God

Tithing: Joyful Giving

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The Christian character amounts to nothing without love, and tithing amounts to nothing without joy. It’s not difficult to understand why or how tithing and joy are rarely seen in each other’s company today. As we discussed, giving what we believe belongs to us is an act that our sinful nature automatically opposes. Giving what we have means that what was once ours is now gone; we have less while someone else has more. We often find joy in receiving and possessing an abundance of one thing, and giving destroys that passion of ours, “to get.” But God is absolutely clear that giving in His name must never be done without joy. To give under a shadow of obligation, resentment or bitterness is a gift that he warns us not to give in the first place.

 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.      

 Isaiah 1:11-15

“The multitude of your sacrifices—
   what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
   of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
   in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
   who has asked this of you,
   this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
   Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
   I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
   I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
   I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
   I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
   I am not listening.  

 

Isaiah 43:22-24

“Yet you have not called on me, Jacob,
   you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel.
You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
  nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
   nor wearied you with demands for incense.
You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
   or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
   and wearied me with your offenses. 

Jeremiah 7:21-26

“‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’

 

Malachi 3:6-12

“I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Joy is among the fruits of the Spirit Paul identifies in Galatians, a characteristic of the Christian spirit. This joy is not a joy that one talks themselves into or practices. Likewise, it is not a joy void of the reality that suffering continues to persist in the broken world we live in. The joy of a Christian goes much deeper than that. The joy of a Christian stems from its foundation, which is forever and always Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ is to have been saved by him. To be saved by him is to know that without his saving grace we were destined to die. Joy in tithing stems from that very same foundation. The joy of tithing contradicts our typical impulses or desires. Born out of the spirit of God, this giving defies the logic and rationale of the sinful human mind. The Christian character thrives when worshipping God, and to tithe is to lift others up by giving of ourselves. Ultimately, to sacrifice out of love for another is the most powerful emulation of the Father and his son Jesus Christ and thus, the truest form of worship.

Tuesday Devotional: Obadiah 1:15

bibleObadiah 15

As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.

The judgment of God has been a stumbling block for many people.  Many people never make it to the cross of Christ before turning back at the sight of a God who judges.  We prefer a God who supports us, encourages us, forgives us, loves us and provides for us.  Not a God who will judge us.  We perceive His judgment to be unfair or unnecessary.  We believe that to be a good person and to love your neighbor as yourself is the answer to the ills of humanity and the suffering of this world.

But why hasn’t this approach worked?  Have we reduced suffering in this world?  Why is the golden rule truly not sufficient for the world we live in?  The answer is sin.  Sin is not a comfortable word, but in the context of human history, it is the most sufficient explanation for the trajectory of our world’s suffering and pain.

Within us is a desire to be the judge but not to be judged.  Therefore, due to our innate sinfulness, God has no need to judge us according to His standard of holiness.  With our overconfidence in our own authority and righteousness, God simply lets our own standard be the standard we are ultimately judged by.  Every time we think that someone ought to do this or that.  Every time we think that someone should have done this or that.  Every time we make private proclamations to ourselves that we will never do what he or she did.  In these moments we construct our grading scale. This is not a new perspective on God’s judgment.  This is verse 15!  These are God’s words.  When left with this prospect of judgment, what we see is not a God that upholds a standard too high for humanity to reach, but individual men and women with such an inflated view of their own perfection and such a limited ability to exercise grace and forgiveness that none can stand to be judged according to their own standards.

According to verse 15 and an honest reflection of the self we are truly in need of a savior.  We have failed to maintain our standard of righteousness from the very beginning, and we will never successfully uphold it.  Never.  We need a mediator.  We need someone perfect.  We need someone to go before us and plead our case.  Verse 15 has nothing to do with people doing Christian things or not doing Christian things.  Verse 15 has everything to do with people.  It has everything to with the human heart.  It has everything to with our collective sin.  We are all guilty of judging those we have no right to judge.  The perfect God has always had the right and authority to judge an imperfect creation.  We are nowhere as good as we think we are, and God is so much more perfect than we think He is.  How hard is it for you to forgive someone who lied to you?  Just one.  How many more times has God been lied to by His own children?  And is the end now?  No.  Verse 15 says, it is near.  He has waited and waited and waited for us to turn from our diluted state of self-glorification back to His holiness and perfection, as the only means for us to survive our own judgment.  God is not the one with a short fuse and a readiness to judge.  We are.  God is not the one that established unrealistic standards for others to abide by while never consistently abiding in the standards Himself.  We are.  The judgment of God is terrifying, but nowhere near as terrifying as our own.

