Friday, December 28, 2007

A New Year

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness...for this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." II Peter 1:3, 5-8)

A new year is fast approaching and if you're anything like me, the new year stands for a few things: hope for change, desire to break some patterns and a renewed dedication to making the coming year, better. Well my dear friends and readers, it all starts and ends with God and our relationship with Him. Allow me to pull out a few things from this passage that will help us all as we enter the new year.

1. HIS diving power has given us everything we need...
- Everything we need to live a godly life comes from Him. It's His power, not ours; His Spirit, not ours. This means that the further we are from Him, the less we have for life and godliness; and the closer we are to Him, the more of His power we will have. I know. I have been living on "Mike" power for the past few months and I feel it...I feel empty and weak, like a car that is not operating on all its cylinders or, as Bilbo Baggins put it, "like butter that has been scraped over too much bread." Peter reminds us here that EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness is available to us, but it all comes from Him.

2. ...if you possess these qualities in increasing measure...
- There is a list of qualities we're supposed to have but it's not the list that's as important as the word "increasing." Read vs 8 again, here in the NAS version: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing..." Catch it now? The goal here is that these qualities increase in our lives. That there is forward motion to them, that our pursuit of godliness is not stagnant or "stuck in port," but is in fact moving in a forward direction. How important is this? Important enough that Peter ends his letter with this same thought in chapter 3 verse 18; "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." It can't get any clearer then that: we are to be growing in our relationship with Christ.

Bringing it back: so what does this mean for us? If you profess to be a Christian, a "Christ-follower," then our number 1 and most important goal for 2008 should be GROWTH. In truth, in any relationship you have you are either moving closer to that person or moving further from them. There is no "holding" pattern. So it is with Christ; we are either "growing in our grace and knowledge," "possessing Christ's qualities in increasing measure," or we're not. Equally important is to realize that we can't do this on our own, but it is God's power that gives us the ability to grow.

My number 1 goal for 2008 is to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and to possess His qualities in increasing measure. Join me...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Levi sets the pace

"My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 'For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.' " (Malachi 2:5-7)

I came across this verse a number of years ago and it stopped me then, as it continues to stop me today. It has become a "life-verse" for me in a sense; I put "life-verse" in quotes because it's something I want my life to be marked by, but it is such a high calling I feel I could never measure up. Nevertheless, it's a passage that has impacted me and so I share it with you now. And let me tell you, as I have studied these verses, there is much more here then first meets the eye, and I am still uncovering it. However, I present you with the initial thoughts that hit me when I first read it...

1. The covenant: just as God made a covenant with Levi (the covenant was actually established through Phineas), God has made a covenant with us. The covenant with Levi was one of an "everlasting priesthood" just as God's covenant with us involves an everlasting priesthood (we are being made into a kingdom of priests, and also, Jesus stands as our great priest: click here for more on this). The covenant with Levi was one of "life" and "peace" and in a very real sense, God's covenant with us is one of "life" (through Jesus) and one of "peace" (again, through Jesus, the "Prince of Peace").

Now for our part...
2. We are to "revere God" and stand in "awe" of His name.
- Revere
: to regard with awe, deference or devotion.
- Awe
: A mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might...
I read in a book this year that the word "awesome," which I (and we) so casually throw around, is a word that should actually be reserved for God.
- Awesome: worthy of awe.
Question: do I revere God and stand in awe of Him?

3. My mouth should be filled with true instruction, and nothing false. That is indeed a high calling. How often have I casually handed out advice, criticism, judgment and worse? In order for the above to be true of me, it presupposes that I have true instruction to give. This requires a knowledge of God's Word and His desires that can only be found in study, prayer, solitude and experience. And how about that "nothing false" bit? Do I speak truthfully always? There are two parts to "nothing false;" a) there is the obvious part of telling a lie, b) there is the less obvious part of withholding the truth (which so many public figures are so good at), and c) there is the even less-obvious part of shrinking back from difficult situations. It is easy to avoid a) but how about b) and c)? Can it be said of me that in all times, in all situations, my mouth was filled with true instruction and nothing false was found on my lips?

4. Perhaps the biggest challenge, am I...
a) walking with God?
b) if so, am I walking with Him in peace (read: am I a peacemaker) and uprightness (with integrity)?
c) am I "turning many from sin?" But how can I be responsible for turning people from sin? Perhaps this can best be answered with another question; is it possible for us to turn someone to sin? I say yes. It is easy for us to lead people into sin. Therefore, as I learned from my logic 101 course so many years ago, the opposite must also be true. But how can we turn people from sin? Many ways; prayer, discipleship, speaking the truth in love (with "true instruction"), training and teaching, sharing your life with others. Perhaps the least effective way to turn someone from sin is the direct approach of telling them they're messing up; but even that can work.

5. Preserving knowledge and knowing your calling: do you know that you too are a messenger of God? The New Testament teaches us that under the new Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are all being made into a kingdom of priests. MUCH MORE can be said here, but think of it this way; the OT priests main duties were to mediate between man and God. Under the new covenant, Jesus provides a way for all of us have direct access to God. In other words, you too, as a believer, are 'on the hook' for preserving knowledge because you "are a messenger of the Lord Almighty."

This is a high calling, but join with me and let's "aim high." I would love nothing more then for God to say of me these same words he said of Levi.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Another Experience

So some friends of mine, our former youth pastor and his wife (Steve and Stephanie Allen), recently moved to Lusaka, Zambia to serve as full-time missionaries. Stephanie was a part of our Worship Ministry here at Northlake before she left and she recently wrote a post on their blog about her worship exeperiences in Zambia. It is interesting to see how worship is in another culture. Check it out here!