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Excellence of God’s People: Doing Our Best

I stumbled upon the below text in my studies. It orginates from a book called  “Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue” and thought..AMEN! See if you agree 😉

“In this spirit (of excellence), therefore, let us pursue excellence. As we have seen, far from being optional, excellence is in fact a divine mandate that applies to every aspect of our lives, for God himself is characterized by excellence. Mediocrity, sloppy workmanship, and a half-hearted effort do not bring glory to God or advance his kingdom”.

Powerful statement!

How many of us wake up with a focus to be excellent for God? The daily grind of employment, home-schooling, ministry commitments, and activities keeps us in a routine of tasks. Do we ever take a moment of pause and ask, “Am I doing my best?” More importantly, “Is my best a reflection of God’s glory here on the earth?” In the midst of the struggle to balance all of our activities, we often become distracted regarding our fellowship with the Spirit of God, especially throughout the day. He is our Beloved One, it is only fitting that He receives worship by way of mindful work in the Spirit of Excellence?

Included in Believer’s love for the Father through Christ our Lord, there should be a desire to do our best for Him; not from a works-based motive, but from a sincere organic closeness to engage with Him as the leader and active participant; and as the writer stated, of every aspect of our lives. If Emmanuel was with you every day, how would you operate? Would mediocrity be your norm?

The focus of Excellence in terms of it’s effect on the Church along with her individual members can be a bit blurry. Societial norms coupled with pride of life has had its effect on our efforts operate in excellence. The result is either an exaltation of excellence or a complete dismissal of the idea of Excellence in the life of the Believer. It can be viewed as legalistic, however, if we look closer to this idea we can soundly argue that excellence does not equate legalism.

For it is written:

Psalm 16:3 – As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

Proverbs 12:4 – An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

Daniel 6:3 – Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

Secular vs. Sacred

Both secular and sacred(church) culture has provided contributions to the perversion of Excellence. I’m speaking specifically to the perception of our effectiveness in secular society, the tools we may use as expressions of worship, and our ability to execute in Faith.

Traditionally, secular society has tagged persons with exceptional abilities or talents as persons are “gifted”.  The same goes for American church culture. It’s often said that a person is “gifted” in things like accounting, or singing; we’ve even said that preachers are gifted. The perversion also includes exalting spiritual gifts above the Gospel. If we are truthful, God himself has not defined or delegated many of these skills as “gifts”. The result: A culture that exalts or worships exceptional skills, talents and abilities; or, we worship the person(s) with the skill. The perversion of Excellence happens when God the Creator and Soverign Lord is no longer the object of our affections.

On the flip side, you may have a church culture that unconciously surpresses the idea of Excellence, resulting in mediocrity. If Excellence is percieved as legalism the result will be sloppy workmanship and half-hearted efforts which can be as equally sinful. Mediocrity can’t be an option for God’s people….because He is Excellent!

Therefore, service unto the Lord and His people is done with joy and, with excellence. Whether working in secular society or ministry, inside the home or the Arts, the idea of serving the Lord and His people with excellence should be in consideration in all that we do. It’s a part of stewardship and it is worship!

 For it is written:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Lastly, the idea of Excellence in the preaching of God’s word is not left out of this equation. The same issues of idolatry and lukewarmness is evident when Elohim is not the object of worship. Preaching is worship. Excellence in preaching is achived when the Holy Spirit is in charge and there is a resolve to trust God’s Word. Faith in God and full confience in His word (logos) by the Power of the Holy Spirit is the foundation of humility. Preparation is a key component because we know that the those that preach (teach) the Word will be judged with more strictness (James 3:1). I’d like to think that most preachers and teachers of the Word rely on God’s grace, the Word and the Holy Sprit, however, I still have an expectation that ministers of the Word are dilligent to ensure proper preparation that includes sound doctrine.

The Believer’s decision to be Excellent isn’t based on how we do things; but who we do it for.  More importantly, Excellence is a vehicle by which we reflect his glory during our exile here on earth.

Selah

click Propaganda’s Excellent

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The Freedom to Forgive and the Bridge to Reconciliation Pt.1

Forgiveness may be THE most difficult of directives to walk and live out daily for Believers; extremely difficult for secular society. So difficult, that the mere mention to forgive an offense often sparks debate. The foolishness of the world teaches that one should forgive to get “free” from the thoughts, or memories of the wrong committed. But what does the Bible teach?

The first mention of the act or request of pardoning of sins or transgressions is found in the 60th chapter of Genesis starting at the 15th verse. Joseph, while serving as the Pharaoh’s treasurer(steward), reconciles with his brothers.

This example would be the essence and substance of what Elohim will do through the Messiah to come. Additionally, it’s a pattern for future generations of Believers…Forgiveness is indeed divine!

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that true forgiveness is a struggle.  More often than not, we’ll say with our mouths that we’ve forgiven those persons that have hurt or betrayed us but inward, we may find it difficult to release the hard feelings. Our minds will reflect on the offense and our flesh kicks in. Even the notion of pardoning somone’s transgression causes angst and contempt. Soon bitterness takes residency in the heart, and those offenses are harder to let go….but God’s grace is sufficient. He is made strong in our weaknesses.

I stand amazed at Joseph’s reaction to his brothers and the joy of reconciliation that it fosters!

Look to the scriptures, it reads:

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” so they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

What a wonderful example of forgiveness and reconciliation! What would our relationships look like if we chose forgiveness for the purpose of peace and reconciliation?

Selah….to be continued

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Reading Refresher: The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges

jb

Too often, we say we are defeated by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated. We are simply disobedient. It might be good if we stop using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather, we should use the terms obedience and disobedience. When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may in fact be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey.

