Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: opportunity

The greatest reward possible

Assuming you had the necessary skills and the opportunity, what is the biggest earthly prize you would aspire to?

Maybe it’s directing the highest grossing movie of all time…or Quarterbacking your favorite team to a Super Bowl victory…or building a business up from your garage into a global empire…or perhaps you are content to win the lottery and retire to a private island.  What would be “the ultimate prize” for you?

How does thinking about this feel?  Scary?  Overwhelming?  Unrealistic?

As those who believe in Jesus for eternal life, we know this present life will continue on with Him into Eternity Future.  While there are big dreams and opportunities to be had here and now…we should also wonder if there are eternal opportunities that God has made available to us.  In God’s revelation to John, He reveals a big one:

Revelation 22:3-5
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will worship Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever.

They will reign.

Those words carry a weight to them, and they should.  To reign means that a person has obtained or has been given the authority to rule, to lead, and to preside over the lives of others.  While we fully expect Jesus to reign in Heaven and over all creation…John tells us that in addition to Jesus, His servants will reign.

Servant Kings.

Those words don’t seem to go together, but it is exactly what Christ taught to His disciples.

At one point, Peter struggled with comparing the life he left behind with his choice to follow Jesus as a disciple.  He could have believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, continued to work the family business as a fisherman, and still gone to Heaven.  What Peter struggled with was seeing the tangible benefits to accepting Christ’s invitation to intimately follow Him in Discipleship, to living his earthly life learning how to imitate Christ.  Let’s drop into their conversation:

Matthew 19:27-28
Then Peter responded to Him, “See, we have left everything and followed You.  So what will there be for us?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, in the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Notice that Jesus does not rebuke Peter for asking this kind of “What’s the reward?” question.  Jesus replies that there is a reward – a reward of authority – to those who have followed him.  Jesus didn’t say that this magnitude of a reward was available to everyone who believes…rather those who will be great at the renewal of all things are those who, after believing, have spent their earthly lives learning how to imitate Christ.

Learning to imitate Christ, the greatest example of a Servant King, is what will qualify His servants to reign forever and ever.

You and I have the necessary skills and the opportunity to do the same.  Will we follow Christ now so that we, too, can become Servant Kings in eternity future?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

For my son - When it's time to let go

My oldest son has officially finished high school and is getting ready to embark on the next phase of his life.  As I am nostalgically thinking of that time in my own life, I am also thinking of the things God has taught me since then.

This is the third post in a three-part series where I am remembering lessons I have learned later in life that I would love for my son know now...

I chose this post because letting go is hard…for everyone involved.  I don’t know how to be the parent of an adult child.  I’ve never done it before; I’ve never had a relationship like this.  But then again, neither has he.  We both will have to learn to trust God in new ways, as faith can only grow like this when we let go.

When it’s time to let go
originally posted on February 3, 2016

Paul began his letter to Philemon by telling him how he’s being prayed for:

Philemon 4-5
I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.

These aren’t just words of flattery.  Instead, they are Paul’s acknowledgment of Philemon’s maturity and his deserved reputation for his recognizable love and faith.  It is because of Philemon’s progress in becoming Christ-like that Paul can make a very personal request:

Philemon 8-11
For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, I appeal, instead, on the basis of love.  I Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, appeal to you for my child, whom I fathered while in chains – Onesimus.  Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful to both you and me.

We are now introduced to the subject of Paul’s letter.  Onesimus and Philemon had some sort of relationship problem…but at that time, Philemon was a Christian and Onesimus was not.  Since that time, Onesimus has met up with Paul, who then taught him about Jesus.  Under Paul’s guidance, Onesimus trusted Jesus for eternal life and became part of God’s family.

While Paul would often refer to the churches he planted as “his children,” there are only three people in the Scriptures that Paul directly refers to as “his child” – Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus.  Given Paul’s reference to being an elderly man, it’s probable that Onesimus was, like Timothy and Titus, at the other end of the age spectrum.  As the letter continues, it is clear how much Paul cares for Onesimus.

However, as a good father, Paul knows that the next step in Onesimus’ growth and development as a believer is to reconcile with Philemon. 

Philemon 12-14
I am sending him – a part of myself – back to you.  I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place.  But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will.

I’m certain that the tough part for Paul is that he will not be present to facilitate their meeting.  Paul won’t be there to make sure Philemon and Onesimus do this right.  He won’t be able to mediate their grievances.  There’s no guarantee they can successfully reconcile on their own, but there little Paul can do about that while he’s in prison.  So Paul does the best he can – he writes a personal letter to his dear friend on behalf of his son – and he sends Onesimus on his way.

He lets go.

Sometimes, as hard as that is…it’s for best.  No matter how great our parents were, we couldn’t have grown like we did unless we left the comforts of their home.  Mentors are beneficial for a season, and the best bosses can develop us for a time…but we grow the most when we have to trust God and apply the lessons we’ve learned.

