Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Good For Nothing

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” – Matthew 5:13

In our own minds and standards, we have developed a test by which people are measured.  This test defines their worth to us, and whether we like them or not.  For example, if you work for a living, rather than choosing not to work, you get points.  If you drive a fine car, live in a fine house, and dress stylishly, you get points.  If you’re physically attractive, for which we have another test, you get points.  If you are kind to us and charitable to others, you gain points. 

But our test is faulty in that none of these things matter to God in how He decides our worth.  And since He will one day decide our eternal value, and we will receive as our reward a robe and crown, the test we use should be His.  You don’t run a race and set your own finish line.  God has set the goal line for our lives.

The question then becomes, what does God see of value in our lives?  First and foremost, we have to understand that God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance as man does (1 Samuel 16:7).  So forget trying to please God with our fit figure, shiny hair, and straight teeth.  As He creates millions of people each day, giving life to the wombs of women, do we not see that He prefers variety to the mold of what we call beautiful?  And remember that in the Garden of Eden when it was in its perfect state, Adam and Eve didn’t have clothes.  Your designer dresses and fancy shoes don’t impress God at all.  He’s not into clothes.

So what does God see when He looks at your heart?  Does He see your own righteousness?  I hope not, for He has said that our own righteousness is as “filthy rags”(Isaiah 64:6), which when translated, actually refers to the menstruation cloths used by women.  Yes, you’re righteousness is as filthy, defiled blood.  What God values when He looks at your heart is the covering of righteousness through salvation.  Isaiah 61:10 says that our souls can be joyful in God because He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.  Without the perfect blood of Jesus as your sin sacrifice, your heart is still defiled.  It takes faith in Jesus Christ to be saved, and without faith, you cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Once saved, God has work for you, not just long days of living in lush lives of salvation.  God expects you to be His hands and feet, to take Jesus to the world.  In our little test, you may get points for going to church every Sunday and warming a pew seat.  But God’s test has nothing to do with that pew.  God’s test, in fact, is outside the church walls.  And thought you can engage in His activities from within the church, the activity itself is not what He is looking for.  He has asked you to be salt, light, and a city on a hill.

In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus is speaking from the top of a mountain to a group of followers.  He explains to them how they can be blessed on this earth, and then He explains to them that they will be persecuted, and why.  He compares the life of a Christian to two things, salt and light.

He says that we are to be salt.  Salt is a precious thing when you’re eating, but also can bring healing to wounds.  It preserves foods from rotting, and disinfects.  But Jesus goes on to say that if the salt loses its flavor its then “good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men”.  Salt, when kept in its little container is good for nothing.  Salt must gain contact with what it’s trying to season, preserve, disinfect, or heal in order to be of any value.  If you are keeping the salt of your relationship with Christ locked up inside you, unwilling to speak His name when He prods you to pour it out, you are good for nothing to God.  You weren’t saved to sit.

Jesus goes on to say that we are to be the “light of the world”.  Some find this contradictory to passages that say that Jesus is the light of the world, but it’s not.  When Jesus died on the cross, He foretold that He would send a helper, the Spirit of Truth, which is His Holy Spirit that we receive when we accept His salvation.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the third part of the trinity, which is given to us and lives in us.  His purpose is given in John 16:13, which says “He will guide you into all truth”, speaking not of His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak.  He reveals the things to come.  1 Corinthians 2:9-13 says that He will reveal to us the thoughts of God, the depths of God, because only He, being the Spirit of God Himself can know them. 

We become the light of the world because the Holy Spirit is given to us.  But as Jesus says in Matthew 5:15, you aren’t to put that light under a basket, but on a lampstand.  SHINE!  You’re not a light for your own personal closet, where only you can see it.  You’re not even a light for just your own family.  You are the light of the WORLD.  But if you refuse to let the Holy Spirit out of your closet, refusing to share what God has given you, you cannot be the light of the world. 

