age will benefit their kids eternally or presently. It is natural for a parent to desire more for their children than they had as children, but parents must invest themselves in their kids. Help them to learn that money will destroy them if they do not earn it honestly, and being subsidized by mom and dad is not honestly earning money.

Esteem it Accurately!

Proverbs 18:11,

"The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit."
It is easy to view money as your protection, as your security blanket – "I'm not sure what the future holds, but we'll be okay because we've got a lot of money in the bank…we have a diversified portfolio…my parents left me a big piece of property." Boxing great Joe Louis said this, "It's not that I like money, but it quiets my nerves." Proverbs 18:11 describes Joe Louis, and it describes many people; even many people who call Christ Lord!

Who is the Christian's strong tower? Proverbs 18:10,

"The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."
The Lord is the believer's security and protection, not money! (Psalm 18:2; 61:3; 144:2)

Proverbs 23:4-5,

"Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven."
Instead of killing yourself in pursuit of money and wealth; wholeheartedly pursue the wisdom of God. Instead of giving yourself to gaining money, give yourself to glorify God, and He will bless you as He chooses.

To esteem money accurately, first rid yourself of the wrong estimations of money.

Five Wrong Estimations of Money

  1. Money will make me happy. Consider again the quotes that introduced this lesson.
  2. Money will make me content. "When I get ________, then I'll be content." That blank will never stay filled for long!
  3. Money will make me appreciated. People do not appreciate you for your money; they use you for your money.
  4. Money will make me feel better about myself.
  5. Money will make me accepted by others. See number three.

Share it Generously!

Proverbs 22:9,

"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor."
A generous person has a desire to give instead of a loathing sense of duty to give (2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Galatians 6:7-9; Proverbs 3:9-10). A Biblical view of money and possessions demands using them to honor God.

God has gone on record as saying that if we are generous in sharing what He has entrusted to us then He will give back to us and bless us (Luke 6:38). Generous giving is not an Old Testament relic but a Bible principle. Generously bring your tithes and offerings into the storehouse (which is your local church, not your favorite parachurch ministry) (Malachi 3:10). Break the bondage of money by sharing continuously and generously. Here is how:

  1. Trust God – Proverbs 3:5
  2. Give God the FIRSTFRUITS – Exodus 22:29; 23:19; Deuteronomy 18:4
  3. Be Generous – Proverbs 3:27-28; 11:25

Money has the potential to destroy you if you do not gain it honestly, esteem it accurately, and share it generously.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Purposeful Prayer

According to 1 Timothy 4:7-8 the purpose of spiritual discipline is Godliness. The intake of God’s Word is the essential spiritual discipline, and next to it is the discipline of prayer.

We live shabbily because we pray meanly. - E.M. Bounds

Edward McKendree Bounds did not mean “cruel” by the word “meanly.” The word describes a miserable, poor, and inferior manner. God has clearly and powerfully spoken to us through the Bible; not through dreams, visions, the horoscope, etc. God has revealed Himself through Creation and through His Word. This is why the intake of God’s Word is the foundational spiritual discipline. Second only to Biblical intake is the spiritual discipline of prayer. In fact, prayer and Bible intake are connected. Together they form a two-way communication between God and man. They are frequently linked in the Scriptures:

  • Acts 6:4—”But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
  • John 15:7—”If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
  • Proverbs 28:9—”He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer [shall be] abomination.”
  • Ephesians 6:17-18—”take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”

Prayer is Expected

If Jesus personally appeared to you and said that He expected you to pray, would you become more faithful in prayer? The following Scripture passages are as much His will for you as if He spoke to you face to face.

  • Matthew 6:5-9
  • Luke 11:9 – “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
  • Luke 18:1 – “And he spake a parable unto them [to this end], that men ought always to pray, and not to faint”
  • Colossians 4:2—”continue in prayer”
  • 1 Thessalonians—”Pray without ceasing”

Jesus expects His followers to pray!

