I Wish They Were Here to Hear That Lesson

And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
(Acts 10:24)

So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
(Acts 10:33)

“I wish they were here to hear that lesson.” Sometimes a sermon is preached or a Bible class is taught, and our minds naturally go to some who really could have used that lesson, but were not there. Many times the reason those on our minds were not there was because they simply had other priorities. Just like Absent Thomas missed the first chance to see Jesus risen from the dead (John 20), others may miss a great opportunity to have their souls stirred up by some really good lessons. Here are some thoughts about that.

It may be that the lesson was designed for me, not for them. Spending time on wishing others were there can end up as time wasted if I fail to contemplate on what the lessons did for me and how those lessons can help me grow. I was there to be encouraged and maybe even rebuked, so the mirror was not placed in the face of those who were absent, but in my face as I heard the word preached. Remember how Peter was so concerned about John’s life, and Jesus said, “What is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21).

Those who were there were edified and stirred up, and maybe those who were stirred up will be a great influence on those who chose to miss the great opportunities to be with God’s people. The church at Sardis was a dead church, but it was not a church without hope or without help, because Jesus charged those who were still alive spiritually to strengthen what remains (Revelation 3). We need to remember this as teachers and preachers. We have to teach those who are there, not obsess over those who are not. Preach to those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and be thankful for their hearts. They will be the catalyst for growth as God works through them. Preach to those like Cornelius and his household, who had gathered together eagerly to hear the word of God.

What if those you wished were there were actually there? Would it have had the effect you wished it would have? Please think about this, if someone’s heart isn’t right or isn’t ready for certain lessons, we can hog-tie them to the pew or guilt them into being there but the word isn’t going to have the effect we would like. There are times when those we are really trying to influence are actually there, and they hear some great lessons, but then we are disappointed because the change doesn’t happen that we are looking for.  By the way, who is that about? I think we are making that about us. Are we truly interested in nurturing someone’s spiritual growth, or are we trying to muscle someone into heaven? In our frustration, we have to remember that God is at work, this is His work, His Word is at work, and God works on His time. God’s word does not return to Him void, it accomplishes what He purposes (Isaiah 55). God gives people a lot of time to repent, to understand, and to “get it.” We have to have that same patience and perspective. Remember that Elijah was despondent and ready to give up because he thought his ministry was ineffective, he was all alone and nobody was listening. God showed him the truth on all those incorrect conclusions (1 Kings 19).

Thankfully, with the benefit of technology, a lot of those great lessons can be preserved, sent all over the world and reheard as much as needed. The opportunities are always there if a person is hungry enough.

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!”

What’s Your Custom?

Today, please look at the following four verses and look for customs, habits, and consistent patterns of behavior. Jesus and His parents had customs, things they always did. Certain Christians had made it a habit not to assemble with the brethren. Daniel had always prayed 3 times a day, so when he was commanded not to pray, he just kept doing what he had always been doing.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
(Luke 2:41-42)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.
(Luke 4:16)

…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:25)

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
(Daniel 6:10)

Customs. Ways of life. Habits. What’s yours? My wife Anna has a Lebanese heritage, and there are certain yummy foods that we always eat at Christmas time because that is our custom.  It may be that your family always goes to a certain place or cabin every year for vacation.

Is it “customary” for you to be found praying like Daniel? Has it become habitual for you not to meet with Christians to worship with them? Do your kids know for certain where you will be on Sunday or is it left up to chance, feelings, or what else may be going on? There was no doubt as to what Daniel would be doing 3 times a day, and he didn’t do it out of a ritualistic habit, it was because he truly loved his Lord and sought His favor. And the same goes for our meeting with our Christian brothers and sisters to worship and have studies. It is not out of tradition that we do it, it is out of a heart that really loves God and knows we truly need each other to help us walk closer to God.

What is your custom? What are your habits?

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)

See to it

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)

See to it. There are things that require our attention. The toilet is leaking at the base, I need to “see to it” and fix the problem. You realized someone stole your debit card information and is spending your money, and you “see to it.” You instantly know the seriousness and urgency.

