Submit To One Another

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Submit To One Another

Ephesians 5:21-33

This is the problem with doing an expositional study, you can’t pick your topics…that means you even have to do the ones you don’t want to. Because of that, I’m going to cover a lot more ground in one blog than I usually do. Normally I only take 3 or 4 verses at a time, but if I did that today, this blog would have been called, “Wives Need to Submit to Their Husbands”. Somehow, I don’t think that would have gone over so well in today’s society, and if we look at it in context that’s, not what it is saying here. So, let’s do that, let’s take it in context but please read the entire blog before you make any judgment.

In order to look at it in context, we need to go back to the beginning…literally, the beginning! Look at Genesis 2:18 where God said, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” The KJV uses the word “help meet” here. The Hebrew word used in this verse is the word, `ezer {ay’-zer} which means help, succor, and succor means, “A person or thing that gives help, relief, aid, etc.” So, although we have all heard it from some pastors, the truth is that the wife was not created to be the husband’s servant. She was created to be his helper, to aid him in leading. Now, I feel like I need to stress that men were created to be the leaders, but not at the expense of the woman, even if you are just looking at it physiologically. My degree is in biology, specifically human anatomy, and physiology, and the male body and emotions were created to handle the physical and emotional strains of leading. But we’ll go into that more a little later.

Now, let’s get back to our passage. Paul starts out by saying, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In Ephesians 5:21. You see, a lot of “those pastors” like to leave this verse out and skip right to verse 22 that says, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” But, the fact is that he begins by saying we all need to submit to each other, husbands to wives and wives to husbands. He goes on in verses 23 through 24 to remind us that God did place the husband as the head of the home just as Christ is the head of the Church. I have heard many Christians try to say that this doesn’t apply to us anymore, but the truth is, there is no scripture to back that up. Some try to say that it’s because we are no longer under the curse but there are a few holes in that thinking. First, although the man being the head of the home was part of the curse of Adam, it was also set up that way from creation. Second, the Bible never says we are no longer under the curse of Adam, it says we are no longer under the curse of the law…two totally different curses. Look at Galatians 3:13, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” And, thirdly, if this didn’t pertain to us today, then why would Paul have written it to the New Testament Church? I know I sound like a broken record, but we need to stop trying to interpret the Bible, so it matches what we want to hear. We need to take it literally, in context, and as a whole.

These two verses also go back to the fact that the husband and wife are one body, as God said back in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Because, in verses 23 and 24, when he tells us that the husband is head of the wife just like Christ is the head of the Church he is saying that, just like Christ is the head and the Church is the body, so, the husband is the head and the wife is the body…we are one flesh.

The next section, verses 25 through 30 are all addressing the man, that’s right, 3 verses for the women and 6 verses for the men, we need twice as much direction. Paul reminds us men to love our wives the way Christ loves the Church, “just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” Notice it doesn’t say just that Christ died for the Church, it says that He gave Himself for her. You see, Christ didn’t just die for us, He gave everything for us. He left the splendor of Heaven and came to live as a pauper here on this broken earth for us. Yes, we should be willing to die for our wives, but we should be willing to do much more than that. With Christ as our example, we must live for and love our wives as He did the Church. And, why should we do this? To make our wives holy, that means set apart, and clean, and washed by God’s word…to lift up our wives, not to put them down.

As if that wasn’t enough, and knowing how self-centered we men can be, he hits us again. In verse 28 he says, “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” That’s right love your wife as much as you love yourself…ouch! And then he ends the section to the men by reminding us that we are all part of the Body of Christ.

Now, I would like to go back to verse 21 which says we need to submit to each other. Because, next it says in verse 22, “For wives, this means…” and in verse 25 he says, “For husbands, this means…” So, do you see what it is saying? Submit to each other! For women, it means you need to let your husband lead by God’s authority. And, for men, this means you need to love your wives.

