Sunday, March 25, 2012

Friendly Foe

Friendly Foe
March 26, 2012
Proverbs 16:7 "When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them."

We all have enemies, some more than others. It is impossible to be friends with everyone in the world and there is bound to be at least one individual who just cannot stand you. In fact, as you read this, you can probably think of a few people who don't like you for one reason or another. They may even be bent on seeing your demise, wanting you to fail in life or falter to their advantage. This is most likely out of your control, and no amount of effort will cause them to like you. It is an inevitable situation without recourse.

If you genuinely like people, this may be very frustrating, especially if you work very hard to be likable. The Bible gives an antidote for those who have enemies. It says you should simply live a Godly life, then leave the rest up to Him. It doesn't say you should try to force your enemies to love you. It doesn't say you should work hard to be more likable. It doesn't even say you should change who you are. It simply says you should please the Lord with all your actions and He will take care of the rest.

Don't be fooled, however, into thinking your enemies will turn around and become your friends. Scripture says that if your ways are pleasing to the Lord then He will make your enemies at peace with you. This means they cannot attack you to harm you. It does not mean, or even hint, that they will eventually be your friends. It simply means they cannot be actively at war with you. I'm reminded of the prophet Daniel and his famous story of being thrown into a den of lions. Daniel didn't do anything wrong; in fact, he was one of the most Godly men alive. Yet Daniel had enemies, lots of them. His enemies even plotted against him, tricking the king into throwing Daniel to the lions.

The lions were not Daniel's friends either, they wanted to eat him. However, Daniel's ways were pleasing to the Lord and He put the lions at peace with Daniel in the den. When Daniel was rescued from the mouths of the lions, it is doubtful the men who put him there became his friends. In fact, I'm sure they hated him all the more, but they could not harm him; the Lord did not allow it.

Think of a barking dog caged behind a fence. The dog may have the desire to attack you and its bark might suggest its motive, but the fence is keeping you at peace from its attack. The Lord is that fence for you from your enemies, keeping them from waging war against you. Your enemies will always exist, but their bark will be far worse than their bite. In fact, Daniel's enemies were eventually eaten by those same lions in that famous den.

Furthermore, there is that prerequisite in gaining the Lord's protection from your enemies. Your ways must be pleasing to Him. If you read this particular Scripture in Proverbs 16:7, promising that the Lord will calm your enemies, it is surrounded by other verses describing how your ways musy be pleasing to the Lord. It uses words like honor and integrity, pureness and justice, humility and love. If you don't have those attribute present in your life, don't be shocked when your enemies wage war.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Proverbs 16, Proverbs 25:22, Daniel 6, Luke 6:27 & 35

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Good Looking Feet

Good Looking Feet
March 19, 2012
Isaiah 52:7 "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news . . ."

Feet aren't generally considered an attractive part of the body; they are completely functional in nature. In Biblical times, feet were usually pretty dirty most of the time, due to the fact that people likely wore open-toed sandals. When you combine open-toed sandals with dirt and animal filth, you get feet that would not have been considered beautiful. But if a person is coming from afar, walking a great journey, bringing with him treasures of goods or information, then his feet would have been considered beautiful, as if the feet were the actual vehicle carrying the precious cargo.

In Isaiah, the prophet spoke of one whose feet would be considered beautiful; the feet of the one bringing the good news of salvation from Heaven. This, of course, was referring to Jesus, who was the long anticipated method of redemption from sin. Jesus brought with Him the message of salvation, the message of the cross, which would enable all people to enter into eternity, setting them completely free from the chains of sin. What good news! This is also why the Gospel messages of Jesus' life and death are affectionately called, "Good News."

The message of salvation, however, didn't stop with Jesus. The Apostle Paul took up the mantle in proclaiming Jesus' message of salvation, the Good News, to every city possible. Paul also re-iterated that the message of salvation was to be carried by EVERYONE after Jesus. He wrote to one of his church-plants in Rome and reminded them that everyone who receives the message of salvation then has an obligation to perpetuate it. He even quoted Isaiah's original words of "beautiful feet" and placed that responsibility onto every one of us today.

Paul further emphasized this new responsibility when he wrote to another one of his church-plants in Ephesus. He told them that they should ALWAYS be ready at a moment's notice to proclaim the message of the Gospel and to carry it with them wherever they go. This mandate applies to you and me today. We are to have our "feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." To translate that into our modern language, we are to always wear the message of the Gospel in our lives, wherever we go, being willing and able to share that message with every one we meet, every minute of the day. This means wearing the badge of Christianity in your day-to-day life in front of non-believers and for all to see. It carries over into every facet of your life: driving your car, sitting in a meeting at work, walking down the hall at school, etc.

If you have ever called yourself a Christian, you are then obligated to have good looking feet.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Isaiah 52:6-8, Rom 10:14-15, Eph 6:14-16

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Check the Preacher

Check the Preacher
March 12, 2012
Acts 17:11 "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

The Apostle Paul was a missionary, preacher, and a pastor. He would travel to where the Holy Spirit led him, to unreached people who needed to hear the Word of the Lord. He would preach the Good News of Jesus and set up a church with the new believers. And when he left for another missionary trip, Paul would write letters to his new churches, continually pastoring and mentoring them in the way of the Lord. Paul was an amazing man of God who was clearly used by the Lord. He lived his life in honor to the Lord and preached the Scriptures. But Paul was not above failure; he was still human, prone to mistakes. In fact, Paul made some huge mistakes in his lifetime. Recall that his previous name was Saul and he was so zealous for the Lord that he had some of the first Christians executed. He was clearly an influential person in a lot of people's lives.

