Pages

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Psalm of Gratitude

A Psalm of Gratitude

For my sin, O God, You have not of me required payment. All of Your justice and sovereignty demand that I be punished to death for my sin against You. Yet upon me You place no punishment.

I have been ignorant, willfully ignorant of Your sovereignty over me. I have rejected and quenched Your Spirit as You offered comfort and guidance and knowledge. Yet from me You exact no revenge.

God, I have used my hands and eyes and ears and mind to worship myself and my concerns. I have ignored You.

I have been satisfied with worshipping and adoring temporary, fleshly, impure pleasure, rejecting the pleasure of intimacy with You.

Lord, my mind is double, my heart divided, still loving what the Old Man loves, yet aware of Your greatness and Your superiority.

And still You forgive me and withhold your righteous anger.

Because of Your Son.

Jesus suffered Your angry, righteous judgement and punishment for my sin. For my selfish lust, content to exchange worship of You for watching images of lust and desire, You punished Jesus.

Jesus suffered Your wrath in my place. For me He was beaten, mocked and killed. For me He was separated from You, regarded by You as the sum total of all wickedness and evil in the world. He was cast down, trampled and thrown away as worthless because of my sin against You.

For me Jesus died.

And Jesus succeeded. I've experienced none of Your wrath. You treat me as Your child. You look at me as if I'd never sinned, never been the cause of Your Son's death.

I have lived now more than 53 years. 53 years. You have passed over my sin and rebellion many more times than seven times seventy. Every year saw 365 days. If I expressed my sinful and rebellious heart only once per day...19,345 instances in which I deserved punishment. And the punishment should be in accordance with the One sinned against. Sin against the Holy, Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the earth deserves nothing less than eternal death, separated forever from all that is God, which is all that is Good.

Whether I acted out my sinful heart 19,345 times or only once, the root of my sinful actions remains the same: sin.

I pervert all that I touch, or look at, or possess, or make. In my heart there is nothing good. On my own merits, I have nothing good. I do nothing good. I am nothing good. I am worthless without the value place upon me by God, demonstrated by the depth of sorrow and loss He required His Son to endure, in order that I might escape God's righteous judgement.

Thank You, God!

Image courtesy of Jason Morrison

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Enemy

My Enemy

I often long misunderstood the definition of "enemy". I wrongly have placed the root of "enemy" upon my own feelings. I have thought that an enemy was one whom I hated because of wicked actions done to me.

That is wrong.

The Greek work for "enemy" means hateful, odious or hostile...an adversary. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, yet He did not say that they would thus cease being our enemies. Jesus made no guarantee that an enemy would become a friend if we demonstrate love. Whether someone is my enemy does not depend upon whether I hate them or not.

Rather, my enemy is one who hates me.

Jesus often referred to Satan as our adversary, and Satan hates us, seeking to devour us. Yet, we seldom hate Satan. We usually ignore or disbelieve his existence. He most often successfully deceives us by masquerading as an angel of light. Satan, however, remains our enemy, whether we hate him or not.

No, my enemy is not one whom I hate.

My enemy is one who hates me.

And this allows me to separate myself from the hate. This allows me to show practical, necessary compassion, even for one who hates me.

An enemy is one who hates me. I don't have to hate someone in order for them to be an enemy. A person who hates me will be my enemy, whether I hate them in return or not.

I might as well love them!

"As a matter of principle and duty, I ought to give what is needed and useful, even to one who hates me. I ought to do good and give what is needed, expecting nothing to be repaid. Yet I am repaid! My reward from God is great! Despite my natural, ungodly bent towards thanklessness and hurtfulness, God is kind to me, granting to me His graciousness in Christ.

"I ought to have compassion, even for one who hates me, just as God has compassion on me. I ought to give place to God as Judge, rather than taking to myself the responsibility of deciding whether someone deserves help or whether someone deserves punishment. If I were to place myself as judge over another person, I would forfeit the mercy that I myself enjoy from God.

"I ought to forgive others, even the one who hates me, just as God frees me fully from the sin that once threatened to doom me to eternal punishment and banishment from God's presence.

"The love and goodness, kindness and mercy that God freely gives to me is immeasurably great. He has given me much more than just what is necessary. He has given me an intimate relationship with Him that is beautiful, full to the brim and running over with life and joy!" (Luke 6:35-38, expanded)

Image courtesy of brainloc.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Praising God And Having Favor

Praising God And Having Favor

"And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2:43-47

AWE:
"Phobos", alarm or fright; from "phebomai" (to be put in fear)

PRAISING:
"Aineo", to praise God; from "ainos" (a story) and "epainos" (laudation, a commendable thing)

FAVOR:
"Charis", graciousness; from "chairo" (to be cheerful, calmly happy or well-off)

The first, immediate, tangible result of experiencing complete and utter forgiveness of sin, and the intimate presence of the Holy Spirit, was praise and favor. The Christians were overwhelmed by care and interest and love for each other.

