The Devil Smiles
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The devil smiles when there’s quarreling and arguing within our churches. Nothing makes him happier than to hear one sister or brother in Christ trash another. The results of this behavior are conflict and hurt feelings. It’s hard to demonstrate a loving attitude towards those people we know who are not Christians when the Christians themselves can’t get along with each other.

     This type of fighting is sin! It must stop if the church is to be an effective witness to Christ’s love. But why do we divide the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 3:3, tells us that we’re controlled by our sinful natures. Almost every divisive argument in the body of Christ is rooted in selfish motivations that seek power over the direction of the church. We who yell the loudest sometimes use God’s Word as a cover-up to hide our desire for power.

Our sinful natures want to control others. Before some of us met Jesus, in our former “street lives” we would manipulate people with our charms, or position or our money. Let’s not use God’s Word to bend people to our way of thinking. This is wrong and sinful.

The Bible offers us the blueprint for daily interactions.  We must imitate the humility of Christ, considering others to be better than ourselves and loving others with patience and kindness (see Philippians 2 and 1 Corinthians 13). If these traits are part of our character, we can discuss differences of opinion without damaging our relationships. Humility and love will prevail. Disunity will fade away. We will unite and be a strong, integrated Christian front to society and the non-believers in our circle of influence. Only then will we get on with the task of representing Jesus to the world in a loving and effective manner.

Jim Vogelzang
Making Peace
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Remember those hot summer afternoons when all the relatives would come together, have a barbecue, and visit? But if two family groups were divided and angry at one another, the reunion could become hostile and unpleasant. The groups needed to be brought together for the family to live in harmony. Unfortunately, pride often kept fighting family members from admitting fault and making peace. It’s pretty much the same situation with God and us.

God created a perfect world. Adam and Eve brought sin into the world through disobedience and pride (see Genesis 1–3). There was a disruption in the harmonious relationship between God and mankind, and that disruption still exists. It needs to be repaired because the deepest need all humans have is reconciliation with God. When we are at odds with God, we have no harmony in our lives. Our family relationships suffer. Our dealings with authority inside the walls deteriorate. We require peace with God. But, our pride, anger, and self-will keep us from making peace with Him.

The good news is that God pursues us, even when we ignore Him. He sends His Holy Spirit to follow us around, knocking at the door to our hearts. (See Ephesians 2:16)

When we respond to His call and make peace, our lives change. In place of stubborn arrogance, the Holy Spirit gives us loving spirits that are patient and kind. Rather than a cruel, heartless attitude toward the other people in the pod, we reach out with compassion, empathy, and a listening ear. When we are reconciled to God, we experience tranquility, perhaps for the first time in our lives. It is a major step on the road to becoming sons and daughters of God.

Jim Vogelzang
Don't Worry!
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Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. -Philippians 4:6-7

For some of us, telling us not to worry is like telling us not to breathe. It’s impossible. Our minds are full of worries. We worry about who’s taking care of our kids. We worry about our safety. We worry about how we will endure years of low wages, ungrateful bosses and dead-end jobs.

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-6 that, as believers, we should NOT worry. Is Paul in touch with reality, telling us not to worry? He is not suggesting that the things we worry about are not real. Remember he suffered lots of abuses too. He is also not instructing us just to pretend that things don’t bother us. No, he’s telling us that when we are tempted to worry, we should pray instead. Again, these are not suggestions; these are commands. He doesn’t say, “Maybe you should consider not worrying so much.” He says, “Stop it! Don’t worry about anything.” Not one thing.

Instead—and that’s a key word in this verse—pray. Not occasionally. Not when we feel like it. Pray about everything.

Why does Paul use such strong language? He knows that worry leads to evil and eats away at us—literally. It gives us ulcers. It gives us searing headaches. It robs us of sleep. So he suggests another way: Tell God what you need. Pray about everything. Picture God with His hands stretched out, waiting for you to place your worries in His hands. Then take each worry and give it to Him. Remember, He’s strong. He can hold a heavy load.

Then after praying and giving your worries to God, thank Him for all He has done. All day long, thank Him. What will happen? Paul tells us that we will experience a peace that is beyond our imagining. Try it…see what happens!

Jim Vogelzang
What We Need, Not What We Want
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A great story of friends helping a friend is found in Mark 2:2-5. A man’s friends want their paralyzed buddy to get to see Jesus and get healed. So they dig a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching. Isn’t it strange that instead of immediately reaching out and healing the paralyzed man, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven”? Didn’t He see the man’s obvious need, the need for which his friends brought him to Jesus?

