Monday, April 23, 2018

Look Where Lost

Look Where Lost
April 23, 2018
Luke 15:8  "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?"

There is a parable in the Bible of a woman who lost a coin. She searched the house high and low, cleaning it, sweeping every corner of the house until she could find it. When she found the coin she rejoiced greatly, obviously because it was of value to her. While the parable is in reference to the rejoicing in Heaven when a lost sinner repents, the parable has other applications. The woman looked for the coin in her house because that is the last place she remembers having it; that was where it got lost. A sinner is lost, not in heaven, but on earth in his sin. Wherever you lose something, that is the first place you are to look if you intend to find it. The last place you remember having it is the first place you look.

Consider the parallel into other things you may have had in your Christian life that you have lost. Just like you are to the Lord like the coin was to the woman, so you too have things of value to your Christian life. Maybe you had joy once, and lost it. Maybe you had peace once, and lost it. The first place to look for it was the last place you remember having it. For me, peace is easily lost. I get caught up in the business of life, in the pulls and demands of my family and responsibility (even though they are good gifts from the Lord). I can lose myself in them too easily and get caught up in energy of it all. It distracts me and before I know it, I've lost my peace. If I follow the parable in the Bible, I'll look for it the last place I remember having it, in the place I likely lost it. For me, the last place I ever remember having peace is resting in the Lord's presence. I've been there before, and I know you have, too. I have to go back to the last place I had it.

Some of you haven't heard the voice of the Lord in a long time, and think He has been quiet. I would submit to you that you need to go back to the last place you heard His voice. That would either be through reading His word, or going deep into prayer. If you are missing your joy, think of the last time you had it? This is joy, not circumstantial happiness, so think long and hard. Likely, the times you had in the past, experiencing joy, was in service to the Lord, doing His will. If you don't have joy right now, maybe you are serving yourself and not the Lord. Whatever it is of value, that you've lost, it is time to search high and low for it. It can be found. And when you find it, rejoice just like the woman who lost her coin, telling others.

When you rejoice and share your excitement with others, it is an encouragement to them, who may have lost something, too. We all lose things from time to time; it is part of the human condition. Think long and hard, though, making sure you are missing it. It is that deep longing, the recognition of its value, that motivates you into getting it back. It takes word to get it back, that's for sure, but well worth it when things are right in your world.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Is 55:6-7, Jeremiah 29:13, Matt 13:45-46, Luke 15:8-15

Monday, April 16, 2018

Uneven Growth

Uneven Growth
April 16, 2018
John 1:5  "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

If you look at the growth of any tree or plant or flower, you'll notice it has a physical leaning, possibly misshapen on one side even. All plants grow in the direction of the sun. It is inevitable, as the side of the plant or tree facing the sun gets the most nutrients from photosynthesis. This will give the plant a specific leaning, appearing as if it is reaching for the sun. You can see this throughout the day for a flower. Flowers will actually change directional leaning during the course of the day as the sun moves. Trees, if one side of the tree is blocked from the sun, will grow deep and wide on the side of the tree that has access to the sun, but be hollow and barren on the side shielded from the sun. 

There is so much to this analogy of a plant getting its sustenance from the sun. While you and I do need sunlight for a healthy body, we need the light of the Lord for our spiritual growth and well being. There are many references in the Bible about the Lord being a light. This light is meant to cast out the darkness. Darkness does not go away, it is cast away by shining light into the situation. Jesus is that light for us, His word and all that comes with it. The parts of our lives that have access to the light, those are the parts that see the most growth. The darkness in those areas of our lives is driven out when light is able to come in. As that light changes us, it can and will only change the areas it can access. If we refuse to let the light of the Lord access only portions of our lives, then we will grow in a very uneven manner. It will appear as if we are full and deep and wide with one facet of our Christianity, but hollow and barren in other portions of our lives. Granted, every part of our Christianity cannot grow all at once, all at the same growth rate, but we need to make sure to spin our lives so as to let the light can drive out all the dark areas where growth is not evident.