Paul even admitted his struggle – I wanted to keep him with me.  But he knew that Onesimus and Philemon would benefit more from this opportunity to be Christ-like after previously hurting one another.  They couldn’t hold on to Paul’s hand and toddle around anymore; they needed to trust God and walk on their own.  Both Onesimus and Philemon needed to choose the right thing, not out of obligation, but of their own free will.

I’ve been on both sides before.  I’ve left my childhood home and the church I grew up in.  I’ve had my mentor leave.  I’ve also been the boss who left the team, knowing that my absence would be a catalyst for their growth.  And soon, I’ll be sending my sons out into the world.  Both sides are hard.

When those moments arrive, it’s best to trust God and let go.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

The effect of a Christian's unbelief

Just because Christians are in the “Holy” family doesn’t mean that we always behave like we are set apart for God.  This fact was also once recognized by a father of an epileptic boy when he told Jesus, “I do believe!  Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).

The Greek work for unbelief refers to a lack of faith or a wavering amount of trust in someone.  The father believed that Jesus could help his son, but he was wavering on if Jesus would help and how much help He would give.  Unbelief isn’t referring to losing one’s eternal salvation (which does not happen); instead, this unbelief is our difficulty to fully trust what our Heavenly Father says He can and will do.  The author of Hebrews similarly used the same word:

Hebrews 3:12
Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God.

The author is telling his readers that for them to not trust God with what He says about Jesus’ coming kingdom is sinful; however, we are also given encouraging direction on how to combat our unbelief:

Hebrews 3:13-14
But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.  For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the confidence that we had at the start.

Our initial confidence in Christ came because we trusted Him with our eternal destiny when we believed Him – that He would take the punishment for our sins and reconcile us with God the Father.  If we apply that same type of confidence in His message (that our choices in this life have future, eternal impact), we will not only avoid a sinful, unbelieving heart but we will also become companions [Metochoi] with Christ and the administration of His future kingdom.

As an example, the author sites what happened after God rescued 2 million Israelites from Egypt:

Hebrews 3:15-19
As it is said:
               Today, if you hear His voice,
               do not harden your hearts
               as in the rebellion. 

For who heard and rebelled?  Wasn’t it really all who came out of Egypt under Moses?  And with whom was He “provoked for 40 years”?  Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?  And to whom did He “swear that they would not enter His rest,” if not those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Same Greek word here for unbelief – after being rescued from the slavery of Egypt, those Israelites didn’t trust God with His plan for the coming kingdom.  The author then uses Israel’s unwillingness to act on what they knew of God as a warning for us:

Hebrews 4:1-2
Therefore, while the promise to enter His rest remains, let us beware that none of you be found to have fallen short.  For we also have received the good news just as they did.  But the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith.

The generation that died in the desert was disqualified from participating in the future country of Israel established by Joshua because they did not trust the messenger God had sent.  They did not faithfully act on the message they had received from Moses.

We likewise have an opportunity to partner with the Greater Messenger – become His Metochoi – if we are willing to faithfully act on His message that we have received.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

When it's time to let go

Paul began his letter to Philemon by telling him how he’s being prayed for:

Philemon 4-5
I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.

These aren’t just words of flattery.  Instead, they are Paul’s acknowledgment of Philemon’s maturity and his deserved reputation for his recognizable love and faith.  It is because of Philemon’s progress in becoming Christ-like that Paul can make a very personal request:

Philemon 8-11
For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, I appeal, instead, on the basis of love.  I Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, appeal to you for my child, whom I fathered while in chains – Onesimus.  Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful to both you and me.

We are now introduced to the subject of Paul’s letter.  Onesimus and Philemon had some sort of relationship problem…but at that time, Philemon was a Christian and Onesimus was not.  Since that time, Onesimus has met up with Paul, who then taught him about Jesus.  Under Paul’s guidance, Onesimus trusted Jesus for eternal life and became part of God’s family.

While Paul would often refer to the churches he planted as “his children,” there are only three people in the Scriptures that Paul directly refers to as “his child” – Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus.  Given Paul’s reference to being an elderly man, it’s probable that Onesimus was, like Timothy and Titus, at the other end of the age spectrum.  As the letter continues, it is clear how much Paul cares for Onesimus.

However, as a good father, Paul knows that the next step in Onesimus’ growth and development as a believer is to reconcile with Philemon. 

Philemon 12-14
I am sending him – a part of myself – back to you.  I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place.  But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will.

I’m certain that the tough part for Paul is that he will not be present to facilitate their meeting.  Paul won’t be there to make sure Philemon and Onesimus do this right.  He won’t be able to mediate their grievances.  There’s no guarantee they can successfully reconcile on their own, but there little Paul can do about that while he’s in prison.  So Paul does the best he can – he writes a personal letter to his dear friend on behalf of his son – and he sends Onesimus on his way.

He lets go.

Sometimes, as hard as that is…it’s for best.  No matter how great our parents were, we couldn’t have grown like we did unless we left the comforts of their home.  Mentors are beneficial for a season, and the best bosses can develop us for a time…but we grow the most when we have to trust God and apply the lessons we’ve learned.