They evidently attended services at the temple regularly for worship, as well as for distributing food to those who needed it. The context describes a group of people who knew each other intimately, at least to the degree that allowed them to share needs.

The word used for "prayer" is a general description of any sort of wish or desire asked of God. As the Christians prayed together, aloud, they shared with God, and with each other, their basic needs as well as their spiritual needs.

The temple, or "church" became a place to learn from Scripture and to share needs and concerns with close friends.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is there more that we as a church can do to allow Gods Spirit to increase His influence over us all? What changes might the Lord be moving us toward regarding the essentials of "church":

- Teaching
- Fellowship
- Breaking of Bread
- Prayers

Image courtesy of www.sxc.hu/profile/spiz

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Repent And Be Baptized

Repent And Be Baptized

"Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:37-38

CUT:
"Katanysso", to pierce thoroughly, to agitate violently; from "kata" (down) and "nysso" (to prick)

REPENT:
"Metanoeo", to think differently, reconsider; from "meta" (accompaniment, "amid", participation) and "noeo" (to exercise the mind, or observe) and "nous" (the intellect or mind) and "ginosko" (to know)

BAPTIZED:
"Baptizo", to make whelmed, fully wet; from "bapto" (to whelm, cover wholly with fluid, to moisten or stain)

FORGIVENESS:
"Aphesis", freedom or pardon; from "aphiemi" (to send forth) and "hiemi" (to send) and "eimi" (to go)

GIFT:
"Dorea", a gratutity; from "doron" (a present, especially a sacrifice)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Without using any of the following "taboo" words, or any form of the "taboo" words, rewrite Acts 2:38 in your own words.

"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:38

Taboo Words:
- Repent
- Baptized
- Name
- Sins
- Gift

Notice that Peter describes the Holy Spirit as a "gift", something given freely, without any exchanging money or something in return. Peter does NOT say that the Holy Spirit gives a gift, but that the Holy Spirit IS the Gift.

In the same way, Peter describes forgiveness of sin as being "baptized" in the name of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is not given because of baptism; forgiveness IS baptism in Jesus. Baptism in Jesus means being completely immersed and covered, even "stained" by all that Jesus has accomplished and all that He intends to accomplish.

The word "baptism" is a symbol of treasuring Christ as Lord and Christ, just as the word "gift" is a symbol of the freely given Holy Spirit.

THE PROMISE

"For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." Acts 2:39-41

PROMISE:
"Epangelia", an announcement or assurance; from "epaggello" (to announce, engage or assert) and "aggelos" (a messenger or "angel" or pastor) from "aggello" (to bring tidings) and "ago" (to lead, bring, drive, go, pass or induce)

CALLS:
"An" (possibility) and "proskaleo" (to call toward oneself, summon or invite); from "kaleo" (to call)

EXHORT:
"Parakaleo", to call near, invite, invoke, implore; from "para" (near) and "kaleo" (to call aloud) and "keleuo" (to incite by word or order) and "kello" (to urge on)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Where does the Bible mention this "promise", the announcement of Jesus as Lord and Christ?

Notice that Peter is setting up a potentially controversial paradox: The promise is for everyone whom God calls, but Peter energetically exhorted and witnessed to the crowd.

God calls, preachers exhort.

Notice that the word Peter used for the "call" of God includes a word meaning "possibility".

WHAT DO YOU THINK? In what sense is Gods call to repentance about Jesus merely a "possibility"?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How would Peter justify the energy he expended in preaching, when it all depends upon who God calls anyway?

DEVOTED

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." Acts 2:42

TEACHING:
"Didache", instruction; from "didasko" (to teach) and "dao" (to learn)

FELLOWSHIP:
"Koinonia", partnership, participation, benefaction; from "koinonos" (a sharer or associate) and "koinos" (common, shared by all) and "sun" (with or together)

BREAKING OF BREAD:
"Klasis" (fracture) and "artos" (bread, as raised); from "klao" (to break) and "airo" (to lift)

PRAYERS:
"Proseuche", worship in prayer; from "proseuchomai" (to pray to God) and "euchomai" (to wish)

Notice that the "breaking of bread" was not necessarily a rite of worship. It certainly depended not on a "special" bread. "Breaking of bread" meant simply eating.

Two disciples were moping along the road to Emmaus, despairing at the death of Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus Himself appeared beside them and explained how Scripture spoke of Him. They asked Him to stay with them:

"Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent. So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them." Luke 24:29-30 (ESV)

The bread Jesus broke was an ordinary, yeast-raised bread meant for table use. Jesus blessed ordinary bread, and broke it, re-enacting that last supper He had enjoyed with His disciples before the crucifixion.

The bread was ordinary, but the symbolism was spiritually powerful.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Would using an ordinary loaf of bread, perhaps purchased from our local grocery store, be a good element of our celebration of Communion?

Image courtesy of Beth Wood, and lulalouise.blogspot.com