Thursday, March 01, 2007

Daily devotional - March 1, 2007 - Ephesians 4:4-6

Eph. 4:4-6 - There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
So often Christians get so critical about the differences between denominations that we don't take the tame to enjoy and praise their similarities. We forget that while we may differ on issues about the plan of salvation, the endurance of God's saving grace, or when and how we think Jesus will return, we are still very similar when it comes to the basics. When it comes down to it, we all worship the same God. We all trust in the same Jesus as our savior.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Daily devotional - February 28, 2007 - Galatians 1:10

Gal. 1:10 - Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Too often we try to be so pleasing to one another that we are not pleasing God. This is not to say that if we are pleasing men then we must not be pleasing God. Being a servant will likely end up with you touching someone in a deep and profound way, and this of course is God's will. What we must guard against is our reasons for doing these things. Jesus described the reward that comes from trying to please men:
  • "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
  • "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
  • "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
Trying to please men leads to a short term reward. What is the result of the same actions when trying to please God?
  • "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
  • "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
  • "But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
God will reward you! Therefore, we should never be so short sighted so as to pass up on God's long term rewards simply for the praises and plaudits of men today.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Daily devotional - February 27, 2007 - II Corinthians 3:1-3

2 Cor. 3:1-3 - Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. In the emerging world of first century Christianity Paul understood that he didn't need someone to recommend him for a position in another church; he was an apostle! So how did he establish a reputation? By the path he left behind. I have worked at a place or two that when I left I did not leave a clear path of the good things I did there. Perhaps the circumstances of my departure left me thinking, "How will I explain this?" Paul, here, serves as an example that our most powerful witness to our character is the result of our past actions. These past actions, in turn, are a barometer of our faith.

In James we read:
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
and Jesus tells us:
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
For you see that when we have established a righteous life, our actions will paint that picture better than any sermon we could preach or letter of recommendation that anyone could write. Likewise if there appears to be a path of destruction in our wake, perhaps it may be time for some reflection, to determine how we may draw closer to God.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Daily devotional - February 26, 2007 - I Corinthians 6:18-20

I Cor. 16:18-20 - Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

There are a number of details that hit me when I read this passage.

1) "Flee from sexual immorality." Fleeing is an ACTIVE response. Sometimes when faced with temptation and sin we think we can bulldoze our way through it. For men, this can be especially true of sexual immorality. We may see an attractive woman and upon catching ourselves thinking impure thoughts we may attempt to do the right thing and say to ourselves, "That is sinful, you should stop." Yet we'll find ourselves repeating this same cycle every time we see that person or someone like them. What is God's command here through the Apostle Paul? FLEE! Run away! Turn around and get yourself out of that situation. God knows that you aren't strong enough to bulldoze through. He knows that if you are in a tempting situation that you have failed at again and again, you are likely to repeat that mistake. The best solution is to remove yourself from that situation! Jesus talks about this same principle in Matthew 5:29 where he tells us "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away." Does he mean this literally? Possibly, but I don't think so. Regardless, the principle is still the same: if there is something in your life, no matter how precious, that is causing you to fall into sin, cut it out; remove it; don't assume it can be fixed. This means different things for different people. For some it may be as simple as not getting a Sunday paper delivered to their house anymore so that the temptation of lingerie ads does not pose the threat it once did. It may mean getting your internet shut off or switched to a Christian ISP so that the sites that tempt you will not be accessible. Only you know your situation though. What can you do to radically remove yourself from your stubborn sin situations?

2) "All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" I think for most men sexual sin is the hardest sin habit to break. I am currently reading the book "Every Man's Battle"and it talks about how men are wired differently from women sexually, and thus are much more predisposed to this sinful behavior. That is not to say that we have an excuse for it, but our physiological makeup does make it clear as to why it has the potential to be the huge problem that it is for so many. This is also not to say that women don't struggle with this problem, but as a male I can only speak to that perspective. Paul here makes us look at that sin for what it is: a unique sin that is committed against God, yourself, and your (for the single, future) spouse. Murder is done to someone else. Stealing involves a second party to steal from. Lying needs someone to be lied to. Sexual sin however, need no such target. You can grab any innocent stranger and commit mental adultery without them even knowing. This is what makes sexual sin so enticing at times. It appears to be a victimless crime. However there are victims that you aren't even considering. Firstly is the Holy Spirit. We, as Christians, are his temple. Would you go stapling up centerfolds at church? Of course not! So why must you do it in your own mind where the Holy Spirit dwells, busy praying and making intercession for you? In the same way we are sinning against Jesus himself! As Christians we are called the "body of Christ." So when we do such despicable acts we, in essence, forcing Christ to do those things! As Paul says elsewhere:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
So sexual sin is a unique one that directly connects not only ourselves, but the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ himself with that sin. Can we bear that on our conscience? I can't, so I do my best to put into practice point number one: flee from it!

3) "You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." These few words reveal one of the little understood facts about being a Christian. Many people proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ as a free gift for all. In a way it is. God doesn't want your money to save you, but he does want something: you! When you are saved you become his; you no longer "own" yourself. We are commanded to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." God considers it a fair trade that once he saves your soul, he gets to do what he wants with the rest. One of the things he wants to do is renovate it like an old house and clear out all those rotting, termite infested walls that he calls sin. God can't have a sin house be his house because he is holy. So what are we doing? Are we laying down in front of the bulldozer saying to God "I'm not ready for you to tear down this room yet?" or are you telling him "Hey God, I'm sure you already know this, but there is a hidden crawlspace behind my closet. You might want to start there."