Knowing Christ

•January 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment

As I was reading in 1 John 2, I began to reflect on the thought of “knowing Christ”.  In every church, including my current church, there are people who say we know Him.  Any church going person who claims to be a follower of Christ will readily profess to “knowing Christ”.  I wonder how many have taken time to reflect on what it really means to know Him?

The writer of 1 John 2 says this is how we know that we have come to know Him – if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).  The passage goes on to declare “the one who says, ‘I have come to know Him’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4)!  Those are pretty strong words!

So, what are the commandments of Christ?  Without getting too deep or trying to be super-spiritual, I can think of two commands Jesus was pretty clear about.  First, Jesus clearly commanded us to love one another as He loved us (John 15:12).  The second command I find that Jesus is pretty clear about is the one we know as the Great Commission: “go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Here’s my question for those of us that claim to know Christ: how are we doing in terms of keeping those two commandments?

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How We Are Like Jonah

•January 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment

In the opening verses of the story of Jonah in the Bible, we discover that after hearing God’s call to go and preach to the great city of Nineveh, Jonah “got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence” (Jonah 1:3 HCSB).  That thought came to my remembrance the other day as a friend told me about a young man who had sensed the call of God in his life but had gone off to college and now has no interest in the things of God after obtaining his degree and beginning to pursue a career in the professional arena.  The connection caused me to realize that we are sometimes like Jonah.

Some of us can remember a time in our life when we knew God had called us to a mission or a task.  If our story were being written, it might be said of some of us that we “got up to flee…from the Lord’s presence”.  Some of us got side-tracked from God’s calling in college.  Some of us got distracted from God’s purpose in our life due to demands or attractions of our professional career.  Some of us got hamstrung in our pursuit of God’s call through entanglements with ungodly people.  Whatever the reason, many of us can identify with the beginning of Jonah’s story.

I doubt any of us living today have come to the point of being in a fish’s belly for three days, but I am sure that many of us who “got up to flee…from the Lord’s presence” have spent enough time in bad situations to at least have some idea of kinship with Jonah’s runaway days.  In the Bible’s account of Jonah, he eventually comes to his senses and calls out to God for forgiveness.  The fish vomits Jonah up on dry land at the end of Jonah, chapter two.

In the opening verses of the third chapter of Jonah, we discover that God again calls Jonah with the same call God originally issued to Jonah.  This time, however, Jonah “got up and went to Nineveh according to the Lord’s command” (Jonah 3:3 HCSB).  In my story, I tried to escape the Lord’s call and ran from His presence for ten years.  When I came to my senses and called out to God for forgiveness, God moved in my life and I once again sensed the same call He issued to me when I first became a believer at age 15.  Now, I am seeking to walk “according to the Lord’s command”.

How about you?  Where are you in the story of Jonah: running away from the presence of the Lord or trying to live according to the Lord’s command?

Chastened and Loved

•January 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Some of you may be familiar with the saying “The Lord chastens whom He loves” (see Hebrews 12:6 and Proverbs 3:12).  So, I am happy to report the Lord loves me!  Last evening, just as we were about to begin the first of four special sessions of prayer at our church, I received a notification from a reader of this blog who gently pointed out that I have not updated nor posted since August of 2017.  The Lord used the gracious words of a stranger to bring home the point my wife has been bringing to my attention regularly.  Please accept today’s post as my repentance and apology!

There really is no justifiable excuse.  It is true that my calendar has been full and my time consumed as we moved through completing the new buildings; getting through occupancy inspection and receiving our Certificate of Occupancy; working with multiple issues toward the grand-opening and dedication service; rescheduling our special guest for the service; continuing to serve as the church planter and lead pastor; showing up at the holiday season events…well, you get the picture.  Nonetheless, I committed to blog and I let my followers and the Lord down.  Guilty.

The good news is I firmly believe God’s Word is true.  The Lord chastens/corrects whom He loves.  I rejoice in God’s love and I praise Him for mercy, grace and forgiveness.  My hope is that you, too, will find God’s love real in your life and I pray He will use more of you who follow this blog to correct this imperfect and sometimes side-tracked blogger!

One more thing:  I hope you have a wonderful and prosperous new year as you pursue the knowledge of and relationship with our Heavenly Father!

Giving God Our Leftovers

•August 6, 2017 • 2 Comments

For some time now, I have been troubled by the way so many believers treat God.  I am troubled because I can see that I, too, have been guilty of the same thing I see in others that grieves me so much.  Here’s what bothers me:  we tend to give God our leftovers.

