Sunday, December 9, 2012

Honoring God's Law and Design

This is the last day of my MedComm series.  Hope you enjoyed it!

Honor God’s Law Meditation Commentary
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” —Matthew 5:17-18
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—II Timothy 3:16-17
            We hear a lot about living under grace and not under the law, because of a lot of Paul’s discussions about this topic in New Testament letters he wrote.  The truth is that we are to live by the spirit of the law, and not the letter of the law, because God’s design is not bound by the law—it supersedes it, and the laws He gives show us the parameters that He has set in place for us to live according to His design.  Paul explains this in Galatians.  “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Galatians 3:19)  God gave His law to show His people exactly how He wanted them to live, but the focus was supposed to be on His ultimate design, which was encapsulated in the law.  
A mentor of mine explained it this way once: the law was intended as a safety net to catch those who were sliding farther back away from God, as a warning that they were stepping out of the boundaries of His design, but their focus was still supposed to be focused on Him, reaching and striving to know Him deeper.  The Pharisees messed up by turning their focus away from the God they were supposed to be developing a relationship with, and began focusing on the safety net as the standard which they were striving to attain to, not realizing that Jesus was the goal, and the law was there to keep them from straying too far from Him.  Honoring God’s law means more than following the law to the letter—it means respecting it in its original purpose and design.  To honor God’s law means to recognize the spirit behind what was commanded, and to respect and follow it because we understand that God’s design is best and we want to glorify Him by living the way He wants us to live.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Generosity and Design

Generosityvs. Stinginess
Generosity is demonstrating the nature of God by wisely reinvesting the resources that He has entrusted to us.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” —Luke 6:35-36, 38
God’s design for the body of Christ has to do with community.  In the very beginning, God saw that it was good at the end of each day, and the first thing God said was NOT good was that Adam was alone.  (Gen. 2:18)  To align with the way God has designed our community, we are supposed to depend on each other, and generosity is essential to a dependent community.  God’s whole design for the way we operate is not living a selfish lifestyle.  If we live selfishly we will self-destruct and implode into little puddles of selfish goo.  Rather, He has designed us to live our lives pouring out ourselves, because this is His nature.  Philippians 2 says we should have the same mind as Christ Jesus, who made himself of no reputation even though he was in the form of God, and took the form of a servant, and humbled Himself even to the point of death.  ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ is one of the principles behind generosity that is woven into God’s design for our lives.  When we are generous, we are blessed.  We reap what we sow.  But the beautiful thing about the way God designed us is that it is in the very act of generosity that we are blessed.  In other words, we do not get the blessing if we give generously to get something out of it for ourselves, (which is a selfish motive) but we are blessed by giving for the simple reason that that is how God designed us to be blessed.  We thrive when we live the way God designed us.  We operate best under His principles.  One of those principles is generosity, and when we live generously, we fulfill His goals for our lives.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Letting Your Light Shine and Design

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” —Matthew 5:14-16
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”—Daniel 12:3
            There is a reason God did not create us all perfect beautiful, athletic, intelligent, talented, muscular, exemplary models.  God gave each of us a unique design, and fashioned our personality, ethnicity, heritage, height, birth date, etc., all for a reason—His glory.  Each of us has been uniquely designed by God for a particular reason.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained for us to do.”  To clarify, if there are any changeable features about ourselves that are not in accordance with God’s design, which could hinder us from displaying Him and His works, we should change them.  Most of us also have unchangeable features about ourselves that we do not appreciate, but if they are unchangeable, we must determine the best way to use them for God’s glory.  He gave those features to us for a reason, and we must display His glory through them.  Even things that do not seem to make any sense at all, like an accident that paralyzes someone from the neck down, or an army invading your country and persecuting Christians, or getting stuck in a swamp in the middle of an Indonesians jungle, surrounded by snakes, and bugs, and unfriendly natives, if handled in the proper way, can be used to display God’s glory.   The way we respond to situations and how we act in them is what determines whether or not God’s light will shine through us.  Paul describes this concept in 2 Timothy 2:20-21: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  (21)  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.”  God’s designs are always for a purpose, and He will use us for His glory, but we can determine if we are a vessel used for honor or dishonor by the way we react to the design He has given us. We should use the aspects of God’s design to shine as lights for Him.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Joyfulness and Design

