Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Freedoms and "Rights"

"But beware lest somehow this liberty of your become a stumbling block to those who are weak." 
1 Corinthians 8:9

     Paul here is addressing a common issue in the culture of the day. Certain foods were used as an offering to idols. Certainly the food itself was not evil but what it was used for had a chance for stumbling. He addresses the freedom the believer has to eat as he pleases, but that if it gives way to stumble another---true Christian character would gladly lay down a "right" out of a deeper love for a brother or sister in Christ. I think of examples in my life of godly people who have chosen to live above reproach. You will not find them at the neighborhood community dwelling having innocent fun because of the evil that likewise takes place in the same walls. You will never find them alone with someone of the other gender to be found above reproach. You will not find them purchase any juice in a bottle that could be mistaken for alcohol. Does this seem over the top? Perhaps to some,  but I see it as wisdom of love. Knowledge is understanding that some things can yield way to stumbling and knowing what is right and wrong, but wisdom is discerning how to apply that knowledge in love. Wisdom of love is choosing to lay down something for the sake of another, to ensure that it does not stumble them in any way. Knowledge looks at the rules and determines what one can and cannot do, but wisdom looks from all views of how it may be perceived or misinterpreted and chooses to draw a straight and narrow boundary line for the sake of another and the protection of a godly reputation. This is the principle Paul was trying to express to the Corinthian church. Haveing a knowledge and understanding of the times and what was or was not permitted for a believer, he challenges the hearts of the believers to exercise wisdom of love, and choose to refrain from anything that could stumble one who is weaker in the faith and liberty of Jesus Christ. He goes as far as to warn that if one who is stronger in the faith stumbles the conscience of a weaker brother, he has sinned against Christ. Paul was willing to change daily habits, such as the food he chose to eat, for the sake of others growing in their faith. What am I willing to lay down for the sake of another growing closer to God. Perhaps it's a tv show, a type of music, a social media thing, a habit? Today I will ask the Lord to reveal to me anything that I allow in my life, through the freedom of Christ, that may be required of me to exercise wisdom of love and lay down for the sake of another. I will also pray that the Lord would give me a sensitive and willing heart to quickly lay down anything that could be a struggle for one weaker in the faith, regardless of my rights and freedoms in it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sufficient Grace

"My grace is sufficient for you." 2 Corinthians 12:9

This is a verse we have heard countless times. It has been used, and sadly abused in its interpretation. How often you hear the phrase, "grace, grace, grace!" Truly grace is the greatest gift of God to us, demonstrated by the life, death, and resurrected life of Jesus Christ. However it has been taken for granted or talked of as this cushion-room for safety for when we sin. Is this a wrong picture? In some ways yes, in others no. Certainly Gods grace becomes to us a cushion of comfort when we go astray, but that is only to a broken and truly repentant heart, used as a cushion for a heart sorry for the consequences wrought from sin or a heart that feels bad, but not repentant is an abuse of Gods grace.
I'm looking at this passage from a new point of view, as a response. Paul explains to us that there was something in his life, "a messenger of Satan" that was buffeting him. We do not know what it was---a constant temptation perhaps? A physical infermity? Condemnation from his past? We know not the details, but we know that it was a continuous blow to him. Something that was beating him down. So much so that he tells us that he pleaded with God for it to be removed from his life---not just once, it was something that burdened his walk with the Lord. Yet the response of God to him was this, "My grace is sufficient for you." I perceive it like this, "Paul, whatever difficulty is pressing against you, whatever is troubling your heart, whatever is present that you wish was not, my grace provides enough for you to face it." Sufficient---plain and simple, it means enough. No lack, no surpluss, enough for the need.
God goes on to reveal to Paul that if he receives the first, acceptance that His grace will be enough, and he has no need for the removal of his difficulty, THEN, he would see the promise, of Gods strength made perfect through the difficulty. The obstacle of the enemy is Gods platform for His glorification. 
Too often, I think a Christian facing a challenge, a temptation, a struggle, doesn't get to see Gods full design in His allowance of it because they are not allowing His grace to be applied for what it is. The sufficiency of it to a broken and contrite spirit. The total enough of it, needing not to run from the challenge. God is looking to build character in His children, and character is not built with the removal of difficulties but with the strength of endurance to walk through them. To buffet back at the buffet against oneself. To pull down the stronghold that is pulling you down. A heart that is allowing Gods grace to be more than a cushion, but a foundation, and a confidence--a sufficiency, can then see His strength show forth in the battle against the difficulty at hand. A heart that accepts its own weakness can then receive His great strength.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Prayer WITH Thankfulness

Colossians 4:2
"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving."