 

Hell: A Place of Delusion

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This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of delusion.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

Most people can relate to chasing the elusive, longing for more and settling for less. We desire fellowship, love, and presence, and often drive it away or can’t hold on to it when we have it. The tragedy is that for all our awareness of our problems, most of us do little to change the state we find ourselves in. We go year after year chasing things that repeatedly leave us dissatisfied. We go year after year making choices that do more to isolate us from others than unite us with them. If we know this to be true, why don’t we do anything to change and stop the cycle?

The answer lies at the center of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. While the Rich Man is open to his suffering and loneliness, what he isn’t open to is his desire to leave the place he is in, or to admit to where he is. Not once does he ask Abraham to take him out of hell. He instead requests satisfaction be brought to him in hell. He even believes that he remains the master to Lazarus even after Lazarus is in the Kingdom of God and the Rich Man in hell. The Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about his problems and his fate.

The terror of hell does not end suffering and loneliness. The scariest aspect of hell is that the Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about himself and his condition. In the same way an addict will deny the damage they have caused to themselves and others, an occupant of hell is forever in denial. The nature of sin is such that a person bound in it is so obsessed with, so fixated on themselves that although they suffer and although they are unhappy, they are addicted to the very suffering and loneliness they want to escape.

Sin tempts us with things that God knows will not satisfy us. But under the influence of sin we are willing to damage anything, anyone, even ourselves to have them. Sin creates delusion, and hell is the end result of sin in a human life, cementing eternal delusion on what is good for them and what they actually need.

Only Lazarus is named in Jesus’ story. This detail is not subtle at all, if one sees that the choice to only name Lazarus was made in the context of a lesson regarding hell. The named man Lazarus has an identity. He is real. He is accepted. He is loved. He is forever at peace with the Father, as Lazarus. The unnamed “Rich Man” is eternally anonymous. He does not know who he is. He does not know what he needs. He does not know how to fix what he knows is wrong. He is eternally separated from the God who gave him life, left to live out eternity in isolation, forever searching for what he will never find. His life was consumed by wealth that replaced God as the focus of his worship. Thus, his eternal state in hell echoes the priorities of his worldly life. In eternity as in life, he was simply “the Rich Man.”

Hell: A Place of Loneliness

This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of suffering.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

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Last week we discussed the suffering of longing and emptiness that all people can relate to. If asked what remains as another fear common to all, most would likely answer, “loneliness.” We humans were created for fellowship. Even before we were brought into this world, God designed us for fellowship with him.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Genesis 1:26-31

Then, being brought into this world by our parents and family, we were born and raised to be “with” people, loved, cared for and nurtured by them.

As we get older and our lives separate from family and home, we find ourselves apart from people more than we find togetherness with them. While independence does have its place in human development and is an integral part of finding unity with the Father who created us, fellowship with people is where we are given the fullest sensation of what we were designed to experience. Thus, being constantly alone is a fate that most are terrified and tormented by.

The Rich Man, aside from his eternal dissatisfaction and longing for relief from his suffering, is completely alone in hell.  He is left alone to ponder both his condition and the absence of a solution to his suffering. He is alone, with no one to listen to his problems, no one to offer any empathy or compassion.

When confronted with Church or Christianity, many people view both as a burden. For many people (especially in the modern Western world), individuality and the freedom it seems to give them is enough to give them the brash and prideful overconfidence to look God in the face and say to him, “I don’t need you! Leave me alone!” But we learn from the Rich Man that hell is a place where we are finally given our way. Hell is a place where God hears our request for isolation and gives us what our hearts desire. In effect, we request to be alone and God ultimately respects our desires and leaves us alone. Therefore, where many people view hell as a sort of large jar with people scrambling like insects to escape, only to find the judgmental, jealous and cruel God firmly tightening the lid, according to Jesus, hell is quite different. Hell is a place that the people residing there have in their heart of hearts requested, and who have received what they demanded.

We are often our worst company, our worst comforter and our worst coach. On the other hand, Jesus Christ came into this world as “Emmanuel.” Jesus is, “God with Us,” and hell could not be more radically different. Hell is “Man with Himself.”

