Suffering With Christ

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My Musings – Trials and suffering are an inevitable fact of life for the Christian. Just like a newborn baby, it seems like no sooner are we born again than we are being slapped around just to make us to cry. Or so it seems. Certainly, our new adversary the devil will do everything he can to discourage us, keep us from growing and just make us cry. But Satan is not the source of all the “slapping.”

Sometimes God will also permit difficulties in our lives. These may involve some crying too, but that is not their real purpose. God wants us to take that first breath of spiritual air. He wants us to learn to live the new life we have begun in Him. He wants to instruct us, train us, develop us, and yes, sometimes discipline us. To learn to walk in faith, He knows that we will have to take a few spills along the way. Just like our physical parents, He is there to make sure we do not hurt ourselves, to pick us up and to help us along our way. But that is not all.

Just like our physical parents are there to protect us from actual harm from bullies, our heavenly Father is also there to protect us from any real or lasting harm from that ultimate bully, Satan. While God wants us to learn how to stand up for ourselves, He is always there to make sure things do not get out of hand. With the insights that we gain by fixing on eyes on the unseen, perhaps, we can better understand and appreciate why we must encounter so much trials and suffering in our earthly lives. In so doing we will be in a better position to endure “the fellowship of sharing in His suffering,” which are “light and momentary,” by focusing on the “eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Maybe we will even stop seeing the cloud in every silver-lining.

Trials and suffering should not catch us off guard. Nor should we consider it strange when we do encounter them. For Jesus very clearly told us we would encounter persecution in this world, simply because we were His followers. In fact, He said if we are unwilling to “carry our own crosses” and follow Jesus (“a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief“) we could not be His disciple. These are hard sayings, but we must understand that Jesus not only willingly carried Hs own cross; He was nailed to it and died on it for us in order to give us eternal life. It is the promise (His promise, sealed by His blood) of that eternal life that makes the suffering and trials here on earth bearable. In fact James tells us it should be more than just bearable, we should “consider it pure joy,” while Peter said we should rejoice that we “participate in the sufferings of Christ.” These were not idle words or casual observations by mere spectators of the Christian life. Both men encountered their own persecutions because they were followers of Christ that eventually led them to give their own lives as martyrs rather than abandon their faith in Jesus.

But there is more to suffering than “it’s going to happen so get over it” que sera, sera attitude. Much more. For even when “bad” things happen to Godly people, God (in His own way and in His own time) cause them to work out for good. And in the process we are being made over into the likeness of His Son, “an eternal glory that far outweighs” all our temporal pain and suffering. As stated before, Jesus said that in this world we would have persecution. In His very next breath He added, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.” Because His Spirit lives in us, we can overcome too.

Trials and suffering are not merely something that we must endure as we look with hope to the “eternal glory” awaiting us in Heaven. For God does not waste any experience that He, in His infinite wisdom, permits in our lives. Some things He will allow, knowing they are necessary for us to become more like His Son, others He will not, knowing that they would be more than we can bear.

So, what should we do as we endure the crosses that we are called to bear for His Kingdom and His glory? We can try to understand why we are experiencing painful trials, although there will be many times when the why is not for us to know at the present time. But even if we cannot fully understand why, there are other things that we just might be able to understand and learn from. For example:

  • How does this experience identify me with Christ?

If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear the name.” (1 Peter 4:16, NIV 1978).

Of course we know that Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” When we suffer because we are a Christian, it not only helps others to identify us as a true believer, it helps us identify with Him all the more.

  • How might my response to this experience prove the genuineness of my faith?

These [trials] have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes though refined by fire-may be proved genuine.” (1 Peter 1:7, NIV 1978).

Jesus assured us that in this world His followers would have troubles. So if we never suffer for our faith, then we need to question the authenticity of our faith. How we respond to trials also prove the quality of our convictions.

  • In what ways might this experience be training me for future service?

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, NIV 1978).

Whether we care to admit it or not, we learn from our difficulties. In fact, the lessons learned in adversity reach down deeper into our souls and are more lasting than the lessons we learn from our good experiences.

  • Can this experience teach me to be more patient with God?

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:10, NIV 1978).

Patience is learned best during the times of our lives that try our patience the most. In contrast, our lack of patience sometimes causes us to undergo difficulties that we might have avoided had we been more patient.

  • How might my perspective need adjustment as I face this experience?

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18, NIV 1978).

