Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Power, Love, Self-Discipline

Paul writes to the Evangelist Timothy saying this: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)

This past Sunday we talked about being led by the Spirit, moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary. (You can listen to it here ). To move from the ordinary to the extraordinary means we are going to need to take some risks. We can't be timid.

So if we have been given a spirit of power what does that mean? It means we need to pray for God's power to come. We should not pray timid prayers, we need to boldly pray for God to heal people, intervene in life events and world events. We are calling on Him to do miracles today. Will every prayer end up in a miracle--no. But that should not stop us from asking God to do the impossible. Try it today. Boldly pray for God to bless you or someone else, calling on Him to perform a miracle. Be persistent, don't stop after one day. If God does the miraculous comment on this post so others can see the power of God. Pray for the extraordinary to happen.

If he gives us a spirit of love what does that mean? It means we need to love people extraordinarily. It is not an ordinary or normal love. Jesus talks about this love in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:43-48, he teaches us that His followers don't just love those who love them--they love their enemies, those who persecute them and those who are unlovable. How can you show the love of Jesus this week by loving the unlovable? Try it this week. Love someone extraordinarily, someone one that is hard to love. Show them love in a simple and practical way.

Then he say we have been given a spirit of self-discipline. Where do you need the Spirit to help you when it comes to self-discipline? Is there a sin you are struggling with? Is it a spiritual practice you need to do better? Is it a life change? Don't be like everyone else, don't do what is normal--add some self-discipline to your life and let God help you through whatever your struggle may be.

We all need to recognize this spirit that God has given us and allow Him to move us from being ordinary to extraordinary.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Let the Spirit Move You From Ordinary to Extraordinary

The Holy Spirit is so misunderstood within Christianity. It almost makes me nervous talking about Him. However, as followers of Jesus we need to learn to live by the Spirit's leading. Why? Because according to what the Bible says about Jesus' followers and the church, the Spirit plays a huge role.

Our verse of the week at Northwest is "And in Him (Jesus) you too (the church) are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit." Ephesians 2:22

Isn't that nice. God's Spirit dwells in the church. That should bring us comfort, peace and give us a feeling of safety, right? Yes and No. 

The presence of the Spirit means we are led by the Spirit. Being led by the Spirit means we are going to be asked to do things that may take us out of our comfortable padded pews and our safe little Bible studies moving us to take Godly risks. Moving us from ordinary to extraordinary.

Being Spirit-led means there will be times we go against logic--and in those moments we will see God do the extraordinary. 

I took a student with other students on a mission trip to Brooklyn, NY.  This student said he was an atheist. I knew he was going for all the wrong reasons, but I had this gut feeling it was the right thing to do. I explained to him we were going to do a VBS and he would have to teach as if he did believe in God. He agreed. 

He was asked by a kid at VBS why he believed in God. So living by what I asked him to do he began to explain why he believed. That night he told us about having to share why he believed in God. He then told us that as he was explaining his reasoning he realized he did believe. Who would have thought an atheist teaching VBS would come to an understanding about God. I will tell you who--God. 

God did the extraordinary in a very ordinary situation. 

This is the church being the church, letting the Spirit lead us to extraordinary places that only God can imagine. 

Later in Ephesians Paul takes the dwelling of the Spirit to an individual level, "I pray that out of His glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." Ephesians 3:16-17

The Spirit dwells within your inner being--in your soul. We have to learn to let Him lead and not keep His presence limited to our own knowledge. If we want to live extraordinary lives as followers we have to let the Spirit lead us as we live on mission for God.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

First Love

I was finishing up my teaching for Sunday this morning. We are beginning a series called "We Are . . . The Church." We are going to look into several things that make the church, the church. We are starting with a passage from Revelation 2:1-7. In Revelation Jesus addresses 7 churches, the first is Ephesus. He begins by talking about how good they are in the church at Ephesus. He is saying to them  "you are good people and a good church." Then he says this:

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Consider how far you have fallen!" Revelation 2:4-5

There are two groups of people in the church, those who have grown up in the church and those who have become a follower later in life. Those who have become a follower later in life seem to have a greater zeal, at least for a while. Then they meet the second group-- those who have grown up in the church (smh).

Those who have become a follower later in life have a greater zeal because "how far they have fallen" is fresh on their mind. They grasp grace a whole lot better because they knew they life they had before Jesus and the life they now have with Jesus. They are zealous to share their faith because they have this great love for Jesus.

Those of us who have grown up in the church sometimes don't appreciate how good we've had it. I know, because I am one of those people. As one of these people I understand how easy it is to become complacent with my love for Jesus. We take Him for granted.

Jesus tells us how we can get back on track with our love for Him when he says, "Consider how far you have fallen!" Remember where you would be without Jesus spiritually. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. His love is shown when we consider what we have been saved from combined with how we have been saved through Jesus.

I mentioned earlier how those who become a follower later in life have a greater zeal and love of Jesus. If you have been a follower all your life here is something you need to do:

1) Learn from those who have become a follower later in life. Watch as they worship, serve and love God. Let them be a reminder of how far you have fallen and what Jesus has saved you from.

2) Don’t kill the zeal and excitement new followers have by imposing unnecessary traditions and practices on them. Instead long for the love they have for Jesus.

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?