Reflection Series: Hell

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Heaven and Hell. Some people assume Christianity is a religion which, if followed carefully and precisely, guarantees entrance into a personal heaven of safety, peace, love and joy. Some assume that Christianity poses impossible commands and rules that ultimately doom us to the looming hand of a judging God, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to throw us into a fiery eternity in hell to punish us for not being perfectly like him. While these assumptions are incorrect and based on sources outside of the Word of God, this two-pronged understanding of Christianity’s take on the afterlife is prevalent in today’s world.

As is the case with many topics, we have very little actual description of hell as it is mentioned in the Bible. However, one can argue that not knowing the entire scope of hell actually is a sign of God’s grace, in saving us the complete and detailed nature of hell. What we do know is that hell is a place God desperately wants us to avoid and we in turn should have a strong desire to avoid it.   In the Bible, God paints a picture of hell with few colors, but the colors he does use are enough for what we need to know about this place called “hell.” The Bible teaches us that hell is:

  • A Place of Suffering
  • A Place of Loneliness
  • A Place of Delusion

By examining these three aspects of hell we can hopefully come to a better understanding of why God gave his Son for us in order to spare us of this terrible place.

While there are many references to “hell” or “gehenna” in the Bible, our examination will focus primarily on the passage of scripture found in the Luke 16:19-31. Jesus’ description of the Rich Man and Lazarus provides us with more than enough to come to a complete understanding of hell.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

 Luke 16:19-31

Join us for the remainder of the reflection series next Thursday.

Communion: The Sacrifice

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For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

Last week we discussed the provision of Jesus about Communion.  This week’s reflection discusses the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

The death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are at the heart of communion. While the Christian life must be marked by joy in the new life found in Jesus Christ, at the foundation of the Christian spirit is constantly awareness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is not to say that a Christian life should be overwhelmed by grief concerning the sacrifice. Absolutely not. To know his sacrifice is to know his resurrection, and to know his resurrection is the ultimate joy. However, in order to experience the life-giving power of the empty tomb, one must also confront the weight of the sacrifice that preceded it.

As Jesus sat at the table about to break the bread and pour the wine, once again, he found himself completely alone in the understanding of what he was about to do. For three years, Jesus repeatedly alluded to, and in some instances stated outright, the price he was going to pay on the cross. However, he alone understood the weight of his mission. On the night he broke the bread during the last supper, Jesus was staring directly at the cross, again isolated in the knowledge of what was soon to occur. Jesus could foresee the fists. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the spit. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the verbal abuse. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the crown of thorns. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the nails. The Apostles could not.

Jesus could foresee the dehydration, the asphyxiation, the loneliness. The Apostles could not.

The practice of communion is not simply the reflection on the death of a good friend. The practice of communion recognizes suffering that we will never understand. To practice communion is to reflect on the sacrifice of God for children who have defiantly refused to sacrifice anything in return.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

In communion we reflect on the fact that Jesus had no reason to sacrifice what he did aside from his desire to see us reunited with the Father in the same way he has always been. In communion we acknowledge that we have done nothing to deserve what we have, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been given more than we ever could have imagined. We are fulfilled and satisfied in ways that only God has foreseen. Communion is a celebration of new life; it is only a celebration because at one point it was the greatest loss the world had ever known.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

Reflection Series: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

From the beginning, the church has had questions concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, these questions have often led to debate and division, ultimately fracturing the Church. While the debate continues among Christians concerning the precise nature of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it is my belief that there are more important issues concerning the baptism, issues that edify and glorify the church in the unity of all believers in Jesus Christ rather than create divisive standards to outline the way in which all must undergo this baptism.

Whether an individual experiences the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the same way that the Apostles did in the Upper Room through the speaking of tongues or not, I believe that there are five truths that can validate the baptism being truly of the Holy Spirit and not simply a response based on tradition, emotion or presupposition.

These five truths are all based on the foundation of “power.” However, the power is not in the experience of the individual for self-glorification. Rather, these five truths glorify the power of God and God alone. For the next five weeks, we will be considering these truths.

