Engaging With Others Part III

9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;10 That ye may approve(judged by sunlight) things that are excellent (the good things that differ); that ye may be sincere and without offence (not stumbling) till the day of Christ.11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. Colossians 1:9-11 

God expects us to think things through. Paul prays that our love may abound yet more and more. The word ‘abound’ is from the Greek word that means to ‘over and above superabound’. Added to that is ‘yet more and more’. This is a very pregnant thought. We are to over and above superabound yet more and more!

What are we to abound in more and more? Verse 9 says “knowledge and judgement”. God wants us to have knowledge; that’s an easy one. The word ‘judgement’ pertains to perception, either through the senses or mental perception. It is not God’s desire that we be ‘clueless’ about what is going on around us and thankfully so.

Paul then goes on to talk about the things happening to him. He wanted them to understand that regardless of what it looked like, the good things about Christ and his effect on their lives could not  be hid. The gospel could not be put behind bars.

Paul was thankful for those who were emboldened to speak about what Christ had done for them. Despite the fact that Paul was in prison they delivered his message with love.  There were others who spoke up about Christ with other motives that weren’t so great. Paul still rejoiced that Christ was being heralded! Loving the gospel of Jesus Christ takes all the fear and hurt out of being snubbed by anyone.

12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. Philippians 1:12-17

The foundation of Paul’s heart and thinking was God. That is the high calling that enables us to have the knowledge and judgement in all situations. Sometimes even when our own motives may falter at times, God can help us to rise to level of abounding love.

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Engaging Others -Part II

In the Part I of Engaging With Others, I mentioned I Corinthians 1:10:

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. I Corinthians 1:10

Paul further illustrates his point by mentioning the household (those of Chloe) of Chloe where strife had reared its stinky head. This should be no surprise, because it happens everywhere, not just in families and marriages, but also in religious circles. The whole book of Corinthians addresses all these areas of strife issues. The Corinthians believed in God, believed in the resurrection of God’s son and had received the gift of holy spirit. They all had the power necessary to live abundantly with one another. For some people, God’s power is not enough, they still through human desire want to have power and control over others. This desire originates in a point of weakness in their thinking and lack of confidence in God and his Christ.

The people of this particular household were following their favorite leader and in doing so were separating themselves from each other.

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I Corinthian 1:12-13

In contrast, Paul, a man of great spiritual understanding, admits in I Corinthians 2:1-5:

2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Is Christ divided? Absolutely not! However, they certainly were acting divided! The question is: why? Pride (Genesis 3:5) come to mind.  Pride lifts our minds above others and it can also push our minds to think negatively about ourselves. Self-condemnation is a form of pride as it inflates our own opinion above God’s. Personal opinion and comparison to others destroys relationships by introducing rivalry and competition. Measuring ourselves by each other seriously undermines the power of God in our lives.

The remedy to this human condition is to look at each other as godly individuals and respectfully submit to one another. We are all divinely unique and yet we all have been empowered with the same measure of faith, the faith of Jesus Christ. We should believe in and utilize what we’ve been given. Comparing ourselves with others takes our eyes off our own unique path for what God wants to bless us uniquely with.

21Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your’s; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s; 23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

Being ‘perfectly joined together’ (Greek – katartizo) in the same mind and in the same judgment does not mean that we are in agree on everything or walk in lockstep robotically. Studying the Greek word for ‘perfectly joined together’, ‘katartizo’, helps us to better understand I Corinthians 1:10. Its first use in the gospels is in Matthew 4:21:

21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending (katartizo)their nets; and he called them.

It is translated ‘mended’, ‘fitted’, ‘prepared’,  framed’, ‘perfected’ in other places in the New Testament. We are to be mended together in reasoning, understanding, purpose and decision. Hardly anyone is in complete ‘perfect’ agreement. ‘Perfectly joined together’ in our culture could imply having exactly the same thoughts and opinions. I like the thought of being ‘mended’ and fitted’ with each other as followers of Christ. It sure beats isolation and strife.

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Engaging Others- Part 1

It is fun to meet Christians everywhere we go. Recently I met someone and when he told me he was Christian, I responded that I was also.  He said that not all who say they are  Christian really are. Later, I thought about his statement and thought over our conversation, I asked myself the question whether I really knew what a ‘true’ Christian was.

I have always thought of myself as a true Christian, because I love God and believe that Jesus was the Christ and God resurrected him from death (Romans 10:9-10). Are there other defining characteristics of a ‘true’ believer?

Most times when I meet another Christian the conversation goes to a deeper level very quickly. It is so nice to meet someone who believes in God. We can share thankfulness with each other for all God has done. Occasionally I meet someone who once he/she finds out I am Christian, he/she will start asking me questions about specific things I believe. I find that there usually is a lot in common to talk about, but at the same time, there are usually things we might disagree about. It is not surprising since there are more than 24,000 different types of denominational and non-denominational Christians.

