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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 24, 2006

THE MAN WITH TWO FACES

By David Arnold

Note: Pastor David Arnold is a wonderful man of God whom I know personally. He has written a blessing of a book entitled "Discipleship Manual" that I recommend, and you can find out more online @www.davidarnoldonline.org. Leave a comment on this one, and hopefully we will be seeng more from Pastor Arnold soon. Enjoy!

In ancient Rome, it was taught that there was a man with two faces, one in front and one in back. They taught their children about him, placed a picture of him on a coin, and even built a temple where people could honor and worship him. His name was Janus, and they named the first month of the year, January, after him. With two faces, they said, he could look forward and backward at the same time.

Of course, no person with two faces ever lived. God has made us with only one face, in front, because He wants us to look ahead. We should only look back if this will help us live better lives in the future. One wise person said, “The past is a rudder to guide you, not an anchor to drag you. We must learn from the past, but not live in the past.”

The Apostle Paul had a past he was ashamed of. Yet, to the church at Philippi, he said about himself, “…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14). He portrays himself as a runner on life’s race course, and he would not allow anything, not even his past, to prevent him from reaching his goal. The word he used for “forgetting” is a strong one. It means “completely forgetting.” The lesson for us is, when we dwell on our past sins and failures, our progress is hindered. The late columnist, Ann Landers wrote, “It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets of yesterday, and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are the twin thieves that rob us of today.”

A speaker started his speech by holding up a $ 20.00 bill before a capacity crowd. He asked, “Who would like this $ 20.00 bill?” Hands went up throughout the room. He said, “I’m going to give this $ 20.00 bill to one of you, but first, let me do this.” He began to crumple the bill. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were in the air. “Well,” he responded, “What if I do this?” He dropped it and began grinding it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, but now it was dirty and smashed. “Now who wants it?” Hands again shot up all over. “Ladies and gentlemen, you have learned a most valuable lesson,” he said. “No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it, because it did not decrease in value. It is still worth $ 20.00.” Throughout our lives we are crumpled, dropped, and end up in the dirt by the decisions we make and various circumstances. We feel as though we are worthless. However, in God’s sight, we never lose our worth. To Him, though scarred and marred, we are still redeemable. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Charles Spurgeon proclaimed, “I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need.” So, the next time you feel you cannot be forgiven, restored and useful to God, remember this. Noah got drunk, Jacob was a liar, Moses doubted, Samson was a womanizer, Jonah ran from God, Job went bankrupt, David committed adultery and murder, Martha was worried and stressed out, Zaccheus was small of stature, the Samaritan woman was divorced numerous times and living with a man out of wedlock, and Lazarus was dead! Yet, all of these people, Christ changed their lives. Euripides, a Greek writer of long ago, said, “Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.”

Psalm 130 is named the “De Profundis Psalm”: “Out of the depths,” are its leading words. Speaking of redemption, the psalmist writes, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (verses 3 and 4). Augustine stated, “God leads us to eternal life, not by our merits but according to His mercy.”

A little boy, visiting his grandparents, was given his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but could never hit his target. As he came back to Grandma’s back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse, he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead. The boy panicked. Desperately, he hid the pet duck in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn’t you Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” Johnny did the dishes. Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally smiled and said, “That’s all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it.” Again she whispered, “Remember the duck!” Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing. After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, finally he couldn’t stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he’d killed the duck. “I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I just wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.” There is complete redemption in Christ. Look ahead, because, CHORDS THAT WERE BROKEN WILL VIBRATE ONCE AGAIN! (Fanny Crosby).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.”

Dave Arnold – Pastor
Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Fl. www.gulfcoastworship.com


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, April 17, 2006

SHIBBOLETH I

It’s The Attitude Not The Amount

Where do we draw the line? Who is in, and who is out? What is acceptable, what is not, and what is commanded? In this series of posts I hope, with you, to come to a better understanding of some of the pitfalls concerning certain issues we all will face as Christians sooner than later. Matters of doctrine and practice, matters of conviction, and matters of preference, perhaps.

Worship wars. Spiritual gifts. Seeker friendly. Emergent. Calvinism. Communion. I could go on and on. These and many more issues are the hot button items of debate among professing believers in Christ today. We will be exploring some and maybe many of these things. What we hopefully won’t be doing is simply looking for a reductionism, a lowest common denominator type “solution”. Balance is not an end in itself where truth is concerned.