I've seen Christians who are the best encouragers in the world, loving on everyone with compassion, yet fail to ever attempt at a tithe or volunteer in service. There are multiple sides to our Christianity, and we need to make sure each has the opportunity for growth. It may be easy for one particular person to tithe, but possibly hard for that same person to tell others about Jesus. As Christians we are called to continual growth. Most Christians grow uneven, though, and that is OK. It is OK, as long as the Christian constantly assess the personal growth and realizes there are shortcomings in other areas of their lives. One person may be strong in taking care of orphans or widows but refuses to forgive others.  This is a slap in the face of Jesus, if left to continue unchanged. Of the pastors who have had moral failures in their ministry, my guess is that there was an area of their life they did not allow the light to shine in, to cast away that darkness. 

It is easy to grow unevenly, as we naturally take the path of least resistance. We favor growth in certain areas of our lives, but shun other areas because of difficulty or past pain, or even past failure. But the Lord desires us to be whole Christians, complete and not lacking. If we fail to grow, the Lord will allow hardships and trials to help spur that growth. He will also prune us, of unhealthy growth. The Lord's methods to help us grow are, unfortunately, slightly painful. But the mature Christian, he can reflect on his own life and seek the change and growth needed. Part of maturing in your walk with the Lord, is to identify where you are barren and lean towards the light in those areas. You are likely growing unevenly, but that's OK as long as you turn toward the light.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 19, Is 9:2 & 42:16, John 3:19-21 & 8:12, John 15:1-17, James 1:4-5, Heb 13:21, 1 Cor 6:19-20, 2 Cor 7:1, 1 Thess 5:2

Monday, April 9, 2018

Apology Accepted

Apology Accepted
April 9, 2018
Matthew 3:8  "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. . . "

We all sin and fall short of what the Lord has asked of us. This is no surprise. We are a sinful, wretched people. This is no excuse, however, not a valid argument for our wrongs. The Bible says we are to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. When we are wrong, or our sin is revealed, we have the opportunity to take full responsibility for it, but according to the Word, we have no viable defense. We cannot claim our fallen nature in a dependable position. We get to own it and move forward with change. The words in the Bible of bearing fruit in keeping in repentance need a little perspective. Those words were not instructions from Jesus, they were from John the Baptist. What's the difference? Well, John was a man, a fallen and sinful person just like you and me. He acknowledged it wasn't a valid defense for himself and it was actually a huge platform of his ministry of baptism.

His water baptism was a ministry of washing away our old life and moving forward with a new one. Repentance isn't just apologizing, although apologies are always accepted. He said that a real follower of the Lord would prove his sin apology with his forward lifestyle, no matter the level of his humanity. John the Baptist had just baptized Jesus and it was an instruction he gave to the religious leaders of the day, most likely in the hearing of Jesus. He said we cannot claim being a sinful person for our sin. He chastised all of us, in a sense, reminding us that if we were/are truly sorry, then we would change. We can be judged by the fruit of our life. If we keep doing the same thing, then we really weren't repentant, just sorry for the moment or sorry we got caught.

Repentance means change. Few of us change as we age, but we should. We should constantly be maturing, looking more and more like Jesus. If you think being Jesus is unattainable, then fine, mature to look more and more like John the Baptist. His life and fruit are certain examples for each of us, despite his sinful nature.  If John the Baptist can live of life of continual repentance, then you and I can do it. The Christian life isn't just one of repentance once, it is a life of continual repentance and change. It is continual repentance for the sin we didn't know was there or the new one that crept up. We are not called to repent for the old sin again, that change should have already taken place. Consider peeling an onion, each layer removed reveals another layer. When you live a life of continual repentance, you uncover the next sin and bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

When John talked about bearing fruit, he was referencing a continual food source. A tree doesn't bear fruit once, it is a continual thing, more fruit each and every year. Each act of repentance is an opportunity to bear additional fruit. If you are repenting for the same thing, over an over again, then you haven't produced an ounce of fruit yet. The Christian life is one of constant fruit, meaning continual repentance. This isn't repenting for old things or for the same things from failing over and over again, the is for the sin you just uncovered. If you are not continually bearing new fruit, then you are not growing as a Christian. The apology is accepted, now bear fruit in keeping with that apology. John said if we do not bear fruit, then we will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 3:1-22, Luke 3:1-18, Rom 3:23-26, Rom 6:1-14

Monday, April 2, 2018

Next Steps

Next Steps
April 2, 2018
Mark 15:39  "And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, 'Surely this man was the Son of God.'"

