Sunday, July 22, 2018

Our Great Expectations!

Every Sunday we meet together to worship God, and part of that worship contains a ceremony designed to connect us emotionally and symbolically to what makes having a genuine relationship with God possible – we call it The Lord’s Supper. Instituted by Christ on the night He was arrested (Matthew 26:26-28), during the Feast of Passover, Jesus took time to make a connection for them about something that had been planned since the beginning of time. He said to them, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me… this cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

But just like the Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t instantly make the connection between what Jesus was doing and what they believed the Messiah would do, we too must try to understand how God wants us to ‘remember him’ as He was, not as how we want Him to be.

In the 5th century, there was an Egyptian desert-monk named Nilus of Sinai who was known for his wisdom and insight. He said, “Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases, then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer.”

Ultimately, it takes spending some time with God in prayer and in study to really get a clearer picture of His will and how He tends to work with us. The people of Jesus' day had to come to grips with the fact that the Messiah wasn’t coming as a royal king to overthrow the Romans, that salvation would be made possible to people other than Jews – even Samaritans, and that the gifts of the Spirit weren’t given to divide and give cause for arrogance but given for edification and blessings to the church as a whole.

Our challenge as followers of Christ is to be careful about how we approach those that haven’t understood who God is and what His will really is. In our effort to defend the truth of the Gospel, we can actually do more harm to the way people respond to it. 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But in your hearts revere
Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

There are disturbing beliefs and practices becoming increasingly mainstream in our culture that we, as Christians, have to know how to approach. Most folks recognize these issues as difficult to address, especially when they end up in the church. Things like: homosexuality, transgender, and even more common issues like sacrificial acts of obedience or issues of forgiveness. There have been a lot of twisted justifications and bad instructions given to many that negatively influence people’s perception of the Gospel.

One thing we don’t want to be guilty of is failing to address issues out of fear or failing to demonstrate godliness whenever we do address them. The Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 is God’s primary way of helping a lost and wicked world understand what He is willing to do to redeem mankind. Sin is a serious problem, and all of us have fallen victim to it (Romans 3:23). Therefore, our aim should be to search out ways to draw people to Christ, and to model total surrender to his will so “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

This week, several of us are going on a hike to Colorado, and we’ll be studying Titus while we’re up there. Titus was called to address a challenging group of people – the Cretans. Time after time Paul reminds him that “doing good” will be a powerful tool in influencing unbelievers and people that twist scripture to their own will. (Titus 1:8; 2:3, 7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14).

Let’s follow the same model Titus did – Jesus Christ.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Are You Fighting The Good Fight?

Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”

As a guy who has trouble finishing projects that I start, I completely connect with this statement. Finishing a project, and finishing it well, is a wonderful feeling and can be a huge relief. So, when I think about the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” I can’t help but think about how satisfying life can be at the end of it all – IF you’ve ran well.

But what goes into your life in order to be able to echo those words? It’s hard to compare my life to his life, when he made such an impact on the progression of the church throughout Asia Minor. But it wasn’t in his initial “high points” that we understand where his confidence comes from. Because he started his journey off with the facts of his life as his best qualities.

Philippians 3:5-6, “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless…” These were all very impressive qualities to carry as a good Jew, but he continues, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…”

Over time his perspective of what made his life great changed a little. He said in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, “[I have been] imprisoned frequently, been severely flogged, and been exposed to death repeatedly. Five times I received 39 lashes from the Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Although the first list sounds more prestigious than the second, his trials help define the idea of faithfulness. That is the act of continuing to do the will of God in spite of what we face. What a legacy to leave behind, something truly inspiring to live by. Consider your contribution towards the work of Christianity displayed in your life. Maybe you’re the only person that speaks kindly towards co-workers or neighbors. Maybe you’re more generous than your peers around you. Maybe you pray with people often, offering a living perspective of prayer to God. There could be any number of things that you do to help promote the will of God to the people around you.

So, be sure to focus on what Paul says in Colossians 4:2-3, 5-6, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful… Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone…” A person who tries to live that can confidently make the same claim that Paul made as their life draws to a close – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

Are you ready for worship?

How do you prepare for worship? Peter gives us some important insight into this question.

1 Peter 1:13, "Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming."
1 Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..."

When arrival times and dress codes can naturally be among the first responses, it's important to look deeper. Before God delivered the law to Moses on mount Sinai, God called for a "day of preparation." Exodus 19 describes it this way, "And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate (set them apart as holy) them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai..."

This was more than taking a bath and putting on their Sunday best; this was taking the right kind of attitude for worship.

Knowing what Jesus said about the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-39), and what He prayed for (John 17), and the central theme to nearly every epistle (love one another); it seems clear our heart is what really must be consecrated as holy to God. David said in Psalms 57:7, "My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music." And Psalms 139:23, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." Coming before God takes reflecting on God's will for us. Knowing and doing His will should get us excited about being in His presence.

Rehoboam, on the other hand, was labeled "evil" because he didn't "set his heart on seeking the Lord." (2 Chronicles 12:14). Having the right heart changes everything!

Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Our excitement, passion, and confidence comes when our hearts are truly prepared to be in God's presence. Are you ready for worship?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Moses, Jesus, and Freedom

In the Declaration of Independence there is a statement that goes like this, “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off [the oppressive type of] Government and provide new Guards for their future security.”

How far does your love for freedom go? These were the thoughts and sentiments that went through many of the colonials during the Revolutionary time period. They wanted to have the freedom of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness so much they were willing to make personal, and even serious sacrifices.

Independence Day marks a celebration of our brave ancestors who believed in a nation that could be built around Godliness and morality.

Consider the connection between Moses and Jesus, and their desire for a nation (or kingdom) built around the same sorts of things. They both fought for freedom, they both were called to do something challenging, they both were willing to give up so much to accomplish the task God gave them to do.

Hebrews 3:5-6 helps us see the connection more clearly, “Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.”

Moses and Jesus help us realize the level of commitment God requires of us. Taking time to celebrate our freedom by remembering our heritage of bravery is a great reminder for us to be vigilant and determined to listen to God.

Hebrews 3:7-8 continues by saying, “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…’”

I hope the reminders of Mose's commitment to following God has helped to strengthen your resolve to follow Him more confidently.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Father's Discipline

How do you define God? The dictionary defines Him as the Creator and ruler of the universe and source of all power and moral authority; the supreme being. But most folks won’t be compelled to follow God based on a definition in the dictionary. One concept that Jesus often promoted in His teaching about God was Father. He is our heavenly Father.

There are a lot of roles a father plays: teacher, provider, and disciplinarian, just to name a few. It’s the discipline part that can be one of the hardest aspects of God to accept. However, when we consider the words in Hebrews 12:5-7, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son. So, endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? … (9) How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! … “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness.”

God’s goal is that we would emulate His character; but how could we ever match up? Consider this scene in Genesis 22:1-14, Abraham’s call to be like God. Abraham was called to offer up his one and only son as a sin-sacrifice. The amazing thing is that Abraham was willing to do whatever it took to be faithful to God; He trusted the promises of God. How does our faith match up? He was willing to go through the discipline (the action of conforming to God’s character). Or as Hebrews 12:11 continues, “[discipline] produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Abraham’s heavenly father, and ours, wants us to enjoy the peace that makes up His nature, that He is earnestly helping us embrace. As our children grow older, it doesn’t take much effort to see if our “discipline” worked in their life or not. Our children’s actions can become a great source of pride, or a painful regret.

Proverbs 19:18, “Discipline your children while there is hope. If you don't, you will ruin their lives.” (NLT) At first glance this seems like an odd proverb, but this actually speaks of a father’s love. He wants to make you a better person, but to do that may require discipline. Proverbs 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” And in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”

Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t value the act of discipline very much. Whether it’s personal self-control or disciplining a child so they can learn from someone who loves them, rather than learning the hard way; we must learn to see how God has disciplined us so that we can be like Him.

Consider the great lengths that God has gone through to show loving discipline to His followers. Jesus came to offer us a better life. An abundant life (John 10:10), a life with a peace-filled purpose (Ephesians 2:10), an eternal life (John 17:3, John 3:16)!

Think about the sacrifices your father made. He wasn’t a perfect man, but did he do what was best for you? Not everyone can say yes to that, but we have a Heavenly Father who is willing and able to offer a wonderful life to those who will accept His discipline to shape us into a people with a character like His.

"What Are You Reading?"


Enjoy this new anthology from the Prosateurs! Inside its covers, you'll find short stories, recipes, humor, articles, memoirs, and more!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Friday, June 8, 2018

"Unexpected"


Enjoy this new anthology from the Prosateurs! Inside its covers, you'll find short stories, recipes, humor, articles, memoirs, and more!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Overcoming Rejection in Christ

We don’t look forward to facing rejection, but it’s part of life. Our culture is built around achieving success, receiving rewards and appreciation for our accomplishments; but how do we prepare for times of rejection? Whether it’s a broken relationship, a lost friendship, or public embarrassment, how we handle those situations will not only impact how others view us, but also could alter how we view God. As believers in Christ, we have the privilege to turning to God’s inspired word to give us the proper guidance and encouragement we need to see us through the tough days. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Just consider what David reflects on in the most popular Psalm in the Bible, Psalms 23: “The Lord is my shepherd (my guide and protector), I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

First, it’s important to understand that when you face rejection that it doesn’t mean you’re unlovable. However, if the reason you’re being rejected is because of some negative or ungodly choices you’ve made, then allow that pain of rejection to be a light to your path. Humble yourself and repent (1 Peter 5:6-7), seek help to overcome whatever it is, and do the best you can to remove yourself from whatever it is fueling what’s causing your rejection (James 4:7-8).

Otherwise, recognize how He refreshes your soul, how He is with you, how He comforts you, and how He anoints your head with oil (recognizes your value). Although we find these truths all throughout the Scriptures, it’s best illustrated in what Jesus did on the cross. Not just the torture and death of Jesus, but the deeper understanding of His willingness to face all of it so that you and I could be valued as God’s children, perfect in His sight.

