Archive for August, 2013

‘But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.’

– 1 Timothy 6:9-10 NRSV

Is God against His children being rich? Is the desire for or the accumulation of wealth a sin? Judge for yourself as you read and reflect upon what is written in the verse atop this message. Recently, I received a text from someone who included 1 Timothy 6:6 in their message and it came at a moment that was critical to me remaining content and at rest despite what had happened the day before the text. ‘Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.’ – 1 Timothy 6:6 NRSV

Since publishing this inquiry I have had many thoughts, encounters, and dialogues on the subject of wealth, God’s favor, and the ambition of being successful/wealthy from one’s labor (hard work). In the process of my continued pursuit of becoming a published author, one prevailing thought that allowed me to be content with having to invest large sums of money into the process (self-publishing) was, ‘The money does not belong to me anyway, because it all belongs to God. God is providing me the money to live and if I believe He will bless my efforts to publish, why should I struggle with the amount invested?” Faith requires risk, sacrifice, and surrender. So does success. Wealth requires hard work and even if it’s inherited it requires work to keep it.

So is 1 Timothy 6:9-10 discouraging wealth, or the attitude adopted by those whose passior, or desire for wealth exceeds healthy boundaries? Abraham, Solomon, David, Job were all regarded as men of faith and the scripture described them as being wealthy. Recent thoughts I’ve considered on the subject of wealth, “Do I understand what it means to be wealthy beyond what I see on television? Do I understand what is required to become wealthy?” I have since concluded that wealth is an expression of God’s favor and only God determines who will become wealthy, or rich. Consider this also; everyone who is wealthy is not a Christian and not all wealth is obtained by just means. I leave you with this final thought: Do I possess the same ambition to be like Christ as I desire to be wealthy, or successful?

May God bless you and help you to adopt the proper heart attitude, as you walk by faith, that will position you to encounter His favor to bless your actions that accompany faith in experiencing the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.”

– Daniel 1:8 NIV

On the subject of consecration and sanctification, God is the source and His word the resource by which I experience the fulfillment of setting myself apart as one seeking sincerely to be seen by God as one ‘sacred’ to Him. According to what Jesus declared in John’s gospel, chapter 15:4-5, regarding the parable of the vine and the branches and abiding in Him and His word, both Daniel and Ezra come to mind (see Consecration:The Pursuit of Perfection).

“For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” – Ezra 7:10 NIV The personification of Jesus Christ within and through me begins as I sincerely seek to demonstrate a disciplined, devoted lifestyle of worship and service to God inspired from the application of His word. Ezra’s lifestyle consisted of time spent reading, meditating on and applying God’s word and then sharing it with others. Ezra’s lifestyle is consistent with what Jesus taught His disciples before His ascension in what we know as the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19-20a NIV Ezra’s life embodies what Jesus prayed about in John 17 when He petitioned to God that those who believe would be ‘sanctified by the truth of God’s word.’

Just as Ezra made a deliberate decision to emulate a lifestyle devoted to the word of God, Daniel made a deliberate decision to abide by what God commanded with regard to what was ‘unclean’ to eat. Daniel’s decision was not without consequence and sacrifice, because his act of devotion to God could have resulted in death. “But the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.'” – Daniel 1:10 NIV Daniel’s actions in the context of the challenges that surrounded his deliberate decision to honor God despite the consequences of his devotion is directly attributed to the ‘process of consecration and sanctification’ that speaks to the outcome, or fulfillment, of demonstrating such discipline and devotion to God’s word. Daniel was emboldened and empowered by God, through His word and by His Spirit, as he willingly sought to live in a manner that pleased God instead of resigning in fear of what was commanded by the foreign king.

Both Ezra and Daniel personify Christ by emulating what Jesus taught in the New Testament when He stated, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24 NIV God is the source and His word is the resource by which I am able to experience the process of consecration and sanctification. It is an ongoing process that I am required to embark upon as long as I live in the earth. To the one who strives to demonstrate such a disciplined, devoted lifestyle of worship and service there is an intimate encounter God promises that is not accessible to everyone.

May God bless you and help you to align your heart, mind and soul to the study, observance, and sharing of the word of God with others that you may be sanctified and experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

 

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

– John 15:4-5 NIV

I heard a quote recently that stated, ‘Pursuit of perfection leads to excellence.’ It made me think about Christ’s proclamation from His sermon on the mount, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ – Matthew 5:48 NIV It made my understanding of Christ’s proclamation easier to grasp and explain. My pursuit of striving to live in a manner worthy of the gospel will lead to excellence. I will never become perfect, but I can strive for perfection and by being consistent, I can achieve excellence.

As one has ambition for money, fame, power, marriage, children, employment, promotion, success; do I have ambition to become the child of God in the way God has commanded me to live in a manner that pleases Him according to His word? Consecration is about striving sincerely to consistently pursue an intimate, personal relationship with God throughout the duration of my time spent in this earthly existence that distinguishes me as a child of the Most High God. No matter how many times I may falter, fail or fall short, the ambition of the sincere Christian is to shake the dust off, get back up from the height they have fallen and continue the pursuit of perfection. Why? Because nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. As long as I am alive I am in position to encounter something greater, better and new in my faith walk with God!

I may never obtain all my heart desires in relation to wealth, fame and fortune, but without my effort to abide in Christ and allow His word to abide in me, I will never achieve all that God promises in His word about who I am in Christ and what God said He would do for those who love Him and keep His commands. is there a greater pursuit than the pursuit of God?

May God bless you and help you to experience excellence as you walk with Him by faith so you may be in position and the proper posture to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

– John 17:15-17 NIV

Consecration means to make sacred. Sanctification means to be set apart.

