Monthly Archives: September 2020

Godly Character: Today – Listen & Obey

A builder is more valuable than a building any day. Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house.

 Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says,

Today, please listen;
don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,”
that time of wilderness testing!
Even though they watched me at work for forty years,
your ancestors refused to let me do it my way;
over and over they tried my patience.
And I was provoked, oh, so provoked!
I said, “They’ll never keep their minds on God;
they refuse to walk down my road.”
Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going,
never be able to sit down and rest.”

 So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul. Hebrews 3:4-14MSG*

God has given us Today. He keeps renewing His promise asking us to listen and obey in this day –Today.   Who are we to listen to and obey? Jesus Christ. In order to sit down and rest, we need to listen and obey Jesus – Today.

How? By loving God and each other, by reading God’s Word, by sitting with Him in prayer and by worshipping Him through raising our voices in song or marveling at His creation and by discerning what He wants us to do in the moment we are in. The “how” in Today is between Jesus and us, but God’s direction is clear – Today, listen and obey so that we will find rest.

Remember . . . we should not do what they did in the wilderness for 40 years – turning from God towards being a “self-centered, whining, grumbling and maneuvering for power” kind of people.

This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Psalm 118:24 NIV

 *Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Godly Character – Faith in Action

Our Godly Character is based on faith. Throughout Scripture, we are told that faith produces action. Faith is not dependent on social status, wealth or gender. It is based on a person’s belief in God that is exhibited by actions they are compelled to take based on that belief.

In Joshua 2, we read about Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute and probably an innkeeper in Jericho. As Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promised Land, he sent two spies into Jericho on a reconnaissance mission. The spies arrived at Rahab’s house. She sheltered these two men in her home hiding them from her own people, and sending the Jericho King’s guards off on a wild goose chase. Why would she do this?

She told the spies that “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Joshua 2:9-11 NIV

Because of her belief in God, she assisted the spies and saved her family. God blessed her because of her faith. She is listed as the mother of Boaz in Christ’s Genealogy in Matthew1:5.   Her faith is celebrated in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25.

We can take a lot of comfort from the story of Rahab. She was blessed because of her belief which caused her to act for God. God considered her righteous in spite of her profession.  

Sometimes we get stymied in our walk with God because we think we are not good enough to act on His behalf. The truth is we will never be good enough. However, God can use us where we are no matter what.

So let us examine our hearts. Do we actually believe that God is the God of heaven above and earth below? Do we believe that God loves us so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, to die for us, making us righteous through Him? Do we have faith that God can use us in this moment to make a difference in His Kingdom? Do we actually possess faith that produces works?

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

 Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse. James 2:14-26 The Message*

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Character – Love First

God is Love. 1 John 4:8

Jesus commanded us to “love God and love one another”. Luke 10:47

People with Godly character love. They love God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind and their neighbor as themselves. They choose love first . . . over judgment, management, anger or criticism.

The Royal Rule of Love

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time. James 2:1-13 The Message*

Remember . . . Love first. Open your eyes and ears to hear not only yourself but others and celebrate the difference.

 

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Stay at the Center of God’s Love

Where do you see yourself in the Book of Jude?

I, Jude, am a slave to Jesus Christ and brother to James, writing to those loved by God the Father, called and kept safe by Jesus Christ. Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!

Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master.

I’m laying this out as clearly as I can, even though you once knew all this well enough and shouldn’t need reminding. Here it is in brief: The Master saved a people out of the land of Egypt. Later he destroyed those who defected. And you know the story of the angels who didn’t stick to their post, abandoning it for other, darker missions. But they are now chained and jailed in a black hole until the great Judgment Day. Sodom and Gomorrah, which went to sexual rack and ruin along with the surrounding cities that acted just like them, are another example. Burning and burning and never burning up, they serve still as a stock warning.

The Archangel Michael, who went to the mat with the Devil as they fought over the body of Moses, wouldn’t have dared level him with a blasphemous curse, but said simply, “No you don’t. God will take care of you!” But these people sneer at anything they can’t understand, and by doing whatever they feel like doing—living by animal instinct only—they participate in their own destruction. I’m fed up with them! They’ve gone down Cain’s road; they’ve been sucked into Balaam’s error by greed; they’re canceled out in Korah’s rebellion.

These people are warts on your love feasts as you worship and eat together. They’re giving you a black eye—carousing shamelessly, grabbing anything that isn’t nailed down. They’re—

Puffs of smoke pushed by gusts of wind;
    late autumn trees stripped clean of leaf and fruit,
Doubly dead, pulled up by the roots;
    wild ocean waves leaving nothing on the beach
    but the foam of their shame;
Lost stars in outer space
    on their way to the black hole.

Enoch, the seventh after Adam, prophesied of them: “Look! The Master comes with thousands of holy angels to bring judgment against them all, convicting each person of every defiling act of shameless sacrilege, of every dirty word they have spewed of their pious filth.” These are the “grumpers,” the bellyachers, grabbing for the biggest piece of the pie, talking big, saying anything they think will get them ahead.

But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: “In the last days there will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore. They’ll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts.” These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!

But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!

Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.

The Book of Jude from the The Message*

What point in your life is not at the center of God’s love?

Remember . . . You are “kept safe by Jesus Christ. Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!”

 

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Citizens of Character

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.   1 Peter 2:9-17 The Message*

These Words from Peter were written during the time of the Roman occupation – life under Roman rule was not easy. The point Peter is making is that we, Christians, must be citizens of character. We must do what is right and good. We are directed to respect authority; not break rules but uphold them, peaceably working with grace to change those that need to be changed.

Let us pour out the gifts God has given us to others. In this way, they will know Jesus through us. Do it with grace, mercy, compassion, strength and behavior that will set an example of “right” living. Right living includes reverence of God, respecting the authority and treating people with dignity.

And remember . . . PRAY . . . God hears and receives our prayers. He always answers whether it be a “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “not now” or “wait”. Our job is to pray without ceasing and believe and trust that the God of the Universe is working all things together for our good. Maybe not what we envisioned as “our good” but what He knows is good.

The effects of our prayers ripple through eternity and never come back void.

 

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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