Monday, February 20, 2006

Row the Boat

This morning on my way to work, I noticed a sign at an auto repair place:

"Men who are busy rowing seldom have time to rock the boat."

I immediately thought about the Church. Instead of sitting back logically deducing the "best way" to row... Instead of watching other people row the "wrong way"... Instead of trying to find an easier, more efficient way to move the boat... Let's just obey God! Let's DO what he wants us to do. Let's give our lives away. Let's love one another with a sacrificial love. And as he sees fit he will steer the ship and point us in the direction we should go. Let's use the oars he has supplied us with and in due time he'll get us more powerfully designed ones--ones we wouldn't be able to handle right now. And PLEASE let's keep our eyes of Jesus instead of the waves.

Ephesians 4 talks about the body of Christ growing as each part does its work. As each person grabs an oar and rows, we will be busy about the Father's business and we won't have the time to get into our own business (our own philosophies, ideas, methods, or who know what else).... which would end in disaster.

There's probably some more helpful meditations about being busy rowing, but I'll leave it there for now.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It Takes Time

Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. (Psalm 111:2)

It takes time to be a worshipper. We need to stop and look and listen for a while to appreciate all that God does and who He is. It takes time. Take the time necessary to consider the goodness of the Lord.

Are you thankful for your spouse? Take a few extra minutes to think about just what it took for God to put you two together. If you've ever had something happen "just in time", think about that too. Try to consider all of the times that God has put much love and care into your day. When a good thing "happens", think about all the "little" things that God had to do. Think of all the circumstances that needed to be timed perfectly; all the schedules that needed to line up properly. God puts much thought and care into each of our days, more than we often take time to notice or appreciate.

Take time to appreciate the Lord. He cares. Taking time to notice and appreciate Him is much of what I think of when I think about "worship".

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love (Psalm 48:9).


Here's a quote that you can't read quickly. Please take the time to read it and think about it. Don't simply nod your head and "agree". Truly ponder it and consider how it may apply to you. A friend wrote:

"CHRISTIANITY is not a technique, something to attend in a home or building, a philosophy of lifestyle, a belief system, or a social and do-good club. "CHURCH" is not something we can attain with knowledge and effort and sincerity. It is a Sovereign issue of God’s Intent, Timing, and Gifts. "I praise You, Father" for that! :) "

Christianity is not a philosophy of lifestyle…Christianity is not a belief system… It is not merely about believing the right things. It is tempting and even easy to begin thinking that what is wrong with some people is that they are believing false doctrines and they have false ideas about what God is like. But if the only thing we accomplish is to reform one's belief system… if all they do is exchange wrong beliefs for right beliefs… if all they do is think about God in a more accurate way… that comes up short. Yes, it is good to not follow false doctrines. But, there's something lacking.

For example: If someone stays married because they believe they "have to" because the Bible teaches against divorce, it is good that they are willing to follow the instruction of God's Word by not getting a divorce. However, their marriage will fall VERY short of what God wants their marriage to be like. He wants their marriage to be an example of Christ and the church, yet they are married only because "the Bible says". There will be many "small" facial expressions of disappointment and deep down there will not be joy in the marriage at all. I'm sure you know people who are "married", but there is very little heartfelt affection between them. How sad!!!!

See what I'm getting at? If we obey God merely because of a belief system… i.e. if we believe that a Christian is someone who must be Christlike, rather than someone who has merely said a prayer (i.e. we "believe" the right thing)… then our lives will lack many characteristics of Christ. We will lack joy. We will not be in awe over our God. A form of thankfulness will be there because the Bible says "be thankful", but it will not be overflowing from our hearts to the extent God wants it to. What about our genuine affection toward God? Loving God with all our heart must come from our heart!

Christianity is not a technique…

Do you ever treat Christianity like a "belief system" or "philosophy of lifestyle"? Do you ever treat it like a "technique"? Ask God to reveal it to you, to search you. I must admit, there have definitely been thinking patterns develop in my own life, that reduced Christianity to such things. Thankfully, God showed me. We are so prone to invent methods and mental compartments. We are so prone to treat the study of God the same way we treat the study of science, deriving theories for how he does things and models for how God works. Hmmm.

So, here's the original quote again. And if you like, I posted the link to the entire article from which the quote came:

"CHRISTIANITY is not a technique, something to attend in a home or building, a philosophy of lifestyle, a belief system, or a social and do-good club. "CHURCH" is not something we can attain with knowledge and effort and sincerity. It is a Sovereign issue of God’s Intent, Timing, and Gifts. "I praise You, Father" for that! :) "

Monday, February 13, 2006

What is the Kingdom of God?

Perhaps the title of this post sounds a bit too definite. I'm certainly not going to attempt to define the "Kingdom" exactly or to explain all the ins and outs of it. But, to me, something that I think of when I consider the "Kingdom of God" is that it is about being under God's loving authority and living as a subject in his kingdom--a kingdom that is invisible to most, and that will some day be visible to all. These are a few thoughts I had a couple days ago...

