Friday, July 30, 2010

"Couldn't You Watch With Me Even One Hour?"

Mark 14:32-38  
  32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed.  34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 
  35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
  37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

How might you be when your beloved friend is facing the greatest crisis moment of his life? Jesus had lead, taught, served, and served and served his disciples for three years. He had modeled what it means to be a servant and they continued to not grasp it in spite of his perfect teaching. The larger group were asked to pray while he moved of to do so alone. The insider leadership team were taken apart and asked to pray especially heard within earshot of the Lord's own praying. Had they realized, by then, that this was God, they would have overcome their greater concern for rest and focused on praying along with him.

Here we read the classic instance of the redeemer of mankind coming face to face with the need to subordinate his preferences to God's and give himself over to the sacrifice for humanity's benefit. Humanity had not, and would not-- recognize him, yet he was called upon by the Father to die for their forgiveness of sin. It was not an automatic-- the Lord had to say yes and permit it. He could have stopped it. He could have said 'no thanks'  He could have gone some other direction. All options were open to him. However he had left heaven voluntarily at the Fathers request. He had come with the Father's message. He had lived the selfless and sinless life in the eyes of fallen humanity. He came for this one single purpose-- to sacrifice himself and redeem fallen humankind. Even as he wrestled with the decision, in conversation with God and in the hearing of the three insiders, they did not pray as he asked. And the other seven did not pray as He had asked them either. They all drifted off to sleep. They all paid attention to their own bodies and not His heart.

We have to wonder if we should be any better, even knowing what we know today. In fact, Jesus does ask us to sit and watch with Him and pray-- every day. Yet we find so many things to distract us and change our focus. Jesus does not berate us or punish us for our own failure to prayer-- our failure to live humbly, our failure to love unconditionally, our failure to set aside our own priorities. He loves us and continues to call us to a life of selflessness- a life of humility according to His example, a life of unconditional love for others. He calls us right now to awaken and pray with Him. Shall we not do this for the one we call "King of Kings and Lord of Lords?"

Your servant in His Love
Dan Elliott

Thursday, July 29, 2010

When they grew tired of mocking, they lead Him away to be Crucified

Mark 15:16-20 NLT  
  16 The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

We have seen many video representations of our Lord's crucifixion, most that drive us to tears because of the torture portrayed on the big screen. Having endured the mockery of a rigged trial, the Lord had to now endure mock worship from the very men who were torturing Him. The mock king's robe and the mock hailing of the King of the Jews were intended to break the Lord's spirit. Little did they know they were playing right into God's hands. This one human was cable of absorbing an eternity of mockery and torture and still give himself for the forgiveness of the sins for the very ones torturing Him. This one person, with the very nature of God, and who was God, as well as human, could take all they could dish out and more. In just three days He would rise triumphant and demonstrate that no power can contain Him.

I often wonder, when I read passages like these and view videos of the crucifixion, how much like those soldiers we in the church might be today. Do we mock our Lord when we go to church, sing our praise songs, listen with smiles on faces as the pastor preaches, and then go back to our world doing all the same things as we did them before? When we sing "all Hail the power of Jesus' name. . ." but nothing changes within us, are we not like these soldiers. Can we call Him King and not obey His Kingly commands? Dare we claim to call Him Lord, and not bend our knee in humility before Him who's very nature was humility. Dare we pray to be made 'more like Thee' in the songs and hymns, and then exercise pride and arrogance over others in our daily lives the rest of each week? When we grow tired of mocking him-- do we turn our backs, returning to the world of our ways, and in doing so, crucify the Lord of Glory again?

How are you living out your praise to the Lord in each activity of this very day?

Your servant in Christ's love
Dan Elliott

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If we Believed then Why Not Show It

Mark 16:1-6 NLT
 1 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3 On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. 
  5  When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, 6 but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body.

We always have our customs and traditions that we follow blindly at times of great crisis and during bereavement. The Mary's and Salome's were not alone in this. All the hundred or so early disciples were numbed by the Crucifixion and shocked by the reality of Christ's death. Their behavior illustrated how impenetrable their minds and hearts were about Jesus' promise to rise and conquer death. Instead of excitedly watching and preparing for the Resurrected Lord, they prepared to complete his death and burial with their herbs and spices. And the Men--they just let them do it! As the women approached the grave, they chatted about their task but no one anticipated what they saw and heard.