 Joyfulness vs. Self-Pity
Joyfulness is the bright spirit and radiant countenance that come by being in full fellowship with the Lord.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” —I Peter 4:12-14
            Self-pity and joyfulness are not determined by circumstances…they are determined by perspective.  A person could accept God’s design for their life, yet still feel self-pity, because of a twisted concept of destiny.  Unless a person understands the character of God—that He loves us and wants what is best for us—he may pity the fact that he cannot change the way he was created.  Furthermore, if a person has a proper love for Jesus and who He is, the focus will be on how He can be glorified and how we can please Him.  If our focus is on our own features and the way we are designed, a certain amount of self-pity is inevitable because there will always be someone we perceive to have better features than us.  It is important to remember, though, that God designed us the way we are for His glory, and the way He designed us will glorify Him in some way.  If our love for God is genuine, this fact will bring us joy, because the focus is not on us anymore, but on God.  An acronym that has been used thousands of times in Christian teachings about joy is clich├ęd, but remains true nonetheless.  Putting Jesus first, focusing on others afterwards, and thinking of ‘you’ last, is the best recipe for joy.  This little acronym: Jesus, Others, You, is still a good way to remember the best way to overcome self-pity.  Joyfulness is an inherent part of God’s design for us.  He desires for us to have joy, and it is one of the fruits of His spirit. (Galatians 5:22)  Following His commands and walking in His spirit will produce joy in our lives that cannot be obtained by anything else in this world.  Just like real peace is not the absence of conflict, but calmness despite conflict, real joy is not the absence of sadness, but happiness in and trust and peace in the midst of sadness.  Thank God for joy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rejoicing and Design

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
—Matthew 5:10-12
            Rejoicing as Christ wants us to rejoice is linked with design in a very important way.   Until we accept God’s design for our life, and acknowledge Him as the Designer, we will never be able to follow this essential command of being able to rejoice.  Of course, everyone wants to rejoice.  We want to have joy in our lives.  If we refuse to be content in the way we are designed, that attribute is unattainable.  Joy is not dictated by our circumstances.  If it was, we would be on a constant roller coaster because circumstances are always changing.  However, if we trust that God has designed us a certain way, and relinquish control to Him over the way we look, the situations we are in, and certain unchangeable things, we will be able to have consistent joy.
            I heard the story of a family from the perspective of one of the daughters in the family, after she was grown up.  You may have heard the story before.  There were several children in the family, but the father had died, and they lost their main source of income.  Yet, they were always joyful.  They lived in a small house, and did not have much, but what they did have, they appreciated.  There were only three forks to split amongst seven people, so they made it a game to see who would get a fork each night.  One Sunday at church, the pastor announced that the church would be collecting money for a poor family in the congregation.  The pastor told the congregation to be generous and sacrificial since this family really needed their help.
            When the family left the church, they talked over what they could do to help the family.  They did not have a lot of money, but perhaps if they cut their food bill, and only had potatoes for supper for the next month, and did not use lights at night, or listen to the radio, to save money on electricity, they could donate the saved money to the poor family.  That month was one of the happiest times the family had.  They kept thinking of ways to get more money for the poor family, and imagining how excited the family would be to receive it.  The Sunday the money was to be given to the poor family, this family walked to church, singing and talking excitedly.  It was raining, but they hardly noticed.  Joyfully, they put the money in the offering plate.  They had saved 80 dollars.
            At home, when they were talking, the doorbell rang.  The mother went to answer the door, and returned quietly with an envelope.  She dumped the contents on the table.  It was 97 dollars.  Suddenly, they realized that they were the poor family the minister had talked about.  Nobody said a word.  Were they really poor?  They had not realized it before.  Did the other people in the church know?  What about the kids at school?
            The next week was miserable.  The children were ashamed to go to school, and did not want to show up at the church again where everyone knew they were poor.  But that Sunday, the mother still made them get up and get ready.  The sun was shining, but nobody felt like talking, and when the mother tried to rouse a song as they walked to church, nobody joined in.  That day there was a missionary at the church, raising money for people’s roofs in a foreign country.   He told them a hundred dollars would get someone a roof.  The pastor told the people to be generous.  The family members looked at each other and smiled, and dropped the money they had been given into the offering plate.  After service, when the money had been counted, the missionary was ecstatic.  There was 117 dollars. The congregation was small, but, “You must have some rich people in your church,” he told the pastor. The family suddenly realized that they had given the bulk of the money, and they were the ones the missionary was talking about.  They must be rich, because the missionary had said so.  And, once again, they were joyful.
            I believe that is the secret to rejoicing.  Do not let other people’s opinions and views of you drag you down.  God designed you and the circumstances you are in for a reason.  Agree with the apostle Paul shortly after he told us to rejoice in Philippians chapter 4, and say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.”   That is the secret to real joy.

