Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Nothing Will Separate Us

Read this from Romans 8:31-39

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul wrote these words from the standpoint of asking his readers a series of questions.  If you are familiar with this section of scripture you already know every question in these verses is answered by a positive answer.  After reading it from the scripture, give each section the positive answer and claim the promise of each verse.  It works like this:
God is for us so anything against us will fail.  He gave his Son for us all, so he also graciously gives us everything.  God justifies his chosen ones so any charge against us, or condemnation from others will amount to nothing.  There is no one who condemns us. It was Jesus who died and was raised and now is at God's right hand interceding for us.  Nothing can separate us from Jesus' love?  Nothing!  Even all troubles, struggles, persecution, famine or even the danger of death will not split us away from the love of Jesus. In all these things we are more than conquerors through our Lord. Now the final two verses:
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lift Up Your Eyes

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?- Psalm 121:1

Do you ever have problems so perplexing the answers are impossible to find?  I suppose that is a universal problem because we have devised numerous "catchy" things to say to ourselves and others when we have difficulty getting our lives in balance.  Among the answers we come up with are things like, "keep your chin up," or "hang in there, things will get better." 

From our text the Psalmist declares he lifts up his eyes toward the mountains, recognizing the need for us to keep looking up.  Still we suffer with looking down, sometimes to seek the sympathy of those who are having a better day.  When that happens, we are ripe for regular "pity trips." If any of this sounds familiar it comes from you experiencing the same thing.

A car doesn't start......trouble with the problems......cranky neighbors......any number of things that produce negatives.  We find ourselves sinking lower than a snake's belly and don't know which way to turn.  Does God want his children living like this?

Our answer comes from this same Psalm, in the very next verse.

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.- Psalm 121:2

The answers to life's dilemma is always found in God.  He is with you and promises to never leave you. Look up.....he is always there.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

God's Perfection

I've recently been taking several looks into the "law" under which the people lived in Old Testament times.  Close examination will cause any student of the Scriptures to wonder how the people kept up with all those rules?  Add to that the things that found their way into the same level of importance as the law, which were merely traditions.  What started out as the Ten Commandments, mushroomed into countless other rules and standards by which the people were expected to live. 

Good news came along when Jesus rolled everything into two basic commandments which were given as the answer to a question he was asked.  Here is the account from Matthew 22:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’    38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Catch the importance of that.  Jesus was asked the question about which is the greatest commandment in the Law.  It had to be a surprise to everyone that heard, when he gave, not one commandment, but two.  The greatest is to love God, and the second greatest is to love your neighbor.

Now hang on to your hat, but Jesus goes on to say it is on these two commandments that ALL the law and the prophets are based.  Some have difficulty accepting that.  The legalist would rather have  a long list of "do and do not do" so we could go down the list and check off the things we should be doing and making sure we don't step over the line and do something we aren't supposed to do. 

Then the legalist might even quote some Scripture like the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48, "You must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect."   I am sure I would have no trouble convincing you I am not perfect.  Another bit of news you might have difficulty in accepting is that you are not perfect either. The truth of our imperfection is one of the things that leads us in the direction of Jesus.

Now follow closely, and maybe you should read and reread all of this several times.   When Jesus came and lived among men, his life and his teaching all had a central point of focus.  That central point was his ultimate death, burial and resurrection.  Allow the picture to continue to unfold for you as you realize that Jesus, the perfect and sinless one, died for us, paying the debt for our sins.  So when my sin-stained life is washed clean by Jesus' blood, my imperfection is covered by his perfection. 

As much as I try to always be the person that honors God and the person whose life demonstrates a totally committed love for God, I sometimes fail.  And I really have problems loving my neighbor as I love myself.  So here I am, a sinner, failing on occasion, stumbling because of my weakness.  But I am covered by the blood of Jesus and that covering doesn't magnify my imperfection, it magnifies his perfection.

Lord, help me to daily be aware of your love.  Live in me to help my entire being so my love for you, and my love for my neighbor.  Amen.


Friday, January 27, 2017

He Will Take Care of You

I noticed something in my studies today.  It's in Psalm 68:19 which says, 

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."  NIV

The same verse in KJV reads like this, 

"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation."

