Sunday, May 31, 2015

At What Cost

At What Cost
June 1, 2015
Mark 8:36  "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"

There is a cost to everything in life; aside from air, nothing is free.  Even water to drink can cost an arm and a leg, depending on where you live.  It is not a bad thing to have to pay for something; you just have to figure out what it is worth.  The Bible asks a rhetorical question regarding the cost of things.  The Bible asks what good is it if you gain the whole world yet lose your soul.  It is a hyperbole, expressing all the wealth of the earth could be had, but if your soul is doomed to hell then the world's treasures are no good.  Naturally we all want to keep our souls, but what else are we not willing to give up that is costing too much?

Oskar Schindler, a Nazi and a businessman during the holocaust, obtained a factory with the intent of making a profit.  There were 1,700 employees at the factory, 1,200 of whom were Jews. Schindler never intended on being a hero, but the profits of his factory soon took a back seat to the lives of those Jews he could save by keeping them employed.  He used up all his original profits, spending huge sums of money bribing other Nazis to let his Jewish workers continue their work.  They were no longer working for a profit, they were working to save their lives.  Schindler eventually spent everything he had, all the wealth from the factory, to keep these Polish-Jews alive.  He figured out quickly that nothing is worth a life.

While you and I, thankfully, do not have to save Jews from being killed in a holocaust, we are tasked with bringing eternal life to the perishing.  Your own life may not be in jeopardy, but the souls of others are on the line.  Every waking moment you spend on your selfish indulgences is an opportunity wasted on working toward the salvation of others.  I'm to blame just as much as you are; we all get caught up in our own world and we think we are spending our time and money on valuable things.  I'm glad Schindler figured it out and I know those 1,200 Jews were grateful.  You and I should have that same focus as Schindler.  He wasn't in it to save lives, but he realized the importance of his worldly goods were not worth keeping if it meant he couldn't save someone from death.

You may not be the charismatic, evangelical type to be the voice to those who are perishing, but you can certainly do your part in the effort.  There are many who are willing to speak on Christ's behalf, but need our support to proclaim the good news of salvation to the perishing, both locally and abroad.  Your mission in life, besides keeping your own soul from hell, is to work toward the salvation of others.  The Lord understands we need food and shelter to live; we need educations and sometimes life gets expensive.  But the Lord also knows it takes time and money and effort to bring the message of the cross to the perishing.  So I will ask you to evaluate what you have and what you are working toward.  If you have an expensive vehicle but do not give toward missions work, then your life is off balance.  That expensive car has blood on it, the blood of those who will die if they are not brought the message of salvation because you couldn't contribute to the cause.  But this is not limited to vehicles; many of us spend our time and resources on other foolish things that have no Heavenly benefit.  The Lord isn't necessarily asking you to sell all you have and give it to His cause, be He is asking you to find balance and figure out what has true worth.  Where you are spending your money determines what is important to you.  Make spreading Christianity a priority; because it is a priority to the Lord.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 6:21, Matt 26:26, Matt 28:19

Monday, May 25, 2015

Power Needed

Power Needed
May 25, 2015
Acts 4:7  "They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: 'By what power or what name did you do this?'"

Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, performed many miracles during their ministry.  It wasn't the disciples who performed the miracles directly, but were vessels through whom the Lord used to direct the miracles on earth.  There was a power needed for the miracle far above the physical power of a man.  One such miracle  allowed a man to walk, a man who had never walked even one day in his life.  Naturally, such a miracle warranted questioning, the leaders of the day wanted to know by what power the disciples had performed such a miracle.  Today, we pray, but seldom do we pray for that same power to be displayed for a similar miracle.

I sat in a room of four-year-olds and the teacher asked the group of children for their prayer requests.  Their sense of a prayer request was much different than yours or mine.  One asked that a small cut on her finger, hidden by a band aid, would be healed.  One asked that his family's pet rabbit, which had just died, would come back.  Another asked that his father, who was divorced from his mother would move back from out of town and live with them once again.  One child asked that she would be able to go do Disney World.  Another asked for a certain new toy that was on the market.  Their prayer requests were varied and you and I might not pray for the same things.  We rationalize them away.  We don't pray for the cut on a finger because it will be healed in four to seven days anyway.  We don't pray for a Disney vacation or a new toy because that is selfish.  We don't pray for the family pet to come back to life because that is just never going to happen.  We don't pray for a marriage to be reconciled after divorce because divorce is final.

