Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Obedience First

1 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB) When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

There were things that I could tolerate in my youth that I can no longer handle. The same is true of spiritual maturity. As you grow in grace, you realize that some stuff has nothing to do with living the abundant life that Christ offers.

For example, why do we place so much emphasis on how people dress for church? Beyond decent, does it really matter? Of course, there are appropriate things to wear to be on a stage or platform, but we spend way too much energy on our clothing. Some of us treat church like some kind of exclusive country club. You have to fit a certain stereotype, or you will be treated as an outsider.

We do the same thing with denomination. Every single one of them is man-made, so they are flawed. We should worry less about denomination and focus more on the Word of God. If the church you’re in believes the Bible, abides by the Bible, and teaches the Bible, that should be sufficient. As long as the church isn’t adding to or taking away from the Scriptures or misusing the Scriptures, there shouldn’t be a problem fellowshipping with it. That means we have to study to know whether a church is ‘rightly dividing the Word of Truth.’

Unfortunately, there are enough unchurched and unsaved people for all the churches to be full. The harvest is indeed plentiful, but we are too busy with differences in tradition, doctrine, and theology to just love the people in the communities that God has placed us in. It’s great to know why you believe what you believe, but it’s even more important to be obedient to what God has told us to do. Obedience doesn’t require understanding.

Jesus Christ didn’t come to establish dress code or denomination. He told us why He came, and He told us what to do. Here are just a few examples. There are plenty more in the Scriptures.

Luke 19:10 (NASB) For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

John 10:10 (NASB) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Matthew 22:37-39 (NASB) 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB) 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Value People Over Stuff

Job 42:10 (NASB) The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold.
The story of Job contains an amazing example of how a righteous person handles adversity. I strongly recommend reading and studying the entire book; however, for this blog post I would like to focus on this one verse (chapter 42, verse 10). God honors selflessness over and over again.  All throughout the Bible, God encourages us to care for others more than ourselves.
God restored Job when he prayed for his friends, not when he prayed for himself. Not only did the Lord restore what Job had, He doubled it. The saying “you can’t beat God giving” has been tried and proven to be true. There is no amount of money, time, or energy that you can give to others that God cannot return to you. Job took the time to pray for his friends, and God gave everything back to him PLUS some.
We tend to focus on what we’ve lost, what we’re lacking, and what we need. The lesson here is to stop concentrating on ourselves and start praying for the needs of others. Rather than trying to tightly hold on to what few possessions we really have, we should spend more on the needs of others. There is an example in the New Testament where Jesus tells a rich man to sell all he has and follow the Lord. Your stuff should never be more important than the work of God’s Kingdom. Job taught us that he didn’t value possessions over God Himself.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Motives Lead to Actions

Mark 15:9-15 (NASB) Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” 15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Mark’s gospel states that Pilate was aware that the chief priests were just jealous of Jesus, which is why they handed Him over for execution. He was obviously uncomfortable with the situation, so he asked the crowd if they wanted to release Jesus. He wanted to be able to blame someone else for an innocent man’s death. The chief priests encouraged the crowd to release a known murderer, so that Jesus Christ would be crucified.
Pilate’s motive was to please the crowd, although he knew Jesus did not deserve crucifixion. The chief priests’ motive was to get rid of Jesus, who threatened the status quo of religion, where they had all the authority and power. The actions that they performed lined up with their motives. Pilate let a murderer go free after the priests convinced the crowd to ask for it.
Both Pilate and the priests knew Jesus had done nothing worthy of death, but they were too concerned with their own positions in society to do the right thing. There is a lesson to take from this story. We cannot care more about our titles than our scruples. Injustice should not be tolerated, let alone perpetuated. We have a responsibility to the world to live by Christ’s example. He loved us more than He loved His position. He willingly left His throne to give us a chance at abundant life. His actions lined up with His motive, as well. His only motive for becoming sin for us was LOVE.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Failed Plans

Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

At some point along your walk with the Lord, you realize that God is sovereign. We don’t decide what we want Him to control or not. He was, is, and always will be LORD of all. We either acknowledge that fact, or live miserably trying to control things we can’t. We must yield to God’s plan to enjoy our most abundant lives.

As human beings, we tend to get bent out of shape when something doesn’t go according to our plans, but we should thank God for intervening to make us better. We don’t always see the big picture, but our heavenly Father does. He is never surprised when our plans fall apart. Sometimes we are totally distraught by unforeseen circumstances, but we need to remind ourselves of God’s sovereignty.

We are incapable of controlling everything (or anything for that matter), and sometimes life just messes up our plans. If we just surrender to God’s perfect plan, allow Him to order our steps, and rest in Him, we will be able to adjust more quickly as our plans change to line up with His will. We may still have our moments of despair, distress, and depression, but they won’t consume us. We will shake ourselves awake to the reality that God is in control, hold our heads up, and we will walk in the path that God has chosen for us.