(By the way, this little story was originally found by my friend Pastor Tony Skinner in the book: Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul.)  
Canfield, Jack, and Mark Victor. Hansen. Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart & Rekindle the Spirit. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1993. Print.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Security and Design

Security vs. Anxiety
Security is structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away.
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” –John 10:28-29
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation read to be revealed in the last time.” –I Peter 1:3-5
DesignUnderstanding the specific purposes for which God created each person, object, and relationship in my life and living in harmony with them. Thanking God for my design brings Self-Acceptance.

                Design certainly has the potential to bring security if one thinks about it in the right way.  Knowing that we are designed, rather than haphazardly compiled by random chance, is very comforting to Christians who believe in a loving God.  The very word ‘design’ implies careful effort and a plan.  If someone is going to go to all the trouble of designing something, that person will also make an effort to protect the thing he or she has designed.  If I were to design a new machine, or plans for a house, or a story idea for a book, I would make an effort to make sure it was safe and make any alterations necessary to make my designed product the best it could be.  This is even truer concerning God.  Since the God of the Bible is a brilliant Creator, and also a loving Father, we can have the utmost confidence that even in our sufferings and hardships, if we follow our Designer’s plan, we will be protected and safe.  In the Designer’s hands, we are safe.  No one can pluck us out, once we are there.  In fact, the only way we can lose our security, is if we walk away from that security.  The concept is similar to if we have the best designed security system in our house that can detect and eliminate any threat, and we decide to turn it off.  Or perhaps a better analogy is if we have a security team, who is looking after us, and caring for us, and truly has our best interests in mind, and has simple instructions for how we are to live to be protected from our enemies, and we ignore those instructions.  I was reading Isaiah 30:15-16 this week, which says, “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.  (16) But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.”  Our rest is in returning to God, and resting in Him, and in quietness and confidence in Him is our strength.  He knows what He is doing.  But if we persist in choosing our own way, making our own plans, and relying on our own strength, we will have no rest, because we have to make all the plans.  Our security rests solely in trusting the Designer’s plans, rather than making our own.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Being Born Again and Design

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” –John 3:5-8

The meditation commentaries have followed a very nice theme so far that all weaves together to form a whole picture, each concept building on the last.  We understand that God designed us according to Scripture a certain way, and wants us to operate within a certain paradigm so that we can function best.  However, we have been born into this dying race which constantly does things against God’s commands.  Even worse, we have a natural inclination to do those things that rebel against Him, His design, and His commands!
But, just as God originally designed us to function a certain way, and Adam messed it up, He also designed a plan of redemption—a beautiful plan of redemption!   Since we have been born into Adam’s race of sinful creatures, we have an inclination to sin and are subject to the law of sin and death.  In order to return to God’s original design, we must be born again, back into His plan, and into His family.  When we are born again, He adopts us as sons and daughters, and leads us into new life!
 God has very clear instructions about how to do this according to the Scriptures.  As we see in the Scriptures above, Jesus told Nicodemus that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Until a person is born again, he or she cannot even see or comprehend or understand or grasp the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus naturally asks the question, “How is this possible?”  The wonderful thing is that Jesus has the answer, because God already had a design in mind for how this would happen.  Therefore, Jesus clarifies that except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  The process is not abstract, confusing,  or unclear, yet it always astonishes me that people want to come up with a design other than what God laid out.  Throughout the book of Acts, in the birth of the church, we see example after example of people being born again, and they are always born of the water and of the spirit—that is, they are always baptized with water in the name of Jesus, and are filled with the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
When we talk about the concept of design and the command to be born again and how it relates to God’s design, it is important to remember that we not only need to be born again to fit into God’s design, but we also need to follow God’s design for how to be born again.  Nicodemus was a master of Israel and did not understand these things, but it is easy to find out.  Search the Scriptures, for they contain the plan that God designed for being born into His them you find eternal life.  (John 5:39)  It must be by water and of the spirit, or part of the process has been lost.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Humility and Design

Humility is recognizing and acknowledging my total dependence upon the Lord and seeking His will for every decision.

