Living Out the Sacrifice – Emotional Engagement

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:14

Christians are called to be emotionally engaged with one another.  We need to know when the good stuff happens to each other as well as when the bad stuff does.  For Paul’s audience, this knowledge was possible through their regular gatherings together for worship.  I trust those first century Christians also rubbed shoulders with one another throughout the week.  But our culture is different.  We are modern.  We are connected via the Worldwide Web.  And nothing has done more to help us stay connected like Facebook.

Facebook is a blessing.

Have you found that to be the case?  Just this week we have had perhaps hundreds of “friends” praying for our fevering baby.  In a very real sense, they were weeping with our weeping.  Those who told us so were truly emotionally engaged.  We see such participation as well when we share good news on FB.  Many respond with awesome comments and praise God for His manifold blessings.  So–we do appreciate the tool of Facebook which allows connection that distance and time often diminish.

However grateful I am for the conduit of Facebook,  I am aware of the necessity of personal contact.  No social media will ever replace human presence.  Individual-to-individual ministry will always trump that latest and greatest technological resource.  Can I give you a concrete example?  Someone just now came to the door.  It was my wife’s chiropractor.  She had been following our woes this week (three of us have a viral infection).  She’s probably been praying as well, but she decided to do something practical.  She brought us a package of herbal tea (the expensive stuff).  Isn’t that awesome?!  Isn’t that a great example of weeping with those who weep? (She was also “contributing to the needs of the saints!”)  She was alert to what was going on and she cared enough to do something about it.  Our Aunt Vonnie did the same today when she surprised us with supper.

We need to be alert to what is going on and care enough to do something about it.  If our family, friends, co-workers, fellow students (etc.), experience joy, we are called to rejoice with them.  And, if they encounter the unexpected, unwanted drama and trauma that is part and parcel to our life, we are commanded to weep.

Remember you are rarely “fine.”  Others usually are not “fine.”  Poke around a bit.  Ask specific questions.  Risk personal contact.  Rejoice.  Weep.

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Living Out the Sacrifice – Bless the cursers

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rom. 12:14

It is entirely possible that this command is one of the toughest commands to obey in all of Scripture.  We are sinful creatures.  When mistreated, we are quick to respond.  In our flesh, we lash back.  We attempt to repair what was damaged while doing some damage of our own. We recall the oft heard statement “Vengeance is mind, saith the LORD” (Deut. 32:35), but we feel justified in taking a few shots ourselves before leaving the persecutors in God’s hands.

You know what I am taking about. We’ve all been guilty of trying to settle the score.  It’s only natural. That’s why Paul continued in v.17:

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. 19 Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 21 Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

Why do you suppose that we are commanded to leave room for God’s wrath (12:19); to “turn the other cheek” (Mt. 5:39)?  Why must we overcome evil with good (12:21)?

Because we bear the imago Dei.  And as image bearers of God, we are to mimic Him.  That’s why the Apostle Peter p0inted to Jesus as our model:

18 [i]Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse. 19 For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. 20 But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered[j] for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.

22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[k]

23 When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Admittedly, Peter was speaking to slaves in the first century.  Like their ultimate Master, Jesus, they were entrust themselves to The Judge.  Rather than respond in an unrighteous fashion, they were to live for righteousness (2:24).  Since they had returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of their souls (2:25), they were act, react, speak, think, etc. like Christ.

We are to do no less.

My reason for writing this particular blog entry is simple.  I am working through Romans, chapter twelve.  Your reason for reading today may be completely different.  Perhaps you are neck-deep in a challenging situation.  Maybe you have been mistreated recently.  Maybe you are about to be.  Being persecuted is definitely a tough spot.  God’s help is critical during such a time.  We need His assistance if we are to glorify His name and walk like His son.  Leaning on Him is of absolute necessity if we are to remain meek.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:3

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Living Out the Sacrifice – Exercise Hospitality

Hospitality.

