RULING

Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…..”

There is a credit card commercial that begins with a lady saying, “I’m nervous about things I can’t control……” I suspect all of us resonate with that. We are nervous or anxious about things that we can’t control. Today is January 1, 2018 and as the days roll by in this new year we will encounter many things that we cannot control. I don’t know what 2018 will hold but I know it will give us many opportunities to worry and be anxious. There will be many opportunities to be nervous, or there will be plenty of opportunities to let the peace of God rule in our hearts.

Paul tells the church at Colosse as they are facing unknown days, “to let the peace of God RULE in their hearts.” The word choice is significant, he is not saying let it be in your hearts, let it occasionally show up, but let it rule. The word in the Greek is used to describe a referee in a sporting contest, someone who is responsible for not letting things get out of hand. Our minds and our worries can sometimes get out of hand. They become like a snowball rolling downhill, they pick up momentum and they grow and grow very quickly. It may start as just a little spark of worry, but it very quickly becomes a raging wildfire of fear. Paul says don’t let it happen, instead let the peace of God rule in your hearts. Let God’s peace control your mind. Don’t let things get out of control, but instead have peace. Let the peace of God rule.

Let it rule over worry, and over fear. Let it rule over nervousness and anxiety. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts. Paul means more than just that however, let the peace of God rule over all sinful thoughts and desires. These things lead us to chaos and disorder. So let the peace of God rule over your sinful desires. Let the peace of God rule over disagreements, quarrels, and secret grudges. Let the peace of God rule over the corruption of the world. Let the peace of God rule over unforgiveness.

The corruption of the world is hard to restrain. The desires of our flesh is hard to restrain. Our grudges and unforgiveness are hard to restrain. In fact those things can quickly spiral out of control as well. We cannot handle them, God however can. His peace is powerful enough to restrain those things. His peace can control us so we must cry out to Him in prayer, knowing that when we pray He hears us. Charles Spurgeon puts it this way, “It is not possible that God should refuse to hear prayer; it is possible for Him to bid the sun stand still and the moon to stay her monthly march. It is possible for Him to bid the waves freeze in the sea – possible for Him to quench the light of the stars in eternal darkness. But it is not possible for Him to refuse to hear prayer that is based on His promise and offered in faith.” So let us pray for the peace of God to RULE in our hearts and in our lives, for God will hear us when we do.

2018 will present us many opportunities for worry, for fear, for selfishness, for sin, and for corruption. It also gives us the opportunity everyday to trust God and to let His peace RULE in our hearts as we live for His glory.

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Poetry in Motion

James 1:22 – “But be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving yourselves.”

Paul stands in front of the philosophers in Acts 17 and makes a bold declaration, “in Him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘for we are His offspring’”. He says to them we exist for Jesus and because of Jesus. In other words your lives are not your own. There is a reason for your existence, God has created you, and as such your are accountable to Him. That was a bold declaration then because those philosophers wanted to believe that they were free to live however they chose. Many of them were in fact using their intellect to try to discover what life is all about. It is a bold declaration today because most people in 2018 don’t like to believe that they are accountable to anyone.

The word that he uses for poets is actually a word that means “doers” and it is the same word that James uses in James 1:22 when he says, “be doers of the word.” James is saying you are accountable to God so don’t just listen to His word but put His word into practice. The word actually means to put forth your fullest creative efforts toward something. In Acts a poet is putting forth their creative efforts into philosophy and writing. They are active, they are doing. James continues that theme when he says put forth your full creative activity toward following the word of God.

A couple of things should be noted here. First off it is important that you listen to that word. “don’t be hearers only” implies that you are listening to the word. You spend time listening when you read it through the week, you spend time listening in Bible study, and you spend time listening as God’s word is preached. Listening is not dismissed, listening is important. But once you listen don’t just sit back and do nothing. Actively follow God’s word and put what you hear into practice.

Christianity is an active faith. It is not a faith for sitting on the sidelines and watching. A person who is a follower of Jesus gets involved with carrying out His will and doing His word. If you just listen and think everything is ok you are deceiving yourself. You may be listening for knowledge or you may be listening because it makes you feel good. You may even be listening because it makes you feel better than someone else, but the goal isn’t just to listen. The goal is to put into practice what you hear. It is important to learn, even though that knowledge should never make you feel superior to someone else, but you have to put what you learn into practice. If you don’t you have deceived yourself.

That is a strong statement. Deceiving yourself means you may think you are a Christian but in reality you are not. A true follower of Christ puts God’s word into action. In fact they put forth their fullest efforts to put the word into action and walk in obedience. They will still stumble and fall but because they LISTEN to the word of God they know what to DO – they repent and ask God to strengthen them to overcome. They ask Him to change them as they live for His glory. So let us be not just hearers of the word but let us make our focus putting God’s word into practice as we do live for His glory!

