Friday, July 26, 2013

Seeking God's Kingdom

This was the last meditation commentary I wrote at the college I was attending, Verity Institute, before I left, meaning that it is also the last of my med-com series.  If it waxes a little sentimental with references about Verity, you'll simply have to forgive me.  I hope these medcoms have been helpful to someone!

Command 14—Seek God’s Kingdom
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life . . . . But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  —Matthew 6:24-33
•“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” —Philippians 3:7-8
Name of God
•Adonai (אֲדוֹנָיִ): Lord and Master
–”And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord.”    Joshua 24:21

            Seek God’s Kingdom.  What an appropriate medcom to end on, after the time spent here at Verity.  These three words should be the encapsulating phrase that sets the stage and provides the framework for everything everyone leaving Verity (and those who are staying here incidentally) does.  It is especially meaningful to me, as I leave.  I am among the ranks of young people whose futures are opening up before them.  This is one of the most exciting and adventurous times of our lives.  Decisions that will be made in the next few years will be the determining factors that set the course for the rest of our lives.  Career, further education, marriage, location, church, ministry, friends, family, life and love are all opening up and are things that must be decided on.  The overarching theme, however, are those three words.  Seek God’s Kingdom.  Romans chapter 15 is a very interesting chapter to me.  The ending especially is not something that is preached on a ton.  Paul is writing to the Romans, and outlining his travel plans for the future, which may not be something we think we would get a lot out of, especially after we read the book of Acts and realize that a lot of what he was planning did not actually happen!  His intention was to bring money to the church at Jerusalem then travel to Rome on his way to Spain to preach the gospel.  Instead, when he went to Jerusalem, he was arrested and appealed to Caesar, and ended up going to Rome on a prison ship.  Why is this travel itinerary gone bad even in the Bible?  This is a question I was wondering as I studied the chapter, but as I thought through it, I actually began to get a lot of encouragement out of it.  Paul’s whole focus was the gospel.  He was actively seeking God’s kingdom and knew that his calling was to preach Christ wherever He had not yet been named.  Paul did not have a blueprint from God about exactly what to do, though.  He was just seeking God’s kingdom.  I do not believe it was wrong for him to make plans for the future that lined up with his calling, but Paul also understood that he was a servant.  Wherever his Master took him was where he was going to go, and he was going to put his all in wherever he was at.  There are numerous times in the book of Acts when Paul was planning on going one place but the Holy Ghost led him to go to another.   It can be tempting to get bent out of shape when our plans fall through, but if we are genuinely seeking God’s kingdom, with an understanding that Adonai is our Master and King, there is no reason to get upset.  If the King wants us to drop what we are doing and go somewhere else, we will, because we are serving Him.  We cannot serve both our plans and God’s plans, though.  Our plans must be submitted to His.  All the things that we have gained, we count loss for Christ so that we can win Him.   This is actually a comforting thought!  Wherever we are, we just have to focus on God’s kingdom and what He wants us to do in that moment, at that place.  If we are shipwrecked on an island on our way somewhere, we just focus on winning that entire island for Christ!  My time here at Verity was amazing, and God used it in incredible ways.  Now, as I leave, wherever I go, my focus is going to be on serving Him, and seeking His kingdom.  Seek God’s Kingdom.  Those three words will define the rest of my entire life.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stewardship and Responsibility

Thriftiness vs. Extravagance
Thriftiness is multiplying my resources through wise investments so I have more to give back to God.
“And so he that had received the five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliverest unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” —Matthew 25:20-21
“I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” —Acts 20:35
Name of God •Our Reward:
–“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” –Genesis 15:1