Of course Jesus recognized that the man was paralyzed. But He also saw the man’s deeper need: to have his sins forgiven. Jesus healed the need, which was not what the man’s friends had wanted.

In a way, we are all paralyzed—by guilt, anger, greed, despair, loneliness. We tell ourselves, “What I need is a new job, more money or a better spouse. Then my life would be perfect.” We trust those things to save us. In a sense they are our “gods.” We pray and ask Him to give us what we want, not what we need.

But Jesus loves us so much that He will not simply give us what we want. He knows that many of the things we want will not satisfy. They might even ruin us. Lotto winners, for example, have a history of bankruptcy, wasting their wealth on drugs and gambling.

In Jesus’ wisdom and love, He gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want. He gives us spiritual restoration through the One who satisfies and who forgives when we fail Him. When we look to Jesus, let’s appreciate His gifts in this light…

This biblical story does has a happy ending. Mark 2:10-11 tells us, “Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ ”

Jim Vogelzang
Harmony Out of Chaos
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Many of us like to excuse or rationalize inappropriate behavior by saying we “all have our personal demons.” As if somehow that justifies our coarseness and rebellion. It’s really just a way of giving us cover to act out in a way we’ve already decided to do.

In the account recorded in Mark 5:7, Jesus confronts a man who is filled with actual demons. These demons recognize Jesus and ask Him a question we often ask, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus?” When Jesus asks the demons for their names, they reply cleverly with a fake name to conceal their identity. But Jesus is never fooled. He throws out the demons.

Our smoke screens never fool Jesus either. He sees our real identities. Our smoke screens take the form of paralyzing fear, inner insecurity, restlessness, self-loathing, anger, sexual immorality, drugs, and unsettled minds. We are consumed by racial hatred and love of power, and we are tormented by conflicted spirits. We deny and cling to these demons because we believe we cannot live without them. Yet, Jesus looks into our lives, “interferes” with them, and brings harmony out of our chaos.

How?

He delivers genuine peace by assuring us that we can trust His will for our lives. How many of us would welcome the peace of knowing that a powerful God has our backs? Jesus gives us true sleep-through-the-night rest by demonstrating love that is relentless and unconditional. We can rest in a love that died for us! He anoints our hearts with joy when we serve others in His name.

Jim Vogelzang
Building Spiritual Muscles
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Now Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man. Potiphar’s wife began to desire him and invited him to sleep with her. But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. . . . How could I ever do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” Genesis 39:6-9

 

The Biblical narrative of Joseph is rich (Read Genesis 39:6-9). Spoiled by his father, hated by his brothers, sold into slavery in Egypt and then making it BIG as the head servant in a powerful man’s (Potiphar) household. But, Potiphar’s wife had eyes for this strapping, handsome young man.

As Joseph worked in Potiphar’s house, the master’s wife repeatedly demanded that he have sex with her. This was a tremendous temptation for Joseph. By seeing how Joseph handled it—what he did not do—we can conquer our own sexual temptation.

Joseph did not cave in to lust by deceiving himself into thinking it was the natural thing to do. He did not rationalize that she needed him because Potiphar was not “takin’ care of business” at home. Joseph did not give in to self-pity. He could have fooled himself into believing he deserved a little comfort to compensate for the unjust treatment by his brothers. And, he did not give in to ambition. She was the powerful wife of a powerful man. Joseph could have powered up his career by having an influential woman whispering good things about him to her husband. Giving in to sexual temptation might have even helped Joseph gain his freedom!

Joseph found the strength to fight off this sexual temptation by having something stronger in his life—a more powerful attraction than sex: a relationship with God that transcended human pleasure. Joseph understood his sin would be a sin against God. Joseph’s walk with God undoubtedly involved daily prayer and worship. He worked “God’s free weights” to build up his spiritual strength.  To defeat sexual sin, Joseph shows us we need to have a strong relationship with God in place—before sexual temptation strikes.

 

Jim Vogelzang
Stop Complaining and Arguing
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Like it or not, people watch us. When we confess loyalty to Jesus, people are watching. They can tell who we are by how we act. If we have chosen to follow Christ, people can also tell who He is by how we act. We are a reflection of our Father.