So, why do you think Paul focused on these two things? As I mentioned earlier, part of the curse of Adam was “Then he said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain, you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.’” Genesis 3:16. By nature, women want to take control, but that isn’t how God intended it. Again, that doesn’t mean that men control everything, and women have no say in it. Women were given to us as our help meet. They are there to aid us in leading, but we men have to answer to God for how we lead our families. And, as for men, we don’t love naturally…not like women do. Most women love naturally, it’s like a second nature. You know, that motherly, nurturing instinct, but we men are pretty self-centered. We think that providing for the family is enough, but it isn’t. We need to step back and take a hard look at how we love our wives.

So, to sum it up, submit to each other, follow God’s plan, and love! It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

A Lamp To My Feet?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Lamp To My Feet?

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” I have heard this verse my entire life, but I guess I never gave it a lot of thought until a couple of weeks ago.

Michelle and I go hiking every weekend, in fact, we are currently training to hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim this summer with a friend of ours. A couple of weeks ago, we took a hike on the Goat Canyon Trestle Trail. We began this trail in Jacumba Hot Springs in Southern California and hiked over seven miles out and back, so it was a total of over fourteen miles. This trail follows abandoned train tracks the whole way, so more than three miles of it are inside tunnels. In fact, two of these tunnels were a half mile long each.

As you can imagine, these tunnels, especially the long ones and the curved ones, can get pretty dark. Also, the ground is extremely uneven, remember, we are hiking on old train tracks, tracks that were originally installed in the 1920s, so we are either hiking across the cross beams or dirt that has been filled in on them over the decades. But, not to worry, we carry our trusty headlamps.

The first of the long tunnels was a half mile long and curved. So, this one was somewhat of a double whammy. On top of that, I assume this one was a little less structurally stable than the others since the inside walls and floor had been sprayed with concrete to keep rocks and such from falling. I don’t believe that spraying the floors with the concrete was intentional, there’s was no need for it, plus it was very uneven and random.

As we had gotten a couple of hundred feet into the cave it became very clear that it wasn’t very clear anymore, so we had to get out our handy-dandy headlamps. I’ve never felt so much like a Boy Scout…I was prepared. So, we both put on our headlamps and continued. It didn’t take me very long to realize the problem with this. You see, I was hiking on an already sprained ankle, and I’m not exactly the most graceful person to begin with.

I have a high-end headlamp so I could see in front of me great. And, since Michelle was hiking in front of me, she could see where she was going with no problem. My problem was that I couldn’t see what the ground in front of me was doing. Now, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but it didn’t take me stumbling more than two or three times to I realized there might be a problem with this. You see, I had a light for my path, but I didn’t have a lamp to my feet. Now, Michelle, who was also wearing a headlamp, had a light for her path, plus my headlamp was a lamp to her feet. Michelle didn’t stumble, but I did…several times.

So, what exactly is this verse saying? It says that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We must be able to see the path before us, but if we don’t have the lamp on our feet, we will stumble. The beautiful thing is that God’s word does both.

First, it provides light for our path. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” God has a plan for your life, a plan for good and not disaster, and His word will light the way. “Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow.” Psalm 5:8. God has a plan for us, and He wants us to see the way.

Second, His word is a lamp to our feet. Psalm 119:165 tells us, “Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” You see, it’s not enough to just read the word, it’s not even enough to just memorize verses, we must love it and love its instructions. Psalm 1 tells us in verse 2 that those who are blessed, “delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” And, it goes on to say in verse 6, “For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” If we delight in His law and meditate on it day and night, our path will be clear, in fact, it says that the Lord will watch our paths. We all need to ask ourselves daily whether or not we delight in His word. It is easy to let the distractions of this life keep us from the word, but if we delight in the word of God, if we long for it, we won’t let our busy lives distract us from it.

So, when you find yourself in the dark, don’t just use a flashlight for your feet, or just a headlamp for your path, use both. And, when you find yourself in spiritual darkness, and we all find ourselves in that place occasionally, if you have been delighting in the word and meditating on it, when it seems like the walls are closing in and a cloud of darkness is over your head, you can reflect on those passages you have meditated on. Those passages that you have been delighting in will light your path and show you the way out.

