Monday, November 15, 2010

1st Round Draft Choice

In the story discussed formerly involving Daniel and the lion's den, Daniel was envied because of his prosperity and success as an administrator for the King.  Due to their envy, the other administrators wanted to get rid of Daniel somehow but could find no fault in Daniel.  My last devotional revealed my amazement in the righteousness of Daniel to be found blameless by his peers and then mentioned that we should strive to live the same type of lifestyle without blemish.  This week's series of devotionals will give a few reasons that we should consider when asking ourselves, "Why strive for perfection when being mediocre still grants me access to heaven if I'm saved?"  I will divide the answers into two categories: The Reasons and the Rewards being the reasons God tells us to be righteous and the rewards we can receive if we do so.  

Reason #1: We rep Christ. The title Christian literally means "one relating to, belonging to, or resembling Christ."  So if it could be put simple, we are on "Team Christ" and everywhere we go, we represent our team as if we were wearing a jersey or baseball cap with the Christ written across it.  To take it another step further, often times we do wear various Christian apparel or drive around with bumper stickers or other Christian paraphernalia that tells the rest of the world of our affiliation with Christ.  However, what we tend to forget every so often is that because we made a conscience decision to join the team, we now have to fit a certain image associated with Christ. (If you haven't yet, read my blog, Bourne Again Identity for more on image).  

Imagine the day that we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior being like Draft day for the NFL.  As soon as we step up to the stage and put on the hat in front of our peers, we now belong to God. Like the NFL GMs, we are told God paid a "high price" for us so now we are under contract to live for Him, (1 Corinthians 6:20 NLT).  Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight"(NIV).  The crazy thing is, it seems sometimes that most of those who do not claim Christ as their Lord know more about how we as Christians are supposed to live than we do.  They can point out anytime we aren't in alignment with the will of God any opportunity they get and as a result, it looks bad for our team.  Anytime we aren't gentle, kind, loving, forgiving, merciful, pure or any of the other characteristics of God, we damage the image of our owner and makes it so that others are hesitant to join the same team.  We have to "live in such a way that no one will be hindered from finding the Lord by the way (we) act and so no one can find fault in (our) ministry" (2 Corinthians 6:3 NIV) so that everyone wants to join "Team Christ."

Always remember who it is you represent everywhere you go.  We don't want to tarnish the name of God with our actions so we should take after Daniel and make sure that those who are watching us can find no corruption in us.  Rep Christ the right way, Holy and Blameless.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Don't Doubt Daniel

This Devotional won't be a series like the past two because it is just something I felt led to share when doing some personal reading.  The story of Daniel and the Lions Den can be found in Daniel chapter 6 and has multiple lessons that can be learned from Daniel's dedication and devotion to God.  I, however, really want to focus on one particular verse that really amazed me and made me think and I hope it has the same effect on you.

Daniel 6: 4-5 "At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so.  They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.  5 Finally these men said, 'We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.'"

After reading this verse, I could not help but think to myself, "There was nothing that the others could hold against Daniel?"  All I could do was think about all the "little" sins that Daniel could have committed and still been an overall good guy. He could have told a little white lie here and there, took a little extra money to buy himself something nice since he was the best at what he did or even imprisoned someone that looked at him the wrong way simply because  he could and overall he still would have been a pretty good guy.  But then I looked at the situation in a different way and realized, "There was nothing that the others could hold against Daniel!" What a testimony that is! Just being a pretty good guy was not good enough for Daniel.  Daniel was a MAN OF GOD and was devoted to being the best one he could.  Could you imagine if those who were trying to bring you down because they envied you had no grounds whatsoever on which to smear your character? If they could not bring up that one time you did something that was immoral, unjust or just plain ungodly?  Think about it, is there anywhere in your life where those who are around you on a regular basis can find no fault in your character? To where they would have to go a step further and say the only way they can catch you being unlawful or unrighteous is if praising God becomes illegal? Well that was Daniel's situation in this chapter and it something that we as Christians should strive for on a regular basis for many reasons.

As I continue to type I am discovering the multiple lessons to be learned from this popular story so it seems God may have had more in mind for this particular blog than I foresaw.  This being said, return throughout the next week or so to read what it is God is showing me in this chapter for our daily walk with God.  I will discuss a few reasons God tells us that we have to be blameless and Holy as Daniel came to be in this chapter and the rewards God has for us if we dedicate ourselves to a righteous walk with him.  So let's just call this the introduction. =)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Your Blessing is On the Way Pt 3

#3. Is it Time Yet? When I opened this blog, I spoke on how we often times expect God to give us our answers immediately and don't take into account that it is not always the right time for whatever it is that we ask of God.  We are afraid that he does not hear us, or that he is not going to do what he said he would do but God doesn't break promises so we should never have to worry about that.  All we can do is wait for Hm to fulfill his promise. Psalm 37:7 says, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;"  That isn't telling us "don't do anything" because we know James tells us "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead," (2:17, NIV) but it is saying not to take it into our own hands.  