We all have an idea of what is commanded in this verse from Paul in Romans, chapter twelve. It’s the idea of opening up ourselves in order to bless others.  Some tend to think of inviting people over for dinner when the word hospitality is used. However, the concept is more far-reaching than that.  Consider the comments of John Gill:

Given to hospitality; or, as it may be rendered, “pursuing”, or “following after love to strangers”; which is properly hospitality: respect is to be shown not to such only who are members of the same community with us, but also to such of the people of God, that may be of another country, or of some distant parts of our own, not before known by us; who by persecution, and distress of some sort or another, or by some providence or another, are obliged to remove from their native place. These we are to love, and show our love to, not only by directing and advising, but, if need be, by giving them food and raiment, and lodging them: this is a duty incumbent on ministers of the Gospel, and on private members, and on all who are in any capacity to perform it; and which should be done cheerfully, and without grudging; and what persons should use, inure, and give themselves to, yea, should seek after, and call to objects of it; as Abraham and Lot did, who thereby entertained angels unawares, and is what the apostle here means by pursuing and following after it (eSword).

Following after love to strangers.

What must we do?  Pursue strangers!  That’s easier said than done for some of us.  While others find it easy introducing themselves to people, a few of us find the experience quite stressful. What is helpful for us is to remember the purpose behind the action.  We reach out, we follow after, we pursue strangers in order to minister to them.  It is a proactive way in which we can live out the reason for which we were created: to glorify God and bless others.

After being rebuffed in several attempts to minister to students at a local college, we found a backdoor entrance through our church.  One Sunday, the church promoted an “adopt-a-college-student” program.  We jumped at the chance, and have enjoyed getting to know a fun-loving, intelligent young woman and a couple of her friends.  We were a bit anxious that first night.  What would she be like?  Would she like us?  Would we like her?  Could she handle our commotion and noise?  Thankfully–the answers are yes to all of those questions!

Our risk reaped rewards.

Risk often reaps rewards. Occasionally, risk will lead to remorse. However, fear should not dissuade us from obeying what is explicitly commanded.  Individuals in our community need us–particularly the visitors among us.  College students away from their families need to be able to hang out in a home from time-to-time.  Folks new to the church need to know that they are welcome among us.  Transfer students in high school need new friends–and fast!  As you can see, hospitality is practical and it is an activity in which we should all be engaged.

Are we?

May God use us in the lives of others!

 

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Living Out the Sacrifice – Contributing to the Need of the Saints

Giving to the needy within the church is a commandment for all believers.

But let’s be honest–some of us are more needy than others.  This is particularly true in affluent America.  Even in the small town in which we reside, many couples make up to $100,000 per year–far more than is required to live in our current cost-of-living situation.  Paul has a word for those individuals and couples in 1 Timothy 6:

17 Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, 19 thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life (New American Standard, Revised).

Rich in the present age is a bit of a slippery description.  Wealth is relative.  While it is true that $1,000,000.00 per year is rich in any culture, $50,000.00 only lands you in the middle class in the United States.  But Americans afflicted with affluenza should not compare themselves to the rich and famous of their gluttonous society.  Rather, we should understand that $70,000, $80,000 or a six figure income is indeed more than is needed to both provide your needs and bless others.

And bless others.

That’s what Paul has in mind here in Romans 12 where he commands the Christians in Rome to “contribute to the needs of the saints.”  Some saints have more than enough.  Other saints had less than enough.  IT IS THE RESPONSIBLITY OF MORE THAN-ENOUGH-SAINTS TO HELP THE LESS-THAN-ENOUGH-SAINTS.

If there ever was a theme in the Scriptures regarding how God’s people should use their money it is this: It is the responsibility of more-than-enough saints to help the less-than-enough saints.  Notice the word responsibility.  I deliberately chose that word over privilege.  Our opportunity to bless other Christians is indeed a privilege since it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). However, we must never consider our opportunities as options. We are commanded to alleviate the sufferings of the saints and to assist in meeting their needs.

Need more motivation?

10 So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.

You have to admit: the Bible is clear on this issue.  We cannot sit by as fellow Christians have unmet needs when we have a GOD-GIVEN ABILITY to meet those very needs. It is the responsibility of more-than-enough saints to help the less-than-enough saints. If you have more than enough, it is for a reason.  Pray for God to direct you as to whom and how you can bless.  If you have less than enough, ask God to meet your needs and wait patiently as He puts the pieces in place to do just that.

For a great paragraph on this issue, navigate over to the Quick Takes page.

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Living Out the Sacrifice – Devoted to Prayer, Part One

 

“Devoted to prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Prayer is like breathing for a believer.  We do it consciously and subconsciously.  At least we should be.