This morning I was thinking about having an eternal mindset. Jesus said that we are blessed if we are persecuted and suffer for righteousness. We are blessed when people say all kinds of evil things about us for his sake. We should rejoice because great is our reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12). When I thought about that phrase, "great is your reward in heaven", it hit me that such a mindset kind of sums up a lot of what I think about the kingdom of God.

When I think about the kingdom of God I think about being under the authority or "kingship" of God and therefore realizing that living with eternity in mind is more worthwhile than living with earthly things in mind. It is the mindset that allows me to say "amen" from the heart to the thought of being persecuted. It is the mindset that recognizes that my current citizenship is in heaven and I'm eagerly awaiting Jesus to return from there (Phil. 3:20). My citizenship in heaven is much more real than my citizenship of the United States. My citizenship here will expire upon death, but my citizenship there will be with me forever. The government of the United States will end; but his government will never end (Is. 9:7).

Knowing that only my citizenship in heaven will last, how then should I live? Such a thought embodies to me what it means to be in the Kingdom of God right now. Right now it is as if our King has gone on a journey and we are waiting for him to return (Matt. 21:33; 25:14). Actually, of course, our King is still very near to us and has not left us alone, but his physical presence is not here. We cannot see him with our eyes or touch him with our hands. The whole world cannot see him. The world does not know him (John 14:17; 1 John 3:1). But we know him. And we eagerly wait for the day when every eye shall see him (Rev. 1:7) and every knee bow before him (Phil. 2:10).

That Day is real to us. It WILL happen and we are excited. So, we choose to bow our knees now. We "see" him now, by faith with the eyes of our hearts. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor 4:18). And that's what I think of when I think of the Kingdom of God right now--an eternal mindset that lives by faith rather than sight. The things we cannot see are more real than what we can see.

The physical, bodily presence of our King is "on a journey" and he has given us tasks to do. We will be about his business, waiting for his return more than "watchmen wait for the morning" (Ps. 130:6). The Kingdom of God is here right now. God is a ruling King among those who will have him. Not everyone recognizes it now, but soon… "Come, Lord Jesus!" He will come and his reward will be with him. He is actually bringing a reward. What a Savior!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

His Great Love

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

This truth has been hitting me lately. He loved us FIRST. Before we ever thought of seeking him, he sought us. Before we ever had the smallest desire to begin walking after the truth, he drew us. We love because he first loved us.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).

That's what love is: GOD'S LOVE. It is easy to think about how we love him and how we want to love him more and how we want to love him with all of our hearts. But let's remember that his love is everything.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16).

Do I? Do you? Do we really put our confidence, reliance, trust, faith in the love God has for us? If so, we will be able to live in love; God himself will be living in us. His love will be made manifest among us. This is supernatural and beyond anything that anyone can "work up".

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me (1 Cor 15:10).

Oh, let us get a glimpse of God's grace--the pleasure he takes in us, the delight he has in us, his favor upon us, his love for us! If we RECEIVE that grace, it will have an effect on us... a powerful effect on us. We will no longer be the same. We will walk in the light as he is in the light. Our love will abound.

Love is a fruit of the Spirit. It is the result of his favor and his love being realized within us. Let us KNOW and RELY on the love he has for us. Take the time to consider him. Take the time to ponder his love for you. Think about his gracious hand upon you many times from the time you were a baby until now. Think about his loving, drawing hand that has chosen you to know the Gospel that had been hidden for ages, but revealed TO YOU. Think of the many billions of people who clearly do not have God's favor upon them as much as it is upon you. Think of how "lucky" you are to be confronted with the Holy One of Israel.... and then remember that there is no "luck".... it is God's choice. He has done this because of his great affection for you. An affection you didn't earn. Receive it. Let it be effectual in you.

You'll never be the same.

"The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you... KNOW therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands..." (Deut 7:7-9).


Thursday, February 02, 2006

People Who Care

"Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Col 4:12).

Epaphras was a bondservant of Christ. And he was a man of prayer. Obviously, Epaphras cared deeply for the wellfare of the Colossians. Paul said that he always labored fervently in prayer, praying that the Colossians would be able to stand "perfect and complete" in all of God's will.

There weren't many people like Epaphras who cared deeply for others. Specifically, he cared for the spiritual well-being of others.

Another man who comes to mind is Timothy. About him Paul said, "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ" (Phil 2:20-21). This is a sad commentary about the cares of others, but a great testimony of the love of God inside of Timothy.

Similarly, today there are not many who take a genuine interest in the spiritual well-being of others. Each person has their own cares of life that they are busy attending to. The call for us is to be a people who care for one another and will "go the extra mile" to help each other grow. The body of Christ grows as EACH ONE does it's part (Ephesians 4:16). Sometimes it is harder than we realize to truly put our own interests aside and invest ourselves in the lives of others.

You don't have to be a "preacher"; you just have to CARE.

"My house remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house" (Haggai 1:9).