Will I Proclaim? I Will Proclaim!

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Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.  They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”  (Psalm 145:3–7, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What strikes me about these verses is the phrase “One generation will commend your works to another; will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty.”  Is this a generation that speaks of the glorious splendor of God’s majesty?  If not, does the fault lie with this generation or the previous generation for failing to commend His works to the succeeding generation?  Trick question.  The fault lies with both.  Certainly, a generation is handicapped when the previous generation is lax in their responsibility to pass along the glory of God.  However, “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:19–20, NIV 1984).

My Advice – As is often (always) the case, my advice applies as much to me as it does my readers.  So, if you are of my generation (more years behind you than ahead of you), recommit to sharing the glory of God and the Gospel of His Son to all, but especially to those who will be left to pass it along to the next generation when you are gone.  This model has worked remarkably well for 2000 plus years.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:1–2, NIV 1984).

If you are of the younger generation, with much of your “three-score and ten” left, stop making excuses.  Today is the day of salvation if you do not know Christ as your personal Savior.  But, if you already know Him, there is no better time than today to begin being accountable to the Great Commission.  Become a believer and follow Him.  Then become a disciple and teach others to follow Him.

How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if [fill in the blank] is God, follow [it].”  (1 Kings 18:21, NIV 1984).

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

A More Perfect Edition

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They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:3–5, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What do you want on your tombstone?  If you live in the U.S., you’ll remember that this was a clever slogan for Tombstone Pizza, popularizing the concept that you could have whatever you wanted on it.

But on a more somber note, people do not always get what they would like on the tombstone that marks their grave. How will people remember you?  How would you like to be remembered?

American icon Benjamin Franklin composed his own epitaph, presumably the way he wanted to be remembered, with a touch of levity and a bit of irony:

The body of B. Franklin. Printer.  Like the Cover of an old Book. Its contents torn out, and stript of its lettering and guilding, lies here. Food for Worms. But the work shall not be wholly lost. For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more in a new & more perfect edition.  Corrected and amended by the Author.

Sometimes, the way we would like to be remembered, and the reality of how we will be remembered are quite a different matter.  Hopefully, Ben Franklin’s belief was centered on Christ as his Redeemer, and he will indeed appear in a new and more perfect (glorified) edition. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984).

For Daniel of the Old Testament, they were one in the same.  Though his enemies tried to find fault in him, “they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”  The only fault they could find was “something to do with the law of his God.”  What an enviable legacy!

My Advice – I can’t improve on this advice from the Apostle Peter.  “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12, NIV 1984).

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

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Enoch walked with God, then he was no more, because God took him away.  (Genesis 5:24, NIV 1978).

Musings of Others – “Walk” is the biblical expression for fellowship and obedience that results in divine favor.  (Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 36). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books).

My Musings – There were no written scriptures to indicate what this “walk” should be.  What we do know, is that after the fall, Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord.” (Genesis 3:8, NIV 1978).  They hid because they heard Him, not because they saw Him.  There were many creatures in the garden that the sound could have been attributable to, but they distinctly recognized that it was God making the sound.  This implies familiarity, indicating that it was likely a frequent occurrence.

We are not explicitly told of what the fellowship between God and man was like before the fall, but somehow Enoch (the seventh from Adam) knew enough about it to learn how to walk with God all those generations later.  I am reminded of a TV mini-series from the ’70’s called “Roots,” from the book of the same name, that recounted the experiences of a family of African-American slaves that were carefully handed down and faithfully remembered over multiple generations. This is likely how Adam and Eve’s walks with God in the Garden were passed down.  And, of course, God “rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV 1978).  At any rate, “Enoch walked with God.

My Advice – “Then he was no more, because God took him away.”  We learn (also in Hebrews chapter 11), that this means that Enoch “did not experience death.”  God took him home with Him, “for before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”  God enjoyed his walk with Enoch so much he did not want to part with him.

A former pastor from my youth, as best as I can remember it, liked to tell it this way.  One day God and Enoch were on one of their walks together.  They were enjoying the walk so much that time got away from them.  As the sun sunk lower in the sky, and the shadows lengthened, God said to Enoch, “we’re closer to my house than we are to yours, why don’t you just come on home with me?”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a close walk with God?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try

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My Advice – Our commission is clear, we are to go into the world a preach the Gospel. This is our “prime directive.”  But all to often, people will not care who we know, until they know how we care.  Not just about their all important eternal destiny, but about their temporal concerns as well.  Jesus is being very clear in His instructions here.  Instructions that He takes very personally.  What we do or do not do for others, we do or do not do for Him.  How credible can our concern for a person’s eternal well-being be, if we have no concerns for their current well-being?

