Sunday, September 25, 2011

Modeling Christ-Likeness

Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Cor 11:1)

I used to think it was arrogant of Paul to tell people to follow his example, as though he were perfect! But I realize now Paul was not claiming to be perfectly Christ-like. When he says “as” he is really saying “to the same degree.” Even so, I would never say what Paul said because I know my life is far from resembling the life of Christ. There are whole new levels of obedience to God beyond my personal experience – levels I’m sure Paul had walked in. And when I think about that, I realize the problem here is not Paul’s arrogance but my disobedience. If I presume to lead others, if I presume to teach, should I not be able to say, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ?” Lord, forgive me for my casual disobedience. There is so much at stake here. I hinder others from seeing you when I fail to follow your example. Teach me to be a faithful disciple like Paul. Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Scholar's Snare

The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. (1 Cor 8:2-3)

I sometimes hear Bible teachers who sound like they have it all figured out. They teach their interpretations as fact and it seems there is nothing in the Bible that puzzles them. Pride is a snare for these men. You can hear their pride in the way they speak of other interpretations and those who teach them. As a teacher and a discipler of others I want always to stay humble. I must remember that the Bible is infallible but none of its interpreters are – including me.

There is another snare in this focus on learning. It is that learning about God may become a substitute for loving God. Too much focus on the life of mind may drive out the desires of the heart. My passion must always be for God, and not for any idea or doctrine. I want to know him better, love him more, and follow more closely in his footsteps. When we love God, what we need to know will be made clear to us – which may be a whole lot less than what we’d like to know. When we love God we will find ourselves loving others. This is the life to which we are called. Not a sterile academic perfection but the gospel lived out in sacrificial love. Lord, forgive me for those times when I have been more concerned with being right than with being good. Teach me humility and compassion. Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

True North

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor 4:4)

I do not decide what is right and wrong. God does. Just because I don’t feel guilty doesn’t mean I’m not guilty. There are many ways in which our conscience might be led astray or even silenced. Each of us has our own moral compass, but it is incumbent on us to align our compass with God’s. Our all-wise and all-knowing God, perfect in holiness and righteousness, is the only true standard of right and wrong.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our Neighbor's Gods

Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not swear to them or bow down to them. (Josh 23:7)

It is interesting to me that God left many of the Canaanite inhabitants in place after the conquest of Canaan. He knew these people and their religions would be a snare to the Israelites. It is as though it were important that the Israelites be tested, even though God knew that they would fail. Why did they fail? The simple fact is that in 1400 BC there was something very appealing about the Canaanite religions. I suppose in that day people must have pitied you or laughed at you if you had only one god. The Israelites must have been jealous of the idols and the temples and the orgies.

It seems hard to imagine the appeal of the old Canaanite gods, but today our neighbors worship new gods, and we are drawn to them as of old. They worship the entertainment gods, the politics gods and the money gods. They also have the sports gods, the science gods and the society gods. The appeal is strong, as is the desire not to seem different or foolish. Like the Israelites, we are being tested. “Choose this day whom you will serve! But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:15)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Every Promise Fulfilled

Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. (Josh 21:45)

One of the reasons God has given us the Bible, with its long history of God’s dealings with man, is to serve as a testimony to God’s character and nature. This verse comes at the end of a long passage describing the territory that was given to each tribe of Israel. With the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, God had fulfilled his centuries-old promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Similarly, centuries before Christ the prophets spoke of the Messiah who was to come. God is faithful and he is able to deliver all that he has promised. The Scriptures have come down to us through the millennia to speak similar promises to us today. God is faithful and true, though we are faithless. All his good promises will come to pass.
If we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

(2 Tim 2:13)
Man may disappoint, but God will never fail. Our own flesh is weak, but he is strong. Thank you, Lord, for your wonderful promises to us. Amen.