Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Make Every Effort to Live at Peace

"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Hebrews 12:14-15

I have been giving this verse a lot of thought today.

"Make every effort to live in peace with all men." Exhaust yourself chasing after peace with others is what the writer is saying to followers of Jesus. With that said we have to understand peace will not always be achieved. There will be times when there are disagreements, but when there are, work toward a peaceful solution.

The problem with our country and our world right now is that we are too polarized. When there are disagreements it separates us creating an enemy for life. This is not the way of God, this is the way of the world. Nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions, they just want to blame those who don't agree with them. This is no way to chase after peace.

Culture has divided us into groups: rich and poor, black and white, Christian and Atheists, man and woman, liberal and conservative . . . Through these divisions we have made our enemy some really good people who just happen not to agree with us. This weakens us as a nation and a world because we are so busy fighting among each other we don't stand up to real enemies of the world.

I am in no way saying we should not stand up for what we believe in, because we should. What I am saying is we need to have peaceful disagreements and peaceful resolutions if at all possible so "that no bitter root grows and causes trouble and defile many (vs 15).

I am speaking to Christians right now because how we disagree matters. We should make every effort to live in peace with all men because the writer of Hebrews says it is tied to holiness. And the writer says without holiness people will not see God. We need to set the example for the world when it comes to peace. When we disagree with others we need to see to it that no one misses the grace of God in the process.

I got to hear Ravi Zacharias do a question and answer time several weeks ago. He has always been a guy who stands up for his Christian beliefs. When you hear him speak you can learn a lot on how to answer some of the tougher questions, but it is not his knowledge that is most impressive. It is the spirit in which he disagrees with others. He does it with grace. He honestly chases after peace in the way he stands up for truth. He is truly a modern day example of how we need to make every effort to live at peace with all men.

When I reflect on this verse I think of Jesus. How he was focused on the mission of grace. How he was pursuing holiness in such a way so people could see God. When he was betrayed, beaten, mocked and crucified he chased after a peaceful outcome. Without Jesus standing for truth in a peaceful manner we may never understand the grace of God.

Jesus was not passive. He was bold and courageous as he revealed the grace of God for all.

Now it is our turn.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Servant

The disciples are sitting around the table getting ready to share the Passover meal. Their host, Jesus, begins to do something that had to make them pause in silence. As was the custom the host would provide a servant to wash the feet of their guests as they reclined at the table.

I often wonder when Jesus began to wash the feet of one of his disciples if they even recognized it was him. I wonder if they just kept talking knowing what was happening was common enough that many guest never looked at the person who was doing this lowly task of washing feet. I wonder if they just took for granted what was happening until they noticed it was Jesus.

Peter speaks up because he is embarrassed that Jesus is taking on this lowly role. But Jesus tells Peter, if you don't let me serve you--you will have no part of me.

Stunned they watched as Jesus finished serving each of them in an act the host never does. He then begins to teach them about living as one of his disciples.

"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who has sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:13-17

Not only has their host washed their feet, their Lord and Rabbi has taken on the role of this lowly servant. He said he did it to give them an example as to how they should live as one of His followers. Jesus says His followers will serve one another in some of the most humbling ways.

He also says that since He has done this as "Lord" and "Teacher"--we are not exempt as His followers. If He is willing to humble Himself and serve, we need to have the same attitude because we are not greater than He is--He is our master, we are His servant--We are His messengers and He is the one who sends us out to serve the world.

Philippians 2:5-7 says this:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Who are you going to serve today?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Is Over, Now What?

Easter is over. The big crowd, the new clothes, the Krispy Kreme donuts, it's over until next year. Then we do it all over again.

Here is the thing, when Jesus rose from the dead they did not wait until the next "Easter Sunday" to celebrate His resurrection.

At first there was a little confusion, they really didn't know what to do. When he was in the tomb they assumed this journey was over, but when he rose from the grave they were in uncharted territory. Even though he tried to let them know what was going to happen they themselves were in a place of the unknown.

After forty days of being present with His disciples they probably thought it was going to go back to business as usual. But he left again. He ascended into heaven and promised a return.

Before he ascended he said this to them, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

They were given a charge--a responsibility--and it was not just waiting for the next Easter Sunday.

They were given the power of the Holy Spirit and told to be Jesus' witness to the very ends of the earth. Witnesses to what? They were to testify to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It was not a once a year celebration--it was every day!

Notice He didn't say to go and witness. He said to be a witness. We are to live in such away that people see Jesus by the way we live our life. He wants people to see His resurrection power in our changed lives. He wants us to live a questionable life so that people will question how we live--then we get to testify about Jesus.

