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Archive for May, 2012

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28

 Our Assignment
The word subdue in Hebrew is kabash and it means to subject to force, dominate, keep under control, and/or to bring into bondage. At first glance it does not seem to make sense; this is after all the Garden of Eden where we first hear this message. God tells us that we have dominion over every living thing, but when we hear ‘subdue the earth’ we might find ourselves asking,
Subdue the earth from what?
The Wrong Question

How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12) 

We should be asking from whom, not from what. The assignment is to subdue the earth from satan. When we read the account of creation in Genesis, we soon come to realize that somewhere in time, perhaps between verse one and verse two, satan was cast out of Heaven. We know satan is not in Heaven because he is going to make an appearance before Eve in the Garden. Furthermore, Jesus tells us in John 12:31 that satan is the ruler of this world. That truth is repeated in this passage from Luke 4:6-8:

And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ’You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’

Satan could not have offered to Jesus authority over the world unless he had it given to Him by God. We also notice that Jesus did not say to satan, “You have no authority to give me the earth.”

How To Subdue

All things considered, subduction (which is an applicable geological term) is an easy commission when you think about it: be fruitful and multiply! However, I submit to you (because not all are able) that this verse does not merely pertain to procreation.

Let’s go back to the opening  Bible verse (I actually prefer the King James version of this passage, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish,” because it includes a third function: replenishment). Suddenly, it is not just about making babies, but making Christian disciples; i.e., leading people to Christ Jesus for His glory and good purposes.

Hear the reality: our assignment has never changed! If we are not actively subduing (or preparing to actively subdue), then in our idleness satan is increasing his territory upon the backs of lost souls.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

We need not subject ourselves to hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. The battle is spiritual and is fought as souls are won to Christ. Our assignment is a work that God will do through those saints who are submitted to His good and perfect will. The question that remains is, “Are you a submitted follower of Christ?”

  1. What do these verses say about God?
  2. What do they say about you?
  3. What things might we need to address?

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I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Timothy 2:8-10)

I wanted to take a bit of time to define a few words in this passage primarily for my own understanding, but as always, I like to share. The issue of nursing (in public) recently came up in a discussion and as you can imagine, things got a little heated (and I respectively bowed out). I later thought that some of these terms (in the First Timothy passage) needed to be reexamined as their meanings may or may not have been altered through the years. So, as best I could, I wanted to bring clarity (aka: definition) by peeking at the Father’s likely purpose.

Please (kindly) let me know what you think in the comment section below.

…He who receives correction is prudent. Proverbs 15:5

(*The following definitions are from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary and the Blue Letter Bible (Strong’s) Lexicon and will hereon be identified as NWD and BLB).

Holy

NWD: Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections. Applied to the Supreme Being, holy signifies perfectly pure, immaculate and complete in moral character; and man is more or less holy, as his heart is more or less sanctified, or purified from evil dispositions. We call a man holy,when his heart is conformed in some degree to the image of God, and his life is regulated by the divine precepts. Hence, holy is used as nearly synonymous with good, pious, godly.

Many would add: ‘Set apart,’ as for the Lord.

BLB: Undefiled by sin, free from wickedness, religiously observing every moral obligation, pure holy, pious (Hosios in the Greek).

Modesty

NWD: That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one’s own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.

Additionally: In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor. A modesty-piece is a garment that covers the bosom.

BLB: well-arranged, seemly, modest (from the Greek: kosmios, where we get the word cosmos)

Propriety

NWD: Fitness; suitableness; appropriateness; consonance with established principles, rules or customs; justness; accuracy. Propriety of conduct, in a moral sense, consists in its conformity to the moral law; propriety of behavior, consists in conformity to the established rules of decorum; propriety in language, is correctness in the use of words and phrases, according to established usage, which constitutes the rule of speaking and writing.

BLB: (Shamefacedness in the KJV); A sense of shame or honour, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect (Aidos in the Greek)

Moderation

NWD: The state of being moderate…restraint of violent passions or indulgence of appetite…Calmness of mind. Moderate: Reduced in violence, rigor or intensity; allayed; lessened; tempered; qualified.

BLB: (Sobriety in the KJV); soundness of mind; self-control.

Proper

NWD: Appropriate (suitable for the circumstances); to hasten (as in pressing forward).

BLB: (Becometh in the KJV);  to stand out, to be conspicuous, to be eminent; to be becoming, seemly, fit (prepo in the Greek; where we get both the words proper and  preparation).

This is Not My Opinion…

I’m absolutely sure somebody’s feathers will be ruffled, but nevertheless, God is conveying that He wants women to be extremely discrete in regard to how they present their bodies (and yes, I’m sure that the message applies to men as well) and I don’t see how any of us can get around the directive.

Modesty is not oppression for women, it is submission to God and if as justification we suggest that society has changed through the centuries, our Sovereign Lord would remind us that culture does not change the truth, it is the truth that will change the culture.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

  1. What do these verses say about God?
  2. Why does God want His children to be modest?
  3. What changes do we need to make in ourselves? 

