In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.
Tough times never last, but tough people do.
Mind over matter.
Hang in there!
We've heard them before. Mottos meant to uplift us and change a negative or destructive attitude. They help…sometimes.
My attitude has a big impact on my immediate surrounding, my wife, my kids, my coworkers, people in other cars, animals, laptops, etc. It would make sense to keep a good attitude all day. Right? I'll feel better, be nicer, more patient, kinder, gentler and so on, with a good attitude.
So why is it a struggle to keep a good, Godly attitude? I mean, the apostle Paul told us the truth in his letter to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength” Philippians 4:13. So there it is, no reason to worry. But wait, I’m still struggling with my attitude. Why?
Because I’m a sinful cuss.
I have embedded sin deep in my mind, body and soul. Not because I thought it would make me a better, more awesome person, but because I am weak and stubborn. The older I get, the more I understand this truth. The same apostle (Paul) also wrote this encouraging text, “Everyone sins…” (Romans 3:23) and this, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). He even quoted Psalm 14 when he wrote, “No one is righteous, no, not one…(Romans 3:10)
Well, there you go, I guess we should all just give up on trying.
Nope, that isn’t it. Don’t stop trying. Don’t give in to the lie. God is not done here with us. Like rebellious teenagers we have fought with God. But, He has not given up on us. The Lord told His prophet Isaiah, …fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
He is still fighting for us and with us. My job, our job, is to keep trying to follow His lead and be righteous. We can be awesome by wrestling with our own attitudes and actions. It will mean we have work to do. Jesus gave us the heads up, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
There is work to be done on us as we work to make disciples around us. Fear will enter our minds and pollute our soul. We will feel weight of our expectations and responsibilities. But we can carry on. We can be awesome, if we are channeling the words, actions and love of the AWESOME Jehovah God. Don’t fix our eyes on our sins and our past. With a strong Bible reading life we’ll fix our on Jesus, He is the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Do what He and the New Testament writers did. Say things that they said. Make this our mantra and our attitudes will change. Out outlooks will change. We will change. All for the better.
In my never ending quest for enlightenment, I mean memes, I stumbled across this picture above these words. It made me laugh. Is it "high-brow" humor? No, but it made me laugh.
We need to laugh more these days. Seriously, I know what is going on in the medical, political and social worlds. But we need to laugh. I'm a Christian, that means no matter what kind of situation I find myself, I have no reason to fear. My Jesus is right there with me.
Now, that doesn't mean He won't allow me to go through painful times in my life. I have those hurtful and painful days. But I don't need to let that minute, hour, day, week, year, decade, etc make me stop living and laughing.
There have been medical articles talking about the therapeutic nature of laughter. It helps us, a lot. Even God laughs, dealing with our insanity on a daily basis. Psalm 2:4 says, "He who sits in the heavens laughs..."
Now, that's the part of Psalm 2 everyone likes to remember, we like to think of God as a kindly old man lovingly laughing at our mischievous ways. The Psalmist doesn't portray God that way, the rest of the verse says, "...the Lord ridicules them."
Some would be indignant, saying, "What?!? God doesn't mock people." These people should read the whole of Psalm 2. This work shows the difference between the ungodly mindset vs. the Godly. It shows us the picture of the person who will rage against God and contrasts it with the person putting their hope and trust in Him. Psalm 2 can be broken into four parts, or four acts of a play if you will indulge me.
Act 1: The nations rebel. God is rejected and the rebellious people prepare to confront God.
Act 2: The Lord is not worried. He see their plans and is preparing to confront them.
Act 3: The rightful King is inaugurated. The Lord of Lords will overcome all the evil plans of the rebellious people.
Act 4: Honor and obey this King if you want to live.
**Sorry, I know I'm a preacher person, but I couldn't narrow it down to 3 points.
God laughs at us because we are incapable of so much. We cannot topple Him from heaven. We cannot achieve salvation by ourselves. God sees us trying to be Him and we fall very short of that goal. So He laughs.
His laughter should be encouraging to the Christian, though. He laughs to remind us that, as FD Roosevelt once said, "the only thing to fear is fear itself". No scheme of Satan, no threat from that bully, no plan of an enemy is to instill fear in us. God sees all and, through our faith in Him (Ephesians 6:10-17), is our protection.
