Monthly Archives: November 2014

Bright Lights and Sweet Aromas

Paul tells us to look at his life, he has nothing to hide. (2 Corinthians 2&3) He calls his life a Christ-like fragrant perfume rising up to God. He compares his life to Moses who, after receiving the Law, shown so brightly he had to put a veil over his face because the light blinded the people. Paul suggests his life is like that.

Paul also says that this sweet aroma offends those who don’t know Christ, the light is hated by those who reject Jesus. But Paul doesn’t let that stop him from living to please God.

I am convicted. Sometimes I wonder if what people see in me offends them at all. Or do I just blend in? Is there a veil over my face to hide the fact I spend time with God each day? Do I splash enough of the world on me to disguise the scent God loves?

I can be such a hypocrite.

I want to impact my world the same way Paul did his. Oh, I don’t feel called to be an itinerate preacher. Paul lived an honest, open life that pointed everyone who met him to the Savior. He ruffled feathers, but pleased God. That’s the life I want to live.

May others see Jesus in me, know it’s real, and want him in their lives, too. May God love my scent, and be the light in me.

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Figure What Out?

It seems some people think God gave us the law just to trip us up, to prevent us from having fun, to condemn us, or to test us. I was reading Romans 2-4 this morning and heard Paul tell us God gave us the law because he loves us.

My sister is a science teacher. God has gifted her with the ability to help the students in this small Christian school experience God’s creation, not just learn about it. She has been a successful teacher for over 20 years and has touched the lives of thousands of people.

Recently, her principal gave her a new assignment: Teach church history. There is no curriculum for you to use, and I don’t want you to teach it the way you normally teach. I want you to teach it the way I would teach it, but that’s all the help you are getting from me. I know you studied science, not Bible. I know you never had a class on church history. Figure it out. Oh, and by the way, I am basing my evaluation of you as a teacher on how well I think you handle this assignment.

I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. This assignment is neither fair, nor loving.

Thankfully, God hasn’t done that to us. He gave us an assignment: Be holy as I am holy. Then he spelled it out in words we can understand, and prompted Moses to write it down. He gave us the curriculum, so to speak, so we can refer to it at any time.

Next he showed us examples of obedience and disobedience in the lives of the Jewish people. He blessed and punished, and prompted men to write it down, again so we can refer to it any time.

Then he sent Jesus to live with us. Jesus demonstrated holiness, he spoke about sin, the law, obedience, forgiveness. Then he went to the cross and showed us with his own blood what the penalty of disobedience looks like. And God prompted men to record the life of Jesus on paper so we can read it for ourselves two thousand years later.

He also inspired the likes of Paul, and Peter, and John, and others to teach us through their letters how to be the people God would have us be.

And he has been demonstrating this every day since creation.

Why the law? God didn’t make up some random rules after he got Adam and Eve in the Garden. God is Truth, and he is Holy, so those things have been around as long as he has. What he did by giving us the law, was to put it all out there. He is as honest with us as he wants us to be with him. These are my rules, he says. Let me help you obey them so we can have fellowship now and in eternity.

My sister’s job depends on how she handles her assignment. Friend, our lives depend on how well we handle the assignment God has placed before us. Holiness? Me?

Read God’s curriculum and see that he offers his own holiness to us. He is willing to place his righteousness on our shoulders. And he’s able to do that because he’s already paid the price our sins require. I’m not going to give you chapter and verse because I want to challenge you to read it all. Spend time in God’s word. Let him tell you how much he loves you, what he expects of you, and what he has already done on your behalf.

You don’t have to figure it out on your own. It’s right here in black and white.

Why Evil?

Last Sunday, the pastor posed a question in Sunday School: Why is there evil and has it always existed?

I guess to truly understand all the details of the answer to that question, you would have to have the mind of God. Our understanding is limited to what he inspired men to write in Scripture.

Like I Corinthians 15:56. Paul tells us the law gives sin its power. We wouldn’t know what sin was if God hadn’t spelled it out in the law.

We wouldn’t know what light was if it wasn’t for the darkness.

And we wouldn’t know what good was except for evil.

If there was no law, sin would have no power because sin, by definition, is the breaking of the law. But if there was no law, no sin, we wouldn’t know forgiveness, would we? There would be no choice. We would be puppets, robots.

It was important to God that his creation choose him.

Why?

I don’t know, except to say the love someone chooses to demonstrate toward me is precious, personal, more meaningful than if that someone feels obligated or forced. Being made in God’s image, I can only imagine he feels the same.

Dearest Heavenly Father, you are good. You are holy. And I thank you that you have made it possible to choose you. It’s hard to thank you for sin. It’s hard to thank you for sickness, wars, evil. But if it weren’t for those things, I wouldn’t understand what it is that you offer through your Son, Jesus. I wouldn’t appreciate grace. So, Father, I want you to know that I choose you today. I love you because I can. I resist temptation because I can. I deny Satan because I can. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Thank you!

My Ichthus Phobia

Reading Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, I am reminded to live my life aware that people are watching.

Years ago, my dad bought me an ichthus, a magnetic fish for my car. I told him I was afraid to put one on my car because I didn’t want people to judge Christians if I pulled out in front of someone, drove too fast, or didn’t use my blinker. Dad said, “Maybe you should change how you drive.”