A couple of other translations for you to consider,

"Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms."  NLT

"Blessed be the Lord: day by day doth he load us with good, the God who is our salvation."  Darby

I am confident the intent of the text here, regardless of which translation we may be reading,  we have a God who is taking care of us.  

God's provision can be seen primarily in creation.  For Adam and Eve, God provided everything they needed to make their lives comfortable and happy.  We know problems started to happen when sin entered the picture, and mankind  suffered the consequences.  But even with God's perfect creation being marred by sin, he didn't stop loving or providing for his people. 

God's complaining chosen people in the wilderness, preferring to go back into slavery, were constant recipients of blessing after blessing.  Throughout the Old Testament we see sinful people choosing to follow after idols instead of God, but he was always there to rescue them and deliver them in time of need.  Isaiah the prophet told God's children saying, God would be with them regardless of whatever difficulty they faced. (Isaiah 42:2-3)

It is no wonder then, when we come to the New Testament, Jesus, the Savior of the world, came to the end of his earthly ministry with the words, "I will be with you always."

Now that we have established and believe in a providing God, it should make a difference in the way we conduct ourselves in life. Do we live with the confidence that God is with us always?  Can we testify that he bears our burdens? Do we recognize daily that God "loads us with benefits?"

Think back to the Christmas season of this past year.  Have you opened all your presents? Are there still some wrapped under your tree? How would you feel if you purchased a gift for some loved one, and learned it had not been opened? God gives us gifts for our use to bless other lives and build up the body of Christ.  Those gifts are worthless until we use them for his glory.

We pray, God, thank you for your provision and care for us. We know you love us and bless us with those gifts which help us bring glory to you. Continue to "daily load us with benefits(gifts)" that we can use in service to you and our fellow man.  Continue to carry our burdens.  Thank you for Jesus and the salvation he brings.  In his name, Amen."


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Learning A Lesson

Lessons are sometimes difficult to learn.  One I learned early was while having breakfast at my grandparent's house.  The biscuits were hot, the real butter was near my plate, so I picked up my knife and took a sizable slice of the butter and smeared it on the biscuit.  (Making myself hungry here.)  After loading the biscuit with the butter I noticed the remnants of butter still on the knife and started to lick it off.  The next thing I heard was the unison voices of grandparents and parents saying, "Don't lick the knife!"  While that is obviously a good safety measure, the knife in question was the common butter knife which would have done no harm.  I was then educated on the habit of licking a safe butter knife could become a worse habit of accidentally licking a sharp knife, thus cutting my tongue.

That reminded me of the story of the Eskimo who was attempting to kill wolves to harvest their pelt, which the Eskimo used to keep warm.  He would coat the sharp blade of a knife with animal blood, and allow it to freeze.  The he would add layers of animal blood to the knife, allowing each layer to freeze, then secure the handle of the knife in the frozen snow.  A wolf would follow the scent of the blade, start licking the layers of blood, and ultimately become so interested in licking, he would not notice he was cutting his own tongue, soon bleeding profusely.  The next morning the Eskimo would find the wolf's body laying near the knife.

True or false?  I actually googled all that, and found belief in the story is a toss-up.  Some believe it could be a successful way to harvest animal pelts in frozen regions, others think the wolf would be too smart to lick on the knife until he was dead. 

Switching gears now, just to ask about your plans for the new year. It's only a few weeks into 2017. Is there a desire for you to become a better, more useful person?  Are there sins in your life that haven't been addressed?  Above all, do not use the new year to allow sin to grow, rather in the season when the year is new, let that be the springboard to get rid of habitual sins.  I am sure you know how devastating sin becomes when it grows in us.  Our appetite for sin can become like the wolf's appetite for blood. That's when the very thing we are craving proves to be our downfall. 

Praise be to God, for giving us another chance.  Even when we mess things up and continue to allow our sin to separate us from God, he longs for us to be in a right relationship with him. His love which called us to him in the beginning, calls to us again and again.

Today, let's rise above licking the knife.  As appealing as the bait may be, it's not worth it when we allow sin to control us and lead us to destruction.  Romans 6 says it like this:

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."


