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Love God, Grow Together, Reach the World

    Daily Devotions - Entries from August 2012

    ThuThursdayAugAugust30th2012 Let us love one another
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Close your time this week reading the following passage from 1 John 4:7-21.

    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

    This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

    God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

    We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

    Every week, hundreds of people come to worship with us in “big church,” sing some hymns, listen to the sermon and go home. Whatever programs, systems and channels we may put in place to facilitate movement into community, the most direct path is a personal invitation from another individual.

    Who sits around you on Sunday morning? Do you know their name? Take a moment to say hello. Invite them to your AC or your small group. Have them over for coffee. Simply taking an extra five minutes before rushing out of church and on to the next thing might be the difference between someone “going solo” versus experiencing the love and care and support of Christian community.

    God calls us to love one another. What are you doing to show God's love to your brothers and sisters in Christ?

    ThuThursdayAugAugust30th2012 Be devoted to one another
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:9-16)

    Sincerity is something that is sorely lacking in much of our culture today. Cynicism seems to rule the roost, undercutting everything and making us naturally suspicious of everything and everyone. Yet, the Bible calls us to live differently. Paul tells the Romans that they are to love in a manner which is sincere. In other words they are to be honest, authentic and real.

    It also means loving in a way that is genuine, without guile or artifice. No shiny happy faces, no fake small talk, just genuine love. What does that look like? Paul explains: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” What would our communities look like if we just focused on these two commands for a while?

    Of course, that’s just part of the picture. Paul also calls us to be joyful, patient, generous and filled with grace towards others. This entire passage could serve well as a covenant for every community here at our church, from small groups to table groups up to AC’s.

    Such a way of life is not easy, nor does it come naturally. We are not perfect people but redeemed sinners and frequently we fall (far) short of the ideal. Moreover, we can only live the life commended by Peter and Paul once we have given ourselves fully to serving Jesus as Lord. But by His grace we can and should persevere.

    Where do you see your faith community excelling? Where do you see some gaps that need work? How can you get more actively involved to lead others into this lifestyle?

    WedWednesdayAugAugust29th2012 Stand firm in the one Spirit
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    We find another reminder to “Don’t go solo” in Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi:

    Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. (Philippians 1:27-28)

    “Whatever happens,” they were to stand together as one. In the face of opposition, challenges, set-backs and frustration, Paul exhorted them to “stand firm in the one Spirit,” unified by the Gospel.

    On the one hand, unity is for our benefit. Even non-Christians will generally recognize that it’s better to work together as a team. However, Paul puts a slightly different spin on that command here, noting that their unity will also serve as a sign to others of God’s judgment. That’s a pretty high calling for community! When we come together as one body, united in faith and in the common pursuit of the gospel, we glorify God and point to Him as the author of salvation.

    Spend some time wrestling with this today. How is it that the Gospel message can bind people together? What does it mean for you to be of one mind with other believers? How does that change anything?

    TueTuesdayAugAugust28th2012 Be like-minded
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)

    Sympathy, love, compassion, humility. Stemming from his command to be of one mind, Peter encouraged the early Church to live in a way that was at complete odds to the Greco-Roman culture all around them. They were to show deep affection for each other, caring for each other's needs as if they were family and always acting out of humility.

    Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No. After all, this describes the kind of community that started shortly after Peter gave his powerful sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:42-47). One of the reasons the early Church grew so rapidly was because of this revolutionary alternative way of looking at human relationships.

    What are some differences between the kind of community revealed in Acts and the way in which the Church sometimes operates today? What can you start doing differently today to try and recapture Peter’s vision for community?

    MonMondayAugAugust27th2012 Don't go solo
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    You may have noticed one or two fluorescent neon orange signs or t-shirts around church yesterday. In case you were wondering, they were meant to highlight our passionate concern that you should not attempt to “go it alone” in life. We were created for community; with God and with others. It may sometimes seem easier to just do our own thing, but the repeated call throughout the New Testament is to get into community. For example, read what Peter wrote in one of his letters:

    Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)

    What do you think of when you hear people encouraging you to “be like-minded"?