The opened tomb was their first surprise. They were wondering how THEY were going to Get the cave open but it was already opened. This should have been a clue but they missed that one. The angel telling "He has risen!" got their attention,  all but Mary M. In other Gospel accounts she, confronted with the Lord Himself, asks where 'they have taken him.' She so believed his death that she was unable to comprehend his glorious life standing in front of her, until He called her by name.

Further accounts of this and other Gospels describe the two disciples from Emaus, on their walk home, engaging conversation with the Risen Christ but not perceiving who he was, until he revealed Himself and was suddenly gone. They ran the 20 miles back to Jerusalem (talk about a holy marathon!) to tell the others, only to be met there by Christ with most of the others.

Faith in the risen Lord requires much that is not normal in humanity. We are so taken with proof and evidence, scientific method etc., that we struggle with this faith. Let me point out what I mean by that. IF you and I really believed Christ has risen, and that He lives within our nature, and is calling us to serve Him by denying ourselves and loving others, then why do we engage in our churches the way we do? Why do more of us in churches not go and make disciples? Why don't  more of us not love enemies? Why don't more of us give to the needy? Why do so few of us "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse?" Why are we not willing to live at a less comfortable and less luxurious level so that others can be blessed with our shared resources? Why do so few of us work to preserve and protect the unity of believers within our church and among our congregations and denominations? Why not today?

Your servant in the Lord's Love
Dan Elliott

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Believe and to Disciple Others

Mark 16:14-18 NLT
  14 Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead.
  15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.
Mark 16:16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Among the many who witnessed Christ's Ascension from earth to heaven, there were some whom He had to rebuke. Even while disciple after disciple bent the knee of belief in His resurrection, there, apparently, were some among them who did not believe because He had not appeared personally to them. Their faith was so limited that the first-hand witness of a brother or sister among believers would not satisfy them.  It was important for them that Jesus rebuke their lack of faith. How ever could they expect the people of 'the world' to whom they were being sent to share the good news to believe on the strength of their testimony alone when they, themselves, refused to believe. There were the women-- and the men dismissed them. There were the two on the Emaus road, and the main group dismissed their witness. There were the ten disciples minus Thomas and Thomas dismissed all ten of them! Then there were the eleven and among the hundred or so followers at that time, many dismissed them!

Faith in the risen Lord is a hard thing to do. In fact it requires a supernatural intervention for us to be able to believe. Our yieldedness is to be willing, but the Holy Spirit has to provide to us the capacity to believe. Faith is a gift from God-- one of the gifts important to the body life.  At this meeting, Jesus commissioned them all to go and preach; to baptize; and to exercise the miraculous things that the Spirit of God, by His own will and plan, would administer through their faithfulness. Interestingly enough, each of these events did not accompany all of the disciples but all of these events were accounted somewhere in the book of Acts by one or more of the disciples.

We last spoke of the Ascension of the Lord. This last commissioning was the most important statement the Lord was to make prior to returning to The Father, as he had long prophesied for the past three years. It was to commission each and every believer standing there-- and each new believer throughout time-- to become something they were not. We all must become disciple-makers. It is a commission by God Himself. It is not an option as to whether you or I will choose to do so. To not choose would be to disobey God at the very core of our faith. To disobey at that level would be to deny Christ as Lord and God. To so deny Christ would be to reject the salvation we had once received and then turn our back on God.  If you are willing to be a believer in Christ, then you must be willing for Him to make you into a discipler. Are you willing today?

Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mark 16:19-20 NLT
 19 When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.

I'm beginning at the end of Mark's Gospel because I want to trace us back from effect to cause, to the beginning of Christ's coming to earth. Looking at the life in-Christ in reverse may help us keep in focus the real purpose of the Messiah-- so that "we might have life. . . more abundantly. . ."(John 10:10KJV) or "a rich and satisfying life" (John 10:10 NLT).

