Tag Archives: following Christ

Jan 16 – All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Genesis 12-15

When Abram and Lot decided to part ways, Lot chose the valley of the Jordan. As an owner of livestock, Lot knew the river would supply all the water he needed. The land was lush and green, and Lot liked what he saw. Looking toward the west he saw only desert. Lot chose the river and left the desert for Abram.

But with the beautiful land surrounding the Jordan came a hidden danger found in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah located there. Lot will find out that what looked good on the surface would destroy him and his family.

That’s an important lesson for all of us. Whether we are talking about an upscale neighborhood in your city, the flashy lifestyle of someone you envy, or the religious theology that promises material wealth or health if you believe what they say, remember “all that glitters is not gold.”

Many people have sought after what they consider to be the prize only to end up with a counterfeit, or with devastating consequences like Lot will realize.

Where are you heading today? What is your choice? On one hand you might have pleasures for the day. On the other hand you will receive an eternity of blessing. One might look pretty fun, the other is a war zone. One is fools’ gold. The other is the real thing.

I John 1:17 says:

“The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

Think about it.

 

Why we do what we do.

God asked the Jews an important question:

During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourself? (Zechariah 7:5&6)

It’s an honest question I think each of us need to consider for ourselves.

If I attend church services for a “worship experience”, who is the focus? Does God need the experience? Or do I? If I read my Bible, is it so I can feel good about my faithfulness?

I knew a woman who felt she had to take part in a communion service every Sunday because if she didn’t, she would have a terrible week.

If I blog, is it to be complimented on my post? I have to confess I like to see icons of people who “like” what I say. Is that what motivates me to hit “publish” each time?

If you listen to people like Joel Osteen you will likely begin to believe worship is about you, that following God is about you, that life is about you. Is it? Is it really?

Or is it about God?

Zechariah has a lot to say to us today. And he says something in 8:23 that I believe sums up why we worship, why we live lives set apart from the world, why we are kinder, more loving and forgiving, more honest than our unsaved neighbor. He talks about people from every nation going to Jerusalem to worship God. He says ten people will cling to the sleeve of one Jew and say:

Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.

That’s our commission as Christians. All that we do, all that we say and are, is surrendered to God for one reason. Not so that we are blessed. But so that others are lead to the Savior.

That should be why we do what we do.

Heavenly Father, I want my worship to be pleasing to you, whether sitting in a pew on Sunday, or reading my Bible in my home, whether singing hymns in my car, or praying while talking to my neighbor over coffee. Forgive me for the tendency to make it about me. May the result of my worship of you in spirit and in truth cause people to want to get to know my Savior. I want my motivation to be you. I want my focus to be you. I want my life to be pleasing to you alone. 

Building the Temple

The people threw a celebration when the foundation of the Temple was finished. (Ezra 3:10-13) There was a lot of work ahead of them. But that first, and important piece was finally in place. And they stopped to worship God there.

A couple of things come to mind as I read Ezra 3, and as I apply this account to my life. Scripture tells me I am God’s Temple. (I Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16) He lives on earth in me. 

The New Testament talks a lot about foundations. Jesus told a parable about building houses on sand, compared to building on solid rock. (Matthew 7:24-27). In Luke 14:28-30 Jesus speaks about how important it is to finish building on the foundation. Paul names the Foundation in I Corinthians 3:11. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is the sure foundation and he grounds me, supports me. If I build my life on him, he can take it. But the Temple wouldn’t have been worth much if the people we read about in Ezra had just left the structure as a foundation. If they had continued to celebrate and rejoice and worship God over the foundation, the Temple would not have been able to be completed or to be used as it was intended.

So here’s what I’m thinking. I, as the Temple of the Living God, have a solid foundation in the person of Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. I went to him and confessed my sin and asked him to forgive me… and he did. That’s cause to celebrate!

But it doesn’t have to end there. There is work to be done. I want to grow in my relationship with him, build on my salvation by studying his Word, surrounding myself with Christians who will hold me accountable, and by praying. 

If I attend church on Sunday for a “worship experience” and come away from there feeling spiritual, I’m celebrating on the foundation. If I don’t study my Bible or pray, don’t talk about Jesus to others, live a life that looks no different than my unsaved neighbor, this Temple isn’t being built. I’m living on the foundation without a useful structure through which God can work.

