Work Out Your Salvation?

We are going to, for the next few days, reflect upon one of daily lectionary readings that are used by so many as part of what’s called the Morning Office.  You can find a link to these readings here.

Today in Philippians 2:12-13, we read these words:

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

weightliftingThese two verses here share with us some of the most important details of being a Christian. The first of these details is when we come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, that is not the end of our journey of faith.  But in fact, it’s just the beginning.

Paul here tells us to work out our salvation with much fear and trembling.  That I think is important, but also dangerous and scary if we don’t read the entire verse.  It’s important, because God desires that we be faithful.  God desires us to grow.  To learn.  To do our part.  Our “part” doesn’t save us, only God saves us.  But when we are faithful, when we do things that allow us to grow, it really does please God.  We work out our salvation as we are faithful.

Now here’s why we have to read the entire part of this verse.  As Paul says in verse 13, but know this.  It’s God is who is at work in us.  We aren’t “doing” it.  God is doing it for us and through us.  It is God that is the one that is at work.

For all that we do, remember, it’s God’s grace that enables us to do it.  It’s God’s grace that empowers us.  It’s God’s grace that makes it all possible.

So yes, we do our part, we are at work. But know, just as oxygen and food give us the ability to do the things we are supposed to do each day, that’s how God’s grace is.  His grace, it gives us the ability to be faithful.

We can’t do it, we can’t do anything, without God’s grace.

So, today, may we be faithful.  And may we remember that it is only through God’s grace that makes us faithful.

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Coasting

imagesSometimes in life we have to stop and take a moment of reflection.  It’s important for us to assess where we are.  How are we doing?  The question is sometimes asked, how is it with your soul?  How are things?

Sometimes we can get really comfortable in our lives, in our faith. And think that everything is just fine. We can just start coasting.  Sure, I love Jesus, Jesus loves me. It’s all good.  No worries. Everything is perfect.

Am I as faithful as I should be?  No, but it’s ok, Jesus loves me.

Are there areas of my life that, if I have to be honest about, that I’ve gotten lazy in and am just coasting?  Sure, but it’s ok, Jesus loves me.

Yes, He does love us.  Make no mistake about it. But, because He does love us, there’s so much more He wants us to become. As a loving parent longs to see their child grow and do great things, so does God long for us to the same.  Listen to what Paul writes today in 2 Corinthians 13:5-8:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.

Test yourself today.

Know that God loves you, no matter what.  You are loved, you are vital to Him, you are special. But, because He loves you, He really wants you to do great things.  He knows what you are capable of.  He knows your potential.  He knows what He can do through you and in you.

He loves you. And He wants to see you grow into the amazing child of God that He has created you to be.

So, today, here’s some helpful questions for self examination that John Wesley gave to his early followers. I took a moment to ask myself these questions today, and I didn’t always like what I saw. But, through God’s grace, I know that He’s not done with me, and today, through God’s grace, I am going to be more faithful than I was yesterday.

Don’t coast. Be faithful.  And in being faithful, you will find life.

1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
2. What temptations have you met with?
3. How were you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?

And here’s the great thing about asking this questions.  You now what we find at the end of the question?  Grace.  Mercy.  Love.  Peace.  You find forgiveness.  When we ask ourselves these questions, we find the grace of God, waiting there for us the entire time.  You are loved more than you’ll ever know. Today, live in that grace! 

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Grow Up!

I love my children.  I mean, I really do. They are just my joys.  I love spending time with them, I love laughing with them, I love playing with them. They are just great.

And as a parent, I want what is best for them. I want to do all that I can do to make sure that they have all that they need, and most of what they want.  I want them to have every advantage in life.

The thing I want most of all for them is two-fold, that they grow up to be responsible adults that respect all persons and that work hard; and that they follow Jesus Christ with all that they have.

I want my children to grow.  In short, as much as I don’t “like it,” my goal for my children is for them to grow up.  To mature. To become adults.  I don’t like that notion, I wish they could stay 6 and 4 forever, but I know it’s just not possible.

You know what God wants for us today?  Much the same thing.  Listen to what Paul writes to us again in Colossians:

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

God has given us this hope of glory, Jesus Christ, in the desire that we should fully mature in Jesus Christ.

You know what God wants?  He wants us to grow up!  Just like as parents, we want our kids to mature, to be responsible, to make wise choices, to do what is right and be people we can be proud of?  God wants the same thing for us.

God, in our walk with Him and others, wants us be mature. To do what is right.  To make wise choices.  To be responsible. To be mature.

That’s our desire for our kids and our grandkids.

That’s God’s desire for us.

Today, are you doing the things to help you “grow up” in your faith?  Are you praying? Reading scripture? Worshiping with the people of God?  Serving?  Are you deepening your faith?

Or, are you staying a child?

God doesn’t want us to stay a spiritual child forever. He wants us to grow up. Today, are we doing things in our lives to that will help us mature? Are we doing the things to help us grow up?