Paul even admitted his struggle – I wanted to keep him with me.  But he knew that Onesimus and Philemon would benefit more from this opportunity to be Christ-like after previously hurting one another.  They couldn’t hold on to Paul’s hand and toddle around anymore; they needed to trust God and walk on their own.  Both Onesimus and Philemon needed to choose the right thing, not out of obligation, but of their own free will.

I’ve been on both sides before.  I’ve left my childhood home and the church I grew up in.  I’ve had my mentor leave.  I’ve also been the boss who left the team, knowing that my absence would be a catalyst for their growth.  And soon, I’ll be sending my sons out into the world.  Both sides are hard.

When those moments arrive, it’s best to trust God and let go.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Final greetings and a warning

As Paul closes out his letter to the believers in Colossae, he has some specific instructions for the few people he knows in the area. 

Colossians 4:15-18
Give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.  And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.  And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”  This greeting is in my own hand – Paul.  Remember my imprisonment.  Grace be with you.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be Archippus?

Paul essentially calls him out before the entire congregation…and to whomever would eventually read the Colossian letter.  The next time someone is introduced to Archippus, I could imagine the conversation going something like:

“Nice to meet you.  Oh, you’re Archippus?  Have you accomplished the ministry God gave you?”

I’m sure Archippus had some mixed emotions when he heard the letter read to the church – feeling some encouragement from Paul, but also feeling a little pressure, too.

However, that’s what good encouragers do.  The help us see the correct path, and then they give us a nudge in that direction.  But we have to be the ones to take the steps and do the ministry that God gives to each of us.

This blog doesn’t write itself.  In order to continue the ministry that Joe started years ago and later handed off to me, I have several things that I must pay attention to.  My own study of God’s Word, my work schedule, my family schedule, and all the other curve balls that life throws at us…all of them must be juggled intentionally in order for me to accomplish the task that God has given to me.

There are times when writing is more difficult than others.  There have been times where I’m writing blogs weeks ahead of when they are posted…but there have been many more times when I’m writing late into Tuesday or Thursday night for something that will post the next morning.  Sometimes the observations come easily, but other times I struggle to find the correct interpretation of a passage.  However, knowing that God is allowing me to partner with Him in this way is a great motivator.  The occasional note back from someone who can either relate to or apply what I write has also been encouraging.

Paul’s point is that we can’t accomplish the ministry God gives us unless we actively pay attention to it.  We cannot be lazy in our efforts and expect God to pick up our slack.  He paid the penalty for our sins because there was no alternative, no way for us to do it.  However, if God hands us a ministry, then He knows we can accomplish it…with the right amount of effort.

Looking back through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, his main focus was to encourage them on to maturity.  One of the best ways to demonstrate and develop our maturity as believers is to pay attention and take care of what God has given us to do.

What opportunities has God placed before you to minister to the people around you?  Don’t compare your ministry to other people’s.  Look at the lives around you, who can you reach?  Are you paying enough attention so you can do what He has given you to do?

In order to accomplish our given task, we have to make hard choices about how we spend our time.  We have all the time in the world to do whatever we think is most important.  How important is the ministry we have received from the Lord?  I encourage you to pay attention and go for it!

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The mystery of the Messiah

When Paul wrote his letter to the believers in Colossae, he was in prison for preaching the gospel.  He wasn’t living the good life…at best, he was spending his days chained to a Roman guard.  Quite possibly, he was chained to a dungeon wall.  And at the end of his letter, Paul understandably asks for prayer.

If you were Paul, what would you ask them to pray? 

Honestly, if I were in that situation, I’d be asking for people to be praying that I’d get out of there.  By my reasoning, prison would be limiting to the ministry that God gave Paul on the road to Damascus so many years prior.  He could reach so many more people with the Good News of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection if he were free to move about the world.  Instead, Paul’s on lockdown.  But Paul doesn’t ask for prayer about that.  Take a look at what he asks instead:

Colossians 4:3-4
At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah – for which I am in prison – so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak.

Paul’s focus isn’t on where he is at the moment.  His location isn’t his primary concern.  Instead, Paul is watching for God to provide opportunities for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah.

Jesus – the Messiah – coming to earth as humanity’s only option for rescue is a mystery to everyone outside of God’s family.  Why would the King of the Universe choose to be born a helpless baby, whose primary goal in life was to die for something that wasn’t His fault?  Why would someone so limitless choose to be so limited?

Those are legitimate questions, and there are many more that people will honestly ask about the mystery of the Messiah.  We need to be watching for opportunities to share the message that gives Eternal Life and hope for the here and now.  Paul knew that he had to lift his eyes above his circumstances…he didn’t need to focus on his current difficulties or limitations, instead he needed to watch for opportunities to reveal the Good News to others around him.

We Christians have a unique opportunity every year at this time to share the mystery of the Messiah.  For the weeks leading up to Christmas and for a short time after, everyone seems to be a little more open to thinking about spiritual questions and how God interacts with their lives.  I pray that you’ll be looking for these opportunities instead of looking at your current limitations.  Be ready and willing to share Jesus with those who so desperately need Him.

Keep Pressing,
Ken