Being reminded of the promises of God and seeing how far God was willing to go in order to keep those promises, can be excellent motivators for our daily struggles. We can allow rejection to determine how we feel and allow that feeling to color our idea of who we are, or we can choose to put that behind us and move forward on the basis of something that is far more lasting.

Colossians 1:3-6, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel (the good news of Jesus's sacrifice for us) that has come to you. In the same way, that good news is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world…”

"Melting Away"


Enjoy this new anthology from the Prosateurs! Inside its covers, you'll find short stories, recipes, humor, articles, memoirs, and more!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Friday, June 1, 2018

New Anthology Released!

OKLAHOMA—The writing group Prosateurs announces the publication of the judged anthology Prosateurs: Tales & Truth. The anthology features short stories, recipes, humor, memoirs, poetry, devotionals, articles, and other works from the group’s members. It’s now available from Prosateurs members and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion, and other retailers.

Author Kathy Akins won Best of the Book with a memoir of her mother’s battle with dementia. “It was honest, sincere, and well-written,” said Submissions Judge Gail Henderson. “A reader both sympathizes and learns from it.”

Henderson co-wrote the poetry collection Undying. She collaborated with noted Oklahoma photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a book of poetry and photography that explores the enigma of womanhood in the world. She wrote Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry under the name Gail Wood. Her work has appeared in Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, Blackbirds Third Flight, Creations 2012-2014 and ByLine Magazine. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors for Lake Superior Writers, Duluth, Minnesota.

For more information, visit Prosateurs.blogspot.com.
Purchase on Amazon here!
Purchase on Barnes & Noble here!
Purchase on BooksAMillion here!
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The anthology authors include:

Kathy Akins has won several awards with her poetry, devotionals, and short fiction. Her works were published in Blackbirds Third Flight and the Creations anthologies 2014-2015. A love for history, family, and animals inspires her stories. She lives in Oklahoma and shares her home with miniature long-haired dachshunds and a rescued Catahoula. Her dachshunds assist her when she presents educational programs for children in her capacity as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Ambassador. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit kathyakins.blogspot.com.

Debbie Anderson wrote the novel Friend or Foe in 2018. A longtime storyteller, she has written stories since she was a child. The oldest of eight children she used these stories to entertain her siblings. She spent eighteen years in the travel industry. As a result she has been to nearly every state and six countries. She left the travel business after 9/11. Since then she has written business documents such as manuals and procedures for the electronic and oil industries. She writes short stories, memoirs, novels, children’s stories, and how-to books. She has been published in Creations 2017.

Stephen B. Bagley co-wrote the poetry collection Undying. He wrote Murder by Dewey Decimal, Murder by the Acre, Tales from Bethlehem, Floozy and Other Stories, and EndlesS. He wrote the plays Murder at the Witch’s Cottage and Two Writers in the Hands of an Angry God and co-wrote Turnabout, Hogwild, and There’s A Body in the Closet. His writings have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, Blackbirds Third Flight, ByLine Magazine, Nautilus Magazine, Tulsa World OKMagazine, and other publications. He graduated from Oklahoma State University. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit StephenBBagley.blogspot.com.

Kelley Benson is a pastor who has a passion for using everyday opportunities to help people recognize how God works in their lives. He and his wife Jade are raising their  children to see how God should be part of everything people do. Since 1997, he has participated in a wide range of ministries and been involved with the investment industry, the insurance industry, teaching, and carpentry. He published On Target, a book of devotionals, and writes a weekly newsletter. His articles were published in Creations 2013-2015. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit kelleybenson.blogspot.com.

Nita Beshear began writing as a young child. If her family wasn't moving from one state to another, they were moving across town. Stories gave her continuity. Her friends in her stories went with her to every new home. Beshear writes nonfiction, historical novels, and short stories. Her books include Devoted to Quilting and Beyond the Grief: A Widow's Survival Guide. Her fiction appeared in Romance-The Spice of Life. She is a member of the Material Girls (the Allen Oklahoma Quilters), McAlester McSherry Writers, Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., and Duncan and Okmulgee Toastmasters. Visit nitabeshear.wordpress.com.

Wendy Blanton published the novels, The Dragon’s Lady, Rogue Pawn, and Sword and Scabbard, under the name Elizabeth Joy. Her short stories appeared in Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, and Blackbirds Third Flight. She writes novels and short stories in several genres. She graduated from the University of Mount Olive, North Carolina, and served in the United States Air Force. An apprentice bard, she tells Celtic folk tales at Scottish Highland Games and other venues. She and her husband are members of the Clan Campbell Society. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit wendyblanton.wordpress.com.

D. E. Chandler wrote the thriller Bone Sliver. In 2013, her poem, “Oppenheimer” and her short story “One Way Window” won honorable mention and publication in Outside the Lines. In 2015, her poem “Carroll After Dark” won first place and publication in the Tulsa Review’s 2015 Spring contest issue. Her works were also published in Blackbirds Third Flight, The Green Country Guardian, The Sapulpa Herald, and Sapulpa News and Views. She graduated from Rogers State University. She lives with her husband Tom in Oklahoma. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and Oklahoma Women Bloggers. Visit dechandlerwrites.com.

