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Archive for November, 2013

The Author and Finisher

Scripture:  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. Hebrews 12:2 (MSG)

Observation:  Author. Gr. archēgos, “leader,” “originator,” “founder,” “pioneer” (RSV). Archēgos is rendered “Prince” in Acts 3:15; 5:31 and “captain” in Heb. 2:10, in each instance with reference to Christ, as here. Christ is the center of the plan of salvation and the source of every Christian grace. It is He who calls fallen men out of the dismal darkness of sin and into the glorious light of the gospel. It is He who cleanses them from their previous life of sin and qualifies them to become sons and daughters of God. It is He who justifies them by His grace, by virtue of His atonement on Calvary. It is He who plants their feet on the pathway to heaven.

        Finisher. Gr. telēiotēs, “perfecter.” The work of justification is only the beginning of the Christian experience. We are not only to lay the “foundation of repentance from dead works” but are to “go on unto perfection” (see on ch. 6:1). We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We are to gain victory after victory over our besetting sins (see on Heb. 12:1) and to “grow up into him [Christ] in all things” (Eph. 4:15). Our characters are to be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). This is the work of the indwelling Christ (Gal. 2:20) as the “perfecter” of faith. This is the work of sanctification. See on Matt. 5:48. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (481). Review and Herald Publishing Association.] 

Application:  Sometimes I wonder if we really believe in Jesus’ power and ability to help us!  Many singles rush into relationships which are not healthy or good instead of waiting for God to bring into their lives the right person, at the right time, if that is His will for them.  Others who are convinced God brought that person into the lives set out to change them and make them as they would want them to be – a replica of themselves.

If we truly believe that God has the power and ability to do anything, we need to learn to trust Him with our relationships.  If He is responsible for the start of a friendship, why not allow Him to help that friendship grow into a meaningful, lasting friendship?  And if He wanted that friendship to grow into courtship and eventually into a marital relationship, why not allow Him to do so, in His time?

Of course, the problem with trust in the area of relationships is not limited to singles.  Many married people also set out to change their spouse from the time they say their “I Dos”, and often they destroy what could have been a wonderful spouse nagging them constantly to change.  In my experience I have met many married people discouraged with their marriage and dissatisfied with their spouse.  But if we believe God is the author of our relationship, why not trust Him to make it grow and eventually bring it to a fulfilling fruition?

Keep your eyes on Jesus, not on each other.  He is the author of order in the midst of chaos.  Don’t lose sight of the direction where you want your marriage and your family to go, and with Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith, as your guide, enjoy the most wonderful journey in life, the journey toward eternity. 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, we entrust all the relationships in our life, specially our marriage and our family, into your hands.  Because you are their Author, we trust You also to be the Finisher of all that You do in us.

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No Condemnation

Scripture:  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Observation:  No condemnation. The good news of the gospel is that Christ came to condemn sin, not sinners (John 3:17; Rom. 8:3). To those who believe and accept the generous provisions of the gospel and who in faith commit themselves to lives of loving obedience, Christ offers justification and freedom. There may yet be deficiencies in the believer’s character, but “when it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit” (EGW ST June 16, 1890). For such there is no condemnation (John 3:18). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (559–560). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application:  One of the most moving stories from the life of Jesus is found in John 8.  It’s worth reviewing it today:

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,  they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”  This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.  So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11 (NKJV)

The Jewish law made it clear that both the man and the woman who were caught in the act of committing adultery were to be stoned.  In this case, only the woman was brought to Jesus.  It’s clear that it was a set up on their part so they could trap Jesus with His own words.  Regardless, when they could not, with a clear conscience, stone her, Jesus pronounced those precious words, “Neither do I condemn you.”  Since then, those words still bring us comfort and hope.  The apostle Paul also echoed the same sentiment with the words of our Scriptural passage for today (Romans 8:1), so that we could live with the assurance that it is not just the woman caught in the act of committing adultery whom Jesus did not condemn but also every one of us, while sinners to the core, but in Jesus forgiven and not condemned.

If Jesus, in His purity, does not condemn us, how can we, fallible humans that we are, pretend to be more righteous than our spouse or children or parents and condemn them when they have failed, or even failed us?  May the words that come from our lips be:  “Neither do I condemn you.”

A Prayer You May Say:  father God, thank You because in Your love You do not condemn us but instead shower Your love to each of us, forgive us, and asks us to share the same forgiveness to those around us.  Help us to be more gracious, to condemn less, and love more.

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True Love

Scripture: Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned. Song of Songs 8:7 (NLT)

Observation:  Cannot quench love. Pure love is such that nothing can destroy it. It cannot be bought. The highest offer would be completely scorned. This passage, telling of the invincible might and enduring constancy of true love, stands without a parallel in literature for forcefulness of expression. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 3. 1977 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (1123). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application:  The concept of true love is an ideal that has been explored in books, movies, poems, and song lyrics for many years.  I am sometimes amazed at what people consider true love.  For instance, the singer “Pink” came up with a song on true love.  Here are some of the lyrics:  Sometimes I hate every single stupid word you say // Sometimes I wanna slap you in your whole face // There’s no one quite like you // You push all my buttons down // I know life would suck without you // At the same time, I wanna hug you // I wanna wrap my hands around your neck.   What an interesting concept of true love!  I hate the words you say? I want to slap your whole face?  I want to wrap my hands around your neck?  None of those things have anything to do with love but with hate, control, and abuse!