Ten thousand years from now, none of the pain or sorrow will be left, or even remembered. But the character that it develops will last on into eternity. This is why an eternal perspective is so important.

  • Has the experience of God’s faithfulness through past trials helping me to persevere through the current trial?

You know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:3, NIV 1978).

We need not be joyful about the suffering itself, but we can be joyful about what the suffering is producing in our lives and in our character. Knowing the certainty of this helps us to push on through the difficulties and persevere.

  • What do others see in how I deal with this experience that might be a witness (good or bad) for the Kingdom?

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:11, NIV 1978).

People are watching us. They see how we respond to trying times. They take note of how our reactions differ from the rest of the world and to what (or to whom) they can attribute it. What we do is often more important than what we say as a testimony.

  • How can this experience make me more spiritually fruitful?

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:2, NIV 1978).

The pain of pruning is not without a reason. For it is by cutting away the “dead growth” from our lives that real growth occurs. Growth that nurtures us and develops into spiritual fruit.

  • Is this experience causing me to dive down into despair or soar higher in my faith?

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10, NIV 1978).

We are called to be faithful even in the face of suffering so extreme that death threatens. But it is under these conditions that we learn to be faithful.

  • Through this experience am I relying on God’s faithfulness or worldly “wisdom?

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV 1978).

It is hard for us to conceive of strength coming from suffering. But it is during adversity, when we are too weak and helpless to help ourselves that we learn to rely on God and the strength that He provides and that is sufficient for the circumstances.

  • Is there something in my life God is correcting and for which I need to repent?

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord disciplines you.” (Deuteronomy 8:5, NIV 1978).

In addition to the discipline used to train us, the Lord also disciplines us to bring correction. A parent who really loves a child will not let habitual misbehaving go uncorrected. It really is true that discipline is for our own good.

  • How can I use my experience to help others in similar circumstances?

Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NIV 1978).

We are better able to help others with their burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ (do to others what you would have them do for you) when we have borne our own burdens.

As we consider these questions, perhaps we can move from a why me attitude to a why not use it attitude. In any event, we must learn to trust Him and take Him at His word – what we are enduring is necessary and will somehow work out for the good.

My Advice – I do not know how many times I have read the story of Peter’s attempt to walk on water. But for many years I missed a subtle point. When Peter cried out for Jesus to save him from sinking, Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him. But it was not until they were safe in the boat that the wind died down. So it is with our walk here on earth. There will always be wind and waves. God is teaching us to walk on and through them. There may be times of calm, but they will never cease forever until we reach Heaven, until we are “in the boat.”

Until that time, Jesus is right there (“nothing can separate us from the love of Christ”) to catch us if we are in danger of sinking. He would prefer that we learn to walk in faith, so He continues to allow the wind and waves as each time we are able to take a few more steps before sinking. And as each tribulation subsides we are learning more and more to be conquerors of fear rather than being conquered by fear. You see, trials and suffering are inevitable, but how we respond to them is up to us. How are you responding?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Engaged With The Church

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My Musings – While not the only reasons, some believers have forsaken the church because they feel it is full of hypocrites or they believe they can worship at anyplace or anytime. It is true that there is a certain degree of hypocrisy in some who attend church – they pretend to profess, but they do not really believe. The church should not turn these away for they need continued exposure to the truth, so they eventually will believe. True believers, on the other hand cannot be hypocrites. They do not pretend at something that they do not believe. It is just the opposite. They believe, but have trouble living up to what they believe. But let’s be realistic. All true believers profess Christ, but none fully live like Christ.

We must remember that accepting Christ (salvation) is an event that occurs instantaneously. Becoming like Christ, on the other hand, is a process that takes a lifetime as we increasingly yield our lives to Him and allow Him to work in our lives. Some are further along the road than others, which is the very reason we should not forsake the fellowship. We all need the encouragement, accountability and authority that the Church provides. We all need support at one time or another. We can all also return the favor by providing the support that others need at some time or another. But a support group needs a group. It cannot function in isolation and it functions best when all members are present.

Worship and praise can occur in isolation, however. It frequently does and should. But that does not mean that it is the only time we can experience worship and praise. The thing about good experiences is that we usually cannot wait to share them with someone else. That is what makes worshipping and praising God together such a profound experience. We get to share it with others.

God has characterized the Church as a body. Like a body the Church is made up of many members, yet it forms a whole. If one part is missing the whole body suffers. An ear can, to some degree, compensate for the loss of the eyes, but the whole person will suffer nonetheless for the loss of the eyes. So it is with the Church. It functions better as a whole, if all of the members are accounted for and functioning in harmony with the rest of the members.

