Tuesday, July 17, 2018

It’s Not That Hard

This past weekend at our church Gary Stith gave a humble yet powerful testimony of how seeking to be the best music teacher he could be and showing a loving interest in people’s lives opened opportunities for him to share Jesus with them.  It wasn’t hard.  It was just doing life in the Spirit.  He gave us an endearing picture of doing his daily devotional time down in his basement with his pre-school daughter waking up to join him, cuddled together under blankets.  It’s not hard, it is doing life in the Spirit.

We read messages from those Gary worked with and taught.  They spoke of his godliness and humility, his generosity and graciousness.  They all said that his influence and the impression he made still lingers in their lives today.  It’s not hard, it is doing life in the Spirit.

I can graciously say that Gary was embarrassed to have the questions asked and the attention put on him.  But he was willing to go through the experience for one sole reason:  giving all glory and praise to Jesus.  His life has been focused on Him.  His heart has been transformed by Him.  Jesus’ love for people has flowed through Gary.  What I appreciated was how Gary told us his own amazement about  the doors opened for him, like being given a professorship at Houghton College without an earned Doctorate.  Rare in our world but not in God’s world.  Jesus opens doors that no one can open and shuts doors no one can shut.

If you missed the message, including Gary’s testimony, take 45 minutes this week and listen.  It may help you to realize that excellence may draw, but love influences.  It may also help you realize that leaving a powerful witness for Jesus is not hard, its just doing life in the Spirit.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence

Happy 4th of July.  We celebrate today as the birthday of our country.  It is the day when the Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain and began the journey toward a Constitution that sought to protect the unalienable rights of every human being, especially those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Self-governance was its central theme.

Yet we know that God’s design for us is not self-governance in a sinful state, but Spirit-controlled governance in a redeemed state.  The mind controlled by our “flesh”, our human intellect and instincts, is death but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.  (Romans 8:6)

If we are to win new friends, our desires must line up with God’s desires for them.  In fact, our lives must not be able fighting for self at all, but for the ability and opportunity to fulfill our God-given purpose in creation.  And that purpose is to bring glory to Him and goodness to others.

As we celebrate today as Christians, the reality is not about patriotism and parades and government, it is about freedom in Christ and ours absolute dependence on Him.  In this we rejoice and find true life, liberty and happiness.  And we get to share it with others.

Have a blessed day.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Dispensers of Hope and Grace

““Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.     Job‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

One of the values we hold is that of God’s grace.  When we have received undeserved kindness from the Lord, how can we withhold it from others?
Therefore when we are seeking to walk along side current friends or encountering a new friend, our countenance and words should ooze of grace.  Grace is given as a signpost for healing.  It points the way to the solution.  Grace is one wounded person who has found healing telling another wounded person about the remedy for their condition.Job was suffering.  Terribly.  And his friends, rather than helping to point him to the solution, were busy telling him about his failings. They were trying to explain to him how his arrogance, his pride, his self-righteousness, were the cause of all his problems.  The problem is that they were wrong.  Totally wrong.Friends don’t need us to diagnose the cause.  They need a remedy.  And the remedy is the grace of God.  And that remedy is obtained by confession of our neediness and repentance of any sin that we have committed.  Challenging conditions do not always mean we have sinned.  The Lord may bring a situation to us to strengthen our trust in him, like He did with His friend Abraham in Genesis 22.  But even those situations demonstrate our need to turn to and depend on Him.So don’t neglect kindness when dealing with your friends.  Point them to Jesus just as you have turned to Him many times in your life.  Friends are not dispensers of justice but of grace and hope.#summerofwon

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Subtle Deception

When you read through the opening pages of the Bible, you find that perfection gets derailed through very subtle deception.  Adam and Eve were in perfect harmony with God and with each other.  A singular command was given to follow.  They joyfully did so until a question was raised in their mind through Satan.  “Did God really say” leads to a distortion of God’s intentions and the breakdown of the relationship.  And sin enters into the world, and death through sin.

Fast forward to a scene in the Temple during Jesus’ time.  It is found in Luke 18:

““Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭18:10-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Notice the focus for both men was their own condition.  The Pharisee felt sorry that other men were not as “righteous’ and faithful as he was.  The tax collector was broken before the Lord, feeling the weight of his sin, and cried out for mercy.  Jesus said that the tax collector was justified before God and not the Pharisee.

Here is the subtle deception.  When we “feel” like we are in good standing with the Lord, it should move us to join in the same mission as Jesus.  Remember that Luke also told us that the “Son of Man came to seek and to save those who are lost.”  (Luke 19:10). So Jesus left the perfect surroundings of heaven in order to wade into the muck and mire of lost humanity in order to seek out people and redeem them.  True compassion does not just feel sorry for people because of their messes.  It moves among them in order to lead them out of their circumstance and into a solid relationship with Jesus.  If we simply feel good about ourselves and sorry for them without seeking to help them, we are in essence no different than the Pharisee standing in the Temple.

Subtle deception derailed Adam and Eve (and all of us through them) from the perfect relationship they were experiencing with God.  And subtle deception can derail us today from the perfect work God created for us to do in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 2:8-10).

