Having Devotions or Living Devoted

living-devotedThere is a difference between having devotions and having a life devoted. There is a difference between living like we are punching a spiritual time clock, and, like Jesus, “being about My Father’s business” (Lk 2:49). In time clock Christianity I am giving a portion of my time to God but in My Father’s business my life is devoted to His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

If we aren’t careful we can act like we are bought but no wanting to be bothered! We were bought with a price, how can we not want to be bothered? 1Co 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. These issues lie at the heart of what we term “lukewarm religion.” Our flesh always wants us to drift toward that way, but our spirit longs for Biblical/Radical Christianity.

This was the problem with the older brother in the story of the Prodigal son. He did his duty but his heart was not really toward his father or His Father’s business. He dutifully served in a form of legalism that lacked life.

When Jesus calls people to “Follow Me” the course and direction of their lives change, not just a peripheral part of them. In this call to “Follow Me” Jesus goes on and says something very important if we are to really respond the way He desires, Mat 16:24-25 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (25) “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake (My cause) will find it.  I like the message translation in verse 25 “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.” CS Lewis said something important along these lines, “The more we get what we now call “ourselves” out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.”

Religious life or Authentic Christianity

The wisdom of this world says, “what do you want to do with your life, what kind of income do you want to make, where do you want to live, what kind of career best suites you.” Dead religion and the wisdom of this world tells us that this is the only way we can get satisfaction in life. Taking this approach will leave us like the senior citizen band’s (Rolling Stones) major hit, “I can’t get no, satisfaction.”

While there may be some wisdom in considering things like their future and what type of work they want to do these things can’t be the starting point. Christians following the wisdom of this world in such issues can climb a ladder of success only to find out it leans up against the wrong building. Jesus and His will must come first. I once heard a mentor of mine say, “If you want to live a fulfilled life, find out what God is doing and throw yourself into it.” Another said, “find our where God wants you to connect with others in His purpose and build your life there (job, house, family, etc.).

Following His cause, The Church

We are called to follow Him for His sake (cause, purpose) not ours. Mat 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (25) “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake (cause) will find it.

We need to discover “His sake” (cause) and then see how our pursuits fit into it. When Jesus issued that call in Mt 16 He had just told them what “His sake” was a couple of verses earlier Mat 16:16-18… (17) And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (18) “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Christians who try to find calling apart from laying down their lives for His sake (being involved in the building of His church and expansion through it) will end up ever searching but never fulfilled. Obsession with self is a dead end black hole that is never filled. Rom 8:6-9 MSG Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. (7) Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what He is doing.

Unfortunately for many Christians, they live their lives and plan their futures without giving the church much consideration. The church is an afterthought for many Christians. They plan their lives, futures, careers, then assume the church will fit into somewhere (if it is convenient). That was never in the attitude of the New Testament or great heroes of the faith like the Apostle Paul. I like how the message Bible reveals Paul’s perspective of God’s working through the church. It isn’t an optional add on to the Christian life but central to all of God’s purposes.

Ephesians 1:22-23 MSG He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. 23 The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

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A Jaded Culture, “Is There Anyone Who Doesn’t Lie Or Cheat Anymore?”

jadedJanuary 2013 will go down in sports history as a very big, but sad month of news. Some people were shocked that for the first time since 1996 no one was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Superstars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa were denied entry due to their steroid-tainted career.

All American Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who won numerous awards, was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, and was a projected first round draft pick had an inspirational senior season. Part of the inspiration came in September as it was reported that he suffered the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, 6 hours later from Leukemia. In spite of adversity, Te’o dedicated the season to his dead girlfriend and went on to have an incredible season. It representing one of the most inspirational stories in college football and he made the cover of sports illustrated. It was later discovered however that his girlfriend didn’t exist and the entire story was a hoax.

Then there was the great Lance Armstrong the amazing bicyclist who overcame testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs and went on to win numerous races such as the Tour De France. It was another inspirational story of someone overcoming great obstacles. There were numerous stories of steroid used by various people who knew him. He vigorously denied the charges for years but in January he had an interview with Oprah in which he came clean and admitted to doing the things regarding steroids and performance enhancing drugs that he denied for years.

An Opportunity for God’s People to Shine

All these issues of cheating reminded me of something an atheist (who is a friend that I witness to) said to me, “I have a theory, everyone cheats and steals, it is just a matter of their price.” I tried to counter his thoughts and brought up the nature of sin but he didn’t completely buy it.

His attitude as well as many others regarding cheating scandals and corruption in society makes me think of Romans 8.

Rom 8:18-21 CEV…. 19 In fact, all creation is eagerly waiting for God to show who his children are. 20 Meanwhile, creation is confused, but not because it wants to be confused. God made it this way in the hope 21 that creation would be set free from decay and would share in the glorious freedom of his children. 22 We know that all creation is still groaning and is in pain, like a woman about to give birth.

While Paul’s reference points to the return of the Lord it also has pertinence to the day we live in. Inside of people there is a “groaning” because of the “confusion and decay” that the culture lives in. I can almost hear the subconscious thoughts, “Are there any honest people, does everyone cheat, is there anyone you can trust?”

On one hand it is a “confusing” time for culture but it is also a great opportunity for the body of Christ to rise up and live lives of integrity that He has called us to. What the prophets Isaiah and Micah predicted (Micah 4 and Isaiah 2), we should long for, “in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will rise up above the hills.” It is time for God’s people to shine with authenticity and integrity. As Paul said, we are to stand out in a crooked and perverse generation as “lights to the world” Phi 2:15 that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.

Remember an important thought, “The Church’s greatest apologetic for this generation is our Authenticity!”

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