Christianity


I was twelve years old when God placed a particular call on my life. A junior high student in Kemp, Texas, I put aside my grandiose plans of being either a homicide detective or a cracker-jack lawyer and surrendered to be a minister of the Gospel. From that humble (and humbling) moment God has led me on an interesting story that turns pages almost as often as a good novel switches chapters.

One of the most exhilarating chapters of my story set my boots on foreign soil. It was the turn of my call from minister to missionary that crossed my path with my Blushing Bride. And then we got to experience the adventure of sink or swim cultural immersion in the former soviet state of Ukraine. My heart for missions expanded during those short years, and one of my constant prayers is that I can continue to keep my spiritual eyes focused on the big picture that God has: seeing all nations of the world have an opportunity to trust His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son.

That same calling that put me in service of the church, then drafted me for international service, eventually brought me back to American soil to continue my ministry. Included in that ministry has been the heart-wrenching, hope-finding journey to adoption—a mission field in itself. This week I pray, while a real-life missionary fills my pulpit, that I will keep my eyes opened to Gospel opportunities while we are again in a foreign land for the express purpose of meeting and receiving our new baby, Esther Noelle Potter.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  — Philippians 3:14

We’ve been taught the Golden Rule since we were little children. For those of us who were reared in a church environment, we learned that it came from Scripture (see Luke 6:31). Even those who do not have a heavily churched background were encouraged with this proverb from an early age: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

It is just a sensible rule of thumb. But somewhere along the way, our selfishness takes over and we adapt a “Do unto others before they do it to you” mentality, or maybe a “do unto others because they did it to you.” At any rate, the Scriptural enjoinder is still as promising today as it was for the first century Christians who read it for the first time.It is more like Christ to think of others than it is to hang onto my own selfish desires. It only makes sense, then, for me to consider the needs and desires of others without any regard to what I want. Perhaps with one blaring exception. I want others to know Jesus. I want others to experience the salvation that God has granted me through His Son. And so, while I am in the middle of trying to meet this one important need of my own, I want to let thoughts of others rule my actions and my words. I want to make the Golden Rule a guiding principle in my daily activity. How about you?

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.—Jesus, Luke 6:31 (ESV)

Growing up in a Southern Baptist home, then studying church history with that same Southern Baptist bent, I learned a couple of things about church members: (1) everyone has an opinion, and (2) Baptists love to fight (especially over opinions).  While we may even get over a fight as to how prone to fighting Baptists are, history shows us that churches can have wedges driven down the middle of them for any number of reasons. People fight over the color of the carpet, the use of choir robes (or not), the pastor’s style of hair, or so many other things. I think I know why. Satan likes to get and keep us distracted.

Throughout his classic The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has the title demon advising his young protégé, Wormwood, to keep the soul the younger demon is responsible for distracted with minor things. At the point that the soul is lost to the enemy (i.e. becomes a Christian), Wormwood is cautioned to double his efforts so that the new convert will not influence others into the faith. That is the way of the devil—to keep us arguing about insignificant matters so that others will not come to Christ.

With this in mind, let us make a greater effort to achieve a common goal: unity. As we spread the heart and soul of unity we will not be driven apart by the myriad things that distract us. We can concentrate on the ultimate prize of Christ-likeness and as we draw closer to Him, we will draw more people into His arms.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”  —1 Corinthians 3:6-7

About four years ago, I received a book from a fellow pastor as a gift. The book was called I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference. It didn’t take long to read or to process. It was Thom Rainer’s advice on what makes a good church member, including what the church should expect of her members, and what members themselves would do well to commit themselves to so that their local church can become the expression of the Church that God (her Maker) wants her to be. I read the book and was inspired.

If I decided that I wanted to be the best church member I could be, the first step that I should take is to deliberately decide to be actively involved in contributing to the church. Rather than sitting back and soaking up what is doled out by the church like a sponge it is time for me to pick up my role in the church.

