Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Only One Sovereign

"For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself." (Romans 14:7)

In a society ruled by a king, there is only one sovereign. The king
rules everything and everyone. Everyone is subject to the king.
Everyone's interests are subordinate to the king's interests. This is
profoundly un-American. As Americans, we are not used to being subject
to sovereign authority. But God calls us to radical re-orientation.

When he delivers us from our life of self-rule, he calls us to now
subject ourselves completely to him. Now, everything for which we live
is to be his. And anything for which we are willing to risk our lives
should be his. This is extreme. Radical. Unlike anything we have ever
learned in Western society. It is also safe. You can trust your King
Jesus. He already showed us that. We serve a King who willingly
humiliated himself for your benefit. Go and commit your plans, hopes,
dreams and ambitions to him.

1. When is the last time you acknowledged to God that he owns your day?

2. What plans or goals do you have right now? Have you prayerfully
reviewed them with God? Have you written them down and asked God to
confirm them?

3. What's the difference between a goal that you've determined alone
and one you feel compelled by God to pursue?

-- Charlie

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Strive for Peace

"Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14)

Here, the writer exhorts us to work towards holiness. One way to do that is to strive to live in harmony with others. The emphasis is on our hearts: striving for holiness. We cannot control how others will behave towards us. They may treat us poorly. But one indication of a redeemed life is our striving for reconciliation. If we do not show a pattern of striving to live as Jesus lived, our salvation is in question. It's not that such striving earns us God's saving approval. That notion clearly contradicts other teachings of scripture. What the writer must mean is that such striving is evidence of salvation, not the means of it. Lack of evidence means lack of salvation. He warns us to be careful and always cultivate holy behavior.

1. Think of a conflict you've had with someone recently. How did you reconcile it?

2. What did you feel towards that person during the conflict? Do you think that's how Jesus feels towards you?

3. What can you do to live peaceably with others in the future?

-- Charlie

Friday, February 19, 2010

Return to the Shepard

"For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25)

Spiritually, there is something fundamentally sheep-like about us. The bible uses the metaphor constantly. Here, Peter says that without Jesus, they were straying like sheep. What do sheep do without a shepherd? They stray without a clue.

Peter uses this as picture of what we are like without Jesus. But God intends that they return to Jesus. He, too, fits a metaphor. He is like a shepherd and overseer—but of souls, not bodies. There's the important distinction. Because we are not very sheep-like in our minds and bodies, we may think we're above this sheep metaphor business. But in God's view, spiritually, we are as needy as sheep. We need a competent shepherd. And there is only one that he offers: Jesus. If we return to him and let him be the overseer of our souls, all will be well with us.

1. Reflect on your spiritual journey. In what ways are you sheep-like and in need of a shepherd?

2. What happened once when you failed to follow Jesus your shepherd and instead ventured out on your own?

3. What does returning to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul mean to you? How do you return to Jesus?

-- Charlie

Adopted Through the Holy Spirit

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" (Romans 8:15)

How is it that we can call God our Father? Here is the defining statement of how that happens. Paul says we are adopted through the Holy Spirit. Prior to adoption, we were slaves. We could infer from this that we were orphans—having no spiritual Father. But now God has adopted us and has become our Father.

What is the one main effect of that adoption? Paul says that it should be fearlessness. Fearlessness that comes from our secure adoption by God. With such a strong and secure family status, we have no reason to fear anything. At all times and in all circumstances, we are, in fact, adopted children of God. We should remember that and not fall back into fearful orphan behavior.

We are secure. We need to remember that.

1. How does your adopted status with God affect you during each day?

2. When you are tempted to think you need to fight for yourself in some situation, how could remembering that you are an adopted child of God change your thinking?

3. What could you do differently today in order to remember that you are an adopted child of God?

-- Charlie

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

"From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" (Matthew 4:17)

This is one of the first statements Matthew records of Jesus' public ministry. It is a command, backed up by authority and the power to execute judgment. He goes on to preach the sermon on the mount. This is filled with harsh condemnation of sin and pronouncements of judgment.

But how do we feel when we read these early, sharp statements by Jesus? Are we terrified? Is he offensive? Do we not like this Jesus? Rather, we, being lost sheep, find this Judge to be a comfort. He pronounces judgment with a sense that he will put everything right. He gives us an option: repent. Why? For the kingdom of heaven is at hand. A very compelling and good reason. Join me, he says. Give up your despair and hopelessness. Follow me. Live for something bigger than yourself.

1. How do you react when you read the words of Jesus condemning sin?

2. What do you want to do when Jesus invites you to repent and follow him? What does that mean for you?

3. Jesus says that the main reason to repent is because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. How could that affect your motives for living today?

-- Charlie

Monday, February 15, 2010

Live Peaceably with All

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." (Romans 12:18)

How does a representative of a king live? He lives in a manner worthy of the king. One characteristic of God our King is his peace-making nature. How did Jesus live? He was making peace with the world. As far as it depended on him, he was at peace with others. Some people would not have him. They hated him and quarreled with him at every opportunity. But as far as his behavior went, Jesus lived peaceably with all.

1. According to this passage, what is your responsibility towards others?

2. Think of a situation in your life right now where you have had or still to have a problem being at peace with someone. What can you do to try and improve the relationship?

3. After you have done what you can to put the situation right, what will you do if the relationship still doesn't improve?