Guarded Steps

Sunday_1 Sam 2_9_Guarded Steps

We may not see what’s around the bend, but God promises to guard our steps as we faithfully follow Him.
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An Ongoing Choice

Luke 23_18_19_the ongoing choice

But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man!  Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder; Luke 23:18-19.)

It was originally a choice Pilate gave to the Jews one fateful day in Jerusalem – who would they prefer – Jesus?  Or Barabbas?  But in some ways, it’s a choice placed before us still today.  Even as followers of Christ, the temptation to “choose Barabbas” remains.

This is what I mean.  Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), the way, the truth, the life (John 14:6), and the resurrection (John 11:25).  His is the path that leads to light and life.  On the other hand, Barabbas was known for insurrection (aka, rebellion) and murder.  His path leads to darkness and death.

Do I think many of us are seriously tempted with murder – no, not really.  It’s that OTHER thing which Barabbas represented – rebellion – that’s a challenge for us.  The original Greek language used a word that meant “a standing,” which on the surface doesn’t sound so bad.  It’s good to take a stand once in a while, right?  However as used of Barabbas, it described a selfish independence.  Digging in one’s heals and doing things “my way” come heck or high water!  It’s a refusal to surrender one’s will to a higher power.

And that’s the path that concerns me.  For while I’d never seriously think of murdering another, I’m too frequently a traveler on Barabbas’ path of rebellion.  Like most people, I love to have MY way.  The idea of submitting my will to another is a hard sell.  And there it is…whose example will we follow – the Son of God who submitted to the Father?  Or Barabbas who submitted to nobody?

Which path are you on?  Remember – one leads us closer to God – the other leads us further away. –Dave

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Half-Moon Church

1 Cor 12_27_Half Moon Church

If you’re like most Christians, you’ve occasionally wondered if your participation in a local church really matters.  Shoot, according to one study, nearly half of all pastors report a temptation to resign on any given week!  Getting (and staying) plugged in takes dedication, perseverance, patience, and sometimes a lot of work!

And somewhere along the line, we end up asking the question, “Is it really worth it?”  After all, we can now catch a sermon on TV, or stream it live from a church’s website – why bother getting the kids ready, etc?  (Believe me, I remember those days!)  May I give you just a couple of answers to that question?

First, Scripture commands it – which really should be enough, shouldn’t it?  We are to be in the practice of gathering with like-minded followers of Christ routinely (Hebrews 10:25).  But why?  Well, first, that same verse tells us that while gathered together we have the opportunity to encourage one another.

Secondly, it’s really tough to practice the “one anothers” of Scripture (love one another, be patient with one another, carry one another’s burdens, etc) if we’re never around others.  It becomes a practical impossibility.

Lastly, we can accomplish more for Christ together than we can individually – it’s just the truth.  That little light of yours shines much, much brighter when it’s working alongside many other little shining lights.  Did you realize that a half-moon doesn’t reflect ½ the light of a full moon?  Not even close.  A full moon is >9 times brighter than a half-moon.  Likewise, a “full church” shines much more brightly in a darkened world.

It takes muscle to move the bones of any body – and you bring muscle to the mix.  As a result, the body of Christ can do more with you than without.  The single flame you bring matters, Christian – add it to the light of others regularly! –Dave

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

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Good and Upright

Luke 23_50_Good and upright

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. (Luke 23:50-53)

In my notes about this passage I had written, “Joseph of Arimathea was a good and upright man – be like him, Dave!”

In this passage, “good” means that which originates from God and is empowered by Him in life, through faith.  “Upright” describes what is in conformity to God’s own being (His will, standard of rightness), hence “upright or just in the eyes of God.”  Certainly great sounding descriptions for anyone – but how did Joseph of Arimathea demonstrate that he was “good and upright?”

From this passage alone, we see that Joseph:

  • Was willing to stand alone – he had not gone along with the crowd in the condemning of Christ.
  • Was looking forward to the kingdom of God – he lived with the things of heaven in mind, guiding his actions.
  • Boldly took action on behalf of Christ by approaching Pilate.
  • Cared for Jesus’ body.
  • Gave to Jesus what he had once considered his own (the tomb).

Please take a moment and reread the short list above.  The goodness and righteousness of Joseph was seen in his willingness to stand alone for Christ, living with eternity in mind, taking bold action for Jesus, caring for the body of Christ, and giving to the Lord.