Despite Paul's influence over the early church, he still considered himself a wretched sinner, not above anyone else. But this didn't stop him from trying. Paul preached the Word of the Lord with great fervency, great intent, and great conviction. You and I might be tempted to have even put Paul on a pedestal within our church walls, believing everything he said, trusting that he was leading with perfect integrity and trueness of thought. But one of his own churches were not quite as willing to take him at face value, trusting that everything he said was congruent with Scriptures. They were the Bereans. Not a whole lot is known about the Bereans as they didn't get their own personalized epistle from Paul included in the Bible. What we do know is that they were Jews and that they were possibly familiar with Paul's previous life before Christ.

We also know something else about the Bereans. The Bible says they were of noble character because they double checked the Scriptures. Having a noble character, in this context, is defined as wanting to do the right thing and working intently to ensure that happened. The Bereans did this was Paul's teachings. They listened to Paul, examined what he had to say, and then double checked him for accountability's sake. They were not willing to trust him blindly; they wanted to do the research for themselves. They wanted to make sure their faith in the Lord was based upon solid understanding. It wasn't that they didn't trust Paul; they wanted to be diligent believers of the Truth.

You and I should take precedent from the Bereans. I've been in a lot of churches where the parishioners have blind eyes to the pastor's teachings, being led as deaf and dumb sheep . And I've been in a similar amount of churches where the pastor is not quite right in his interpretations of the Scriptures. If you couple these two scenarios, you end up with unhealthy churches and Christians who are not living up to their full potential. It is recommended, no matter how perfect your pastor seems, to double check him on his teachings. He is human and is prone to mistakes. I know I am only human, too. Examine the Scriptures and look it up for yourself. If you find possible discrepancies, approach your pastor with the intent of seeking clarity. If he is a true man of God, he will welcome the meeting. If he cannot explain or clarify it to your satisfaction, more investigation should be completed. If the two of you cannot come to the same understanding after Berean-like research, it might be a sign to look for a different pastor.

Don' take my word for it; look it up: Acts 17:1-15, Col 2:21-3, 2 Thess 2:15, 1 Tim 1:15, 1 Tim 4

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fear God and Win

Fear God and Win
March 5, 2012
Exodus 14:31 "And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant."

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. You've undoubtedly heard this proverb before, but has it changed your life? I've probably heard it a million times, even sang about it since I was young, but the choices I make in life oftentimes don't reflect my true fear of the Lord. In other words, I act foolish, do foolish things. You might be able to relate with this, if you are honest with yourself. It is easy to deny the times we act like fools, making decisions and choices we would expect others not to make. If we truly feared the Lord, our lives would be completely different. But what does it really mean to fear the Lord? Is there a clear description of this in the Bible?

Some people say that to fear the Lord is to respect Him and honor Him, that it is not a fear of His might or power or anger or wrath. While fear can definitely mean reverence, I would suggest that the fear of the Lord has more to do with His mighty power and what that power can do.

In the Old Testament, the Children of the Lord were familiar with the might of the Lord and what He could do. Recall Noah and the great Flood. The story was passed down for generations, people understood the calamity of the event. They knew the flood was the result of the Lord's disgust with the inhabitants of the earth. The story of the flood instilled fear into people. The Children of the Lord also witnessed the mighty hand of the Lord, His power and what He could do, when they were leaving slavery behind in Egypt. There were, of course, the ten plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians and then the magnificent parting of the Red Sea. The Lord miraculously parted the sea to allow His people through; then the sea closed up and killed the entire army of the Egyptians while the Israelites stood watching. The Bible says the people saw the power of the Lord displayed; they feared Him and trusted Him because of what they saw.

It is interesting that fear and trust could be in the same sentence. Usually if you are afraid of someone, you don't trust them. But the Israelites' fear of the Lord was far deeper than just being afraid He would smite them. He was their Heavenly Father, someone who wanted to protect them. They saw His protection over them against their enemies and realized His great love for them, but they also saw what His power could do if they lost His affection. The Lord promised many times over in the Bible that if we live a sinful lifestyle, disobeying His commands, that He would be quick to discipline us. If we understand His power, then we should respect what His discipline could do to us with His mighty hand.

But, if we fear Him and live as His children, following His precepts and being mindful of His discipline, then we don't have to live in fear of His wrath AND we will gain His protection over us. If we live with a healthy fear of the Lord's power and His promise to discipline us if we turn from Him, then we will naturally obey His commands. If we naturally obey His commands, then we don't have to live in fear of His wrath; we can trust in Him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A wise man will understand this.

The Bible also gives us another promise of what living in fear of the Lord could do for our lives. It is a verse that binds together fear and obedience: "Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the LORD." Psalm 128:1-4

Don' take my word for it; look it up: Ex 14:40-41, Lev 26, Deut 6:24, Deut 9:18-21, Deut 10:12, Josh 4:24, Psalm 128, Psalm 33:18, Proverbs 9:10, Micah 6:8, 2 Cor 5:11