Sunday, June 30, 2019

One Day

One Day
July 1, 2019
Zechariah 14:9 "The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name."

The Lord is Lord, even if you don't acknowledge it. He is Almighty, Sovereign, and Ruler over all creation. He is either Lord of your life or not, but that does not change the fact that He is still Lord. You can agree or disagree, neither changes His identity. Atheists will one day have to acknowledge that He is Lord. They may choose to deny His existence now, but there will be a time when they not only have to acknowledge His existence but they will also honor Him as Lord. One day every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. For those of us who understand this, it gives us opportunity to do this now.

There are many religions today, and gods who go by many different names. Those who serve those gods will one day realize an unfortunate truth, that those gods had no name, that those gods were not even real. People spend their lives in service to these gods, only it is for nothing. Those gods cannot save them in the end, and in the end those who serve those gods will not be saved. Those people, however, will still have to acknowledge that the Lord is Lord, that the Lord is the one true God over heaven and earth. We can acknowledge now and later or be forced to only acknowledge it later.  You and I, we chose to acknowledge Him now. We know Him as Lord and Savior, but do we honor Him as Lord of our lives, honoring Him as Lord every moment.

Sure, in the end, we will bow down and acknowledge Him as Lord, and in general, we acknowledge Him as Lord, but what about each and every secret moment. One day we will all honor Him as Lord publicly, the atheist and the Christian alike. But in the secret moments, when no one can see you, do you still acknowledge and honor Him as Lord? When the Lord comes back, making Himself known and destroying the old ways of heaven and earth, it will be the obvious moment to declare Him as Lord. This will be the opportunity to bow before Him in humility, as a Christian, and bow before Him in embarrassment and shame as a previous atheist.

But if the Lord came back at this very moment, as a Christian would He find you honoring Him or would you be embarrassed by your actions in the moment. Consider yourself at your worst moment yesterday, if the Lord had chosen that moment to appear in all His majesty and glory, would He be pleased or would your actions be akin to those of an atheist? One day every knee will bow and tongue confess, but is that one day in the future for you or is one day really and truly everyday? One day is for the atheist, everyday is for the Christian.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Phil 2:9-10, Rom 14:10-13

Sunday, June 23, 2019

It Was Good

It Was Good
June 24, 2019
Genesis 3:6  "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it."

Adam and Eve were set up in the Garden of Eden and it was good. The Bible says that all of creation was good, as the Lord was building and designing and creating, and the Lord declared it all as good. He put the man and the woman in the good garden, and placed boundaries around them. The Lord also placed the a tree in the middle, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. No one will ever know why He placed that tree there, a tree that would be tempting to someone along the way. But it did not take long for Adam and Eve to figure out the tree in the middle of the garden, the one that grew forbidden fruit, was good, too. Eve inspected it and decided the fruit was good for something, it was quality food and would open their eyes. No one will ever know what went through her mind just before Eve took the first bite of the fruit, but she reasoned it was good. She reasoned the fruit was good and the experience would be good and it was going to be good thing to do.

It wasn't good, however, eating that forbidden fruit. The sole reason it was not good was because the Lord had told them not to eat it, never to eat it. The fruit was good but the eating of the fruit was not good. The Lord creates everything in our lives, all good things, but it does not mean that everything is permissible or good for us to partake. If the Lord creates a boundary, a limitation, then we need to respect the boundary line as good. Eve did not asses the boundary line as good. She assessed the boundary line as just a line, that was passable if she deemed passing it was good. That's where Adam and Eve went wrong. They assessed that crossing the line was possibly in their interest, best interests even.  Here lies the difference between God and man. God can declare something as good, but man does not possess all knowledge to understand what the Lord understands.

In having a children, the parents set up boundary lines. Maybe a boundary line is as simple as not playing the street. The child may assess the street as a desirable place to ride a bicycle or kick a ball, but the parent is aware of so many more dangers and hazards. Playing in the street may seem good, but it is not. Parents often know far more than children do, but it is the same nature, that Adam and Eve had, to deny the boundary line if crossing the boundary line seems good. Parents don't always have the time to explain to a child why something is not good, nor does a child possess all the understanding required to comprehend why something is not good. This is often true with the Lord. He does not always explain why the boundary line is good and participating is not good, but nonetheless He put the line there not to be crossed.

You and I, we think we know better than the Lord. Eve clearly reasoned she knew better when she decided to eat the fruit. Maybe the fruit was good but maybe the boundary line was good, too; maybe the boundary line was better than the fruit. You have boundaries placed all around you. They are in your marital relationship, or lack thereof, they are in your workplace and finances, they are even in your walk with the Lord. The Lord sets up good boundary lines, as He knows best how to take care of His children. He knows all the reasons why the boundary line is put in place but does not always express to us why it is there. We want to know why the boundary line is there to assess if the Lord is correct, but the Lord wants us to trust Him and follow Him. There is where the rub lies, sometimes. We want to know all that the Lord knows and make our own decision. If you think about it, maybe the Lord is best equipped to make our decisions for us.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 3, Deut 34:12,  Ps 16:6, Jer 5:22, Hos 5:10, Rom 8:28

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Obeying is Sacrifice

Obeying is Sacrifice
June 17, 2019
1 Samuel 15:22  ". . . has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the voice of the Lord. . . ?"

