Friday, October 30, 2009

Submit to Legitimate Human Authority

1Peter 2:13,14 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

The practice of submission to human authority is a good thing, given that it is with regards to legitimate human authority acting within their legitimate realm of authority. In fact in Peter's time Christians had to disobey authority. For there came a time when the Emperor required Christians to worship him, which was not his God-given right to command. For all human authority has only a limited realm of authority outside of which they are not legimate authority, such as if they were to command people to sin. However if one steps outside of their legitimate realm of authority, such as the Emperor demanding worship, that does not mean they are no longer to be reckoned legitimate authority figures within their legitimate realm of authority. Daniel was an excellent example of one who practiced this type of submission.

Likewise Paul writes on this subject saying, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." Rom 13:1-5

And he says, "I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Acts 24:16 Part of having a clear conscience is submitting to legitimate human authority.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crave the Milk of the Word

1Peter 2:2,3 Like newborn babies, crave the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Those who have been saved have an inherent craving for the Word. Thus one indicator of a person's salvation status is whether they are regularly studying the Bible with a view towards application. Growing as a Christian is firstly a function of Bible study, apart from which there will be no spiritual growth. And then developing applications from Bible study indicates one has embraced its truths. Just as in school one first learns the facts and later learns to apply them, so also with the Christian life.

Beware of the tend some have gotten caught up in of replacing the Bible with an existentialistic experience of Christ. Growth is gained through Bible study and not simply by having "experiences". While Biblical Christianity contains both of these, many abandon the Bible, replacing it with a New Age type of Jesus that they "feel", and go on to make such a "Jesus" in their own image, making up their own doctrine. That's why we have the Bible - to ensure that our experience of Christ is an experience of the Biblical Christ and not some idol.

Start with the basics. What are the fundamentals of the faith. What are the essential elements of the gospel and what constitutes basic Christian living? Paul writes to the immature Corinthians, "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." 1Cor 3:2 Don't delve into issues of advance theology until you have embraced and applied the fundamentals. Realize also that you are required to mature and even to go on to teaching. Hebrews 5:12 says, "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" So get on with it! "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteous living. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Heb 5:13,14

Realize also that not all who have tasted of the good Word of God have been genuinely saved. By their fruits you will recognize them. And beware, for "it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." Heb 6:4-8

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Lawn to Mow

Read Luke 10:25-37

The teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"
-Luke 10:29 (TEV)

"HEY, can you come over here?" yelled Ruby, leaning against her doorway. I walked across the yard, reaching her quickly. She asked if I knew someone who could mow her lawn. I explained that I was visiting my daughter and didn't know anyone in town. I added that I would let her know if I heard of anyone who cuts grass. She took a deep breath from her oxygen canister and thanked me.

Of course, I was capable of mowing her lawn, so I felt guilty. I made excuses to justify not helping Ruby: I take care of my 81-year-old mother; I help my children and grandchildren; I work at my church; Ruby is not my responsibility. But even to me, my excuses sounded lame. Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 19:19, NRSV). Ruby needed to see God's love in my love for her.

Pushing the mower to Ruby's small patch of lawn, I cranked the machine to life. Cutting the yard helped Ruby, and my action pleased God.

I realized then that our days are filled with chances to help our neighbors. Practicing kindness, offering genuine smiles, and easing a burden of someone in need says we are trying to live the life of love that God wants us to live.

by Irene Pruett-Wilson (Texas, USA)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Limps and Scars

Read Genesis 32:9-32

Paul wrote, "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 3:13-14 (NRSV)

ONE of my favorite Bible stories recounts Jacob wrestling with God. I like it because it reminds me of life's dark moments when my dreams crumble around me and I am down in the dirt, wrestling with God. At times like these I have asked myself, What good can possibly come from this? Jacob's story answers that question. Jacob came away from his battle with a new name, Israel, because he had struggled with God and with humans and had overcome. (See Gen. 32:28.) When we wrestle with God, we too become strengthened to overcome the trials ahead.

Like Jacob, we may come away with a limp or a scar. But often our scars can remind us to reach out to those who need the good news of hope in the midst of their own struggles.

The "sun rose upon [Jacob]" (Gen. 32:31) as he moved on to deal with old struggles in a new way. Whatever our struggles may be, God helps us to leave yesterday's trials behind and to press on in hope toward tomorrow.

by Dyton L. Owen (Oklahoma, USA)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Working for God

Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.
-Colossians 3:23 (TEV)

AFTER working with a title of "minister" for many years, I now work outside the church as a mental-health counselor. Even so, I don't feel any less a minister; my approach to this job is that of a Christian serving the Lord. Each person I see is a child of God. When I work with that in mind, my job becomes my ministry. Whatever job we have, whether a church job or a job in a secular field, we have opportunities to share the love of God.