Want to be seen as “good and upright” in God’s eyes? Go and do likewise! –Dave

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A Different Gospel

Galatians 1_6_7_A Different Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. (Galatians 1:6-7)

My pastor recently did a fantastic job of unpacking the importance of this short passage.  Among other things, Paul was expressing utter amazement at how quickly and easily the Christians in Galatia had “abandoned ship.”  The wording suggested that the challenges to their faith came shortly after conversion, and the people didn’t even muster a defense – they just buckled.

But what did they buckle under to?  In short, a “different gospel.”  The very important implication here is that there is one genuine gospel (salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone), and everything else is a different, foreign, incorrect gospel.  And since only the genuine gospel has the power to save (1 Corinthians 1:18), any counterfeit is completely unable to – with eternally dire consequences.

For the Galatians, the “difference” to the gospel was the insistence of false teachers to “add” the Jewish law to the work of Christ on the cross.  To those teachers, yes the cross was important, but it wasn’t enough – man had to follow the law, get circumcised, observe the Sabbath, etc.  Please hear me on this for it’s critically important – the cross + ANYTHING = a different gospel – which is no gospel at all.

The false teachers were pushing morality on the new believers – and certainly Christians ought to be among the most moral citizens on Earth.  But while morality may keep us out of jail, it won’t keep us out of hell.  For if moral living alone were enough for salvation, Christ died for nothing.

What are you tempted to add to the finished work of Christ?  Remember, the cross + anything you do is a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all! –Dave

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Avoiding the Perfect Storm

1 Cor 13_7_Avoiding The Perfect Storming

It almost ended tragically.  And it all could have been avoided, if…

Before Israel crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, a few tribes asked for land on the East side of the river.  They were allowed to do so, provided they also went and helped the rest of their brothers obtain their land too.

Fast forward to when all the clans of Israel had gained their portion and the men of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh returned home.  Before they crossed back over the river, they stopped and built a large altar on the west side of the Jordan – and that’s when the trouble began!

When the Western tribes saw the altar they made some rash, and inaccurate assumptions.  They presumed that the Eastern tribes were going to sacrifice on that nearer altar instead of making the long journey to the tabernacle.  Or, they might use it to sacrifice to other gods.  So sure of themselves were the western tribes that they were immediately ready to go to war against their brothers!

This scene had the makings of the perfect storm – one we can (and should) learn from.  The first lesson – COMMUNICATE!   Had Gad et al taken the time to communicate that they intended the altar only as a reminder that the tribes on both sides of the Jordan were united brothers, the western tribes would have understood from the beginning.  Yet because no explanation was given, people were left wondering.

Lessons 2 and 3 come from the western tribes – #2, DON’T PRESUME  and #3, ASK QUESTIONS!   When the western tribes observed actions they didn’t understand, they should have stopped and asked about what they were seeing.  Instead, they made a grossly incorrect presumption, almost leading to war.  Lastly, they missed an opportunity to HOPE THE BEST OF their brothers.

Want to avoid unnecessary conflicts?  Communicate your actions and your intentions.  Don’t make presumptions – ask questions instead.  And always give the benefit of doubt, thinking the best of those you care about! –Dave

It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

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Apologizer or Repenter?

1 Samuel 26_21_Apologizing vs Repenting

His words fell on deaf ears.  Not because the words didn’t sound good – they sounded wonderful.  Unfortunately, they also sounded familiar – too familiar.

The speaker was Saul, the first king of Israel.  For months he had been chasing David with the intention of killing him.  On two separate occasions, David was given perfect opportunities to kill Saul instead – but he refused to do so.  After the second of these occasions, Saul confessed:

I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong. (1 Samuel 26:21)

Like I said, good sounding words – perfect for the situation.  Many of the things Saul said were true.  He had sinned.  He had acted foolishly.  He had been wrong.  Yet David still felt the need to flee from Saul because David did not believe any of it.  The promise of “I will not try to harm you again” rang hollow – precisely because of the AGAIN part.  Past experience spoke more loudly than current words.

Saul was a great ‘apologizer’, but a lousy ‘repenter.’  Apologizing is relatively easy.  But a spoken apology is not the same thing as repentance.  The best sign of true repentance is changed behavior.  The repentant person chooses to go a different way – yet Saul continued to repeat the same things.  Promises mean nothing if not backed with action.

Give it some thought – are your apologies mere words?  Or are they backed up with true repentance?  –Dave

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