Mark was among the earliest Gospel writers and his work laid a foundation for many of the others. He was so enthusiastic to write of the mission of Christ that he seems to have compressed the Lord's 33 years into a television hour. There are, of course, large gaps in the events that other gospel writers fill in with more detail. Mark was pushing to get to the point of this passage-- that Jesus is Lord, is God, is The Creator, is The Redeemer, is The Ruler of all that is or ever will be. He describes what the first disciples witnessed-- the Lord teaching his first followers even as He was ending his walk as a physical being in their midst. He had told them of this moment throughout the past three years and Mark wanted to get to this moment in his account. The Lord was taken up into heaven as they watched. Other writers tell of the angels who gave yet more explanation of what they had just seen, but not Mark. He moves to the key moment of his Gospel account. "And the disciples went everywhere and preached. . ." Mark wanted to show that the Lord's command, 'go to all the world and teach the gospel, making disciples, teaching them to obey. . .' was taken to heart by the first members of His Church.

If only all the members of 'His Church' today would do as the first members did-- go 'everywhere' and present the Gospel. Or, if only they would present the Gospel 'everywhere' they went! You see, it was not their preaching that made the church grow. It was that they went. The rest of the verse explains that "The Lord worked through them, confirming what they said. . . "  You and I can expect this same fulfilment if only we would be willing to teach the Gospel 'everywhere' we went.  Notice I did not say we should go and get people to become members of our own particular local congregation. Our goal should be to ask the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us so that others are drawn to HIM. If they might fit in our local congregation and traditions, good but it might also be best to allow the Holy Spirit to guide them into the congregation of His choosing where they can best be ministered to. We need to be teaching about Christ, not about our denomination.

We need to be "Rudy" to the body of Christ. The famous football player for Notre Dame, Dan Ruettiger, who never got to play a single game until the last play of his senior year season, never missed a practice. He never missed a game. He was the most enthusiastic builder on the team, keeping everyone at his peak. He was smaller and slower than the rest of the players, however none had more heart. He was always there on his toes at the sideline ready for the coach to send him into the game. The coaches knew it, the players knew it, and that made the other players play that much harder. We need to be Rudys in God's team. We need to be always prepared to present the Gospel, teach the Gospel, share the Gospel, and to be the Gospel, whether we get a chance or not. We'll look more into this "Rudy Principle" as we go backward in the Book of Mark across coming days. For now, are you 'in the game of making disciples wherever you go? Would you like to be? How about asking the Holy Spirit to help you do this today. I'll pray with you.

Your servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Being a Special Messenger from Jesus Christ

Rom. 15:16-19 
  16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. 17 So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. 18 Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. 19 They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum. 
 It is an awesome thing to be a 'special messenger' from someone important. From the time we were children we always looked forward to presenting a claim, or a demand, in the name of someone we considered 'important.' We don't think we are important enough, usually so we enjoy exercising the authority of another.  Most of our human impressions of such events are misguided and misunderstood. But when one has been sent by God with a message, one cannot over estimate the value of that message or the importance of the one who sent it.

Paul has been laying out the standards for the life to be lived 'in Christ' for the members of the Church at Rome, and for us as well. This message was not his own and he has clearly pointed that out at several places in the Book of Romans. In this current passage he celebrates his opportunity to bring this unsurpassable message to people whom he, and other Jews, not too many years previous, considered to be less than worthy of God's attention. Paul has made us all aware of the GRACE that we can share in, through faith in redemption from sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This faith creates power, joy, peace and everything most desired by people. Paul describes his enthusiasm to bring this message of great hope to them and to us in verse 17. He carefully points out that his celebration is not idle boast but his expression of joy for what God is doing and that he gets to have a part in it. Verse 19 clarifies that it was by the power of God's Spirit all the observed great things were done.

It is truly a SPECIAL mission Paul was on, with a very SPECIAL message. Are you on a special mission today? You were called to be on one by God. Have you experienced the joy of exercising delivery of God's message of hope to someone dieing in sin? Why not? If you ask the Lord, He will lead someone to you or you to someone who is desperate to know what you know through faith in Christ.
Your servant in Christ's love

Dan Elliott

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let's Overflow with Confident Hope Today!

Rom. 15:13-15
  13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
  14 I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them.  15 Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.

Across the previous verses and chapters of Romans, Paul has been teaching the Church at Rome, and us too, about the life lived "in Christ." Often he used examples from others in the body of Christ and often of his own experiences. This time, he closes the circle and points to the readers of this book themselves. Several valuable truths are woven into these lines.

