See to it

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

See to it. There are things that require our attention. The toilet is leaking at the base, I need to “see to it” and fix the problem. You realized someone stole your debit card information and is spending your money, and you “see to it.” You instantly know the seriousness and urgency.

The Hebrew writer tells us to “see to it” that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. Christians can and do fall away. Our hearts can be hardened, calloused over by the sin in which we are living. We can lose our confidence and joy and consider throwing in the towel. That’s why all Christians need to be on the lookout for each other, because those very things are going on in the brethren around you. Whether it is happening to you right now or not doesn’t matter, it is happening to someone around you. See to it.

Reach out to them today with encouragement. Say a prayer with them over the phone. Remind them with verses from God’s word about the presence and grace of God. Take them out for coffee. Sit with them. Listen. Be compassionate. Realize that they are at war and Satan is having a heyday with them. See to it that you be God’s instrument to bring a little comfort, relief and hope to their hurting hearts.

We do have incredible power and influence when we walk along with God to encourage our brethren. It makes a huge difference, don’t believe otherwise.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
(Hebrews 10:24)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
(Hebrews 3:12-14)

Mary!

Mary Magdalene had seen Jesus die. She witnessed Jesus’ body taken down from the cross, and she observed Jesus being buried (Matthew 27:55-66). When she same to the tomb Sunday morning, she was looking for the body of Jesus. Three times in John 20, it states that Mary was looking for what happened to Jesus’ body (John 20:2,13,15).

When Jesus came to her and began talking to her, she did not recognize him as Jesus, but “supposed” Him to be the gardener. Here is one of the most tender moments of the Bible. Jesus breaks through all her grief, her expectations and assumptions, her focus on her task, etc., and says, “Mary!”

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
(John 20:14-16)

What an incredible moment for Mary! She was so focused on finding the body of Jesus that she did not see Jesus right in front of her.

I wonder how this may happen for us in our lives today. Can our assumptions or expectations cloud our eyes to the truth before us? Is it possible to be so overcome by grief that we forget the promises God has repeatedly given us through His word? Do we get so focused on a task that we don’t see the bigger picture? Does Jesus have to at times reach through the cloud of all our doubts, grief and fear and renew our faith and focus on Him?  Yes to all the above!

Hopefully we can take a lesson today from Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Thank you Lord, for showing us this example of Mary, and thank you for patiently loving us through those times when our faith and focus needs some renewal!

What We Share Together

We are getting ready to begin a study on Hebrews at our congregation. Many of the posts over the next several weeks will probably reference Hebrews in some way. Great encouragement in that book to consider Jesus, don’t give up, and consider one another.

Today are some bullet points below to look at what we share. I just noticed how many references there are in Hebrews to sharing and being partakers in some very special things. Please take time to meditate and pray about what we share together in Jesus Christ. It is just amazing. We are immensely blessed.

  • Jesus shared in flesh and blood to become our merciful and faithful High priest, and also to be called our Brother (Hebrews 2:11-15).
  • Sharing in a heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1).
  • Sharing in Christ (Hebrews 3:13-14).
  • Sharing in an eternal rest, a homeland, an inheritance, a heavenly city (Hebrews 4:1,3,9; 10:34).
  • Sharing in the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4).
  • Sharing/becoming companions together in suffering for Christ (Hebrews 10:32-34; 11:25).
  • Sharing in God’s discipline/training (Hebrews 12:8), and through that we share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).
  • Sharing what we have with each other (Hebrews 13:3,16).

As Christians, we have the most important things in common. Hopefully this changes our perspective of how we see each other and appreciate each other. Let’s fight even harder to draw closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ…we need each other!

Days of Feasting, Gladness and Giving

This will be the last post for 2017. Happy New Year! Thanks for being such an encouragement to me this year! God bless you all richly! 

But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another. And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them.
(Esther 9:18-23)

The passage above from Esther records the beginnings of an annual Jewish holiday called Purim in which the Jews remembered their deliverance from the wicked plot of Haman to destroy all Jews. Mordecai set these times up for all Jews to have “days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”

They were times of feasting, gladness and giving, not really much different than our holiday seasons. Even Jesus participated in festive times like weddings and feasts like Hanukkah (John 2, 10). The returning exiles in Nehemiah’s day also had a time of celebration, feasting and gift-giving, and they were commanded to do so by God’s priests (Nehemiah 8:10-12). There is a time for everything, including a time to rest, and celebrate God’s blessings in our lives. Solomon plainly said that this “is from the hand of God.”

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

We must always keep in mind, though, that all blessings come from God, and that in rejoicing in those blessings, we must put Him first in our hearts. We also because of God’s rich blessings, begin to think of others who are not blessed in the same ways. Hopefully we as the Jews in Esther’s day will look to find those who do not have what we have and share our blessings from God with them.

Enjoy your holidays. Keep God first in your thoughts. Rejoice that we are so richly blessed. Consider others who are hurting and find ways to help. Don’t feel guilty having a good time with your family and friends, as long as you are doing so in obedience to God. As Solomon said in the above passage, “For apart from Him who can eat or have enjoyment?”