Barbara Shepherd has received more than 300 writing awards. She is the Oklahoma 2017 Voice of the Fair Poet, a Lone Stars Poet, a Woody Guthrie Poet, and a former Nominee for Poet Laureate of the State of Oklahoma. Shepherd served as a field editor for Taste of Home and contributed to other magazines, including: Outlook, Oklahoma D.O., Oklahoma Woman, Edmond Life and Leisure, Bella, and ArtBeat. Her books include: The Potbelly Pig Promise, River Bend, Vittles and Vignettes, and Patchwork Skin. Her writing appeared in: Women’s War Memoirs, Heavenly Patchwork, Voices In Time, and numerous other publications. Visit barbarashepherd.com.

Joanne Verbridge was born in Oakland, California, spending her early life experiences in Northern California. Family brought her to Oklahoma where she enjoys writing memoirs and crafting. She works to inspire her young nieces to take an interest in story telling and writing. Her memoirs, short stories, and articles have been published in Oklahoma newspapers and in the Creations anthologies 2012-2015.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Going First

Sometimes going first is a privilege, and other times going first is a curse. Ice cream or getting to ride the Sea-Doo® – that’s a privilege. The first to get fired or go to jail – not so much. However, for some things, it’s important that someone does go first, otherwise the job might not get done.

What about forgiving someone you’re in a dispute with? Who forgives who first? Some would say the one who has wronged should apologize first; others might say the more mature moves first. Either way, someone has to go first.

When it comes to forgiving us of our sins, God demonstrated His maturity by seeking us out “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). But we can see where He’s taken the leadership role in redemption, long before the cross. Consider what happened in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Adam and Eve chose sin. Knowing the consequence of doing that, they did it anyways. It’s here where we see God take the initiative to redeem by offering the first blood sacrifice. Genesis 3:21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” The animal skin didn’t fall off!

But we also see where He led the way out of Egyptian slavery by being the guide for the Israelites in the form of a fiery pillar by night, and a cloudy pillar by day. Later, He led the judges to help lead the Israelites towards solving the problems they faced. Then, King David often called on God to lead them into battle. In 1 Chronicles 14:15, David inquired of God about fighting the Philistines and God said, “…As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.”

But we can even see that God moved first in actions of mercy, like in the case with the people of Nineveh when Jonah delivered a message of repentance. Or with the woman caught in adultery (John 8), and especially towards us when He gave His own life on the cross. Jesus said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!”

Every action of God taking the lead was, in part, to help us know how to do what we need to do. Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul shares the hope of resurrection that believers share because of what Jesus did in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.” Jesus did it first! But to be where He is, to enjoy His promises, we have to “follow Him.” Who’s comin’ with me?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

His Authority Helps Our Belief!

If you take the time to stop and think about what makes the Good News so good, I think most of us would admit that it’s because God has the ability to offer eternal life. God has the authority to give life, and He has the authority to take life.

Jesus acknowledged that what He spoke, and ultimately what He came to do on earth, was directed by God in John 12:49-50, “I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me to say all that I have spoken. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So, whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say.”

However, many people didn’t accept His statement that He had authority to “forgive sins” or offer eternal life. In fact, today many people have the same issues with His statements of authority. But this is where we have the privilege of reading of more than just Jesus’ words, we also read of His actions while He was here on earth.

When John the Baptist had messengers come to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus responded in Luke 7:22-23, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me.”

His actions would prove that He had authority in life and even over death. When we read about Jesus walking on water (Mark 6:49), or rebuking the wind (Mark 4:39), or feeding 5,000 people (Mark 6:41), or even causing the fig tree to dry up (Mark 11:14), we have to consider the significance those events had on those considering acceptance of His message.

It was the actions of Jesus that compelled many to truly believe in Him. Even Thomas was faced with the reality that Jesus had demonstrated His authority over death after His resurrection, and he too was able to see the evidence and made the choice to trust in God’s power.

As we study God’s word, we should discover how often God asked His followers to trust Him in some kind of action, and the end result was amazement that God truly has all authority – not just in the pages of the Bible but in our own life as well.

Matt 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Prayer of a Mother

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.…” These are the opening lines of God’s word to us; a history of how He created an infrastructure, the perfect environment for His most beloved creation–mankind. Once everything was in place and man had been made, God said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So, God performed surgery on Adam while he was sleeping; taking a rib from Adam's side, He created a helper for Adam. Eve would bless Adam by giving him descendants to carry on his name, to watch them grow into adulthood, and make a difference in the world.

Although she didn’t do everything right during their stay in Paradise, perhaps we could speculate on her motives in seeking a way to know what God knows. There is within most mothers a desire to know the right way to raise a child, to steer a child, and to love a child through all their victories and failures.

However, it’s when she can see her child grow up to become a person of dignity and respect, someone honored for their integrity and upright character that brings a mother great joy. Proverbs 23:24-25, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.”

