To Be Reconciled

Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you — since I am such a person as Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus — I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I fathered in my imprisonment, who previously was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. – Philemon 1:8-11

Paul wrote this short letter to Philemon, a “child in the faith,” about another “child in the faith,” Onesimus, in order that his two “kids” might be reconciled to one another. Apparently, Onesimus, the slave, had fled Philemon, the master, and had taken a few things along for the journey. Of course, as Onesimus was running, he met Paul and his Savior. Onesimus, whose name means “Useful,” as a believer needed to return to his earthly master and Philemon needed to offer forgiveness for his slave’s offense. Paul also not so subtly instructed Philemon to then release Onesimus from his obligation, in order that he could return as an aid to the apostle, because he had been so useful to him.

For reconciliation to occur between believers, the love of Christ must prevail, and everyone involved in the offense must surrender to His purposes. In this case, even Paul (who brokered the reconciliation) was included. Forgiveness acknowledges failure, embraces it, and applies grace as the healing agent. The work of reconciliation is never easy, but it is always worth the effort, for in it Christ is glorified, the flesh is crucified, and God’s work continues unhindered.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. – C. S. Lewis

Never Too Late

Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord, intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are going insane.  – Jeremiah 51:7

The rise and fall of the Babylonian empire are a great example of God’s sovereign power over earthly institutions. Jeremiah, God’s prophet, foretold both the ascent and descent of this once powerful nation. In the end, Babylon was simply another tool by which God accomplished His divine purposes.

Could our nation (your nation) experience a similar fate? Absolutely.

In some ways the “great experiment” that is “America, the Beautiful” seems to have gone awry and the principles upon which our nation once firmly stood are daily being abandoned. For centuries, at least at the governmental level, we were a positive influence, but now it seems, no more. What have we become? What will we be? How must we change? Is it too late?

Whatever the answers, I am convinced that the Body of Christ must seize the opportunity that has always been before it. We are here to represent our Savior to a world that needs redemption. We didn’t earn our place, nor did we deserve our position. It is a grace and an obligation that demands to be shared.

To answer the last question, it is never too late for that.

This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth! – Keith Green

Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. – Proverbs 27:1

I always try to plan for tomorrow while still living for today, but it isn’t easy to pull off. Sometimes, it seems, I have a lot riding on the future, thinking that if something doesn’t happen the way I have it laid out, then I am defeated. The result is that I sometimes get ahead of myself and end up with some disappointment over failed plans. Unmet expectations can lead to frustration and impatience with my circumstances and my friends, coworkers, and family.

Why not use a different tactic? Yes, plan for tomorrow, but don’t boast about it. To plan is wise, but to boast is presumption. Boasting about future plans is akin to acting as if we have sovereign control over every circumstance and, of course, on God has such power.

Success in such matters is often seen in surrender. It is good to be bold, to “push the envelope,” to stretch the boundaries. This is how breakthroughs are achieved and new “wineskins” are formed. Resting on one’s “laurels” (past achievements) is not an acceptable path for a consecrated servant of God in Christ Jesus. On the other hand, resting in His dominion is the best possible direction for the saint who desires to please the Savior.

Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. – Eric Liddell

We Dare Not Be Silent

Now at the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will certainly die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way so that he may live, that wicked person shall die for wrongdoing, but his blood I will require from your hand. However if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die for wrongdoing, but you have saved yourself. – Ezekiel 3:16-19

Ezekiel, as an ancient prophet of God, was warned about keeping silent and refusing to proclaim God’s rebuke when His Creator had commanded him to do so. The penalty for his disobedience would be severe. God “mouthpiece” must speak His truth no matter the personal cost (run, Jonah, run). Yet, as those who claim to follow Christ, are we exempt from this same responsibility?

There are many ways to confront dangerous, sinful behavior in the life of a brother or sister in Christ, but we do not have the luxury of remaining silent when another member of Christ’s body is moving away from obedience in their walk with the Savior. Yes, I am aware of the admonition concerning “judgment” of others, but the answer is to remove the logs in our own eyes so that we can help our “family” with the specks in theirs.

While we may not want to hurt someone or offend, silence will result in destruction or even greater heartbreak, not to mention, dishonor of God. Every believer (not just those in leadership) is constrained to deliver God’s Word, even when it is difficult or painful. Woe to the man or woman of God who abdicates this responsibility simply for the sake of remaining liked or popular.

We are one in Christ; let us be friends with one another; but let us never be friends with one another’s error. If I am wrong, rebuke me sternly; I can bear it, and bear it cheerfully; and if you are wrong, expect the like measure from me, and neither peace nor parley with your mistakes. – Charles Spurgeon

Forward

But we are not among those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith for the safekeeping of the soul. – Hebrews 10:39

Those who truly believe in Christ will persevere unto the end of their days (or to the return of our King). On the other hand, some who might claim Jesus from the softness of a warm bed, would deny Him in the furnace of a martyr’s prison. Even still, there are others who might wrestle daily with the struggles of the flesh, but would boldly proclaim the glory of Christ under threat of an executioner’s sword.

