This is the devotional guide for August 28-September 3, 2011, containing questions from Proverbs 4 and Matthew 6.
This is the devotional guide for August 21-27, 2011, which includes questions from Proverbs 3 and Matthew 5.
Please share with others and use it in your devotional time, and your family's devotional time, for your spiritual enrichment.
I used to know someone who was notorious for one-upping people. If I related a story, he had one better. If someone else stated an opinion of how he actually did something, this person knew how to do it better. Yet, while I and others were out accumulating working knowledge based in experience, this person stayed home, watched TV, and somehow added to his "knowledge base."
At the risk of being provocative, may I suggest that many Christians are just like the person I wrote about above? Many Christians look at church leadership, or ministers, or elders, or deacons dismissively and with a critical eye. Leadership struggles to make the right decision, consulting with many members, and yet are themselves dismissed by the armchair Christian who "knows" why such a program will not work or how something could have been "handled better."
This behavior is neither useful nor productive. Many decisions made in churches actually are based in reason and discussion that is focused on practical matters. No leadership makes a decision they hope or think will fail. Yet, they struggle to get buy-in because the armchair Christians hold it up because their perspective wasn't followed (or whatever). These "know" better, but too often are holed up in a small criticism circle; they are not actually out there doing anything.
Sure, there is a way to learn without testing and doing. But before you are critical about what someone else is or isn't doing (according to your opinion), or about how they are doing something, trying walking in their shoes first. Get out and do something. Show your results. Demonstrate reasons from your experience why you are in disagreement.
In short, stop being an armchair Christian and get in the game! If we each focused on doing what we know on an individual level, I firmly believe we would cut our church problems by two-thirds.
Gain knowledge...and then do!
This week's booklet includes questions and prayer focuses from Proverbs 3:1-12 and Matthew 7:13-27.
This devotional guide includes questions from Proverbs 2 and Numbers 11-12. I'm preaching from Numbers 11-12 this Sunday.
As usual, please share this with someone else if you find it useful.
In Matthew 3, Matthew reported that John the Baptist came on the scene preaching repentance because of the nearness of the kingdom of heaven. But what was the nature or quality of the repentance he advocated?
Today, many understand repentance as a decision we make prior to baptism and conversion. In the "plan of salvation," repentance is merely one step in a process. Repentance is often understood or stated as though it was a feeling of remorse for past sin committed.
While this understanding of repentance is important, it is not the whole story. According to John the Baptist, repentance is a lifestyle of conforming to the values and priorities of God and his kingdom. He noted, in his preaching, that judgment exists for those who do not repent (Matt. 3:10, 12). But he also noted that one's lifestyle needs to demonstrate their repentance. Thus, repentance is a lifestyle; it must be ongoing. We must "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt. 3:8).
So repentance is not just "felt" but also demonstrated. Repentance is a way of life within God's kingdom because the challenge of changing our lives--of being transformed--to be kingdom agents for God is ongoing and always in process.
Does your life demonstrate the fruit of repentance?
I preached from Jude on Sunday. Jude writes that he wanted to write about the salvation they shared in common, but he needed change gears and encourage them to contend for the faith. The faith they should contend for is the faith that had been entrusted once for all to the church. It is the unmovable, unshakeable gospel.
Divisive, ungodly "dreamers" had entered the church and advocated for a change of direction. But their changes appear to be based more on behavior (blasphemy, division, and disruption) than on teaching. Of course, teaching would be at the core, but Jude wants his readers to be on guard against this divisive disruption.
How should the church today continue to "contend for the faith"? Certainly, we need to guard our doctrine. But we also need to guard our own motives. Jude says that these dividers "rely on their dreams" (8). Evidently, their own experiences and ideas caused them to become divisive and seek their own way. We do the very same thing today when we allow our opinions to become divisive.
Jude provides a simple solution to ungodliness and division--seek your own spiritual growth and that of others (20-23). Divisive people are devoid of the Spirit (19), but godly people build themselves up in the faith and pray in the Spirit. They mercifully watch out for others and work to build up their faith. They never lose sight of Jesus' impending return, and they keep spiritual growth--theirs and others'--front and center.
That is what it means to contend for the faith.