Sunday, August 20, 2017

Always a Servant

Of Jesus, it says;
“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7)
He took the form of a servant. I had never seen that before and cannot yet begin to comprehend the full impact of what it means for me. “the form of a servant.”

I have gone through my life thinking that I was free to be whatever I wanted to be. But in reality, whichever way I choose and whatever I choose to do I am a servant. The question is, “Do I serve sin or do I serve righteousness?”

Until I chose to be born again by the grace and power of God, I was the absolute servant of sin. The main sin being self interest and my rightness.

After I was born of God, I did not automatically stop serving sin or being the servant of sin. No, but then I had received the power (kjv) or authority to choose to be the servant of another (John 1:12).  Now I can choose to be the servant of God and righteousness. I do this by choosing to obey the word of God.

No matter where we are or what we do we are always servants. The question for me is will I serve sin unto death or because of the grace of God will I serve righteousness unto life everlasting.

I am learning to choose better and I pray that you are as well.


Let us each one learn more faithfulness.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Is That Really Funny?

There have been times when I would laugh at jokes about gays, disabled people and minorities. I even told some. There are other groups that are the subject of humor. You might understand what I’m talking about; People who aren’t like me; People who have different value systems.

Many of these jokes are for the purpose of dividing people into us and them.

Dividing; That is kind of the opposite of what I understand to be my calling as a follower of Jesus.
Jesus tells us to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations”, (that’s a lot of people not like me). In John 17:21 Jesus prays that that we might all be one.

If I am taking part in divisive humor how can I truly have any part in creating the unity that Jesus has in mind for me?

I believe this is a serious matter for me. Jesus speaks of a plant having good fruit and bad. He says it is not possible (Matthew 7:15-20). And James speaks of a fountain bringing forth sweet water and bitter (James 3:11).

It’s something to think about.


FOR BY YOUR WORDS YOU SHALL BE JUSTIFIED, AND BY YOUR WORDS YOU SHALL BE CONDEMNED. (Matthew 12:37)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jesus Didn't have a Webpage

Today I began by thinking about prayer and how my prayer practice has developed over the years and I may write about that at another time. But then I was thinking about Isaiah 42:1-4 which talks about the servant of God that he will uphold, and of course refers ultimately to Jesus. But as a disciple, Jesus is a pattern for me to consider.

In thinking about the Isaiah passage I was thinking about how Jesus didn’t have any media to announce his upcoming revival meeting. There was no webpage for people to find out where he would be next. Jesus simply went around healing the sick and telling stories. Or providing free lunches for a lot of people, and telling stories.

Matthew 13:34 tells us that

All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.

Those who came to Jesus seeking, searching, requesting more understanding, more in depth teaching were shown more.

I see three things that I need to give close attention.

First: I need to suppress my desire to make others see the valuable truth that I have found. Mostly they are not interested.

Second: I need to be among those who ask, seek and knock.

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:8)

And finally or maybe first I need to be finding the good that I can do and be doing that.


Following Jesus is a matter of doing what I can see he did and doing the things he says I am to do. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Wars and Fighting

Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? They come from the selfish desires that make war inside you. You want things, but you don't get them. So, you kill and are jealous of others. But you still cannot get what you want. So, you argue and fight. You don't get what you want because you don't ask God. Or when you ask, you don't receive anything, because the reason you ask is wrong. You only want to use it for your own pleasure.

Does this sound familiar?

How many ways do I try to justify my selfish, self-righteous attitudes?


So many times, I find myself getting angry with religious people who build little kingdoms so they can rule over others and get their living from others. Other times I see business people taking the larger part from the labors of others and I am angered by their greed. Politicians, take extreme wages when most of them are already wealthy, because they want to rule over others.

It is easy to point the finger. All pointing of the finger is just another way of wanting to rule over others.


The first paragraph is a quote from the Easy to Read Version of James 4:1-3. The passage goes on to say that this attitude is the manifestation of our unfaithfulness toward God, and that this love of power and things makes us the enemy of God.

