"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Judges 21:25
Last night our high school/college class finished our study on the book of Judges. In our study we came across this verse. It is an interesting verse. Israel had no king, thus they did whatever they wanted to do. We see that illustrated through the whole book. Whenever a Judge would die, Israel would go right back into the path of sin, departing from God once again. This verse was true for Israel in two ways: 1. They had no physical king. They didn't have a ruler to govern or lead them. That role was left to the Almighty. 2. They didn't acknowledge God as their king. They didn't heed His commandments. They were governed by their own desires. What a sad statement!
I've thought of this recently. I wonder if we could say the same thing of our lives: is there a King in charge of your life? Is there a King over our church? Is there a King in charge of my home? Is there a King who directs my steps? Or, is it that we have decided to do what we think is best. Proverbs 14:12 shows how often times what we think is right or best is not. In Jeremiah 10:23-24 we read that it is not in man to direct His steps. When we make decisions without heeding the will and Word of the Lord, we can find ourselves drifting farther away from God, involved in things which are wrong. There is a lesson to be learned from this verse in Judges: we need to acknowledge Jesus as King of Kings, over all things including my own life 1 Timothy 6:15. I acknowledge Jesus as King of Kings by seeking His will often by daily reading the Bible. I respect His rule, I follow His commandments and guidelines in all areas of my life. I allow my home, and my steps to be directed by His words. Ask yourself, are you following the King of Kings?
"And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Hebrews 6:11-12
We spoke yesterday about the importance of seeking after God with diligence (Hebrews 11:6). Its not just having a casual relationship with God, or seeking after Him when the occasion is convenient for me. Instead it is an attitude of excellence, seeking after God hard, putting forth great effort and time, reaching forward, pressing on towards our God and heavenly goal (Philippians 3:13-14).
The Hebrew writer desired the same thing for those he wrote to. Sluggish is lazy. It is taking for granted the time, talents, and opportunities God so graciously gives to us. Sluggish saints don't get work done. They let open doors close. They let their faith slip, and their devotion diminish. Don't be lazy, don't be sluggish. Imitate the men and women of ages past who served the purpose of God in their generations (Acts 13:36). They were the fervent faithful, obedient to God in whatever capacity and situation they found themselves in. Some like Noah stood alone. Some like David faced great opposition, like a giant and a selfish king. Some like Daniel obeyed God when it was against the law of the land. Some like Ruth loved and devoted themselves to their family. Some like Barnabas were an encouragement to others, especially those who might have been struggling.
What about you? How are you using the time, talents, and opportunities God has given you? Don't be sluggish. Don't let the open doors pass you by. Look to the example of faithful people found in the Bible (Hebrews 12:1), and through their encouraging example be motivated to do what you can do. You'll be amazed what one can accomplish in one day if they put their mind and will towards the purpose of God. Start today!
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going." - Hebrews 11:8
Abraham understood literally what it meant to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is difficult to put yourself in this position. What would it mean for you to uproot your family to follow God, not knowing where you're going? How would your family respond? What would your spouse say? Would it be difficult leaving behind the comforts of home, the close companions you made? This commandment required a serious commitment from Abraham, yet he was willing to comply because of the level of trust and faith he had in the Lord. To Abraham, his obedience was not about reaching a certain destination, but humbly submitting his will and following God. He was willing to follow God wherever that led, which is why when God said follow me without clarifying where, Abraham gathered his family and went.
