“I coulda been a contender…”

That was one of the famous lines from the movie “On the Waterfront” starring Marlon Brando. Sometimes we may find ourselves looking back at a season or struggle and perhaps think that we could have been a contender; that perhaps we could have been more or done more. Today is a new day…today is the day we can choose to be a contender. But what are you going to contend for?

Contending…it is a strange word, not used very often, but powerful in it’s meaning. Often associated with sporting events, the word brings to mind the image of a prolonged battle or struggle. In the letter of Jude in the Bible, Jude has a change of focus with regards to the content of the letter and changes from a focus on the topic of his shared salvation with the readers, to a plea, an exhortation for their contending for the faith that they share.

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 1:3

What does it mean to contend earnestly for the faith? The Greek word for “contend earnestly” is the word epagónizomai from which we get the word agonize. We are to agonize earnestly, contend with all we have, for the faith. Jude was not writing about contending with boxing gloves either. Jude is writing because there were enemies in the church and the best thing that they could do is to contend earnestly for the faith…for the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. What is amazing about Jude’s instructions is that he does not encourage them to do what we might expect…to fight. Rather he is going to give several instructions to them which are still just as applicable today as we battle false teachers, persecution, and attacks on the truth of the gospel.

In Jude 1:20-21 it says: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

The original Greek language only has one imperative in this sentence and it is found in the command to “keep yourselves in the love of God”. Jude provides three ways that they and we are to keep ourselves in the love of God.

First, we are to be “building yourselves up on your most holy faith”. That “most holy faith” is the Word of God…the collection of truths that make up the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is most holy because it is from a most holy God. This verse looks back at verse three and reinforces that that this is what we are to be contending for…this most holy faith that has been given to them. We are to be building ourselves up…to be growing and maturing in our understanding and knowledge of the those most holy teachings…that most holy faith.

The second way by which we remain in the love of God is by “praying in the Holy Spirit”. If we are not praying constantly as individuals, our small groups, and in our churches, how are we to be keeping in the love of God? As spirit filled believers we should long to pray and to be close to our Lord. In Ephesians 6 Paul writes regarding the armor of God. He says there “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

The third way that Jude gives by which we continue in God’s love is to be ” looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” That is our hope and our longing. It is both our temporal desire to be close to our Lord, but it is also our eternal desire to spend an eternity in the glorious presence of our Savior. Keeping that eternal perspective, looking forward expectantly and anxiously for the ultimate act of mercy from Jesus Christ, our eternal salvation being realized in the presence of Christ himself, that truth helps us to continue in God’s love. That truth gives us assurance of the hope that is in us to get through those difficult times in our lives. How powerful is the hope of our salvation…the truth of a future outpouring of the mercy of Jesus Christ on those that are His children.

Are you contending earnestly for the faith? Are you contending daily to keep yourself in the love of God by by digging into His word, by praying in the Holy Spirit to the one true God that hears and answers, and are you looking expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life? These are the ways we keep ourselves, they way we abide in the love of God, and by doing so it is how we can endure the trials and persecution of this world as we await His glorious return.

Be a contender for the faith! Agonize to abide in the love of God.

TK

Creation Scale Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  James 1:5

How many times have you found yourself desperately in need of wisdom from God and praying like James describes in this passage?  I have found myself in recent days struggling with some complex and challenging issues.  By nature, I am an analytical, problem solver kind of person and it drives me nuts to not be able to figure something out or know how to fix it.  As I wrestled in my own power, I was reminded of the passage in Proverbs 3:5-6 about leaning not “…on my own understanding…”  My reading lead me to read all of Proverbs 3 to put that passage in context and maybe give me a bit more help with my issues.  No surprise, the Lord had a more significant lesson in store for me.

In Proverbs 3:19-22 it says “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.”  I have read that verse many times but this time the words grabbed my heart, soul, and  mind.

The Lord got me to thinking about my human wisdom (or lack thereof) and then my thoughts quickly turned to the nature of God’s wisdom.  Quite honestly, I don’t think I have ever given much thought to the wisdom of God.  I just knew He had it and I needed to ask for it.

Far too often I make God too small and forget the unlimited scale and power that he operates with.  As I read through chapter 3 of Proverbs, I came to realize that when I ask God for wisdom, I am requesting wisdom from the God who, in his wisdom and knowledge, created the earth, the heavens, the seas, the sky, the dew, everything.  From the immensity and choreography of the universes, to the amazing beauty of a baby being conceived.  From the created beauty and grandeur of the bluest of oceans and snow-capped mountains, to the diversity of biology that sustains and mystifies us.  All of it was planned, designed, created, and sustained by the wisdom of God.  How amazing.  How wonderful.  How humbling.

