Monday, July 27, 2015

GOD'S LOVE

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us!” (1 John 3:1 Mes).




Monday, July 20, 2015

HABITS AND BRAIN CHANGING

Once you learn a habit, good or bad, it becomes a part of your muscle memory.  It’s at the level of your neural pathways.  When sin gets into our habits it gets into our neurons.  And our way of thinking is altered.  Our neurons need redemption.

Kent Dunnington in his book, Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice, writes that many federal health institutes and professional organizations assume addiction is a "brain disease" purely "because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain." However, playing the cello and studying for a taxi license and memorizing the Old Testament also lead to changes in the structure and function of the brain.  Shall we call them diseases, too?

Dunnington says that addiction is neither simply a physical disease nor a weakness of the will; that to understand it correctly, we need to resurrect an old spiritual category: habit. We have habits because we are embodied creatures; most of our behaviors are not under our conscious control. That's a great gift from God—if we had to concentrate on tying our shoes every time we did that, life would be impossible.

But sin has gotten into our habits, into our bodies, including our neurons.  Partly, we may be predisposed to this.  For example, people with a version of the Monoamine oxidase A (MOA) gene that creates less of the enzyme tend to have more trouble with anger and impulse control. This means that when Paul says "In your anger, do not sin," some people are predisposed to struggle with this more than others.

That doesn't mean that such people are robots or victims or not responsible for their behavior.  It does explain part of why Jesus tells us to "Judge not"; none of us knows the genetic material that any other person is blessed with or battling in any given moment.

This is why God’s truth from the Scriptures has to be embodied.  It has to become habituated into attitudes, patterns of response, and reflexive action.  Call it the practice of spiritual disciplines or holy habits.   

The reason that spiritual disciplines are an important part of change is that they honor the physical nature of human life.  Information alone doesn't override bad habits.  God uses relationships, experiences, and practices to shape and re-shape the character of our lives that gets embedded at the most physical level.

John Ortberg tells of how a few decades ago scientists did a series of experiments where monkeys were taught how to pinch food pellets in deep trays. As the monkeys got faster at this practice, the parts of the brain controlling the index finger and thumb actually grew bigger. This and other experiments showed that the brain is not static as had often been thought, but is dynamic, able to change from one shape to another. This is true for human beings as well. The part of violinists' brains that controls their left hand (used for precise fingering movements) will be bigger than the part that controls their right hand.

In another study, people were put into one of three groups; one group did nothing; one exercised their pinky finger, a third group spent 15 minutes a day merely thinking about exercising their pinky finger. As expected the exercisers got stronger pinkies. But amazingly—so did the people who merely thought about exercising. Changes in the brain can actually increase physical strength.

Every thought we entertain is, in a real sense, doing a tiny bit of brain surgery on us.

The Apostle Paul says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9).

Monday, July 13, 2015

HABITS

I’ve come to realize the truth in what John Ortberg says: Most of the time our behavior is governed by habit.  Most of the time, a change of behavior requires the acquisition of new habits.  A habit is a relatively permanent pattern of behavior that allows you to navigate life.  The capacity for habitual behavior is indispensable.  When you first learn to drive a car there are so many steps to remember.  But after you learn, it becomes habitual.  That means it is literally "in your body" (or "muscle memory").  It’s at the level of your neural pathways.  

Neurologists call this process where the brain converts a sequence of actions into routine activity "chunking."  Chunking turns out to be one of the most important dynamics in terms of sin and spiritual maturity.  Following Jesus is, to a large degree, allowing the Holy Spirit to "re-chunk" our lives. This is a physical description of the Apostle Paul's command to the Romans: " … but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2).  Habits are extremely freeing.  They are what allow my body to be driving my car while my mind is sifting through the priorities of my day.

But sin gets into our habits.  This is what Paul was talking about when he talked about sin being “in our members.” “… the sinful passions … were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death … I see a … law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:5, 23 NAS). 

He was talking about human beings as embodied creatures.  Sin is in the habitual patterns that govern what our hands do and where our eyes look and words our mouths say.  Habits are in our neural pathways.  And sin gets in our habits.  So sin gets in our neurons.  And our way of thinking is altered.  Like so much else, our neurons are fallen, and can't get up.  They need redemption.  We need a transformation. 

But we’ll not be transformed by simply having more Biblical information poured into us.  The information has to be embodied.  It has to become habituated into attitudes, patterns of response, and reflexive action.  Call it the practice of spiritual disciplines or holy habits.  Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matt. 7:24-27).

Monday, July 6, 2015

GETTING TRACTION AGAIN

Ever feel like you’ve lost traction?  Maybe you feel that your personal growth has stalled.  Maybe your spiritual life or your efforts to connect people with God aren’t getting anywhere.  Maybe you feel the time and effort you put into serving people isn’t paying off.

You begin those things with great anticipation and excitement, but life happens, and you get distracted and lose the joy and motivation, and those things become sidelined.

I believe the answer is consistency.  Simply said, you have to do what you know God wants you to do every day, every week, and every month.  You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God (Psa.  119:1).

Some people succeed more than others because they simply do what they do more.  They wake up every day and even when they don’t feel like it they read their Bibles, practice their spirituality, step out of their comfort zones to connect others with the Good News of Christ, read books which value God’s values, and do what they do in their work and recreation and relationships all for God’s glory.

“Work as hard as you can.  I empty the tank each and every day.” – Carli Lloyd, Golden Ball Award, World Champion US Women’s Soccer Team 2015.

The difference I see between a productive Christian life and an unproductive Christian life is how consistently the productive Christian works on his or her relationship with God. 

