Friday, June 28, 2013

Actions Speak Louder

“Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:18. The things that we do, or don’t do, speak louder than words, and that‘s exactly what we‘re being taught in this verse.

Christianity is a contact sport, so to speak, it‘s hands on and action packed. We need to be doing the stuff that Jesus did;  clothing, feeding, healing, comforting etc., in general, meeting people’s needs using the resources of the Holy Spirit.  James, the brother of Jesus tells us this:  If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? James 2:16.  What good is it if we merely tell a freezing person to keep warm, we have to invite him in, or give them a coat.  Same principle applies for any unmet physical, emotional, spiritual or financial need, we are here to serve.

 Christians stand in the place of Jesus, and he was always about his father’s business. More than just keeping us busy, ministry was designed to display the manifest love of God to those in need, and it’s so rewarding.  I believe that more unsaved people can be brought into the kingdom by showing love, than pointing out their sin and lack.  We have so much that’s not  calculated in human terms;  the intangible gift of God’s salvation that was extended to us when we were most in need.  “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” Romans 5:6. This is the right time to start dishing out God’s love to the hungry world.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Doing Greater Things

"I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. John 14:12.  This promise really excites me! Jesus is telling me, and all who believe in him, that we are not only going to do the stuff he did, and he did amazing stuff, but even greater stuff!  How amazing is that!!

Enter the party-poopers, church folk who feel that this verse was meant only for the apostles, and earliest church members.  They will tell you that those believers needed to demonstrate the supernatural power of God, along with the proclamation of his word, and so they were empowered. That I can fully agree with, but there it ends for them.  Apparently, dispensationalists, as these believers are called, are convinced that these miraculous works are no longer available, or necessary for those in the present day church. Color me sad L.  Lucky for me, I’m not a dispensationalist! The church is like a boat, it needs to be sailing, going where God directs, not powerless, and stuck in the mud.

People back in Jesus’ day were surrounded by sorcerers, magicians, soothsayers etc., folks performing all kinds of “miraculous-looking” feats.  When Jesus, and his entourage appeared, doing amazing stuff, the “religious” Pharisees were skeptical, even when he healed a deaf mute. "So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. "Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!" they exclaimed. “But the Pharisees said, He can cast out demons because he is empowered by the prince of demons." Matthew 9:33-34.   Jesus didn’t rely on the usual mumbo jumbo, or incantations the local wizards did, instead he operated in the authority that had been given to him, by God, to perform these supernatural acts.

As humans, then and now, we still may be dubious.  Things on earth  just don’t work that way; do they?  The answer to that is no they don’t, but yes they can!  Certainly not through anything I can do in my own strength, but when I work in the power of the Holy Spirit, now that’s a different story.  Do miracles still happen,  are people healed, and released from demonic control? I have seen it happen, and I, for one, am convinced!  How about you?  Are you still a bit skeptical?  There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s the point where God can begin to reveal his awesome power to you.  It’s not going to be like anything you’ve seen before, and that should be dandy with you.  So get busy asking God to start convincing you, and you’ll be doing even greater things than his son in no time!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Turning Bad into Good

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20.  OK you Bible trivia people, who spoke these words, and to whom?  (Insert Final Jeopardy tune here) If you answered Joseph, of the many-colored coat fame, speaking to his shame-filled brothers, you would be correct.

Everyone is familiar with Joseph’s tale of woe, having been sold into slavery by his brothers, but how much do you know about his time in Egypt? There is quite a bit of juicy stuff that occurs, before this verse is spoken. Refer back to Genesis, beginning in chapter 37, for the full account, but I will try to summarize for you.  Blah, blah, blah, Joe irritates his older brothers with his prophetic dreams, of them bowing down to him, so filled with jealousy they sell him.  To cover the dastardly deed, they tell dear old dad, Jacob, that a wild animal has devoured him. As the years pass, Joe rises up through the ranks in Egypt, because of his ability to interpret the  Pharaoh’s dreams.  Unbelievably, the very thing that got him into trouble with the family, became the key to his success.