Monday, January 23, 2017

Hiding His Face

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
    nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear. 
Isaiah 59:1-2

There probably aren't any words in scripture which contain more sadness than these. Isaiah is among those prophets who gave the messages of doom and gloom because of the unfaithfulness of Israel. In these opening verses of Isaiah 59, several facts are established. 1. God has not lost his power to save, nor has he closed his ears to the prayers of his people. 2. People are separated from God because of sin. 3.  Sin hides his face from us so that he will not hear. 

If you want to really get depressed, keep reading about the situation of Israel.  Not only were they content in their sins, it seems as if there was no concern on the part of anyone that their present condition was leading to disaster. 

We are looking at intercessory prayer, the prayers we pray on behalf of others. Would you pray for a people like these?  When you pray, do you specifically mention those whose lives are separated from God?  For the people in Isaiah 59, it was the repetition of lifestyle they had grown accustomed to, the lifestyle of sin, confession, and redemption. Over and over again.

I mentioned these were among the saddest verses in scripture, but there is one observation that tops all the others when it comes to sadness. Verses 15-16, "Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene."

Did you catch that? No doubt God was displeased because of the absence of truth. There is no question that God was upset because there was no justice. The Bible says God was appalled that no one was interceding.
In an age where we are quick to judge others, speedy to spread the news of failure, and insistent on not making room for a second chance, I am wondering if God is asking his people, "Why haven't you prayed for them?  Why haven't they been the primary focus of your intercessory prayers?"

That gives us a new perspective on the importance of praying for each other. Surely there is a list of people you know who would appreciate you mentioning them to God when you pray. When the people of God talk to him on behalf of others, we are unleashing an unlimited source of power; the power to overcome, the power to forgive, and yes, the power to love as God loves us. 


Saturday, January 21, 2017

A New Chapter

In America, we begin a new chapter today, a chapter which will be affecting everyone residing in our country.  As President-elect Trump becomes President Trump, and begins the next four years, possibly eight, we as citizens of our country carry a lot of responsibility in achieving or failing to achieve our goals of renewal.

At this point it doesn't matter for whom we voted, or which candidate we chose not to follow, but today's Inauguration and the days ahead will be giving us a glimpse of some of the expectations and accomplishments which will be achieved by this new administration.

Many of you may have watched all the festivities and formalities of today's Washington, D.C. with hopes of helping to contribute to making America a better place.  That will come through the decisions we make and the outcome of working to make it a better place.

Do you see a place in all this where a Christian is to fit in?  Of course we are still the people of God with daily perplexities and problems.  We struggle making a living, or passing an exam, or maybe strengthening our families.  Any number of things will be leading us to the place of decision making. The real test comes when we wrestle with following God or following the leadership of man. 

It should go without saying, but yes, we are the people of God and as such we serve and follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  We follow the Gospel message of the sacrifice of Jesus loving us enough to give his life on the cross. We are God's church with our hopes and aspirations set on things above.

As citizens of the USA, we also recognize the responsibility of our support and loyalty toward our country and its leaders.  With our vote, we select them, along with the hopes of them enacting and enforcing the country's laws which protect us and make America a better place.

I want to suggest there is no deep chasm which separates our responsibility in civil matters and spiritual matters.  As long as we remember our allegiance and devotion to God and the place of that priority in our lives, we can see there is nothing that can bring separation.  We are citizens of God's kingdom and at the same time, we are citizens of America.  Success in life comes when we make God the center of our nation as well as the center of our Christian existence.  Even when our candidate wins or loses an election, we have the opportunity to pray for them, asking God to give them wisdom and mindset toward those things which are best for our country.

All of this is written today, to ask you to stay close to God and his Word. Love him with everything you are.  Also, love those around you as you love yourself.  Even when we disagree or follow a different political candidate, hit your knees today and pray for our country and those who lead us. Pray that those leaders will be made aware of God's will in the laws and decisions that are made.

