Monthly Archives: January, 2015

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!

 

One Packers Fan’s Reaction

 

GreenBayPackers

I’ve been disappointed at season-ending losses.  I’ve been mad even.  But I’ve never been so sad about one before.  And I have come to realize that this describes the emotional response of the majority of Packers fans the day after the team decided not to accept their invitation to the Super Bowl.  They let down their guard.  They stopped doing the little things right and the defending world champions sent them back to the frozen tundra embarrassed about a fourth quarter that will go down in infamy.

The Pack let themselves down.  They let each other down.  They let their fans down.

I am recovering.  I’ve been washing myself with God’s Word.  Several friends have reached out to me.  A co-worker complimented me.  Work is therapeutic.  But you know what began the healing process?  My baby calling my name.  The Packers had just lost in overtime.  I slumped to the couch, actually feeling that I might cry.  And that’s when Cadence—my ten-month-old baby—crawled over to me,  stood up and said, “Da—da.”

A small gift from God to remind me of what truly matters.

There is an article on the Packers website entitled, “It’s the most heartbreaking loss I have ever covered” by Vic Ketchman.  In the comments section below the piece, several fans mentioned that they have decided to stop following the Packers.  They had not instantly become Seahawks fans.  They just realized that they were too invested in something that—ultimately—has very little value.  One individual who goes by the name Barn owl wrote,  “I am intending to hang it up. First game was 15 rows up behind Vince and the boys in ’65. All the paraphernalia has been tossed and I’ve got to focus on something that matters to me and my family, something that I can choose to have a say in. I now look back on this season as a complete waste of time – wasted opportunities to do more meaningful things than sit in front of a TV hoping and wishing and yelling at bad calls” (www.Packers.com).

Some of us may need to follow his example.  Others of us may need to pause and remember “to focus on something that matters.”  Football is a game.  It’s just a game.  God, His Word and people are forever.

Our season is over.  I’ll survive.  We all will, and with the extra time on our hands, let’s focus!

PS—You gotta love the comment on the Packers website from a certain Josh S.

“Not everyone gets to watch their team play in an NFC Championship. Yes, the Packers choked, but heck…we could’ve been watching the Cowboys/Seahawks instead. It was a heck of a season, and next year will be even better. Super Bowl 50…it would only be fitting if the Packers won it.”

 

Indeed!

Living Out the Sacrifice – Not lagging behind in diligence

One of the college courses I teach is entitled Kingdom Life.  It is the last worldview course students take and one of the final courses they have prior to graduation.  I love the course because the curriculum is balanced between principle and practice.  In the first class, I discuss faithfulness.  I trust there are several quality definitions for this concept.  The one I share with the students is:

I am to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons.

Within the context of Romans 12, “not lagging behind in diligence” is connected to serving the Lord (12:11).  Some translations render the verse, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (KJV).  That led some commentators to focus on our callings in the world.  However, I believe John Gill rightly understands the intent of Paul when he writes,

“Meaning not worldly business, or the affairs of life; though slothfulness in this respect is scandalous to human nature, and especially in persons under a profession of religion; men should diligently pursue their lawful callings for the support of themselves and families, and the interest of Christ: but spiritual business, the affairs of piety and religion, the service of God, private and public, to which we should not be backward, nor slothful in the performance of; such as preaching, hearing, reading, praying, and other ordinances of God; yea, we should be ready and forward to every good work, and particularly, and which may be here greatly designed, ministering to the poor saints in their necessity; in doing which we show that kind, tender, affectionate, brotherly love, and give that honour and respect” (eSword).

Truth be told, we can become spiritually lazy.  All Christians will admit seasons without passion.  We all burn out from time-to-time.  Paul’s challenge to us is:  “Don’t burn out. Keep yourselves fueled and aflamed.  Be alert servants of the Master” (Rom. 12:11; The Message).

Our pastor called us a “sacred assembly” next week.  He did the same last year as we approached “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.”  One of activities planned is concentrated prayer for our nation.  However, he also stated, “we will call out to God for the spiritual renewal of God’s people.”  That excites me because I need spiritual renewal.  I need to be refueled.

“Keep yourselves fueled…”

Did you notice that wording in the Message?  God refuels us as we take the effort to refuel ourselves.  Church is important in that process. For me, studying God’s Word and regurgitating my thoughts in this blog is another.  During my week, I will often listen to sermons.  I do so almost out of a feeling of desperation.  I need the fuel.  Without it, the flame threatens to expire.  And as the flame begins to lose its light and heat, I begin to become slothful.  But I am called to diligence; to fervency.  All believers have the same obligation.

