Monthly Archives: July 2013

Today’s Scripture – July 31, 2013

Luke 19:12-13, 20-24 (NIV):  He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.  So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’…

“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.  I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?  Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

“Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’”

 

Just as in Jesus’ day, there are many in our time whose preoccupation is the appearing of the kingdom of God in all its fullness.   These days that tends to be focused on Jesus’ return, its timing, and the order and timing of events surrounding it.  But, as Jesus pointed out many times (most notably and explicitly in Acts 1:7), that is not to be the focus of God’s people.  His instructions were quite clear as to where our focus should always be:  be ready, and be found doing His work when He returns.

Too many today believe themselves to be ready simply because they are “saved.”  But far too few are diligently doing Jesus’ work, obeying His commandment to go and make disciples of all nations.  They forget this parable of Jesus in which the man of noble birth (Jesus) goes away to have Himself appointed King, and then returns.  In the interim, He leaves His wealth (the kingdom of God, salvation, redemption) in the hands of His servants, with the express directive to “put this money to work until I come back.”

At least two of the servants obey, each one showing increases in the money the Master left.  These are praised by the Master, and given great rewards.  The last servant has merely “kept safe” that which the Master had left in his care.  He lost not a penny of it, but he showed no increase, no multiplication of what the Master had left to him.  The Master’s response is immediate and harsh.  His instructions had NOT been to keep the money safe, but to put it to work so that it would increase and grow to the Master’s credit.  Merely keeping it safe was not caution, it was active disobedience.  In the final judgment, the Master took the money from the disobedient servant, and gave it to the one who had been most faithful in multiplying the resources of the Master.

The application is easy to see.  Jesus has indeed gone away to receive His kingdom in due time.  In the meantime, He has left His servants in charge of growing His kingdom, being witnesses (Acts 1:8) and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).  This commission was not merely to those first century disciples, but to everyone who receives eternal life as a result of repentance and receiving Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  This salvation, even more precious than the minas in the parable, is not to be merely kept safe, but is to be “put to work” in bringing salvation to others, in growing the kingdom, and in showing a powerful increase in the numbers of people who are saved.

And this work is not just for the “professional” ministers of the gospel.  In our age, the paid ministers, those who hold official positions of leadership in the Church, hold almost the whole burden of bringing in the increase, of leading people into the kingdom.  Most of the others don’t see it as a part of their job as a Christian.  But putting our salvation to work and multiplying those in the kingdom is the job of every single believer – it is the job that we have been left with; the job that we must be found diligently doing when Jesus returns.  Otherwise, we will be ashamed before Jesus when He returns, standing there with our one mina, laid away safe and secure, but totally unproductive.

 

Father, this is too important to ignore!  Help us to put our salvation to work this very day.  Help us to share out story of how Your love has touched us and changed us with everyone we meet, so that we can multiply the souls coming into Your kingdom.  Lord, let us never be content with standing by while others do the work You have left for each of us, but help us to be diligent and faithful servants, that You will find hard at the work of Your kingdom when You return.  Amen!

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Today’s Scripture – July 30, 2013

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV):  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  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.

 

Jesus promised His disciples that in this world we will have troubles (John 16:33b), and that, in addition to all of the good things that we receive, that we will also be subjected to persecutions (Mark 10:30).  God’s people have always found it so.  Peter and Paul are wonderful examples.  They are also wonderful examples of how to not only stand firm, but to shine and be powerful and effective in the midst of suffering.

These days there is a bad theology among God’s people, very popular with some.  It says that if a person is following God steadfastly, that He won’t let anything bad happen to them.  On the surface it sounds good, and some proponents of this belief do well at making it sound logical, but it does not make biblical sense.  If even Jesus fell prey to sinful men, how do the rest of His people reason that we will be spared the same kind of things.  Jesus told His followers many times that they would experience the same oppositions, the same kind of sufferings that He did in their following Him.