            When we are given resources as Christians, it is our responsibility to use them wisely.  We are stewards of the gifts God has given us.  The apostle Paul described his role as an apostle as a minister of God, and a steward of the mysteries of God, then in 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.”  To be a steward of God, we must be found faithful and responsible.   As we receive the ‘talents’ God has given us, we must evaluate what we are doing with them.  This certainly applies to our material, financial resources.  God owns everything, all the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the gold and silver, and thus, does not require anything material from us.  But He expects us to use the resources He has given us wisely.  Clearly, He has given us more than just money, though.  There are many blessings He has given us such as gifts, revelations, and knowledge.  As Paul said, we also are stewards of ‘the mysteries of God.’   In fact, the Bible says that God is our exceeding great reward.  The things we have been given from Him must be wisely used in this life to reflect His glory, and to be a good servant and faithful steward.  He has entrusted us with certain things that He expects us to use in accordance with His principles.  We are to invest in His kingdom by investing in other people, and influencing them to follow our great King!  What God has blessed us with, we in turn, can turn and bless others with “the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  Philippians 2:1-2 frames this principle nicely for me.  Philippians 2:1-2 “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”  These verses highlight our responsibilities to fellow believers in light of and on the basis of what we have already received from God.  If we have received from Christ comfort of love, fellowship of the spirit, any bowels and mercies, then it is our responsibility as faithful stewards of the beautiful gifts He has given us, to accurately represent our Master, to confer those gifts on others, having the same mind, and the result will be the greatest reward of all: which is fellowship with God Himself.  HE is our exceeding great reward!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Responsibility to Lay Up Treasures

Lay Up Treasures
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  —Matthew 6:19-21
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:
for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
—II Corinthians 4:18
Name of God: El-Olam: The Eternal God

            Responsibility is a word that can quickly frustrate and overwhelm and burden a person.  It can be very easy to get caught up with all the things we have to do in our lives.  We have monetary responsibilities, especially as men, who are expected Biblically to take care of their families.  We have relational responsibilities to care for our families, our friends, the ones God has given us to disciple, and the lost.  We have responsibilities at church, at school, at work, and at home.  Responsibility is a huge umbrella that covers almost every single facet of our lives.  As a guy who is thinking a lot about the future, I can certainly relate to this.  My thoughts often go to where I will be in five years or so, perhaps with a wife, children, a home, a career, a ministry, a goldfish.  All of those things require responsibility from me then and now to prepare.  I want to start becoming the best possible husband and father I can be right now, as well as the best servant of God that I can possibly be.  As I finish up school and focus on assignments and deadlines and people and family, all of the responsibilities weigh heavily.  When we begin to get overwhelmed about all the things we have to do here on earth, it is important to take a step back, and examine things through an eternal lens.  This can be ridiculously difficult.  It is a nice thought, but often we simply feel that we do not have enough time to dwell on that kind of thing. It is so important to keep things in perspective, however.  Part of laying up treasures in heaven is fulfilling responsibilities here on earth.  Having a kingdom-minded focus of responsibility and laying up treasures in heaven will not negate most of the earthly responsibilities we have to fulfill.  However, it does help to prioritize things in a different way.  Which responsibilities are laying up treasure, and which are not?  When we look at things in light of eternity, our lives suddenly come into focus with sometimes entirely different meaning.  Let us take a step back and look at the eternal things in our lives today, to compartmentalize internal things properly.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Faith and Responsibility

•“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” –Colossians 3:23-24
•“For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”
    -II Corinthians 10:18
Name of God
•Author and Perfector of Our Faith:
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” –Hebrews 12:2
            It seems that everything in the Christian life is something God does.  We could not do it on our own, so God came and did it.  He gives us one responsibility though.  We are not saved by works lest any man should boast.  We are saved by grace, but how? Through faith.
            Faith involves trusting God, more than simply believing.  It is like taking a car to the mechanic.  The mechanic does all the work on the car.  The mechanic is the one with all the knowledge, all the tools, all the experience, and all the ability, however, there is still a responsibility on the part of the person bringing it in, and that is to trust the mechanic with the car.  The customer actually has to turn the car over to the mechanic.  That is what faith is like.  Jesus does all the work, He’s the author and perfecter of this whole system of faith, but we have to actually turn our lives over to Him.  The problem is that we keep trying to take the car of our lives back to fix it ourselves.  When we finally realize that we are making a bigger mess of it than it was before, we say we are going to turn it back over to the Mechanic, so that He can fix it.  He begins working on it then we grab it back again and try it by ourselves again.  The question really comes down to whether we trust Him and have faith in Him or not.

