Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Great Accomplishments

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Philippians 4:13

What does being Christ-occupied look like? During Bible study our Pastor asked this question. 

Because He is in me and I am in Him my response was "seamless integration." This dynamic explains how I can live out Philippians 4:13.

My friend, Gary Pike, picked up on that thread and offered an outstanding insight. "I can't do ALL things," Gary insisted, "but, everything that I do can be done through Christ who strengthens me."

Shifting the emphasis away from "all" and onto "through Christ" gave this Scripture a richer meaning.

Barely topping out at five feet tall, I'd be no match for Air Jordan in a slam dunk competition.

Even if Dr. Ben Carson was at my side, no one in their right (or wrong) mind would want me performing their brain surgery.

Under duress, humans can perform impressive feats of strength normally impossible. No one, however, can do it all. What we are capable of we can execute with excellence through Christ.

Most of us don't lead glamorous lives. Our days are filled with routine and even monotonous tasks. Often we operate on auto-pilot, day dreaming of a great adventure we'd love to have.

Instead of finalizing plans for an exotic expedition, we have lawns to mow, laundry to run, meals to cook and bathrooms to clean.

Our only opportunity to scale to new heights is by means of a ladder when we clean out the gutters. The white water we experience comes from washing the car and the dog - not shooting the rapids.

Thank God Christ lives in us. It is His strength that propels us through times of unending drudgery. 

Because of Him we can hold our tongue when a cashier struggles to make correct change or can cheerfully return any mistaken overage. We can extend patience to family, friends, co-workers and strangers when they fail to meet our expectations.

In addition, when hard-pressed and weary we can tap into a special reserve of much needed energy or relax without guilt when we've reached our limit or if He says, "No."

How about you? How would you describe a Christ-occupied life? How can the ability to do all things through Christ help with those boring but necessary tasks?

When have you come to the end of yourself and  found His strength kick in to power you through to the finish? Would you ever want to live any other way?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

One of Us?

"Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the anti-christ is coming, even now many anti-christs have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."
1 John 2:18-19.

Note. This post was originally composed on August 24, 2015.

As I write this, the stock market has tumbled. In the overnight session the Dow and the S&P have plummeted dramatically. Once again, on social media, I see postings declaring that this is The Big One. The end of the world is now in full swing.

Several months will transpire before you read this. Perhaps the U.S. and everyone else will be in turmoil (I have no advanced knowledge as I write this). Maybe what has just occurred is a much needed and long overdue correction. Either way, I believe the events that took place today, Monday August 24, and going forward are based on market cyclicality coupled with poor economic policy and financial decisions of individuals, businesses, corporations and governments and not blood moons and shemitah cycles.

In the midst of this financial hiccup/meltdown (which ever plays out) the verses in First John caught my attention. John not only expected the anti-christ to appear but also matter-of-factly stated that several had already come and gone. Contrary to the frenzy generated by some end-time teachings today, John's unfazed. He reminds his readers that this was inevitable, so don't panic.

Intriguing was the source of these flash-in-the-pan impostors, none of whom John mentions by name. He wasn't talking about the Roman rulers of his day but believers who'd gone rogue. The political power brokers didn't come out from the church; they were never in it.

Can we expect anything different from what happened in John's time to happen in ours? Will more anti-christs emerge from the rank and file of the church? (To clarify, as a former Catholic, I'm not nominating the pope!)

So what's my point? The hysteria generated by the market's drop had some believers calling for the rise of the anti-christ, suggestions included our sitting president and some others. I wonder if people are looking in the wrong place? Just a thought.

These scriptures in John don't get much end-times airplay and that's good. If they did Christian bookstores would be stocked with how-to manuals providing sure-fire litmus tests to be applied to any Christian one believed was suspect. Schisms would widen even more and the existing war of words would be amplified. Non-believers would shake their heads. "Hey, if that's Christianity, who needs it?"

How about you? Did the market's decline in August cause you to panic and to adopt a sky is falling attitude? If so, what impact did this have on unbelievers who themselves were in turmoil? What did this say to them about your Jesus whom you insist they need to know? How could you have demonstrated His ability to care for you when under pressure? If what they saw was someone as frightened or even more so than themselves, do you think they'd want what you have?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Timing is Everything

"But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again. For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" Gen. 15:16

Having received the promise of a long-desired child, God gave Abram a peek into his descendant's future - slavery for an extended period of time. An factor determining the length of their captivity was the condition of a foreign people-the Amorites.

