Category Archives: Righteousness / Serving God

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Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 [NLT]

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Rejoicing in Persecution

Many of us confuse joy and happiness. These are actually very different. Happiness is fleeting. It comes and goes based on things and people around us. When everything is going well we may feel happy, but how quickly it can turn to sadness when things are not how we want them.

Joy depends on our closeness with our Lord Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are in good times or bad we can be filled with the joy of the Lord. Being filled with joy can carry us through any circumstance.

Acts 5:12-41 shows an excellent example where the apostles rejoice in the Lord because they were having such an affect for Jesus in sharing the gospel that the local religious leaders came against them and persecuted them.

12 The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. 14 Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. 15 As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. 16 Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil[a] spirits, and they were all healed.

17 The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”

21 So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.

When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council[a]—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. 22 But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, 23 “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”

24 When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. 25 Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”

26 The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross.[b] 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. 34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! 36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. 37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.

38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”

40 The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.

41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.[c]

We can learn a lot from how the apostles handled the situation. They did not run in fear or hide. They did not stop preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name. Persecution came, they were thrown in jail… and when God let them out the apostles continued preaching publically in Jesus’ name. They were filled with joy as they continued to serve Jesus in persecution. They knew whom they were serving. God’s authority is higher than the authority of local and worldly leaders.

How many times are we discouraged from sharing His word just because one person out of many may not want to hear it? God calls us to proclaim His name and His word boldly. Challenge yourself to look for more and more bold opportunities to proclaim His word in your daily life. Start small if necessary and keep taking incremental steps to proclaim Jesus more boldly.

In my journey to proclaim Jesus boldly I find more joy in my life as I continue to follow what God calls me to do.

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He is ready to show grace, if you are ready to repent.

Grace is giving someone what they do not deserve. God tells us repeatedly in the Bible that He wants to show us grace, but will wait on us to turn toward Him in genuine repentance.

Isaiah 30 is a impactful scripture about God’s grace following the sin of His people.  I encourage you to click the link and read all of it for full context. The first seven verses reveal how the people of Judah turned away from God and made a treaty with Egypt for protection instead of trusting God. Verses 8-11 reveal how the people have rejected God’s messengers who bring His instruction.  Verses 12-17 tell how futile and worthless is the path the people chose instead of following God’s instructions. It will not serve them well.  And in the center of this outright rebellion toward God, God still offers grace when the people repent starting in verse 18. But they must turn to Him.

18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God.
Blessed are those who wait for his help.

19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. 20 Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.
21 Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. 22 Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags,
saying to them, “Good riddance!”

23 Then the Lord will bless you with rain at planting time. There will be wonderful harvests and plenty of pastureland for your livestock. 24 The oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat good grain, its chaff blown away by the wind. 25 In that day, when your enemies are slaughtered and the towers fall, there will be streams of water flowing down every mountain and hill. 26 The moon will be as bright as the sun, and the sun will be seven times brighter—like the light of seven days in one! So it will be when the Lord begins to heal his people and cure the wounds he gave them.

Anyone who expects God to be gracious while still openly rejecting and rebelling against Him will be disappointed. God is willing to extend grace, but we must turn toward Him with genuine repentance.  God is waiting for us to come to Him and His grace is truly wonderful.

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Release the Lion; Preach the Gospel

The world attacks the word of God and those who share it. It is easy to get on the defensive when discussing the gospel. We are called to preach the truth of the gospel without shame or doubt. We do not need to apologize for any of it or edit any of it. We are called to share all of it, not just the parts that people accept.

God is capable of defending the gospel on His own behalf.

Charles Spurgeon, a 19th century Baptist preacher said it well in one of his sermons titled “The Lover of God’s Law Filled with Peace”:

“The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.”

 

This is a good reminder for each of us that the word of God is powerful, when preached boldly and completely.  We should never make excuses for it.

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Praising God

When we love someone we should give them praise and thanks often to tell them how we appreciate them. We should also act in ways that show them we love them. This is true for our relationships with people and it is true for our relationship with God as well.

Psalm 33

Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord it is fitting for the pure to praise him. Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre; make music for him on the ten-stringed harp. Sing a new song of praise to him; play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy. For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does. He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs. Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.

10 The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. 11 But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.

