Step Up!

 Joshua 1:1-2 “1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel” (KJV).

The death of Moses must have been difficult for the nation of Israel. Moses led the nation for years and through many trials. As the nation wandered in the wilderness, it was the great leadership of Moses that helped guide and provide for them, through the Lord’s direction.

As we begin the New Year, maybe we should be watchful of new opportunities and challenges. Much like the changing of leadership that Israel is about to witness under Joshua.

Joshua had spent years training and the Lord instructed Moses to prepare this young man for such a moment as this. Maybe you have been sitting under a great leader who has been training you for years. And maybe this will be the year that you begin to take on new challenges. This may be the year that the Lord has been grooming you for.

A great leader is someone who lifts you up in times of trouble; they encourage teamwork, excellence, growth, and unity. Like all great leaders, there will come a time when the torch needs to be passed down. If you have been filling a leadership role for years, ask yourself “have I been training someone to fill my shoes”? All too often, I have seen great ministries come to a halt because the leader moved on or was called to a new ministry.

I believe it is important for a leader to train younger generations, preparing and grooming them to take over. Just as important is the willingness to be “trained”, this responsibility does not rest on the leader alone. Those who serve should be ready to take over a ministry in a moment’s notice. Moses listened to the wisdom of the Lord; trained a younger generation. At the same time, Joshua was willing and ready to be trained. “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses” (Deut. 34:9, KJV).

Remember that all ministry work is to bring honor and glory to the Lord. Leadership is not about being selfish or power-hungry; it is about leading others, for the honor and glory of the Lord.

Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (KJV). It’s not about me; it is all about Christ…

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Aside

Conflict Resolution

 Acts 15:1-9 “1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (KJV).

After returning from their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas spent some time in Antioch. The church has accepted the new doctrine of witnessing to the Gentiles, which Peter played a major role in with the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10). As Paul and Barnabas fellowship and disciple the church members at Antioch, they run into some problems. They discovered that some of the religious believers from Jerusalem had made their way to Antioch.

The problem had to do with adding stipulations to the gospel message. The new believers were being told that they needed to follow the Old Testament law of circumcision. This was completely contrary to what Paul and Barnabas had preached to them. Salvation is through grace by faith, plus or minus nothing. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9, KJV).

The conflict was so important that Paul and Barnabas could not convince these legalistic believers what they were preaching was wrong. They had to form a debate team and journey to the original head church in Jerusalem (v.2).

As the made their way to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas continued witnessing and preaching the gospel message. Once they arrived in Jerusalem and began discussing this issue of salvation, it was obvious that some of the leaders still believed that keeping the Mosaic Law was a requirement to salvation. This was not a one-time meeting. Most commentaries agree that the debate was discussed during 4 separate occasions. The final outcome was an agreement that salvation is through grace by faith, plus or minus nothing. They documented the agreement and sent witnesses back to Antioch in order sign, seal, and deliver the news.

There are a few important issues that I would like to discuss from these verses. Conflict in the church is nothing new and should not surprise us. The key to any type of conflict is the goal of resolution. Resolving conflict takes time; we must be willing to listen carefully and take the time necessary to handle it. When Paul and Barnabas could not find resolution at Antioch, they took the conflict to the next level. The focus was not placed on who was right or who was wrong; the focus was on 100% resolution. If there was no resolution to the doctrine of salvation; the church could not move forward. The division in doctrine would have caused the church to decay from the inside out.

Have you ever seen a church split over silly arguments? I have heard of a church dividing because they could not agree on the color of the new carpet they wanted to purchase. How does such a silly argument promote the gospel message to the un-saved? Why would anyone visit a church that can’t even agree on the color of a carpet?

The other issue to discuss is the legalistic view; which is considered the darker side of Christianity. When Christians add to the gospel, it creates a salvation message that is impossible to achieve. Let me explain: If I create a rule to the salvation message, I point sinners back to the Ten Commandments (Law). But that is not what God’s law is designed to do. The law is impossible to keep; therefore it is designed to point sinners to Christ. Not the other way around.

Galatians 3:21-25 “21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

One More Day

 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 “1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted” (KJV).