Dear Foundation, I thank you for being that solid rock beneath my feet. I thank you for forgiving my sins and the privilege of having you living in me. I want to sing your praises, celebrate having you in my life. But I pray that I, like the example we read about in Ezra, will be motivated to build my life on the Foundation you have provided. Give me discernment to know the Truth of Scripture, give me opportunity to share Christ with others, let me be strong enough to resist temptation and rise above the world’s influence. May I be a Temple you deserve, holy and useful for your kingdom, built on the Foundation of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

You Lie

I was reading in Jeremiah 42 this morning the account of yet another time Israel disobeyed and God punished. As I read, my mind kept wandering toward pictures of things happening in the US today. Are we any different than those in the Old Testament who blatantly sinned, told God to back off, and were so prideful they thought they knew more and were stronger than God?

God’s warning through Jeremiah was: repent or die. Their response: You lie.

Today, Christians are still saying: repent or face the consequences. The world’s response: You lie.

They tell us we lie if we say Jesus is the only way to the One True God. They say we lie if we tell them homosexuality is a sin, that abortion is murder, that God created this universe with a word, that marriage between a man and a woman is a sacred union before God and meant to last a life time.

The list goes on and in many cases, Christians are portrayed as liars and haters. In some countries, there will be Christians TODAY who are tortured and murdered for speaking the Truth. The temptation to keep quiet is certainly there for many of us, in order to avoid the labels or the danger.

Oh Christians, and I know there are many of us out there, let’s determine to be heard with firmness and in love. Let’s use our voices to proclaim the Truth of Scripture with unwavering boldness. Read the newspaper, watch the news on TV, know what’s happening in our world and in our country. Vote intelligently. Run for office. Pray.

Pray.

The things we do – or don’t do – today will determine the future. Will our children and grandchildren face persecution because we sat in our recliners and did nothing? Will we face persecution because we were afraid someone would call us out, call us liars? We who know the Truth have a responsibility and a calling to proclaim that Truth whether they want to hear it or not.

May God find us faithful.

November 1

Matthew 25:31-46, 26:1-16; John 12:20-50, 1-11; Mark 14:1-11; Luke 22:1-6

Now we are seeing the true colors of Judas Iscariot. When Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus and used her hair to dry him, Judas was indignant. He sounded very caring when he said that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. But John tells us old Judas’ intentions weren’t so pure. John calls him a thief and said Judas would have stolen the money and suggests the poor wouldn’t have seen a dime of it.

Now here is where Judas lost it. Jesus is telling them once again that he is going to die. He told them Mary’s act was to prepare him for burial. Remember the Jews were looking for a flesh and blood king in the Messiah. I can imagine Judas’ daydreams about the power and riches he thought he’d enjoy as a member of the inner circle of the new government. But now it’s becoming increasingly clear that those dreams aren’t coming true like he thought and one of two things happened:

One, he was mad and wanted to get even. If Jesus wasn’t going to give him what he wanted he’d see him dead.

Or two, (and I tend to think this is the case) Judas thought, ‘Ok, Jesus. If you aren’t ready to overturn the government I’m going to force your hand. Let’s see you take care of them when they arrest you. You’ll do something then and I’ll get to watch Rome crumble and be on the winning side!’

Purely an opinion because Scripture doesn’t tells us what he was thinking. It does say Satan entered Judas and we read the result of that.

Dear one, that’s what can happen when people follow Jesus for the wrong reasons. They get disappointed, their dreams don’t come true, their loved one dies. They might walk away from what belief that had and spend the rest of their lives angry at God or they might try to manipulate him into giving them what they want.

Jesus did not come to make us rich or healthy or powerful. He came to forgive us. His kingdom is not material, it’s spiritual.

Are you a follower of Jesus? I hope so. And I hope you are in it for the right reasons. I hope you serve him because you just can’t do anything else in response to his love and grace. I hope your prayers aren’t, “Lord, what can you do for me?” but rather, “Lord, how can I serve you today?”

Dear God, once again I ask that you help us check our motivation for following you. Forgive us if we concern ourselves with what’s in it for us. May we be people who willingly serve you out of grateful hearts, knowing that what you have already given us in redemption is so much more than anything this world affords. May we obey you today with every word, thought and deed and all for Jesus’ sake.

