“Be the change you want to see in the world!” Gandhi
The first rule of story telling is “show, don’t tell,” and it applies to every aspect of good communication.
“Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words.” St Francis of Assisi might have said this, and certainly others have used this idea to teach us that, our actions speak louder than our words. How we share the “Good News” of our salvation through Jesus may depend on our circumstances, but it is a thing that we should be doing constantly. This is both the by-product of our transformed lives and our obedient response to His teachings. All of this is the blossom of our faith.
“And we also thank God continually because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe”. -1Thessalonians 2:13
Understanding who we are to God is one of the most private and personal things we can do. But when this occurs, one of the most natural responses is to shout it from the roof tops. This is evangelicalism, and it also happens to line up with the request of Christ in the great commission. In His own words; He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16:15) Not only preach it but….”go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19).
The problem here is nobody wants to be told what to think or believe. We all have a tendency to want to figure this out for ourselves. So how do we as Christians proclaim God’s revelation in a way that best glorifies God? The answer is simple, sort of. We must BE the truth. We must think and say and do the very things that Christ encourages us to do. It is then that we become compelling evidence of the wonder and power of God’s spirit living through people who turn to Him. It’s simple really, just follow Christ, the rest is easy.
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. -Psalm 105:1-6
In 1984 Desmond Tutu, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, won the Nobel Peace prize for his work against South African apartheid. The global recognition he gained from receiving such a prestigious award propelled Tutu on to the world stage, and gave him the influence of a prominent world leader. Tutu’s opportunity for such broad impact, coupled with his courage and commitment to lead, helped him gain international sympathy for those oppressed under such an unjust regime.
During some of the darkest days of apartheid, the story is told of Tutu leading a church service when hundreds of armed South African police officers showed up to threatened the worshippers. Tutu was not intimidated. He continued to preach, then addressed the police officers directly, saying, “You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods and I serve a God who cannot be mocked. So, since you’ve already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side” (Jim Wallis, God’s Politics).
From our place in history today, we know this story has a good ending. Desmond Tutu’s courageous work helped officially end South African apartheid in 1993. But in the years leading up to that time, Tutu wasn’t sure how the story would play out. He had to trust good would eventually prevail, even if he wasn’t alive to see it happen. What an incredible story of courage.
Today’s assigned scripture in 1 Kings 18 is also a story of incredible courage. Ahab was King of Israel at the time. He was married to a pagan princess named Jezebel, who persuaded him turn away and follow after false gods. Elijah, one of the most well-known Old Testament prophets, was a contemporary of King Ahab. Yesterday in 1 Kings 17, we read about Elijah announcing a drought was coming to the land.
Our reading today begins in the third year of this drought with God directing Elijah to confront King Ahab. This certainly required courage because King Ahab blamed Elijah for the drought. He had been trying to find (and probably kill) Elijah for several years. In spite of the danger, Elijah trusted God’s plan. Not only did he confront King Ahab, but he went on to directly accuse the King of causing the drought himself. “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals [false gods]” (1 Kings 18:18). Elijah then challenged King Ahab to a contest to see who was better, Baal or God. The contest was just Elijah, with God on his side, against 450 prophets of Baal.
You know how the story goes – not only did God prove his authority, but he did so decisively. Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God” (1 Kings 18:38-39).
In 21st century America today, no one is seeking to kill me for obeying the one true God. Even so, I sometimes time lack the courage to follow God’s commands. Why is it so hard? Like Elijah and like Desmond Tutu, I know how the story is going to turn out. God wins!
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3).
While traveling for work this week I had the opportunity to spend time with a lot of people; some whom I had previously met, and some new faces as well. One of the evenings Amy sent a text to me that read: “Did you have any meaningful conversations?” While Amy has stated that she doesn’t ever plan to author a Bible Journal post, she sure does her part in using the gifts she’s been given. She asks good questions, focuses on her strengths, and has inspired much of my writing.