Let God show you His path. 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. He never says that His path will be easy, but He will guide us, “For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.” Psalm 48:14. He also promises us that, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

More Churches – Smyrna

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Smyrna

I realize I said we were only going to look at two of these churches, but there is so much here, I believe we need to look at more of them.

In Revelation 2:8-11, Jesus is talking to the Church at Smyrna. We know that it is Christ who is talking, because He starts out in verse 8 by saying, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:” Notice that all of these warnings are written to the angel of the church. The word angel means messenger, envoy, one who is sent, a messenger from God. So, what He is saying is that He is giving this letter to the messenger for that church at Smyrna. Then He goes on with His credentials. He says, “The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:” So, who is writing this? The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last…I have had some say that this must be talking about Jehovah, God the Father, because He is the first and the last, but you must finish the verse. He goes on to say, “who was dead, and has come to life.” That can only be talking about Jesus! The fact that He begins by saying that He is the first and the last only confirms the Trinity, they are one and the same.

The next thing He says, in verse 9 is, “I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich!” Think back to the church at Laodicea in chapter 3, verse 17 where He told them, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Do you see the contrast? The church at Laodicea thought they were rich, monetarily, but they were spiritually destitute. On the other hand, the church at Smyrna is poor monetarily, but He says they are truly rich spiritually. We get so caught up in the things of this world that we often forget what we are here for. Don’t let anyone tell you that you will be wealthy if you are in God’s will, that is simply unscriptural. I’ve had people give me reasons why they think Christ was wealthy, but if He was wealthy, why did He not have a home? Jesus said Himself in Luke 9:58, “But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” Also, if Christ and His disciples were wealthy, then why did He have to perform a miracle, in order to pay their taxes? We see this in Matthew 17:27, “However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” So, Christ and His disciples weren’t wealthy as this world sees wealth because that stuff didn’t matter to them.

Jesus goes on at the end of verse 9 saying, “I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan.” You see, there are a lot of people and churches and pastors out there that don’t preach the truth. Christ said that He knows who they are and that they are really serving Satan. This is why it is so important to study the Bible literally and in context, and never try to put our own interpretation on it. These people who were opposing the church at Smyrna thought they were serving God, because of the way they had interpreted the scripture, but Christ said that they were serving Satan.

He starts out verse 10 by saying, “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” I love that He had to tell them that. So often we look at people who have suffered or even been martyred for Christ as somewhat superhuman. But, they are just like you and me. They are afraid of the unknown just like we are. So, Christ needed to tell them not to be afraid. He goes on in verse 10 to say, “The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days.” Okay, He tells us not to be afraid, but it’s going to be bad, and He even says that some of them will be thrown into prison, but then He limits it. He says that He will let Satan persecute them, but only for a little while as a test. I love that when Christ allows us to be tested, He gives us the answers to the test first. In fact, He even tells us the reward for passing the test up front. At the end of verse 10 He says, “But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” So, we will be persecuted, we may even face death, but if we remain faithful, He will give us a crown of life. In the Greek language, there are two words for crown. One of those words means a crown, like a king would wear, but the other word, stephanos, which is the one used here, means a victor’s crown. Winners of athletic events and even the original Olympics would be presented with a crown, a stephanos. Christ is saying that if we endure, we will be given a trophy, a reward, for our perseverance, and that reward is life…eternal life. But, here’s the thing, we can all endure, we can all be the victor because we have the secret weapon…Jesus. Christ told us in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” You see, we truly have nothing to fear! Yes, we will face trials, and we will face sorrows, but we will never face them alone! We can take heart…because Christ has already overcome the world! It doesn’t get any better than that!

