Sunday, January 3, 2021

FORMula for Life

 


Our minds control our feelings and our actions.  What we think about shapes every facet of our lives.  So how do we harness the power of our minds to live the abundant life God has promised us?  In our verse below, we have a choice to either conFORM or transFORM our minds.  This choice will dictate pretty much everything else in our lives. So which FORMula for living will you choose?

 

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

 

Things to think about:

·       This letter was written to believers – “brothers”

·       We have a choice to make

o   Conform – to take the shape of or to be in agreement with

o   Transform – to change in cooperation or structure

·       What is “the pattern of this world”?

o   1 John 2:16 – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life comes not from the Father but from the world

·       What does it mean to “transform your mind”?

o   The word repent comes from the Greek metanoia which mean to “change my mind”

o   It’s that simple and that profound

·       Our old nature, our enemy, and our world conspire to keep us thinking untrue or unhealthy thoughts

·       God desires for us to transform our minds. His two primary tools are His Word and His Spirit

His Word

·       Psalm 119 uses six words interchangeably for God’s Word

o   Laws, decrees, statutes, precepts, commands, and word

·       Proverbs 2:1-5 provides us with an acrostic for LAWS

o   Listen – accept My words and store up My commands in you, turn your ear to wisdom

o   Ask – if you call out for wisdom and cry aloud for understanding

o   Work – if you look for it as silver and search for it as hidden treasure

o   See – then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God      

His Spirit

·       John 14:16-17 – And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth

·       Acts 1:8 – and you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you

·       1 John 2:27 - Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and Him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught.

So, every day we have choices to make – to take in His Word and to allow His Spirit to teach and guide us.  Here are His promises from Proverbs 2:7-9

·       He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Wanting without Working is Wishing

 



As we wind down 2020 and think about the New Year, what is a goal or two you have for 2021? This could take many forms including your relationship with the Lord, your relationship with others, your character, your health, your finances, your work, your passions, your ministry, etc., etc.  Our two verses from Proverbs highlight a critical ingredient to achieving our desires – hard work.

 

Proverbs 13:4 - A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
    but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

 

Proverbs 14:23 - All hard work brings a profit,
    but mere talk leads only to poverty.

 

Bob 4:16 – Wanting without working is wishing

 

 

Things to think about:

·      So, what is at least one goal you have for the next year?

o   Do any of the examples above or maybe something else immediately resonate?

o   What picture is in your mind of what that would look like?

·      Our verses tell us that hard work and diligence are key.

o   The dictionary definition of diligence – steady, earnest, energetic effort.  Devoted and painstaking work and application to accomplish an undertaking.

·      What is prayer’s role in this?

o   Establishing the goals themselves

o   Strength

o   Discernment

o   Blessing

o   Something else?

·      Where have you seen the principle of diligence play out in your life?

o   Is there an example of someone you have seen model this?

·      Is there reprioritizing you need to do to make time for applying yourself to your goal?

·      As his life draws to a close, Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

o   With a firm vision of what he was working diligently for, Paul was able to persevere to the end to achieve his goal, the attainment of the crown of righteousness.

 Let us be equally committed to things worthy of our calling!



Monday, October 12, 2020

What's That Smell???





“What’s that smell???”  This question can be said with two different intonations and have two totally different interpretations.  If I walked into the kitchen where my wife is cooking, I might ask, “What’s that smell?” with great anticipation.  Or, I could walk in and ask, “What’s that smell?” with great disgust (and sleep on the couch).   

 

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. 

 

 

Things to think about:

·      So I guess you could say that as Christians we all have body odor – the Body of Christ 

·      But seriously, God is parading us around the world, having infused us with His Spirit, and as such we are spreading an aroma that reflects on Him, everywhere we go

·      The preceding verse in 2 Corinthians says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”

o   The word picture here is of a triumphant king and His army, marching through the streets of a conquered city with His prisoners in tow.

o   Ephesians 4:1-2  “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

 

·      Our aroma is like a perfume or a cologne.  The appreciation of the smell is in the nose of the beholder.

o   Do you know anyone who might overdo it a bit with the perfume or cologne?

§  That might have been me in high school – Old Spice and Brut J

·      To some, we are an aroma that brings death

o   One could suppose that God, since He is good, by definition would smell good to all people.  But our verse says it is putrid to some people.  

o   Why is that?  

·      To others, we are an aroma that brings life

o   Who in your life wafted God’s life-giving aroma that drew you to Him?

·      Do churches or believers sometimes try and cover up God’s aroma so as to not offend?

o   If so, what does that look like?

·      But to God, we are the pleasing aroma of Christ

o   Jesus has washed us in His blood and we are cleansed from the stench of our sins

o   Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

·      It seems that Love and Sacrifice are the key ingredients to this fragrance that are in a bottle called The Knowledge of Him.

·      Where is God leading you to spread the aroma?

 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Accounting


 


Last week we looked at Cain and one element of his story is him replying to God’s question, “Where is your brother Abel?” with a sarcastic, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  We all know the answer is Yes, I am my brother’s keeper.  A few chapters later in Genesis, once the ark has landed, God is giving Noah some instructions, including about food, where the Lord makes eating meat permissible.  There is however a caveat, it cannot still has it’s lifeblood in it.  Blood represents life and life is to be honored and respected.  Moreover, the Lord tells Noah, “for your lifeblood I will demand an accounting.”

