Monday, May 30, 2011

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5

"When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay."

Do you find yourself being cavalier at times with the promises and comittments that you make to others?  The busier that our lives get, the more we struggle with failure to follow through on our promises.  We often rationalize the breaking of our word with legitimate reasoning according to the world around us; however it is the Word of God and not the culture around us that provides the norms and standards according to which we are to adhere. Proper orientation to the Word of God provides us with an eternal perspective in which we value our witness to the world around us for the Gospel of Jesus Christ above all other priorities. When we make a promise we are doing so not independently but as a representative of the Creator God of the universe for 2 Corinthians 5:20 states: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us".  It is because we represent God that all of our promises are made not only to the person to whom we make them but to God, Himself.  When we think about it in these terms what possible rationale could suffice for the breaking of our word?

Reflect for a moment on the form of interaction used by God to relate to His creation.  Throughout history God has voluntarily entered into contractual relationships (covenants) with man, thus binding His Sovereign will to actions in fulfillment of these contracts.  Following the world wide flood which destroyed everyone except for Noah and his family, God entered into a covenant relationship in which He promised the following: "I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth." God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth (Genesis 9:11-13). Every time we see a rainbow in the sky we are reminded that we worship a God Who keeps His Word not just for a little while but forever! God does not treat His promises to man in light of man's complete inability and helplessness to enforce their terms and conditions. We are never to regard the worldly status of the person to whom we enter into a promise as an indicator of the importance of our fulfillment.  A promise made to a child is just as important as a promise made to an adult.  A promise made to a subordinate is just as important as a promise made to a superior!  A promise made to someone with little is just as important as a promise made to someone with much. 

Consider the message that we, as believers bring to the unbelieving world: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).  We bring a message of hope and security on the basis of our God Who has told us that He was satisfied with the work of Jesus Christ on the cross as payment for our sins and based on the fact that He will never change His mind.  Our hope is based on God keeping His Word.  This is the God Who we worship and the God who we represent on earth.  It is for this reason that we must be sure that when we make a promise that we can and will fulfill that promise. Remember, when you stand before an unbeliever, you are the picture that he has of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Conduct yourself accordingly!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ecclesiastes 7:5

"It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man Than for one to listen to the song of fools."

Are you careful to regard the loving correction of a fellow believer above the flattery of a worldly unbeliever?  We all struggle with the desire to have our decisions and actions be authenticated by others while avoiding the painful rebuke of Biblical council. Think back to a time when you had gone a few days without praying or exposing yourself to the Word of God. Surely, your thoughts during this time were shaped not by Scripture but by the world around you. How many phone calls and personal encounters with fellow believers that you otherwise would have welcomed did you avoid because you just didn't want to hear it!  Much like an avalanche picks up speed and size as it rolls down the hill, so too do we become emboldened with each day that passes in our arrogance resulting in an inability to submit to Scripture or a willingness to allow other Biblically minded believers help us see where we have gone wrong. It is quite revealing that the first instruction that King Solomon gave to his son Rehoboam in Proverbs 1:5 pertains to keeping and listening to wise council: "A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise council  (The account of Rehoboam's failure to heed to this advice is recorded in 1 Kings 12). 

There is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament especially in the Pauline epistles that is communicated though the word parakaleo which means to encourage, or literally to call another alongside to where one is. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." God has provided His Word to be the source of all correction, conviction, and training (2 Timothy 3:16), but he does not simply leave us to ourselves to receive this instruction.  Just as God works through the believer to communicate the Gospel to the unbeliever He works through individual believers to encourage and correct others in the Body of Christ.  We are responsible to encourage and correct others and we also must be ready to receive the same encouragement and correction when we are struggling. 

Nothing betrays us more than our feelings.  How we feel at any given moment is the last thing that should govern our thoughts, decisions, and actions.  Never is this more true then when we have strayed from the dominance of a Biblical perspective in our lives.  It is at these times more than any other when we must overrule how we feel and humble ourselves so that we submit to the Scripture which may take form in subjecting ourselves to the rebuke of a wise fellow believer.  In so doing, we are not submitting to another believer but the truth of Scripture as the basis of that believer's encouragement to us.  1 Corinthians 3:19 states: "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness".  When we forego the tough love of wise council for the song of the fool we are trading the Truth for a lie.  Be careful and use good judgment regarding the council you keep.  Regardless of the problem that you may be encountering, the answer is always found on the pages of the Word of God. Good council will always bring you back to the text of Scripture not the world's system to help you through your struggle and they will have as their motivation the desire to see you draw nearer to God. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:18

"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you"

Do you find it difficult to give thanks to God when you are enduring hardship and suffering?  We all struggle with this despite knowing that God is in control of our lives and is aware of our circumstances.  How many times have you looked back on difficult times that you are thankful for now that you are able to see what God was doing in your life but while you were in the midst of them you were anything but thankful? God's command to us to be thankful in all things is a message to us from our Sovereign Creator that we are not to question His love for us. Nor are we to question His omniscience or His omnipotence in that He knows our struggles and is able to resolve our circumstances at any time.  God created us to have a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, our High Priest.  God desires fellowship with us, a fellowship in which He brings everything to the table and all that He requires of us is faith.  Therefore, we must orient ourselves to the Biblical truth that the purpose for our lives is to draw nearer to God each day through faith in what He has said in His Word.  Our faith is strengthened when we endure hardship: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2-3).  When our thoughts are grounded in this reality it becomes easier for us to give thanks when we are immersed in struggle.

You may have asked God "why me" at some point in your life.  You just could not figure out why God was allowing such adversity to come upon you.  This was on Job's mind when God provided him with an answer: "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, "Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? "Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, (Job 38:1-4)".  God continued to grill Job along these lines and then Job responded: "Then Job answered the Lord and said, "Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth." (Job 40:3-4)  Job's perspective changed immediately for he had been more oriented to his earthly circumstances than he was to eternal reality.  Without an eternal perspective we will be overwhelmed by the thinking of this world which is limited to what the eye can see and the ear can hear. The writer of Hebrews tells us: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (11:3).

Colossians 3:16 commands us to "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you..."  Saturate yourself with the Word of God. Start and end your day by exposing yourself to Scripture.  Pray on your way to work or school and don't stop praying just because you say "Amen".  Pray continuously as Paul commands us in 1 Thess. 5:17.  Pray about everything, this will keep you oriented to the reality of your relationship with God and help you to be thankful no matter what happens because the reality of your fellowship with the Sovereign Creator overwhelms the earthly reality of your temporal circumstances.  This will enable you to draw nearer to God throughout your day.