God is a jealous God. You may not like that but it is true. The really good side of that is that He only wants us for our very best. We make ourselves God’s enemy when we make demands and strive to rule over others. God’s greatest desire is to bless us, but he can only bless us according to righteousness. That is why it says,

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says, God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.
James 4:6


It’s something to think about.

Friday, March 17, 2017

MUCH MORE... MUCH MORE

For a long time, I have really loved the book of Romans. In Hebrews, it says “The Word of God is Living and active…”, and as I go through Romans again and again, new things appear that have always been there. Just recently, as I was going through Romans with some friends, I saw something I had missed in several trips through this wonderful book.

In the introduction of the letter, Paul mentions the “obedience of faith”, (Romans 1:5).

After that, he proceeds to explain our condition as rebellious children who have rejected our inheritance and turned to away from our Heavenly Father to invent our own ideas of ‘what is good and pleasant.’ And he shows us the results that these actions produce in chapter 2 verses 6 to 10.

From there to almost the middle of chapter five, he exclaims the wonderful message of the redemption that God has made available, through Jesus. And he has shown us how that, because of this, we can be made right with God. By believing this message we are righteous before God because of Jesus’ righteousness. This is truly Wonderful!

But then in Romans 5:9-10 he says,

MUCH MORE then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, MUCH MORE, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

NOTICE: the message of the statement is repeated. “MUCH MORE… MUCH MORE”! We were justified and MUCH MORE we shall be saved. We were reconciled, and MUCH MORE we shall be saved.

Being justified and reconciled to God, being made righteous before God are wonderful things that God has done for us.

Jesus has shown us the way, by living a life surrendered to the will of God. Therefore, following Jesus, we shall be saved.


And that is MUCH MORE!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Where Did That Come From?

In a discussion, last night someone said it again and I am really wondering where the idea comes from. Is it written in some newer translation that I haven’t seen. Whenever the subject of living the life that we are called to live comes up, someone almost always comes up with a statement similar to the one I got last night.

“I think we can try to (live the life we are called to) but also realize we’ll never achieve it in our lifetime, and what we do achieve, we achieve with the help of the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus says, “Therefore be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Where does this other idea come from?

Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Where does this other idea come from?

John says, “My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin…” (1 John 2:1). He does go on to say that God has provided an advocate if we do sin, but the point is he is writing so that we may not sin. Where does that other idea come from?

Peter tells us, according as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue, through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

I think I found it. In Numbers 13, twelve spies were sent into the promised land to spy it out. The majority came back with an evil report and said we cannot take the land (that God has promised to give us) there are giants and we are like grasshoppers. (Numbers 13:31-33)

The people agreed with the 10 spies and died in the wilderness. Joshua and Caleb believed God and went into the promised land.


Think about it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Freedom for All

Yesterday, when I woke up I was thinking about people who had made bad decisions for what seemed like good reasons. Somehow, I suspect some help from God, I ended up in Isaiah 58. Most of the rest of the day I was thinking about “yokes”. No, not yolks, yokes.

A yoke is a harness that was used to control large powerful draft animals, often oxen weighing 500 pounds or more. The yoke was solid and once it was on, the animal could not get free and was compelled to go were directed, pulling a wagon or a plow for example.

As I was thinking and praying about the things I wrote, especially about Isaiah 58:9, I came to thinking about how we put yokes on other people and how we end up with yokes that others put on us and sometimes we put on ourselves.

Christians may be the worse. I am sure it is more wretched for Christians to do than for anyone else. We are following Jesus, right? Jesus came to break the yokes and loose the bonds that hold us down and set us free to become like him.

When we see someone with a lot of tattoos (whatever that means), what do we think? Even if we talk kindly to them how do we view them? We are such hypocrites! Well maybe not you, but I certainly am. It doesn’t stop with ink. What about homosexuals, prostitutes, people of another race or political persuasion? What about people who go to another church or don’t go to any church?

LABELS! They are the same as a yoke. We have learned these things from infancy. They are buried deeply in our minds and hearts.

Jesus came and redeemed us from all of our sin and to remove the yokes that bind us. This means the yokes that we wear because of bad decisions we have made. It also means the yokes we place on others because we are still trying to be judges. These latter keep us from being salt and light in this dark world.

