Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Dangers of Disobedience

The Dangers of Disobedience
God has promised discipline for His children whey they disobey him.
  • Hebrews 12:6-7 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
God’s discipline may be revealed at different times, in different ways and in different amounts: but it is always perfect. Let’s look one specific Biblical example.
When the Jews started returning to Jerusalem after the captivity in Babylon, they were initially under the leadership of Zerubbabel (the governor of Judah) and Joshua (the high priest). One of their primary purposes was to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. However, because of some opposition and disruption from outside the Jewish community, and some indifference and selfishness within, the work on this important project stalled.
Sixteen years later, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were commissioned by God to confront Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people of Jerusalem with their disobedience in completing this important project. Haggai tells them the results of their disobedience:
  • Haggai 1:6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
Under the conviction of God brought forth by the prophets, and following the leadership appointed by God - obedience and hard work led to the temple reconstruction project being completed in just four years!
So what does any of this have to do with you and me?
God has clearly called Christians to glorify His name by:
  • Sharing the gospel message
    • Acts 1:8
  • Showing the love of Christ through good works
    • Matthew 25:34-40
  • Displaying the character of Christ in our daily lives
    • John 13:15
  • Keeping His commandments
    • John 14:15
If we are disobedient to His call on our lives, I believe Haggai 1:6 can apply to us in the following ways:
  • Ye have sown much, and bring in little;
    • Our work will not produce the expected results.
  • ye eat, but ye have not enough;
    • The results we do see will not satisfy us.
  • ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink;
    • Other basic needs we have will go unmet.
  • ye clothe you, but there is none warm;
    • Even the most fundamental good works we do will not minister effectively to those in need.
  • and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
    • We can become negligent stewards of the resources provided by God.
With the conviction and empowering of the Holy Spirit, trusting in the church leadership God has put in place, reading our Bibles, sincerely and earnestly praying - diligently seeking after God, hard work and obedience will lead to the fulfillment of His call on our lives!
Father in Heaven, blessed be Your Holy Name. I pray for strength, wisdom, courage and the desire to fulfill Your call upon my life. May every aspect of my life be acceptable in Your sight. Your discipline is always just what I need, although I don’t always I understand that, I know that is true. I long to obey You, not just to avoid Your discipline, but to bring glory and honor to You. Help me to see the difficult circumstances in my life as indications that I may be failing You in some area. Give me discernment to tell the difference between Your discipline and Your trials in my life. I love Your perfection. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Acceptable in Your Sight

Acceptable in Your Sight
There is no greater desire for a Christian than to live a life that is acceptable in the sight of our God.
  • Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
Living a life that reflects the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, patiently enduring the suffering that comes as a result of doing what is right, and so much more as presented in the Bible, brings glory and honor to God.
  • Ephesians 5:9-10 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
  • 1 Peter 2:20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
  • Proverbs 10:32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.
So how do we know what is acceptable in God’s sight?
Conscience (the sense of right and wrong; the moral compass everyone receives as a creation of God)
  • Romans 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
Our conscience, the fingerprints of God on our very essence, is one indication of what is right or wrong. Unfortunately the conscience can be damaged by neglect and abuse. When corrupted by our flesh and/or our environment, the conscience will not be a reliable guide for living a life that is acceptable before God.
Commandments (the standards for living given by God in His Holy Word)
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
God’s law tells us how to live a life pleasing to Him. Keeping His commandments does not bring salvation (salvation is by His grace and our faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9)), but it shows our love for Him and our appreciation for what He has done for us. The commands of God can be rejected or ignored. Willfully breaking His commandments is not pleasing to God.
Conviction (the undeniable internal voice from God that speaks truth into your thoughts and desires)
  • John 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
  • John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Conviction of the Holy Spirit can draw the lost to salvation and lead the saved to obedience. Conviction of the Holy Spirit can be dismissed as guilt or shame. For those who don’t know Christ as Savior, dismissing the conviction of the Holy Spirit will lead to eternal damnation in Hell. For a Christian that grieves the Holy Spirit by not responding to His voice, God has promised discipline.
Christians can maintain a healthy conscience, obey God’s commandments and clearly hear the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit by maintaining an honest, healthy and honoring relationship with God. This is achieved when reading the Bible, praying regularly, attending church, spending time with other Christians, serving those in need, and joyfully and thankfully watching God work around you result in a deep love for God and obedience to His direction in your life.
Holy Father, I pray that my conscience is healthy and reliable, that I obey Your commandments, and that You keep me sensitive and obedient to the conviction of Your Holy Spirit. My desire is to live a life that is acceptable to You (my thoughts, my desires, my attitudes and my actions). Only through Your grace, mercy, love and the empowering presence of Your Holy Spirit can I hope to achieve this goal. I am Yours. Have Your way with me. In the name of my Lord and Savior Christ I pray, Amen.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Truth About Good Works in Titus