We’ve got to get away from seasons of doing and not doing, and get into a pattern of always doing.  Until you do that, until you get into a daily and weekly groove, you won’t see the growth you want.

“Motivation comes in the process of doing.” – Dr. Gary Chapman.

Get traction again.  Be consistent.  Do what you know God wants you to do with all your strength.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

Monday, June 29, 2015

IT’S NOT IF, BUT WHEN

“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  Isaiah 43:2-3 (NLT)

Sometimes you feel like you’re in over your head, but God will keep you from being overwhelmed and overpowered.  And this is how we grow in our faith.

“If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” – T. S. Eliot

Thursday, June 25, 2015

GET SALTY

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” (Mat. 5:13).  Here are the implications for us:

Salt doesn’t exist for its own sake.
Salt doesn’t call attention to itself.
Salt’s calling is to lose itself.
Salt must get out of the shaker.

Jesus says that God’s plan to protect the world from decay and corruption, to purify it and bring to it whatever flavor and zest it’s going to have, is YOU.

Monday, June 22, 2015

WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE QUITTING

"There's only one thing that can guarantee our failure, and that's if we quit.” - Craig Breedlove, American professional race car driver and five-time world land speed record holder.

To borrow from Eric Copeland (For the Creative Soul), maybe you’ve decided that since nothing is happening the way you want it to, the way you expected it to, that you should hang it up.  Just quit.  This is how you sometimes feel as you serve the Lord and work at building a productive life with your particular talents and opportunities.  Maybe you’re trying to build a business or develop a stream of income which brings results that are rewarding to you.  You doggedly invest your time, money, energy, and abilities in worthy pursuits.  But nothing happens.

And you come to the conclusion that God is trying to tell you to quit doing whatever you’re trying to accomplish. But let’s be realistic.  Is that how God works?  Is that how He worked in the Bible?

Abraham knew he was really really old to have children, and that Sarah couldn't physically. But God didn't say, "You know, forget it you old geezers.  You really are too old for kids."  Instead God said to Abraham, "Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

Or when the Apostle Paul was in a boat during a terrible storm and the men thought all was lost, God didn't send an angel to Paul saying "You better jump in the lifeboats!"  Instead God told Paul to hold on.

God does not even suggest quitting.  If anything, He tells us to endure, and for quite an interesting reason.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." - Hebrews 12:1

We are surrounded by people watching us and watching what we will do.  If you’ve set an example to those around you that you are working to use the talents God has given you, and then give up, what kind of precedent are you setting?  And not just for family or friends, but what about total strangers and acquaintances that are watching what a "Christian" does to see if they want to emulate that life?

When you think about it, Abraham and Paul were showing an example of faith by not giving up. We have to as well.

“I'm interested in that thing that happens where there's a breaking point for some people and not for others.  You go through such hardship, things that are almost impossibly difficult, and there's no sign that it's going to get any better, and that's the point when people quit.  But some don't.” - Robert Redford

If you’ve heard a little voice in your ear saying it’s time to quit, that’s not God telling you to quit.  God does not whisper and tell us to quit, but to endure and run the race.

Monday, June 8, 2015

MEASURED MULTI-TASKING AND MUSIC

“…thinking two different things at the same time …they cannot decide about anything they do.” James 1:8 (NCV)

“If you’re trying to accomplish many things at the same time, you’ll get more done by focusing on one task at a time, not by switching constantly from one task to another.” – Journal of Experimental Psychology

In an age when we’re pressed upon to constantly multi-task, we must put more effort into making wise choices.  Light dispersed is not as powerful as light that is concentrated into a laser beam.  We must take care that our energies are not so widely dispersed that we accomplish little of eternal value.

To that end I’ve been focused recently on completing my 2nd album.  It’s finally completed and uploaded online.  CD’s are also available.  No charge.  The title is “Unfailing Love”.  You can either Google “Unfailing Love David C Thomasson” or go to YouTube and type “David C Thomasson”.  The songs from both my albums will be listed (Worthy to Be and Unfailing Love).  You can also go to the playlists for both.  They’re yours for your encouragement and to share with others.

Monday, June 1, 2015

STRENGTHENING YOUR HEART

When it comes to following Jesus, living everyday with His presence, growing spiritually, and transforming to become more like Him, one element is always necessary – “surrender”.  Submitting to the leadership of God is vital to the believer’s life.  It’s vital to a healthy relationship with God.  And what’s necessary in terms of surrender is that it requires a “decision”.

A personal relationship with God involves decisions.  You make a decision to respond to Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sin and for eternal life.  You make a decision to respond to His life-purpose for you.  You make a decision to follow Jesus, to be “all in” for Him and what He says to do.  You make a decision to commit your way of living to Him. 

You decide to surrender your life to Him so that your life belongs to Him and His management.  You make a decision to entrust your family to His care.  You make a decision to entrust your future to Him, your eternity to Him.  You make a decision to surrender your abilities, health, job, and money to Him.

Why is the decision to surrender to God so incredibly important?  Here’s why:  “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT).  God wants to strengthen your heart.

The word “strengthen” in this verse means:  to prevail.  Is there something in your life, maybe a habit or a pattern or an attitude or a worry that you want to prevail over, to conquer?  God will make it happen as you commit to be all in for Him.

The word “strengthen” also means:  to be courageous.  Do you need courage to obey what God says, or to say what you need to say in that relationship, or press forward even though it’s tough?  God will give you the courage if you commit to be all in for Him.

The word “strengthen” also means:  to be resolute, to be secure.

