Fiscal responsibility…financial principle…

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans

Comments, thoughts and reflections welcome.

II Corinthians 8:16-24

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.   For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel.   And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.   We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.  And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you.  As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.  So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

We can take from this how important it is to not only be fiscally sound before God but also before men.  We are to be above reproach.  There is no harm in giving account of how we handle the finances dedicated to the Lord.  It would , in fact, put to rest the judging and finger-pointing of suspicious men.  God knows what is done and he is the final judge but Paul wisely advises that all things be done in order and without opportunity for reproach.  “We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us or we aim at what is honorable, not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of men.”  They were careful to not put this burden on just one but on three as is done with witnesses.  These resources belong to God and those for whom they are given.  When we are blessed, do we take the same care?

What do you know?…

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans

Comments, thoughts and reflections welcome.

I Corinthians 10:1-22

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.  Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

“…these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, …” ; “… let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. …”  Knowledge brings with it responsibility.  When our eyes are opened to  a thing we are then responsible for it and to act accordingly.  What are we participating in that is incompatible with the Lord?  There is the question to be answered by each of us individually.  As we become familiar with the nature of God, we can assess our own actions and see what is not His will.  It is in the knowing and we cannot know if we neglect the word of God and the worship of God.  Let us stay in communion with Him.

Will the real prisoner stand up?

Acts 24:17-27

 “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult.  They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’ ”

But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.”  So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.

And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.

But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

 Looks like Paul had two years of enforced prison ministry.  This only provided Paul with a captive group of listeners, for he did not stop his sharing.  Felix comes to hear, brings his wife with him and listens to Paul talk of righteousness, self-control and judgment in the course of his talk of faith in Christ.  As he listens fear rises within him and he turns off the message.  We find that often is the case when we share with others.  Paul did not allow this to hinder his sharing.  As often as he was called, he shared.  The responsibility to be faithful to share rests with us, regardless of how it is received.  The one turning away was Festus, the one hearing the message, not Paul the one delivering the message.  Telling Festus how great he was and offering a bribe for freedom would have set Paul free from the prison sentence.  But Paul was already free in Christ.  Festus was the one in bondage to the consequences of sin.  Festus could walk away; Paul had to stay. True freedom was that freedom of the Spirit possessed by Paul.  Wherever we are, our relationship with the Lord is constant.  Our placement may change but the communion with the Lord does not.  It is of the Spirit and is within us, and it gives us true freedom, this freedom comes with the promise of eternal life.

Living in good conscience…

Acts 22:22-23:1

And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air,  the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”

Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?”

He said, “Yes.”

The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”

And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”

Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.

The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”

 I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day…other translations state; I have fulfilled my duty to God, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience…  May we also say with Paul that we have lived and are living our lives  with a clear conscience…we have no fear of what He will find.  Do we fear what men will find upon examining our lives?  That should not be. Of greater importance is what the Lord will find when we are examined.  Are we living according to the Word of God?  Are we fulfilling our responsibility as given to us?  Can we stand before Him and say with Paul; I have a clear conscience?  This is a life-long responsibility.  Let us assess our own positions to see if we are faithful to that which God has called us.

An assignment for you…

Acts 21:37-22:10

Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?”

He replied, “Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?”

But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,

“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.

Then he said: “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.  I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

 “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’

“And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’

Who are you Lord?  I am the one you are persecuting.  Do we see Jesus in each other?  Are we aware that what we do to each other we do to him?  This statement can apply to much more than just Paul and the severe treatment he gave the believers prior to this experience.  This statement of Jesus’ can apply to our everyday manner of treatment of those around us, especially believers.  Yet often it is believers who are the ones guilty of some of the worst treatment of other believers.  Do we wish to hurt the heart of God?  Any with children can testify to how much it hurts when our children are mean to each other, rather than acting in love.  We must overcome these actions with the help of the Lord.  We will find ourselves with a mission as Paul received and that does not include meanness toward our fellow believers.

 We have assignments.  We are given responsibility with the gift of salvation.  Are we faithful to the one who gave us the gift of salvation?  Are we faithful to the one who is faithful to us?


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

7:41 AM

Observations of our group and otheres have led me to some conclusions about commitment and its effects upon the strength of a group and that groups ability to grow and last. 

