Who Are You Living For?

Over the course of the past few weeks I have heard and seen many conversation and comments from young people about their future… “I just don’t know what I’m going to do after graduation”… “I really hope I get into that college”… “I have no clue what I want to major in”… And many more comments about such issues as college, career, major, fields of study, marriage, where to live, etc.

Hearing so many young people, about those things really got me thinking. It got me reflecting on where I was at around 5 years ago.

The truth is, making decisions about your future are very stressful, and in the midst of making them, it can seem as if the weight of the world is on your back. It feels as if you don’t do exactly the right thing, then your life will be ruined. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed.

But you know, Jesus can change that.

I think about myself whenever I was in High School- so overwhelmed with the decisions about my future. Worried that I would make a mistake, go down the wrong path, or choose a route that would result in “eternal sorrow”.

Then something changed my life… Christ. When I was 18, He shook my world, and brought me to the realization of my deepest hurt, the requirement of my repentance, and my need for a Savior. There was one thing, in particular, that changed my life. It was when I finally realized the true answer to this question:

WHO is this life all about? Who am I living my life for?

Up until that point, the answer was me. I wanted what was best for me. My happiness, my success, my pleasure, my dreams to be achieved, my needs to be met.

So, decisions about my future were stressful, because it was about me- and what I could do to make my life “go well”. The pressure was enormous.

As I began to grow in my relationship with Christ, though, these pressures seemed to fade into a trust for Jesus and His plans. But more than that- that this life was not about me!

Romans 12: 1-2

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

Well, when I look at that passage, how can I possibly think that this life is about me, and my wants, and my dreams? If Christ has given His life for me, He deserves His way in my life, actually it is what He requires of His children.

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

You see, when we follow Jesus, our desires are crucified with Jesus and our life becomes about Him! It’s not about my wants, my dreams, or my goals…. Unless they are rooted at the Cross.

Acts 20:24

24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

 

I, nor any other person, can correctly read Scripture and get the impression that this life is about me. It’s not about my dreams, my plans, my wants, my pleasure, or my success. It’s about God, about exalting Christ and His Gospel, about realizing His purpose for my life (even if it is uncomfortable at times), and about glorifying Him in all that I do…

Yet, so many teachers and pastors are teaching a theology of their own. That this life is about using God to realize my dreams, my goals, my wants, and my desires. They think that Jesus was about happiness, peace, and “love”… That Jesus would want us all to be happy and realize OUR dreams.

 

After all, that’s what Jesus was all about, right? Nope, He was about His father, and His will. He was about stopping the self-righteousness and selfishness of many in His day, to usher in humility and surrender towards God.

 

So, what do you say? How do you answer this question:

What is this life about? Who are you living it for?

If Jesus is your answer, then your future is in His hands. Jesus will direct your steps, He will direct  your paths. In that, He can minimize the stress you feel in regards to your future. He can bring assurance in times of doubt.

My encouragement to you today is to examine who you are living for. Essentially, there are two choices that are made. Are you going to live for Jesus, or yourself? I pray that you will choose Christ….

-Caleb

The Discipleship Commission: A Warning

Matthew 10:16-20

 16“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

In case that the disciples had any thought that this task laid before them was going to be easy, Jesus makes it quite clear it will not be.   As Jesus has laid out the instructions beforehand of where to go and what to do he now gives the warning of what may await them.

What good leader would send their troops into battle without giving them a description of the adversary they would be coming against?  Battle?  Yes, Battle!  The disciples are going to proclaim the Gospel.  What did Jesus tell them in verse 7? “Proclaim as you go, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”.

Let me remind you dear friend.  If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ we are in spiritual warfare for the souls of people.  Ephesians Chapter 6 verse 12 reminds us of this.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Also we read from 1 Peter Chapter 5 verse 8:

Be sober minded, be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.

When you are sold out and willing to sacrifice yourself for the Gospel and willing to proclaim it in your area of influence you are going to experience persecution.  When you stand on God’s Word as the absolute truth there will be persecution.  People will come against you.  Look at verse 17 and 18 again.