"Lord, be with our nation and its citizens.  We long to be in relationship with you and with each other as we move forward in bringing peace to our world, love in every heart, and faith that continues to lead us closer to you." Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Truth Brings Hope

Psalm 119:41-48
May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord,
    your salvation according to your promise;
then I will answer the one who taunts me,  Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth,
    for I have put my hope in your laws.
I will always obey your law,     forever and ever.
I will walk about in freedom,
    for I have sought out your precepts.
I will speak of your statutes before kings     and will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands
    because I love them.
I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love,
    and I meditate on your decrees.

The primary emphasis of Psalm 119 is the delight which is brought through reading and obeying the Word of God. The Psalmist asks that the word of truth never be taken away from him, because of the hope he has in the laws and ways of God. 

This particular segment of the psalm makes plain the emphasis on knowing and obeying God, and in this reading it is made manifest in a couple of ways. 

1. The person who reads and obeys the Word of God experiences joy and happiness. It is through such an association and reverence for God's decrees that the Holy Spirit leads us into experiencing God's love and grace in deeper ways. We have greater comprehension of God's truths and receive greater joy in obedience. 

2.  Those people who develop such a relationship with God in the determination of reading and obeying his word, will likewise continue to grow in love for God's plans for their lives. God's character and purposes take on fullness and excitement. Then the beauty of brethren working in unity becomes an example to those around us. 

Some read the scriptures just so they can learn more. The psalmist encourages us to make God's word so vital to our existence, that we actually are motivated to grow into a deeper relationship with God and with others. 


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ready to Run

If you are familiar with Hebrews, Chapter 11, you know why this is called "the faith chapter" in your Bible.  After some teaching about what faith is, and how it works in a Christian's life, there follows a list of those Biblical characters who lived lives of faith.  Read the chapter and see how many names you can remember, and all of them were humans like you and me, yet they overcame some difficulty or problem and remained faithful to God. If we are believers in Bible truth, it's no wonder Hebrews 12 begins with the encouragement for us to get rid of all hindrances and be ready to "run the race" set before us.

I have written on this section of scripture in previous blogs, and used a phrase describing the opening of Chapter 12 being the Bible's "pep rally."  The stage has been set with the faith chapter, and the roll call of the faithful, and now the writer is telling us to get ready for the race; the actual activity of being faithful followers of Jesus.

But, wait.....Let's look a little more closely at the opening to Chapter 12:

  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."   Hebrews 12:1-2a

We might be so pumped up we overlook something here.  Perhaps we are thinking of all those examples of faithful from Chapter 11, we jump the gun when we come to Chapter 12, failing to see the directives of the Hebrew writer.  He writes using phrases like, " let us throw off everything that hinders" and " the sin that so easily entangles."  Are we reading that right when the pep rally to spur us into starting our race actually begins with directives for us to do something else.

These verses are telling us before we can start our race we must get rid of everything that hinders or keeps us from successfully running our race.  This is the call for us to deal with sin in our lives because they will hinder us in the race.

It is only when we "throw off" the hindrances and sin in our own lives that we can run the race with perseverance.  Not only that, our eyes will need to be fixed on Jesus because he is the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  Our race, yours and mine, are not a race of competition.  We are running our own individual race these verses tell us, are marked out for us.

Be very aware of "everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles."  Remember, Satan is your adversary.  He is a liar.  He will do anything to keep you from running the race.  He wants you to violate your faith and devotion to the Lord.  The solution is to fix your eyes on Jesus.  He is the pioneer and the perfecter of your faith.   

All warmed up?  Let's run.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Rescue Me

From 1 Samuel 7
And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.
When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car.

The incidents in these verses occurred just before Israel started asking God to let them have an earthly king. That is contrasted with Samuel's role as a judge over Israel, and a close observation of that contrast gives us a very important glimpse into the kind of man Samuel was. 

His role, in the light of the victorious achievements over the Philistines, was two-fold.  First, his message to Israel about returning to the lord and getting rid of their false Gods, denotes an act of rescue. Their response of committing themselves to serve only the Lord, was accompanied with the promise that they would be delivered out of the hands of the Philistines. 

In addition, the second role Samuel was playing here is to rescue Israel from themselves.  Just as they were saved from destruction at the hands of the Philistines for following God's instruction.  Likewise they were saved from their own apostasy in their repentance and confession of sin against God. 