Keep Watch

Keep Watch

1 Timothy 4:16 – “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

The beginning of the show “Stranger Things” presents an extreme contrast. The opening scene shows a man presumably in a laboratory with something closing in on him. Judging by the blinking lights and his heightened breathing he is terrified, shortly thereafter he is taken by something. That scene cuts to a sunny day and a house in the suburbs. One picture is terrifying, the other is peaceful. We don’t know how far apart these 2 locations are but obviously they are somehow connected. It is a startling picture, one house is peaceful while someone not too far away is battling for their life. It is a reminder of the world that we live in.

Things may seem well and good, things may even seem peaceful, but there is a struggle raging and sometimes that struggle will encompass us. That is why Paul says to young Timothy, “keep a close watch on yourself.” Why? Because this world is filled up with difficulties and battles. There are hardships everywhere. Struggles abound, and if you are not careful those struggles will carry you away and defeat you. So keep a close watch on yourself, pay attention. Don’t let the struggles of life overwhelm you. How can you do that? Listen again to what Paul says, “keep a close watch on yourself AND on the TEACHING.” What teaching? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep the Gospel ever before you, pay special attention to it everyday. Remind yourself daily of the love of God.

When the circumstances of life threaten to conquer you and carry you away, keep your eyes on the Gospel, because it says you are loved by God and if God is for you who can be against you. When you are tempted to feel inadequate remind yourself of the Gospel, you are loved by God. When you are tempted to feel prideful, keep the Gospel before you, you are a sinner who cannot redeem himself, but God in His grace redeemed you. When you are weary and feel like you can’t go on, remind yourself that because of the love of God there is home in heaven waiting on you where you will hear the words, “well done good and faithful servant enter into your rest.” When you feel like you have to prove your worth or earn the world’s approval, remind yourself that you are loved by God and He chose to go to a cross because he loved you that much. Keep the Gospel before you. Take heed! Keep a watch on yourself and remind yourself of the truth of God’s word and the beauty of the Gospel every single day.

Life can seem peaceful, life can be hard, or life can be somewhere in the middle. The Good news is that you are loved no matter what! So keep a watch on yourself and don’t get distracted from what truly matters and that is your relationship with God. A relationship that is only possible through the Lord Jesus Christ, so keep your eyes on Him and live for His glory!

URGENT!

Jude 23 – “Save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

Jude lets his readers know very quickly that they have been sent on a rescue mission. He says save (people) by snatching them out of the fire. It should be noted here what he doesn’t mean, he does not mean that it is our job to save people but that we have the glorious privilege of being God’s co-workers in the plan of salvation. We have a responsibility to be His ambassadors and to tell other people about Him. One scholar says, “Christian workers must have a sense of awe before the God who deigns to use us as his ambassadors.” We are as the Bible says, God’s co laborers and as we tell other people about Jesus and as we pray for the lost we are “snatching people from the fire”. When we get involved in the ministries of the church we are helping to snatch people from the fire. When we sacrificially give of our time or resources we are helping to snatch people from the fire.

Charles Spurgeon puts it this way as he thinks about the urgency of our calling: “if sinners be damned at leas let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” The task is urgency, we must share Jesus with those who don’t know Him so that they might be snatched from the fire.

The message is urgent, but the message still must be spoken with love and as Jude puts it “with fear”. Someone once said because of that, “such rescue work can never be done in any spirit of sanctimoniousness or superiority. It must be done instead in fear, in recognition that ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I’.” We are then compelled to tell others about Jesus because He has saved us and in humility we pray that they too may be saved.

Make no mistake about it Jude’s words are short but they are direct, and they are filled up with urgency. People who are lost desperately need Jesus. We must act with a passion and a focus to tell others about Jesus. But we must do so in love, fear, and gratitude, praying in humility that God would touch hearts and that eternities would be changed for His glory!

 

Actively Thankful

Ephesians 1:16 – “I do not cease to give thanks for you….”

What are you thankful for? The Bible gives us numerous examples of things that we should be thankful for. We should be thankful for life, for health, for the promise of heaven, for our salvation, for the fact that we have had our sins forgiven, for the faithfulness of God, for our inheritance, and even for our food. Paul also shows us that we should be thankful for the people that God has blessed our lives with.

He tells the church at Ephesus, “I do not cease to give thanks for you…” Of course the church is made up of people so what he is saying is he is thankful for those people. The word that he uses there means to “actively and freely” be grateful. So he is grateful for them and he expresses that by letting them know. He isn’t just thankful, but he acts on that gratitude by letting them know how thankful he is. He is thankful for their prayers, their partnership and their love and he lets them know.

