Monday, June 29, 2009

My Gospel

" the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." ~ Romans 2:16

"Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began..." ~ Romans 16:25

"Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel." ~ 2 Timothy 2:8

On these three occasions, Paul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, wrote concerning his special relationship to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are are not the only occasions in which Paul mentions the importance of the gospel, or his relationship to it - but these are the times when he said it specifically this way - "my gospel."

Although the gospel is not something we initiated, it should still be to us a great possession. Paul lived a life that was pleasing to God because he wanted to live - "according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust" (1 Tim. 1:11).

He also presented his work in life in this manner - "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

What is missing in the life of most Christians is a possessive attitude about the gospel. It is not the preacher's gospel! It is not the church's gospel! It is not the elders' or the deacons' or the teachers' gospel! Until we all have a personal relationship with the gospel like Paul had, we can in no way be a growing church.

God has chosen to spread the good news of Jesus Christ by word of mouth (1 Corinthians 1:21). Personal evangelism will never be out-dated, overdone, or unnecessary. What greater gift has man received than the gospel? What greater gift can man give than the gospel?

In order for us to give it, we have to already possess it. I am so excited about the gospel of Jesus Christ - my gospel! Are you?

"Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word."~ Acts 8:4

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Giving Methods

Gary and Marylyn Underwood co-authored a book entitled, "First Principles, Topical Studies for New Converts." In this book there is a section on stewardship. In discussing this topic the Underwoods mention five different methods people use as an approach to their giving to the Lord. I would simply like to mention the methods they have listed, and then add a few words:

1. The Tip Method. This method has no rule or purpose. Of course it is understood that it should be a certain percentage, and it is also assumed because it is expected. When you think about a tip at a restaurant, you recognize that tipping is a part of it. Tipping is often done out of compulsion. This is not the proper attitude for giving.

2. The Entertainment Method. The person who uses this method is only going to give to the Lord if they happen to be present, and that giving may vary based on what a person has left in their wallet or the atmosphere of the particular day they have been to worship. This method does not lay by in store. This person may give more when the singing seems better or the preacher is more enthusiastic and charismatic. It's like going to the movies, but only paying afterward if you happened to enjoy the picture.

3. The Sponge Method. This person only gives under pressure. Perhaps a sermon on stewardship may increase the sponge giver's contribution for a while - until they forget or get distracted again by the world and its financial demands. The sponge giver is the guilty giver, the giver who has forgotten too many Sundays past. The sponge giver has to be begged and bullied, and frustrates the kinder efforts of the leadership.

4. The Tithe Method. "How much do I owe? Ten percent? Ok. Here, Lord, here is your ten percent." When are we going to realize that the earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness (1 Cor. 10:26)? There is nothing that we have, nothing, that is not already God's. The tither means to do well, but needs to be careful about giving ten percent. God expects one hundred percent in everything. Perhaps we limit what people would be willing to give, by accepting the idea of the tithe! Giving is not about percentages, it is about the heart.

5. The Christian Method. The Christian Method goes beyond percentages. It goes beyond Biblical examples of accepted righteousness (Matt. 5:20). The Christian who desires to give acceptably does so willingly and totally. They are excited about giving. They are moved with love for God and thanksgiving for understood blessings. The Christian gives more and more with time. They give in faith, and they do not cut back in periods of financial struggle.True Christian giving starts with the complete and total giving of self to the will of God (2 Cor. 8:5).

There is a method to everything we do. What type of giver are you?

"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." ~ 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The New American Idol

A woman was overheard at a dinner party, "My husband and I have managed to be happy together for over 20 years. I guess it is because we are both in love with the same man."

When God spoke from Sinai to the children of Israel, giving them the Ten Commandments, He began by saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me" (Exodus 20:2-5). God made it clear that He was to be first place.

But today, people are in love with themselves. They seem to love themselves more than their spouses, more than their children, more than anything else on the earth. The image they worship, fashioned after a work of creation, is the one they see in the mirror.

In defining the "American Dream," 68% of adults say that it can only be fulfilled if they have the freedom to do and say whatever they want, regardless of the way their activity affects others. This is not freedom - this is plain selfishness! Freedom has with it the necessary elements of sacrifice, and the understanding that my desire to act is not going to take away the rights or freedoms of another.

People are confused about the difference between being responsible to oneself and worshiping self. Margaret Paul, Ph.D., makes the following observations about the difference between selfishness and self-responsibility:

We are being selfish when:

• We expect others to give themselves up for us.

• We make others responsible for our feelings of pain and joy.

• We get angry at others for doing what they want to do rather than doing what we want them to do.

• We consistently make our own feelings, wants, needs and desires important without also considering others feelings, wants, needs and desires.

• We believe we are entitled to special treatment, such as not having to wait in line.

We are being self-responsible when:

• We take care of our own feelings, wants, desires and needs rather than expecting others to take care of us.

• We support others in doing what brings them joy, even when they are not doing what we want them to do.

• We show caring toward others for the joy it give us rather than out of fear, obligation, or guilt.

• We have the courage to take loving action in our own behalf, even if someone gets angry with us.

• We have the courage to speak our truth about what we will or will not do, and what we do or do not feel, rather than give ourselves up to avoid criticism, anger or rejection.

Each one on us needs to work on our tendencies to be selfish. Such is a requirement of being a disciple of Christ. The only way to make God first is to get out of the cockpit. The only way to worship God is to destroy every idol in our lives.

"and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:15

Monday, June 8, 2009

For the Lord

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ" (Col. 3:23-24).

Service to the church is not only a good idea, it is a command. Christians have left the slavery of sin in order to be slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). When a person truly obeys the gospel, they have done more than receive the remission of the theirs sins - they have given their life over to God, to do His will from the heart. This being the case, it comes upon each Christian to have not only the willingness to serve, but the correct attitude.

Paul sets forth a very good statement in to the church at Colossae, when He reminds them how service ought to be rendered. If we can learn from these simple principles, we will change the way Christians relate with one another and we will improve the overall atmosphere within the kingdom.

1. "Do it heartily." The original language of this statement suggests that we work for God with the very breath that sustains our life - that we put our soul into it. God wants us to do our best. One version suggests that this phrase means to work for God with all of your heart. This should not be a difficult request when we reflect upon Jesus. Considering all that God has done for us, and how He has saved us, to give Him everything we have is nothing more than a natural response to unfailing love.

2. "As to the Lord." Herein lies perhaps the most important thing to remember about religious labor. We are doing what we do for God! When people work in the church to be revered, respected, or recognized, they do it for themselves. When people work in the church to make sure that every person is always happy, although they show some unselfishness, they have still missed the higher mark of spiritual service. These approaches lead to pride, personality conflicts, bad attitudes, and continual disappointments. The greatest workers in the church are the people with a smile on their face, who work without complaining, and who are so happy that God has saved them that all they want to do is anything that will please God. People who do their service to the Lord will be rewarded by the Lord.

3. "Knowing." Yes, just this one word says it all. Christians know why they are supposed to serve. Christians know about the love of God that motivates them to serve. Christians also know what lies ahead when they are willing to serve. Glorifying God, helping people, and one's individual spiritual growth are all immediate benefits of working in the kingdom. The greatest feeling the Christian can ever know is that they are going to heaven. This is what "knowing" is all about. When you know where you are headed, any labor along the way is well worth your time. Knowing that God loves us, knowing that He has saved us, and knowing that heaven is closer to us everyday is what living a life of happiness and service is all about.

It is just as important to consider how we serve God, as it is to consider that we we serve God. Some of us need to get to work, and some of us need to remember why we are working in the first place.

"...not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord..." ~ Ephesians 6:6-8