Friday, February 16, 2018

Who Wants to be Happy?

Matthew 5: 3-8 (NIV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

    God didn’t create us to be miserable. Why would he? What sense would it make for him to create people only to watch us suffer in misery? He created us for paradise. That’s where he originally placed us, and where we can go back to if we will simply say yes to him. That’s the gospel in a nutshell. Just as I want my children to be happy, so God wants his children happy.
    So Jesus begins his ministry by telling us how to do this. Blessed means happy. Look at what he is saying: poor in spirit means you realize you are a sinner who needs God’s help. Mourning, in this context, means you want to repent. You are sorry that you are not living up to God’s standards. To be meek is to be under God’s control. It means you have surrendered to Him.
    If we want to be happy, it begins by becoming right with God. This is why we were created and is the only way to find true contentment in this life. Jesus gives us right standing with God, then shows us how to become more and more righteous so our fellowship with Him is not impaired or broken. The real secret is that he begins to make us more and more like him.
    This doesn’t mean we will never sin again, but it means Jesus will give us a new heart. We will be born again. The Sermon on the Mount teaches us that God isn’t interested in religion, but in us having a relationship with him. This is where happiness begins.
    Jesus ends this sermon by saying we are wise if we listen to what he says and put it into practice. Then we can face the storms that this life throws at us. And yes, we can even be happy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

We are Here for God’s Pleasure

Romans 11:33-36 (NIV) Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

    When we get this through our heads, it changes our perspective on everything; when we stop thinking that we live our lives independent of God and then call out to him like an ambulance driver when we need him. This passage reminds us that we are here for God, and not the other way around. He created us. He gave us life. We wouldn’t be here if he didn’t want us to be. It’s all about him. The air in our lungs belongs to him. The life in our bodies is a gift from him.
    The reason this was so revolutionary to me was it showed me that, since I am here for God, and since he loves me more than I love myself, my worries are his worries. My problems are his problems. Now, when I have a problem I simply go to God and say, “Okay, I am yours. I have this issue – what are you going to do about it?” Not in an arrogant way, but as a child goes to his father and asks him how he is going to handle a situation.
    We belong to God. We were created by him and for him. And he didn’t create us to be his pets or puppets. We are his children. This is why we have a free will. He wants us to walk with him. Pets can’t do that, but children can. The price we pay for that free will, of course, is suffering, but I know that nothing is ever going to happen to me without God’s permission. This is why I don’t have to worry. I know God is holding me safely in his hand and anything that ever happens to me happens right under his nose.
    Turn your thinking around. Realize that you belong to God and you are here for his pleasure. And not only you, but your loved-ones too. Stop worrying and start trusting.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

We are New Creations in Christ

2 Corinthians 5: 17, 19 (NIV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! … 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

    Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t just take us home to heaven the day we are saved? After all, we are now just strangers on this earth. This is not our home. Our home is in heaven. We no longer fit in here. We are just passing through. One day, we will be home with God forever and will completely fit in.
    But God doesn’t take us immediately home because he has a job for us to do. We are his ambassadors. We are his voice and his hands and feet. It is up to us to share the good news and to minister to those in need. Paul, in this passage, says “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” To be reconciled is to become friends again. We were objects of God’s wrath because of our sin nature, but we can be friends again when we are forgiven. That’s the Gospel.
    So God doesn’t take us home, he leaves us here. But we are no longer the same. Now we are new creations. I like to think of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. It is the same creature, but it is no longer a caterpillar, it has become a butterfly. God changes us into something new. We no longer crawl and eat leaves. Now we fly and drink sweet nectar. We are the same, but not the same at all. Now we are born again. Now we are a new creation.
    Don’t tuck your wings and crawl like a caterpillar – you are not a caterpillar anymore! You now have beautiful wings, use them and fly around God’s garden. Let others know that they can change too. They can become new creations. They can be born again.
    Has God changed you into a butterfly? Are you a new creation? Then act like it! Set your mind on things above, where Christ is. Become more and more like him. Become the butterfly God intended you to be.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