Prayer is a walkie-talkie for warfare, not a domestic intercom for increasing our conveniences. - John Piper

To abandon prayer is to fight the battle with our own resources at best, and to lose interest in the battle at worst. - Don Whitney

Prayer is Learned!

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1), and that should be a shared desire. We must learn to pray.

  • Matthew 21:21-22
  • Luke 18:1-8
  • John 14:13-14
  • 1 John 5:14-15

The best way to learn how to pray is by praying. Meditating on Scripture, praying with others, and reading about prayer will also teach you how to pray.

No matter how difficult prayer is for you now, if you will persevere in learning how to pray you will always have the hope of an even stronger and more fruitful prayer life ahead of you. - Don Whitney

Prayer is Answered!

David said in Psalm 65:2, “O thou that hearest prayer…” Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and you shall receive.” Prayer is answered. Consider Jesus’ promise along with the words of James 4:2-3. God does not always say yes, but He does always answer (1 John 5:14-15).

  • Sometimes God will instantly answer (Isaiah 65:24; Daniel 9:21-23)
  • Sometimes God’s answer is different than ours
  • Sometimes the answers are different from what we want (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
  • Sometimes they are greater than we expect (Jeremiah 33:3; Ephesians 3:20)

Where God leads you to pray, He means you to receive. - C.H. Spurgeon

Prayer is answered, but your prayers may also be hindered. These passages provide some explanations for how our prayers may be hindered.

  • Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me]“
  • Proverbs 21:13 – “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
  • Mark 11:25 – “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
  • James 1:5-8; 4:3
  • 1 Peter 3:7 – “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [them] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy. - John Piper

Admit to God – if necessary – that the spiritual discipline of prayer has been missing and ask the Lord to teach you to pray. Since prayer is expected, will you pray? Since prayer is learned, will you learn to pray? Are your prayers presently hindered? What are some ways in which God has recently answered your prayers?

Godliness is the goal of spiritual discipline. Remember this, and the disciplines will become a delight instead of a drudgery!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and Your Church

If you pay any attention to the news, you are well aware of Glenn Beck’s comments concerning social or economic justice and the local church. If you haven’t been paying attention, or in case you just want to read it again, here is what he said on his radio broadcast two weeks ago.

I beg you, look for the words “social justice” or “economic justice” on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If I’m going to Jeremiah’s Wright’s church? Yes! Leave your church. Social justice and economic justice. They are code words. If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them, “Excuse me are you down with this whole social justice thing?” I don’t care what the church is. If it’s my church, I’m alerting the church authorities: “Excuse me, what’s this social justice thing?” And if they say, “Yeah, we’re all in that social justice thing,” I’m in the wrong place.

I am politically, socially, and especially theologically conservative, but I’m not a fan of the talking heads – Beck, Rush, Hannity, Courter, etc. Many times I do agree with their opinion, but rarely do I agree with their presentation or delivery. I also think that “sound bite” narrative gets us no where, and that is the case with this latest bombshell from Glenn Back. I agree with Beck in the sense that “social justice” and “economic justice” are often if not always “code words” in many churches for a liberal – both politically and theologically – agenda. The way in which Beck couched his argument, however, was just plain stupid.

Local churches are to be people of the Gospel – not a “social gospel” but the gospel of Jesus Christ. This good news begins with bad news – all men are sinners and the penalty of sin is death; which is eternal punishment in a literal hell. This is what makes the good news so glorious. We deserve death and punishment for we are all guilty of sin, but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ alone is how we must respond to this good news in order to have victory over death through Christ and for His glory. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

This is the glorious grace of God which brings salvation to all who will repent and believe, and I think it’s important to hear what Titus says about God’s grace.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14 emphasis mine)

Notice that believers are to be zealous, to be eager to do what is good. Doing good is an emphasis of Titus’ letter; follow along with me as a show you the pattern:

  • Titus 1:16, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
  • Titus 2:7, “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works…”
  • Titus 2:14, “…zealous of good works.”
  • Titus 3:1, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.
  • Titus 3:8, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”
  • Titus 3:14, “And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses that they be not unfruitful.”

