“...that I may gain Christ and be found in him...”—Philippians 3:8-9, NIV1984

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ezra - A Man Devoted to Studying, Practicing, and Teaching God’s Word

Esdras-Ezra9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10 or Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.—Ezra 7:9-10, ESV
Why does this verse say that God’s good hand was on Ezra? It says clearly that he had decided to focus his heart on studying, doing, and teaching what God wanted Israel to do. Do you want to be blessed? If so, give yourself fully to doing what God tells you to do, and teach others to do it also.

Later we see that because of Ezra’s dedication to God, other men were also blessed through his influence:
27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.—Ezra 7:27-28, ESV

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Do You and Your Friends Work Hard?

6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.  10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.—2 Thessalonians 3:6,10-12, ESV

This is a strong command, especially since he added the phrase, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Basically Paul said to keep away from Christians who do not work hard. This makes sense because, since the Fall, our work was cursed by being extra difficult and frustrating (see Gen. 3:17-19). Our natural desire is for rest and ease (read Proverbs if you are not sure of this). We would too easily fall to the temptation of another brother in Christ urging us to come and play.

Yet God wants us to work hard until we enter His rest (See Hebrews 4). This is not to discount the idea of a Sabbath once a week, or vacation occasionally, but there is so much work for the Kingdom to be done while we still can do it. As Jesus said (John 9:4-5, ESV), “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As long as it is “day” we are to be the lights shining brightly amid a dark world that generally wants an easy life of gain at the others’ expense. I think as Christians living in the America, we must really reconsider our ideas about leisure time and especially retirement.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spreading the Word Rapidly

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;  2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.  3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. —2 Thessalonians 3:1-3, NASB
If we desire to depart this world and be with Christ, then we need to ask Him to allow us to spread His word rapidly throughout the world. He wants us to ask Him for that (see Matt. 9:37), but I don’t think we can just expect that He will enable us to do that if we don’t ask. As a brother reminded me last night, Jesus said (Matt 24:14, NASB), “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” If we want the end to come, let’s not sit around and wait for it, but let’s do our part (while God does His) to make it happen. This is not to say that we control the timing of the end, just that we have a part to play.

God uses people who are willing and have a heart to accomplish His work (see Isaiah 6:7-9 for example). We might as well ask Him to use us, our families, and our friends, because there is no greater joy than knowing you have spent your life well, pleasing the Master. He promises to go with us (Matt. 28:20), to strengthen us (v. 3), and to provide for us (Matt. 6:33). There is no safer or better or more satisfying thing that we can aspire to do with our lives, than to devote them to the spread of the gospel, whatever that looks like. However, it doesn’t look like boredom, greed, laziness, or the pursuit of riches and pleasure (Luke 8:14).