Tuesday, April 25, 2017

To be a Horn Honker

In other countries, car horns don't mean what they mean in the U.S. In some foreign countries, honking your horn might mean "I'm here, look out for me," or maybe just "Good morning!" Here, we honk when we're angry, or when someone does something wrong, like running a light or cutting us off. It usually doesn't do any good. They don't slap their forehead, say "Sorry!" and repent. Usually they just get more angry.

Proverbs 9 has some good advice on giving and receiving a reprimand--because truth must be received as well as shared. First it warns about mockers. "Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return.  Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.  So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.”

But the second part of verse 8 through verse 9 is beautiful: "But correct the wise, and they will love you.  Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser.  Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.”

Criticism can be a wonderful tool that God uses in our life--if you let it. You can take criticism too personally, or you can reject it, or ignore it. But then you might be what the Bible calls a fool! It all depends on the nature of the criticism, and the way you handle it. Criticism can be one of God's best tools to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ. It can stop us from being self-centered, and make us sensitive to other people's needs.

All of us have blind spots, and therefore we all need some kind of accountability. We can all benefit from criticism, if it's constructive. Destructive criticism is meant to tear down, not to build up, and we shouldn't listen to that. We need to recognize the difference. If you are a wise person, you will consider whether the criticism you receive is constructive, and you'll walk away as a wiser person.

Of course, you have to be careful who you listen to--because if you listen to everybody's criticism you'll be a basket case! I think every Christian should have friends around them who they'll receive criticism from. You'll be wiser if you do. It's part of God's process of refining us.

Sometimes in response we can develop a tough skin, get bitter, or insensitive, or we can refuse to listen. If you do, in a sense you're saying, "I don't need to be molded by God." The other extreme is "peace at any price." This is where anytime somebody tells you something they don't like about you, you just do whatever they ask to avoid confrontation; you pander to them. That's equally wrong.

You should consider the criticism and then say, "Lord, if this is true, please confirm it in some way." Go to someone who cares for you and will give you an honest answer, and say, "Is this true? Do I need to change in this area?" If it is, then make the change, asking God for His help. If it's not, then throw it away. Not all honking horns need to be listened to!

Love God – Love People

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

You Prove It

Have you ever heard people say, "The God of the Old Testament is a God of hatred and vengeance, and the God of the New Testament is a God of love"? When I hear that I want to ask, "Have you ever read it?"

In the final book of the Old Testament, God's last words to His people (prior to sending His Son) are "I love you." Look at Malachi 1:2. "'I have always loved you,' says the LORD, but.  But you retort, “Really, how have You loved us?'"
God is saying, "Don't you know? I love you!" And they're arguing, "Prove it!"

This was the root of all of Israel's problems, the failure to believe in the love of God. Actually, I think that's perhaps the root of all our problems, too.

In the garden, Satan suggested to Eve that she doubt God's love. She said, "We can eat of every tree, but we can't eat of that tree. That's what God said." Satan said, "Really? Did God say that?" Then he said, "Look, God knows that in the day you eat that fruit, your eyes will be opened. You're going to be just like God!" So now a seed is planted in her heart, as if to question God and say, "Hmm... Why would God hide that from me? He must not love me." In questioning the love of God, Adam and Eve fell.

Satan wants you to feel neglected by God. And that is why in your darkest hour he'll come to you and say, "Look at you in your tough situation! You've been praying, and God hasn't answered you! He must not love you as much as He loves those other people, because He's answered their prayers! But not yours!" And the natural reaction is to say, "Yeah, that's right!"

That's why Jude said, "Keep yourselves safe in God’s love" (v. 21). How do you do that? Get the truth about God from the Word of God, not from your feelings. And you can find the love of God in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament. It's everywhere. Here's one verse: “Long ago the Lord said to Israel: 'I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love; with unfailing love I have drawn you to myself'" (Jeremiah 31:3). Here's another: "The Lord your God loves you" (Deuteronomy 23:5).

Again and again, God is described as "abounding in love." It's in Exodus, it's in Nehemiah and the Psalms. "But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry, and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness" (Psalm 86:15).

And that's only a smattering. When you look for the love of God, you'll find it everywhere. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. And He's a God of love. He's proved it!                     

Love God - Love People

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Risen Indeed!

Charles Colson told the story about how in 1990, as the Soviet Union was crumbling, their annual May Day parade of military might in Moscow was joined by protestors, including some priests from the Russian Orthodox Church with an eight-foot crucifix.

He wrote, "Behind the tanks surged a giant crowd of protesters, shouting up at Mikhail Gorbachev... The cross emerged from the crowd. As it did, the figure of Jesus Christ obscured the giant poster faces of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin that provided the backdrop for Gorbachev's reviewing stand. 'Mikhail Sergeyevich!' one of the priests shouted, his deep voice cleaving the clamor of the protesters and piercing straight toward the angry Soviet leader. 'Mikhail Sergeyevich! Christ is risen!'"

That message is the central hope of Christianity. Romans 4:25 says that Jesus "was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification." I like how the New Living Translation brings it to life: "He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God."

When you are forgiven, you're right with God. There are three elements to forgiveness. First is the conviction of our faith. We have to believe in Him. Second is redemption from our sins. Jesus was delivered for our offenses; in other words, He died for our sins.

The third ingredient is His resurrection. Not only His death, but also His resurrection was needed to make us right with God. The resurrection and forgiveness go hand in hand. If He didn't rise from the dead, then you're not forgiven! 1 Corinthians 15:17 says, "If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!"

If Jesus had just died, that would have proved nothing. Everybody dies. But this man Jesus said He was here to die for the sins of the world. Anybody can say that. What proof do we have that it's true? Put it another way: Is the death of Jesus Christ fully acceptable to God as the payment for sin for the entire world? Did God accept His death as atonement? The answer? Yes!

But how do we know that? Here's how: When He rose from the dead, His resurrection proved that His sacrifice was acceptable to God the Father! Jesus presented a perfect righteousness to the Father, and the resurrection proved that God was satisfied with the work His Son did on the cross.

When Jesus rose, God was announcing, "This is the righteousness I will accept. And whoever believes in Him who died and has risen, I will accept that person as well." That's why the Bible tells us in Romans 10:9, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." The risen Christ is the living proof that we can be forgiven by God.

So let the resurrection of Jesus Christ be the source of your hope in this Easter season, and always. "Christ is risen!"                                    Love God – Love People