These things are so subtle and so powerful that we must have God’s help to be rid of them. I must humble myself, pray and mourn and seek God’s grace here. And He will be our help and salvation.


Be Faithful.

Monday, March 6, 2017

We Love the Promises of God

We simply Love the promises of God. They are so encouraging. In Sunday School, we used to sing,

“Every promise in the book is mine,
every chapter every verse every line.
All the blessings of his love divine,
every promise in the book is mine.”

And the Lord will be your guide at all times; in dry places, he will give you water in full measure, and will make strong your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like an ever-flowing spring. And your sons will be building again the old waste places: you will make strong the bases of old generations: and you will be named, He who puts up the broken walls, and, He who makes ready the ways for use. (Isaiah 58:11-12)

What wonderful, encouraging words. Shouldn’t we all just be really happy all the time? Why are so many Christians unhappy and down cast? Maybe we’ve missed something. Let’s look at another blessing in the same chapter. Verse 9 says.

Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
IF
thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

Something that I don’t recall hearing very much about is the part that comes after the “if”. Every promise that I have found in God’s Word has an “if” of some kind, but we are really inclined to highlight the promise and ignore the condition.

News Flash: God doesn’t ignore them.


God is not vengeful and mean! He doesn’t just want to make us unhappy for some sadistic pleasure. God wants to give us the blessings, every one. No loving father will reward a child for bad behavior. Our Heavenly Father desires us to be like his Son, for our pleasure. He is eager to bless us as we learn to follow Jesus example. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Just Want to be Happy

I remember once, a man got up to speak, and the first thing he said was, “Everyone wants to be happy.” A very few of you who read this may remember this man saying this. This same man also spent time in a prison in a far Eastern country for trying to spread Christianity. (That’s not why he went) I also heard him comment, “I was happy there.”

As I look at myself I see that I have ideas about what would make me happy. Many of the things I think about seem to be good even righteous things. Yet though I have prayed and sought them in every way I can imagine they have eluded me.

There, in that last sentence is the problem. I have been striving for that which I think, will make me happy. The answer that Brother Bratlie found and that Jesus clearly taught and lived is found in doing the will of God instead of my own will.

WHAT FUN IS THAT?

Well, fun is not the point. Here I am talking about being happy, satisfied, fulfilled. That is a different matter. The same man that I spoke of earlier is the first man that I remember saying that Jesus was the happiest man that ever lived. It takes a little imagination but if you think about it, it is very clear.

You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows." (Hebrews 1:9)

Jesus has said where His joy is. We can see it in John 15:11.

I have spoken these things to you so that My joy might remain in you and your joy might be full.

His JOY is in us. That is what he wanted. Did he seek it by looking for ways to make our life easy, or finding fun things for us to do. Jesus shows us the way when he says.

For I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38)

Jesus found his joy by doing the will of God. He is my Rabbi as well as my Savior. If I am to take his yoke upon myself then I need to follow his example. That is where I will find happiness.

Therefore, since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Inappropriate Behavior

My youngest grandson may be the smartest almost 3-year-old in the world. The other day my son was telling me that Finn is learning about inappropriate behavior. Really! When Finn starts to have a tantrum Ben just explains that that is not the best way to express himself when he is unhappy. It is inappropriate behavior.

As I am learning to be a disciple of Jesus, I see that there is a lot of inappropriate behavior that I have been willing to overlook in my own life. Right now, that seems to revolve around judging.

Judging is a lot more subtle than I have realized and I am much more inclined to judge that I ever dreamed.

Judging is at the very heart of all sin. Satan said
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:5

You will be able to JUDGE.

Let’s see how that works.

God’s word says we should do this or that, but I judge that for me the other thing is better.

The way I read God’s Word I understand that we should be doing this or that, but someone else believes that God’s Word says to do something else, so I judge that they are wrong and pronounce judgement in the way I talk about them.

I see someone involved in what is generally called sinful behavior, so I judge them and shun them and speak badly about them.

Is this how Jesus responded to the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery, or the thief on the cross?

God is the righteous judge, Getting up in His chair is inappropriate behavior.


Let us each one grow in faithfulness.