Archive for category Devotions
Last year for Christmas my wife bought me a Georgia Tech coffee mug. As expected, it has become my favorite cup. Nate, my 2 year old son, has a favorite cup as well. His cup is a “sippy cup” decorated with various characters from the movie Cars. It is made specifically for kids who would rather spill juice than drink it. I do not expect Nate to drink from my cup; neither does he expect ‘Dad’ to drink from his. I have my cup; Nate has his. Two different cups….two different people.
Let’s suppose that I made Nate drink out of my cup. Better yet, let’s imagine that I bought a Georgia Tech cup for each member of my family and demanded that they only drink from it. Would you label me as “Crazy”, “A Fanatic”, “A Nut”?
I agree. Demanding everyone to drink out of the same container is ludicrous. Which is more important? The container, or the contents which the container holds?
When speaking of “new life,” Jesus often used the metaphor of “water.” While conversing with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, Jesus contrasted physical water from spritual water: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John4:13-14).
Too many churches will only pour the living water into something they like or would pick up. Churches are dying on the vine because they won’t trust the gospel to fit and fill containers with handles they don’t like. Only in Jesus Christ did the container and content become one.
Although Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), the containers used to share Him are always changing. Our task is to pour the living water into anything anyone will pick up. This is the point of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.
If the church is going to reach the growing “unchurched” community, then we must be like the Apostle Paul and be willing to present the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ in different ways. By the way, which is more important? The container? Or the contents which the container holds?
Occasionally on a Sunday afternoon my children will approach me in great excitement with the words, “Dad lets go on a nature walk!” tumbling off their tongue. Like a bear awaken from slumber, I slowly rise from the sofa, yawn, place my shoes on my feet, and stumble out the door. The brisk wind blankets my face, and the sunlight blurs the image of Nate and Abby skipping to the pasture gate.
On this particular walk, I am overwhelmed with the vastness and beauty of God’s creation. The sky is clear as crystal and the sun’s brilliance illuminates the earth below. My children are unaware that the ground which their feet are trotting is moving at a speed 67,000 miles per hour in relation to the sun. The sun, which seems a stones throw away, is a stunning 93 million miles from home; a distance so great that it would take 176 years to travel moving at a speed of 60 miles per hour. This immenseness propelled David to write in Psalm 8, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
Our walk leads to the outskirts of the family farm where a creek serves as a boundary. Nate’s walking turns to sprinting when he hears the gurgle of the water and sees the refraction of the sun’s light. Along the way Nate has collected a few stones which he intends to display at the rock throwing contest against his big sister. The excess water from the winter rains provides a sufficient amount of water for a few stones. For a brief period of time I observe my children giggle and laugh as they toss their rocks into the water hoping their rock causes the greatest disturbance.
Apparently, Nate isn’t satisfied with the performance of his rocks, so at the approval of his big sister and the amazement of his dad, he jumps into the chilly waters. In sheer panic, I sprint to the creek’s edge and grab Nate and pull him from the water. I stripped him of his clothes, wrapped him in my coat, and we began our journey back home.
This experience with my children has made me think about the rocks I toss to God. How often do we toss our rocks to God, walk away and assume that He’s pleased with our service? We write our tithe checks, listen to Christian music, read the Scriptures, and faithfully attend services while our hearts are often far from Him. I find it interesting that Jesus’ anger was most often directed to the “religious” people of His day: “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42). When we read the Scriptures we discover that God isn’t interested in our rocks. He is interested in our hearts. Only when God has our hearts will He be satisfied with our stones.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30)
That’s not my Jesus! That Jesus was slandered, spit upon, beaten, and crucified. That Jesus died and I no longer belong to him!
When that Jesus was crucified, I was crucified: 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 (Galatians 2:20).When that Jesus died, I died: Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (Romans 6:8).
When that Jesus was buried, I was buried: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
I no longer belong to that Jesus because I have been joined to another: Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be joined to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God (Romans 7:4).
Minister or Volunteer?
“Here’s your tag,” were the words I heard upon my arrival at a Christian food bank. The tag had big bold letters emboldened across the front that spelled, “MINISTER.” I liked my tag, but much to my surprise only a few Christians present were wearing them. The majority were fashioning different tags labeled, “VOLUNTEER.” Although this characterization of God’s people may not seem unusual in today’s church, it would have been drastically foreign to the church of the 1st century:
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
The word, “minister” in the New Testament is the Greek word diakonos, which can be defined as “one who executes the commands of another.” Diakonos is used 29 times in the Greek New Testament. It is translated 26 times as either “minister” or “servant” and three times as “deacon.”
According to Scripture, a minister is a servant who exercises his or her gift to serve others for the glory of God. All Christians have been gifted for ministry and all Christians who use their gifts to serve others are “ministers.” Contrasting a “VOLUNTEER” from a “MINISTER” is simple: A “VOLUNTEER” donates his time, whereas a “MINISTER” exercises his gift. Anyone can serve as a “VOLUNTEER,” but only a child of God can serve as a “MINISTER.”
Kill Sin or Sin will Kill You
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Jesus, Matthew 5:29-30)
“Either be killing sin or sin will be killing you” are the words penned by the great puritan writer of the 17th century, John Owen. Sin is destructive. Left untreated its contamination will consume and eventually destroy its victim. Dealing with sin is simple, as indicated by Jesus in Matthew 5:29-30. First, sin must be identified: “If your right eye causes you to sin.” Second, it must be destroyed: “pluck it out and cast it from you.” Jesus is not advocating the mortification of the body but rather the mortification of sin. If a man were to pluck out his eyes he could still lust in his mind, just as a man could steal with his left hand in the absence of his right.
Jesus’ teaching is simple; identify and destroy. Although we may fail to destroy sin, sin will not fail in destroying us: “it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”