The Rock

Have you ever had a book change your life?  As a kid, I discovered JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series.  I read them many times.  I was captivated by the struggle of good versus evil and the little guy playing a major part in the final outcome.

There is another book which captivated my mind and heart at a young age which still impacts my life.  As a young child, Momma would read us Bible stories.  The heroes of my childhood were Samson, David, Moses, and Joshua.  Later, I learned about the teachings of Paul, John, and Jesus.  I still learn something new and see how the word of God shapes my life.  It is no wonder the prophet Isaiah sad “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”  Isaiah 40:8  NIV

God’s word is alive and works within us to conform us to the image.  They key is to put it into practice.  Jesus said, Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24  NIV Jesus instructs us that life built on the rock of His word stands the test of time.  He also contrasted that life with a foolish one. “ 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:26-27 NIV.

God’s word is a solid foundation upon which we can build our lives.

Give

Have you ever needed something?  I’m not talking about “need” like many today do.  We really don’t need the updated latest greatest cell phone.  We want that.  No, I’m referring to those basic needs of life:  food, clothing, shelter, security.   Has there been a point that you felt in a bind for those basic necessities?  If you have been through lean times, you can relate to those in need.  We all have needs which go beyond the basics.   In our culture, many add to the basics things such as sanitation, education, touch, etc.

Wherever you draw the line, as God’s children, we are called to give to others.  Solomon in writing his book of wisdom wrote often of this.  Proverbs 22:9 says (ESV) “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.”  Jesus said, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 ESV.  Notice that in both in the Old and New Testaments, the principle of generosity is same.  Give and you will be blessed.  God expects His children to be giving people.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  The purpose in giving is not so that God will give back to us.  Giving is not a get rich quick scheme!  Giving in love is the aim.  It is good for us to give.  It is the method God established to take care of those in need.  He even included it in the national laws of Israel recorded by Moses.  However, when we live life God’s way, we are blessed.  Those blessings may not always be financial, but blessings of God will flow.

Living a godly life includes giving to others.  Let us look for needs and meet them as we go through our lives.

Amazing change

I have always loved the show, “My Fair Lady”. An uneducated and unsophisticated girl who earns her living selling flowers on the street is turned into a case study. The professor begins teaching her proper English and manners. All of this is for a bet that he can pass her off as royalty at the ball. The transformation which occurs is amazing!

Jesus often encountered people and transformed them. Mark 5 records one of the most dramatic encounters when Jesus delivers a man from being possessed by a legion of demons. After the change, we find the following conclusion of the story:

Mark 5:17-20 “Then they began to beg Him to leave the region. As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed kept begging Him to be with Him. But He would not let him; instead, He told him, ‘Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.'”

Jesus here set out a vital principle in conversion. The demon possessed man wanted to follow Jesus, a noble goal. However, the Master’s plan was for him to stay and be a witness in the very area he had once terrorized. People would see the changed life and believe even more. The transformation would be his greatest tool in sharing Christ with his neighbors.

Jesus still transforms us and leaves us in our communities to be a witness wherever the Lord has us. As we go through life, our behavior, words, attitudes, etc should point people to Jesus. We have the same mission. As we live for Him, we can make a change in our community. As v. 20 says, “they were all amazed.”

May God use us to amaze our neighbors and win more to the faith.

Dangerous division

John MacArthur, the expositor and preacher, has said this about strife in the local church, ‘Strife brings fractured fellowship into the church of Jesus Christ, which robs Christians of joy and effectiveness. It robs God of glory, and it robs the world of the true testimony of the gospel – a high price for an ego trip’.

Jesus spoke of a divided kingdom in Mark 3:24-25 “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rebels against himself and is divide, he cannot stand but is finished.”

Division can destroy anything. Whether discussing a business, church, or a family, having division undercuts its effectiveness and will cause destruction. Jesus here makes that point to explain how He couldn’t be casting out demons through Satan’s power, otherwise, Satan’s kingdom would be divided. Jesus desires us to be unified with each other around Him. He is the great uniter. He tore down the walls of separation which mankind and built. He brings together all types of people in His church.

