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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hold Out the Word of Life

Continuing the S.H.I.N.E. acrostic, "H" is Hold Out the Word of Life. Paul encouraged the church in Phillipi to hold out the word of life. Other versions say "hold fast to the word of life". What is the word of life? It is the message that brings life - which is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus. So, we should "hold on" to this truth in our own faith and also "hold it out" for others to see as we strive to "Shine Like Stars" in the universe.

How can we do this? By being different than the world. The text of Philippians 2:15 calls the world a crooked and depraved generation. Crooked means bent, not straight. Depraved is morally corrupt or perverted (KJV says perverse). As Christians, we should be set apart from the world. This is the meaning of being holy and living a holy, righteous life—to be set apart. We are not to engage in the sinful activities the world promotes, nor are we to retain the crooked and depraved mind that the world creates. Rather, we are to conform ourselves, and our minds, to that of Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:1-2 says "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." This is a daily activity and commitment.

Several years ago I came across this quote on my mom's bulletin board:

What we choose to do in our daily lives really does affect us and our thinking, even though we may not want to admit it. Also, the choices we make can have an impact on our ability to hold out the word of life (the Good News of Jesus) to others.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How can I SHINE?

In my study, I began to make an acrostic using the word SHINE. Beginning with "S", it was logical to start with the first part of the verse "do everything without arguing or complaining". "S", then would be STOP ARGUING AND COMPLAINING! Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Well, we all know, this isn't always easy to do and for some of us, it's harder than it is for others of us. At the time I began this study, my mom had this verse on her chalkboard in her kitchen. That is a pretty good thing for us to do - put a much-needed verse where we are reminded of it throughout our entire day. In fact, Deuteronomy 6:6-9 refers to just that. We may need many verses posted around the house to remind us of God's Word and how relevant it is to our everyday lives.

Here's a question for each of us: Why do we complain and argue? Let's look at three reasons we may argue and complain.

1. We argue and complain because we are selfish. Maybe things are not going the way we want them to. Maybe they truly are not going the way that would be best, but we have to be really careful to not be selfish in our thinking...make sure that we are not only looking to our own interests, but are concerned about the interests in others and their well-being. Am I being selfish in my thinking? Is what I am upset about really that important?

2. We argue and complain because we are suffering. None of us really want to suffer in any way, do we? But is what we are going through really suffering or is it the persecution that God's Word tells us we will endure and that we should willingly endure to allow our faith to become stronger? Remember that James 1:2-3 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." God may be allowing this trial in our lives to test our faith and help us grow.

3. We argue and complain because we are unthankful. Sometimes we fail to see just how much God has really blessed us. We concentrate on the negatives instead of on the positives. We let the little petty stuff fill our minds and our spirit, instead of dwelling on what is truly important. We begin to look inward at ourselves, instead of looking upward toward God. When we look to ourselves or even look to others for happiness, we will always be disappointed. Only our faith and trust in God and His ability to supply us with everything we need, will keep us from being unthankful.

How can we learn to not complain?
The most important thing we can do in learning not to complain is to learn to be content. We, as Americans, tend to want more and more. We are not satisfied with what we have, but constantly strive to have bigger and better. Paul later tells us the key for being content. He says in Philippians in 4:12-13 "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret (emphasis mine) of being content in any and every situation, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The secret, Paul says, is getting our strength from Christ and nothing else. Being content by being in Jesus, as a child of God.

How can we learn to not argue?
By listening to others opinions and not thinking my way is the only way, and sometimes by just letting things go. Remember what Philippians 2:15 says “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God, without fault. When we do choose to complain and argue, we are not being blameless and pure and we are surely not looking like children of God, without fault.

We can all make make an effort to stop arguing and complaning, but most likely it is something we will work on for a long time. We may fail and go back to our old ways in this area, but by putting our faith in God and realizing like Paul did that it is Christ who gives us strength, then with His help, we will stop the arguing and complaining. We will be making an effort to not continue in this sin. In order to "Shine Like Stars" we must also strive to imitate Christ.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Star Light, Star Bright

A few years ago, I was preparing a lesson for ladies' class. I was reading in Philippians and got to a very familiar verse, 2:14, which says "do everything without grumbling or complaining". That verse is something I keep in mind at many times, yet don't always take to heart. In fact, I think I've probably even quoted that verse to my children to make a specific point about an attitude they may be displaying :).

But, reading on, into verse 15-16, I read something that I had probably read before, but it never had really sunk it. ..."so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars (emphasis mine) in the universe..."
Wow! Putting those three verses together makes it very real that my attitude - and my grumbling and complaining - not only affects me and those in my family or have a close relationship with, but can also influence those around me that I may not even realize I have an influence on - those that I just casually meet with from time to time.

I decided to turn my focus to these few verses and find out more about how as Christians we should, indeed, "Shine Like Stars". More about those findings will be posted later.
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