Tag Archives: Christianity

October 4; Getting Ahead of Maturity

Matthew 9:1-17, 12:1-8; Mark 2:1-28; Luke 5:17-39, 6:1-5

So John the Baptist’s disciples fasted, but they were aware that Jesus’ disciples did not. They wanted to know why. I’ve always loved Jesus’ response:

“Because I’m here.”

But then He goes on and gives examples of garment patches and wineskins. And to be honest, I’ve sat here today trying to make the connection between the Bridegroom, clothes, and wine. I pulled out my old friend Matthew Henry, and wasn’t disappointed.

Henry reminded me Jesus’ ministry was brand-spankin’ new. (that wasn’t a direct quote of the Puritan theologian if you hadn’t guessed ūüôā ) ¬†Christianity wasn’t even a thing. Jesus had to grow his disciples before they could be useful.

You don’t put a new patch on old clothes, or new wine in old wine skins, any more than you put new believers into ministry. Jesus is telling us the maturing process is crucial. His disciples needed to spend time with the Bridegroom before the Bridegroom sent them on their way.

I know you’re probably tired of hearing that I’m on the Nominating Committee at church. But as we fill our various committees, these passages of Scripture are timely. There is something for all of us to be doing in ministry, no matter how long we’ve walked with the Lord. But I pray we won’t jump ahead of maturity, by inviting someone to serve where they are not yet spiritually prepared.

Because in Jesus’ example, that results in disaster.

October 3; Hometown

John 4:27-46; Mark 1:14-15, 21-45; Matthew 4:12-17, 8:1-4, 14-17; Luke 4:14-15, 30-44, 5:12-16

Many of us Baby-Boomers grew up going to church, Sunday School, Bible Schools, and often Wednesday night prayer meetings and youth groups. We were raised with at least a knowledge of God in a country that honored God in many ways. Even the shops were closed on Sundays.

For many of us, our association with all things Christian became more than church attendance. We made it personal when we repented of our sin, and invited Jesus into our hearts and lives.

Fast forward fifty years. Things have changed, haven’t they?

We didn’t give our children the same Biblical foundation. We encouraged them to find truth for themselves. We sacrificed Sunday worship for baseball and soccer games. We stopped meeting on Sunday nights and Wednesday evenings. We chipped away at the foundation that our own lives had been built on. Now our children are raising our grandchildren with no foundation at all.

I know that is a vast generalization. I hope you who are reading this are not described by it. But when I look at our country and our world, I think too many people are.

I got to thinking about this today as I read about Jesus’ ministry in His hometown. Scripture tells us He couldn’t do a lot of great things there among the people closest to Him, ¬†people who had watched Him grow up.

Jesus reminded them that in Elijah’s day there were a lot of starving widows in Israel, but God had to go to Sidon to find a woman of faith. There were plenty of lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha. But it was Naaman the Syrian who had the faith to be healed.

I am reminded it’s not exposure to Jesus, not church attendance, or familiarity with creation, or a belief in a higher power that saves. Living in a house where believers live does not save. You can know everything there is to know about Jesus. But that knowledge won’t save you.

Please don’t assume your kids and grandkids will be saved because of your faith. They, like us, will have to decide to accept grace for themselves. Don’t assume your children know Jesus just because they know about Him. They will have to establish that relationship with the Savior themselves.

Our children can be living in Jesus’ hometown, so to speak, and never put their faith in Him. And God cannot do great things in their lives if that’s the case.

Are we giving our children and grandchildren a chance to build their faith on the Truth of Scripture the sure foundation of Jesus, the Holiness of God, and the only way to the Father? Or are we ok with them watching Christianity from the cheap seats?

People in Jesus day could say, “Yeah. I’m from Jesus’ home town. I grew up with Him.” In our day we can say, “Yeah. My Mom knows Jesus. I grew up in church.”

It’s just not enough.

September 5; The Other

Ezra 2:21-70; Nehemiah 7:26-73a

Monday I shared that we had been evacuated from our island due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian. I’m thankful today to tell you we are able to go home. The storm has passed, and it’s safe to be on the island again.

The Jews we read about today in Ezra and Nehemiah are going home, too. Finally after seventy years of captivity, they were free. They didn’t know what to expect when they got there, but they were on their way home and, if they were anything like us returning islanders, they were excited. There is just something about going home, isn’t there?

The passages we read today are full of genealogies. Ezra reports name after name of people whose families were going home. And if reading the phone book isn’t boring enough for you, Nehemiah does us the favor of repeating the same list. So we get to read the list of name after name after name, twice! Woo Hoo!

What can we learn from these lists? Well, my friend, never blow off what God has breathed into print. He has something to say on every page of the Bible.

Here’s a blast from the past: “Newhart.” Bob and wife running an inn. A scraggly hillbilly comes through the door, followed by two more scraggly hillbillies. He introduces himself, “My name is Larry. This is my brother Darryl, this is my other brother Darryl.” (You are going to have to be a certain age to remember this one! Sorry, kids.)