As I was thinking of all the Christians I have recently met,  Romans 14, I Corinthians 1:10ff and Philippians1 popped in my head. Roman 14 warns against judging the new believer who may as yet  not have tossed out certain old traditions and beliefs. We have to remember we all have unlearned areas in biblical knowledge and understanding. Humbly growing and learning the things about God take a lifetime at the very least. Here are some verses from Romans 14:

4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

What makes for peace? God and his word is the ultimate source of peace. We can learn from each other yet each one of us has the responsibility to process what we learn:

Let every man be fully persuaded (plerophoreo – fully convinced)in his own (idios -one’s own) mind. Romans 14:5b

We may disagree but we shouldn’t cause problems with each other, nor should we get offended.  We should give people the truth as we know it; then give them space to think about it and make their own decision. We don’t stand in the approval of others. Our approval is rooted in God with righteousness, peace and joy as our parameters. Our job is to edify (build-up not tear down) others if we can.

I was so blessed meeting a new friend the other day. I enjoyed listening to his story and how he came to Christ and I enjoyed looking at his craftsmanship in his work.  He was a excellent woodworker. I may not see him again soon, but as one of my blogger friends put it, there will always be eternity!

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Recognizing the Treasures of Life

My grandson received a metal-detector as a gift when he was at the seashore. He collected all sorts of odds and ends that were hidden from view in the sand. He even found a paperclip that was underwater. When we all set out to learn how to use this peculiar beeping machine, it seemed like it was going to be tough finding things. After reading the instructions carefully and seasoning the hunt with a large teaspoon of patience and diligence, the machine started to beep over certain spots.

The word ‘treasure’ implies something that is buried and precious. It is easy to find seashells all over the beach, but many of them are broken and chipped because they have been trampled on or tossed around by the rolling tides.  They have been exposed to the elements of the world.

The human heart contains great treasures. Everyone is different and sometimes we don’t detect the gems buried deep within the heart of another. Loving another person or even oneself takes patience and diligence to find the treasure within. What is on the surface might be chipped or cracked but not necessarily what is on the inside. In a time where the culture seems to be magnifying ‘offense’ and accusation, it’s time to dig for the buried treasure in relationships not the sand covering it.

The greatest way to live is to live by truth. Emerson said: “Truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men.” Shedding light on truth involves the question to what is truth?  God is the heart and designer of all that is created. It just seems that credit should be given where it is due. God has to be the source of truth.

The Word of God is a treasure. It is the property of no individual but is a treasure for all who seek it. It is not something that you get downloaded into your heart in a split second or get the fast food version from someone else. It takes time, patience and an effort to uncover its never ending treasures for yourself.  Jesus Christ showed us the way to live with God as our Father.

God’s word teaches us so much about life and living with one another.  As we learn and apply it, experience reaffirms its validity and we become secure in the power that God endows us with. We have this great treasure in a earthen vessel:

6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-10

We all fail, at times; it is inevitable and we are among others who fail even though they may be trying not to.  Our New Year’s resolutions will fade away, sooner probably than later, but the Word of God will endure forever. As I watch the beautiful sunrise this morning, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness. When has the sun ever failed to rise?

Happy New Year

 

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Pay It Forward – The Pleasure of His Good Will

Recently I saw an article on the “Law of Giving and Receiving”. It was a type of ‘new age’ article that, as I thought over what it was saying, I related it to some religious groups who teach the same things. There is a whole lot more to ‘giving’ and ‘receiving’ than a law formula.  Giving is so much more than ‘give and get’. Giving is not a legal prerequisite, but is a result of the heart:

7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. II Corinthians 9:7

What makes a ‘cheerful’ giver?  The word ‘cheerful’ in the greek text is the word ‘hilarios’ from which we get the word ‘hilarious’.  It’s meaning indicates a response as being ‘already inclined to do something’ as a non-reluctant giver. Giving is an effusion of the heart. God loves a cheerful giver!

We don’t have to codify giving to make sure we are living up to our Christian beliefs. We give because we want to and we aren’t looking for pats on the back. I enjoy seeing the ‘pay it forward’ ads on TV.  Spontaneous reactions of kindness do much more than we will ever know and that is spectacular!

Perhaps the greatest joys of giving are the freedom of choice and freedom from fear that result.  When it says “every man according as he purposeth in his heart’ means to bring forward what is stored in your heart. When God is at the center of our giving there is nothing to fear. When God is at the center of our decisions we are wise.

