A Perfect Summary

Sometimes you come across something that sums up what you believe, or are thinking or feeling, so nicely that all you can do as you read it is think: “YES! YES! YES!”

Most of you know that I am passionate about Christians knowing their Bible. “But why? What is the point?” some ask. Others say: “But it doesn’t have any relevance for my life or for the world today”.

Coming across Psalm 19 this week, I think it argues my case for me:

     The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
     the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
     the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
     the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
     the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
     the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 

     More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
     sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 

     Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
     in keeping them there is great reward.
     (Psalm 19:7-11)

Give it a look:

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Never have I ever . . .

Those who have played the game “never have I ever” will know the purpose is to think of things others in the group will have done, which you have not. For example, “Never have I ever (drag raced, gotten a tattoo, received a “D” grade, . . .)”. You start with all fingers (and thumbs) up as counters and one is dropped each time you’ve done one of the mentioned actions.

Why am I sharing about this game? Let’s just say that in Christian circles it must be somewhat –censored – and can become a bit dull if there are no creative thinkers in the group. It is a “get to know you” game and often the ones who lose all their counters first are those who have experienced life “in the world” before they became Christians. Commonly, these are also the people thought to have lived the most interesting life.

Many believers who have grown up as Christians look at their testimony as being rather boring, too. God did not pull them out of drugs, alcoholism, wild partying, hurtful pranks . . . They never experienced the world apart from with Christ. Yet I ask: HOW can we make this sound like a bad thing? It is a beautiful, glorious blessing!

And to think life in Christ is boring shows that one has not received a true revelation of the Lord, or what He did for us!

I propose the game be changed to things we have experienced. We could share of: the transformation He has accomplished in us; prayers we have seen answered; healings and miracles; times He has overwhelmed us with His compassion; visions He has given; dreams, prophecies, or times of intercession lasting through the night; spontaneous worship sessions; baptisms; His miraculous provision in dire circumstances; what following Him has cost us – and what we have received; reconciliation that He initiated; freedom; the revealing and living out of our passions; the knowledge we have purpose and were created in the image of God . . . Do I need to go on?

Paul says it well:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:20-21).

Why do many within the church still speak lovingly of how they lived before Christ? If such a way of living gave you life, then go back to it. If you can not see that you were dead in those ways, then why come to Christ?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25).

In Christ we receive LIFE and LIFE TO THE FULL!

Let us no longer live as slaves. Let us no longer look upon the slaves as somehow better off. Let them have their momentary, and unfulfilling, pleasures. Let us who know Christ live in the joy of our salvation.

I know that my life certainly has not been boring since turning fully to God! He had freed me to walk in my passions; to pursue my dreams; to seek the extraordinary in life.

If you can not see life now as better than it was without Him, then pray that God will give you a greater revelation. Ask Him to take you on a grand adventure. Stop looking back and start looking forward. Forget the “never will I evers” and seek the glories of God.

 

Who Am I?

I challenge you to answer the question “who am I?” before reading on.

Make a list of what you find identity in. What defines you? What defines your life?

Does your list contain “mother”, “daughter”, “friend”, or “spouse”? Does it include your profession? Did you list a sport or club membership? Did you note down character attributes or descriptions, such as: “intelligent”, “nice smile”, “failure”, “stern”, or “humorous”?

In what do you find your identity?

The above suggestions are all true attributes of earthly identities. But what of your spiritual identity; your true and lasting identity?

Do you wear royal garments? Are you a son of the King? Do you own the identity God has given to you? Are you a child of God?

This is the identity of those of us in Christ:

  • A son of God (Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:5)
  • An heir in the Kingdom of God (Galatians 4:7)
  • Have an inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 1:11-14)
  • A friend of Christ (John 15:15)
  • Saved (Romans 10:9-13)
  • Slaves of righteousness, not sin (Romans 4:17-18)
  • Dead to sin; alive in Christ (Romans 6:11)
  • Washed, sanctified, justified (1 Corinthians 6:11)
  • Holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Redeemed, forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
  • A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • Sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
  • Blesses with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
  • . . . and the list goes on!

Casting Crowns reflects on what Christ has done for us in their song “Who Am I?”. Here is the link to their song on You Tube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBcqria2wmg&feature=related

Put Him to the Test – 3 of 3

Part 3 – practical life examples

I thought it time to add an example of stepping out in faith: giving God our whole life as an offering, and trusting in Him for His promise – peace, joy, hope, love . . . eternal life.

Consider the words of Karen Watson. This woman went to Iraq as a missionary and was killed by unknown assailants on the 15th March, 2004. This is the letter she wrote before she went:

Dear Pastor,

You should only be opening this letter in the event of my death.
When God calls there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the nations. I wasn’t called to a place; I was called to Him. To obey was my objective,  to suffer was expected, His glory my reward, His glory my reward…

The missionary heart:

  • Cares more than some think is wise
  • Risks more than some think is safe
  • Dreams more than some think is practical
  • Expects more than some think is possible

I was called not to comfort or to success, but to obedience…
There is no joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him.
I love you and my church family.

In His care,
Salaam, Karen

Now, I’m not implying that He calls us all to give our physical life, as in the beating of our heart, in service as Karen did. But I am saying that we should be prepared for persecution. We should be prepared for trials. For our hope is greater than all of this.

Not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Now this hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5).

What He calls us to give up is different for everyone. For some it is leaving a good job; others it is taking a higher paid job, but in an environment that drains them spiritually, physically or emotionally. It might mean sacrificing a beloved motorbike to give the money to a friend. Or perhaps sacrificing Friday night football to help out with the church youth group.