I thought of them this morning as I read this genealogy record, then read it again. Because in Ezra 2:31, then again in Nehemiah 7:34 we meet “the other Elam.” Makes me wonder about the other Elam, or the first Elam, or the more important Elam. What would cause a person to be known as “the other?”

Most of us would admit that we like to be the one recognized as important, significant, talented, irreplaceable, whatever. We at least like to be recognized for what we have contributed to the work of God. But here we have a man who the only thing we know about him is, he isn’t THE Elam. He’s the other one.

This is what God whispered in my ear as I read this today. This Elam is going home. This Elam is listed with those who were freed from slavery, and he and his family were going home. He won’t be remembered for anything other than his freedom, and his destination. That’s all we need to know.

And that’s what needs to be known about each of us. Are you a Christian? Have you repented of sin and asked God to give you what Jesus’ death bought you? Do you know the Savior?

Then, friend, you are free! You are free from the chains and the penalty of sin. You are God’s child in every sense of the word, and you are headed home. Home! Eternity with God in glory.

And I know, without a doubt that when you look into Jesus’ eyes He won’t see you as just another Christian, or “the other” sinner He died for. You will look into His eyes and know He sees no-one but you, loves no-one more than He loves you, considers no-one else more important than you.

You won’t be “the other.” You will be “the one!”

 

 

 

 

August 27; Kinda Christian

Ezekiel 34-36

What happens when a person becomes a Christian? God, through the prophet Ezekiel gives us a description.

  1. God cleanses us from all our sins (36:25)
  2. He gives us a new, soft, and pliable heart (vs 26)
  3. He takes up residence in us, giving us His own Spirit (vs 27)
  4. God gives us a desire to obey Him, to turn from sin (vs 27)
  5. He brings us into His family (vs 28)
  6. He blesses us with everything we need (vs 29)
  7. He gives people reason to change what they think about us (vs 30)

This got me thinking today how (or if) my life looks any different right now than it did before I was a Christian. Or have I chosen to continue to live in the wilderness of anger, jealousy, biting tongues and gossip. Do I go where I’ve always gone, sound like I’ve always sounded, do what I’ve always done?

I’m reminded Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation¬†has come; The old has gone, the new is here!

But is there a Christianity that changes a person into almost new? Is there such a thing as being kinda Christian? I don’t see Scripture teaching that is the case.

I think there might be some who believe they are Christians by virtue of having had repeated a prayer at some time in their life, and by going to church every Sunday. But their choices, their actions, thoughts, and words are unchanged the other six days of the week. They might say, “Lord, Lord,” but God doesn’t really know them at all.

Friend, that is serious. They are as lost as the unrepentant soul.

My question for myself is this: Does my claim to know Jesus translate into a changed life, a life that doesn’t look like a person who doesn’t know Him? I wonder if I stand out as a person who belongs to God.¬†If I am a new creation through Jesus’ saving grace, if I am 100% His, if His Spirit lives in me, I can’t help but look and act differently than people who are not His..

Ezekiel tells us that if we’ve allowed God to do His work in us, people can’t help but notice. And what people notice is the reason God saves us, and keeps us here in this life. He saves us for the sake of His holy Name which is dragged through the mud in this world. He saves us so:

…the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord,¬†when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.¬†(vs 23)

And that will result in this:

I will make their people numerous as sheep, as numerous as the flocks for offering at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord. (vv 37-38)

God is convicting me today. If my life example isn’t drawing people to the Savior, if my words and actions aren’t a result of God’s Spirit in me, if my choices are no different than a non-believer, I need to check my relationship with my Holy God.

Because there is no such thing as a kinda Christian.

July 26; Useless

Jeremiah 5-6, 13

God’s instructions to Jeremiah are kind of odd. He told the prophet to buy a linen belt and wear it around his waist for a few days. Then he was to go to the river, hide the belt in the rocks, and leave it there. Jeremiah obeyed. He bought the belt and wore it, traveled to the river and hid it, then went home.

Many days later God told Jeremiah to go back to the river and dig up the belt. When Jeremiah uncovered the belt it was “ruined and completely useless.” (13:7)

Shocker! Of course it was ruined, exposed to the elements, neglected, and filthy. No self-respecting prophet would be caught dead wearing such a thing. I get it. My question is, what would God have me learn from this belt fiasco?

God explained to Jeremiah, and us, the meaning of this picture. Believers are that belt, attached to God, useful to God, cared for by Him. We have purpose and identity and the Presence of God so long as we stay attached to Him. God tells Jeremiah he bound us to Himself for His renown and praise and honor. Holding us to Himself brings Him joy.

“But (we) have not listened.”¬†(verse 11)

If you read chapters 5-6, and much of Jeremiah’s prophecy, you’ll see how often God speaks, God acts, and His people just don’t listen. His people choose sin. We hide ourselves in the rocks, and that’s what makes us as useful to God as a disintegrating belt.

Your wrong doings have kept these (God’s blessings) away; your sins have deprived you of good.”¬†(5:25, emphasis mine)

It isn’t that God is randomly zapping people with disease and hardship, or that He is pushing a “hate” button in people’s hearts because He gets a kick out of reality TV. What is happening in this world is a direct result of our actions, not His.

