Guidance for 2017

As folks return to work and school after Christmas and New Year’s break, many are thinking about making and implementing their plans for the new year. A good rule of thumb for any new undertaking is to diligently seek out and pursue the wisest path to get where you want to go.

So if you have a map, consult it. If you have GPS, enter your starting and end points. If you are launching a new business, starting in a new job, new school, new semester, new relationship, or even attempting a plumbing repair for the first time, your starting point should be to investigate the subject wisely.

Obtaining wisdom is the subject of Proverbs chapter 2. Look at this verse:

Prov 2:20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

By pursuing wisdom you can walk in the ways of good men and keep the paths of the righteous. That sounds too simple.

But how many of us have ever started an undertaking by saying, “I want to follow a really stupid plan so I can end up in the midst of really bad people?” No one ever starts out with that goal, but failure to plan wisely may get you there anyway.

Let this be the year of pursuing wisdom in all that you do so that you will find yourself among some “good men” (and women) and walking on the path of righteousness.

What is Your Part?

Luke 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

What part do you want to play? Do you want the leading role with the most lines and action? That is the part Martha chose. Or would you be willing to play the part of a crowd fill-in who just listens while others speak? That is the part Mary choose. It sure sounds like Martha’s part was more fun. Wouldn’t that be our top choice as well? Well Jesus had an opinion on the choices of these women and we should pay attention to what He said and why He said it.

Martha was a very busy host of a dinner party of no less than sixteen people, including her two siblings, Jesus, and his twelve disciples. That is a lot of people to prepare for and serve. But while she was busy attending to all the details of the event, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and just listened. Martha complained to Jesus asking Him to make Mary come help.

While Jesus would not support laziness, neither does He support inattentiveness to the Word. There is a time to work—that is an important part of life. But Jesus said, “Mary hath chosen that good part”—to do the one thing that was needful, to listen to the voice of Jesus while He was speaking. What Mary gained from Jesus, instruction, direction, comfort, assurance, and faith, would never be taken from her. Satan cannot snatch away good seed that was planted in the good soil of a hungry heart. But what Martha chose, food prep and a clean house, were taken from her. After the party the food was gone and the room was a mess.

As you evaluate 2016 for what worked for you and what didn’t, consider more time at Jesus’ feet in 2017. That is an investment you will never lose nor regret.

Why Me?

Luke 2:8-20
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

Have you ever stopped to think about why God chose to give such a message to shepherds? The message that could be realistically described as the greatest news in human history up to that moment—and He chose to give it to shepherds.

While they might have been thankful to at least have a job, even though it was a night-shift position, it was not a position of prestige. It was a lowly laboring job. It’s not likely that these shepherds were highly spiritual or super holy individuals who had been fasting and praying for a special revelation from God, and had everything put together in their lives. It is highly probable that they were not wealthy, prestigious, influential, dressed in fine clothes, smelled of imported fragrances, or were purpose-driven high-achieving individuals.

No, they were shepherds with a seven-word job description: “keeping watch over their flock by night.” The day after, they could have been asking, “Why me?

For some reason, God gave them the message of good tidings of great joy that a Savior, Christ the Lord, was born. Here is my idea for why God chose them, and it could be the same reason God has chosen you: (1) they were attentive when God was speaking while others slept, (2) they obediently followed through on the message, and (3) they shared their story with many.

Lessons from the lowly: stop slumbering and pay attention to God; obey what God has told you; then share your testimony with everyone you know.

Making a difference

Would you characterize your approach to life as someone who just goes with the flow? Do you avoid moving against the tide or making waves? Do you make it a priority to not disturb others and avoid speaking things that might go against their grain? While that may be the way some of us work, that is not how Jesus worked.

