Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Week Five - Agree


“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  Amos 3:3

Agree means – to fix upon by appointment, to gather together at a set time. Agreement means – accord or to company with in sentiment.

Agreement is a vital part of peace.  Walking together is referring to a lifestyle or pattern of conduct.  We must be going the same direction in life if we are to dwell or walk together peaceably.  That doesn’t mean that we have to be identical or agree on everything, but it does mean that we need to have similar goals and similar outlooks on life.  We need to agree on what is acceptable behaviour and boundaries.  Then, we can move forward peacefully with each other and have the tools necessary to resolve arising conflicts.

The Bible speaks of the beauty of agreement and unity among the brethren in Psalm 133 saying, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

The peace in our lives is mainly dependent upon our own agreement with God, initially in salvation, and further, in the process of sanctification.  We must agree that God’s way is best and agree to cooperate with His will and plan if we hope to walk in agreement with Him and enjoy His peace and promises.

God wants us to bring any disagreement to him.  In Isaiah 1:18 God calls us to “Come…and let us reason together...”.  He wants us to walk in agreement with him and is ready to work out the details with us!  Is there anything you need to settle with Him?


“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  Amos 3:3

Peace in our lives is also dependent upon our agreement with those among whom we live whether they are family, workmates, or social acquaintances.  We need to be in agreement in order to have fellowship and social interaction. 

It is very difficult to befriend someone with whom you always disagreed.  We do not usually call these people our friends. We might not necessarily refer to them as enemies either, but they are people whose character or actions bring disagreement to our lives.  Once I heard them referred to as Sandpaper People.

That is an interesting analogy. They are people who rub us the wrong way or who cause friction in our lives.  The effect of sandpaper is to smooth a rough surface.  God can use these Sandpaper People to refine us and make us smoother and take off our own rough edges.

The people with whom we acquaint ourselves do affect us.  “Iron sharpeneth iron”, the writer of Proverbs said.  If we are busy sharpening each other, we won’t have time to dull each other.  We need to evaluate our social community and ask ourselves some hard questions.

Am I sharpening others?  Are those around me sharpening me?  Am I happy and confident on the path of my life and am I secure and confident in the ones walking alongside me? 

If not, I may need to be changing some things.  What can I do to be a better friend?  Do I know what it means to sharpen someone else?  Am I doing things that make for peace?  Is there anyone I need to make peace with?


“Agree with thine adversary quickly…”  Matthew 5:25

Here the word “agree” means to reconcile or have peace of mind with. Don’t leave disagreement lying around.  Quickly, without delay, make things right - This goes for our families, as well as our workmates. 

Matthew 18 gives us the steps for reconciliation.  First, we should go to the person whom we have hurt, or has hurt us and confess any wrongdoing.

“But”, you say, “They hurt me.  Why should I go to them?  Surely, they should come and make it right with me first?”

Well, that sounds good to the average person, but God’s standard is always a bit higher.  Matthew 18:15 says that if your brother hurts (trespasses) against you, then you are to go to him alone and work it out.  He may not know that he has hurt you, or may be fearful to approach you.  Either way, if there is disagreement, you are responsible to make the initial effort to make amends.

We might be fearful about trying to make amends.  But that fear can never outweigh the peace and unity of heart we experience when we have re-gained a friendship.  It is simply a step of obedience and faith that says, “I will not let disagreements build up in my life.”

Do you need to go and make peace with someone?


“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  Amos 3:3

God knew this would be difficult so he adds a bit of a disclaimer in Romans 12:18 saying, “…as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”  We are to make every effort to be agreeable.  This may mean agreeing to disagree. Yet we are not to be brutish or difficult, but seeking peace with all men. 

I Peter 3 is a chapter on husband and wife relationships.  From verse 8-12 gives a list of relational skills that begins with, “Finally, be ye all of one mind” and carries on down to “…..seek peace…”  Endeavour or strive to possess peace is the meaning of this phrase.  So, obviously, peace comes at price.  We have to make an effort.

The diplomat and the arbitrator have similar jobs.  They are to strive to seek peace between two parties by coming to a common agreement on issues.  This might mean compromise or it might mean reward or recognition in order to attain the goal, but they know the desired end that they are steadfastly working toward.