            It is perceived to be very difficult sometimes to know what it means to trust God and have faith in Him, and knowing when to yield to Him.  In reality, it is very simple, and the concept ties into the last post.  We know that we need to walk in the spirit, and the way we do that is by yielding to Him every day by practicing the secret disciplines of prayer and Bible reading.  We show God we trust Him by doing the simple things that He says works.  Demonstrating real faith really is our responsibility and it is not that much to ask from the author and finisher of the whole system.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Responsibility to Practice Secret Disciplines

Practice Secret Disciplines
Scripture Memory
“. . . That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. . . . when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. . . . appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” —Matthew 6:1-18
Name of God
•El Roi: The God Who Sees
“And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?”   --Genesis 16:13

            In a healthy human relationship, each party has certain responsibilities to fulfill.  If nothing else, each must work to maintain the relationship to some extent, even if it is only by responding to the other person’s attempts to keep the relationship alive by responding to invitations to eat or phone calls or texts, or even just by answering questions and engaging in conversations.  “It takes two to tango,” as the old saying goes, and this is just the nature of a relationship.  The same is true with our relationship with God.  People get caught up in humans ‘not doing anything’ for salvation, because of what the Bible talks about in relation to not earning our salvation by works.  The fact that we do not earn our salvation by works does not change the fact, however, that God does expect certain things of us and gives us certain responsibilities to maintain this relationship with our Savior.  Nor is it possible to be saved or have a relationship any other way.  God has already done all the work, in the sense that without His grace, and the lengths He has already gone to (coming to earth as a man and dying on the cross for us, not to mention His relentless pursuit of us by His Holy Spirit, and the ways He interacts in people’s lives daily), the relationship would not have even been possible.  Now that we are restored to right relationship however, we have a responsibility to respond to Him.  Without that response, there will be no relationship.  The most valued response to God has to do with what we call “practicing secret disciplines.”  This makes a lot of sense when we think about it.  It is secret in the sense that other people are not seeing it, but it is not secret in regard to El Roi, the God who sees.  He loves private communication that is done solely out of love for Him, and has no other motive.  Those are the disciplines He delights most in, because the motivation is solely Him.  Of course, this does not mean that it is not still a discipline and a responsibility on our parts to fulfill.  In every relationship, there are things we do solely for the relationship that sometimes we do not feel like doing, but know must be done, so we do them anyway.  That is where the discipline part comes in.  But when we do make those sacrifices, just because we love God, He delights and revels in it.  The responsibility necessary in maintaining one’s own end of the relationship can only be fulfilled by that person.  One person cannot hold up both ends.  (Romans 12:18)  But as much as it depends on you, fulfill that relationship.  God has already done as much and more than depends on Him.  Now all we have to do is respond by praying, fasting, reading the Bible diligently, etc.  Are we willing to do it?
Full of Faith=Faithful

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sincerity and Responsibility

Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy
Sincerity is being as genuine on the inside as we appear to be on the outside.
Scripture Memory
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” —I Peter 5:8-10
Name of God
•Go’el- God is our Redeemer
“For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” -Isaiah 54:5