Besides being a support group, the Church serves as the primary means by which the world is evangelized and once evangelized, they are assimilated into the body and are discipled. Without a doubt Christ is the head of the Church. But the body is what carries out His commission to go, be witnesses, win converts and make disciples. This is a continuous cycle. We go out into the world as witnesses. When converts are won to Christ they are brought into the body where they can be discipled. Eventually, they are able to go out and the cycle begins anew. While this can, and does happen one-on-one without the involvement of the larger body, it works best when the entire body becomes involved.

Of course, as we all know, the universal Church consists of a multitude of local churches. In fact, today each locality has many different churches. But the same concept applies.

Individual Christians within a community should be part of one of the local bodies, rather than trying to fulfill Christ’s commission as an individual agent.

Typically, a new convert is brought into the local Church that the one who won them to the Lord attends. Often this is the person’s parent’s Church. But sometimes people have moved away from family or came to faith in a manner (e.g., evangelistic meeting, radio ministry, personal crisis) where there is no one to introduce them into a local body. Other times Christians who are already a member of a local assembly moves to another community and must find another church to attend. In these cases, the question becomes which one?

Nowadays there are many to choose from. There are many denominations within one community. In larger communities there often is more than one church of the same denomination in the same city. There also are churches with different worship styles. Finally, as our culture has become more and more diverse, and more tolerant of different beliefs and lifestyles, many fellowships have sprung up that do not always hold to the truths of Scripture. They might worship a “supernatural” being or force that is not the God of the universe. Their religious commitment may be legalistic with an emphasis on external observance rather than an internal the change of heart. There may be attitudes of permissiveness, beliefs that are compromised or a quiet profession of the lips without practice in the lives. There may be an undue emphasis on religious conformity with no evidence of spiritual transformation. Or the belief system may be one of convenience and preference, rather than sound in doctrines, that are often inconvenient. So, one must be careful when choosing which church to belong to.

The dictionary defines religion as:

  1. The service and worship of God or the supernatural;
  2. Commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance;
  3. A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices;
  4. Scrupulous conformity;
  5. A cause, principle, or system held to with ardor and faith.

Let’s take a look at these five principles of religion and how they might be applied to help identify a church that merely “pretends” to follow truth, versus one that “proclaims” and follows the truth.

CHURCHES THAT PRETEND AT THE TRUTH

The Service And Worship Of God Or The Supernatural

Tolerates the service and worship of other “gods” –Be careful or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.” (Deuteronomy 11:16, NIV 1978)’

Accepts beliefs in alternate paths to God – “I am astonished that you are turning to a different gospel-which is really no gospel at all.” (Galatians 1:6, 7, NIV 1978).

Commitment Or Devotion To Religious Faith Or Observance

Characterized by legalistic commitment – “You have neglected the more important matters of the law- justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23, NIV 1978).

Concerned more with external observance – Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’.” (Mark 7:6, NIV 1978).

Institutionalized System Of Religious Attitudes, Beliefs And Practices

Attitude that grace equals permissiveness – “Everything is permissible-but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible-but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NIV 1978).

Beliefs often compromise the Word – See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends upon human tradition and the base principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8, NIV 1978).

Does not put religion into practice – “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice.” (Ezekiel 33:31, NIV 1978).

Scrupulous Conformity

Conforms to rules and rituals established by man – “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value.” (Colossians 2:23, NIV 1978).

A Cause, Principle Or System Held With Ardor And Faith

Adopts causes, principles or systems that are convenient – “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3,4, NIV 1978).

CHURCHES THAT PROCLAIM THE TRUTH

The Service And Worship Of God Or The Supernatural

Insists upon service and worship of only true God – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NIV 1978).

Acknowledges that Christ is only path to God“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6, NIV 1978).

Commitment Or Devotion To Religious Faith Or Observance

Characterized by spirit of devotion – “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV 1978).

Concerned more with faithful heart – “What does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12, NIV 1978).

Institutionalized System Of Religious Attitudes, Beliefs And Practices

Attitude that grace is evidenced by obedience – “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed.” (James 1:25, NIV 1978).

Beliefs are consistent with the Word – “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:9, NIV 1978).

Puts religion into practice – “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV 1978).