This is an important lesson for us to learn, especially in our lives when we have a tendency to call out to God to rescue us from the predicaments we bring to ourselves.  God is always willing for us to return to him.  He has been and will be our rescuer just as he was for Israel. But don't forget, God is also in the business of saving us from ourselves.  The key, as Samuel was quick to point out, is in confession and a continual commitment to God and his ways. Just like Israel, we too, need a reminder from time to time to return to our covenant with God, and return to loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. 


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Memorial for a Woman

And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Matthew 26:6-13)

The first part of the story is familiar to us and has the information we often emphasize.  Jesus is in the home of Simon, the leper, when a woman comes in and goes directly to Jesus.  She brought with her a very expensive flask of perfumed oil, and began pouring it on the Jesus' head.  The disciples were irate that she would waste such an expensive oil.  They would rather see the oil sold and the money given to the poor. 

Jesus corrected their actions, explaining the woman should be left alone because she is doing a good thing.  Jesus then told them the oil was significant because it was a likeness of the preparation of his body for burial.  Now watch what is next.  Jesus is still speaking to his disciples and says,  " Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Remember when the disciples were arguing over which one would be the most important in the kingdom?  Now you can add to that memory, this story where they became indignant about costly oil being poured on Jesus.  One more thing to add is the statement that she would be memorialized for her loving act, everywhere the gospel is preached.

If you have been a Christian for a while, perhaps you have heard the gospel preached on countless occasions.  Do you remember ever being told the story of the loving act of this woman, as an added power punch to a gospel message?

How important is her story that Jesus said it would be told everywhere the gospel is preached?  Looking at the woman and her act of pouring oil on Jesus, perhaps we should see her as one who is filled with so much love for the Lord, she does this to reach the very heart of Jesus.

It would be just a matter of days until Jesus would go to the cross, and with his sacrificial act of surrendering his life as payment for our sins, would be reaching out in love to abide in the hearts of everyone.  There was never a love story more touching than this.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

We have heard for ourselves.....

One of the familiar stories in the New Testament is the story of the woman at the well.  You will remember Jesus encountered the woman and entered into an interesting conversation with her concerning several aspects of the work of the Messiah.  Even though the woman did not know at the time, she learned quickly she was in the presence of the Son of God.

This unnamed woman was most intrigued by the fact that Jesus had revealed his knowledge of her life and lifestyle.  His revelation of knowing she had numerous relationships and was now living with someone she wasn't married to, was not only convincing to her that she was in the presence of Jesus, but was the motivating factor for her to run into then nearby village telling the people, "Come see a man who told me all I ever did."

She must have caused quit a stir among the people with whom she shared that information.  I am sure the people she talked to were aware of this woman's tainted history.  Because of her previous bad decisions and the shame associated with them, she was fortunate to find anyone to believe the things she said. 

We are not told in scripture how many people came to believe in Jesus because of her personal testimony, but some did.   It's another example of Jesus using the downcast and lowly, and in this case, one of the poorest of reputations to introduce the village residents to the Messiah. 

The real impact of the story for me comes when the new believers tell the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”   John 4:42

People did not remain the same after an encounter with Jesus.  Just like this story from John 4, even those considered to be one of the worst among us, can become the influencing factor to open the eyes of others and introduce them to the Lord.  The greatest outcome happens when people hear and make the choice themselves to follow him. 

We can see ourselves in this story.  Even a poor example in some areas of life, can be used to show Jesus to others.  The news then blossoms as more and more people hear the good news and personally meet the Savior of the world.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's About Time

Colossians 4:5

"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time."  (KJV)

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity."  (NIV)

The same verse from two different translations, giving us the perspective from which Paul wrote on the way the Colossian Christians were using their time.   In speaking of redeeming the time, he was teaching them to make the most of every opportunity.

How about that subject matter, the subject of "time."  We live in a specific point in the picture of time when humans like you and me never seem to have enough time.   We have our digital watches, smart phones, microwave ovens, automatic this and that, all to give us more time.  All of the labor and time saving devices we use these days do a pretty good job of giving us more free time.  The problem lies in our lifestyle of trying to cram too much into the time we have.

We are all given the same amount of time in which we are to work, rest, play, learn, etc.  Yet some seem to have some time left over for leisure or "time on our hands."   So what about your use of time?