These situations may or may not have happened on this trip.  But Jesus was definitely giving them a look into the future of what would happen to them as they continued to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   But look closer.  I think we find great hope in all this.  Even in the times of persecution we can see God’s sovereignty in the situation.

First, Jesus gives them the tactic to deal with these situations.

1.      Be wise as serpents:  I don’t know how many of you may like snakes?  I sure don’t.  But even though Satan used the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, we do read that the serpent was“more crafty” than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” Genesis 3:1.  The Hebrew word used hear is “aruwm”, which means shrewd, sensible, prudent.    So Jesus was telling them to be sensible in all their dealings with people.

2.      Innocent as doves:  Don’t return evil for evil.  Though they may persecute you for what you are saying don’t give them anything from your character to give them more of an excuse.

 Second, Jesus brings into focus the reason for it all.   Wherever we are placed, whatever we go through it is to bring us before people to proclaim the Gospel to.

Third, Jesus tells us we are never alone.  He goes with us.  The Holy Spirit of God lives within us and will guide us in our thoughts and in our words.   But, we should be prepared!  That desire to see people saved should drive us to be studied up and prayed up to be used by the Lord.  Those words are great encouragement though aren’t they?  So, let’s close with them.

19When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

In Christ Alone,

Dale

The Royal Law

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:8-13

Now think about the person who wrote this. God used Jesus’ half-brother James to write this. James was raised in the same house as Jesus. James was Jesus’ younger brother and they experienced so much of life together. Jesus was there with his family of four brothers and at least two sisters until He was thirty years old. So, they’ve experienced a ton together as siblings.

I tell you this because James had to learn a lot about his brother and one of the things he learned was about the “Royal Law.” Ever heard of it? It sets up this entire section. The term “Royal Law” could be translated as “Sovereign law” according to scholars. The idea is that this law is supreme. It’s the 10 commandments from the Old Testament, but Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets by saying this in Matthew 22:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” Matthew 22:37-40.

James is parroting what his brother said: “Love people and show it…demonstrate it…don’t show favoritism…help those in your circle of influence.” James says, “…if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” Remember that Jesus always goes to the heart of the matter. Literally to the heart…not the letter of the law. The law shows us our sin as a mirror… If you and I break one of God’s commands, it’s as if we’ve broken them all! The heart of the matter here is that we must love people no matter how they look or where they live or the color of their skin. According to the New Covenant, forged by Jesus’ blood, we must love, love, love.

James is showing us that true freedom and true love is the freedom to obey God and do what pleases Him. No…not to earn His favor (our works are as filthy rags), but in freedom because we are so grateful for all that Jesus has done for us by dying to pay for our sins. Mercy triumphs judgment! Aren’t you glad. God showed mercy upon us by sending His one and only Son to give us life! How can we not show that same love and mercy to all people without partiality? We are under the law of liberty (as James says). We have the liberty and freedom to be conduits of God’s love! Praise Jesus! What a joy to be a follower of Christ and joint-heirs with Him! To God be the glory!

Now…who needs that kind of love shown to them? Let’s love without partiality and with all liberty! 🙂

-Kevin

Partiality- Part 2

5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? James 2:5-7

Yesterday we talked about not showing favoritism or partiality.  Today we’ll get part 2 of the conversation. I read a commentary this morning that says: “James shows the fundamental incompatibility of holding faith in Christ and showing partiality among people.” Ouch! That’s strong, but true, don’t you think? There really is no place for prejudice in the life of a Christian.

We live in the south and there has been a consistent ebb and flow of prejudice through the years toward black people and now Hispanics. Why is that the case? Pride. People thinking that they are better than someone else because of their skin color or geographic location. I’m convinced that God looks down on this earth and he doesn’t see skin color or national boundaries (lines on a map) like we do. He just sees people. Oh that we could do the same.

Are you prejudice toward another group of people? If you are or your spirit checks inside of you, then choose to change your outlook. You can do that in the Lord, you know. Choose to love. Choose to see people as God sees them. Make up your mind.

James is telling us that the poor brothers and sisters in Christ have a special place in God’s economy. They are rich in an eternal sense because they are heirs to the kingdom along with His Son, Jesus.

