Instructions for Christian Living

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (NIV) Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

Relating with Other Christians (12-15)

Christian living is all about relationships. We relate vertically with God by worshiping and obeying Him. On the horizontal plane, we relate with other people. The Word of God tells us to honor our spiritual leaders. Pastoral ministry is a high calling and rewarding but it can also be hard and stressful. Pastors work hard to lead, teach and guide the people of God. Therefore believer are instructed to respect and honor them.  Respect for our spiritual leaders is a Christian virtue (see Hebrews 13:17). Have you been an encouragement to your spiritual leader lately? Find a practical way to let your them know that you appreciate the work they are doing.

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Christian Spiritual Disciplines (16-22)

Christian life is dynamic. For a Christian to grow in one’s relationship with God they ought to practice certain Godly habits. The Word of God highlights some of them such as: joyfulness, thanksgiving, being open to the work of the Spirit in our lives, discernment, and moral purity. We can be confident that living out the above disciplines is possible because of the grace of God available to us. The grace of God empowers us to do the will of God. God is wholly committed to us. He provides all that it takes for us to lead a life worthy of Him. Where in your Christian walk do you feel you are doing well? Which Godly habits do you think you need to develop?

 

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Dealing with Life-Disruptions

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Psalm 46:2-3 (NIV)  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah

Yesterday I was greeted with some not-so-good news. Although it was not life threatening, it disrupts a fairly major course of action of a department I supervise. It affects our timelines and I am trying to figure out what good might be in it. As I was trying to deal with it, I was also handed a bill that was totally out of my budget—and yet it was for an important and urgent emergency need.

Life does not always loyally follow our plans and expectations and along the journey we encounter disruptions. Some may be minor, like the one I encountered yesterday, but others are major and devastating like the news one receives from the doctor when you had simply visited for a routine medical checkup. How should we respond when life does not deliver according to our plans? The natural (human) thing to do is to freeze, feel bad about ourselves and other people, or give up. But we know that not only is this kind of response unhelpful, it can also be destructive.

The better way is to look Up, beyond ourselves and circumstances, to God our Father and ask for wisdom and direction. God’s wisdom will ensure that we take the right course of action in any circumstances. The Bible says that God’s wisdom is way different from worldly wisdom.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).

Food for Thought

  1. What life-disruptions are you dealing with right now?
  2. How can you glorify God in your circumstances?

 

Being Caring Christ-Like Community

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Mark 10:13-16  (NIV) People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

In the last couple of weeks I have been sharing on the implications of our identity and purpose as followers of Jesus Christ. We have been called by God to live for Him—to make Him look great. How we express our purpose, of living for God, largely depends on our different contexts.

For starters, let’s ponder on these questions?

  1. If you were a pastor of a local church, what kind of people would you pray that they come to your church? What motivates that desire?
  2. Which kind of people do like to you associate with? What motivates your choice of friends?

In the story of Jesus blessings little children we see in the disciples’ response a reflection of many of us when it comes to living out our faith. As we know, Jesus’ actions almost always shocked everyone, even those closest to Him. His actions were unconventional and counter-culture. But there was also something predictable about Him in whatever He did; He wanted to please the Father. He touched and cleansed lepers, ate and drank with sinners, was anointed by former prostitutes. He reached out to those regarded as the dregs of the society. He loved those who rejected Him. He died for those who crucified Him.

In the Bible passage above, Jesus’ disciples felt that He should spend His time doing better things—meeting the important and influential people. But Jesus had a different idea. He chose to spend time (and bless) the children. Children were: vulnerable, often ignored by adults, powerless and had no social, political or religious influence. Therefore, according to the disciples, time spent with children was considered wasted. We demonstrate Christ-like character when we act the way Jesus acted—by choosing not to live by the dictates of our societal values but His.

The community in which our local church is located has very many children. We minister to hundreds of them every month by sharing with them the word of God, dancing with them, offering them a cup of hot porridge and bread. As church, Children’s Ministry is one of our local expressions of what it means to be a Caring, Christ-Like Community.

Reflection:

  1. Who are “the least of these” (cf. Matthew 25:40) in your community?
  2. What is an appropriate expression of what it means to be a Caring, Christ-Like Community in your context?
  3. What is God calling you (as an individual or body of believers in Jesus Christ) to do in your community?

 

Called to Be Influencers

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Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)  “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

Our Identity

“You are”

  1. The Salt of the Earth (verse 13)
  2. The Light of the World (verse 14)

Both of these images have a positive influence–salt as a preservative and enhancing flavor to the food, and light illuminating the world. They are both accessible in virtually anywhere in the world, to anyone, whether rich or poor.

BUT they also operate differently; salt has to disappear (dissolve) for it to be effective. So, one can say it works in a discreet, covert manner. On the other hand, light is necessarily visible: “people [do not] light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15).  Its influence is overt.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a calling to influence the world whether covertly or overtly. We are all challenged “to live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1). In what ways can make your life count?

Our Mission

“Let Your Light Shine”

This is what we were called to do: to be change-agents, to be influencers. Just as light casts away the darkness that is around it, and salt enhances the flavor of the food, we are called to manifest God’s love, grace, mercy and justice in our various spheres of influence. God has wired and positioned us differently to accomplish this task. Apostle James says that our faith has practical ramifications. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). The woman named Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) lived as salt and light in her community. She “was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). When she died, the widows she had helped were “crying and showing [Peter] the robes and other clothing that Dorcas   had made while she was still with them (Acts 9:39). For these widows, the death of Tabitha meant that their light had gone off. How are you manifesting the light of Jesus in your community? Just like salt can only be effective when it is out of the saltshaker, we cannot shine while we keep our faith private. Our faith must necessarily be expressed in the context of the community.