In other words, there is to be about a believer’s life and a church’s life a distinctive, practical godliness that has to do with goodness. Yes, it is faith alone that saves, but the faith that saves is not alone! We must understand that saved by grace means saved to do good works. Good works are not the basis of salvation, but they are certainly the evidence of it.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them, (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Churches are never to sacrifice THE Gospel on the altar of “social justice”, but the idea that churches are to be socially unjust is unBiblical.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Ant and the Sloth

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines laziness as:

“disinclined to activity or exertion; not energetic or vigorous; a love of ease; not easily aroused to activity; slothful.”
The sloth is the slowest animal in Central and South America. They just hang upside down in tree branches all day long. Here is a quote from the Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia:
“The animal moves by advancing one limb at a time in a slow, deliberate fashion. Sloths descend to the ground only about once each week in order to defecate and urinate. When placed on the ground they lie on their backs or crawl with the greatest difficulty.”
The fastest recorded sloth was clocked doing nine feet per hour!!

That type of behavior may be fine for a sloth, but not for man who is made in God’s image! Laziness is foolishness, and Proverbs 6:6-11 provides five elements about laziness.

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”

Laziness is Foolishness

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”

What a reproach that mankind, fashioned in the image of God, would be commanded to learn from the lowest of all insects, but the ant is out teacher. Look to the ant! As a kid I did a l lot of looking at ants, especially through a magnifying lens, but that is not what Solomon has in mind. You have stepped on ants, burned ants, and knocked over ant hills, but have you observed the industry and work ethic of the ant? Ants are not slothful, but are disciplined tireless workers!

“I hate work!” That is an unfortunate epitaph that is often uttered by Christians! We need to understand that work is not something we have to do in order to do the stuff we want to do. Work should be one of the joys of life! Look to the ant, sluggard! Be an ant, not a slug. A slug is a snail with no shell; they just camp out on leaves for days doing nothing but eating and digesting. Consider the ant and be wise because work is good and laziness is foolishness.

Laziness Requires Constant Supervision

“…which having no guide, overseer, or ruler…”
ants are not forced to work. Ants are an example in industry; not slothful, not in need of slave drivers cracking the whip and screaming out threats to ensure the work gets done. Ants know their work and do their work without being forced. Let the slothful sluggard consider that!

The ant does not require supervision, but this does not infer that supervisors are bad. The principle is that Christians should be industrious, self-motivated workers who do not require constant kicks-in-the-pants to get to work and finish the work! Consider this:

  • Do you work just as hard when no one is looking?
  • Do you work just as hard when the boss is away?
  • Do you work just as hard when the results will not be known?

Ants do. Most people do not. Christians should.

Laziness Produces Inconsistent Effort

“Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”
Circumstances do not deter the ant’s work ethic; their effort is consistent no matter the season. A lazy person never works consistently; instead he has an “on again off again” effort. Please understand; the Biblical message work long hours all the time. The Biblical message is not work long hours all of the time. The Biblical message is work hard all the time. Do not take a lesson like this and use it as a proof text for being a workaholic and ignoring your family and/or church. Instead, have a consistent work ethic in order to:

  • Please God – Colossians 3:22; Ephesians 6:5-6
  • Provide for your family – 1 Timothy 5:8 A
  • void Poverty – Proverbs 30:7-9

To wise up about work is not to become a workaholic, but it is to establish a consistent and hard work ethic.

Laziness Always Needs to Rest

“How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.”
Lazy people are always tired! Lazy people always need to rest. Some people lose their jobs because of illness and fatigue…their boss was sick and tired of them. Lazy people are big believers in naps, but their concept of a nap is an all day, work avoiding siesta. Some people can lie around on the couch all day and just wear themselves out doing it. That is foolishness.

Laziness Leads to Sudden Destruction

“So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”
The lazy person thinks that he is "getting away with it" when the consequences of laziness suddenly hit. The lazy man can expect to be bereft of life’s necessities. His misfortunes are already coming as he rolls over in his bed of idleness. The lazy man will be helpless when poverty comes; as helpless as a man staring into the barrel of an armed robber.