The truth of the matter is people are watching me and judging me whether or not I have a fish on my car, a cross around my neck, or a Bible in my purse. And they are often not only judging me, but they’re judging you, too, by the way I live.

It’s not just, “Connie is a bad driver.” It’s “Christians are bad drivers.” You’ve heard them. “Christians are haters.” “Christians are judgmental.” “Christians are hypocrites.”

How do they come up with this stuff?

By watching you and me. By hearing the language we use at the ballgame, by seeing inconsistencies at work, by how we treat our neighbors.

Satan loves to stop us from actively sharing Jesus by convincing us we are unworthy, too sinful, too much of a hypocrite to speak up for Christ. If that’s what you are thinking, I guess I’d like to throw a little of my dad’s advice your way:

Maybe you should change how you live.

Open Minds and Open Bibles

I love what Scripture tells us about the Bereans in Acts 17. It says they were open-minded when they listened to Paul talk about Jesus. Then they studied Scripture themselves to see if what Paul was saying was true.

I think that’s a recipe all Christians should follow. Everything we read or hear should be checked and double checked to see if it aligns with what is already written in the Bible. Not just in a verse or two, but in the entire Bible as the complete Word of God. People can sound religious, spiritual, even Christian when they pull a verse out of the Bible to support some notion. But that doesn’t necessarily make it true.

Let’s face it. There is always something to learn. It’s impossible for us humans to know everything there is to know about God. He is constantly revealing more of himself, answering questions as we are ready for answers.

But some of us have closed our minds toward any further revelation. We go to church and listen to the teaching, read a blog, watch a TV preacher, or hear a song on the radio, and we either accept what is said without question, or we filter it through what we’ve already been taught.

I wonder how many of us open the pages of the Bible and study it to find out if what we’re hearing or reading is really the truth. I wonder how many of us allow a preacher or teacher to do the studying for us and just accept whatever it is they say. I wonder how many blessings we’ve missed, how much of God we’ve missed because of it.

Let’s determine to be like the Bereans. Let’s soak up the teaching, the music, the inspirational books with open minds, knowing there are things for us to learn. But let’s not stop there. Let’s dig into Scripture and find out what the final authority has to say about it before we accept it as truth.

But I’m Not A Preacher

Peter and Paul are the two names most associated with the early church. Both were powerful speakers who performed many miracles. But all of the apostles had a part in those formative years.

Take Philip.(Acts 8) He also went from town to town sharing the Gospel. He was as obedient as Peter and Paul, maybe just a bit quieter about it. Obeying God, he spoke with a eunuch and led him to the Savior. I wonder what the eunuch thought when Philip disappeared. I wonder what Philip thought!

God is reminding me today that every believer has a job to do, and he honors obedience. A eunuch might not have seemed all that important to Philip, but that eunuch was important to God.

God is not asking most of us to stand before a large congregation and preach the Gospel so thousands are saved. But he is asking each of us to be obedient to speak to that one person he’s laid on our hearts.

God adds people to his kingdom one soul at a time. He’d like you to share in the responsibility, the honor, and the joy of leading one soul to their Savior.

Will you be obedient today? Will I?

Pilate and Me

We celebrated the Lord’s Supper yesterday at church. In my devotional time during the past several days I have been reading about Jesus’ last moments in a human body, and it made me appreciate the bread and wine even more. Jesus is not just some character in a book, or some guy who lived a good life thousands of years ago. He’s as real as he was the day Judas betrayed him. And our response to him is as important as Pilate’s response to him was.

Read Mark 15, Matthew 27, Luke 23, and John 19. See how Pilate, a powerful ruler of the people, washed his hands of the whole thing when he chose not to defy popular opinion. He knew Jesus wasn’t guilty of anything. But the crowd shouting for Jesus’ death was loud and strong. Pilate figured there was nothing he could do, so he just sat back and allowed Jesus to be mocked, beaten, and eventually killed.

Hold on before you get too critical of old Pilate. Is Jesus any less mocked, beaten up, obliterated from our society than he was in Pilate’s day? Isn’t popular opinion today just as loud and strong against God’s Truth as the people shouting, “Crucify Him” were back then?

Is Jesus the Way, the Truth, the Life, and the only way to the Father or not? Does sin, as spelled out clearly in Scripture, anger and disgust him? Are the wages of sin death? What is our response when popular opinion says we should be tolerant of all beliefs, that there are multiple ways to God, that evolution is a science, that homosexuality is not a choice and should be honored, that drunkenness is a party, that abortion is not murder, that Christians who speak against sin are haters?

I could go on. And so could you. God is asking me what my response will be. Will I, like Pilate, wash my hands and say, “Oh well, there’s nothing I can do”?

If I do – if we do – I believe Jesus will be obliterated from our society and we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. I was reminded at church yesterday, and again this morning as I spent time in God’s Word, that Jesus endured a lonely and painful death because he loves me. What is my response to so great a love, so great a salvation?

Pilate let popular opinion prevent him from taking a stand. Will I?

Father, I pray for your people. May we each spend time in your Word and in prayer, asking you what you would have us do in response to popular opinion that dishonors you. May Christians stand in love and in Truth against Satan’s lies. And may those who are holding this popular opinion be drawn to the Savior because your people didn’t wash our hands of the whole thing. God, you are powerful. May your power be seen in your obedient servants.