  1. First, we see again that God is the only 'source of hope.' 
  2. Next we see that it can 'fill you completely.' 
  3. Then we notice that this hope fills you with joy and peace. 
  4. After, we see that the reason hope fills you and I with joy and peace is because we trust in HIM!
  5. Following all that we notice that this filling of joy and peace by hope will result in an 'overflow' and that 'confident hope' is what will flow out of us. 
  6. Finally we notices that all this is done through 'the power of the Holy Spirit.' and that was JUST verse 13!
Paul, next, affirms the believers at Rome, and us who follow Christ, that he believes-- was fully convinced--that we all are 'full of goodness.' How could Paul have that kind of faith in the grace-state of people he had never meet? He could because he had met their Savior. He knew how the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of true believers he HAD met. Thus, by establishing the facts of the life lived "in Christ," Paul could conclude for them that, were they consistent with all those previously stated facts, they were living 'in Christ and these truths would be accurate of them as well. He knew that God would make them full of goodness. And, he follows that up with an important reminder. He tells them that they are able to 'teach each other' about those facts. Chances were they were falling down in that area.

How about you-- are you able to teach others about the true facts of the life lived "in Christ?" You could be, if you only would desire it.  How about our churches that are mostly made up of people coming for great music, great fellowship and, perhaps to hear messages from some great preaching. But what do they do after the service besides go out for lunch? How does the Christian Sunday life play out in the week following? When and where are they teaching others about the 'hope' and the 'joy and peace,' and makes us to overflow so that the lives of others are changed. Did you overflow upon someone this past week? Yesterday? Will you ask God to make you overflow with HIS 'hope,' 'joy,' and 'peace' today?
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rejoice that You Have Been Shown God's Mercies

Rom. 15:5-9  
  5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
  7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. 89 He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them. Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors.

How is it that we can live harmoniously with each other in our churches, among our churches, and among the body of believers in Jesus Christ around the globe? How is it we might endure the harsh disagreements we so often experience with other believers but yet preserve our mutual unity in Christ's love? Patience is the virtue we seek and God gives it liberally! He attaches encouragement to patience so that you will not become discouraged as you exercise unconditional love while being patient with another brother or sister in Christ.

The Apostle reminded the believers at Rome and us as well that with patient love we can 'join together with one voice' and that voice is our mutually praising God. To the Jews there were just two kinds of folks-- them and everyone else. They viewed themselves as closer to God than anyone. But now that is not the case. All are equally close to God, in that they have access to respond to His call. There is no family name, social strata, or national heritage that God calls any more or less. It is the Whosoever believes" of John 3:16 that most please God. And anyone can be a part of that 'whosoever' group. God listens to the believers and not others, until they take that believer step. And then God begins to remake them over into a new image. God gives the same mercies to all who will believe. God gives those same mercies to you this day too. Why not rejoice in them?

Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Monday, July 19, 2010

We must not just please ourselves.

Rom. 15:1-4
   1 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” 4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

Paul continued on the team of doing good through the end of chapter 14. He explained how the love-oriented believer, having rights to eat or drink whatever without fear of negative impact on his spiritual state, would volunteer to refrain if the eating or drinking might harm another. Chapter 15 picks up from there reminding believers to be considerate--sensitive the struggles of others. Because we live in the Power of the Lord Jesus , then we live to please Him rather than selves. We are becoming increasingly 'like Christ' the longer we live in surrender to Him. He subordinated his desires to benefit others-- and we can expect to receive the necessary power from God to do the same. Even in the face of rejection and insult Christ loved and sacrificed. Even in the face of rejection and insult we, too, will love and sacrifice our personal desires to bless others-- because of the Holy Spirit within us. And in doing so daily we grow yet more increasingly like the Lord. The more we do it the more like Him we grow. The more like Him we grow, the more we will experience the joy of sacrifice to bless others. Scriptures, themselves have validated this for millennia and continue to encourage us aw we wait upon God's promises.

Your servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Friday, July 16, 2010

So Let's Stop Condemning Each Other

Rom. 14:1-13 (NLT excerpted)  
  1 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. . . . 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. 
. . .  7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.
   10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,
     “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD,
     ‘every knee will bend to me,
         and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’” 
  12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

With so many denominations, and more independent churches evolving into denomination-like associations every year, it seems that we who are supposed to be unified with Christ and through Him with each other grow increasingly fractured. In the barbershop, today, two of my barber friends, both whom are wonderful believers-- one a Catholic and the other an Orthodox Christian, were vociferously arguing about the communion sacrament. Each was accusing the other of infidelity for not doing it the way His priest lead it. Both quoted scripture. soon they dragged me into the conversation, knowing that I was both a pastor and a College professor. Mostly I was sad that such petty things can separate us. The style of our buildings, the style of our music, whether we dress in suits or shorts, tattoos, shoes, diets, all seem to further exacerbate our unity in Christ. Most of what we do is by tradition, rather than scripture anyway.