And when poverty comes it is hard to reverse. Keep in mind that Biblical poverty is not always linked to the financial; there is also a spiritual poverty. Laziness will lead to both. Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing.”

The five elements of laziness transition into the four consequences of laziness.

Passivity

(Proverbs 26:13) Was there really a lion in the street keeping this poor soul from doing his work? Absolutely not, because the Bible says “The slothful man saith…” The lazy person will say or do almost anything to get out of work. The lazy man looks for and/or creates excuses to not work, and nothing is too ridiculous: “A lion is in the street; can’t work today.” Too much time on your hands and not enough work add up to messed up thinking.

“Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”
That may not be the gospel truth, but it is true just the same! The person who will not work easily becomes the person who cannot work; filled with pathetic, passive excuses:

  • “I’m sick."
  • "It’s not my job."
  • "I’m tired."
  • "I’m overwhelmed."
  • "I don’t know where to start (so I can’t)."
  • "I don’t have enough resources."
  • "I’m depressed."
  • "I’m not paid enough."
  • "He (or she) doesn’t work as hard as I do."

Unchanging

(Proverbs 26:14) A door opens and closes on its hinges but it does not go anywhere, and the lazy person turns and turns but does not go anywhere. The lazy person stands idle, like a door on its hinges, moving only when someone gives him a push.

Apathetic

(Proverbs 26:15) The lazy man is too lazy to feed himself! The sluggard wants to be supported by someone else. Laziness produces apathy: “I don’t care. It’s not important. Wait until tomorrow.” Hard workers are excited about the next day, and looking forward to the next day’s opportunities and challenges.

Unteachable

(Proverbs 26:16) The person who is lazy does not think that he is! It matters not that seven wise men say he is; the lazy man knows that they are all wrong. This person attends church thinking that every sermon and lesson is for someone else. This man has an unwillingness to be influenced by the wisdom of others; certainly an unwillingness to be influenced by the Word of God.

Three Affirmations for a Christian Worker

  1. Work for Honesty before Profit – Proverbs 11:1. Fair, honest, and just business dealings are honoring to God. Working hard for your pay honors God.
  2. Work for Provision before Pleasure – Proverbs 24:27
  3. Work for God before People – Proverbs 24:12

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Have Peace One with Another

The way to positively revolutionize your relationships is by learning and living the “one another” statements of the Bible. There are many such statements. Those two English words are translated from one Greek word. That word is allēlōn”, and it is found 178 times in the New Testament. It is a reciprocal, plural pronoun and it means “reciprocally, mutually.” The word was a favorite of the Apostle Paul’s. He used it 40 times in his letters, and Christ used the word with regard to three subjects: love, service, and peace. Today’s study will focus on the subject of peace, as Jesus said in Mark 9:50, at the end of a long and serious section of teaching, ““Salt [is] good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”

This command reveals at least four things.

The Command Implies a Problem: Conflict

The opposite of peace is conflict. The fact that Jesus tells His disciples that they should have peace with one another is an indication that peace was absent and conflict was present. At least, the probability of no peace was then and is now ever present. Everywhere one looks there is a lack of peace and an abundance of conflict. There are local, national, and global conflicts. There are home, work, and school conflicts. There are even (especially?) community and church conflicts. Most people want to give peace a chance, but it always seems incredibly elusive.

What is conflict’s source? As always, the Bible provides the answer in James 4:1-4. According to this passage there is an inner struggle which leads to an external conflict. The inner struggle is the result of, according to verses 1-3, uncontrolled, unfulfilled, and utterly selfish desires. That inner struggle, according to verse 4, is actually conflict with God! That is. Inwardly resisting God creates outer anger and conflict with others. The Bible provides many examples of this, such as:

  • Abraham & Lot
  • David & Saul
  • David & Absalom
  • The Twelve
  • The Church at Corinth
  • Paul & Barnabas
  • Paul & Peter

Instead of having peace with one another we often:

  • “Betray one another” – Matthew 24:10
  • “Wrong one another” – Acts 7:26
  • “Accuse one another” – Romans 2:15
  • “Bite and devour one another” – Galatians 5:15
  • “Provoke and envy one another” – Galatians 5:26
  • “Hate one another” – Titus 3:3
  • “Speak evil of one another” – James 4:11
  • “Begrudge one another” – James 5:9
  • “Kill one another” – Revelation 6:4

To all of the above Jesus Christ says, “have peace one with another.”