As adults, our concept of power needed for a miracle is skewed by our thinking.  To a child, it is all a miracle, and power is needed.  As adults, sometimes we think that power won't be there for the prayer request, so we don't even give it a second thought.  In most of my prayers, I usually ask for the Lord's help, as if I will try as hard as I can on my own and He should provide that extra ten percent at the end.  Seldom do I have prayer requests that take true power, miraculous power.  Most adults have stopped praying for miracles at some point in their lives.  But the Bible says that we must have faith like a little child.  This is actually counter intuitive in a rational adult's mind.  We are smarter than a child, therefore will have better prayer requests.  I think the Lord appreciates the prayer requests of a little child more than an adult.  The child's requests come from a sincere heart, believing there is power needed for a miracle above what can be seen or understood in the natural realm.

The fact of the matter is, there is power needed for any and every prayer request or miracle.  Whether you believe it or not, power is needed to heal the cut on your finger or reconcile your marriage.  Your efforts and mine are not needed for the miracle.  In fact, it is usually better when we back off and pray, putting it in the hands of the Lord altogether, like a child.  Peter and John, when they were questioned about the mighty healing miracle and the power needed to perform such an event, answered wisely.  They simply said they had nothing to do with it other than a faith to believe in the name and the power of Jesus the Christ for such a miracle.  The declared it was all the Lord's power.

What are the miracles for which you've stopped praying?  What power is needed for the miracle in your life?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 18:2-4, Mark 10:15, Acts 4: 1-31

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Endurance Needed

Endurance Needed
May 18, 2015
Hebrews 10:35  "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded."

It is easy to get excited about new experiences, especially ones that change your life.  It is also easy to forget those experiences the farther away you get from that experience in time.  Years and years may pass and you may not even remember it at all.  Many people, when something is important and they want to remember it, write it down in a journal, take photos, talk about it, and celebrate it.  Then, because it was so important to them, they pull out their journal and photos, gather their friends and family, and have a reunion to commemorate the event.  Every culture and ethnicity does this naturally.  It is human to want to remember all the good we experience in our lives.  I would submit that we should do the same for our Christian walk.

The Christian walk is one of endurance, because it must last a lifetime.  Becoming a Christian should be a memorable event and you should document it along the way with journals, photos, and even celebrations.  The reason is not simply so you can reminisce about all the good times you had.  The good times are important to think about but it is more important to use those moments of goodness, those epiphanies, those important conversations with the Lord to spur you on in your endurance walk.  As time goes by, it is easy to forget what you are doing and why you are here, even how you got here.  But the Lord would tell you to remember the times from years ago that propelled you on the path of today.  Remember those times which gave you confidence to make decisions and live your life a specific way, the righteous way.

The experiences you had, the confidence you gained must not be forgotten.  You need those times to draw upon when the going gets tough.  You must be able to draw upon the good in your past to help you in your endurance for the future.  The writer of Hebrews understood this when he commended Abraham and Noah.  Both of them had an encounter with the Lord that propelled them on a long and arduous path.  Many years later, though they still did not see the fruit of that path, they held tightly to those critical moments with the Lord.  They remembered them and drew upon them to stay true to what they knew was right.  Sadly, I've seen many Christians fade away in their relationship with the Lord and the work they were called to do.  Once excited, their enthusiasm waned as time went by.  Eventually, they forgot what they were doing and why, leaving it all behind.  They failed in the endurance portion of their Christian walk.

Becoming a Christian was the easiest decision I have ever made.  It has also been the most difficult decision to STAY a Christian because the tug of the world, the demands of life, and the hard work that must be done, all detracting from the original excitement.  It takes endurance to spur yourself on.  Read from Hebrews and understand your Christian walk will be greatly rewarded if you hold true in perseverance to the faith and work you were called.  It takes perseverance to receive your reward, but you cannot persevere if you forget what you were called to do.  You cannot fulfill all the Lord has for you if you don't even remember what it was you were supposed to be doing.  I challenge you today to write down all the things you believed in your past and weigh them against your actions today.  My guess is you are not fully on the path you intended to travel; the path you knew was from the Lord.  If you've stayed from the focused path of endurance, I challenge you to return to that path and pick up where you left off.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 11:18, Ps 107:22, Heb 10:32-36, Heb 11:7-13

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Biggest Failure

Biggest Failure
May 11, 2015
2 Corinthians 9:8  "God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that you, always having enough of everything, may abound to every good work."

A failure, a personal shortcoming in life, is an opportunity for growth.  Either you learn from them or don't, there isn't a middle ground.  No one is perfect; in fact there is grace enough to cover any and every personal failure you have in life.  I'm not talking about trying to come in first place in the Boston marathon and coming in fourth.  The failures I'm talking about are the decisions and choices we would be embarrassed reading about in the headlines.  A failure is an opportunity to allow the Lord to redeem the situation, proving to everyone you can be forgiven and used by the Lord despite your personal shortcoming.

