Friday, January 31, 2014

Colossians 1:25

Colossians 1:25 (ESV)

[25] of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,

When we think of stewardship we almost always think of money. If the pastor is going to preach on stewardship the expectation is that he will be telling us that we need to give more. But the stewardship in this verse is about something quite different. It is not about money. It is about ministry. The Apostle Paul says that God has made him a steward of the Word of God for the sake of the Church. 1 Corinthians 9:17 talks about the stewardship of the gospel. Ephesians 3:2 refers to the stewardship of God's grace. 1 Timothy 1:4 talks about the stewardship of biblical doctrine related to faith. In fact, in my ESV Bible the English word "stewardship" occurs 4 times and never in reference to money. That is not to say that it is improper to teach about being good stewards of the money and possessions God has entrusted us with. That is clearly a biblical principle. It is to say, however, that perhaps we have not understood clearly that stewardship is about more than money, possessions and time.

 

God has entrusted his church with the word of God, the truth of the gospel, the grace of God and sound doctrine. We have been entrusted with these gifts for the sake of the church, the glory of God and the good of the world in which we live. Our fallen world needs to know the truth of God's Word, the hope of the gospel. It makes me wonder what kind of steward I have been.

 

Father, again today I lift my Pray and Watch list up to you. Would you send your Spirit into the lives of those on my list to open their eyes to the truth, draw them to faith in Christ and make them devoted followers of Jesus? Would you give me eyes to see the opportunities you place before me to share the love and truth of Christ? May I, by your grace, be a good steward of the truth with which you have entrusted me.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Daniel 6

Daniel 6:10 (ESV)

[10] When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

I have always loved this story, but more recently I am beginning to identify with it. Daniel was doing well integrating into a pagan society while still practicing his faith, but suddenly things changed. Laws were made that made the practice of his faith illegal. I have grown up in a fairly protected world. Yes, bad things happened around me, but the practice of my faith was usually respected. The world I live in has changed and is changing rapidly. It is a wave of change that has been slowly building. Now suddenly I am beginning to hear the Bible referred to as a book of hate. I see the morality I grew up with not just questioned, but attacked. I see immorality flaunted as a religion. Just look at the recent Grammy Awards. The entire program was a church service dedicated to immorality.

How did Daniel respond to laws that made his faith illegal? "He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." So, here comes the test. I am really serious about this faith I claim or is it just a part of my life that I will give up when it is no longer convenient? Will I continue to do what God has called me to do even if it becomes illegal, or will I decide that's not really what God meant? Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism has been trying for 40 years to save society. It appears that we have not been particularly successful, although I would like to think that we have at least slowed down the expansion of evil. The real question is, will we remain faithful to the fundamentals of the faith even when the world calls evil good and good evil? Do we even know anymore what those fundamentals of the faith are?

When the law was passed making prayer illegal Daniel continued to pray. What will we do? As Peter Jones wrote in an article entitled Your Grammys Church, "But there is hope. Those watching or attending the church of the Grammys are made in God's image and will one day be disillusioned with the lie. Christians "shine as lights" by "telling the truth" in a dark world." (http://truthxchange.com/articles/2014/01/28/your-grammys-church/) Father, may I be found faithful even as the world around me changes. May I truly be a light in a dark world.

By His grace

Rick Weinert


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Colossians 1:21

Colossians 1:21 (ESV)

[21] And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

This is perhaps one of the most difficult verses in this chapter, or at least in verses 9-23 which we will be looking at on Sunday. It is easy to understand why Paul is praying for knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It is easy to understand why he wants the Colossian Christians to be strengthened with the power of God. I don't understand fully the greatness, nature and power of Jesus, but I can accept that. He is God and God is so much higher than I am that I would be more concerned if I thought I did fully understand him. But what is often difficult for us to accept is this truth in verse 21.

 

Every believer was once alienated and hostile in mind toward God, doing evil deeds. We tend to think of ourselves as pretty good people. Even when we admit to our "problems" we usually have a justifying statement to follow. "Yes I have a problem with anger, but I've never hit my wife." "Yes, I look at pornography, but I would never actually cheat on my wife." "Yes, I cheat on my taxes, but the Government is using my money to do things that I consider immoral." "Yes, I used foul language, but I was so frustrated it just came out." We have thousands of them, excuses for why our bad behavior really isn't so bad, why someone else is worse, or why it is really not our fault.