    Unfortunately, this can sometimes be reduced to simply getting along with other people, of coexisting peacefully together. Yet, Peter is really challenging believers to a much deeper level of community. This is not about merely tolerating each other so we can live in a vague sense of "harmony." Rather, we are called to be "sharing the same mind." Peter's command is for Christians to be unified in their beliefs; unified in their commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.

    “Don’t go solo” is a reminder that we are called to live together as one body; believers united by the gospel and passionate about the pursuit of God. Where are you connected?

    FriFridayAugAugust24th2012 Grow together and reach the world
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Probably we are all familiar with the Great Commission, to “go and make disciples.” Yet, that often seems at complete odds with our desire to be part of a community. How can we both “reach the world” and “grow together”?

    In John 13 we read about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. What an amazing example of humble service and love for others. What an incredible picture of the cleansing and renewal that would come to us as a result of His death, burial and resurrection that would shortly follow.

    Then, after Judas leaves, Jesus says,

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

    It’s subtle, but do you catch that?

    There is connection between the way we live and relate to each other within the church and the way that others will come to know that we are followers of Jesus.

    There is a correlation between our ability to love each other and our ability to love others.

    When we talk about going and making disciples we can never lose sight of the fact that we are not simply calling people out of sin and into repentance and faith, but calling them out of a life of singleness and into a life of connectedness.

    God’s heart is not to simply correct everyone’s faulty understanding of who He is, but to bless and care for His Creation through His Creation.

    Christian community is meant to be a blessing to its members and a message to those trapped in sin and selfishness and the aggressive pursuit of personal, individual success at the expense of everyone who stands in their way, that there is another way.

    Is your community pointing people to Christ? How does your small group or Bible study elevate the gospel through your relationships? Do people know you are a disciple of Christ because you have a “Jesus fish” on your car, or because of the self-sacrificial love you have for your brothers and sisters in Christ?

    ThuThursdayAugAugust23rd2012 Let us not give up meeting together
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:19-25)

    What drives our efforts at community? How do we sustain a lifestyle of connectivity with other people in spite of everything? It is not easy, but the Bible does shed some light for us on this struggle.

    The author of the Book of Hebrews is clear that this young community to whom he is writing is to resist the urge to “go solo” and instead press into the harder task of sustaining community together. That’s a message we hear quite frequently. What we rarely do, however, is set that last verse (Heb. 10:25) within the context of the rest of the paragraph (Heb. 10:19-25).

    Note that the passage does not begin with the command for community, but with a reminder of the gospel. It’s because of the freedom we have in Jesus, because He has paid the penalty for our sins, because He has given us free access to the throne-room of God, that we can do anything. In fact, the first command of this passage is not, “don’t go solo,” but “draw near to God.”

    The first step in everything is always the same; draw near to God. Want a better marriage? First draw near to God. Looking for a closer relationship with your children? Start with a closer relationship with your own Heavenly Father. The pattern is the same throughout the Bible and is the bedrock for any kind of community that is going to honor God and sustain itself through the long haul.

    What are you doing to draw near to God? How are you “holding unswervingly to the hope we profess”? How might a deeper relationship with God impact your relationships with other people?

    WedWednesdayAugAugust22nd2012 And the Lord added to their number...
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    The first believers in Christ devoted themselves to all kinds of things. They lived in an incredible, almost impossible to believe kind of community. Despite their sinful and rebellious hearts they persevered and made it work.

    And look what happened.

    And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)

    Yes, they undoubtedly enjoyed wonderful and touching moments of fellowship together. Yes, they blessed each other financially and materially and spiritually. But it never stopped there. God worked in and through them to draw others to Himself.

    His goal all along was to use their radically different community as part of the way in which He would draw more people to faith in Christ. What an amazing testimony to the power of community! The blessings were never intended to stop with them. The close-knit community was not limited to those who heard Peter preach and came to faith as a result.

    Our Heavenly Father loves and cares for you deeply. In fact, He loves you so much that he sacrificed His own Son so that your sins might be forgiven. However, He also loves your neighbor with that same kind of passion and commitment, and the slightly odd person who sits at the end of your aisle every week in church, and the quiet young man who looks so lonely at the back of the room in your AC, and the married couple that seems to have it all together but in reality have no close friends whatsoever.