God will give you these things and work them into your heart and mind if you make the decision to surrender everything to Him.  Jesus said:  “You cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own” (Luke 14:33 (NLT).

Friday, May 29, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:8.  The Lord is already on the road ahead of you and He’ll be there when you get there.  He already is where you’re going to be.  Not only is He already where you’re going to be, He is always with you on the journey there. 

God wants you to take courage and believe in Him.  He has you surrounded and He’s leading you.  Go forward and trust that He will be there because He already is.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ADMITTANCE

If Jesus is not the Manager of all in your life, He’s not the Manager at all in your life.  He doesn’t want to be just a part of your life. He doesn’t want to be just one category, one entry on your weekly planner.  He wants to be your Everything.  That’s the only way He can fill your life with His grace and truth.  That’s the only way we know what a full and meaningful life is like. 

Jesus said in Luke 9:23-25 (Mes),

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?”

Monday, May 18, 2015

WINNIE THE POOH, PIGLET, AND FAITH

In Winnie the Pooh, Pooh and Piglet take an evening walk.  For a long time they walk together in silence.  Finally Piglet breaks the silence and asks, “When you wake up in the morning, Pooh, what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” answers Pooh.  “And what do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what exciting thing is going to happen today.”

You can choose a “breakfast vision” or an “excitement vision.”  Which one do you choose?  What’s your vision for each day?  What’s your vision for your relationship with God?  Where do you want it to go?  What’s your vision for you and your family?  What’s your vision for your life-purpose and eternity?  What’s your vision for your church? 

What we expect from life is usually what we get.  Jesus said, "It shall be done to you according to your faith." Matt. 9:29 (NAS)

Monday, May 11, 2015

BEING PEACEABLE

Borrowing from Gordon McDonald, the word “peace” in its general definition means any system in which there is order, justice, and security. The Romans talked about peace (Pax Romana), but their system was sustained through violence and intimidation. The Jews of Jerusalem had their own concepts of peace: a kingdom that mirrored the ancient reign of David. These were concepts of peace imposed from the outside of a person.

But then Jesus came, speaking of a peace that took root inside a person. This peace was unaffected by any form of opposition. You can do away with the body, Jesus said, but never the soul. His was a radical idea: that the most important of all things has to do with a person's heart.

Monks years ago made this point with a story: A cruel warlord confronted an old monk, commanding the monk to bow to him, but the monk refused. “Do you know who I am?” bellowed the warlord. “I am he who has the power to run you through with a sword.”  “And do you know who I am?” responded the monk. “I am he who has the power to let you run me through with a sword.”  This old man, unbowed, was peaceful from his core. He operated out of an ordered heart.

Jesus said His peace was not compatible with the “world's” view of peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).  He created a movement whose trademarks were humility, compassion, mercy, and a breaking down of barriers that traditionally separated people.  Paul referred to this as “the peace of Christ,” and he urged the Christ-followers of the Colossian church to reorient themselves around this trait.

At the same time we shouldn’t confuse the peace of Christ with niceness, or feeling good, or the avoidance of conflict. The peaceful Jesus was not a wimp. When He wreaked havoc on the Temple money-launderers He was justifiably furious.  When He was confronted by influential hypocritical religious leaders He held nothing back in telling them the truth about who they were in their arrogance and disrespect for God.

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” “Go in peace,” He said to a healed woman. “Peace,” He shouted at a threatening storm. To many others He said, “Peace be with you.”  Wherever He went, He took His fresh idea of human order with Him.

Where do peaceable people come from? For some, peacefulness is the product of hardship or suffering or failure. Something takes place which causes deep pain (physical, spiritual, relational) and a brokenness that softens the heart. Perspectives are reoriented. Views on certain issues are rearranged, and a new person, a peaceful person, emerges.

Aging with its accumulation of life-experience, can produce a peaceful person if he or she has pursued a close walk with Jesus.

Peaceable people are an expression of the work of the Holy Spirit. And how is that work done? A rhythmic devotional life, engaging with the right kind of friends, and storing up the wisdom (journaling comes to mind) that comes from looking for meaning in everyday activity.
These are all ways the Holy Spirit builds an inner tranquility that becomes more and more valuable as the years pass.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent the last year of his life in Nazi prisons. One night, along with other prisoners, he was herded into a shelter while Allied bombs fell in the area. One man, Fabian von Schlabrendorff, writes of that moment: “Tightly squeezed together we were standing in our air-raid shelter when a bomb hit with an enormous explosion. For a second it seemed the shelter were bursting and the ceiling crashing down on top of us. It rocked like a ship tossing in the storm, but it held. At that moment Dietrich Bonhoeffer showed his mettle. He remained quite calm, he did not move a muscle, but stood motionless and relaxed as if nothing had happened.”  Elizabeth Raum, a Bonhoeffer biographer, writes of this moment: “Dietrich's actions calmed those around him. He acted like a man totally confident that nothing, even death, could harm him.”  He calmed everyone around him because they saw Jesus in him.

Oswald Chambers once wrote: “The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us ... but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field: peacefully, simply, and unaffectedly. These are the lives that mold us.”

Peaceable people offer a fresh view of Jesus because He is embedded in their character and personality.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

QUESTIONS OF SUCCESS

Success or failure is defined by the questions we ask.  And whoever defines the question defines success.  When the widow put a penny into the offering, Jesus’ disciples dismissed her gift as insignificant.  Their culture was conditioned to ask, “How much did she give?”  Jesus, on the other hand praised her offering because He asked a different question, “How much did she sacrifice?”  Whoever defines the question defines success.  When we ask God-oriented questions about things like faithfulness, sacrifice, and grace, we discover that an unheard of Christ-follower with no celebrity status is actually highly successful in God’s kingdom.  We need to give attention to asking the right questions, because it’s the question which determines success or failure, not the outcome.