Strikingly, Amy’s question correlated with one of today’s verses:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)
The question and the verse forced me to reflect on the many recent conversations I’d been part of.
Did I go into the conversation seeking a win for me or for others?
Were my words and actions reflective of a Christ follower?
Did I focus on small talk or did I engage the unique human being I was blessed to be able to spend time with?
Was my heart right at the beginning of the day with the prayer to seek God’s will, not mine?
Reflecting on “salt” in our conversation immediately leads me to the words of Jesus from The Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13).
In my heart, I don’t seek meaningless conversation, so why do I do it?
This week wouldn’t be deemed as “total failure”, however I could have done A LOT better, and the bottom line was selfishness. Fortunately I’m acutely aware of this selfishness through the act of prayerfully writing this post, and I’ll take awareness over ignorance any day. This gives me an opportunity to repent as well as consider how I’ll do better next time. Perhaps my Bible Journal should be renamed to Bible Journey.
To close on a lighter note… Amy spent hours this week making a cheesecake for my birthday and she forgot a key ingredient. The salt. No joke, but guess what? It still tasted amazing (plenty of salt in cream cheese) and better yet I felt loved because of her hard work; what a great treat to come home to. Thanks Amy!
Much of our behavior is not intentional, it is the result of habits. Habits are patterns of behavior that we have acquired over time. Consider, for example, my routine when I get home from work. First I drop my bag into kitchen table chair. Second, I remove my shoes underneath the chair and yes, I lay my coat over it as well. I don’t think it through, it is my habit. Is it good or bad? In order to determine that, I look to my wife, Jennifer. She starts with a gentle reminder, saying, “hey, your shoes are in here.” As time passes, her irritation escalates to anger. I’m sure you can figure out the rest of the story. The bottom line is that our habits affect other people and they have a significant impact our relationships.
Once I recognize that a particular habit is straining our relationship, there is a choice to make. Do I continue on, knowing that they anger my wife, or do I change? I know what you are thinking, “Hey, idiot, pick up your shoes!” Right? Yes, that is the obvious answer. Yet, each of us makes similar choices, every day. Consider, now your habits relative to God. Today in Colossians 3, Paul reminds us that because we have chosen to be in a relationship with God, we must alter our behavior. Just like our spouses, our routines and habits affect our relationship with God.
How are we to do change our habits? The recipe is simple. It starts with our focus. Paul encourages us in Colossians 3:2 to “think about the things of heaven not of earth.” Now, I don’t think he’s telling us to think about streets paved in gold. Instead, he wants us to be reminded of the pure and perfect love in heaven because of God’s presence. The result magnifies God in a way that stirs our desire to please him. Our attempts to please Him will reveal conflicts with our natural behavior. In fact, just as in my marriage, it is impossible to attain a healthy relationship without removing old behaviors and replacing them with new behaviors that are pleasing and uplifting. Paul says to put them to “death.”
If you are like me, thinking of all the habits I need to change is paralyzing. For now, I’m going to focus on one small thing. What is ONE action that you can take today that will allow God’s love to flow more freely in your life? Don’t over think it. It might be as simple as moving your shoes.
Today’s readings in 1 Kings reminded me of a verse in Exodus 20 that helps us realize the importance of loving the LORD with all our heart for our family’s sake (a/k/a following God’s commands, 1John 5:3, John 14:15 ). How what we do now affects our family in the future.
Here was the scripture that reminded me of this important truth in leaving an inheritance:
He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. – 1 Kings 15:3-4
Here is the scripture in Exodus 20 that it reminded me of:
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:3-6
Proverbs tells us a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s, children (Proverbs 13:22). In a world that may try to have us think money is the best form of inheritance, would believing so be putting money before God and actually undermining a true inheritance of lasting wealth? Is there anything that we could leave more precious than God’s Word that calls us and restores us to Him? Anything more precious than loving God and keeping His commandments? Do we need to reevaluate, in truth, our inheritance plan?
