Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kickin' Against

Kickin' Against
Sept 27, 2010
Acts 26:14 ". . .'It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'"

A "goad" is a familiar thing if you are either cattle or a cowman. For simplicity's sake, a goad is a cattle prod, meant to spur the oxen or cattle forward during their work in the plow. A goad is sharp and is sharpened often, to keep it intact for its intended purpose. If the cattle do not move forward in their work, the farmer makes sure to spur them on with the goad. A cow or ox might be tempted to kick against the goad, but this would result in the cow being bloodied by its own doing. It is never wise to kick against the goad. In Scripture, God is likened to a farmer or shepherd who uses a goad to prod us forward in the direction He wants us to go in our lives and work. In one particular instance recorded in the book of Acts, God directly asked Saul why he was kicking against where God wanted him to go. God's question was meant to make Saul think, think about God's work in His life and the direction God wanted Saul to take.

God does this same thing with you and me. He leads us in a direction for our lives but if we fight it, we end up kicking against the goad, which leaves us a little bloodied. While you might not think you are directly resisting God, you may be fighting the work He is trying to do in your life. Think of an uncomfortable situation in your life that you are just not able to shake, something you'd like to get rid of, never having to deal with it again. Well, this may be God at work in your life, trying to teach you a valuable lesson. If you don't stop to learn and instead kick against the situation, you may be kicking against God's work in your life. I'm not asking you to enjoy the situation, but if you're in it, you may as well become a better person through it. God is at work in everything you do, Christian, and it is up to you to make sure you submit to God in all things.

The Bible says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This means God is at work in your life, working for your good, even in the situation you are dealing with right now. While you might not like it, God wants to use this situation right now to make you a better person, more useful to God because of these skills and abilities you are learning. He will use your new found skills for His glory in the work you are to do. Resist the situation and you are resisting God. Just ask the apostle Peter, who didn't like the path that God was going to take. Jesus rebuked him for it and said, "Get behind me, Satan." Peter was corrected for kicking against the goad, leaving him a little bloodied.

But a goad is also a helpful thing, not just a sharp pointy thing meant to keep you in line. The farmer uses it to move the cattle forward in their work. God uses it to keep you moving forward for Him. You may feel insecure about your work for the Lord, but He wants you working for Him, in the direction He has you. He has work for you to do, every one of you, even if you're not a pastor or missionary. Don't be insecure about whether you will succeed or not, just submit yourself to the yoke and allow the Lord to move you forward. Don't kick against success. After Peter received his rebuke from the Lord, Peter went on to have a very successful ministry. At one point, he was going to be killed for his ministry but someone stepped forward and actually spoke up for Peter. This man who spoke up was one of Peter's adversaries but said, "'Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.'"

Paul's adversary knew of resisting God. He knew that if you kick against the goads you would end up bloodied. Though he did not appreciate Peter, he respected God's work, and therefore Peter's work. Peter had a successful ministry because he stopped kicking against the goads. He submitted to God and what God had for him and because of it, had one of the most successful careers for the Lord. Likewise, you might be insecure about moving forward, but if it is from the Lord, nothing can stop it, not even you.

1. In what situation in life are you finding yourself a little bloodied?
2. Where do you need to submit to God and learn a few lessons in order to make you a better person?
3. How can you then submit to God's future work for your life, giving you an amazing success story?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Sam 13:21, Ecc 12:11, Matt 11:29-30, Matt 16:23, Mark 8:33, Acts 5:38-39, Romans 8:28, Eph 2:10, Phil 2:13

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Name of Blessing

Name of Blessing
Sept 20, 2010
1 Chronicles 4:9 ". . . His mother had named him Jabez, saying, 'I gave birth to him in pain.'"

Many people are familiar with the "prayer of Jabez," due to a book with the same name. The prayer of Jabez is a simple prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4.
"Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain."

There was a reason Jabez prayed this prayer; it was because of his name. "Jabez" means, and sounds like, the Hebrew word for "pain." His mother, who is nameless in the Bible (hypothetically, her name might have been Budala) gave birth to him in pain and decided to name him such to commemorate the day. Evidently, his name stuck, because he prayed earnestly that he would not have such pain the rest of his life. Children must have teased him when he was younger, maybe even ridiculed him. Somehow he became what his name meant. He did not want to be a pain; he wanted to be a blessing. Budala's words came true for her son.

For Hebrews, naming a person was important; they always chose names with significant meanings. God even renamed people in the Bible; it was THAT critical. If God had an important meaning or blessing to bestow upon someone, He would change their name to suit. Names carried with them a blessing, and in the case of Jabez, a curse. This is made clear for us when Jacob (whom God renamed Israel) was blessing his children before he died. He bestowed a blessing on each of them, or prophecy for their lives, which became their legacies. Each legacy came true. You didn't want to be the sons Simeon or Levi and instead, would prefer to be Judah or Joseph. These blessings, that their names carried, went on for generations.

