Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. -Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
I don’t think I have ever attended a church where I didn’t look at least one of its members with suspicion and sometimes outright contempt. It is so easy to judge others by using the Bible as a ‘weapon’ instead of the perfect ‘guidebook.’ Sure, I know it’s not Christ-like behavior and I am commanded to love my fellow brothers and sisters, doing all I can to share the gospel with those my Father has drawn to Jesus.
Of course, there are things I have to make judgments about: is the local church preaching a watered-down “many paths to God” type of Gospel? Because that is not the Gospel. Is it OK with them to pick and choose the scriptures they wish to adhere to — and which to drown in sinful interpretation? It is certainly crucial to adopt a “Berean attitude” when it comes to preachers and congregations, searching the Scriptures with regularity to make sure things are in agreement with God’s Word (especially important doctrines).
I have friends that are Pentecostal, Charismatic and those who definitely are not. I will not debate whether or not the gifts of the Spirit are for today in this post. Please do not infer from what I have stated that I don’t think that God operates in the life of believers today, because I do. For instance, I have no reason to think he does not heal people — as it suits His purpose. I also believe that He bestows his gifts on people as He sees fit and bestows upon all believers the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. I also won’t separate with my fellow brothers and sisters over issues such as the proper way to baptize (which I believe is full immersion at an age of consent). Baptism by itself has no power to save anyone and is not essential to salvation (the thief on the cross certainly had no time or way to receive baptism when he came to know Christ). We do it because we are commanded to to show repentance and a new life in Christ.
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. -1 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)
Here are my directions: Pray much for others; plead for God’s mercy upon them; give thanks for all he is going to do for them.
Pray in this way for kings and all others who are in authority over us, or are in places of high responsibility, so that we can live in peace and quietness, spending our time in godly living and thinking much about the Lord. This is good and pleases God our Savior, for he longs for all to be saved and to understand this truth: – 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (TLB)
I don’t remember a time when people spoke so poorly of those in power in our country. Not just the president, but members of Congress are often subject to much vitriol from not only the public but the news media as well. When I think of some of the attacks against the president and his family, I cannot help but be concerned for the state of affairs in our country. Sure, there have been heated political disagreements since the beginning of human history — but the amount of publicly displayed discourse and threats have never been greater than they are now.
This is not about the merits of President Trump — nor is it about his faults; what I wish to point out [from a biblical perspective] is the need to respect the office and those in power. When President Obama was in power for 8 years, I did not say that he was “not my president” nor did I malign his character in any way. This is despite policies that I did not agree with, including the typical Democratic position on moral issues such as abortion. So, it works both ways. It is easy to say that one should support their president and those in power when we happen to agree with the bulk of their positions and is much harder to do when we don’t. But… it is equally important as Christians to be subject to those in authority as we are admonished to do so in God’s Word, the Bible.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. -Romans 13:1-5 (NLT)
The older I get, the more clearly I see the need for a relationship with God in this otherwise meaningless existence. Think about all of the passion we put into so many things in this world. Intellectually, we are forced to acknowledge how temporary the things of this life are — apart from those of God. I have been giving more thought to this of late as I revisit the book of Ecclesiastes.
Everything is Futile
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? -Ecclesiastes 1:1-3
I used to have a difficult time with Ecclesiastes and would avoid it, with the exception of the famous “for everything there is a season” writing in chapter 3. I have since come to a sincere appreciation for this book and clearly see why it is part of God’s perfect Word to us. How about you?
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. -John 16:33
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:7
People spend fortunes on therapists and self-help books every year, trying to find the elusive peace “that passeth all understanding.” As Christians, we know that such peace can only come from a relationship with God. More even than that, it must include sustained fellowship. A Christian who is knowingly operating outside the will of God [in sin] is not likely to have peace, but perhaps more turmoil and concern than one who never knew God to begin with.
Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. -1 Peter 3:11
Pursue peace. In my life with Christ, I have discovered that it is not as elusive as I once thought. The Holy Spirit makes such peace available to us in Christ Jesus. such a peace isn’t temporary, either — it stretches forth into eternity.
In the past few weeks we have rekindled our regular weekly Bible study with another couple (friends are always welcome to join us) and have moved from James into 1 Peter. This week we are embarking on the first twelve verses of chapter 2. Thinking there is so much here to digest, rather than do a whole chapter this week (which we usually do) it might be advantageous to concentrate on a few select verses. That said, I could spend some time parked on just a few verses and think about what it means to refer to our Lord as the ‘cornerstone.’
4 So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and precious in God’s sight, 5 you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it says in scripture, “Look, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and whoever believes in him will never be put to shame.” 7 So you who believe see his value, but for those who do not believe, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, 8 and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy. -1 Peter 2: 4-10 (NET2)
There is a great deal to unpack right there and pray about applying in our lives as Christians. A cornerstone is a square cut piece of stone used in ancient times in a corner to unite two walls at their intersection. It was critical to the structure, which would not have held together without a sufficient one in pace. It is fitting that Christ should be compared to such a thing in its functionality, as He holds the Church together. As believers, we become ‘stones’ in our own right and are accountable for edifying each other and presenting to a lost world a unified Gospel message. In our attitudes toward each other, it would be good to bear that in mind and remember that we are no more worthy of salvation than the next guy. We have it because we accepted the gift of God’s grace, not because we are without sin or perhaps ‘sinned less’ than somebody else. Quite often, I can lose sight of that fact and begin judging others for things they have done or are doing that may not even be as bad as some of what I have done. it is important that I see that and follow the advice laid out in 1 John 1:9: But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. (NET2)