As we read the last two verses of 1 Corinthians 9 we see the power of choice. We choose whether we are disciplined or not disciplined. The concept of "I can't help it' is often untrue. The purpose of building a disciplined life is to be at our best to love others. Ultimately love is sacrifice for another best. Many of us are not wired to be regimented. We are contrarian or creative. Living disciplined life will help us.
Know your bent
I find people have three bends to them: short, mid, or long term ability to be disciplined. We really need all of those types. We often choose not to be disciplined because we look at long tremors and get overwhelmed. Purpose of discipline is to be at YOUR best. A big part of that is learning how you're wired. If you're a short termer, focus on short one or two week spirts. Never mind. Focus on one weeks. If you're fairly disciplined but see yourself fall short, focus on 2-3 months goals and nail them. Discipline is a means to the end of being an amazingly loving person.
The purpose of challenging yourself in things that don't matter is it trains you to handle hard situations that truly do matter. Stretch and grow yourself. One of the keys to living longer is to stay active in growing your mind. That and friendships do far more for your long term life. While we age our capacities may not be as great, but that does not mean our ambition to be the best us possible has to.
Know your mission
What drove Paul's disciplined life was his mission to reach people for God. Each one of us has a part in that mission, though it will look different to each of us. God already has a Paul. He needs the best you. Articulate why God has you hear on earth. Do that. It is hard to be disciplined for disciplines sake.
So, get moving! I believe in you!
Some days you just need picture of Jesus. I remember a song growing up as a kids that said "I just want to see Jesus... To look full in his wonderful face..." The ministry of presence is a powerful thing, to just see that a person is there with you. It builds confidence and assurance when handling life's challenges. A signifiant part of being a christian is looking forward to the day when we see Jesus face to face.
As we read Daniel 7:9 and Revelation 1:14, Jesus' head is described as being white as snow. Think Gandalf the White, only cooler. When Jesus shows up in his glory people fall flat. It's a scary and majestic sight. And then Jesus says these sweet words: do not be affriad. How can that be? Jesus died for the sins of the world. We don't have to be afraid of a cool Gandalf looking dude because, while having all the majesty of being God, He's also our brother and friend. He sticks up for us. He is there for us. He works for us.
I am looking forward to the rapture when Jesus says that's it, y'all come home now. There is work to done in the mean time. And when we see snow, it reminds us of a lot of things. But a big thing it should remind us of is the desire to see Jesus. God provides and protects, and has a perfect plan. And I can't wait until we see Jesus face to face and the plan all comes together.
Today is a day we celebrate love. There are relationships that are vital to us that we set apart and do special things for. It is quit the thing to celebrate. Holiness is all about being set apart for something special. With God it is the bridge that must be overcome for a relationship to exist. But, no one is perfect. So what do we do?
What God did
As we read Psalm 51:7 or Isaiah 1:18 we see the beautiful phrase "water than snow." Snow becomes a picture of purity. This stands out during a fresh snow fall when everything looks completely magical. What's interesting in Isaiah is the contrast from red with the purity of white. One of the amazing things God did for his people was wash away their sin.
This picture of God washing away sin plays out in a similar fashion to a romantic comedy. One party acts silly and realizes their stupid mistakes and reconciles with the person they love. The person put the issues to bed because they want to be with the one they love. God overcomes the hangs up to have a relationship with us. We merely need to come to our senses and realize the incredible gift we have in him.
The finality and security in what God did for us is incredible. It is why we worship and desire to worship. God does huge things for us because he wants to be with us. And when we mess up? He makes us whiter than snow.
I don't recall the when and where, but there was a bad winter because there was no snow. This lead to concerns of drought conditions because of the need for water. As much as I loathed snow, I realized that snow has an important place in our environment. How then does the Bible picture snow as provision.
Have you seen...
God put job through the ringer. Snapshot, God trash talks Satan, Satan calls what he thought was a bluff. God lets Satan do what he wants short of taking his life, Job is stripped of everything but his frustrated wife. His friends explain stupid ideas that God rips apart at the end of the book. Job asks God why and God's answer is a serious of questions. As we read Job 37:6 & 38:22, we see God using snow as provision. That he controlled it. We struggle to figure out evil, but try to figure out how to just make all of nature work.