Here’s a poem that addresses some of the desires a mother has for her child,

The Prayer Of A Mother

I pray for you every day
for many different things:
I pray for strength, both yours and mine,
that you mount up on eagle’s wings.

I pray for your safety,
and your strength, and character that is true;
so that your faith in God may always be
what carries you through.

I ask that your longing for home
would help you do what’s right,
that by knowing of our constant love
will help you through tough fights.

I pray for your peace of mind
through the trials you may face,
knowing you  can always
trust in God’s amazing grace.

I pray you’ll have some kindred spirits
to be there in my stead,
to be my voice of reason
to stay within your head.

I ask our heavenly father
to protect you when you’re alone,
to always follow his loving path
just as you were shown.

Life is not easy,
nor is it fair;
but Jesus made a promise
I hope you’ll always share–

to stand above temptations,
and even love through strife,
so that you’ll hear these words,
“Receive your crown of life!”

God bless all our mothers for being a wonderful voice of truth!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Take Time to be Lonely

Do you know the feeling of being isolated from others? It can feel scary and challenging. At times like this, we can often feel sorry for ourselves, thinking that everyone else has it better than we do. However, when it comes to dealing with the problems in our lives, the fact that everyone struggles with some kind of sin, and that everyone experiences their own “challenging” event in life, should help us realize we’re not really alone.

What’s the difference between being alone and being lonely? Lonely is generally not considered a good thing, but there is something positive we can learn from being alone that we would probably miss while around other people. Just consider how Luke 5:16 describes Jesus’ normal behavior, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” From 40 days in the wilderness to a couple hours in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus made alone time an important time.

That quiet time in prayer can help you get a better sense of your purpose; it offers you a chance to reflect on your thoughts and actions undisturbed or distracted by life. But many of us fear time alone; we fear that moment of meditation and reflection on ourselves. Perhaps we’re afraid of what we’ll realize about ourselves. David said in Psalms 26:2, “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…”

Jesus wants us to experience the closeness that He had with His Heavenly Father while He was on earth. The difficulty is that many people don’t value aloneness and reflection. In Mark 9 Jesus brought Peter, James, and John “up a high mountain, where they were all alone” (9:2). It’s interesting to see what Jesus wanted them to see up there. Jesus changed during His time on that mountain. While spending time with Moses, the symbol of the Law, and Elijah, the symbol of the prophets, the three men showed their support of Jesus. God voiced His approval and pride in His son as well. What an amazing and powerful experience for them to be part of. How many people would have longed to hear God speak, to see Moses and Elijah.

But they would have missed it had they stayed down in the busy hustle and bustle of everyday life. Perhaps that’s the lesson we learn from this amazing event during Jesus' ministry – take time to be alone, and you may be surprised what God will reveal to you.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Do You Believe the Story?

Storytelling is an art that is truly captivating when it’s done well. It’s also one of the best ways to share facts about an event. People constantly tell stories to share feelings, in part instructions, even to warn of dangers. So, it shouldn’t surprise us that our Heavenly Father, the one in whom we are created in His image, chose to share the story of salvation primarily through a narrative story.

A narrative or story is a report of connected events, real or imaginary, presented in some kind of sequence in written or spoken words, or even in pictures. In the Bible, the connected events all point to the Messiah, the promise of God for salvation. Therefore, Genesis 3 – “the fall of man” becomes the narrative hook, that event that reveals the point of the story. Every other story up to the resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the rising action. All of this points to the “Why” in the story being told. Once the Messiah showed up, the Bible was nearing the climax. His life helped tell the story of God’s power, His compassion, basically, His heart. But good storytelling often utilizes the plot twist, which is a literary technique introducing a radical change in the expected outcome of the plot.

In the case of the Bible, the Messiah wasn’t going to become an earthly king in Jerusalem the way the Apostles and His other followers thought he would. Throughout the gospel of Mark, Jesus wants them to see and hear what the Messiah would do to redeem God’s children. Repeatedly, He tells them that He was going to have to die to deliver salvation. But every group didn’t get it. The followers were perhaps too close emotionally to see it, the Pharisees and religious leaders were too focused politically to see it, but it was those who were desperate, sick, blind, and weak who seemed to see and hear it more clearly.

From Mark 6 to Mark 10, we see a pattern being formed that helps us to see who recognized Jesus as God’s promised one. Consider how Jesus’ hometown friends and family rejected Him (Mark 6), or how King Herod didn’t want to hear God’s message from John (Mark 6). Or how the Pharisees were unwilling to see Jesus’ miracles as proof of His deity (Mark 8). Instead, the ones who could see, understand, and believe were people like the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7), the deaf man in Decapolis (Mark 7), and the blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8). It was people like blind Bartimaeus that had faith enough to proclaim, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). They could see and hear the good news message that was woven into the actions of Jesus and believe.

