Sunday, March 26, 2017

Love the World

Love the World
March 27, 2017
2 Timothy 4:10 "for Demas, because he love this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica."

There is a fine line between loving something and having love for something. When you love something, you are personally and emotionally invested to the point of wanting to be at the epicenter of it. If you have love FOR something, you're mature in your position of that which you love; you understand it is not the epicenter of your life but respect and appreciate it. It's subtle, I know, but important, nonetheless. Hopefully you truly love the Lord. Hopefully, you truly love your spouse and family. Hopefully, you truly love the Body of Christ. But hopefully, you don't love the world. You should have a love FOR the world, wanting to see it saved, appreciating it for what it is, a fleeting time and place that will all turn to ashes and dust. If you love the world, like Demas loved the world, you will be in jeopardy of being enticed by it and carried away by it, possibly not making it to Heaven.

Demas was a friend of the apostles. He was not of the original twelve, but he was a contemporary of them. He was saved by their efforts in reaching him, and so filled with love for the Lord that he decided to accompany the disciples on their apostolic journey. He became a disciple of the disciples and wanted to carry the word of salvation to all mankind. He felt led and called into the ministry. Demas was a friend of Luke, the apostle Paul, Timothy, Philemon, and many others. Demas traveled with them; he watched and learned from their ministry; he witnessed the miracles and lives changed first hand. He truly was one of them. Demas even suffered along side of them. And then, sadly, he decided not to be one of them any longer. He left the work of the ministry; he left their side to go back to the world and live like the rest. The Bible doesn't say if Demas lost his salvation, but the Bible does say he abandoned the apostles because of his love for the world. Demas let his love FOR the world change into loving the world. He lost the healthy respect that the world was and is a fleeting thing. He loved it the wrong way and wanted to live according to its provinces.

Demas fell into the temptation of the world and what it had to offer. Remember Jesus was tempted in the desert, weakened from fasting; Satan offered Him all that the world had to offer. Jesus let His love FOR the world overshadow His love of the world. Jesus followed the will of the Father, not being tempted to have what the world had or live like the world lived. Jesus denied Himself the temptation of living like the rest of the world.

How do you live your life? Do you live like you have a love FOR the world, or do you live among them, loving the world like everyone else? There is a fine line, I know, but important nonetheless. Do you want the same cars, and houses, and vacations? You might say no, but you possibly want it to a small degree, or maybe justify it with a lesser variation. I fight the same battle, on a daily basis. Since I have to live in the world, how do I live in it but not like one of them? The disciples were a success at it; Jesus even said so. But how do I draw the line, especially since I'm not in vocational ministry? How does the world differentiate me from all the other church goers? Am I different enough while living among them that Paul wouldn't accuse me of loving the world the wrong way?  How would Paul accuse you? Would he measure your life, like he did Demas, and find that you love the world too much? While Paul is not your ultimate judge in Heaven, he at least was able to judge the worldly behaviors of Demas. What do your behaviors say about you? How do you love the world? Demas was labeled a deserter by his behaviors. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 4:1-11, John 7:13-19, Col 4:14, 2 Tim 4:9-11, Philemon 1:24

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage
March 20, 2017
Joshua 6:3 "March around the city with all the armed men."

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is when the Israelites were told they didn't have to fight, that they only needed to stand still and the Lord would fight for them. You've heard this quoted so many times; you will not have to fight this battle. You need only stand still and the Lord will fight for you.  It is so poetic, fairy-tale-esque even. How awesome of a position to be in, where the Lord does all the fighting of the enemy on our behalf. Sadly, there are only two instances in the Bible where this has every happened. As Christians, we want to believe it happens each and every time, that we will never have to fight and there will never be battle wounds and there will never be damage. The reality of the situation is we do have to fight more often than not. You and I will have to fight.

