Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm Free!

The freedom we enjoy because we are Americans is paid for by the blood of those who gave their lives in service to the country. Our debt to those who wear the uniform today is beyond our ability to calculate.

Likewise, the freedom we have in the spiritual realm is paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross. That is another debt we cannot calculate nor repay. The big difference is that the freedom Jesus brings is eternal.

Romans 8:1-2
"1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you] free from the law of sin and death."

Just as you pledge your allegiance to our country because of the freedom it affords, do you pledge your allegiance to the one who has secured your spiritual freedom?

In spite of our sins, our blunders, our mistakes...those who are in Jesus experience the status of "no condemnation." Think of what that means to you.

God's love for us is shown in the giving of his son. Because of this gift, we do not live any longer under the law of sin and death. Tell someone today about your new life in the Spirit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gifted People (Part 2)

Yesterday we learned that we are all people that have been given grace. We all have a place, a gift, to equip us in God's work, all the while, striving for unity, maturity, and the fullness of Christ.

The continuation of the Ephesians 4 passage gives more information about the accomplishment of these goals. Re-member, you exercising your gift, along with others exercising their gifts, brings the unity that Jesus is expecting from us. Read carefully.

Ephesians 4:14-16
"14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

The contrast presented convinces us that before the body of Christ can be united, we have to decide if we are going to bounce around like waves, or if we are going to speak the truth in love so we can grow into a mature body. How does the truth of that verse fit, in comparison to your life?

In a moment of personal evaluation, do you see parts of your life that need adjustments, in order that you may be-come in every respect like the mature body of Christ?

Note the verse says it is Jesus that joins and holds the body together, but growth is our part, as each gifted person is built up in love, and each part doing its work. Do you see the Lord's plan as one in which you play a role in the suc-cess of the body? Think of what you can do to build up others.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gifted People

I am sometimes envious of those who have a certain talent and have mastered it to the point of perfection. The scripture brings me back to my senses by reminding me that I am also gifted but it might be in another area. Paul in Ephesians says each of us has received grace as Christ apportioned it. Now look what he says about those to receive that grace.

Ephesians 4:11-13

"11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

In the work you do for the Lord, do you feel gifted? Into what other areas of God's work do you feel equipped and called?

Think of the activities and events you are involved in at church. Do you feel your work with other Christians, utilizing different gifts, builds up the body of Christ?

Reading the above scripture indicates that unity is the desired result for all these gifts working together. Are we working toward that result so we can mature and attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ?

(Continued Tomorrow)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

God's Promises

Have you ever had one of those days?...or one of those weeks? Sometimes we feel like a poster child for Murphy’s Law. Everything we attempt goes south. We may even try to work harder and faster on accomplishing some task, and then it seems all our efforts were in vain. Some think these kinds of days are just going to happen and we should take them with a grain of salt and look forward to better days when things will go right. But we all know there are people we come in contact with daily, who seem to never have a good day. Being stressed, frustrated and whining about life seems to be their norm.

Let me take you to a time in the Old Testament when the God’s people turned their backs on him, and were violating his commands. Even though God had commanded them to avoid such things, his people were worshiping idols. They persisted in this state of idolatry, and in the worship of things they created, rather than their Creator.

Into this picture enters the prophet of God, Jeremiah, and notice the intimacy of his call from God, as Jeremiah is told, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah’s response was one that would probably match ours. He reminded God he was only a youth, and he didn’t know how to speak the things God would want him to say. God’s reply was exact. “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” So the stage is set for the task set before him. Jeremiah, freshly armed with the promises of God, is going to deliver God’s message to the people who are making a lifestyle of rejecting God and worshiping idols.

The Bible tells us that Jeremiah was a prophet of God during the reign of five kings of Judah, four of which were wicked and shared a leadership role in keeping the people in their idolatrous ways. We also learn that Jeremiah’s life was constantly threatened, and that he had even witnessed the murders of other prophets. He faced multiple frustrations and disappointments in carrying out his task. Then, he sorrowfully watched the defeat of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. (Talk about having a bad week!)  Jeremiah could possibly have been our example of dealing with such stress and destruction by throwing in the towel. But he didn’t. Much of what he had to deal with would cause even the strongest of us to say, “You have done more than was expected, you have gone the extra mile.” But Jeremiah chose to press on, and his insistence on remaining faithful to the message of God is OUR lesson in endurance.

With God’s people in the hands of the Babylonians, because of their rejection of God, you might be prone to ask, “What exactly did Jeremiah accomplish with this faithfulness?” The answer is in that word, “endurance.” His faithfulness to God and the message of God became a catalyst for the great spiritual reformation that would take place under the reign King Josiah. Our friend Jeremiah wasn’t a quitter.