There is just one issue-- Jesus Christ is God, Savior, and Lord over all. When we accept that one issue, and all the understanding of our need and blessing that accompanies this truth, we can just not get too excited about whether we eat meat or only veggies. We can not grow bothered that when one brother takes Communion he has been taught to think of it as a transformed body and blood of Christ for him to consume while another has been taught to see it as The Lord's Supper-- a sacrament of remembering the great and terrible sacrifice God in Christ has done for us.  Both honor God and put their faith in Christ. Why fracture the Body of Christ over such things?

I remember once, decades ago, to prominent Holiness denominations were exploring a merger. Doctrine was no problem, worship style was no problem. Everything was aligned perfectly. And when it came down to the final decision. they decided to stay apart. Why. They couldn't decide which of the separate general superintendents and bishops would remain as the ones in charge over the new merged church. Also at issue where which of the several church sponsored Colleges would remain in existence. That was 20 years ago and they still are apart when they could be ONE.  Jesus might have been sad that day.

The bottom line, I think, for us who Love God in Christ and are 'called according to His purposes' is that we resist anything that would separate us, and destroy our unity with other believers. By avoiding condemning and judging (just Like Jesus commanded) then we just might succeed, through the Power of the Holy Spirit within us all.
Your servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Will You Wear? Dirty Rags or Shining Light?

Rom. 13:11-14 NLT
  11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

After teaching the Roman Christians, and us, about living in the power of unconditional love, Paul moves into an urgency gear. He makes it plain to us that time has elapsed. Whatever anyone might think as to when the Lord will return for us, this fact in verse 12 is certain-- we are closer today to His return than the day we first became believers. No one can deny this truth without denying the entirety of God Himself.

Since we are closer, Paul wants that truth to motivate our decisions-- our decisions about our deeds; decisions about right living; decisions about darkness such as in 'wild parties and drunkenness; decisions about sexual promiscuity and immorality; even decisions about quarreling or jealousy. Instead of sin-stained decisions we are to put on, as clothing, the nature of Christ Himself. Jesus promised this and Paul reminds us of it. With the shining armor of the unconditional love of Christ we will have the power to say a resounding 'NO!' to the evil desires that came with our fallen human nature. We can have the NEW nature Jesus has created for us. Would  you like that to wear today?

Your servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Let's Be Governed by Unconditional Love for our Neighbor

Rom. 13:6-10 NLT
    6  Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.
  8  Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10
Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

In the previous paragraph, Paul applied the concept of replacing evil with doing good by outlining the good-natured cooperative spirit with Government that believers must have. Not that we have to agree with politics, just be engaged with the doing good to others and obeying laws. He next applied this to remind us of our social responsibilities to our nation-- to meet obligations of taxes. Again, not that we must agree with the philosophies that run our government at the top, but we do need to meet our obligations responsibly and support the services that clearly benefit us.

Paul expands this beyond responsibilities for our taxes to include all debt. Real wisdom is shared with believers when He says "owe nothing to anyone-- except for . . .love. . ." Love is the fiber of the fabric that makes up the individual believer and the whole body of Christ. Loving our neighbor takes care of all the laws-- the laws of our society and the laws of God.But this love is a special kind that humans cannot normally exercise without divine intervention. All of the sins, all of the social, legal and moral offenses listed both in scripture and in legal books will be avoided when we have unconditional regard for those nearest to us. We will invest in them. We will attend to them ahead of self. We will uplift them, encourage them, and build a culture of compassion. However, it requires divine intervention into one's life by the Holy Spirit of God for this love to exist within the heart-mind of a human being. "You must be born again" Jesus said. You must become a new creation" Paul said elsewhere. What can you do today that this passage inspires you to do? I pray you will do it.