So go ahead. Laugh out loud. It's okay. When the moments show up to tempt us to give in to fear, don't do it, "...blessed are all who take refuge in Him (God).
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
- - Matthew 18:15-20
Matthew 18:15–20 openly links the process of church discipline with the keys of the kingdom. Telling church leaders that what they bind on earth is bound in heaven and what they loose on earth is loosed on heaven. Of course, this assumes that this binding and loosing is done in unity with Scripture. But it is the same right first expressed to Peter when Christ promised to give him the keys of the kingdom, so we know that church discipline opens and closes the door to this blessed realm.
Before looking at this opening and closing in more detail, I want to discuss the process of church discipline. As we see in the passage above, discipline deals with professing believers who have sinned against others. Generally speaking, discipline will progress from private opposition to the public. The Christian who is sinned against by another Christian must first confront their offender one on one and seek that person’s repentance. This is for the good of the church, as it prevents news of the sin from spreading beyond the people involved and becoming kindling for the fire of gossip. If the person repents, no further action is necessary. But if private rebuke does not work, the offender is to be taken before other witnesses and finally the whole church, which must excommunicate sinners who are stubbornly unrepentant.
Let’s make sure to notice two things here. First, these instructions for discipline are not to be applied gracelessly. Scripture also speaks of the love that “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The sins that merit church discipline are obviously scandalous sins that may destroy the peace and purity of the body of Christ. Discipline is not to be enacted for every grievance that arises in the church. Second, there are cases in which discipline should not begin with private admonition. Public sins should be dealt with publicly, as Paul shows us in (1 Corinthians 5).
Today, many professing Christians see church discipline as unloving, and many church leaders are afraid to practice it for fear of appearing merciless. But, refusing to apply grace-filled church discipline in careful obedience to Scripture is the most unloving and merciless thing the church can do. When the church does not call out impenitent people, it gives them false assurance that they are in a state of salvation.
The Church is, for better or worse, a family organism. Some are more like the mom or dad figures, some are the annoying sibling, while a few are the crazy uncle you never want to invite to the Christmas party. All of these people are important to the Church completing its mission. Make Disciples for the Master. We need to see people with the value God has placed onto them. If we see people as important and valuable, we will take time to help them through encouragement as well as constructive criticism. If we value other people we will listen to their thoughts and insights without becoming offended. A Christian will not be “thin-skinned”, nor will a Christian walk around on egg shells trying not to offend. People need to hear the truth, just make sure it’s seasoned with grace. Jesus was not easily offended. Jesus was okay offering instruction to those who were around him. In 2019, let’s discipline ourselves and our church to become more like Jesus
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage, with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
- - 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Victory at the Cross
To say it another way,
He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
- - Colossians 2:14
"Finished" is the word we use after a job is done. It is a word that says we don't need to work anymore, because it is done. "Finished" is also the word Jesus used from the cross. He said, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). In other words, "It is accomplished!"
Evil, Satan, the devil was completely defeated at the cross of Calvary, and that is something he doesn't want us to remember or share. Talking about His future crucifixion, Jesus said, "The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out."
Through His death, Jesus destroyed the one who had the power of death, which is the devil. And when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, the stranglehold of Satan is broken. He cannot control us. We can rest in the finished work of Christ.
This means that when we face spiritual battles, we are not fighting for victory; we are fighting from it. We don't fight to get victory. We fight because it has already been obtained. We don't need to pray, "Lord, give me victory." Rather, we should pray, "Lord, I have victory, and I will live accordingly." As Romans 8:37 tells us, "Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ."
We have won in the spiritual battle. We can daily overcome the enemy. I am not saying we will win every battle, but I am saying we will win the war. I am not saying we never will sin and never will stumble, because we will. We all will. But we can win the victory, because we stand in the righteousness of Christ.
This Easter, remember these truths and live in the power of the Resurrection. May the evil in this world fear the Church, because we are empowered by the One, our Savior Jesus, who brings the victory. His Power, His sacrifice, our victory.
The blood of Christ brings us into the family of God forever, and His hold on us is secure.
A young couple adopted a child from Africa. Amazingly, the boy had spent the first three years of his life living on the streets of his village until a nun took him into an orphanage. No one knew who the boy's parents were or even when he was born. He was alone in the world.
When the young couple adopted the boy, all he had to his name were tattered clothes on his back and a blanket he had picked up somewhere along the way. The blanket had been torn to shreds, but the boy treasured it.
