Christ Followers don’t engage in Name Calling

September 9, 2013

No Name Calling“You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22 ESV)

Read the Bible a few times in different formats and orders and it is amazing what will stick out to you. Last week while using YouVersion’s Bible app on my phone, the Sermon on the Mount was read. We’ve heard about the Beatitudes, Salt, Light, and Christ coming to Fulfill the Law. How many of miss verses 21-22? Upon hearing these two verses read, pause was immediately pressed. Just reading them now, probably has caused you to stop what you are doing in horror.

Are you thinking back to the last time you said something terse to a family member, a friend, or a co-worker? Idiot! Dummy! Stupid! Useless! All things that come out of our mouth in fustration and we say them with reckless regard for the damage inflicted on others. Here we thought, only sticks and stones broke bones, but surely words would never hurt. Numerous research studies have proved otherwise since that old rhyme was learned by children over the years.

No, we know words do more damage than we ever thought. Words have led to murder, beatings, and suicide. Even as they led to these things, we assured ourselves that the consequences of using hurtful words like this didn’t apply to us. However, Jesus clear says the way of thinking is wrong.

Jesus says, “whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says. ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Notice there isn’t any “if’s”, “and’s”, or “but’s” in Jesus’ words. So, that means when the person cuts you off while driving, when your kids make some astronomically bad decision, or when your friends and family rub you the wrong way… there is literally no excuse for name calling.

By now as those of you, who desire to be Christ Followers, Disciples of Christ, have realized reading your Bible is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because you are revealed God’s Will for us. The curse is you are revealed God’s Will for us and that means you must turn away from the sinful things you used to participate in and turn back to God. Today, that means we need to lean on the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5, namely patience, self-control, love, and gentleness. We are called as body of Christ to not live and acts the broken world does, but to realize we are set aside, holy, for the purpose of giving glory to God and spreading His Gospel message.

Jesus is the best example we will ever have in that he always approach people in love and rarely called anyone names, EVEN when the deserved it. Your challenge today Christ Followers is to change your speech. Speak in love and not hate. Seek heaven by not playing the name calling game which only leads to the hell of fire.

Merciful Father, we come to you as a people who have fallen in love with breaking others down with name calling. We have forgotten the words of our Savior, whom you sent for our sake. We realize that we have wrong our friends and family through name callling. We realize that we have misrepresented You and the new life that You have blessed us with to live to Your Glory. Gracious Father send Your Holy Spirit to work on us, in us, and through us. May Your Spirit bring you to the forefront of our minds, hearts, and especially to our tongues to You Alone be All the Glory. Amen

The Body of Christ never says GoodBye

September 6, 2013

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored,all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 ESV)

As Concordia Seminary gets ready to embark on its 175th academic school year, a reminder came that I hadn’t written my follow up to saying goodbye and what it meant for this fourth year. Let’s face it 4th year was a major struggle for me. I was walking down two paths; one to the parish and one towards further graduate study. As the year went on discernment was necessary to make a decision on which path to walk. In the end, God selected the path for me and this has led me into the parish. (Where I am extremely happy, I might add)

goodbyeOne of the hardest things to do in life is to say goodbye and when it comes to the seminary community that task becomes even harder. For 4 years you are linked into a formation path with 60-70 men and women leading into church work. You grow with these individuals. Their experiences and background shape you and your experiences and background shape them. Both share in each other’s joys and pains. It is an experience like none other in life. Add in the friendships cultivated with families, staff and faculty… and I for one was sad to leave the seminary community.

The text above provided me comfort for many reasons. 1. God is at work no matter where I am and the path He leads me down. 2. Thanks to Christ, I am part of the body. 3. No matter where I am, I am a necessary part of the body. This guides my thinking about communities, friends, and family. Since we are all part of the body of Christ, this means we are always together, unified. We may be in different locations, but are always fulfilling our function in the body according to God’s Will.

Another thought that comes to mind is once a part of a community, always a part of a community. We should always be concerned, show love, and care for the communities we have been a part of. As I look back, I have been a part of numerous communities; church, family, grade school, high school, college (twice), neighborhoods, cities, seminary, and the parish. In each case, just because we move away, we don’t cease to care about those still existing physically in that community. The same can be said about the body of Christ. God calls home His children and even though they have fallen asleep in the Lord, they’re still part of the body of Christ and thus still part of our community.

bodyofchristThe original blog post was called, “the Art of saying Goodbye.” I’ve since learned we aren’t to say goodbye. We are only to say, “until we meet again” or “until our paths cross again” or “cya when Christ returns.” Regardless of status in life or location, we are still part of the body of Christ and because of this there is never any need to say goodbye.

