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Showing posts from June, 2010

School's out

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.  (Col. 2:6-7) Paul writes to the Colossian church with the heart of a father.  He is concerned that they know how deeply God loves them, how desirous he is of relationship with them, and that he wants us well-established in our walk.  In the previous verses of this chapter, Paul says, "I want you woven into a tapestry of love..."  What more could we ask for than to be woven together with other believers, learning to love with all the grace God gives and growing in that grace with other believers? As he goes on in this chapter, he reminds the church that they have receiv

Garden to get a field

First plant your fields; then build your barn. (Proverbs 24:27) At our weekly women's Bible Study last night, I mentioned that God wants us to build accountability into our lives.  I was asked a very pointed question, "How do you do that?"  It comes in many fashions, but this is a question that I have been asked many times in my life - how is it that we go through life and still struggle with the same stuff we were dealing with years ago?  We aren't as faithful in our study of the Word, we don't spend much time in prayer, the study of the Word seems difficult, so we avoid it.  Well, don't fool yourselves - this walk is NOT easy and it is NOT easy to be accountable for the stuff God asks of us in it! The writer of this Proverb shows us something about accountability that I want to explore this morning.  He presents us with the concept of being a farmer.  A farmer has several things in mind as he is going about his daily chores of life.  He needs a plot of g

Better than a bubble bath

It wasn't so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God's gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there's more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this. (Titus 3:3-8) It would not occur to me to open today's lesson with the comment that we were both stupid and stubborn - but Paul did a nice job of already doing that, so I will not stand in the way of delivering the message!  In our sinful, self-absorbed life "before Christ", we were both stupid and stubborn.  Stupid implies that we were lacking

Actions speak

Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around.  (Titus 2:1-8) We began to look into the book of Titus yesterday.  As you may recall, Paul was writing to Titus about the character traits of a solid church leader.  As we move on in this study, we see th

A Change Agent

I, Paul, am God's slave and Christ's agent for promoting the faith among God's chosen people, getting out the accurate word on God and how to respond rightly to it. My aim is to raise hopes by pointing the way to life without end. This is the life God promised long ago—and he doesn't break promises! And then when the time was ripe, he went public with his truth. I've been entrusted to proclaim this Message by order of our Savior, God himself. Dear Titus, legitimate son in the faith: Receive everything God our Father and Jesus our Savior gives you! (Titus 1:1-4) Paul opens this letter to Titus with his usual flare for explaining what "credentials" he has as a minister of the gospel and what his "purpose" is in writing.  It is kind of like those "abstracts" you find of one of those very intense research articles in a trade journal - it gives you the meat of the article in a concise few paragraphs so you can know if you are interested in

Waiting for hope to appear

When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.  Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions.  Wait for hope to appear.  Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return.  If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.  He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.  (Lamentations 3:28-33)   We continue today in the not too well read book of Lamentations.  Yesterday, we left our discussion of this chapter with the understanding that we are to exhibit an expectant hope in our waiting.  That hope leads us to action - and that direction is determined by God himself.  If we are pursuing correctly, we are directed correctly.  It is a guarantee.  Now, the writer explores the times in life when things are dealt us that seem heavy and hard to take - not like those times ever come up for a Chris

Passionate Waiting, Diligent Seeking

God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up.  They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!  I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.  It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.  It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times.  When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.  Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions.  Wait for hope to appear.  Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst.  Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return.  If he works severely, he also works tenderly.  His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.  He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.  (Lamentations 3:22-33) Lament

God-chosen lives

And these God-chosen lives all around—what splendid friends they make! (Ps. 16:3) God places us in relationship with others.  He places us in those specific relationships that we need in order to develop into the person he designed for us to be.  We need those "others" as much as they need us - there is a specific time and reason for each relationship.  They are placed directly in our path - to pray, uphold, and to do battle.  Sometimes we think we have done all the choosing in the relationships that we pursue - when in actually, God has been at work placing those individuals in our path for this very moment. My choice is you, God, first and only. And now I find I'm your choice! (Ps. 16:5) David exclaims with a certainty that he has made God his first choice - his only choice.  Don't miss the next line - and now I find I'm your choice, God!  David's revelation about his "choices" in life is really two-fold.  First, the primary relationship we h

Be alert! Be present!

"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine.  When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.  When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end—because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.  I paid a huge price for you...  So don't be afraid: I'm with you."  (Is. 43:1-4) What a wonderful message given to Israel all those years ago.  I have redeemed you - paid the ransom price to give you your freedom.  I have called your name - specifically recognizing that you are mine. I think God says the same thing today to each of us - I've redeemed you and called your name.  Awesome!  I like the next part best - when we are in over our heads, he'll be there with us!  God knows perfectly well that we are creatures of habit - if we got into the mess we are in once, we're likely to get into it again!  He p

Living Right and Well

"Take a good look at my servant.  I'm backing him to the hilt.  He's the one I chose, and I couldn't be more pleased with him.  I've bathed him with my Spirit, my life.  He'll set everything right among the nations.  He won't call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades.  He won't brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won't disregard the small and insignificant, but he'll steadily and firmly set things right.  He won't tire out and quit. He won't be stopped until he's finished his work—to set things right on earth.  Far-flung ocean islands wait expectantly for his teaching." (Is. 42:1-4) Jesus has many attributes - some of which are outlined in this passage.  First, he won't call attention to what he does.  Yet, what he does is ever apparent and leaves a lasting impression.  Jesus doesn't need to call attention to his actions because a changed life calls the attention to God all on its own. 

