Monday, March 31, 2014


We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)

Solomon sent word to Hiram, saying,
“You know that David my father was unable to build a house for the name of Yahweh (his God) because of the wars which surrounded him, until Yahweh put them under the soles of his feet. But now Yahweh (my God) has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune. Behold, I intend to build a house for the name of Yahweh (my God), as Yahweh spoke to David my father, saying,
‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he will build the house for My Name.’  
(1 Kings 5:2–5)

If you’ve followed carefully the last several posts about “seeing” the world differently, you now have a clearer understanding on your place in the world and the spiritual warfare of which we’re a part. 

Each of us who are baptized, committed disciples – we are like the prodigal son (Luke 15) who has come home.  Like the prodigal was washed, so we were bathed in the waters of baptism, and welcomed home with a party…. 

…Now it’s the next morning, and time to get to work, or (if you prefer) go to battle. 
Israel was led from slavery, baptized in the sea, received their instructions, and then went off to conquer their promised land. 
After Jesus was baptized, he was also led to the wilderness and tempted, and then his ministry began. 
So it is with us.  Baptism is when we are cleaned, when we are possessed by the Holy Spirit, and from that moment on, we have been saved (past tense).  Now we are part of God’s kingdom.  Now we are His children.  Now we have agreed to become His slaves and servants.  

Having been saved by the blood of God’s son, how can we not now live every moment in God’s service?  After He has done so much for us, how can we just say “thank you,” and then zip along and think that all we need to do is “be good” and go to church?  It’s absurd.  After what God has done for us, we should surely be compelled to serve Him, love Him with all our heart.  This is true spiritual worship. 
“I urge you, brothers (by the mercies of God) to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and teleios.
(Romans 12:1–2)

How do we do this? 
What is next? 
What direction should we go?

Just as the devil has schemes, so we also must make sure we make some plans and employ a wise strategy.  We need to be ready to resist Satan and obey God.  We should develop a plan for which things to do first, and which things are for later.  There is a time to plant and a time to sow (Ecclesiastes 3), and a time for every purpose.  So what next? 

For the next several posts we’ll take a look at strategy and planning and work for our Father and Master.  Please consider them and apply each to your own life. 

God’s Plan?

These days it’s popular for Christians to say things like “God has a plan.”  Sometimes they ask it as a question, like: “What’s God’s plan for my life”? 

This is not wise

God doesn’t have a plan for your life.  God cannot plan, for He already knows what you will do, and He does not force us to do otherwise.  Planning is for those who don’t know the future – us.  Again: it is OUR job to make plans to serve God – God has done enough! 

Think of God as a King of a Kingdom with aspirations for His kingdom. 
  • We are servants of that kingdom, and He has work for us to do (Matthew 25.14-30; Luke 12.40-48 + many others). 
  • We are His messengers, and He wants us to deliver the message reliably (Matthew 5.16; 22.1-14; Luke 14.16-24).
  • Some of us are shepherds, teachers, and protectors (Matthew 24.44-51, etc.)

Or … think of God as the Head of His household, and His household includes a large farm and lots of commerce taking place, filled with slaves and His children who are also slaves. A good example of this is the famous “parable of the talents” from Matthew 25.14-30.  In this case, the servants know what the Boss wants … and it’s up to them to be productive while He is away.  The only one who is a failure is the one who doesn’t even try. 

There are many other examples and metaphors (Romans 12.3-8), but the point is simple.  God doesn’t have a plan for us.  Rather, He has work for us to do, as in the first scripture above from Ephesians 2.10. 

God has prepared work for you, and given you the talents/gifts/abilities to do it. 
The better question is, will you? 
If so, when?
And if so, will you do it well or poorly? 
Will you serve wisely or foolishly? 
And how often and how severely will the enemy distract and mislead you?
And when he does get the better of you, how will you respond to that?   

God’s House

Let’s learn about our work by using an example from the bible.  Let’s consider some of the history of God’s house. 

While King David was alive, God’s house was a tent, just as it had been since the days of Moses.  David wanted to build God a permanent, nice home, but God had other work for Dave to do: namely, to unify the kingdom and destroy their enemies.  So that’s what Dave did.  Then, as we read above, God assigned Solomon the job of building the Temple.  Do you see that God didn’t have a plan for them … rather He just had work for them to do.  And when they did so with wisdom and zeal, God was pleased.  (And note that the work God has for us to do is based on our abilities – not on our interests!  David wanted to build God’s house, but God had other work for him.  Challenge yourself: are you doing the work you WANT to do, or the work GOD wants you to do?)

After the exile, the Jews who returned also had work to do.  They had to rebuild the temple, rebuild their homes and farms and establish their land, and rebuild Jerusalem.  But in order to do all of that, they had to make a plan … have a strategy.  They decided to do things in a certain order, to cooperate (or not) do so with wisdom and zeal (or not) as they went along.  And they faced lots of challenges!  As soon as reconstruction began on the temple, the northern immigrants to their land (precursors to Samaritans) became frightened and appealed to the Persian Emperor to stop them.  Reading over the stories of Ezra & Nehemiah is very enlightening about these activities and their problems. 

For us today the kingdom is not physical, but spiritual.  Also God’s house (the temple) is now in its perfect form as a heavenly/spiritual temple (Hebrews 9).  The earthly part of this temple is Jesus’ church (1 Corinthians 3.9-17; 1 Peter 2.4-5; etc.) 

