Friday, January 31, 2014

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE!

FOR THOSE NOT ATTUNED TO THE TRANSFORMER’S SAGA,  I keep this intro really simple (If you’re a Transformers aficionado, please forgive my overly simplified introduction.)

Transformers can look like ordinary machines, cars, planes, trucks, and when needed they transform into robots, for lack of a better term.  They have personalities fitting with both of their transformed states and since they take the form of everyday vehicles you never know if you’re near one.  The other aspect of the Transformers is that some are here to help, and some are here to destroy, and you really can’t tell who’s who until they transform into their “real” selves.  As the byline goes, “there’s more than meets the eye.”

The Bible tells us that we are to be transformed (Romans 12:1-2) and that transformation comes from 1) presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices 2) by not being conformed to the world and, 3) by the renewing of our mind.  The renewing of our mind comes through being saturated with and submissive to the Word of God, the Scriptures.

The Word of God, coupled with the work of the Holy Spirit, can bring about a transformation in our lives as Christians and as the Church of Jesus Christ. Sadly, too many of those who consider themselves followers of Jesus are not seeing their lives transformed and thus cannot be used to be transformative in the lives of those around them, including family and friends. Thus, I believe it is of critical and vital importance that if we are going to live transformed and transformative lives it is imperative that we are in the Word of God on a daily basis. Tragically, many who call Jesus Lord and God are not doing so. Consider these simple statistics verified by the American Bible Society about our weekly Bible reading habits:
  • About 19%  read their Bible four or more times
  • Another 40%  opened their Bible once or twice, and
  • 41% didn’t open or access a Bible even once in the past week; not a paper Bible, not YouVersion on their iPhone.  Not once.
This is information relating to those who go to church and consider themselves Christians. Is it any wonder why we often feel so defeated, depressed and without direction?  It is why I am determined to preach and teach the Word of God and why we are heading off into a new study in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, which I have entitled, “Living the Transformed Life.”  

I believe that this study, coupled with our adult electives on Sunday morning, and our Bible studies throughout the week, can help us be transformed transformers. It is my prayer that as we study and apply God’s Word in our lives, we will become the living sacrifices that will prove forth the good and perfect will of God.  It is my prayer that we will become, more than meets the eye. That deep within us the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will transform ordinary people into an extraordinary force that He will use to help change our families, our neighborhoods, our country and even the uttermost parts of our world (Acts 1:8.)

If you’re still reading this Pondering, here’s a little fun incentive with which I am going to challenge us. I want you to join me in becoming charter members in Club 8. Club 8 will be open to those who memorize the entire chapter of Romans 8 during our time in this sermon series. It’s quite a task, but it’s a chapter jammed full with what it means to be a transformed transformer.  Once you have it memorized and can recite it to me I will make you a charter card carrying member in Club 8.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s not some other swag that comes with membership in this exclusive club. Up for the challenge? Come on and join the fun.  The best part of course, is you’ll be hiding God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11) and that is reward enough in itself.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

SLOUCHING TOWARD PRAYERLESSNESS

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
AS PART OF MY MORNING DEVOTIONS, I am using the iPhone app from YouVersion entitled "For the Love of God." It is a daily devotion that will take me through the entire Bible over the next 365 days.

Each day has four different portions of Scripture, and also a short devotional written regarding one of the portions for that day. A couple of days back the devotional dealt with Nehemiah. I just finished a sermon series, Brick by Brick, in that book and would have loved to have the following quote, which personally challenged my own thinking and "excuses" in life.

"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."
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Sunday, January 26, 2014

MAKING PEACE-FRUIT PERSERVES

THE NEXT FRUIT TO BE PLUCKED FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT’S VINE is that of Peace. It doesn’t take a very long look to see that peace seems to be in very short supply in our world. Whether it’s personal inner peace or peace between warring nations, we are in desperate need of it.

The peace-fruit has some interesting aspects to it.  Jesus said that He desires to give us His peace, a peace unlike the world gives. (John 14:27)  The world’s peace is situational and transitory, whereas the peace that Jesus offers is a deep, abiding understanding that though the mountains crumble into the sea, yet still God is with us. (Psalm 46:2)

The peace-fruit has another interesting aspect to it in that we are called to be producers of the fruit.  Yes, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in us, but there is also a vitally important part of which we are to partake and that is we are called to be peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)  We are told that we shall be blessed to be called the children of God when we pursue making peace in our world.

Jesus came as the ultimate peacemaker.  He came to make peace possible between God and us, and through that process also promised to make His peace abide in us.  Therefore, when we work to promote peace in our world, be it within our homes, between neighbors or even across national borders, we are doing the very work of our Lord. As peacemakers we follow the example of God’s Son and thus we show forth His life in and through us.

Peacemaking, though often difficult work, helps to preserve life. It helps to promote the work of the Kingdom of God. It is the very thing that a child of the Most High God does to honor His Father in heaven.