What does that mean? Look below at what Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi. Paul wants us to be pure reflections of God’s character. He wants us to live clean, innocent lives so that when others look at us, they have a clear, unclouded picture of who God is. In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them. Philippians 2:14-15

Interestingly, the behavior that Paul focuses on here is complaining and arguing. He could have chosen any number of other negative behaviors, but he chose complaining and arguing. Why do you think he did that? After all, complaining and arguing aren’t that bad.

But maybe that’s the point. We don’t see them as such destructive behaviors; in fact, if we were honest, we would admit that we indulge ourselves in them all the time. We whine about work. We grumble that our husband is lazy. We find fault with the cable TV people and the car never works right!

But when we complain, when we argue, we smudge the reflection of God’s character in us. We give Christ a bad name. Paul wants us to be blameless so that no one can reject Christ because they saw a poor picture of Him in our lives.

If that seems hard, that’s because it is. But it is hard only if we think it’s completely up to us to live clean, innocent lives. We need to remember that only when Christ lives in our hearts, when we have given Him full access to our hearts, can He live His life through us. When that happens, our lives are like lights that shine in a dark and perverse world.

 

 

Jim Vogelzang
The Anger of Jesus
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[Jesus] looked around at [the religious leaders] angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man [with the deformed hand], “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!” Mark 3:5

Anger and conflict are dance partners. On the street, anger waltzed us into divorce. Our anger-fueled, hip-hop dance gets us busting’ moves toward our ex-wives, lying business colleagues, incompetent lawyers, maybe even ourselves. Our anger dance is usually sinful, destructive, and bent on revenge. But not all anger is destructive.

Jesus became angry. This fact alone should get our attention. We understandably focus on His unconditional love, but we should also note the things that angered our Savior. Re-read Mark 3:5 where Jesus was angry with the established church leaders. Jesus’ anger was directed at their injustice, lack of mercy, unfruitfulness, harm to children, and hard hearts. In today’s passage, Jesus expressed His anger vehemently towards the self-righteous, hard-hearted religious leaders. These leaders were bound to tradition and to preserving their own power. Their stubborn self-importance blinded them to real human need.

Today’s lessons from Jesus center not only on what made Him furious but also on how to avoid being the target of His anger. Our lives must be guided by kindness, mercy, and compassion. Are we so fussy and focused on the form of Sunday worship that we forget the genuine needs in our cities? Any self-satisfaction in our walk with God or any concern about our status in our local church or among others must be brought low in humility to avoid the angry look of Jesus.

There is a place for “angry men and women.” It must be righteous anger, fueled by our hearts being broken and angered by the same things that broke and angered the heart of Jesus.

 

 

 

Jim Vogelzang
Is Bigger Better?
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“Bigger is better” is the world’s slogan. Cities compete to claim the world’s tallest buildings. Sporting events and stadiums boast about being the biggest and most expensive in history.

But that’s not how Jesus rolls. He compared the Kingdom of God to an insignificant mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds (See Mark 4:30-32). Jesus never confused size with importance.

Jesus entrusted His world-changing mission to a group of largely unskilled men. When Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared first to the least significant people on the planet at the time: women. Today, Jesus is still using small seeds—us!

As ordinary people, we often feel powerless, isolated, and worthless. We are usually not eloquent. Many of us speak with fractured grammar. We are afraid and not well educated.

We must throw off that mindset. Jesus certainly does. When we have “the mind of Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 2:16), we will see significant results from our work. But we need credibility. The growth of the mustard seed depends on an authentic walk with Jesus and on a witness that has integrity. If we have that, planting a kind word or being a help to someone in His name will produce a harvest of eternal consequences. When we bring a brother or sister to church or when we share a favorite Scripture verse, we cannot calculate the size of the result that may come from that seed. Our responsibility is to sow the seeds. We leave the results up to God.

Jim Vogelzang
A Delicate Balance
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One of the most familiar and often quoted passage in the Gospels is Luke 5:29-32. There it tells the story of Jesus going to Levi, the tax collector’s house for dinner. At this dinner were other despised tax officials, prostitutes and other people considered rift-raft. This familiar passage’s obvious lesson is that Jesus loves sinners . . . scum! Christian societies often consider sinners to be scum, and sometimes we feel that way about ourselves. However, this encouraging story says the opposite.

There is another lesson buried in this passage. Jesus teaches in such a loving manner that sinners feel comfortable eating with Him. The “scum” at Levi’s dinner do not scurry away for fear of disapproval. They do not cringe under a withering eye of judgment. They sit with Jesus, share dinner, and listen to His whole message of love and repentance.