How can we know what our response might be? How might we be assured of who we are in the face of the ultimate trial? How strong is our faith and trust in Christ?

Frankly, we simply cannot know what we would do when faced with physical persecution, that is, until we actually face it. Yet, each one of us should be able to answer these questions, “Am I moving forward in faith and obedience to Christ today? Am I more like Jesus this week than I was last week, last month, last year? What must I do in this moment (and the next and the next) to remain obedient to my Lord?”

Persevere in the “moments” and you will ultimately endure to the end.

It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required. – Winston Churchill

He Can Help

I will raise my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. – Psalms 121:1-2

In the old western movies, when the hero got into trouble, he would look to the horizon for someone to ride in on horseback (“Here comes the cavalry!”) and save him. Ancient Israel, under siege from almost every enemy that surrounded them, often looked to some neighboring nation to come, and bring relief. When we find ourselves facing overwhelming odds, when “life” seems to be spinning out of control, where do we go for help?

The psalmist understood an enduring principle. The crises of life are designed and given by our Sovereign God to reveal our inadequacies, to cause us to look beyond the resources of our own deliverance to the One who manufactures any and every potential resource (physical or spiritual) known to mankind.

The greatest problem mankind has ever faced, sin, was an unconquerable foe; at least, it was until Jesus came, died, and rose again. So, when trials and tribulations arise, let’s raise our eyes to the One (Christ Jesus) who makes eternal removal (forgiveness) of the eternal stain (sin) possible. He is Creator, Sustainer, and Savior. He can help.

Whatever gets our attention, gets us. Our gaze must be person-centered, not problem-centered and that Person must be Jesus Christ. – Selwyn Hughes

Cling to Grace

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let’s show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. – Hebrews 12:28-29

God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The God of Moses’ Sinai is the God of this world, this continent, and this country. Same God. Same holiness. Same wrath. Same grace.

His kingdom is unshakable, and it belongs to those of us who belong to Him through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We who are receiving this kingdom (it will not be fully ours until the King Himself reigns on earth) cannot effectually keep it by “holding on” to grace (for that in itself would be a work). Rather, we rest as recipients of His Kingdom “clinging to” His grace as the only effectual means of gaining our inheritance.

Clinging to His grace, we then serve the Lord with all reverence and awe, fully aware of this truth, that though the world is ever-changing, He is not. Be steadfast. Persevere. Endure in hope. Worship the King who was and is and is to come!

It is not the fire that will burn us up if we do not worship, but the fire will burn us up until we worship. – Gordon MacDonald

Leadership Essentials

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their way of life, imitate their faith. – Hebrews 13:7

Here we see some two-sided instruction from God’s word.

First, we are to “remember” those who have instructed us in the doctrines of the faith; pastors, teachers, professors, even parents and friends who have rendered biblical influence in our lives. We should think about their lives and their teaching, the principles they imparted and the lives they lived. Of course, we “remember” them best, by praying for them.

Second, we see here an implied reminder for those who lead. Leaders should live in such a way that the fruit of their ministry bears witness to the truth their lips (or writings) profess. Spiritual leaders must be able to say to all who follow, “Imitate me.” Leaders lead best when they live lives that others can follow.

This kind of incarnational connectivity (disciples remembering and leaders leading in memorable ways) is absolutely essential if we all hope to see the next generation of godly leaders to arise and serve Christ’s church.

Wherever Jesus may lead us, He goes before us. If we don’t know where we are going, we know with whom we go. – Charles Spurgeon

Then, You Will Know

“Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have dealt with you in behalf of My name, not according to your evil ways or according to your corrupt deeds, house of Israel,” declares the Lord God. – Ezekiel 20:44

When God introduced Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He said, “Call me YHWH.” YHWH means “I AM” and affirms God’s self-existent, unchanging nature. In other words, God was saying that He is who He has always been and will always be. He never changes. He is immutable.

After that meeting, God continued to reveal Himself to Israel: as He delivered them from Egypt, as He gave them His law, and as He provided for their needs through manna, water, and quail. Ultimately, God would reveal Himself by His grace, when for His own name’s sake, He preserved an Israel that deserved to be eradicated.

Truly, God’s grace best reveals His glory, and it is by the Son, Jesus Christ, and the indwelling Holy Spirit that God’s grace and glory are fully displayed and received. If you know this, then you know Him.

The chief purpose of life, for any of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. – J. R. R. Tolkien