If you are looking for a fight, or think you are somehow called to “Jude 3” your beliefs, save your breath and blog fingers. We aren’t going to, in the post itself, try and give you every verse or every reasoned argument for or against a doctrine or practice. That isn’t what we are attempting to do.

What we want to do is find the "PLACE OF GRACE", amen.

We want to explore what causes the tension with sincere people looking for answers, and how it can be relieved. Not to the satisfaction of all, but to help end the confusion of many. Stick with us in this first post, and then maybe you will see where we are aiming at.

Pray that we can get it straight.

Instead of the same old Bible ping-pong game, we want to do something different here. We aren’t necessarily trying to point out the differences of opinion, and not show everybody the similarities so that we can “just all get along”. We are aiming to show us all where we can take things and make them bad, if that makes sense. The problem is that while certain things are non-negotiable, we often, too often, turn minor things into major things, thereby giving many of us major head and heartaches. We take spiritual things and make them legal things. We take matters of grace and turn them into law.

We have probably all heard of the term “litmus test” associated with politics. Usually, it is the idea that we will or will not accept a candidate if they endorse a certain position. Today, the “litmus test” is most often used concerning abortion.

The Bible describes a “litmus test”, in Judges chapter 12. Jephthah and the Gileadites fought the Ephraimites. Some of the people of Ephraim escaped, and then attempted to come over the Jordan, pretending to be somebody else. However, the people from the tribe of Ephraim were easily identified by their dialect; they had a hard time pronouncing the "h" in shibboleth, saying sibboleth instead, and giving themselves away. The Gileadites were able to slay 42,000 this way.

The term shibboleth came into the English language as something that determines which side you are on; in modern English usage, a shibboleth is the same as a "litmus test".

In this first post, with just one word, one shibboleth, I am going to open up a can of worms about as big as any there could be in the Christian community today. Here goes…

Tithing.

Okay, tell the truth, what was your first reaction? You don’t have to? You do have to? Some, I’m sure, went “Uh, oh, here comes the money pitch”, or “preachers just can’t leave well enough alone, can they?” Perhaps it was, “here we go again”, or “who cares?” Or maybe you left us and we will never know!

For those who don’t use the word “tithing” like a shibboleth (see Judges 12:6), what we want to do is clear up some of the confusion and condemnation you might have received.

Even if we were to concede the argument that tithing is or isn’t supposed to be done today, which we are not, that isn’t where we really need to start. Let’s say, for sake of getting somewhere, that you want to tithe, but aren’t sure about whether to tithe off you gross or your net income. This is where the tension comes in, isn’t it?

However, the “gross or net” is not a question that needs to be asked. Don’t let some little thing like this cause you to stumble around and keep you from moving on, if you have doubts about what to give, don’t worry about it, don’t give anything. Well, you say, I want to give something, okay, start there, give something, whatever you feel comfortable with, then go from there, otherwise you are taking something spiritual, giving, and making it a legal thing.

Regarding your giving, the “net or gross” question shows you are in the wrong ballpark altogether – it is not a question of a duty to be discharged but of a devotion to be discovered (2 Corinthians 9:7). You don’t have to try and find out exactly the line where you need to start, most are doing that so as to know what they can avoid doing. Its like the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wanted to know who his neighbor was, not so he could know who to love, but so he could know who he didn’t have to.

The same happens when it comes to the matter of giving to the church. It’s not that people don’t want to give too little, it’s that they don’t want to give too much! You could give whatever it is that you feel to be your “obligation”, and discharge your “duty” and God still not have your heart. You are commanded to give, but even if you found some imaginary line where God was happy with, it is only a start, not a finish (Luke 17:10).

It is about faithfulness, but the bigger item, and the one that you never seem to hear the preachers and teachers talk about, or when they do you go temporarily deaf, is that giving is also a matter of worship. Not obligation, like, “you better give off the gross, dude, or God’s gonna be mad.” No. Giving is worship. If we love the Pittsburgh Steelers, we watch their games, we pay to see them at the stadium, we buy their souvenirs, and we wear their apparel, which we paid for. We even dress our little kids in their little Steelers clothes. We wear the shoes that the big stars are wearing, and we learn all the new buzzwords and catch phrases of those whom we worship.

