Tuesday, November 22, 2016

1 Timothy - God's Family Values

I got chewed out. I didn't do it the way he wanted it done, so my boss chewed me out. The only problem was that he had never told me how he wanted it done. He was the kind who gave you just enough rope to hang yourself, and then pulled on the other end. 

God's not like that. He spent far too much on you, on all of us. The Bible says that He purchased the church with the blood of Jesus. He has a specific plan for how His church is to be designed, how we are to treat one another, and how we are to do ministry together and a big part of that instruction is in Paul's letter to Timothy.

Last Sunday we learned a little about Timothy. Paul doesn't waste any time in his instruction to Timothy and the church, so we won't waste any time. Sunday morning we'll get right to it in 1 Timothy 1:3-7, and we'll see that the first of God's Family Values is the Truth. God's family values the truth of God, and doesn't tolerate falsehood. There's no life in falsehood. There's only life in the truth of God. So, read up, bring your Bible, and let's make sure our church is designed by God.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Relax, God Is In Control

The fact that God is firmly seated on His throne is one of the greatest comforts and encouragements to the Christian. No matter what happens we "know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom.8:28)  Our comfort is not "this too shall pass", or simply that all things will work out in the end, but that the one true God has the authority to make all things work for our good and does that very thing.

God is sovereign in all things, including all the affairs of man. The prophet Daniel (2:21) wrote that God changes times and seasons, raises up and deposes kings, gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Paul to apply the sovereignty of God to those in authority, as he wrote the Romans (13:1), "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."  So, when it comes to the election of presidents, we don't have to worry. God is in control.

In a conversation about the election, I heard "Don't worry. God's still on his throne. Vote for the right person, but trust God." Another said, "I'm not even voting. God's gonna put the person He wants in office anyway. So, I'm not even going to worry about voting." That conversation made me think about how we apply the fact that our King is on His throne. Is the sovereignty of God meant to give me a vacation from action, or is it meant to empower and embolden me to righteous living?

The next president will be part of the sovereign plan of God. No matter who is elected, and how badly that seems to work out for godliness in this nation, God will make it work together for good for those who believe. Yet, unless God does something He has never done in the history of this nation, He will carry out His sovereign plan through the votes of the American people. He will use the form of government He instituted in this country to place the person in office.

Think about the sovereignty of God and evangelism. Some believe that God chooses who will and will not be saved, citing what Paul wrote "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills."(Rom.9:18) Paul also wrote that "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame... For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom.10:11, 13)  I'm not writing to discuss Calvinism or Arminianism. I'm writing to say that God clearly commands both Calvinists and Arminians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.  If we are to believe statistics, few Calvinists and few Arminians obey that command, yet both groups would say they believe God is on His throne. He is sovereign.

Whether you are a staunch Calvinist or Arminian, you must preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going into all the world, making disciples who follow Him. It is the command of our sovereign King to do so. The challenge of the Great Commission begins with His authority, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Mt.28:18)  And it ends with the assurance that of His kingdom there is no end, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt.28:20)

Faith in the sovereignty of God sets us free from worry. Relax, God is in control. It sets us free from the devastating questions that arise when bad things happen to good people. God has a purpose to make all things work together for the good of His children. Faith in the sovereignty of God also sets us free to courageously and boldly obey God.

The sovereignty of God should never be taken as an excuse for a lifetime vacation of passive Christianity. The fact that the omnipotent God is seated with full and eternal authority on His throne is meant to empower us and embolden us to live courageously obedient Christian lives, even if that obedience leads to our persecution or death.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Perfect Spiritual Soil . . . It's So Simple

"The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted." Matthew 28:16-17

Peat moss, pine bark mulch and vermiculite. That's it. Last Spring I grew my entire garden in potting soil bags. It was weed-free, easy to harvest, and gloriously productive. I piled up the bags on platforms I had made, cut them open, planted the seeds and plants and had more Romaine lettuce, salad greens, and spinach than we could eat. And, guest what? That potting soil was so simple. It had only three ingredients: peat moss, pine bark, and vermiculite.

Obedience, worship and humility. As I read Matthew 28 and the Great Commission I was fascinated to see the condition of the apostles when Jesus gave them this life-changing mission. Jesus had given them a command through the women who visited the empty tomb, "Go and tell My brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me there." (Mt.28:10), and they obeyed it as they "traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them." When they saw Him,  "they worshiped." And, apparently, those of them who doubted Him were open enough that their doubt was observable and became part of the Biblical record, "but some doubted."

When Jesus observed these men, worshiping and doubting, He "came near and spoke to them." How awesome is that, how fruitful our life is when the Lord draws near. 11 men obeying His command. By the way, there is no fruit or power in disobedience. 11 men worshiping Him. The most common word for worship in the New Testament means to fall on your face before God. There is no fruit or power in some of our worship, but there is when the worship is whole-hearted. Those who didn't worship, or did so with doubt, were humble enough to admit it. 

We don't know why they doubted. Was it really Him? Was it a ghost? Was in an imposter? Who knows? What matters here is that they were open and honest about their doubt. Hidden doubt is discouraging. Prideful doubt is deadly. "God resists the proud." But, admit your doubt honestly before the risen Lord, and it can become a root of humility. And, you know what God does with humility, right?  "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (Jms.4:6)

Mix obedience, worship and humility together and notice what God will do. He will come near, and speak, and what He speaks will change your tomorrow. The whole scene reminds me of that previously mentioned passage in James that we started above. Here's the rest. "Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (Jms.4:7-8a)

So, how's the spiritual soil of your life? Prepare it for what the Lord wants to do: obey, worship, and humble yourself before the Lord.