God bound us to Himself when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. That’s where we are ¬†protected, useful, and loved. That’s where God wants us to be. We break those bonds when we listen to the lies, when we ignore the Truth, when we hide in the rocks instead of purposefully clinging to Him.

God says there should be wine in wineskins. We say, of course we know wineskins are for wine. We aren’t stupid.

But then God says the land will be filled with drunkenness. Whether wineskins or belts, if we are doing our own thing without being attached to Him, there will be consequences. And it will destroy us. (vs 14)

I firmly believe our country is in the state it is in because too many Christians are useless. Including me.

The great thing about God, however, is that He can take a useless piece of disintegrating cloth and turn it into something beautiful and useful and a masterpiece that brings Him renown and praise and honor. Including me.

Including you.

July 25; Backsliding Is A Slippery Slope

Jeremiah 2-4

God, through  Jeremiah, is talking to His children. This message is not for those outside the family of God, not for the unsaved, but for us who know God as our Father. He is talking to the ancient Jews, and to Christians this side of the cross.

He calls us an unfaithful wife, someone who wants to be married AND live like we aren’t. God, in chapter 3, tells us He doesn’t want a divorce, so He warns us, begs us to return to Him. But Jeremiah tells us God’s bride continues in her unfaithfulness. So to her He says:

“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.”¬†(3:22)

Then in chapter 4, God tells us what coming back to Him looks like. Warren Wiersbe, in his Bible handbook entitled “With The Word” wrote an outline I’d like to share with you today. You can find his words on page 499 of that handbook. (Oliver-Nelson Books, copyright 1991)

  1. Returning to God looks like plowing a field (3:3). Breaking up the hard ground and planting only good seed is the picture here. A hard heart needs breaking to make it fertile. Am I willing to let God break my heart?
  2. It looks like surgery (vs 4). Circumcising the heart involves the painful cutting away of anything that identifies us with the world. But, like with surgery, the pain is temporary, the benefits long-lasting. What is it God is asking me to cut away today?
  3. Returning to God looks like joining the army (vv 5-6, 19-21). I remember when my nephew joined the army, he left home. We couldn’t go with him and, really, he wouldn’t want Aunt Connie following him around during training anyway. He tells us that training was hard, not always fun, they broke him in order to build him up. But that kid came home a man. That training changed him into a soldier. The Bible tells us a soldier answers the call of the trumpet, drops everything else, and reports for duty. Do we realize there is a battle raging in our lives? Returning to God might involve going back to boot camp, to study, to put on the whole armor of God, to pray, to go. God’s trumpet is blaring. Am I answering the call?
  4. It looks like taking a bath (vs 14). If we want to return to God we’ve got to wash the evil from our hearts, purify our minds, allow God to scrub the enemy off of us and get rid of any trace of the world. Paul calls it coming out from among them and being separate. God deserves a bride who is totally His. Does that describe me? Or do I still have a smudge of filth on my face?
  5. It looks like growing up (vs 22). Jesus tells us to come to Him like a child, but that’s different than being childish. Maybe it’s time I quit playing around and got serious about my relationship with God. Maybe it’s time I quit demanding my own way, throwing tantrums when I don’t get what I think I deserve. Maybe it’s time I quit putting myself at the center of my life like a two-year-old, and put my Bridegroom where He deserves to be.

Backsliding doesn’t come on anyone suddenly. It starts with a thought, a look, a taste. It starts with busy schedules that steal our time away from God’s Word, or from church on Sunday. It begins as a thought, then a desire, then an action. And one action leads to another, then another. That gradual stepping away from God is a slippery slope.

Hear God tell us to STOP! Hear Him beg us to return to Him, to do whatever it takes to be that Bride He deserves, even if the process is painful and humbling. God wants His Bride back. That means you, dear one!

July 19; Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned

Isaiah 47-50

God, through the prophet Isaiah, is talking to his enemies, then to His people, and the message seems to be the same. “Go right ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. But don’t say you weren’t warned.”

Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you.  (47:15b)

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (48:18)

There is no peace for the wicked. (48:22)

I can’t read the warnings to the ancient Jews recorded here in these chapters in Isaiah without making it personal. There have been times in my life when I’ve done my own thing, gone to church, served on committees, yet held on to a sin and told myself God was okay with it. There are times even today when I can rationalize sin, or tell myself God’s will will be done no matter what I do, and still think I’m a stand-up Christian.

God seems to be telling me today, “Go ahead, Connie. Try to be a Christian on your terms. But don’t say you weren’t warned.”

God has lovingly spelled out His demands, His plan, the Truth so that there can be no excuses. He is God and there is no other. He is the Way and there is no back door. He is the Truth and that Truth is not subjective. And God is very honest to say I either listen to Him and obey, or else. I can come up with my own idea of holiness, obey when I want, worship so I’m satisfied, but that won’t cut it in the end.

But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. (50:11)

Don’t say you weren’t warned.