Monday, May 4, 2015

GRACE CAUSES

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3 NAS).

The cause of your new spiritual birth is God the Father.  It’s not from our initiative.  He even gave us the faith to believe:  For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Phil. 2:13); By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect (1 Cor. 15:10); Now the God of peace … working in us that which is pleasing in His sight … (Heb. 13:20-21 NAS).  Jesus said, “For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me …” (John 6:44 NLT).

Certainly God works through people to tell people about the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And we are to be persuasive and loving and reaching out to others to lead them to Jesus.  Then choices are made by individuals while at the same time God is at work in those choices.  We choose, but God’s grace causes.  It’s both/and. 

God’s grace is not something passive; it is active.  His grace targets us, moves toward us, and works in us.  God’s grace toward us is not something that sits on a shelf, and we walk by and decide if we want to take it off the shelf and take it with us.  Instead God’s grace is pursuing us and overtaking us.  His grace is chasing you.   His love is hounding you.  That’s the idea in what David said in the twenty-third Psalm:  “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life …” (Psa. 23:6 NLT).

God’s grace is never stagnant.  It’s never dormant, never lifeless, never still.  Instead His grace is always in motion, making and saving, resurrecting and transforming.  Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. … we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving (Eph. 2:7-9 Mes).   

God’s grace causes.  His grace causes life, salvation, undying hope, promise, and eternal life.  Center your everyday living on God’s grace and truth.  Revolve your life purpose around God’s grace and truth.  Discover who you are in God’s grace and truth.  Do your part to live according to God’s grace and truth.

Monday, April 27, 2015

WHY RESTFUL IS BETTER THAN RESTLESS

God says, “Be still, and know that I am God;” (Psa. 46:10).  We can become so busy we lose touch with the reality and truth of God.  We must carve out regular time to “be still” before the Lord.  Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29).  Our souls can become so jumbled and troubled by the busyness of life that we lose touch with who we really are.  It’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves (Rom. 12:3 Mes).  Over the years we may not deal with what’s beneath the surface, maybe we even forget what’s there, and we add layers of scripts that we would rather follow than confront the unresolved pain and wounds deep down in our souls.  Instead of restful souls we live with restless souls.  Jesus says to commit your life to Him and learn from Him so you can have a restful soul.

In his book Prayer, Richard Foster writes:  “At first we thought solitude was a way to recharge our batteries in order to enter life’s many competitions with new vigor and strength.  In time, however, we find that solitude gives us power not to win the rat race but to ignore the rat race altogether.  Slowly, we find ourselves letting go of our inner compulsions to acquire more wealth than we need, look more youthful than we are, attain more status than is wise.  In the stillness, our false, busy selves are unmasked and seen for the impostors they truly are.”  Take the time to be still and unmask and know the Lord is your God.

Monday, April 20, 2015

DON’T SETTLE FOR ORDINARY

God wants to take ordinary lives and make them extraordinary.  We weren’t made to live boring lives where it’s the same old same old.  There’s more to life than living and dying.  We were made to live an exciting adventure.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

Many people live dull and mundane and stressful lives, and they have no sense of lasting motivation or joy or enthusiasm.  God never intended for us to live depressed, worried, fearful, powerless, and mundane lives.  But for many that’s their normal way of life.  Maybe you feel inadequate; God wants you to live with competence.  Maybe you feel defeated; God wants you to live in victory.  Maybe you feel anxious and worried; God wants you to live confidently.

God wants to take your ordinary way of living life and transform it into a life that is extraordinary.  You were made for more than you think.  Ephesians 3:20 states, Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (NLT).  God created you to live an extraordinary life.

The followers of Christ in the Early Church lived extraordinary lives.  Acts 4:13 states that,
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures (NLT).

How do we live extraordinary lives through days that are good, or bad, or just plain ugly?

·         Value your future resurrection.
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Hebrews 11:35 (NLT)

Life is tough, but if you’re a believer in Jesus, Who rose from the dead, you have your own future resurrection and eternal life to look forward to.  Even now as a believer you’ve been raised from spiritual death.  You have a new life now with Christ.  You have a “new liveliness”.  You’ve been raised from the dead, spiritually.

·         Make what matters in Heaven matter most.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

Because you’ve placed your belief in Jesus Christ for your forgiveness of sin, you’re guaranteed Heaven.  You’re on your way to a new life with a new body in a perfect world.  Get excited about it!  Think about it!  Focus on it!  Talk about it!  Live it!

·         Follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them … Acts 4:7-8a (NLT)

To be filled means to be under the influence, to be led, to be under the management of.  If you’re a believer in Christ you have the Holy Spirit living in you.  Now make it a daily practice of consciously submitting to His leadership and take action based on what you learn from God’s Word.  God’s Spirit and God’s Word never contradict one another.

·         Live saved.
Do not let the grace that you received from God be for nothing.  2 Corinthians 6:1 (NCV)

Live it.  Love it.  Live the saved life.  Reflect often on God’s grace in your life such that your mind, will, emotions, and relationships reflect His grace.

Your salvation for whatever is on the line – your eternity, your livelihood, your finances, your family, your marriage, your heart and soul – is found in Jesus Christ.

·         Live with Jesus.
They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus. Acts 4:13 (GNT)

Peter and John had lived day in and day out with Jesus.  They were “followers” of Him.  They not only associated with Jesus, they followed Him as their Leader, and ultimately as their God and Savior.