Scrupulous Conformity

Emphasis is on spiritual transformation – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2, NIV 1978).

A Cause, Principle Or System Held With Ardor And Faith

Strives to follow sound doctrine even if inconvenient – “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.” (1Corinthians 15:1, 2, NIV 1978).

One definition, two applications that could not be further apart.  Yet Satan would have us believe that the first application is just as valid as the latter.  A more fitting definition of the one true “religion” would be”

  1. The service and worship of the only true God, accessible only by faith in Jesus Christ;
  2. Commitment and devotion that goes beyond external observance to a faith that transforms the heart;
  3. A personal relationship with Christ that develops an attitude of voluntary obedience and beliefs that are true to the Word, and that results in a faith that is practiced;
  4. Spiritual transformation and renewal;
  5. One Gospel, based on grace, accepted by faith and held firmly by the Word.

My Advice – It should be clear that a church is more than bricks and mortar. A building does not make a church. It is the people inside the building that make up the church. In fact some churches exist without a church building. Most, if not all, of the first century churches functioned quite well without a building program. But like a physical church building, the church body is only as solid as its foundation. It might look good on the surface, but underneath there may structural defects. The defect can be so serious that when the winds and rain comes it risks being blown away or falling.

This is why it must be built on a solid foundation (Christ). What does your Church stand on?  Who does it really serve and worship?  What is it committed and devoted to?  What are its attitudes beliefs and practices?  To whom is it conforming and does it result in transformation of the heart?  Is it following the cause of Christ with ardor and faith?

Wisdom From Heaven

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My Musings – All too often we seem to compartmentalize our lives into spiritual matters versus non-spiritual matters or significant issues versus insignificant issues. We seek His will on the spiritual matters but worry and fret over non-spiritual matters. We try to solve the minor issues on our own but go to God on the major ones. We then compound the error of this incorrect orientation by applying worldly wisdom to solving the non-spiritual matters and minor issues while applying heavenly wisdom (at least we hope so) to solving those that are spiritual matters or significant. Instead, we should “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” applying heavenly wisdom as we seek His will on all matters, spiritual and non-spiritual, major and minor.

We are wise once we begin to realize that the wisdom, scholarship and philosophy that the world affords are foolishness in the eyes of God. Leaning on our own understanding, which is frequently based upon these things, can lead us down crooked paths or detour us altogether. But trusting in God and acknowledging that His wisdom and guidance is all we really need, and then actually following it leads us down paths that are straight. All too often we grow impatient waiting on the Lord, yet taking matters into our own hands and relying on worldly wisdom usually wastes time, effort and resources that were not necessary had we remained patient and waited on the Lord. Also, leaning on our own understanding often results in consequences that could have been avoid as well.

With the knowledge and understanding that God provides, we are better able to make correct judgments that enable us to follow the best course of action. But how do we do this? We have already learned many things that are useful for spiritual wisdom and discernment: desiring what God desires, cultivating a Christ-like attitude, being attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, pursuing a life of service that God planned in advance for us to do, developing meaningful and consistent Bible study habits and communicating often with God in prayer. It should come as no surprise that these things are, in a sense, building blocks to developing spiritual wisdom and discernment and is a characteristic of devoted Disciples of Christ. And, there are more building blocks to come, such as being engaged with the church, learning valuable lessons from earthly trials and temptations and being motivated by a Godly love. As we put these disciplines into practice we will come to realize and understand that God’s ways are right and best, and we should walk in them.

Unfortunately, all too often we find that it is easier (or so we think) to rely on our own understanding rather than God’s. We buy into Satan’s deception (began in Eden) believing that the ways of the world are “desirable for gaining wisdom.” When we lean on our own understanding, which is worldly, thinking that we are so wise and learned, spiritual wisdom is hidden from us. We are blinded by our own devises. But when we, in child-like faith and trust, seek answers from above they are revealed to us. Thus, what we believe to be so hard, gaining spiritual wisdom and discernment is actually “child’s play”. It really does not take an Einstein. The truth is that God wants us to make right choices and wise decisions. That being the case, why would He make it hard for us to do so? He does not. In fact, James tells us that “[i]f any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all. (James 1:5).” We actually make it hard for ourselves when we lean on our own understanding and do not acknowledge that His ways are best.

Elsewhere in his epistle, James gives us some additional insights into spiritual wisdom that we would be well served (wise) to pay attention to and learn from. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:13-17, NIV 1978).