The Hebrew writer tells us to “see to it” that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. Christians can and do fall away. Our hearts can be hardened, calloused over by the sin in which we are living. We can lose our confidence and joy and consider throwing in the towel. That’s why all Christians need to be on the lookout for each other, because those very things are going on in the brethren around you. Whether it is happening to you right now or not doesn’t matter, it is happening to someone around you. See to it.

Reach out to them today with encouragement. Say a prayer with them over the phone. Remind them with verses from God’s word about the presence and grace of God. Take them out for coffee. Sit with them. Listen. Be compassionate. Realize that they are at war and Satan is having a heyday with them. See to it that you be God’s instrument to bring a little comfort, relief and hope to their hurting hearts.

We do have incredible power and influence when we walk along with God to encourage our brethren. It makes a huge difference, don’t believe otherwise.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
(Hebrews 10:24)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
(Hebrews 3:12-14)

What We Share Together

We are getting ready to begin a study on Hebrews at our congregation. Many of the posts over the next several weeks will probably reference Hebrews in some way. Great encouragement in that book to consider Jesus, don’t give up, and consider one another.

Today are some bullet points below to look at what we share. I just noticed how many references there are in Hebrews to sharing and being partakers in some very special things. Please take time to meditate and pray about what we share together in Jesus Christ. It is just amazing. We are immensely blessed.

  • Jesus shared in flesh and blood to become our merciful and faithful High priest, and also to be called our Brother (Hebrews 2:11-15).
  • Sharing in a heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1).
  • Sharing in Christ (Hebrews 3:13-14).
  • Sharing in an eternal rest, a homeland, an inheritance, a heavenly city (Hebrews 4:1,3,9; 10:34).
  • Sharing in the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4).
  • Sharing/becoming companions together in suffering for Christ (Hebrews 10:32-34; 11:25).
  • Sharing in God’s discipline/training (Hebrews 12:8), and through that we share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).
  • Sharing what we have with each other (Hebrews 13:3,16).

As Christians, we have the most important things in common. Hopefully this changes our perspective of how we see each other and appreciate each other. Let’s fight even harder to draw closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ…we need each other!

When Our Gift Gets in the Way

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
(Romans 12:3-9)

Anna and I were talking about the concept of when our gift can actually become a curse. She was listening to some lessons online about this very thing, and she pointed out that sometimes we don’t know when to use our gift and when to turn it off. There are occasions when what God has blessed us with a talent but the way we use it can really cause a hindrance in our relationships.

Here is an example from Scripture:

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.
(Proverbs 25:20)

It may be that your gift is you are an incredibly positive and upbeat person. You always see the bright side of everything. That’s wonderful! But you might come across as really annoying or even as one who minimizes the pain of others by how you approach them. A sister who just lost a spouse may not want to hear you sing, “Sing and be happy.” If you are that person who always sees the bright side, you might have trouble comprehending why others do not. You will have to be very careful then on how you approach someone who doesn’t share that same gift.

Some people are great teachers, but what comes with that sometimes is that those who are really gifted at telling others what they need to do have a hard time turning that off. They are not really good at listening and asking questions and truly finding out what’s on someone’s mind. Having something to say is not always the right thing. Solomon said, “There is a time to be silent” (Ecclesiastes 3).

On the reverse side of that, there are sometimes those who are really gifted at being awesome listeners, but it may be that God wants them to speak up in that situation. Being silent is not always the right thing. Solomon said, “There is a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3).

Just something to think about today. What are your gifts and talents that God has blessed you with? Have there been times that what you are really good at has actually become a hindrance in your relationships? What can you do about that with God’s help? Have you asked God to help you use your gift in a way that will lift up and not hurt others?

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
(Romans 12:15-16)

Holy Ground – The Church

In Monday’s article, we looked at the event in Joshua’s life when he was asked to remove his sandals from his feet because he stood on holy ground. Here are three observations we made Monday:

  1. God is holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Today we are going to take those concepts and apply it to how we view our relationship to the church.