Convicted yet?  I am!  I do pray, but I am convinced that my prayer life cannot appropriately be described as devoted.  I sure don’t pray continually as commanded by the Lord through Paul (1 Thess. 5:17).

My lack of prayer is nothing short of folly.

Why?  Because of the simple fact that God hears and answers the prayers of His people.

He really does.

I shared that truth recently in a class of college students.  My text was one of my favorite on the subjects:  Luke 11.  Listen to what Jesus had to say on the issue:

Luk 11:5  Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; Luk 11:6  for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; Luk 11:7  and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.‘ Luk 11:8  “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. Luk 11:9  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luk 11:10  “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Luk 11:11  “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Luk 11:12  “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? Luk 11:13  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

It is easy to see why this passage is such an encouragement to us to pray, isn’t it?!

Believers have a Father who hears and answers our prayers.  He enjoys giving good gifts to His children! That’s why we are exhorted to pray persistently (the friend kept pestering his buddy) and specifically (we ask for a fish, not a snake).

Our motivation for persistent and specific prayer comes from the Scripture.

Stephen J. Cole from Bible.org adds these important observations to the topic:

The Greek verb means to adhere to, persist in, be devoted to, or hold fast to something (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, by William Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich [University of Chicago Press, 2nd ed.], p. 715). It is often used with reference to prayer in the New Testament. As the early church waited for the promised Day of Pentecost, we read, Acts 1:14, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer ….” Later, Luke sums up the activities of the Jerusalem church (Acts 2:42), “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

When the apostles sought to find seven faithful men to take care of the problem of meeting the needs of the widows, they explained (Acts 6:4), “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Paul instructed the Ephesians (6:18) about prayer, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints ….” “Perseverance” translates the noun that is related to the verb, “be devoted to.” In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” And, although he does not use the same word, Paul expresses the same concept in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” The Greek word translated “without ceasing” was used of a hacking cough and of repeated military assaults. So the idea is not that we pray every waking minute, but that we keep coming back to prayer again and again. We are relentless in prayer.

So these verses tell us that prayer is not to be a little segment of our lives, where the extent of our praying is to bless our food before meals or to pray with our kids as we tuck them into bed. Rather, prayer is to permeate all of life. We should pray about virtually anything and everything. And so, being devoted to prayer is one of those commands that I’ll never be able to check off my list and say, “I’ve got that one down. What’s next?” No, there is always room to grow more devoted to prayer. 

https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-84-devoted-prayer-romans-1212c

A secondary motivation comes from our experience, but space prevents me from elaborating at this point. However, the information above should be all the exhortation we need at the presence.  God invites us to pray persistently and specifically, and we are told the He both hears and answers the prayers of His people.  Since “there is always room to grow more devoted to prayer,” let’s do so!

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Fuel for Worship and Confidence

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend a class on the Psalms taught by a friend.  After reviewing several of the themes in the Psalter, he drew our attention to Psalm 145.  It had been a while since I paused at that particular passage.  I love how both God’s transcendence and God’s immanence are mentioned by the author.  Yes, God is big.  He is definitely One-of-a-kind.  However, He is also engaged in His creation–particularly in the lives of His people.  Later that day I caught myself thinking back on the Psalm and decided to see how Eugene Peterson rendered it in The Message.  You can look up the passage in a more literal translation, but the gist is the same.  Your response will also probably be identical to mine:  worship and confidence.

Consider the nature and works of God:

Psa 145:1 David’s praise. I lift you high in praise, my God, O my King! and I’ll bless your name into eternity.

Psa 145:2 I’ll bless you every day, and keep it up from now to eternity.

Psa 145:3 GOD is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness.

Psa 145:4 Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts.

Psa 145:5 Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking; I compose songs on your wonders.

Psa 145:6 Your marvelous doings are headline news; I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.

Psa 145:7 The fame of your goodness spreads across the country; your righteousness is on everyone’s lips.

Psa 145:8 GOD is all mercy and grace– not quick to anger, is rich in love.

Psa 145:9 GOD is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace.

Psa 145:10 Creation and creatures applaud you, GOD;

Psa 145:11 your holy people bless you. They talk about the glories of your rule, they exclaim over your splendor,

Psa 145:12 Letting the world know of your power for good, the lavish splendor of your kingdom.