May God’s inheritance be rich in love toward Him. May the parents have wisdom (right living, James 2:13) to disciple the children of God’s inheritance.
As Paul faithfully writes his letter to the church of Colosse I’m reminded of the power of prayer. The impact Christians can have on your neighborhood, community and around the world through prayer is limitless. Our love for God should be mirrored for other Christians so we can lift up others everywhere. Paul’s timely prayer was meant to influence the Colossians to be wise and remind them to use their knowledge to learn more about Him and put what they learned into action by helping others. These words of love can influence us into action today.
I can often pray for the day, family, small group requests, and other situations that influence my heart or thoughts throughout the day. Paul teaches us how to pray for other Christians. This intentional letter and prayer is important as we pray for missionaries, pastors, and leaders around the world who influence hearts through the Holy Spirit. There is much pain around the US and around the world and our prayers to God are necessary to give thanks, wisdom,and love to others.The Tyndale Life Application Study Bible shares a study pattern by Paul for prayers to other Christians that I thought was simple and God filled.
Be thankful for their faith and changed lives (Col. 1:3).
Ask God to help them know his will (Col. 1:9).
Ask God to give them spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9).
Ask God to help them live to honor and please him (Col. 1:10).
Ask God to give them more knowledge of himself (Col. 1:10).
Ask God to give them strength for endurance and patience (Col. 1:11).
Ask God to fill them with joy and thankfulness (Col. 1:12).
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:9-10)
As believers we all have these same basic needs. These seven steps can help other Christians grow spiritually in order to make a difference in those they influence.
How many people in your life could be touched if you prayed in this way?
Dear God, Thank you for who you are, and the grace you have given us in order to continue to go out into the world and share your love. We pray for all Christians here and around the world to keep you Lord at the center of all we do. Give our leaders, missionaries, and pastors the wisdom to be able to share your story with others. Give them the patience and endurance to withstand the enemy and continue to build your kingdom until you return. Thank you for the joy we have because of who you are. Amen
It is truly a pleasure to be able to contribute to this community in this capacity. My name is Lynden McGriff, I am the husband of Jillian. It is a blessing today to be the guest writer because it is my birthday. I am truly excited to have been asked to write the entry today.
As I read through the readings for today, I was perplexed in which section to examine and then the Spirit led me to Philippians. This letter that Paul wrote is one of the warmest and most personal letters that is contained in the bible. He is in his first imprisonment in Rome and he is writing to his first European church that he planted. This is significant in so many ways. This is a first time to be not free in his home, Rome. This is the first time that he has received a message from his first church outside Asia or the Israel. This is the first time that he has received gifts in a magnitude that overwhelms him.
Many of you know that this past year has been a challenging year for my family. Our son, Oliver has been through so much that it is hard to convey the feelings of hope, desperation, emptiness, joy, sadness, and love. In the beginning of the year he was in and out of doctors offices with digestive issues. Jillian and I were going to the doctors’ offices at least one time per week. The children : Oliver, Ruby, and Nadya were constantly in and out of the van and the offices that they were accustomed to seeing all the physicians and nurse, so much so that they knew us by face and name. In May, Oliver was hospitalized for 3 consecutive weeks and then we had the diagnosis of Crohns. This was and is still a point that makes Jillian and I pause often and let God speak to us. For me, it is one of the most challenging things to continue to be positive in the midst of it all.
The opportunity arose for Oliver to go to the best place on earth, Disney World. It was a sacrifice and journey to orchestrate the logistics and finances. But this one hope that continued to keep him going was the hope of something big and exciting, to one day be able to return to Disney World. The trip was a surprise and was suppose to start on this past Friday. Then hurricane Matthew came, which postponed the trip again. Then yesterday afternoon, he has the first flare of Crohns and this threatens to derail the journey yet again. But God purpose was to make Ollie smile and know that only God has the final word of what will happen. Through God’s grace Ollie is currently experiencing the Magic Kingdom.