How do we “live with Jesus?”  We live with Him “spiritually”.  We don’t live with Him physically yet.  One day we will. But for now we live with Him spiritually.  Therefore we must give a lot of attention to the spiritual dimension of our lives. Why? – Because that’s where we talk and walk with Jesus.  That’s where we live, really live.  And that’s where our lives start transforming from ordinary to extraordinary.

Monday, April 13, 2015

ME VS. WE

We live in an “idolize me” society.  The “me mentality” has been accepted into the spiritual thinking of many.  In terms of spiritual maturity it has become about “our selves.”  It’s about “my” spiritual gifts, “my” spiritual growth, “my” spiritual life, “my” calling, “my” place of service, “my” word from God to you.   I’m not saying those things don’t exist, but there’s a danger.  The danger is that we tend to revolve the spiritual around ourselves and our preferences and our feelings and our way of wanting to do something.  Even in our spiritual lives we can be self-absorbed.  We should never underestimate the power of self-centeredness.  The “globe head” lives.  In our spirituality we tend to revolve everything around ourselves.

The truth about spiritual maturity is this:  Spiritual maturity is not about me; it’s about “we”.

There are three kinds of people:
The “spiritual Christian” who is spiritually alive by the Holy Spirit with Christ in his life,
The “non-Christian” who is spiritually dead without the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ, and
The “me Christian” who is connected with God, but he’s living like someone who is without Christ.  Though he is spiritually alive he’s living as though he’s spiritually dead.

The “me Christian” is:

·         Infantile
… you were infants in the Christian life. 1 Cor. 3:1 (NLT)

·         Weak
I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. 1 Cor. 3:2 (NLT)

·         Conflicted
You are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. 1 Cor. 3:3 (NLT)

·         Divisive
When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos … 1 Cor. 3:4 (NLT)

On the other hand the “we Christian”:

·         Serves with others so that people come to believe in Jesus.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe…, 1 Cor. 3:5

·         Sees God grow the church.
… God, who makes things grow. 1 Cor. 3:7
When we’re serving together according to God’s purpose, He causes growth.

·         Realizes building a church takes more than one person; it includes “us”.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 1 Cor. 3:10

If you’re a believer in Christ God has given you a spiritual gift, an ability for serving in the church in a particular way.  And it’s connected to your life purpose, your calling, your assignment which God has given you.  Therefore you’re responsible to carry out His assignment, being faithful with His grace in His church.  You are included in the building of the church.  You’re needed.  You are a necessity to the building of God’s family.

Monday, April 6, 2015

ROAD TRIP

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

You’re on a road.  Which one is it?  Jesus implies there are only two.  You’re on one or the other.  You get to choose which way you want to go.

The way to real living and eternal life is narrow because it’s through One Person – Jesus Christ.  The world believes the road to real life is a freeway with many lanes, many philosophies, many ideologies, and all belief systems.  But it leads to destruction.

For those of you who’ve already chosen the “narrow gate” and you’re on your way to Heaven, you need to look over to the freeway and flag some people down before it’s too late.  Care about the destination of those around you.

Monday, March 30, 2015

NEW BEGINNING

The death and resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of something new and powerful. Following His resurrection, Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).

Jesus wants us to live in His power in order to tell others what we’ve witnessed of Him in our lives.  It’s a new beginning, a new way of living for us, and it begins with an encounter with JesusDuring the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3 NLT).  The lives of the Apostles and the followers of Jesus were changed forever after their encounter with the living resurrected Christ.  Their fears were overcome.  Jesus is really alive!  And the miraculous event of His resurrection and encounter with believers caused big changes in their behavior.  Not only did their inner lives change, their outer lives changed too.  Their whole way of living changed.

The first step to a new way of living is to encounter Jesus.  You’ve got to make a connection with Him.  Establish a personal relationship with Him.  Open your heart to Him and let Him forgive you and raise you from spiritual death and give you new life.

An encounter with Jesus gives us the opportunity to become convinced of Who Jesus is and to commit to Him… he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3b NLT).  The disciples became convinced that Jesus was truly alive.  He really did rise from the dead.  They listened to the truth Jesus taught.  They bought in and committed themselves to it.

Jesus is still talking to us today.  How? – through the Bible, God’s Word to us.  Because He is alive, His words are just as living today as they were then.  Now is your opportunity to listen to Jesus, to believe in Him, and to follow Him as your Forgiver and God.

Monday, March 23, 2015

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”  Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame. 1 Cor. 15:33-34

Paul is writing about the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and he says if there’s no resurrection, then what we do with our bodies has no bearing on our future.  Immorality was a way of life for many in Corinth, and some of the believers didn’t take the resurrection seriously in order to rationalize their sin.  Paul quoted the Greek poet Menander, “Bad company corrupts good character.”

The Corinthian Christians were spending a lot of time with people who lived sinful lives.  And they had begun to take on their immoral character and believe in their half-truths about God.  Wrong beliefs lead to wrong actions.  Corrupt company leads to corrupt thinking and living.

Therefore it’s important that we take inventory of the people we spend time with on a regular basis.  Who is influencing who?  The people you spend extra time with on a regular basis will rub off on you.  You will become like them.  Paul doesn’t say that we are to totally disassociate with those who aren’t believers in Christ yet.  Otherwise how are we to bring them to Christ?  He’s saying don’t get your deep friendships from those who aren’t believers.  If you do, you’ll drift away from Christ.

Keep the resurrection of Christ, which is behind you, in view, so that you can keep your resurrection, which is ahead of you, in view.  And then you will live as children of the light, children of the day, awake and alert, and ready for the return of Christ.