When Joshua was told to take the city of Jericho, he was told to march around the city and then blow the trumpets and then take the city. He was never told they would not have to fight. He told the army to march around the city, not the women and children. The reality of the situation is that some in the city of Jericho, after the walls fell, may have put up a small fight. One or two of Joshua's army may have lost his life. Very few instances in the Bible does it say the Israelites didn't lose a man. It is safe to assume, if the Bible didn't specify no man was lost or they didn't have to fight, then the Israelites probably lost a man or two and most certainly had to fight. The Bible doesn't say in the battle of Jericho that the Israelites didn't lose a single man. Who knows, maybe they were victorious without a single drop of their own blood. There were hundreds and hundreds of battles in the Bible, where the Lord granted them victory, and yet the Israelites lost a man or two, even thousands of men sometimes. All those men had mothers, and fathers, and wives and children. Even if the Lord granted victory over the battle as a whole, there was plenty of collateral damage along the way. They still experienced losses.

No where in the Bible does it say you'll never suffer some sort of lose during a harsh battle. There is an enemy and he is going to fight tooth and nail during every battle. Do you think he is just going to roll over when he sees you coming? No, he is going to fight each and every battle as if it could be his last. The reality is that the Israelite's suffered collateral damage even when the Lord granted the victory as a whole, even when the Lord got the credit for a win. There were plenty who died along the way; many grieving widows despite the Israelites' victories.  The Israelites were told to go into battle far more than they were told to stand still and let the Lord fight. Joshua's men were armed for battle that day at Jericho, even when the Lord told him victory was a sure thing.

The devil is here to steal, kill, and destroy and if he can't win the war, or even the battle, he will still try to kill as many as he can. In your life alone, even if the devil doesn't prevail over your situation, it doesn't mean he won't try to create stab wounds along the way or attempt to burn down your house. He is real and he takes the battles far more serious than you and I do sometimes. He doesn't goof around, but we like to think that because social media reminds us that the Lord fights our battles for us (as in the only two times in the Bible when the Israelites didn't have to fight) that there isn't really a battle or that we won't ever suffer a loss. Be prepared Christian, you're probably under attack right now if you are actually living for Christ. There is an enemy and you might win this battle, but he will still try to inflict collateral damage. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Exodus 14, Josh 5-6, 2  Chron 20,  1 Peter 5:8

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Celebrate the Rule

Celebrate the Rule
March 13, 2017
Psalm 2:11 "Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling."

Rules and authority are like a constricting sweater. Rules keep you from doing what you want, from having fun, from being yourself. There is no one who ever celebrated having rules and authority over him. We like to chose our own life, our own path to do what we want, to be in charge of our own destiny. Scripture says, however, that we should celebrate the rule and authority, the Lord's rule. When Scripture said that it wasn't in celebration that the Lord is in control, but celebration of sitting under His authority and the laws of the land.

Kings in Biblical times, were more than the rule maker, they were the protector of those under the rule. The inhabitants of the Kingdom got the protection of the King. In order to be an inhabitant of the kingdom, you had to submit to the authority of the King, his rules. Enemies, when they came to attack any in the kingdom, they would start in the villages on the outskirts of the castle, killing and plundering the most vulnerable. They couldn't get to the citadel without first going through those considered unprotected. Upon hearing that the enemy was attacking, the King would dispatch the army. The army would defend those in the Kingdom in the name of the King. But again, the King only offered his protection to those who swore their allegiance to the crown, to those who kissed the son.  Likewise, if you didn't submit to the crown, you feared both the enemy and the king.

The Bible makes a kissing of the kings son analogy. If you kissed the king's son, you were swearing the king's authority over you and the future authority of his son. The Bible says you are to rejoice and celebrate the king's rule, for those who kissed the king's son. The king's son was heir to the throne, so kissing him was an act of submission to the forever reign of those on the throne. If you didn't kiss the king's son, you got the consequences, death. By not kissing the king's son it was an act of hostility, defiance. You received protection if you submitted to the rule of the land, and you received death if you didn't, death either from the enemy or the king himself. The Bible says you should rejoice in kissing the king's son, or rather submitting to the forever throne of the kingdom. While the analogy is about Jesus and receiving salvation, it is also about submitting to His rule and the laws of His Kingdom.