Each of these miracles: feeding 5,000 and 4,000, walking on water, calming the storm, healings, and the Transfiguration, were all to help them, and us, to have faith in God’s ability to redeem us. It took them longer to see and to hear God’s purpose, but they too eventually believed. Peter exclaimed what each of us must also exclaim, “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Promised One of God!” (Mark 8:29). Do you believe He came to live, die, and rise again, so that we could be redeemed when we trust in Him? That is the question you must answer.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rejection

One of the greatest tests of our character is dealing with rejection and suffering. No one likes it! But rejection is inevitable. Sooner or later, all of us will experience it. And when it happens, we can’t help but ask ourselves some questions: Why me? What did I do wrong? Then come the thoughts we rehearse over and over, replaying that moment of rejection…wishing we’d seen it coming so we could avoid it.

But the Scriptures reveal to us that when it comes to living like Jesus Christ, there will be rejection. 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 10:24-25, “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”

And in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of My name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

How did Jesus handle it? He spent a lot of time with God in prayer. A lot of time meditating on God’s will and promises to us. It’s through that reflection, and the support and comfort from brethren, that we start to see that rejection is a normal reaction of those still opposed to the truth.

Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12-19, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you… So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

Time after time, we’re told and reminded of God’s comfort during even the toughest obstacles in life. Persecution for doing right comes in many different forms – even from within the church. But take comfort in these verses as you experience it in your life:
Luke 6:22-23, Acts 5:41, Phil 1:29-30, James 5:10-11

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Proving Who You Are!

How would you prove who you really are? We have to do it all the time at stores, or on applications, even amongst our friends at times. Whether it’s proving our name and address, or our ability to do what we claim, it’s a regular part of life.

What if you claimed to be the son of God? How would you prove that? Obviously, that might get us checked into some kind of hospital if we went around claiming that, but think about what Jesus had to go through to get people to believe that He really was the son of God who came to earth to redeem all of mankind from their sins that separates them from the creator of the universe. It may sound like a daunting task—unless it's true.

John came as a “forerunner” for Christ to testify that what He said and did was from God (John 1:34, John 3:31-36). Jesus said of Himself in John 5:31-47, “If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in My favor, and I know that His testimony about Me is true. You have sent to John and He has testified to the truth.… I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent Me. (47) If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Nearly every prophecy given in the Old Testament pointed to the Promised One—Jesus. Ultimately, that’s how the Apostles could prove that what Jesus spoke was from God, because God had already given us enough evidence even from the Old Testament to trust in His son.

The Apostle John says of Jesus’ miracles in John 20:30-31, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Every word and every action pointed to His authority. But the pinnacle of the evidence was revealed on what He did on the cross. It was not just His death, but more powerfully, His resurrection that set Him apart from any person before or after Him. Paul spent 58 verses in 1 Corinthians 15 illustrating how much our entire faith would be pointless if Jesus hadn’t been able to conquer the grave. His dominance over death gave us the hope that everything else He said and did was indeed from God.

As you study the bible, Bake time to be amazed at how Jesus took advantage of difficulties, fears, and obstacles to prove God’s supreme power—then praise God for caring enough about us to prove His love for us. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Friday, March 23, 2018

Hearing the Good News!

How would life be different if you couldn’t hear? For some people, that is a reality. Think about how many opportunities you’d never hear about, or how many warnings you’d miss, or how many other beautiful and wonderful sounds you wouldn’t get to experience.

Just consider that Jesus came to earth so that we could hear, “Well done good and faithful servant, welcome to the joys of heaven!” (Matthew 25:21, 23). This is the good news that every living person would love to hear. But before you hear “Well done,” you have to hear about how He made that possible and what that requires of you.

The good news message of redemption and salvation Jesus shared was what the Apostles were called to witness, and that’s what they shared with the world. 1 John 1:1-4, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”

They spread the gospel like seed on soil—all kinds of soil eventually. In fact, Jesus told a parable in Mark 4:1-20 that compared seed to the Word of God. Just like wheat seed, or grass seed, not all of it sprouts just because it’s been spread. But the job of the sower is to sow seed, not make it grow. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.”

What makes one soil closed to “hearing” the good news in the message, while others respond and grow? It has a lot to do with seeking God’s will over our own will (Matthew 7:21, Mark 3:35, even Philippians 2:3-4). But until we understand God’s will, it may not make a lot of sense to us. However, Jesus said that it is understandable, which is why He told us to “seek, knock, and ask” (Matthew 7:7-12). Just think about the story He told of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27); and what Paul says in Ephesians 5:17, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

When we talk about the “plan of salvation,” it always begins with hear, because without the desire to know God and His will, there isn’t any chance we’ll trust the message enough to go deeper.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Are You Experiencing Chaos or Blessings?

If you’ve ever been in sales for longer than a week, then you’ve probably realize it takes a lot of falls before you gain any height in the wild world of business. Failure is part of success. That’s true in business, and really, that’s true in our walk with God.

The gospels are filled with people that experienced all kinds of failures, set-backs, disappointments, and fears. That’s where Jesus comes in; He begins His ministry by healing people of their diseases (aka problems). From evil spirits (Mark 1:21-28), to sickness (1:29-31) and leprosy (1:40) and paralysis (2:1-5) Jesus began making a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of people.