Monday, March 16, 2015

WHY THE TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION PUTS TO DEATH HALF-TRUTHS

Whole truth reveals and kills half-truth.  The whole truth clears away the impurities.  The truth clears up misinformation.  It eliminates the spin.  Why is truth important?  Because we live and die by truth.  Soren Kierkegarrd said, “What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”

Jesus said, “Anybody who is living by the truth will come to the light to make it plain that all he has done has been done through God” (John 3:21 Ph).  We need the whole truth to reveal and kill the misinformation in our lives.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he says, But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead?  For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless (1 Cor. 15:12-14 NLT).

There were those in the church at Corinth who believed there was no resurrection of the dead, but they believed Jesus had risen from the dead.  They believed half the truth, but half the truth distorted the whole truth.  Some believed a person’s soul died with the body.  Others believed that the soul was released from the body when it died.  The ideas that were floating around in those days about life after death, and the different religions and philosophies of what happens to people after death – all had an influence on Christians’ thinking.  The half-truths they believed polluted the whole truth.

People today still buy into half-truths and neglect the whole truth.  People tend to bring with them into their newfound faith in Christ – their presuppositions about God and the afterlife, their ideas from their past, their thoughts and inclinations about Jesus and the Spirit, and God the Father, and Heaven and Hell, and eternity.  And their belief system is polluted.  A lot of extras are mixed in with the truth.  And they have a distorted, unclear view of God and salvation and holy living and the necessity of spiritual maturity and life after death.

Some people don’t believe in a resurrection from the dead or life after death.  They don’t believe in a Heaven or Hell.  They believe there is nothing after you die.  By their presupposition of God and life after death, they don’t accept the reality of God or a resurrection from the dead for life after death.

The issue is not lack of evidence.  The issue is a “willingness” to examine the evidence, to be open-minded enough to look at the facts and let them speak for themselves.  If anyone open-mindedly and sincerely examines the facts of the Resurrection, they cannot refute the truth.
If they don’t believe, it’s because they’re not willing to believe.

A half-truth can completely change everything.  Half-truth clouds the whole truth.  The wrong information can be deadly information.  What’s the whole truth about the resurrection of the dead?  Because Christ rose from the dead, resurrection from the dead for His followers is true.  Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead in a glorified supernatural physical body. 

Because the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the Resurrection of Christ:
There is a resurrection of the dead, there is life after death, there is a heaven and a hell, everything Jesus ever said is of ultimate importance, believers who’ve already passed from this life are alive and with the Lord in Heaven, and we have a future beyond this life.

Because of the Resurrection, life is worth living, Jesus is worth serving, and the Good News is worth sharing.

Monday, March 9, 2015

THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:17).

Think of the difference between a “gift” and a “sentencing.”  When a sentence is handed down, there’s no choice.  That’s what you get.  That’s what you deserve.  That’s who you are – guilty and sentenced.  That’s who we were “in Adam.”  That’s what we inherited.  We inherited the “death sentence.”  But we also inherited the tendency to sin, the old flesh, the sin nature.  So we deserved to be eternally separated from God and punished for our sin.

But when you’re offered a gift there is choice.  You get to reach out and receive that gift.  It’s in the receiving of the gift that things change.  The gift itself doesn’t change your life, but when you “receive” that gift, you become the recipient of whatever that gift “bestows” on you. 

When you’re born into a family, you’re given a name.  That name identifies you.  You’re given a home and that identifies where you live.  You’re given siblings and you look alike.  The material possessions of the family, the inheritance of the family, the reputation of the family – all belong to you and identify you.  Those things are “bestowed” on you and characterize you.

When you receive God’s grace and the gift of righteousness through faith in Jesus, then what is bestowed on you is a “new identity” and all that it includes.  The Bible teaches that your old identity is put to death.   You’re no longer guilty or sentenced.  If you’re dead, you can’t be sentenced anymore.  You can’t be punished.  You can’t be guilty anymore.  You’re dead.

Now you’ve been raised as a new person with a new identity to live a new life.  You now get to live the resurrected life in obedience to Christ as you let Him live through you.  Now you’re redeemed.  The gift you receive is a life-changer.   It’s an identity changer.   It’s future-changer for you.  It changes everything for you and about you.  The gift is the “gift of righteousness.”  When you place your life in the hands of Jesus, and place your belief in Him for your forgiveness and eternal life, God gives you the gift of righteousness.  At that moment you are placed in right standing with God.  You are made righteous in God’s eyes. 

The sentence of judgment has been removed, and now you are forgiven and innocent and holy in God’s eyes and you forever will be, because Jesus died one sacrificial death for all your sin for all time.

Our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. … For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy (Heb. 10:12, 14 NLT). 

Only God makes us acceptable in His eyes.  Only He makes us righteous before Him.   He alone justifies us through Jesus Christ.  No other one, no religion, no code of ethics, no philosophy, no ideology, nothing else makes us righteous enough for eternal life in Heaven, but Jesus.  Only the gift God gives through faith in His Son Jesus qualifies us for Heaven.  He gives His righteousness to us so that we are made righteous in God’s judicial eyes.  It’s what Jesus did right, because we didn’t and couldn’t.

Monday, March 2, 2015

WHERE IS YOUR LIFE GOING?

Yet it is in him that God gives a full and complete expression of himself (within the physical limits that he set himself in Christ). Moreover, your own completeness is only realized in him, who is the authority over all authorities, and the supreme power over all powers (Col. 2:9-10 Ph).