Simeon & Anna

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Simeon & Anna

When Jesus was eight days old, His parents did what the law told them to do. They took him to the temple to be circumcised. After that, they went to give their purification sacrifice. While they were doing this, a prophet named Simeon came up to them, took their child from them, and began praising God. Put yourself in their shoes. Yes, they knew that He was the Messiah, but for a total stranger to come up to them and take their child and say, Luke 2:29-32 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” It’s no wonder that verse 33 says, “Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.” Of course, they knew it, but Simeon realized who He was without being told, even though He was just eight days old. But, Simeon didn’t stop there. He went on to bless Mary and Joseph, and then say, in verses 34 and 35, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Okay, so let’s look at what just happened. First, he picks up Jesus and starts praying that God can take him now because he has seen God’s salvation. And, he adds that this salvation is for ALL PEOPLE! This is huge! The Hebrew religion taught that salvation was only for the Jewish people…you had to be born into salvation. This was never God’s plan, He saved Rahab and others who were not Hebrews all through history. But that’s what religion does, it divides. So, Simeon, speaking through the Holy Spirit, said that salvation has come for all people. He then expounds on it when he says, “He is a light to reveal God to the nations”. Some translations say a light to the Gentiles, but the Greek word used here is ethnos, which is where we get our word ethnic. Christ is a light to reveal God to everyone. He then says that Jesus will be the glory of Israel.

So, this is where it says that His parents were amazed at what was being said. Then Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph and it’s great, it’s all good stuff up until now. Then Simeon goes on to say that their child is destined to make many in Israel fall, and many others rise. You see, that was Jesus’ destiny, to make many fall and many rise, and we see this over and over throughout Jesus’ ministry. We see Peter rise from denying Christ, to leading the Church after His resurrection. And, we see Judas fall, even after spending day and night with Christ for three years. We also see most of the Pharisees fall because they are unwilling to let go of their religion and traditions, while we see Nicodemus tell Jesus that he knows He was sent from God. Actually, he doesn’t say he knows, he said we know. Nicodemus was saying that all of the Pharisees knew that Jesus was sent from God, but for most of them, their religion and their place of authority was too important.

Simeon goes on to say that even though Jesus was sent from God, many will oppose Him. He knew the hearts of mankind, and how we seek signs and wonders, but even when we see them, we still don’t believe. I talk a lot about taking scripture literally. Had the Hebrew people taken the Old Testament literally, and not tried to add their own interpretation, they would have seen Jesus as the Christ. All of the scriptures pointed to Him, but they wouldn’t believe.

Simeon says that because so many will oppose Him, the deepest thoughts of their hearts will be revealed. And, then he says directly to Mary, “a sword will pierce your very soul.” You see, Mary had to realize that, yes, giving birth to the Messiah was a huge honor, but it would also be a huge burden. Think about it. Thirty-three years later, Mary had to watch her son be brutally beaten and crucified for crimes he didn’t commit. But, even before that, He was homeless for three years, He was hated by all the religious leaders, He was even hated by her other children. The Holy Spirit used Simeon to remind her of this.

Next up, Anna. Let’s look at her backstory. First, it says she was the daughter of Phanouel. This is the only time that Phanouel is mentioned in the Bible. He isn’t a prominent figure in the Bible, or in history. His name is given here because of its meaning. Her father’s name literally meant, “the face of God”, so Anna was the daughter of the face of God. And, on top of that, she was from the tribe of Aser, which means “blessed”. So, she was the blessed daughter of the face of God…wow. It goes on to say that she was eighty-four years old. It doesn’t say how old she was when she got married, but we know that Jewish tradition was that a girl was usually twelve to fourteen when they got married. So, this tells us that she was probably nineteen to twenty-one when her husband died seven years later. Then it says she lived as a widow, to this point about forty-four years, and never left the temple, but worshiped God day and night. So, it’s safe to say that Anna was pretty dedicated to God.

When Anna heard Simeon, she began praising God, then it says, “She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” Luke 2:38. After living in the temple for forty years, she knew who these people were. She knew exactly who was diligently looking for the Messiah.