In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul used the “temple” analogy and applied it both to individuals (1 Corinthians 6:18-20), and to the congregation here in chapter 3. As a Christian, you are holy and set apart because you are God’s dwelling place, and as a congregation the same is true.

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 3:9-11)

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
(1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

In this section of Scripture we learn that the congregation is God’s building/temple, Jesus is the foundation (see also Ephesians 2:19-22 and 1 Peter 2:4-9). God’s Spirit dwells among us, and God will “destroy” anyone who causes harm to His holy temple.

God’s church is holy ground. He is holy, and His presence dwells within the congregation. So, knowing that, how do I “remove my sandals” to recognize the holy presence of God?

Seek truth and unity. How we worship God matters because He is holy. The way we handle God’s word is vital because God is holy. The way we treat each other within God’s church also matters because of the holy presence of God. Jesus wants us to restore relationships before we worship because it affects how we worship (Matthew 5:23-24).

Seek pure relationships. Paul told Timothy to treat the young women in the church as sisters “with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). The church is holy, so our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ must also be holy. There were clearly men who took advantage of others and used the church as an opportunity for fulfilling their desires (2 Peter 2:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:6). When we see the church, when we look at our brothers and sisters, we must look with holy eyes, see and treat others as God sees them. God takes it seriously, and God’s people take it seriously, too.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
(1 Peter 2:9)

God’s Family—Mayer Road Case Study

  • Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality…. (Romans 12: 9-13)
  • rejoice with those who rejoice…weep with those who weep… (Romans 12:15)
  • But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
  • Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing…let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being… (1 Thes 5:11)
  • Bear one another’s burdens(Galatians 6:2)
  •  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Please consider these verses. Each of them have a specific moral issue for which Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote to admonish, instruct, and encourage the various brethren receiving them. I do not want to add to or take away from these lessons but want to emphasize these principles as I consider what is happening in Casco, Michigan as Christians come together for one of our own and do what they can to rebuild for one of our own.

Not too long ago, one of our families experienced a profound loss as their barn burnt in the middle of the night with all their equipment and livestock inside. The physical and emotional loss was tremendous and the ramifications are still felt as each of us continue to deal with the loss. This event was enough to burry many families…to cause many individuals to lose hope. That is not how this story ends though!

Though a terrible and fiery loss, what really resulted was God being glorified, His children strengthened, and an opportunity for those outside the faith to see the hope available through Jesus. I can’t emphasize the significance of the good that has been done, is being done and will continue to be done because of all the experiences around this great loss, clean up and rebuilding process. The work is far from done but isn’t that the case for all of us? Don’t we all have profound loss and struggle? Aren’t we all experiencing physical and spiritual struggles?

In all of that, do we do what we must? Do we put our full faith and trust in God’s love and power? Do we share our struggles with each other or create an environment to make it ok to do so? Do we take the time to not only pray for those who are struggling or hurting…but also to rejoice in the happiness, success, and blessings of our most dear brethren? Even if it isn’t as a result of a great struggle conquered…but in a blessed life…do we rejoice?

We are so blessed in one another and what is happening in on Mayer Road this week is another piece of an exceptional example of that…but we can see the same awesome God and Christian family in the everyday goings on in our own lives. Take time and thank God, thank each other and rejoice! We are here for but a short time and times aren’t always going to be easy…but we all share the hope of Heaven and living now within the context of eternity is such a blessed place to be. Living there with like-minded loving brethren makes it even the sweeter. Take a moment, see God’s blessings in His family and thank Him…and hugs always help too…because that right there is what God’s love looks like.  Have a blessed day brothers!

Why the Church: Looking Up

Why the Church: Looking Up

Today is a sermon for you to take time to listen to / watch over the weekend, entitled “Why the Church: Looking Up” by Ralph Walker, Jr.

Please also read and meditate upon the passage below from Ephesians 3 and what the Holy Spirit through Paul wrote about the church.


To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:8-21)