 

On top of the fact that we like to think of ourselves as pretty good people, there is also the truth that we all know really nice sinners. Bar buddies are often quicker to cough up money to help a neighbor in need than is the church. We all know unbelievers who are incensed and outraged by the bad and/or immoral behavior of others. We all know unbelievers who are polite, honest and hardworking. So how can it be true that apart from Christ they are alienated, hostile in mind and doing evil deeds?

 

That is what makes this verse so difficult. But the truth is, we are using the wrong measuring stick. If you are trying to build a bridge across the Grand Canyon and you have three 2x6s, one 3 feet long, one 6 feet long and one 12 feet long, the 12 foot 2x6 looks pretty long compared to the other two. If you were just sitting looking at the 2x6s you might even conclude that the 12 footer will probably be sufficient. It is when you turn and look at the expanse between you and the other side that you realize they are all insignificant and insufficient. Similarly, when we compare people to people, some look really good. Some unbelievers even look more moral than some believers. But we are measuring 2x6s when we do that. We are so far removed from who we were created to be that we cannot even comprehend the correct measure. God says it like this, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) We were designed to reflect the glory of God to the rest of creation. We fall so far short of that we are like comparing the weak light of an almost dead flashlight to the light of the brightest lighthouse. In the darkest night any light looks bright until someone flips the switch on the lighthouse.

 

The good news of the gospel is not that we can change. The good news of the gospel is that God has changed us. He built the bridge across the canyon and carried us across to the other side safely. We didn't help him. We can't add to the work or make the bridge stronger. We simply trust him. He is the grand architect and builder. We were once "alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds," but God, by his grace, turned us into friends when we believed.

 

Father, thank you for your grace. Forgive me for somehow thinking that I can in any way add to the work on Christ on the cross. I rest in your grace.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Daniel 5

Daniel 5:29-30 (ESV)

[29] Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. [30] That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed.

 

Daniel was called in to interpret the handwriting on the wall for Belshazzar. He was offered a purple robe, a gold chain and the position of 3rd ruler in the country if he could read and interpret the handwriting. Daniel told Belshazzar to keep the accolades but that he would interpret the handwriting. Was he being polite? Was he really unimpressed by the rewards? Or, did he realize that by the next morning the rewards would be meaningless? I'm not sure of the answer, but this story certainly highlights the truth that earthly awards are fleeting at best.

 

I read recently about some actor who received an award. The article said that he hadn't received the award in previous years but that this year he had lobbied for it and so received it. I thought, if a reward has to be lobbied for in order to receive it then is it really a reward. It seems like there are dozens of awards given for entertainers. There are music awards, acting awards, people's choice awards, etc. But what do these awards really mean in the grand scheme of life? Have you ever seen a child's room filled with trophies? They were perceived to be important when they were received, but when you have a room full of them they just become dust collectors. When you are 25, looking for a job and trying to start a career the fact that you received a "you did a good job" award in 3rd grade becomes pretty meaningless. And yet we spend our lives running after accolades and acknowledgement.

 

It is good to be acknowledged and encouraged. But the truth is that when we stand before God the only reward that matters is his rewards. The only "Well done!" that matters is his "Well done!" Purple robes fade and wear out. Gold chains get sold and melted down. Positions get passed on to someone else or disappear. But God's approval lasts for an eternity. C.T. Studd, missionary in the early 20th century penned a poem entitled Only One Life. That poem included these lines: Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last. Shortly before his death, in a letter home, he wrote these words:

 

"As I believe I am now nearing my departure from this world, I have but a few things to rejoice in; they are these:

1. That God called me to China and I went in spite of utmost opposition from all my loved ones.

2. That I joyfully acted as Christ told that rich young man to act.

3. That I deliberately at the call of God, when alone on the Bibby liner in 1910, gave up my life for this work, which was to be henceforth not for the Sudan only, but for the whole unevangelized World.

My only joys therefore are that when God has given me a work to do, I have not refused it."

 

I wonder if I will be able to say the same at the end of my life.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Colossians 1:5b-6

Colossians 1:5b-6 (ESV)

[5b] Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, [6] which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,

 

Paul says that the gospel is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world. My first thought, when I read that, is to think, "Wouldn't it be great to live in a day and time when the gospel was bearing fruit and growing instead of living in the End Times when the strength and power of the church is waning and evil is increasing." But then I remember three things. First, Paul was in prison when he wrote this. He faced powerful opposition wherever he preached. False teaching along with twisted truth seemed to be everywhere. Yet, the gospel was bearing fruit and growing.