The Command Infers a Possibility: Peace

As much as conflict is a probability, peace is a possibility! This is true because Jesus commands us to “have peace one with another.” Christ’s commandments are His enablements. Christ does not command and require of us that which is impossible for us. Praise God for that!

The Command Involves a Process: Reconciliation

In Philippians 4:2-3 the Apostle Paul made a specific request of two women in the Philippian church. He publicly requested (That’s an understatement!) that they reconcile their differences. Regardless of who was right or who was wrong, both Euodias and Syntyche had a responsibility to take the initiative and settle the matter. Paul was also realistic enough to know that those two women may not be able to resolve this conflict alone. He urged the church to assist these women in the process of reconciliation. But remember: there is a difference between being involved and being a busy-body!

This Command Indicates a Provision: Perfect Peace

The peace which Jesus commands is the peace which Jesus provides!

  • John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
  • John 16:33 – “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Peace comes from Christ, but it is not a peace absent of problems and conflicts. Christ’s peace is a presence of power enabling you to overcome the problems! The peace that Christ alone provides is peace with God!

  • Romans 5:1 – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”

Peace with God means that inner conflict no longer rules over us, therefore the external conflict may be overcome because of the peace of God made possible only through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ.

  • Philippians 4:7 – “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
  • Isaiah 26:3 – “Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace, [whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]: because he trusteth in thee.”
  • Romans 15:33 – “Now the God of peace [be] with you all. Amen.”
  • 1 Peter 5:14b – “Peace [be] with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

Based on the lessons Revolutionize Your Relationships written by D.W. Sparks, pastor of the Dearborn Baptist Church.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Get Wisdom about Your Work

What follows is "help wanted" ad to which anyone would respond:
Executive position – job entails sitting with feet on desk from 10am – 4:30pm watching others work. Must be willing to play golf every other afternoon. Salary starts at $2000 a week. No experience necessary.
Here's the thing. No one really has any job openings like that, but that is what many people want. Some even feel it is their right - as Americans - to have such a job (or one close to it).
Our culture is confused about work. Some quote Thomas Edison who said
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it looks like work”
There are those who site Benjamin Franklin
“By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.”
I think that most people like to employ the bumper sticker philosophy:
“Work fascinates me. I could sit and watch it for hours!”

“Hard work may not kill me, but why take a chance?!”
These are generally the same people who would…“Rather be fishing…hunting…skiing…sleeping," etc.

There are two extremes: the workaholics who are always at work and the lazy, idle loafers who choose not to work at all. In between those two extremes is the great mass of people who work but have the wrong concept of work. Some think that work is a drudgery that must be endured; nothing joyous, just that which has to be done to pay the bills or to buy the toys that make life fun.

Please understand. Work is not one of the dirty four-letter words! While work can be viewed in a lot of ways, the Biblically Christian view should be this: I work as a way to serve and glorify God. The only way to have that view is to understand that there is no such thing as the sacred and the secular in terms of employment. Your Christian faith has sanctified every occupation. Therefore no difference exits before God between the secular and the sacred occupation.

