Holy and Blameless

Holy and Blameless

We know that in this broken world, none of us is without sin.  We are broken and flawed and there’s plenty of blame to go around.  We are far from Holy and therefore cannot possible dwell with God in His presence.

However, at the same time, Paul tells us “that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Eph 1:4b)  This paradox can be quite confusing.  How can we be full of sin and yet holy and blameless.  Adam and Eve were holy before the fall and therefore dwelt with God in His presence.  Since then, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)  So how can Paul tell the Romans that we have ALL sinned but at the same time tell the church of Ephesus that we should be holy and blameless?

The truth is found in reading the rest of the Ephesians citation in context.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

Before the foundation, before Adam and Even and therefore before the fall, He chose us.  He chose us to be holy and blameless before Him.  We are cleansed and redeemed by the blood of Christ, forgiving us of all of our sin.  This means that before Him (for those who chose to accept and believe in the redemptive power of the blood of Christ) we who have sinned are viewed as though we have no sin, totally holy and blameless.  We have been given a gift of the greatest possible value and deserved nothing of it.

There’s a famous quote from Jesus found in Luke 12:48 that even non-religious people quote (most like unaware of the source). “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.”  But the context of this statement follows a parable of how hard servants work unaware of when their master will return.  They have all been given incredible wealth to manage.  The one who continues to work hard expecting his master’s return any time, receives the greatest reward.  Peter recognized it at the time that the parable is about them, about us.

We have a master that has given us everything, a holy and blameless existence we don’t deserve.  We are called to work hard in expectation of His imminent return.  While he predestined those who will choose Him, He also chooses to use us in the process.  Be open to prompting, and his guidance.  Work hard to share His love and express His grace to the world.  He will come soon, be looking forward to it.

Advertisements

Do It With Style??

Do It With Style??

We live in a culture consumed by style.  Actually this is not limited to our culture or even our time.  Since the fall in the garden, mankind has been consume by image.  The first response of Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit, was all about image.  “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (Gen 3:7)

Ever since then, we have been consumed with how others see us.  Flash forward to today and image is now a multi-billion dollar industry.  Just about every magazine sold in the grocery story is about image.  Dress with style, serve food with style, live in style, experience life with style.  Everyone of these things directs out attention to be focused on how others see us.  We’re consumed with the outside appearance and often at the neglect of any inside change.

Just after Jesus finished with the beatitudes, He continued His sermon with a list of behaviors that we should have that are contrary to popular belief.  Then he moves on to a series of hypocritical behaviors.  “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do.” (Matt 6:2a) “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.” (v 5a)  “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites”
(v 16a)  Giving, praying and fasting are all good habits to have.  Jesus did not suggest that we don’t do these things, they are all noble.  But He said don’t do them like the hypocrites.  Don’t focus on your image before man when you do them.  It’s all about the substance and nothing to do with style.

Giving can be done in secret, no glamour, no awareness by others.  Simply giving for the purpose to help the recipient.  We should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17).  But again, the style of the prayer has zero consequence and the heart of the prayer means everything.  It is even good to fast.  But not to show people how Holy you are, but rather to deprive yourself of the worldly traps and focus your attention on Him alone.

In a world consumed by image, we are called to do the opposite.  Paul tells us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8)  Public image and style is NOT in this list.  Rather than being concerned about your worldly image, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31b)

Tithes and Offerings

Tithes and Offerings

Using bibledice.com is a unique way to read from a wide variety of places in the bible. It gives me a random verse and then I read the entire chapter. Today’s verse was from Deuteronomy 26 about tithes and offerings. The focus of my blog is not to just be a history lesson from the bible but to demonstrate application for us today. Some people who read from Deuteronomy (the Law) don’t see application in a post resurrection world because Jesus has fulfilled the law. However, there is still great application in these scriptures for us today, and this chapter on tithes and offerings is a perfect example.

Tithing is an important topic that some pastors tread lightly on because it can come across as if the pastor is just seeking money for his church.  While that might be true for some (like the charismatic snake oil salesman from Houston, TX) it’s not really the point of tithing.  Moses did not deliver these instructions as some way of self enrichment, he delivered these instructions from God as a demonstration of love.

Let’s look deeply at these instructions.

First he said “you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket.” (Deut 26:2a)  The first instructions is that the ‘tithe’ is the first thing you should do with the ‘fruit’ of your labor.  Your reward of the labor is from God so returning the first fruit is a way of saying thank you.