In a Vacuum

In 1 Peter today, Peter talks about the importance of faith.

How without faith, we don’t have a lot to stand on.  It is faith that gives us up in this world, and hope for the next.  It is faith that keeps us going when life gets hard.  It is faith that dusts us off, picks us up, dries our eyes, comforts us in our sorrows.

Faith makes it all possible.

And, because faith is so important, we must take care of our faith. We must nurture our faith. We must allow our faith to grow.

We must support our faith through our actions.

Peter writes these words this morning:

5 For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.

Peter tell us to make sure we are doing the kind of things in our life to support our faith.

Our faith does not exist in a vacuum.  Our faith does not exist on an island.  Our faith is a gift to us from God. God calls us to faith because He knows we need faith to fully live.

But, in our lives, what are we doing to support our faith? What are we doing see our faith grow?

Are we reading?  Praying?  Serving? Worshiping?

Are we doing the things that our faith needs to grow?

Our faith will not grow on its own.  We will not become a stronger Christian by just “wanting” to be one.

Our faith is the most precious gift we’ve been given.  Faith is one of God’s great gifts to us.

What are we doing support it?

Bragging on Asbury

I talk a lot about how thankful I am to be serving Asbury Church.

I talk a lot about how proud I am of the church, how excited I am to be serving this church, and about how much God is doing.

I speak vaguely on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites.  I don’t go into much talk about numbers and things like that, for several reasons.

One is because numbers are not the end all and be all of a church.  A church is more than worship attendance or offerings or any of these things.

These things paint a picture of the overall health of a church, but don’t tell the entire story. So, while these numbers matter, they don’t describe everything.

That said, I want to brag on the people of Asbury Church.

I was appointed pastor of this church in June, 2010.  I don’t know the actual numbers, these are just an approximation. But, we were worshiping close to 180 each Sunday. Roughly 120 adults and 60 children.  Like I said, not 100% positive of those numbers, but that is close.

As of right now, we are worshiping close to 400 on Sunday.  Roughly 280 adults and 120 kids.

We have literally seen our worship attendance double.

We have gone from approximately 5 Small Group Connections to 11 with over 70 additional people plugged into our small group ministry.

We’ve seen our Wednesday night Family Meal grow from roughly 50 in over 120.

We’ve seen our finances stabilize and grow to being the healthiest they’ve been in years.

We literally have every chair we own in the sanctuary so that people will have places to sit. We are having to park on the grass because we are out of parking spots on Sunday.

We are seeing more and more people join the church or express and interest in joining the church.

But, most of all, there is a spirit of life in this place. There is spirit of joy and hope and of grace. There is the expectation that God is doing great things and God is going to do great things here.

There is an excitement about what God is doing. There is a desire to be a part of what God is doing and to invite others to be a part of what God is doing.

I’ve never seen folks so on fire to invite their friends and neighbors to church.

And it’s awesome!

And, it’s all about God.  As I’ve told folks, I’ve been in ministry for several years. And I’ve never seen happen what’s happening here.  God deserves all the praise and all the glory. Those of us that serve, we are trying to be useful do what He wants.

But, He deserves ALL the praise for what is happening at Asbury Church.

It’s about Him.  And His grace.  And His life.

I couldn’t be more excited to serve and lead this awesome part fo the Body of Christ. And I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in the coming weeks, months, and years!

Greater things are yet to come!

Don’t Waste a Crisis

I am not fluent in many languages. Some many even argue I’m not too fluent in English!

But, there’s always been a statement about something in Chinese language that has intrigued me.

In the Chinese language, they don’t have “letters” like we do, but instead they have characters with represent words and concepts.

In that, I’ve always heard that the Chinese word for “crisis” is the same word as “opportunity.”  That’s not exactly true, there are two characters that make up the word crisis, one character is danger, and the other is opportunity.

But, we se in that language, the word crisis is related to the word opportunity.

What does that have to do with anything?

Listen to the words of Psalm 119:

71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, *
that I might learn your statutes.
72 The law of your mouth is dearer to me *
than thousands in gold and silver.

Have you thought that about your affliction?  Have you allowed your trials, troubles, and afflictions to draw you closer to God?

Every moment we are alive, every moment we breathe, each of these events, they are chances to for us to grow closer to God.

Are you using the trials of life to draw you closer to God?  Are the moments of hurt, are they driving you to prayer? To read the Word?  To be in communion with God?

Trials and troubles, they will push us to God or away from God.  What is happening in your life?

Are you allowing your troubles to drive you closer to God? For only in Him will we find peace and comfort and hope in the midst of trials.

Every trial is an opportunity to grow closer to God.  They aren’t fun, they aren’t easy, and they aren’t something that we to go through.

But, they can draw us closer to God.

Are we allowing that happen?

In our walk with God, let’s not waste a moment.  Even these moments of trials and troubles, they can draw us closer to God.

Let’s not waste a single moment.

Are you Listening?