The Lord said that it is better to obey than to sacrifice. This was said after an act of disobedience. The Lord had given Saul clear and concise directions, very specific and direct instructions. Saul disobeyed. Back then, when you sinned, the Lord had made a way for you to make it right. You had to offer a sin offering, basically bringing something of value, usually a live animal, and destroying its value to you.  It cost you something to make it right when you disobeyed. The Lord said it was far better to obey rather than pay the price for the sin. In fact, you could offer a sacrifice to the Lord just because, destroying something of value to you simply in honor to the Lord and yet the Lord said he'd prefer you and me to just obey. The Lord doesn't want you to pay the price for your sin; He wants you to obey.

There are two ways to obey. The first is the easier of the two. If the Lord tells you to NOT do something, then don't do it. If He tells you to not lie, then don't lie. If He you tells you to not murder, then don't murder. It's pretty easy to not murder, at least for most of us. If you violated these few rules, then you would be required to pay the sacrifice for the sin. He said it was better to obey than to offer a sacrifice. The second way to obey is move out and do something that He specifically tells you to do. This requires you to acknowledge His voice and directions, then to step out and take action. It brings honor to the Lord when you step out in obedience to do something for Him. When the Lord told Saul it was better to obey than sacrifice, Saul was clearly hoping to offer a sacrifice in hindsight to make up for his lack of follow through. This did not, and does not honor the Lord. Many people feel guilty for not stepping out in obedience to the Lord's leading in their lives. Many people give and give and give to make up for their disobedience and their feeling of guilt. Even as Christians we feel guilty when we don't do something we know we are supposed to do, so we give something to appease our guilt. The Lord would say to keep your gift. He would prefer the obedience.

I would tell you that to obey the Lord is a sacrifice, however. It requires you and me to lay down our own wants in order to do what the Lord wants us to do. Sometimes the Lord asks a great feat from us, to step out and do something that is bold or scary or even painful. It takes great faith and courage to obey when this type of command is as stake. It takes a great sacrifice sometimes to obey the Lord. Jesus told Peter to lay down his net and follow Him. Following the Lord, obeying him, was a sacrifice for Peter. In my own life, my family has followed a difficult path, one we knew the Lord asked of us, but would be painful and difficult. We could have chosen to disobey, then attempt to appease our guilt by giving to the Lord, but the Lord doesn't want our giving, He wants our obedience. 

You can sacrifice until you are blue in the face, but it does not take the place of obedience. Obedience, however, still requires a sacrifice and if you think obeying the Lord does not bring Him honor then you are playing the part of a fool. The Lord is well aware of the sacrifice involved with obedience and it brings Him great honor and joy and you find favor in His eyes when you do that. The Lord says your life will go well for you when you obey Him, when you step out and do the things He has for you to do. It is better to obey and find favor in the eyes of the Lord than it is to offer a sacrifice to Him that He did not request.  He requests obedience, not the offering you'd like to bring.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Sam 15:1-23, Jer 7:21-23, John 21:15-19, Eph 6:1-4

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Lacking One Thing

Lacking One Thing
June 10, 2019
Mark 10:21  "Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One think you lack, He said. Go and sell everything yo have and give it to the poor. . . . '"

A rich young man fell at the feet of Jesus and wanted to earn eternal life. He specifically asked Jesus what he had to do. If you are a rich person, chances are there was a lot of hard work and sacrifice involved with attaining the wealth. This man knew there would be a cost and he was essentially asking Jesus what sacrifice would be required to accomplish salvation. At this point, Jesus had not died on the cross for the forgiveness of sin, so efforts were still tied to a rule-based system. The rich young man understood a rule-based system quite well; he did follow the 10 Commandments. He likely understood banking and financial systems quite well, too. He was not really asking Jesus how to buy his way into heaven, but we wanted a certificate of deposit, a guarantee.  Jesus did not offer him the guarantee, however, rather looked into his heart and loved him.

Jesus agreed with the man that he had followed all the 10 Commandments since he was a boy, but still lacked one thing. He told the man to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and follow Jesus. The man went away sad because that was not a price tag the rich young ruler was expecting. The man actually did not understand the requirement from Jesus. It wasn't a price tag, it was a condition of the heart. The man followed the 10 Commandments but not the Lord. The man followed instructions and laws and rules, but not God. The man liked the rule-based system because it was a set of lines he could follow, but the Lord is not a set of lines. Jesus wanted the man to follow him, not a set of lines but that was all that the rich young ruler understood. The man knew how to follow the lines, not how to follow the Lord. It was a relationship the Lord was, and is, after, not a rule book and concrete work/reward system. Following a work/reward system and the follower is working for the reward, not for the individual.