13 For it is God which worketh (energizes) in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:1

Sometimes the ‘energizings’ are little nudges and sometimes they are major nudges. A little nudge can make a huge difference, sometimes more than a giant nudge. That is God’s prerogative. Our choice is to listen and act on it. Sometimes life gets so busy we don’t listen well especially at this time of the year ironically ‘the season of giving’.  When we get busy, we either neglect or go overboard on things rather than just allowing God to work. This is true in so many categories of life: marriage, relationships, work, parenting, learning and loving in general.

God has provided a way to ‘pay it forward’:

13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

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God Answers Prayer

When I hear people talk about when and how long it takes for God to answer prayer, it puzzles me.  In Philippians 4:6-7, it says when we pray that the peace of God will keep our hearts and minds. The minute we turn to God and have a conversation about something that is going on, that peace is available. If peace is going to keep our heart and mind it has to arrive pretty quick.

Prayer is not one sided. The listening part is pretty important. Too often, however, we shut off the dialogue too soon. We don’t allow God to prepare us for receiving the results of our prayer. People wait forever thinking that is just all you have to do.  Unfortunately, that prayer scenario seems to drift away from them and then they roll back into the ‘God is distant’ theology.

God answers prayers all the time. His first response gives us peace and then he starts the process of addressing the specifics.  (Actually the peace from God can be more exciting than the actual answer to the prayer.) There will be necessary information concerning the prayer to pay attention to either from the word or through the gift of holy spirit. Our job is to dig in an humbly learn. There could be a series of steps and it may take some time.  God will help us grow to take those steps by providing necessary information, wisdom to take action and things to avoid, including the world wisdom and people who promote it. Honestly, if you have to talk to someone, God is the best listener and the Bible is the best reading

20 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings 21 Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. 22 For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. 23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. 25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established (firm, solid). Proverbs 4:20-26

We should guard our communications either from our own heart or what we receive from others. In this day of FaceBook, Twitter, and messenger we are exposed to a plethora of contacts and viewpoints.  Something may sound so good and yet when you think about it it may resemble ‘fast-food’ theology rather than a true Biblical nutritious truth. Clever adages and culture proverbs often are short-lived in their effect. Good solid truth is very satisfying and relational with our God.  There is no mistaking the difference and it starts the moment we decide we want to do life his way and recognize that it is the best way.

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Prosperity Gospel ~ True or False?

In John 10:10, Jesus Christ made a statement about the benefits of understanding why he came:

10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

In the context of that section in John, Jesus used the easily relatable ‘gate of the sheep’ analogy. Jesus Christ is the door to the fold. He is the ‘way’ to the abundant life. On the opposite side there is a thief that steals, kills and destroys. God wants us to live abundantly and His word keeps us within his desire.

I have read many articles on the ‘prosperity doctrine’ both for and against. Each side has a propensity  to veer off biblical logic to the extreme of its own side. Christianity is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme nor is it ‘church mouse poor theology’:

8 Remove far from me vanity (uselessness) and lies (deception): give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient (what is prescribed) for me: Proverbs 30:8

The Bible is full of wonderful principles on prosperity that apply to many of God’s promises in general. It is full of practical, sound, powerful and successful precepts that we can trust from the very heart of God:

2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 John 2

God wants us to prosper!  Every individual is different in what he or she needs. What is needed by one person may be different from another person’s need. Poverty, however, is like an armed robber on the highway of life. (Proverbs 6:11, Proverbs 24:34) God has given us the power to be individually successful through his Word and the gift of holy spirit.

18 But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:16.

God loves us! He gives us ‘the power to get wealth’ (makes us heroes of strength). Deuteronomy is written to the Old Covenant believers where the spirit of God was upon certain people who led God’s people. A New Covenant came on the Day of Pentecost with the gift of holy spirit. The gift equips all believers with distinct power tools.  If a man or woman practically applies God’s word  and utilizes the power God has given each one of us, he or she will be abundantly blessed in all categories, not just financial ones. Our effort as believers is to dig the gold of the Word faithfully and consistently apply it.

The world will try and talk us out of it. It is full of stumbling blocks that are thrown down to deter us.  Sometimes, when something breaks down or we hadn’t counted on a certain bill for us to pay, our hearts may sink into thinking that we have done something wrong and fear rears its ugly head. Don’t rely on the stock market, news media,  the ‘experts’ or government. It doesn’t hurt to try to get the best information we can, but we should run it all by God, the 100% reliable source.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. I Corinthians 1:25 (Check out the rest of I Corinthians 1)

Things happen, but that doesn’t change God’s promises. Going to God and giving it to him is standing on the promise that perfect love casts out fear. We have God’s ability to overcome and we are not to believe the lies of condemnation that we have failed somehow.  I used to think debt was sin. It is hard to believe that God wants us free economically when one is so worried about sin. When, in my own life, I dumped the sin conscientiousness and looked to God, the most amazing things happened.

Going to God frees us.  Just knowing how much he loves us and how much he is willing to help us is the best place to be in our hearts.

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