Friday, August 26, 2011

Using Your Giftedness

Romans 12:3-6 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as one body, we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

The Body of Christ can be a beautiful testimony of what Christianity has to offer. However, it also has the potential to keep people from ever turning to Christ. If someone sees the Church not functioning in unity and harmony, they begin to call Christians hypocrites and begin to discredit the gospel message in its entirety. Romans 12:3-6 gives us instruction as to how to serve within the Body.

The first step is to have an appropriate view of ourselves. We are not to think of each other more highly than we ought, but instead to think of yourself with a sound mind. I cannot help but thinking of those poor fools on American Idol who go up to the judges with pride covering their faces. They talk the talk, and wear the starlet outfit. And then they open their mouths to sing. I sit there thinking, "did no one love them enough to tell them that they were TERRIBLE?" Then, when the judges tell them that it was the worst audition that they have ever heard, the pseudo-singer doesn't believe it. They have not thought of themselves with sober judgement and therefore their attitude of themselves is to high. Their pride makes them not coachable and not useful for any good purpose. We have these same personalities in our churches. Those who are confident that they are the best at one certain area of ministry or another. Paul tells us to instead of getting caught up with thinking too highly of ourselves, we are to be sensible in how we view ourselves which comes from our faith.

The second step is to find your function and serve faithfully. Paul tells us that we are all members of one body and that we all do not have the same function. By having a sound judgment of ourselves, we are better able to serve as the member that God has called us to be with the giftedness He has given us. If we think too highly of ourselves, our role in the Body will seem insignificant or not good enough. We will vie for another position. We will try to manipulate and politicize to be in an area of service that might not be within our giftedness, simply because we see it as more desirable. However, God gives us spiritual gifts for the reason of building up the Body of Christ and for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). We are therefore not competing against each other. Rather, we are serving one another as we serve Christ.

First Corinthians 12:24 states, "But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another."

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Love of the Father

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

If you asked anyone if they knew any Bible verse, if they could quote one, it would most likely be John 3:16. You see it plastered on banners at baseball games, written on billboard, and screened on tee-shirts. I often wonder though how many people take time to actually meditate on how profound this verse actually is.

On one hand was a disobedient world; a creation that had rioted against God for generations and generations. On the other, was the Second Person if the Trinity, the Son, perfect in obedience and fellowship with the Father. Yet, because of love, the Father actively gives the Son as a sacrifice. He does this so that whoever simply believes in the Son will not perish, which is what everyone deserves, but would rather have eternal life.

My two children were sick this past weekend. On Saturday, I watched as my daughter tried to crawl, only to collapse on the floor in exhaustion. I thought to myself that I would do anything to trade places with her. I would gladly endure the pain to take hers away. I then immediately thought about what God the Father had to endure in watching Christ on the cross. I thought about the love that had to compel Him to make such a sacrifice. I then thought about my own selfishness. I certainly would not give either of my children for anyone. I simply do not have enough love in me. Yet, God not only endured temporary separation of fellowship with the Son, but He also had to see Him mocked, scorned, beaten, broken, and crucified. As a parent, I am too selfish in my love. However, it makes me love and revere God all the more. He would love me so much that He would be willing to endure that kind of heartbreak, willingly, so that I might have the opportunity to have a relationship with Him. If I do not believe and take advantage of that relationship and embrace that love, then, shame on me. I deserved none of it, but the Father was gracious enough to see that I should gain access to Him. The Son loved the Father and loved those whom the Father gave Him to be obedient to the cross. If I cannot live my life out of gratefulness, then shame on me.

It is such a simple message, but it cost so much. Please let it not just be something that you place on a poster or a shirt, but let it be a message you embrace with your whole heart.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shepherd and Sheep Part 2

1 Peter 2:24-25 - He himself (Jesus) bore our sins in his body on a tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds, you were healed. For you were straying like sheep, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Sheep are known for their propensity to stray. Sheep have been known to wander from the herd and lead themselves to the edge of a cliff or to be found dead alone in the middle of nowhere. This is the state in which we were in without Christ. We were wandering around, lost and without hope. It was for this reason that Christ died on the cross. Our response is that we should get rid of our old and sinful way of living and turn and live in obedience to Christ.We are no longer characterized by our old sinful selves. Rather, by the wounding of Christ on the cross, we are spiritually, healed. It is because of this healing relationship that we have been brought back to God, the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