In a world where good and evil are in constant conflict, where what is wrong strives to negate what is right and where right is often called wrong and wrong is called right, worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom are also set in opposition to each other.

Worldly Wisdom Characteristics

If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. There you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Bitter Envy – Resentful desire.  “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30, NIV 1978).

Selfish Ambition – Self-seeking desire to achieve or obtain.  “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10, NIV 1978).

Empty Boasting – Excessive pride over one’s own attainments, abilities or possessions. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2, NIV 1978).

Denial of Truth – Inability or unwillingness to see facts clearly.  “All will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (2 Thessalonians 1:12, NIV 1978).

Earthly – Values, standards, motives, methods and goals that are worldly.  “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16, NIV 1978).

Unspiritual – Animal instincts devoid of Godly instincts.  “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NIV 1978).

Devilish – Demonic, marching to devil’s drumbeat, embracing the devil’s values. May appear appealing but in reality it devours.  “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds will somehow be led astray.” (2 Corinthians 11:3, NIV 1978).

Disorder – Confused, perplexed, mixed up.  “God is not a God or disorder but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33, NIV 1978).

Evil Practices – Worthless when measured by God’s standards even though they appear to produce success in the eyes of the world.  “When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11, NIV 1978).

Heavenly Wisdom Characteristics

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. [Those] who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Pure – Free from contamination. Cleansed of ulterior motives and selfishness.  “The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to Him.” (Proverbs 15:26, NIV 1978).

Peace-loving – Loves tranquility, harmony and lack of strife. Inner peace, even if no external peace.  “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”  (Romans 8:6, NIV 1978).

Considerate (gentle) – Refusal to demand “letter of the law”, flexible, willing to give up rights, tolerance.  “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4, NIV 1978).

Submissive (reasonable) – Ready to obey, easy to reason with, not rigid, willing to listen, open and teachable.  “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (Psalm 143:10, NIV 1978).

Full of Mercy and Good Fruit – Concern prompting a compassionate response (attitude resulting in action), not mere feelings or words but practical help.  “We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10, NIV 1978).

Impartial (unwavering) – Steadfast, faithfulness to principles, capable of sound Biblical decision and standing by it, opposite of double-mindedness.  “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV 1978).

Sincere – Genuine, lacking hypocrisy.  “Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world in the holiness and sincerity that is from God, not according to worldly wisdom.” (2 Corinthians 1:12, NIV 1978).

Peace – Freedom from disquieting thoughts or emotions. Untroubled.  “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.” (John 14:27, NIV 1978).

Righteousness – Behavior and conduct that is in agreement with God’s moral standards. Not just right decisions, but righteous decisions.  “This is my prayer: that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness.” (Philippians 1:9–11, NIV 1978).

My Advice – The choice really is ours. We desire to be wise. We just have a tendency to seek for it in all the wrong places. When we do so, we also have a tendency to make wrong decisions and unwise choices. These usually have consequences. We end up confused, perplexed and mixed up. We second guess our decisions and choices, because we realize that we have settled for what is second best. Actually worthless when compared to God’s standards and what He has to offer us. Even though it might seem that we have made the right choices in the eyes of the world, we find that they do not provide us with the satisfaction and peace of mind that we expected. They prove meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

On the other hand, when we seek for wisdom in the right place, more often than not we will make right decisions and wise choices that are free of undesirable consequences. Our minds are left untroubled and we have peace from God. For we have not just made the right decision or choice, but that we have made the righteous decision or choice.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all.” (James 1:5, NIV 1978).

How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him [Heavenly wisdom]; but if [worldly wisdom] is, follow [it].” (1 Kings 18:21, NIV 1978).

Occasional Prayer, or Pray on All Occasions?

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My Musings – Wise men (and women) still seek Him, even after they have found Him. Because being born again is not the end of seeking. It is merely the beginning. We become children of the Father and have access to Him 24/7. Regrettably, many only seek this access (through prayer) when in times of need. Then we pray in earnest, often wondering why the answers are not immediate. At other times, prayer may be nothing more than something we mumble before meals, or words we recite from memory without thinking before we retire for the evening.

Prayer is, or at least it should be, much more than any of these. It should be a continual state of mind. It should be more than a list of urgent requests or dry recitations. It should be an intimate two-way communication between a loving Father and devoted child. He, the Father, should be more than someone that we take for granted will be there when we need Him and standing by just in case when we do not need Him (or think we do not need Him).