Realizing just a glimpse of the magnitude of His wisdom, has changed my thinking completely.  When I am in need of wisdom to deal with a trial in my life, why would I even think for a moment about trusting in my own wisdom.  I simply need to turn and humbly ask God for His wisdom, the very wisdom that created the earth in which I live.  He has perfect creation scale wisdom in unlimited abundance and he is ready and willing to share it with you and me.

That is the God that loves us, that cares about us, and that will give wisdom generously to all that ask.  Praise God for his lavish gifts that he gives us each and every day.

When Will It All End?

Matthew 24:7-14 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

We read this passage and often we focus our attention on the events that will be happening in the end times.  We read of the wars, famines, earthquakes in the news daily.  We see or perhaps experience persecution and tribulation constantly.  We see people hate each other in some of the most violent and abhorrent ways.  With the reality of all of those truths bombarding our eyes, our minds, our hearts every day, we read with hope and expectation the words of this passage and are encouraged by the conclusion that we must be living in “the end days”.

We are reminded to endure to the end; to persevere in our faith; to run the race so as to win.  Amen and Amen to all of that.  May we all be found enduring, running, battling, striving, abiding in the name of Christ and for His glory and honor.

But if we read all of that and miss the exhortation, no…the command of Christ found in verse 14 then we miss our living purpose.  Christ declares “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”   

The evil and wickedness that pervades our world will not stop the truth of the gospel of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ from being proclaimed.  It must be proclaimed!  IT WILL BE PROCLAIMED!  But it isn’t going to happen on its own.  God expects us to be His mouthpiece to the nations of the world.  Second Corinthians 5:20 says as ambassadors for Christ, God is “…making his appeal through us.”

The assurance and hope that is found in Christ’s return, that time when the end will come, is directly related to our proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world; proclaiming the truth about Jesus’ amazing grace.  The truth of His loving sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins is the hope that this world needs.

Let’s get busy and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and tell others what He has done for us so that the world may hear, so that our testimony may go to ALL NATIONS, and then He will return!

 

Church Speak

In his book Between Two Worlds, author John Stott wrote in 1982 about the future of the computer chip and the impact it would have on human relationships and the Word of God.  He wrote the following:

It is difficult to image the world in the year A. D. 2000, by which time versatile micro-processors are likely to be as common as simple calculators are today.  We should certainly welcome the fact that the silicon chip will transcend human brain-power, as the machine has transcended human muscle-power.

Little did he know how true those words would be.  The positive impact of technology in our lives cannot be overstated.  But it has come at a cost to our human relations in ways that we are still discovering and learning how to cope with.  Stott went on to write this corollary statement…

Much less welcome will be the probable reduction of human contact as the new electronic network renders personal relationships ever less necessary.

This statement has a lot of truth to it and you must admit that today, more than 30 years after Stott wrote that statement, we see the impact of our “smart” phones and “i”-everythings invade our lives at every turn, often hindering us from speaking with each other face-to-face or at least person-to-person.  We hardly ever use our voices, hands, and expressions to convey the depth of our feelings, ideas, thoughts, and dreams. Instead we use emoticons, acronyms, and abbreviations to convey the depth of our love, our frustration, and our laughter.

What is perhaps the most significant remark that Stott makes is that he relates the impact of technology on the church, specifically on preaching and teaching the Word of God.  He writes:

In such a dehumanized society the fellowship of the local church will become increasingly important, whose members meet one another, and talk and listen to one another in person rather than on screen.  In this human context of mutual love the speaking and hearing of the Word of God is also likely to become more necessary for the preservation of our humanness, not less.

 

 

God is not silent…in fact He spoke all of creation into existence!  “And God said…” is what Genesis 1 says…not “And God text…”   God is a god that speaks to us.  He wants to communicate to us through his Word.

genesis-1-slant-view

How wonderful a privilege to gather together with others to hear the Word of God proclaimed. If you are not regularly attending a church where the Word of God is being shared, I would encourage you to get out there and find one.  Find a church family where the Word of God, the Bible, is taught verse by verse, and people long to dig into the truth of what God has said.

Get out there so that we all can preserve that Godly character trait of real, true, loving personal communication with God and with each other.

Between Two Worlds The Challenge of Preaching Today, John Stott, 1982 p.69