    God’s heart is for the lost all around the world. And one of the ways in which He plans to reach them is through us; through you and me and our broken, faltering attempts at Christian community. Who has God put on your heart this week to reach out to in love? How are you working to make sure no one is left behind?

    TueTuesdayAugAugust21st2012 What's your goal for community?
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:42-47)

    Although this is a standard passage to go to in the Bible if we’re going to address the topic of community, it’s actually a somewhat unlikely section of text to choose. After all, have you ever experienced this kind of thing in a church? Has anyone? Are these ideals even possible? Could this really happen?

    We sometimes talk about the early church (as described in Acts) as if it was some kind of idyllic institution without any problems or concerns. “If only we could get back to that,” we hear on occasion, “then everything would be different.” Possibly, but most likely not. There is nothing to indicate that we are any different today than we were two thousand years ago. Just look at Acts 5. Idyllic? Or scary? Read Paul’s letters to the Corinthians or the Galatians. The early church was filled with problems. Not because the institution was bad, but because it was filled with sinners.

    The same is true today. You may have had bad experiences in church or community, but the problem is not church or community. The problem is sin. The problem is us. This first community of believers described in Acts 2:42-47 was just a sinful and messed up and broken as any church today. So how did they hold it all together?

    Look at the things they devoted themselves to. They didn’t set “the perfect small group” as their goal, but chose instead to devote themselves to the pursuit of the gospel. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles (about Christ), to the breaking of bread (a reminder of their common bond in Christ), and to prayer (connecting them to God and admitting their weakness and neediness to Him). They had everything in common and took care of each other’s needs (displaying a radical dependence on God and trust in Him to provide). They worshipped together and praised God together wherever they met.

    I am certain that this early church was messy and difficult and awkward and uncomfortable. I am sure people rubbed each other the wrong way. But they persevered because their goal was not self-serving but God-glorifying. What’s your goal for community?

    MonMondayAugAugust20th2012 When I am weak, then I am strong
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

    Our culture is based around the idea that we can and should go it alone. The highest ideal is to be strong enough to muscle through life under our own strength. Our heroes are almost always lone-ranger types, battling evil single-handedly, and coming out on top because they did it by themselves.

    Certainly there are exceptions, but for the most part our culture as a whole does not seem to value very highly the mutual support and accountability of other people. This is, of course, sadly ironic, because we also live in a world where, as Pastor Ted Coniaris mentioned last week, about 25% of us don’t have a single close friend. We elevate being a loner as a sign strength and maturity, yet the reality is just loneliness and isolation.

    Whatever the self-help gurus may try to convince you, the true source of our strength is not in ourselves, but God. Even the mighty and capable Apostle Paul acknowledged over and over again his own weaknesses. However, this was not to his shame but to God’s glory, because his weaknesses became an opportunity for God’s power to be elevated. Whose strength are you displaying in your life?

    FriFridayAugAugust17th2012 We eagerly await our Savior
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Phil. 3:20-21)

    Sometimes I think we just don’t talk enough about Christ’s return. We spend a lot of time and energy looking back at where we’ve been, who we were, and how God cleansed us. The challenges of daily living also conspire to consume a lot of our energy and focus as we consider how the gospel can help us live today. But it has somewhat drifted out of fashion to look ahead to the moment of Christ’s return.

    What an amazing time that will be! All human achievements (even gold medals) will fade into the background as we fall to our knees in worship before our great and glorious King. Nothing else will matter. All suffering and pain and misery will disappear. All wrongs will be made right and justice will prevail. What a day that will be!

    I love my wife and children. I love so many things about this incredible Creation God has placed us in. I love my work and there is so much I still want to experience and enjoy in my life (however brief). But I want to also be able to honestly testify, along with Paul, that I eagerly await the return of the King, my Savior Jesus Christ.

    May we all be spurred on in our faith by this same eager expectation of everything God will do when He returns.

    ThuThursdayAugAugust16th2012 All become one in Christ
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Phil. 3:20)

    The Olympics are fascinating for a number of reasons, but one of those is the opportunity they afford for witnessing the athletic successes of so many other countries from around the world.

    Although we’re used to watching major US cities do vicarious battle through their baseball or football teams, for two weeks during the Olympics we find ourselves instead watching things like Norway and South Korea fight over dominance in Handball. I don’t even understand the rules. Besides, when was the last time you watched Norway compete in something (aside from the previous Olympics)?