To my brothers and sisters at Concordia Seminary, blessings on the upcoming school year. Please know that you are always in my prayers. May God richly bless your studies and formation, may His Will for you be revealed, and may He protect you from the Evil One all of your days.

Your Brother in Christ,

Rev. Eric Ekong

Concordia Seminary Alumnus – Class of 2013

Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God

September 5, 2013

foolish-wisdomFor the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18–26 ESV)

Two men discuss life in a bar. One a Christ Follower and the other an unbeliever. The unbeliever called his friend because he had fallen on hard times. He had lost his job, his wife, and his hope in humanity. When this friend asked his believing in Christ friend, “how do you deal with life?” The friend simply answers, “Christ is my power, strength, and comforter in times of need.”

What a profound response to a friend in need. What more can one say? Paul shows us how the cross is the answer to our human dilemma. When we attend church there should be a priority placed on the proclamation of the gospel by establishing the uniqueness of the cross and its power to answer the problem of our sin. Our task as Disciples of Christ is to be able to sum up the gospel as the message of the cross. In our broken world, the cross is present as pure foolishness. The Jews of the time demanded signs and the Greeks with their great knowledge and wisdom felt the cross was utter folly because of its barbaric.

Yet, we know that whatever human wisdom may think, the truth is that to believe in the message of the cross is to be saved and not to believe is to be in danger of eternal separation from God. The Cross alone is the means by which God makes His Son, Jesus Christ His power and wisdom to all who believe. To believe it to be justified, to be set apart for God’s possession and to have a sure confidence in future glory.

God’s wisdom rules out completely human boasting. We can not rely on ourselves or worldly things for wisdom. No, Paul clearly states for us that the answers for questions found in verse 18-21 are the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ alone. Christ Alone has the answers. We depend on the cross for answers. While some answers will not be revealed until Judgment Day. We know that there is a sure hope that when that day comes, all will be answered, every knee shall bow, and all will know Jesus Christ is Lord.

Heavenly Father, we come to you with many questions on life’s endless dilemmas. At times we turn everywhere, but to you. Help us during those time to turn to the Cross of Christ. Let His sacrifice provide us with the grace to realize that all praise belongs to you alone. Let His work provide us with the knowlede that you alone are the answer to all of our questions. Let Your Holy Spirit work within us so that when the time comes we can bear witness to others that Christ Alone is the answer to all of our life dilemmas. Gracious Father forgive us for looking elsewhere and protect us from the things that distract us from you. Amen

Christ Followers don’t just Hear, but they also Do

September 4, 2013

HearingDoingKnow this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:19-25 ESV)

Talk about hard advice to swallow. We’ve all heard it multiple times. Proverbs mentions being slow to talk and quick to hear. These are all things we learn in home, church, and school. Putting them into action is a different story. Here, we have an added task of keeping our anger in check.

“let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”

Who would have thought that our failure to do these things restricts us from producing the righteousness of God. This is such a major issue that our text says we are to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness.” In other words look to Galatians 5:19-21 for what we are to be putting away. These are things that cause us to be slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger.

“put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness.”

We are addressed as brothers, meaning we are part of the body of Christ, we are children of God, and we are heirs to the Kingdom of God. As such we are to receive with “meekness the implanted word.” This is Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Messiah who alone paid the price for our eternal souls. As Christ Followers Today, we are “be doers of the word” and not simply “hearers only.” Meaning we can’t simply hear God’s Word, His Instructions, and His Will for us and sit idle. We are supposed to be doers of His Word. The Holy Scriptures, the Bible is not simply a book of storys of old, it is a Living Word that transcends time. It calls for us to be both hearers and doers.

If we only hear the Word and do nothing, we are deceiving ourselves. From the beginning life with God has been as much about hearing as it has been doing what we have heard. Every narrative in the Bible follows the same pattern. God provides direction through His Word, man hears, and then forgets to follow through on the humble doing.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.”

All, but one in the Bible failed at following through on God’s Will. It took sending a servant who wasn’t plagued with sin. Jesus Christ, not only heard His Father’s instructions, but He did them in humble obedience. He did them disregarding lies, punishment, beatings, and His own life for the sake of many. Our Lord and Savior set the example for us, so that we could see what it means to not only hear God’s Instruction and Will for Us, but he also showed us what it means to do it fully. He set the example so well that he only has been able to see Himself as both hearer and doer.