Here’s the thing. The Christmas season is a good time to remind ourselves that we need to be more like Simeon and Anna. First, we need to be like Simeon, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 tells us, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” So, the Holy Spirit is teaching us EVERYTHING…we must listen. Second, we need to be like Anna. Once we hear from the Holy Spirit, we must tell

EVERYONE. The world needs God, but they don’t know it. Jesus is as dividing today as He was when He was on earth. So, some people will hate us for what we believe, but that’s okay, we’re not here to please people.

As we go through this last week of 2017 and into 2018, we need to ask ourselves, how can I be more like Simeon and Anna? What is the Holy Spirit trying to say to me? Remember that prayer is a dialog, not a monolog, so when you talk to God, listen to what He is trying to tell you. Then, when you hear from God, go tell everyone. James 1:22 tells us, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” So, when you hear a word from God, act on it! We have all missed so many blessings because we didn’t act on what the Holy Spirit is telling us. Stop missing out on blessings!

What is a Servant – Part 2

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What is a Servant? – Part 2

So, to pick up where we left off last time, what can we bring to the Lord? The prophet Micah asked this question and then answered it, let’s look. Micah 6:6-8 What can we bring to the Lord? What kind of offerings should we give him? Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves? (plural) Should we offer him thousands of rams (what a king would offer Him) and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? (what every king put together would offer Him) Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? Here’s the answer. No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” This is service. Do what’s right, all the time. Bob Jones Sr. used to say, “Do right till the stars fall.” Love mercy! Not just God’s mercy on us, that’s easy, but we need to emulate that mercy on those around us, Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Walk humbly with our God. James 4:10 Says, 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”  And in James 4:6 it says, But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but favors the humble.’” Do you want to know what service is? If we’re always doing right, and showing God’s mercy to everyone around us, and walking humbly with God, WE WILL BE SERVING.

Is there a price to serving God? Of course, there is. Nothing that is worth anything comes free. If it does come free, it’s just a blind sacrifice. Sometimes the price is financial, in fact, it often is. Sometimes it’s your time, again this is often the case. To tell you the truth, it will probably be both and more. But if we love God half as much as He loves us, we will gladly sacrifice for Him. Let’s face it, He gave His life for us, it doesn’t get bigger than that. Let’s look at Matthew 6:31-34 it says, 31 So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Notice, it doesn’t say we’ll be rich. If you’re listening to a pastor or teacher that tells you that you will be wealthy if you are living for God, walk away. The Bible never says anything like that. If that were the case, then Christ Himself wasn’t living for God, because He was homeless. He said Himself, Luke 9:58 But Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.’” The Bible also tells us Acts 14:22 “where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” And again, 2 Corinthians 6:4 “In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.” And, Paul said about the illness he had that he had prayed three times for God to remove, 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The verses go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

So, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you the Christian life is going to be easy, but I will tell you that the reward is great. Philippians 3:12-14 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Believe me, when I say the prize is worth the trial.

We started with the prophet Malachi, so let’s end with him. Malachi 3:16-18 says, 16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name. 17 “They will be my people,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. 18 Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” We have been called to a life of service. Not serving ourselves, but serving God and serving others. If the Church in America was doing the job that God gave us, we would have no need of government welfare, we’d be taking care of each other and those around us. In the new year coming up, lets purpose in our hearts to stop bringing God blind sacrifices. Let’s focus on serving each other, our community, and the world. The Bible tells us to be a light to the world, so let’s focus on being a light this year. God bless you all in 2018.

What Is A Servant? – Part 1

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What is a Servant? – Part 1

A few weeks ago, we talked about the Greek word, Doulos. We learned that this word means, bondservant. But, what exactly does it mean to be a servant? We’ve all seen maids and butlers on television shows, but what does it really mean. In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus told His disciples this, 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Wow, so if we want to be great in God’s eyes, we must serve each other. That isn’t exactly the message we are getting from the mainstream media, is it? But, it doesn’t stop with simple service, because our perfect example is Jesus, who gave His life for us.