The truth is, we would never dream of imposing upon someone with stature, such as the President of the United States, with urgent personal requests or patronizing platitudes that do little more than burn up oxygen and squander his or her valuable time, even if we did have a personal relationship with them. Yet much too often this is all that our prayer life consists of. We are passionate when the communication is important to us (urgent requests) and passionless when it is not (dry recitations). What kind of relationship is it when it is one-way?

But, how does it become an intimate two-way communication between a loving Father and devoted child? What is it about our relationship with God that can make our prayer life more (or should make it more) than selfish urgent requests (demands) fired off in frantic desperation or lifeless dry recitations rattled off as if they were an obligatory inconvenience (annoyance)? Like most parents, what He really wants from us is our time. He wants to know that we are listening to Him just as much as we want Him to listen to us when we make those urgent requests. Although He does not speak to us audibly, He impresses things on our heart, pricks our conscience, gives us insight into His Word just when we need it and brings other believers alongside us to affirm what He has “said” to us by these other means.

In its most basic form, prayer is an address by God’s people, in a spirit of humility and repentance (when needed), in an effort to seek God’s will. Sometimes it is difficult for us to express in words what is on our hearts. So the Holy Spirit, knowing what we mean, expresses to the Father what we cannot. What allows our prayers access to God’s “ear’ is our relationship with His Son Jesus. Because of His relationship with the Father, He is able to intercede on our behalf. In this world, we typically need someone to make an introduction for us if we want or need to approach a person with stature beyond ours. The person making the introduction for us can do so because we have a relationship with them and they have a relationship with the person of stature. In spiritual terms, we established a relationship with Christ when we accepted Him as our Savior. Before this, we could never dream of approaching God’s throne, nor would we have been able to. Now His eyes are on us and his ears are attentive to us.

Developing an intimate two way communication does not come naturally for everyone. Like those in Jesus’ day we need to be taught how to pray. Jesus’ response was to give an example, which became known as the Lord’s Prayer. It was then and is now a model (not a formula) that can launch us into effective communication with God.

As we continue to grow, (desiring what God desires, developing a Christ-like attitude, allowing the Spirit to lead us, serving Christ as we serve others, being guided by the Word) we move from pure Spiritual milk to solid food. As we do, prayer becomes more and more natural and spontaneous for us. All of these disciplines are working together in perfect harmony to develop and deepen our relationship with the One we are praying to.

As we mentioned, the Lord’s Prayer is not a formula or a recipe. There are, however, some definite characteristics in this model prayer that we can use as an initial guide in how we ought to pray. These characteristics are:

Understand the relationship
Focus on His holiness
Heavenly mindedness
Submission, petition, confession
Forgiveness (of others)
Seek guidance and deliverance
Praise and belief

In the beginning prayer may be uncomfortable for us and our efforts at it may seem awkward. But as already noted we have the Holy Spirit to eloquently interpret what our heart is saying so passionately, but that our thoughts and words are saying so clumsily. In addition, we have the Son to intercede for us. He knows both our hearts and the Father’s and is able to bring the two together.

Understand The Relationship (Our Father in heaven) – He is the parent, we are the child. He loves and cares for us. We need to love and respect Him.  “How great is the love of the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1, NIV 1978).

Focus On His Holiness (Hallowed be Your name) – It is a privilege to be able to “boldly” approach the throne of Him who alone is absolute in His holiness. It is a privilege we should not take lightly or for granted.  “Who can stand in the in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” (1 Samuel 6:20, NIV 1978).

Be Heavenly Minded (Your Kingdom come) – Think about how much more pure, powerful and effective our prayers would be if we started every prayer from a heavenly perspective rather than from a worldly one. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15, NIV 1978).

Submit To God’s Will (Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven) – All too often we come to God in prayer with a pre-determined self-will of what we want, why we want it and when we want it. Is it any wonder that our prayers are sometimes not answered?  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14, NIV 1978).

Petition God (Give us this day our daily bread) – We often have the “formula” backwards. In our greed we ask for immeasurably more than we need and we get less than we expected or hoped for. Yet when we ask only out of our needs, not out of our wants, we are often surprised at how much more we receive than what we asked for. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Galatians 3:20, NIV 1978).

Confess To God (Forgive us our debts) – Unconfessed sin against God and others is a major hindrance to our prayers. We need to search our hearts as we seek God’s.  “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18, NIV 1978).

