Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hot Hot Hot

I've was watching a news show about wildfires around the country. According to the report, in just two weeks over 1,700 fires have burned nearly and over 300 of the fires are still uncontained. The most dangerous fires are being contained, but the firefighters fear that might change. As they try to control the fires with bulldozers, controlled backfires and aerial drops of water and fire-retardant chemicals, they are wary of the weather. Temperatures may soon reach well over 100 degrees, with winds that could cause the fires to spread.

Just like a wildfire, the church in the first century spread everywhere. On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord added 3,000 people to the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 2:41), and it spread outward from there, despite all attempts to contain it. A young Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, was especially zealous in his persecution of the church, and he actively hunted down believers. But it was already uncontrollable by the time he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. It was everywhere. The more the persecution, the greater the spread.

I liken it to trying to put out a fire with your foot. I don't know if you've ever tried that--but don't. If you try to stamp it out, your foot creates enough of a draft to take those little embers and shoot them out and start fires everywhere. And so it's like the devil was trying to stomp the church out with his foot, and all these "on-fire" Christians were going everywhere spreading the gospel.

When Peter gave Jesus the profession of his faith, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus told him, "...on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (see Matthew 16:16, 18). Jesus predicted that the church would stand up against any assault.

The church in Jerusalem was just doing the basics (see Acts 2:42-47), but the Holy Spirit was there, empowering it to spread. The church today can be just the same.

Over the years, many non-believing people have predicted demise of the church. More than a few political leaders tried to stamp it out. They not only failed, but they caused it to spread. There will always be opposition from those who don't want it to spread. But if we remain close to Jesus Christ we will be fruitful (see John 15). Even the gates of hell won't be able to stop the church.

Love God – Love People

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Freedom and Slavery

In the United States at this time of year we talk a lot about freedom, and that's only appropriate. The French writer Alexis de Toqueville once called America "the most enlightened and free nation of the earth." The Bible also talks about freedom. It says, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). We've been set free!

But what have we been set free from? And more importantly, what have we been set free for? The first question, probably most of us could answer. We've been set free from the bondage to sin. We've been set free from guilt and from punishment.

The second question is one not a lot of Christians ask. But here's the answer: We have been set free in order to become slaves of God. We've been set free from one master to become indentured to another Master. Did you know that? We're to be slaves of righteousness and slaves of God. (See Romans 6:18.)

Every person is a slave to something…or someone. If you haven't given your life to Jesus Christ, you might be saying "I'm nobody's slave!" but I disagree. "Don't you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval" (Romans 6:16, NLT). You may be a slave to yourself--your own habits, your own lustful desires. And there's no freedom or peace in that.

In biblical times, if somebody couldn't pay off their debts, they might become an indentured slave. They would work to pay off their debts, and in the seventh year the master had to release them. But some who really loved their masters went on working for them voluntarily. So there were two types of slaves: those who served out of compulsion, because they had to, and those who served out of loyalty, because they wanted to. Paul often used this picture, calling himself a "slave" or "bondservant" of Jesus Christ (see Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1).

And the message of the Bible is the more you become His slave, the more freedom you experience. The more you become slaves to other things, people, etc., the less freedom you have.

The Cross of Christ can set any prisoner free, and once that happens, you become free to be His slave. That's what salvation is all about; it's turning from sin to God. God takes good care of His servants. And you'll discover that being His slave is the greatest possible freedom you can have in this life.

Some years ago, Bob Dylan wrote a song called "Gotta Serve Somebody," which contained these words: "You're gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody."

Or as the Bible says, "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life" (Romans 6:22). "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Love God – Love People

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Let's Hang Together

When the Continental Congress was gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Benjamin Franklin told the delegates, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." What was he talking about? He was talking about unity. They had to be unified in attaining their goal--cutting their political ties to England--or they would be destroyed. They were men from 13 different colonies, with different lives, different financial interests, etc., but they banded together for a common purpose.

As the Church, we also have a common purpose, and that is to glorify Jesus Christ. But we're not all alike as people. We're very different, and we have all been given different gifts and talents by God. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all."

God loves variety and we ought to as well. God has put variety throughout His creation. So it is in the body of Christ. There are a variety of different people with different backgrounds and with different gifts.

In verse 11, we are told who is controlling the variety. "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." This tells me that the Church is all about what He wills and what He wants. It's His Church. Church is about us participating in getting His will accomplished. He is the one who controls the variety.

And look at verse 12. "The body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body." We are to recognize the beautiful, diverse variety in the body of Christ. At the same time, we are to emphasize unity and here's why. If we just emphasize the first part and not the second part, the body will be out of whack and it's going to malfunction. We all have to be going in the same direction, or potentially every member could be out there doing its own thing, creating division rather than unity.

If you have unity without variety, you have uniformity and that's boring. If you have variety without unity, you have anarchy. The answer is found throughout the chapter: "the same Spirit," "the same Lord," "the same God." Christ is the head. He's giving the orders. And following His Lordship is the only way we can "hang together" as the Church.

Love God – Love People