In its place
There is place for snow. Proverbs 25:13 we see there is a season for snow, and snow out of season in 26:1 is a bit of a problem. In 31:21 the noble wife does not worry about snow as her house is provided for. Again these are pictures of provision and the need for provision. So why is provision a big deal?
God is in control
Psalm 147 talks about the majesty of God. And winter is one of the tools God uses. Snow reminds us of the force and power of nature, and this Psalm tells us that power comes directly from God. Sometimes God freezes people out. While snow is dangerous and a pain, it is also a reminder that God provides and that God is in control. It makes us rely upon him.
There are 24 mentions of the word snow in the ESV translation of the Bible. Snow threw off the last few weeks, so let us look into some of the Bible's teaching on snow. While we are eagerly looking forward to that wonderful season we call Spring, there is much to learn from what we see in nature. Over this week we'll look at three aspects of snow: A picture of provision, a picture of judgement, a picture of holiness, a picture of Jesus. But first, a biblical reason to hate snow...
Not in the garden...
As we read Genesis 1 and 2 something is missing. SNOW! I mentioned this when teaching on Genesis and a student asked how I was so sure. Moses wrote that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. It would seem that a God who made all things good, and place mankind naked while also creating all the rules of nature, would not put them naked in an environment that would cause frostbite.
The Earth was watered with a mist or dew. Creationist scientists believe that at the flood the vapor barrier was broken as well as waters from the deep giving us our current climate and landscape. As Adam was to tend the garden that God placed him in, every provision was made and it was very good. It was a perfect place with perfect provision with no need of security and only two rules: Be fruitful and multiply, and don't eat from a certain tree.
But... The Bible says we shall be whiter than snow...
The Bible gives us an amazing pattern of taking something bad and making something beautiful out of it. Snow is no exception. While absent in the garden, it becomes a means of provision and a picture of amazing things. (It also is a picture of not so amazing things. Yes, the Bible says we shall be whiter than snow, but snow is still part of a broken environment. It is consequence of sin.
And the point is?
God is not done with us. God does not give up on us. God heals. God forgives. God is as beautiful as or better than snow. We can rightfully be annoyed with snow and be frustrated when it comes in massive volumes (there are store houses of snow in heaven). We can also appreciate is beauty and the analogy the Bible makes of it.
In the wonderful world of our political discourse a message is going out there that says "facts don't care about your feelings." While true, there is a significant person who does: The Holy Spirit. As we read Ephesians 4:30, a stern warning to not grieve the Holy Spirit. The context? How we interact with each other and the way we communicate.
Don't be a jerk
Speaking the truth in love can be summed up int he phrase: Don't be a jerk when engaging with people. Yes, we all do that. We all make bad choices when we are tired, worn out, etc. Hence the teaching in Ephesians 4 that we "be angry, do not sin." Being like Jesus isn't ignoring negative emotions. Walking like Jesus does entail engaging situations with wise choices that seek people's best.
Tyranny of truth
When we speak in such a way that tears people down. When we act like a jerk. When we, as a friend would say, "hide behind God," we grieve the Holy Spirit. If one does a survey on messing with the Holy Spirit in the Bible, it does not look pretty. Being right does not mean you are right. The in your face, tactless, insulting engagements in the New Testament are very rare and settled on specific group of people. Too often I've heard "But I'm write and we're supposed to stand for truth." Yes, the Bible says that, and the Bible also describes and prescribes how we do that. Being a jerk and claiming God's will is the reason is lame. It actually hurts God.
But what if they're wrong!?
Another letter was written by Paul to the church of Ephesus called 1 Timothy. The church was a mess. They were doing things wrong. And in cleaning up that mess, Paul fleshes out what he said in Ephesians 4. It was a patient work, not an in your face work. The church was wrong, but the process of cleaning it up was both truthful and loving. Often the sentiment behind "facts don't care about your feelings" grieves the Spirit and does not build the other up. It's laziness not doing the work of ministry.
As we read Ephesians 4:32 we see an issue that is too big to fail. The reason to be loving and kind in our communication is directly related to how God treats us through Jesus. Love and kindness is not about brushing off issues, but a pathway in how we engage situations.
The fact that God forgives all our sin is massive. All means all. When we act out against someone harshly, vs the way the verse describes, we are saying that there is an issue that God can forgive than I cannot. For sure people can do massively hurtful things. As a world changer, forgiveness is a remarkable tool for not only healing, but building the offender up. It changes things.