Let's use Abraham and Sarai as a popular example to prove this point.  God promised Abraham that he would be a father to many nations, however, Sarai and he believed that she was too old to bare children and decided to take matters into their own hands.  Sarai gave Abraham her servant, Hagar, to sleep with and she bore him a son, Ishmael.  Unfortunately, this was not God's plan for Abraham as God still was not ready to fulfill his promise.  As a result, there grew conflict between Sarai and Hagar, Ishmael and his decedents were destined to be in constant conflict with the world and later on down the road, Hagar and Ishmael were forced to leave.  In the end, God fulfilled his promise to Abraham and Sarai gave birth to Isaac when Abraham was 100 years old.  There were 14 long years between the time that Abraham and Sarai tried to take matters into their own hands and when God fulfilled his promise.  What makes us think that we will never have to wait for anything?

On the same note, I think sometimes we believe that when we don't hear an answer from God that it simply means He isn't listening.  Have you ever thought that his silence could be an answer?  In situations where we are looking for God's guidance, we often times look for some sign to show us where to move next and when we don't get one we panic.  However, as the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  I believe if we are truly pursuing God first and living righteous, then the reason He is not giving us an answer is because we are right where we need to be for the time being.  The only thing one can do is continue to walk in righteousness with God and wait patiently for him to tell us the next move to make.  Until then, we should work on where we are now and be "faithful over a few things" so that we can be "ruler over many." (Matthew 25:21, KJV) 

Be patient with God, He promises you it'll be worth your wait. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Your Blessing is on the Way Pt 2

I want to start this devotional by first apologizing for my absence this past weekend.  I won't even waste your time with excuses so I will just continue with this series.

#2. How are you living? Verse 3 tells us "Trust in the Lord and do good;" and verse 5 say "Commit your ways to the Lord."  Often times we go to God living in sin and wonder why it is that he won't honor our requests when it is because we don't deserve it.  Although there is nothing that we can do to really deserve God's grace and mercy, (hence why it is grace and mercy; supposed to be unmerited),  God does honor our obedience and commitment to His ways.  2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways THEN will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land."

I like this verse because it reminds me of a concept I learned in Geometry that I feel applies here.  It was the difference between "iff" (if and only if) and "if."  Iff denoted any time that there was only one route from the problem to the solution. For instance, x+2=4 iff x=2 or you and I equal saved if and only if we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  Well in the case of "if," there can be more than one solution to the problem.  An example would 2x<8 if x=1 because x could equal anything right before the number 4, get it?  Well 2 Chronicles 7:14 is exactly like the second concept I just discussed, "if." You see, God tells us that humbling ourselves, praying, seeking his face and repenting equals forgiveness, healing and blessings.  However, we serve a faithful, merciful and forgiving God who has the tendency to give us his grace even when we do not do any of the things above just because he loves us which means there are other solutions to the problem of our sin and disobedience.  Now it's easy to think, "If God shows me grace even amidst my sin, then I don't have to live right," but keep the math problem mentioned above in mind.

God gave us the answer key to all the problems in our life and if we use it, we will excel in our faith test and reap the rewards.  If we don't, however, we run the risk of barely passing our way into heaven and leaving many of the blessings assigned to us locked up.  If you don't believe me, even David tells us in verse 6 "He will make the righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Your Blessing is on the Way

Psalms 37:1-7
4 "Trust yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart"

As a child, I remember thinking that everything happened immediately.  When I was young, the word "wait" doesn't quite register in my brain because often times when I asked for something, I get an immediate answer; either yes or no.  Now I notice, when dealing with young children, they will continuously ask the same question until they get some sort of answer from you and even continue to ask until they get a yes.  I had the "privilege" of watching my baby cousin one morning and I remember him standing around me when he saw me preparing his food saying "eat, eat?" over and over again.  I had to tell him it wasn't ready yet but he still did not understand and continued to repeat his words until I fed him.  As Christians, we do this almost everyday as we pray and ask for things from the Lord but, like children, are too impatient to wait for an answer.  I used to love a saying I heard in Sunday School years back that told me when I asked God for something He will always answer; He will give me a "'yes', 'no' or a 'not right now.'" This passage in Psalms addresses in many ways our requests of God so in this devotional, I will note a few things I think we should remember when it comes to our petitions.