The bonds of fellowship have a thread of commitment that runs through them much like steel cords reinforce and give strength to tires.  Without that thread, the tires will do their work but fail much more quickly than those with.  Fellowship groups that lack those threads of commitment soon fall apart and fail to grow.  I have observed the formation and development of two such groups.  Each have about four years duration to this point.  Members of one group refuse to allow anything to interfere with their coming together, while members of the other frequently have other things to do and fail to come together as a complete group.  The first group is strong, its members are growing in the Lord, and change is taking place in their lives.  They are able to withstand conflict, opposition and hard times with more insight and strength and come out singing.  The second group is full of personal strife, conflict, pain, distress and often speak of ‘giving it up”.  The first group does not use that kind of language.  The second group finds that often there are those in their fellowship who are not in attendance.  To have a group requires membership and meeting.  If these are lacking a group does not exist, only the shadow of a group.

Does commitment to meeting, to being available to support one another, to collaboratively study the Word of God have an impact upon a group’s ability to do the work of God?  Absolutely. 

Psalm 37:5 NKJV – Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring [it] to pass.

Proverbs 16:3 NKJV – Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.  If God makes a commitment to us can we do any less toward him and our fellow believers? Psalm 105:8 NLT – He always stands by his covenant–the commitment he made to a thousand generations.

Not only is this necessity for commitment scripturally based it can be heard from the secular world.  Take for instance the quote from Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers:

Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

 What we put first in our activities and daily lives is where our true commitment lies.  For some of us it truly sits within family or job rather than the work of God.  Can we make adjustments to our obligations to family and job and still keep the commitment we make to God?  Again, absolutely.  Sometimes it only requires our being firm with ourselves.  Ha!  Imagine that, self arises… It is time to put self down, it is time to commit and be responsible to our word when we say we will and then don’t.  This is not in the character of a true believer.  We can do… In Him we have our strength and ability.  Commit thy way unto the Lord…

Expressions of love…

John 21:15-25

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”

And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

 Expressions of love; do you love me, yes I do, feed my sheep, follow me.  Jesus was denied three times.  Three times Peter said he was not a follower of Jesus.  Now three times Jesus asks, not ‘are you my follower?’ but ‘do you love me?’.  Three times Peter affirms his love.  Each time he affirms that Jesus knows this and he acknowledges hurt by the third question.  Three times Jesus gives a responsibility finally stating, ‘follow me.’  It is not enough to acknowledge him, to express a love for him, Jesus requires a responsibility and gives a command; “Follow me.”  We express our love for him; do we also accept the responsibility he gives and do we follow?  Follow  implies we need to know where he leads, what he wants.  When we play ‘Follow the leader’ as children, we mimic the leader.  We go where he or she goes and do exactly as they do.  Follow me indicates we will know Him, mimic Him that is, do as he does, and go where he goes.  Feed my sheep…Jesus said he was the Good Shepherd.  As we follow Him, we do the task of the shepherd, care for the sheep, feed the sheep and lambs.  Take them to pasture, to still waters, give them rest, all  to be found in Christ. Pray for them, feed them from the Word of God, lead them to the Bread of Life.  Share what we receive from the Lord and those He knows will recognize His voice and come.

Pious cheaters…

Mark 12:35-40

Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David?  For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said,

‘The LORD said to my Lord,

Sit in the place of honor at my right hand

until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’

Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight.

Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.”

 Is this a warning against the teachings of those who teach the Word of God?  At first glance it appears so.  But perhaps it is a statement that emphasized the need for each of us to know the Word intimately so that we can tell if a teaching is of God or not.  This calls for personal responsibility to know the Word and be guided by the Holy Spirit in the understanding of the Scripture.  What do we look for in a teacher?  Rather, what would we not want to see in a teacher of Scripture? 

There are dangers to the self when anyone is elevated, or perceived to be elevated above any other.  Jesus illustrates that David spoke and knew his position in relation to the Christ.  Even though he was one considered to be a great king, ruler and anointed to serve by God. “… David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”… Pride, the evil that brought down King Saul, is seen in Jesus’ description of the current teachers of the law of His day.  Pride invades the entire being and becomes a hindrance to the will of God.  It can lead to abuses of the teachings in order to perpetuate the prideful nature. There are attitudes that indicate a prideful nature.  Jesus described arrogance, love of show, cheating of the poor (widows), all these done in the name of being called by God or given the position to teach by God.  These attitudes begin to undermine the individual from obedience to God’s Word and His will to doing as seems right in their own eyes, often in order to continue to feed the prideful nature.

 Take away – We continue to keep in mind who He is and who He says we are.  We are who He says we are; not who we say we are.  We continue to keep in mind what He can do and what we can do through Him; not in and of ourselves.  We continue keeping the Word alive and active in us with a humble attitude and obedient nature.