Many times we forget that family might have to do the same thing.  We might have to set down and talk about the things that hurt us or the things that are not going well.  We might have to seek peace by changing some things in our family structure, but peace is the goal and it only comes by agreement.

We might have to come to the table several times before things start to work peaceably, but it is worth the effort!  “As much as lieth in you...” is a tall order.  There is no room here for short tempers and impatience.  Agreement comes from greater understanding and truth spoken with love and graciousness, and it might just take some time.


“…that if two of you shall agree…”  Matthew 18:19

The settling of a dispute or the end of hostilities is a wonderful thing.  When two people have sat down and honestly worked through their differences, a deeper bond is forged.  The two become a stronger unit.

This verse is followed in verse twenty by “for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  Agreement invites Christ into the situation.  Verse 19 indicates that agreement empowers prayer as well, so, there is truly something to be said for staying right with others.

We are not to be disagreeable as Christians.  Our stance is to draw men to Christ, not push them away.  If we are always striving and never reconciling we leave a trail of devastation that inhibits our fellowship Christ and hinders the power of our prayer life.  It is a poor testimony.

Proverbs 16:7 records “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

Most likely, there will be some people with whom we will never fully agree, but this verse gives us a higher standard again.  Do our ways please the Lord?  Forget about pleasing others for right now; start with the Lord.  Can you honestly say that you are in agreement with him about your attitude and actions?  If so, then carry on and let him take care of those who oppose you.

If you need to make some changes; then make them in order to please the Lord alone.  Agree with Him and he can make you agreeable to others.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Week Four - Acknowledge


“…In all thy ways acknowledge….”  Proverbs 3:6

This word has three distinct definitions: 1) you can acknowledge that you know something because you have seen it.  2) You can acknowledge by scrutinizing.  3) You can acknowledge by honouring.

In the witness stand a person gives an account of events that they have seen.  The court does not want to hear second hand information or thoughts about the events, but they want to hear what the witness actually experienced and saw with their own eyes. When we give testimony to what Christ has done in our lives, we are doing the same.  Though we may not have seen Him, we can give testimony to what has happened to us by our acknowledging of the fact that He has made a difference.

To acknowledge by scrutinizing can be illustrated by the methods of a forensic scientist.  He examines the evidence to draw out the truth.  Once it is established, it is fact and can be used as evidence to confirm even more truth. We draw out truth as we compare Scripture with Scripture.  The more we study it, the more truth is revealed. 

To acknowledge by honouring can also be illustrated by the picture of the courtroom.  The witness honours the court by acknowledging the authority of the bench and swears to tell the truth knowing the power of the bench. We honour the Lord when we acknowledge his power and authority in our lives. 

So, “In all thy ways acknowledge…” All thy ways, whether by telling, by study or by submission, let others know He is truth.


“…In all thy ways acknowledge Him….”  Proverbs 3:6

We are to acknowledge God.  Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us a larger picture of what it means to acknowledge God.

         “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean
            not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways
            acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

This passage contains instruction and promise.  We are to trust in the Lord with our whole heart.  This is a big thing for us.  We don’t naturally trust.  We are suspicious and fearful.  But God is not afraid to ask us to trust him.  He knows he can pass the test.  So he says, “Just look and see what I have already done in your life and what I am doing now, how can you doubt that I won’t be able to work for you in the future?”

Trying to live by our wits or our own understanding is a life full of land mines.  Our emotions change.  Our attitudes change.  Our needs and priorities change.  We are always shifting. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Be not wise in thine own eyes…”  This tells us that we think we are smarter than God.  We think we know best and that is nothing but pride.  The self-made man has a prideful heart and no place in his life to acknowledge God.

The promise of the verse is that if we will trust God and stay in our place, he will give us direction.  If we are trusting and humble, then we can actually see the path.  We won’t step on the landmines. We will be walking along with God and direction will come naturally.  We will see God’s activity in the everyday things of life and as we move through the every event of life.  We may go through deep valleys, but we will know we are not alone and will be quick to acknowledge Him in all things.


“For I acknowledge my transgressions:
 and my sin is ever before me.” 
Psalm 51:3

David wrote psalm 51 after the prophet Nathan revealed to him that God knew about David’s sin with Bathsheba.  David simply owned up to God about the sin.  He knew there was no profit in denial.  He could never hope to hide his sin from God.