The one single thing this world needs today, and the only thing it has ever needed, is the light of Jesus Christ spread over the darkness and evil that live in it.  Many times in the Bible evil is referred to as darkness.  Why?  Because darkness is the absence of light.  Where there is light there can be no darkness.  John 1:15 says that “The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  For those that are not walking with God (saved or unsaved) to see the wrongs they commit, someone has to shed some of God’s light on those wrongful deeds.  You might think you’re doing people a favor by not correcting them.  You might think that correcting is judgment, which is wrong.  But if no one ever taught you how to feed yourself with a spoon, you’d still be eating with your hands.  Would you prefer that?  The most loving thing we can do for those that need God’s light is share it, with love. 

How does Jesus see giving His light to his believers?  He compares us to “a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden”.  Picture Jesus’ surroundings when He made this statement.  At the top of a mountain with a vantage point higher than all others, He looks out at the surrounding mountain tops, and says, perhaps pointing to a city on an adjacent mountain, “a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Your light, the Holy Spirit living in you, does not come with a shade for a reason.  It is through sharing the Holy Spirit that men see our hearts, where God looks, and the pure Spirit of God that lives within us.  That is not a point of pride for us, because He is not of us – but of God.  He has allowed His Spirit to live within us. He is NOT our spirit, but God’s Spirit.  And by showing the world our light, Matthew 6:16 says “they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

Our lives are of no value if they do not bring glory to God.  We may have the biggest house, the fattest bank account and retirement, have thousands of friends who would rush to our need, live in fame, and have the most desired figure and beauty of any one in the world.  And in the end, the house will collapse, the bank account will contain only paper that has no value (gold is God’s gravel), the people that loved us will die and meet their own fate, and your body will turn back to dust.  It is only your spirit that will live on with the eternal life that God has granted through salvation.

When we get to heaven, our test will be over, and our worth and value will be weighed according to God’s test, not mans.  Will He find us “good for nothing”?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

His Word

Forever, O Lord,
Your word is settled in heaven.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
You established the earth, and it abides.
They continue this day according to Your ordinances,
For all are Your servants.
Unless Your law had been my delight,
I would then have perished in my affliction.
 I will never forget Your precepts,
For by them You have given me life.” – Psalms 119:89-93
There is art of God’s word.  Today I stumbled upon the meaning of an “acrostic Psalm”.  Psalms 119 is an acrostic Psalm.  It is divided into 26 sections – one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The names of the letters are given as headings for each section, starting with Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, He, Waw, and continuing.  Each section is exactly 8 verses long.  Perhaps it’s my natural desire to organize and label things, but I enjoy knowing this!  God’s word in this chapter is so organized, nice and neat.
But this Psalms is also rich in many of the verses and ideals we hear often in songs, such as:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Verse 105
You are my hiding place” – Verse 114
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” – Verse 11
“Your word has given me life” – Verse 50

The Psalm also paints beautiful analogies with deep meanings, such as:
“Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law.” – Verse 136
“I have gone astray like a lost sheep” – Verse 176
My soul clings to the dust” – Verse 25
“My soul melts from heaviness” – Verse 28

But these small things are not why I love reading God’s word.  Picture a woman left behind as her one true love goes to war.  She is alone, and her love has not yet returned.  She opens each letter she has from him and reads it, and re-reads it.  She cherishes each word, and ponders over small things, like why her love used the word “we” instead of “you” for hours.  She sits gazing into thin air, remembering the words, hearing his voice say them.  She learns more and more of him by re-reading the letters, and even reading between the lines.  She does all this because she longs for the day when her one true love will return.  That is why I love God’s word.  I know who wrote it, He is my one true love, and I know one day, He will return.  Until then, this is what I have to remember Him.
The passage from verses 89-93 speaks of how wonderful His Word is.  It says His word is settled in Heaven, meaning it is the final word with no arguments against it in Heaven, the home of Truth.  It says that He is faithful to all generations, not breaking His word.  There have been thousands of generations – but God has never failed a single one.  He does not lie.  He is Truth.