Do people see Jesus through your life? Are you one of His witnesses?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Live and Believe

In John 11, Jesus goes to Bethany because His good friend Lazarus has died. When He arrives one of Lazarus' sisters approaches and tells Jesus if he had been there her brother would not have died. Jesus says the unbelievable--"Your brother will rise again."

She responds by saying "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

Here is Jesus' response:

     I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and
     whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26)

If you are a follower of Jesus you may be familiar with this verse. Sometimes familiarity can cause a person to miss all of what Jesus is saying.

So many times I hear people say all you have to do is believe in Jesus. People will say that in order to experience the resurrection all that is required is belief. But that is just part of what Jesus says. He says that in order for us to never die (spiritually) we must "live" and "believe."

The believe part is considered fairly easy to accomplish. All a person needs to do is say they believe in Jesus. I can make that statement in this post: "I Scott Baker, believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and even though I die, I can live for eternity."

I confidently can make this statement because of the redeeming quality of God, through His Son, Jesus. I have life because of God's grace.

It is the second part to my belief that is most convincing. Do I "live" in Jesus? Is my belief so strong in Jesus that my life is different from the world. Can people tell I am a disciple of Jesus by the way I live?

It is the "living in Jesus" that defines me as a Christian. It is more than a statement of faith verbally. It is a statement of faith physically--faith by action.

Do you believe in Jesus enough you are going to be defined by Him--is your identity found in Jesus?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Are you a Disciple?

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. -- Luke 14:27
 
 
Without over analyzing this short statement by Jesus I want to think through what Jesus is trying to say to those who would call themselves His disciples. I want to look at the last part of His statement first--"Cannot be my disciple."
 
If we have a desire to identify ourselves with Jesus, which is really what defines a disciple, then maybe we should think about what it is Jesus says disqualifies us from being a disciple. Jesus makes it very clear that just stating that we are a disciple of his is not enough.
 
There is something more than just stating our allegiance to Him. It involves movement and a cross. Jesus was beaten and then had the burden of carrying the cross to his death. When we get a mental picture of this journey we begin to understand Jesus' commitment to the mission. This mission required a sacrifice. So if we are going find identity in Jesus the first thing is to have a willingness to sacrifice.
 
Sacrifice!? Sacrifice what? Whatever get is in the way of the second part of the qualifier. Jesus said we must carry our cross and "Follow Him." When our identity is found in Jesus we will follow his ways while we live on this earth. We will reflect His image.
 
In order to qualify as a disciple--someone who identifies with Jesus--we must sacrifice what ever gets in the way of following Jesus. And then we follow Him.
 
As we approach Easter and as we talk about the cross, find something you are willing to sacrifice in order to follow Jesus. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

What if you had access to the smartest and most powerful person in the world to help you build your life, your business or your church, would you listen to them?

Of course you would. You may ask some questions and push back, but ultimately you would respect that persons knowledge and strength.  Most, if not all of your decisions would be based on that access.

Then why is it so difficult to let God lead? I mean he is the most powerful--the creator of the universe. He is the wisest--Paul says that "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength" (1 Corinthians 1:25).

If this is true, and as a follower I believe it is, then why can't I let Him lead?

Think about this verse from Psalms 127:1:

     "Unless God builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

Get out of the way and let God lead. Let Him be the center of your family, your career or your church.

He has the greatest wisdom and the greatest strength. Only a foolish person would go it alone.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Stop . . .


Elihu, the younger friend of Job is angry because Job charges God of being his enemy. So he speaks to Job, correcting him for questioning God.

In the middle of going through hell on earth, this young friend of Job utters these words, "Stop and consider the wonders of God." (Job 37:14)

Elihu is challenging Job to look at how God has blessed him despite the major set backs in life. Before Elihu tells Job to consider the great things God has done, he tells him to "Stop."

What great advice for all of us. Something goes wrong at home, at work or at church. Frustration sets in, we begin to rant about our situation. We blame God for our circumstances or the current situation. We begin to get angry because we have not gotten what we want. What should we do?

     Stop!

     Pause!

Think about how you have been blessed. Too many times we think about what we don't have instead of thinking about the things we do have.

Look around you. How does God show His wonder? Do you ever consider the ways of God? Do you ever consider God's presence in your life?

A lot of times we miss the wonders of God because we don't take the time to "Stop." Their is great purpose in taking a days rest to experience the blessings of God. How often do you rest in the presence of God and consider His blessings?

Not the things you want? But what he has blessed you with--food, water, clothing shelter, relationships and His grace. "Stop" and consider His wonders, thanking Him for the blessings you need.