Wednesday, August 19, 2009

We've likely heard the old adage, "practice makes perfect". It's partially true in that practice leads, not necessarily to perfection, but to a level of mastery. I've invested many hours of practice in baseball, basketball, track, and golf over the years but am far from perfect in any of these.

Practice is a two-edged sword. The level of mastery attained through practice can be good or bad, depending on the subject of our practice. Consider:

"everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:3,4) ... "Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning." (1 John 3:7,8) ... "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:9,10)

The key question is, "What am I practicing?" What repetitive activities and habits are characteristic of my life? Am I "practicing" righteousness, or "practicing" wickedness? It is really one or the other. One of the devil's great schemes is to convince us that some activities are neutral - neither helpful or hurtful. Ultimately, whatever we practice - habits and activities - either build up or tear down. They draw us closer to the Lord or pushes us further away.

A periodic inventory of habits and activities is essential. Carefully scrutinizing our lives with the question, "Is this preparing me for life in the coming Kingdom or placing me in danger of judgment?", will reap eternal dividends.

No athlete ever excelled in a sport without practice. Similarly, no one will enter the Kingdom of God without practicing the lifestyle that the Lord desires.

Working on the "practice",


Monday, August 17, 2009

The scene is school registration for a new year, and it's time to pick up the text books for classes. Picture a student who is enrolled in far too many classes. He goes down the line and book after book is piled into his arms until he can barely see where he is going. He appears to be carrying far too large of an academic load - in more ways than one.

Sometimes expectations for the Christian life can seem just as burdensome. The following expectations sound like a student's increasing book load at registration:

"applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? It's enough to cause even the most devoted follower to cry out in exasperation, "Back up the divine book mobile; I can't possibly do all this!" And that would be a reasonable reaction if we were expected to do these things in our own power. But we're not.

Verse 5 begins with the phrase, "Now for this very reason also". The reason why we are to accumulate this "book pile" of spiritual qualities is because of a key truth already mentioned. Verse 3 says, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." Did you catch that all-important word, "everything"? Through the power of Holy Spirit, God has bestowed on and in us all that is needed for godliness and Christian living. Not only has he supplied the "text books"; He has also supplied the means to master the content. He literally causes us to be "partakers of the divine nature" (verse 4) through His power.

It's easy to misunderstand God's expectations. Often in Scripture we see what He desires and mistakenly assume it is to be done in our own power and strength. In reality He outlines the objectives He wishes to accomplish in us by His power. Thus, this "book pile" of spiritual qualities in 2 Peter 1 is merely descriptive of what He will do as we submit and surrender to His Spirit. As we see these qualities in increasing evidence in our lives we are encouraged to know that He is doing what He desires in us.

May you experience the joy of growth through His divine power today.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

There's a whole lot of shakin' goin' on, but not in our real world. Health care reform, budget deficit, and unemployment rumble across this nation like giant boulders rolling down a hillside. Assumed securities and privileges are undergoing drastic changes and many people's worlds are being rocked to the very core. Although none are immune to the impact of these changes, our real world is not shaken in the least.

"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29)

The "attitude of gratitude" is our response to an unshakeable kingdom. When all the sifting, sorting, and shaking in this age is over one ultimate unshakeable reality will remain: God's kingdom. Believers partially live within that realm now as we await its final consummation. The bedrock of our faith and security is resolute belief in this kingdom and its king: "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18).

The present systems of the world are being rocked to their very foundations. It is as though God has thrown everything of this world into a great flour sifter and it is being violently shaken until only the unshakeable remains. Or, using a more biblical analogy, the labor pains are intensifying that ultimately will result in the birth of the kingdom.

The more this present world degenerates the more we are reminded of the government to which we truly belong. And we are profoundly thankful. That gratitude becomes the springboard for acceptable service in the eyes of our Father and His Son, our Messiah and Savior.

The world is violently shaking these days, but our true world remains unshakeable. Embrace this great truth. Overflow with thanksgiving. Freely serve from gratitude.

Press on, unshakeable kingdom citizens.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Better a sharp pencil than a short memory. So goes an old saying about battling forgetfulness. No one is immune to lapses of memory but forgetfulness seems to be an increasing battle as we age (What's my point here? What was it I was starting out to write? ...)

Regardless of our propensity to forget no matter what our age, we remember that which is the focus of our most intense mental energies. And there is one area of utmost importance, requiring the very best of our mental efforts:

"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it." (Hebrews 2:1)

According to the inspired writer, there is something we have heard and there is some specific reason given as to why we should be especially attentive to it. The answer is found in a questions posed in the previous verse:

"Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14)

Our Father's appointed messengers are commissioned to serve those who are destined to inherit salvation. That's us! This salvation is so important that the Father's angels are sent to participate with us and assist us in the process of receiving this salvation. An awareness of their commissioned work, the writer of Hebrews tells us, provides incentive to "pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it." The salvation we anticipate receiving requires our best mental efforts.

I'm often surprised at how little some believers have researched their hope. Much concentrated effort goes in to researching retirement plans and insurance policies, but what about the most important "policy" of all - salvation in the age to come? Is it really about "pie in the sky when you die", or ruling the world with Christ at His return? Concentrated attention to this will not only provide accurate information but also powerful incentive for lifestyle.

Drifting away from our all-important inheritance is a distinct possibility if we are not focusing concentrated mental energy on it. The hope and life of the age to come is worthy of our best study and research. Perhaps the best investment you can make in your ultimate future is to buy a notebook or start a blog or computer document entitled, "God's Promised Inheritance To Me". Pore over the pages of the Bible in search of clues and answers. I'll dare say it will be the most profitable study of your life.

Yours for our kingdom inheritance,


Monday, August 03, 2009

Priorities ... deadlines ... how did life ever get this way? The siren of the urgent sounds and we scramble to fit one more task into an already crowded schedule. Is it possible the this is one of the enemy's tactics - to keep us so busy with the urgent that there is little or no time for the important?

Several millennia ago the word of the Lord came to a prophet to remind the people of God of important priorities:

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'This people says, "The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.'" Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?" Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:2-5)

The Jewish nation was conquered, plundered and pillaged because of their sinful disobedience. But the sentence for sin had been served and now the people were allowed to returned to their homeland through the gracious provision of God's grace. Their first priority was for their own safety and comfort (not necessarily a bad thing), and so they set out to build and rebuild houses. Not only did they build homes for themselves, they also went to great measures to furnish their homes with the finest in comforts and decorations. These were no design-on-a-dime projects! The problem was the house of the One true God lay in neglected ruin all the while the people of God were consumed with apportioning their dwellings with creature comforts.

So what's the lesson and the moral of the story? Should local church congregations invest large amounts of time and money in their church facilities? Does Christian responsibility dictate neglect of our personal residences in order to equip and furnish an excellent facility for God's use?

Let's be clear on exactly what the "house of God" really is today. It's not a holy place; it's a holy people:

"you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)

To invest in the house of God is to invest in the people of God. Perhaps Haggai's admonition to us today would challenge us to less time with TV and video games and more time with God's people; less Facebook and more face time; less pursuit of personal interests and greater priority on "body building".

Time spent with God's people is time well invested. A goal of encouraging just one believer each day will reap benefits in this age as well as the age to come. Building relationship bonds builds the house of God.

It may sound trite but it's true and noble: reach out in encouragement to one believer today.