Gracious Living

Gracious Living

Thanksgiving has become time to celebrate family, food, football, parades, and shopping for the best deals.  For others it is a time of tradition.  It is also seen by some as the beginning of the Christmas Season.  It may be one of the busiest and stressful times of the year for some.  Perhaps in all our business we do not take or make the time to think about how we are blessed by God.  We say that we are counting our blessings and so we should because we are richly blessed.  Beyond just enumerating our blessings perhaps we should show our thankfulness for them by living graciously.

In Mark 9:35, Jesus told the Twelve, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and servant of all.”

We have been blessed and therefore we should take the time to bless others.  The greatest blessings are one’s that cannot be summed up on an adding machine but rather are the ones that we receive in service to others.  It is in serving others that we continue to become more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  In serving others we find a blessing far greater than the things we can accumulate because we are drawing close to the heart of God and are doing what we were created to do.

Understanding that we have blessings reveals that there is one who is blessing.  It is God that is blessing us and not of anything that we have done or it would be earned.  During this season of Thanksgiving it is not as important to count the blessings you have but to be a blessing to others and receive a great blessing through serving others.  As we consider how we have been blessed we shouldn’t linger to long but rather begin to live graciously because of our blessing.  Grace is about receiving what we do not deserve and the response to this act of God is to live graciously with those in our lives.

It is my prayer that as we honor our traditions, celebrate with family, prepare for Advent, and yes appreciate our blessings that we remember the giver of those blessings.  Our God has exercised grace in giving us far better than we deserve, and allows us to be a channel of blessings as we serve others.  In serving others we demonstrate to God our recognition of blessings, and our thankful response is gracious living.  Since we are blessed may we live graciously that others may experience His grace?

Series: Obstacles and Opportunities: Crossing Jordan-Oct. 28, 2012

Series:  Obstacles and Opportunities:  Crossing Jordan-October 28, 2012

Scripture:  Joshua 3

In examining our lives we must consider if we will see certain events and challenges as obstacles to our faith or as opportunities to trust God more through these circumstances.  It may be tempting at times to have pity on ourselves and wonder why we have such difficultly in our lives or we can choose to see that God is at work in those situations.  It may be that God wants us to experience only what He can do and so it will require faith and a moving away from ourselves to trust Him more.  The journey of faith for God’s people in biblical times as well as in our day is how do we choose to see what’s in front of us and how can we trust God more fully through this experience?

In part one of this series we are dealing with multiple problems.  Moses died and the people who remain really only know of the wilderness of 40 years and now they have a new leader Joshua and God tells them to move to take over the Promised Land.  The questions may arise as to His leadership, if God really wants them to go to the Promise Land, what about the people already living there, and how do we get the whole camp and the Ark of the Covenant across the Jordan River during flood stage?  There were many obstacles in their way, some physical and others spiritual.

We find that the people of God are given in this scripture some practical advice that would always be good for the people of God at any time.  Joshua tells the people the ark of the covenant of the Lord pass by the get up from your place and follow after it.  So when we see the presence of God at work and moving follow.  Stay back a distance so when God does move you can see and follow because it is not a way that you have been before.  Trust where God is taking us and look for where that might be and be ready to follow.

Joshua then asks the people to consecrate themselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders about you.  Do we today look with expectation for the Lord to do wonders among us, or are we only dreaming as big as we can accomplish?  The wonders may be happening but we may not be paying attention.

God called out a new leader to move the people of God and performed a miraculous wonder as a sign confirming that God was with them.  The sign was the parting of the Jordan River during the flood season just as God had done parting the Red Sea for Moses a couple of generations before.  The land that they are supposed to be going is occupied by several people groups and God tells them He will help them to overcome.

There are so many obstacles that could prevent Israel from doing what God would have them to do, but they chose the opportunity to exercise their faith.  The message for us is watch when the Lord leads, follow where He goes, prepare ourselves to respond, follow good leadership, and trust His promises will provide opportunities where others see obstacles.

Revival-Oct. 24, 2012

Revival-October 24, 2012

This week our Wednesday Wrap-up is truly a wrap up to a wonderful week of God a work through our youth community wide youth revival Saturday night through Homecoming and four nights of revival.  Dr. Bert Browning was are speaker for each of these.  We were challenged to look back as well as look ahead recognize God’s voice in calling, in crisis, and in mission for God.

Homecoming-Oct. 21, 2012

Homecoming-October 21, 2012

Mentow Baptist Church Celebrated her 111th year in ministry.  It was a wonderful time of homecoming as Mentow welcomed back Dr. Bert Browning and his wife Rose who were in ministry at Mentow from 1979-1984 and other friends and family from the community.  It was a time to look back and celebrate the faithfulness of God, and walk into the future trusting that same faithfulness of God to bring to fruition His word and work in us.