Because we were flesh and blood humans, Jesus chose to come in that same way:
 Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

But in leaving His dwelling in heaven and becoming a man, His humble birth was followed by His act of destroying the devil. Talk about making waves and disturbing the peace! Jesus did just that. But not for Himself—for us. I needed someone to jerk me out of the mess my life was in, and I’m glad God placed certain individuals in my life who were bold enough to disturb me right out of satan’s grip and into the kingdom of God.

What can you do to move out from your undisturbing life to reach out to someone who needs what Jesus offers? Rather than focusing on gifts, food, and sports this season, think of Jesus, not just as a baby in a manger, but as the destroyer of the devil’s control.

The Best Place to Be is In The Church (part 14)

Last week we looked at a benefit of being in the church—being purchased by God’s blood. Not only does God claim ownership over us as His creation, but if we are in the church, we are double-owned as His blood-bought child.

Before we surrendered to God and became part of His purchased prize, we were servants of sin:

Rom 6:16-17
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

So yes, God be thanked that you are no longer a servant of sin. But what exactly does that mean in practical terms? It is freedom to be God’s servant. You are no longer controlled by urges of sin that lead to the destruction of things that are truly the most important to you.

Rom 6:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Free indeed means I am God’s servant, and when it comes to the things that once controlled me, I can rely on God’s authority over me to keep those things from recapturing me. Suppose you were controlled by an addiction to alcohol. You craved it and spent much of your paycheck on it. You were depressed without it and became dependent on it, and you needed it to relax. But it was also like being in love with poison. You couldn’t pay your bills or support your family because you were always broke the day after payday. It caused tension, disappointment, and sometimes fear among those you loved the most. It caused you to be late or miss work because it gave you a sick headache. So what you thought was a pleasure that you partook of at your desire, actually became a prison sentence that controlled your very existence.

That’s when the purchase of Jesus’ blood brought you into service of Jesus Christ. Now when that ugly addiction makes an appearance before you, the Holy Ghost on the inside rises up like the turret on a battle tank and blows it away. Jesus made you free!

The Best Place to Be is In The Church (part 13)

Another reason the church is the best place to be, is because if we are in the church, we are beneficiaries of a unique purchase agreement:

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Imagine, being bought by God using His own blood! Another verse that says about the same is:

Matt 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

What we have in these two verses is an excellent illustration of why Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” What we learn here is that God’s blood is Jesus’ blood because Jesus is God. But it also gives us an extreme benefit—forgiveness!

There is nothing else that God ever purchased. There is nothing else that God ever had to purchase because everything else belongs to Him. But those who have had their sins covered by His blood have means that their sins are washed away, and are included in the only purchase God ever made. That makes being in the church the best place you could be!

The Best Place to Be is In The Church (part 12)

Today we will focus on the role of the church as a moral compass. The stability of the church is that its teachings are not based on what Gallup, Barna, or Pew Research, are saying, but are based on scripture. Jesus is the Rock on which the church stands, and like a lighthouse, the church is a point of reference, or a beacon of light, in a dark, storm-tossed, and ever-shifting world. The world lacks an anchor point for their moral standards, and as a result, we have seen major shifts in what is morally acceptable in a relatively short period of time.

Matters like salvation, modesty, sexuality, and gender identity, are matters on which the Bible has a voice, and the church has a role, although it is coming under increasing pressure to abandon that role, of clearly, yet compassionately, declaring what the Bible teaches. By doing so, the church is a moral compass, or point of reference, that is unchanging in a changing world.

The problem is that in the public arena, public opinion has replaced the Bible and the church as the moral voice. And since morality is foundational to a society’s stability, that is why our culture is all over the map and is suffering the consequences of that instability.

Regardless of the moral decline, this is a just the type of situation where the church can have its greatest influence. For where is it that revival can have its greatest impact? If the past is any predictor of the future, it has been in places were sin has abounded. And that is exactly what the scripture declares:

Rom 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

So let the church rise up and be the church. It is not time to change our message to match the world. Now is not the time to abandon truth. The church will remain standing while the consequences of sin are wreaking havoc in the world. And the church will stand with open arms as agents of God’s grace, to receive those torn apart and needing a Redeemer. And this compass—the church—always points true north—upward to Jesus.