One of today’s passages is one of my absolute favorite passages in all the Bible.  It’s the story of Balaam and his donkey.  This is one of those passages we learn about as kids, one of those passages we talk about as adults, a passage that makes us scratch our head and wonder, what in the world is happening here?

But it’s also a passage that, if we are not careful, we may miss the point of.

This is the passage where Balaam’s donkey talks to him.

Numbers 22 tells us:

28 Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.  29 “You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!”  30 “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?”  “No,” Balaam admitted.

Now, this passage can cause us to get bogged down in conversation that make cause us to miss the forest for the trees.  We wonder, how did the donkey speak?  What did it sound like?  Could it happen again?  Why a donkey?

While these questions, and other questions are fun to talk about and think about, they may miss the bigger point for you and me.

Did Balaam expect his donkey to talk to him today?  I’d say, probably not.

Did God use the donkey to talk to Balaam?  Yes.

Did Balaam almost miss what God was trying to say and pay the price with his life?  Yes.

So, for us today, the questions is not will a donkey come us to us and start talking. The question is are we listening for God’s voice, in whatever way God chooses to speak to us?

Are we listening for God today.  It’s not that God no longer speaks.  It’s that we don’t always listen.

God doesn’t just speak on Sundays. He doesn’t just speak through preachers, or the Bible, or the normal ways. God will speak to us in whatever way it takes to get our attention.

For Balaam it was through his donkey. What will it be for you today?

Are you listening?  Are you listening for God to speak?

He may choose to speak to you in a way, through a person, you’d least expect it today.

Perhaps a co-worker.  Perhaps your child. Perhaps your parent.  Perhaps though a song.  Perhaps through someone you don’t like.

God will speak today. Maybe through even a donkey.

Are you listening?

What is Not

One of the things that is always most inspiring, and honestly, intimidating, to me about the saints of scripture is the amazing faith they had.  They had an ability to trust, to see, to hope, that is without a doubt, other-worldly.  Today, look at Abraham.  This is what Paul says in Romans 4

19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Think about that for a second.  How easy would it have been to give for Abraham?  How easy would it have been to say, ok, that’s enough. Check please.  I’m done.  I’m headed back to Ur.

But, he didn’t.  He still had faith. Now, we know if we go back and read his story in Genesis, we’ll see he wasn’t perfect.  He did some dumb things.  He made some bad mistakes.

There were times when struggled and had doubts.

But, we see in the end, he had faith. He trusted. He believed. He trusted.  Even when he didn’t see.  He about the faith to see what is not there. And know that it will be there.  One day.

In our lives, on the roads we walk, there will be times we doubt.  There will be times we struggle. There will be times when we are down cast.

So in those times, hold fast to your faith. Hold fast to what is good and noble and true.  Hold fast to what you believe. The doubts and trials and struggles and darkness will come.

Hold onto what is of God. What is of faith. What matters.

Don’t lose sight of what God is doing. Sometimes faith is the ability to see what is not there.  But know that it will be there.

And remember, that God is bigger than all we face.  God is bigger than our doubts, our fears, our hopes, our dreams.  God is bigger than our vision.  God is bigger than our sight. That’s why we walk by faith, not by sight.

We see with the eyes of faith.  We see not just what is there.  We see what will be there. Hope. Trust. Have faith.

God is at work. Today, and always.  Hold onto Him.

Training

Hello.  My name is Andy. (hello Andy). And I’ve got a problem.  I really enjoy running.  Now,while it is not a “problem” per sue, it can be a little crazy. I used to say the only way I’d run would be if Holly was chasing me.  Now, each morning before I leave for work, I try to jog at least 5K.  Yes.  That’s makes me a little off.

As I was reading one of the suggested texts today, I read something out of 1 Timothy that spoke about not just about jogging or training, but about something even more important:

Train yourself in godliness, 8 for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

As a jogger, I hate to miss a day. If I don’t jog, I feel sluggish and just don’t feel right.  Many of us today are starting different training routines – P90X or Couch to 5K, or whatever. These are all good, good things.

But, Paul reminds us today, that while these are good, there is something even better we should be doing.  We should be training out hearts and minds for Jesus Christ. We should be training ourselves in godliness. We should do doing things that strengthen our faith, and our ability to serve.

And, here’s where it can get tough. There are some days I don’t feel like jogging. But I go and make myself. And the feeling of accomplishment I get afterwards make the “making myself” worth it.

There are going to be days when we don’t feel like reading the Word. When we don’t feel like praying. When we don’t feel like serving.  When we just don’t want to.

And we have to, gasp!, make ourselves.  That’s ok. That’s part of training. That’s part of growing. That’s part of being transformed. CS Lewis once said the most powerful prayers we pray are the ones we pray when we don’t feel like praying.

Today, are we training for godliness?  Are we doing the things to help our faith grow? Are we being more faithful? Are we doing our part to allow God’s spirit to work on us?

We train daily for something much more important that a 5K. We train for the Kingdom. May we be faithful today!