First, we must ask ourselves who we are serving. In Matthew 4 we read about the temptation of Christ. This is the story of when Christ was fasting in the wilderness and Satan came to tempt Him. In verse 10 Jesus said, 10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” In this passage, Jesus was referencing Deuteronomy 6:13 which says, “You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.” Christ made it clear that we are to worship and serve, only the one true God. So many people today, including many that consider themselves to be Christ followers, serve Satan by serving themselves. We are a selfish generation looking only to please ourselves. We even see it in many popular pastors who preach that, if you are truly following Christ, you will have all you want. This message goes directly against what scripture tells us. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Do you see what it says there? It doesn’t say we might suffer persecution, it says we will suffer persecution!

This leads us to the second thing. Where is our treasure? Jesus told us in Matthew 6:21, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Notice that He didn’t say that we’ll put our treasures where our heart is, He said that our heart will be where our treasures are. For example, if someone asked you about Aids in Africa, you probably wouldn’t know a lot about it. But, if you are giving your hard-earned money to Aids relief in Africa, you’ll probably be somewhat of an expert on the subject. You see? Where you put your treasure, that’s where your heart will be.

Take a minute to read Malachi 1:6-14. Malachi told the Israelites that they had defiled the Lord’s sacrifice by offering blind animals. Now, obviously we don’t offer animal sacrifices today, so how do we as 21st century Christians offer blind sacrifices and therefore defile the Lord’s sacrifice? For one thing, the Israelites didn’t like the expense of serving God. They were supposed to offer the most expensive sheep they had, but they were offering their junk, sheep that were worthless. They were giving God a worthless sacrifice. God expects our best, and He deserves nothing less. Stop and ask yourself, am I giving God my leftovers? Am I giving God my Junk? I know that I am often guilty of this.

Now, when we think of service, we often think of financial giving and that is definitely part of it, but there’s much more to service. The Old Testament is full of instructions to give at least a tithe, which literally means a tenth of your income. The New Testament goes even further when it tells us that the Church gave everything. If there was a need, they gave it, no matter what it cost them. In fact, they would even sell personal property and give that money when there was a need.

But, service doesn’t stop with money. Christians in America believe that as long as I give God an hour or two a week that we’re good. That is exactly why I have a problem with the concept of Sunday being “The Lord’s Day”. The Bible never declares Sunday to be the Lord’s day, a fourth-century pope did that after taking Acts 20:7 out of context. When that verse says, “on the first day of the week, we gathered”, it was not a declaration that Sunday was the Lord’s day, it was leading into a story, and talking about that particular service. If you go back eighteen chapters, you’ll see where it says, Acts 2:46 “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” Did you get that? They met daily. Psalm 118:24 tells us that every day is the Lord’s day. This one belief has caused many Americans to offer God blind sacrifices. We think, “well, as long as I give God His day then I’m good and the rest of the week is mine.” And, of course, giving Him, His day means going to a church service for an hour. This belief is absolutely untrue. Every day is His. Every breath we take is His. Every beat of our heart is His. If we were to only give God a tithe of our time that would be almost 17 hours a week. Compare that to the TV. Now, I know that some of you are saying, “I don’t watch much TV” and that may be true, but according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., “the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day.” Do the math, that’s 28 hours per week or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year. In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. Here’s a crazy thought, what if we gave God the 28 hours a week we give to the media, that’d be a start anyway. Oh, and by the way, that’s just TV. It doesn’t take into account the time we spend on the internet, social media or our smartphones.

There’s more to say on this subject, so we’ll pick up from here next time.

Making Hard Times Count

 

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

 

Making Hard Times Count

Has anyone else gone through a hard time in their life? I see those hands, I’m sure we all have. If your hand isn’t up, you’re either under 8 years old, or you’re not being truthful with yourself. I know I’ve had my share of them; financial, physical, emotional, you name it. When I was 8 years old my grandmother committed suicide, when I was in my 30’s my brother committed suicide, my dad died at 64 of brain cancer, when my kids were in high school we lost everything…and I mean everything, and just last May, I lost my only remaining brother to a car accident. But, I know that everyone reading this has been through similar hard times. Check out this video Francis Chan “Balance Beam”.