Second, God gave Moses some specific instructions of who was to benefit from this tithe, “giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.”  (v 12b)  The Levite was the priesthood, the ones responsible for the local ministry, the local church.  The sojourner is a wanderer, someone without a permanent place to call home… homeless.  The fatherless are obviously the orphans and the widows are self explanatory.  All four groups of people are ones that did not have a way of providing for themselves without the support of those tithes.

So, let’s review these instructions in light of today, a post resurrection world.  Those same four people groups still exist today even if their titles have changed some.  We still give to the ministry to support the pastors themselves and the ministries they run.  Some of those ministries actually turn around and support the other three.  Most churches have ministries or programs or support other local ministries that care for the homeless, orphans and windows.

We also still owe thanks to the Lord for any success we have (no matter if it’s great or small).  God does not ‘need’ our money, this is true.  But God does desire our heart.  He does desire that our first response with His reward is to return some of it to Him in these same ways.  We are still called to give back the first fruits of our labor to ministries that support His Kingdom and those who are unable to support themselves.

In then end, these Old Testament instructions actually don’t change at all in our post resurrection world.  Remember the Lord your God and give back to Him the first fruits of your labor.

Neighbor Commandments

Neighbor Commandments

I’m currently reading The Art of Neighboring with my men’s group so it’s ironic that my random verse of the day would focus specifically on neighboring.  You see, God gave Moses Ten Commandments that are typically grouped into two groups.  The first four are all about how we “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt 22:37) Then the other six define what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:39)  However only the last two actually use the word ‘neighbor’ in the commandment itself.  “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exod 20:16-17)

Although both of these verses were part of my verse of the day, and they stand in context with all of the commandments, I want to focus just on the 9th commandment today, bearing false witness.  On the surface, this may be interpreted to mean lying about a neighbor, but it’s much bigger than that.  Let’s look at the two parts.

False Witness – The first part of this commandment focuses on the action of bearing false witness.  This could mean the intentional act of making things up or telling lies about a person, but in truth, it’s much deeper.  A ‘real witness’ is when two or more people together share a testimony of truth about an action they witnessed.  However there is a cancer in the church that is more damaging than many other addictions.  Spreading rumors and gossip.

Rumors and gossip have the power to break apart marriages, destroy careers, split homes and divide churches.  When you look at the wake of destruction that they cause, it’s easy to see that this is an ideal weapon of the enemy.  This is why it warranted making it into the ‘top 10 list’ of rules.  It’s true that this can often be intentional but there’s just as much destruction by unintentional rumors as there is from intentional ones.

Against Your Neighbor – A well known story of the Bible (even by people not familiar with the whole story) is the Good Samaritan.  The set up to the story is that a lawyer is trying to test Jesus.  “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)  The story that follows is Jesus explaining that the concept of neighbor expands much beyond those who happen to share your physical property borders.

As citizens of Heaven, we have brothers and sisters all over the globe (who are also fellow heirs to the kingdom).  However, as temporary citizens of this planet, we have ‘neighbors’ all over the globe as well.  Jesus so desires that the crowd understands how far reaching the concept of neighbor is that He selects a group of people the Jews considered lower than dogs (a sub human class).  This means there really is no person on the planet who would not fall into this category of ‘neighbor’ for you.

In the end, this ninth commandment could be paraphrased like this.  Be careful how you speak of others (anyone).  If you cannot say it with them present, you probably have no business saying it about them when they are not around.

The Love Chapter in Context

The Love Chapter in Context

In many weddings, 1 Corinthians 13 is brought up, if not emphasized, as the chapter of love.  But like anything in the Bible, if you don’t read the full context, you miss part of the meaning.  When Paul wrote his letters, there were no chapter markings.  So reading an entire chapter is not always taking something into full context.  You need to go back and read the previous chapter and the following chapter to see where the thought flowed from and where it was going.  To get the real meaning of chapter 13, you have to read chapter 12 and 14 too.

The church in Corinth was in serious turmoil.  There was much debate about many topics and they were constantly bending to the will of the local culture, adapting to be more acceptable to the surrounding culture.  So in chapter 12, Paul is addressing the hot debate of the day, spiritual gifts.  He literally starts with a statement showing he saw the local church as really confused.  “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.” (1 Cor 12:1)  His primary concern here was addressing that there are a variety of gifts but all flow from one God.  He didn’t give every believer the same gifts and that all gifts were to Glorify Him.  The primary debate had been surrounding the gift of speaking in tongues so Paul is clarifying that like ALL gifts, this gift was given to SOME people and should only be seen as a way to glorify God in Heaven, not be some proof of spirituality in man.