12 What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.

13 The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. 14 From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. 15 He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do. 16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. 17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory— for all its strength, it cannot save you.

18 But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. 19 He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.

20 We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

I appreciate when people tell me what I am doing well. I believe God does also. Additionally, I find that when I take time to reflect on who God is and praise Him it brings me closer to Him. It reminds me of His greatness and power. It reminds me of His love and compassion.

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How should we treat our employers?

Though the Bible does not specifically call out how we should behave as employees, all of our Christian values apply to how you should behave and treat others wherever we are, including at work. This includes our employer, even if they do not treat us that way. This is how we serve Jesus by living as a light to show others the way to Him.

By looking at what the Bible says about the relationship between slave and master we can get some additional perspective by applying those principles to employee and employer.  Both Colossians 3: 22-25 and Galations 3:28 speak about how a slave in the ancient near east was called to serve his/her master.

[Keep in mind here that the context of slavery in Old Testament Israel was very different than what we think about today. Is God a Moral Monster? by Dr. Paul Copan is a great resource to study this topic further.]

Colossians 3:22-25

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.[e] 25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites.

Galatians 3:28

28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[o] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

God makes no distinction between owner and slave, employer and employee. We are one in Christ Jesus. Another way to think about it captured in Matthew 7:12

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

This entire message must still be taken in context of the remainder of scripture. We can not submit so much to your employer that we  neglect what else God calls us to do… especially the role God calls us to play in our family or the church.

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Living the New Life

As Christians we are called to be a light to the world. To show others the path to Jesus Christ. All too often non Christians cannot tell the difference between Christians and the world by looking at how we live. Paul provides a meaningful call to action on how we should be living in Colossians 3:1-17.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your[a] life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.[b] You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile,[c] circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized,[d] slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

It is difficult to add anything to such a well written passage. This is a scripture to dwell on and not to skim. I hope and pray you reflect on it and challenge yourself to answer the call that Paul (and Jesus) have extended to us in this scripture.

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Using Wisely What God Gives Us

God gives to each of us different talents and resources in different amounts. We are all called to be faithful and good stewards of what He provides no matter how small or how big.  None of us are insignificant to God. He wants us to use what He gives us for His glory.

Jesus illustrates this effectively in Matthew 25:14-30.

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver[a] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together![b]

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

God wants us to effectively use what He provides for His kingdom, whether it is financial resources or personal talents and gifts He has given us. Do not stuff your money in a mattress or bury it in a hole. Don’t hide your talent or use it only for your own gain. Serve God with all that He has given you!

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Be a Living Sacrifice to God

Paul challenges us to be a living sacrifice to God in Romans 12. I encourage you to read slowly and thoughtfully consider what he is telling us. If you skim it you will miss so much depth in this passage.

12 And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Because of the privilege and authority[c] God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[d] Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[e] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[f] 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
    I will pay them back,”[g]
    says the Lord.

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
    burning coals of shame on their heads.”[h]

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Set aside some time to come back and dwell on this scripture. Take it in pieces. Are you living the way Paul discusses? For most of us that serve God we may be doing well in some areas and need to focus on changing our behaviors and thoughts in others. Do not be discouraged. Pick one area to work on at a time and just practice. Find another faithful Christian believer and partner with them and share the journey together. It is a journey toward Jesus Christ that never ends, but transforms us to be more like Him along the way.

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Let this cup of suffering be taken away from me

In this world we encounter times of anguish and distress. When we turn to God it is important to know how to pray. Some say to pray as if God will give us whatever we ask for, but this is not right. God loves us as a parent loves their children. Sometimes children do not understand which is the right path and must rely on their parents. We need to trust God in this way.

Immediately before being taken into custody that eventually led to His brutal death on the cross, Jesus showed us how to pray when we are crushed under the weight of despair. He knew what was to happen next.  Matthew 26:36-46

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away[f] unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Jesus shows us that we can ask God to take away the suffering, but we should submit to His will. Do not be discouraged if your prayer is not answered the way you want. Do not stop trusting God or turn away from Him. Do not get discouraged and blame yourself for not having enough faith.

God did not “answer” Jesus’ prayer by taking away the suffering, but instead provided a way for all of us to receive salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross. I am glad he did. God knows best.

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