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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Full Acceptance of the Truth

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.—1 Timothy 1:15-16, ESV
Jesus came into the world, not to show people how to live or to show religious people another way to heaven (He’s the only way) or to show the religious leaders that they were doing it all wrong. He came to save His enemies and show them the most radical, undeserved kindness and love the world could ever know. He came even to save those who murder, who are rotten to the core with sexual perversion, who steal, who slander and lie. His power is exemplified and glorified by transforming objects of His wrath into objects of His grace and mercy. Paul, the author of this letter to Timothy, fully accepted this truth, and he lived like he believed the world needs to know of this Savior who can redeem anyone, including himself, the foremost of sinners. What if we all lived like this? How would this affect they way we use time and money? Will the world be any different, because of how we lived out what we claim to believe?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Seek the Lord and Act

Esther and Mordecai, by Aert de Gelder

13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.—Esther 4:13-17, ESV

Mordecai understood the times and knew what to do. He influenced Esther who had the most influence with the king in order to stop the pending genocide of the Jews. He exhorted Esther with the truth of the situation and helped her overcome her fear of death. He helped her to understand the reality of God’s sovereign protection for His people as a nation, but at the same time, that she and her household may not escape. They knew that the time had come for them to seek the Lord and to act.

We face similar situations in our day, whether the pending doom is that of others who have not been reconciled to God through faith in Christ (we never know when anyone’s life will end), or whether it is due to some political or societal force. We must be wise about the times in which we live, and act accordingly rather than allow our desire for comfort to pacify us or allow our fears to prevent us from acting.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wealth, Presumption, and Generosity

Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. 15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. 16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.—Nehemiah 5:14-19, ESV
Nehemiah was an example among his Jewish brothers. His reliance on God was evident in his frequent prayer. He was also one who worked hard just like everyone else. He persevered through opposition, rallying his people to continue, knowing that their work was good, and it was the right thing to do in God’s sight. He was also their governor, and a wealthy one at that.

Did he acquire his wealth by evil means? I highly doubt it. In fact, he was legally allowed to collect a tax (v. 15) from his people, yet he did not, because of his fear of God. The people were already starving, and to make them pay this tax would have ruined them.

Sadly in our day, people often presume that a wealthy person acquired his wealth through evil means and that it is even a crime for him to be wealthy in the first place. Sometimes wealth is acquired through evil means, but we can’t presume this. God’s command to wealthy people is that they should be generous and help those in need (see 1 Tim. 6:17-18), but it is certainly not for us to judge whether a wealthy a person has been generous.

I do think there is a time to dialogue with fellow Christians about our management of money, among many other complicated issues that do not necessarily have a clearly defined separation between right and wrong. Often these are matters of a persons heart. Only lets not make a finite, permanent judgment of a person who we dont know personally and have not had the opportunity to at least observe how he lives and talk with him about managing money.

Only God, who has all knowledge and understands a wealthy person’s full situation better than the wealthy person, can judge whether someone has been generous. There is no way for a human to measure it which is good. If God set a clear measure for generosity, then it would not be generosity. There would be no love involved in the giving. It would merely be done to fulfill an obligation. Nehemiah, with a clear conscience, used his wealth to bless the people who worked hard on rebuilding the wall, and God wants us to follow his example, being willing give sacrificially to bless people who are truly in need.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Doing Our Part

The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls
by Eitan f 13:56, 4 December 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
28 Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, repaired. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. 32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired.—Nehemiah 3:28-32, ESV
I like how Nehemiah records even the smallest portions of work that people did to repair the wall around Jerusalem. It reminds me that no effort is too insignificant to go noticed. If we do even a little to support the mission of our churches, much would be accomplished. Yet, so many only view their church as a social club, only showing up to enjoy the fun when it is convenient. It’s time that we all ask, “How can I help the pastors accomplish the mission of the church?” Even if you only have an hour, I am sure if you ask them, they would love even an hour of your time!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Influencing the Government - Nehemiah's Prayer and Petition

2...And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” 4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.—Nehemiah 1:2-4, ESV

Here Nehemiah understands that his beloved home, Jerusalem, lies in ruin. This was the very place where God was supposed to bless His people and make them prosper and dwell with them. Yet God disciplined Israel by allowing the Babylonians to conquer them due to Israel’s disobedience and wickedness.

After praying, Nehemiah, who was the cup-bearer of the Persian King Artaxerxes goes in before him. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and asks him about his sadness. Nehemiah explained how his home was in ruins, and the king asked him what he was requesting that the king do? Notice what Nehemiah did next:

4...So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”—Nehemiah 2:4-5, ESV

The king granted his request.

For some reason many Christians in this country have the attitude that they should not concern themselves with the affairs of the state or in any way interfere. I also used to have this attitude. This was definitely not the attitude of God’s people in the Old Testament and New Testament. I believe it was because they understood that the government, like many of the world’s systems and institutions, affects the people that God loves and Jesus died and resurrected for. This is one reason why Paul urged Timothy to pray for kings (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4), and why Paul did not hesitate to proclaim the gospel whenever he was brought before governing authorities. For example, take note of Acts 24:24-27, ESV:

24 But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.” 26 At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him. 27 But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.

Thankfully, since our government is a republic that answers to “We the People,” we have an easy way to influence the government establish and maintain justice and peace. We just need to pray, vote, petition, share the gospel, run for office... The list can go on since we have a government that “We the People” participate in. Praise God for that! Our government is so unlike the monarchies and dictatorships that were commonplace until the founding of our republic.