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(Philippians 4:4)

There Remains a Sabbath Rest

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:6-11)

A Sabbath rest is coming, an eternal rest. Just like God rested from His works, we will rest from ours. Some will fail to enter it, as the text says, and the encouragement is for us to “strive to enter that rest.” We are saved by grace, no doubt, but the Lord calls us to work until He calls us home to rest.

There is a day coming, when we will touch the face of God and rest in the light of His glory for eternity. Are you and I thinking about that rest? Our we taking the time to think of eternity, heaven and living in the presence of God forever? I know I need that more, how about you? Re-centering our minds on heaven helps us to see things today with a more hopeful and joyful perspective.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

 

Always Learning?

Paul once wrote to Timothy about those who were always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Jesus said it this way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). They were searching and studying and learning, but never arrived at truth. Why? Because they were unwilling to come to Jesus.

There are places that the road of truth will take us, and we at times will find ourselves very uncomfortable with the conclusions we have to make. On that pathway, the light of truth will expose us and show us the actions we must take in order to be consistent with the truth. So the choice is there, accept, believe and obey the truth before us, or another option is to keep learning. We can fill our brains with all kinds of Bible facts, and never get one bit closer to Jesus.

Another example comes from the book of Mark. The people in Jesus’ hometown were asking some great questions, which if they had the right heart they would have come to believe in Jesus. Read the following passage.

Mark 6:1-6
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

If they would have really thought about these questions in sincerity they would have come to the right conclusion about Jesus. Nicodemus, a ruler among the Pharisees, knew that Jesus could not do these mighty works unless He came from God (John 3). Others like the woman with the blood issue (Mark 5) and the Roman centurion (Matthew 8) also came to the right conclusions about Jesus. They all had limited information, but it was enough to produce a strong conviction about the identity and authority of Jesus.

So, what about us? Are we filling ourselves full of Bible facts, but failing to reach the obvious conclusions or take the steps necessary to be pleasing with Him? What are we doing with all of the Bible information and teaching that passes through our eyes and ears?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:22)

 

people really did ask some great questions about Jesus.

When God Brings Justice

I was listening to a video by Frank Turek this week and he made an excellent point about our view of God’s justice. He said something to the effect of, “So many people wander why God doesn’t do something about evil, but when He does do something about evil we don’t like how he went about it!”

We all can probably relate. There are times, I’m sure, when you have read the Bible and came across one of God’s judgments and were tempted to think, “Man, that’s harsh.” David was angry when God struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark of the covenant. Habakkuk had a really hard time accepting that God would send a more wicked nation (Chaldeans/Babylonians) to punish the nation of Judah. Abraham was very concerned about God being a just judge and doing what was right when it came to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

There are many more examples of people questioning God’s decisions, and we can all say that at some time we’ve wondered about why God does things the way He does. It can be a real struggle for our faith, but as we come through those valleys of confusion, we can have a much stronger faith and a better appreciation for who God is.

Here are a few thoughts about God when He administers justice.

When God brings justice:

  • God has exhausted all other avenues to bring someone or a group of people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If you read through the pages of the Bible and see the wrath and punishment of God, you can in those same texts see the mercy and long-suffering nature of God. He waits until there is no remedy but to bring punishment.
  • His punishment is at the right time, done in the right way, and is completely free of partiality (Romans 2).  This is why mankind does such a lousy job of vengeance and punishment. We often do it at the wrong time, with poor motives and full of favoritism.
  • He sees the hearts of mankind and sees the future. Since you and I can see neither of these, we are not equipped to make God’s judgments like He is. There is a lot of information He has access to that we will never have. I remember having a hard time wondering why God struck Uzzah dead while King David lived. God sees things that I don’t see, and I need to trust that.
  • God’s heart is always ready to forgive and receive back the sinner. We just studied about King Manasseh last Sunday. Manasseh was a really wicked dude. No king was as wicked as he was. God brought punishment upon King Manasseh and the nation of Judah, and what happened? Manasseh showed great humility and repented of his sins. God forgave him.

Our hearts can be built up in faith knowing that when God makes a decision, even a decision that causes us to shudder, we can be assured that it was the right decision with the purest motives. God will do what is right, and He will do it out of love.

then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
(2 Peter 2:9)

What Do You Have When the Gifts Go Away?

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Love never ends, but the gifts will go away. Paul was seeking to show them a better and more excellent way, the way of love (1 Corinthians 12:31). The miraculous spiritual gifts that these brethren possessed would one day fade away. They were all in part, but the perfect word of God when completed would bring their gifts to fulfillment and would pass away. As we have the perfect completed word of God, we have no need of prophecy, tongues and miraculous knowledge. Those gifts all were part of bringing the whole revealed word to completion.