Your servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Monday, July 12, 2010

Replace Revenge with Doing Good

Rom. 12:17-21 (NLT)  
   17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19  Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge;  I will pay them back,”  says the LORD. 20  Instead,
     “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap  burning coals of shame on their heads.” 21  Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

It is the way of our world to 'pay back' mistreatment with revenge. It is supposed to make one feel good, they say. But it never does. God offers us who follow Christ, a new way. Christ's way is to unconditionally love. His way is to forgive. His way is live in peace with others. His way is to forgo revenge of the worldly and leave that to God. God promises to take the necessary revenge at the most appropriate time if the individual does not repent and become a Christ follower. God's anger is righteous-- whereas ours is not. Ours is self serving but God's is just. The Lord promises to do many wondrous things in making us over. He promises to replace our vengeful spirits with a heart that has capacity for unconditional love-- for limitless forgiveness, and for joy in the face of evil treatment. We can even be able to feed and quench thirst for those of our enemies who are hungry and thirsty in our presence. We can show a side of Christ that our enemies may never have seen in others. We can demonstrate the Christ has the power to change human nature and they may want to discover how that change can be applied in their own lives. What could you do today that fulfills this passage? Ask the Lord and He will show you.

Your servant in Christ's love
Dan Elliott

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Shining Armor of Right Living

Rom. 13:11-14 (NLT)  
  11  This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.  13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.  14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome-- and to us as well-- about laying aside evil that comes in our nature. He described the various evil tendencies common to fallen humankind and the acts associated with such evil. He now moves to reinforce, with a sense of urgency, the importance for Christ-followers to awaken from the stupor of self and sin. The world tries to lull us to sleep with calls for self satisfaction, self-aggrandizement, self-promotion, and self-service. Paul likens the ways of the fallen world to darkness and night, or to dirty and stained clothes.

Paul calls you and me to let our faith in Christ remove the darkness, or remove those stained rags and replace with shining light and shining armor. What is this new shining? It is 'right living.'  We can be given power over self in order to live lives serving others. So many churches these days, are caught up in disagreements over styles, traditions, and past practices. In the end, the fuss is all about appeasing certain members personal preferences. Paul says the Church-- the Body of Christ, is not about self preferences. He reminds us that 'right living' is about giving ourselves away in service to others, obeying God's leadership. How are  you giving yourself away today? How will you tomorrow? Rather than participating in self-indulgent and immorality, you can be blessing others. It's not so much about getting people to go to your church as it is about you and your church simply blessing and serving others.

How about blessing your community? How about caring for homeless or joining with other churches to do so? How about random acts of kindness without personal recognition? How about saying "NO" to sin and "YES" to unconditional love toward others? That is the shining armor of right living.

Your servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Owe Nothing-- Except Love!

Rom. 13:8-10 NLT
  8  Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.  9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

The previous  two paragraphs in Romans 12 were all about obeying the government, and paying taxes-- doing right. It seemed too 'political' for me to cite those passages just now when we serve under a government that most think is destroying our culture and nation. However, no government is in power without God allowing it for His greater plan,  including our present one.  God directs us to live in peace with government nevertheless. We move on to verses 8-10 that talk about staying out of bondage to debt.

I wish I had learned this lesson decades ago, so I hope you who are just starting out will pay attention and heed these words. Credit cards and debt are a form of enslavement that prevent us from the freedom Christ died for us to have. After  the interest rates, principle,  and the taxes, we have little remaining to be a blessing to others. Most people I know even struggle to be faithful paying God's ten percent (the "Tithe") each month or week. Debt is a burdensome master. Pray that you can avoid it or can close it out. There are ways to do both, and the root of those ways is based in holy living. If we live NOT to please ourselves, then the temptation to 'buy it now' will not be a strong one to us. If we seek God's wisdom, then we will be able to put God's priorities on how we spend the resources that He gives us.

The one way in which it is OK to remain in a sort of 'debt' is with regard to love. God has loved us so much, at such a great cost, that we could never begin to repay it to Him. But he has not asked for repayment. He has asked us to lover others with the same love He directs toward each one of us who trust in Him through faith in Jesus Christ.  How much attention do you pay toward looking after yourself? Contrast that with how much attention we pay toward looking after others-- especially those who have great needs? This particular form of the term "love" has more to do with unconditional supreme regard for another than the other thing our society often mistakes for so-called love (sexual romance or family loyalty). Thus, today you can exercise what God has shown to you-- unconditional love for others around you. To whom will you focus God's love first? And after that, who?

Your servant in Christ's love
Daniel C. Elliott
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