That God may be Praised

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Just a quick post on a very happy day last week.  Here I am with my friend Kathy in the back halls of the Manahan Orthopedic Center at Grace College and Theological Seminary, ready to receive my Master’s Degree in Ministry Studies and Women’s Leadership Studies.  What an emotional weekend, looking back on about all I have learned and the measure of grace given to me by God to reach this point.

While back in the halls lined up for the processional we met Alex, a graduate who hadn’t been present the previous day for rehearsal because he had been attending his wife’s graduation from Columbus State in Columbus, Ohio.

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Ok, here is just a little something funny, since four graduates in a row were originally from Ohio, and two of us had received our undergraduate degrees from Ohio State.  O-H-I-O. Buckeyes do this wherever we meet. (Ha-You’ll have to read my post about the buckeyes from January 7, 2015).

Back to my topic:  Alex told me that there was a stark contrast between his wife’s graduation address and the one we would hear on our own graduation day.  You see, his wife’s graduation speaker had been Ohio State’s president, Dr Michael Drake.  I am certain Dr. Drake is both a very learned man and worthy speaker.  But as Alex explained, his message lay in stark contrast to what we have been taught through the Scriptures.  Drake’s message to the graduates of Columbus State had been a charge to the graduates to go out and use the skills they had attained to change the world. He had told them that change was other shoulders, and only through their contribution would the world become all that it could.

The Christian world view is different.  We believe that it is only by Christ working through us that real change can occur.  Change is not up to us doing, but rather it is up to us yielding to the work of Christ in our lives.  We seek not our own accomplishments, but furtherance of the name of Jesus.  Listen to two verses I studied with the ladies in my Sunday school class the very next day:  “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 4:10-11.

It’s amazing how God teaches us and reminds us that our work here on earth is not about self-achievement.  It is about reaching the nations with His love and His glory.  It is indeed a different world view from that of the secular world, and I daresay a different message even from many religious organizations.  Yield to God and make Him known. I must become less and He must become more (John 3:30).  And the reason? That God may be praised.

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The Simple Gospel

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I have written recently of my love for the Scriptures and of growing out of the “baby stage” of following Christ.  With that said, I would like to say that the gospel itself, the “good news” about Jesus, is not difficult to understand.  In 1 Corinthians 15 we find a quick outline of that gospel: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (vv 3-4, NASB).

All of us have stepped away from who God designed us to be. We, the created, have chosen our own way. I know because I’ve done it.  We follow our own desires, and we serve our own needs.  Yes, we also come through for others.  God has left His mark on all mankind, so that we internally know good from evil.  Still, we choose wrongly many times.  Greed, self-promotion, self-protection, jealousy–we all go there.  Some of us do so inwardly, and some of us carry it all the way through to our actions, but whether in thought or in action, we all go there.

Being who He is, God is completely pure and unchanged by our self-serving nature.  He is Holy, that is, “set apart.”  He is “apart” from our self-centeredness (called sin).  As much as He loves us and wants a relationship with us, our self-centeredness, our sin, keeps us from His holy nature.

So God sent His Son Jesus to die for all those things we put between us and Him.  Through Jesus all those things are put to death and the barriers between us and God are broken.  We saw God’s power when He raised Jesus from the grave.  Jesus was not just some martyr for a good cause, but Lord of everything, including our sin.

God has asked us to believe in Jesus’ work on our behalf.  He has asked us to follow Jesus’ example with our lives, and that involves getting to know who Jesus is, and allowing Him to change our lives to be more like His.  That is the simple gospel.  There are model prayers you can pray to get started, but it’s not about the prayer.  It’s about choosing to leave behind a self-centered lifestyle, and to move into a Christ-centered life.  It is a decision to follow Christ and trust in His work on the cross for your self-centeredness (sin).  The prayer asking God’s forgiveness is the starting point.  A total makeover awaits. You won’t be perfect when you commit to this journey. You will become more like Christ as you learn from Him. You will learn what pleases Him (previous post), and God will give you His Holy Spirit to help you do it (future post).

If I may end with an example, check out the book of Philippians in the Bible, chapter 3.  In verses 1-6 the Apostle Paul gives all kinds of reasons why he could brag about being an important citizen of his day.  Then he turns a corner in verses 7-11 and gives it all up for something better:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul states that he has lost everything that made him “important” so that he could be found in Christ.  Paul’s identity is in knowing Christ and in being found in Him.  That is a powerful, yet simple concept.  It is the concept that changed my life many years ago, and I am still pursuing it today.  It is the gospel lived out.

Christ is my focus.

Christ is my identity.

Everything else hinges on these two facts.  I am a follower of Him.

Since I like to post a song with my blog, here is a link to a song by my favorite band, Third Day.  The song is called “Creed,” and it expresses what Christians through the ages have believed about the Christian faith.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqpZtJYZhJU

 

Lift Each Other Up

My last post was about building each other up. That topic and this one tug at my heart. As God’s children, we not only need to build each other up, we need to LIFT each other up. 

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Great leaders don’t rise to the top by stepping on the backs of others.  Great leaders are lifted to the top on the shoulders of those who follow them.  

Jesus’ theory was that whoever wants to be great must be a servant of others rather than promoting himself (Mark 9:35).  Of course, any theory held by Jesus wasn’t exactly theory; it was (& is) the very Word of truth.  In fact, Jesus demonstrated his theory in action when he humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).

We will never grow to be who God wants us to be by holding others back. We are at our best when we allow others to be at their best.  The family of God is placed together to create a strong body, and without every part of the body, we cannot function properly. God has put us together, “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).    Mutual concern for each other makes us strong.

It’s on my heart to say this: Christian brother or sister I need you.  You are important and you are needed.  I cannot be at my best unless you are at yours.  How can I lift you up on my shoulders so that you shine as brightly as you can with the love of Christ? How can I celebrate the way God is using you as part of His kingdom? How can I step out of the way so that your light can be clearly seen?

Should we want to be used by God? Absolutely. But it’s deadly when we need to be. Being loved by God sets us free to celebrate whomever God uses.                                   –Mike Donehey,                    Tenth Avenue North

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Celebrating the achievements of others makes us all stronger.

Lord, Help me to celebrate others, their gifts and their achievements.  Show me how to give every opportunity for them to shine in your kingdom.  Like a forest set on fire with your truth, may our mutual flame be inextinguishable. May we bring glory to You together!