In Jesus’ day the poor were exploited by the rich in the first century. Rich merchants and landowners would take land and possessions from the poor (James 5:1-6). So, James challenges his Christian brothers and sisters as to why they would honor the rich in the assembly (church) when it is the rich unbelievers who were running down the name of Jesus and dragging them into court.

See this picture?

Ethiopia 2010 118

Those are folks in the mountains of southern Ethiopia in a village called Halame. They are all very poor.

Ethiopia 2010 032

They are also very black. But, those people are my brothers and sisters. I love them!

Picture1

And they love me!

Picture6

They served me while I was there…

Picture5

That young lady was pouring me tea because she loved me as her brother.

Below is a picture of Katy and myself, when we were in Alaba, Ethiopia a few years ago. Katy and I sure do love the people of Alaba.

Ethiopia 2009 221

There goes Kandace trudging off into another village to teach about Jesus…

Kandace in Ethiopia

Ethiopia

I’ve taught my girls to love people.

Why…we’ve even adopted people that don’t look like us…

Andrew and Clara snow

Clara and Andrew are Asian. Perhaps you have forgotten that? I have. Why? Because they are simply Clara and Andrew. I don’t see their olive colored skin or their “squinty-eyes.”

God help us to love all people and cherish the fact that as believers we are joint-heirs with Jesus and He died for all.

I love the little children’s song:

Jesus loves the little children…

All the children of the world…

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Let’s love and live like that too. No partiality. 🙂

-Kevin

Man’s Wisdom versus God’s Wisdom

Do you recall seeing the debate a few years ago between these two?

I remember it, vividly.

It was really not much of a true “debate.” It was more of a case-study of two worldviews: Man’s versus God’s. James speaks of this very idea in these next verses. We’ll not try to digest each of these verses today, but I want you to see the next few verses in context and we’ll break them down and try to understand them over the next few devotions.

James 3:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James begins to make a transition from talking about the tongue and teachers to dealing with what is “true wisdom.” The reason I put “true wisdom” in quotations, is because there are many today (even in Christendom) who think that man’s wisdom trumps God’s wisdom via His word. So James asks the question:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? (James 3:13a)

Is Bill Nye wise? Sure. Is Ken Ham wise? Sure. Bill Nye is “wise” based on the teachings of man. Ken Ham is wise- because He believes in the word of God. Two distinct worldviews. The word “wise” used by James was the common Greek word for “speculative knowledge and philosophy.” But, the Hebrew understanding of the word “wise” carries a very rich meaning. Wisdom in the Hebrew context meant to: “skillfully apply knowledge to the matter of practical living.”

The word “understanding” is used only here in the New Testament and means a “specialist” or “professional” who could skillfully apply his expertise to practical situations. What is James saying?

He’s simply asking: “Who is truly skilled in the art of living?”

We are only skilled in truly living to the degree the Word of God influences and impacts our lives. Otherwise, we will live foolishly. Sound too simple? Perhaps…but it’s true. The Word of God provides wisdom. Wisdom leads to good decisions. Good decisions lead to a good life. Now when I say “good life,” I’m not talking about materialism. I’m talking about “good” as in: God will direct your life and you will know His comfort, peace and joy (even in the midst of potential trials, turmoil and trouble).

James defines this kind of living in the next phrase (it’s amazing how much truth can be unpacked from just ONE VERSE when we “study” the Bible). Here it comes… Want to live with wisdom… Here’s how…

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

Want to show wisdom? Want to be living wise? You do so by showing your good conduct, by showing your good works. Some of you might be thinking, “Okay, we got that already. James talked about that earlier (works and faith).” But, here’s the difference. This is going one step deeper. If you want to live with wisdom, then you will show the world your wisdom by your MEEKNESS. What? Meekness?

Yes, meekness. Unfortunately “meekness” has a bad name because people tend to associate meekness with “weakness.” But, that’s not true! Meekness is “power under control.” That’s what Jesus exhibited on the cross when He could have called down 10,000 angels to His defense. Instead He said, “Father, forgive them…they don’t know what they are doing.” He showed: POWER UNDER CONTROL. That’s meekness my friend. That’s wisdom.