Forgive Others (As we also have forgiven our debtors) – We really do not have a legitimate right to ask God to grant us what we are so unwilling to grant others.  “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14, 15, NIV 1978).

Seek God’s Guidance (And lead us not into temptation) – All too often we wait until we are tempted to seek God’s deliverance. Many times that is too late. We know what our weaknesses are and we should continually be asking God to help us. He is in a unique position to help, since when He was on earth in the person of His Son, He endured every temptation.  “Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrew 2:18, NIV 1978).

Seek God’s Deliverance (But deliver us from the evil one) – We think that our circumstances are unique, but they are not. We think that we cannot escape, but we can. God will provide the way and the strength for us to be delivered.  “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1978).

Give God Praise (For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever) – Prayer is not just about us. In fact, with the proper focus, it should be more about Him. We need to praise and thank Him.  “Praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.” (Daniel 4:37, NIV 1978).

Believe (Amen) – If we truly ask in His name, we will not be asking for anything that is not in accordance with His will. If then it is His will, we can surely believe He will answer. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13, NIV 1978).

My Advice – When you ask are you being given? When you seek are you finding? When you knock is the door opened? If not, why not? Did Jesus misrepresent (lie about) God’s response to our prayers? Of course not! To find the answer to these questions, we must look within ourselves. Are we asking, seeking, or knocking with impure or selfish motives? Are we seeking or asking for things that may not be within God’s will? Are we knocking on the wrong door? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then there should be no mystery as to why our prayers are unanswered. If our motives are pure and what we are asking for, seeking or wanting opened is within God’s will, then we can be assured that the timing is just not right. We need to be patient and wait on the Lord.

As we grow in Christ we will find that our motives become purer and less self-centered. We will find that that our faith has become more patient in waiting on God’s. We will find ourselves praying more in line with God’s will. We will find whether the answer to our prayer is, yes, no or not now, we can still boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence that God’s has our best interests in mind.

So how is your prayer life? When you pray are your motives pure? Are your prayers in line with God’s will? Are you patiently waiting on God to answer in His time?

The Illuminated Word

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My Musings – Much of the deceptive philosophy can clearly discerned as false or not to be trusted, and we easily dismiss or discard it. Some contradicts what we have grown up believing. Yet many believe in and swear by it with such great passion and credibility, that we can hardly see how it could be wrong. Some are appealing because they have a “form of Godliness” and yet we wonder if it can be trusted. How then do we decide what is truth?

Mark Twain is credited with saying that “in religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a farthing.” We must never be too lazy (or too naïve) to blindly accept every “wind of doctrine” that comes along. In the final analysis, even when the source of information seems trustworthy, like the Bereans, we must lay what is being said alongside the Word of God to see if it is true. However, in order to do this effectively we must be sufficiently familiar with the Bible to know how to use it. Possessing a tool is not much good if we do not know how to use (“rightly divide”) it properly.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Bible) point us to God’s central truth that brought redemption to mankind – His Son, Jesus Christ. A redemption that was necessary because of the fall. Among other things, the Old Testament was written so that we “might have hope” (Romans 15:4) in the truth that was to come (the Messiah) as it looked forward to Jesus’ first coming. The New Testament was written so that we “may know” (1 John 5:13) and believe in the truth that came (the Savior) so that we might have eternal life, and as we look forward to Jesus’ second coming.

The Scriptures (the Bible), both the Old Testament and the New Testament, form the complete and inerrant Word of God.

While the Bible was written by men (who are prone to error), the truths that the Bible conveys were inspired by God (Who does not make mistakes) to communicate His truths to mankind.

God did this so that we might know, worship and serve Him. In its pages the Bible teaches us how we should live, by the laws God gave us in its words and by the example of His Son that it records. When we stray from these teachings, the Bible’s words of instruction become words of rebuke as the Holy Spirit works to bring correction into our lives. Through all of this (teaching, rebuking and correcting) we are being trained to become (be transformed into) the Godly men and women that God intended for us to be before the fall. He wants us to be thoroughly equipped for every good work as we have the opportunity.

The Bible Is God-Breathed – The Bible is not merely good advice from a group of well-meaning men acting independently of each other. It is God communicating His thoughts and revealing Himself through these men. Each were dependent upon God’s inspiration for the messages that they wrote and were unconsciously acting in concert with each other as the mystery of the Gospel and God’s grace through His Son unfolded in perfect harmony.  “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21, NIV 1978).