Fast forward to the famine that had spread all the way to Israel. Joseph wisely predicted it from one of said dreams, and instructed Egypt to set aside crops in anticipation of it.  Desperation and hunger forced Jacob’s entire family to leave home in search of provisions in Egypt.  Unaware that this important man was their brother, they came before him on bended knee,  asking for his help; and he gave it, thus fulfilling the long ago dream.  That long ago, almost tragic, episode  was brought on by hatred and jealousy, and it could have smoldered in Joseph, justifying him, in human terms, to send his needy brethren away, but he didn‘t.  Just the opposite, he welcomed them, and provided for them.  That sure had to be God at work! Yes indeed, his brothers had meant to harm Joseph, but God took the evil deed and worked it into his good, and the saving of a nation, Israel.  Maybe some of you are feeling persecuted, wronged, oppressed, spiritually, mentally, or physically, even as you read this. Take heart,  even when you feel like you‘ve been run over by a steamroller, when we keep our focus on God, and not those “pressing” issues, or people causing them, He will reveal the good that He has intended through it all.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Firmly Attached

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” John 15:5-7. I’m not a gardener, but I know that if a branch is to bear fruit, it must stay connected to the vine.  Every late winter, before the plants begin to green up, the vine keeper prunes the plants to the very nub. The cuttings die and are burned. To the untrained eye, what remains looks dead, but as the warm days of spring approach, the green branches push their way out of the dead-looking vine.  The life-giving flow of water and nutrients, can only reach the developing leaves, and eventual fruit, by way of that connection to the main vine.

Have you every really thought about your life as a branch? Branches don’t have a decision to make, they are naturally attached to the vine, but we do.  Sometimes it seems like fun to be out on our own, away from our source of life, Christ, but it will only lead us to the burn pile.  Scripture tells us that at one time we were in just such a position, as wild olive plants. “…and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,….” Romans 11:17. What a joy it is to know that I am not only sustained by my connection to Him, but I will bear much fruit.  Sure, pruning is part of the process, but it only serves to make us more abundant.  Watch that you are firmly attached. If you’re feeling less than fruitful, ask the vine-dresser to repair your graft.  Remember, you can’t have true life apart from God.  “…You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” Romans 11:18.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Made in His Image

I came across this neat row of cement Mickey Mouses, all made in the image of the iconic rodent. I then thought to myself, God made us in his image, but unlike Mickey, we’re not all the same.  We don’t look, think, react or even mature at the same time.  Ask any parent to compare the development of their children, and while there are some similarities, each one is different.  Consult with a teacher, and he or she will tell you that every kid in class has their own way of learning, either visual, hands on, or audible, and their own timetable.  So why is it then, that we like to think that people are supposed to reach spiritual, developmental milestones at certain ages?

 There is no ideal time to be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit or to start operating in the gifts of the spirit. Do all children walk at 12 months? Of course not!  Should we be alarmed when a child isn’t toilet trained at age 2?  Exasperated maybe, but not alarmed.  Just like we have our own unique growth and development patterns, so too God has designed when and how we come into relationship with him.  The mind and body work together as a child matures.  Weak legs strengthen before one walks.  Babies listen to words and repeat what they hear.  A parent can’t force walking or talking on a child, any more than they can impose a personal relationship with God.  Accepting God involves using all our faculties, and that’s the way he wants it.  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37.

Concrete statues may look cute in the garden, but they are useless in the Kingdom of God.  God continues to teach, equip and mature us, regardless of our age. “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13.   Sadly, some children never fully develop, and there are those who are slow or never accept God into their lives, but that doesn’t mean He has given up on anyone. ”The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9.  He’s holding out his welcoming arms, waiting for you to fully mature and run, not walk, into them.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Talk About It!!

Some people are natural-born talkers, and  they find it easy to expound on just about any topic of conversation.  Then there are the quiet types to whom everything is personal and private.  The one thing that both types have in common is the ability to talk about what they love.  Photography, cars, cooking, model airplanes, grandchildren, travel and the list goes on and on.  Get on the right “page”, and talkers and non-talkers alike will effervesce about their passion. It would be the rare person, who, say, after a fabulous vacation, would clam up when asked to tell about it, saying it was a private/personal matter.

