Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Out of Obligation....

I grew up going to church every Sunday. I can’t say I looked forward to it every week, sometimes for me it was like going to the dentist. The pews and chairs were hard, and a lot of strange words were used. Church attendance was, at times in my mind, the "Sunday obligation." That summed it up for me. It was something you had to do, whether you wanted to or not. Some weeks you went to get it over with.

The church at Ephesus was also cold. They did all the right things. They worked hard, and they persevered under persecution. Yet, in Revelation 2 Jesus told them, "You've left your first love." Their simple, pure devotion for Jesus Christ had eroded over time.

But how is it possible to serve God, to suffer for God, and not do it out of love? Actually, it happens all the time. You can serve the Lord out of guilt. You can do it to be noticed. You can do it because God has given you a gift and you feel fulfilled when you exercise it. The last is better than the first two, but Jesus says the highest motivation is love for Him. "First love" is the love for God that characterizes a brand-new Christian. It's fervent, fresh, bold and personal. Life is boiled down to one thing: Jesus Christ.

Look at Luke 10. Martha was busy serving Jesus, while her sister Mary was just sitting at His feet, listening and loving Him. The qualities of these two women should be in all people, the hard worker and the loving worshiper. But busy action must never eclipse loving adoration. Martha got annoyed at her sister, not because she had too much work but because she let the work distract her from the One she was serving.

Remember, what we do with Jesus Christ is more important than what we do for Jesus Christ, because what happened to the church at Ephesus can happen to us. What happened to Martha can happen to us. We can get so involved in activities that we become cold, or we get distracted from our love for Him.

When I counsel people who are experiencing problems I'll often ask, "How's your time with the Lord? Are you doing your devotions?" Many tell me that they're not consistent, and some even say they've stopped reading their Bibles. And they wonder why they have problems?

Here's my point: Action without adoration leads to aggravation. Church, or Bible study, or prayer, or whatever, shouldn't be seen as an obligation. We do them because we love Jesus Christ. Put your focus on loving Him, and everything else will fall into place.

Love God – Love People

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Truth - Lies

Finding it hard to find truth teller’s these days?  People to live in Truth?  Reading through Genesis 6 and the Noah portion of scripture, I noticed some things about truth.

I heard a story about a man who took his little daughter camping by the ocean. He tried to get her to go into the water, but when she found out how cold it was, she refused. Then he got an idea. He built a fire, heated some water in a teakettle, and poured it into the ocean. The little girl figured her daddy had fixed it, and she ran into the water without any hesitation!

That was a harmless trick, but it illustrates how Satan works. He mixes a small amount of truth with an ocean of lies. Satan is called "the accuser of our brothers and sisters" (Revelation 12:10). He's the ultimate critic of God's creation, and accusation is one of his most effective tactics. When you sin, he's right there to condemn you. "You call yourself a Christian? Do you think God will hear your prayer after that? You shouldn't even be in a church!" He's such a hypocrite. When he is tempting us, he whispers, "Do it! No one will know!" And then after we sin he shouts, "You'll never get away with that!"

When Satan talks to you about God, he lies. That's why it's important to get the truth about God from the Bible. But when Satan talks to God about you, he doesn't need to lie, he just uses your sin against you. He is constantly studying humanity, looking for evidence to bring before the throne of God, trying to cause God to turn His back on us. For that reason, you must learn to distinguish between the conviction of the Holy Spirit that comes from God, and the accusations and condemnation of Satan. Those are two very different things.

A lot of people say, "Guilt is wrong!" No, it isn't. It can be very, very good, if it comes from the Holy Spirit, if God imposes it to bring us back to Him. But guilt can be very bad, if it drives us to despair and hopelessness. Then we've listened to the wrong voice.

When the Holy Spirit convicts you, He uses the Word of God in love and seeks to bring you back into fellowship with your heavenly Father. When Satan accuses you, he uses your own sin in a hateful way to drive a wedge between you and God. He seeks to make you feel helpless and hopeless.

Judas betrayed Jesus Christ, and he listened to the devil and went out and hanged himself. Peter also betrayed Christ but he looked into Jesus' face, and it brought conviction. Later, he came back into fellowship.

So stay out of that "ocean of lies." The Holy Spirit, the "Spirit of truth" (John 16:13), will always lead you back toward God.

Love God – Love People

Monday, February 13, 2017

By Our Love

Around 8 years ago, a letter written by Abraham Lincoln to a schoolboy was sold to a collector for $60,000. Here's the story: When Lincoln was running for president in 1860, journalist James Patten interviewed him. Patten took his eight-year-old son George along. But later, when George told his classmates he had met Lincoln, they didn't believe him and they mocked him. The teacher finally wrote the president, and Lincoln responded: "Whom it may concern: I did see and talk with Master George Evans Patten, last May, at Springfield, Illinois. Respectfully, A. Lincoln." The boy had evidence he could show to anybody who doubted him, and that settled the matter.

In Exodus 3 and 4, Moses experienced a much bigger meeting, with God Himself. But Moses anticipated that the Hebrews might not believe him, and he said, "But what if they will not believe me or listen to me; what if they say, 'The Lord never appeared to you'" (4:1). So God gave Moses some miraculous signs to convince anyone who was doubtful.

Those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior have also had a meeting with God. But what do we have as evidence that we can show the world? Jesus told His disciples, "So now I am giving you a new commandment: love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." (John 13:34-35).

How else will people know that we're really disciples of Jesus Christ? By the bumper sticker on your truck? The Christian slogan on your t-shirt? The big Bible you carry? The cross necklace you wear? You know what? If you wear a cross without having love in their heart, you dishonor the cross!

You could say, "They'll know I'm a Christian because of my dizzying intellect, and my knowledge of theology and apologetics." But you have heard it said, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. They want to know that you love. That's the mark of being a Christian. Simply put, the more spiritual you are, the more loving you are.

So love is the dividing line. And it's not even love for the world that Jesus speaks of. He says if we can just love each other, that'll be enough for the world to understand. Isn't that amazing?

"If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. (1 John 3:14a). People may hear that you are His disciple, but they will know it when you love.

Love God – Love People