He established the earth thousands of years ago by His spoken word.  He spoke into existence light and dark, which control the life of vegetation on earth, and therefore all life as it is the source.  And today, it still remains because those spoken words still live on. He has not said “Day, don’t have light” or “Night, stop coating the world in darkness”, and so they continue from His words spoken from creation.
His Word, which stands even now, hundreds of years after it was written, and is still the all-time best seller.  Why?  Because it is alive, and for us, it brings truth and life.  When we are in affliction from our sins, separated from Him, it is His word, read alone or spoken from the pulpit, which gives us life and reconnects us with Him until He returns. 

Thank you God, for your beautiful Holy Word.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Bondservant of Christ

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” – Romans 1:1

The word “bondservant” is used throughout the New Testament as a title for several followers of Christ. The apostles would sign their letters to the churches at the beginning of the first chapter because this was the first words to be seen on a scroll.  They presented their name and title to the reader by saying they were a “bondservant of Jesus Christ” or a “bondservant of God”.  It was the title of Paul (Romans 1:1), Epaphras (Colossians 4:12), James (James 1:1), Simon Peter (2 Peter 1:1), Jude (Jude 1:1), and even used to describe the service of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:7).  
The word “bondservant” carries the connotation of slavery.  Slavery begins with being captured, placed in “bonds”, and taken into service against your will.  It removes freedom, inflicts harm, and pain.  But that’s not what being a bondservant means. 

The Greek word for bondservant is doulos (Strong’s G1401), which carries four parts in its meaning.  It means:
  • "a servant and attendant”
  • one who gives himself up to another's will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men”
  • “a slave”
  • “devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests”. 

The difference in being a bondservant and being a slave is that a bondservant chooses to take on the role rather than being captured and forced.  He chooses to give his life for the cause of Christ, to give up what he wants to follow what Christ wants.  He is self-less to the point of donating his own life for the cause of Christ, without expecting anything in return.
Reread that last part.  He expects nothing in return.  The difference in a bondservant and an employee is that an employee earns wages for what he does in service to his master.  A bondservant earns nothing, and yet does the job with full devotion anyway. 

What if Christianity had no perks, no blessings, no comfort, no intimacy with God through the Holy Spirit, no position in the church, no rewards…whatsoever?  Would we still choose to be a “bondservant of Jesus Christ”?  The question puts a spotlight on our hearts, where our true allegiance is rooted.  A bondservant serves out of love and devotion to their master.  An employee serves for his own gain. 
If to be a Christian means to be Christ-like (and it does), then we have to serve God out of love for Him.

To serve because we want a jewel encrusted crown when we get to Heaven is to serve as an employee. 
To serve to hear God say, “well done, my good and faithful servant” is to serve as an employee. 

To serve for the comfort of a church position or popularity is to serve as an employee.   

We have to serve without considering or getting hung up on the blessings of Christianity.  1 John 3:16 says “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  Jesus was willing to lay down His life, to become a bondservant of God, to be self-less for our good.  As we serve each other, the love of Christ should be our only fuel.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Cursed Ground

This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” – Genesis 2:4-6

One thing I know from being raised on a farm is that you have to break up your ground if you want a good crop.  Just sticking a seed in some hard dirt won’t cut it.  Dirt can get as hard as a rock, especially if it’s on a hillside where the rain will run off it instead of into it.
It wasn’t always like that.  In Genesis 2:5-6 it says, “a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground”.  There was no need to plow the ground.  Water was seeping through the ground, creating aerated, moist ground, perfect for planting.  God says prior to explaining the mist that “the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground”.  God would not have left the earth He had just created without proper caretaking.  If He needed rain, it would have happened.  If He needed a man to till the ground, He would have one.  But the mist watering the earth from below was sufficient to grow every fruit, herb, grass and grain He had created.

The first part of the curse spoken to Adam after sin entered man’s life was in reference to the ground.  It says in Genesis 3:17-19, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” The passage in Genesis 3 continues in verse 23, saying “therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken“.  From this point on, it had to be tilled, loosened up for planting. The mist isn’t referred to again in God’s word.
The ground itself was cursed, the very material in which we were created from.  Thorns and thistles grow on bad ground, ground that is unattended.  We’re told that the ground would no longer just give us grain, herbs and fruits, but we would have to work for it.  Have you ever weeded a garden with thorns in it?  It’s not much fun!  God describes it with words like “cursed”, “toil”, “sweat”, and “till”. 

