Each week a member of LLC offers a short devotional to support you in your walk with Christ. We hope each week is an encouragement to you and leads you deeper in your relationship with our marvelous, ever loving God.
In what we call ‘the great commission’ Jesus charges believers to “make disciples of all the nations” to baptize new converts “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” and to teach those God adds to the church to “follow all that I commanded you”. Even though we are dealing with terms commonly used and understood by us, I think in this case looking at the dictionary definitions can be instructive;
‘Great’ = a quality considerably above the normal or average.
denoting the element of something that is the most important or the most worthy of consideration.
‘Commission’ = an order or authorisation for the production of something.
to bring something newly produced into working condition.
As we examine the "teaching them to follow all that I commanded you" portion of Jesus' great commission to His church, I want us to consider two things; what is Jesus referring to when He says "all that I have commanded you" and how do we follow and get others to follow what Jesus commended? To answer that first questions we need to recognize what is was that Jesus taught, what exactly His message was Jesus taught many things, and a good deal of what He taught had to do with correcting the false notions of the Jewish leaders of His day. I don't think the "all that I have commanded you" pertains directly to plucking corn on the Sabbath or speaking to a Samaritan woman or how to raise the dead - Jesus had to sort through these matters to undo the wrong thinking and invalid expectations of the Scribes & Pharisees, but it was all to reveal Himself to be the rightly foretold of and promised Messiah. Jesus' message was Himself, come into the the world as the Savior.
Deuteronomy 20:25 gives us a powerful assertion - "If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it." ....a tireless and determined effort of ours should be to understand and conform to the truth as God reveals it to us in His word, we must be scrupulously careful to not contaminate His eternal truth with our own worldly notion. Our fears and hopes must not inform our understanding of God's work - rather, God's word must inform our fears and hopes. We are HIS ambassadors, and an ambassador doesn't make policy - he presents his King's policies.
Secondly, how do we follow and get others to follow what Jesus commanded? He gives us that answer in His commission - "TEACHING them to follow all that I commanded you". The Holy Spirit makes us (believers) disciples, and "disciple' means student. We are called to study God's word, not to merely point to it as His word, not to go to it when feeling down, not to religiously read 2 chapters every night, but to study it. And we study it with this glorious promise - "I am with you always, to the end of the age."
"Gross sins are plainly seen and easily avoided by persons who profess religion. But it is difficult to make people at all sensible to the peril of the indiscreet and dangerous use of innocent and lawful things."
"What is more innocent than rest and retirement? And yet what is more dangerous than sloth and idleness? What is more lawful than eating and drinking? And yet what [is] more destructive to all virtue...than sensuality and indulgence?"
~ A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law
As the people of God, we must be aware that the Devil and his followers are not limited to using purely evil temptations, proclivities and activities to lead us into destruction, but just as easily contort healthy ones for evil purposes. The root of our falling prey to such distortions is pride. Pride leads us to think that we can handle things on our own. It deceives us into thinking that we can somehow manage the positive or healthy things of life, while at the same time recognizing that God’s help is needed to navigate the dangerous waters of the blatantly evil. This couldn’t be more misguided! In fact, we must allow God to handle ALL aspects of our lives. He must be in charge of our management of both evil and good in order for holiness and righteousness to reign.
Our pathway to triumph over evil is found in humility, expressed through submission to God. James makes this clear when he challenges the church to:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
As we live lives of ever deepening submission to Christ, we discover continual strength in Christ that equips us to identify, resist and repel the temptations of Satan. And in so doing, we more astutely identify sin even in the most innocuous of activities and live victoriously throughout the entirety of our lives.
Let us not be deceived, even by “innocent and lawful things,” so that we can honor God with lives that reflect God’s purity and holiness.
