Monday, September 17, 2018

What's Your Thing?

God often orchestrates timing, place, position, abilities, passions and need in order to serve Him and to make a difference. When we discover our “thing”, it can be used to demonstrate our love for God, grow in our faith, serve others, and make a difference (both now and for eternity).  So, what’s your thing?

Nehemiah 2:2-3  - so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

Things to think about:
·      If you’re not very familiar with Nehemiah, you may think he was one of the great priests or prophets from the Old Testament. In fact, he was a pretty regular guy, working as a government official, serving the king as a cupbearer.  I’m not sure how this would read on his LinkedIn profile but basically he first tasted anything the king might drink in case it had poison in it!
·      The Jews had started returning back to Judah after being in Babylonian captivity for seventy years.  Nehemiah was still back in Babylon working for the king.  One day he caught up with his brother and some other men who had been to Jerusalem and he asked then how things were going there.  They told him that the city wall was destroyed and that the people there were in danger.
o   Nehemiah 1:4 – When I heard these things I sat down and wept.
·      But he didn’t stop there drowning in his sorrow and the tragedy of the situation.  Instead, he PRAYED (Nehemiah 1:5-10)
o   Repented
o   Remembered
o   Requested
·      Then, he took a risk and stepped out in faith.  He went to his boss, the king, to ask for permission to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.
·      Listen to his humanity here, “I was very much afraidbut I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
o   Let’s not let fear keep us from going where God would lead us. 
o   In verse 2:6 it says “It pleased the king to send me.”
·      Do you know what your thing is?
o   If so, what is it?
o   How has God used timing, place, position, abilities, passion, and need?
o   How have you been changed?
o   How have you seen others changed as a result?
·      If you haven’t figured out what your thing is yet, do what Nehemiah did - learn about where there are needs and pray about your role in doing something about it.
o   Everyone has a thing!
o   It doesn’t mean you have to start a new ministry, maybe it’s coming alongside someone or something that is already engaged in a cause you care about
o   Let God’s Word guide you to bring His kingdom to your corner of the world

Monday, August 13, 2018

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Love!

The Apostle Paul’s focus was always on others in his quest to build the kingdom.  In some cases this was to the benefit of the unconverted and in other cases it was to help build up believers whose faith had not yet fully matured.  In either event he knew that religious traditions or cultural norms could stand in the way of demonstrating the love of Jesus to the folks God had put in his path.  He boldly proclaims his great liberty in Christ that unshackles us from the demands of the Law, yet at the same time he prioritizes love over liberty.  Given his great intellectual prowess, he could have won the argument and lost the soul.

1 Corinthians 8:9 - Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Things to think about:
·      The issue at hand was the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  For some of the Corinthians this was a problem because it gave the impression that it was OK to eat meat that had been tainted by being in a religious ceremony they didn’t believe in.
·      For Paul, it was no big deal because “an idol is nothing” and “there is no God but one” so if people wanted to fire up the grill to a false god, he didn’t care, he was happy to eat the choice meat.
o   He said that food doesn’t make us closer to God or push us further away
·      The problem is that not everyone fully understood this so for them to eat sacrificed meat was a sin.
·      What are permissible choices we can make today that may not be wrong in and of themselves but can confuse or alienate a less mature saint?
o   Smoking, drinking in moderation, various styles of clothing, language, entertainment choices, church practices/rituals, etc.
·      Paul’s main point here is that we should be careful to not become a stumbling block to the weak, that their welfare is always superior to our knowledge.
o   1 Corinthians 8:10-13 - For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
o   If it’s not wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols, what is the sin Paul is speaking of here?
o   Based on some of the hot button topics above (or other ones you can think of), how can we cause weaker brothers and sisters to stumble?
o   What different choice would you be willing to make to change this?
·      Please note that Paul says when we make what are essentially selfish choices, we are actually the ones who are sinning!
·      How did Jesus model the principle Paul is teaching?
o   See Philippians 2:6

Monday, July 23, 2018

Danger Will Robinson!

Recently, I have become familiar with two men who have done serious harm to both their reputations and to the cause of Christ.  Both are extremely wealthy from their jobs and had leadership positions in the Christian community that influenced hundreds if not thousands. One I know personally and the other by one degree of separation.  As I hear what happened to them, it serves as a very cautionary tale for each of us because we all are weak in our own strength and subject to the same temptations.   In both cases, they were lured in by offers to have something that they had no right to – in one case a woman and in the other ill-gotten gain.  My inclination is to pray for them and not judge them because I know I am but one bad decision from sharing their pain.

Proverbs 1: 10 - My son, if sinful men entice you,
    do not give in to them.

Things to think about:
·      Whether it’s wealth, power, prestige, sex, or something else, we are all susceptible to the lure of a hollow promise that brings with it a bitter ending.
o   Have you been on the receiving end of an invitation to do something wrong?
§  Was it clothed in compromises that explained away why it wasn’t a big deal after all?
·      Our natural man, encouraged by the world around us, and assaulted by an enemy who seeks to destroy us, is hopelessly lost without:
o   A knowledge of right and wrong
o   A daily commitment to obey God’s statutes
o   A community to support us
o    The Holy Spirit to empower us
Knowledge of right and wrong
·      Psalm 119:2 – I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You
o     Sometimes I hear people say, “Well I don’t know the Bible like so and so does.”
o     Why is that such a dangerous thing to accept for oneself?
o     Do you have a “go-to” Bible passage for times of temptation?
Daily Commitment
·      Psalm 1:2-3 - … (the man) whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.

o     the psalmist says he meditates on God’s law daily

o     What encouragement do you draw from the word picture the psalmist uses to describe the benefits of this close walk with God?

A Community
·      Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, a brother is born for adversity
·      Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so one man another
·      How does being in community with other men who face similar struggles keep you on the right path?
o     Can you recount a time when a friend really stepped up at the right time to meet you where you were?

The Holy Spirit
·      Romans 8:26-27 -  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
·      I love Scriptures that tell us it’s OK to not have it all worked out, that we’re not called to be supermen!
o   Moreover, I really love it that God says, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.”
·      That battle is being fought (and won!) in a realm we don’t understand, with words we don’t understand.

Let us be wise as serpents in knowing there is a real war being waged but innocent as doves with our decisions and actions. Know His word, do His word, help and be helped by your brothers, and rest in the knowledge that the battle is the Lord’s.