  1. The Power of the Promise
  2. The Power of the Cross
  3. The Power of the Creator
  4. The Power of the Mission
  5. The Power of the Victory

The experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit can vary depending on the individual but the truths that emerge upon being baptized must not and cannot differ. These are truths, and all who have been baptized by the spirit must proceed to build the new life in Jesus Christ upon these foundational pillars of power.

Tuesday Devotional: Exodus 24

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An encounter with the living God is not transformed most powerfully by his willingness to bless us despite our faults, but by the recognition that in the presence of the God of the Heavens and Earth and in the presence of our transgressions against him we remain. We continue to live on. We continue to receive blessing. A realistic encounter with the living God understands the Holy, awesome presence of a God that has no need for us. There was never a need or a requirement that the living God create man. God in the triune relationship existed in perfect harmony with no need for anything else. His desire to create man arose out of the desire to share this triune love with a creation of willful participation and love. The question then must be asked that after that creation broke the harmony of said relationship, why does God feel the need to continue to provide? What have we given him? What can we give him? What do we have that he has not already possessed? The answer to all of these questions is absolutely nothing. Once this realization has been made in the heart and mind of a believer the question forever changes from, “How can God bless me?” to “How can I serve him?” With this realization of his holiness and our sinfulness there is no logical explanation as to why we can even stand if he continues to. The answer to this question is grace. The only reason that we continue to stand alongside the great “I Am” is because he desires to be seen and known by us and desires for us to be reunited with him.

The power of God is not felt by receiving things. The power of God is not experienced by a new insightful perspective, or standards to follow so that we prosper in this lifetime. The power of God is truly experienced by coming into the unshakable truth that we have no right to be if he truly is. This recognition of truth is where we can truly experience grace. The fact that we can coexist with the living God is grace. The truth that he is inviting all of us to not only exist alongside him but is desiring that we share in his holy inheritance, bought at the price of the life of his son, is unbelievable. Yet, this is the truth of the Gospel. God, the creator of everything, is the God that appeared and left men alive in the hopes that his presence would impact their lives enough to lead them to change and follow him. The story of God is a story of pursuit, not our pursuit to be like him in the flesh, but the unrelenting devotion of God to pursue his children at all costs to bring them home.

Jesus is God in the Flesh: the Name

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the divinity of Jesus Christ. 

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If you profess faith in the Christian message, yet lack this belief about Jesus’ identity, you expose a complete lack of understanding of the very Bible wherein you find the figure of Jesus in the first place. The Gospel narratives leave no possibility to reject the deity of Jesus. Rather, they appreciate, rely on,  and believe in the message that he spoke.

We can better understand this vital truth about Jesus with these four points concerning Jesus and his teaching.

  1. The man of “The Name”
  2. The man of Authority
  3. The man of Unity
  4. The man of Forgiveness

For the next several weeks, we’re going to reflect on these indicators that support the divinity of Christ Jesus.

The Man of “The Name”

As we have discussed in previous reflections, the question concerning the historical existence of Jesus is a question that at the present has more or less been answered by believers and non-believers alike. Such is our hard-heartedness to the Word of God that the moment one question is answered we seek protection behind yet another wall of objection. Thus, with history proving the existence of Jesus with the passing of time, the more common debate over Jesus more or less concerns his identity. Was he just a good teacher? Was he a prophet? Was he simply a rabbi? Did he view himself as anything more than any of these things? The fact that the Christian church survived, grew and continues to flourish is a testimony to the deity of Jesus and his oneness with the Father that we will soon discuss in further detail. However, since the current debate concerning Jesus not only calls into question who Jesus was to his followers, but who Jesus himself professed to be, the best source for His words is in the Gospels themselves.

What we find is that there are many times that Jesus clearly refers to himself as God. No words of his are more conclusive in this matter than the two words he uses frequently throughout the Gospel of John in settling any doubt as to who he knew he was. The two words are “I am.”

The words “I am” when translated reference the Hebrew name that God applied to himself, by himself, for himself in Exodus 6:11-15:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

In Hebrew, the name is “Yahweh,” which translates into English simply as, “I am.” While the translation in English fails to capture the weight behind such a name, upon a closer look at the origins of the name in Jewish history and the Hebrew language, it is complete madness that Jesus chose to use the name the way he did and that his followers chose to include this detail in the Gospels.