OK, you’re in agreement with me so far, right?  So, why is it that many Christians, who claim to love God, refrain from sharing about Him, saying it is a personal and private matter.  Thank God Jesus didn’t feel that way, we’d be in bad shape!  I think the biggest reason is that their relationship with him is shallow and superficial.  I, for example, wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing nuclear physics, because I don’t know anything about it, but don’t get me started on my grand kids!  God created us to spread his word, and demonstrate his love to an ungodly world. If you have it, and are hiding it in your spiritual safe deposit box, why? The only reason I can come up with is a lack of passion.

 As I said previously, it’s impossible to keep silent about what you love, and are passionate about.  Maybe you’re unfamiliar with scripture, then find a study group.  Perhaps you have a “hand-me-down” faith, and long to know what a personal relationship with God is. Ask someone to tell you about theirs, believe me, we love to share!  Whatever you do, don’t justify your lack of talking with the old “private and personal” excuse…that’s no excuse at all!  God expects us to get the word out, and my prayer for all of you is that He, and his word, will become your passion!   “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Do vs Done: Religion vs Christianity

Some of you may be familiar with Willow Creek, a mega church, up in Chicago, and the pastor, Bill Hybels.  As a young pastor, Bill relates this story, which I‘m passing along to you. “Lynne and I were on a sailing trip. After anchoring in a harbor for the night, we [met] some people who invited us to come to their boat later to spend some time socializing with them and a few of their friends.
“It was when we were in the process of leaving [after the party] that the moment came. Lynne had already climbed down the ladder into the dinghy and I was halfway down myself when one of the people who had invited us aboard said, ‘Say, Bill, before you leave can you answer a question? I’ve always wanted to ask a Christian what it means to become one. Could you tell all of us?’
“Let’s do a freeze frame: If you’d been in my place, how would you have responded? Would you have been ready to give a succinct response to such an important question?
[Here’s Bill’s answer:] “First you’ve got to realize the difference between religion and Christianity. Religion is spelled ‘D-O,’ because it consists of the things people do to try to somehow gain God’s forgiveness and favor.
“But the problem is that you never know when you’ve done enough. It’s like being a salesman who knows he must meet a quota but is never told what it is. You can’t be sure you’ve done enough. Worse yet, the Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that we never can do enough. We’ll always fall short of God’s perfect standard.
“But thankfully, Christianity is spelled ‘D-O-N-E,’ which means that what we could never do for ourselves, Christ has already done for us. He lived the perfect life we could never live, and He willingly died on the cross to pay the penalty we owed for our wrongs.
“To become a real Christian is to humbly receive God’s gift of forgiveness and to commit to following His leadership. When we do that, He adopts us into His family, and begins to change us from the inside out.”

None of us know when we may be called upon to give our personal answer to this question, but we must be prepared. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15. At least one of the “questioners” on the boat that evening came into relationship with Christ when he heard that response.  Never be afraid, ashamed or unprepared, the world needs to lovingly, unwaveringly hear the truth. Remember, Christ’s last words on the cross were, “It is DONE”, not keep on doing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Accepting His Pardon

I don’t consider myself a U.S. history buff, but the other day I came upon this interesting story that I’d like to pass along. During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, George Wilson, a postal clerk, robbed a federal payroll from a train and in the process killed a guard. The court convicted him and sentenced him to death by hanging. Because of public sentiment against capital punishment, however, a movement began to secure a presidential pardon for Wilson (first offense), and eventually Jackson intervened with a pardon. Amazingly, Wilson refused it. Since this had never happened before, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether someone could indeed refuse a presidential pardon. Chief Justice John Marshall handed down the court’s decision: "A pardon is a parchment whose only value must be determined by the receiver of the pardon. It has no value apart from that which the receiver gives to it. George Wilson has refused to accept the pardon. We cannot conceive why he would do so, but he has. Therefore, George Wilson must die." And so, as punishment for his crime, George Wilson, on a day appointed by the court, was taken from his cell and hanged to satisfy the requirements of the law. Pardon, declared the Supreme Court, must not only be granted, it must be accepted. It’s hard for us to imagine anyone turning down a presidential pardon, in effect choosing death over life, but he did.  I’m sure that George’s mother, wife, children or friends, had pleaded with him to reconsider.  I can even see myself, as his mother, asking the supreme court to let me accept the pardon for him. No can do, said the court, only the convicted person had the right to either accept or reject the pardon.