    But regardless of which country we happen to have been born in, and which country we end up rooting for as a result, as believers in Christ our true citizenship is in Heaven. There is no doubt that our earthly citizenship has massive implications for our lives here and now. Economic opportunities and personal freedoms vary widely depending on the country we call home. However, our spiritual heritage remains the same, regardless of earthly station in life.

    Rich or poor, slave or free, all become one in Christ. Although the Olympics attempt to cast themselves as some kind of boundary-breaking international force for peace and unity, once you get past all the hoopla it’s just another competition to see who is the greatest in the world.

    In contrast, the blood of Christ knows no boundaries whatsoever, reaching into even the bleakest and darkest of situations to bring life and hope to anyone and everyone who calls on the name of Jesus. Citizens of Heaven can truly call themselves brothers and sisters, members of one family united by one Lord.

    As you celebrate the athletic successes of the competitors from your home country, or consider your patriotism and pride for the place you call home, consider also the level of contentment and joy you have about your spiritual heritage. Citizens of Heaven have much to be thankful for. How are you living to glorify Christ as a result?

    WedWednesdayAugAugust15th2012 Our citizenship is in heaven
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Phil. 3:20)

    In contrast to those living in sin, our citizenship is in Heaven. While many people around us are focused simply on living for themselves, we live (hopefully, supposedly) to glorify another.

    But how? Why?

    I would love to give myself a big pat on the back for being such an amazing person, but I can’t. Our citizenship is in Heaven, not because we chose it or earned it or deserved it, but because God gave it to us. Each and every one of us was born into this new kingdom. Not by flesh and blood but through Christ.

    At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

    This is grace. Lost in sin, but redeemed by Christ.

    I am amazed that I can call myself a citizen of heaven. That I am not numbered among those whose god is their stomach is purely and simply a miracle of the most enormous kind. May we never, ever take such an astonishing truth for granted. May we never grow so proud of our achievements that we forget that we contributed nothing to our salvation.

    Citizens of heaven are sinners saved by grace. Who do you know who needs to hear this life-giving truth today?

    TueTuesdayAugAugust14th2012 Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Phil. 3:18-19)

    We don’t need Paul to tell us that many people “live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” The signs are everywhere. Our culture is largely rooted in a complete rejection of God, the deification of the self, and an unthinking and absolute embrace of every kind of sin imaginable. The full frontal assault on Biblical values and norms is evident in almost ever corner of our world. I can’t even fill up my car with gas or check out at the grocery store without being assailed by a non-stop barrage of garbage from the TVs built into the pumps and registers.

    Our world is racked by sin and is filled with people headed for destruction. Driven by the hunger for more sex, more money, more fame, more food and more stuff, they gorge themselves until their souls are as obese as their bodies and yet still they want more. There is no doubting the fact that for all our technological advances, our propensity towards sin has not changed one bit in the last two thousand years. We are just as self-centered and greedy as we have always been.

    Of course, casting judgment on the world around us is easy. The target is so big it’s almost impossible to miss. We do it quickly, eagerly, and sometimes almost gleefully. But how does Paul approach this topic? What is his emotional state in talking of the corruption all around him?

    When was the last time you honestly felt sadness for the evil pumped out on television hour after hour? When was the last time you cried over the people whose lives have been destroyed by the porn industry? How often do you weep for those who actively pursue and aggressively promote lifestyles that are completely opposed to God and His Word? It’s easy to lambast—how much do we love? How much do we care that these are souls headed for eternal destruction?

    Many people you know, or meet daily, live as enemies of Jesus. How are you praying for them?

    MonMondayAugAugust13th2012 "Follow my example"
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Philippians 0 comments Add comment

    Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Phil. 3:17)

    Over the last couple of weeks many of us have been transfixed by the Olympic Games. The athletic prowess is incredible. World Records have been broken, incredible setbacks have been overcome, and lives have been changed forever. Watching the top athletes in the world compete at this level is inspiring. The Olympics make us wonder—what would it be like to race that fast, or swim that well, or hit that hard? I find myself wanting to go back to the gym and start working out!