The man couldn't do it. It is possible he never sold all that he had to give it to the poor to follow Jesus. Since his heart was never in following the Lord, rather only the rules, he didn't understand what Jesus was asking. The man did not understand that Jesus wanted to be Lord of that man's life, money or no money. The man was his own master, had great wealth, and yet was lacking. He lacked understanding of who the Lord was, and is, and what it really was all about. The man lacked a relationship with the Lord, the man wasn't even following the Lord; he was following rules. When Jesus looked at the man, the Bible says the Lord loved him. But it never says the man loved the Lord. The man went away sad when the Lord asked him to sell all he had and live for him; obviously the man loved his wealth and only following rules. 

You love something. What is it? Do you love your stability, or your control over your life? Do you love your career or status among friends, maybe your social media followers? The Lord says if you follow Him, you are likely to lose all that you have in this world that is dear to you but the Lord will repay you for it. The man never understood that if he sold all he had and gave it to the poor and followed Him, that He would give it all back to him and then some. But the man didn't trust that rule; the man didn't even know about that rule. The Lord will repay you for all that you sacrifice for Him, only you have to give it up first, truly and willingly give it up. In doing so, you are proving who the Lord of your life is and the Lord promises to repay it in this life or the next. The man was lacking one thing, Jesus as Lord of his life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Mark 10:17-31

Sunday, June 2, 2019

No Prisoner

No Prisoner
June 3, 2019
Ephesians 3:1  "For this reason, I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ. . . ."

Paul was one of the most influential Christians of his time. Being once a huge persecutor of Christians and then becoming a follower of Christ, made him rather well known in religious circles. He was a polar opposite for Christianity at one time in his life or another, a zealous man for whatever cause he believed. When he became a Christian, those opposed to Christianity put a target on Paul's back, knowing he would be a strong influencer for Christ. Satan likely took notice as well, knowing he would cause significant damage to the dark kingdom once he became a proponent for Christ. Jesus saw it all too. The Lord knew of Paul's passion and the lengths he would go to in order to spread his passion.

Paul's passion for Christ eventually landed him in prison. He was actually in prison several times, but he wrote his prison epistles over the course of two years' incarceration at one point. Paul was preaching the gospel and it landed him in jail. Interesting to note, was Paul's perspective on his prison term. Paul's enemies were the ones who wanted him in jail. They were certainly glad for his incarceration. They thought their attack on him was working, that it would stop Paul from being effective for Christ. Paul, however, had a completely different point of view. Paul never blamed his captures for the jail time, or his enemies, or Satan, or the government official who approved of the prison term, or even the government that put him there. Paul didn't even blame the Lord. He gave full credit and responsibility to the Lord for allowing him in prison, but he never blamed God. Paul said he was a prisoner for Christ, suggesting that it was certainly Christ who willingly allowed Paul in prison.

Paul's perspective was one of submission to the Lord and whatever strange work He was doing by allowing Paul to be put in chains. In hindsight, we can see the benefit of Paul's incarceration, if anything we have several books of the Bible as a result, with Paul having plenty of time to sit and write. But Paul was effective for the Lord on the inside, too. Paul was preaching the good news inside the prison walls, and word spread that this zealous man was gladly willing to sit in prison because he followed Christ. Paul likely could have left prison if he renounced the Lord, and apologized to the sinful society. Paul's relationship with the Lord was far more important. Paul could have left jail if he played his cards right, but he chose not to play their game, rather follow the Lord wherever that meant.

Your situating right now may feel like a prison sentence. It is not. The Lord has allowed it.  It is not beyond His control. Don't blame others, don't blame the enemy, and certainly don't blame the Lord. You can, however, give responsibility over to the Lord for allowing this current prison sentence, as likely there is something far bigger than you and I can imagine going on. Reading through scripture, the times when the Lord is most at work, is when the story's protagonist is being persecuted, punished, and imprisoned. But the Lord would say to you today, you're not really in prison, you are working for the Lord and this place right here and right now is where He has allowed you. Some how, some way, you have to submit to where you are and let the Lord do His work. In the meantime, your job is to be effective for Christ in this moment, during the seeming prison sentence. You are a prison of Christ, not of anyone else. This situation is working out exactly according to His plan; it isn't a prison sentence at all. This, yes, whatever you are dealing with today, is not prison and you're not really a prisoner, you are an influencer for Christ.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 21:15-19, Rom 8:28, Eph 3:1-13, Eph 4:1-7