Thursday, September 23, 2010

Conscious Obedience

There are times when I just don't know what I should do.  Then there are other times when God reveals His will clearly.  Moving to Montana was just such an occasion.  Initially I suppose things were somewhat cloudy, but through the process God's will became more and more clear.

Once presented with His desire for my life I had two options: obedience or disobedience.  I knew what I should do, but I also had compelling reasons to disobey and refuse to go.  Sounds kind of like Jonah (Thankfully I wasn't anywhere close to water. :)

Seriously though, we often think that ignoring God's call on our lives is okay and acceptable behavior, but it's not!  Even Jesus was compelled to obey the Father's will even to the point of what road He should take back to Galilee.  As I read John 4:1-6 verse 4 jumped out at me.  "And He had to pass through Samaria." (emphasis mine).

Go to your shelf and pull out your map of Israel  - don't have one, then you'll just have to take my word for it.  There is more than one way to get to Galilee from Judea.  In fact, most Jews would rather cross the Jordan and travel through Gentile land then be caught in Samaria.  So I ask myself, "Why did He have to pass through Samaria?"

I understand why Jesus left Judea, conflict was rising and His ministry was gaining attention from the Pharisees so He needed to leave, but why go though Samaria?  The only reasonable answer is that there was something He needed to do in Samaria.

Jesus' relationship with His Father enabled Him to know the will of God and consciously obey.  Jesus had to fulfill the mission given to Him by the Father.  He was always conscious of doing the Father's will, that is why He came to earth.  "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. [Jn. 6:38]

Christ's life is the example we are to follow.  We are to have the same attitude as Christ, one of conscious obedience.  Not obedience out of compulsion or fear or a need for acceptance, but obedience based on a relationship we have with the Father, one of love.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Believe, Receive, Obey

I have never questioned who Christ is.  I was raised in a Christian home, attended church whenever the doors were open, and was taught from almost infancy that Christ is the Son of God.  That doesn't mean I completely understand God or His Son, but simply I have had the privilege of being introduced to Him at a young age.

There is a massive difference in knowing Christ (having knowledge of Him) and giving Him full access and control over my life.  See that is where I struggled and continue to struggle at times.  Giving Christ supremacy.  As I am reading John 3:31-36, I am confronted once again with God's desire for me to accept Him as 'above all'.  John (either the disciple or the Baptist - commentators disagree on the one testifying) states, "He who comes from above is above all…" He IS above all.  It's not a matter of question, but a matter of fact.  The question is do you believe it?  Do you believe that Christ, "He who comes from heaven is above all."?

There are only two responses possible - Yes or No.  You can't ride the fence, you must make a choice.  Not choosing is choosing no.  There is ample evidence available.  Those who believe receive from God 'the Spirit without measure'.  So what does that mean?  The (Holy) Spirit  is the third member of the Godhead.  [I can't explain fully this relationship in this article.  Simply, God is one yet three.  There is one God who manifests (not the word I want to use, but can't think of another) in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.]  The Spirit teaches, rebukes, convicts, and directs.  It is when the Spirit draws the heart of man to God that we are able to accept Christ as our Savior, believing He is who He said He is.  We receive His testimony and commit our lives to Him.  The Spirit then empowers us to follow Christ and obey Him.

Obedience is not out of compulsion or in order to please God and thus earn our way into heaven.  It's not to gain more love from God, for He loves us with a perfect love.  Obedience rather is the fruit of our love for Him.  If you believe and have received you will obey.  Love then is the passion that drives our obedience.  Love of God means we are repulsed by sin.  Love of God means we desire to be with Him, read His Word, commune with Him in prayer.  My prayer is that I could love God more, may that be your prayer as well.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In the Spotlight

Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride and groom are not the center of attention?  Of course not!!  Every eye is on the happy couple and that's the way it's supposed to be.  How crazy to imagine the best man or maid of honor stealing the show.  Unthinkable!

That's the illustration John the Baptist uses to describe his role in comparison to Christ; John is the best man, Christ is the groom.  He said, "I have been sent ahead of Him."  In other words, "I'm not in the spotlight, point it on Christ." (Personal paraphrase)

Isn't that the way we each should live our lives?  Putting the spotlight on Christ; pointing the world to the Savior.  Think of the joy we could experience by making it our goal in life to spotlight Jesus.  No longer would I have to have my way; no longer would I need to be the center of attention. 

Just as we find joy and excitement when two are made one; so too, when Christ is given the preeminent place we will find joy is His glorification.  John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  John understood his role as well as Christ's.  He knew who should be in the spotlight.

Taking a backseat is not always the most pleasant of positions.  In the shadows you lack attention, recognition, credit, or even acknowledgement.  Sometimes it will bring pain and suffering, other times only a passing glance; but when you have the spotlight on the right person (Christ) even in the pain there is joy.

Compete or Compliment

There are defining moments in each person's life when they make choices that either put them in competition with others or allows them to compliment those around them.

This was one of those moments for John the Baptist.  As we read in John 3:22-27 Jesus has begun His ministry, He is beginning to draw a following (some of whom used to follow John) and He is baptizing in the same area as John is.  John's disciples (followers) approach him reporting that this Jesus, whom John had baptized, was now teaching and preaching and baptizing in the area.

John is confronted with a choice.  He can fulfill his calling to 'make straight the way of the Lord' or he could  call attention to himself and try to compete with the Son of God.  Once before John had been confronted with the temptation to call attention to himself (Jn. 1:22-23) and instead pointed to Christ, now he must choose again.