Adverse difficulties, threats, uphill struggles were his daily menu, and yet his motivation was centered in the promises of God. The key was his life of endurance; keeping on keeping on. Although his message at times was about a God who judges and punishes, it was also about a God who has great love and mercy and grace to see us through.

So when today isn’t your day, or perhaps you are having one of those weeks, remember Jeremiah and all the troubles he endured. Remember God’s promise to be with you, to comfort and strengthen you. You see, like Jeremiah, before you were in the womb, God knew you; and before you were born, he set you apart. Learning that gives us what we need to endure.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I Will Be With You

It's a promise God makes more than once, but even the strongest among us will sometimes doubt. In Exodus 2 Moses has a meeting with God, and God advises Moses of the plan to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.  Moses is told he is to be the one to deliver the message to Pharaoh.  Moses immediately responds with excuses.  "Why me?" or "I won't know what to say."  God's promise is that He will be with Moses, but Moses continues to argue, even when God shows him miracles he can perform to prove that God had sent him. Still Moses is reluctant, to the point of telling God to send someone else.  Now look at a very short verse which is God's response to the reluctance of Moses:

Exodus 4:14 " Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses"

From the burning bush to the burning anger of the Lord......all because Moses lacked the faith that God would be with him.  Do we have the faith to move forward in our spiritual journey, based on God's promise to the with us?

One thing God had equipped Moses with was the miraculous staff, the same staff that had turned into a snake  and then back to a staff again. God promised Moses he could perform miracles with that staff.  So now the escape from Egypt took them to the Red Sea and they were being pursued by the Egyptian army.  Moses cries to God for help and God reminds Moses about the staff, and instructs him to wave it across the sea and they can escape on dry ground.   God equips us with the gifts of his Spirit. Tools that help us in our journey.  Can you think of times you were equipped with exactly what was needed to overcome a problem or sin?  Remember, God promises to be with us.

Like Moses, we will have times in our lives where God expects us to demonstrate our faith in his ability to provide and his willingness to help. Think of steps you might take to make God's promises a source of your strength every day.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Losing an Arm at the Shoulder

The story of Job in the Old Testament is one which causes us to wonder why God would let such a faithful servant suffer so much. The loss of  his possessions, his family, his relationships, is all hard for us to understand. Even Job expressed some wonder at why all the bad was happening to him. But God chose this man teach all humanity that loss of everything doesn't have to mean loss of our faith and our determination to maintain our allegiance to God.  The story today comes from a segment of Job where he is still trying to determine why all these bad things are happening to him.  Job 31 has him assessing his life and trying to find out if he has done something to make God treat him this way.  In his evaluation there are lessons for us to learn. 

Job 31:19-22
19 if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,  or a needy man without a garment, 20 and his heart did not bless me  for warming him with the fleece from my sheep, 21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,  knowing that I had influence in court, 22 then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint.

Are you willing to pray, "Lord, I have helped clothe the needy, and the orphans, but if I have neglected to raise a hand to help just one, then let my arm fall off ?"  In shame I confess I would be armless.

The usual response to situations like these is:  I am only one person and my resources are limited so I couldn't be much help. Here are some suggestions for your consideration:  1. Volunteer - find a charitable organization or  church that is ministering to the needs of people, and offer your help. 2. Pray - In prayer, seek the direction God would have you go in using your abilities to bless others. 3. Give - Use your resources, no matter how small, as an example for others who have a passion for touching the lives of the needy. 

Read and live Matthew 25:37-40.
 Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Journey With Paul

The Apostle Paul took his Christianity seriously. After the conversion of this man Saul, and his new life in Jesus, he seemed so determined to make the good news of the gospel known to all. He took missionary journeys, and they are numbered and detailed in the maps section of most Bibles. All of these trips were for the purpose of preaching and teaching about Jesus, and it would seem that Paul would have smooth sailing as he worked so diligently to practice the Great Commission.  However, numerous readings from the Acts of the Apostles gives us the truth of all the hardships, near death experiences, and opposition that Paul faced. Your reading today comes from accusations against Paul and his defense in front of a judge, Felix. Please read the entire 24th chapter of Acts.  Then the part we wish to focus on is in verses 24 and 25:

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

Paul's preaching on righteousness, self-control and the judgment were apparently too uncomfortable for Felix to hear. Can you think of teaching from the scripture that has made you feel uncomfortable?

Felix is memorable to us because we can see through reading this chapter, he was sympathetic to the words of Paul's defense, and though imprisoned, Paul was given special privileges. But when the truth became more than Felix wanted to hear he said, "That's enough for now! You may leave, When I find it convenient, I will send for you."  Has our response, or lack of response to the Lord ever centered around similar excuses? .....we prefer a more convenient time?

In this case and in every case of adversity for Paul, he remained faithful to the gospel call. He realized that closed doors did not mean defeat as he bounced off of them till he was led to open doors of opportunity to spread the good news. In that, Paul is an example for you and me.