Paul’s illustration of the transition of a child into manhood helps explain the usefulness of those miraculous spiritual gifts during the infancy of the church. They didn’t have Matthew through Revelation, but now we do, and now every person can look into the perfect law of liberty (James 1:23-25). We can look into the mirror of the word and see plainly face to face the image of Christ and with the power of the Holy Spirit that word can transform us into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So, the things that these brethren in Corinth were so focused on were temporary and were going to fade away. What they were not focused on was the love that never ends. They are not any different than you and me are they?

What do you have when the gifts and talents go away? If the things that you have that you really hold dear are taken away, what do you have left? Some have great looks, others have charm. Some are really financially savvy, and others are great working with their hands. There are those who are super intelligent and can solve really complex problems. Some guys are great with words, while others have incredible physical and athletic abilities. Again, what happens when those gifts and talents go away?

What do you have left? Do you have love? If all your gifts, talents and abilities are gone, what are you left with?

Go back to the earlier section of 1 Corinthians 13. Are you patient and kind, or are you arrogant and rude? Do you hope for the best or look for the worst in people? Are you irritable and resentful or do you bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Would you be described as someone who always has to be right and insists on his or her own way? Or would you be described as someone who rejoices with the truth, and does so without envying or boasting?

When the abilities go away, do you have love?

“Pursue love…” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

When Our Gift Gets in the Way

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
(Romans 12:3-9)

Anna and I were talking about the concept of when our gift can actually become a curse. She was listening to some lessons online about this very thing, and she pointed out that sometimes we don’t know when to use our gift and when to turn it off. There are occasions when what God has blessed us with a talent but the way we use it can really cause a hindrance in our relationships.

Here is an example from Scripture:

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.
(Proverbs 25:20)

It may be that your gift is you are an incredibly positive and upbeat person. You always see the bright side of everything. That’s wonderful! But you might come across as really annoying or even as one who minimizes the pain of others by how you approach them. A sister who just lost a spouse may not want to hear you sing, “Sing and be happy.” If you are that person who always sees the bright side, you might have trouble comprehending why others do not. You will have to be very careful then on how you approach someone who doesn’t share that same gift.

Some people are great teachers, but what comes with that sometimes is that those who are really gifted at telling others what they need to do have a hard time turning that off. They are not really good at listening and asking questions and truly finding out what’s on someone’s mind. Having something to say is not always the right thing. Solomon said, “There is a time to be silent” (Ecclesiastes 3).

On the reverse side of that, there are sometimes those who are really gifted at being awesome listeners, but it may be that God wants them to speak up in that situation. Being silent is not always the right thing. Solomon said, “There is a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3).

Just something to think about today. What are your gifts and talents that God has blessed you with? Have there been times that what you are really good at has actually become a hindrance in your relationships? What can you do about that with God’s help? Have you asked God to help you use your gift in a way that will lift up and not hurt others?

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
(Romans 12:15-16)

Go home to your friends, part 2

And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:17-20)

Everyone marveled. Yesterday’s article was about the formerly demon-possessed man who was sent by Jesus as an evangelist to the region of Decapolis. A man who at one time went around naked, screaming, breaking chains, howling at the moon, and scaring a lot of his neighbors is now set right and cleansed by Jesus. He was commissioned by Jesus to go home to his friends and talk about the Lord’s goodness and mercy. His message clearly had an impact.

A friend, Matt, followed up with me yesterday and sent me this note, and I wanted to share it with you today.

Here’s one of my favorite parts of that story. We don’t really know where the region of the Gerasenes was, but I think scholars think it was in Decapolis. Then in Mark 7-8 Jesus goes back to Decapolis and what do we see? Tons of people coming to Jesus. That’s where he feeds 4,000. I’d like to think that’s because of the demon-possessed man!

Great thought!

Here are two more examples of the impact someone can have on those around him or her.

How about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4?

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
(John 4:28-30)

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:34-42)

Take note of what Jesus just said. “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” The apostles were going to reap what the Samaritan woman had sown. Look at the very next verse: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” What one woman planted led to a harvest of souls for Jesus. Remember that woman was a Samaritan woman who had been married and divorced multiple times!

Is it possible that the reason the Samaritans in Acts 8 were so receptive to the gospel is because of the initial work of the Samaritan woman years before to bring so many to hear Jesus?

Is it possible that the reason so many in Decapolis were receptive to Jesus was because of the demon-possessed man who went there and told everyone about what Jesus did?

Yes, it is certainly possible, but regardless, we know that each passage shows immediate impact and influence for Jesus.

Here is another example: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. How much do you know about Andrew, other than he was an apostle? He doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the New Testament. Really the only time he is specifically mentioned in the book of John, he is bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40-42, 6:8; 12:22).

Think about Simon Peter. Peter was without a doubt one of the pillars of the church. He was one of the most influential people in the New Testament and the early church. Question: who brought Simon Peter to Jesus? His brother Andrew.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
(John 1:40-42)

Can you begin to quantify the impact that the Samaritan woman, Andrew, and the demon-possessed man had on generations upon generations to come? How far did that influence spread? I heard a statement long ago that you can count the seeds in one apple but you can’t begin to count the apples in one seed.

Do not minimize the impact that one seed planted for Jesus has. Plant that seed today, brothers.