Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Plea For Onesimus

“I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.” (Philemon 10, 11)

As we continue to examine God’s love through our current series “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” I felt God speaking to me and say “Continue to talk to my people about love! Because I want my sons and daughters to stop running; you’re running from your own giftedness. This hard person you have become is not you. This callous you have put over your heart that you did to protect yourself from the pain of being you, has incarcerated you; your strength is in the vulnerability of your own passion. If you stop running from the fear of being hurt you would find the power of living forward. Stop running. Stop running from how I created you. Stop pretending to be tougher than you are. Stop allowing your past to make you cold and callous and independent. Stop running Onesimus, the Church at Ephesus is waiting on you! And you can not be my leader if you are living on the run. Don’t be running at a time you should be thinking. Don’t be running at a moment that if you were free, you would be useful. When you get to church, tell Onesimus, stop running! What is waiting on you on the other side of your own fear and insecurity? I wonder how much more useful you could be, free, than you would be running.”  The name Onesimus means “useful.” And to all of this God has written you a love letter to liberate you for what He is about to do in your life! What is your response to God?

I work with a lot of people that are down and out. I gravitate to people like that. I have always been for the underdog I guess because I was there at one time in my life. People can be so mean to you; they can put their foot on you and be so cruel over you and your mess and ignore their own mess and prosecute and persecute you; loosing sight of their own wretchedness.

I am afraid we are living in a generation that is losing its ability to love. I am afraid that God has to allow trouble to come and shake us to our senses to show us that there is a higher calling than this pettiness that we succumb to. People hiding behind Facebook and Twitter saying more vicious things than I can believe.

In the midst of a storm or a tragedy we stop our pettiness for a higher reasoning that we could be more useful to each other together, than we are apart. When you are under water drowning, you don’t care who it is that helps you. Our world is under water; our country is under water; this generation is under water. Stop running Onesimus! We need you to save our generation! We need you!              

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

There is a wonderful Hebrew word in the Old Testament which is used as the theme of a minor prophet named Hosea. What is interesting about this word is there is no English equivalent. The Hebrew word is “Chesed” and in the Hebraic language it means covenant—marriage. There is a commitment in this word. It means love, but also loyalty. True love is not love unless it is loyal! It is an unswerving love - undying devotion - committed to loving someone no matter what. There is an old English word once used that was similar in meaning - which is “troth”, for instance in the KJV Bible as “betrothed.” It means commitment - loyalty.

You don’t see that word used much anymore just as you don’t seem to see commitment in marriages considering 6 of 10 end in divorce. The whole relationship between God and Israel is a covenant love. There is a “Chesed.”

On Israel’s side it meant loyalty to God’s commandments - obedience. God’s part was to look after them and provide for them. God was looking for glad, eager obedience, a wanting to live the way that God wanted them to live. But that’s what He didn’t get. Psalm 119 is all about someone who delights in God’s law. The message of Hosea is very simple: “What has happened to our marriage?” There is still “Chesed” on my side but there is none on your side. What went wrong?”

The most painful thing in the world is to love someone and have them not return that love; to want to love them and help them, but they won’t have it. How could Hosea understand God’s feelings so well? Answer: God taught him in the school of experience. God prepared the prophets through marriage to teach them the personal feelings of God.

Ezekiel was told that his wife was going to die and that he was not to weep, signifying the pain that God would have to endure when Israel would turn their back on Him. Jeremiah was told not to marry so as to experience what it felt like to have his people not with him, a heart of loneliness; God’s lonely heart for His people.

But Hosea is the best example, for God told him to go and marry a prostitute! Many lessons were learned through this experience but through it all, God was still faithful. Even when we are unfaithful, God is still faithful. His divine faithfulness proved that He could not let them off - He could not let them go - and He could not let them down! God’s love “Chesed”  - in which we will never have a full knowledge of, but we can experience it each and every day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Good Ground!

About a third of Jesus’ teaching was by parables. A parable (a casting alongside) is a brief story told by way of analogy to illustrate a spiritual truth. Jesus places a special emphasis on a particular parable. “But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?’” Mark 4:10, 13

Jesus makes it clear that unless this parable is understood it is not possible to understand any of the parables. This then, is a great motivation to study it. That is exactly why we are spending four weeks going through this parable in our series “Where Are You?” This parable is also told in Matthew 13 and Luke chapter 8. The key to understanding it is found in the 15th verse of Luke chapter 8 where Jesus says: “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Good ground is a good heart! God wants each of His children to be moving down life’s road toward a “good heart.”

What does that mean? That we will never sin? No, the Bible says that there is no perfect one, no not one. Sinless perfection isn’t possible this side of heaven. Even Paul acknowledged that he tried to reach this status - but wasn’t able to. (Philippians 3:12-14)

He admitted candidly that he was aiming for perfection - but he wasn’t there yet. But that didn’t mean he would stop trying! Refusing to allow yesterday’s failures to discourage him or tomorrow’s challenges to intimidate him, he would make it his life goal to strain and press toward the mark. The Bible urges all of us to mature in our walk with the Lord - and especially in our love for others. This “Telos” perfection is explained in Ephesians 4:13 “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect [Telos] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

That’s a long way to go and a long way to grow. It is a step-by-step journey enabled by the gift of God’s grace and the faith that He gives to every believer. In fact, God is jealous that we walk in this direction - hour by hour, day by day, year by year.

Are you willing to allow the Lord to perform a work in your heart?           

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Don’t Seek Things... Seek God!

We are finding out through our series “Where Are You?” from the parable in Mark 4 that Satan is at every stage of our Christian growth, attacking the Word in our lives. Matthew 6:33 says “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

The idea of putting God first appears throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, God’s people gave what was called “first fruits offering” which meant they gave to Him the first of everything they had - their produce, first born animals, first born sons, their gold and silver - everything. So, if a man worked as a farmer, he gave the first crops that appeared in his field to the Lord as an offering. When we give God our firsts, we are saying “Lord, I want to give this to You before I do anything else. I trust You to take care of me and meet all of my needs and I want to honor You with the first evidence of my provision and increase. I don’t want to give You my leftovers; I want to give You my “firsts” to show You are first in my life. I am giving You my first fruits; and I trust You to bring more.” If we give God the first of everything that comes our way, the rest is blessed!

We have to understand, God is a creator, not a consumer. Everything we have comes from Him; He simply asks for the first portion of it back - not because He needs it, but because we need to give it to keep ourselves mindful of the fact that He is preeminent in our lives. Nothing we offer to Him is ever lost; instead it can be multiplied because we put it in His hands. I encourage you to put God first by giving Him your firsts. Give Him the first part of every day by spending it with Him before you do anything else. Begin to schedule your day around God instead of trying to work God into your day. If we give Him the first part, He will make the rest extremely productive.

Give God the first portion of your finances by not waiting to see what you have left over for Him after the bills. Give God the first of your attention, by turning to Him for guidance before you run to your friends or to the internet for advice. God is great and He is our God! HE is able and willing to do more for us than we could ever ask or think. He desires to enlarge your life and He wants you to enjoy not only your life, but HIM!

Do you enjoy God? Are you in close fellowship with Him? Is He first in your life? Don’t be afraid to answer these questions honestly because God loves honesty. Putting God first is a choice. You have to do it deliberately, but it’s a choice that brings greater blessings than you could ever imagine - peace in your heart, joy, fulfillment in life, provision for every need, and every other good thing. Put God first in your life today and every day. And watch to see what He will do!