In my current job, I see many people who would never enter a church. Because of this my ministry is more far-reaching than before. One day a co-worker asked me how I could treat our clients, who at times are belligerent, with such patience and kindness. I answered, "Because I'm doing it for God."

Each of us can look for opportunities to work for God in the way we do daily tasks.

by Malinda Fillingim (Georgia, USA)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pretentious or Plain?

Read Jeremiah 18:1-10

You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me"? Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"?
-Isaiah 29:16 (NIV)

I have to admit that I have trouble with the concept of being clay and not having a voice in my development. It's not that I'm rebellious and want my own way; it's just that I want some say in what happens to me. Okay, I admit it. I'm afraid that God's plan for me won't suit me. What if I would make a great ceramic bowl to be displayed and admired, but instead I get molded into an ashtray? All right, maybe being a display bowl is too pretentious. But what if I would make a great serving dish that could be useful in many ways, but I get molded into a chamber pot? (In that case, I think I'd rather be an ashtray.)

In my mind, I know that God wants not only what is good for me but also what is best for me. Still, I have trouble feeling that truth in my heart and living it in my life, especially when people around me treat me like I am an ashtray or worse.

I've learned that when I do what God wants me to do, I am being who God wants me to be. I won't have to worry about how that might look to me or to anyone else.

by Darlene Mackey (California, USA)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Watch what you say

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Jesus said, "I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken." Mt 12:36

But conversely words can edify.
Words are power things, often underestimated.

God left us with His Spirit and with His Word. And "the word of God is living and active." Heb 4:12a God says of His Word, "my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Is 55:11 Likewise with us. Peter writes, "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God." 1Peter 4:11a

Words influence.
Words have impact.

So consider carefully what you say.

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Col 4:6

And pray, "Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Ps 141:3

Let us learn to speak by listening to the Lord and receiving the grace given Isaiah who said, "The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught." Is 50:4

Be Dispassionate

Eph 4:26,27 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

A dispassionate person is one who doesn't allow his passions to cloud his judgments. Yes there are legitimate reasons to get angry. God get's angry and we are to conform to his image. But God also is longsuffering. And besides, our emotions are often clouded by sin. One indication that our anger has sin in it is when we lose control over it. The devil can gain a foothold through roots of bitterness.

"Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD." Ps 4:3-5

Monday, October 5, 2009

In the Garden

Read 1 Samuel 3:1-10

"Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth."
-Psalm 46:10 (NRSV)

I love noise -- steady, constant reminders that I am not alone. Radio, television, the sound of other family members clanking around in the kitchen -- all of these are a joy to me. And when no one else is around to make noise for me, I create the illusion of company by making noise myself. This need for company even carries over to my relationship with God. More often than not, when I've run out of things to say, I start saying the same things over again.

Unfortunately, while I am busy talking, no one else is able to. Over the years, I have discovered that God is a very polite listener and refuses to talk when I am talking. God consistently waits to speak until I'm ready to listen.

Finally, knowing this day might never come, God gently began nudging me toward the hobby of gardening -- an activity that occupies me so well I didn't think about talking. Amazingly, as I pull the weeds out of the dirt to make room for my herbs and vegetables and flowers, I am silent. I hear the birds and feel the wind, but I am content with no need to comment. Thoughts about my day, my friends, family, and co-workers simply drift away, and I am with God. For me, time in the garden is prayer.

by Anna C. Gheen (Idaho, USA)

Friday, October 2, 2009

God's Time

Read Psalm 37

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
-Psalm 37:5 (NRSV)

ONE day, I learned an important lesson about making a cake. After mixing all the ingredients, I poured the batter into the baking pan and put it in the oven. After 40 minutes, the cake smelled so good that I could not help peeking through the oven's glass window. I saw that the cake had risen and looked ready. So I turned off the oven and took out the cake. I called my mother, showed her the cake, and asked her to taste it. However, when she cut into the cake she found out that the middle wasn't completely cooked. She told me that I should let the cake bake for another five minutes.

This experience reminded me of how impatient we are in waiting for God's answers to our prayers. My impatience in taking out the cake is like our impatient attitude toward God. We often want a "quick fix" from God when a hasty response might make matters worse. Often I have to be reminded that our God is an "on-time God" -- neither too late nor too early to help. We can trust that God wants the best for us and that we will see God's glory at last.

by Marcelina Dewi Kumalasari (Jakarta, Indonesia)
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