Friday, May 29, 2009

Our Faith

"And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9.2)
In most of the healing stories in the gospels, the sick person's faith is a key element. Many times, Jesus says, "your faith has made you well (or whole)." In this story, though, the sick man's faith is not mentioned. We don't know even know if he had any faith at all. What is mentioned is his friends' faith. The Scripture says that Jesus saw their faith!
This has huge implications for us as the body of Christ, the Church. Who needs to be brought to Jesus today by your prayers, acts of love and mercy, and witness?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blessed to BE a blessing

"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12.2-3)
One of the most powerful things about being a Christian is that we are not just blessed for ourselves personally. We are blessed to BE a blessing to others.
In the great covenant that God initiated with Abraham, this was the idea: "I will bless you, Abraham, to be a blessing to all peoples on earth." God's special gifts were not for Abraham alone, nor were they just for Abraham's family. And in the coming of Jesus Christ, God's own son, centuries later, we see that promise fulfilled. Jesus came to save the world.
What would it mean for your life today if you didn't hold the spiritual blessings of God for yourself (or even just your family)? How might you share them with others so that you can truly BE the blessing God planned for your world?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Real Love

"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (1Corinthians 13.4-8a)
I am always humbled by this incredible definition of love! It is so much deeper, self-sacrificial, and caring than the definition of love the world gives us.
The world tells us that love is like a septic tank, it's just something you "fall in" when you're not looking. The world tells us that love is an uncontrollable emotion, therefore we are not accountable for anything we do when we fall under its spell.
Not so with true love! True love, as Paul defines it in this Scripture, is something you do, not just something you feel. The feeling is great, but it comes and goes. Christian love loves even when the emotions are not where we would like them.
There's a great book that discusses this that I would recommend to all. It's called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It's primarily for married couples or those preparing for marriage, but it could also apply to friends, parents, grandparents, etc. It focuses on how we love those around us. Check it out today!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

All needed

"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." (1Corinthians 12.27)
It seems that some folks think too little of their contribution to the life of the Church. They doubt that they have any special gifts, talents, or abilities. They feel they have nothing to contribute. Not so! Paul shows us in the twelfth chapter of Romans and 1Corinthians that every Christian has at least one special talent, gift, or ability for the "building up of the church." I find that many people who have the gift of service (a gift that is not as much in the spotlight as the more visible gifts like preaching, teaching, music, etc.) doubt that they have any gift at all. But thank goodness we've all not be called to preach, teach, or be "out front." If so, there would be no one to listen! Service is often a gift that is exercised in the background, but is just as necessary as the other more public and "visible" gifts. If you have a heart to help people, if you always like chipping in, in very tangible ways, then you may have the gift of service. Use it for God's glory! Remember Paul's words, "On the contrary, the parts of the body [the Body of Christ, the Church] which seem to be weaker are indispensable." (1Corinthians 12.22) All are important in the Body of Christ, the Church!

Friday, May 8, 2009

All things

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4.13)

Early in my ministry, I took a late appointment (September) to pastor a church. I really had to hit the ground running at church and school. My wife was pregnant with our twin sons, due in early December. In October, I got a call at school one day that she had gone into pre-term labor. I rushed back to Greensboro (an hour and a half from seminary) and she was in the hospital for a week. They put her on some heavy medication to stop labor, which made her almost comatose. I'll never forget going home one night from the hospital to an empty parsonage. When I got home there were pastoral calls to return, books to be read, papers to be written, and my wife in the hospital one town away. I had never felt so alone in my life. I broke down completely and cried out to the Lord for help.
He did not abdondon me! He poured out the "balm of Gilead" on my soul and gave me strength that had to come from above. Peace, like a river, surrounded my soul. And he spoke to my heart that He would never leave nor forsake me. He would see me through. My wife held on for another month on bed rest and our sons were born healthy on the day of my Old Testament midterm (now you know why they're named Noah and Jacob!) Of course, I rescheduled the midterm and four years later, after many trying times, many mountaintops and valleys, I finished seminary.
I often look back on that time, especially when I face any kind of hardship or trial. The God that was with me then is with me now. And that God is with you too! He will never leave you nor forsake you. You can count on it!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


"Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." (Revelation 4.8)
In the book of Revelation, amidst all the vivid pictures of destruction and cataclysmic upheaval, there are even more vivid pictures of the worship of Almighty God. Thrones of jasper, ruby, rainbow, emerald, sea of crystal glass, flashes of lightning, roars of thunder. Even before the end of the earth, there is the constant worship of God going on with proclamations such as the "four living creatures" make above. Proclamations are made about Jesus Christ: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Revelation 5.12b)
Heaven is about worshiping God. This is one reason worship is so important to us here and now. You could consider every worship service a "dress rehearsal" for the worship we will offer God for all eternity. God accepts our human attempts at worship because we are His children. When we strive to offer God our best worship, God is pleased. As one wise spiritual teacher has written, when we worship, we are not leaving the real world but coming into the Real World, the Kingdom of God that will never end. When we come to church, we are not the "audience;" God is. Remember that the next time you come to worship. We are not there just to "get something out of it" (though when we truly yield ourselves to worshiping God, we often do receive much). Our focus should be to offer God the praise that God deserves. We do this with music, prayers, offerings, hearing and responding to God's Word, celebrating the Lord's Supper. As we worship, we come into and maintain the right relationship with God. Remember that your worship of God prepares you for an eternity worshiping our Lord.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


"Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 2.7, 11, 17, 29; 3.6, 13, 22)
This week, we are reading Revelation in Disciple Bible Study. In the first three chapters, Jesus gives a message to John for seven churches. For a couple, there is nothing commendation. For most of the others, it is a mixture of commendation and a call to repentance. One is thoroughly rebuked for being lukewarm in their faith. But even to this church (Laodicea), Jesus says, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline." (Revelation 3.19)
As we go about our daily routines, are we listening to Jesus? There are no shortage of voices out there in the world. We can usually hear what we want to hear. But are we listening for the voice (the direction, the guidance, the encouragement) of Jesus first? You might ask, "how do I listen to Jesus' voice?" It is heard most clearly in God's Word, the Bible (especially in the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
I encourage you to "have ears to hear" what the Spirit of Jesus is saying to you today. Make sure that that voice is given first place in your life.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Everything we need

"[God's] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2Peter 1.3)
In the economic times we are living in, we all feel pushed to adopt an outlook of scarcity. What I mean by that is the conviction that the resources are limited, therefore, we'd better pull back in retreat and only spend for the bare necessities. Certainly, we are all called to handle our financial resources wisely. Part of the reason our country is in the financial shape it is, is because of overspending or what my grandma used to call "living beyond one's means." So, yes, it is high time we consider the differences between luxuries and necessities. My prayers are with all who have lost jobs or face anxiety about their financial situation in these days.
But this verse presents a much different picture for spiritual currency! In this Scripture, Peter reminds us that, in the spiritual economics of the Kingdom of God, there is abundance, not scarcity. In the spiritual realm, God has given us everything we need to thrive. In God's Kingdom, there is no shortage of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These cost nothing because they are gifts of God, freely bestowed on all who ask.
As you approach today, you may be limited in the economic realm. You may have lost a job or stand to lose one. Your retirement benefits may be drying up before your eyes. But remember that God will see you through. His spiritual resources for you are unlimited. Just ask. How do we access those resources? Through prayer, Bible study, worship with God's people, giving to the poor and needy, etc. These are all means of grace, "access points" to God's abundant life.
May you remember today that God will provide.