Stop Acting Like Satan

For the next 5 weeks the attention of our bulletin articles will be to support our readings from Immerse: Messiah. If you haven’t decided to join us for Immerse yet, it’s not too late. We have 5 groups meeting on 5 different days in 5 different locations. Hopefully you can make one of them fit into your schedule.

This week what really stood out to me was from Romans 14 (Immerse pg. 198). After talking about differing views about food between Gentile and Jewish Christians in Rome, he also talks about calendar differences between the two. Coming from very different backgrounds means they obviously have very different practices. Yet Paul’s goal is not who is right and who is wrong. Instead his goal is unity. Each group should be fully convinced they are right before God (even though they are not practicing the same things!)

Again, Paul is concerned with their unity, not uniformity!

He then summarizes his argument, and gives us some clues as to what might be happening in Rome.

So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, 

“ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, 

‘every knee will bend to me, 

and every tongue will declare allegiance praise to God.’ ” 

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other.

Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

Romans 14:10-13 NLT (emphasis added)

Apparently these Roman Christians were spending a great deal of time accusing and attacking each other. That’s acting like Satan, not Christ. (FYI – “satan” means accuser)

Paul isn’t concerned with matters of opinion, he’s concerned with infighting that might ruin someone’s faith in the Lordship of Christ. Specifically in the context, don’t appear to be worshipping idols (which are demons – see Deut. 32:17 & 1 Cor. 10:20) and in doing so cause another person to fall into this practice.

The history of the Church is full of those who excelled at accusing and condemning other Christians. Sadly this is not just a sin of the past. It still happens today, and people lose their faith as a result. This is exactly what Paul is telling us not to do!

Disagreements will happen. God knows that. Paul tells us to seek unity, not uniformity.

But the moment we let these disagreements turn into accusations and mud slinging, we’ve joined team satan. (Rev. 12:10)

And that’s simply not a team I’m willing to be a part of. How about you?

Daily Psalms – Psalm 133

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 131-135

Today we conclude the psalms of ascents, and continue toward the end of book 5. Have you noticed how this portion of the psalter focuses far more on praise and worship than lament? Psalm 133 has been a favorite of mine since the first time I encountered it. Let’s look at it together.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1 NIV

Unity in God is a blessing that descends to us from our God. Keep in mind this is a psalm of ascent, so this is sung as people from all over go up together to worship. In the context of ancient Israel, this is a reminder, or a pleading for the whole of Israel to be unified. Today all of Christendom needs to hear this plead. As Paul would remind us:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

Our English translations miss a little theme here in verses 2-3. NIV uses “running down”, “running down,” and “falling on” throughout this Psalm. It’s the same Hebrew word each time , “yarad” which is “descending.”

The imagery of mountains could either be people of high standing (Mt. Hermon the highest mountain) and Mount Zion (much lower in elevation but obviously of great importance to God), or people from the northern kingdom (Hermon) and people from Judah (Zion).

Whatever the psalmist intended, it is clearly a blessing from on high when all who follow our God are one. This blessing is like an anointing that descends to lower places from the head to the beard to the collar. The same blessing descends on the elevated like Mount Hermon and also descends on the lower Mount Zion.

Don’t forget that God blesses the high and the lowly. Our churches are not to be country clubs or exclusive holy huddles/cliques where the select few get to hang out. It is for everyone, high or low, to come together in unity.

“For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:3 NIV

Blessings to you.

DAILY PSALM – PSALM 121

Daily Psalm Reading – 121-125

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 NIV

Saturday night in our family devotional we discussed Romans 14:7-8. The question I asked of my family was, “What is our only hope in life and death?” Answer: Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Yesterday as I gathered to worship with my church family, I was reminded of these verses. We sang a newer song called In the Harbor (All Will Be Well) where I was reminded once again that we have no hope unless we are anchored in the Lord.

This morning begins the songs of ascent in our psalm reading. The first song of ascent, Psalm 121 reminds me once again that my help comes from Yahweh.

This psalm is antithetical to diest view. If you are unfamiliar with the term, deists believe there is a divine being, but he is completely removed from the world and has nothing to do with it. A popular illustration of this view is this god as a clockmaker. He makes the clock, winds it, sits it on a shelf, and has nothing more to do with it. This is not our God!

Each phrase of the psalm reminds us of Yahweh’s involvement in our lives. He won’t let our foot slip (v. 3), he watches over his people (v. 4), he gives us shade (v. 5), keeps us from harm (v. 6), watches over our lives (v. 7), and will do so forever more (v. 8).

Don’t believe the lie that God is in retirement, no longer in the God business, or not involved with us in any way. That view is inaccurate and unscriptural! He is the only source of our hope. He is the only one who cares for and sustains us. Without him we would be nothing, but in him we have everything we need. As the old song says, “There is a God, He is alive, in Him we live, and we survive.”