When his adoptive parents brought him home, they gave him a closet full of clothes, a pantry full of food, and a bed with pillows and clean sheets, all of which were completely new to the boy. Initially, the boy struggled to trust that this was truly his home. Surrounded by all the provisions he would ever need, the boy held tight to his tattered blanket, trusting in it more than the security of his new home.
We are often the same way with the assurance we have in Christ. It can be so hard sometimes to believe that Christ came for "criminals and every Pharisees" and "for hypocrites, even one like me." It can be hard to trust that we belong to Him and that He will really keep us as His own.
But as it was with the boy's adoption, though we may struggle to believe it's true, our security in Christ is based on more than a fleeting whim. It rests on a legal transaction, signed in the blood of Christ, that assures us that His "death is hell's defeat. A cross meant to kill is my victory." We are not left to wander through this world alone. Because of the blood of Christ, we can sing with confidence, "Your amazing grace, I've seen and tasted it. It's running through my veins. I can't escape its grip."
So, when the devil tries to strike that fatal blow against you, it no doubt will be repelled, because you are standing right with God. May we rest in this promise: when our faith is in Christ, we belong to Him forever. He is our victory. We can have confidence, "in You (My Jesus) my soul is safe. You cover everything."
“Did anyone tell you about Jeff?”
“No, what’s up?”
“He and his wife splitting up.”
“Yeah, Veronica just texted me, his wife just up and left.”
“Hey, let’s DM Jill and see what she knows.”
Have you ever experienced a conversation like the one above? Sometimes it’s really tempting to be “in the know” rather than “out of the loop”. We feel valued when someone shares something with us that few other people know. Even more, there is power in sharing that secret with others. When the secret is something positive, like a surprise birthday party for someone, it is great fun for everyone. But when secrets tear people and communities down instead of building them up, the results can be devastating.
However, gossip damages us. While it’s true that God made us to be social creatures (“It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18), sin has corrupted this desire for relationship. And instead of building healthy communities and friendships, we end up gossiping about someone else just so we can be accepted.
In most circumstances, gossip is a betrayal of trust, and trust is very hard to come by for most people. It is the foundational element for any significant relationship. Without trust, most of us will not share our inner thoughts and feelings with anyone, no matter how deeply we may need that bond. In fact, we will often isolate ourselves rather than risk the pain of our insecurities being mocked publicly.
It is expectantly ironic that those who gossip in order to connect with others will likely find themselves on the receiving end at some point. But if joining in the gossip is not the answer, how do you deal with this issue like Jesus would? God is against all forms of gossip. Proverbs 6:16-19 says there are seven things that the Lord finds “detestable” and speaking falsely against someone is in that list. In fact, giving a false testimony against someone made it into God’s Top 10 in Exodus 20:16.
James 1:26 tells us that someone who thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue is “deceiving himself” and has a “useless” religion. Perhaps the most telling is that, in Romans 1:28-32, Paul included gossips and slanderers in the same list as those who hate God and murder!
God despises this practice of intentionally causing pain to others by what we say, type and post. As followers of Jesus, we have to embrace the standard of love that Jesus called us to. Spend some time in 1 Corinthians 13, and then learn to filter what you say or post through that checklist.
Before you speak or act, ask yourself, “Is this patient and kind?” “Am I just boasting or speaking out of envy?” In fact, make a regular practice of evaluating your entire life against this lofty set of goals. Starting in verse 4, replace the word “love” with your name. “Jason is patient”, “Jason is kind”, “Jason does not envy”, etc. Are those true statements? Jesus said people will know you belong to Him if you love one another.
You can fight the sickness of gossip. Proverbs 26:20 says that, like a fire, gossip stops when people stop gossiping. With a fire, you can let it go out slowly on its own or dump water on it to speed things up. The same is true for gossip. When you are invited to gossip about someone or some group, you could just walk away or try to change the subject. Or, you could stand up for what is right and challenge those around you to treat others with respect. Ask the gossiper, in love and gentleness, “Would you want someone to talk about you like that?”
Technology has advanced so much. For most of us, being isolated from those around us is one of the worst things we can experience, especially in our younger years. When you are invited to gossip, will you tear the community down just to build yourself up, or will you let the light of Jesus shine in the darkness?