It isn’t easy for any of us to admit that we have done wrong.  We will go to great lengths to avoid being found guilty.  We will lie, hide, avoid people, get angry, drop out of church, cause contention, cast blame and any number of other tactics to keep from facing that fact that we have failed.

In Psalm 32:5 David wrote, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.  I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”

One of the most wonderful things about God is his ability to forgive.  God wants to forgive. That is his business!  Yet, it is dependent upon our willingness to admit our failures.  We are the ones who need to confess and ask.

Confessing is not just saying, “Sorry, God.”  No, it is more than that.  Proper confession acknowledges not only the wrong, but lays out before God the motives and actions.  It recognizes that sin is offensive to God and humbly seeks to be forgiven.

Have you ever truly bowed your knee before God and found him unwilling or unable to forgive?  Do you need to do business with God today?


“…to the acknowledging of the truth.”  II Timothy 2:25

Working with teenagers can be a challenge.  They always want to cast the picture to their favour.  I remember trying to work through situations to get to the truth of the matter and it could be like pulling teeth to get them to admit that they were wrong in their response or attitude.  I would have to explain and illustrate and usually, eventually, they would acknowledge the truth of what I was trying to teach them. Once they had acknowledged the truth, we had a basis from which to work toward a solution.

In this passage in II Timothy 2:2-26, Paul is telling Timothy that he may have to deal with some people in the same way.  The passage says that some people “oppose themselves”.  In other words, they are in conflict within themselves.  They may know what truth is, but they don’t want to look at it, they would rather choose to believe a lie.

Timothy is instructed to deal with them in meekness in hope that God will be able to bring them to the point where they will repent of the lie and acknowledge the truth.  Until they do, they are captive of the devil. It is a sad day when a person refuses to come to the truth.  Their life will be filled with hardship and more lies. 

If I could not get through to my teenager, more conflict would follow.  If they responded to my instruction, harmony was restored in the home and they made another step in maturity, which brought them more confidence and a better relationship within their family and friends.  The same is true in adults. Living a life of truth brings cleansing to our lives.  We can move forward with a clear conscience and in full fellowship with Him. 

What about you?  Are you struggling against the Spirit of Truth with a teenage attitude?  Remember, surrender is winning in God's game.


“…acknowledge ye them that are such.”  I Corinthians 16:18

Paul is about to finish his first book to the Corinthian church.  With all the instruction of the book about finished, he has a few last pieces of advice and this has to do with the way they treat each other.

In verse 16 he tells them to submit themselves to those who labour among them and then he moves on to thank the people who met his need saying in verse 18, “...for they have refreshed my spirit and yours…”

We see here two types of people that should be acknowledged.  First, we should acknowledge by obedience, those who serve us in the spiritual realm; like pastors and teachers.  Second, we should acknowledge by appreciation, those who serve us in the physical realm; those who help meet our needs and encourage us by their actions and service. 

And who would those be? Doctors, nurses, parents, friends, postman, etc.: there are so many people throughout our lives that make contribution to our personal comfort and advantage.  God is telling us to be thankful for individuals such as these.

Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  We all look for it in the things we do and we all recognize when it is not there.  Yet, are we careful to show appreciation ourselves?  When was the last time you took time to express your appreciation by acknowledging the kindness of someone else with a kind word, a little note of thanks, or a gift of appreciation in return?

A grateful heart will acknowledge the goodwill of others and actively respond.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Acceptable - Week Three


“…whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear…”  Hebrews 12:28

Acceptably.  It means to be well pleasing or so as to please.  This is to be the attitude with which we serve our Lord.  All our service is to be done with the goal of pleasing Him.

Contrariwise, we can serve unacceptably and Scripture reveals this to us when it admonishes us not to serve with eye-service as men pleasers, but remembering that all our works will be tried with fire.  God can see straight through a false or shallow motivation.
I also think the word is a bit deeper than simply pleasing the Lord.  I think of it as meaning worthy of God’s stamp of approval, or, of a certain quality that would bring glory to His name.  I imagine God looking at the service I have performed and giving me a smile of approval. It’s that “Well done my good and faithful servant” that I am longing to hear and the standard I want to maintain.
Acceptance comes with a couple of qualifiers – reverence and godly fear.  Reverence means with caution, to beware, or respect.  Godly fear is like apprehension, a mingling of fear and love that produces piety of man toward God and keeps him humble.