The goal was not necessarily to eradicate sickness from earth, but rather highlight how the Son of God has the power to confront any problem—even death. Hebrews 2:14-15, “Since the children have flesh and blood, He [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Turning chaos into something good is what God specializes in. Just think about the opening lines of Genesis, “...the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Formless and void refers to a state of chaos, disorder. Therefore, God brings order to what has been chaos. 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not a God of disorder (chaos) but of peace…”

His blessings of life bring a “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) Or as Psalms 104:27-28, “All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time. When You give it to them, they gather it up; when You open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.” Jesus is the author of life, the bread of life, the living water. In Him, there is life; outside of Him, there is only death, chaos, and hopelessness.

The Gospel only brings life and peace to those who will surrender their own will and submit to the will of God. His perfect and pleasing will offers the blessings we’re looking for. Our problems and failures come in different shapes and sizes, but in the end they all lead to our own demise without Christ. The good news is that everyone with a heartbeat can experience God’s blessings if they’ll trust in the Son of God. Trusting in Him is more than acknowledging His existence, but submitting to His way of doing things, realizing you need to repent of those “diseases” of life, then confess to yourself and to others that He is the only “way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him." Baptism marks the birth of a new person with new motivations and behaviors.

Do you trust in God enough to obey the Gospel?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Are You Following Christ?

What defines the church? Perhaps we’d turn to passages like Colossians 1:18, “He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” Or verses like: Matthew 16:16-18, or Ephesians 1:22-23 and 5:23-24, or Hebrews 12:23.

There are many references that help us realize the church isn’t a building, but people who are faithfully committed to following God’s word, which was lived out in Jesus, the Word of God (John 1:1-3).

But when we share the good news with people about the accessibility of God’s kingdom via Christ, and that His ways lead to life and godliness, and a “peace that passes all understanding,” how do they interpret what the church is?

Ultimately, it must be in how we model Christ in our lifestyles. As Jesus told John’s disciples in Luke 7:22-23, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor…”

James echoes the same sentiment in James 1:22-25, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says! (25) “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

This is the most difficult, and often most confusing part about responding to the Gospel; because this is more than ritualistic responses to God, and it’s more than lip service, but instead it's genuine and sincere submission to God’s ways of living (Romans 12:1-2). This is what should serve as a way to define the church to the world (1 Peter 2:12 and Titus 2:7-8).

We must follow Jesus in word and deed. This requires us to do as Paul encouraged Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:14-15, “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth"

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Good News!

We live in turbulent times. There are many things that are constantly being challenged and changed, which is usually a symptom of fear. Regardless if that’s an accurate assessment or not, one thing is clear: people are living with fewer godly influences in their lives.

With all the shootings and riots and other crazy things that seem to happen all too regularly, it seems important to address our value. Each one of us are valuable to God, and God has arranged it so that  our job is to help other people realize God’s value for them as well. That’s the good news: God loves you more than you can imagine.

The Gospel of Mark is believed to be the first gospel account written (approx. 70 A.D.). It was written during a time when there was a lot of volatility in society. The good news helps us recognize what makes life valuable–being part of God’s family.

At the heart of nearly all violent acts committed by mankind, is a person who hurts, a person who doesn’t understand the value of life–theirs or other people's.

At a 25-year class reunion at Yale University, a study was conducted to help determine if an elite education contributes to a person’s perceived value of themselves. The study showed that 80% didn’t regard themselves as valuable, even though all of them made higher than average salaries, and all of them had been able to go to an ivy league college. What was the problem? The answer could be better stated by the other 20% that claimed to have a higher value of themselves. What was their secret? They valued helping other people and regarded that as their success.

This is what Jesus showed the world–how to value life. His attitude is something we should mimic, just as Paul said in Philippians 2:5. When Jesus was asked by John’s followers if He really was the Messiah, he responded in Luke 7:22-23 by basically saying, “Watch what I do for people; that’s your proof of who I am.”

Jesus saw each one of us as worth dying for. Each one of us is like a walking treasure box, filled with things that God loves and things He can use to help others experience His love. The Gospel of Mark is Mark’s good news message of God’s love for us. That love makes us valuable, and it’s what this crazy world needs to see in us so that they’ll turn to Jesus and find eternal hope.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Do You Value Forgiveness?

We live in a time in history when interest in Christianity is lower than it's been in a long time. Perhaps there are many reasons for that: more broken homes, more social peer pressure, an increase and endorsement of immoral lifestyles and actions, etc. How do we as the body of Christ address this problem?

This is an age-old problem. The Israelites struggled with social pressure when they succumbed to Baal worship; the Pharisees rejected Jesus as the Messiah, even though they recognized the evidence for His authenticity. Countering culture isn’t easy because it's like stopping a truck rolling downhill. Once the momentum is going, it takes someone really “brave” to step in front of it. In fact, it will take many “brave” people stepping up to the challenge, and it won’t be quick or easy.

On the other hand, there are things that churches can learn to practice within the walls of worship which have less to do with worship elements and more to do with attitude. Whether it’s coaching (or being coached) through a season of doubt or dealing with a conflict within the brotherhood, dealing with these things in a godly way can help create an atmosphere that aligns with many of the things people are searching for within a church. But an equally important practice is to sincerely recognize the power of forgiveness.