"The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing". Proverbs 12:18
Stand tall. Don't allow the gossip to continue through your words, messages and posts. Don't let the destruction of the church community continue. Seek truth, not recognition. This certainly won’t be easy, but it is what Jesus did for you. He endured unimaginable hate, ridicule, and torment to save you from your sins precisely because you could not do it yourself. See you Sunday!
Political conversation is the Las Vegas of the Christian community. It is where our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is spread, and conflict is celebrated. Go wild, Christ-follower. What is said or done here, stays here. There are no consequences here. Jesus don’t live in Vegas.
Not only are believers excused for political sins, but they are often celebrated for doing them. Slander (verbal) and liable (written) is explained away as righteous anger; winning arguments considered more important than having truthful debates (aka: where the “facts” are actually facts). I cringe when leaders tell me the Church should be heavily engaged in the political process. Why would we do that? The political process is dirty and broken and far from Jesus. Paranoia and bitterness are hardly attractive symbols for Christ’s bride.
So, instead of simply participating in the political process, Christians have a duty to purify it, elevate it. Like any other sin, we are called to stand above the prejudiced conflict and make sure we demonstrate a better way. Should we have an opinion? Yes. Should we care about our country? Sure. Should we vote? Every time. But it’s time we talk politics in a ways that model the teachings of Jesus. This will help avoid Christianity becoming a caricature of what is called to be.
So, with that in mind, here are some things we need to remember:
Church, don’t be sucked into the nonsense. Rise above the talking points from either side. Remember the purpose for your life: Love God. Love others. Make disciples for the Master (Jesus). As John Wesley once said, “He who governed the world before I was born shall take care of it when I am dead. My part is to improve the present moment.” Be the change making catalyst, not the victim of outside forces. But, make sure you are a Jesus following catalyst.
Maybe you agree with this. Maybe not. No matter I truly hope to see you Sunday as we worship together and be the Church.
See you Sunday!
Have you ever seen something familiar “for the first time”? You know, see a person, a place or a thing in a new way and different way? In the book of Luke is the story Jesus tells about “The Prodigal son” (Luke 15: 11-32). The word prodigal means, wasteful or reckless. This story is one of three he tells in response to a complaint some religious leaders have, because Jesus eats and talks with everyone, treating everyone as if they are important. Well, this story is about a Dad and two boys.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.
The adult, younger son in this story decides he needs to experience life. He feels like there is something he is missing out on. He convinces his dad to give him his expected inheritance to find that missing person or thing. Dad agrees. The young buck goes off and this happens.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So, he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
So, the now humble, youngest son goes back and is welcomed back by the dad. The moment is electric. It is a Hallmark channel movie on steroids.
So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Now if Jesus had stopped at this point most of those listening would have been happy. But, this isn’t the end. Remember, there were 2 brothers. The older bro has been out sweating and doing what needed to be done to keep the family business going. Imagine, you’re tired, sweat stained and smell like a garbage dump. You roll up on your house and something’s going on.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.
I understand his reaction. “Why would dad let his no good, scum bag boy back into the house. And throw him a party too? I raised those cows that were slaughtered. Dad must be blind and not remember what that man did to us when he demanded his inheritance early. The stress it put on me. Nope. Not going in. I’m staying right here to show my dad how mad I am and how I’ll never be like my deadbeat brother.”
So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Dad was having none of it. I mean, this dad loved his boys, both of them, with all his heart, mind, body and strength. No one was going to stop him from showing his love. Not even those he loves.
The prodigal sons return. Yes, you read that right. Its not a typo. The young son and the older son are both prodigals. Think about the audience Jesus is talking to. Gentiles rebelling against God’s desires in plain view (outwardly) and religious leaders rebelling secretly (inwardly). Jesus’ warning is for both prodigals. The rebels everyone sees and the ones hiding behind closed doors, or phone, tablet and computer screens. We are prodigals. We have wasted God’s efforts with our rebellion and we have been reckless with His Love and His Word.
We are prodigals. But, the Father has come to you and me today. He asks why we haven’t come inside the house to rest, get cleaned up and fed. He knows our history, but knows we can be so much more, so much better than we have been to this point. Excuses, we have millions. Answers, there is one (Jesus). Turn the doorknob, come on in, home is waiting. The Father is ready for you.
See you Sunday!!