It’s when you want to lash out and give someone a piece of your mind and you don’t! It’s when you want to reply back on email or Facebook and let someone know you don’t like their opinion and you don’t. Or it’s when you do…but, you do it in a Christ-like, God-honoring manner.

What did Jesus say about the meek?

Matthew 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Meekness comes not from cowardice or passiveness but instead from having confidence in God and His sovereignty. So, that knowledge and trust in our Father can set us free from anxiety and trying to make ourselves look good. We can be meek.

I leave you today to ponder on the words of Jesus, who taught us wisdom through meekness…

Matthew 11:29

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Change of Perspective

Philippians 4: 11-12

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

How many of you are in a difficult circumstance right now? You’ve lost your job. You’ve buried a loved one. You are longing for a spouse. You feel loneliness. You have been hurt by something another person said. The money is short, and so is the temper.

What do we do in these times? We often times want to do anything we can to “bypass” the difficulty of the circumstance. Truth be told, we want God to deliver us.

But, what if it is God’s plan to sustain us and help us rather than deliver us. See, we think delivery from problems is the answer to our problems, but perhaps it is our perspective and reaction to our problems that is the true answer.

This passage serves as a reminder from God. You see, we get so wrapped up in wanting God to lead us to where we (but we say HE) wants us to be, that we forget that there is a reason why His sovereignty has allowed us to be in our current circumstance. We get so carried away with wanting God to deliver us- and we reason that when He does that we will be able to glorify Him and serve Him. But when we view life in this perspective, we miss the point. The point is that He wants us to learn what it is to glorify Him in all circumstances- even the present one.

Matthew 6: 34

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

But, isn’t it like us to constantly be thinking about what we want to do for God in the next step that we miss the point entirely? God doesn’t want us to sit around thinking about what we will do for Him one day, when all the circumstances are right. He wants us to go out and live for Him today, in the current circumstances… whether we like them or not.

Many a capable Christian has set around their entire life day-dreaming what they would like to do for God, only to realize one day that they have missed out on a lifetime of opportunities to glorify Him because they were so concerned about tomorrow that they missed the opportunities of today.

So, why do I tell you all of this?

Many of you are struggling today.

Maybe you are in conflict, and longing for a time of peace…

Maybe you are single, and longing for marriage…

Maybe things are going bad right now, and you are striving for a time when things will go a little better…

Maybe you are being persecuted, and praying for it to stop…

Maybe you are sick, and longing for good health…

Maybe you don’t like your body or how you look, and you are striving to drop those pounds …

Maybe you feel Spiritually “dry”, and you are longing for a revival…

Or, maybe you are unemployed, and looking for that job God has for you.

No matter how admirable the circumstance is that you are longing for, you will not glorify God anymore in a future circumstance than you are now by simply a change of scenery. It is through the trials of life that we learn to glorify Him even more. This is a realization that we all must come to, including myself. Our ability to resemble the life of Christ tomorrow, will only be as good as how much we grew today. We do not learn how to live like Christ in the circumstances we desire, but in the undesirable ones… the challenging ones.

What I am trying to tell each one of you is what God has spoken into my own spirt… you must first learn to glorify Him today, before you will be able to handle tomorrow. You must first be content in the circumstance you are in now, before you will be able to glorify God in the one you desire…

That means that you must learn to glorify God in being single, before you can hope to do so in marriage. You must first be content shining the light of Christ in conflict, before you can begin to understand how to shine it in peace. You must realize the importance of persecution, before you can be thankful for the times of harmony. You must learn how to worship in the dry times, before you can truly worship God in the times of revival.

We can’t have this attitude that once everything is perfect, then we will begin to live for God and to glorify Him. See, it doesn’t work like that. Why? Because God knows you aren’t ready for what you want so badly. You can’t handle it. Why? Because you haven’t learned what you needed to learn in the circumstance you are in. You haven’t realized it’s importance. You haven’t learned that life isn’t about your circumstances, but about Jesus… You haven’t realized how to be content in all things, whether good or bad… hungry or full… conflict or peace… sick or healthy… job or no job… etc.