But those early disciples soon discovered the secret of standing firm, even in the midst of trials and suffering.  As Paul wrote, they did not lose heart when the suffering came.  Instead, they rejoiced that they were “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)  They leaned on God and on the presence of the Holy Spirit to experience inward renewal every single day.  And, most importantly, they maintained the “long view” of things.  That’s what allowed Paul to refer to all that he had suffered for the kingdom as “light and momentary troubles.”  He was comparing them to the eternal glory in God’s presence that he knew God was holding in store for him, and for all of the rest of those who overcome.  And he understood clearly that the sufferings that God allows to impact our lives were designed to either further the advance of the gospel, or to make us more dependent on Him for the power that we need to bear up under it.  After all, the Philippian jailor might not ever have heard the gospel if Paul and Silas had not been beaten and imprisoned (cf. Acts 16:16-34)!  But, at least after Pentecost, we never see Christians in the early Church railing at God for “letting them down,” or deserting them, or disappointing them.  Jesus told them clearly that troubles, sufferings, and persecution would come, but He also encouraged them, told them to face those times of suffering with courage, because He had overcome the world, and promised to never leave them or forsake them.  And those who hold firm when troubles arise will find out that He was telling the truth!

 

Father, forgive our fickle hearts that don’t trust You, but that accuse You in times of trouble.  Help us to lean into You when problems come (and they will!).  Thank You for Your overcoming presence in my life.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 30, 2013

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV):  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  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.

 

Jesus promised His disciples that in this world we will have troubles (John 16:33b), and that, in addition to all of the good things that we receive, that we will also be subjected to persecutions (Mark 10:30).  God’s people have always found it so.  Peter and Paul are wonderful examples.  They are also wonderful examples of how to not only stand firm, but to shine and be powerful and effective in the midst of suffering.

These days there is a bad theology among God’s people, very popular with some.  It says that if a person is following God steadfastly, that He won’t let anything bad happen to them.  On the surface it sounds good, and some proponents of this belief do well at making it sound logical, but it does not make biblical sense.  If even Jesus fell prey to sinful men, how do the rest of His people reason that we will be spared the same kind of things.  Jesus told His followers many times that they would experience the same oppositions, the same kind of sufferings that He did in their following Him.

But those early disciples soon discovered the secret of standing firm, even in the midst of trials and suffering.  As Paul wrote, they did not lose heart when the suffering came.  Instead, they rejoiced that they were “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)  They leaned on God and on the presence of the Holy Spirit to experience inward renewal every single day.  And, most importantly, they maintained the “long view” of things.  That’s what allowed Paul to refer to all that he had suffered for the kingdom as “light and momentary troubles.”  He was comparing them to the eternal glory in God’s presence that he knew God was holding in store for him, and for all of the rest of those who overcome.  And he understood clearly that the sufferings that God allows to impact our lives were designed to either further the advance of the gospel, or to make us more dependent on Him for the power that we need to bear up under it.  After all, the Philippian jailor might not ever have heard the gospel if Paul and Silas had not been beaten and imprisoned (cf. Acts 16:16-34)!  But, at least after Pentecost, we never see Christians in the early Church railing at God for “letting them down,” or deserting them, or disappointing them.  Jesus told them clearly that troubles, sufferings, and persecution would come, but He also encouraged them, told them to face those times of suffering with courage, because He had overcome the world, and promised to never leave them or forsake them.  And those who hold firm when troubles arise will find out that He was telling the truth!

 

Father, forgive our fickle hearts that don’t trust You, but that accuse You in times of trouble.  Help us to lean into You when problems come (and they will!).  Thank You for Your overcoming presence in my life.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 29, 2013

Matthew 5:25-26 (NIV):  “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.  I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

 

This scripture applies at two levels.  First, it ties in closely with the preceding verse.  If you have wronged someone, you need to go and make it right with them.  The people of the kingdom find no place for pride or self-justification in their lives – people are the most important thing to them (after God, of course!).  If I let hurt and anger fester in another person because of something I have done, I am putting a block between that person and heaven.  If it has escalated to the point of a lawsuit, I must do all I can to settle the matter before it goes to court.  This is assuming, of course, that there really is something I have done that is causing the lawsuit.  If there is, I must not justify it or minimize it – I must put it right as soon as possible!  If I don’t, the judge will find me guilty, or negligent, or whatever, and it will cost me dearly in time, reputation, and money.