We have also been given the task of building the temple (church) as in 1 Corinthians 3.9-17.  But instead of hard rock, the stones of God’s eternal temple is people – it’s us.  So to “build-up” or “edify” our edifice, we must help our brothers and sisters to be stronger and more productive. 

The question is, will we do a good job or a poor one? 
Will you plan, or fail to plan? 
Will we recognize the attacks of Satan for what they are, and work around that, or not? 

Going Forward

In the next few posts I hope to encourage you to see yourself as the servant of God you claim to be, and to make His work your top priority.  If you do, you’ll discover that there are many stories in the bible that are like your own. 

We all need to grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God.  And until we’re mature spiritually (teleios), there is much we will not be able to do.  Some, sadly, will try to do too much too soon, and some will never work to get strong enough to do the hard things. 

As we grow, we will also have setbacks.  Satan will get us.  The question is: will we learn from our setbacks, accept grace, and move forward, or will we quit?  Fact is, most “Christians” neither quit nor grow … instead many make excuses and justify and/or rationalize their behavior.  Even if these people are still saved, how can they avoid the deep shame they will feel when they face the Father of a son crucified to purchase their pardons? 

Eventually we become wiser, stronger, more loving and more durable.  Then new temptations come along, including pride and arrogance.  The world has no lack of condescending “Christians.” 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself:
‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’”
(Luke 18:10–12)

If you’re still working on the hard parts of the SOM, perhaps you’re stuck on one or two things, like having mercy, going the extra mile, or turning the other cheek.  I know very few who consistently turn the other cheek or overlook a wrong.  Instead they retaliate or run away.  And even those who are pretty good at it, do they teach others to overlook a wrong?  Do they teach their children how to master this?  No way!  These are those I mention above who rationalize/justify themselves.  They teach their kids: “Don’t let people walk on you.”  They have rationalizations for this, of course, because it’s more than people can handle. 
                But some are committed to try and keep trying until they grow to this point, and then be able to teach and SHOW their children how it’s done.  Rationalize, quit, or persistently grow.  These are the choices.

We will also find that as we make plans, they’ll be interrupted.  Plans are great.  Plans are right – but – when you’re on the road to Jericho to do the Lord’s work and you see a man beaten on the side of the road, you need to stop and help.  Rigid plans without flexibility are little better than flexibility without a plan. 

because we can

One reason we need to plan is because we can. 

Our Lord once said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.” (Luke 12.48)  For most of human history, people are locked-in to situations over which they have little control.  Many have been born slaves.  Others led off to concentration camps, or had physical or mental disabilities or were illiterate or thousands of other things.  But most of you reading this … you can read, you can serve, and you can choose how and when.  You can choose to watch TV or read the bible.  You can choose to buy a new doo-dad, or support a ministry or a poor person.  You can choose to serve (or not). 

When he was in this life, a rich man was not generous to the poor and sick man, Lazarus.  After both were dead, Lazarus was blessed, and the rich man was tortured in flames.  Why?  Because he hadn't been generous.  And now what he wanted most was to be out of the flames.  And what he wanted second-most was to go and warn his family of the horror that was waiting for them if they lived without deliberate generosity.  (Luke 16.19-31)

As we get older and our minds and bodies break downs, our choices are limited.  If we fail to struggle to get stronger and avoid sin, we will progressively get weaker.  If we fail to be generous, gracious, forgiving, serving people … we will lose our choice.  But – if we are faithful with a little, God will grant us even greater strength and more choices/responsibility (Luke 19.17), because He knows we can be trusted to be wise and diligent.  Read Luke 12.42-48, and be SURE you live accordingly!  Here’s my paraphrase:

“Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his Master will put in charge of His servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?  
Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  
But if that slave says in his heart,
‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and neglects the slaves and to eat, drink and get drunk; The Master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” 
(Luke 12:42–48)

The Six Words

Those who have been around my teaching usually know what I mean when I refer to “the six words,” but I want to repeat it here. 

In one of Jesus’ last lessons before he was murdered, he told the parable of the talents (pasted below).  To the two slaves who had, by their own initiative, made a “profit” for God, God said: “Well done, good and faithful slave.”  Those are the six words.  I live for those words.  I trust that I’m saved, that’s part of what grace does. 

But one of the other things God’s grace does for us is to empower us to be “fellow workers” with God!  He allows us to participate!  And when we’ve served faithfully for a time, He will increase our responsibility in recognition of our growth of faith, wisdom, and faithfulness.  It’s a cycle that makes us stronger and bolder and wiser every year of our miserable lives on this earth.  The more we plan and work the plan and resist distractions and stay flexible and trust on the power of God … the stronger we get, and then the more we can work.  Wonderful! 

Now I’ll sign off with the Parable of the Talents.  As you read it and study and contemplate it, remember that God is the One who leaves on a journey.  We are one of these slaves below.  So the question is … will you stop waiting for some magic to happen, and go forth and pursue God’s will?  Will you take it upon yourself to be more pro-active and do the work, or will you be passive and bury your talents? 

For it’s just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave 5 talents, to another, 2, and to another, 1, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.
In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.
But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

The one who had received the 5 talents came up and brought 5 more talents, saying,
‘Master, you entrusted 5 talents to me. See, I have gained 5 more talents.’
His master said to him,
‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said,
‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’

His master said to him,
‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

And the one also who had received the 1 talent came up and said,
‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you didn’t sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
But his master answered and said to him,
‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I didn’t sow and gather where I scattered no seed. ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the 10 talents.’

For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who doesn’t have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25.14-29

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