 

Second, I remember that Christianity is today the most widely followed religion in the world and that in many parts of the world the church is growing quickly. Just as you can't look at a thermometer in your back yard and know what the weather is like in another part of the country, so we cannot judge what the church worldwide is doing by looking at who is attending our church on a particular Sunday.

 

Third, Paul didn't say that the church was bearing fruit and growing. He said that the gospel was bearing fruit and growing. The power of the gospel is in the gospel, not in the church, the preacher, the congregation or our tradition. The power of the gospel is in the gospel, not in a particular presentation of the gospel or a particular method of manipulation to get people to pray a prayer. It is the Spirit of God and the truth of the gospel that changes lives. Evangelism is not about salesmanship. It is about resting in the Spirit to share the good news of Jesus and allow God to work in the hearts of people who hear.

 

The gospel is just as powerful, just as effective today as it was when Paul penned these words to the Colossians back in the first century. Nothing has changed. We still live in a broken, fallen world. The truth is still rejected and opposed. And yet, the gospel continues to bear fruit and grow. We ought to take heart and rejoice in that truth.

 

Father, it seems that it is easy get pessimistic about the influence of the gospel in my world, and then I hear a story of how you are working in someone's life. Thank you for that encouragement. May I be renewed in my passion for the gospel and my concern for the lost.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Colossians 1:4 - faith

Colossians 1:4 (ESV)

[4] since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,

This past Sunday Rod Kastner made an excellent point as he was talking about the class on prayer that they will be teaching at the school where he ministers. He said that they are not going to put their emphasis on faith in prayer, but on the righteousness of God and his people. Notice that in the above verse Paul does not commend the Colossian Christians for their faith, but for their faith in Christ Jesus. Everybody has faith. Even the most negative pessimist has faith. She might believe that everything is hopeless, but that is a form of faith. To have faith simply means to believe. A strong pessimist has strong faith in negative results.

 

To believe is not the issue. Paul is writing to the Colossians to address false teaching. Those false teachers have no less faith than Paul, they just have faith in the wrong things. I often refer to Christians as believers, but the significant thing is not that they believe. What makes all the difference is the one in whom they believe. That is the point of this letter we call Colossians. Who we believe in and what we believe about him is what matters. I have no faith in my faith, but I have faith in Jesus. That changes everything.

 

Father, forgive me for the times I have thought and acted as though things depended on me and on the amount of faith I could somehow conjure up. Today may I simply trust in your unfailing faithfulness.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Friday, January 10, 2014

Colossians 1:2

Colossians 1:2 (ESV)

[2] To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

                

Grace and peace. The Greek word for grace is charis. It means favor. The word in and of itself does not clarify whether that favor is merited or unmerited. Charis was a typical Greek greeting. For the Greeks favor meant more than just approval. Fundamentally the word means to lean toward someone to share a benefit with them. For the early Christians this word took on new and significant meaning as they understood that in Christ God leaned toward us, an undeserving people, with the purpose of sharing the benefit of forgiveness, new life, restored relationship and eternal hope. Christians understood God's grace to be unmerited, unwarranted and undeserved.

 

The word peace is the Greek word eirene. It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word shalom. For the Hebrew it meant much more than peace. It meant wholeness of life. It meant all that God promised in the Mosaic Covenant. It meant completeness, soundness, welfare and peace. What they did not understand, but what the early Christians did understand, is that Christ is our peace. Shalom was the typical Hebrew greeting.

 

The Christians put these two typical greetings together, connected them to Christ and brought to them theological significance that neither the Greeks nor the Hebrews understood. In light of the Colossian heresy of adding philosophy, asceticism and mysticism to the finished work of Christ, this introduction, reminding the Colossian Christians that God is the source of their grace and peace, becomes significant.

 

It seems that people are always looking for something to provide them with goodness, wholeness and peace. People seem to be willing to run after every new promise of wholeness. That is exactly what the Colossians were doing. We need to stop running after pipe dreams and empty promises. As believers in Christ we have all that we need. That is why Paul's prayer for the Colossians is for knowledge and understanding. When we understand what we have in Christ we can learn to rest in him and stop running after empty and destructive promises.

 

Father, thank you for your grace and peace. May I truly rest in the finished work of you son, my savior, Jesus Christ.

 

By His grace,

Rick


Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:4-7 (ESV) The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him w...