Now I like sports, but follow me here, and realize that giving is a form of and a part of worship. It doesn’t mean that every thing we give to we worship, but what is put foremost in our minds, that thing we will give our utmost to. Think about sports teams that you see people love and how they defend and promote them, and don’t you just wish we would do it for Jesus? We root for them even when their season isn’t going so well. We praise them when it is, and we aren’t ashamed of it when they lose a game, we speak of how they will eventually bounce back. We give our money, our time, our energy, and our devotion. Where we give is where we worship. Jesus said that where your treasure is, that is where your heart is (Matthew 6:21). How can you say you don’t have to give and still believe that God has your heart?

I’m not asking you to give more money. Giving more doesn’t necessarily mean you are more devoted; it is not a contest, but a conquest. It isn’t the quantity but the quality. So if you are down in cash this month but have an extra amount of time, then give what you have to give. Out of the abundance of the heart them mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), what do you talk about the most, Jesus or the Steelers or your favorite movie star, or hit song? Whatever it is that has the majority of your attention, that is what has your devotion. What do you think of first thing in the morning?

Let’s get practical, then. Don’t give the church the money for your light bill, but don’t neglect the church just to buy a new light fixture. Own stuff; don’t let it own you. We do not need to debate whether or not tithing is commanded or even recognized in the New Testament, all that is doing is wrangling over a disputed idea (1 Timothy 6:4 – it is interesting that this verse comes in the context that it does).

It isn’t a matter of dogma; the truth is that the simplest way to be disciplined is by giving the first 10 percent right off the top, and that is why we see this principle used in the church today. We don’t have to argue, but if you were to look at those that would teach “against” tithing, or those who try and justify why they don’t need to give you might be surprised at what you see and the lack of discipline in their lives. If you are giving more than 10 percent but not “tithing” per se, wonderful, but make sure you are honoring God with your giving, it’s the attitude that counts.

The concept of tithing in the New Testament is not some rule we have to keep in order to keep God off our back or to curry favor with God, but so we will put first things first, and God will help us take care of the rest.

Tithing is a blessing not a burden, but please don’t give out of compulsion. You can’t give because you feel forced and expect God to understand. As long as you see it as a burden it will not have the effect you desire. God knows your heart, and you can give and give and give, but if you don’t do it out of love, it will profit you nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).

We can give without loving but we can’t love without giving.

Galatians 6:7 / 1 Timothy 6:5-10 – sowing out of a desire for gain will get you the gain all right, but it won’t be what you expect.

Ezekiel 33:31 – don’t use tithing as a means to an end, the end being your own desire for wealth.

Isaiah 29:13 / Mark 7:6-7 – don’t turn tithing into a work and don’t use giving to the church to dismiss your obligations to the IRS or from taking care of your sick relatives or paying your bills and think that God is pleased with this, He isn’t.

Okay, let's see if we can spot the "shibboleth's".

And find the place of grace
.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Loving Christ More

You know what, I think I need to start treating this blog more like a blog, and less like a "sermon corner" sometimes. So what we are going to do is to open up the floor for your comments after I ramble on a bit, off the cuff. There will probably be run-on sentences, fragments, and all that other good stuff your english teacher rolls her or his eyes at.

We have been talking a lot about sin and sanctification in recent posts, like "the ongoing struggle", and "the p,q,r, of s", and so forth. I actually have a couple of others about "mortifying sin" and "resurrection power" that I might post, but before that, I want to know what you think about all this.

Not so much in theological terms, but in practical, how-it-all-plays-out terms.

My thought is, after all is said and done, that the reason we keep doing some of the things we really might like not to do, but we find ourselves doing anyway, is that we don't love Jesus enough. Sure, we love Him enough to be "saved", whatever that means, and however much that takes, but we seem to need to love Him more. Yes we love God because He first loved us, and I know that He places the love for Him in our hearts, but I don't want to go off on that rabbit trail right now, so lets not quibble about soteriology, okay, Dr.?

My point is that we love our sin, and that one sin we can't seem to shake, we seem to love that sin more than we love Christ. Not in total, mind you, but we don't love Jesus enough to want to give up the thing we don't want to give up.

So, for me at least, it all seems to boil down to "how can I love Christ more than I do now?"

How can we learn to love Christ more?

(Yes I have ideas, but I want to hear from you first. Be creative if you want to, and okay, be the first to say, read your Bible more, but tell us how you get motivated to do that, don't just give us the ought to, but how YOU get to the want to, get it?)

What say you?


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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