How cursed was the ground?  Cain’s offering to God was “an offering of the fruit of the ground” and God refused it, but accepted Abel’s which was a gift of life - the life of a lamb.  When Cain killed Abel, God cursed the ground even further for Cain, saying “So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. (Genesis 4:11-12)”.  Growing a crop isn’t an easy thing, and I don’t know how any farmer does it without a ton of faith!  Only God can provide rain, and allow the dirt to grow something from a seed into a plant. 
And how do we react to that cursed dirt?  I think it appropriate that when we get dirt on us, we tend to want to wash it off as soon as possible.  And when we sin, we often refer to it as “dirty”, or needing to “clean up” our act.  We see dirt as problematic, which is what God cursed it to be.  

Yet, God’s grace continues to shine through as we look at the grass that grows to the point we have to mow it down, the beautiful strawberries red and ripe, corn growing to taller than we are, blackberries growing on a thorn bush, and roses blooming among the thorns.  How beautiful are His creations, which still grow from the cursed ground He gave us to rule over.  When we consider that the flood that came after creation was because God was sorry He had even made man (Genesis 6:7), how blessed we are and how much grace and mercy have been given to us that we can continue to till this cursed ground!


Monday, July 8, 2013

The First Third Day

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.  And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  So the evening and the morning were the third day.

When we hear mention of “the third day” we often think of the day when Jesus was resurrected from the grave, and rose to life eternal.  This was the day in which death was overcome, and through Jesus we are able to have eternal life, a life without end.
But the very first “third day” was also about life.  On the first day the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, created light, and divided it from darkness calling them Day and Night.  On the second day God created Heaven, which “divide the waters from the waters”, meaning those here and those above.  Then on the third day, God gathered the waters under the heavens (small “h” meaning skies, not the place of Heaven), and created dry land, which He called Earth, and the waters He called Seas.

But the earth was barren, just a ball of dirt and water.  Even at this early stage of creation God craved life on earth. He said in Genesis 1:11, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.  And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  So the evening and the morning were the third day.”

There’s a message here regarding our own life, which was not yet created.  The herb and fruit that were created were such that “yields seed”, “whose seed is in itself”, and “whose seed is in itself according to its kind”.  God planned life and reproduction on the third day of food sources.  Yet we were not yet created, nor were the animals. 
God spent the next two days making the animals of the sea and land, and then on the sixth day created man.  He, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, said in Genesis 1:26, “Let US make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

And once man was created, God spoke to him and said “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.  Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”. 

Earth was created for man to rule over, from the ground up.  Life was created from the third day, with seed within each plant and creature to reproduce its own kind.  God loves life!  And He purposefully prepared earth for us before creating us to rule over it.

The third day of the New Testament, the day Jesus, often called “the seed of David” and “the Son of Man”, arose from the grave.  From the ground, the grave itself where he was buried, Jesus was brought to life, but this time it was to eternal life.  Jesus tells us that He goes to prepare a place for us so that when He comes again, He will gather us to Himself (John 14:2-4).  He is preparing a place for us to give us more life – a Heavenly place.  And in that place, we will once again have dominion as we reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12, Romans 5:17).

The third day of the New Testament was planned to be a day of life even from the beginning of time.  Life is our precious gift from God, given through Jesus Christ, one “whose seed is in itself, on the earth”, to create more from Him by later giving us through salvation His Holy Spirit.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” – John 15:13.17

There’s a common fear among Christians that sin will rub off on you, that it’s contagious, and that associating with those who are living in sins that we see as the worst of them could harm us. 

What would people think if we started hanging with those that are addicted? 
What would they think if we started talking to those that are living with someone outside of marriage? 
What would they think if we befriended someone who is frequently in trouble with the law? 
What would they think if we spent time with someone who drinks?

Pick a sin, any sin, and you’ll find an audience to ridicule you if you go near it.