But there is even more here.  This also speaks of the relationship between people and God.  Every person on earth is on their way to the Great Judgment, where every deed and every attitude of the heart will be laid bare.  If a person has received Jesus as their Savior and has lived a life that shows forth a heart devoted to God, then they will be welcomed into eternal glory.  If they refuse to receive Jesus, or if their actions show a heart that is turned away from God, they will be adjudged guilty, and be sent into everlasting darkness.  Thus it is vital, as each of us goes through life, that we ensure that there is no unforgiven sin or wrong found in us.  If there is anything out of alignment with God, we must set it right while we are “still on the way.”  We must repent (change our direction with regards to that area of sin), receive forgiveness, and begin moving in the right direction.  We must not delay.  We must not try to justify the sin, or make excuses as to how it’s “not that bad,” or how I am “just as good as most people, and better than some.”  Those who try to make that defense before the throne of God will find out just how useless it is.

It is vital that God’s people keep short accounts.  Any sin against God, any sin against another person (which is also a sin against God) MUST be repented of and forgiven immediately, so that no one shows up at the throne of God loaded down with sins.  We must make it right while we are still on the way, so that when we stand before God at the final judgment, we will be able to do so with every sin already paid for.

 

Father, thank You that You make this avenue available to us; that we don’t have to show up at the judgment and try to argue our case while loaded down with sins.  Thank You that You made a way through the blood of Jesus that we can settle matters with You along the way; that our sins can be repented of and paid for before we ever show up at Your throne.  And thank You for the amazing truth that we can come before You at the last judgment blameless and holy because of what Jesus has done for us.  Help me, help us, to live out these realities every single day of our lives.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 27, 2013

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV):  “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

 

Relationships between God’s people are of major importance to Him.  It is not enough to simply avoid physical mistreatment or murder; insofar as it is dependent on us, we are to all live at peace with everyone.  (Romans 12:18)  This is especially true in relationships between one of God’s people and another; we are all brothers and sisters, children of the same Father, and must allow nothing  to come between us.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • ·         Our sacrificial love for each other is a clear demonstration of God’s presence and power in our midst.  (John 13:35)  If we allow hurt feelings to fester and divide us, that witness is effectively destroyed.  If we ever allow the hurt to turn into hatred or factions, or if we ever end up dividing people, forming factions, or even leaving a congregation because of it, destroying the unity in that body, those actions smear God’s name, and cast a shadow of disrepute over His character.
  • ·         God has left His people (US!) a job to do:  to evangelize the whole world (including our own Jerusalems, Judeas, and Samarias – our cities and states).  The only way that this can be effectively accomplished is if we all work together in harmony, as one body.  An arm, or a leg, or even a head all by itself can accomplish nothing.  In the same way, no one person or small block of people can accomplish God’s task alone.  He has given the manifestation of His presence to the BODY, not just to individual parts of it, and no one has all that is necessary – we must all work together.  If disagreements, divisions, or hurts divide the body, it effectively halts the work entirely, and time, energy, emotion, and even finances, must be spent trying to heal the rift and getting the body back on its feet once again.

If we realize that division has occurred in the Church, especially if it is because of something that we have said or done, we must not delay in making it right.  We should even leave the worship service to patch things up -it’s that important!  We must humble ourselves, repent, apologize, and make it right.  We must never excuse away behavior that has caused a rift; we have to own it, and put into place whatever we must to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  After we have made peace, after we have restored unity to the body, THEN we can come and offer our worship to God, and He will receive it.

 

Father, I’m afraid that Your Church is fairly riddled with divisions and separations between brothers and sisters.  I can see that this is one huge reason why we are less effective that we must be to carry out Your mission.  Many pray for You to make us one, when the whole time it is up to US to make it right with those we have hurt.  Forgive us, Lord.  Open our eyes so that we can clearly see anyplace we must go to do the work necessary to make the healing that must take place.  Help us to know anyone who has something against us, so that we can go to them, confess, repent, and find their forgiveness, so that Your whole body may be one, and Your work move forward.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 26, 2013

Colossians 3:23-25 (NIV):  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

 

As God’s people, we must always realize that when we come to Him for salvation; when we repent of our sins and receive His forgiveness; when we plead for and receive His mercy and His grace; when we commit to live the rest of our lives for Him; at that moment, we become God’s slaves, His servants by choice.  At that moment, God purchases us, body, soul, spirit, with the price of Jesus’ life and blood, just as He purchased the Levites as priests and servants when He saved Israel from the plague on the firstborn of Egypt. (Numbers 3:11-13)  In the same way, everyone to whom He has been given eternal life belongs to Him and is His to command from that moment forward, for all the rest of their lives.

