30 April 2017
One goal that seems to be universal among people on the earth is to get to heaven. Some people teach that somehow everybody will eventually get there. Others insist that people who are good enough will make it. These viewpoints raise some questions for me. If somehow, someday everyone will be in heaven, why bother with being a good law-abiding citizen? Or if we are good enough is the right way to think, then how good is “good enough”?
A few years ago, I learned a children’s song that might help to clear up this matter (and it agrees with what the Bible teaches about heaven):
One way, God said, to get to heaven,
Jesus is the only way.
One way to reach those pearly mansions,
Jesus is the only way.
No other way, no other way,
No other way to go.
One way, God said, to get to heaven,
Jesus is the only way.
If the Bible is right and Jesus is the only way, then it is important to turn your life over to Him as soon and as quickly as possible, and then allow Him to direct your living. If I’m wrong about the Bible and its claims, then we are still better off by living and loving like Jesus.
“Jesus said . . ., ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” —John 14:6
23 April 2017
Something there is that is intimate about a walk. Especially if that walk is with someone meaningful. Early in the last century, if a young man and woman were beginning to see one another exclusively with the eye to possible matrimony, they might say to their friends that they were “walking out” with that special someone. From time to time, when a person wanted to discuss something without the prying ears of an audience present they might ask the friend to “take a walk with me.”
When you take a walk with a person, there is a certain level of privacy achieved even though you may be in the great outdoors. Conversations can be deep and meaningful in which the participants can truly get to know one another. We can learn each other’s thoughts, emotions, and heartbeats. In the case of young sweethearts, there is the opportunity to walk hand in hand and truly feel the presence of the other. In the case of close friends, there is the opportunity to grow closer and even participate in private, unhindered conversation.
This is what it is to walk with Jesus; to sense His presence as we pass through life, to converse with Him in the heartfelt conversation of prayer. This is the desire of the heart of every person: to walk with the Maker, conversing and communing with Him at the most intimate of levels. It was for this kind of walk that we are created. It is toward this kind of relationship that we are constantly running. It is only in this kind of relationship with Jesus that we can find completeness.
Set aside some time to walk with Jesus this week. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Let His presence in your daily routine refresh you, mind and spirit. It is what you seek. It is what He desires.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze” —Genesis 3:8a
16 April 2017
The Resurrection is difficult to fathom. People just don’t die and come back to life—especially on the third day. There are books that convince us that people who are declared dead for a few minutes (up to 90 minutes if you read one book about Heaven and life after death and resuscitation-type miracles), but on the third day? To accept that takes real faith.
Once our faith has developed to the point of accepting Jesus’ Resurrection (which is real, by the way), then we have to deal with the purpose of the Easter story. You see, the Resurrection was not just a parlor trick to wow the masses. Jesus was not a first-century David Copperfield trying to do a trick that was just too good to be true. The purpose of the Resurrection is to provide the foundation for a future. The events of Easter weekend all have deepest significance.
Jesus died on a cross to provide the perfect sacrifice for the unforgivable. We could not pay dearly enough to restore a relationship with God that was broken by the sinfulness of mankind. Jesus, having lived a sinless life in our sin-filled world, made the only payment possible.
Jesus was buried, and His disciples fell into discouragement because the hope they had placed in Him seemed to be gone with Him. That silent second day—the Sabbath of the week—forced early disciples to reflect on what it was—who it was—that they had followed and believed. This kind of reflection makes or breaks our faith. For those early disciples, their faith triumphed.
On the first Resurrection Day, Jesus conquered death as a promise of a future for those who believe. It is this foundational promise on which the church builds and operates even into the twenty-first century. Hard to believe? Yes. Imperative to believe? Absolutely. Christ is risen—for you, for me, for all who did believe, for all who do believe, and for all who will ever believe. He is risen indeed!
“’Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” — an Angel, Luke 24:5b-6a
9 April 2017
Building anything that will last starts with a strong foundation. It doesn’t matter whether you want to build a house, a skyscraper, or some free-standing structure, you want to have basic foundational material that is sound and worthy.