Who are you thankful for? Express that thanksgiving to God, after all He is the one who blessed your life with those people. The Bible says “every good gift” that we have in our lives is from God, and that includes the people that we have in our lives. Those people are gifts from God, so we should be thankful for them. Thankful for their love, the relationships that we share with them, our conversations, our time spend together. Thankful for times that we have spent worshipping and serving God together. We should be thankful and express that thanksgiving to God, and we should let those people know that we are thankful. Let them know they are loved, let them know what they mean to you, let them know that they make your life richer. Take time to actively express your gratitude to them as you do you will certainly be giving them encouragement and encouragement is a powerful thing. So take time to rejoice today, and take time to rejoice in the people that God has blessed your life with. Pray for them and be thankful for them, as you love them for the glory of God!

How Far Can You Throw?

James 1:21 – “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

When I was in elementary school I was fascinated with the punt, pass, and kick competitions that the NFL hosted. The idea was to see how far a child under the age of 12 could punt a football, throw a football, and kick a football. The record is 317 feet which is almost the entire length of a football field including the end zones. That is a long way, but the participant could still go and retrieve the ball. It wasn’t thrown and kicked so far that it was un retrievable. The word for “put away” that is used in James 1:21 is a word that means to put something so far away that we can’t retrieve it.

James then is telling his readers to take their sinfulness and moral uncleanness and throw it away so far that they cannot retrieve it. That’s impossible isn’t it? No matter how far we can throw something aside or how far we can cast something off we can retrieve it again. We do this a lot of times with our worry, we may put it aside for a little while but then we pick it up and begin to wring our hands again. We do the same thing with sin. We may decide I’m going to change, I’m not going to participate in that any more. I’m going to cast that aside. We might even do it at New Year’s when we make a New Year’s resolution. Soon however we have went right back to the thing that we did before. We cannot throw our sinfulness away far enough. We may cast it off but it’s always close enough for us to pick it back up.

James says thrown it so far away that you can’t pick it back up, but that is impossible. The Bible says that many things are impossible with man, but “all things are possible with God.” We cannot do it but God can. We cannot rid ourselves of our sins and our sinful attitudes. We cannot change our moral depravity, but God can. He can throw our sins so far away that we cannot reach them again. So what do we do? We need to quit saying I’m going to change and starting saying with humility and meekness, “God change me.” We pray for His strength and we live for His glory!

Not Just Occasionally

Ephesians 6:18 – “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for the saints.”

Someone wisely said “prayer should be our first line of defense not our last gasp of desperation.” That is certainly Paul’s message to the church at Ephesus and to us as well. Prayer should be what we do first. It should be our heartbeat as we follow Christ in this world. Paul is talking in this context of standing against the temptations of the devil and he tells us in verse 14 to “stand firm” and now he follows that up by telling us to “keep alert” and to “pray at all times”. In other words we stand firm by prayer, and we keep alert by prayer. If we are not in communion with God it becomes very easy to lose focus and not to stand firm but to sink into sin. If we are not talking to God and listening to God in prayer we quickly go from being alert to falling asleep. We quickly go from persevering to giving in, from being passionate to being apathetic. No wonder Paul tells us to pray at all times.

What does he mean when he says that however? We obviously can’t pray continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. So what does he mean when he says “pray at all times”? The word that is used for times there is used in other places to speak of occasions. So Paul is actually telling us to pray in all different occasions. One theologian of old puts it this way, “When everything flows on prosperously, — when we are easy and cheerful, we seldom feel any strong excitement to prayer, — or rather, we never flee to God, but when we are driven by some kind of distress. Paul therefore desires us to allow no opportunity to pass, on no occasion to neglect prayer; so that praying always is the same thing with praying both in prosperity and in adversity.”

We are to pray when things are good, when things are bad, when things are excruciating, and when things are in between. We are to pray at all times, in all occasions. What does that look like? When a new day begins, pray. When you come to a time of decision, pray. When you come to a time of sickness, pray. When you come to a time of health, pray. When you meet new people, pray. When you need rest, pray. When you eat, pray. When you whatever, pray. Pray in all circumstances and opportunities. Pray in all different kinds of occasions.

Why? Because prayer helps us to stand strong. Prayer gives us wisdom. Prayer keeps us alert. Most importantly prayer leads us into the Presence of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Prayer humbles us before Him and cries out to Him that we need Him. That we need His wisdom, His strength, His healing, His grace, His love, His mercy, His peace. When we pray we are acknowledging that we need Him every hour, every minute, every second of our lives. When we pray we are saying “God I am nothing without you, and I need you for all the circumstances of life.”

So let us pray without ceasing for the glory of God.