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You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4

The doctrine of legalism does not justify, therefore anyone who would add the word and to the sentence, Salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ,” is essentially proclaiming that Christ’s work on the cross was insufficient and their actions likely demonstrate, “I must do more than Christ did to be saved.”

Halle-lu-YOU

Think about it, if you were able to achieve righteousness by your own effort, then of what use is the cross? You might as well toss out your hallelujahs (praises to God) and begin shouting, “Hallelu-me” instead. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But how many of us do religious things because we believe we have too? How many of us feel we must do good works in order to counteract the bad things we have done? How many of us are in churches where extra requirements for salvation are preached?

Paul would say of this flawed doctrine:

This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. Galatians 5:8

Take Heed

I suspect that a little legalism creeps into every Christian’s life. We can correct the disorder by continually being in God’s word (so we can read the truth) and consistently being in prayer (so we can hear the truth). It should be our regular practice to ask the Father to search our hearts, to guide our steps, and protect us from the wolves (false teachers) along our path.

Knowing the truth helps us to see the lie before stumbling into it and to reject deception understanding that just a smidgen defiles. Additionally we will abandon the desire to impose man-made regulations upon others and will flee from anyone desiring to impose them upon us.

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:6-8

  1. What do these verses say about God?
  2. What do they say about us?
  3. Are there changes we should pursue?

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In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace… Ephesians 1:7
~
One of things I like about Chuck E Cheese is that when you (or your child) is finished playing a game, all the machines spit out coupons which can then be exchanged for a prize. In a small way it is symbolic of the redemption process spoken of in the Bible, for like those coupons, we have little or no face value. In fact it could be said that we are worthless in that we cannot redeem ourselves.

Enter the Redeemer

You might say that the prize you get in exchange for your tickets is also without worth, and that’s of course where my Chuck E Cheese analogy disintegrates. For we see that the value of the blessing Christ provides in exchange for what we present, is incalculable. In my opinion it is the only thing of this world that could accurately be described as priceless.

If God were not rich in grace, this would not be possible.

Riches of Grace

Imagine for a moment we’re back at Chuck’s. We’ve counted up our tickets and we announce to the prize-giver-outer guy, “We have three hundred and ninety-two tickets. What do we get?”

To our surprise he says:

Well, it seems you have just enough for the Mercedes convertible!

That’s grace — getting what we don’t deserve and it’s just a fractional glimpse of what our redemption, through Christ’s blood looks like. What we have to offer the Lord is without worth, but what He desires to give us in exchange is beyond explanation.

It’s not really Biblical, but I have this notion that when we show up at Heaven’s gate and the others look upon us, surely every jaw will drop and it will be heard from one end of Heaven to the other, “That is one gracious God we serve!”

Sharing Grace

For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.  2 Corinthians 4:15

If you’re a disciple of Jesus it should be evident by now that He wants us to freely share what we have received, and not only because it the most loving and kind thing we can do, but because in the end He will get the glory and draw more souls unto Himself. As Christians, we are tapped into an endless supply of grace. In the same way we cannot give away our salvation by sharing our salvation, in Christ we cannot deplete grace. The reality is the more we give in His name, the more we receive.

He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

  1. What does this say about God?
  2. What does it say about us?
  3. Are there changes we can make?

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I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called… Ephesians 4:1

Therefore

I don’t know about your pastor, but my pastor always says, “Whenever you see the word ‘therefore’ in the Bible, you should always ask, ‘what’s it there for?’ ”  That just makes sense, doesn’t it?

It’s here (this time) because the Apostle Paul wants to remind us to sit down before we walk. More accurately he is saying that before we can walk out our faith we need to remember where we are seated and how we came to be there.

Two chapters earlier (in Ephesians 2:5-6) Paul writes:

When we were dead in trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…

Walking effectively in Christ begins when we understand what He has already done for us, realizing that we had nothing to do with it, and (most importantly) that He finished the work on the cross. When we can appreciate this truth our walk becomes a response to the love He has already demonstrated. When we fail in this regard it’s our tendency to wander without purpose [because] we’re being fueled by something other than Christ’s love.

Here’s a nice summary (found in 2 Corinthians 5:14a and 1 John 4:19):

For the love of Christ compels us (and) we love Him because He first loved us.

Therefore

Our Christian walk is a response of gratitude. Our reward is not so much for what we do as we walk, but the walk itself. In other words, we get to walk; Jesus genuinely has a use for us! I am so thankful that the Lord plucked me from the pig-sty that was my life, gave me a seat in Heavenly places, and now allows me to walk-the-walk. My need to share Him with others is not an obligation; it is a most reasonable reaction to His love.

As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:15

  1. What do these verses tell us about God?
  2. What do they say about us?
  3. Are there changes we can address?

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For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 1 Cor.11:30

For What Reason?

Why are we weak, sick, and asleep at the wheel? The Apostle Paul reminds us it is because we are not giving worth to the Lord’s Supper—Communion. We have forgotten what Jesus did on the cross and why He did it. We have forgotten that our presence at the table and participation in the meal is in remembrance of Him. We have forgotten the significance and we have forgotten our Lord’s directive. We’ve lost our focus…or have we?