The Amorites occupied a portion of the land destined to be Israel's inheritance. Off-spring of Cain, they were on par with their pagan neighbors, neither no better nor no worse. Why should their sinful behavior delay the Jews release from Egypt?

The Bible is silent on this point. Why God singled the Amorites out from everyone else isn't explained. His reasoning and timing often leaves us baffled and scratching our heads.

Because God never makes a mistake. We can conclude that certain things needed to be in place before Israel would be ready for freedom and these elements were time sensitive. God knew which generation was the right one and the best equipped to leave. Moses' birth was timed perfectly for him to be floating on the river just as Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe. God knew which Pharaoh had to be in power when it came time for the exodus. Joshua and Caleb had to be at the right age to qualify as spies to search out the land and bring back the good report. They also had to be in place when the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land in order to set an example of how to fearlessly drive out the inhabitants.

Despite his failings, Aaron had to be alive in order to be Moses' spokesman and the first High Priest. Rahab, the harlot of Jericho needed to be there and open for business in order to hide the spies. In doing so she saved her family and became part of the ancestry of Jesus.

Would God allow an unrighteous nation to flourish at the expense of His people? It appears He will. Suppose what was happening here was God extending a period of grace to the Amorites to repent and be ready to turn to Him when Israel arrived? How different would history have been if they did?

God's plans often contain elements we don't understand. Things aren't always skewed in our favor - at times it's the exact opposite. Does this mean that we are somehow to blame. Not all the time.

What's important is our reaction to unfair and unjust treatment. If we think He's hung us out to dry, will we still passionately pursue Him?

How about you? What in your life is beyond your control? Where does God seem indifferent or acting grossly unfair concerning your situation? Ideally, what should your response be? What changes can you make so that your actions mirror what you know is right?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Maybe Bigger Than We Think

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16

For years this scriptural reference has been seen scrawled on hand made signs behind the goal posts of many NFL (No Fun League) games. Extra points and field goals gave viewers the reminder that God loved so much that He gave.

This single sentence summary of the Gospel declares that God is inclusive not exclusive. He loves everyone, not just certain select groups. That truth has been the backbone of missionary endeavors worldwide. What's intriguing isn't what this verse says, but what it doesn't.

The Gospel authors chose words carefully. Describing Jesus' reason for coming the Apostle John used the word for the cosmos and not humanity. Does this matter?

The Greek word kosmos isn't restricted to our earth and its inhabitants but to all of the ever expanding creation. What do you know, it isn't all about us after all.

The story of creation includes all of outer space: planets, galaxies, stars, moons, sun and our earth. Adam's sin had cosmic ramifications, all of creation took a hit. According to Jewish tradition, in the beginning, God opened Himself up and created a void. In that space He placed His creation inside Himself. If this is so, God must be experiencing the ultimate upset stomach - just kidding-maybe.

Jesus' plan was to save the cosmos but how would He accomplish this? What if He wants to use us? Looking at the condition of earth we don't appear to be the ideal candidates for the job. Its time to change our perspective.

In his book, Healing the Land, author Winkie Pratney posed some thought provoking ideas. If Adam's sin had such devastating consequences on creation, what has been the impact of all mankind's sins going forward? What if those harmless little white lies continue to wreak havoc on creation still? If all sins negatively impact creation which in turn affects humanity directly, is there such a thing as victimless crime?

Recycling and responsible stewardship of earth is necessary but would the most ardent environmentalist be willing to undergo a radical lifestyle change if that's what's really necessary in order to save the planet? Pratney concludes that we cannot expect the blessings of Heaven while living like hell.

Man was originally given earth to care for and to tend, a job we've been marginally successful at. The Bible says all creation is in bondage and groans waiting for the Sons of God to get their acts together and take responsibility. As they do, creation will come back to God's original intent and design. And even in it's perfect state, someone will still have to cut the grass.

How about you? How does the breadth of God's redemptive plan change your understanding of salvation? If our actions, both good and bad, impact all of creation what types of behavioral changes are you willing to make to save our planet and the whole cosmos? How have your ideas concerning the responsibilities of the Sons of God changed?