For the Christian all of life is to be lived for God’s glory. This includes your work at home and on the job! Work is sacred in the sense that it is done to the Lord. Whether you are eating or drinking…whether you are washing dishes, scrubbing floors, taking care of children at home and maintaining the house, or whether you are in the financial marketplace doing accounting and bookkeeping, whether you are delivering mail or teaching school or driving a truck, or operating a machine, whether you are working in sales, whether you are developing a marketing strategy, or whether you are developing a potty training strategy…whatever it is that you are doing it is a service rendered to the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Work as if you were serving God, because you are! Inevitably someone will say, “You mean that washing dishes in my house is as important before God as what a pastor/missionary does?” Yes. Before men it is not necessarily the same, but before God it is, for it is your service rendered to His glory. Colossians 3:22-24,
“Servants, [employees] obey in all things your masters [employers] according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
The Lord will reward you because it is the Lord Christ whom you serve! The work you perform is rendered unto the Lord. Your service is ultimately to Him, not your boss or the organization.

For the believer, work is not just a secular job, it is a spiritual duty. The believer is serving the Lord with his attitude and diligence. The believer is working unto His honor and glory. You are even serving mankind because what you do provides a service to man that helps them in their life. Christians especially need to understand the value of hard work. The Bible teaches the value of work.

The first worker recorded in the Bible is none other than God Himself:
“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:2).
God worked.

Jesus worked with His hands, and He also worked with His heart. Jesus said,

  • "My father works hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17).
  • "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).
  • "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4).
God has worked in creation. God has worked in redemption, and as the little chorus with the big truth states “He’s still workin’ on me, to make me what I ought to be.”

There was work in the Garden of Eden. Work was not a penalty of The Fall. Work was not a curse of sin; before sin invaded the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were commanded,
“Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea…fowl of the air…every living thing that moveth” (Genesis 1:28).

“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15).
We will work even after Christ returns according to Isaiah 65:21-23. We will work in eternity. Eternity will not be perpetually fishing and napping! We will build houses and plant vineyards, but all of the toil of work that has been part of the curse will be taken away. You will not grow weary. The fruits of your labor will be yours to enjoy, and it will not be taken away.Work was not a result of The Fall. God is a worker. God instituted work, and work is noble and proper. Christians should regard work as a creation mandate, as a component of the image of God, as a natural law invested with inherent dignity. God’s design is for man to work, and we work to His praise (Ephesians 4:28).

The Bible teaches the value and importance of hard work (2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:18). Work is good! Laziness is foolishness. Work is good, and our work should praise and glorify God. The Proverbs have a lot to say about work and how essential a good work ethic is to a Godly character. The Proverbs illustrate the goodness of work by pointing out the foolishness of laziness. More about that next week, but until then read these Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4, 26; 12:24; 13:4; 15:19; 19:15; 20:4; 26:13-16.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Be Kind One to Another

Ephesians 4:32:

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

I am convinced that our relationships would be revolutionized by one simple change. This change is not complex or sophisticated, but it is often rarely found. This one simple change is plainly stated in one word: kindness! That sounds simple, even elementary, doesn’t it? Still, I genuinely believe that your relationships would be revolutionized by kindness; not just the kindness others show you, but the kindness that you show others.

Generally speaking, we are, far too often, unkind to the people with whom we regularly relate. In fact, I’ve observed that we may even show more common courtesy to the general public than we do with our own people. Someone has said that…

“The home is the place where we are loved the most, treated the best, and act the worst.”

Or perhaps you’ve heard…

Home is the place where we are treated the best, but grumble the most.

We give ourselves permission to be mean, hateful, rude, impatient, selfish, unsympathetic, hostile, oppressive, and cruel to those who love us the most. In other words, the real you is often disguised in public, and all too often the real you is not a kind person.

Isn’t it amazing that the Bible tells us to be kind! I say it’s amazing because this command seems so obvious that it should not even have to be in the Bible. But it is. More than once.

  • Romans 12:10 – “[Be] kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another”
  • Colossians 3:12-13 – “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4a – “Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind.”
  • 2 Peter 1:5a, 7a – “Add to your faith…brotherly kindness.”
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

The Greek word translated “brotherly kindness” in 2 Peter 1:7 is “philadelphia.” That word means “brotherly love.” It speaks of friendship and affection. Think about what Peter is saying. He is telling us to add friendships to our faith. We are to be affectionate one to another. As a pastor, one of my greatest fears is that people will visit the church and sit on the fringes without developing any relationships, coming to hear the preacher and listen to the music, and then go on their way, isolated from the rest of the body; completely unconnected. That is dangerous and unhealthy because friendships and faith go together.

