Monday, January 4, 2010

6 Questions for Wisdom in 2010

6 Questions for Wisdom in 2010
Ephesians 5:15-21

Ephesians 5:15
Verse 15 is the key verse which announces the theme of the passage. The Christian is to walk in wisdom, not in unwisdom. This is another check point for the Christian life. Here are six simple questions that scream out from this passage to help you access your life and plan for 2010.

1. Am I making the most of what I have before me? Ephesians 5:16

In verse 16 we see the first explanation of walking in wisdom. Paul gave this challenge: "making the most of every opportunity." King James translates it: "redeeming the time." The Greek word translated in the middle voice means "to buy up for one's self or for one's own advantage." It means to make the very best use of your time. Also, significant is greek word for time. It is not chronos which is simply time as it passes. Instead it is kairos which refers to strategic opportunities.
Do you see your days in college as the simple passing of time, or as strategic opportunities. Your schedule centers around you now more than it will at any other time in life. You may not believe that to be true, but trust me, it is. What are you doing with it?
Psalms 39:4 (NASB) - 4 "Lord, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.
Psalms 90:10 (NIV) - 10 The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
“fit the big stuff in first”.

2. Do I understand my playing field?
Know your opposition! Know the tendencies of your opponent! Do not be lulled to sleep!
Paul gives us a reason to use our opportunities wisely, he says, "because the days are evil." The word for evil means active opposition to the things of God. So here is the picture: every day, certain opportunities come along. Evil is actively at work, trying to turn those opportunities into something which will dishonor God and discredit God's word. By knowing this, you can be aggressive and alert to what is happening around you. You can be God’s representative and do something which will honor God and affirm His word.
How do you see the enemy/evil at work around you?

3. Am I discovering the “Lord’s will”? Ephesians 5:17
"The Lord's will" is a phrase which, in one form or another, permeates the Bible.
· God has certain things He wants to accomplish in the world.
· God has certain things He wants to achieve in our lives.
· God has certain laws He wants us to live by so that we can get the most out of life.
· God has certain ways He wants us to relate to others.
· God has certain responses He wants us to make to the crises of life.
All of these things can be summarized in the one phrase: "the Lord's will." How do we discover these things?
They are in God’s word. I believe obedience is the key component to discovering God’s will. You will not discover God’s will apart from spending time in his word and practicing obedience. The unfortunate thing is we make God's will about us. We think it is discovering our future. It isn't. It is about God, discovering his desires and lining ourselves up with them.

4. Is anything other than God, controlling my life? Ephesians 5:18
Paul took it a step further in verse 18. The focus here is not on the use of wine, but on the abuse of wine. To abuse wine, to get drunk, is not to walk in wisdom. Here’s the principle … nothing or no one else should control your life Our goal is to progress toward a Spirit filled life.

Notice the alternative (and you cannot do both at the same time): "Instead, be filled with the Spirit." John R.W. Stott, in one of his books, calls our attention to four points in this challenge.

· It is in the imperative mood. The imperative mood means it is a command.
· It is in the plural form. That means it is addressed to all those reading it.
· It is in the passive voice. The passive voice means the filling will be done TO them.
· It is in the present tense. The present tense shows it is to be an ongoing experience.

So here's the picture. The wise man is not to be captivated, motivated and activated by the spirits in a bottle but rather he is to be captivated, motivated, and activated by the Holy Spirit who dwells in our life.

5. Am I involved in a strong community of faith? Ephesians 5:19
Now look at verse 19. The phrase "to one another" means that as they sing these songs of praise they affect the others who are with them. They bring encouragement to the others involved. Notice that Paul went on to declare that these songs and melodies were directed to the Lord.
He was obviously referring to worship. That's when Christians get together to sing hymns and songs. Placed in the context of the passage, Paul was giving another manifestation of walking in wisdom. Those who are foolish try to live life on their own power, with their own agenda, without ever acknowledging the reality of God.
On the other hand, those who are wise recognize that they need other people and they recognize their need for God so they make worship a regular part of their routine. Christianity is always practiced in a community.