Let us remember that we are not only called to have peace and to live at peace, but we are called to preserve peace as well, and so be called the children of God.
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

SACRED SMILES

JOY IS OFTEN AN ELUSIVE GIFT, yet it is listed second in the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Being so elusive it can quickly become trivialized or spiritualized. We trivialized it by placing it on a Bible-themed bumper sticker: “ JOY is Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last”. Sounds hardly joyful and more like work.  

We can spiritualize it by declaring that joy is that inner peace and happiness that comes from the Holy Spirit even when we’re in the deepest, darkest pit of despair. Hardly joyful sounding either!
True confession and disclosure: I have stated both of the descriptions regarding joy to many people; often without increasing their factor of joy one iota. For that I am truly sorry.

So then, what is this fruit of the Holy Spirit that is referred to as “joy”? I believe, that Holy Spirit-given joy is true deep happiness that comes from knowing you are loved by the One who is love. This joy is expressed through what I can only think to call the “sacred smile.”  It’s not as eerie as it sounds. Read on and I think you’ll understand.

My grandson, Sterling, is not quite five months old, but that kid has a smile that I sometimes think is going to break his face. When he smiles, the whole world seems to smile back.  You just can’t help it (and that’s not just a grandpa bragging . . . well, ok a little.)  The thing is at five months old he really is not able to fully grasp the philosophy of smiling. He doesn’t plan on it, or say to himself, “Hey grandpa is wearing his funny hat and making a silly face, I guess I’ll smile to make him happy and maybe he’ll do it again.” Nope, he just smiles. It just happens. I think it’s because that’s what God created us to do when we see something funny, or see something beautiful like a West Cliff Drive sunset, or see it with someone we love.

My theology of joy is this: God created us to be joyful! Sin and the brokenness it brings often robs us of that joy and I know that breaks the heart of God. Maybe that’s why He directed the Apostle Paul to write, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) And I am sure it’s why He reminds us with the sacred smile of the littlest ones among us.

So, rejoice and smile! It’s God’s gift to you and to the person sitting next to you.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD ROOTS

English: Root of the problem This is the cause...
English: Root of the problem This is the cause of so much damage done to the lock. Roots. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A PLANT IS ONLY AS STRONG AS ITS ROOTS. Whether we are discussing a redwood tree or a rose bush, a good root system is vital to the growth of the plant. Even if the leaves look green and buds are appearing, without a nutriment-grabbing root system the plant is doomed to fail.

Last week I wrote that we were going to take a few weeks to look at the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. The first fruit listed is that of LOVE. Some Biblical scholars believe that the fruit of LOVE should better be seen as the fruit and the other fruit listed are but aspects of LOVE. I would like to take this idea a little deeper and suggest that LOVE is the very tree, with its root system, that provides what is needed so that the rest of the sweet-tasting fruit can grow forth in abundance.

Therefore, we need to ask the question, “How can we develop the best root system possible, so that the fruit can fully develop?” The answer is found by digging a little deeper.  A strong tree needs strong roots and those roots must find themselves situated in good soil.  Allow me to suggest what is needed for good soil.

First, in order for our fruit-bearing tree to be one of LOVE we must be grounded in love itself.  The Word of God tells us that, “God is love,” (1 John 4:8) and “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) So, to the extent that we receive the love God has for us and live in that love, the Holy Spirit will be able to bring forth the fruit that displays His presence.

Second, our roots need not only be well-grounded, they must be well-watered.  This watering comes from being situated by the stream of living water which, as the psalmist describes to us, is the Word of God.  Psalm 1:3 says of those who delight and meditate upon the Word of God,

They are like a tree planted by streams of living water,
Which yields fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither –
Whatever they do prospers.

Therefore, let us live in the midst of God’s love, drawing deep from the waters of His Word and let us produce the fruit that comes from righteousness. (Philippians 1:10-11)
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Monday, January 06, 2014

A FRUITFUL YEAR

OFTEN, AT THE FIRST OF THE YEAR we take some time to look back over the past 365 days. We ask ourselves questions that fall in the realm of, “How did we do last year?” “Did we meet our goals?” “Did we come out in the black?” “Was it a fruitful year?”

Instead of looking back at our fruitfulness, or lack thereof, I want us to consider what kind of fruit we will produce in the year that is open before us. Not so much in quantity, though a bumper crop is appreciated, but rather in the quality of our fruit. How juicy? How delectable? How mouth-watering and enjoyable is the fruit we produce? And, there is, of course, the question of just what kind of fruit should we be growing? I believe God’s Word gives us a directive as to type and quality.  Let us consider the writing of the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia (Don’t try finding it on today’s globe, but a map in the back of your Bible might prove useful.)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

It’s quite a delicious sounding list and as food groups go, mostly likely much better for us than a Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger! As the weeks progress I will take a shot at each of these fruit and look for ways in which we can incorporate them into our daily diet. I would guess that as we do, we shall find ourselves more spiritually healthy as the year progresses, and that’s not a bad thing.

This week I would like to point out two important facts regarding these fruit. First, they are Holy Spirit produced, so that means in order for them to grow in us we need to surrender to His work in us. Second, notice that this is really one fruit, and  a very interesting hybrid. We don’t get to choose which one we will produce, it’s a package deal.

Ready?  Then let’s get growing!
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