What is “True love?”  Solomon describes it as something that cannot be bought.  True love, he writes, cannot be quenched or drowned.  The reason is because true love is not a feeling of sorts, although it makes us feel good.  True love is a decision followed up by loving actions.  Paul wrote to the church members in Corinth about true love in two different ways:  What love does and what love does not do.

What love is: Love is patient, love is kind. (vs. 4)   [Love] rejoices in the truth. (vs.6) ⌊Love⌋ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (vs.7)

What love dos not do:  Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.  ⌊Love⌋ finds no joy in unrighteousness. (vss.4-6)

Make the decision to love and act lovingly.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, the only way we can love like You is to have You in our life.  May Your love shine out to others because it cannot be quenched!

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The Greatest Joy

Scripture: I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth. 3 John 1:4

 

Observation:  No greater joy. The greatest possible joy fills a Christian worker when he sees the members of his flock taking a strong and resolute stand for right and truth. He is far happier than if he heard only of their success in acquiring wealth or position (cf. 2 Cor. 7:7; 1 Thess. 3:6).

My children. Rather, “my own children.” This may indicate that Gaius was one of John’s own converts (cf. on 1 John 2:1; 2 John 4; cf. 1 Thess. 2:7–12; 1 Tim. 1:2).

Walk in truth. Or, “walking in the truth,” that is, continuing to order the life in harmony with the revelation of God’s character as given by Jesus Chris. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (695–696). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  Those that have gone through the experiencing of losing a child tells me there is no greater pain than that.  The normal, natural way of life dictates that, as painful as it may be, we will probably outlive our parents.  None of us expect to have to bury our children!

 

But probably the second most painful experience for a parent is when a child leaves the faith they were brought up in.  Those of us Christian parents bring our children up with the expectation that they will grow up believing in, loving, and serving God, and when they seem to turn their backs on Him, or at least stop practicing what we taught them to practice, it breaks our hearts, if scares us for their eternal destiny.

 

On the other hand, the apostle Paul reflects the feeling that we have when our children continue to walk in the path we laid out for them, the path that leads them to know God, to love Him supremely, to serve Him continually, and to share Him with others.  It fills our hearts with joy when they take a stand for what is right, when they make life commitments such as baptism, when they choose godly people with whom to associate, and maybe even whom to marry.

 

Unless we set a godly example from the time our children are small, the chances of them making these types of commitments diminish greatly.  Even when we do set the example, they have the freedom as they wish. . . and at times they do against our wish.  We cannot give up on them even then, and our love for them can never change, and most likely never will.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, may our children live according to the truth You have laid our for all of us.  When they do, it brings us great joy, but we also know it brings You great joy.  May You and us then have this great joy in our lives forever.

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The Appropriate Time

Scripture: To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV)

 

Observation:  Season. Literally, “an appointed time,” from a root meaning “to determine,” “to decree.” A season is therefore not merely a convenient time, but a decreed time. God has ordained certain seasons for the various natural phenomena (see Lam. 3:37; cf. James 4:15).

Time. From a common Hebrew word for “time,” often signifying the beginning of a period of time.

Purpose. From a Hebrew word whose root means “to take delight in,” “to have pleasure in.” The noun, therefore, basically means, “that in which one takes delight,” a vocation or an avocation. This same noun is translated “pleasure” in Isa. 58:3, 13; Mal. 1:10, and “delight” in Ps. 1:2; 16:3. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 3. 1977 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (1073). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  Dr. Scott Stanley, marriage researcher from the University of Colorado in Denver, speaks about the changes that have occurred in the last seventy or so years.  Before the 1960’s, the normal order of events for most people was that they would date, then get married, and then have sex.  When the 1960’s came, and with the sex liberation, the order of things changed so that many would date, then have sex, and then got married.  In the late 1990’s and into the beginning of the 21st century there’s a new pattern that is being set by many couples; they now meet and have sex, from that experience they decide if they want to date, and then they either choose to live together or proceed to marry each other.

While there is no such thing as “dating” in the Bible, God’s word reserves sexual intimacy for marriage – not before, and not outside the boundaries of this sacred union.  Even the Song of Solomon, a beautiful description of how the married relationship, describes the order of events as God planned for a couple.  Three times (SS 2:7, 3:5, 8:4), Shulamith, the bride, expresses her advice to her young friends, “do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

         When God says there is an appropriate time for everything He also means for sexual intimacy.  Rushing to have sex before marriage makes the relationship more complicated, clouds the judgment, and often does not help the couple to make the correct decisions concerning their individual future, much less their future as a couple.  In fact, often premarital sex leads to, as Stanley calls it, “sliding into cohabitation,” by which he means that most cohabiting couples don’t sit down to talk about the reasons they have for moving in together but simply slide into that arrangement a little at a time.  Unfortunately, much research shows that people in cohabiting relationships often don’t marry the person they are living with, many experience higher levels of physical abuse than married couples, and they have a much higher probability of divorce if they choose to marry.

Follow the order of events prescribed in the Bible.  God, your designer and creator, knows what is best for you and your future.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, in Your wisdom You have given us a pattern for our happiness.  Helps us to follow the path that leads to a long, healthy relationship.

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