The question isn’t, “Have we been through hard times?” The real question is what do we do about it and how do we handle it? The first thing we must remember is this, the hard times don’t have to last. Let me give an example; You lose your job. Being without a job is hard, but it doesn’t have to last. If you put all your energy into job hunting, I’m talking about making job hunting your job, you will find a new job, quickly. But if you go home saying woe is me, my life is over, and just sit on your butt for weeks on end, that hard time will last and get worse as bills start to pile up.

Here’s the kicker. Everybody…I mean everybody, whether they are a Christ follower or not, goes through hard times. So, what this means is, if you are not going through hard times now, brace for it, they are coming. The problem is, so many churches out there are teaching that, if you follow Christ, your life will be a bed of roses. Oh yeah? Check out the life of Christ Himself, or His disciples. None of them had easy lives! In fact, Christ told us that we will have hard times, but as Christ followers, we can overcome them. John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” I love that last line, “take heart, because I have overcome the world”. You see, there’s nothing to worry about if we trust in Him. 1 Peter 5:7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” He not only cares about you, He sings over you with joy, Zephaniah 3:17 17 “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

I know what you are thinking right now. I didn’t title this, “How to Cope with Hard Times”, I titled it “Making Hard Times Count.” So, how can we make them count? I’m glad you asked.

Matthew 11:28-30 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” For us city folk, a yoke isn’t talking about the yellow an eggs. A yoke is that big wooden thing they put on the necks of oxen or workhorses. A yoke is a burden, they are awkward and heavy and rub you the wrong way. So, what Christ is saying here is, if you are tired and carrying a heavy burden, give it to Him. But, notice He doesn’t say that you won’t have a burden, He just says that His burden is light. Even though we will still have a burden, He will teach us and we will find rest in Him.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” The second point is, when those hard times come, just remember, God’s Got This! He has a plan for your life, and it’s to give you a future and a hope, so we need to look at these hard times as temporary and learn from them. Ask yourself, how does this hard time fit into God’s plan for my life? What is He trying to teach me? And, then…Grow.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” The Bible often compares us to trees planted by a river, and that’s such a great analogy. When we trust in the Lord, we are like a tree planted by a river. What does it mean to trust in the Lord: Psalm 1:1-3 tells us, Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” So, to trust in the Lord, we need to first, think about who we are hanging around with. That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends with non-Christians, Christ Himself was, but who do we look to for advice, who influences us? Secondly, we must delight in God’s word and meditate on it all the time. We all give our time and energy to what, or who, we are passionate about. As Christ followers, we get passionate about God and His word.

Psalms 9:9-10 The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.” When those hard times come, run to Christ. He alone is our shelter and our refuge, and He does not abandon those who seek Him. Matthew 7:7-8 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Notice it says, “Keep on seeking, and you will find.” We must seek Him with all our heart. Again, we need to be passionate about Him.

Isaiah 41:10 says, Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my  victorious right hand.” That’s it…don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged. I love that the Bible tells us not to be afraid 365 times, one for every day of the year. I said it before, I’ll say it again, God’s Got This!

So, how can we make hard times count?

  1. Know that God loves you and cares about you.
  2. Remember, God’s Got This!
  3. Trust in the Lord.
  4. Keep on seeking Him.
  5. Make Him your hope and confidence.
  6. Hide under His shelter.
  7. Delight in the Lord.
  8. Know that hard times are temporary.
  9. Let Christ teach you.
  10. Be like a tree planted by His water.
  11. Rest in Him.
  12. Know that God has a plan for your life and He already knows the end of the story.
  13. Know that, when you pray, He is listening.
  14. Be Passionate about Christ.
  15. Grow!

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