While you may argue that generational curses are moot in the eye of the New Testament, your words still have the power to curse someone or enable a blessing. The brother of Jesus, James, said that each of us has that power, the power to curse, with a simple weapon, the tongue. Jesus even said you can move a mountain by telling it to go into the sea. Whether you know it or not, your words have the power of life and death; you can speak life or death directly into someone's life. If you want to speak a blessing into someone's life, try it with their name. While names aren't necessarily magical, if you give someone a name with an intended meaning, you are praying that meaning over their life every time you say their name. When choosing to name your child, pick one with a name of blessing you'd like to give them. If there are people you would like to see blessed, trying giving them a new name, maybe even keep it a secret and just pray that name over their lives. Jesus renamed several people, giving them names with important meanings He wanted to bestow upon them.

Conversely, if you call someone a bad name, even in your anger, you are cursing them with it, whether you truly mean to or not. The Bible says you are not to call someone a "fool," as carries with it a curse all on its own, a curse to the speaker of the poor word. You may think name calling is harmless, but that is not the case, just ask someone who is old and bitter from hurtful words spoken to them when he or she was a child. Words can stay with you and even shape your life, especially name calling.

All my children were named in the traditional Hebrew fashion. We gave them names with important meanings dear to our hearts. I pray every day I would live up to the meaning of my own name. The name "Adam" means "dirt." Oh, that I would become less so God could become more in my life. Jabez's mother spoke a curse on his life by calling him "Pain." He had to work very hard in prayer to overcome his mother's curse. Incidentally . . . "Budala" . . . means foolish; don't name your child that.

1. What prayer of blessing do you want spoken over your life? What name carries with it the meaning of that blessing you'd like to have?
2. What foolish words have you spoken over other peoples' lives, consequently cursing them?
3. How can you turn the curses of your life into a blessing, like Jabez?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 49, Ps 64:3, Pr 10:31, Pr 12:18, Matt 5:21-23, Mark 11, John 1:42, Acts 13:9, James 3

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sword of the Spirit

Sword of the Spirit
Sept 13, 2010
Ephesians 6:17 "Take the . . . sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. "

In Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus, he makes them (and us) aware of the spiritual battle around us, instructing us all to put on God's armor. The armor, having several critical pieces to it, helps us combat the devil. Specifically, we are to put on the armor to "stand against the devil's schemes." Satan's schemes are this: to separate you from God, both now and in eternity. He does this by using any desperate and crafty tactic possible, the chief of which are lies. Satan is described in the Bible as being the father of lies: deceiving for the purpose of causing harm to those who believe his lies. He is so talented, in his lies, that we can rarely distinguish between his lies and the truth. He is that good at it. No matter how discerning you are, it is often difficult to distinguish his lies from the truth.

Because Satan is THAT talented at deceiving us, we are to constantly be alert and, with the armor, to fight against Satan in his efforts. In putting on the armor, our only weapon we are instructed to fight with is a sword, the Sword of the Spirit. Back when Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he was well aware of the armor used in battle; he had intimate knowledge of many Roman soldiers. Paul knew that soldiers, when going into battle, didn't take just one weapon. Yes, they took a sword along with them, but they also took daggers, bows and arrows, maybe a mace, axes, cleavers, etc. There were many weapons available to the soldiers during Paul's time, and they were usually proficient with several. Paul names several pieces to the armor of God available to us, but only one weapon. Armor is intended to protect the soldier, but a weapon is intended to inflict harm on the opposing party. Paul only gives us one weapon in our spiritual battle, and it is a very specific weapon, the Sword of the Spirit. Evidently, only one weapon was needed.

Paul even goes so far as to elaborate on what that weapon, the Sword of the Spirit, is. The Sword of the Spirit is the word of God. This 'word' is the past and present voice and promises of God. It is far bigger than simply the Scriptures as used in a historical context. The word of God is truth used to combat Satan's lies. God's word is active, meaning it is alive. Paul was aware of God's imminence in our lives and of His active communication with us, not only through the written Scriptures but also through His voice of truth spoken to our hearts. We are to arm ourselves with this; it is our only weapon. Consequently, it is the only weapon needed to defeat Satan's schemes. The way to defeat Satan in our lives is to speak the word of God; against this truth Satan has no lie.

It is interesting, though, that after Paul instructs us to arm ourselves with the word of God, we are to told to take one specific action. Right after we have put on the full armor of God, and we take up our one and only weapon, we are immediately told to pray. "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." We aren't told to run against Satan in battle, looking for a fight; we are told to "stand and pray." Why would Paul tell us to arm ourselves for battle but declare that the only action we are to take is to pray? This doesn't make sense. Well, it doesn't make sense unless we take our weapon with us in prayer. We are to take the word of God and use it as our chief tool in prayer, prayer for ourselves and intercessory prayer for others (who need help in fighting Satan, as well). Our prayer should be based on the word of God, in accordance with His truths and promises.