The Truth About Good Works in Titus
Titus is a relatively short letter written by Paul to Titus as pastoral advice and instruction. Throughout the three sections (chapters) of this letter, the subject of good works comes up repeatedly. Let’s examine what Paul wrote to this Church leader about works.
Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
  • Paraphrase: There are people who say they know God, yet they are really unbelievers. Their lives before God are detestable and their works are worthless.
Titus 2:7-8 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
  • Paraphrase: Christians should set a good example by their works. Their teachings must be pure, they must be serious about their faith, their words must be reliable and beyond criticism; so that those opposing their faith are the ones discredited and unbelievers are left with nothing bad to say about Christians.
Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
  • Paraphrase: Christ shed His blood and gave His life to free us from our bondage to sin (He literally purchased us by paying our debt). Christ did this to cleanse us and set us apart as His possession. We are to be passionate about showing His love through good works.
Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
  • Paraphrase: Christian leaders are to inform the flock of their obligation to obey the law and governmental regulations. Christians should be ready, willing and able to perform good deeds whenever the opportunities present themselves (not just when it is convenient or comfortable).
Titus 3:5-6 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
  • Paraphrase: Christ saved us because of His mercy; not because of any works we have done attempting to earn righteousness. Salvation means we are given new life, all things are made new, and we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (which is generously given to us at our conversion).
Titus 3:7-8 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
  • Paraphrase: We are justified before God and made heirs to the promise of eternal life by His grace alone. This is the truth; as Christians we can speak these things with confidence. And hearing these things, believers should embrace the value of good works, accept the responsibility of good works, understand the positive impact of good works, and be diligent to perform good works.
Our human nature, our upbringing, the world around, and Satan all lead us to believe we have to work to achieve a good standing before God. We think we have to earn His love and then work to keep it. We start believing the lie that we can earn righteousness. The Bible, God’s Holy Word, reveals the lies and deceptions about our works.  
In Titus, we find a great summary of the truth about works. Our works are very important; yet they do not contribute to our salvation or keep us from losing it. Genuinely good works before God are a result of salvation. Good works show the love of Christ, impact people’s lives for the better, show our love and appreciation for God, build a strong testimony for Christians, and are very important and helpful in evangelism. Just as we should always be ready to discuss the reasons for our faith in Christ (see 1 Peter 3:15), we should always be ready to demonstrate our faith in Christ and love for others through good works.
Dear Lord, please reveal the true value of good works by the conviction and leading of Your Holy Spirit. Give me a desire to show Your love through good works. Guide me to the situations, timing and activities that glorify Your name and achieve Your purposes. May my words and actions draw others closer to You. Strengthen me, empower me, and guide me to the works You have ordained for me. I love You and praise You for the clarity found in Titus about good works. Praise be to Your Holy name forever. In the name of Christ, by His shed blood I pray, Amen. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Beyond Imagination

Beyond Imagination
God makes many promises in His Word. There is a powerful statement in Jeremiah where God declares His faithfulness in going beyond what we can even imagine in meeting our needs. But we have to call out to Him (showing our dependence on Him and trust in Him).
  • Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
When we faithfully call on God, He will provide wisdom and ideas and resources and opportunities and strength and passion and courage and favor and so much more; and He will do it in ways and in quantities that we don’t even know to pray for.  
In 2 Chronicles, we read that Asa, King of Judah, sought after God and trusted Him when the Ethiopian Zerah threatened the southern kingdom. God was faithful and brought victory despite Judah being vastly outnumbered (see 2 Chronicles 14:9-12).
But later, when Baasha, King of Israel, intended to cut off Judah from northern trade routes by building Ramah, instead of turning to God, Asa now turned to Syria for help (see 2 Chronicles 16). This chain of events leads us to an incredible statement in scripture:
  • 2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.
    • The first half of this verse tells us that God is not passively sitting back as he reigns over his creation; He is actively searching for opportunities to demonstrate His power on behalf of those who approach Him in humility, obedience, submission and trust (see the five part devotion H.O.S.T posted on 1/19 – 2/16, 2013 on this site).
    • The second half of this verse makes very clear the catastrophic results we face if we put our trust in anything other than God. 
So, as Christians, how does all this apply to us as the church and to each of us personally?
In this fallen world, we face many challenges as the body of Christ and as individuals. But God has promised:
  • If we depend on Him, He will provide for us in ways we haven’t even imagined.
  • If we trust in Him in every situation, He will faithfully see us through and accomplish His glorious purposes.
  • If we trust in our own strength, knowledge, ideas, etc. (or anyone or anything else other than God), we only have ourselves to blame for the disastrous results.
Simply put, God loves us more than we are capable of understanding. His love for us is perfect. John 3:16, 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, and many, many other verses in Holy Scripture provide insight into what perfect love is and How God consistently demonstrates His perfect love for us. He is actively seeking those who turn to Him and depend on Him. Our Heavenly Father loves to do great things for us; and He gives the best things (see Matthew 7:11 and James 1:17).
My gracious, loving, merciful and generous Heavenly Father, I pray that in every circumstance in life, by the leading and power of Your Holy Spirit, You will give me the inclination and desire to turn to You, and trust in You, and call out to You. May I never trust in my strength. May I never boast in my abilities. May I never limit your grace with what my limited mind can conceive. Thanks for Your perfect love. Thanks for Your unexpected provision. Thanks for the protection and peace You bring to my daily life. I praise You and love You. In Christ’s precious and powerful name, Amen.