In keeping with the theme about past mistakes and dwelling in history, I think these verses are worthy of another post. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth. Notice how Paul addresses his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, calling for their immediate attention. His desire for the church is heartfelt and passionate. He is saying “Please don’t ignore the past mistakes of your forefathers, learn from them”. His focus was on the blessings they had received and yet, they were overthrown in the wilderness. Paul gives us an important reminder that our need for Christ should not be measured or weighted through our circumstances.

I’m afraid that many un-saved people today have the same ignorance that Paul speaks about. They believe that salvation only applies to those who are poor, drug addicted, or suffer through an habitual cycle of “bad things” in life. Paul reminds me that salvation is for everyone. Romans 3:22-23 “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. People may put on a persona and make it look like they are doing wonderful, but deep down they are hurting. Regardless, keep on sharing the gospel. Plant the seeds and let the Lord provide the Light and Water. My point is not to judge how others view salvation, but to address the need for all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

For the Christian, we are reminded that the blessed days of our walk with the Lord are just as important as the darker ones. Whether we are on the mountain top or sitting in a valley, our faith needs to remain constant. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (KJV). Good days or bad days, it just doesn’t matter…They are all worthy of giving thanks, to the One who has blessed us with…one more day!

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Numbering Our Days

 Psalm 90:12-17 “12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. 14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. 16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. 17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it (KJV).

Moses is the author of this remarkable Psalm. It is also recorded as the oldest of all the Psalms written. I covered the first 4 verses in a previous post titled “Dwelling in History”. Moses begins his petitions to God in verse 12. He is not praying for himself but for God’s people. He prays that God will allow his people to learn from their past mistakes; not only to learn from past mistakes but to take them to heart.

When we take a look at our past mistakes, we have a few options:

  1. We can learn from them and never make the same mistakes.
  2. We may forget about them and continue making the same mistakes.
  3. Or we may dwell on them, allowing them to be a constant reminder of our failures.

I believe Moses’ prayer gives us some wisdom and instructions about handling past mistakes. Numbering our days is a great illustration of the Lords forgiveness, grace, and mercy. When we number our days, we have the power, ability, and authority to change. We are wise to remember our past mistakes, but foolish to think that the Lord replays them over and over. Those past mistakes are gone, they are numbered and that number can’t be replayed, unless we forget to number them (Repent).

In verse 13 we are reminded of the need to repent from our mistakes. After we repent we can rejoice and be happy. The day of salvation is such a wonderful day for new believers, so wonderful that angels in heaven rejoice. Jesus said “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” Luke. 15:10, KJV).

Numbering our days allows us to reflect on how important it is to repent our mistakes and learn from them. Think of it as a negative and positive. Those past mistakes are negative moments is life. When we repent we turn a negative into positive, and a positive points us to the cross +. Dwelling on your past mistakes will only hinder you from being all that you can be for Christ. We do not know how many days we will be able to number. Live for Christ today and be all that He desires for you to be.

2 Chronicles 7:14 – If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Teachable Moments

  Zechariah 1:2-6 “1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, 2 The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers. 3 Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. 4 Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD. 5 Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? 6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us” (KJV).

The prophet Zechariah is delivering the Lord’s message and begins with a call to repentance. Not only is this a wonderful reminder of our need of repentance today, but the Lord’s call gives us a beautiful answer to the question “why”. The Lord was not pleased with the way the previous generation responded to His word. How could His people not learn from the mistakes made by the previous generations? Easy, we all possess some of the character traits of our parents and grandparents. This leads right into an easy application for us today. As parents, we must be careful about how we live in front of our children. It is important for our children to be part of a local church, they need to attend, and they need to be involved with the ministries.

Have you ever watched those infomercials where they always end their elaborate sales pitch with “But wait, there more”, then they attempt to offer you some additional product either for free or half price. As the Lord reminds his people, he gives them a beautiful call to repentance and there’s more, don’t be like your forefathers. Learn from the mistakes they made.

This leads me back to parenting. Parents have the ability to undo some of the poor examples they have set before their children. Meaning that the time is now, not only is it important to change your ways that are not in accordance with His word, but you have the obligation to teach your children why. Sometimes a parent will make better choices in life, but never take the time to explain the “why” to their children. These teachable moments are important, they may be the link of wisdom that will help them grow into adults who know the right things to do, but they will also know why they should do them.