We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.

Children of a Lesser god: the Idol of Technology

It’s the new Babylon. Technology, Technology, Technology…and its place in civilization.

I recently read a post by a “gen Xer” sharing his views on Machine Learning (Machine learning is a subfield of computer science that evolved from the study of pattern recognition and computational learning theory in artificial intelligence). 

The author, self-professed authority of Biblical narrative,  usues the historical narrative about of the Tower of Babel from the OT. He uses this event as a means to argue the fact that technology exists primarily as a tool to drive behaviors of humans. In that, companies will have and will continue to use technology to control and observe behaviors. He gives some good examples on how they can gain from this information. Ironically, he also brings light of Elohim’s sovereignty.

It is no secret that there is a feeling of uneasiness in this current age. This is one reason.

Technology has given us a since of control, yet there is empiricle data that we are loosing control when it comes to what our children are exposed to, how our personal information is being used through data-mining, and what is consumed through our eyes and ears. Perversion is commonplace and if we are willing to admit it, American Christians would rather go about their days in ignorance, indifference, or avoidance rather than discuss the fact that this is a problem within the Church.

I’m baffled by the fact that people, not just “Christians”,  say they welcome growth but are always trying to avoid being uncomfortable. It would be much easier to fill our conversations with small talk and engage in avoidance rather than apply the word:  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The so-called Christian of our modern age is oblivious to the idolatry of technology.

To admit that technology, sports, and other pastimes are idols would be to admit that many of us are idolaters; and who wants to confess that?!  Moreover, if we talk about it, truth is revealed, when truth comes, then we have to choose between the Creator and the created thing. SELAH  (see the results in Rom 1:22-25)

Tech professionals are taught that the mission of Technology is to INTEGRATE.  This means technology’s use should be the primary driver of the business and daily works in society.  In laymen’s terms: Our lives should solely be dependent on technology…even how we study the Word of God. …just a thought.

Don’t get me wrong I embrace the use of technology. I find it very useful and I believe that society can greatly benefit from all innovation; however, how is it effecting you spiritually?

Is Technology making your sleepy and dumb…bitter or joyful?..Are your bearing fruit? Are you salt and light? Wait!…before you get prideful in your response, you must understand a few things: Posting “inspirational quotes”, engaging in online theological debates on social media may not account for bearing fruit, one may also want to ask: Do my actions glorify God or do they glorify me? For it is written:

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:8b-16).

…and indeed they are…

The wisdom of functioning in a society that is alien to the things of the Holy is the quandary, yet the solution is so simple. We must make the  sacrifice and we must choose to die daily. When we are honest and truthful about our inclinations and desires, this will bring to light the struggle and therefore bring an opportunity for spiritual growth. Do you desire this growth?  Practical application is given in the Word (Matt 6:33, Matt 5:29, 1 Cor. 13, ..and so on) so there is no excuse for ignorance. However, we choose ignorance when we refuse to yield to Godly wisdom, robbing us of spiritual fruit.

Technology and it’s purpose is a simple tool. It’s not needed to worship Elohim, for that’s is why we were created. My sincere exhortation for the Body of Christ is to repent, consecrate yourselves, and live Holy (separate) as God has called us. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should become Amish, nor do I suggest legalism, however please be mindful of your spirit and prefer that which is more important to the Lord Our God in Christ!

Be well!

The Beauty of Hymns: Jesus, I my Cross I’ve Taken (Music written by Bill Moore, Lyrics Henry Lyte)

1. Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

2. Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

3. Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

4. Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

5. Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

6. Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

© 2001 Bill Moore Music.

“Five Marks of Excellence That Could End the Worship Wars” (in your church)

The following contain excerpts of an article written by Dr. Donald T Williams , PhD, is Professor of English and Director of the School of Arts and Sciences at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. You can read the full writing on http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=22-06-019-v

“we cannot find, encourage, and preserve the best contemporary music without knowing those marks of excellence that made the best of the past stand out and survive so long.

What are those marks? There are at least five: (1) biblical truth; (2) theological profundity; (3) poetic richness; (4) musical beauty; and (5) the fitting of music to text in ways that enhance, rather than obscure or distort, its meaning.”

Please check out the full article..I particularly found the following to be true in many cases in today’s contemporary “gospel” or so-called “Christian” musicians and singers, and it reads:

“Fitness: A good fit between the words and their musical setting is essential to great worship music even when text and tune are both excellent in themselves. The most egregious violation of this principle may be A. B. Simpson’s “A Missionary Cry”: “A hundred thousand souls a day / Are marching one by one away. / They’re passing to their doom; / They’re passing to their doom.” If ever there was content demanding a minor key and a mournful, dirge-like tempo, this is it. But this song is set to a completely inappropriate snappy march tune, as if we were happy about the damnation of the unsaved!

Examples of a good fit between message and music are the quietly meditative, plainsong-derived melodies of Picardy in the contemplative “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” and Divinum Mysterium in “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” or the sprightly and joyous rhythms of Ariel in “Oh, Could I Speak the Matchless Worth.” A contemporary song with a good fit is Don Francisco’s ballad, “I’ve Got to Tell Somebody.” Michael Card is especially good not only at writing worthwhile texts but also at giving them appropriate settings”.

For many of today’s American churches, Sunday services are a complete train-wreck when these marks of excellence are not recognized. Most do not feel the need to examine the process by which we follow. Tradition trumps scripture and the Holy Spirit is ignored. The result is performance and entertainment, which is idolatry.

Let’s tighten it up people and clean it up.