Aim Higher — Think Smaller

I am posting this for one of our church members, Becky, who does not use the computer.

Temperance means to be self-disciplined — eating healthy foods, including the avoidance of eating more than our bodies require, as well as the wrong types of food.  Reduced calorie intake is best achieved with a low fat, whole foods diet.  We need to think about what we put into our mouths, eat the food God made and stay away from foods that are man made (processed foods high in sugar and fat).  Body, mind, and spirit interact with each other, so we all have a responsibility to keep the all healthy.  Thanks be to God who gives us our daily bread.

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Molded by The Father

As parents, we all try to mold our children in different ways.  We provide them with learning experiences such as music or swimming lessons. We teach them to socialize by making play dates with others, or taking them to nursery school.  We may send them to camp or take them to different places on vacation. We expose them to libraries and restaurants and museums and concerts.  We set rules for living well and let them suffer the consequences when they break those rules.  Our ultimate goal is to help them live a productive and contented life.

Well, God is our Father, and He is interested in molding us as well.  Listen to these verses from Jeremiah 18:1-5:

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  ‘Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’  So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at the wheel.  And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me:  ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as the potter has done?'”

Everything that happens in our lives is sent by our Father to change us into the vessel he wants us to be.  Some of the things that change us are really good;  others are challenging; and yet others seem to break us open completely.  The Bible tells us that:

“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11

God, our Father, wants the best for us.  The good things we receive from His hand are cause for gratitude;  the painful things are too, for they are all part of the individual learning experience God has tailored for every one of us.

What will you learn from what God sends you today?

 

Running Faster

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

In my previous post, I talked about what we Christians are to pursue or run after.  That made me think about how in a number of places, the Bible describes the Christian life as a race.  In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul gives some advice on how to run that race.  First he mentions the need for discipline:

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.” 1 Corinthians 9:25

We can all testify to this.  It takes self-control to follow  God’s rules when sin is our default position.

Paul goes on to say that as Christians we have a goal, better than any worldly prize.  We do not run aimlessly, but with purpose.

“They (athletes) do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Even with an eternal reward in mind we can get tired, lose focus, or feel like giving up.  Here are some words of wisdom from the author of Hebrews:

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …”Hebrews 12:1-2

On our own, we can never win the prize, but

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it on my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

Run with discipline.

Run with a goal.

Run with perseverance..

Run toward Jesus.

 

A Model of Obedience

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Philippians 2:3-8

Often we know what God asks of us, we just don’t want to do it.  It may be difficult.  It may cost us something.  We may have to give up something we like, even if it isn’t good for us. It may hurt our ego to admit God’s plans are better than ours.

 When I feel this way, I need to look at Jesus, who in Hebrews is called “the author and perfecter”  of our faith. Jesus was willing to obey God, even when it meant giving up for a time the splendor of His godhead.  He was willing to obey even when it cost Him his human life.  He was willing to obey even when it meant dying the humiliating death of a criminal.  The author of the book of Hebrews tells us:

“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  Hebrews 12:4

No matter what obedience to God costs us, it cost Jesus more.  He obeyed out of love for us.  Surely we can obey out of love for God and others.  In the end, obedience to God is for our own good.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11

Caring for the Body

For no one every hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cares for it, just as Christ does the church because we are members of his body.”  Ephesians 5:29

In a number of places in the Bible, the church is called the Body of Christ.  Think about the verse above and how you care for your own physical body.

Do you nourish it? (most of us do that only too well).  What about Christ’s body?  Do you nourish it by participating regularly in worship and Holy Communion?

Do you exercise your body so it will stay healthy? Maybe you walk or spend time at a gym. How about Christ’s body?  Do you keep it healthy with disciplines such as studying the word of God?  Do you practice good deeds in an effort to grow stronger and more mature in Christ?

What do you do to keep your body looking good?  Do you buy nice clothing, use “lotions and potions”, go tanning, have your hair styled? What about God’s house?  Do you contribute to its’ maintenance with your money, time and talents?  Or do you just take for granted that it will always be there for you?

When your physical body develops an illness or weakness, you probably go to the doctor for advice.  How about the church?  If there is a problem there, do you take it to the Great Physician in prayer?  Do you give it some extra tlc and attention so that the difficulty can be resolved?  Or do you walk away and avoid the issue?

What about bad habits? Many of us have given up smoking, eating certain foods or drinks, etc.  when we discover it is having a bad effect on our body.  What about the body of Christ?  Are we willing to give up “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and all slander.”?(1 Peter 2:1)

The Church is Christ’s body and He loved it(and all its’ members, including you) enough to die for it.  Do you love it at least as well as your own body?  I hope I remember to do this.

What’s Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite book of the Bible?  Mine is Hebrews.  I’m excited about Michele’s interactive study posts on this book.  The verse I consider my “life verse” is there:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1

Hebrews has many other verses I find inspiring and edifying:

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves.”  Hebrews 10:1

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews:11:1

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good works.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are doing, but let us encourage each other–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11

These are just some of the verses I love.  I also like the fact that we don’t know who wrote Hebrews.  Just think about it–an anonymous writer, but his words were chosen and still being used by God 2000 years later.

This book teaches me.  It lifts me up every time I read through it.  If I could choose one book of the Bible to take with me to a desert island, this would be it.  What about you?  What’s your favorite?  I hope some of our other bloggers and followers will do posts and send comments.  I also hope you will comment on Michele’s posts on Hebrews.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian Freedom

While imprisoned by the Nazis at Tegel military prison, and shortly after learning of the last failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned a short poem for his friend, Eberhard Bethge.

Though we must be careful to appreciate the time and place from which it sprung, it brings with it plenty of implications for the ways in which we order our lives and allegiances. Indeed, in his prodding toward obedience, discipline, and submission to God — features many would find contradictory or in opposition to freedom — Bonhoeffer’s embrace of this profound paradox dovetails quite nicely with Lord Acton’s statement defining liberty not as the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

 

Stations on the Road to Freedom by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DISCIPLINE

If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things to govern your soul and your senses, for fear that your passions and longings may lead you away from the path you should follow. Chaste be your mind and your body, and both in subjection, obediently, steadfastly seeking the aim set before them; only through discipline may a man learn to be free.

ACTION

Daring to do what is right, not what fancy may tell you, valiantly grasping occasions, not cravenly doubting – freedom comes only through deeds, not through thoughts taking wing. Faint not nor fear, but go out to the storm and the action, trusting in God whose commandment you faithfully follow; freedom, exultant, will welcome your spirit with joy.

SUFFERING

A change has come indeed. Your hands, so strong and active, are bound; in helplessness now you see your action is ended; you sigh in relief, your cause committing to stronger hands; so now you may rest contented. Only for one blissful moment could you draw near to touch freedom; then, that it might be perfected in glory, you gave it to God.

DEATH

Come now, thou greatest of feasts on the journey to freedom eternal; death, cast aside all the burdensome chains, and demolish the walls of our temporal body, the walls of our souls that are blinded, so that at last we may see that which here remains hidden. Freedom, how long we have sought thee in discipline, action, and suffering; dying, we now may behold thee revealed in the Lord.