The verse also teaches us that God did not crush us for our offensives, but that God worked in such a way to bring healing and restoration. Jesus took on the full crushing weight of our offenses when he died on the cross for us. Living distinctly Christian lives means living with that kind of love. Again, this does not mean we brush offenses off, but it does instruct in how we engage in those offenses.
The golden rule is loved unless we have to act on it. Being kind and tenderhearted is work. Some are gifted in such a way that it comes easy, but for a majority it is challenging work. Especially the forgiveness aspect. But the world changing power of living it out is Earth shattering.
There have been some technical difficulties with the blog and the app used to update it. Sadly some posts were deleted, including the one that was supposed to post today. A message then pops up asking for input on user experience for the application. That was funny in its timing.
You and I choose how we react in situations. As we read Proverbs 15:1, two choices are given to us. We can blow up the situation, or we can resole the situation. The choice we make is critical to how things will play out. Blowing up the situation may feel great, but it won't resolve the situation. Speaking softly allows us to attack the problem and not the person/company. It's a win-win.
The assumption in the verse is that we engage. Too often people run from awkwardness. Running doesn't solve anything. The write assumes the person will engage the situation and gives the options in how to make that engagement happen. Communication is a choice and we are better off when we make that choice.
True winning is building another person up. A legacy of doing that is far more valuable than just making a point. When we build others up we are making a difference. The verse can be put another away: You can choose to help or be a jerk. And even when we say we do not care, we overstate the not. We really do care and are frustrated.
If you look at the trajectory of your interactions with people and you see yourself being a jerk more than being helpful, practice. Role play with the mirror or a trusted friend. The beauty of a walk with Jesus is you can change. You have the ability to make better choices. You can choose to be a winner and build people up. This may not change over night, but it's a challenge worth fighting... Now to deal with support...
Kids playing musical instruments is hilarious. First off, there is the excitement of the new adventure. This lasts as long as the time between receiving the instrument and the first time you ask them: Did you practice? Then comes the utter shock of the first rehearsal. You become a ball of nerves for the recital and the show is amazing. The Gospel is much like playing an instrument.
As we read 1 Timothy 6:13-16, Paul rehashes the story of the Gospel. As he instructed Timothy to pursue certain things, he demonstrates how this looked in the action of Jesus. There is a fundamental need to state the obvious and reshape the Gospel as we grow in our faith. This is not an insult to intelligence, but a core feature to mimicking the actions and life of Jesus.
As the Gospel was practiced with Timothy, there was no doubt the rehearsal to the church Timothy was in charge of. Often the letters written by Apostles were read allowed in a gathering. While we practice our part, rehearsal helps us to see how the whole team works together to accomplish the mission.
Paul makes clear that Jesus will be back. And the event will be absolutely amazing. Paul in another letter describes how every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the father. Meaning? While life is hard and not fair currently, there is a moment, the concert moment if your will, where things all make sense and we fully realize who Jesus is and the impact of the Gospel.
Read 1 Kings 19 and we see an epic tale of a tired servant. Life often does not go according to plan and when we win in one area, another challenge comes up and hits back hard. So what do we do? In 1 Timothy 6 Paul tells us to pursue gentleness and then fight the good fight. Weird words put together. How does gentleness work?
A mentor once said: It's ok to have a pity party, but set an end date. There are times we need to rest. This is what God did for Elijah. God didn't beat him, scold him, etc. God listened, let him sleep, gave him food. Gentleness restores and recognizes sometime people need to be refreshed first.
The next element is pointing to peace. Often we want to destroy our opponent. To crush them. God has Elijah waiting and tells him that he'll show up. A severe wind, an earthquake, and a firestorm went by, but God was not in there. Then a gentle whisper goes by and there God was. Often we want calamity to the one causing a challenge. God reminds us that what we need is peace. Gentleness calms and points people to peace. This doesn't ignore the challenges, but points out a better way through them.
When life is hard and not fair we can become very selfish and stuck. After refreshing Elijah and pointing to peace, God sends Elijah back to work. Specifically for him, he was to mentor a new kid on the block called Elisha. When were are tired or hurting, sometimes the best medicine is to get doing something that is beyond our self. We need to serve and build others up.