It's relatively easy for us to see why Paul would encourage making the most of time and opportunity when writing to the Colossians.  Apparently some of their time was devoted to celebrations and festivals, new moons, or sabbaths.   Paul considered these things a useless waste of time.  If he could see that as a problem in the Colossian church, is there a chance that we also have some time-wasting things going on in the church and in Christian lives today?   Consider these examples:

1.  When time isn't's wasted.  We've already noted that our generation is one that is obsessed with time-saving gadgets so now you are asked, what do you do with all that saved time?  You are living in the age that has the most wasted time, since time began.  It may be because of laziness, or non-productivity, or any number of things, but we have time given to us that we simply do not use.

2.  When time is's wasted .  How about you?  Do you ever realize after a specific time is passed, you could have done something more beneficial?  Maybe your time was not spent in sinful practices, but was rather spent in what has been described as a "profitless expenditure."  We certainly know what that means in regards to money, and it means the same thing in regard to time.  This does not mean we should never do anything fun, like leisure or recreation.  We need those things, too.

3.  When time is's wasted.   We all have busy seasons and times, and that's to be expected.  I'm referring to the one whose time is wasted when he becomes a workaholic.  Not that his work time is wasted, but his time with his family, his prayer time, his rest, even his values and priorities can be out of control.

Now we know why Paul told the Colossians and us, to redeem the time by making the most of every opportunity.   Seek the face of God in prayer, as you consider your use of time.


Monday, January 9, 2017

The Greatest Commandment

It continues to amaze me when I read the Gospels, that many of the teachings of Jesus came at a time when the Pharisees were testing our Lord's reaction to their questions.  They just knew they would eventually catch him saying or doing something so they could accuse him of violating the law.  When the Pharisees questioned Jesus it wasn't at a time when they were trying to learn something. Their goal was to keep up their attempts to find fault.

One such occasion is in Matthew 22:35-40

35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The answer Jesus gave to their questioning is familiar to us.  It should be no surprise that loving God is called by Jesus himself "the first and greatest commandment." No amount of time and no earthly power can do anything to minimize the emphasis of loving God being the first and greatest of all the commandments.

Jesus continued his answer for the Pharisees by going one step further and identifying the second greatest commandment, which is to "Love your neighbor as yourself."  So loving God and loving one another are given by our Lord as the primary emphasis for the entirety of life. 

And don't overlook the last sentence in Jesus' answer ..... "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." 

For those who may be looking for a starting point in learning and developing a relationship with God, this is it. Yes, there are more of the teachings of Jesus which will become important to us, too, but these two commandments are an excellent starting place. Spend some time reading God's word and in prayer as you grow and learn God's will for your life. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Fan the Flame

If you have visited this blog from time to time you already know my heart for the teaching of the Psalms, second only to the teachings of the Apostle Paul.  Perhaps it's because I am familiar with Paul's life before he became a follower of Jesus, as well as his work in ministry during his missionary journeys, and his letters to individuals and churches. 

Today I want to focus on the relationship of the young preacher Timothy and the imprisoned apostle, Paul.  In 2 Timothy 1, we recognize the closeness of these two Christian teachers and learn quickly to appreciate the special bond they felt for each other.  Timothy is referred to, by Paul, as his son. No doubt Timothy looked up to Paul as his mentor.

Needless to say it was difficult for Paul to do much teaching and training of young Timothy, since Paul was in jail.  And we can appreciate what must have been the feelings of Timothy as he struggled, not only with the fact he and Paul were separated, but also the work of their ministry was suffering because of Paul's absence. In this letter to Timothy, Paul writes:

"I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."
                                                                                               2 Timothy 1:3-5

Paul then writes words of encouragement to his student, giving Timothy some powerful words which would help him overcome his struggles.

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."                                      2 Timothy 1:6-7

There is always a need for believers to "fan into flame the gift of God."  The power and the presence of God's Spirit within us will give us all things necessary to accomplish God's plan. Yes, sometimes we need to fan the flame.  We must always be sensitive to the guidance and direction of the Spirit, and in so doing, we know God is working in us and through us to do his will.