Psa 145:13 Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal; you never get voted out of office. GOD always does what he says, and is gracious in everything he does.

Psa 145:14 GOD gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

Psa 145:15 All eyes are on you, expectant; you give them their meals on time.

Psa 145:16 Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures.

Psa 145:17 Everything GOD does is right– the trademark on all his works is love.

Psa 145:18 GOD’s there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it.

Psa 145:19 He does what’s best for those who fear him– hears them call out, and saves them.

Psa 145:20 GOD sticks by all who love him, but it’s all over for those who don’t.

Psa 145:21 My mouth is filled with GOD’s praise. Let everything living bless him, bless his holy name from now to eternity!

 

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Resting in our Trials

Several days ago, I listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg for my morning time in God’s Word.  It was within that context Begg shared the following words by Andrew Murray.  The subject was the trials we face in this life and how we should appropriately respond.   Murray wrote,

First, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.
Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.
Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here,
1) By God’s appointment;
2) In His keeping;
3) Under His training;
4) For His time.

Good stuff.  Godly resignation.

I am here by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.

Don’t you think such a perspective would make your suffering more bearable?  Indeed it would!  His was an understanding of God’s sovereignty and care for His own. And that, beloved, is truth which can easily be found in the Scripture.  God is in complete control of His creation, including our lives.  But He is also caring–particularly towards His own children.  As Psalm 119:68 proclaims, “Thou art good and doest good” (KV).  I cannot express what an anchor this verse has been for me over the past ten years of my life.  On very dark days, I have often reminded myself that God is good and that God does good–all the time.  There is more to that verse, however.  It continues, “Teach me Thy statutes.”  The NIV renders the sentiment, “Teach me Your decrees.”  Here’s the idea:  Since we can trust the character and ways of God, we desire to know what He wants us to do. We have a heart to honor and obey.

Even in the midst of our difficulties.

You may be experiencing some genuine challenges in your life.  This may, in fact, be a period of trial for you.  Believe me when I say that I can relate.  It is my hope that Murray’s words above proved to be an encouragement to you and that the reminder than God can be trusted due to His inherent goodness motivates you today to obedience–regardless of the issues you are facing.

If I can pray for you in any way, please let me know.

Blessings, Tim

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Living Out the Sacrifice – Persevering in Tribulation

I am currently teaching my favorite course for Belhaven University.  It is entitled Kingdom Life.  It’s the final worldview courses many of the students take.  The concept of vocations is stressed throughout the course–the idea that we all have callings from God that we are to take seriously to such an extent that God is glorified and people are blessed because we are present.

Think of some of your callings.  Perhaps your list looks similar to mine:  Christian, Husband, Father, Employee, Church attendee, Citizen, etc. Each is a vocation within which I am be faithful today, tomorrow and every day.

Easier said than done, right?!  Right!

The text for our class is Gene Veith’s God At Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (Crossway Books, 2002).  Chapter ten is “Bearing the Cross in Vocation.” The first paragraph reads as follows:

“The doctrine of vocation is utterly realistic. And a part of realism is to acknowledge the hardships, the frustrations, the failures that we also sometimes encounter in our vocations. Yes, work can be satisfying and fulfilling, but–sometimes at the same time–it can be arduous, boring , and futile. Yes, it is wonderful to have children, but they can also break a parent’s heart. Yes, marriage is a blessing, but there are also sometimes fights, arguments, and emotional roller coasters. Yes, it is good to love one’s country, but citizenship becomes a burden when the leaders are corrupt and the laws are unjust. Yes, we cannot do without our church, but sometimes it is maddeningly frustrating in the way it operates” (p.143).

Later, in a section entitled, “Trials in Vocation”, Veith writes, “It is not just sin that gives us trouble in vocation. We face trials. We face tribulations. Sometimes we experience utter failure” (p.145).

I know you can relate.  If you have lived life into adulthood, you have experienced all the above (sin and its consequences, trials, tribulations, utter failure).  Life is hard. As Wesley so eloquently put it to the Princess bride: “Life is pain, highness.”

Dr. John Piper stated a the following in a sermon on our passage in Romans 12:

Tribulation is unique in this list. Love, joy, hope, patient endurance are all things we experience or do. But tribulation is something that is done to us, or happens to us. Love, joy, hope, patience are all virtues—they rise in the soul by God’s grace as something morally good. Tribulation is not a virtue. It’s not in the category as a moral act of the soul. So tribulation is different.

