Sunday, April 25, 2010

Head knowledge or Heart knowledge?: Luke 10

"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise." -Luke 10:25-37

Any child who has attended Sunday school for a while could recite to you the story of the good Samaritan. Even in the secular world, the term "Good Samaritan" is thrown around when someone goes out of their way to be good or helpful. The same thing can be said about many stories in the Bible. For so many people growing up in the Church today, we know all about the Bible. Most likely, this is you. You can list the nine fruits of the Spirit. You know all of the Ten Commandments. You can recite the books of the Bible in 30 seconds flat. Enter the lawyer in Luke 10.

This lawyer was not someone off the street who had never heard of God. Like a good Sunday School kid, he knew exactly what the Scriptures said. Where his struggle was, just like so many believers today, was in doing what they said. He probably memorized many Scriptures, knew the words to every worship song, gave money to the Temple. But when it came to doing what the Scriptures said, he was lost. He tries to find a loophole. He tries to justify himself.

Look at how Jesus answers his question. The question was, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus answers by telling him how to be a neighbor. This lawyer did not need more head knowledge. He didn't need more rules. He needed to obey and follow Christ.

Many of us have been going to Church for most of our lives. We fill our lives with head knowledge about Christ. When situations pop up, we know what the Bible says to do, but do we know what the Scriptures mean? We know every story from Genesis to Revelation, but do we apply it? It is time to make all this head knowledge ABOUT God heart knowledge which we use to SERVE and OBEY God. When we hear messages at Church or read in our Bible, we need not just to read them but to go and do likewise.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Suffering for Christ: II Corinthians 11:23-28

"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches." -II Corinthians 11:23-28

Paul had probably the most radical Christian life in the history of the Church. He did great miracles, saw revivals, planted churches, and turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6) for Christ. However, these awesome events were not all that his life consisted of. Suffering was a huge part of his life. Paul's example in suffering is extremely powerful, and it is one that every believer should aim to follow.

Notice that suffering came from everyONE and everyWHERE. It was not dependant on company or location. First look at who the suffering came from. He mentions robbers, his own countrymen, the heathen, and false brethren. Suffering came from people like robbers who you would expect and people like his own countrymen which you might not. It came from people he didn't know like the heathen and robbers, and people he knew and probably loved such as his countrymen and false brethren. It came from the heathen outside the Church and it came from false BRETHREN inside the Church. All types of people caused him suffering. Now look at where he suffered. The three locations he mentions are the city, the wilderness, and the sea (and waters). Once again, these three locations cover everywhere he went, so there was no place where he escaped suffering.

His sources of suffering were everyone and everywhere. He also had a wide variety of MANNERS of suffering. These can be put into three main categories. In the first are the stripes, imprisonments, beatings with rods, and being stoned. This was suffering from man. Through this, not only was he subject to some of the worst tortures of the day, but he also felt the rejection and hatred of other men. The second category is the shipwrecks and being at sea. This is a natural, circumstantial event. Finally, there is the destitution category. This includes hunger, thirst, fastings, cold, and nakedness. He was able to give up his physical needs and wants for Christ.

Paul's life was marked by complete suffering. He suffered everywhere, every way, at the hands of everyone. Suffering that alone must have taken every ounce of Paul's energy.With this in mind, his statement in verse 28 is mind-blowing: DESPITE all this, he DAILY took care of ALL the Churches. What a huge responsibility. That is near impossible for someone without any suffering in their life, let alone someone who suffered as much as Paul. This puts a lot of things into perspective. All THAT in mind, look at what Paul says earlier in the same letter:

"For our LIGHT AFFLICTION, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" -II Corinthians 4:17 (emphasis added)

Paul got it. If anyone could say that they had it rough, it would be Paul, and yet he calls all that he was suffering "light affliction". He understood that all of his suffering was temporary. He knew that all that he was enduring now was working towards an eternal reward in Heaven. He could endure trials because his aim was not to gratify himself now but to gain eternal glory. Imagine his reward in Heaven! What are YOU aiming for? Where is YOUR reward? Are YOU ready to give it all for Christ?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

God of blessings: Psalm 68:19

"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah." Psalm 68:19

What a powerful promise! So often, Christianity is stereotyped as a list of rules, of "dos" and "don'ts", and bondage to serving a demanding God. This is so far from the case. Yes, our God does ask us to do certain things, but He is not a slave master who expects work without ever giving to His workers. I want to focus on three key words of this amazing verse: daily, load[eth], and benefits.

Daily- The word "daily" is constant. It is not conditional. Nothing will change the fact that every 24 hours, a new day will begin. God doesn't make us earn our blessings or bless us on a random basis when He feels like it. It is a constant, continual, and frequent stream of blessings. This is also a very sure promise. We can know that each day we will be blessed by God. We don't have to live in fear that today will not contain blessings from the Lord.

Load- This is the abundance of His promise. We don't have a "one blessing per day" limit. If we truly examine how we have been blessed, we should never be able to say, "That's it? That's all You have for me today, God?" God never gives us the short end of the stick. Our days are marked left and right with blessings from God. Evidence of His provision are all over. defines the verb "load" as "to supply abundantly, lavishly, or excessively with something". It doesn't just imply that God gives us a few blessings a day. The word load means to give EXCESSIVELY. We recieve way more than we need or deserve from God.

Benefits- We, as Christians, recieve the benefit of salvation, and, if we had the worst possible life but still had salvation, Christianity would still be worth it. However, God, in His grace, does not subject us to that. When (I know this is ridiculously cliche) we count our blessings, we realize the insane amount of ways God provides. It starts with the simple blessings which we are so often, and yet so truly, told we (also cliche) take for granted, such as breath, life, food, safety. Then of course, there is the Holy Spirit, which is second only to salvation on the list of greatest possible gifts. There are simple blessings like hearing from a friend you haven't seen in a while, recieving encouragement, or even something like having your favorite food for dinner. Then there are the huge, major, obvious ones, such as accomplishing something that was extremely difficult or being able to face a fear or overcome a disability. The list of blessings goes on and!

Daily loaded with awesome is that promise! The three main words work perfectly together. Not only do we get many benefits, but we get them daily. We get a constant flow, and that flow is abundant. However, now put this into we see how much God does for us each day, think about what we do for God each day. Of course it is obviously impossible to outdo Him or come even close to giving Him what He deserves because we are imperfect humans and He is a perfect. However, this should at least convict us to want to do more for Him each day. We can praise Him and thank Him for all He does for us, we can spend more time hearing from Him in His Word, speaking to Him in prayer, and living for Him in the way we act and live our lives. Let us live each day in perspective of how God blesses us.