John 13: 3-8 (NIV): 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

    We talk a lot about why Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. He was showing that leaders in the Kingdom of God are servants, humble, and willing to forgive. The disciples had just been arguing among themselves about which of them would be the greatest when Jesus took the throne (in his physical kingdom that never happened.) Luke tells us this in his Gospel. Jesus put a towel around his waist and showed them what a true leader looks like.
     But I want us to notice Peter’s reaction when Jesus came to him to wash his feet. I think it says a lot about people. Peter didn’t want to accept charity. He didn’t want to humble himself enough to let Jesus stoop and wash his feet. It just didn’t seem right to him to allow this man, whom he thought was about to be crowned king, to stoop before him and wash his dirty feet.
    Peter had a pride issue and so do a lot of people. It takes a humble person to accept God’s charity – his free gift of salvation. A lot of people say, “No, I will not allow anyone to bless me like that; I will not let someone humble himself at my expense. I will not accept charity. I will take care of myself.”
    But the Bible says God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Jesus stood a child among his disciples and said, “If you do not come like a child, you will never enter the Kingdom of God.” We must humble ourselves enough to accept God’s grace – his charity – if we are going to be saved. Don’t let pride keep you from the Kingdom. Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” We must humble ourselves and allow him to wash us clean so we can enter into God’s Kingdom.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Moses Chooses to Follow God

Hebrews 11:24-26 (NIV) 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

    Moses had it all. He was a prince in Egypt. He had wealth and fame, and all the pleasures that went with his high position. How could he walk away from all of that and become a slave with his people? How could he go from ruler to someone who was owned, broke and mistreated? He went from the coolness of the palace to the heat of the brick fields, forced to do hard labor all day.
    Why would he do such a thing? Hebrews tells us Moses realized that pleasure could be found in this life – but it doesn’t last. It is fleeting. He knew that disgrace “for the sake of Christ” has a greater value than the treasures of Egypt, or any other treasure we can imagine. Interesting that Moses lived about 1500 years before Jesus was born, but the writer of Hebrews doesn’t make a distinction between Jesus and God in this passage.
    We celebrate Moses as a hero of the faith. In this passage we see why: he had self-discipline. He walked away from wealth and pleasure for the sake of his faith. He was looking ahead to something greater than the temporary pleasure he could have had as a prince.
    Self-discipline has been defined as the ability to delay gratification. It is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23. Self-discipline is a bottom line of our faith. We store up treasures in heaven. We invest in the afterlife, and not just in this life. We give our lives over to God today, knowing that he will reward us for all eternity. We can’t see the treasures of Heaven, but, by faith, we believe it exists. Moses realized this, and if we are wise, we will too.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Noah, A Man of Faith

Hebrews 11: 6-7 (NIV) 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. 
The world loves to make fun of us Christians for believing such an incredible story – that a man built a huge ark, and that two of each animal came to it and were saved from a world-wide flood. But if you believe in the supernatural, you have no trouble believing this account. You also believe that God created the universe, that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that he rose from the dead. If you don’t believe in the supernatural, you don’t believe any of this, but if you have faith, you believe it all. 
    And if you don’t believe in the supernatural, then you don’t believe you will see your loved-ones who have passed away ever again. How sad not to have that hope. Einstein said there are two ways to live your life: as though everything is supernatural, or as though nothing is. Do you believe Noah was a historical figure? Jesus did. Peter did. The writer of Hebrews did. 
    We celebrate Noah because of his faith. Genesis said he was righteous. It says he walked faithfully with God. And he didn’t just believe, he put his faith into action – that is what real faith is. James says faith is dead if it doesn’t cause us to act. Does your faith make you act upon it? Noah’s did. And it took him about a hundred years to build the ark. I’m sure his neighbors laughed, but he kept his faith. 
    The ark symbolizes how God provides a way of salvation for those who believe, those who have faith. Do you have Noah’s faith? Believe, put your faith into action, and be a hero of the faith.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Follow God’s Example

Ephesians 5: 1 – 4 (NIV) 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

    If we summed up how Paul wants us to respond to God’s great love for us, we could do it with three words: follow God’s example. Just three words, but not so easy to do. The Bible is clear that God wants us to be like him. He wants us to be holy, he wants us to forgive. He wants us to love everyone. Paul says it was God’s plan before we were even born that we should be like Christ. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul says God predestined us to be like Christ. Jesus is our one and only standard.
    And Jesus loves with a sacrificial love. He gave himself for us. That’s what real love is all about. Why does God care if we live holy lives? Because the whole world is watching to see how our faith affects us. And because he wants strong families where we love and trust each other and live securely in that. Some argue that God is taking the fun out of life, but the longer I live, the more I realize he is protecting us and offering us the best, most pleasurable life possible.
    So what we say and how we conduct ourselves really does matter. If we want to live the contented, peaceful, satisfying life that God offers, we will do things God’s way. And our goal will be simple: follow God’s example.
    And, instead of spewing obscenities and hatred, we will live in such a way that shows God we are thankful for his goodness to us. This Holiday season, I encourage each of us to live in such a way that we show God we are thankful. Take a few moments to tell him. Live your life as someone who is thankful, and remember to always follow His example.