A person who sincerely seeks to make themselves ‘sacred’ to God is accomplishing the goal of being sanctified as Jesus prayed for every believer to become prior to His death, resurrection and ascension. As a Christian, I live in the world, but I am not of the world. The essence of who I am is no longer defined by the standards of the world, because I belong to God, through faith in Christ, and within me I now have the Spirit of the Living God!

The process of consecration and sanctification is about the personification of Jesus Christ expressed in and through me by thought, word and deed. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:6 NIV Through the process of consecration and sanctification, we are distinguished as Christ’s followers. Not because we profess, but because of what our lives proclaim before others that illuminates the person of Jesus Christ to others and inspires them to thirst and hunger for what they recognize that has quenched and filled us. Our lives will begin to resonate the person, power and presence of Jesus Christ in a way that makes others curious, inquisitive and inspire admiration. At the same time, there will be others that will reject, scorn and persecute what we embody that also helps us to identify with Christ’s sufferings as we share in His glory. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” – Philippians 1:29 NIV

I do not believe the suffering that the Apostle Paul mentions in the passage in Philippians is just about the ‘suffering of persecution’ associated with being a follower of Jesus Christ, but also the ‘internal suffering of our flesh’ (sinful nature) as we strive to become sanctified through the process of being consecrated, or made sacred to God by denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily and following the principles and teachings of Christ. It is the ambition of the sincere believer to be consecrated and distinguished publicly as one set apart, or recognized as a follower of Jesus Christ. “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. The LORD replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” – exodus 33:13-16 NIV

It was important to Moses to be distinguished as one who followed God. A sincere believer will not have to profess being a Christian, because if they walk in His ways it will be evident and clear to everyone. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13 NIV

May God bless you and help you to walk in His ways to be distinguished as one who has been with Jesus and experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”

– Leviticus 11:44 NIV

The word consecrate simply means to make sacred. How do I make myself ‘sacred’ to God? What does it mean to ‘consecrate yourself?’

Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Ephesians 4:22 says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

I believe consecration, after salvation, is the continual process of actively participating in a change of heart and mind that is inhibiting and prohibiting me from experiencing something greater, better and new in my faith walk with God. Repentance comes to mind when I think about what it means to ‘consecrate myself.’  Repentance is about acknowledging where I am wrong in my actions and way of thinking and my sincere recognition that God’s word is true and right. The troubles of life Jesus said we would experience in this world will create obstacles and opposition and try to sever me from my intimate, personal connection with God. Experience is teaching me that most of those obstacles and opposition are internal and not external. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12 NIV

Consecration is about embracing God and His word sincerely with an intent on striving to live in a manner that please Him while also acknowledging, thoughts, attitudes and actions that are contrary to what His word teaches how a child of God should conduct themselves by thought, word and deed. Whether I am in a season of adversity, or prosperity, or I feel joyful, or depressed, how should I conduct myself as a Christian? Whether I am married, or single, separated, or divorced, what does God’s word say about how to handle myself? In the face of misfortune, grief and injustice, what should I do? When God has not responded to me, or delayed in answering my prayers what should my response be? According to the meaning of consecration, the answer would always be in relation to conducting myself in a manner that makes myself, my thinking, my actions and speech sacred to God.

I see consecration as the perpetual motion of my striving, seeking, sincere pursuit of God in an interactive relationship centered around the application of His word. As God is described in scripture in pursuit of me, consecration causes me to pursue Him. No matter how many times I falter, fail and fall short, consecration is about getting back up on my feet and continuing my pursuit, as long as I live in this world until we see each other face to face in heaven.

May God bless you and help you to consecrate yourself and live in a manner that positions you to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

– Isaiah 42:9 NIV

Beyond salvation, being a Christian is about being transformed into the image of God, becoming more like Jesus. The internal transformation of the believer that results in Jesus Christ personified externally is the core theme promoted in scripture in the New Testament. No matter what our other ambitions may be, the Christian’s main priority in this world is outlined in scripture and revealed to us through our intimate, personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. No matter where we are in our faith walk, or how long we have been walking by faith, the challenge for the Christian is maintaining a balanced priority of life that emphasizes the eternal over the temporal, the spiritual (heavenly things) over the natural (worldly things). Life experience has taught me that this is only achieved by the consistent quality, quiet time I spend with God through prayer and reading/meditating on His word.

The concept of greater, better and new is born out of the belief that I am in position, every day, to experience something greater, better and new in my faith walk with God, beyond salvation, if I do not limit God, or box Him in, thinking that everything I need God to do is external, or material. The ability to ascend, or transcend, beyond the reality of the condition of my current circumstances is determined by my ability to connect with God in a manner that uplifts me and helps me to navigate in, through and around the troubles of this life Jesus said we would have. “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” – Psalm 25:14 NIV God wants to speak to our hearts in a way that strengthens our faith walk with Him that leaves us assured, confident and content that He is God and He rewards those that diligently seek after Him regardless of how difficult, trying, or challenging the circumstances.

Faith is not just about believing God is, but God is able, in every circumstance to do what He promises and He will perform what He has spoken no matter how long I’ve waited. Faith is more about what God can do in me and through me than about what He can do for me. When you combine what is written in Isaiah 42:9 with Psalm 25:14, it illustrates a picture of God confiding in someone as one would with a trusted friend information that would not necessarily be revealed to everyone. Everyone who is a child of God has the privilege of encountering an intimate, personal friendship relationship with God that would position them to ‘hear things from God’ pertaining to His word (his covenant known to them) that would deepen their understanding of God and His word as they walk by faith. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:16-17a, 26

May God bless you and help you to be in position and the proper posture (humility) to experience something greater, better and new in relation to the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.