We start with this because this is the environment where all the virtues happen. Tribulation is the normal experience of believers in this life. Some tribulation we share with unbelievers (like sickness and calamity and death) and some is unique to believers (like persecution for Christ’s sake). But my main point here is that tribulation is normal and to be expected in this world. It’s the setting for all our love and joy and hope and patience and prayer. Affliction is where we live. If you don’t live there now, you will. Learning that this is normal will be a great help to you when it comes.

Jesus was the best man who ever lived. None of us has any right to experience less affliction than he did. If we experience less, it is mercy. We don’t deserve the peaceful lives we have. They are merciful gifts. For Jesus it was affliction from the beginning. His birth was scandalous (conceived before marriage). It was in an animal feeding trough. It was threatened and hated by the political powers (Herod). He barely escaped death as a child and had to become a refugee in Egypt. And so it went until he was accused of sedition against Caesar and crucified.

That is the way Christianity began. Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malignthose of his household” (Matthew 10:25). Paul taught all the young churches he established, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Peter taught the churches, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). It isn’t strange. It’s normal. It comes with the fallen, sinful, futile world. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

The affliction of our lives extends from cancer to calamity to conflict to death. These are all normal and they are part of what we must live with on our way to heaven. That is why Paul says here in verse 12, “Be patient in tribulation.”

http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/happy-in-hope-patient-in-pain-constant-in-prayer

“Tribulation is the normal experience of believers in this life…Affliction is where we live.”  We shouldn’t expect anything different.. Thus we are called to endure; to be patient.  Difficulties are to be expected, but “this too shall pass” and the end result will be God-exalting, people-blessing maturity.

Rom 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Rom 5:2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Rom 5:3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

Rom 5:4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

Rom 5:5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Beloved–regardless of the challenges and difficulties you are facing today or in your future–stand (Rom. 5:2). Exult in hope (Rom. 5:2). Exult IN the tribulations, because something good will be the result (Rom. 5:3-5).  God has a great purpose in mind!

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Don’t Choose Misery

serve-like-jesus_t_nv

A couple of days ago, I listened to a marriage seminar conducted by Francis and Lisa Chan (see link below).  Session one was packed with great information that would help every married couple.  But there was one line, in particular, which stood out to me.  It was a comment by Lisa.

“The more inward you focus, the more miserable you will be.”

Meditate upon that concept with  me for a few minutes.  Do you believe Lisa is correct?  I sure do! The more we focus upon ourselves, the more discouraged we become.

I just did a Google search for the following phrase:  think of others rather than yourself.

The first listing was from the Bible.  If you are familiar with the New Testament, the passage will not surprise you.

Php 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

Php 2:4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Putting others first.  There’s one of the remedies for misery.

Several weeks ago, TJ’s Upwards Basketball coach shared a devotional with the boys about taking initiative.  He spoke with the boys about looking for needs and being proactive about meeting those needs.  Good stuff.

The following is an excerpt from an excellent blog entry on Rich Nathan’s blog about this issue:

The Bible teaches that as servants of the Lord, God has certain assignments for us to accomplish in this life.  We read in Ephesians 2.10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We followers of Christ are God’s masterpieces.  Literally, we are his works of art, created in Christ Jesus, not self-created.  We are not self-made men and women. The spiritual life that comes through the born-again experience was created in Christ.  And the purpose of our new lives in Christ was to fulfill the unique assignment that God has given to each of us according to his sovereign will.  Ephesians 2.10 teaches that if you are a servant of the Lord, there is a plan, a destiny that God has in mind for you.  Life is about discovering God’s purpose for you.  To miss your assignment is to live a wasted life.

Life is not about indulging as many of our wants as we can, or trying to live above the rules, or creating our own dreams or forging our own destinies.  People who live with no sense of God’s assignment constantly drift from one experience to another.  They move from one job to another, one relationship to another, one location to another – always discontent, always searching, always on the move, always frustrated, never at peace.

In this world, there are situations, people and decisions that only you can touch in the unique way that God has purposed.