“…the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Disciples of Christ, hear God’s Word. It changes them, guides them, and gives them life in the body of Christ. Christ Followers, look at God’s perfect law, the law of liberty with the knowledge that it preserves them through all of life’s trials and tribulations. We are to gaze upon God’s perfect law, the law of liberty, listen to what it tells us, and do what it directs us to the glory of God. When Christ returns, we can rest assured that we will be blessed in His doing. Not boasting of our own works, but of the Work and Will of God at work in us.

Merciful Father, we hear Your Words. They are powerful words with a direction for our lives. We have stumbled in putting what we have heard into action. Forgive us for not following through with Your direction for our lives. Forgive us for sitting idle and being fearful of putting our faith into action. Gracious Lord, we thank you for the sacrifice of Your Son. We thank you for example He set for us in not only hearing, but doing Your Will. Grant us the power of Your Spirit so that we might follow Your Son’s lead in hearing and doing. Lord bless us with the ability to do Your Will in this broken world. Amen.

Labor Day and Christ Followers Laboring

September 3, 2013

ShacklesAccordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. (Philemon 1:8-19 ESV)

Labor Day was yesterday. It is the day we, as a country, set aside to pay tribute to the contributions by workers. Workers, who have provided to our country; strength, prosperity, and well-being. While we recognize the contributions of our neighbors, we often forget about the contributions from the saints God has worked through over the years.

Paul labored for Christ. He preached and taught with reckless abandoned. He did the majority of this while under house arrest. Even as he was being persecuted himself because of his laboring for Christ, Paul continued to labor for others. In our text for today, Paul steps in for a friend, a neighbor, a fellow brother in Christ. A brother who had made a mistake and was afraid to return to take ownership for his failing. Paul sets the example to rectify the situation so that the brother, Onesumus, could repent and turn from his sin. Paul, by laboring for Christ, also labored for others. He labored for souls disregarding his own issues and persecution in life.

Christ set the example for Paul. Humbling himself for the sake of us. Remaining steadfast under ridicule, false testimony, and persecution. Carrying the burden of all of our sin when He Himself had no sin. There is Christ, remaining obedient for our sake, laboring on the Cross of Calvary for forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and victory over death. There is Christ laboring to gain the ability to present us blameless before the Father. There is Christ laboring to victory over Satan for our sake.

We took yesterday off to recognize the labor of our workers. They shed blood, sweat, and tears to provide us a better life in this country. In the fullness of time, Christ shed sweat, tears, and blood to provide us with comfort and resolve in this life. He shed blood to pay the debt of our sins so that we may have everlasting life. He endured beatings so that we may be excused from the punishment we justly deserve from our Heavenly Father.

While we celebrate Labor Day once every year, we should be celebrating Christ’s Labor everyday through our actions. We should mimic the actions of Christ and Paul laboring for our neighbor’s needs and souls. We should strive to plant the seeds of faith to those who are not yet aware of Christ’s labor. We should remember Christ’s labor and that He did not stop laboring until He said, “It is Finished!”

Gracious and Heavenly Father, we thank you for the love You have had for us. You have loved us in spite of our failings in life. You loved us so much that You sent Your beloved Son to die for us. You sent Him to labor for our souls. Merciful Father forgive us as we have forgotten that we are now Your laborers for the kingdom. Lord show us how to labor for You. Provide us with the direction of Your Holy Spirit so that we follow the example of Your Son and Paul. Amen.

S.T.A.R.T.

August 30, 2013

Getting Started
These five steps will get you off to the right S-T-A-R-T, as you follow Christ:

1. Stop trusting in yourself and your own good works, and start trusting in Christ alone for salvation. (Ephesians 2:8–9)

2. Turn away from everything the Bible calls sin. (2 Timothy 2:19)

3. Attend a small group for personal discipleship and weekly worship services. (Hebrews 10:25)

4. Read and obey your Bible every day. (Joshua 1:8)

5. Tell others about your new relationship with Christ. (Mark 5:19–20)

 

Note: Not sure where I came across this, but it was one of the days from a YouVersion Reading Plan.