Jesus teaches unconditional love. But, as loving as He is, He also teaches the need for repentance. He does not separate His love for us from our need to turn away from our sin. In Christian communities today that separation seems to be growing. We concentrate on being tolerant and inclusive, but we shrink away from the whole truth by neglecting to preach the Gospel of spiritual revolution! Jesus does not short-change His listeners.

Are we too focused in our church on love and acceptance at the expense of neglecting the need to repent from our sin? Or, are we so focused on sin that sinners do not attend for fear of disapproval and judgment? We must be loving in our approach but firm in the fundamentals. It is a delicate balance.

 

Jim Vogelzang
Prayer for Seekers of Salvation
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Jesus, why would You die for me?

That is the hardest question I ask when I come close to asking You into my heart and taking Your free gift of grace.

How could You love me?

Yet, Jesus, I have read how You loved David even when he committed adultery and first-degree murder. In my heart, I have done worse!

You loved Saul when he was terrorizing Christians, and You turned him into Paul… someone valuable.

I long to be of value to someone. I have abused drugs, had an abortion, cheated on my wife and I have let You down. But no more! Today, I commit to You and accept Your free gift—Your grace—for me.

Thank You for loving me so much that You would die for me.

As I speak these words, my spirit lifts.

I feel Your presence and the power of the Holy Spirit coming over me.

Thank You, Jesus.

Amen.

Jim Vogelzang
Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
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Jesus [said], “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had known who  I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him and have seen him!” John 14:6-7

How would you react to a guy who stands up at your sales meeting and shouts that he’s god, that he forgives sins, and that he will die and rise from the dead? You’d probably take him aside, try to calm him down and inquire about his meds! Yet that’s what Jesus claimed. Is He a liar? If He’s a liar, then He is a hypocrite too, since He preached honesty and integrity. Read again, John 14:6-7 and see what Jesus claimed about himself; Jesus [said], “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him and have seen him!”

Perhaps Jesus is “Looney Tunes,” you know, nuts. If your roommate said she was a polar bear, you would think she’s crazy. Jesus claimed to be something greater—God. But if Jesus was crazy, then why are people still following Him after all these years? Plenty of two-bit messiahs attract followers for a few years, but for more than 2000 years? Not likely.

Once again, C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity says it best here, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 

 

Jim Vogelzang
Salvation Made Simple
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We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. -Romans 3:22

 On one hand, salvation is a simple matter. When we trust Jesus to take away our sins, we are made right in God’s sight. C. S. Lewis said, “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.” The Apostle Paul says this in Romans 3:22, We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

On the other hand, salvation is a serious matter—it cost Christ His life in order to free us from our sin. Adam and Eve’s sin created a deep valley between a perfect God and imperfect humans. We cannot bridge this gap on our own. We need help, just as a person who’s in debt needs someone with money to pay off the debt.

God sent Jesus into the world to pay our debt and to be the only way to be reconciled with Him. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin so that we could again be in a deep relationship with God.

Why didn’t God just snap His fingers and make sin go away? God is a just God. The debt for sin in the world had to be paid. Jesus came to earth to pay that price. He died on the cross for our sins. After three days in the tomb, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared before many witnesses. The debt had been paid. Henry Drummond said this, “The sense of the infinite worth of the single soul, and the recoverableness of man at his worst are the gifts of Christ. The freedom from guilt and the forgiveness of sins come from Christ’s Cross; the hope of immortality springs from Christ’s grace.”7

Salvation changes our lives. It frees us from guilt, remorse, shame, and fear. We’ve all heard the motto Change the behavior, and you change the person. But most of us know that motto is bankrupt. The truth is: Change the person, and behavior changes.

 

 

Jim Vogelzang
The Law of Influence
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When we look back on our lives, we can point to people who influenced us—parents, other family members, teachers, friends…even gang members. Who influenced us the most? Was the influence a positive or negative one?

We can only imagine how different our lives would be if we’d had a successful, law-abiding mentor while growing up. How would our lives have turned out if our mothers had not been addicted to crack? Today, if we admire the hot-shot players with a fondness for trouble, we are soon in trouble. If we have a high regard for women who are always looking to “trade-up” husbands, we will soon find ourselves feeling dissatisfied with our husbands. Our lives are a collection of the people who influence us—for good or for evil. The more time we spend with certain people, the more we become like them. We become like mirrors that reflect the people’s values and character. That’s called The Law of Influence.