Here is a little secret.  Life is all about choosing for or against our assignment from God.  Sometimes the choice is huge.  There is an obvious fork in the road, and if we take one road, it is going to lead us to a radically different destination than if we take the other road.

But mammoth decisions come along very infrequently in life. Most of our assignments from the Lord are very small.  There is a phone call that God wants us to make. There is a person in the hospital that God wants us to visit.  There is a dishwasher that God wants us to empty.  There is a difficult conversation that God wants us to have.  There is a relationship that God wants us to reconcile.  There is a prayer that God wants us to pray.

As servants, our time is not our own.  Our money is not our own.  We are on assignment from God.  The question we constantly need to ask is, “Lord, what are the good works that you prepared beforehand for me to do?”

Serving not only helps others, serving blesses the servant.  In serving others, we not only assist another person’s well-being, we also bless ourselves. This makes perfect sense since we human beings are designed to be servants. When we work in accordance with God’s design, we flourish.  And when we don’t, we don’t!

How does serving bless the servant?

  • Serving increases self-confidence.  In doing good for others in the church and in the community, we experience a natural sense of accomplishment.  When we have a ministry role in the church or community, the role can provide us with a clear sense of identity.  The better we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to have a positive view of our lives and our future goals.
  • Serving combats depression.  One risk factor for depression is social isolation.  Serving in some ministry keeps us in regular contact with others and helps us develop a solid support system.  Serving improves people’s moods and reduces people’s stress and anxiety.

– See more at: http://www.richnathan.org/article/people-who-serve-others-bless-themselves/#sthash.rOUKfdlQ.dpuf

Are you miserable?  Whose needs are you meeting?  I agree with the author’s statement above: “…there are situations, people and decisions that only you can touch in the unique way that God has purposed.”  God has a purpose for me.  He has a purpose for you.  Let’s rededicate ourselves to glorifying Him and blessing the people He has made!

Here’s that link to the Francis and Lisa Chan video I mentioned above:

 

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Living Out the Sacrifice – Rejoicing in hope

Hope is like a credit card.  You borrow from the future today.

We all hope–even if that hope is veiled.  However, the Apostle Paul is challenging the believers in Rome to wear their hope on their sleeves.  They were supposed to “rejoice in hope” (Rom. 12:12).  The Message renders the sentiment: “cheerfully expectant.”

Let me ask you this:  Do we have any reason to do this?  Is their any justification for rejoicing in hope?  You know that there is!

The beginning verses of Hebrews, chapter six, are often debated.  Scholars continue to disagree as to the identity of those who have fallen away (6:1-8).  However, everyone believes that the you mentioned in verse nine is in reference to the Christian audience to whom this lengthy treatise was sent.  Consider what the author had to say:

Heb 6:9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.

Heb 6:10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.

Heb 6:11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,

Heb 6:12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

If you have been following this Living Out the Sacrifice series from Romans 12, you may have noticed the similar themes appearing above.  Here’s the text I have been explaining from Romans 12:

Rom 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship…Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  Rom 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; Rom 12:12 rejoicing in hope…

Show the same diligence.  So that you will not be sluggish.  Realize the full assurance of hope.

This idea of “realizing the full assurance of hope” mentioned by the author of Hebrews is that of cultivating or developing.  He deeply desires the believers to remain steadfast in their hope “until the end” (6:11).  The question begging to be answered is:  How?  How do we cultivate hope?  Paul gives us a clue.  In Romans 15:13, he said:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Hope comes from God. It is the eager anticipation that that which is unseen will one day become reality (Rom. 8:25).  That’s how rejoicing is possible.  Since we will experience the blessings of the future, we can taste of them now.  This is why time in the Scriptures is so vital.  It is through the Word of God that we come to learn of our blessings now and in the future.  This is why Paul told the believers in Rome:

Rom 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Are you rejoicing in hope?  If so, my guess is that you are not neglecting your time in the Bible.  If you have not been rejoicing in hope, my guess is that you have become negligent in your reading and study of the Scriptures.  Which is true of you?  When the author of Hebrews mentioned the concept of “diligence” (6:11), it is in the context of the spiritual life.

God will bless our diligence in the Scriptures and hope will result.  And because the hope will be genuine, it will be evident to others.

Rejoicing in hope is possible!  Have you read or studied God’s Word today?  I guess you could count reading this blog entry as doing just that!  Keep it up!

 

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