Our Purpose

The Glory of God

“…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

After a good meal, no one ever praises the salt, for the flavor it enhances, instead the praise goes to the cook. We do not shine, to attract praise to ourselves but to the ONE who called us. As we shared last week, we were created to live for the audience of ONE, to make God look great. This is our life purpose.

Our faith must necessarily be expressed in the context of the community.

Trials and Temptations and how to Deal with Them

James 1:2-3; 13-14 (NIV)  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance….When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

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During this month of June and the next months, I will be preaching about the frequently asked questions by members of my church based on a survey that was made recently. Yesterday, I preached on the topic: Trials and Temptations and How to Deal with Them. Many people find it difficult to distinguish between a trial and a temptation.  This is how a explain the difference between the two:

The purpose of a trial is to make one mature; more Christ-like, whereas a temptation is from Satan and is meant  to lead one to sin and make us less Christ-like.

How to handle trials:

James 1:2-3 (NIV)  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Trails are problems and challenges which come our way. They normally come as an interruption to your programs or expectations. It could be an illness, loss of a loved one, work-related challenges, persecutions, etc.

  1. Endure (if you are tempted to think that God has abandoned you,  remember that during the time of the test the teacher is always silent).
  2. Ask God for wisdom so that you will take God-honoring actions.
    Use the experience to honor Christ
  3. Temptation example: sexual immorality,  greed (urge to want more; lack of contentment), lust, pride, anger

How to deal with temptations

James 1:13-14 (NIV)   When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

A temptation is also an interruption but promises quick and easy (but ungodly) ways to get out of the problem. It promises quick rewards but grosses over the long term consequences of your decisions.

  1. Take personal responsibility. Don’t blame God, your circumstances, the devil or other people. Say, “I am responsible.”
  2. Flee: In some instances it is better and wiser to just “flee” away from the temptation.
  3. Consider the consequences (with self, others, God)
  4. Pray for wisdom

Endurance

2 Timothy 2:3 (NIV) Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Between every dream and its fulfillment are many obstacles. One author calls them giants and bullies. Giants and bullies are circumstances (and sometimes people) which are there to distract us from pursuing our God-given dreams. Endurance comes by knowing that we will win the prize, or attain our dream unless we give up on the race. One thing we need to know is that every good and precious thing will be tested. There is no crown without a cross. Pure gold has to be purified by fire. Endurance is experiencing the power of God’s love by rejoicing in trials and tribulations. Endurance is focusing on a goal greater than distractions along the way. The opposite of endurance is discouragement.

One of the amazing,and honestly speaking confusing, passages in the Bible is one in Matthew 4:1:  “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” How could the Holy Spirit lead the Son of God to the wilderness to be tempted? But the truth is that, Jesus had to pass the test before He could embark on His mission as the Savior of the world. The good news is that He endured and passed the test. Not only did He overcome the temptations, the Bible also says that “Jesus returned [from the wilderness] in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14) Friend, this is an amazing truth; that when we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to endure whatever hardship that comes our way, God empowers us with more of His power.

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How can we endure trials?

  1. Thank God for each trial. Every trial gives you an opportunity to develop character.
  2. Rejoice in all things. Once we recognize the benefits that God intends through our trials, we can rejoice in them
  3. Cry out when necessary. Some situations should not be endured, and God will bring relief when we cry put to him. The Bible says in Psalm 50:15 that “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
  4. Overcome by doing good. Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

God’s Presence Our Greatest Passion

Luke 10:38-42  

If you were to reduce life to only one thing what would that be? One’s profession, degrees, position in a company, money? How do you define life? What is your life metaphor? Life is really about relationships. We were created for relationships. We are relational beings.

Some people, even Christians, find it a strange idea to fall in love with God. They would rather view God as their provider, protector, a Holy God, great and awesome but not a friend. Of course these other attributes of God are all true, but God has primarily revealed Himself to us as a God of relationship.

What makes the two sisters different in this story in Luke 10:38-42? Mary was unbothered, concentrating, listening to the Words of the Jesus, but on the other hand Martha was distracted, bothered and complaining about her work and other people. Why? Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to what he said, but Martha was distracted by all the serving. But wait a minute: What was Martha distracted from? What was she supposed to be doing?

Distractions cause us to lose our focus or attention – our passion. What are the things do you find distracting you from having a meaningful relationship with God? Someone defined relationship as T-I-M-E – TIME. Relationships require time. We devote enormous amounts of time to things or people we like most – just think about it: how much time do you spend watching your favorite TV shows, playing your favorite games, updating your status and reading other people’s updates on Facebook!

What are you passionate about? Does the notion of being in love with Jesus excite you? Is being in God’s presence, in his embrace; like Mary, sitting at His feet listening to him, your greatest passion? Do you have special time for your best friend, Jesus? Remember relationship is all about time; quality time. And the time needs to be prime time – time when you are most alert.

Friends, all the things we do in this world will come to an end, even great ministries. There is only one thing that will endure through eternity and that is our relationship with God – our fellowship with Him. We will forever be in His presence. I want to make God’s presence my greatest passion this week and this month and for the rest of my life. How are you going to make God’s presence your passion? My prayer is that your passion will be for the only ONE; your BEST LOVER – Jesus Christ. God bless you.