The text says that we were straying like sheep. That no longer characterizes the believer. However, God continues to Shepherd us. He continues to guide and lead us. Unfortunately, we sometimes desire to revert back to "sheep mentality". We like to think of ourselves as wandering, without hope instead of realizing the change that Christ made for us on the cross. We have been healed. The effects of our sins have been healed. Our relationship with God has been healed. Our response is to get ride of the old way of thinking and living and to accept and practice the new that has been established in Christ. We to rely on God as our Shepherd and allow Him to be Overseer of our souls. When we do, we do not have to worry about straying.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shepherd and Sheep part 1

Psalm 23:1 - The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

God is often compared with a shepherd in Scripture, with man being His sheep in need of His care. Psalm 23 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. It discusses how God cares for us by using pastoral imagery. The more you understand the relationship between a shepherd and sheep, the better you are able to grasp the depth of the Psalm. throughout the Psalm, God is seen as Provider and Protector. The first verse declares that the Lord is the writer's shepherd. As a result of the personal relationship, David will not have a lack of provision. The author then states how as the Shepherd, God makes him lie down in green pastures. Sheep are known to be skittish animals and will not lie down unless certain conditions are met. First, their environment must be void of any fear. Second, the flock must not have any friction amongst them. Next, there must not be any parasites plaguing the sheep. Finally, they must have plenty of food. The fact that the shepherd provides to the extent that the sheep can lie down, means that he has gone to great lengths in order that the sheep may rest. The sheep's tendency to fear carries over to how they drink water. A sheep might thirst to death even in the presence of water, if the water is a running river. Therefore, a sheep must have still water to drink from in order to survive. It is up to the shepherd to seek out these pools in order to provide for his flock. Therefore, he leads them to quiet waters. David declares that God does not provide merely physical rest and renewal to him, but also spiritual.

Not only does the Shepherd lead His sheep in order to provide. He also leads them in order to protect. Verse three states that He leads him into the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. A shepherd's reputation was based on the condition of the sheep. In the same way, the Lord's reputation on earth is often based on how we represent Him. While He leads us on the paths of righteousness, it is also up to us to follow. Sheep are not known for their obedience and often wander (Isaiah 53:6). Even in the darkest times, the writer has no need to fear because he knows that the Lord is with him. A shepherd would normally carry two pieces of equipment in the field: a rod and a staff. The rod was the defensive weapon to fend off predators while the staff is what the shepherd used to guide and control the sheep. Therefore, David knows that God's protection consists of both defending him against evil as well as restraining him from going astray.

As we see through the metaphor, God's love for us is extensive. His commitment to provide and protect is vast. All we are asked to do is follow.

What are some ways in which you see God differently as Shepherd than you did before?

How can you trust God more to be your Shepherd?

Why is it that we sometimes like to take the staff into our own hands and lead ourselves?

In what ways are you similar to a sheep?

What is keeping you from lying down and enjoying the green pasture God has for you?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Being Christ-like: The Priority of Compassion

Matthew 9:35-37 - And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest."

Matthew 9:35 gives a great summary of the work that Christ did while he ministered on earth. He met people's needs both spiritually and physically. In verse 35, I like how it says that he healed EVERY disease and EVERY affliction. This shows the extent of both his love and his power. In verse 36, we see the motivation behind his ministry: he had compassion on the people. The Greek verb refers to being greatly moved by a sympathetic love. Often times this emotion solicits involvement (Matt. 14:14; Mk 1:41; Mk 6:34; Lk 7:13; Lk 10:33).

Having compassion requires recognizing the needs of others around us and rather than scoffing at their condition, thus taking heart to where they are at and showing them mercy. Compassion requires humility, in that we must look beyond our own comforts to meet the needs of those hurting. Jesus was moved and motivated by the harassed and helpless because he saw that they were the ones with a need. In Matthew 9:12 Jesus says, "those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick." Jesus did not spend his time with the spiritual elite. Rather he spent the limited amount of time that God gave him on earth with the "sinners" and "tax collectors." He taught those that society ignored. He helped the broken-hearted. He healed the wounded.

Jesus recognized the need for workers for this hurting world. In response, he told his disciples to pray in a specific way. They were to petition to God and ask that he send people to help with this great task. In this prayer they were making a plea to God, whuch was not far from begging. Therefore, this shows that the need is great. Could you be part of that answer?

We are all given a small amount of time on earth. How much time have you committed to showing compassion to others? Who are some people that need to be shown some of God's love? If you say you do not know of anyone, there are hurting people all around. All you have to do is pray and ask God to show you who. It is easier to stay around healthy happy people who love Jesus just like us. But Christ has called us to reap His harvest. In doing so, we must go out, being motivated by compassion, and reach out to a world in need. God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.