2 Corinthains 4:18 HCSB
So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Life is more than our experiences for our journey is not our destination. In August of 1968 I boarded a passenger plane at Travis AFB in California on my way to Bangkok, Thailand. From there I flew to Takhli Royal Thai Air Force base in Central Thailand. I lived there for a year maintaining aircraft in the Vietnam war. I had many experiences while stationed there. One memorable experience was a Bible study/fellowship that met five mornings a week in the Chapel. We sang gospel songs and studied the scriptures. Two gospel songs we sang often were; "This World is not my Home I'm just a Passing Through" and "I'll Fly away O Glory I'll Fly Away" because this place was not our home and we were just passing through for a year. I knew that in August of 1969 I would fly away, not on angel wings, but a Gooney Bird (C-47) and a Boeing 727.
When I left Travis AFB flying out over the Pacific I watched the California coast fade away and suddenly it was gone and I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and wondered if I would ever see it again. When I left Thailand, flying back to the USA, we flew in over San Francisco at night to Travis AFB with the lights aglow, what a sight, I knew that I was almost home.
Our Life's Journey is like that, filled with many exciting and heart felt experiences and meaningful relationships that we cherish and want to hold on to. We also have bad or terrifying experiences that cause us to think we'll loose it all or even question if life is worth it.
Our Heavenly Father tells us; "So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor. 4:18 HCSB). In God's narrative this journey is just the beginning it is not our destination for, "...our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
God's grace provides us with experiences and relationships that we cherish, but they will pass away yet our home in Heaven, in the presence of God, will never pass away. So make the most of your journey for God's Glory keeping your eye on the destination which is your Eternal Home.
Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him." And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.
When Jesus displayed His power, often the observers would ask questions, Who was this? What kind of man was this that even the winds and waves obeyed His commands (Matthew 8:27)? His power amazed them. I once heard that Jesus was so much man that He did not appear to be God, yet He was so much God, He didn't appear to be man. He was indeed the God-man.
Jesus has absolute authority over everything that exists, and at the same time, nothing exists that He did not create. Because of His absolute authority, we can be encouraged today that there's nothing over our heads that's not under His feet.
Have you ever had a hard time sleeping because your heart was troubled? Certainly, this has happened to all of us, yet nothing can touch us unless He permits. Therefore, we should acknowledge who He is, and then go to sleep.
As Jesus displayed His power, "His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee." I have found that when I allow Him to work through me, His fame continues to spread.
May you never get over the wonder of who Jesus is. Allow Him to have complete charge of your life today, and watch His fame spread through you.
Perhaps I should take long drives more often. It seems that God reveals great ideas when I am in the car taking a long drive. Yesterday, heading up to Gratz for 4H fair, I saw a car with a sentence written in very big letters across the entire back of the trunk: “This is temporary.” It was a little, older red car - nothing special, certainly nothing of any great value. I really don’t know what the intention of that sign was. Maybe the owner meant to say: “Hey, I know this is not a great car. I’d like something much better, fancier, with more power and class. This is just temporary.” Maybe the owner meant to say: “Hey, this pandemic thing, it will blow over. Hang in there everybody. This is just temporary.” But as soon as I saw it, I thought of this earthly existence. My hope is that the owner knew and really understood the real truth of his message, that this world and this life – well, it’s just temporary. For believers, all the troubles and pain we experience here, it’s just temporary. Even the joys that we have in this world don’t compare to the wonder and majesty we will get to experience in Heaven!
Paul wrote: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagines, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 9
If you have been born again and believe in your heart that Jesus died and rose again to satisfy God’s wrath for your sin, that is your permanent residence. I know this is temporary and that I will live with Jesus forever in Heaven, where, as A. W. Pink describes, He will grant to His redeemed a more glorious revelation of Himself, and where they shall worship Him, uninterruptedly, in the beauty of holiness.
This is temporary.