#1 What is your motive?: Why is it that you want whatever it is that you are asking for? Really think about it. Is it  a part of God's will? Will it benefit the Kingdom? Is it something that you truly want or do you have some alternative motive?  The first verse of Psalms 37 tells us "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;"  and I believe it is very relevant to some of our requests of God.  Ask yourself, do you want money because those around you seem happier with money? Do you want to marry because all your co-workers are married and seem to have better lives? Are you asking for things out of envy or true desire to do God's will?  I don't believe God will honor your requests if you are asking with the wrong intentions.  Verse four says "delight yourself in Him and he will give you the desires of your heart" so if you are looking towards others lives and asking for things they have in order to make you happy, you aren't delighting yourself in Him first. Find your joy in the Lord before you begin to ask for the extra.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bourne Again Identity

In Matt Damon's "The Bourne Identity," he plays an amnesic assassin who is trying to determine who he is after a failed attempt to complete a mission.  The protagonist, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), spends three movies retracing his steps in order to get to the bottom of his past.  Now, there are many people in the world who are also  attempting to determine what their true identity is in this world.  Although this may very from culture to culture or person to person, one thing that should be absolute is the identity of those who label themselves as Christians.  Although we are all different and unique to God's kingdom in our own way, there are a few things that we should have in common if we identify with Christ.  This series of devotionals will give a few of the things I feel are important to identify with if you live the LIFE of the saved.

#1. The Love: 1 John 4:8 "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." When it comes to identity, one thing that is important to recognize is that others should be able to see the love in you. Why would someone think you belong to God if u are never kind, compassionate, patient or gentle with them? If you are constantly treating others poorly you aren't loving them and John is pretty clear about what it means if you don't love. One of my favorite church sayings is that "you may be the only Bible that someone reads." It is something that is so true that we must keep it in mind because if we identify with Christ, we shouldn't tarnish the Word that others see because of the way we treat them. Love others.

#2.The Image: This first point came as I prepared for my interview today. I realized that I was putting a lot of work into ironing, cutting my hair and going over my lesson plan in the mirror.  I am so concerned with how the interviewers will perceive me today, that I did something I haven't done in years...ironed my clothes the night before.  However, as I began to think I came to the conclusion that we as Christians should put this much work into how others in and out of the church perceive us when it comes to our everyday lifestyle.  We walk around as representatives of our Father to all those who see us and at any particular moment can either minister or manipulate the image that others have of God.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:3 "I try to live in such a way that no one will be hindered from finding the Lord by the way I act and so no one can find fault in my ministry." This should be our goal everyday as we are walking billboards for Christ.  When we are among unbelievers, we should stand out and when we are among fellow believers, there should be evidence of the Spirit living in us.  Colossians 3:7-10 "You used to wall in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage malice, slander, and filthy language from you lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off our old self with its practices 10 and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the IMAGE OF ITS CREATOR."* Take a minute and examine yourself today and ask yourself, "Do I look like a child of God?"  If you are truly born again, you should identify with the image.

#3. The Faith: 2 Corinthians 13:5 "examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-unless of course you faith he test?"  If we identify with Christ it should be apparent in your faith.  Faith is mentioned often in the Bible as a requirement to be a Christian.  think about it, our entire relationship with God is based on faith; faith that He exists, faith that Jesus was his son, faith that he died on the cross for our sins and is coming back again.  If we can't identify with Christ-like faith, then it is improbable that we have the relationship with God we think we do.  In fact, Hebrews 11;6 says "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."  So do as Paul says and "test yourself."  Where is your faith?  If you were to be given a pop quiz on faith, would the results show that Christ is in you?  Think about it, it's part of your Bourne Again Identity.

#4. The Evangelism: Matthew 28:19-20 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..."  This is the last thing Jesus says to us before he ascended into heaven in the books of Matthew and Mark.  Matthew, however, literally ends after this verse and I believe there is a particular reason why.  As one reads Matthew, you may come to understand that Matthew was a very logical and concise writer.  Often times, he gave the main points of what Jesus said without the fluff that came in some of the other Gospels.  I like to think that my brain works very similar to Matthews in that I believe the direct message is what is most important.  In saying that, I also believe there is a great amount of significance to this particular commandment because of where it is placed.  Often times, when someone really wants you to remember and do something, they will make it the last thing they say to you right? For instance, your teacher could lecture all day but the last thing they remind you is to do a certain reading or assignment.  Or your parents may tell you all the chores you should do before you can leave the house but then mention, "Make sure you turn off the lights before you leave."  In the same way, I believe Jesus is using the placement of this commandment to remind us that above all the things he tells us to do on a regular basis, the most important thing we must do is continue to recruit souls for his Kingdom.  Everything else comes back to this commandment.  It is hard to save souls if you aren't loving, living right or are without faith right? So the other parts of our Identity serve one greater purpose above all else, and that is the uplifting of Christ's kingdom.  So if you aren't making an effort to bring others to Christ, is not the rest of your Identity almost pointless?  Not to say that you MUST save a soul a day, but you ought to minister to someone somehow in any opportunity you get.  You must take advantage of every chance you get to share the love of Christ with someone else and even if you are not the one to save them, plant the seeds that will begin to grow into their own relationship with Christ.  There is a reason this passage is known as "The Great Commission;" it is our responsibility to our Identity as Christians to make an apparent effort to save souls on a regular basis.

*Read more of Colossians 3 on what it looks like to be born again.