Monday, July 27, 2015

Do You Have Your Passport?

If you’re anything like I am, the night before a big trip outside of the USA, I tend to panic a bit.  Do I have all the right clothes packed?  How about my prescriptions and vitamins?  Do I have all the travel documents, plane tickets, and is there a transfer involved anywhere?  Down the mental list I go, and then I remember the most important thing, my passport.  Forget all the other stuff, because without a valid, up-to-date, government-issued passport, no matter how persuasive I might be, the customs agent they ain’t letting me in or out.

This travel talk got me thinking about how important it is to have our spiritual passports in order.  A passport not only proves who we are, but that we are American citizens.  For all believers, our ultimate destination is an eternity with God in Heaven.  But, do you have a passport?  What do I mean by that, you ask, well let me first tell you what it is NOT. Church membership, including a lifetime of adhering to doctrines, dogmas and rituals doesn’t earn you one. So, you say you have a steamer trunk full of good deeds; they won’t get you past the gates.

All those things I just mentioned are fine, in the same way an extra set of underwear comes in handy, but it doesn’t prove our citizenship.  To apply for a passport you must supply your certified, embossed birth certificate.  That cute one from the hospital with that little footprint won’t cut it.  Anyone could makeup a fake one of those, that’s why the official one is vital.  One time mine was questioned because the seal was not as raised as it should be.  They are picky, and rightly so.  So how do we back up our birthright?  Paul, talking to the new believers in Ephesus says this. “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12-13.

What Paul was saying to those folks, and to all seeking Heavenly citizenship, is that there has to be a time when each of us, on our own, must realize that we lack a legitimate birth certificate.  The reason being, we are born into a world separated from God by sin.  No amount of man-made “documentation” equals coming into a personal relationship with our Savior.  Good news, you don’t have to bribe any government officials, because God will always be there to forgive, accept, adopt and transfer your citizenship from this world into his. Don’t believe me, check it out for yourselves. But please, be certain you have one, because he‘s coming back soon to take all of us passport-holders home, and you don‘t want to miss the flight.  “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Philippians 3:20.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What Are You Projecting?

What Are You Projecting?

Back in the day, when those of us of a certain age, were young, and shared the world with our pet dinosaurs, lots of things were different. For example, picture-taking was accomplished with a boxy Brownie camera, with actual film you had to load yourself.  There was no deleting and starting again, the resulting image was what it was.  My Dad often used slide film.  I think it was cheaper, and instead of making prints, you wound up with little white cardboard squares with an itty bitty celluloid picture inside.  You could hold them up to the light, but to see the picture in all its Kodachrome glory, the slides needed to be placed in a projector.  I loved getting those slide trays out, and projecting the tiny squares onto a screen, or in our case, a sheet hung on the wall.  What was only a miniscule piece of plastic, soon blossomed into big glorious life with vivid colors, and breathtaking depth.

Our lives, not unlike those slides, hold all kinds of pictures.  Our joys, sorrows, frustrations, every good or bad life experience is recorded and stored away in mental trays. How often, and which slides, do you bring out for the world to view? Often we choose the irritating images to enlarge.  Maybe you have a gripe with your spouse, friend, job or church; boom, up on the screen they go. Sure it may feel good to unburden ourselves, but what do these negative pictures really project about us as Christians?  In a commentary I read once, the author stated that “the slides” of our lives should be so appealing, winsome even, that people are drawn to our screens.

I’m sure Jesus had plenty of shots in his tray that were less than attractive, but he chose to project the ones that would draw the world to his screen, and keep them there.  What tiny pictures are you making big?  Are you projecting the way Jesus does, or are people searching to find the exit as soon as your “show“ begins?  Think about it before you start projecting.  “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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, (and project) such things. Philippians 4:8


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Putting Down Roots

  I didn’t grow up on a farm, but over the last 40 years of living on one, I’ve learned a lot.  How to drive a tractor, mow acres of grass, and can and freeze produce are but a few of the skills I’ve acquired.  But the thing I find most fascinating, is observing the crops as they grow.  For example, did you know that every individual corn silk acts as a receptor to pollinate a single kernel.  If the silk isn’t pollinated, you’ll find an empty space on the cob, the “fruit” won’t develop without the pollen.  Or how about this, every corn plant sends out a primary set of roots, then later, when it is taller and more mature another set appears to anchor the stalk.  As everyone knows, corn gets as high as an elephant’s eye, and with the added weight of the ears, it needs that extra stability.  Without those secondary roots it could easily be toppled by a gust of wind, heavy rain or a hungry deer.

 I mention this today because, as Christians, sending out roots is a vital part of our spiritual maturity.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6.  Let’s unpack this verse a bit to understand what he’s talking about.  It’s important to understand that the Colossians were a group of people who had only recently accepted the teachings of Christ, as adults.  This was their first set of roots. We modern day believers, for the most part, received our first set, as children, from our parents, and the church they belonged to. We learned Biblical basics, followed the rules as we were told, and our roots held us steady. Then along came the teen years and adulthood, with all its external influences, and like a gust of wind, those little roots weren’t able to control us as well.

We aren’t a corn plant that naturally stabilizes itself, it is our personal choice whether we set down the next set of roots.  We, like the Colossians must decide, for ourselves, if Christ is who he, and the church, represents him to be. Is he indeed the son of the living God?  Do you understand and accept his word and directives for your life as written in the Bible?  Are you willing to repent of your sins, submit to his authority and live a life rooted in him?  If you stop your spiritual development with only those first, dinky roots, you can easily be blown over.

In the next verses, Paul continues by saying this. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”  Colossians 2:6-8.   Don’t think that those first roots, that were handed to you as a child, will suffice.  It is easy to think that merely following rules and traditions is enough, but it’s not.  Paul says they may take you captive, and can be hollow and deceptive. They are not a substitute for secondary roots.  Do you have them yet, or are you swaying in the wind?

This world is a whirlwind of false doctrines, don’t be sucked in or knocked down.  Ask God to send out those strong, eternal roots.  “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19