Monday, December 11, 2017

Having True Joy This Christmas Season

Good theology shrinks the gap between perception (how we see the world) and expectation (how we would like the world to be). The larger that gap is the more frustrated we are as human beings. If nothing is as it 'should be' for long periods of time we can live in 'prevailing unhappiness'.

Holidays can amplify this undercurrent because of all the expectations involved.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33 ESV

Yes. The overcomer isn't unhappy.

You may say, 'Who are these people?' but if you have believed YOU are an overcomer.

"As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:36-39 ESV

What is this Christmas going to be like? What will this next year bring? Part of the equation is this gap. Are you living in a lost world that needs Jesus or a movie where the good guy wins at the last minute and the girl always ends up with the man who will love her selflessly?

"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein." - Hebrews 13:9 KJV

That means we expect that we are going to get negative things at times but that we are given a perfect position by God. Not only does he see us as perfect because of His Son. We also get a stream of provision from our Father just like His Son had a stream of provision when He was walking on the Earth.

I want you to have a Merry Christmas. It would be great if we all have one but there is a deeper issue here.

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." - Romans 14:17 ESV

Eating and drinking with people you enjoy and enjoy you is momentary merriment. Peace and Joy with God's essence coursing through us is deeper. That can be had in prison if this gap is small.

God help us to live expecting to get 'what we don't deserve'. We deserve Hell but we are getting Heaven. We merit isolation but we have been given at least one divine person who loves us with an everlasting love.

I hope you see Jesus this Christmas, the Risen Christ and not just the tiny plastic baby in the manger. In His presence the gap between 'how it should be' and 'how it is' fades down to nothing. He Is 'how things should be'. Let Him hold you in His embrace.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Seniority And Service

"Now I urge you, brothers - you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints - be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer." - 1 Corinthians 16:15-16 ESV

Seniority and service. Two things that matter.

I really value the people in my life that have believed and have done it for longer than I have. I study a lot and the danger of that is that a person can begin to think they are an expert but before will always be before. A person that still serves... no is addicted to service... because they believe has something.

I'm not talking about old legalists. No. Paul knew 'the household of Stephanas' and he pointed to them. The grace preacher endorsed them as people to look at and be 'subject to' likely because those folks had humility and would never demand the submission of anyone.

When a culture begins to break down one of the first things that goes is a reverence for the elderly.

I want to value my 'fellow workers' who rest in grace and the finished work. They would never demand it but the one who have been around the block a few times and are still at it have secrets that need to be gleaned if any of us are to also have longevity.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Enter His Gates

"A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." - Psalm 100:1-5 ESV

I really like this Psalm.

I didn't want to make 'a joyful noise' to the Lord when I woke up. It has been a hard couple of days for me for whatever reason. Motivation is a little harder to find.

Then I followed the progression of this Psalm...

The Lord is God.
He made us.
We are his people.
We are cared for like sheep.
There is a gate we can enter into.
Enter it!
Pick the attitude of thanksgiving when you enter.
Thank Him personally.
His Love is a forever Love.
He was faithful. He is faithful. He will be faithful to ALL generations.

This Psalm changed my mind and my heart began to follow. I found a motivation that is strong. I found it inside the gate of His property.

"I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me." - Psalm 119:93 KJV

Precepts.

They can enliven us because there is a kingdom right behind, beneath and above them. Evil ones can kill us but God's Heavenly ones can bring us into the gates where there is life.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Come Unto Me

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 ESV

"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." - Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV

The Apostle Paul says a lot in the Ephesians passage but I see it all as pointing back to Jesus' 'Come unto me.' statement. Leadership is to bring people to Jesus. Leadership points people to Jesus. Leadership teaches people who Jesus is and how accessible His Is. It is always going to be needed because there are always people new to the faith or a generation coming up that need this kind of direction.

I can measure today's success very easily. Did I go to Jesus? Did I point people to myself, or themselves or to a gracious Saviour?

It is amazing how a person can wake up and be 'heavy ladened.' I'm going to Him and laying those burdens down. I suggest you do the same. They will only get heavier as the day goes on. He wants to be your burden bearer. He wants to wash your feet. He wants to spend the day with You.

Let's grow into this together.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Work Of An Evangelist

"And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned...' " - Mark 16:15-16 ESV

Sometimes when we go out on Saturday (or other days) for evangelism and someone reacts to us telling them about Jesus I will pose this question, 'Do you know the difference between and preacher and an evangelist?' Then, if they care and don't just want us to go away, they will say, 'No. What is the difference?' then I say something like this, 'A preacher tells people the good news and an evangelist brings people to a place of decision. We are here to present the Gospel clearly so that you will make a decision, either 'Yes' or 'No' but we hope for your sake it will be 'Yes' '.

I would rather someone say, 'No!' than for them to smile and nod just to pacify me. It is better for them to look me in the eye and say, 'No!' because I believe God can use that as their life unfolds. 'No' today may become 'Yes' later.

The Gospel is good news. Sin has been dealt with by Jesus on the cross.

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you - unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures," - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

"...because, 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." - Romans 10:9 ESV

I said 'No! several times. I just didn't trust that what people said about God, or Jesus, was true. People write history for their own reasons and I wasn't sure we could trust any account of history. Jesus, if He existed at all, could have been a good man that people turned into a god but the 'good news' worked on me. Sin paid for? Really? My sins paid for? I came to a point where I knew I needed a Saviour and this historical figure I was unsure of was available to me today through people. I eventually said 'Yes' and I got dunked in truth and stained by it's vivid colors.

"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." - 2 Timothy 4:5 ESV

Yes. Let's fullfill our ministry. It is something we are sure not to regret later.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Love And Mercy Make Greatness

Love and mercy make greatness.

"He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip." - Psalm 18:34-36 ESV

" 'You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 'But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 'For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 'If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 'Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:43-48 NASB

Simple.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Different Flavors Of Caring

Yesterday I had a good meditation about the many forms of showing care for people.

Initiators often show care through a command. Responders strengthen connections. Most people do both to one degree or another but some people lean hard to one side or another.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Isn't this passage such a unique blend of both styles!

Jesus initiates strongly but it is a connecting initiation.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." - 1 Peter 5:6-9 ESV

People who care won't be passive in their caring but at the same time a know people struggle with how to express their affection.

"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." - Romans 12:13 ESV

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." - Hebrews 13:2 ESV

"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling." - 1 Peter 4:9 ESV

This care has no command and it isn't seeking to connect per se but it is just as powerful. It is the care of a host and it can only be done with the 'home field advantage.'

1 Corinthians 12 verse 28 lists 'Helps' as a gift of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word there is antilēmpsis (Strong's G484) and it means to view with understanding and minister. Some people have a gift for this but it is something we can all be involved in. We all have a ministry.

"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." - 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV

Maybe people get bossy because they care. Sometimes not but sometimes that is the case. They see a crisis and they jump right in and start directing traffic.

I don't know about you but I want to identify love when I see it. If we know God we always have the home field advantage. His presence grants us that in every situation.

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