If we want to live a complete and whole life, we must live it under God’s authority.  Live it under His management.  Play life according to His rules.  Follow His instructions for living and relating.  Let Him be in control.  Let Him be in the lead.

How does this benefit you?  When you choose to live life under God’s authority, you get moved along the timeline of His purpose.  What does His purpose do in your life?  His purpose completes your life.  We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails (Prov. 19:21 Mes).  If you want a life with purpose that lasts and completes you, you’ve got to get on track with God’s purpose, because His purpose succeeds.

Author, Martin Amis, in his comparison of life to a steam engine train, wrote:  “Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either, but with ropes of steam and spark-spattered wheels and a hoarse roar of power or terror. It's passing, yet I'm the one who's doing all the moving. I'm not the station, I'm not the stop: I'm the train. I'm the train.”

You’re on a timeline and you’re going somewhere in the end.  Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God (Eph. 5:16-17 Ph).

Monday, February 23, 2015

YOUR “TO DO” LIST

If you’re someone who likes to get things done, you may be a “task-oriented” person.  While completing tasks is essential it can fuel an underlying belief that God’s approval is related to our accomplishments.  And that’s another way of saying we believe God’s love is conditional and He accepts us based on our performance.  How do we adjust our belief to the truth about God’s unconditional love for us?  When we simply take the time to be alone with God, without tasks or an agenda (such as research, lesson preparation, or Scripture memory), we affirm our faith in God’s unconditional love.  You need to ask yourself, “Does God really love me when I’m not doing something for Him?”  The only way to find out and to really know His deep unconditional love for you is to stop doing for Him for a while.  Take some time to just be with God and know Him.  He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psa. 46:10).

Monday, February 16, 2015

TO BE

Whether you know it or not “Someone”, i.e. God, thought you up, and there is a reason why you are alive in the universe.

That’s so important that the Bible has a word for it: “Calling.” A calling is not something that is reserved for special people like a Mother Teresa or a Billy Graham. You have a calling.  You have a life purpose.

The first part of your life purpose has to do with who you are.  Before God calls you to do, He “calls you to become”.  You are “called to become somebody”.  God’s calling doesn’t start with a task to accomplish; it starts with a person God wants you and me to be—a Jesus kind of person. Your calling is to be joyful and loving and honest, to put aside sin, and to grow in the character that God is forming in you.  And He wants you to do that in a way that reflects the absolute uniqueness of you.

Paul writes to the church at Corinth:  To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy (1 Cor. 1:2).  Then he writes to the church in Rome:  To all of you in Rome whom God loves and has called to be his holy people (Rom. 1:7 NCV).   Notice they are not called to do anything, but to be something.

To the church in Thessalonica he wrote:  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thes. 4:7).  And then to the church at Galatia he wrote:  For you have been called to live in freedom (Gal. 5:13 NLT).  That’s good news!  Your calling starts with the person God had in mind when He thought you up.

·         You cannot succeed in what you do if you fail in who you are.

So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires.  Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy (Eph. 4:22-24 GNT).

Monday, February 9, 2015

BELIEVING THROUGH EVERYDAY

You connect with God by faith.  It’s a matter of belief.  Jesus said, “What God wants you to do is to believe in the one he sent” (John 6:29 GNB).  You believe Jesus for eternal life, trusting that what He did for you on the cross was sufficient to forgive you of all your sins.  Your “new life” in Christ begins with faith.  And you are “sealed”, “guaranteed” eternity in Heaven by His Holy Spirit Who immediately comes to live within you the moment you place your belief in Jesus.

You may mostly think about believing in Jesus for “eternal life in Heaven.”  But believing in Jesus also includes believing in Him for your “everyday life on earth.”  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 

It’s all about believing in Jesus.  It’s a about faith in God.  God wants us to connect with Him by faith because He knows that’s the only way we’re going to discover real and lasting life, and it’s the only way we’re going to live life to the fullest.

Believing in Jesus for your “everyday life” is the only way you’re going to find “The Way” to go through the ups and downs of your life.  It’s the only way you’re going to know “The Truth” when you’re hit with all kinds of distractions and temptations and "expert" opinions.  And it’s the only way you’re going to live “The Life” that is meaningful, whole, and rewarding. 

Think with me for a moment about what it means to believe in Jesus for our everyday living.
To believe in Jesus is to invest in Him, and in what He teaches and promises. To believe in Jesus is to place your trust in Him, in what He has said and done, and in what He says He will do in the future. 

To believe in Jesus is to believe He is enough.  Who He is and what He has done and what He will do encompasses everything of you.  To believe in Him is to immerse yourself in Him, in His presence, in His commandments, in His interests, and in His way of living.

To believe in Jesus is to believe in His authority.  Following His resurrection from the dead He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mat. 28:18).  To believe in Him is to believe in His authority over everything.  Believe in His authority over your past, your present, your future, your whole life.  You can trust Him with your future because of what He’s done in the past, namely, His death on the cross for you because He loves you so much.

To believe in Jesus is to believe He cares for you.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).  Believe in Him by resting in His care.  Count the many ways He cares for you.  Pause and think on His love for you.  Believe in Him through everyday of your life.

Monday, January 26, 2015

GIVING MATTERS

By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous (Heb. 11:4 Mes).  The Bible here is talking about giving in faith.  It wasn't what Abel gave that pleased God but how he gave it.  It wasn't the amount, but the attitude.  God is concerned about the attitude by which we give. 

There are two ways to give.  We can give by reason or we can give by revelation.  One of these ways you don't get any credit for.  The other way pleases God.