Samson knew this lesson well when he allowed his pride to get in the way of his dedication to the Lord.  His poor choices in life, his failures, took him far off the path and plan the Lord intended for Samson.  In the end, when Samson returned to a right relationship with the Lord, the Lord brought about a mighty purpose for him.  Recall that Samson, whose eyes had been plucked out, was chained between the pillars of a coliseum.  Samson tore the coliseum apart, killing more people in one act than in all his previous years of life.  The killing of the enemy was akin to the Lord bringing judgment upon them, defeating them.  The Lord allowed Samson to play a large role in the process, a role Samson could not have fulfilled had he not finally learned from his failures.

The same is true of the Apostles Peter and Paul.  They both had significant failures during their lives of service to the Lord.  Peter vehemently denied he was a follower of Christ for fear of death.  He was ashamed to be associated with Jesus.  Paul originally persecuted the early Christians, putting many Christ followers to death in the name of service to the Lord.  Both Peter's actions and Paul's actions were an embarrassment to the Lord, failures to top all personal failures.  Yet like Samson, they both learned from their mistakes, too.  They did not allow their failures to define them.  Instead, they learned from them, sought forgiveness, and became significant leaders in the church.  It could be said that eventually, their biggest successes for the Lord were a polar opposite of their biggest failures.  The areas of their mistakes, because they learned from them, became what they were known for.  Peter is known as a rock and Paul is known for spreading the early church.

This same story of redemption can and is still true today.  Your biggest areas of failure, should you learn from them, will be redeemed by the Lord and possibly become your biggest areas of success for Him.  Your job is to learn from your mistakes, submit to the Lord in your failures and allow Him to redeem your life.  If your failures define you then you are living in bondage to them and not in dedication to the Lord.  Your failures become your master instead of the Lord.  If you do not turn your poor decisions and actions over to the Lord for redemption, then your mistakes become your biggest failures, permanently.

Your biggest failure is a mistake from which you do not learn or allow the Lord to redeem.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Judges 16:23-30, Matthew 16:18, John 18:25, Acts 7:58, Acts 26:29

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Experience Him

Experience Him
May 4, 2015
1 Peter 2:3  ". . . if it is true that you have experienced that the Lord is good."

I was reading a recent article whose audience is significant in size.  The article described how churches are going to great lengths to appeal to different generations, trying to present the church in such a way that the un-reached person will darken their doors.  The use of strobe lights, smoke machines, disco-balls, lattes, and ipad giveaways are all marketing ploys to get the hip and trendy generation to visit and stay in a church.  The article discussed ways to get the millennial generation into a regular commitment.  This frustrates me greatly, because though I want the church to attract this generation and keep them there, it cheapens my church.  The use of gimmicks has a degree of trickery involved, to appeal to the subconscious so they come and consequently stay in church.  This is not how the Lord set it up at all.  There should be no trickery involved with Jesus, just honest testimony of who He was and is to each of us.

Jesus told us to "GO" and preach the good news, not to set up shop and trick people into subconsciously attending a church.  Church attendance is important yes, but I suspect anyone who stays at a church for any length of time is not there because of the trendy feel but the authenticity with which the church can meet their spiritual needs.  Smoke machines do not scream authenticity.  Jesus was effective because He met people and He affected their lives.  Those who trusted in Him and followed Him had a heart-felt experience with the person of Jesus.  I, too, have stayed dedicated to the Lord, not because the Lord appealed to my trendy behavior patterns but because I had a deep encounter with Him and ongoing experiences that keep me coming back for more.  The strobe lights actually detract from my authentic relationship with the Lord.

I would suggest that if people don't come back to a church after one or two visits, the reason rests more in the hollow experience perceived by their hearts, not the flavor of the latte.  The Apostle Paul said that a person who is wiling to growing in His continued walk with the Lord is one who experienced the goodness of the Lord.  Note the word "experience."  If someone does not return to a church after one or two visits then I would suggest they didn't actually experience the Lord.  Consider that if you, right now, saw the Lord of Hosts descend from Heaven into your room and heard Him speak directly to you regarding your future and His plan for you, it would be an experience you would never forget.  You would keep coming back for more because of the authenticity of your experience with Him.

People don't come to church because they aren't invited and people don't stay in church because they don't experience the real reason they are there, to have a meaningful encounter with Jesus.  If people are not returning to our churches, then the fault lies not with the lighting effects but more with the effects of their experience with the Lord.  The focus should be on creating an environment where the person has the opportunity to encounter Him in such a way that they will be coming back for more.  Some churches may work hard to invite the un-churched but how often do they work hard to invite the Lord to meet with them there.  I bet there are many churches that even Jesus wouldn't attend.  There is only so much that can tie me to a church, and if the Lord is not there, then I would not be committed either.  If we fail to reach this generation it is because this generation never actually experienced the Lord, a personal one-on-one encounter with Him who changes and saves lives.  Those who experience Jesus are those who stay committed to Him and are willing to grow in their knowledge of Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Cor 8:1, 1 Peter 2:1-5