This tells me that there is no place for pride in my service. It is a privilege to be a servant of the King and I should remember my place and serve humbly and acceptably with due respect. 


“…having received…the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”  Philippians 4:18

Nothing is so precious as a gift at just the right time. We were really struggling one Christmas on the mission field.  We were trying to put on a brave face for the children and had managed to get a few gifts under the tree, but it was slim by any estimation.  We hadn’t told anyone, but were just going on by faith.

It was Christmas week and the evening of our mid-week service when we got a call from a fellow missionary.  We invited him to come, but he declined saying that he would like to drop in for a visit after services.  It was a strange request, but of course we welcomed him.  That evening we hurried home to prepare for our visitor. We got the kids to bed and shortly thereafter he and his wife knocked at the door.  After a short chat they said they had something for us in the car and would be right back. 

After six or seven trips to the car our kitchen was filled with food and there were gifts for all the children.  Our hearts were simply overwhelmed.  Our benefactors then handed us a simple white envelope and said their goodbyes without even accepting a cup of tea. 

As we opened the envelope, the card contained a large sum of cash.  This proved to be one of the biggest Christmases we have ever had, and one of the sweetest and the least forgotten.

The blessing of God was upon us truly, but the odour of a sweet smelling sacrifice was accounted to the giver whose generosity and joyful giving was without doubt well pleasing and acceptable before God.


“Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:10

The instruction to “prove” here means that we should take time to examine, consider or test our actions with the expectation of being approved. Matthew Henry said that we should “search diligently what God has revealed to be his will…to enquire and consider what will be acceptable to him.”
This tells us that we need to consider our actions - to weigh them against God’s Word.

The verse is sandwiched between many verses of admonition about the need for a Christian to be a shining example and warning about the evils of this world. We need to be wary of seeking our own approval.  Our judgment might not be exact when it comes to what is acceptable to the Lord, so we need to check ourselves, to prove what is truly acceptable.

The Psalmist David many times asked the Lord to examine his heart and motivations.  Psalm 139: 23, 24 is a great example.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thought: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  David is known as a man after God’s own heart.  Surely we would think that what he did was acceptable to the Lord, but we also read of David’s stumbles and unwise decisions when he failed to test his choices before acting upon them.  If David needed this proof, then we most assuredly do as well.

There are always choices before us.  We would do well to stop and consider which are the best choices; which ones stand the test of God’s Word and which ones are truly acceptable to the Lord.


“For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?  But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”  I Peter 2:20

Is this verse saying that our suffering is acceptable to God?  Not really.  The subject of the verse is the basic cause of the suffering and our attitude toward it. To paraphrase it might read – So, if you are in the wrong and receiving what is due to you, then what praise can you expect?  Even if you manage to endure it, it is still only what you justly deserve.  There is nothing special in that. However, if you are not in the wrong and are still being attacked or punished and you manage to endure without retaliation or a bad attitude, then that is the attitude that is pleasing to the Lord.

Christ is our example here.  When he was reviled (criticized in an abusing manner), he did not revile again.  When he suffered physical abuse, he did not threaten others with the same but committed himself to God for judgment of his right attitude. This is truly a high standard! 

To keep our mouth shut and our attitude adjusted when we believe we are being falsely accused or taken advantage of is not easy for most of us.  We want to be right and to be recognized as good people, but sometimes it doesn’t come out that way.  To be acceptable with God means that we allow Him to do the judging and to delve out the justice.  We are to accept it patiently.


“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”  I Peter 2:5

We are living stones of a spiritual house.  We are holy and are to be acting as priests of old offering up spiritual sacrifices.  Maybe we should stop and define what these might be?  These might be divided into four basic sacrifices. 

First, offer ourselves as Romans 12:1 gives direction “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Second, offer our praise, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”  Hebrews 13:15.

Third, offer our service as Hebrews 13:16 tells us, “But to do good and to communicate (share or give) forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased”. 

And, fourth, our possessions as Philippians 4:18 records, “having received…the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”

It is interesting to note that God is not talking about works of our own self will, but sacrifices given to Jesus Christ and because of his work in our lives.  They spawn from a grateful heart that has been redeemed and this is the reason they are acceptable.  They are fruit of the Spirit in action.