 

I Thessalonians 5 & 3:11-13-Oct. 17, 2012

Lessons on the Christian Life-I Thessalonians 5 & 3:11-13-October 17, 2012

The church at Thessalonica was a new church started by Paul.  Paul was only there for about three weeks or so.  Paul began in the synagogue trying to teach from the scriptures that the Messiah must die and be raised from the dead.  There were some that were convinced and left the synagogue and became the core of the Thessalonica church.  There were also those who did not believe and were unhappy with Paul and the loss of the people from their flock and began to stir up things in town for Paul.  Paul left shortly after headed to Berea, but a church had been born in Thessalonica.

The people there were new converts and desired to do what was right but they did not have history or tradition to fall back on and Paul’s time had been shorter than usual.  Paul asks Timothy to go and check on the church, and the news was both good and bad.  Good news was the church was alive and was earnest about being Christian; the bad news was the new Christians were having a hard time.  Some believed that Paul was about himself, a dictator; others were worried about the Second Coming and had given up work creating a level of confusion for the young community without a strong foundation or leadership.

Paul picks up at the end of chapter 4 telling them about that Second Coming, and now in chapter 5 about how to live and get along in the process.  The Christian life involves an understanding of correct doctrine but cannot and should not be reduced to doctrine alone.  It is the living out of the word of God in our daily sometimes difficult lives that is the refinement process for the body of Christ.  We are a people called to do life together.

He speaks of the day of the Lord coming quickly like a thief and it will catch some by surprise because they are living that life for themselves or as if the day will never come.  Paul warns them to remember that they are sons of light and day, and not night or darkness, so don’t sleep walk around like the day won’t come or numb ourselves to the reality through the vices of this world.  As those that are of the day be sober and alert protecting our hearts with faith and love, and our minds with the hope of salvation.

In God’s coming He did not destined His own for wrath, but for salvation through Jesus.  It was He who died for us whether we are dead or alive so that we may live together with Him.  Knowing this should help us not to break one another down but to build up one another, and continue in that work.  The world is hard and we must be prepared to support one another, and remain strong as the body of Christ.

Paul begins with teaching here that before we can make Christ-like decisions, we have to get a Christ-like attitude, and this is the target always for a church who seeks to grow in Him.

(1)   Be at peace.  Contentious, fussy people are not likely to get in touch with the Spirit of Christ.

(2)   Do the basics:

  • “Admonish the idlers” was special counsel for this church.  They had people sitting around waiting for Jesus to come back.  When some are working and other are not, it is hard to keep everybody at peace.
  • “Encourage the fainthearted” is a word for us.  Some have so little vision/faith.  They are whipped when the wake in the morning, desperately in need of heart and hope.
  • “Help the weak” is one that always requires attention.
  • “Be patient with all of them” is tough.  William Barclay said, “To be patient with all is perhaps the hardest of all, for the last lesson most of us learn is to suffer fools gladly” (207).  Lift the fellowship at church-no “payback time.”  Just forgive and go on, trying to do good to everybody all the time.  When we do become “rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving” people, we elevate the company and give evidence that the Spirit is already among us.

Jesus raised the standard on morality.  Good and evil have become vastly more complex, more difficult, more at variance with what “the world” sees as good and evil.  Merely obeying the law is not good enough for the believer.  It is obeying Jesus that is the standard.

Trust the movement of God in the prophetic utterances.  Don’t believe everything but put the “prophet’s” words alongside Scripture, considering what trusted church leaders think, and asking for the Spirit’s help.  From that combination of resources, there should be come idea of the mind of Christ.  This is not an individual exercise.  It is “church work.”  Too much of our religion is done in private.

We follow Jesus when we care and share; it’s church work.  The church really can and does change-but slowly at times.  We are at our best when we catch the Spirit, organize the church to service, and set out on mission to make wrongs right.  “Do not quench the Spirit” (5:19), for the very life of the church is indeed in the life of the Spirit.  The Spirit has made some people do foolish things, but a spiritless church is the most foolish of all.

Excerpts from Formations Commentary by Cecil Sherman, vol. 5 (pg. 129-133), Smyth & Helwys Publishers, c. 2006

“Our greatest fear should not be failure…but of succeeding at things that don’t really matter.”  Francis Chan

New Wineskins-Oct. 14, 2012

New Wineskins-October 14, 2012

Scripture:  Luke 5:27-39 & Communion Served

Jesus calls Levi to come and follow Him.  How many of us if someone showed up at our work would be willing to get up and follow them with no questions asked.  In most cases these men were living behind good careers or a family business and the cost to follow may be great.  We might even go back and try to justify ourselves and say well this was Jesus of course they followed Him and we would too, but let’s be reminded that this is at the beginning of His ministry and He was not well-known yet.  What is it about Jesus that they followed, and would we be so bold as to do the same.  It may not be that God is calling you to leave your job for vocational ministry but perhaps is calling you in the place that you are to live more boldly for Him.