You will know what God is calling you to. Sometimes it is a still, quiet voice that repetitively speaks its direction, yet you know its not your own. Other times its a thought where your immediate reaction is “No! I can’t give that up . . . No, I love that too much.”

Don’t put worldly concerns above those of God’s Kingdom.

Put God to the test – give as He calls you (sacrificing whatever He lays on your heart to give over to Him) and trust Him to be your Provider.

Put Him to the Test – 2 of 3

 Part 2 – the Call

Last time we looked at God’s challenge to the Israelites:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Malachi 3:8-10).

Most of you will know that the Law of Moses commanded a tithe (10% of their earnings, crops, etc) from the people. There is much debate about what is demanded from God today, in regards to the tithe. But the simple answer? God demands everything.

Having observed God’s challenge to the Israelites, our next question naturally turns inward, as we ask: “What is demanded of Christians? Of us today?”

Paul knew: Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. (Philippians 2:17).

No longer is the command the offer of physical sacrifices; Paul gave his life as the sacrifice – just as Christ gave Himself for us.

Christ was clear:

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21).

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23-24).

Take note that the call to walk in faith is again partnered with a promise of rewards.

God demands our very lives – but the reward is treasure in heaven, eternal joy, the glory of Christ . . . and, in the life to come: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelations 21:4).

To be a follower of Christ is to carry a cross. There will be suffering – it is to be expected – but our reward is that we have been welcomed into Christ’s Kingdom as the children of God and fellow heirs of Christ.

Put God to the test – pick up your cross and receive LIFE. It can be scary, it certainly takes faith, but the reward is treasure in heaven.

But mummy, everyone else is doing it!

If we heard these words coming from a child we would think “peer-pressure” and that the Mum should advise their child not to be swayed by others but rather “be their own person”. The trouble is that peer-pressure continues as we age. It is always there. And so I ask: are you building your kingdom, your church’s kingdom, or God’s Kingdom?

There is only one eternal Kingdom and that belongs to Christ. However, we are blessed to have been invited into this Kingdom. Not merely as servants, not even as friends, but as precious and beloved sons and daughters. God has adopted us into a Kingdom of everlasting value. And yet I so often get caught up in the world around me. There is pressure to get a degree or find the right job or build a fortune that will make us feel secure or to cover our flaws so as to win the esteem of men. God tells us to be wise with our money but He also said to the man who built more and larger barns to store his abundance: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:21).

God calls us to live passionately for Him. Compromise is not acceptable to God. There is grace but, as Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Living, as they say, with one foot in the world and one with Christ is not living with Christ at all. There have been plenty of times where I have tried the world’s way but as soon as I take one eye off God I find myself slipping. When both eyes are fixed on God my life is filled with passion and joy and worship, even amidst sorrows and trials. Take one eye off God – allow my job to become my focus, or the money I’m making, or start desiring the accolades and praise of man – and I find myself becoming tired, dissatisfied or emotionally reactive. Life becomes much harder when God is no longer my focus.

It is easy to be sucked in too; constantly surrounded as we are by the demands of the world. If you don’t have eternity to focus on then someone cutting you off in traffic or your boss not accepting your proposal or a friend turning aside when you need them most can all cause the kettle to start boiling.

Often the only noticeable difference is one of attitude. But our focus makes a big difference to God. Our thoughts, actions and deeds make a difference to God because they reveal our heart’s motive. He calls us to love Him and love man. How many of us live that out on a daily basis? A very straight forward command but one that requires utter reliance on Him if we are to walk it out. The world tells us to look after number one; God commands us to give to those who ask, lend without expecting anything back, and to bless those who curse us.

Let us try and define the point a little more and note some of the differences between the world and God’s Kingdom:

World God’s Kingdom
Store up for tomorrow Give to those in need
Befriend those who love you or can get you ahead in life Befriend the outcast, the poor, the needy; love the unlovable
Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you die Find it all joy when you suffer for Christ’s sake.
Buy a house or houses; build stability The Son of Man had no where to rest His head; called to follow Him
Indulgence, comfort, more, a “wouldn’t it be nice…” mentality Take up your cross and follow me
You are worth it God is worth everything
Most important thing is… family, spouse, friend, money, position… God is always most important
Fear Perfect love casts out fear
Instant gratification Eternal joy and fulfilment

You may have noticed that I mentioned the church at the start too. The church is the body of Christ and we are called to build God’s Kingdom. Sometimes as individual church congregations we can become focused on self or on what individuals are doing for the church. Our motivation to serve should not be a pastor asking us to but overflowing joy and the love of Christ.

Do you know that the hardest thing He can sometimes ask of us is to do “nothing”? We fear the judgement of man and those who have been challenged by God to give up ministries to focus on Him know how hard this can be. He is able to keep a ministry going without us but we can’t keep it alive without Him! Our desire to serve should be motivated by passion for God and to see His Kingdom built. It should flow from a deep gratitude for what He had done for us. If you aren’t in this place take some time just to sit in His presence; dwell on the Word, His character or play worship music. Bring it back to God!

We each have different gifts and passions and these can be used to serve God. Ask yourself are you serving God or man? If you are serving God it will be a joy but serving man will become a chore or a need for the praise of man.

James 4:13-15 sums it up nicely:  Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Don’t focus on what the world is doing but turn your attention to the task God has called you to.

Stop asking, “What are the Joneses doing?” and start asking “What would God have me do?”