 The point I want to make is, we all stand convicted of sin, in the eyes of God.  “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” Romans 3:23, and the punishment is death.  Yes, we’ve are all been found guilty, and like George, deserve the penalty.  “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8.  Instead of the gallows, God holds forth his pardon, a “get out of hell free” card; will you accept it? You’d be a fool not to, but that said, the world is filled with lots of fools.  For whatever reason, they turn down the gracious offer and choose death. Remember, only you can accept the pardon.  Your Mom, spouse, church or pastor can’t stand in as your proxy. If you haven’t done so already, don’t put it off another day. Then go out and spread the good news!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Doing What You Please vs Pleasing God

It’s always interesting to peek into other people’s lives, and it’s not really invasion of privacy when “peeks” shows up on my Facebook page.  There are oodles of sites that allow you to “share” or “like” their pages, pictures and quotes.  Some are humorous, others thought provoking, still others silly, witty, or poignant, and then there are the “others“. By others I mean those that contain either crude language, ungodly sentiments or in general material that, we as Christians, should consider offensive.

There have been times that I’ve almost “liked” a post only to find out the FB page, that it is associated with, contains views contrary to mine as a believer.  Be careful before pushing that “like” button friends!  Anyway, one day I noticed that one of my friends had pushed the button, and now, not only I, but thousands of people were privy to what they had just “liked”.   Here’s, generally, what the quote they “liked” said,  “Life is too short, so today I’m going to do whatever the f--- I please!”  The not so funny thing is that many people, who call themselves Christ-followers, are the ones posting these sentiments.  While there are days, I have to sadly admit, when my old self would concur, thankfully the indwelling Holy Spirit guides my thoughts to a higher level.  What I should have posted in response was, “Eternity is too long, so today I’m going to do whatever pleases God!”

Don’t think that just because I’m a Christian I am above thinking ungodly thoughts, I humbly admit I do, but when they show up, the Spirit like Jiminy Cricket on Pinocchio’s shoulder thumps me on the head with his umbrella.  Think of some of God’s biggest heroes for a minute, King David in particular. He was not indwelled by God’s spirit, as we are now, but he still got the message of his sin through Nathan the prophet, and he was grateful. Later he went on to gush,  “Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God. May your kind Spirit lead me into a level land.”  Psalm 40:8 .

Are you truly desiring to do what pleases God?  The world sends us all kinds of mixed messages, don’t  be confused.  If you’re not feeling that gentle Holy Spirit nudge, I’d sure be asking myself why not. Unless you are blatantly going against God’s urgings, you may not be in full relationship with him. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13.

Doing whatever you please today is a split second compared to eternity. Please, be pleasing God, and not yourself.  “And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:17.

Friday, June 14, 2013

His Banner Over Me is Love

Happy Flag Day! I come from a long line of proud flag-wavers.  My Dad always had the Stars and Stripes hanging from our front porch, even on non-holidays.  He also taught us flag etiquette, including how to properly, and reverently, fold the flag into a triangle at dusk.  The sight of our “banner“, waving in the breeze, should cause our hearts to swell with national pride. Woven into that iconic red, white and blue fabric is the history of our beloved homeland.

Throughout time, our nation’s banner went before the military into battle, flew freely over schools, led U.S. athletes into the Olympic games, and held an honored position in every place of worship. Around the world, the emotional tie to one’s flag is the same.  In addition, people living under the auspices of the Star Spangled Banner share the rights that our citizenship bestows upon us.  Speaking of citizenship, Paul tells we present day believers, and the church at Philippi, that while we may live, and pay taxes in certain areas, in actuality we are citizens of a far greater nation. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Philippians 3:20.