Isn't that how life is?  Constantly we are confronted with making choices that will define who we are.  Sometimes we make the right choice, other times we become selfish and prideful and desire to point at ourselves rather than toward God.  It is at these times when we come into competition with God rather than His messengers.

John didn't fall into that trap.  As we see in this passage, John is consistent in his message - God is sovereign over all things. 

There is little to be gained in competing with the sovereign ruler of the universe.  Oh we may fool ourselves into thinking we are in control of our lives or that God is taking a backseat, but in all honesty God takes a backseat to no one.  He competes with no one for there is no one in His league.  So the only reasonable choice is for us to compliment, work in conjunction with God.

Joining God where He is at work is exactly what God desires of you and me.  So I encourage you to cease trying to compete with God, repent and join Him today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Salvation Message

Today's reading (John 3:16-21) includes probably the most familiar verse in the world.  It condenses the message of God's Word into one succinct sentence. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (Jn. 3:16).

Max Lucado in his book 3:16 breaks down the salvation message into eight words reflected from this verse: God loves. God gave. We believe. We live.

That is the whole of scripture.  Yes, we often make it more complicated because we want to do something to earn our salvation, but you can't.  It has already been done, we only have to accept the gift of God and believe on His Son, Jesus Christ.

As I was reading this passage it occurred to me, it is a given that men will perish.  All men, all people will perish; many without knowing the love of God toward them.  He doesn't desire that people die in their sins, that's why He sent Jesus.  But for one reason or another, whether due to ignorance or defiance, He is rejected. 

Men love darkness rather than Light.  Light exposes our sin, our need for a Savior.  Will you believe on Him today?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Don't You Understand

As a child, I didn't like school.  It wasn't a happy time for me.  I wasn't popular, athletic, or studious (I know, it's hard to believe).  My favorite subject was recess, which I frequently missed due to my poor academic performance.  I was a slow learner (even now I have to read books two or three times for them to sink in).

I think Nicodemus must have been a slow learner as well, at least that's how it comes across in today's reading: John 3:8-15.  In verse 10 Jesus says, "You are Israel's teacher and you do not understand these things?"  Jesus was explaining to this Pharisee how to get to heaven (something he should have already known).

The Pharisees were teachers of the Law, but instead of recognizing the limits of the law (our inability to completely obey it), they strove to earn their way to heaven based on their works.  Often isn't this the behavior of folks today?  They don't understand that works cannot save you.  There is nothing you or I can do to earn our way into heaven.  Eternal life is a free gift from God to those who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Don't you understand?  Jesus, God in the form of man, left His throne in heaven, became flesh, lived a perfect life, accepted the sins of mankind as His own, became our sacrifice and died so that we could have eternal life.  He then, through His own power, rose again after three days and promises resurrection and life to all who believe in Him.

I hope and pray you do understand.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hope for the future

I'm still mulling over yesterday's scripture in John 2:13-25.  In this reading Jesus gives clear prophecy regarding His crucifixion and resurrection - "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."  Of course, those who heard Him did not understand at the time. 

As I read these words it occurs to me, Jesus new what was coming down the pike for Him.  He, being God, knew every rejection of His love, every dismissal of His power, every back alley conspiracy, and every lie told to destroy His ministry here on earth.  Jesus knew the heart of every man, woman, and child.  And He knows your heart and mine.  And He chose to go to the cross anyway.  Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  And vs. 10 continues, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."

So here it is in a nutshell...  He died on the cross with full knowledge of what you and I would do with His gift.  Some have accepted it; others reject it. 

In His declaration, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." I find some of the greatest hope available to man.  Christ died for me, and He raised Himself up from the dead!  Praise God!  He is not dead... He's alive.  There is no other religious leader that can make that claim; all of them are dead.  Jesus is NOT.

Because He is alive, I have hope for the future.  You see, I believe in a God who is greater than all my problems and greater than all my fears (to quote a song from my childhood).  He has defeated sin and death, so why do I need to worry?  He is my hope for the future.  Praise God!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Comfortable in our seats

There is something to be said about being comfortable.  Men search endlessly for the right lounger because we wish to be comfortable while vegging in front of the TV watching football or some other mindless drivel.  Women aren't any different.  They look for comfort in the clothes they wear or the books they read. 

But as I read John 2:13-25 a different perspective hit me.  If you have a chance get your Bible out and read it for yourself; my attention was drawn to vs. 14 "And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and money changers seated at their tables."  The picture here is not one you would expect in the typical North American church or any 21st century church for that matter (although I have led a donkey through the sanctuary before, but that's a different story).

The picture that came to mind was these folks sitting in the temple, comfortable with what they were doing because they were serving themselves.  They were doing what they desired, making money, which brought comfort and pleasure to them.  Now the fact that they were merchants isn't a problem, the lack of reverence for the House of God is.  What I noticed is they were comfortable conducting business in a place designed to glorify God and honor Him.

Fast forward to the Church of today---

My concern is that we are comfortable.  We walk into our plush sanctuaries and sit in our regular places and expect to hear a pleasant sermon, then walk out unchanged, comfortable with the staus quo.  Oh, how our complacency must grieve our Savior.  Rather than His Father's house being "a place of business" it has become a place for social gatherings.

This is NOT what our services should be; rather than warming a pew we need to be on our knees.  Yes, we are to find comfort, but not become comfortable.  The purpose of the building is to facilitate worship of our God, not ease of our backsides.  I suppose much of responsibility goes to pastors like myself; we must stir our congregations our of their comfort zones and on to good works that the Father has prepared for us to do.

So don't get comfortable in your seats... get on your knees and ask the Father to change you and show you the things He wants you to do.  Will it be uncomfortable?  I sure hope so.