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:2

His Pain or Our Gain

Where then should be our focus? On the pain and suffering Christ endured for us ~or~ on the result of that sacrifice, our salvation? I would say yes to both. Earlier in the passage, Paul writes about participating in an unworthy manner and not discerning the Lord’s body. I believe he is purposely reminding us that Christ’s death was not routine (in the natural sense) and nor should be our participation. It really needs to be a time of Eucharist (which simply means thanksgiving, which really means to remember) and I believe it needs to be at every meal.

Frankly, I’m not sure how a Christian gets around:

“This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

So in my house, we don’t get around it — we remember Christ’s broken body and poured out blood (almost) every time we dine as a family. It’s never an elaborate affair nor do I think Jesus wanted it to be.  As often as you do it, remember. That’s all.  And the more often you do it, the more you need to remember.

Why?

Because the more often Christians partake of God’s blessing the more we tend to take that blessing for granted.

Don’t think so?  

When was the last time you walked out to a car that you assumed would be where you parked it last, inserted the key and assumed it would start, and drove where you wanted to go assuming you would arrive safely, on roads you assumed would be there, and not once  thought about the God who provided it all?

We’re all guilty. We are a forgetful people and God knows this.

“Yet I am the Lord your God Ever since the land of Egypt, And you shall know no God but Me; For there is no Savior besides Me. I knew you in the wilderness, In the land of great drought. When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me.” Hosea 13:4-6

God knows that when we are regularly filled it is our tendency is to worship the blessing and ignore the Blessor. Therefore He chose a specific occasion for times of remembrance. Why a meal? Because its something we all do. He didn’t say, ‘Every time you get on your camel,’ because not every person owns one. He didn’t say, ‘As often as you enter your house,’ because not every one has one of those. But everyone eats eventually. It’s an activity that is common to all people.

Of what worth is His sacrifice if we don’t  take the time to remember it? God ordained it so let’s do it — it honors Him and it blesses us!

But Communion is for Church!

Communion is for His body the Church, however I’ve yet to find a verse that suggests it can only be done at church. Frankly to suggest such a thing reeks of religion-ism; that very thing that so many Christians today are opposed to! Communion is absolutely a time of remembrance and a time of fellowship, but believer quantity was never meant to be the prerequisite.

If Jesus and I is all there is then Jesus and I will do just fine.

…The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, …”Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, …”This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25

  1. What do these verses say about God?
  2. What do they say about us?
  3. What are some changes we could address?
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Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8

I don’t know about you, but when I read the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) panic often sets in. The passage starts off easy enough; regardless of the gifts that have been given to us from the Lord, we need love as a buffer. Ok, got it! I need love for these gifts to work as God intended.

But as I read on I begin to realize that the kind of love the Lord requires of me is impossible for me to drum up. No matter how hard I try, I cannot do love this way; at least not with any consistency. Then I discover that this is exactly the point the Lord is making—it is impossible without Him.

Jesus presented it this way:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me….With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”  (John 15:4 and Luke 10:27)

You cannot break a branch off a tree, bring it into you house, and expect it to bear fruit. That would be impossible. The limb must stay connected to its source. Our source is Christ Jesus; He is the vine and by faith we have committed ourselves to a heavenly pruning process. Jesus snipped us from the world and grafted us into the vine of life. We are now a conduit by which His love and blessings can flow.

It is All About Him

When we love on one another, it is not so others might say, “Wow, Bob sure is a loving guy.” It’s not that at all. As believers it is our hope that others will see God’s love and power displayed. The fact that it is happening through our bodies is irrelevant. Our love is proper when others see Jesus. If we’re noticed, it is our duty to direct the attention to our Savior.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

When Love Looks Like Something Else

Love is always love, but it isn’t always pretty. Consider what this event must have looked like to many within the congregation:

Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:30-31)

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul going into a church and identifying one of their own as a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing or calling out an un-repented sinner caught spreading deceit among the flock? Some would have surely proclaimed, “Yo Paulie, where’s the love bro?”  Not much has changed in this regard.

The truth of the matter is that the person who is committed to loving this much is faithfully demonstrating his strong connection to the vine that is Christ Jesus. In today’s vernacular we might call this tough love and it’s akin to lovingly spanking a child — nobody wants to do it, but we know it’s the most loving thing we can do. People will surely protest the gesture, but the reality is that their objections are often our confirmations.

I suspect Paul would likely have said, “I love you too much to let you wallow in sin and I love the church too much to let them suffer an assault.” 

 Open rebuke is better Than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:5-6)

Having said all that, we must come full circle and be reminded that none of this is possible without Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit must be the one Who guides us to these divine appointments and it is God Who empowers us to carry out the assignment.  When we act in our own flesh the church ends up with signs that read, “God hates fags,” or similar epithets. That’s not a kind of love that will draw others to Jesus; that’s a kind of hate that repels sinners and keeps them on a path to hell.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)

  1. What do these verses tell us about God?
  2. What do we learn about ourselves?
  3. Are there changes we can make?

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