Holding the Gospel Hostage vs. Sharing the Gospel

August 30, 2013

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:19-20 ESV)

In reading a devotion this past weekend, it listed 5 steps to getting off to the right start following Christ. It is pretty cool because it actually spells the word S.T.A.R.T. So, far we have covered the S – Stop trusting in yourself and your own good works/things and start trusting in Christ alone for everything. (Ephesians 2:8-9). We’ve covered the T- Turn away from everything the Bible calls sin. (2 Timothy 2:19) We covered the A – Attend a small group for personal discipleship/accountability and weekly worship services. (Hebrews 10:25) Yesterday, we covered the R – Read and Obey your Bible every day. (Joshua 1:8) Today, we cover the final letter, T in the five steps to set us on the right track to Following Christ.

The selection from Scripture comes from the 5th chapter of Mark when Jesus heals a man who has a demon. You may remember the story, Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man. The unclean spirit begs Jesus to send them out of the country as they (Legion) needed another host. They then begged to be sent to the pigs. From there the pigs now with the unclean spirits in them, charged the steep bank, fell into the sea and drowned. The herdsmen were afraid because of what had happened and asked Jesus to leave their land. Which sets the stage for our verse today.

How many of us have attended a bible study or church service that was really moving? Not necessarily a feeling, but a move spiritually. Moving in the manner where God’s work through His Word and Sacraments caused you to see your sin, re-evaluate your life, and change so that you strived to live more according to God’s Will for us. This is not to say that this isn’t happening even when we aren’t aware of it. Just for a moment we are talking about something that hit home for you at that very moment.

How many of you have read something in the Bible that left you in utter shock? The Jerry Springer show, when it was in it’s prime, was all about shock value for its viewers. Here is a little secret for you, the Bible is full of shocking things that happened. The entire book of Genesis alone is so shocking that Jerry Springer wishes he could garner the ratings Genesis would produce. The works of God through Moses in Egypt, the trials and tribulations during the time of Judges, the antics of the prophets, wondrous works of Jesus amongst us, and lest not we forget the book of Acts and the letters from Paul, Peter, and John – all have equally amazing stories.

What happens when we hear, read, or see an amazing thing? We tend to want to share it with someone else. With the rise of the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest everything is one click away from sharing with all our friends. Which leads to a question, “Why don’t we share our faith, how much God has done for us, the Gospel in the same manner?” Enter our final letter for the week; T – Tell everyone about your new relationship with Christ. (Mark 5:19-20)

GoTellItOnTheMountain

Jesus said, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Do you know what happens when you tell others what God has done for you and them, the mercy He has had on you? It leads to Matthew 28:18-20; it leads to the baptizing and teaching of God’s Will. It means seeds are being planted, souls are saved, and the body of Christ expands. Family and friends should be the easiest people to share this simple message. If you can share it will family, then you can share it with anyone. To do anything otherwise is to hold the Gospel Hostage.

Gracious and Loving Father, we thank you for all that You have done for us. We thank you for Your Wondrous Mercy You have bestowed on us in the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Forgive us  for the times that we have kept You to ourselves, when we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves, and when we have held Your Gospel message hostage. Lord, at times we find it hard to share the life saving message of Your Son Crucified for our sins. Provide us with the power of the Holy Spirit so that we may follow the lead of Christ to confidently and enthusiastically share all You have done for us in Your Great Mercy. Amen.

Christ Followers desire to read and obey God’s Word daily

August 29, 2013

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:5-8 ESV)

In reading a devotion this past weekend, it listed 5 steps to getting off to the right start following Christ. It is pretty cool because it actually spells the word S.T.A.R.T. So, far we have covered the S – Stop trusting in yourself and your own good works/things and start trusting in Christ alone for everything. (Ephesians 2:8-9). We’ve covered the T- Turn away from everything the Bible calls sin. (2 Timothy 2:19) Yesterday, we covered the A – Attend a small group for personal discipleship/accountability and weekly worship services. (Hebrews 10:25) Today, we cover the R in the five steps to set us on the right track to Following Christ.

Let’s start off with a question. How many of those reading this read their Bible daily? Not just the verse that is used for the daily devotion, but seriously read the Bible. Many of us have an assortment of bibles acquired over the years of our life. They become like every other book we have purchased for leisure reading or required for a class or bible study; on a shelf or table-collecting dust.