How full is your tank?

What are you doing to fill up?  How can you tell if your tank is full?  God spills out of you and splashes on others.  We serve Him by serving others.

Allow me to close by sharing the song we sang Sunday at the end of church.  It’s a great prayer for all of us.

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold

Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy

Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within

Words by Brian Doerksen. Found on:
http://www.songlyrics.com/brian-doerksen/refiner-s-fire-lyrics/

 

 

Living Out the Sacrifice: Give preference to one another in love

Is this an impossible mission?

As I continue my study of Romans 12, I was not surprised to find one of the repeated themes of New Testament appearing:  Believers are to put others above themselves.  Paul made this point crystal clear in his letter to the Philippians.

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.

Php 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

Php 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

Php 2:7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Php 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Our example is Jesus.

But you knew that already.  We all know that we are called to walk as Jesus walked (1 Jn 2:6). Every Christian is aware that we are to be on a mission to bless others–even if that requires personal sacrifice.  In contrast to the expressed sentiments of Cain (Gen. 4:9), we are indeed our “brother’s keeper.”  And we are to be forward in our efforts.  Consider these words from Matthew Henry:

“Instead of contending for superiority, let us be forward to give to others the pre-eminence. This is explained [by Paul in Phil. 2:3] Let each esteem other better than themselves. And there is this good reason for it, because, if we know our own hearts, we know more evil by ourselves than we do by any one else in the world. We should be forward to take notice of the gifts, and graces, and performances of our brethren, and value them accordingly, be more forward to praise another, and more pleased to hear another praised, than ourselves” (quoted from eSword).

Did you notice Henry’s repeated use of the word forward?  Think for a minute about what he is exhorting us to do.  We should be forward–conscious in our efforts–to (1) give to others the pre-eminence, (2) take notice of the gifts, and graces, and performances of our brethren, and value them accordingly and (3) praise another (and more pleased to hear another praised than ourselves).

So–how forward are we being in our relationships with others?

Are we giving others pre-eminence?  Are we making a conscious effort to put others needs above our own?

Are we taking notice of the good works done by others and praising God for them and thanking the individuals who “performed them”?

Are we praising others and desiring that others receive more commendation than ourselves?

My guess is that each of us can find areas just mentioned that require more forward action.  If we honestly evaluated our relationships with others, we would find ways in which we can prove to be more of a blessing.  The concept of giving preference to one another in love begins with an invisible mindset (a decision) and ends with a visible action (communication, deed).  It’s a successful mission to bless, and it is not mission impossible!  For God and with God, we can indeed go forward today!

Living Out the Sacrifice: Be Devoted to One Another

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love”  Romans 12:10

When I think of the word “devoted” other words come to mind such as committed and supportive.  I believe that is the sentiment communicated by the Apostle Paul in this passage to the Christians in Rome.  He does not want the believers to have devotion or reverence for one another.  Rather, he desires that they act out their identity.  They had become a family.  And–ideally–family sticks together.  Family watches out for each other.  Here’s what Matthew Henry comments on this verse:

“…it [the Greek word rendered ‘be devoted to one another in brotherly love’] signifies not only love, but a readiness and inclination to love, the most genuine and free affection, kindness flowing out as from a spring. It properly denotes the love of parents to their children, which, as it is the most tender, so it is the most natural, of any, unforced, unconstrained; such must our love be to one another, and such it will be where there is a new nature and the law of love is written in the heart. This kind affection puts us on to express ourselves both in word and action with the greatest courtesy and obligingness that may be. – One to another. This may recommend the grace of love to us, that, as it is made our duty to love others, so it is as much their duty to love us. And what can be sweeter on this side heaven than to love and be beloved? He that thus watereth shall be watered also himself.”

Paul’s point is clear.  Blessing others in the body of Christ is not an option; it’s our responsibility.  We are called to make a difference in the lives of others.  Our deeds and our words directed toward our brothers and sisters in Christ should be for their edification.  We should be on a mission to build up, not tear down.  As Henry stated, we should have a spring of kindness flowing out of ourselves.

And what will the end result look like?  The body of Christ will be refreshed and so will we.

What is flowing out of us today?