Teaching a child by telling them what to do and not do, is only one method of teaching, and it is the simplest form of teaching a child. But adding the “why” allows the child to experience a deeper level of learning. But wait…there’s more, a parent needs to share those moments when they turned from doing something wrong and turned towards the Lord. Those moments will take a child’s learning to a Christ-like level. Be humble and teach your children the right way, through the examples written on the pages of your life.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (KJV).

Malachi 4:5-6 “5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (KJV).

Matthew 18:3, Jesus speaking, “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Finding Balance

 1 Timothy 6:1-11 “1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. 2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. 3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (KJV).

Paul is speaking to the young Timothy, reminding him of the importance of maintaining a proper Christian perspective. As a Christian, living in a world with those who are opposed to our beliefs, it may become difficult to find the right balance. We are to live according to His word, follow His instructions, and defend His truth. Paul also reminds Timothy that it is important to remain respectful to others. The picture given is that of a slave working for his master.

In today’s workplace environment, there are Christians who struggle with maintaining a balanced life of faith. The boss or supervisor may not be a Christian; in fact they may dislike everything Christianity stands for. This may cause a great deal of stress in the life of a Christian. Paul reminds us that we need to be respectful toward those we work for and with, regardless of their faith or lack thereof.

How do we balance our faith? The word “Balance” may be a poor word choice for this application. A Christian does not have to balance their faith in the workplace. It may seem impossible to live your faith in an office filled with people who want nothing to do with Christ. Everything you are trying to live for and by seems foolish to others. How we live our faith at home or at church seems impossible to do at work. But this is exactly what Paul is addressing. We may not be able to openly bring the gospel message into the workplace, but we are told to continue living the gospel through our actions, deeds, and words.

Paul explains in the latter of verse 1, “…worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed”. We should not be focused on “how we are being treated as a Christian in the workplace”. The question should be, “how am I treating others, including my supervisor or boss”. Paul gives us a great reminder to “Lift Up” and not to “Put Down” others. That includes putting ourselves down because of the way we are treated.

Paul continues in the remaining verses, describing what happens when we focus on our own self-pity. We become filled with pride, envy, and strife. The “woe is me” syndrome is the opposite of how we should be as Christians. Self-pity is defined as the “psychological state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have the confidence nor competence to cope with it”. 1

Our Lord was not treated kindly, but yet he walked this earth teaching us to love others, through our actions, words, and deeds. Paul reminds us to continue in our faith, walking, talking, acting, and living with a greater goal in mind. We are to respect our supervisors and co-workers; we do it because He did it for us on the Cross. When we respect others, work hard, and do the best we can do, we are putting the Lord first in our lives. Showing others what and who Christ is. There are many ways to share Christ, how we act is the outward display of what the Lord has done for us on the inside.

 Maybe the word “balance” is the right application here. The Christian balances what the Lord has placed on the heart (inside), in order to be able to share with others (outside). If the Christian has too much weight on the inside (heart), then it becomes difficult to shift the weight to the outside (others) and vice versa.

Think of it like this…A man who walks a tightrope has to shift his weight back and forth; otherwise he ends up leaning too far to one side and falls off. His balance must remain centered on the rope. He may use his arms or a long pole to help keep his balance, but no matter what, his focus must remain on the center of the rope.

Walking the rope is how a Christian should walk, straight and centered on truth. If we lean too far in either direction we fall off the path of righteousness. The longer we walk the rope, the more people will see our accomplishments, but if we don’t walk the rope, then nobody will be able to see how wonderful it is to live for Christ. In the workplace, we don’t have to stand around saying “look at me, I’m walking a tightrope”. All we need to do is stay focused and centered on the rope. The further we get, the bigger the crowd. It won’t take long until people will be curious or inspired and want to try walking the tightrope. The applications are endless.

Proverbs 12:28 “In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is not death” (KJV).

Matthew 7:13-14 “13 Enter ye in the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (KJV).

In Christ,

The Silent Preacher

Reference

1 Self-pity Wikipedia definition. Retrieved 12/16/2014 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-pity