The apostle Paul experienced the Law of Influence when he met Christ on the road to Damascus. From then on Paul hung out with Jesus, and his life changed. He went from being a murderer to being a missionary, from being the hunter to being the hunted. He learned the truth of what he wrote in today’s verse.

When we hang out with Jesus, His presence influences us, and we become more like Him. With extended exposure to the Savior, our hearts will produce kindness and tenderness toward people. Our words will soften. Our manners will be more gentle, our conduct more unselfish.

Spend time with Jesus. Become like a mirror that reflects the character of God. When other people look at us, they won’t see us—they’ll see Jesus.

Jim Vogelzang
Conflicted Spirits
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Some people get visibly ugly when they see others prepare to go to worship services. They want to pick a fight. Their hearts and their minds are at war with each other. They have conflicted spirits.

Inner conflict results from holding inside of us two opposing views that are equally strong. For example, perhaps we were brought up in a strict church environment but had a shocking experience with a minister or a priest. Or, maybe our mothers made us go to church as kids and then slapped us around when we got home for fidgeting during the service. These strong, clashing memories put us at odds with ourselves. On the one hand we see the hypocrisy and hurt, and we conclude that faith in God is bogus. But then our heart vibrates with some other rhythm. Our hearts say to us that God is real and that His Word and promises are true. We have conflicted spirits. What is true?

The apostle Paul was no stranger to conflicted spirits. He knew the war between good and evil in his heart (see Romans 7:7-25). He also knew where to find a Peacemaker. When our minds are denying what our hearts know to be true, the only source of a peaceful resolution is Jesus Christ. He suffered hurts greater than our own, yet He never gave up. Jesus resisted temptation and withstood torture, unfair trials, and the death penalty for us. With the help of God’s power, we can let the hurts go, make peace with ourselves and with God.

Jim Vogelzang
We Run, but We Can’t Hide
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We carry around secrets. Those secrets are heavy burdens for us. We don’t want anyone to know our pasts or to be defined by our worst actions. We shudder at the thought of others in our study group, PTA or bowling league being fully aware of our lives that might include violence, sexual assault, abuse, drunkenness and the other stuff we have done. We fear what might happen to us if they found out the truth about us. But God knows everything about us. We can’t hide anything from Him. This is not a scary thought for us who love Him. It is a hopeful and comforting fact. In our hearts, we wish to be completely known and open and honest with Him. We long to lose our illusions, expose our deceptions, face the facts of our lives, confront our fears, and admit our failures. We crave to be loved by someone who knows us, accepts us for who we are, and forgives us for Christ’s sake.

God’s love and forgiveness come to us through Christ when we allow God’s Word to penetrate our souls. Then we expose our hearts for the unclean things they are and uncover the sin that is in the deepest corners of our being.

To make this happen, we must confess our sin to God and turn away from it. We need to believe that God’s Word will protect and sustain us. We can strengthen our faith by beginning each day with prayer and time in God’s Word. We need to change the chilly climate of our hearts and cultivate a tender relationship with Jesus. These disciplines will sustain us when we are tempted to flinch and turn away from God’s presence.

There is no need to fear any condemnation from God when we come close and confess our sins. God loves us and died for us even before we sought Him out. That is the wonderful, comforting thing about God’s Grace.

UncategorizedJim Vogelzang
Do Not Conform—Be Transformed
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Numerous TV shows portray virtuous police officers becoming exactly like the people they’re trying to bust. This happens in real life too. We read about cops who steal the money from a drug bust and keep it for themselves. This risk of becoming like the people around us is a persistent and dangerous threat to our Christian walk. When people who scoff at God and practice sinful deeds surround us, we are tempted to become like them. It’s like swimming in a cesspool, and it’s very difficult to avoid the stink.

The apostle Paul writes about this problem in Romans 12:2. He uses the word conform to indicate the gradual process by which we take on and adopt the rules and standards of those around us. If we are not careful, we can slowly find ourselves becoming insensitive to God’s leading and His grace.

Paul gives us the formula for resisting this temptation when he instructs us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. As we’ve said before: How we think determines how we act. If our minds focus on negative things, we will behave in sinful ways. However, if we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds, our whole lives will be transformed.

