Monday, October 14, 2019

No complaints...

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" - Philippians 2:14-15 
Whenever I plan to make a major purchase of electronics, appliances or a car, I spend hours reading product reviews. They are some help, but the complaints are often beyond belief. Given the opportunity, people will complain about the silliest things and expend incredible time and effort in the process. It's such a joy to meet someone who doesn't complain.
Paul wrote about the humility and sacrifice of our Savior in this chapter. He pointed us to Jesus as our example for selfless living. This kind of lifestyle will always produce people who face life without complaining and arguing. As a result our lives shine like stars in the world, with quality, purity, and contentment. People will listen to our witness because they see our consistent joy.
No one likes to be around complainers. Arguments turn people away. But we have been sent into the world to bring the light and joy of the Gospel. The next time you want to complain, consider the Lord's selfless sacrifice for us and find reason to rejoice. To win people to Christ, you often have to woo them first.

Think about this: "Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses."
- Alphonse Karr

Sunday, October 13, 2019

He always finishes...

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:4-6 
Throughout history, works of art have been left unfinished, for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these have, over time, become quite valuable as is, while others have little or no value. No matter the outcome, every artist begins their work with high expectations of finishing.
Paul was full of expectation as he prayed and worked for the Lord. He had great confidence that his labor would never be in vain. He knew that the Lord's work would certainly come to completion in those he had led to Christ. It is God alone who saves, sanctifies, and sustains us until the end. And God always finishes what he starts!
Are there times when you feel spiritually depleted and wonder if the Lord has given up on you? Did you begin your walk with God with great excitement, only to arrive at a place of confusion and doubt? Stop for a moment and remember... You are God's work and He always finishes what he starts! 

Think about this: "God watches and weeds us, and continues his labour upon us, till he brings us to the end of his promise."
                                                                 - Richard Sibbes

Friday, October 11, 2019

A very serious matter...

"Therefore do not be partners with them." - Ephesians 5:7
A number of years ago I had a friend who went into business with an unbeliever. They were partners. Over time the decisions of the unbeliever led the business into a federal investigation and brought the business to the brink of bankruptcy. My friend almost lost his house, car and family security. Partnership is a very serious matter.
When Paul wrote about immorality and greed he expected a complete break from such a lifestyle. He pointed to the empty life and final outcome of those who remain in this path. Furthermore, he gave clear counsel for believers to separate from those who live in this way. Because Paul knew that partnership was a very serious matter.
It has been said that believers are to live in contact with the world, but never in contract with them. This passage is a strong support for such counsel. Choose your partners wisely my friend. Be involved with those who will lift you up and not tear you down. An immoral and greedy partner will eventually bring you into spiritual bankruptcy. Be very careful, because partnership is a very serious matter.

Think about this: "The money, the pleasures, the daily business of the world are so many traps to catch souls."
                                                                        - J. C. Ryle

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Build up...

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29
One of the more common complaints about the recent political battles is the amount of abrasive and critical attacks made from both sides of the aisle. Rather than working together in more productive and positive ways for America, the time has been largely spent tearing the opponent down. The best way to win the hearts of others is to build people up with words of grace.
Over the last two millenniums since Paul wrote these words little has changed. People are more prone to make themselves look good by making others look bad. This is just the way we are without a renewed spirit and mind in the likeness of God. In contrast, the mark of a true believer is clear: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32) This is how we build others up with lives of grace.
Take an inventory this week my friend. Jot down the nature of every conversation you participate in during the next few days. Look especially for "build up" or "tear down" content in each encounter. I have no doubt that you will be surprised at the results. We need to be intentional to "put on the new self" and "build up" others on every occasion.

Think about this: "One of the first things that happens when a man is really filled with the Spirit is not that he speaks with tongues, but that he learns to hold the one tongue he already has."
                                                              - J. Sidlow Baxter

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A smooth ride...

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." - Ephesians 4:2-3
I've been in a large boat as the engine roared with incredible force to cut through stormy waters. I have also been in a small canoe when one stroke of an oar would propel us a great distance in quiet waters. Life is much like maneuvering a ship; the more peaceful the waters, the smoother the ride. 
Paul often addressed the subject of peace to believers. One might conclude that such a concern would be unnecessary for the children of God. Yet, the instructions were given in detail to be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. The Christian community should be a place where peaceful waters prevail, always providing a smooth ride.
Are you making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace? Do you treat others with humility, gentleness, patience and love? These are the ingredients that provide and sustain peaceful waters for a smooth ride. Stormy waters are never fun... so don't make waves. Make it a smooth ride. 

Think about this: "Our Lord has many weak children in his family, many dull pupils in his school, many raw soldiers in his army, many lame sheep in his flock. Yet he bears with them all, and casts none away. Happy is that Christian who has learned to do likewise with his brethren."
                                    - J. C. Ryle

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Fulness inside...

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:14-19
Some time ago a missionary friend of mine let me take a close look at a bottle he brought home from Vietnam. The bottle was filled with wine and a coiled snake with a scorpion in its teeth. Yikes! I was more than happy to quickly return the unique conversation piece. The simple bottle took on a very distasteful aura from the fullness that was inside.
Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Such filling would come from the Father's riches, being strengthened with the Spirit's power and knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.  As a result, the simple believer would take on a very tasteful aura from the fullness that was inside.
The day you came to Christ, the Spirit of God made his home in your heart. His desire has been to expel the snakes and scorpions of your past and fill you with his fullness. This process is a matter of daily growth. Will you pray Paul's prayer for yourself and other believers today? May it be the intentional effort of your life to have the very fullness of God inside?

Think about this: "God does not communicate things to us so much as he just is himself in us. We are the vessels, the containers, so that the first work after the new birth is to cultivate the habit of receptivity."
               - Norman Grubb

Monday, October 7, 2019

Who are you following?

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." - Ephesians 2:1-2 
In 1998 Christopher Nolan directed a film entitled "Following". The plot tells the story of a young man who follows strangers throughout London for inspiration to write a novel. In time he is drawn into a criminal underworld as a result of following the wrong people. Following can be beneficial or it can be detrimental; it all depends on who you follow.
Paul referred to the life left behind in the passage above as one that "followed the ways of this world". Jesus called his disciples with the call, "Follow Me". In response, twelve men left the old world behind and followed the Lord in learning and serving. Their lives were dramatically changed for the better as they found someone worth following.
The most important question to ask when you rise in the morning is: "Who will I follow today?" Will we choose to slip back into "the ways of the world", or will we follow Jesus wherever he leads? The day can be a blessing or burden; it all depends on who you follow.

Think about this: "There is a time when we must firmly choose the course we will follow, or the relentless drift of events will make the decision."
           - Herbert V. Prochnow