When this happens and we run into the trials and tribulations of our life, the common action is to turn to everything except for the Bible. We look for guidance in life decisions from the news, television shows, and the latest self-help book. The text before us today, has Joshua ready to take on the leadership of the Israelites following their 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Talk about a big job that requires serious direction. There is a number of key things that God says to Joshua that ring true to us today; God will not leave or forsake us, God desires us to be strong and courageous, and to live according to the Book of the Law, also known as God’s Will for us.

readtheBibleHow do we know that God will not leave or forsake us? How can we be strong and courageous for God? How can we live according to the Book of the Law, God’s Will for us? Today’s step for getting us off to the right start following Christ is R – Read and Obey your Bible every day. (Joshua 1:8) How do we know God will not leave or forsake us? Because He says so here in Joshua clearly. He also says it in Matthew 28:18-20 in what is commonly known as the Great Commission, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) How can we be strong and courageous for God? We are much like the disciples, Peter, and Paul. We have the sure foundation that Christ has already done all the work for us. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) attest to the ministry of Christ and that He took everything onto Himself and because of this we know that we are saved. It gives us a sure confidence in the hope of salvation and the life everlasting. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be courageous and strong, whom the Father and Son sent at Pentecost (Acts 2).

How do we live according to the Book of the Law, God’s Will for us? Reading and Obeying your Bible every day. God lays out His Will for Creation throughout the Bible. It is a consistent message from start to finish. The next step is once we have read the Bible and re-read the Bible, we are to obey what we have read. Take hold of it, meditate on it, digest it, and resist fighting God’s Will for us. It means we have to cast away our preferences, grudges, and every other sinful activities daily. We must turn away from those sins, turn back to God in humble forgiveness, and strive to live a life pleasing to God and only God.

Heavenly Father, we have lost track of Your Will for our lives and creation. We have depended on the guidance from everything under the sun except for Your Scriptures. Lord forgive us for our adulterous activities. Grant us your mercy for the sake of Your Son, whom You sent to obtain our forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and victory over death. Grant us the power of the Holy Spirit so that we may be strong and courageous witnesses in this world of Your Great Love. Holy Spirit lead us to the Holy Scriptures daily for direction in our lives to center us in God’s Will for us. Amen.

Christ Followers need Discipleship and Weekly Worship

August 28, 2013

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

praying_togetherIn reading a devotion this past weekend, it listed 5 steps to getting off to the right start following Christ. It is pretty cool because it actually spells the word S.T.A.R.T. So, far we have covered the S – Stop trusting in yourself and your own good works/things and start trusting in Christ alone for everthing. (Ephesians 2:8-9). We’ve covered the T- Turn away from everything the Bible calls sin. (2 Timothy 2:19) Today, we cover the A in the five steps to set us on the right track to Following Christ.

Has anyone ever taken the time to look over their schedule for the week? Maybe some of you have things color coded. Others of you may use some electronic device to keep track of your schedule. The amazing thing is we will over book ourselves with activities and the first thing that is pushed out of our schedule is our time with each other and God. As our time together goes out the window so does our ability to encourage, build up, and hold each other accountable in our lives in Christ.

When Sunday comes, we are blessed and refreshed by being in worship with brothers and sisters. The questions and doubts that were troubling us throughout the week were addressed in the sermon, the readings of the day, or a bible class. It is actually pretty astounding how that happens time and time again. What is even more astounding is the vast majority of the church will say the same thing. The experiences and words of advice shared by a brother or sister speaks to us when we are troubled. Make no mistake it is God at work through His children. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Has anyone thought about it from this perspective? When we are absent from worship or bible study, we are in effect hurting the body of Christ. Scripture is pretty clear about the fact that the body of Christ has many parts, that they cannot work separate from each other, and that members of the body are to care for each other. (1 Corinthians12:12-31) As such we are to strive to be accountable, to stir up, and to love each other. Today’s letter A stands for “Attend a small group for personal discipleship and weekly worship services.” This makes so much sense, the only way we can hold each other accountable is to be in the midst of each other. The only way we can stir each other up and love each other is to be in the midst of each other. The only way discipleship can happen according to Matthew 28:18-20 is through “baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and “teaching them to observe all that I [Christ] have commanded…”

What a joy it is to know that we don’t have to do it all on our own, that we have brothers and sisters in Christ right there with us. Knowing the Holy Spirit is working within and through them while at the same time doing the same thing for us. While the Holy Spirit is growing us and providing us the opportunities through bible study and worship services to learn, we also grow from the fellowship with the body of Christ. Where do we normally recieve God’s Word and Sacrament? In a gathering of Christ Followers. The Disciples knew what this meant, they were always together. Jesus discipled them directly in groups. He taught and explained things in group. He preached to groups and He established the Sacraments in gatherings as well. Psalm 113:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

The next step to S-T-A-R-T you off right to follow Christ is before you. Strive to attend a small group for personal discipleship/accountability and weekly worship services.

