Be All There

Re: Verse reading–Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-11 (day two) Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24

“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” Jim Elliot

This verse from Paul’s letter to the Colossians and the life and example of Jim Elliot have long given me purpose. Years before I felt, or more accurately understood, God’s call for me to go into ministry, I had this overwhelming conviction that what I did mattered for the kingdom. This philosophy played out mostly in my classroom. God wanted me to be a good teacher, to love kids, to invest myself into others. This was kingdom building. I have rarely know a time when I wasn’t “all in” to whatever I was into. If God is brought you to it, and will surely bring you through it, then roll up your sleeves and get after it.

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Faith and WORK

Re: Verse reading–Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-11 (day one)

Christianity declares that faith and works are opposite approaches to salvation.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. . .it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any may should boast.”–Ephesians 2:8-9.  “No one will be declared righteous. . . by the works of the law”–Romans 3:20.  Given this gospel truth, a common mistake is to suggest that our faith is critical or negative toward work itself (industry, effort, even ambition)  It isn’t!  “I labored even more than all of them”, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15 (and without a hint of caution that he might, by saying so, drift back into legalism).  “Faith without works is dead” echoes James 2.  “Work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” says Colossians 3.  One assignment common to every Christian is that we become steady, hard, dependable, honest, and effective WORKERS!  We owe it to Christ because we trust Him.

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When I say “neighbor”, you say “salt”.

Re: Verse reading–Exodus 20:13-17, Leviticus 19:16-18, Zechariah 7:8-10, Matthew 5:13-16 (day seven)  
Jesus was a master teacher.  He knew the power of symbols.  Pictures that linger in the mind.  Comparisons between the material world and the spiritual.  One day (and not just any day, but the “Sermon on the Mount” day, the Lord’s “Gettysburg address” day) Jesus said that our relationship to culture is like salt.  Salt permeates meat in order to preserve it. Salt flavors food to make it enjoyable.  Salt was an early antiseptic. In the same way, Christians oppose corruption and add flavor and prevent the spread of disease (sin) in the world by living and speaking an alternative path of life.  Abraham–”if ten righteous men can be found in the city, will you spare it?  God–”If ten can be found, I will not destroy it.”  (Genesis 18:16-33)  The best thing that you can do for your neighbor is to live a holy life.  When I say “neighbor”, you say “salt”!

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The Least Likely

Re: Verse reading–Exodus 20:13-17; Leviticus 19:16-18; Zechariah 7:8-10; Matthew 5:13-16 (day six)

“And who is my neighbor?” he asked (Luke 10:29). That is a wonderful and honest question. It was honest because the lawyer asking Jesus wanted to know the limits of the second greatest commandment; surely it doesn’t mean for us to love everyone. It was a wonderful question because Jesus’ answer serves as a great reminder for us as to whom we are called to love in every day life.

Jesus uses a simple parable to say that even the least likely person is your neighbor. The one on the opposite side of the road. The one with opposing views. The one no one else will love. The bloodied. The violated. The poor. The ones we normally would try to avoid when we are too busy, or because their need is too great. The least likely person is our neighbor. Will we love our neighbor? Will we shine our light to our neighbor? I am willing to repent of lovelessness, and eager to learn how to love as I ought.

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Day of Reckoning

Re: Verse reading–Exodus 20:13-17; Leviticus 19:16-18; Zechariah 7:8-10; Matthew 5:13-16 (day four)

From the very beginning of the nation, God had given instructions to Israel on how to treat their neighbors.  They were not to covet any of their possessions, they were not to take advantage of their weaknesses, and they were not to share in their sin.  For generations, Israel did not obey God.  They had not loved their fellow countryman and had taken every advantage of their neighbors for greed and self-gain.  At the time of Zechariah, God was pronouncing judgment on His people.  His command to “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another “…had gone unheeded.  Their hearts were like flint and they would not hear the law.  We often believe we can ‘get away with disobedience’.  We ignore God’s commands or seek to reinterpret His truth to suit our needs.  There will be a day of judgment though for certain.  Ask God to search your heart and restore your relationship with Him.

