Tuesday, May 19, 2015
One of the most important and helpful truths Jesus tells His followers is: “Be sure of this: I am with you always…” Matt. 28:20.
When we are acting in obedience to God we are not doing so because we have initiated some clever scheme based on our own thinking and ideas. When we act in obedience to God we are doing what He has initiated; on the authority of Jesus; with His help, strength and leading. And when we do this, He is present with us.
This is incredibly important to me because I am weak, easily frightened and prone to seeking the approval of others. So I cannot do what God calls me to do. I am incapable of following Him… [here is the important part]… without His presence.
“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” [Jesus] Mark 10:27
Saturday, May 16, 2015
I bought a skateboard yesterday for… well… for now, let’s just say I have my reasons.
While I was playing… very cautiously playing… on my new skateboard in the church parking lot, I discovered that people look, point, and scratch their heads with great curiosity when they see an old, white-haired, overweight guy on a skateboard.
I think perhaps, for some folks it falls into this category: “What I’m seeing over there doesn’t really make sense.”
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The word “joy” is used many times in the Bible. Those who walk with Christ will experience joy. In fact, joy is one of several characteristics which, together, are known as the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, joy is a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
The Apostle Paul offered a prayer which is recorded in the book of Romans chapter 15, vs. 13. Here is what it says: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The joy being described in this passage is not referring to a type of temporary, circumstance-dependent happiness in which we are rolling on the floor laughing because the external conditions happen to be just right. This joy is a prevailing sense of cheerfulness in the heart. In the Greek lexicon part of the description of the word is “calm delight.”
This joy involves an inner peace which would remain with a person even in the midst of difficulty. And, so, we can find this joy—believe it or not—being mentioned in a verse which deals with the troubles life may bring: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James 1:2&3.
If a joyful state of mind is dependent upon a continuous series of happy circumstances we will frequently be disappointed and real joy will tend to elude us. On the other hand, if a joyful state of mind is based on the assurance of God and the hope we have in Him then we can experience joy in the midst of any circumstances.
Please understand, I am not claiming this truth has been perfected in me. But I have seen people live this truth, I trust God, and I write about it because in attempting to express and explain it, I hope to understand it better and to experience it more fully.
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Peter 5:16-18
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Many years ago I heard a psychologist mention a concept which has to do with the basic nature of people and how they understand responsibility for wrongdoing.
Apparently, it has been observed that in a general sense people tend to be wired in such a way that they fall into one of two groups. In the one group are people who discover something has gone wrong and immediately ask, “Now what have you done?”
In the minds of those in the first group any error or wrongdoing which was committed must have been done by someone else because it is rather obvious it could not have been them.
In the other group are people who discover something has gone wrong and immediately ask, “Now what have I done?”
In the minds of those in the second group any error or wrongdoing which was committed must be attributable to them in some way because, come on, it only makes sense.
I am in the latter group. I have occasionally considered the possibility I even have some responsibility for mistakes, errors and problems which occurred before I was born. (That’s a joke but it’s almost, kind of, true.) I must admit there are times I am a bit envious of those who can honestly go through life with the mindset of the former group. It must be nice to always have the assurance that somebody else has made the mistake.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
A while back I was talking with someone and in the course of our conversation I made the assumption that he had a particular type of experience. It’s embarrassing to admit but I made this assumption because everyone who comes from the type of background I come from would have had this type of experience.
When the person pointed out that, in fact, he had not had this experience I apologized for my mistake and was reminded of a simple lesson you would think a guy my age would have down pat. We don’t all have the same experiences. We don’t all walk the same path. We don’t all know the same things.
I realize this is incredibly basic but, unfortunately, there I was making this simple mistake not too long ago.
I’m hoping one of these days I’m going to get it in such a way that the lesson sticks.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
A Christian is supposed to be a person of such genuine joy and hope that the people we encounter would be curious about these qualities when they see them in us.
Even more specifically, the joy and hope we have in the midst of difficulties should prompt others to ask, “What’s the deal with you? How can you have this kind of attitude when you are wrestling with troubles?”
A disposition of joy and hope in the midst of problems is the context for these words from 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
The word “hope”—as used here—does not mean blind, clueless, wishful thinking. This type of hope is a meaningful, reasonable expectation of good. It makes sense, however, that we only need to be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have… if we actually have a hopeful attitude which is noticeable to those around us.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
When people step forward to be baptized they are publicly proclaiming their faith in Christ and acting in obedience to Him. It is a spiritual victory and a time of great joy. We are celebrating that truth this morning as 14 people are being baptized here in Oak Lawn!
I’m so excited about the services that I’ve been up since 4:05 a.m. (no kidding)!
If you are in the area, please feel free to stop in and celebrate with us!
First Church of God
4600 W. 111th Street
Oak Lawn, IL
Services times: 9am and 11am
I’m posting this at approx. 6:45am and the first service doesn’t begin until 9am, so, I think I’m going to go run around outside the building for a minute or two with a big smile on my face.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Just like everyone else, Christians have years and years of life experiences that shape and affect us. This can lead us to take sides when it comes to the issues of the day. That is a natural reaction. It is part of being human. None of us is completely objective in our view of things.
However, Christians live for and serve the God who is truth (John 14:6). So, when it comes to which “side” we are on, our calling and our objective is to be on the side of truth. We want the truth to prevail.
If you are a Christian and you say, “I don’t care about truth, I don’t care about facts, I simply want a particular outcome that supports my ‘side’ of the matter.” Then you are having trouble understanding the identity of Jesus and what it means to be His disciple.
Prayer: Lord, we pray that truth would be told. And we pray that all who claim Jesus as Lord would love, desire and appreciate the truth even if the truth is not what we wanted to hear.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
My prayer for the situation in Baltimore:
Lord, may the leaders who have genuine influence in the lives of the people involved in this matter use their influence to attempt to bring helpful, meaningful, peaceful solutions. May respect, common sense, and your wisdom be desired and achieved.
Bring healing to those who have been injured.
There are people who will want to create sides and somehow win from what is occurring. We pray that your truth will prevail.
We ask for these things in Jesus’ name.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Way back before the turn of the century in 1982, during the great Pringles famine, a photo was taken of the youth and young adults at the First Church of God in Oak Lawn. Last night many, but not all, of the folks in the photo from 1982 were together and we took another picture. It’s amazing that in 33 years all of these people actually look younger, handsomer, prettier and, yes look closely, a bit more muscular in a rugged Arnold sort-of way. (You have to squint to see it.)
We all committed to getting together in 2048 (33 years) for yet another picture and we’re hoping that great strides will have been made in the fields of plastic surgery, joint replacement surgery, hair plugs, and in my case artificial aortic valves, by that time.
P.S. We did not take the time to recreate the same order in which we were standing in the original picture.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
When Jesus’ public ministry got underway—fairly quickly—He began drawing bigger crowds than John the Baptist. This would be troublesome and disturbing for most people in John’s position. Most ministers desire increasingly larger crowds not increasingly smaller crowds.
John’s disciples were bothered by this turn of events and went to tell John about it. They assumed, it appears, John would be upset. I think they may have even believed John would do something to get the crowds back.
But John basically said [this is a paraphrase], “It’s alright. I’m genuinely glad to hear about His success. This is exactly the way it’s supposed to happen. He must increase and I must decrease.”
[You can read this story in John 3:23-30.]
John’s maturity and his understanding of his own role in the larger ministry of Jesus was exceptional and inspiring. This story from the Bible is incredibly helpful to me because it helps me see what true humility looks like.