My Advice – We must not be so “heavenly” minded that we are of no earthly good.  The “law of Christ” is to love our neighbors and we love ourselves,  and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Mind Control

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My Musings – No matter how “good” we were before we accepted Christ, there were certain things about that life that we need to leave behind.  A walk that we used to walk that we must rid ourselves of.  To do that we must set our mind on things “above,” on what the Spirit desires, not on what our sin nature desired in our past.  If we do not allow the Spirit to control our minds we will not be able to live an abundant Christian life, and our lives will lack peace.

It is interesting to note that the sin nature spills over into shameful outward acts, while the “Son” nature overflows with admirable inner qualities.  The former is characterized by the things we do, the latter is characterized by who we are.  The former may satisfy for a season, but the latter will last into the next life.

My Advice – The victorious Christian life is not about balancing the sin nature against the Son nature.  It is not enough that the scales tip more on the side of the Son.  We cannot continue to serve our sinful nature and expect to bear abundant fruit.  We cannot serve two masters.  Let’s make sure we are clinging to the Son by allowing the Spirit to control our minds and our hearts.

Surviving The Flames

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My Musings – There is no condemnation for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior (Romans 8:1), only commendation.   The only question is, what kind of commendation, what kind of reward? “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12–13, NIV 1984).  What we have done will be brought to light and tested by fire.  Will the quality (not necessarily quantity) of our service to Him be consumed, or will it survive into eternity?

My Advice – Work diligently for His Kingdom, so you will be able to hear these words from Him, “well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23, NIV 1978).  Put your whole heart into it, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV 1978).  But the time is short and storm clouds gathering.  “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:3–4, NIV 1984).

 

 

 

Choosing Servanthood

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My Musings – When we first accept Christ our fervor to serve Him is usually high. But strangely enough, we seldom equate service with being a servant – at least not at first. Rather, we tend to think of service in terms of leadership and accomplishment. We envision the great things we will do for Him. Being a great evangelist that leads multitudes to Christ, a great leader that fellow Christians look to for guidance and inspiration or perhaps a great teacher that unlocks deep spiritual truths for others who may not be as enlightened. But God wants us to focus less on what we will do and more on how we serve and on who we serve. For our service is not just for others, it is also for Him. And if we are willing to serve at the “lowliest” task (and sometimes that may figuratively involve washing someone else’s feet – or worse), that is great service in His eyes.

Ephesians 2:8-9 states that “it is by grace [we] have been saved through faith…not by works.” These are favorite verses on God’s grace that we all love to quote to emphasize the free gift of salvation that we could never have paid for our own no matter how great the effort. And that is quite true. But if works cannot save us, one might wonder why there is any need to become a servant and do good works. One need not look any further than the very next verse for the answer. Ephesians 2:10 (which few can quote as readily as the previous two verses) states that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” The sequence of these few verses is quite revealing. Grace through faith results in salvation, whereas works are a natural result of salvation (or at least they should be).

James takes this thought even further than Paul in James 2:17, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James is not saying, as some have erroneously concluded, that salvation is the result of grace plus works. Rather, he is saying that a genuine “grace through faith” conversion experience cannot help but result in a change in lifestyle demonstrated by good works. These works are the result of, or rather are “produced by faith” in Jesus These labors are not born out of obligation, but are “prompted by love” that we have for our Master, our fellow heirs and the lost. Finally, all of this is inspired by our “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is looking to develop servants that are both wise and faithful who can be put in charge of the various ministries that He is calling them to fulfill. It often takes both wisdom and faithfulness to see how the role we are being called to is fitting for us. Sometimes we may think the task is below us. At other times we may feel terribly inadequate. But if we are wise, we will usually come to see how perfect the pairing (us and the task) actually was, but only if we are faithful and see the service through to completion.

Often we cannot see how our role, be it big or small, fits into the bigger picture of service to Him and His Kingdom. But it does. In some ways it is like an automobile assembly line. It is hard to visualize the finished car when your task is to only attach one small component as the work in process rolls down the line past your work station. But at the end of the shift, as you leave the assembly plant, you catch a glimpse of a finished product as it rolls out the door. Then you can take pride in the fact that you had a part in making it happen.

