Vase or Garbage Can?

Devotional PicturesIn my daily Bible reading I came across this rather difficult verse – difficult because it seems harsh. It is preceded by the hypothetical question posed by Paul in Romans 9:19-20 [as a possible rebuttal to his line of reasoning regarding God choosing some to be His and others who won’t listen in the previous verses],

Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not listening? Haven’t they simply done what he made them to do?” No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, “Why have you made me like this?” (NLT)

Paul is making the argument in this verse (and as one of the themes of this letter) that although the Jews are God’s chosen people and that has not changed – that doesn’t mean that they will be the only recipients of His promise and His mercy. In verse 16, Paul had said,

So receiving God’s promise is not up to us. We can’t get it by choosing it or working hard for it. God will sho mercy to anyone he chooses. (NLT)

But then in verse 21, Paul comes out with this whopper of an analogy,

When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? (NLT)

With a first read this seems to be a description of a rather callous God and relegates people who already feel sensitive about their disabilities, weaknesses, and shortcomings to the “rejects” of His creative power – or even worse – they were deliberately created as “garbage bins”. Certainly if one was to stop reading there that could leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

However, Paul doesn’t stop there and reading further gives further understanding to why He would use such a strong analogy. In verses 22-23, Paul emphasises that although God has every right to excercise His judgment and power as the potter does with clay, God also has every right to be patient with those who are the objects of His judgment and are fit only for destruction. Paul goes one step further in His explanation and states that God also has the right to pour out the riches of His glory on those he prepared (read chose) to be the objects of his mercy.

Then Paul continues on with His argument with how God has opened the door for Gentiles (non-Jewish people) to become His children because of their faith. Faith is God’s way of chosing who receive His mercy.

How wonderful it is that although God is sovereign and all-powerful and could be like the potter Paul describes. He’s not. In fact – even though the Jewish people are a called out and special people – and will always be – any who have faith in Him (through Christ) may partake of the same blessings as His chosen people!

Of course, there’s much more that can be said but I’m going to leave this post the way it is for now.

“When it’s more convenient…”

Devotional PicturesText: Acts 24:25 (NLT)

…Felix was terrified. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient. I’ll call for you again.”

Paul was on trial before Felix, the governor of Caesarea, because of a supposed riot he had been accused of starting by some Jews from Jerusalem who wanted to see Paul dead. The background of this story is found in Acts 22-24.

What’s interesting for me in this passage is that we are told that Felix is familiar with the “Way” which Paul belonged to (the Christian church, Acts 24:22) and a few days after the trial (before a decision had been made) he invited Paul to come and visit with him and his wife Drusilla. The text says that they listened as Paul told them about faith in Christ Jesus. Paul told them about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. We are then told that Felix became terrified and sent Paul away until a more “convenient” time.

Verse 26 says that Felix hoped that Paul might bribe him (for his release perhaps?) and so he sent for Paul quite often and talked with him. How long did this go on for? Well according to verse 26, two years! Two years went by where Paul would quite often visit with Felix (while still a prisoner) and talk about Christ! Yet, it seems that Felix never believed (or wanted to believe).

The phrase, “When it’s more convenient” really stuck out. There are so many people today who would rather consider the claims of Christ and his followers at a more convenient time. Certianly not in the now, or today while things are okay! It is truly sad that often the “convenient” times are when people are in the midst of crisis or tragedy. It’s even sadder when that convenient time never materializes because people die before believing the gospel.

Another facet of convenience is that many people don’t want to hear about or consider the “way” of Jesus Christ because they are afraid of the implications in their lives. So many people are quite happy with the condition of their life that they don’t want any “religion” (even though it’s not about religion) to mess with the status quo. In this case, “when it’s convenient” is really saying “sounds to uncomfortable to me”.

Finally, I can’t ignore the frequency of this phrase in my own life (and I’m sure many other Christians would be guity of this as well). Whether its a side-effect of the comfort and blessings of living where I live, or if it’s just plain old laziness, there are times when I choose to excerise the disciplines of my Christian walk, “when it’s convenient”. The sad thing is, what I think is an inconvenience is necessary and I’m missing out on good stuff. It’s like any relationship, for a relationship to grow there are times where you don’t want to visit with someone or talk with someone or invest in the relationship because it seems “inconvenient” but in reality that time spent and investment you make would be the best thing you could do and would turn out to be really enjoyable and fulfilling. So many of us miss out on the blessings of a more intimate and fulfilling relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit because we’re just waiting for “when it’s more convenient”

Even Great Leaders make Bad choices…

Devotional PicturesText: Deuteronomy 1:21 (NLT)

“This seemed like a good idea to me, so I chose twelve scouts, one from each of your tribes.

Moses is without a doubt one of the greatest leaders in History. Handpicked by God to lead the Israelites out of their captivity in Egypt through the desert to the promised land, Moses had a big responsibility. There are also many miracles that God performed through his servant Moses. He definitely ranks as one of the first people I’d like to meet when I get to heaven :).

Yet, even Moses was prone to mistakes as a leader. In this particular passages, Moses shares that, “I chose” those who would be sent into the land to scout it out. Now I dont’ know what went into Moses’ choices but scriptures record that when the scouts returned only two gave encouragment to the Israelites to go into the land and conquer it. 10 of the scouts embarked on a tale of demoralization because of their fear and faithlessness.