Genesis 9:5 - ...And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

Things to think about:
God has granted us the precious gift of life, having been created in How own image.  But with that gift comes a responsibility to use it well and for that, and He demands an accounting. Thankfully, if we have received the free gift of Christ, we have redemption of our sins.
o Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. “
o Giving an accounting of my own life is daunting enough but I am also responsible for the life of my fellow man?  Am I really my brother’s keeper?
“And from each man, too, He will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.”
o If this is true (which of course, it is) then what does that look like in practice?
I’d like to suggest it looks like how we are to love God
o Mark 12:30 – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
o With these four attributes, they address
Physical (Strength)
Social (Mind)
Spiritual (Soul)
Emotional (Heart)
Physical
James 2:15-16, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 
Isaiah 58:7, “Is it not to share your food with the hungry
 and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them”
What are practical ways we can put these precepts into action?
Social
Isaiah 58:6, “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Romans 12:16,  “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
What are ways we can put these precepts into practice?

Emotional
Romans 12:15, “ Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 
Romans 15:2, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. “
2 Corinthians 2:4, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
What are ways we can put these precepts into practice?

Spiritual
Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Psalm 96:3 - Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,...”
Romans 10:13-15, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
What are ways we can put these precepts into practice?

Let us be prepared to give an accounting not only for our own lives but also for those of our fellow man.  If you ever get stuck in what that might look like, just remember Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength.





Monday, September 14, 2020

Pain of Cain

 



If you are the parent of more than one child (or if you have siblings), then you know the same factory can produce very different offspring!  And so it has been since the beginning, starting with Cain (the older brother) and Abel (the younger).  The story is well known but worth revisiting as it has a number of lessons for us today.

 

Genesis 4:5 - …but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

 

 

Things to think about:

·      The story of Cain and Abel begins with them each offering a gift to the Lord. “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.”

o   During this time there was no law dictating what should constitute an offering so there was no distinction between an offering of plants or animals.  This was simply an act of worship and gratitude to the Lord.

o   We do see that Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn (the best) while Cain brought “some of the fruits…”

o   God knows our hearts.  Why do you think He was not pleased with Cain’s offering?

·      From here, we see that Cain became “very angry”

o   What do you think it says about Cain’s character that anger was his dominant emotion?

o   What would other possible reactions have been?

o   One thing we don’t see is Abel gloating or ruling it over his older brother.  How does this compare with Joseph’s behavior with his brothers after his dream in Genesis 37?

·      God gently said to Cain, “if you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” But He also warned Cain that “sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you but you must resist it.”

o   God provides a wide open door of Grace to us when we have blown it

o   However, Cain did not repent or show a teachable spirit

o   Rather than looking to change his attitude, Cain sought to cause harm to his brother

·      If there was any doubt as to the content of Cain’s heart up to this point, it is now plain to see in his conniving and murderous plan.  “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?  “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

o   His jealousy was so out of control that he did the unthinkable and killed his brother.  Let’s not judge Cain too harshly here though, Jesus told us that if we have anger in our hearts for others, we have effectively done the same thing.

o   To add insult to injury, when God asks him where Abel is, Cain gets sassy and sarcastic – “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

§  We can have a tendency to justify our actions with an attitude that says I’m not responsible for the negative consequences I’m having on others.

·      So Cain was warned and he didn’t repent.  Sin always has consequences.  That’s not to say there isn’t forgiveness but there will be scars.  In Cain’s case, given his lack of repentance, God told him his work wouldn’t be blessed and that he had to leave his family and be a wanderer.

o   Cain now moves to self-pity (my pain is more than I can bear), loneliness (I will be a wanderer), and fear (whoever finds me will kill me)

o   God shows him one more act of mercy by promising him a mark that will serve to protect him from harm by others

·      If you are the parent of a wayward child, please note that God didn’t put any of the blame on Adam and Eve.  He dealt directly with Cain.

·      Lessons for us today

o   God cares about our hearts

o   God gives us plenty of warning

o   Unrepented sin has serious consequences

o   Signs of a Poor Reaction to a Bad Decision

§  Me-centered

§  Anger

§  Won’t listen to reason

§  Blame others

§  Compounding with more bad decisions

o   What did you learn from Cain’s story that you needed to hear or be reminded of?

Monday, September 7, 2020

Seasons

 



With Labor Day we mark the end of summer and the coming of autumn. Just like the seasons of the year, our lives go through seasons. 

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

 

 

 

Things to think about:

·      Seasons are different than the weather.  The weather is a daily event and can change pretty rapidly.  (What is the joke about Cincinnati weather? If you don’t like it, stick around for an hour, it’ll change!)  Seasons are longer and more consistent in their nature. 

·      There is a natural ebb and flow to the seasons of life that is God-ordained.  Each season has its own merits, although some may be more pleasant.

·      The chart below is totally of my own doing (feel free to move things around to your liking) but I attempted to arrange the fourteen different pairs based on their positive or negative qualities and relative intensities into the four seasons of the year.  For example, Love is in Summer (positive and more intense) with Hate in Winter (negative and more intense).

 

Spring

·      Plant

·      Build

·      Gather

·      Embrace

·      Search

·      Keep

·      Tear

·      Speak

Summer

·      Born

·      Heal

·      Laugh

·      Dance

·      Love

·      Peace

Autumn

·      Uproot

·      Tear Down

·      Scatter

·      Refrain

·      Give up

·      Throw away

·      Mend

·      Silent

Winter

·      Die

·      Kill

·      Weep

·      Mourn

·      Hate

·      War

 

·      Our verse begins with, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”.   Let’s take a quick look at some of the hallmarks of each season.

 

Spring

o   Things are generally going well and there is a sense of optimism in the air.

Summer

o   Life is in full bloom and the days are long and bright.

Autumn

o   Perhaps coming off of a high with a feeling that things might be getting worse before they get better.

Winter

o   Bleak and dark.  Better times seem far away.

 

·      Which of the seasons are you currently in? 

·      Have you recently come out of another season?

·      As you have matured (either chronologically or spiritually), have you learned to embrace more of the seasons?

·      How does God use each of the seasons for our growing to be more Christ-like?