Your part might have seemed small and insignificant at the time,
but it was nonetheless critical to the entire process.

If there is a breakdown at even one step along the line, the entire process is affected. Paul used the analogy of one body but many parts in his writings (there were not a lot of cars in his day). If one part of the body suffers the whole body suffers, and along with it the work of the Kingdom.

When we are on the line doing the same thing over and over, not seeing the results, it may be hard to remain faithful and to stay on task. But if we are wise, we will stay faithful. Being wise involves staying ready, being alert for opportunities sweating the small stuff and taking action. Being faithful involves seeing things through to completion, even if we think that the task is below us. The true measure of faithfulness is not how much we are able to give, but by how much it costs us to give. Our continued faithfulness is not dependent upon immediate or spectacular successes. Finally, being faithful is not dependent upon good conditions or circumstances.

The Wise Servant:

Stays Ready – Being ready means we are prepared. When it is time to serve, we are able to serve. The moment does not pass us by because we were not ready when it came. “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lights burning, like men waiting for their master to return.” (Luke 12:35, 36, NIV 1978).

Is Alert For Opportunities – We not just ready to serve, we anticipate serving by looking for and capitalizing on opportunities as they arise.  “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to who belong to the family of God.” (Galatians 6:10, NIV 1978).

Sweats The Small Stuff – We do not let small opportunities to serve slide while we are waiting for bigger opportunities. We are wise enough to know that taking care of the little things make us ready for bigger things. “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:23, NIV 1978).

Takes Action – Being ready for the opportunity, patiently waiting for the opportunity to present itself and being humble enough to not overlook the small tasks means nothing if we do not execute.  “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13, NIV 1978).

Is A Faithful Servant:

With What Is Entrusted – Our faithfulness needs to be commensurate with what we have been entrusted with. This is especially true if we have been given a lot to work with. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48, NIV 1978).

Through To Completion – We must not be quitters. Any task worthwhile enough to begin is worthwhile enough to complete.  “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” (Acts 20:24, NIV 1978).

Even If Task Is Below Us – We take on the tasks that we are called to even when they seem beneath our talents or our aspirations. We can learn a lot from the Master. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14, NIV 1978).

Measured By Its Cost – Our faithfulness is not measured so much by how much we give, as it is by what it costs us.  “Jesus saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” He said, “this poor widow put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty.” (Luke 21:1-4, NIV 1978).

Not Result Dependent – We remain faithful in service even when the results are not apparent or are not what we expected or hoped for. This includes situations where our service is not welcomed or appreciated.  “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘the God we serve is able to save us, and he will rescue us. But even if he does not, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.‘” (Daniel 3;16-18, NIV 1978).

Despite Circumstances – We must remain faithful in our service whether the circumstances are favorable or unfavorable. More often than not, they may be unfavorable. We stay on track and do not abandon our efforts when the going becomes difficult.  “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10, NIV 1978).

My Advice – We are all used to people making claims. Politicians make claims about what they will do if they are elected. Advertisers make claims about the benefits of the product they are pitching. Suiters make claims about how much they love the person they are wooing. None of these claims are worth anything unless they are backed up by action. A politician risks not being reelected if they do not follow through with their campaign promises. Inventory will cease to move off store shelves if the product does not live up to the advertiser’s claims. Lovers grow apart when promised affections are not delivered.

So it is with our faith. A faith that transforms is a faith that performs. Faith inaction becomes a faith in action. Doing the least for the Kingdom becomes doing for even the least in the Kingdom. So how are things with you? Is your faith alive or dead? Is your “work produced by faith?” Is your “labor prompted by love?” Is your “endurance inspired by hope?” Are you seeking to do the “good works, which God prepared in advance for [you] to do?

We must be prepared to serve so that when the opportunity comes you we able to seize the moment. We must be faithful with the small stuff and God will entrust us with bigger stuff. We should not give up on the things that God has entrusted (prepared in advance) to us, even though at times the work seems to be beneath us. We should see the task through to completion, even if we are not able to see the fruits of our labor. We must, in faith, leave that to God. We need to keep laboring on even if the conditions are less than optimal, or even downright hostile. We should be humble and do what we are called to do. Sometimes the most valuable tasks in our service to God are the ones that cost us the most. After all, our salvation carried a high price for God. Can we ever do too much to show our gratitude for that? To sum it all up, Nike probably got its inspiration from Jesus’ call for us to be servants – just do it!