First, we can give by reason.  When we give by reason we look at our bank account and how much we've got and we figure out what can we afford.  And we give a reasonable amount based on what we can afford.  That doesn't require any faith.  An atheist can give by reason.  You don't have to believe in God for that. 

The other way to give is to give by revelation.  Revelation is when we pray and read what God says in the Scriptures, and we ask God, "God, what do You want me to give?  God, how much do You want me to trust You for?"  That's giving by faith.  That's the kind of giving that God blesses.

Some may say, "God, You give to me and then I'll give."  But that's not faith.  It's like, "God, You bring in this big windfall and when it arrives then I'll give some of it back to You."  That may be gratitude but that certainly isn't faith.  Giving is when you can't even afford it, when you give in advance -- like you're planting the seed in advance. 

The Bible says, They gave much because of their great joy. I can tell you that they gave as much as they were able and even more than they could afford (2 Cor. 8:2-3 NCV).  Anybody can give when they've got excess funds overflowing.  Anybody can believe when it's sitting there in front of them.  Anybody can obey when they already see the results. 

It's when you don’t feel like it and it doesn't make sense, and you step out in faith that God blesses you.  God comes through on His promises after we trust Him first.

Monday, January 19, 2015

SEE BEYOND WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU


Plan your year and your life around a future that lasts.  Abraham gives us a great example:  When he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent… Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God (Heb. 11:9-10 NLT).  Abraham was “looking forward” to the city built by God.

Look beyond today.  Everybody is going into the future.  Plan your life around the big picture, instead of just living for today.  And the big picture is connected to that which is of eternal value. 
Your future is tied to an eternity.  The good news is that you get to decide now what your eternity will be like.

We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever (2 Cor. 4:18 NCV).

Monday, January 12, 2015

FAITH…REAL OR IMITATION


We’re familiar with terms such as genuine and faux, real and imitation.  Our faith may be described by one of those terms, and God wants to make sure it’s the real thing, a genuine faith.

In 1 Peter 1:6-7 he writes, In this you greatly rejoice (vs. 1-5, our salvation, our heavenly inheritance, and our future resurrection), even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Even when you go through troubling times, as a believer in Christ you have reasons to rejoice.  They include your salvation, your inheritance in Heaven reserved for you, your future resurrection with a new glorified physical body, God’s protection of you and your salvation, and His providence in causing you to be reborn spiritually into His family.  These are the things you can take joy in.  They’re real and lasting.  However as we rejoice in those things, we go through this life with difficulty and pain, trials and temptations.  Why?  They’re for the purpose of testing our faith and forming our character.  We will have them “for a little while.”  In other words, they are just moments compared to all eternity.  This life is a small segment of time.  Life in eternity is a great unending time.  That’s why it’s very na├»ve to live only for the present.

The words, “if necessary” refer to God’s purpose in your life.  The meaning is that in building your character and testing and proving your faith He doesn’t always use troubles and dark times.  But sometimes it’s necessary for God’s glory and our good.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).  Sometimes it’s in God’s will for us to suffer because we’re following Jesus and obeying Him.  Rom. 8:17 reads, Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  And 1 Peter 3:17 says, For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Through it all God is the Manager and the Monitor of what and how much is allowed into your life. David writes in Psa. 139:5, You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.  We’re reminded in 1 Cor. 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  The word for “temptation” also means “testing.”  It doesn’t just mean temptation to sin, but also includes the testing of your faith through trouble.

God has you surrounded.  What comes into your life is only what He allows.  He is control of it.  What’s our responsibility?  We must trust His wisdom and love.  We don’t have to understand all that God does and all that He allows, but we can trust Him that it will end in good.

If you trust His love and wisdom in the suffering, then you can trust His faithfulness and promise that it will produce good for you.  And the genuineness of your faith will be proved.

Monday, January 5, 2015

WE REALLY DON’T WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE

There is a danger in thinking that people can connect with Christ while remaining disconnected from His Body.  In much of His instruction to us Christ emphasized that Christianity is something we do together.  This is why we have small group Bible studies, and breakfasts and lunches together, and potluck dinners and church anniversaries, and refreshments and baptisms, and Communion, and praying together, and visits in the hospital, and providing food in times of need.  It’s essential that people lovingly connect with one another because it evidences our loving connection with God.  John says in 1 John 4:19-21, We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 

Imagine a common scene of a family driving in a minivan or suv with dad listening to sports radio, mom talking on the phone, daughter texting, and son watching a movie on the back of his mother’s seat.  This is our culture today.  Everyone together, but alone.  In movie theaters, concert venues, and sports stadiums we sing, laugh, cry, and cheer powerfully together, and then leave without so much as a goodbye.

The outcome of our “individualistic ideology” is a society where intimate friendships are becoming rarer all the time.  Studies show that nearly a quarter of all Americans (twice as many as two decades ago) have no one with whom they can discuss things they consider important.  And the trend is not improving.  Boomers are more relationally isolated than their parents, and the children of Boomers are more isolated still.

Even in the church, isolation can exist.  But we are not meant to go to church alone.  When in Jesus’ name we lay down our lives for one another and engage in one another’s lives for the sake of love and encouragement, we become a powerful witness of God’s love.  And that is a huge difference from our consumer culture that uses people up and then excludes those no longer useful.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “It is the fellowship of the Cross to experience the burden of the other.  If one does not experience it, the fellowship he belongs to is not Christian.”  We can’t have intimacy with Christ and remain aloof from his Body.  We can’t worship God and claim, “I’m not my brother’s keeper.”

None of us really wants to be left alone.  We really do want to be “bothered” with questions from those who care.  To love others is to risk thawing the ice of isolation… even if sometimes you get a cold shoulder.