Spiritual growth means godliness – that is your vertical relationship with God – and kindness – your horizontal relationships with others. You must add both to your faith!

What then does kindness look like, and how do we add it to our faith?

Kindness certainly involves words that you say. Speak kindly, but kindness also includes your tone of voice, not just what you say but how you say it. Kindness is certainly more than words; it is also deeds and actions.

  • 2 Samuel 9:1, 7 – “And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?… And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.”

It is important that we understand, however, that acts of kindness be attached to an attitude of kindness. Kindness is not revengeful, it does not return evil with evil. It is not mean-spirited, rude, or unfriendly. Kindness may mean for you bearing another’s burden, guarding from gossip, prejudice, or narrowness. It could mean including in your fellowship activities someone who may not be adept at socializing, or accepting a person who has a different perspective or philosophy from your own.

How can you be a kinder person? The answer is found in…

  • Ephesians 4:31-32– “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

This section of Paul’s letter deals with what I call the “Old man / New man Principle.” Ephesians 4:22 says “put off the old man” and verse 24 says to “put on the new man.” When you become a Christian, there are some things from your old life of which you must get rid, but it isn’t enough just to get rid of bad habits. Christianity is not reformation! It involves replacement. You get rid of the old and replace it with the new, and all of this is possible by the grace of God and the empowering of His Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the person, who sweeps his house of an evil spirit and then stops, is in danger of seven new evil spirits occupying his place (Matthew 12:43-45). Don’t just get rid of the old, replace it with the new!

Now notice (again) verses 31-32.

  • Ephesians 4:31-32– “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Here is a direct and explicit command concerning kindness – “Be ye kind one to another.” Surrounding this command are six sinful vices to cast off from the old life, and two supernatural virtues to put on in your new life.

Remove…

1) Bitterness – smoldering resentment

2) Clamor – outward acts of violence

3) Anger – deep seated, subtle feeling of sin

4) Evil speaking – slander, gossip, negative criticism, lies, etc.

5) Malice – hatred on the inside

6) Wrath – an explosion of rage; hatred on the outside

Replace it with…

1) Tenderheartedness – the opposite of being hard-hearted, calloused, unfeeling, refusing to understand another person’s feelings or circumstances.

2) Forgiveness – because we have been forgiven we are to be forgiving! God has forgiven us on the basis of what Christ did on the cross. We are to forgive others who have wronged us on the same basis. Forgiveness focuses on the issue not the individual. Forgiveness looks at the offense from God’s perspective; not selfishly. Forgiveness refuses to retaliate. Forgiveness purposefully forgets the offense and specifically remembers the moment of forgiveness.

If you will remove all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice and will replace what you have removed with tenderheartedness and forgiveness, you will have created an environment in which you can keep God’s command to be kind one to another.

My former pastor used to minister in Amarillo, TX. While he was there he noticed another Baptist Church in town that was named BYKOTA Baptist Church. He stopped in one day to speak with the pastor, mainly because he was so intrigued by the name. He thought it was an Indian name, and wondered what it meant. The name was not Indian at all! It was an acrostic.

Bbe

Yye

Kkind

Oone

Tto

A – another

We should all be members of the BYKOTA Baptist Church! We should all “be kind one to another,” Ephesians 4:32a


Based on the lessons Revolutionize Your Relationships written by D.W. Sparks, pastor of the Dearborn Baptist Church.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Here's Your Sign!

Church signs are often funny things. A congregation needs to be careful with the message displayed on their sign. Take these two as an example (or warning).

This first sign isn't too bad, it's even a little funny. (Although I do think the congregation should begin to seriously consider changing the church's name!)




This church sign, however, is not too bright, and is a perfect example of church sign silliness.





(HT: Kevin DeYoung)