    Obviously an Olympic appearance is not in the cards for me, but there’s a young man or woman watching these games somewhere who will be inspired enough to make the sacrifices it takes to get there eventually.

    Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians is clear—they are to follow his example as a believer in Jesus, modeling their lives on him. He lives to set such an example for these believers that they will want to be like him. This is not pride. There are no medals to be won and the world will rarely reward a life of faithfulness to God. In fact, Paul revels in his weakness because it is in his weakness that God is made out to be strong.

    Who do you find yourself wanting to imitate? What habits or behaviors do you exhibit as a result? How do these reflect the growth of the gospel in your life?

    FriFridayAugAugust10th2012 Gospel-powered life change
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

    A life of impartial, God-honoring, love for our neighbors does not appear out of thin air. Nor does it come simply from “trying harder.” The end goal is not, “trying to be better people who love others more generously.” The end goal is loving God more and reflecting that love into the lives of others more consistently.

    The bad news is that we fail at all of this, all the time. We fall short in loving God. We fall short in loving our neighbors. We show favoritism. We give greater honor to those who look like they deserve it, while ignoring “the least of these.” We even fall short when it comes to confessing sin and trying to break bad habits and patterns of behavior.

    The good news in all of this is that there is hope to be found in the gospel. The gospel declares that although we fall short, God’s grace covers our failures. Although we struggle to love God and stumble in our love for others, His great love for us revealed in Jesus Christ means that we can be forgiven and given both the opportunity and the strength to live differently in the future.

    The “fruit of righteousness” that we all long for “comes through Jesus Christ.” He enables it. He accomplishes it. He empowers it. Pray for His help to “be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”

    ThuThursdayAugAugust9th2012 Mercy triumphs over judgment
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged James 0 comments Add comment

    Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)

    The funny thing about Christians is that we love to extend grace and mercy to ourselves, but are often quick to judge others. Even in the area of showing favoritism we may find it easier to point out this sin in other people (“But it’s so glaringly obvious!”) while failing to own up to it in our own lives (“I honestly don’t think I struggle in this area.”).

    Once again James is clear on how we should proceed. Both our words and our actions should exhibit our firm conviction that there is a real God who is really going to judge us. We should speak and act as if we really believe all the doctrine we love to vigorously defend. There should be real, tangible proof in our lives that the gospel has taken root in our lives and is growing and bearing fruit (as Paul would tell the Colossians).

    How does your life match up with your faith? Where are the inconsistencies? How might God be calling you to live differently from this point on?

    WedWednesdayAugAugust8th2012 Love your neighbor
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged James 0 comments Add comment

    If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:8-11)

    There are many things in life about which the Bible is silent, but James holds no punches here. “If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” There’s no wriggling out of this one. This isn’t a grey area open to multiple alternative interpretations. If we continually and knowingly show favoritism towards some people based on the appearance of wealth and stature, while ignoring, or worse still, actively discriminating against others because of their appearance of poverty, then we are guilty of sin. Sin that needs to be confessed and repented of. Sin that needs to be called out and declared as such. Sin that cannot be swept under the carpet or ignored.

    So today is a day for each of us to pause for a moment of awkward and uncomfortable self-examination. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, but are we really doing that? If we’re brutally honest, whom do we have a tendency to show favoritism towards? How can we begin to show love and display a spirit of fairness and impartiality?

    TueTuesdayAugAugust7th2012 Rich in faith
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:5-7)

    To some extent it makes sense that we are drawn to people who are wealthy and successful. After all, quite often people who are rich have worked hard to achieve their success. If an employer is evaluating two prospective candidates for a job, and one has been successful throughout their life, making a lot of money, whereas the other one is unemployed and homeless, then it makes sense to favor the rich and successful person. Likewise, it is a natural tendency to want to spend time with people who are “going places,” and have goals and aspirations in life.

    However, James cautions his readers about embracing what comes “naturally” to our hearts and what “feels good” to be doing. Although a rich and successful man may do wonders for the bottom line of your business, in God’s economy it is character that carries the most weight. The single greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and Jesus was clear that the accumulation of wealth makes this pursuit exponentially harder.

