Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pressed Together

Pressed Together
Oct 29, 2012
Luke 6:38  "Give, and it will be given to you. A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your lap, because you will be evaluated by the same standard with which you evaluate others"

It is such an amazing phrase: "give and it will be given to you."  It represents the spirit of reciprocity.  The Bible is chock full of terminology and examples of sowing and reaping, giving and receiving.  The principle of reciprocity is taught thoroughly throughout Scripture.  Jesus even said the famous words found in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you. A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your lap, because you will be evaluated by the same standard with which you evaluate others." He taught us that our human actions are being watched from above and that the Lord will be certain to invoke reciprocity.  It isn't karma and it isn't the universe bringing balance; it is the Lord enforcing reciprocity.

To understand the meaning of the measure "pressed together, shaken down, and running over" fully,  you must read another example of giving, as described by Jesus.  It is the story of a poverty stricken widow found in Mark 12:41-44:
    "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."'

Jesus was watching "who" put "what" into the offering.  He knew each and every person's circumstances and He saw their hearts.  While the offerings presented by the wealthy were more in terms of value than the poor widow's, hers was an enormous amount in comparison to the total of her possessions.  It wasn't the size of the offering that Jesus was referring to but the measure of meaning in regard to the gift.  This measure is what Jesus talked about when He said "pressed together, shaken down, and running over."  Just as Jesus watched what the widow gave, He is watching you and I when we give.  When we give to others, it is akin to giving to the Lord and He is overseeing and evaluating your measure, not the face value, but the measure of it.  He knows your circumstances and the heart behind your gift, to Him and to others.

The Lord is the enforcer of reciprocity and He sees all that you have done on behalf of others.  Some of you have given generously and some of you have withheld.  When you withhold in your giving, you are short changing yourself from the Lord's bounty when He invokes reciprocity over your life.  I, personally, would rather experience the Lord's gift to me "pressed together, shaken down, and running over."  But this requires a larger gift to others, far more than you think they deserve.  Remember that the Lord is evaluating your measure and will implement that same measure over your life when the time comes.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Mark 11:24, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4, Acts 20:35, 2 Cor 9:6

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Willing Spirit

Willing Spirit
Oct 22, 2012
Matthew 26:41  "'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'"

Jesus said the famous words, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  To understand what this means for us today, we have to understand what it meant when Jesus first said it.  It was said right before Jesus was arrested leading up to His execution.  He had gone into a garden to pray because He was anxious about His impending death.  Jesus took  Peter and two other disciples along with Him and instructed them to pray, but they fell asleep after only an hour.  Jesus came back to them, frustrated, and wondered why they couldn't even do what He asked of them for one hour.  Then He spoke the famous words;  His words will have far more meaning to us if we truly understand them.

To paraphrase what Jesus said, for explanation purposes only, consider this version of the story:
        Jesus left the three disciples (Peter, James, & John) to keep watch and pray.  After an hour He returned to them and realized they had fallen asleep.  He questioned why they could not stay awake and do what He asked even for one hour.  Jesus then turned to Peter and said, "You must pray; pray that you will not fall into temptation.  Remember at dinner a few hours ago I warned you that you would deny me three times tonight.  Pray that you will be strong in the midst of temptation because when the pressure is high, tonight and even in the future, though your heart wants to do the right thing, your human nature will take over and cause you to do things you will regret.  Therefore be on guard and pray fervently that you will be able to overcome temptation by the power granted from the Father."

While Jesus didn't really say those exact words, it was what He meant.  He knew Peter would be put under tremendous pressure and would allow his human nature cave under it.  Though Peter's intentions were good, the pressure was high.  Peter, as we all know, denied Jesus three times that night.  This was a critical, eye-opening time for him as he finally put all of Jesus' words together like a puzzle.  He regretted that his weak flesh had fallen into temptation.  He possibly regretted that he didn't pray as vigilantly as Jesus instructed.  Jesus knew the human spirit was (and is) weak, but we sometimes think we have more fortitude than a brick wall.  That's what Peter thought.  But when the pressure is high, even brick walls can buckle.

Jesus didn't go into great deal about the power of the Holy Spirit.  But as the disciples later found out, the Holy Spirit is the only Power that can help overcome a weak human nature in the midst of tremendous pressure.  Paul gives us fantastic instructions throughout his letters on how to implement the Holy Spirit in our lives, but the instruction was (and is) no more simpler than what Jesus instructed:  "Watch and Pray."  Jesus knew that the only way to overcome a weak flesh was through the Power granted from Above, the Holy Spirit. 

I pray you may never be given the opportunity to deny Jesus under threat of death.  However, you and I are pressured every day to deny doing the right thing and follow through with what the flesh wants to do.  These are things as simple as: a small lie, an angry voice or curse word, a selfish act, or a physical sinful impulse.  All these things speak to deny Jesus in our lives.  We know they are wrong, but in the moment, our flesh is weak and we crumble.  It is important to implement the words of Jesus.  Watch and Pray.  This isn't about praying once.  The word "watch" means to keep watch, an ongoing act.  It takes an ongoing effort of being on guard and praying that the Power of the Holy Spirit will help us in our weakness.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Mark 14:38, 2 Cor 12:9-10, Eph 3:16, Rom 8:26

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Encourage Them

Encourage Them
Oct 15, 2012
2 Samuel 19:7  "Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”

King David had so much potential as a youth.  It was evident that the Lord was on his life and he had good things ahead of him.  He killed the giant, Goliath, and won many, many battles.  He was a leader and a man among men.  Yet he was not without his troubles.  Even after he was king, his life was not easy.  When his sons grew older, it seems his troubles increased in life.  His son, Absalom, was trying to take over his thrown.  It created strife in the kingdom and David was stressed.  But despite all that was going on for David, the pressures of being a king, the stress of his son's rebellion, David still had to do his job.  David couldn't shirk his responsibilities just because the going got tough.  David needed someone to encourage him, too, but that didn't let him off the hook.