So one of the most known verses in Philippians is 4:13
” 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
But I have been overjoyed with these additional verses
“6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
“11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
The main message that has been resounding in me this year has been, “God can not protect you from what He will perfect you through.” I have been more in the Word and praying this year than I have in the resent past. I have found it comforting to be in His presence and knowing that He will allow His Will to be done. I have found myself at a peace that cannot be understood by many. Many times this year Jillian and I talk among ourselves and then the air of hesitation and disbelief comes and I would say “Its going to be ok”, His peace surpasses all understanding. I have recently looked at my kids with awe and see them not only as my kids, my cherished little one, but I have been able to see them through Christ eyes: true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, and excellent. Oliver is our first child, he is the first grandchild of his grandparents, he is our only son, this is the first time that he actually understands and actually is aware of all that he is going though. I can relate with Paul and Philippi. This is something that cannot be explained, the emotions and longing to have your heart in one place.
I cannot but rejoice daily in the awesomeness of God. He has truly shown me that all is possible, all is excellent and all is at peace through Christ.
Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? Does he who fashioned the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge? The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. –Psalm 94:8-11
While flying to Los Angeles last week I met a Jewish electrical engineer going to visit his son at UCLA. My new freind had battled obesity, depression and the unexpected loss of the love of his life. He had overcome much. We spoke of God, eternity, the nation of Isreal and God’s promises for almost three hours. When we were saying our fairwell he asked me if I knew the term beshert. I had not, so he told me it meant; something that was meant to be, like the remarkable coincidences we shared and the fact that we, by some unusual circumstances ended up across the isle from each other.
When I was returning home on Friday, at the airport I was approached by a young man near my gate introducing himself as a good Jewish boy who needed help. He claimed to be a chemical engineering student who had flown west for an interview. He was without a credit card and had discovered his trip back east was canceled for weather and couldn’t get out until tomorrow. He couldn’t get lodging vouchers from the airline and had slept in the airport. He needed some cash for a hotel. This complicated story seemed possible, so regardless of my cynicism I gave him the cash, telling him to get a credit card. He said I was one of only two people that would even talk with him and thanked me profusely, called me an angel, while offering to send me my money back, and also pay it forward.
I looked at him and said “shalom;” then asked if he knew the Hebrew term for something that was meant to be. He said it was beshert. So I told him about how I had just learned this term on Wednesday, and it seemed fitting. He thanked me again and wandered off leaving me with my thoughts. Had I been I conned or was I merely taking a chance to help a desperate soul? I hoped it was the latter. Either way I believed I had made the right choice. It was beshert!
My life continues to be filled with surprises and blessing beyond any reasonable explanation. I deserved nothing but had been given the desires of my heart. I believed this was the result of the unquenchable desire placed in my heart to know God. There are five questions that have persisted as I searched for truth in a complicated world. The appearance of these five questions and my pursuit of their answers was beshert.
What were the prime sources of revelation and truth?
Why do we want to know God?
How can we know God?
What are our narratives about God and their source?
What is my relationship with God?
Trying to answer these questions for many years I came to the conclusion that the requirement for finding God was faith. This began with the proverbial “leap of faith.” I had to suspend my disbelief to open my mind.
Because of this I have come to know a loving God, who in grace offered me redemption through the blood of Christ and transformation in the power off His Holy Spirit. I wish I could say that this was always the case. It wasn’t. There was a time when I believed God was angry and expected perfection from me. The punishment for my lack of perfection wasn’t just the loss of God’s love but the terror of the threat of burning forever in a lake of fire. The worst part of this narrative was that it was foisted upon me by people I didn’t trust or respect; and sometimes even those I cared for who seemed to be trying to trick or manipulate me for the sake of their personal satisfaction.