We use this fear of the contagion of sin and judgment of others as a reason not to reach out to those who need our Christian influence in their lives most.  But Jesus was and is a friend to sinners.  This title was one given to Him by those who despised him in Matthew 11:19, saying “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”  Yet, Jesus Himself refers to us as His friends (John 15:14), accepting the role of friend to sinners.
Jesus was sent by God to be our redeemer.  He was already ordained to be our High Priest, our Lord, and our Intercessor.  This was God’s will for Jesus’ life on earth and throughout eternity.  But according to John 15:13-17 Jesus chose from His own love for us to become our friend.  He said “You did not choose me, but I chose you”.  He says that if we want to be His friend, we are to do what He commands us to do, and then we are no longer servants, but friends.

I have a job, and I report in to do that job at least 40 hours a week.  But I don’t consider my management my friends, even though they are good to work for, and I do love my job.  I am their employee, and they are my employers.  In other words, I am their servant – not their friend.  Jesus was God’s son and His servant as well, “for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you”, as God told him to do.  He says in John 5:19 “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. If we are to be like Christ we are to be not only children of God, but His servants as well.  We are to be the friend of sinners.
Friendship is what we need to offer those that are suffering under the burden of the sinful nature that we are all born into.  Friendship is not advocacy, which offers to defend the person or side with them with statements such as “leave them alone, you haven’t walked in their shoes” or “they’re young” or “God isn’t done with them yet”.  Friendship is love, giving of time, offering advice, and sharing of life and compassion.  Friendship is a shoulder to lean on, a hand up, a warm embrace, and if need be, friendship is sacrificial.

There are those that raise Ephesians 5 as a banner over their selves, rendering it’s meaning to an excuse not to associate with those who are living without Christ.  I know a couple who once thought it wrong to allow a couple living together to enter their house, or to sit and eat with those that had been divorced.  But friends, that is not what Ephesians 5:1-16 is about, which says: 
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.  But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.“

It says that we are to be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma”.  Can we not hear from these words that we are to also be friends of sinners? 
The primary misunderstanding comes from Ephesians 5:3-7 which tells us that there are sins that should not be part of the born-again Christian’s life.  Make no mistake – not all sins are equal.  There are some God considers worthy of death, as shown many times in His word.  The beam and speck in the eye that Jesus referred to describe one sin as less than another.  But when Paul describes these sins in Ephesians 5 he is not referring to our friendships and witnessing to those who are living with these sins, but to our own lives! 

Paul goes on to say “for you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the world. Walk as children of light”.  He is saying that if these sins were in our lives before we became “children of light”, or Christians, then they should not be once we are given the salvation of Jesus Christ.  He is NOT saying that we should not go near the souls that are still living in these sins! God forbid we overlook the fact that Paul himself was a missionary to sinners! 
And the passage goes on to say that we are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them”.  When we look at the true Greek meanings behind this passage, we find that that fellowship refers to partaking in something that is an “unfruitful” or of no value to God, “work of darkness”, which would be practices that ignore God’s divinity and sovereignty.   Of these things we find such acts as astrology, witchcraft, fortune tellers, and so forth.  These are the “unfruitful works of darkness”, and Paul says we should expose them.  But if you are not near enough to it to see it happening – you can’t expose it to the point you remove it.  You have to come near the fire to put the fire out!

And how do we expose them?  Yes, Paul tells us that too!  He says all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light”.  The Light is Jesus Christ.  Our mere presence, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, should show evil as evil and good as good.
You can’t hide your Holy self under a rock and expect sin to walk away from the lives of those you love and are called to minister to.  Darkness doesn’t run until the light shows up!  But if you’re living with a flickering candle of a light, not living the life God designed for you, your light may only create a shadow near the darkness you want to remove.  The immunization we have to the contagion of sin is found in the blood of Jesus, nothing more and nothing less.  Once reborn, we are to guard our life so as not to set a trap for ourselves. 