•““A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.”
—Proverbs 29:23
•“For thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”—Isaiah 57:15
There is an order to God’s kingdom and way of doing things that the above verses bring out.  Humility is one of the attitudes and character qualities God designed with certain consequences and ramifications that come with applying it or not applying it to our lives.  If there were no designer, humility would not be an issue.  If we somehow created ourselves, and worked by our own design and genius and intelligence, then we may have a right to be proud, and do things the way we want to do them, and put a lot of stock in our own opinions.  But the very fact that we are designed demands humility.  We have to realize that God knows what’s best since we are His creations.  The Bible shows the irony of this in Isaiah 45:9: “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?”  Since God made us, it makes sense to humble ourselves before our Creator and figure out what He thinks is the best way for us to live our lives.  There will be no peace or harmony unless we exercise this humility.  It reminds me of something like the story of Frankenstein, in which the designed creation begins doing its own thing against the intent of the designer.  Everything ends up falling apart.  Another example is in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes when he lets his imagination run away with him.  In one plot line, he ‘makes’ replicas of himself, which end up doing their own thing, and it causes disaster for them.  A car that decides it wants to fly will end up crashing.  The same thing will happen to us, if we become prideful and think we do not need our Designer.  But if we humble ourselves before the only High and Lofty One—the One who lives in eternity, and knows quite a bit more than we do—we will dwell with Him, because then He is able to use us in the way we were designed to be used.  It is important, even for our own well-being, to keep this verse in mind, in closing: Psalm 100:3 “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”  The LORD is God.  We are not.  We have nothing to be prideful about, and every reason to show humility.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What's a MedComm Anyway? (Repentance and Design)

While I was a college, I had to write what they called a 'meditation commentary' every week.  The college staff chose a general theme for the whole semester, and then each week would give us a character quality or one of the commands of Christ and ask us to relate that concept to the the theme of the semester in a 300-word essay.  I wrote about 9, and while some are better than others, (or maybe I should say some are worse than others), I thought I would do a short 9-day series on my blog and share one each day.  These are a little more formal than my usual posts, because they were written for assignments, but hopefully, y'all will be able to get something out of them!

The theme for the term was 'design'.  Sometimes I try to relate the message in my blog post to some current event or the season we are in...this time, I got nothing.  I'm just being lazy and posting things I've already written.  Any rate, here it is.

Understanding the specific purposes for which God created each person, object, and relationship in my life and living in harmony with them. Thanking God for my design brings Self-Acceptance.

Repentance Meditation Commentary

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” —Matthew 4:17
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third dayAnd that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46-47

Design is an interesting concept in the Bible, particularly in relation to repentance.  On the one hand, there is the implication that since God created us, we should be content with how we are.  However, the way God designed us was to live according to His laws and commandments.  Our bodies function best when we follow His rules.  God set up certain guidelines and boundaries, whether it is in regard to food, clothing, lifestyle, sex, etc., and within those boundaries, we thrive.  Sin is the very opposite of that.  Sin is stepping outside those boundaries, and working against the way we were designed.  That is why repentance is the first crucial step in understanding design, and why it is the first thing that Jesus preached, and told His apostles to preach.  Following God's Word is in our best interests, because when we begin doing things His way, we are working in accordance with the way we were designed to work in the first place.  Repentance is the act of changing our thinking about the way we are supposed to live, and bringing us in accordance with God's thinking, which is what will give us long life, and bring us into step with His Design.  It is the same concept as restoring a building that has been run down and full of rats, pigeons, gangs, etc., to the thing it was originally designed to be. Perhaps the original design of the building was as a church in which to glorify God, or as a hotel.  But because the building ceased to be used for its intended purpose, it began to be used for other purposes.  Maybe gangs used it as a place to exchange drugs, or to hide illegal contraband.  Perhaps the wall was used for target practice, or pieces of wood were ripped out of the floor to be used elsewhere.  Spiders could have used it to build their webs, and small animals could have used it for shelter.  But that is not what the building was designed for, and unless it is returned to its original purpose, it will be condemned.  The idea that everybody should be able to stay exactly how they are, and accept themselves for who they are once they have been saved, is ludicrous in light of God's Word.  What did He come to save us from, if not sin? To be clear, it is very Biblical to accept things about the way God made you that you cannot change.  However, there should be no self-acceptance of sin.  Acceptance and self-esteem are good things, but only if the acceptance is of an attribute of God’s design.  The concepts of repentance and design go hand in hand, and repentance is necessarily the first step in accepting God's design.