So let’s show true compassion today. Have that cup of coffee with someone who you know who is asking questions about faith in the midst of their addiction or broken marriage or rebellion.  Meet with that new believer who does not have a clue how to make hard choices to honor Jesus.  Patiently coach someone who struggles to develop simple spiritual disciplines.  Let’s give of ourselves to them the way Christ gave of Himself to us.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Taking Lightly What God Takes Seriously

Knowing that what I am about to write is counter-cultural, I suggest to you that it is one of the strongest tools in our arsenal both to protect ourselves and to give a witness to others.  I am also painfully aware that many that name themselves as followers of Jesus Christ seemingly take this matter lightly while God takes it very seriously.  It is the matter of sexual purity.

In 1 Thessalonians 4, God says,It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.[b] The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

God’s calling for us as believers is to be holy, living our lives differently than the world around us.  Notice the verbs:  AVOID (to abstain from or distance ourselves from) sexual immorality; LEARN TO CONTROL or POSSESS our own bodies (this could mean focusing on our own spouse); not WRONG or STEP OVER A LINE with brothers and sisters; we are not CALLED to impurity; and REJECTION is against God.  God takes these things so seriously that He will be “an avenger” against anyone who commits such sins.  WOW.

Playing around with pornography is not a harmless endeavor. It objectifies people; violates your marriage commitment; and lures the user into deeper sin.  God speaks in the Bible about not denying relations in marriage except for prayer so we don’t set ourselves up for temptation. (1 Cor. 7:5)  Flirting with the opposite sex, especially a married person, is crossing the line of proper treatment of someone else’s spouse.  In essence it is like trying to steal the intimacy and emotional energies that belong to another.  


That is why the writer to the Hebrews also exhorted, Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4

The wording reflects any aberration of God’s design for sexuality. Our culture flagrantly celebrates sexual freedoms on all levels and chastises as judgmental anyone who suggests limits. This contributes to broken marriages and broken people. Our counter-cultural expression of purity and the celebration of monogamy and the wonders of married life sends a strong message about the glory of God and His designs for life that way it is meant to be.

Let’s send a message that helps others avoid the pain and us to experience God’s glory in wholesome and pure relationships.







Monday, February 5, 2018

Don’t Give Up

I’ve always loved picking up details in stories even though I don’t do well with all the details in getting a task done.  One is an exploration toward completeness.  The other is the drudgery of completing.  My mind is drawn to the one and allergic to the other.

So I picked up an encouraging detail in a well known story I read recently.  Jesus is questioning the disciples, getting the latest polling on who people thought He was.  Elijah and John the Baptist, both reincarnated, led the polls.  Then Jesus polled them: “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter immediately blurts out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Here is the detail.  Blessed are you Simon, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father who is in Heaven.  No human being showed you this Peter.  You may not even know how you came to the conclusion.  But you are right.  You are Peter and I will use you to fish for men and build my church.  Wait?  Isn’t this Peter, the one who will tell Jesus along the road to Jerusalem that he would never let happen to Jesus what He is telling them will happen?  Isn’t this Peter, who will get so scared from the accusations of a teenage girl that he will deny Jesus three times?  Isn’t this Peter who doesn’t know what to do after the resurrection and returns to fishing?

Yes.  It is.  But Jesus sees Peter as He knows he can and will be, not as he is.  We focus on where we are and get discouraged.  We want to give up.  But Peter, when filled and directed by the Holy Spirit will be a totally different man.  And that is what we have to remember when we feel like giving up.  The Lord is not giving up on us.  He does and will reveal Himself.  And it won’t be in the same way always.

To Elijah, who was distraught and lonely, He spoke with a still, small voice.  (I Kings 19). To Paul on the road to Damascus, He spoke in bright light, with a voice that he alone heard.  Others heard sound but not what or who it was. (Acts 9). To Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds, He sent an angel with a message. (Matthew 1; Luke 1-2). Through the years I have heard numerous testimonies of people who told me that the Lord spoke to them as if He were right beside them yet there was no audible voice.

So don’t be discouraged today or quit.  The Lord sees you the way He created you to be.  And He will continue to reveal Himself to you as you seek Him.  Patiently seek Him.  You will find Him when you seek Him wholeheartedly. (Jeremiah 29:13)



Thursday, January 18, 2018

What Are We Thinking?

Acts 28:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”  29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

   As we begin a new year, what are we thinking about?  What we dwell on drives us, convicts us, convinces us and motivates us.  For the Apostle Paul, the mission of bearing witness to Jesus and seeking to persuade men to follow Him was all consuming.  It was the essence of his life.

   And it is for us too.  Every day, every way, to every one, we are giving a witness.  And when God opens an opportunity, we can graciously speak so as to persuade others.  Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:  Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. 

If you read the whole interaction (you can here) you will find a few things.  First, Paul is very honoring and respectful to King Agrippa.  He is not aggressive or insulting or accusatory.  He counts it a privilege to have an informed conversation.  Second, he tells his story in a concise but relevant manner.  The details he gives, as he says later, are what the king would be aware of.  He was testifying to the truthfulness of the events in light of Jesus.  And he concludes by asking the king if he believed what the prophets have said.  In other words, do you find merit in what you have seen and heard?

When challenged, Paul responds by showing concern, stating only that his desire is that the King and others would find the same peace and joy and confidence in Christ he has.

What do you learn by "sitting in" on this interaction?  Do you have the same daily passion to want to "persuade others" about the Gospel?  Is your approach gentle and respectful or argumentative?  Do you show respect in the process?  Is your testimony focused on what Jesus has done or about you?

These are good questions that can guide us to a powerful year of watching Jesus open the door for more and more opportunities to give a witness for Him.