But God was constantly revealing Himself in the splendor of His creation and through the examples of love in the lives of those who had discovered the power of a covenant relationship (Psalm 19). We all owe it to ourselves to determine the truth about God. It is a personal journey that first requires faith and then intent.
Surprisingly, for me, and perhaps this is true for others, a meaningful relationship with God was harder and easier than I ever thought. The biggest surprise was that getting closer to God wasn’t so much the result of my actions, or that I stormed the gates of Heaven by the sheer force of my will. It was in the understanding of my failures and shortcomings. So in my selfishness and pride I amazingly came to see that by surrendering my will and desires to God, I was finally able to connect as I was meant to. When I did, I saw that God had been there all along, loving me, calling me, shaping me and welcoming me to receive my salvation in His incredible Grace.
Instead of expecting perfection in me He offered me perfection in Him. This was when my narrative shifted. It was meant to be. This was beshert.
Remember last Saturday when we studied 1 Kings 3? Young Solomon had just taken over the throne from his father David. God offered to grant Solomon whatever he wished, and Solomon asked for wisdom. God gave him wisdom, riches, honor, and promised he would be the greatest King ever. What a fairytale story!
Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days (1 Kings 3:11-13).
Unfortunately, today’s scripture in 1 Kings 11 brought me crashing back to reality. Is this really the same Solomon? You know the old saying – wisdom comes with age? Well apparently not in this case. God granted Solomon a wise and discerning mind as a twelve-year-old boy, but over the next forty years or so, he didn’t always make wise choices. By the time we get to 1 Kings 11, we find God angry with Solomon because he had turned away and was following after other gods.
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant (1 Kings 11:9-11).
In both 1 Kings 3 and 1 Kings 9, God told Solomon that if he kept his commandments and walked in the way of the Lord the rest of his days, God would continue to bless him. This sounds pretty straightforward. Why didn’t he just do it? While the Bible doesn’t provide a full account of Solomon’s choices, the root cause of Solomon’s struggle is pretty clear. In fact, the problem was not unique to Solomon, God’s people throughout history struggled with it. We struggle with it today. The problem is sin. Sin ruined, and continues to ruin, God’s perfect plan. It separates us from God.
But we are not without hope. Fortunately Jesus made a way for us to be reconciled with God. Let’s review God’s plan of salvation:
God’s invitation is open to all – Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
We all need it – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
We can’t earn it – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus paid the price for us – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
While I don’t have a lot in common with King Solomon, we are alike in one way – I haven’t always made wise choices. I’m getting ready to celebrate my birthday next week. When I reflect over the last 40+ years of my life, I’m definitely not as wise as I’d like to be. I still do some pretty dumb things. I’m so thankful God’s grace that is greater than all my sin. Thank you Jesus for making a way for me.
We were all made unique and we were all made for a special purpose. Today’s reading had a few examples where “purpose” stood out:
It was God who set King Solomon on the throne of Israel, and he did this so that Solomon would execute justice and righteousness. “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:9)
Our purposes given by God and he will bring our good work to completion: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Paul refers to himself as being “put here for the defense of the gospel”. (Philippians 1:16b). Paul knew his purpose very well, and in knowing that he gave everything he had in order to serve that purpose.
Paul is encouraging the believers to live accordingly: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27a)
As an exercise, I thought about these questions to challenge my line of thinking and behavior. Will you join me in considering these as well?
What is my purpose and what am I doing to achieve it?
What would others say my purpose is?
Am I using my unique gifts and talents, and my time more for the benefit of me or to serve others and God’s kingdom? Would the people who know me best say the same about me?
How can I help others find and achieve their purpose?
Who do I know who is firmly rooted in their purpose, and what can I learn from this person?
In closing for today I wanted to share a beautiful, succinct prayer with each word carefully chosen. It is a powerful example of encouragement, love, and wisdom. Is there a more worthy purpose than what Paul articulates below? What a glorious example of God’s living, breathing word!
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
What if this was everyone’s prayer at the start of each day? What a different world this would be.