Saturday, December 5, 2009

Brothers, Preach to One Another

I received a phone call from a close friend the other day. He told me of his life. I told him of mine. We talked for a while and then he began to preach to me. Not in the bad way - out of pride or loneliness, but out of recognition of what God was doing in his life. He shared with me what God was doing through his circumstances. It was clear that through events in his life, God was changing his heart and mind, bringing him in to right thinking and feeling about God. How gracious that God would ordain that we have friends like that to encourage us in our faith. And O, how much I need that.

When we love someone dearly, we want to speak with them, we want to share with them and they with us. It's a bond that grows, and as we share that bond grows stronger. All people were created with a desire for love and companionship with others. While it doesn't take love for God to want to talk on the phone to another person, it does, however, take love for God to talk about God. It is the unique work of the Holy Spirit in us that causes us to not want to be an island, but to share the love of God with other believers. We want to be amazed, and we want to share our amazement.

It was the love of God and each other that motivated the believers in Acts to devote themselves to the Apostles' teaching, to fellowship, breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42). I believe they met in the temple courts every day (vs. 46) because they loved to share among themselves the Word of God and the experience of being a child of God. The Bible tells us that it was with sincere hearts that they met, praising God (vs. 47).

They met out of love for God and because of that, love for one another. The new experience of the power of the Holy Spirit must have been so fresh for them that they couldn't help but meet together and share. The strength of the Apostles' faith sparked something great in each of their lives. We read about it in Acts, but the truth is that the evidence of God's work in our own lives should bring out the same sort of spark today.

We appreciate phone calls that encourage us, and we should love to give phone calls like that. We should be thrilled to hear about God's work and a friend's growing faith. So I encourage you - if God is at work in your life (and God is always at work), open your mouth and tell someone. Your faith will encourage someone else to grow in theirs. And if another person doesn't see God at work in their own lives, your perspective can change that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Excerpts - The Bible is Not Self-Help

If we view the Bible as a "self-help" book, able to give us pointers in how to deal better with ourselves and our lives, we will see Jesus as our psychiatrist or bank or buddy.

If instead, we view the Bible as the source of life and salvation for sinful, dead souls, then we will see Jesus set apart as redeemer and truth-giver and God.

The original self-help book said "you can't. You need God."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do people run to you or away from you in times of trouble?

I was speaking with someone the other day who I was looking to hire for some work. In my discussion with her, I asked her if there was any problem with my running a background check on her. She stated quickly, "no".

She called me today and said, "I just want to tell you that I have done something that you'll see on the background check. I wanted to tell you in person but I was really ashamed. It was months ago and I don't want it to affect your view of my suitability for the job. But you'll see it and I wanted you to know that."

I felt that the job wouldn't put her in a situation that would be of temptation to her, so I wouldn't cause her to be in a compromising situation. I told her that it was "okay," and that she's not the first person to get herself in to trouble. I stated that her honesty was most important and that if she ever got in to trouble again, my wife and I would help her out in the best way we could.

As I was doing personal inventory regarding my reaction in this and other situations that came to mind, I thought of this phrase: "Do people run to you or away from you in times of trouble?" I was concerned that I didn't fully know the meaning of John 3:17, namely that Jesus didn't "come in to the world to condemn the world."

Too many times, our worldly tendency is to claim superiority over those who stumble and fall. Is it ignorance - that we've been taught something wrong about grace? Perhaps. Is it laziness - that we've not taken the time to search out the scriptures? Perhaps. Is it pride - that we supposedly haven't done something so heinous, when in fact, we just simply haven't been caught? Perhaps. I would suppose that it's a collection of things, something more prominent in each of us, and not as complex as we like to make it sound.

Contrary to our sinful nature, at the core of John 3:17 is something marvelous about God's grace. I'm sure we'll never have the opportunity to live it all out in one lifetime. I'm certain that we'll never know as much as we will want. But we will have countless opportunities every day to demonstrate the grace of God freely given to all mankind in Jesus.

God's grace that is poured out on us so lavishly that were we to fully recognize it, we should live and die differently. Just think of the scriptures. Jesus did not condemn Jerusalem - he wept over her. Nor did he condemn those who gathered at the foot of his own cross - he asked that they be forgiven. How he could have condemned!

Does God's justice stand firm? Will we see it undeniably upon Christ's return? Yes. And yet, we have a brief moment in time that God's grace is offered for all who will believe. How unsearchable are His ways!

If our lives radiate the joy of Christ and the fullness of His grace, we magnify Christ and we serve as "pointers" to Him. If that is true, when people get themselves in trouble, when they deeply see their need for grace, they will run to us and not from us. They will ask for the reason for our hope. They will ask for the reason for our joy, and we will be afforded the opportunity to tell them. The Word of God will go forth, they will hear and they will be saved.

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.

Oh, that we would dwell on this truth.

God, thank you for your truth. Thank you that you did not send your Son into the world to condemn us. Thank you that you faithfully and lovingly offer your salvation. Thank you that your grace has gone into all the world through your Son, Jesus, through whom we are saved for all eternity. Amen.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sunday Excerpts: "Grace magnifies the grace-giver."

Grace does not magnify the one to whom grace is given. Grace magnifies, or makes greater, the one who gave the grace. No one thanks the prisoner - they thank the one who gave the pardon. No one honors the guilty - they honor the one who had mercy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sunday Excerpts: "God crafts our dependence on Him."

Jeremiah 29:11 - 14
For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. "I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile." (ESV)

God says, "I know the plans I have for you..."
The plan: God carried them into exile. God brought them back.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Blessing of Conviction

I have to admit when I heard that phrase in my heart, "the blessing of conviction," I was simultaneously happy and sad. I probably chuckled... Who wants to feel convicted, anyhow? But not so fast - just dwell for a moment on this.

Coming before God in his holiness, his unmatched greatness as his child is both exciting and humbling. We stand and sing, we cry out to him, but if we never feel humbled as unworthy beings in his presence, I fear that maybe we haven't really been close to him. Maybe we've just sung about him instead of to him?

Some would say, "unworthy? What do you mean - Jesus makes us worthy..." I've heard it - and I get all that - and while I won't expound here, that's true. Yes, yes, we can come with boldness before God! Yet I look in the mirror each day. I scrutinize my motivations, and I come up so short of God's desire for me.

In worship - whether in my living room, in my car, or in my church, I long to be so close to him that I feel the burning off of my "old self". I want his presence to make it clear. And I believe that He must. One of the great effects of truly worshipping God is that it results in us seeing the truth: the holiness of God and the unworthiness of man. How awesome.

The conviction of sin is one of the great blessings of God - that he would send his Holy Spirit to us to lovingly but pointedly, show us ourselves. And once we've seen ourselves, how much more do we long for God to reach down and save us again, and again.

Yes, I'm afraid that if we have "worship" with no conviction in ourselves, then we've not gone far enough into the "Holy of Holies". Maybe we've not entered into the "courts of praise". Instead, are we just hanging out at the gate looking in from the outside? And why stay there? The real joy is on the inside. The price of admission? Honesty about who we are, and who He is...

Some parting thoughts:
* Worship results in seeing truth - the holiness of God, the unworthiness of man
* Conviction of sin - sin that must be dealt with; it cannot remain

God, teach us to worship you. Teach us to draw near to you and to listen when we worship. Teach us to listen to the Holy Spirit that you have sent as our counselor. Give us wisdom and strength to make right choices. And forgive us when we fall short. Thank you that you know our hearts. Change us, oh Lord, this day - by the power of the Spirit that you have caused to live in us. For your honor and your glory.