From a functional standpoint, that means that every saved person’s day belongs to God, and everything that we do will be done for Him and as a witness of Him and His kingdom.  If we are at work, we are actually working for God, and as a representative of the kingdom.  If we are diligent in our work, that diligence is counted as diligence to Him, and the reputation of the kingdom is enhanced.  If we are not diligent, if we are lazy or dishonest, if we do not give a good return for our pay, we are not only cheating our earthly bosses, we are cheating God out of the wages that He has helped us to receive, and we bring disrepute on Him and on His kingdom.

Being God’s slave and working for Him as His servants is not optional for Christians, and it’s not just for “paid clergy.”  Every saved person belongs to God, whether they acknowledge it or not.  If we serve God well, we open the door to abundant blessings in our lives.  But if we serve Him poorly, stiffening our necks against the yoke, resisting or ignoring His leading and direction, it will be considered open rebellion, and we will receive discipline from His hand.

 

Father, forgive us for the times that we have forgotten not just WHO we are in You, but WHOSE we are in You.  Forgive us for putting You into a “religious” compartment in our lives, and then living the rest of our lives as if You have no stake or ownership in every area of our lives.  Help us always to remember the staggering price You have paid for us, and that we come to You as slaves, as servants by choice, who owe You our very lives.  Help us to be a very good investment for You.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 24, 2013

Psalm 125:1-2 (NIV):  Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.

 

We live in an era of too much information.  Whereas in the past, people knew a lot about what happened in their town and the immediate area, and very little about what was going on in the rest of the world, today the average person is bombarded with news and information at a pace that no one can really assimilate.  When we watch, or listen to, or read the news, we can get everything bad or scary that’s going on in the whole world in just a few minutes.  Live updates bring huge tragedies right into our living rooms, and action cams take us halfway around the world to see the aftermath of bombings, shootings and riots in real time.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the sheer scope of tragedy, loss, and evil in our world.

But God’s people should never allow themselves to be overwhelmed.  Yes, our world is broken, and in a lot of places it’s a real mess.  And the further peoples’ hearts get from God, the more messed up the world becomes!  But God is still at work in the world, and the people of God would do better to focus less on the tragedies that are occurring everywhere, and more on how God can use us to be salt and light right where we are.  If we would begin our day by asking where God is working nearby, and then focus our attention there, drawing people into the kingdom, praying for and with those who are hurting, bringing God’s viewpoints to bear on local politics and issues, and generally shining the light of His presence into the dark places of our own communities, things would begin to change quite rapidly.  God’s people are not called to act world-wide as individuals, but to be salt and light where they are right now.  (Ultimately this will work on a world-wide scale, though, because God has people all over the world who can change their small part of the planet one life at a time!)

Note that this does NOT mean that we shouldn’t pray for people in other places, or do what we can to help when there are tragedies.  But it is way too easy to be so overwhelmed by the things that are going on world-wide that we don’t actually do anything at all.  It is also easy to be so distracted by the things that are going on in other parts of the world that we do not passionately pray for the communities where we live; we do not consciously act in our own neighborhoods to help people to find the Lord and remake their lives in His image.  If we have to choose to do one or the other, we would be much more effective in passionately praying for and working among the people in our own communities than trying to pray for everything that is happening in the whole world, and trying to do things in places farther away that we can reach.

God’s people must always remember that He is the Almighty, and nothing is too hard for Him, even changing the world!  And as long as God’s people remain in Him, as long as we work where He directs us, and steadfastly seek His direction and His power, we need never be overwhelmed or driven to despair by the broad scope of evil in the world.  We just need to shine where God has us right now.

 

Father, what a great way to look at it.  It IS easy to get completely overwhelmed by the evil and hurt in our world.  Help us to start putting our attention more on our local area – our homes and family; our workplaces; our friends and neighbors; our community.  Help us to seek our direction from You, and then to simply work the field You have given us, to help change it into Your kingdom, one life at a time.  Amen.

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