How many times have you known of someone who contacts the church and offers to give something such as a piece of furniture, a computer, or some other thing they are about to get rid of?  Maybe you have even had a business that is going to remodel their facility and they make a charitable donation of the old furnishings to the church.  Maybe you, yourself, have even donated some old clothes, some books, a desk or chair or other furnishing that you no longer want.  So, what is wrong with that?  Why not give it to the church and take the tax credit, right?  Or maybe we are more spiritual and just give it but skip the tax credit.

Think about it.  God, who owns it all anyway, gave us His One and Only Begotten Son to die on a cruel cross for our sins.  God gave us His best and we give Him the stuff we no longer want?  It just bothers me.  Somehow it seems to me that we should give God our very best instead of our left overs.  I’ve been thinking about bible verses concerning giving and hoping I could find one or two that tell us to “bring into God’s storehouse the things you are about to throw away”, but I am having no success.  Instead, I find instruction to bring the “first fruits” and the like.  I find that God valued the small, penny-like offering a poor widow than He valued the larger gifts given by the rich.

The thing that really bugs me is that our attitude toward giving things carries over into our attitude toward giving of our time and self.  We give God our time as long as we “have time” and are not too busy with trips to the beach or lake, with family get togethers, with getting caught up on yard work, and so on.  God gets the time we have left over after we do all the things that are important to us.  He even gets what’s left of us, once we’ve done all the things we want to do.

Maybe we should all give more thought to what we give God.  Is He getting only what I have left over or am I giving God my very best in all things?  Thoughts and comments?

Three Guidelines for Living

•July 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Reflecting on simple instructions concerning how to live found in the bible, I ran across this trio of guidelines found in Jude, verses 20 and 21:

-Build yourself up in faith;

-Pray in the Holy Spirit; and

-Keep yourselves in the love of God.

While these three things are relatively straightforward, I find some value in using them as a launching pad for further study on each topic.  For instance, what exactly is involved and required to “build myself up in faith”?  The bible tells me “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).  If I am going to build myself up in holy faith, I am going to need to “hear” the Word.

Again, I look at the statement “praying in the Holy Spirit” and have to ask “what does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit”?  Romans 8:26-27 reveals that the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) helps us in our weakness because He (the Holy Spirit) intercedes for us according to God’s will even when we do not know how to pray.  He (the Holy Spirit) moves through “groanings too deep for words” to cry out to God the Father on our behalf.

Finally, to keep myself in the love of God is an interesting thought.  Just one quick starter to stimulate further research:  the bible tells me that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).  At least in part, keeping myself in the love of God means I give cheerfully, right?

This post is certainly not comprehensive.  I pray that it will serve to cause you to give some serious thought to those three guidelines provided in Jude 20 and 21.  Then dig into God’s Word to explore each one more fully.  Grace in Christ.

Intimacy of the Heart

•July 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“My heart is just not in it”.  Those words spoken by a friend who left the church and the ministry sunk deep.  Their impact is far more astounding than they may at first appear.  My friend was expressing his “felt” reason for choosing to walk away from his faith family (the church) and from his calling (the ministry).  Many of us can identify with the sentiment.  When we say our heart is not in something, we are saying we just do not have interest in continuing.  We simply quit.

May I suggest that the expression (my heart is not in it) reveals a much more serious reality?  The heart may be thought of as the center of our emotions.  To really love is to “love with all your heart”.  If our heart is not in something, we will not give it our best effort ever and we will soon not give any effort at all, unless our heart IS in it.

Consider one’s relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  In the Bible, we learn that the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength” (Mark 12:30).  Is it mere coincidence that our heart is first on the list?

Let us also remember that the heart plays a key role in the Bible’s account of the implementation of God’s grace and salvation in our life.  Ephesians 2:8 tells us “it is by grace we are saved through faith”.  Romans 10:9-10 explain “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (emphasis is mine).

Perhaps if my friend’s heart had been in it, he would still be serving God in ministry and still be actively engaged in fellowship with the body of Christ.  May God help us all to experience intimacy of the heart with our Heavenly Father!

Intimacy with God Leads to Ministry

•July 7, 2017 • 2 Comments

I heard it said recently that ministry is a natural overflow of intimacy with God.  In other words, it becomes more important for us to focus on growing more in our relationship with God, becoming more intimate with Him that to focus on ministry and service.  The premise is that our growing intimacy with God will naturally lead to more service and ministry as the presence and power of God fills us and then overflows out from us.  It certainly made me think.

Can it be that God cares more about me knowing Him and relating to Him than He cares about what I do for Him or in His name?  As I began to research and study the question, I came across a passage I had never really seen in this light- “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” [Matthew 7:21-23]

May God help us all to know Him, to truly know Him intimately, that we may be found faithful to Him always.  May the knowledge of Him fill us to overflow in works that are pleasing to Him: not because we seek to please Him by our works but because He fills us so much with Himself that His works are done through us.  To Him be all glory forever, amen.