As a local church body we have just embarked on a commitment to be more intentional in prayer. August 1, 2021 a 15 minute daily corporate prayer time was launched. I looked at the prayer requests that were listed. One drew me in with the desire to think about and pray for the listed request: It is listed under Congregational Needs. It reads “Humility and discipleship of LLC members.” When God answers in response to intentional corporate prayers we will need a huge dose of humility to guard against pride that could easily come as we see our powerful God acting in His overflowing mercy and grace.
Then there is the prayer for ‘discipleship of LLC members’. This led me to asking myself some questions... God, what will this look like? I know ‘disciple’ means learner. What personal responsibility does each LLC member have in being a learner? What heart attitude will be present in a learner? How is humility connected to being a learner? Are there tools to help? How does prayer help me be a better learner? What place does Bible reading hold in personal discipleship? Does one engage in personal discipleship by reading about discipleship? How can I expect the Holy Spirit to grow me in Christlikeness as I engage in personal discipleship? As you read this what questions do you have about ‘discipleship of LLC members’?
Please join me in praying for this LLC Congregation Need:
'Humility and discipleship of LLC members.'
And expect to see the Holy Spirit in action as we pray.
We sand "The Battle Belongs to the Lord" a few weeks ago and as I was "singing" "When the power of darkness comes in like a flood the battle belongs to the Lord, We sing glory, honor, power, and strength to the Lord." My mind went to all the times I chose to fight those battles on my own, and then suddenly mid thought, mid song, He led me to Deuteronomey 20:4: For the Lord your (my) God is the One who goes with you (me) to fight for you (me) against your enemies to give you victory. My (our) Father is with me (you) through every battle!
If we allow Him, He will find us where we are and remind us time and time again that He is for us!
Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us unconditionally and fighting our battles! I thank you for lessons in songs of praise, I thank you for Jesus and the Holy Spirit who guides us. I pray that you would open our hearts to seek You in battles and give the glory to You! Amen.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of getting to preach out of Mark 3, and the topic was Unity (with Christ first, then the church, then yourself). Due to the AC being out and the quickly rising temperature, I left out a few tidbits of information I thought would be good to go over here.
For instance, did you know one possible definition for unity is: "peace or harmony resulting from conflict". I found it fascinating that one of the ways for you to have unity is only after conflict! We all have conflict in our lives and we all wonder from time to time what God is doing, why things are so hard, why things never work out. But I hope you find this a comfort to know that maybe God is building the foundation from which you can experience this unity with him, other believers, and within yourself. You know how sometimes the best way to learn something is learn what NOT to do? Well, sometime the only way to know something is to know the opposite. To know what unity is, you have to experience conflict.
It's hard to have unity with God during conflict, but that is the exact time we need to run to him the most! During conflict is when we pray more, and pray more fervently. We seek him out more, question more, read Scripture more. It's through the conflict that unity is achieved or at least moved towards. And it's how unity is sustained...as we grow in maturity, we understand that we don't want to go back to conflict, so we seek to stay by God's side more and more. So in those dark moments, try and praise God...maybe not necessarily for the conflict itself, but for what you trust going through the conflict will bring about.
If you're not experiencing unity with God right now, I implore you to look at your life and see where things aren't right. Maybe there's a TV show you're watching that you need to give up. Maybe you're in an unholy relationship that you need to step out of. Maybe there's a non-beneficial relationship you need to step into...not because it benefits you, but because God's calling you to it. Maybe it's the music you listened to pre-salvation and just can't let it go. Make no mistake, the Bible is crystal clear that you can grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and if you do these things as a way of life, I promise, he's 1,000 miles away from you. You will never have unity when you give the Holy Spirit no room to stay.
I know it's hard to give up the crutches of this world. You're not alone in those struggles--every Christian faces them constantly! But that's the great news of the Gospel...the God of this universe is one thought away, one prayer away, one Scripture reading away. And he wants you...isn't that amazing? He WANTS you. He wants YOU. And whatever you have to give up, I promise you it's worth it. The fight, the struggle, the conflict...they're all worth it to have unity with him. He's so much worth it and worth infinitely more.