Thursday, September 29, 2011

Can We All be “VIPs”?

            The world differentiates between people and I’m sure we all know the abbreviation “VIP” it stands for Very Important Person. “VIPs” are afforded special privileges. They move to the head of the line, sit in reserved seating, and travel in the most influential circles. Status, money, possessions, fame, or athletic ability are the usual qualifiers which elevate us into “VIP” recognition, but can’t we all be “VIPs”?

            We do not need to climb the social ladder to accomplish this jump in status. We need to recognize who we are in Christ. We should redefine what we idolize as Very Important People and refocus our energies toward becoming all that we can be as the “Children of God”. We are already “VIPs”. To extend our understanding and influence, we will be exploring scripture and specifically examining Vision, Interpretation, and Purpose.

            As Christians we are called to be people of Vision, Interpretation, and Purpose. We are “VIPs”. Scripture tells us that the people of God perish because of a lack of knowledge. The word knowledge can also be translated: understand, or insight. All three of these terms, at least, to my mind create images of Vision – The ability to see and correctly distinguish what is going on around us.

Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (KJV)

            If we do not acknowledge God in our daily lives, He will leave us to our own devices and that is never a good thing. We develop our understanding by studying the revelation God has already made available to us through His word. He offers us a relationship with Him and outlines all the benefits available. He promises to pour out His Spirit upon us as we submit to Him.

Joel 2:27-29 “And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” (KJV)

            The availability of the Holy Spirit active and inspirational in our lives leads us to the correct Interpretation of scripture. We are not addressing the translation – King James, New American Standard, New International, Revised Standard, New Living Translation – each represents and is the word of God. As we devote ourselves to God and study His word, the overarching message of scripture is made clear. The eyes of our understanding are opened and are able to interpret and apply God’s word in every situation.

1 Corinthians 8:2-3 “Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” (NLT)

2 Peter 1:19-21 “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (KJV)

            So, what is the message of scripture? Can we become “VIPs”? We are already “VIPs” – We are people of VISION, INTERPRETATION, and PURPOSE.  According to the standards of this world we may not be recognized as “very important people” but according to God’s standard we have the message of hope, the word of truth, and the promise of eternal life. The message of scripture is clear.

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (KJV)

            That single TRUTH drives our Purpose. We are here to share the love and mercy of God. Vision shows us the desired result. Interpretation provides light along the way through the darkness, and Purpose motivates us to finish the task. We are all “VIPs” – People of VISION, INTERPRETATION, and PURPOSE.

1 Chronicles 16:8-9 “Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders.” (NASB)

            Allow the vision to inspire you. Open your heart to Holy Spirit led interpretation of scripture. Devote yourself to the single purpose of making Christ known throughout the world. Develop and implement and plan, but above all proceed.

Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (KJV)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Do We Meet?

            Recently, I was attending a gathering of the Yuma Emmaus Community and the grouping question for the evening was “Why do we meet; or what do you get out of grouping?” Before I offer an answer to the question, I will attempt a brief description of the Walk to Emmaus.

            From the Biblical account, after Christ's resurrection He met his disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus. The disciples were unaware of the identity of the stranger traveling with them until the breaking of bread as they stopped for the evening.

Luke 24:12 – 36 “Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (KJV)

            The modern day application of this scripture is experienced in varying denominations and known by several different names, but each takes the form of a spiritual renewal weekend retreat. The participants on this weekend journey into spiritual renewal, encounter the unfolding of God's grace and the life changing power of His word in unique and inexplicable ways. At the end of the weekend, participants are encouraged to join accountability groups to continue the work of grace and maintain a strong Christian witness as they return to the day-to-day demands of life.

1 Peter 2:1-10 “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (KJV)

            The desired outcome in all of this is not the replacement of the church, but rather the strengthening and encouragement of believers. Beyond weekly grouping to build up and encourage one another, the community as a whole gathers on a regular basis for the purpose of fellowship, worship, accountability and a devotional meditation. Christians of every denominational stripe and theological flavor are joining together in a celebration of the grace of God and challenging each other to recognize His grace at work throughout individual acts of discipleship. The emphasis is directed at becoming an active part of the “Body of Christ”.

Colossians 3:15-17 “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (KJV)

            There is a vastly deeper dimension to the Christian life than rote church attendance. It must become a daily walk in the steps of Christ. Certainly sermons and Bible studies are an important part of that life, as are prayer and fellowship; we grow spiritually through each of these activities and we cannot make the journey alone.

Hebrews 10:24-30 “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.” (KJV)

            So, the answer to the question: Why do we meet? For me it is simple. I need to be provoked toward love and good deeds. I need to be challenged to both recognize and answer calls to discipleship. I need the fellowship of like-minded believers to encourage me along the journey. In short, I need you my brothers and sisters in Christ.

            This is a personal thank you to those who in the past two weeks have spoken the word of God into my life, and encouraged me with their heartfelt emotions. Even I get discouraged and need to be helped up from time to time. So thanks for your obedience to the prompting of the Spirit of God. Thank you for helping me up.

Psalm 133:1-3 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (KJV)

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (KJV)

             To those who missed the gathering, know that you were missed and the joy of the fellowship would have been greater with you in attendance, but you are now and always in our prayers.

            To those who for personal reasons have discontinued church attendance; isn’t it time to come home?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

How Do We Navigate the Maze?

            Biblical interpretation and application can be a slippery and dangerous path. The journey we are on seems filled with twists, turns and plot shifts. At every step there is the potential to bask in the eternal glow of God’s favor or suffer the unending pain of separation from His love. Life is about the choices we make.

Deuteronomy 30:14-16 “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.” (KJV)

            We struggle to find the balance between the literal “Word of God” and the figurative, metaphoric, and allegorical “Word of God”. We attempt to draw clear and distinct lines between right and wrong, good and evil, blessings and cursing. We want an easy “paint by numbers” check list of activities that will guarantee our acceptance into the family of God. We want to be locked into Heaven and locked out of Hell, but we cannot agree with each other on matters of method, translation, vision or purpose.

Ephesians 4:1-3 and 11-13 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace… And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (KJV)

            Transforming our world begins with understanding and communicating the common vision and working together with a single purpose. Our purpose is two-fold: 1. we are to know Christ; 2. we are to make Him known throughout the nations. This goal is accomplished in relationship not isolation. We need each other and we need the leading of the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:19-21 “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (KJV)

            Scripture interprets itself and the Spirit of the True and Living God makes His plan known through clear promptings within the lives of committed seekers of truth and wisdom. We measure our progress on the path not by how broadly or narrowly we apply the “Word of God” but by how readily we respond to His voice.

Revelation 3:22 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (KJV)