    So it is that from James’ perspective, it makes no sense at all for us to be showing favoritism towards the wealthy while ignoring the poor. We simply cannot assume that material and financial success is a sign of spiritual health and vitality. We must work actively to guard our hearts against this tendency towards showing partiality to others based on their social status. God’s heart is for everyone to hear the gospel and respond in faith. May we be people who work together with the Holy Spirit to see this accomplished.

    MonMondayAugAugust6th2012 Do not show favoritism
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged James 0 comments Add comment

    My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)

    I saw a commercial on television recently where they filled almost every single seat in an entire movie theatre with the biggest, gnarliest, roughest looking bikers you can imagine. These guys all had long hair, torn jeans, chains, tattoos, beards and the sourest looks possible on their face. As a trick, the marketers left two empty seats right in the very middle of the theatre, and then waited to see what would happen when they sold those seats to young, unsuspecting couples out on a date. The hidden camera recorded their reaction as they walked into the theatre and encountered a room full of glaring gang members.

    What would your first reaction be? Panic? Shock? Confusion? Hesitation? Anger?

    In the commercial, most of the time the clean-cut couples surveyed the scene and then left to go complain to management. However, one brave couple did eventually push their way past all the bikers to the middle of the theatre and sat down, at which point they were lit up by a spotlight, the entire theatre erupted in a roar of approval, and every sour grimace turned to beaming smiles of joy and acceptance.

    Whether we admit it or not, we make judgments about other people all the time. Sometimes without even talking with someone else we start to draw conclusions about them based on the clothes they wear, the car they drive, even the way they move. It’s a depressing reminder of our daily battle against sin. We like to think of ourselves as far more advanced in the process of sanctification than we really are, but moments like this shine a penetrating light on our tendency towards self-centeredness.

    James is very clear in his letter, “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” Certainly we are called to be wise and prudent in our dealings with other people, but let us stop trying to cover up the snap judgments we make about other people and commit to loving generously instead.

    FriFridayAugAugust3rd2012 Go and make disciples
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Baptism 0 comments Add comment

    Life is busy. Things can get very chaotic, very quickly. However, in the middle of everything Jesus’ call on our lives remains crystal clear. Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, love our neighbors as ourselves, and go and make disciples.

    Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

    It’s no accident that in this “commissioning” ceremony Jesus commands his disciples (and therefore us, too) to not only make disciples, but to baptize them as well. It’s a package deal. A disciple is someone who has been baptized, and when they make disciples, those new disciples will be baptized as well. It’s not just a symbol of what has already happened, it’s the starting point for an entirely new way of life.

    Everyone who has put their faith in Jesus and is serious about pursuing His call on their lives should get baptized. If you have never been baptized yourself, call the church and get signed up today. We’re having a large baptism ceremony on September 8, and we’d love for you to join us. No public speaking required!

    ThuThursdayAugAugust2nd2012 Repent and be baptized
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Baptism 0 comments Add comment

    There’s a recurring pattern involving baptism that we see throughout the New Testament. As soon as someone puts their faith in Jesus Christ, they are baptized. The two go hand-in-hand. Baptism, therefore, is something we do not just out of obedience, but also as soon as possible after conversion. In the New Testament we see no waiting period, no classes to take and no special services to attend.

    When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

    Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

    With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:37-41)

    Believe. Get baptized. It’s that simple. We don't need to make it any more complicated than that. If you have put your trust and faith in Jesus then get baptized. Have you?

    WedWednesdayAugAugust1st2012 The old is gone
    byJonathan Ziman Tagged Baptism 0 comments Add comment

    Your old life is gone. It’s dead and buried. It’s been cast off; discarded completely. When you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you died to sin.

    What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

    Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

    In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14)

    Paul’s amazing exposition on sin and death strikes deeply to the core of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We have been set free from the penalty of sin and given new life in and through Jesus Christ. What an incredible and astonishing blessing that is! This is what baptism is all about.

    Our baptism in water symbolizes our intimate identification with Jesus. In the act of being submerged under the water we are, in effect, dying to sin, dying to our old selves, and joining Christ in His death on the Cross. When we are raised up out of the water we are symbolically coming alive in Christ, joining together with Him in His Resurrection.

    This is not just a symbolic act to make us feel good, but the very real and tangible beginning of a new chapter in our lives—“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Who do you know who needs to get baptized? How can you encourage them to take this next and important step of faith?

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