Real People

I was talking with Anna this morning about several things, part of which was regarding attitudes and relationships among God’s people. In the midst of that discussion, she shared a thought that she hoped others would realize:

“Congratulations, you just learned that the church is full of real people. Welcome aboard!”

God’s family is made up of broken people who have come to the Great Physician for healing. We are scattered and wandering sheep that have returned to the Great Shepherd of our Souls. We are lost souls who need a Savior.

Keeping that in mind, when we come to worship with God’s people, what are you and I expecting to find? Are we expecting everyone to throw a parade for us, falling at our feet with adoration because we walked into the building? Are we expecting everyone to have a smile and not have a care in the world? Is our assumption that anytime someone frowns, that he or she is upset with you personally?

Listen, real people who are really broken come into the assembly and that may really be showing on their face and coming out in their speech. Real people are sinners in need of grace from God and from you. Real people have bad days and are heavy-hearted. Real people are not always on their “A” Game – It may be a “Y” or “Z” Game that day.

Yes, there certainly are times that God’s people have some areas where we need to improve. We need to be reminded to be more friendly and inclusive. Sometimes cliques do form in the church, and people are left to feel like outsiders. It really does happen.

But I have also seen that every kindness in the world is shown to someone, and he or she still isn’t satisfied, which reveals his or her own spiritual deficiencies. If I am looking to be offended by my fellow Christians, then I will find something to be upset about. If I want to walk around with a chip on my shoulder, then Satan will keep me readily supplied with a Sam’s club-sized portion of chips.

Consider that it may be our assumptions, mindset and perspective that is off. The brethren may be just fine, but our attitude toward them is what is out of line. Stop to think about it, do some soul searching and praying about it. Contemplate how much you have invested into the brethren, rather than what you have not received.

“Congratulations, you just learned that the church is full of real people. Welcome aboard!”

In Me You May Have Peace

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

I was thinking about this verse this morning. There are two “in’s” in this passage:

  • In the world you will have tribulation.
  • In Me you may have peace.

How do those two concepts coexist? Tribulation, meaning we are under pressure like grapes being crushed to produced juice. That is what happens to us in the world, according to Jesus. But then he also says that we can while under pressure and anguish have peace.

“In Me you may have peace.” We are physically located in the world, but our hearts and relationships are tied to the eternal Christ. This is how Jesus slept in a boat on the storm. He was physically located in the storm, but His heart was resting safely and quietly in the Father.

I really need this right now. Maybe you do, too. May we come to Christ and to His words (and to His people) for the peace that passes all understanding. The peace that only comes through Jesus Christ.

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27)

 

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 3

We continue our consideration of whether Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was a “new” teaching. Were concepts like turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your neighbor uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses? No.

Let’s look into this further.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to hate your enemy? (Matthew 5:43)

Psalm 139 says the Psalmist David hated the enemies of God with perfect hatred. But we have to keep that in context with the rest of the Old Testament. The Psalmist was intensely and passionately opposed to the wicked ways of man and he stood militantly for God’s ways. But look at how David viewed those who mistreated him.

Even David prayed for his enemies:

Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me of things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft. But I, when they were sick– I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning. But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth. How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!
(Psalms 35:11-17)

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:17-18)

“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
(Exodus 23:4-5)

If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.
(Proverbs 17:13)

“If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him (I have not let my mouth sin by asking for his life with a curse),
(Job 31:29-30)

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.
(Proverbs 24:17-18)

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
(Proverbs 25:21-22; quoted in Romans 12:20-21)

You can see from the Old Testament passages, God (Jesus) expected the Jew to love his enemies, to pray for them, to do good for them and to bless them. Jesus was not introducing a new standard of conduct that He did not always expect from His people.

More to come later..

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 2

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

During what we call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus said many times “You have heard that it was said…” and He followed it with “but I say unto you…” Was Jesus teaching new concepts and new morality?

The impression that is left when some talk about the Sermon on the Mount is that Jesus was teaching an entirely new standard of morality that wasn’t part of the Law of Moses. That’s just not true. What Jesus did was correct how the Scribes and Pharisees had incorrectly interpreted and applied the Law because of the hardness of their hearts.

Here are some examples from the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate that Jesus was correcting the hypocritical interpretation of the Law:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:20)

In Matthew 6, when Jesus was talking about prayer, charity and fasting, He compared true righteousness to how the “hypocrites” (Scribes and Pharisees) were behaving (Matthew 6:2,5,16).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about lust, anger without a cause, keeping your word, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile and loving your enemy. Are those uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses?