Submitting to the king's rule, is submitting to his authority and submitting to the laws of the land, the kingdom. The Bible says we are to submit to them, the authority and laws, with trembling. The trembling before the king is a recognition of him who holds the ultimate power over your life, its destruction or preservation. Do you celebrate that the Lord has rule over your life? Does it excite you in realizing there is sin you are not allowed to partake in, that there is a code of conduct for you?  Does it excite you in knowing the enemy cannot destroy you and that there is a future life for those in the Kingdom?  You cannot have one without the other. You cannot receive the benefits of the King's authority if you have not submitting to His throne, His protection, and His rules, the law of the land. You can't have it both ways, taking His protection from the enemy but living according to your own authority. Whose authority do you live your own life by, the Lord's or your own?

If someone surveyed your actions, would they demonstrate that you've kissed the king's son?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 6, Psalm 2, Matt 28:20

Sunday, March 5, 2017


March 6, 2017
Acts 4:32 "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had."

In the book of Acts, it recounts the first set of Christians immediately after the ascension of Jesus into Heaven.  Between the disciples and the first believers, the Bible says there were only about 120 of them.  Jesus worked for three years, spoke to thousands of people, performed countless miracles with signs and wonders, and yet only 120 of them were believers.  But that 120 started something in motion that has been unparalleled since. After Jesus ascended into Heaven there is an important part of the story missed, sometimes glossed over in spreading the Word of the Gospel. The Bible says they dedicated themselves to the teaching and instructions of the disciples, being devoted to learning. Then they became one in heart and mind, and then, THEN, they shared all they had with each other, those in need.

It is interesting to note that studying from the disciples, the first set of believers' actions was the sharing of their possessions, not spreading the Gospel. I've known many who went to theological seminary, being devoted to the instruction by Biblical scholars, becoming pastors, but who have never shared their possessions with each other like the first set of believers. It makes me wonder if we are missing something in our learning, or if our heads are engaged without our hearts. The Bible says that their numbers were added to on a daily basis after that. Could this be the key to church growth, the sharing of our possessions?  Sharing of our possessions is a huge act of self sacrifice, but the early believers did so without even noticing it. They shared their possessions, not thinking anything was their own. Catch what this is suggesting. The Bible is suggesting that the first set of Christians, so filled with their belief in the instructions of Jesus, so filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, that they were rid of selfishness. The point isn't the selling of their possessions or distributing things evenly, the point is being almost void of selfish desires or behaviors and still being human.

Is the mark of a true believer a reflection of his selflessness? As a human, my personal plan for my life is taking care of myself and my family, making sure my needs are met, then my "wants", and only then do I think about the needs of others. After your needs are met, do you think of your "wants" next or do you think of the needs of others? This is hard to consider, but maybe we aren't allowed to have "wants" as Christians; maybe we are simply to think about the needs of others, realizing if we have something and they don't, we are to share. Wow, how counter cultural is that? Jealousy and selfish desires motivate us to action, even if the action isn't necessarily sinful.  Taking care of myself, my wants, never brought anyone to the knowledge of Christ and never grew the church. Is the key to church growth having a mindset of selfless believers?  I ask this because of what happened to the first body of 120 believers.

That first body of believers were of one heart and mind, that first 120. They were the first people to have the power of the Holy Spirit come upon them. Right after that, Peter preached and 3,000 people became believers and were baptized in ONE DAY. It took those 120 to baptize all three thousand people and then help mentor them. Then those 3,000 became in like-mind, selfless and sharing of their possessions. It wasn't just the 120 who sold their possessions, it was the 3,000. Then they added to their number daily. In fact, days and weeks later, that 3,000 grew to 5,000 believers, who also gave of their possessions. The point is not in the physical act of sharing their possessions, the point is the Bible notes it as a physical response to being a full believer. The point is that being a believer means being of selfless heart and mind. Sharing of what you have, after your needs have been met, that's a physical sign of your Christianity. Are your needs met today? Share. Give to those who have need, otherwise you might not actually be the Christian you think you are. Is your church not growing?  Maybe there is a spirit of selfishness being perpetuated.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Acts 1:14-15, Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37