According to the Jewish people, the name of God was so holy that it was illegal to say in public. So holy that scribes writing out the scriptures were required to cleanse themselves and destroy their writing utensils after writing the name due to its divine holiness. This was a Word that if uttered in public was punishable by death. In Israel, no one spoke this name aloud. Yet, the Gospel writers openly include the historical fact that Jesus chose to use this name not once, but many times, in public, to those he conversed with.

I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger.” John 6:35

I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

I am the gate; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” John 10:11

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” John 11:25

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1

This behavior was unprecedented before Jesus. Jesus took it upon himself to use this illegal, holy name for one reason and one reason alone. He used it because it belonged to him.

Serving the King: Strength

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Many characteristics may define a Christian life.  Many things may be signs that someone truly lives their faith in correspondence with the Gospel.  In this reflection series, we’ll explore how different Scriptures emphasize service as a defining character trait of the Christian.

Service can be defined as what you do for something or someone.  But in the Gospel context, service is much larger than that.  Service, according to the teaching of Jesus, is a way of life.  More than an aspect Christian character, it IS Christian character.  In these reflections, we’ll discover five elements of service that please God.

  • Serving with Obedience
  • Serving with Strength
  • Serving with Suffering
  • Serving with Priorities
  • Serving with Change

 

Serving with Strength (Psalm 62)

When it comes to serving people or doing good deeds, the old debate springs up if any truly selfless act exists.  Most people acknowledge that behind every act of goodwill is always some self-serving motivation.  As we do good things or serve others, motivation is always in question.  If our motivation is for ourselves, we negate self-less service for others.

But God in Scripture demands selfless service from his followers. This makes us wonder: does God not understand to whom he is talking?  Does he not understand our limited ability to do such things?  The answer to this comes through the word of God, where we can see that God does know exactly to whom he is talking, and he fully understands our limited potential without him.

Service can usually be divided into two categories.  On one side, you serve to gain something for yourself.  On the other, you serve to pay what you owe.

Serving with the hopes of gaining something in return for the service is, at its core, selfish.  The true motivation behind this has everything to do with you, rather than those you serve, making this so-called “charity” sinful at its core. Unfortunately, this is the outlook of many churchgoing Christians.  Behind the façade of their busy “service” schedule is the desire to ultimately cash in on all of the good deeds for future rewards.  Going to church is a way to gain points.  Sharing the Gospel with people on the street gains points.  Opening the door for a co-worker gains points.  Regardless of the method, selfishness and self-centeredness lurk behind each righteous deed.  Serving God in this way has nothing to do with God at all.  In all honesty, God is simply the man at the carnival stand who cashes in your tickets for stuffed animals and goofy pens.

Serving to pay a debt comes with entirely different motivation.  Serving because we expect something in return allows us to occupy the center of all of our deeds for others.  However, serving because you are in debt puts the focus on the one you are serving, rather than on you.  Awareness that you are heavily indebted to someone adjusts the heart and soul into “payback” mode.  For example, if someone went two hours out of their way to help you on the side of the road because your car broke down, you would naturally have a desire to do something, big or small, to thank them for their assistance and effort.  The most effective way to feel love is to give it. The most powerful motivation to serve is to receive outrageous mercy and love.

In Psalm 62, repeatedly the psalmist refers to God as a “rock” and a “fortress.”  The psalmist repeats that in God alone are safety, strength and hope.  The psalmist has clearly experienced the personal, tangible power and mercy of God, and stands boldly upon this foundation.  It is clear to the writer that it was not in his own strength that he was serving God, and it was not as a result of his strength that he was so cared for and protected.  This individual understood that the true strength came from one place alone.

Each Sunday Christians pour into churches around the world under the banner of Christ.  The question that lies at the foundation of this fact is, “Why?”

For some, perhaps, this devotion is motivated by hope of future reward or praise.  Going to church is simply a requirement by which to garner favor with God and admittance into heaven. But the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, indeed the whole body of the Scriptures, shows that no one person can ever do enough to justify admittance into heaven. Nor can we receive any righteous reward out of human effort.  The truth is that we are ultimately and completely justified only by the perfect sacrifice.  Only by his wounds, his selfless service, are we completely healed.  Serving God can never stem from a desire to earn our reward or our glory.  Serving God the way that Jesus preached is by God alone and for God alone.  It is in Jesus we find a reason to serve. It is in his life that we find the strength to serve.