I've been recently aware of the word thankfulness in correlation to a call of prayer in Scripture. Philippians tells us to be anxious about nothing but to bring everything to the Lord in prayer WITH thanksgiving. Chapter 2 of Colossians speaks of allowing the peace of God to rule in our hearts and to BE thankful. Then here in chapter 4 a call to be on guard and watchful in prayer WITH thanksgiving.
The Greek word for thanksgiving used is eucharistia, meaning thankfulness and gratitude. I believe that God has a reason to connect prayer and thankfulness---as if a call to us that we will receive what we are seeking after in prayer if we first have a heart of gratitude for all we have already received.
2 Corinthians tells us that every promise of God is YES and AMEN in Jesus Christ (1:20). We have been forgiven, reconciled, redeemed, restored, all through the work of Christ. Beyond---we have been accepted, sealed, given every spiritual blessing; yet how often we do not walk in the thankfulness of realization of all we have already received? Often times we come to God in prayer with expectation or want of Him to give us our request, to fix a situation troubling us, to supply an area of lack---we can be so consumed with our need that we forget to first reflect on all the promises of supply He has given to us. Colossians tell us that we are complete in Him (2:9), we lack nothing when connected in fellowship to Himself, the source of everlasting life. If we would come to the Lord in an attitude of thankfulness when we pray, perhaps the peace we are yearning for in the situation will be ours for the taking before even the answer of the request comes. When we pause and realize all we have received in Him, we will have hearts prepared to receive whatever answer He chooses to give to our present request.
Have you ever heard of a Christian left disappointed in prayer? Maybe that has been you. Is there any shadow of turning in our God? Any characteristic that avails disappointment? All His ways are just and true, it is only the state of our hearts that gives way to disappointment in answer to our prayers. A heart coming to prayer vigilant, aware of our need for prayer, and WITH thankfulness, appreciative and content with all we have, is a heart that will only walk away with more gratitude after prayer and never disappointment.
A thankful heart is a prepared heart for the answer of the Lord. Perhaps we should come to prayer in request of His desires to be accomplished and not our own desires being answered.

Today I'm challenged in my view on prayer. I want to have a heart of thankfulness for all I have received...I lack nothing, so be the answer to my prayer is "no", or "yes", may my heart be unmoved but guarded by Christ Jesus as I look to Him with a heart of gratitude and thankfulness.
Today I will spend time thanking Him for all I have already received before brining to Him the concerns and requests of my heart in prayer.

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Place for All of Us...

“And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus 
had done for him; and all marveled.”
Mark 5:18-20

     This man had a earnest desire to follow Jesus and leave behind all that had been familiar to him--once touched by Jesus, forever changed. How beautiful such a desire, without hesitation, ready to jump in the boat of the unknown with Christ; yet Jesus did not permit him to come. Wait...did we read this right? Wasn’t Jesus the One who said those who leave homes and families for the gospel sake will be blessed? Yes, reading it for what it is, this is a man with a missionary heart, prepared to go out but was NOT permitted to go. 
     Here-in is a beautiful lesson from our Savior. The Great Commission is for all--to go and make disciples, but the call to leave one’s home is not for all. Clearly this man had the zeal to go and share, but Christ saw a greater need then going in the staying. No one else could so well reach his own people as himself with the testimony of Christ’s healing power in his life. 
The people of the region were rejecting Jesus and pleading with Him to leave, only this man had access to stay and carry out the message of the Gospel in such a place.
     Staying appeared as a closed door when Jesus did not permit him to come; however, staying was God’s open door and calling upon this man’s life for the work of the Kingdom of God.
     Perhaps you have a zeal to go, but today no door is opened--look around and ask the Lord if staying may be the opening He desires for such a time?

There is a place for all of us. Not all are called to go over the waters and over the seas to minister, but some are. Many are called to remain and be faithful where they are, for God has uniquely designed them best to reach those where they are. It is true that there are “senders and goers”, for it would not work without such a balance, but deeper still, there are those called to stay and those called to go, and obedience to the orders you’ve received from the Lord brings the most fruit according to His measuring scales.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Earthly Tasks…Heavenly Gain

Reflections from Genesis 24

     Abraham sent out his servant to do a specific task. He was to bring back a wife for his son Isaac from his homeland and his family. Sound simple? To go and find a women to be a companion to another for the rest of his life? To travel to a unfamiliar place and accomplish such a task? 
Yet servants are given tasks by which they must accomplish to please their masters, and so he went out faithfully to do the work.
     In the midst of the task, I observe a lesson that I am clinging to. This servant was fully devoted to his earthly master, Abraham, but within the daily tasks he was given to carry out, he looked UP not OUT. He looked unto His true Master for guidance and ability to complete those things that were asked of him.
If he would of looked out, upon the desert sand, upon the uncountable choices of women, upon the vague instructions given, he would of quickly become overwhelmed by the task. Instead, the moment he entered Abraham’s homeland, he sought the Lord for guidance and provision. 
This servant had the right perspective on tasks and serving. He understood his place under his master Abraham, but he better understood his place under the Lordship of God.
     He conversed with His Lord, and found response. He sought counsel from above and was given wisdom upon earth.
God answered in detail the prayer of this servant, and multiple times within the chapter we read that he, “Worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth”. 
He sought the heavenly in the earthly tasks of life. 
He leaned not on his own understanding, but in all his given tasks, acknowledged the Lord, and he returned straightway to Abraham with a wife for his son. He did not just accomplish the task, but accomplished it in a manner that brought glory to the Lord and in unison to God’s will.
     Most of us find ourselves in similar positions, under the leadership of others, given daily tasks to accomplish. Let us not be overwhelmed by the tasks at hand, but let us take from this lesson and apply--let us look up for the answers we need here below, that we may be found to bring honor and glory to our Lord in the face of earthly men. 

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16