It’s so easy for us to let our circumstances define our lives. They change who we are, and what we act like. Instead, I’m praying that God would help me to flee this immature characteristic, and pursue the one that the Apostle Paul put before us. A life of consistency and contentness… not only in the circumstances I want but in the ones that I dread.

We don’t realize it now, but these light and momentary trials are such a blessing. We should be thankful that God has seen us mature enough to handle it, that He would allow difficulty into the life of His children. You see, we learn so much in the trials of life.  We learn about who we are, we learn about who God wants us to be, and most of all… We learn about who HE is. We begin to understand that He is sovereign. That we do not control our destiny. Rather, in His sovereign will He allows various circumstances to enter our life. We don’t have to worry about what will happen, for we can trust in the fact that He is working things together for our good, if we truly love Him and delight ourselves in Him.

We learn How to walk by faith, and not by sight. We learn how to trust in what we do not see, and have peace even when we do not understand.

So, I encourage you today to change your perspective. Don’t make this life about what you are going to do tomorrow, when everything is as you want it. Remember that Christ wants you to see the importance of today, even in the difficult circumstances. I pray that you will learn what it takes to be content in whatever circumstance you find yourselves in…

So, what is the secret to being content no matter the circumstance? That Christ will carry us through, that He knows what He is doing. And most of all, that we can glorify Him no matter what circumstance we are in because it is Christ who gives us strength…

Philippians 4:13

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

-Caleb

Battle of the Mind

Are we prepared to fight the battle for our minds?  That is the question I want you to consider today.

As I go through my preparation time, let me tell you, Satan comes at me pretty strong.  Where does he attack?  My thoughts! Some of the craziest things come to my mind.  Satan brings doubt, discouragement, fear and anything else that could distract me.  This goes on all the time.   Satan is after us to cause doubt, discouragement, fear and anything else that will take our mind of the mission at hand.

What most people don’t recognize is that there is a “Battle” being fought every day.   That battle is for the control of our mind.   I say sometimes that whoever controls our thoughts and the actions that are expressed through those thoughts wins.   Even though our sin separates us from God, he put into our heart a desire for the “Truth”.   So Satan will at all costs try to skew, confuse and deny absolute truth divinely placed before us by God.

Peter addresses this issue and how we can fight this battle.

1 Peter 1:13 – 16

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Gird up the loins of your mind?  What in the world does that mean?  In that time many wore long flowing robes and before a man would go on their travels or prepare to do the work for the day they would pull up the robe and cinch it tight with a rope or belt so they would have ease of movement.  So Peter is saying, “Hey, tighten up”!  Don’t be loose in your thinking.

In Ephesians 6 the Apostle Paul uses the same terminology, though worded a little different, that Peter used in his letter in the first part of verse

14, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth”.  

Paul wrote this while under house arrest in Rome chained to a Roman guard.  Do you think Paul got a little inspiration as he looked over at that Roman guard to encourage the believers in Ephesus to fight the battle for their minds and for truth?   This is used in a fashion of being prepared.   First, being prepared with the belt of truthfulness so we can combat the lies that Satan throws at us.    Paul warns us over and over to be prepared for battle as he talks about putting on the whole Armor of God in Ephesians 6.

Paul again tells us in 2 Corinthians Chapter 10:3-6 that we are in a war.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

In Romans Chapter 12 verse 2 Paul emphasizes that we are to be “Transformed by the renewing of our minds”.   Why is that so important?  As we look through scripture I believe we will see that our minds are the battlefield for truth.    Where do most of our actions and responses towards situations in our life start?  In our minds!  It starts with a thought and that is where Satan will attack us.

We see something with our eyes or hear something with our ears but our response to that begins in our mind.  In the letter written by James we read in verses 14 and 15,

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”. 

As Satan attacks our mind we must fight against the thoughts that can rage against us.

But we cannot fight if we are not prepared or if we are loose in our thinking.  Don’t give Satan any provision!   Take those thoughts captive that are not rooted in truth from the Bible and through them away.  The Word of God is a weapon.  So fight against these attacks and live so we may glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Alone,

Dale