15 Nov 2017
Many church choirs are very good. They’re easy on the ears because there is a unified blending between the higher and lower voices. The choir members have common goal, mixing their voices together to create harmony. Sports teams that win championships aren’t always the ones with the most talented athletes. More often, they are the teams that have few superstars but really are united as a team.
Ever wonder why that is so? When people have common goals, like great harmony or winning a championship, they put aside their own agendas and work for that goal. However, if individual egos emerge, disunity destroys the harmony. This is why so many great teams fall apart after big wins. Too many egos want credit and demand bigger contracts. Without unity, the common goal is unreachable.
It is very much the same with the church. The most effective church is one that has the unified purpose of spreading the love of God. The goal is to preach the Good News and nurture those who hear and accept the Word. When new believers accept Christ, they may think that that is enough. But seasoned Christians know that the devil is prowling around, waiting to cause believers to stumble. It is absolutely necessary for new Christians to have a safe and harmonious refuge where they can be nurtured and taught. Then they can grow in Christ. We must commit ourselves to harmony in our churches so that each believer can be an effective servant of Christ.
24 May 2017
Back in February, there was a really moving story on TV about a young girl in Chicago who was killed by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting. Her organs were donated to six different persons. Each person came together with the mother of the slain girl to celebrate their happiness and joy because recipients had been given new life because of the death of this young person. There were hugs of gratitude and tears of delight as the recipients celebrated and at the same time, cried for the loss that made it possible.
As tragic and wonderful as this story is, it makes us wonder why don’t we celebrate and feel the gratitude and joy that these donor recipient’s felt when we consider the death of Jesus and the new eternal life that comes to us as a result. If we stop long enough to contemplate that the Son of God was killed so that we all could get a new heart transplant, then the joy we might feel might be contagious.
As we spread the joy to others, we will witness to them that our faith is not a bunch of “Thou shalt not’s” Rather, our contagious, joyful faith will infect and draw people to Jesus. Joyful people are kind people. Kind people are the most convincing evidence of God’s love.
It all starts with gratitude for the undeserved gift of a transplanted heart (grace). When we recognize the new life that new heart offers us, really recognize the enormity of the gift… Joy is the emotion… kindness is the gift to others… and to Jesus.
09 May 2017
Ever consider the real reasons why we obey traffic laws, don’t we cheat on our income taxes, and do not even consider stealing shoes, perfume or other items when we go into a store? We all like to think of ourselves as upstanding, moral human beings. Our answer is most likely, “Because it is the right thing to do!”
But if we are honest with ourselves, a very big reason we obey the police, don’t steal, tell the truth on our taxes and are faithful to our spouses is FEAR. It is the fear of landing in jail… fear of going to prison for tax evasion and fear of divorce… or worse… if we got catch cheating.
So, ask yourself, why do we obey God’s laws? Why are we moral and regular church attenders? Could it be the same reason that we avoid the issues listed above… FEAR? Are we afraid that if we sleep around, do drugs or do not give enough to the church, God will notice and punish us? Are we frightened that if we do not memorize enough Scripture and volunteer the perfect number of hours, somehow we just might not be “good enough” to be accepted into heaven when it is our time to die? Is it a spirit of fear that is our incentive to live good lives?
The Bible speaks about how perfect love drives out fear. (See I John 4:18 and Romans 8:15). It expresses how the Holy Spirit writes the law of God on our hearts and does not make us slaves to fear or bondage. What does that mean for us?
It means that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us that the perfect love of God was coupled with His wisdom and expressed to us with Jesus death and resurrection.
It means that the Holy Spirit will change our incentives and motivations from fear to joyful gratitude.
The Holy Spirit points us towards recognition of the fact that in Jesus we have the perfect example of God’s love. When we recognize and receive this perfect gift our responses change. The fears of losing out, fears of not being good enough, fears of punishment are banished. As God’s heirs, we rest in the kind, loving arms of a God who valued us so much He sent His only Son to rescue us.
Live without fear!
18 Jan 2016
Adjusting our attitudes and seeking to follow Jesus to move on to a better lifestyle is something for which we all strive. But the reality is that the devil as well as our own sinful natures love sin and they make it hard to overcome what some call “besetting sins.” We know they are recurring because we see them showing up in our life all the time. Is there any hope for us when we find ourselves doing the same stupid stuff over and over and over? Yes!
We can take great comfort in the realization that Jesus understands what it’s like to be tempted. His Father didn’t spare Him that experience. Because Jesus went through the agony of temptation, He can be an understanding friend in our agony too. The story of Jesus’ temptation in Luke 4 tells us that Jesus had been fasting when Satan came to Him. Christ had had no food for forty days. Knowing that Jesus was very hungry, Satan tempted Him at His point of vulnerability. “‘If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.’ But Jesus told him, ‘No!’ The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life'” (Luke 4:3-4). On the surface the devil’s request seems reasonable. After all, Jesus could have changed the stones into bread. But Jesus saw beneath Satan’s challenge. He saw that the devil really wanted Him to obey him, to do his bidding. But Jesus refused the temptation to be conned by Satan. Jesus passed the test.
Remember that Jesus knows the score. He faced temptation, and He promises to help us face it too. We can trust that God knows our situation and is concerned about our welfare. That is the concrete slab under our lives. It’s the firm foundation on which all other defenses against temptation are built. Follow Jesus’ lead, and memorize a key Scripture passage… something that is meaningful to your individual situation and temptations. Repeat it out loud when tempted and watch the devil disappear.