Saturday, August 20, 2011
After proclaiming the Message in Derbe and establishing a strong core of disciples, they retraced their steps to Lystra, then Iconium, and then Antioch, putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.” (Acts 14:21-22, the Message)
Like the disciples learned, life isn’t always easy. Sometimes we mistakenly believe that if we are following the Lord, we will never face troubles. But as it says, anyone who decides to join the kingdom of God will go through plenty of hard times.
So what is the key to making it through? This passage talks about sticking with what is believed and not quitting. How do we do this? In the middle of this passage is something interesting…”putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples.”
Sinew means tendon. And tendons are tough bands of fibrous connective tissues that connect our muscles to our bones. Tendons (or sinews) and muscles work together.
Well here is the thing I learned about tendons; they are able to withstand tension. So when we have muscle and sinew in our lives, we can withstand the tension that life brings.
But here is the thing about tendons, they can also break. It takes force for this to happen. And when the tendon does break (or tear), the process of healing is very long and very painful.
Sometimes tendons, like the Achilles tendon, can even become prone to rupture or injury because of a lack of use. So if we are going to have muscle and sinew in our lives, then we need to use it.
To put muscle and sinew in our lives, we need to do some pretty basic things. We need to be in the Word on a daily basis. Because of technology there is really no excuse to not be immersed in the Word every single day. If you can’t sit down and read your Bible, then you can listen to it. You can pull it up on your smart phone. You can download it on your computer.
We also need to be seeking God for direction every day of our lives. This means spending time in prayer. This can be done in the comfort of your home, while walking, driving…there is no right time or place. He wants to hear from you.
But even this isn’t enough. We also need to be united with other believers. We need to be in church each week, taking advantage of every opportunity to gather with other believers. In my church we have life groups, Bible studies, Sunday school, and the list goes on. Spending time with other believers builds you up. It is a way to encourage and inspire one another. It is a way to hold one another accountable.
Need some muscle and sinew in your life? Read the Word. Pray. Fellowship with other believers. Then you will be ready to withstand the tensions of life.
Photo by perpetualplum in Flickr
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Matthew 23:26 (NLT) "You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too."
What would happen if you decided to save time and money on dish soap by only washing the outside of your cups and dishes? You would likely get sick, leaving behind germs that are never washed away. The washing of the inside is actually the most important.
This is true of us as well. So often we focus on changing the outward behavior, failing to see that it’s what is within that motivates our behavior. If we continue to neglect the inner man, the outer man will never experience lasting change.
This is why we fail to curb our anger, stop our overeating, kick the smoking habit or whatever else it is that we want to change. Those are just outward behaviors that are influenced by our inner man. There is something much deeper within that causes someone to lose their temper, eat more than they should or light up that cigarette.
In other words, it is the inner man that needs to be washed. But we don’t have the ability to do that…this is the work of the Holy Spirit, cleansing us from the inside out.
This should cause us to breathe a sigh of relief, yet motivate us to reflect. We can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that it’s not in our hands to make those inner changes. But we should reflect on our relationship with the Lord and how much (or how little) we are allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.
The working of the Holy Spirit is something that happens over a period of time. It comes from spending time in the Word, reading and studying it. It comes from seeking God through prayer. It also comes from taking advantage of other opportunities where we gather with other believers such as attending church, Bible studies, prayer groups, Sunday school, life groups, and the like.
But it doesn’t end there. Simply being a student of the Word or gathering with other believers isn’t enough. We have to live it. We have to be obedient. This many times requires stepping out of the boat and leaving our comfort zones. It definitely requires a complete surrendering of your life.
If you have been focusing on making outward changes, perhaps you need to change direction. Allow the Holy Spirit to begin to wash the inner man and then the outside will become clean, too.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
We all have a mission in this life and sometimes it isn’t an easy one. Think of the prophet Ezekiel. He was called to do some pretty hard things. This was not going to be a glamorous job of proclaiming God’s Word to people. He would be met with rebellion.
In fact, God warns Ezekiel that He is sending him to a people (Israel) who were hardened in their sin. They would come back with mean words and hard looks. It didn’t matter whether or not they listened to Ezekiel; he still had to speak to them.
In fact, God would even go on to say that he shouldn’t expect them to listen. Yet he was to go in and not be intimidated or afraid of them.
Or think about Hosea, who was called to marry a promiscuous woman. She would be an adulterous wife that would leave him. But he would have to take her back.
Not such glamorous lives that Ezekiel and Hosea was called to live, huh?
What if God told you ahead of time what you can expect in your life? What if He told you that you would have a bad marriage, rebellious children, money troubles, or sickness? Would you sign up for that mission?
There are many things that have transpired in my life that I would have preferred to be different, had I the choice. But life doesn’t work that way. The question becomes…what will we do with what we have been dealt?
Now I take you to another scene…the Garden of Gethsemane. Picture the anguish and sorrow that Jesus went through, as He prepared for what was ahead. He knew full well what was coming and that it was going to be incredibly painful, not just literally but in the sense that He would have to bear the sins of the world. Imagine the weight…
I know how guilt feels when I have done something wrong. It can eat away at you. But imagine now having to take on the sins of every single person on earth.
We always think about the physical suffering of Christ, as horrendous and sickening as it was. But we have to remember that there was a spiritual suffering that occurred as well. So when Jesus was praying in the Garden, do you not think He was ready to pass on this mission?
Jesus asked for the cup to be taken…He didn’t exactly want to suffer. Who desires to suffer? But He followed it up with “Not my will be done but Your will.” He recognized that while it would have been easy to back out of the deal, He had a mission to complete.
Ezekiel had a mission to complete. Hosea had a mission to complete. I have a mission to complete and you have a mission to complete. It may not be glamorous and it may be hard but we need to respond as Jesus did.
Photo by truebadour on stock.xchng