It is critical, then, if you are to arm yourself with God's word, that you actually know what God's word is. How familiar are you with the Bible, I mean really familiar with the word? Can you quote it? Can you explain its meaning to others? Do you hear from God on a daily basis? If you can't say "Yes" with enthusiasm on all counts, then you won't do very well in battle against Satan, against the very talented liar.

1. What specific Scriptures do you use in your prayer life?
2. How often do you intercede, with God's promises, for others?
3. Try praying these specific truths every day, for yourself and others: Numbers 6:22-26, Ps 139:14, Is 54:17, Rom 8:28, Phil 4:13.
4. What other verses should you be praying every day?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Chron 7:14, Matt 4:4, John 8:44, Rom 8:27, Eph 6:10-18

Monday, September 6, 2010

Broken Body

Broken Body
Sept 7, 2010
1 Corinthians 11:24 "and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."

Within the elements of Communion there is a great deal of symbolism. Jesus, at the famous Last Supper, shared the first Communion with His disciples, giving them a drink of wine and a broken piece of bread. He told them it was a representation of Himself and they were now partaking of that representation upon themselves. It was a way of identifying themselves with Jesus' actions on the cross, the spilling of His blood and the brokenness of His body. Most of us understand the representation of the blood, the shedding of His blood to cover our sins. But few of us understand the depth of meaning in His body, or the broken piece of bread. Fortunately, the apostle Paul speaks volumes with us on "The Body," but we seldom take it all in, especially in the context of Communion.

Paul asked the early Christians a rhetorical question, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" He asked it that way because the answer was obviously "Yes," but the early Christians were not applying the symbolism correctly. Paul sandwiches his discussion on the symbolism of Communion between two large discussions on "The Body." To understand "The Body" in Communion, you must understand "The Body" in all that Paul discusses in the chapters before and after the verse pertaining to Communion. Paul assumes you already read the first half of his letter to the Corinthians BEFORE you got to the point about Communion and he assumes you'll keep reading AFTER that specific point, not simply take one line out of context.

Before the discussion on Communion, Paul tells us that the human body is something that we are to put into submission, making it do what we WANT it to do, rather than allowing the body to submit to the human nature: "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Paul is saying that he puts his personal self aside and works unto the Lord, for the Lord's plans, not his own. He said this to tell us that our lives are a part of the work of God's plan for mankind and we are to participate in this no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable it seems. This is meant to invoke empathy, as Jesus suffered on the cross, through the torture of His body. As we share in the Body of Christ through Communion, we willingly share in any hardship of our lives, if it means accomplishing God's plan for mankind on this earth. Paul later said this specifically, ". . .the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives." Similar to Christ's suffering to accomplish God's plan, we will participate in that suffering on this earth if we allow ourselves to be used for God's plans. When we take Communion, we acknowledge that this is the case, whether we like it or not. Jesus gave us the worst case scenario with His actions on the cross; we are to follow suit.

An additional consideration in "The Body" through Communion is the actual breaking of the bread. When Jesus broke the first bread, it was a social event, communal, shared with others. Paul reaffirms this when he says, "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." Communion was meant to be a corporate acknowledgment suggesting the fact that we are all in this together, each one of us. All the broken pieces of the bread can come together to make a full loaf of bread. We are all those broken pieces, simply parts of the whole. Paul's comments about "pieces of the whole" lead right in to his discussion on being members of one body but having different functions. Paul writes, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." This is meant to further instill in us the imagery of all fitting together. There are no solo Christians, just the Body of Christ; we are the members of that body.

When we partake in Communion, we are saying that we are the body of Christ and we share in His sufferings to accomplish God's plan. If this doesn't sit well with you, then don't drink of the cup during Communion or acknowledge that His blood is what gives you forgiveness for your sins. You can't have one without the other, the blood and the body go hand-in-hand. Just as we eagerly accept the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we must eagerly accept His broken body as an example for our possible suffering in the face of God's plan for mankind.

To understand Paul's explanation thoroughly, read straight through from 1 Corinthians 6:15 through 1 Corinthians 12:30. Ignore the headings in the Bible for now, because Paul didn't put those in his original letters. All the apostles understood this; John, Paul, James, Peter, and the author of Hebrews all wrote about sharing in Christ's sufferings, or His broken body through which Communion is symbolic.

1. What has been your understanding of "The Body" in Communion?
2. How much emphasis have you placed on the blood versus your emphasis on the body in Communion? Are they equal?
3. How can you apply this clearer understanding of "The Body" into your everyday life?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 8:17, 1 Cor 9:27, 1 Cor 10:16-17, 1 Cor 12:12, 2 Cor 1:7, 2 Cor 4:10, Phil 3:10, 2 Tim 1:8, Heb 2:10, 1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 4:12, Rev 1:9