Posts filed under: Life

Lent 2017

We have come upon one of the great seasons of the Christian faith.  The Lenten season is one that is celebrated by Christians around the world.  It is a time where Christians choose to fast from certain things in order to focus their attention more on Christ and what He has done for us through the cross and the empty grave.

Different people choose different things from which to fast (give up or not partake in for a time).  Some people choose certain types of food or drink… others may choose to lay down social media or TV…

Our family has chosen to partake in a “Daniel Fast” for the Lenten season. We are doing this to help our family not only grow closer to the Lord, but also to help clean up some of our eating habits.

Whatever one chooses to “give up” during Lent, I have learned from times before that just giving something up for a while doesn’t do what this season is intended to do.  Lent is for us to purposefully draw closer to the Lord and refocus on what He has done and is doing in our lives. This is not done by just giving up something.  We have to purposefully redirect that attention towards Christ.

While it is not necessary that a Christian partake in Lent, I would encourage any follower of Jesus to take part in this wonderful season. I would encourage you to spend some time finding out what is one thing that takes your attention away from God, and then give it to Him in this season.  Fill that time with prayer and study of the Bible.  I have found some good resources that would help one refocus on Christ as we approach the greatest season of the year.

He Reads Truth / She Reads Truth

These are some really good websites that come with Bible studies and devotionals to help followers of Jesus spend time in God’s Word.  They have apps for your smartphones or tablets also.  Some of the plans do cost (the Lent devotionals are $2.99 and well worth it), but they also have free studies.

YouVersion

YouVersion is an app for smartphones, tablets, and computers that allows you to access the Bible in just about any translation you could imagine.  It also has many devotional plans (FREE) that help followers of Jesus in their time in the Word.  They have a multitude of devotional studies for the Lenten season.

Whatever you do, my prayer for each of you is that you draw closer to Jesus and what He is wanting to do in your life this Lenten season.

Some Great Counseling Advice

I was reading in the Old Testament book of Job recently. You know, the guy who was on top of the world… and then it all came crashing down around him? Yeah, that Job.

The story of Job is one that always gets me. You have a guy who is enjoying a great life. He has pretty much anything that he could want. He was not snobby about it though. He knew that his blessings came from the Lord. He was a God-fearing man.

With this man doing “what was right,” all of the sudden his world falls apart as he loses everything in the matter of a few days. All of his wealth…gone. Children…gone. Support of his wife…gone. Job was not having the best of weeks.

In Job 2, we see three friends enter the scene to comfort Job during his time of trial. A good portion of the book of Job is these friends trying to comfort and counsel their friend. For the most part, the advice that these friends give is what we might hear from our friends in time of need. Sadly, most of them thought that Job was lying and hiding sin in his life, and the pain he was going through was punishment for that.

While the book of Job is filled with much advice from the friends, I think that the best counseling that they did came at the end of Job 2.

“And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” (Job 2:13)

I am one that does not like to see people hurt. The only thing that might bother me more seeing someone hurt is not being able to do something about it. I have been told that I am a “fixer.” I want to fix the problems that I see when I see them. Sometimes, in my “fixing”, I can make things worse. This is what happened with Job’s friends. They started out great but didn’t leave it there. They tried to do more.

One of the best ways we can help those who are hurting around us is to do what Job’s friends did at the end of Job 2 – just sit with them for a while. The best comfort we might be able to give someone is to let them be reminded that they are not alone. You don’t always need words for that. Presence speaks volumes. 

As you see those around you hurting, take the time to be a good friend and remind them that they are not alone. You may never know the power of just being there with them through those times.

The Church is a Place of Boldness

We have been going through a sermon series at the church where I serve as Pastor this month called “Rethinking the Church.”  If you were to ask the common person on the street what they thought of when they heard the word “church,” you would get a variety of answers.  It is for this reason that I believe that we should look to the Bible to give us a clear understanding of what the church should be.

The church is to be a group of people that come from different walks of life and encourage one another as we seek to fulfill God’s purposes here on the earth. This is called community.

As the Bible shows us that the church is to be a community that is dependent upon one another, the question may come up “Why?” Why is it so important that the church be a community that shares life together with one another?