It gives hope for all of us who are in leadership positions that when it comes to decisions there will always be times when we make mistakes – or when we entrust others with a task and they will fail. That doesn’t necessarily make us bad leaders – but we do need to learn from it and move on. God dealt with the rebellious Israelites, (and spies) who eventually didn’t make it to the promised land but Joshua and Caleb, two other spies (that Moses has picked!) became instrumental in Israel’s final march to victory 40 years later. In fact, Joshua became the next leader of Israel after Moses.

The point? Don’t give up when you make a mistake as a leader. Learn from the failure and invest in the success of that choice and submit to God’s continued leading.

Turn the world upside down

Upside-down worldScripture read (read entire of Acts 17):

…”Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside down, and now they are here disturbing our city.” (Acts 17:6 – NLT)

Turn the world upside down…wow! Now that’s the kind of reputation that accomplishes things. How many Christians today have that reputation? Here Paul and Silas had been preaching in Thessalonica about Jesus. The passage records that large numbers of people (godly Greek men and many important women in the city) were becoming Christians and that the Jewish religious leaders started stirring up mobs against Paul and Silas out of jealousy. They went to the house of Jason, a believer, suspecting that he was harboring Paul – when they couldn’t find Paul or Silas they dragged Jason and others of his household out before the city council and then yelled out the above statement. They also made accusations charging Jason and the believers with treason among other things.

As I read this the words, “turn the world upside down” really stood out to me. To the jealous Jewish leaders they saw the work of Paul and Silas bringing chaos to the world and so causing trouble to their ‘way of living’ and what they know about the world. So, in one sense Paul and Silas, doing the work of Christ, were indeed turning these Jewish leaders world upside down. But in a truer sense, the spreading of the gospel message is actually, turning the world rightside up! Whatever the perspective – one thing is certain, Paul and Silas obedience to Christ and empowerment by the Holy Spirit was having a world changing influence wherever they went. I guess why this scripture leapt out at me is because I long to have that kind of influence in my life. Yet, like many Christians any influence I have is limited in scope.

Reading further in Acts 17 reveals some of the reasons why Paul and Silas had such influence. Not only did they share about the good news in synagogues and religious venues but they also engaged the philosophers, and cultural people of the cities they visited.

When in Berea they preached truth and didn’t deviate from God’s word. The Berean people searched the scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas and because what Paul and Silas matched up with God’s word more and more Jewish believers and God-fearing men and women became Christians.

Later, while Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens he noticed all the idols around the city. When speaking to the Council of Philosophers in Athens he engaged them on the subject of Christ by beginning with his observations about the idols and the cultural practices they had. Repeating a common technique he used wherever He went – Paul shared the truth of the gospel in the context of the people he was speaking to.

Summary? Paul and crew were effective world-changers for the following reasons:

1. They spoke and modeled the truth of the gospel.

2. They spoke and ministered under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

3. They sought to understand who they were speaking to so that they could more effectively share their message.

4. They genuinely cared for the people they were ministering to.

My prayer? Lord, I want to be someone you work through to turn the world upside down (even though it’s really turning the world right-side up). I pray that you will give me influence in my community and in the relationships I have as I do what Paul did – speak truth, seek your anointing, work to understand the people in my sphere of influence, and genuinely care for people you place in my life. My prayer is also for my church that we would have that kind of world-changing influence in our community!

Where does worrying get ya?

Worry - Ugly ain't it?Today I went with my mother to her lawyer’s appointment. My Dad died about a year and a half ago and his life insurance company denied my mom’s claim for the insurance. To make a long story short she (with the support of us!) has decided to sue the insurance company as the advice we received suggested we have a case. Anyway, with the court systems the way they are it’ll be a while until we get to trial. I said all this to say this… My mom has had a lot on her mind in the last while (no wonder!) and she’s really finding it difficult to just let go and leave things in the lawyers hands. But this post isn’t really about my mom – it’s about the the observation going through my head that worrying really puts a damper on life. While this may be an obvious one for most people it’s surprising how many of us “non-worryers” still get caught in the trap of nail-biting, ulcer creating hyper-anxiety syndrome once and a while. The funny thing is – all our worrying really doesn’t accomplish anything. There’s a favorite scripture of mine in Matthew 6 where Jesus basically tells people ‘Don’t worry!’ The conclusion of Jesus’ thought as he goes through some of the things we humans worry about is that there’s really only one thing that matters

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

After all, there are things that make an eternal difference (going beyond this life) and things that are just temporary.

And then Jesus, goes on to say these nifty words, “Don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (v. 34). How true is that! Is there anyone that can really say worrying about something made it better? If there’s something in your control – do something about it but if it’s out of your control…leave it – don’t worry because all the worrying won’t do one thing for you.

Case in point: have you ever communicated with someone (a friend maybe, or aquaintance) and later on remembered something you said (or wrote) that you get thinking, hmm…I wonder if they were offended by that — some people will let that thought run away on them and create a gigantic worry “snowball” that consumes there thoughts until eventually they do everything they can to avoid that person because they may have offended them. Instead, they could’ve nipped that worry in the bud and gave that person a quick call and cleared it up…just one example.

whoah..just realized I’m starting to write a chapter rather than a post – signing off!