The Waiting Game

I waited and waited and waited for GOD. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to GOD. Blessed are you who give yourselves over to GOD, turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,” ignore what the world worships; the world’s a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts. Nothing and no one comes close to you! I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words. Neither numbers nor words account for you. Doing something for you, bringing something to you – that’s not what you’re after. Being religious, acting pious – that’s not what you’re asking for. You’ve opened my ears so I can listen. So I answered, “I’m coming. I read in your letter what you wrote about me, and I’m coming to the party

Outcome - Yours or Gods?

God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others? (James 4:12)  No matter how much we try to be in control, maneuvering for the best we think we can get in this life, all the while, God is in control of deciding the outcome.  James wrote of the importance of quickly falling on our knees (at least in spirit) before God and allowing him to reveal the outcome to us step by step.  It is much better to be in step with God than to be pushing against him each step we take. And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, "Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we're off to such and such a city for the year. We're going to start a business and make a lot of money." You don't know the first thing about tomorrow. You're nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, "If the Master wills it and we're still alive, we'll do this or that."  As

A Treasure Trove

If you listen obediently to the Voice of GOD, you God, and heartily obey all his commandments that I command you today, GOD, your God, will place you on high, high above all the nations of the world. All these blessings will come down on you and spread out beyond you because you have responded to the Voice of GOD, your God: GOD’s blessing inside the city, GOD’s blessing in the country; GOD’s blessing on your children, t he crops of your land, t he young of your livestock, t he calves of your herds, t he lambs of your flocks.  GOD’s blessing on your basket and bread bowl; GOD’s blessing in your coming in, GOD’s blessing in your going out.  GOD will defeat your enemies who attack you. They’ll come at you on one road and run away on seven roads. GOD will order a blessing on your barns and workplaces; he’ll bless you in the land that GOD, your God, is giving you. GOD will form you as a people holy to him, just as he promised you, if you keep the commandments of GOD, your God, and live the

Landing on your feet

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. (James 4:1-2) We are creatures of comfort - and often quite focused on getting what it is that we envision will aid us in our comfort.  James tells us that we want our own way - and we fight voraciously to get it.  We try every plan we can imagine - every scheme our minds can conceive to get our way.  Why is it that we don't see the simplicity and safety of just asking God for what it is that he knows will actually bring us the comfort we so desperately want?  Even if we are asking a little "askew" in our requests, God is quite capable of purifying our desires and then our meeting those desires in complete delight. We often

Your True Colors

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4) James refers to the process of our faith-life being forced into the open by the challenges we face in our daily walk.  He tells us that pressure helps to produce evidence of our faith in Christ and brings evidence of Christ-like maturity in our choices.  I don't want you to miss the statement that "true colors" are revealed - they are often hidden or need something else to be removed in order for them to show through. Pressure is defined as a burden of physical or mental stress.  It can be a constraint that comes into our lives that demands our attention.  There is usually an urgency about what we face - not able to sweep it under the

Believing and Doing

James explains the idea that there needs to be a seamless unit of believing and doing.  We cannot separate our profession of faith from the performance of our faith (our actions).  They coexist - we show our faith by what we do, not by what we say.  In the third chapter of James, he opens up with the statement that teaching is "highly accountable work".  Then he goes on to describe the accountability that is expected of a teacher.  He also makes it perfectly clear that absolutely no one is qualified for the work of a teacher!  Why?  Because no one is absolutely perfect.  In this same chapter, he goes on to speak of the power of our words.  Let's explore... A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a

A Pulpit - Part II

And I am going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. (Philippians 1:19-21) Yesterday, we discovered that Paul had learned to see how God brings good out of chaos, blessing out of burden, and greatness out of abasement. This is truly a place of contentment – one we’d do well to learn in our present day society. I imagine all of us face our own circumstances, unwanted as they may be, in differing ways. Some of us will actively seek the ea

A Pulpit - Part I

And I am going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. (Philippians 1:19-21) Knowing how life will turn out is often an elusive thing for most of us – we fear the worst, hope for the best, and take whatever comes our way – almost living with fatalist mentality. Others drive so hard that life almost passes them by without any notice – all in the pursuit of some title, advantage, gain. Paul had learned to be content in the situations of lif

Open hearts, Open doors

Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him. (Ps. 34:5) God knows our feelings.  Then why do we spend so much time trying to "clean them up" before we allow them to be expressed to him?  We are fickle creatures, always trying to "preserve face", even in our communications with our Creator.  David had come to a place in his walk where he finally realized that the "fronts" we try to maintain are simply not necessary in the presence of God.  God want the reality of who we are and what we are experiencing to be what we express to him in prayer, praise and worship.  He doesn't want our emotions to be "masked".  Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness. (Ps 34:9) We definitely cannot argue that worship honors God.  Our passage also says that it opens doors to all his goodness.  It is like that honoring adoration of all he is and has done ushers us into his presence and in that p

Sound - Inside and Out

For God's Word is solid to the core; everything he makes is sound inside and out. He loves it when everything fits, when his world is in plumb-line true. Earth is drenched in God's affectionate satisfaction. (Psalm 33:4-5) The Psalmist opens this psalm with a command to lift our voices in praise to God - to not be afraid to sing out a new song to him.  Despite the tremendous blessings we enjoy as a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we sometimes find it our first response to cry out in complaint rather than praise.  This is because we human are influenced by the moment - not really allowing the Spirit of God that indwells us to be that influencing factor in our lives.   There is a hidden message in this passage that would be easy to gloss over - everything God makes is sound inside and out.  That means even you and I are "sound" inside and out.  To be sound implies that we are free from flaw, defect, or decay.  Hallelujah!  I may not always feel it, bu

Waiting in expectation

So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!  This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!  (Rom. 8:12-17) The apostle Paul opened this chapter with the idea that a new power is now in operation in our lives - we are living exchanged lives.  In cho

Exchange me, please

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?  The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can an