To renew something often involves stripping off the old and replacing it with something better. As our lives have been stripped of drug addiction, guilt, and shame, we apply the finishing coat of Jesus over our new minds. Then to keep our minds fresh, we need to worship—not only individually through prayer and Bible study, but also with the prison church. This will help us keep our minds focused on the right things as we fight the pressures of everyday life and the dangers of returning to lives that dishonored Jesus.

UncategorizedJim Vogelzang
Friendship with the World
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Take a look at this Bible verse from James 4…”You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” This can be a confusing verse, even though it seems pretty straightforward. Does it mean that as followers of Jesus we must separate ourselves from all the pleasures and wonderful things that Creation offers? Are we denied permission to participate and enjoy the good things of earth? No! It doesn’t mean that at all. This is not what James is talking about.

God created the heavens and the earth and pronounced them good (see Genesis 1). He is a very loving, creative God, and He desires that we, His children, enjoy what He has made for us. He feels the same way about giving pleasure to His children as we did when we took our kids to see a major league baseball game or baked chocolate brownies for them. God is delighted when we’re happy.

What James means in today’s passage by “the world” is everything that lies outside the community of God’s people. A list of those things— including adultery, greed, pride, and anger—are listed in Galatians 5. When we indulge this worldly frame of mind, we are at odds with what God wants for us. The Bible instructs us to imitate the humble character of Jesus and to live unselfish lives of service to others. When we choose the way of the world, we lead self-centered lives that often abuse others. We indulge in drugs, sex, and booze, and don’t give a rip about others. When we live by the world’s standards, it’s all about getting more money, more power to boss others around, greater status and prestige. Those things identify us and define us.

There is no accommodation of these two worldviews. There is no compromise available. We delude ourselves if we think we can have both. We cannot. It is our personal responsibility to make a choice between them. One route leads to bondage…the other to abundant life…which way will you go?

Jim Vogelzang
Kingly Character  
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An incident in the early life of David instructs us about how God sees people and how we should see them as well.

God was not happy with King Saul, so He told His prophet Samuel that He wanted to anoint another man to be king. God directed Samuel to travel to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse. When Samuel arrived, Jesse did what any man in his community would have done: he brought his firstborn son to Samuel. Eliab was tall, handsome, and strong. Samuel looked at Eliab and said to himself, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 16:6). But Samuel was wrong. There is an important lesson for us in his error.

We often make the same mistake Samuel did. We are attracted to things that are superficial. We look at other women in the office  and judge them according to their looks or clothes. We honor the guys who are wealthy, powerful or great looking. The timid and unattractive are often ignored. We are blind to the things that God sees. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous speech, I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Dr. King was talking about “kingly character.” A kingly character looks to serve others, not to use them.

As we live our daily lives, let’s not make the blunder Samuel did. Let’s evaluate men and women based on what is in their hearts, not on their looks or manners or popularity. Let’s avoid the trap that sees only people’s external qualities. Let’s look at the eternal qualities and see value where none was visible before.

Releasing Hate

Jesus loved all people, not judging them for their gender, occupation, or race. When Jesus rose from the dead, He announced His resurrection to Mary. Jesus worked through a woman to bring Peter and John to Him. This was radical. Women had no status in first- century Jerusalem. Women couldn’t offer testimony at a trial, and men rarely spoke to women in public.

Jesus also did not discriminate on the basis of occupation.

He chose Matthew, a Jewish tax collector, to be His disciple. Tax collectors could charge whatever they wanted, as long as Rome got its share. As a result, tax collectors were considered traitors. The Jews hated them, yet Jesus chose a tax collector to be a disciple.

On another occasion Jesus went to Samaria and spoke to an adulterous Samaritan woman—an unthinkable gesture. Not only were Samarians considered to be trash, but He—a Jewish male— spoke to a woman who everyone in the town knew was sleeping around. His love reached beyond social barriers.

When we follow Jesus, we cannot hate others because of their skin color, political affiliations, job, chosen religion, or sexual preference. If we say we believe in Jesus, we give up any thoughts of revenge and feelings of contempt or disgust that we felt before we knew the Lord. Our unity with Christ through His sacrifice for our sins makes it unacceptable to hate others.

If these words irritate us, we have a problem. Are we mentally scrolling through the directory of our church or business or country club and mentally naming those we hate because they are people of color, Democrat or Republicans or gay? Then the love of Christ is not in us! We shouldn’t be fooled or misled. We cannot hate those who are different and love God at the same time. To think otherwise is a delusion.