In the case of a permanent building you want to have a foundation made out of strong material that will stand up to anything that nature might throw at it over the course of the long haul. If you are building, say, a car, you want to use the best materials for the frame—something that won’t give way and crumple at the first high wind.
God gave the church the foundational stone of Jesus Christ—a worthy material if ever there was one—and then sound teaching and committed foundational members that would allow for her to grow strong and weather the ages. She’s done pretty good so far, with the only minor chinks attributed to faulty materials in the superstructure, not in the foundation.
As we build on the foundation laid for us, we want to test the material that we are providing through our faith and commitment to be sure that what we add to the structure of God’s church is worthy to be used in His building. This requires faith in the Messiah (Christ), commitment to the mission (Church), and obedience to the message (Scripture), and then we can continue to build a strong house of faith.
“Let each one take care how he builds upon it.” —1 Corinthians 3:10b
2 April 2017
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . .” Brings back some memories, doesn’t it? Jim Phelps sitting at a table in some exotic location with a small reel-to-reel tape player and an envelope filled with photos; the disembodied voice describing some clandestine goings-on that require the Impossible Mission Force to correct for the safety of the world and the American way; and closing with the warning that the tape would self-destruct in 10 seconds.
Everyone has a mission. Ours may not be as thrilling or adrenaline-pumping as the ones accepted weekly by the IMF back in the 1960s, but it is important. Our mission is set foundationally on the groundwork laid by Jesus’ own mission. His mission—the most difficult of all—was indeed one that was impossible for any other person who has ever lived to accomplish.
In the Garden, just before His final hours, Jesus surrendered (again) to the mission that His Father set for Him. I could not accomplish it, even if I had wanted to. You would never live up to the task, even if the idea crossed your mind. So aren’t we glad that Jesus found and completed His impossible mission. That way we can live up to the mission we have been assigned through Him.
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” —Jesus, Matthew 26:39b
26 March 2017
We often refer to the prayer that Jesus used to teach us to pray as “The Lord’s Prayer.” However, there is a better example of Jesus’ prayer to give that name to. We find Jesus’s prayer in John 17. In this prayer Jesus prays about His mission, His disciples (who are with Him), and those of us who would believe because of the testimony of these disciples.
Jesus not only gives an example of how to pray, but He begins by showing us what we ought to prioritize in our prayers—God’s direction for our life. When was the last time that you or I prayed for God’s will to be done in our life? Sure we say the words—even quoting the Model Prayer—by saying “Thy will be done.” But think it through, when was the last time that we really, genuinely, and earnestly sought the direction that God wanted us to go?
My guess (including for myself) is that we gave a head nod to God, and went on about our business as usual, without taking time to consider the full impact that God wants to make on the world through us. Nor do we pause to consider the price that following that path of obedience would require.
Even so, as costly as following Jesus is, as difficult as taking God’s direction might be, it is well worth the effort.
Let us, today, pray with our Master, “Thy will be done.”
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” —Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 6:10
19 March 2017
In 2013, Thom Rainer (President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources) released a little book to help churches called I Am a Church Member in which he suggested 6 pledges members could make that would help them and their church to grow. I think that perhaps an appropriate substitute title for the book might be I Am a Disciple of Christ; after all, one would hope that if someone were a member of a church they would first of all be a follower (or disciple) of Christ.
This poses for us the question: just what is a disciple of Christ? A disciple, by definition is a person who follows (as closely as possible) the teachings of a particular leader. Often these followers take on not only the characteristics of the leader, but adopt their name as a label as well. Thus, followers of Christ who are truly disciples have through the ages been known as Christians.
So, what do Disciples look like today? They are committed to Christ-likeness: caring for the poor and needy, loving toward those who may be different from themselves, encouraging in their interaction with other Christ-followers, practicers of integrity at home and in public, and (probably most of all) forgiving of others when wrong has been perpetrated.
If you want to become a better church member, read Rainer’s book and apply the principles encased in the pledge. If you want to be a better Christian, read the Scripture and follow the example given by the Savior.
“And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” —Acts 11:26b