Paul mentions this in Colossians 1:9-14, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The congregations that develop the right attitude in life will have a bigger impact on a culture that may indeed be searching for something that impacts their life--faith in Christ!

In the above passage, we could easily focus on the need to be continuous in prayer, or on knowing His will, which helps us “live a life worthy of the Lord.” That life may consist of helping people grow in maturity (bearing fruit), helping ourselves and others realize God’s goal for our lives (knowledge of God). All that together helps to strengthen people that are trying to live for God, which helps give more meaning behind our worship to God. But two elements that lend so much to everything we do as a collective body, is a recognition of the value (and importance) of Forgiveness and Hope. These two things fuel much of what makes the body of Christ truly attractive to the world.

Paul’s statement to the Colossians gives us much to help a lost and dying world recognize God’s power to “rescue us from the dominion of darkness and bring us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We must help everyone realize that they can be forgiven! As Jesus said in Matthew 6:15, “...if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Thank God for the model of forgiveness in Christ!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Whose Directions Are You Following?

The Bible is God’s gift to us to help us know how to live a more satisfying, peaceful life that is pleasing to God. It’s for that reason that it’s so important that we make a daily habit of practicing what God tells us through His word.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ignoring the warnings here will become a recipe for all kinds of disaster. One place these negative feelings seem to reign-free is in the workplace or school. We probably see it in many forms and has become known as workplace drama. Offices and schools are filled with a bunch of trash-talking friends, free-flowing gossip, popularity contests, and exclusive cliques. It’s everywhere, and it’s a poison that too many followers of Christ have found themselves drinking-in.

James 1:26 gives us a somber warning about what this kind of negativity does to our influence for the kingdom of God: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” We shouldn’t want to have any part of a worthless religion; so here are a few tips that might help us rise above the peer-pressure to join in the mess.

Hold your tongue! James said in James 1:19, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (Also, read James 3).

Be patient with people. Sometimes our response to someone’s “bad day” actually can create the drama we should be avoiding. 1 Thessalonians 5:13-15, “Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” Don’t feed conflict. Remember the time and place for responding. Jesus didn’t refute every false accusation against him. Sometimes we miss the point of Ephesians 5:11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” You don’t have to respond to every email, snide remark, passing judgment – your heavenly father knows the truth about you.

Find mature people to confide in – in and out of school or the office. Just as Paul encouraged Titus to teach the older men to be “worthy of respect,” the older women are to be a positive influence on the younger women – practicing self-control. Expressing frustrations is okay, just find Godly people to lean on.

All of these things describe living different than the rest of the world. Just think of these words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:20 and then how awful it would be to be known for this kind of behavior: “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be… I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.” Thankfully, God gives us plenty of direction on how to stop workplace drama, or any other kind of conflict that we see every day. Remember – we are “the called out” – Ekklesia!

Friday, January 26, 2018

How do you deal with doubt?

Jesus shared an introductory message about God’s will for mankind, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6). In the chapters that follow, we get a glimpse of people struggling to connect His words to His ability.

There are those that believe, that with Jesus, “all things are possible” (Mark 9:23); and there are those who doubt. In many ways, this is symbolic of our own journey – times of great faith followed by times of doubt. Elijah experienced something similar in 1 Kings 19 where he runs from Jezebel’s murderous threats. But this was her response to God’s mighty display of power on Mt. Carmel by Elijah! What he experienced, and what some of the people we read in the New Testament experienced, is quite common for us, too.

Matthew records that a man with leprosy confidently asked for healing, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” After him, a Roman Centurion confidently asked for his servant to be healed. Jesus responded in Matthew 8:10, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith…” Those are stories that many of us wish defined our normal behavior concerning God’s ability to answer our prayers, but many of us don’t demonstrate as much confidence as those men did.

In Luke 7:19, some of John the Baptizer’s followers were sent by John to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” It would seem that even John had doubts about this man’s identity. When we consider John's background, it would seem nearly impossible for him to doubt. After all, his mother and Jesus’ mother both conceived miraculously, both were related, and it would seem that they would have talked about this at family reunions or at the annual sacrifices they traveled to Jerusalem for. It was even John who announced, “Behold! The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Regardless of those details, John had his followers ask Jesus if He really was the Messiah. But remember where John was asking from – prison.

Our moments of doubt often come when it appears God’s plan didn’t work. Or when God must not be listening. Or that it seems He doesn’t care about our problems. John remained in prison until his execution.

What’s the lesson? Perhaps, during these trials of disease, prison, oppression, even death that plagued Jesus’ followers, they struggled with God’s timing in dealing with their problems. We do, too! Later we hear “the words of Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again… Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Revelations 2:8, 10)

Doubt doesn’t mean we’re evil; it means we’re human. The real question is what do we do in response to our doubts? Reject Him? Or simply let Him lead us wherever that might lead us? Trusting in God is what this is all about. We have to feed our faith as much as possible, and when the seasons of doubt arise, we lean on people who remind us to stay faithful even through our doubts.