This ought to show us something very important. Walking by faith is not about knowing where I'm going; rather it is knowing WHO I'm following. We may not know what God has in store for us in this existence. It may be a long life of service in the Kingdom. It may be years in the valleys of the shadow of death, experiencing pain and sorrow. It may be that my journey will end while I am still young. Walking by faith is not about knowing where I'm going, as in how my life will turn out. Instead, it is knowing who I'm following, and trusting that in all things, He loves me, and cares for me, and will reward those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Last night Keith taught the Bible class on the subject of being an alien and stranger, and he did an excellent job. It made me think about that concept this morning, of what it means to be an alien or stranger on this earth. It is interesting that Peter uses the phrase twice (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). By using these words, Peter reminds us that we are not residents here. This is not our home. Such words ought to remind us of our relationship with the world. By the way we live, the way we dress, our thinking, our attitudes, our goals and ambitions, what drives us; we truly are strangers here. Have there ever been times when you just feel like you don't fit in? That's a good thing! Don't try and blend in. Be obedient to God, even if it stands apart from the rest. That difference others see may make a difference in them coming to Jesus. Think on this today!
Here are some thoughts to consider from our lesson on Sunday on "I Choose to be a Light."
The brethren at Thessalonica serve as an excellent example of Christians who shined.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-8
The faith of these Christians had sounded forth. Their walk with the Lord had become an example to others. It's impressive to consider their far reaching influence. Imagine, our walk with the Lord having an affect not only on the people of Chattanooga, but in distant states and countries. Never under estimate the example one person, or one church can set.
The influence of these brethren came through three noticeable things (v.3):
The working of their faith - it is one thing to talk of faith in God, and another to prove so through obedient living. A working faith is an active faith. Can the world around you see your faith? You may say you are a Christian, and attend a certain congregation, but are you ever seen reading the Bible, in prayer to God, going to worship? It is not putting on a show or seeking attention, but rather you are actively fervent in your walk with the Lord in all places. The world is tired of fakes, of hypocrisy. So when they see someone who is truly living a life of faith, active in holiness and godliness, not to make a scene, but in the natural living of day to day life, it will make a difference.
The labor of love - these brethren strove to love their neighbor as themselves, how about you? Is your love for others noticeable? Do you go out of your way to show kindness and goodness to others? What about those who are hard to love - the rude, mean people in our lives? I've heard it said that Christians at lunch on Sunday's are some of the rudest customers, and are the worst tippers. Ouch! That behavior repels people from Jesus and the church. Notice what this passage says about their love. It isn't that the brethren at Thessalonica loved others, but they labored in their love. That word labor brings the idea of hard work, diligence, and persistence. Loving others takes time, attention, energy, but is it all in pointing one towards Jesus. Remember John 13:35. People want to know they are loved. When I go out of my way to show someone kindness, forgiveness, and concern, and am genuine about it, they will notice.
The steadfastness of hope - hope is a wonderful thing. It gives us meaning and purpose. It gives us something to hold on to. It reminds us of what is to come despite what currently is. The world needs hope, and seeks after hope. People want to know that things will turn around, that there are brighter days ahead, and that there's something worth living for. Now think about this - we clam to believe in God and have the hope of heaven through Jesus. Yet what does it say to others when they see Christians constantly complaining about the current times? What if something bad happens and they see us crumble to pieces? It makes a difference. Imagine instead, if bad things happen, we keep our head held high. Even if I get some bad news from the doctor, or lose my job, I'm not going to go hysterical because of the hope I have in Jesus of a greater life beyond here. This means I'm faithful to God despite what condition I'm in. A steadfast hope means that in times of crises I grow stronger, not weaker. I draw closer to Christians, not further away. I read more of my Bible, not less, and I pray more and not less. Even if I lose a loved one, I may be sad and cry, but I don't leave the Lord nor fall into sin. Instead I use the difficult moments in my life to draw closer to God. The world will see anchor of hope in our life, and how it makes such a difference as to how we live and deal with adversity.
Now ask yourself, can others see this in you? Do they see your faith working and active? Would they say that you are a loving and caring person? Can they see the hope of heaven through how you carry yourself, especially in adversities? The brethren at Thessalonica had a far reaching influence in the cause of Christ. How about you?
"As light dispels darkness from the world, and enables men to see how to journey and labor, so the disciples, by their good works, their teaching, and their example, dispel ignorance and prejudice, and enable men to see the way of eternal life." JW McGarvey
Choose to shine your light!