Matthew throws a party for Jesus and many of his friends were people in the same profession.  The religious leaders were upset and suspect of Jesus because of the company He was keeping.  Jesus tells them He came for folks like the ones He was with, that they needed Him because they were sinners.  Then they were mad because He the disciples of Jesus were not fasting.  Jesus did not say that they should not fast but rather He exposes the ritual aspect and the appropriate timing of it.

Jesus continues telling them they should not match and old and new garment pieces together because they would not make and would eventually tear worse.  It requires a new life and understanding in Christ.  We must be made new in Him.  The victory is that He has come to make all things new.  If you are one who is weary, or your heart is trouble, or you feel lonely, or in despair, or need physical, emotional, or spiritual healing you can come to Him today and know that He is able, and He died that we may receive this and more.

Then Jesus speaks about not putting new wine into old wineskins, in doing so it will stretch the skins that are already stretched to the limit from previous use and will cause them to burst.  We must be made new, that which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the spirit is spirit.  We must be made new in and through Him.  Jesus finishes with the statement that “no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.‘”  Are we missing out on God’s best because we are content to sip on the old wine that is good enough, but what if it is not the best.  Will we trust God for the best that He wants to live out through us each day.  Will we trust the sacrifice He has made for our sins, and live a new life each day for Him?  God bless you as you seek Him for healing and restoration in every area of your life and as you strive to live for Him each day.

 

Habakkuk 3-Oct. 10, 2012

Habakkuk 3-October 10, 2012

Habakkuk has heard that the proud, who do not rely on God, cannot rest or abide or live (2:4-5) and that the Lord will return their sins on their own heads to destroy them (2:6-20).  O Lord, I have heard the report of thee, and thy work, O Lord, do I fear (3:2).  Such is the effect on the prophet of God’s word concerning his judgment, before which the prophet can only tremble in awe and terror and before whose frightful wrath Habakkuk can only pray for mercy-not only for himself and the faithful but even for the wicked (v. 2).

God is bringing about his purpose for the earth to completion.  The word of 2:3 has yet to be confirmed-the promise of God to establish his Kingdom upon the earth-and that confirmation is supplied by the vision of 3:3-15, whereby all the prophet’s questions are stilled and he ends with the confession of 3:17-19.  O Lord, renew that work of which I have heard from of old and of which you now have once again reassured me.  It is as if the prophet were praying, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done…Yes, O Lord, do it.”

Habakkuk does not pray here, “Lord, prosper my work.”  He prays, “Lord, renew thy work.”  He wants God’s purpose to be fulfilled, God’s work on earth to be done, God’s actions to be seen clearly by faith in the passages of history.  The church’s goal is every knee bent and every tongue confessing Christ’s lordship.  The church’s concern is the glory of the Lord known over all the earth.  “O Lord, in the midst of the years, renew thy work.  Bring thy Kingdom on this earth, even as it is in heaven.

In the power of the Spirit, we can work in accord with God’s purpose, to be sure.  We can choose to promote it, and not oppose it.  But we cannot finally achieve that salvation that only God can give.  In the midst of the years, renew thy work, O Lord; in the midst of our years, make it known.  It is like Christians being offered a foretaste of the new wine of the messianic banquet when they sit at the Lord’s table (Mark 14:25 par).  Habakkuk is granted a foresight of God’s purpose accomplished (3:3-15).  This passage forms the most extensive and elaborate theophany to be found in the Old Testament.  Theophany is from the Greek theos, “god, “ and phainein, “to appear.”  Theophany is the self-disclosure of God.

Even the eternal mountains are cleft by his look, and the everlasting hills sink low, for this is the God who determined his purpose in the beginning and is now bringing it to completion.  The answer is clear.  God has come once again to conquer the chaos, as he did at the creation (Gen. 1 & Pss. 74:12-13; 89:9-10; Isa. 51:9); but this time the chaos symbolizes the evil of the divine Warrior-King.  Verses 9-15 therefore picture the final battle.  There is a glimpse of the final future victory, even thought things did not necessarily change in the present time.  Habakkuk knows who is working his purpose out, unseen, behind the turmoil.  And Habakkuk now knows what the end of it all will be.  He therefore sings the magnificent song of trust that we find in 3:17-19.  Habakkuk is expressing his confidence in God’s salvation of him in the face of the enemy.

The foe in Jeremiah is not only Babylonia, but also God, who comes as the Divine Warrior to wreak his final judgment on his people.  Habakkuk may therefore be referring not only to the historical threat of Babylonian invasion and destruction of the land, but also to God’s final reckoning with evil in his world.

Can we live with that?  Can we affirm Habakkuk’s faith and know with certain joy that God is working his purpose out and will bring it to completion?

“By good powers wonderfully hidden, we await cheerfully, come what may.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Yes, truly, the word is sure:  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is at work, fulfilling his purpose.  His Kingdom comes.  And “in the meantime” and for evermore, the righteous shall live by their faithfulness.