October 13

Mark 6:14-29, 30-44; Matthew 14:1-12, 6:12-13, 14:13-21; Luke 9:7-9, 6, 10-17; John 6:1-15

I wonder what it was like to be one of the twelve the day 5,000 men plus women and children were fed with five loaves of bread and two fish. Could they see the broken pieces morph into more broken pieces? Imagine the rush of excitement they must have felt as they fed one person, then another, and another. If they wondered before if Jesus was God, I have to believe they got it after that day. Or at least they knew they were a part of something truly amazing.

But after Jesus fed the multitude he left. He got off by himself and hid for a while, knowing that had he stayed, the people would have made him king of their flesh and blood nation. That’s not why God was here in human form.

He knew that if he stayed, people would be following him for what he did and what they would receive from him in terms of health and wealth and freedom from bondage. They wouldn’t be following him because of WHO is was. They weren’t ready to accept a spiritual king of their hearts quite yet.

I am reminded that the same is true yet today. Some people still consider Jesus a heavenly Santa Claus who gives them the things on their wish list if they can conjure up the right kind of faith, if they say the magic words in a prayer. That’s not why Jesus came and that’s not why he wants us to come to him.

As we read on in the New Testament this year, I pray that we will see Jesus for Who he truly is, that we will love him because he first loved us, that we will serve him out of grateful hearts for his work on Calvary. And that we will make him Lord of our lives, King of our hearts.

October 8

Luke 7:18-35, 36-8:3, 11:14-26; Matthew 11:1-19, 12:22-45; Mark 3:20-30

Luke 7:23 always puzzled me. 

Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.

Jesus was talking about the things he was doing like healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching the good news. Wouldn’t people be drawn to him because of those things? Why would he express concern that some would “fall away” because of him?

As I sit here and think about that this morning it occurs to me that people still stumble because of Jesus. In the New Testament times the Jews were looking forward to the Messiah who would take the throne and return them to their former glory. They just knew their enemies would get what’s coming to them. Many of those Jews rejected Jesus when it became clear that was not his purpose. There are people yet today looking for that material kingdom.

People like to hear that God wants them to be healthy and wealthy. They like to believe that if they do good things God will accept them. They get tripped up when they hear Jesus calls his people to take up a cross and follow him, that he is the only way to the Father. They reject God because they refuse to humble themselves and accept Jesus as their Savior.

Blessed are we who confess our sin and enjoy fellowship with God through his Son.

October 1

Mark 2:9-11, 12-13, 16-20; Matthew 3:13-17, 4:1-11, 18-22; Luke 3:21-22, 4:1-13, 5:1-11; John 1:29-51

So they pulled up on shore, left everything, and followed him. (Luke 5:11)

Jesus’ ministry begins with his baptism and the choosing of the twelve disciples who would be closest to him for the next three years. Andrew decided to follow Jesus and the first thing he did was to go and tell his brother. He brought Simon, who we know as Peter, to Christ. Philip heard Jesus’ call and went and found Nathanael and both men followed Christ. When James and John heard Jesus they immediately followed him.

Luke describes a night of unproductive fishing for Peter. He was out all night and had nothing to show for it. And fishing was his income. I am sure he was tired and discouraged and frustrated. According to Luke, Jesus taught a group of people there by the sea side and when he was done he told Peter to row out into the lake again and drop his net. I love Peter’s response.

I’ve tried all night to catch a fish and used every trick I knew and I have nothing to show for it. I’m tired. But, ok. Since you’re telling me to go out again, I’ll do it your way.

The result was so much fish it took two boats to haul it all in. Jackpot!

Now here’s what blows me away. Peter was looking at the mother lode of fish, probably enough for him to live quite comfortably on for a while. But his thoughts went right to his heart. He recognized his sin in the presence of Jesus and he left all that fish right there on the shore and followed Christ.

God is asking me today if I am as eager to follow him. Or are there some things I am holding on to, some dream I want to come true, some goal I’ve made for myself that I haven’t realized yet? Do I say to my Lord, I’ll give my life to you later. I’m going to live my life my way for a while. I’ll come to you when I’m ready.

The God of the Universe wants you. He wants you to follow him today. Yes, it might mean giving up on a dream or walking away from ungodliness. But he promises that what you will receive from following him is so much better than what you have without him. Ask Peter. I don’t think we’ll find a moment of regret on Peter’s part as we read on in the New Testament. 

My prayer is that each of us will be as eager and willing to follow Jesus, to go where he wants us to go and be who he asks us to be. May we be fishers of lost souls. And may our catch overload the boat today.