            Sincerity is one of the most important concepts to me in my Christian life.  So many dilemmas with people and problems are avoided by the simple trait of sincerity.  But while it may be simple, that does not always mean it is easy to come by.  It can be easy to begin going through the motions of going to church and living for God and putting on a front of Christianity because of our perceived responsibilities of discipling people and maintaining our own reputation for the glory of God.  Oftentimes we develop a perspective that we must be on God’s PR committee, because we want to accurately represent Christianity.  The key, though, is to represent it accurately.  The biggest reasons I have heard from people leaving church or walking away from God, interestingly enough, does not usually have to do with logic or beliefs or hatred towards God or His Word; rather, the reasons people give many times have to do with people.  Critics of the church often cite hypocrisy as the main flaw of the church, and they are not necessarily wrong.  Hypocrisy is present.  God has redeemed us, but we do not always live that way.  Sometimes our emotions get in the way, and the logical part of living for God does not seem to make sense.  However, when this happens, people seem to get very caught up in the façade of presenting a pretty, pious picture of perfection.  My pastor cites a turning point in his life as a time when he was consistently praying, “God, I just want to be real,” and I have since adopted that as my constant prayer, and even as my spiritual heartbeat.  I want to be real.  I want God’s redemption to be an actual reality in my life, not just an act I am putting on.  If people come to God because of me, I want it to be because they see that He is real and really working in my life, not that I appear to have it all together on the outside.  We tend to get caught up in the responsibility of presenting a perfect image.  In reality, though, the most important responsibility in our entire Christian life is to be sincere and love without dissimulation, living a life sincerely, and honestly, and without hypocrisy before God.  Transparency is a key concept that goes right along with sincerity.  We know that we are not perfect, and make mistakes, and rather than attempting to justify the things that we do wrong, minimizing them, or covering them up as if they never happened, it is important to be real with people and admit that we are flawed.  People already realize that humans aren't perfect, and a sincere person doing their best to please God, but owning up to the things they do wrong is relatable.  When we present an flawless image, people instinctively realize it isn't real and immediately begin looking for the flaws.  Let's glorify God by living a redeemed life that reflects His glory, being real about who we are and where we're at.  Acknowledging that things aren't perfect in our lives is part of sincerity.  God loves a broken and contrite spirit.  With that mentality, we realize that our responsibility is to just live sincerely in a way that seeks after Him.  Living a life for Him, with an attitude that sincerely wants Him, loves Him, and desires to obey Him, and is not just spouting words.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Responsibility to Be Perfect

This is my last MedComm series!  At college I had to write something called a mediation commentary each week.  Each term had a different character theme like design, authority, or in this case, responsibility.  Each week, we were also given a command from Jesus or a character quality to think about and meditate on, and one of the names of God described int he Old Testament, then write about in connection with responsibility.  Here was the first one...

Be Perfect Meditation Commentary
“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
—Matthew 5:46-48
Name of God
•Jehovah- M’Kaddesh (יהוה מקדש): The Lord Who Sanctifies
“Be perfect.”  It is hard to think of two more daunting words in the English language, particularly in a society that constantly tells us that no one is perfect.   That is part of what makes this concept an interesting one.  Society tells us that we do not have a responsibility to be perfect.  We only have a responsibility to reciprocate.  If someone loves us, we love them back.  If they do not treat us the way that we want to be treated however, we have no responsibility to treat them the way they want to be treated.  If someone rips us off, we have no responsibility to think or act kindly towards them.  After all, we are only humans and we do have our limits.  Our responsibility only goes so far.
The Greek word that Jesus uses in the above verses for ‘be perfect,’ is an interesting one.   According to Strong’s dictionary, it is the word “teleios,”and means: complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); completeness, and is translated: “of full age, man, perfect.”  In essence, it seems that Jesus is telling us to grow up and act the way our Father in heaven acts!  This makes sense in terms of responsibility.  What age group does one associate with responsibility vs. irresponsibility?  When a person becomes an adult it is understood that that person acquires much more responsibility that children do not have.  Children have small responsibilities, but often only reciprocate based on whether or not they are being benefited.  Only on rare occasions are children responsible for anyone else but themselves, (at least in American middle class families, it seems).  But to be complete, Jesus tells us to grow up and be perfect.  Immediately, our brain rebels against this concept because of its impracticality!  Humans simply cannot be expected to bear such an enormous load of responsibility in caring so much about other people that do not even reciprocate.
However, the emphasis in this passage is on watching the example of our Father, which is very important.  As the Hebrew name for God cited above indicates it is the LORD who sanctifies us to make us complete.  It is only on the basis of our Father’s action towards us that we are able to achieve such a seemingly outlandish command.  When we focus on Him, though, and are reminded of the incredible ways He works for us and is responsible for us, even though we do nothing to deserve it, this command suddenly becomes much more doable because the focus is no longer on us, but on Him.  He already acts this way.  We just have to follow in His footsteps, and take His help in carrying out this command.