The Bible Teaches Us – The Bible is God’s instruction book for our life and conduct. It teaches us about Him and our relationship to Him; how we should worship Him and how we should obey Him.  “It [the Word] is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.” (Deuteronomy 17:19, NIV 1978).

The Bible Rebukes Us – The word of God cannot help but make us conscious of and reprimand us for the inconsistencies in our daily walk and in our profession of faith. Not just the apparent inconsistencies that are evident from our actions and lifestyle, but also the inconsistencies buried deep within our thoughts and that affect the attitude of our heart.  “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV 1978).

The Bible Corrects Us – The word not only rebukes us, but it brings correction. It causes us to redirect our life and bring it back onto the path that is the way to a fulfilling life with our Lord.  “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.” (Proverbs 6:23, NIV 1978).

The Bible Trains Us – The word teaches us what to do. It rebukes us when we stray. It brings us back to the right path. Finally, it trains us on how to stay on the right path. It does that by giving us understanding and by turning our hearts toward God’s word. And as we walk with the Lord the word becomes more than just something we read, and more than something to think about and reflect upon. It becomes who we are. Influencing our thoughts and actions.  “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; and I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes.” (Psalm 119:33-36, NIV 1978).

The Bible Equips Us – The word that trains us to live our lives consistently in accordance with God’s will is also equipping us and preparing us for active service. Because we do not just live our lives solely for self-improvement, but to be useful to God in service for Him.  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. An instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:15, 21, NIV 1978).

The Bible Calls Us To Action – How sad to think that some will be taught, trained, equipped and on the right path, but going nowhere and doing nothing. God did not save us for a life of quiet consent to the truths of His word. He called us to a life of service to Him.  “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV 1978).

The Bible Is Eternal – What we have learned. What we have been trained in. What we have been equipped with. What has changed our lives and has called us to service will never be superseded, go out of style, or become obsolete. It stands forever. “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18, NIV 1978).

My Advice – Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice because they know His voice. They know His voice because they are familiar with it. They are familiar with His voice because they have stayed close to Him and spent time with Him. Because of this, His sheep are able to distinguish the voice of the imposter (deceiver) who comes only to “steal, kill and destroy.” They will not “believe every spirit.” They will not be taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” that so easily ensnares those who are not familiar enough with the Master’s voice. They will not “turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Knowing His voice is so very important because the imposter is very crafty. We see his craftiness in how he deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden. When confronting them doing (listening and following) what God had told them, he did not start with outright contradiction. First, he caused them to begin doubting the Word of God (“did God really say?”) by distorting the Word of God (“you must not eat from any tree?”). That made God’s Word seem unreasonable. Eventually, this allowed him to take things where he wanted them all along – disputing God’s Word altogether (“you will not”). This ultimately led them into disobeying God’s Word and with God calling out – “Adam, where are you?” They had hid themselves because they were no longer following Him.

So how do we guard against making this same mistake? While Jesus no longer walks this earth we can still know His voice by spending time in His Word. But we need to do more than just “hear” what it says; we need to “listen” to what it says. We must make the effort to process what it says so that we can capture its meaning and message. Without this effort we are merely going through a mechanical process and hearing background noise. But if we make this effort we will be able to see through the craftiness of the imposter. When he says “did God really say” we can reply yes He did, “it is written.”

So how are you doing? Are you merely hearing without listening? Are you listening without following?

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!

I Now Consider Loss

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My Musings – Whether it is how we spend our time, invest our treasure or use our talent, we consider very carefully whether or not it is worth it.  Are there other “things” that would be a better way to spend our time, provide a greater return on our investment or be a more productive use of our talent?  Time, we can never get back.  Treasures can be subject to loss instead of gain.  Talent can go unappreciated.

Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Matthew 16:24–26, NIV 1984).

To follow Christ, we must deny ourselves.  Taking up our “cross” is a powerful image of just how much the “cost” can be.  And afterall, there just might be other ways we’d rather spend “our” time, invest “our” treasure and use “our” talent that we think might profit us more.  But this profit is temporal.  Do we really want to forfeit our soul for temporal gain?

My Advice – We should have Paul’s perspective. Whatever we consider profit, if it is not for the Kingdom, is actually loss (Paul goes on to call it rubbish).  And whatever we do for the Kingdom can never be lost.  It will last forever.  Exchanging the temporal, even if it is “all things” or even the “whole world” for the eternal sounds pretty profitable to me.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 3, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.