Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Devotional Thought

This is a letter from Tyler LeVan. He is a missionary serving in Kenya for 9 months with Adventures in Missions.

Dear loved ones,

As I look at the life of the apostle Paul, I notice that he joyfully and lovingly prayed for the people he knew and the places he ministered. He never seemed to expect to receive from a people that he did not also give. He was not all about him, he was always about Him (I'm not sure if that line was corny or clever). Anyhow, it did not matter whether it was he or another who was doing the work, Paul was excited to know that the fame of the Lord was being spread.

The reason I say all this is because I do not want us to lose focus that we are all to be proclaiming His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9). Remember, if we know Him and if we have the Holy Spirit inside of us then it is to the praise of the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:3-14). Therefore, as I have asked much of you in praying for my team and I, I would like to encourage you in the faith as well. The Lord has given my team and I a unique opportunity to serve Him. During this time, I pray that the God of grace would allow me to know more of Him and His Word and from there, share it with you.

So I feel like I already have so much to share. As the Lord places things upon my heart here is some of what I want to talk about: God, the gospel, mercy, sin, love, grace, wrath, freedom, joyful sacrifice, etc. I am so excited to share as the Lord has put so much on my heart.

However, I will simply start with the verse that I have now referenced in every email.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light
1 Peter 2:9

Wow, so much here! Let us consider a few things. The context lets us know that this people that he is talking about are those who have come to Christ (v.4). Next he gives us four phrases that allude to the Old Testament, to let us know our identity in Christ.

1. Chosen Race – chosen by God; no longer Israel, but the Church of Christ; people of every color and tongue together in Him
2. Royal Priesthood - apart of the family of the King; all sons and daughters who can go into the very presence of God through Christ
3. Holy Nation – perfect and blameless in the blood of Christ; a nation of unified people
4. A People of God's own Possession – A people that the creator and ruler of the universe as declared as His; What greater identity is there!?

There is much more there than what I have mentioned but here is where I want to ask some questions. The first question I have is why? God, what is your purpose in this? The answer is simple. “This love and grace has come to people so that they may tell of the greatness of Me.” That sounds a bit weird as we read it. That is because, unless we get it, our natural response is that God must be on an ego trip. In actuality it is quite the opposite. God is making much of himself for His glory, but also for the joy of all peoples. Consider Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; In Your presence there is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Now if these things were true of you then I would propose that the most loving thing you could do is make yourself known to the world. If in you is fullness of joy, the purpose of life and eternal bliss, it would be the most loving thing in the world to make yourself known. Well, these things are only true of God and they are far from being true of us. Therefore God is completely and indescribably loving to give us this privilege and purpose as Christians.

So if this is our privilege and our purpose, why is it not happening like it should be? I think there are many possible answers but I will consider just two:

1. We are still in the darkness and do not realize that we have never tasted the marvelous light.
2. Maybe we have come out of darkness but not fully understood. Therefore, the marvelous light which should be more powerful than the blinding sun, is more like a dim flashlight. To be honest, I find my heart here many times.

So what is this transformation that Peter is talking about? And what is the remedy for these two problems? Simply, it is the glorious gospel of our blessed God. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Being now a month into my trip in a foreign land that is full of poverty and hardships that I could have never imagined, I consider what has been the most life changing thing. There has been so much to change me and learn from, but the most amazing thing to me is that the gospel has just gotten sweeter and sweeter. In it is the power of God. The power to change me. The power to change you. The power to change the Muslims that I hear praying now as I type. The power to give life to the dead. The power to set drug addicts free. The power to give the angry peace. The power to give the downcast hope. The power to give the depressed joy. The power to give the selfish love. The power to give the stressed rest. And most beautifully of all, it is the power to put sinners into the gentle arms of God. It is amazing is it not?

I have been reading the book of Romans and it has taught me so much about this darkness and about this marvelous light. So that is where we will pick up next time. I hope you are as excited as I am! Let me be the first to say that I am struggling in the areas I talk about. Why else would the Lord teach me these things? Because I'm not getting it. So as I write I do not want to point the finger at act like I have perfected these things. Rather let us lock arms, press on toward God, and pray that our lives would be more and more fixed joyfully on Him.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound,
Tyler LeVan

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Thoughts on nonessential differences amongst christians...

I was just pondering the differences christians sometimes have with each other in the area of doctrine. Immediately some scripture came to mind. I would like to share it here. When we differ on the nonessentials I pray we will approach it in love. We all know the fundamentals of the faith in which we must not differ, but on other things that aren't as clear to us as humans we should have grace. We should always be loving and encouraging to one another in order to build each other up in Christ. He is the example of this in Philippians 2:

Be Like Christ

1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to workfor His good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
15 so 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,
16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

Lest I forget...

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. ~Deuteronomy 29:29

A Prayer (Taken from the Valley of Vision)

Help me to approach thee with deepest reverence, not with presumption, not with servile fear, but with holy boldness.
Thou art beyond the grasp of my understanding, but not beyond that of my love.
Thou knowest that I love thee supremely, for thou art supremely adorable, good, perfect.