What a joy to know that our “national banner” is God’s love, covering and protecting all the citizens. "He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4.  So go ahead, shake our Old Glory and let her fly today, but make sure you raise His banner, for the world to see, every day. “In that day the heir to David's throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.” Isaiah 11:10.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Who's the Captain of Your Ship

Is there free will, or does God in his Sovereignty have things all pre-planned?  The answer is, Yes.   I heard someone explain it this way; we humans are like passengers on the Queen Mary as it makes its way across the Atlantic.  The huge ocean liner’s captain has its destination charted, and no decisions we make, as passengers, will deter the ship from arriving in port.  True the “free will“ choices we make, while onboard, may affect our individual voyage experiences, eating old sushi for example, but the ultimate goal of the ship will still be realized.

For those of us who trust that God has our highest and best interests at heart, also realize that we’re not always thrilled with his plans for us.  Perhaps we should stop and think, maybe the choice I made, (remember that sushi?), wasn’t the wisest decision I’ve ever made.  Funny thing is, God still allowed me to do it, and the ship of your life is still on course.  When God allows difficult times to befall us, whether they be physical, emotional, financial or spiritual, there is always an underlying reason, and that reason is to bring us into safe harbor, in spite of ourselves.

OK, so let’s say you’re facing a serious health crisis, you have two choices. #1 Get mad at God, question his methods, and miss the Blessing he intended all along.  #2 Trust in the loving plans of our Sovereign God, asking him to guide you through the situation, to the blessing he has at the end.  Scripture tells us very plainly that God‘s thoughts and ways are not our ways, they‘re so much better!  God must always be the captain of our ship, let him do the navigating.  Or think of him in the way the prophet Isaiah did, a master potter, and we the lump of clay he is molding into perfection; don‘t get in his way!  "What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, 'Stop, you're doing it wrong!' Does the pot exclaim, 'How clumsy can you be?' Isaiah 45:9.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

God's Love: Perfecting not Pampering

Every once in a while, as I channel surf, I linger over the reality program, Super Nanny.  It is frightening to see how out of control some people have allowed their children to become.  The kids are literally bouncing off the walls, insolent, talking back to their parents, and in general, pains in the rumpus room!! From far off, Super Nanny responds to the desperate parent’s 911 call for assistance.  Arriving at their front door, in her no nonsense outfit, and sensible shoes, she quickly assesses the situation.  As she stands to the side, she makes mental notes, and later goes over them with Mom and Dad.  In just about every case, consistent discipline is missing from the home.

 I think many people confuse being a disciplinarian with being a “bad” or mean parent.  Maybe they came from a home with overbearing folks, and to compensate, they go overboard to be friends with the children.  First of all, discipline is not a dirty word, in fact it is vital in childrearing, without it there is chaos.  Super Nanny lays down the law to the parents, who hopefully will implement her sage advice, saving the family from emotional destruction.  Years ago I found a poem entitled, “What shall we give the children?”.  It detailed what we might expect, love, security, happy memories and yes, discipline.  If we as parents don’t lovingly discipline our children, the world will harshly do it for us.

As adult Christians, we may feel too wise or mature for God’s discipline, but we would be wrong.  God, like Super Nanny, works in our lives not to pamper us, but to perfect us.  He sure doesn’t need spoiled brats running amok in his kingdom, and so, like any loving parent he exerts his divine rod of discipline. “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Hebrews 12:6. Don’t ever think you’re too old for God to take you out to the wood shed.  If you deserve it, delight in it rather than gripe, remember it’s all in his perfecting plan for your life. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” v. 11.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

There's No Grace in Law-keeping

Back in the old testament, the Mosaic Law directed every aspect of life for the nation of Israel.  Everything fell under the law; diet, housekeeping, morals, child-rearing, legal issues, relationships etc., you name it, and there was a law for it.  While the dictates of the law were fine, and strict adherence to it kept the crime rate relatively low, the thing it lacked was GRACE.  All the law could do was condemn people by pointing out where sin began, there never came a time when an individual could take a breather from the constraints of the LAW, or feel that God had totally forgiven him.