Let’s look into the Old Testament and see.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to be angry without a cause as long as you didn’t kill that person?

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
(Matthew 5:21-22)

You can’t read far into the book of Genesis without seeing God correct someone about anger. Genesis 4 shows God calling out Cain about his anger toward his brother Abel. Cain’s anger was without cause, and God said he needed to “rule over it.”

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
(Psalms 37:8)

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
(Proverbs 14:29)

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
(Ecclesiastes 7:9)

You can see that Jesus was not instituting a new ethic. This is the heart that God always wanted from His people.

More to come later..

Through sloth the roof sinks in

Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks.
(Ecclesiastes 10:18)

Some people are too lazy to fix a leaky roof– then the house falls in.
(Ecclesiastes 10:18, Contemporary English Version)

Have you ever let that project on the house go too long, and it ended up costing you more later because the problem got worse? Well apparently 3,000 years ago people did the same thing. Painfully, Solomon points out the main reason those projects don’t get finished. Sloth. Laziness (which means aversion of activity or exertion). That hole in the roof will only get bigger, the gutters will only get more full of leaves, and the leak under the sink did not get better because you put a bucket under it and shut the cabinet door!

As leaders in churches, we can also learn a thing or two from this principle. Sometimes our neglect and slothfulness can lead to a huge problem down the road. What may have been a simple repair a year ago turned into a church divided a year later.

Every Christian is to pay attention to each other “daily,” because big spiritual problems can spring up fast (Hebrews 3:12,13).

Shepherds (elders) are to watch out with diligence for the flock (Acts 20:28-29; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Wolves don’t take a day off, do they?

How did the church at Ephesus lose its first love? How did the church at Sardis slowly die? How did the church at Thyatira let in false teachers that led many astray? I think in some way the answer is the same…neglect. The strong and the wise ignored the signs that problems were arising and did not attend to them.

It would be nice to coast as a Christian, but we really don’t have that luxury. We as a culture are working toward “self-driving” vehicles, but there isn’t such a thing in God’s church. Pay attention. Get on that roof and fix that problem right away.

I know that roofs are easier to “fix” than people, but the principle still applies. A little attention now, and some hard work now, just may well save a whole new roof job down the road.

When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
(Acts 11:23)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?
(Proverbs 27:23-24)

We Are God’s Watchmen

A recent report from Florida shooting was that there was an armed police officer at the school while the massacre was ongoing. According to the sheriff of Broward County, the officer took a position outside the school for 4 minutes while the shooting was going on inside the building. The shooting rampage lasted 6 minutes. An investigation will be done to further find out the details on this matter. I certainly do not want to write this to bring in any way a judgment on this police officer. We weren’t there and we don’t know enough.

It just made me think.

What this news made me think about was how God has placed His children in positions of leadership and protection, and our job is to watch out for the souls of those around us. We are God’s watchmen. But do we fail to engage at times? We are in a war, a spiritual battle against the hosts of darkness, and sometimes it is clear that God’s men fail to engage and confront the enemy. It might be from fear, from distractions of material pursuits, from dealing with sin in our lives, or some other reason. But there are times when God has positioned us in certain places for a specific reason, and that is to confront the Devil and his destructive lies. We must not position ourselves out of the line of fire. Souls are at stake.

Let’s take a minute to read a passage from Ezekiel and meditate upon it for the weekend. May God give us the courage to be His watchmen.

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
(Ezekiel 33:1-9)

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
(Acts 20:28-31)

A Lesson From Aaron Feis

Aaron Feis, as many of you may have heard, was an assistant football coach who died this week while shielding students from the gunfire. He ran toward the danger to help save the students. Jesus told us about how great a love it is to lay down your life for others (John 13).

Here is an excerpt from CNN about this incredible man who died saving others.