My prayer is that we all see God at work in our lives, in our families, and in our communities today. Look for him, for he is there!

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 6

Last time we explored the significance of the cups of wine used in the Passover celebration. This article will examine a reference that Jesus and Paul make to one of theses cups.

The third cup comes right after supper. This cup is mentioned specifically in Luke 22:20 – In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This third Passover cup is known as the Geulah which means redemption, and is sometimes called the cup of blessing. As mentioned previously, the phrase “new covenant in my blood” is an allusion by Jesus to Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”  The passage ends with the words: “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.”

It is a powerful statement Jesus is making by taking the cup of redemption, or cup of blessing, and interpreting it as God’s new covenant with humankind. The third cup reminded the Jews of God’s blessing by redeeming them out of slavery in Egypt on the very night of the original Passover. In a similar, but far greater way, God will redeem his people once, for all time through the events that would begin the very night that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. This was to be a new feast to commemorate God’s eternal redemption of his people.

The apostle Paul alludes to this third cup in his letter to Corinth. The church in Corinth was apparently involved in consuming food that had been sacrificed by pagans to their idols. Some saw nothing wrong with eating the food, while others were deeply offended by this claiming the Christians were worshipping idols in eating these feasts.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread.

Barclay offers the following commentary on Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians. “…a man who has sat at the table of Jesus Christ cannot go on to sit at the table which is the instrument of demons. If a man has handled the body and blood of Christ there are things he cannot touch.”

Those of us who have entered into “the new covenant in [Christ’s] blood” have pledged our faithfulness to him. Eating this feast is worship, and when we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we are not only reminding ourselves of his sacrifice, we are recommitting ourselves to this new covenant in Christ which excludes worshipping any other god.

All Christians who eat the Lord’s Supper are “one body” in doing so. Unfortunately we still allow idol sacrifices to divide us today. We often place our allegiance to our denominations, our worship preferences, our schedules, our convenience, as well as other idols before our allegiance to unity in Christ. In many ways, we fail to remember the body (church) of Jesus when we eat this feast.  May God forgive us for our lack of unity, and may God strengthen our bond to him and each other through the body and blood of Christ.

The Best New Year’s Resolution: Change The World

In the early 1900s, a shoe manufacturer wanted to expand sales, so they decided to send salesmen all over the world in search of new markets for their business.

Two salesmen were sent to the the remote regions of Africa, and had two very different reactions to what they found.

The first salesman telegraphed his employer:

It’s hopeless. They don’t wear shoes down here.

The second salesman telegraphed the same employer:

Wonderful opportunity! They don’t wear shoes down her yet!

Sometimes we fail to see our surroundings, our circumstances as an opportunity to change the world. (CLICK TO TWEET THIS!)

We all struggle with this. We fail to see being stuck in traffic as an opportunity to call a friend and just talk. We fail to look at difficult situations as an opportunity to grow personally. We don’t see the end of a relationship as an opportunity to form new ones.

I’m not talking about being optimistic in all situations. I’m talking about changing the way we view everyday situations.

What would this world look like if we started using the opportunities we are presented with every day to change the world, rather than gripe on Twitter. What if we decided to not be bitter but instead, as the old saying goes, turn lemons into lemonade?

Did you know the Apostle Paul talked about this same thing? He wrote a letter to the early church in Colossae. They were facing all kinds of challenges, and so was Paul. He was in prison when he wrote this! Look at what he decides to write while he is “here in chains.

Colossians 4:5-6
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Here’s Paul, writing from prison, encouraging Christians on the best way to live their lives. And if you’re not a Christian, and you’re reading this…don’t worry! If you follow Paul’s wisdom here, you’ll see an improvement in your life as well!

Paul says “Live wisely…” When we choose to apply wisdom to situations instead of reacting to the emotions of the moment, we will change the way we handle situations for the better.

He tells them to “…make the most of every opportunity.” No matter what life hands us, good or bad, use those situations as an opportunity to do good instead of evil.

Let your conversations be gracious…” Can you imagine how many problems in our world would simply go away if we could do this one thing? (CLICK TO TWEET THIS!) What would it look like if everyone simply handled every conversation they had tomorrow with graciousness? How many problems would be eliminated?

…and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” This part refers to creating another opportunity with the way we handle everyday situations.  If we handle stressful, frustrating, irritating, or painful situations differently than the way the rest of the world does, we will create new opportunities.

What kind of opportunities? The opportunity to tell others why we can handle these situations differently. To tell them about the hope we have found.

We can tell them about Jesus. The Jesus who loved the outcasts of society. The Jesus who had compassion on those who everyone else ignored. The Jesus who chose to die for everyone, even the ones who hated him and put him to death.

How different would our world look if we could take difficult situations, and instead of showing our selfish, self absorbed inner 5 year old, we would show the world the true, authentic Jesus of the Bible?

Simply put, we could change the world.

So, go change the world today!