Let‘s think of the OT law in the sense of a marriage. Paul relates it to us like this, “For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her.” Romans 7:2. Before Christ, the only way to please God, was to follow the law.  You didn’t have to like it or agree with it, but you were obligated to do what it said. For those who lived under the law, there was no joy, and no escape.  As we see in this passage, OT people were in much the same position as the married woman, legally bound.  When Jesus instituted the new covenant in his blood, the mandates of the old legal system passed, finally giving way to God’s grace.  Just like the woman, whose husband died, was no longer held to the law, we too were emancipated. “For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law--I stopped trying to meet all its requirements--so that I might live for God.” Galatians 2:19.

Sin still abounds in our world, and there will always be God’s law to point them out, but for those who live for Christ, grace, rather than obligation, lovingly compels us to please Him. Remember, works, and  pursuing a “checklist” religion is not what Christ died for, and it’s certainly not what we live for. “…it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.” Romans 11:6.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Earned Wages

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.  When we work for someone, we earn a salary, based on the job we do, or the hours we put in. In a spiritual sense, there is also a wage to be earned, depending on  who your “employer” is?  There are only two options; either we work for God, or Satan, it’s as simple as that. Obviously God is the wise choice, the benefits he offers are great, and his retirement plan is out of this world! He is a fair, but demanding boss requiring us to do our very best in return for our wages.

 In reality, we all worked for Satan, before accepting Christ‘s offer. Our sinful natures held us to him like indentured slaves.  Truth be known, none of us really minded working for him, because he allowed us to do whatever pleased our flesh… sin. Blinded by the fun we were having, we ignored the real salary we were earning…death.  Not the physical death, that all of us will eventually face, but the spiritual one that will separate us from God for eternity.

No wise person will start a job without asking what the salary and benefits will be.  In the same way, we need to be absolutely sure about the boss that we have pledged our time and talents to, and what the actual wages, due us, are.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Celebrity Status

There are so many “famous” names in Christianity, especially today with highly visible televangelists, authors, musicians and speakers, they almost seem to be walking God’s red carpet. In light of their so-called celebrity status, it’s easy to put ourselves and our contributions down . But, don’t do it!!  Just because we don’t have our own TV or radio programs, doesn’t mean we don’t play an integral part in His kingdom work. 

  I love to hear about the “little” ministries that people perform.  Think for a moment of the hairdresser who visits local nursing homes, donating her time by shampooing, hairstyling and manicuring the residents. The homebound widow who sends out greeting cards to people on their special events. Neighbors who mow their ailing neighbor’s lawn, or deliver home-cooked meals to shut-ins. The bible tells us about some of these “smaller” folks.  The guy who kept the screen door, that separated the Holiest of Holies from the rest of the temple, in good repair, or the men who waited on tables in the early church. 

 These are but a few, most aren’t even mentioned, but even if the world doesn’t honor them, God does.  “And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then."  Luke 13:30. God takes careful note of all our activities, humbling those who need to be reminded of who the real celebrity is, and praising those, who by their actions, reflect the glory and light of God. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Revelation 21:23. Don’t forget, the only celebrity in the kingdom of God, is God!! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


While preparing for a Bible study, I had the opportunity to re-read Luke’s account of the feeding of the 5000.  This is the only miracle that is related in all four gospels, so I figured it must contain something very important.  Aside from the amazing fact that thousands of hungry people were fed, there was a significant word that God asked me to meditate on; satisfied. In one form or another, satisfied is found 110 times in scripture, but what did God want me to see, I wondered.

As human beings, God has built in to us physical needs, needs that are triggered by related feelings.  Hunger, thirst or sleepiness alert us to the need for food, water or rest.  As we backtrack in this chapter, we find that the apostles had just returned from their first road trip without Jesus, and where still on a spiritual high. Jesus had “given them the power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Luke 9:1-2, and that’s exactly what they did!! What they all needed at this point was some quality time, to rehash their adventures, alone with the Master.  But that was not to happen.  Word was out that miraculous healings were occurring, and huge crowds descended upon the tired group.  “He (Jesus) welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” Luke 9:11.