What was so special about the death of Jesus? It was not particularly different from hundreds, probably even thousands, of people who died like that. Being hung on a cross, nailed through the flesh while still alive, was common place in the roman empire. It was meant to be public, as a deterrent for those who would see it, a gruesome death to change public behavior. Don't do whatever it was those people did, if you wanted to avoid torturous death. Oftentimes,  bodies would be left there for days, hanging bloodied, with birds feeding on their flesh and flies buzzing around. If enough people walked by to see the horrendous display, then surely it would deter many from committing the crime. Being nailed to the cross was quite common, and sometimes the crime would be labeled at the head of the cross or a sign hung around the culprit's neck for all to see.  Above Jesus, though, was His crime. It stated, "King of the Jews." No one recognized Him as a king however, it was meant to be mockery. There was no other crime posted around Him declaring His grave offense.

There was a centurion who stood at the cross and watched Jesus die a common criminal's death, and it moved him, changed his life. The centurion had seen many people die, hundreds, thousands. The centurion had probably participated in many crucifixions. It wasn't clear what the centurion's role was that day, maybe he was helping to nail Jesus up. Maybe he was crowd control or guarding Jesus from those who would try to stop it. Maybe he was there to ensure Jesus truly died. Whatever his role, he was posted there as part of his job; he participated and took mental notes should he be called upon to report on his duty. This crucifixion was different, different from all the other deaths he had witnessed. Was it standard operating procedure, this death for Jesus? Were all the protocols followed for Jesus just like all the criminals dead on the cross before this one? Was it typical to torture them before hand like Jesus? Was it typical to have so many soldiers there to guard a condemned prisoner? What was different about it? The Bible says the centurion saw the way Jesus died and determined that He must have truly been the Son of God. Jesus died the same way all the other prisoners died, right?

I don't know what it was about the death of Jesus that seemed different for this centurion. The Bible does have verbiage suggesting Jesus was in control of His own life and breath, giving it up Himself. But did the centurion fully grasp that? My guess is everything surrounding the events of this particular death was not common, from beginning to end. But more so then that, the centurion found his heart drawn to what was going on. It clicked for him; he got it. It resonated in his heart, and he understood it. He may not have fully understood it, but he still got it. The centurion may never had allowed Jesus to be Lord of his life, but he understood who he was. Demons understand who He was and is, but are not saved. This centurion had come to a point, the first point leading to salvation, which is coming to an understanding of who Jesus is.  But it doesn't stop there. It does not just take acknowledging Him as the Son of God to earn salvation. It takes acknowledging Him as your own personal Lord and Savior. Did the centurion ever take this next step? No one knows.

This week was Easter, and millions of people entered churches all around the world, for people to declare who He was and is, the Son of God, the man who died on the cross for our sins and rose again. But it takes the next step. It takes making Him Lord and Savior. You might have taken that step, but how many people sat around you in church this week, not making that commitment? There is a good chance the centurion who stood at the feet of Jesus is in Hell. There is a good chance that those who stood next to you in church this week will be in Hell, too. Do we shrug our shoulders and suggest it was their choice? Did anyone step up to the centurion and help lead him to the next step of salvation? He witnessed salvation, front and center, and yet he still likely needed someone to personally sit down with him and talk about Jesus as Lord, not just Jesus being dead and alive from the cross. The centurion understood the part about Jesus being the Son of God, just like millions of other people this week. They may get that He died and rose again, but do they truly understand the Lord and Savior part? Some disciple who watched the centurion, recorded his words; the centurion was noted in the Bible. But did that same disciple follow up with the centurion and make sure he was able to make the connection with Jesus as Lords? It wasn't enough to invite people to church this week. It takes some follow up. It isn't enough to tell people about Jesus on the cross to die for our sins, yet not help them make that next step of allowing Him to be Lord of their lives.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 27:45-54, Mark 15:33-45, James 2:19