The Best Place to Be is In The Church (part 11)

We are looking at reasons why the church is the best place to be and are considering this one: the church is built on a strong foundation and isn’t in trouble of fading into irrelevance.

Last week we looked at a conversation Jesus had with His disciples where He asked who they thought He was. That is an extremely important question, because the way we answer it reveals much about us—more than it does about Jesus. Peter gave an answer that Jesus confirmed was right—in summary, Peter said, “You are God in the flesh!” Jesus affirmed that truth as a revelation straight from God.

Then pushing that point even further, Jesus went so far as to proclaim that that revelation was foundational for His soon-to-be-born church.

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The church was built on the foundation that Jesus is God. Jesus had begun the conversation with an opinion poll; He then gave them divine revelation of who He was; and then anchored the authority of the church to that revelation. The revelation that Jesus is God became the foundational truth, the rock on which the church was to stand.

But that is more than a revealed truth—it is a truth that makes a difference. It is a truth that empowers us to do something. It is a truth that empowers us to be something. The church that stands on this Rock of truth will forever stand and hell itself will not be able to prevail or overpower it. That is a promise!

The best place to be is securely established in a body that satan cannot destroy. He may ferociously attack, but he will never prevail against a church that stands on that Rock. That is another reason the best place to be is in the church!

The Best Place to Be is In The Church (part 10)

Last time we considered a reason that the church is the best place to be, is because of the many opportunities provided there to get ready for the coming of the Lord. Another good reason is that the church is built on a strong foundation and isn’t in trouble of fading into irrelevance.

On one occasion, Jesus asked His disciples what others were saying about Him, but that was not His true intent. He knew what was in people’s hearts. His real point of that conversation was His next question:

Matt 16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

Knowing who Jesus is, is foundational. Knowing who Jesus is will determine your world view so it is an important question. Peter answered with a short and simple, yet profound answer:

Matt 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

From an American cultural background, we can easily miss the importance of Peter’s response. Christ, or Messiah, referred to God on the earth, not just another man. When He called Jesus the “Son of the living God,” that did not simply convey that He was someone’s child. To the Jewish mind, the Son of God meant God in flesh.

We see that by the question the high priest asked Jesus at His trial:

Matt 26:63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.

When Jesus affirmed that, the priest ripped his garment in disgust, and said Jesus had spoken blasphemy. To them, accepting the title, the Son of God, meant Jesus believed He was God in flesh. We see that in another passage:

John 10:33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

Notice that last phrase, “thou being a man makest thyself God.” They actually got the truth in reverse. What had happened was: “Thou, being God, makest thyself man.” More on this next time.

The Best Place to Be is In The Church (part 9)

One of the reasons that the church is the best place to be is because of the many opportunities provided there to get ready for the coming of the Lord. Last time we looked at a parable Jesus told regarding His coming. In it, He called a group “wise” because they had prepared for His return, and He called a group foolish because they did not. He ended the parable with this warning:

Matt 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

The parable calls us to examine our self and ask, “Am I ready?” Jesus will be returning for His bride who has made herself ready to leave in the twinkling of an eye. Yes there will be some who foolishly do not get ready, but Jesus will return and will find a church that did. And there will be great rejoicing in heaven when she arrives:

Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

If anyone is going to be ready for heaven, our determined cry should be, “Let it be me!”

He does have a glorious church awaiting Him whom He will present to Himself as holy:

Ephesians 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

You see, to be His glorious church, the church had to come to church to “make herself ready.” That is why the best place to be is in the church! By coming to church, we hear the preaching accompanied by warnings about the Lord’s coming and also about the greater glory He intends for us:

Col 1:27-28
27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

If we miss the preaching, we miss the warnings. Get to church and get ready and don’t let anything stand in the way.

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