We must work to keep His church united. We must work in our families to cling to each other in unity. We must all walk in God’s ways as reveled in His word. This keeps us on the same path working for the same goals. That eliminates the opportunity to be selfish and to ignore each other’s needs.

Honor

.This Monday is Memorial Day in the USA. On Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who have died serving to defend our freedom in the military. It is a sober reminder that we enjoy the liberty we have because of those who have fought and died to secure and preserve that freedom. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Paul in speaking of a believer’s relationship with civic authorities told the Romans, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Romans 13:7 ESV I cannot think of any who deserve our honor and respect more than those who willingly laid down their lives for us.

We have an obligation to remember and honor them. This used to go without saying, but as the decades went by the attitude of many has changed. As believers, we must honor their sacrifice. We are blessed to live in a nation which was established to allow us to control the government. We elect representatives to decide on matters which impact all of us. Our military serves to protect and defend our freedoms for enemies foreign and domestic. Honoring their office and service does not imply we agree with all actions our government takes, but it means we respect their service.

One great way to honor them is to pray for those in active service and for the families of those who have paid the ultimate price for our liberty. 1 Timothy 2:1-3 says, “Therefore I]exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,”

Remember the fallen and pray for those still standing on watch for us.

Expectations

I teach High School, and we are in the last few days of class. There is a widely used saying that there is no tired like end of the year tired. I can relate to that! Students are winding down from another year of busy schedules and cramming learning into every fold of their brain. At least, that is what teachers hope who are also scrambling to finish the content, juggle the paperwork demands, and crowding in one more meeting. This time of year everyone gets frustrated more easily. I am doing something new. I am writing my class expectations for next year right now. All the things that have grown old and worn us out will be addressed day one. Establishing expectations and sticking to them is a great tool in all areas of life.

God gave us His expectations for our behavior in Micah 6:8.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?” ESV

Micah had asked what to do to please God? What offering He most desired and what would appease Him. He even exaggerates and speaks of offering thousands of rams and rivers of oil and firstborn sons, but none of those are what God wants or requires. Sacrifice, no matter how momentous, is useless without a life of justice, loving-kindness, and humility.

We are expected first to do justice. The word translated “justice” means to comply with the proclamations of a court. In this context, we can read it as doing what God has commanded. The highest court of all, heaven, has decreed what is right and wrong. We are to equally apply that standard in all of our lives and to all people.

Next we are to love kindness. Loving kindness is a deep affection based upon past relationship. We are love God and love others. That love leads to acts of kindness done. God wants us to be kind to all.

Finally, we are walk humbly with our God. There is a reverential awe we should have before God. We walk as Jesus did, as humble servants. We obey God knowing that we don’t deserve anything but His wrath.

Live a life which embodies justice, kindness and humility and you will be in step with God’s expectations.

Yuck!

Do you hate anything? I mean is there something you just can’t stand? When I was a youth director, I learned to hate tuna fish sandwiches. Growing up I loved them. But when I was a youth director and living on my own, every time we had sandwiches at church the loving people would send the left overs home with the starving youth director. It turns out, after eating tuna fish for nearly a week, I grew to hate it! I have sense overcome my aversion, but for a while it was strong.

We don’t like to think about it, but the Bible says there are things God hates. Prov 6:16-19 says,

“16 There are six things that the LORD hates,

seven that are an abomination to him:

17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,

and hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked plans,

feet that make haste to run to evil,

19 a false witness who breathes out lies,

and one who sows discord among brothers”

Wow! God hates some things. Notice the things He hates: pride, lies, murderers, scheming hearts, evil actions, sowing discord among brothers. The common thread in all of them is sin. All of them are sinful actions and thoughts. God hates sin.

God wants us to walk righteously. Pride, lying, and harming others is the opposite of that. He calls us to humility and of service to others. Jesus even said that the second greatest commandment of all was to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Are you walking in that kind of love?