 The twelve were less hospitable, and as the day wore on, stomachs began to growl with hunger.  Thinking in human terms, they told Jesus to send the needy crowds away, but he replied, “You give them something to eat.” v. 13.  There was no fast food restaurant nearby, or even an inn, and everyone there was aware of the fact, and told him so.  Calmly, and with complete confidence, Jesus directed the apostles to seat the people in small groups, then he blessed the meager supplies they had distributing them to all in attendance. Holy dried fish, not only were all those growling bellies filled, but they were satisfied. “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” v 17.  They weren’t stuffed or groaning in pain, their need was met, and they were satisfied!

Jesus knows our needs, all of them, and longs to abundantly satisfy them all in both the heavenly and earthly realms. Only by taking in food will our earthly hunger be sated, and only by taking in Jesus, as the bread of life, will we ever be truly satisfied.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spiritually Malnourished

While many countries, around the world, struggle with the plight of hunger and malnourishment, we in the USA face obesity, and all its associated issues in epidemic proportions. Which situation is worse; not having enough or having too much to eat? Neither is good, and if left unchecked both will ultimately lead to death. In both cases there is a similarity, malnutrition. Even though we have food aplenty in America, people are not getting the correct kind of food to sustain a healthy life. A majority of what we consume is high calorie, fat filled junk food, devoid of  what our bodies need.

 Now think about the body of Christ, the church, along these same lines.  What quality of sustenance are believers receiving in the modern church?  There are lots of options to choose from, everything from social/sport activities, marriage/childrearing advice, community involvement to financial clinics.  None of these are bad, but should never be considered as a replacement for true biblical training.  First and foremost, we need to be equipping believers in God’s word, our spiritual “meat and potatoes“.  Without knowing His directives, we are merely living on Twinkies and French fries.  Sure, they will keep us alive, but at what cost? Weak, anemic faith that keeps us from doing what God needs us to do.?  Many churches members look healthy on the outside, but if you ran a spiritual cat scan, I’m afraid  you’d find clogs, and all sorts of unhealthy problems.

Not too long ago a blood test showed that I had high cholesterol.  I looked ok, but I had a decision to make, take a pill and keep my bad eating habits, or do some in-depth nutritional study and change my lifestyle.  I opted for the latter, and in the process dropped a number of unwanted pounds, and hopefully lowered that high number. Along the way I learned how wonderful it feels to eat correctly, as God intended.

Today is a good day to take a good look at your spiritual “diet”.  Are you consuming the real, life-giving food God offers, or is your daily menu filled with junk?  Sooner or later, the body of Christ will suffer irreparable harm if we don’t take control now by choosing wisely.  Fill yourself up with scripture, prayer, meditation and all that is on God’s bill of fare, you‘ll be happy you did.   “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.” Proverbs 4:20-22.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Receiving and Sharing the Gifts

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.

Take a good long look at this list, now ask yourself where you fit in.  When is the last time you, through the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, performed a miracle; healed someone, or spoke in an unknown language? Are you coming up blank?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  I think most people in the modern church don’t have a clue about these gifts.  As the name implies, these are free gifts that are given by God, through the working of his Holy Spirit, to ALL believers.  I can only speak for myself, but I love to

receive gifts, and who wouldn’t want some from this list!! There are some theologians who teach that these gifts ended upon the death of the apostles.  I’m not one of them!  Sure the early church needed all the power and energy the Spirit could muster, but what about us in 2013, are we not as needy?  We may be more advanced in medicine, technology and such, but people still long to see the manifested power of Almighty God. Yes, we’re certainly more jaded than folks in 33AD, hence, it takes more to convince unbelievers now than it did then.  What better way, to give proof of Him, than allowing us to display his gifts to everyone.

When we get an earthly gift, from someone we love, don’t you want to “show and tell”?  That, in effect, is what the gifts are about.  They are bestowed on us, from our loving Father, to edify, equip and encourage believers, and to entice non-believers into his eternal kingdom. Not sure of your gifting?  Many churches offer gifting evaluations, but the best place to start is to earnestly seek God’s direction.  Paul finishes this segment of scripture by saying this: “Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.” 1 Corinthians 12:28-31.  Believe that you are “gifted”, then go show and tell!!