(CNN)Football coach Aaron Feis threw himself in front of students as bullets hailed down Wednesday at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It would become perhaps the final act undertaken by the assistant coach and security guard, who suffered a gunshot wound and died after he was rushed into surgery, according to the school’s football program and its spokeswoman, Denise Lehtio.
“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” Lehtio said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”
Feis was among 17 people killed when a former student armed with a rifle opened fired on campus, unleashing a massacre that stands among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
Colton Haab, a 17-year-old junior and football player who was close with Feis, said he heard the coach shielded three girls from gunfire.
“That’s Coach Feis,” Haab said, describing the educator as selfless, approachable and friendly.
“(He) made sure everyone else’s needs were met before his own. He was a hard worker. He worked after school, on the weekends, mowing lawns, just helping as many people as possible,” Haab said.
Haab last saw Feis Tuesday morning in a school hallway, he said. They talked “about normal stuff,” like work and football.
“I’m glad he didn’t suffer that much,” the teenager said. “It’s sad because it’s not going to be the same without him at school anymore, that’s for sure. Football definitely won’t be the same. We’re definitely going to have to band back together as brothers and mourn his loss and pick up the pieces to try to rebuild our football team.”

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/us/football-coach-florida-school-shooting-trnd/index.html

 

50 and 20

Ephesians 5:16 – making the best use of the time…

Today our son, Joseph, is 20 years old, and tomorrow my parents will celebrate their 50th anniversary. Wow! Congrats Mom and Dad! Happy Birthday, Joseph!

It is just a special reminder to me of a few things. One being the blessing of family, marriage and parenting. There’s a lot of joy in these God-given relationships, but surely there are quite a few bumps on the road as well. But through the years as we grow closer to God and to each other, we see such a wonderful peace and fulfillment that comes from family.

But the other reminder that is just really glaring to me today is how fast time flies by! Thinking of my parents being married 50 years is just really hard to fathom. Seeing Joseph as a man now in his 20’s is even weirder! My mom told me many times in years past about how fast time goes by, and I didn’t really appreciate that until the past couple years.

Young men, if you are reading this, please listen to those older men and women who are telling you to enjoy the moment and rejoice in the blessings of today. They are so very right when they tell you that life hurries by. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the next stage/phase. Make the most of what you have right now.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(James 4:13-15)

God’s Training – Time and Events

Where we are now is a result of a lot of people, choices, successes, failures, joy, pain, experiences, time and events.

My wife and I were discussing this topic earlier today, specifically in connection to her desire to start a soap business. All of her previous experiences, jobs, being a manager, and other entrepreneurial endeavors have trained and prepared her for this time and this opportunity. She has learned about customer service, attention to detail, marketing, confidence in your product, etc. Her confidence and abilities to do what she’s doing now have come from decades of doing other things, all of which helped shape her thinking to do what she is so passionate to do.

We talked about Joseph in the book of Genesis and how all his experiences, both good and bad, prepared him for the moment he would be called to be second in command to Pharaoh. You could say the same about many other people like David, Esther, Joshua, Nehemiah, Paul, Ezra or Moses.

Think of where you have been, what you have experienced and how that has shaped who you are today. It could be painful experiences that have taught you compassion for others. It may be developing the confidence of seeing your efforts pay off and your plans turn out successfully. Also there are times when you have to go back to the drawing board a thousand times and keep trying to make it work, and it finally does (Just like Thomas Edison)!

What has happened through all of that time? From a secular perspective, you are becoming a much wiser person, a more well-rounded individual. There are things you can do now that you may never have been able to do before because you are a much more seasoned individual.

Even better, if you are a follower of Jesus, God is working in you and through you to refine you and conform you into the image of His Son. He is preparing you to be a vessel in His house and an instrument of His righteousness. As He prepares you to work in the world developing your skills and talents, He is also molding and shaping your character. He sees farther than any business, trade skill, or sports ability you may have; remember He is the one who gave these things to you in the first place. Through you working in the world using your talents and skills, He is working on the rest of the world to show them His glory through you.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Jesus Our Brother

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
(Hebrews 2:10-11)

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
(Hebrews 2:18)

It was “fitting” for Jesus to be made flesh, live like us, and to be made “perfect through suffering.” This makes Him our brother. More than that, it says Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers. He being the Son of God and we being the children of God all have one Father (“source”).

When you are tempted, and when you are suffering, you have a brother who understands. I know that I have a physical brother, Mark, who is also a brother in Christ. When I am struggling or down, I know he will listen, understand, pray for me and give me wise counsel. That is such a comfort. But even more than that, Jesus is my brother. He understands, and He listens, and He brings comfort. Jesus went through all that we have gone through, and He knows our situation completely. When we come to the throne we find mercy and grace because He is our brother.

I often think of Jesus as Lord, God, Savior, and Christ, but not as much as my brother and my friend. Maybe you think the same way, I don’t know, but take time to meditate upon Jesus being your brother and what that means for you.