Why understanding of this chapter is so important is because the ‘love chapter’ follows.  These two “chapters” should actually be read and understood together.  His point in chapter 12 is that displaying a gift as some sort of validation of your spirituality is just simply wrong.  ALL gifts are from God, given to ALL believers as He chooses and for one purpose only, to demonstrate God’s love to the world.

This is why chapter 13 begins with, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3)

Every spiritual gift available is completely useless, absolutely nothing, without love.  And what kind of love?  The kind that “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (v 6)  Then chapter 13 ends with “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (v 13)  Then chapter 14 returns to spiritual gifts, getting back to the hot debate that was occurring in Corinth at the time.

So in the end, as Paul was addressing a deeply debated topic that was actually splitting the church into factions, he paused one single thought (chapters 12 and 14) and says, none of it matters without real Godly agape love.  So the application of these 3 chapters actually goes WAY beyond spiritual gifts.  With any topic consuming and dividing the church… if we would all pause and reflect on what real Godly love is actually about… we can better address the heart behind the debate.


I pray that you appreciate my blogs. They are my way of journaling as I read His word. If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word. Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.

Sexual Immorality in the Church

Sexual Immorality in the Church

This can be a politically charged topic, especially during the ‘gay pride month’ but I’m not focusing on the politics of our society.  Rather I am focusing solely within the church.  This is not meant to pass judgement on any sort of sexual immorality (as the church would define) in the world.  Our world is a broken and sinful place and to place a spiritual rule or test or judgement on it would be in error.  On the other hand, we are absolutely called to hold the Church to a higher standard, the standard of Christ.

This is was Paul was doing in his letters to the Corinthians.  They lived in a culture where the society saw certain acts (that the Church would consider immoral) as normal and accepted.  In other words, the Corinthians lived in a world very much like our culture today.  Never does Paul judge (or call the Church to judge) the pagans who practice such acts.  Rather his focus is to call the Church out of that culture and to a higher standard.  So as we see clearly in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is focusing on those inside the Church performing sexually immoral acts.

It’s actually amazing how this passage goes so well with the passage from yesterday’s sermon (as you will see in a moment).

The opening to this chapter discusses someone inside the church performing immoral acts that “is not tolerated even among pagans” (1 Cor 5:1b)  Paul’s rebuke of his acts ends with the instruction “to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (v 5a).  Most scholars believe this means to cast out of the church and into the worldly culture that is controlled by Satan.  This instruction can also sound harsh if not followed up the the rest of the sentence, “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (v 5b)  Paul’s ultimate goal is not to ‘punish’ the sinner but to lead him to repentance.”

Here’s where we see the parallel with yesterday’s sermon from 2 Thes 3.  Paul has just spent several pages seeking to clarify the apostles teaching as different from the false teaching that has sprung up in the church.  These young followers are being lead astray by a false teacher and like the immoral man, Paul’s instruction is of casting him out or to have nothing to do with him.

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
2 Thes 3:13-15

However, note the critical end.  Paul instructs us to not treat him as an enemy but as a brother.  This same instruction exists for the Christian brother who has fallen into sexual immorality.  We are not to make excuses for his actions, we are not to accept his actions, we are to rebuke his actions and even disassociate with him if he is unrepentant.  But the end goal is that of repentance.  With the love for one another, we still earnestly seek the goal of repentance and reunification


I pray that you appreciate my blogs. They are my way of journaling as I read His word. If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word. Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.

Stewards

Stewards

Dictionary.com defines ‘steward’ as the following…

“a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others”

And this is exactly what Paul is saying the Apostles are, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God”.  (1 Cor 4:1)  Through proper discipleship, so are we.  We are ‘servants of Christ’ and His ‘stewards’.  This is no small task, no light duty.  In fact Paul goes on to point out the desperate position the Apostles were finding themselves.

To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. – (1 Cor 4:11-13)

To be a steward requires a significant humility.  As defined above, we are “agent of another”, the agent of Christ Jesus.  As His agent, our sole duty is to serve Him, to follow His instructions, on His behalf.  So what does that look like?

Christ Himself said that all of the Law (all of His instructions) could be summed up like this, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:30-31)  That’s our full marching orders, Love Him and Love others.

So how is that shown? Again, Jesus gave us the answer when talking directly to Peter and He told Peter to ‘feed my sheep‘.

It really is that simple.  As we love Him with everything we have, we will by default, love His sheep as well.  Truly loving His sheep means we will feed His sheep, care for them, tend to their needs.  King David had it right when he said that everything else is simply vanity.


I pray that you appreciate my blogs. They are my way of journaling as I read His word. If you do like them, please be sure to click the Follow Hisfamily Ministries button left of this post AND to spread the word. Share these posts with others and perhaps they will be blessed too.