I would answer that question by saying that the church community is important because it is a part of God’s plan in building us into who we are supposed to be.

God has a plan of bringing redemption to our fallen world. Sin has entered in and wreaked havoc on everything. It has messed up our relationship with God, our relationship with other people, nature, and everything else.

God did not desire all of this destruction that has been left in the path of sin. This is why, from the beginning, He had a plan to make things right. He planned to come Himself and make things right. This is why Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived the life that we were supposed to live. He died our death – paying our penalty of sin. He arose from the grave to give us hope and assurance that His plan was at work.

Before Jesus left this world, He charged His followers (the church) to continue the mission that He began. We see that most clearly in what is called the Great Commission.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

This is a mighty task that we as the church have been given. We are responsible for taking the message of the gospel to all who need it. There is no place under the sun where this gospel is not needed. It seems that everywhere you turn there are people who are living in the shackles of sin’s clutches.

It would seem easy enough to understand that we as followers of Jesus Christ would need to take this gospel to those who we come in contact with and who need it so desperately. The question that continues to pop up in my mind is “why don’t we?”

I think sometimes the greatest hindrance that we have to doing what God has tasked us to do is a lack of boldness.

Boldness

If you were to look up the word boldness in the dictionary, it would say something like “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring.” Sadly, this is a term that has dropped in its usage over the past 200 years.

The presence of danger or resistance has been around since sin entered into our world. We do not like danger or resistance. We would like to have a comfortable life, but Jesus warned us very plainly that in this world where sin is present, that would not happen.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

It is because of the ever-presence of danger in our sin-filled world and the amazing task to share the gospel with all who need it that we need the church. The church is to be a place where this boldness needed to carry out our task is shared and grown in our lives.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12–14)

 

Paul wrote to the church at Philippi about the situation that he was in. He was in prison for his commitment to the task of sharing the gospel with people. No doubt there were many who were concerned for him. Not only concerned for Paul but for themselves. Would this fate come upon them?

Adversity is not something that many would willingly put on their “to-do” list each day. Most of us strive to steer clear of any adversity that would try to come our way. It is seen as a type of plague that we should stay away from at all costs.

Adversity can be a good thing though. Adversity can actually build and reveal the quality of what is inside of us.

Paul states that the adversity that he was going through at the moment of writing (imprisonment) was actually serving to advance the gospel message to places and people it had never been before.

There is a teaching that is becoming more and more popular today that if one follows Christ then everything will be fine and dandy for them. They should not face any kind of adversity if they just have enough faith. That is a good definition of one ancient Hebrew phrase that Dr. Chuck Kelley (President of NOBTS) likes to use: “bologna.”

If Jesus said that this world will be filled with tribulations and adversities of all kinds, who do we think that we are to say that isn’t so?

God can use any adversity that comes against the church to accomplish His plan, and more importantly He will.

How does God use adversity in the life of the church?

God uses adversity to build boldness in the life of the church to accomplish the mission.

And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  (Philippians 1:14)

 

Paul said that most of the Christians who had heard about his circumstances were not fearful or scared, but that they were speaking more boldly the gospel message.

There have been people from the very beginning days of the church who have believed that if they can simply persecute or instill fear in the church, then they could shut it down. The truth is that the church has only become bolder in its mission when it faces adversity.

When adversity comes against the church and the church seeks the Lord, the Holy Spirit rises up a boldness to stand strong. We realize that God gives us armor for the fight and the ability to stand strong together as the Body of Christ.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  (Ephesians 6:13)

When people see the church standing not in their own strength but in the strength of the Lord, it causes a curiosity as to what does the church have that is missing from everywhere else. This gives the church the opportunity to share the great gospel of Jesus Christ with those who need it.

Adversity is never a fun thing. It will tend to last much longer than anyone would desire. It will cost more than many would like to pay. But for the church, it is a builder of boldness to accomplish the mission that we have been given.

The church is so much more than just a place where we come to sing songs and listen to a person speak. It is a community where we come together under the banner of Jesus Christ and bear one another’s burdens. We see the Holy Spirit build boldness in each member to be faithful to the task of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who need it.

Get Out of the Way

2016 is coming to a close rather quickly. There is not much time to finish up those “to-do” lists. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those lists that had things you wanted to do or accomplish in 2016.