This means that I have to identify (with the help of the Holy Spirit) my role. Based on who I am and where my abilities lay as well as what I am willing to allow myself to do (which is sometimes the scary part because the Spirit may direct me out of my comfort zone), I must do what God directs me to do. This, of course, is without pointing fingers at others, but concentrating on my own role. It means that I am a part of the team–God’s team–and must do my part so that others can do their part. Suddenly, I am concentrating on doing my calling as a member of the church and I don’t have time to point out how everyone else is falling short. And so, in the church, I have a function. And I will do my best to (with the Lord’s help) fulfill my function.

“Jesus said, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.'” –John 21:22

In the late 1970s there was a worship chorus that encouraged singers and listeners to “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.” That line was followed up with a reason to do so: “And He will lift you up (higher and higher).” The sentiment is appealing and Scriptural because we have that very promise in James 4:10.

Sadly, our modern society would like to make the promise the purpose. In other words, we spend our time concentrating on what God promises to do to the neglect of our responsibility. I would suggest that it is the Christian’s responsibility to carry out our end of the agreement, and leave it at that. We are expected to humble ourselves—act in humility. If we do so as a means to reward then we are no longer humble but mercenary. We also begin to view God with an air of superiority saying, “I’ve done my duty (been humble), now God is required to respond by ‘lifting me up.’”

In light of the focus found in Micah 6:8 (the Lord has told us what is required of us: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God), humility is an act of worship—not a means to elevation. So when James offers the promise of being exalted because of humility, he simply is directing Christians to be in worship. If we want to experience true worship, we will approach the Lord in an attitude of humility. Having done so, we will find ourselves in direct worship of the living God. We have no other responsibility.

Two thoughts occur to me: first, I no longer require anything of God. He requires humility from me. And second, regardless of God’s response to me, I have been in worship of Him through my humility of heart. My elevation is God’s desire for me. It is spiritual in nature and not physical or political. Therefore, let me worship Him . . . with humbleness of heart.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”   —James 4:10

Kurt Vonnegut starts his story “Harrison Bergeron” with these words:

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

The story goes on to tell how life is perfectly equal in 2081, but the reader gets the sense that, though it is equal, it may not be fair or just. Justice doesn’t mean that everyone is exactly alike, but it means that everyone has an opportunity to survive and to thrive.

When we act in justice to those around us, righteousness is both defended and advanced. When injustice runs rampant, people lose hope and dignity.

God has asked us (as His people) to deal justly, or rightly, with the world around us. That means when we see the injustice of the weak being usurped by the strong, we stand up. It means that when we hear of those less fortunate than ourselves, we readily give something of ourselves to make their life a little more just. Crime happens when justice is ignored. Right happens when we follow the justice of the Lord.

Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. —Matthew 7:1-2

Usually, teachers ask students to write a “What I Did Last Summer” essay at the beginning of the new school year. Well, here we are at the end of another school year and we have the whole summer laying before us. Let’s start our essay for next fall: “What will I do this summer?”

Here are some suggestions that might be helpful:

  • I will attend church regularly, just like I do the rest of the year.
  • When I take my family vacation, I will find time to worship God, especially if we’re gone over a weekend.
  • I will participate in some kind of mission activity (like Mission Spectacular in Chicago or St. Louis on June 3).
  • I will help with Vacation Bible School.
  • I will bring a friend to church with me.
  • I will get plenty of rest because I know that it is healthy.
  • I will get plenty of exercise because my body needs it.
  • I will find ways to be Christ-like to my friends, family, and neighbors.
  • I will attend (or sponsor) a summer camp for children.
  • I will actively look for a mission trip to grow in my faith.
  • I will start working in one of the on-going ministry efforts of my local church.

Fill your summer with wonderful things to do now and tell about later. Make this the best “What I Did Last Summer” essay you’ve ever written.

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”  —Psalm 86:12

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