6. Am I grateful for the life I’ve been given? Ephesians 5:20-21
Paul gave on last suggestion in verses 20-21. Walking in wisdom means to properly relate to God and to others.
· How should we relate to God? “with thanksgiving”. We should relate to God with gratitude that recognizes His blessings in our lives.
· When should we have that attitude? Paul said: "always."
· For what should we thank God? Paul said: "for everything."
· How should we relate to others? We should "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Six questions for you to ask yourself throughout 2010. Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

God said... and that is what happened

This commanding statement is used 4 times in Genesis 1 in the New Living Translation (NLT). He spoke and light appeared.
  • Sky… “and that is what happened”.
  • Land, seas and vegetation…”and that is what happened”.
  • Sun, moon and stars… “and that is what happened”.

Birds & fish were created with instructions to multiply.

Animals… “and that is what happened”.

Then, he fashions humanity but scripture identifies something unique about us. We are “created in his own image”. We are the only creatures with moral reasoning and the ability to know Him. When God is done, he summarizes all he has done and proclaims… “and that is what happened”. He even proclaims it “very good”.

He really doesn’t need us, does he? He was able from nothing (the Latin term ex nihilo means out of nothing) to bring everything. I’ve never created anything from nothing, have you? I make a mean salsa but it takes onions, tomatoes, garlic, salt, cilantro, and jalapenos none of which I can speak into existence. Even the very words for this paragraph are given me by a language culture. But not God, He needed nothing.

I am fascinated even inquisitive, then, by verse 19, “ So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one.” (NLT, italics mine). I think we would agree that God was completely capable of coming up with names like, hippopotamus, chicken, elephant, jellyfish or whatever. But he didn’t. He asked Adam, humanity, to participate.

There is a truth in this verse we should not neglect. God’s creation has purpose, God’s people have purpose, and God has asked you to involve yourself. He didn’t need to… he chose to. This being the case, our participation should be taken seriously. Our decisions do matter. Not because we have anything unexpected to offer God, but because he has given a staggering offer to us.

… and that is what happened.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Questions from, "How do I love my brother when I don't even like him?"

This Blog is dedicated to answering questions that are posted during our collegiate worship service. I attempt to answer questions during the message. However, if time does not allow, I will blog these answers.

To hear the message go to I-tunes and search for Nine30 college ministry or Bruce Venable.

To see the notes given during the service, visit www.youversion.com/groups/nine30. From here select “events” then “past”. Topics are listed.

These questions come from the service on November 8th, 2009 entitled “How do I love my brother when I don’t even like him.” The text is 1 Peter 1:22-2:3.

Is the love discussed in these passages an emotional love, or more akin to an eternal commitment in Christ? Most people, regardless of their relationship with Christ, believe they can love. If someone doesn't have Christ, can they truly love in the biblical sense?

Great Question! The word love in this text is “phileo” which means brotherly love or with tender affections. Remembering that Peter is writing to Christians undergoing various trials, this would make sense. In such a scenario, they must depend on each other to be able to stand strong. Additionally, there should be something unique about their unity that is attractive to the non-believing community.
Three other words for love come from the Greek. “storge’” is the love for family or deep friendship, “agape” is unconditional love that we experience from God, and “eros”, which is sexual love.

You certainly do not have to be a Christian to love. Within the wiring we receive from God in creation comes the capacity to love (brother, family, friends, intimately). I have known some non-believers, as probably you, that exhibit love in some very incredible ways. In Christ, however, there is a new standard. Because we have tasted of the goodness of the Lord, we can love unconditionally. That is the “agape” love you refer to in your question. It is a love without any strings attached.

In Matthew 5:43 – 47 Jesus raises the bar on unconditional love. Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV) 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

One other reference and I’ll stop. Hopefully, I’ve answered your question. These passages build a strong understanding that in order to love unconditionally; we must have experience unconditional love from God. 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV) 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

A second question was submitted. Why do those Christians who seem to quote Scripture the most, often seem to be the most unloving?
Boy, I wish I knew the answer to this one! But let me take a stab at it. My interpretation is that you have had a bad experience with someone. Sometimes Christians become overzealous with trying to “have all the answers” instead of trying to “love your brother or your enemy”. Unfortunately, the results can be somewhat distasteful to others. So a couple of suggestions:
· Remember that the “representative” may not represent the source very well, but don’t let that stop you from seeking truth. Jesus is the one who has given us the message of truth. He is truth. So, when the representative doesn’t look a lot like Jesus… go back to the source.
· Keep in mind that we (believers) are people on a journey. We are sinners trying to work out the kinks of living like our Savior. So, cut them a little slack.
· Don’t be that same type of person. If you are a follower of Christ, learn from others mistakes and God’s word on loving others. Determine that you will be a better representative.