In fact, David had his eyes so focused on his own problems that he couldn't see there were others around him.  He was failing to lead others, his only job, because he was focused on his plight.  His second in command, Joab, had to chastise him, saying that his men were going to revolt unless David got up and encouraged them, led them.  David had others entrusted in his care and no matter what was going on around him, he still had to take care of the needs of others.  It was hard to do, but it was the right thing.  Had David not taken his friend's advice, David would have been without anyone to lead; he would have lost his job.

While there is limited spiritual insight into this Scripture, it speaks loudly of the emotional affects you have on others.  No matter how high or low your position in life, there are still others around you entrusted to your care.  It is always your job to encourage those around you, to support them emotionally despite their salary amount or pay grade.  David's men were soldiers, fighting men.  He wasn't prompted to give them a pay raise, he was prompted to lift their spirits.  Even the most hardened of killers still needed encouraging.

Today you may feel like you are at wits end in this life but there are others around you looking for encouragement.  It is your job to do so.  If we all encouraged each other in this life, then there would be few self esteem issues among us.  People would be comfortable with themselves and confident in the Lord.  It would change our society.  Our world would be a different place.  Crime rates would be lower, drug use would be less, and families would be more likely to stay together.  Encouragement is a necessary component to the human spirit; you need it and so do I.  If this is the case, then everyone around us needs encouragement, too.  This is a daily task, like sleeping and eating, it has an expiration and then more is needed.  Look around you and you'll see there are a few key people who need some encouragement from you.  If we all did this, then someone is bound to encourage you as well.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Sam 19, Ps 10:17, Acts 15:32, Romans 12:18, Eph 6:22, Col 4:8

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Loose in Heaven

Loose in Heaven
Oct 8, 2012
Matthew 18:18  "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Bind something on earth and it will be bound in Heaven.  Loose something on earth and it will be loosed in Heaven.  What does this all mean?  Is the Bible talking about a physical binding, like with ropes?  Is it talking about a spiritual binding and loosening?  Jesus said it, so it must be important, but what in the world does it mean?  Our current language does not allow us to understand what the disciples understood when Jesus spoke these words.  Yes, the translation of the Bible is correct for us, but it is not clear to our understanding.  To get a more correct perception of this verse, read this particular Scripture through the International Standard Version of the Bible, which is a fairly recent translation.  It reads: "I tell you with certainty, whatever you prohibit on earth will have been prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will have been permitted in heaven."

The words "forbid" and "bind" are not often used interchangeably, but using the word "forbid" in this context is a more correct understanding of what Jesus was saying.  Jesus was talking specifically to the disciples regarding the future work they would be doing for the Lord.  He was equipping them with knowledge that was going to be valuable, helpful to them in instructing their church plants.  In this same manner, it is helpful to us currently, if we understand this teaching from Jesus.  Notice in this newer translation it reads that an action on earth will have ALREADY occurred in Heaven, or rather was already ALLOWED in Heaven.  Jesus was saying that what was happening or allowed to happen on earth had already been declared as OK by Heaven.  The topic that Jesus was referring to was sin, or what was perceived as sin, that was being forbidden or allowed, not people and not spirits.

The other place that the phrase "bind in heaven" appeared was when Jesus spoke directly to the apostle Peter in Matthew 16.  He was giving Peter a glimpse of his future ministry.  Later on, it was Peter who first took the Gospel to the Gentiles (it was said that offering salvation to the Gentiles was forbidden, a sin as dictated by the Jews).  But Jesus was saying there is freedom found through the work of Christ; Heaven declared that everyone is now free from the legalism of the church.  Going against the legalistic rules of the church had been loosed in Heaven, therefore it was allowed on earth.  We can be free.  If a church creates rules that are not found in the Bible, then it is not a sin if we do not follow them.  If it is OK in Heaven, then it is OK here on earth.

But the converse is true as well.  There are things forbidden in Heaven, sins specifically written about in the Bible that are off limits.  They are forbidden on this earth and we should be teaching them in our churches.  This list of sins is found in 1 Corinthians 6.  The list of forbidden sins in Heaven are: casual sexual relationships outside of marriage (including adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality), serving idols or false gods, thievery, drunkenness, coveting the things of others, greed, lying, and abusing or cheating others.  These things are bound in Heaven, therefore it is our job to bind them, or forbid them, on this earth.  We are instructed to hold Christians accountable for these things, especially within our church walls.  Be free from the legalism of the church, it has been loosed in Heaven, but forbid those things that Heaven has declared are a sin.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 16:17-19, Matthew 18:15-18, 1  Cor 6:1-11