Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are you running aimlessly?

Run in such a way as to get the prize.... I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 1 Corinthians 9:24, 26
Have you noticed how much more easier it is to obtain a goal when you know what the goal is? Maybe that's why parenting is so frustrating, I'm not sure what the finish line looks like or where it is.

As for the Christ follower, what is the finish line? Is it just tallying up how many people we tagged for Christ before we die? Is it being a good person - whatever good means to me?

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22 "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." If the goal were to save people or be good, I think he might consider going in circles if necessary to save all.

He gives the goal in verse 23: "I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessing." 

Is he looking for a reward just for running the race? Well, yes but not the kind we think of - not something presented for effort. The goal is the finish line of the gospel - the kingdom of God. And I don't think he is just talking about some invisible place that is out there somewhere after he dies. We can see this finish line in the resurrected Jesus Christ and anywhere else the power of the Holy Spirit overpowers evil.

The gospel - good news - is fantastic for everyone. It is the reign of an all loving, all powerful God without the interference of obstacles. Imagine that! That reign is here now in part so that we know what the finish line looks like. 

There are others in the race with us running aimlessly. They may seem like an obstacle but when we help them see the finish line, they help us get to the finish line sooner. When we bring the power of God's rule to someone through healing or setting them free from stuff that is not of God's kingdom (depression, poverty, physical or mental illness, injustice, etc.), we are relaying the gospel.

Those who we relay the gospel to, pick up the same goal - we give them sight of the finish line. The exciting thing is that all who pick up the baton are headed for the same finish line and we will all share in its blessing. 

Those who don't pick up the baton are running aimlessly. They think they are getting rewards but they don't have their sight on the real finish line and so the thrill of the reward earned along the way diminishes.

The goal is not for me to make it to the finish line so that I get the reward. The finish line is not the end of my life on earth. The finish line is the end of the evil age and the perfection of God's reign over eternity.
And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then, finally, the end will come. ~ Matthew 24:14 (NLT)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What is a Leader?

"Great leaders do not presume that God is on their side. Rather, they humbly try to discern whether God may be judging both them and their enemies."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hope in Ignoring the Law

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. ~ Romans 7:15
This is one of the many segments of Paul's writing that has puzzled me. Is he saying he can't help but sin? Therefore, we also must face the fact that we cannot be without sin ourselves? That's what I've always thought, but I don't think that is exactly what he is saying.

When this scripture is read in context (at minimum all of chapters 7 and 8) there is much greater hope in this passage. 

Paul tells us that we know what sin is because of the law. When we try to follow the law on our own strength, we quickly find that we can't do it - "for what I want to do I do not do."

I think he is saying that when I rely on myself, I will sin. However, the good news is that we have been rescued from having to rely on ourself! Think about that! It's great news. 
Personal example. Several years ago, I battled an addiction which I knew was not good. In my prayers I focused on the stuff I didn't want to do. I was losing each battle until I finally responded to God's call to quit looking at the "law" and put my focus on him. This is impossible to do on our own strength. Only the Spirit can show us the mind of God.
Paul is saying, if I try to be a good moral person or if I try to live according to the law given to Moses, if that is my focus in life, I'm doomed. I can't do it. But, if I focus on the Spirit given to me through Jesus Christ, then I live and everything falls into place as it should.
More typical example. My child responds inappropriately to my instructions. The sinful self wants that kid to obey God's law - Honor your parents! By focusing on that law, I generally lose it - "mama volcano blows." But if I give up my control and focus on the Spirit of God within me, amazing life and peace appear in the midst of the battle. It may not be void of struggle but the stench of being imprisoned by death is overpowered by the sweetness of life.
Paul is not giving us justification for the bad things we do. This passage is a declaration of freedom from the bondage to that sinful life. Yes, for now, the battle continues. But the good news is that we are not prisoners of this war. We have been rescued to fight not on our own strength which always brings death but by the very same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.

May God add the exhilarating blessing of understanding as you read his Word today.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
~ Romans 8:5-11

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Gospel of the Kingdom by George Eldon Ladd

"One truth is set forth: the Kingdom of God which one day shall fill the earth is here among men but in a form which was never before expected." (p 59)

Ladd delivers an exciting teaching on the reality of the already and not yet of the Kingdom. I've posted several quotes on my website Grow2Sow.

This book is not for those comfortable with a learned perception of heaven being something only of the future. It gives meaning and purpose to our life right now that is beyond what is taught in most churches today.

The author writes with an assumption that his audience agrees with his understanding of the Millennium but even if you don't agree with his assumptions, the book is excellent for stirring the mind and revealing insights on the characteristics of the Kingdom of God and the role of the Church today in that Kingdom.

The final chapter leaves the reader with the ultimate challenge: "When is Christ coming again? When the Church has finished its task." Ladd has given us the keys to that task throughout the dynamic read of a mere 140 pages. 

If you are interested in truth over comfort of what you've been taught, pick up a copy and study with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How's your heart for others?

"...Mr. Fogg stopped him, and, turning to Sir Francis Cromarty, said, 'Suppose we save this woman.'

'Save the woman, Mr. Fogg!'

'I have yet twelve hours to spare; I can devote them to that.'

'Why, you are a man of heart!'

'Sometimes,' replied Phileas Fogg, quietly; 'when I have the time.'"

Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days
(Ann Arbor, MI: Borders Group, 2007), 54.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Purpose of Prayer

"Really the whole purpose of prayer is not to get our will done but to get God's will done." (Thomas L. Constable, Giving Ourselves to Prayer, Terre Haute, IN: Prayer Shop Publishing, 2008)

Are you amazed when God answers prayer? Are you disappointed when it seems he doesn't answer your prayers?

If we approach prayer with an earnest desire to know God's will, we are more likely to find ourselves leaving the prayer time rejoicing for what he has shown us will be done rather than waiting to see if we are amazed or disappointed.

Originally posted to Central Ohio Praying Moms, April 4, 2009. 
the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
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