Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Believer's Call

"For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God..." Colossians 1:10

I am totally into color-coding my scripture when I study:
Pink - sovereignty verses
Yellow - end times verses
Orange - counseling verses
Green - Highly personally special verses
Blue - favorite verses

I have these verses highlighted in my Bible in blue and in the margin next to them I wrote, "The Believer's Call!!" So let's take a quick look at why these verses pack such a powerful punch.

First, Paul's prayer for the church was that they would be filled with knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding. Now, if I pray for my college-aged children to be filled with knowledge,, I am praying that they actually learn something while they are in class. Believe it or not, I expect when they come home after a year of college education under their belt to be more mature and even smarter than they were the previous year. Is that asking too much? I don't think so.

Paul's prayer for knowledge, wisdom and understanding implies spiritual growth which comes from learning the truth. Now, we can go to the school of experience and learn something about God, but true growth and understanding comes from studying the revelation of Himself and then looking at our experience through the lens of that truth. Paul was a teacher at heart and when you read his letters to the young church plants you see him teaching Old Testament concepts through the lens of the life of Jesus Christ. Yes, it was academic but it was also spiritual.

So Paul's prayer was that the church was growing in their knowledge of Jesus Christ through the study of the scriptures. Why? Why is that study so important? If we know the basics of salvation, isn't that enough to have a good life?

Well, let me explain it this way - I love to cook. I have the basics down. But recently I have started to expand my culinary skills by watching the Food Network and trying what I am learning. And my food actually is tasting better and becoming more creative. I am growing in my understanding and it fleshes itself out in my cooking.

In these verses Paul tells us why we need to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ - because knowing Him better will help us:

1. walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
2. to please Jesus in all respects
3. to bear fruit in our good works
4. to grow even more in our knowledge of Him

These all appear beneficial to life, don't they? As I wrote in my Bible, these are the call of the believer. I don't know about you, but I want to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord - I don't want to misrepresent His holiness and His sacrifice by living a worthless life. I want to please Him in all things - this includes my t.v. time (yes, I think He likes the Food Network), my grandma time, my study time, my church time, my friend and family time, my housework time, my grocery time, etc. I want to bear fruit that tastes good, nourishes and attracts others. And ultimately, I want to know Jesus more.

The call of the believer. To live a life as described above, we have to grow in our knowledge of Him. It's that simple. My cooking was never going to change without increasing my knowledge. Your life will never change, as well, without increasing your knowledge of Jesus Christ through the study of the Word of God.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Lesson in Competition

Competition brings out the worst in people and I think I've figured out why. It is because playing by the rules makes competition hard, and though there is always a winner and a loser, no one plays the perfect game. We all break the rules and pay the price for it. That's why there are rules - the rules govern the game and force you to act in a certain manner that will ensure a fair game.

Granted, I am making generalizations here and I understand that any analogy that takes a human picture and displays a spiritual truth will fall short of God's true glory, but hang with me here.

Dave and I like to play tennis - not against each other because it's not even a match then, but as partners. And here's why I like to play with Dave as my partner - because I am a horrible tennis player. You see, you have to hit the ball within the lines in order to keep the ball in play and earn a point. Certain boxes to serve in, various alleys to protect, a net to hit over and an end line to play within. That's the rules.

But when I swing and hit the ball, I don't always stay within those lines. It goes all over the place. I'm inconsistent, slamming the ball into the net one time and sailing it over the back wall the next. Yes, I do get my serve "in" now and again, but not consistently and because of this annoying thing called "rules", I have come to realize I am a poor tennis player.

Enter Dave. He's really good. He runs back and forth behind me, scooping up balls I have swung at and missed, running to the net to get drop shots that I can't reach, serving consistently to keep the ball in play. Basically, he plays the game and I cheer him on. And when "we" win, it's really his victory because all tennis shows me is how inadequate I am to keep the rules - I need a partner to win for me.

Okay, so this is going to be a sorry excuse for a parable, but tennis is a picture of the Law. Life has rules, or better - God has rules and if we play by the rules, we can have a relationship with God. But we are terrible at life - we break the rules constantly and the whistle blows with continual violations because we are so bad at it. How can we ever win if we have to play by God's rules?

Enter Jesus. He steps onto the court of life and we take our seat on the sidelines. He lives the perfect life, keeping every rule and winning the game for us. Then He walks over and hands us the trophy, as if we participated in the game at all. It's His victory and He gives it to us. I guess an even better picture is that after winning for us, He brings us onto the court and partners with us to make us better players, even in our fallen state. This analogy could go on and on...

But can you see it? As I struggle with frustration at my inability in sports (remember sports brings out the worst in me), I have decided to respond with spiritual eyes and thank the Lord that rules show our inabilities and our need for Jesus. Then maybe my attitude will improve and I'll understand that sports simply underscore our dependency on our Savior.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The End is really just the Beginning

It's hard to believe we have our first year of Bible study under our belt as a church. I must admit, I have been blessed beyond all measure this year by the women who have attended the study. I woke up this morning to the sweet memory of my gals singing, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus - there's just something about that Name..." What a blessing to hear their precious voices singing praise to the One we spent all year studying.

It is also hard to teach on the resurrection and then wave and say, "See you in a few months!" The resurrection is far from the end of the story. As my title says, it's really the beginning, for now, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have the ability to live in the light of His Words, to enter the throne room of His Father and to long for the day of His return.

Seeing His promise in the Old Testament of a coming Savior and then the fulfillment of these prophecies in the New Testament should give all of us a sense of peace and praise as we start each day. These are so much more than just stories or a history lesson - the gospel is a way of life. It is a truth that effects every decision we make.

A few years ago I read a great book by Elise Fitzpatrick called "Because He Loves Me" and the main premise is that the gospel is not just for salvation, but for every single day of a believer's life. It is the power source - if we don't spend time studying, meditating on and reveling in the truth of Jesus' birth, sinless life, death, burial and resurrection. it would be like trying to use your cell phone without charging it! Our power and our focus comes from the Word of God, from it's truths.

Yesterday, Hilda asked where we would begin showing someone Who Jesus Christ's really everywhere in the scriptures. That's the great thing about the Bible - so many books, so many different personalities who wrote it and stories and perspectives, but One topic. So find a book that perks your interest, delve in and before you know it, you'll be able to clearly show Jesus in any discussion you have - the gospel will flow through your conversation because of the passion you have for the study of His Word.

I want to send out a quick note of thanks to all you ladies who left birthday wishes and testimonies on my kitchen table after study. I read through them last night and some made me giggle and others pulled on my heart, but all of them caused me to raise up you gals in praise to the Lord - you have no idea what a blessing and privilege it has been to teach and walk through Luke with all of you! Thank you for blessing me and promise me that you'll do your best to start your days with the compassionate, loving Savior who longs to show Himself to you through His Word.

"...Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there's something about that Name."