Gracious Father, thank you for the gift of time. We know that there is a time for everything, but we sinfully carve you and our brothers and sisters in Christ out of our schedules. Merciful Father, forgive us for losing focus, for separating ourselves from the body, and for hampering our growth as Your servants. Loving Father, we are so thankful for the love that You have shown us through Your Son’s sacrifice. We are thankful that He has paid our debt with His blood so that we may have a sure confidence that we are forgiven and that You will remember our sins no more. Lord as we continue to strive to follow Your Son, Jesus Christ, send the Holy Spirit to strengthen our desire and need to be in small groups of discipleship and weekly worship services. Amen.

 

Turning away from iniquity is Mandatory

August 27, 2013

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19 ESV)

turnawayfromsinIn reading a devotion this past weekend, it listed 5 steps to getting off to the right start following Christ. It is pretty cool because it actually spells the word S.T.A.R.T. Today, we cover the T in the five steps to set us on the right track to Following Christ.  T – “Turn away from everything the Bible calls sin.”

Does anyone remember the first time or anytime that they were in trouble with an adult for doing something wrong? It could be with a parent, grandparent, teacher, or the law. Maybe it was like the scenario from Bill Cosby’s stand up routine, Bill Cosby Himself. In one segment, he speaks about the interaction with one of his children. He tells the child who has been gazing at the cookie jar as he is leaving the room, that the child can’t have any cookies. He then leaves the room for some reason and returns to cookie crumbs on the counter and on the cheeks of the child. Bill asks the child did they eat any cookies and of course the silly child says, “No.” The questioning continues along and finally the child admits to disobeying Bill and gives the reason of “I don’t know” for their disobedience.

Our lives with God are much the same, we are the children and He is the Heavenly Father. Look back to the beginning of time; Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abram and Sarai, Moses, David and Bathsheba, King Solomon, Peter, Judas, all the disciples, and you… We’ve all been told what not to do in our lives and we continue to disregard that instruction from God. And often when we are asked “Why did you do that?” We are like the child in the Bill Cosby story with the answer of “I don’t know.” We know it is wrong because God has written His Law on our hearts, but we continue to sin. The Apostle Paul summed up our daily issues with disobeying the Father in Romans 7:15-20.

The Triune God promised back in Genesis 3 that He would send the Redeemer and when that Redeemer came to claim us the first words of His ministry of God were the same of those of John the Baptist, “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14) Each of us has been caught doing something wrong and at that very moment there is only One healthy choice; Turn away from everything the Bible calls sin. It is that simple. This is what has to happen to be a Christ Follower. To not turn away from our sins in repentance is to attempt to have our cake and eat it too. We in effect are attempting to serve 2 masters – Christ and the Devil.

Christ claimed us in Baptism, He placed His seal on us so that He may present us blameless before the Heavenly Father. Being a Disciple of Christ means knowing that seal is upon us. It means turning from our sinful ways. It means studying the Scriptures, praying, and gathering together in worship so that we may walk, talk, and live like Christ. This isn’t possible if we aren’t turning from our sinful nature daily. Turning from our sins, our iniquity is a mandate directly from God and this is not optional, but mandatory.

Over the course of the day, take some time to read the Bible. Use it to center your life back on God. Allow Scripture to do what it does; reveal our sins, reveal our salvation in Christ, and reveal God’s Will for us. Carry a bible with you at all times. In this day and age it is much easier with all the electronics out there. One can carry the Bible on a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer. Use everything that is at your disposal to stay in God’s Word, it will encourage, strengthen, and direct you throughout your day.

Gracious Father, we come to you as wayward sinners. We have tried to hide our sins. We have tried to treat life like Burger King where we can have things our way. Lord we know Your Way is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life. Forgive us for our many transgressions towards you and each other. Lord we are thankful for the sending of Your Son because we know He has acquired our forgiveness through the shedding of His blood. Heavenly Father, send Your Spirit upon us to empower us to not only to turn from our sinful transgressions, but to also turn back to following Christ, that is Your Will for us. Amen.


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