I’m not one that is big on New Year’s resolutions. I am growing more on the making goals and working towards them though. There is something that is motivating and productive about having some things that you want to see in your life.

I’m learning more and more each year that as a year comes to its end, there are some things that are left undone. I don’t like to leave things unfinished, but sometimes it is just the way it goes. Those certain items get moved on to the next year’s goals.

Jesus gave us an example 

I remember hearing early in my walk with Christ that “Jesus is our example.” That is a good saying. As followers of Jesus, we should look to Him as an example (Hebrews 12:2).

When Jesus came to earth, He came with a pretty hefty “to-do” list. Among those things He had to do was:

  • Live a sinless life. Jesus would walk this earth for some 33 years or so. He was to remain sinless every minute of every day. I don’t think that I made it 33 minutes in life without sinning.
  • Remain obedient to the Father’s will. While Jesus was here on the earth, He didn’t seek out His own will. Over and over again, Jesus laid His will down to accomplish the Father’s. We see it when Jesus honors his earthly parents by obeying their wishes (Luke 2:41-51). We also see it moments before Jesus was arrested when He begged for another way but willingly laid His desires aside (Mark 14:32-42).
  • Die in a very specific manner. Jesus knew that He had come to earth to die for the sins of the world. His death would not be in just any fashion. His death would have to be exactly like it happened in order to fulfill the many prophecies that had been given for centuries by God.

With all of these things (and many more) on His “to-do” list, Jesus was able to say with His final words before His death, “It is finished!”(John 19:30)

Jesus finished the tasks that He came to earth to do. He did live the sinless life. He was obedient to the Father. He did fulfill all the prophecies about the Messiah’s death. He did arise from the grave to put an exclamation point on His work.

Jesus is still our example 

When Jesus ascended into heaven, He didn’t go into retirement. He started His next work: perfecting His followers.

Paul would state boldly in Philippians 1:6 that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

If there are undone things in our lives, it is not because Jesus quit. He is faithful to the task that lies before Him. His timetable may not be the same as ours, but it is always on time.

Get out of the way

If the undone things in our lives are not because Jesus quit, then what could be the cause of them? It might just be that we are in the way and need to move.

As we took down our “live” Christmas tree, I asked my youngest son to hold the front door open so I could take it out. He ran over and held the door open, but we had a problem: he was standing in the middle of the doorway while he held the door open.

I had to tell my son that I couldn’t take the tree out because he was standing in the way. He thought that he was doing what was right. He had a proud look on his face because he was “helping Daddy.” He was still in the way.

Could it be that the one thing keeping us from seeing God move and do what we thought He would in our lives is us? Are we standing in the way… doing what we think is right… trying to help God get His plan done our way… when what He needs is for us to step to the side or fully let go of something?

As 2016 comes to a close, I would encourage you to take an inventory of the past year. Are there things left undone? Are there things that you need to let go or step aside from to see God finish that work in you?  Do it and await that day when you stand before Jesus and hear Him say again, “It is finished!”

Whom Do We Thank?

In 1621, the colonists of Plymouth and the Wampanoag Indians shared a harvest meal with each other. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving celebration in the New World.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln established a national holiday. This was to be a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

I do not know of many who are not a fan of Thanksgiving. It seems to be a time where just about anyone can get involved. A time where we gather around a loaded table with family and friends, watch parades and football, and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

While so many seem to get involved in this time, I think that it is important that we remember the specifics of this “holiday.” It was set aside as a holiday not to just load up on refreshments and early Christmas shopping. It was intended to stop and remember where our blessings truly come from.

In this age, where there are a rising number of “Nones” (those claiming no religious affiliation), there is a temptation to make our Thanksgiving as generic as possible. We wouldn’t want to offend anyone, right?

I would like to encourage any follower of Jesus to not fall into the trap of generic thanksgiving this year – or any other time. Remember as President Lincoln boldly reminded the nation, it is the Lord of the Bible that provides each and every blessing we enjoy. It is to Him that we should offer our gratitude and be intentional with it.

When you express your thanks this Thanksgiving, will those around you know who it is that you are thanking?