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Ready

Re: Verse reading–Exodus 20:13-17; Leviticus 19:16-18; Zechariah 7:8-10; Matthew 5:13-16 (day three)

“I am the Lord.”  If God is in fact the Lord, then you are not.  That’s more than an exercise in basic logic.  It’s a statement of your place in this universe under God.  Paul reveals that we will each stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  Jesus says that time of standing before the Lord will take into account the way that we have lived with one another: “What you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”  Therefore, each moment that we encounter our neighbor is a moment that we encounter the Lord.  It is a moment in which he reminds us: I am the Lord.  If you’re not ready to stand before your neighbor, you won’t be ready to stand before God.

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Are You My Neighbor?

Re: Verse reading–Exodus 20:13-17; Leviticus 19:16-18; Zechariah 7:8-10; Matthew 5:13-16 (day two) 

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Luke 10:29

April and I have moved several times in our 15 years of marriage. Not always to a different town or part of town, but as our family has grown so has our space needs. As a result we have found ourselves in several different neighborhoods in each stage of our young marriage. We found it difficult, or, rather, we made little effort to get to know those around us. We had plenty of excuses: I had a new job, lots of extra activities, new baby, etc. Consequently we came and left without ever really knowing who lived around us. Something was different when we moved back to San Antonio. We both felt compelled to learn about those around us. We have their names written down, and have had seasons where we pray for them even if they haven’t asked for it. They have shared their stories with us, loved our girls, and watched after our house. We have begun kingdom conversations with them and invited them to visit FBCSA. It is simple, but required. If they don’t know us, how could they ever hear that we love them and more that God loves them?

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Neighborhood association

Re: Verse reading–Exodus 20:13-17; Leviticus 19:16-18; Zechariah 7:8-10; Matthew 5:13-16 (day one)

“Do not covet your neighbor’s house. . .do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. . .rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share his guilt.” (Exodus 20:17, Leviticus 19:16-17)

Holly and I have lived in the same neighborhood for nearly 20 years.  Hidden Forest.  North Central.  Off Bitters, between Blanco and 281.  691 homes, a little association governed by a covenant document.  All pets must be registered.  No chain link fencing on the street side.  No oil wells (honest!)  God’s book does the same, gives us rules to govern the relationships with those who live near us.  “The reason that God tells us to love our enemies and to love our neighbors is that often these are the same people”–G.K. Chesterton.  Do you know your neighbors?  Do you know the rules that govern your relationship to them?  As you read this week, think next door and across the street.  Neighbors are part of God’s plan.

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Burning coals

RE Verse reading–Luke 6:27-36; Romans 12:17-21 (day seven) “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. . .in doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”–Romans 12:20.  It sounds awful!  To heap burning coals on someone’s head?  Violent!  Painful burning of scalp and hair!  The context insists we find a different meaning.  Paul is not teaching us how to “get even” with people who have hurt us.  Just the opposite.  “DON’T REPAY evil for evil” he says in v 17.  Better to take “burning coals” as a metaphor for conscience or shame.  Your enemy hurts you. You love him.  He dismisses you.  You value him.  Eventually, it clarifies the source of the problem, destroys any justification he may have for his own hatred.  It disallows his claim, “she is part of the problem”.  No.  Your response forces him (at least gives him an opportunity) to look deeply at his own heart.  “Commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God”–2 Corinthians 4:2.

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Enemies with Benefits

Re:Verse reading – Luke 6:27-36; Romans 12:17-21 (Day Six) Jesus makes it clear, there is no benefit to withholding good from those who offend or hurt you. There is no benefit to holding grudges, cold shoulders, Facebook jabs, one-line zingers, (you know the kind that you conceive of well after the offense, only wishing you had thought of it in the moment)and the list goes on. None of it has any benefit to you; zero, nada.

Jesus declares, “if you want a great reward-love and do good to those who hurt you.” There are two rewards that are mentioned in our re:verse texts this week. Romans 12:20-21 tells us that evil isn’t overcome by more evil, but by good. One reward is heart change. God uses the good we do to our enemies to bring about a guilty conscience and repentance. Retaliation, no matter how justified, will always result in the hardening of a heart, not softening it. The second reward mentioned is our inheritance as sons and daughters of God. Jesus tells his listeners that kindness towards your enemies is a spiritual DNA marker; it informs others as to your truest identity as children of God. The momentary reward of the swelling of ego and pride that accompanies retaliation is infinitely small compared to the reward we will receive as children of the Kingdom when we “love our enemies.”

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