Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Marvelous Faith

The words "marvel", "marveled", or "marvelous" are found 66 times in the Bible. The root word refers to something that causes amazement, or that is striking, extraordinary, or surprising. The works of God are "marvelous" (Psalm 9:1). Men often "marveled" at the miracles of Jesus (Matt. 9:33). When early Christians began to turn from the pure gospel to false teaching it caused Paul to "marvel" (Gal. 1:6).

Jesus, during his earthly ministry, also marveled. Upon entering Capernaum, he met a centurion who had a servant who was paralyzed. The centurion came and pleaded with Christ to heal him. But rather than have Jesus come to his home, the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it" (Matt. 8:8-9). Verse 10 continues, "When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!'"

What a great statement! It is hard to believe that there could be something a man could do that would amaze the Son of God. But our faith can be surprising, striking, and even extraordinary. When we allow our spiritual man to dominate our thinking and behavior it is marvelous in the eyes of our God.

But Jesus also marveled because of man's lack of faith. Jesus was not accepted in Nazareth, his home town. "Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching" (Mark 6:5-6). How tragic that "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:1)! People who do not believe in Jesus or his work are wasting his sacrifice. They are limiting the impact he can have on their lives. Those to whom Jesus has appeared who remain unbelieving, unhappy, and unsaved have nobody to blame but themselves.

The life and works of Jesus Christ are undeniable. He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Our response to Christ can cause him amazement. When Jesus sees your life, does he marvel at your faith, or your unbelief?

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." ~ 1 Peter 2:9

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Greatest Event in History

There are good days and there are bad days. One may contemplate what they consider the greatest day or the worst day of their life. Personal experience will determine what was the best or worst day for each person.

Historically, a debate could also be waged concerning the most significant event since the world began. Was the best event creation? Was the worst event the great flood? Was the best event the birth of Jesus? Was the worst event when the first atomic bomb exploded? Arguments could be made and some good evidence could support whatever event was being proposed for whatever reason. But can there be any doubt, that God Himself trumped every argument when by His power Jesus was raised from the dead?

In the movie City Slickers, Mitch asked Ed, "What was your best day?" Ed replied, "I'm 14 and my mother and father are fighting again... y'know, because she caught him again. Caught him... this time the girl drove by the house to pick him up. And I finally realized, he wasn't just cheating on my mother, he was cheating us. So I told him, I said, "You're bad to us. We don't love you. I'll take care of my mother and my sister. We don't need you any more." And he made like he was gonna hit me, but I didn't budge. And he turned around and he left. He never bothered us again. Well, I took care of my mother and my sister from that day on. That's my best day." Then Ed was asked by another character named Phil, "What was your worst day?" Ed replied, "Same day."

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus was both the worst event and the best event in human history. It thus became the greatest event of all time. It is an event that demands a response. It is an event that makes life after death possible. It is an event in which we can all rejoice in the manifestation of the power of God and the love of God.

Your best day ever has already been determined by the greatest event in history. Christ's resurrection has prepared you for your own. Jesus was raised from an earthly tomb so that you could be raised from the watery grave of baptism. Have you had your best day ever? If not, then may I ask, "What are you waiting for?"

"Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection" ~ Rom. 6:4-5

Monday, April 11, 2011

Apt To Teach

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2 - KJV).

"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient" (2 Tim. 2:24 - KJV).

I like these two verses. It is not just because they are inspired by God. I like them because they remind me that there are certain things God expects from elders and preachers - and really from all men who want to serve in His kingdom. The common thread for preachers and elders in these two passages - that they be "apt (or able) to teach." Paul explained to Timothy, "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2).

Christianity is a learned religion. It must be communicated. The only way people can know what they need to know about God is through His communication to man and our relaying of the same message.

I think it is obvious to us why it is that preachers need to be able to teach. I mean, that is what they do, right? That being said, some wonder why it is that elders must also be apt to teach. Let me give you a few reasons why it is absolutely crucial for elders to be teachers in the church:

1. They need to know what the Bible says, in order to properly serve in their God-given role.
2. They need to be able to defend the Bible and the church from those who wish to attack from the outside.
3. They need to know how to both exhort and rebuke people in the right way and with the right tools.
4. They must be able to determine whether or not what the preacher is preaching to the congregation is God's pure and true gospel.

I could come up with a multitude of additional reasons, but I would like to emphasize one more: 5. Elders need to be teaching classes so that their lives stay in the Word! Too many elders have retreated to only "business matters." When elders don't spend enough time in God's book, they lose their way. Many elders have forgotten what shepherding is, and have forgotten what the members need. There is no better way to be in tune with the needs of the church than to constantly refer to the only book that God used to talk about it.

I encourage all of us to be "apt to teach." The world needs the gospel.

Daniel Webster observed - "If we work on marble it will perish. If we work on brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust. But if we work on men's immortal minds, if we imbue them with high principles, with just fear of God and love of their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which time cannot efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity."

"holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." ~ Titus 1:9

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Limiting Our Success

When the Prophet Elisha was about to die, Joash, King of Israel, visited him and wept (2 Kings 13:14). During this visit, the prophet told the king to take out a bow and some arrows. As Joash put his hand on his bow, Elisha's hands covered the hands of the king. He then told Joash to open a window and shoot. When he shot the first arrow, Elisha explained that the arrows represented deliverance from Syria, one of Israel's enemies.

Elisha then told Joash to take a few more arrows and strike the ground with them. Joash struck the ground three times with the arrows of God's deliverance, but then stopped. Elisha was puzzled and angry with Joash. He said, "You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it. But now you will only strike Syria three times" (2 Kings 13:19).

Why was Elisha angry? He was angry because Joash had been given the power of God to defeat Syria completely, but Joash did not take full advantage of such power. Joash should have been so moved by the prophecy, that when he was asked to strike the ground, he would have done so with passion, excitement, and courage. Elisha should have had to beg him to stop striking the ground with the arrows of God!

The church of today needs to heed the advice of Elisha. We are limiting our own success. We have the power of God in our hands, but are afraid to use it. We don't read and study the Bible enough. We don't take the Bible to our community. We don't get excited enough about what it can do. We don't defend it with our lives like the church once did. We need to stop "tap, tap, tapping" the arrows of God upon the earth! God wants the victory to be complete. The power is available - but we need to gird up our loins and find some courage to strike the earth with conviction!

In my mind and heart, this prayer for the church of Jesus Christ continues - "Father, restore in us your plea. Give us the nerve to change the world. Give us the courage to renew our priorities. Give us some arrows! Help us to make them count!"

"The Lord will appear above his people; his arrows will fly like lightning!" ~ Zechariah 9:14