If you have an overwhelming urge to gamble, you shouldn’t play poker with your lost friends.  If you have been freed from an addiction, don’t go to parties where the drug of choice is there.  Sanctify yourself by studying God’s word and praying until you have whipped those sins into submission before you dare try to minister to someone else.  I assure you, God equips those He calls, and if you are not equipped to handle it, He most likely is not calling you into service at this point.  Allow His to equip you first.    
It really doesn’t matter what people think if we become friends of sinners (noting that until we are saved we are all classified as sinners in God’s Holy Word).  It only matters what our Father in Heaven thinks.  He is the only authority to which we owe submission.  Submitting our lives and our choices of friends to anyone else is idolatry, choosing to serve their opinions over the will of our Father.  If God calls us to minister to a person living outside the life He has planned for them, it is our duty as His child to serve.  But it should be the love of Jesus in our hearts that causes us to also offer friendship.  It should be the command to “love one another even as I have loved you” that fuels our friendship.

Jesus, Friend of sinners.  We all proclaim to be grateful that He chose to be our friend.  How can we neglect to befriend others that desperately need to know Him? 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Paul's Prayer

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

There is such a warm feeling of love to hear a Christian brother or sister pray for you, to hear their words laid on the ears of God, as their heart opens to what they feel about you and their desires for you.  Prayer for each other is love in action.  While we often refer to prayer as a last recourse, with expressions such as “well, all we can do is pray”, surely there is nothing greater we can do for each other, given that our words are received by Almighty God.

Paul, on bended knee, prays for us, the Body of Christ, in Ephesians 3.  His words are rich in meaning beyond what we usually comprehend when we hear them.  Just the fact that he prays on his knees tells us that he is in a position of humbleness, seeking to persuade God with his words.

He first identifies who he is praying to, and who he is praying for.  He says “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named”.  Christians bear the name of Jesus Christ, the son of God the Father.  Paul, on bended knee is interceding for us.

He then prays for our strength and growth through Jesus’s righteous glory and His Spirit living within us.  He says “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being ROOTED and GROUNDED in love”.  Through salvation we become the temple of the Holy Spirit as we receive His Holy Spirit into our hearts. 

The word “rooted” is from the Greek word “rhizoō “, which means to strike (or grow) roots.  When a seed is first put into the ground, the old seed must decay, die away as the old man, to begin to create roots, and become something new.  To be rooted, a living plant receives nourishment from its roots, and grows into what it was uniquely designed by its creator to be. A corn kernel becomes a corn stalk, and an acorn becomes an oak tree, as they were uniquely designed to be.  Paul’s desire is that we cast off the old sinful nature, become rooted in God’s love, and grow into our individually unique design.

To be “grounded” is translated to the Greek word “themelioō” which is an architectural word meaning to provide stability, to settle, and to establish a foundation.  Paul’s prayer for us is that, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we would become settled, as if our feet were concretely set in our relationship with God through His love, unshakeable and firm in our faith.

But Paul continues his prayer by expressing why he desires to see us grow strong and firm in our faith.  He gives two reasons for which he desires to see our growth and faith. 

He first says “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge”. To comprehend the love of God is impossibility as it is without measure, but it can be described in part.  The ways in which Paul seeks to have us measure it expressed as a temple, with measurements given to its size before it is built.  To describe width, or breadth, is to describe the extent, which encompasses the entire world (John 3:16).  To know its length is to know that it is eternal (Psalms 136:1-26).  To know its depth is to understand that His love stretches down to the lowest sinner (Romans 5:8, John 3:16 “whosoever”).  To know its height is to know that we will be seated with Christ on the throne (Revelation 20:4, Ephesians 2:6). 

The second reason Paul gives for his prayer is “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”. The fullness of God (which is translated to “theos” in Greek) is found in the trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  We first receive the love of God through justification, which is the gift of salvation from God the Son, Jesus Christ.  We are joined to God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.   Paul’s desire was that we fully experience the unique relationship of being God’s child, and having Jesus as our brother.  Living in that relationship allows us to “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge”.  How great is that love in that He chose, while we were violently evil, to give us life and adoption into His very own divine family!