Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Truth Unashamed

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..."  Romans 1:16

In this world of political correctness the message of Jesus Christ is becoming more and more controversial.  Why?  In a conversation with a Hindu priest several years ago, he told me that he believed Christians were narrow-minded.  His reasoning was that he did not have any problem accepting our Jesus as one of his gods.  However, Christians told him that there was only one God and only way to have everlasting life.  This was too exclusive in his way of thinking.  Why not be more diverse?  Why not be more accepting of the opinions of others?  After all, aren't we all God's children?
Let me defend the gospel of Christ in two ways.  First, the gospel of Christ is not a message of hate that excludes people.  I believe the message of Jesus Christ is inclusive in its invitation but exclusive in its application.  That is another way of saying that the offer is open to whosoever will, but only those who turn to Jesus Christ can have true life.  Some have the false idea that Jesus came to this world to condemn those who did not believe on Him to hell.  That is a misunderstanding of why Jesus came.  He said in John 3:17 that He did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.  Our sin is what condemns us.  A judge passes a sentence on a criminal, but it is the crime that condemned the person.  Our Judge, Jesus Christ, offered Himself as the payment of our penalty if we would accept Him and turn our lives over to Him.  Secondly, the gospel of Christ has a life changing power that is unparalleled by any other system of belief.  This message has turned lives upside down for over 2,000 years, and it will do the same for eternity.  It has been a message that has stood the test of time.  It has withstood the persecution of its believers.  It has outlasted the fads of belief that come and go.  As a believer, don't hesitate to boldly proclaim the truth of God.  Man may try to change it, pollute it, and insult it, but its power is eternal.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Should I Rejoice?

"Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!"  Philippians 4:4

 Do you have someone in your life that always seems so perky that it is annoying?  Maybe it is that coworker that has already had way too much coffee when they get to work.  Maybe it is a family member that is without doubt a "morning person" and thinks that everyone should sing in the shower.  This kind of "happiness" just seems over the top.  It grates on our nerves.  Paul is telling us to rejoice, but is this what he means?  Surely it couldn't be.

As a matter of fact this kind of rejoicing has nothing to do with "positive thinking" or "seeing the cup as half full".  Many Christian authors almost sound like self-help gurus instead of Holy Spirit dependent people.  They instruct people to manufacture something that is not there with the idea that what they construct will become their reality.  This just isn't realistic though.  We all face difficulties and trials.  There are times in our life that the only way we could smile was if it was fake.  We are literally living in hurt and anguish.  So we turn to the Word of God for comfort and read that we are to rejoice always.  How can we do that?  Don't leave out a key phrase for this whole passage.  We often get stuck on the word rejoice.  Paul's admonition was not to rejoice in your circumstances.  Your circumstances may be overwhelming and difficult.  Paul's admonition was not to rejoice in your relationships with people.  Relationships can be trying.  Paul encouraged and instructed us to rejoice "in the Lord".  That changes everything.  Just a couple of verses earlier he had challenged two individuals that were at odds with one another to unify together.  He understood that relationships were difficult, but we are not to rejoice in relationships.  We are to rejoice in the Lord.  Paul's circumstances during this time were horrible.  Philippians is what we call a "prison epistle".  Yes, he was writing these words from a damp, dark, rat infested dungeon.  He was bound by his captors and not sure what the next day held for him.  Yet, if you listen closely, you can hear these words echo off of the block walls of that cell:  Rejoice in the Lord always.  For emphasis he repeats the admonition:  Again I will say, rejoice!  Paul was not caught up in his circumstances.  That was not the most important thing in his life.  Paul was enraptured with the thought that his name was in the book of life.  He was a child of God.  There are no chains that can bind the heart that has been set free by Christ.  There are no shackles that can be wrapped around the soul that has been delivered by the blood of Jesus.  In the midst of our circumstances let us rejoice always in the Lord.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Other Little Boats

"Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him." Mark 4:36

Jesus and His disciples are headed straight into a storm. This storm is going to test the faith of the disciples. It is going to teach them once again of the almighty power of God, the Lord of creation. They will be shaken by what they encounter. They will learn a multitude of hard lessons in a short amount of time. Storms are never easy to go through. Most of us dread the storms of life.
I am sure that we have all heard numerous people share their stories about the storms that they have been through. There are many kinds of storms, and they affect all of us differently. However, I would like to take our eyes off of ourselves for a moment. The one drawback that can happen to us when we are in a storm is that we become very self-centered. We begin to believe that no one has it as bad as we do. We become fixated on our pain and discomfort. We relate everything that is going on around us to our personal crisis. We wonder why others don't see things the way we see them. What we fail to realize is that there are "other little boats" that are affected by our storm. In our passage, we do not know who was in these other little boats, but they experienced the wind and the waves as much as the disciples. They were in a crisis as well. We can imagine what kind of fear and anxiety had crept into their hearts.
I believe that God is calling on each of us to recognize the others that are caught up in our storm. Some of you have spouses, children, family, friends, and coworkers that have experienced the waves of your storm. They have been taking on water and felt like they were going under, but you didn't notice. You were understandably so caught up with what was swirling around you that you could not hear their cries. I would like to challenge you today to listen over the noise of the howling wind and hear their frightened voices. Look over at their little boat and recognize the difficulty of their situation. Then, once you have seen and heard them, ask God to calm not only the storm for your sake but for theirs as well. Reach outside of yourself and love those in the other little boats. Find the peace of God together!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Shepherd's Work

Daily Light from the Lighthouse

"The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd." Ecclesiastes 12:11

There is a power in the words that we speak. We all know that at times our words can be utterly destructive. However, when we use "wise words" we are able to build people up as Christ would. All of us can remember something said to us that not only encouraged us but more importantly taught us. These words have been a guiding force during our lives. I personally can remember several things said to me by a man name Charles Whetsel. Susan and I had only been in ministry for a brief time and desperately needed someone wiser to share with us what they had learned from God. I am still thankful today for the things that I heard Charles speak into my life. Some of them were said directly to me, while others were things that I heard him say to others.
The Scriptures compare these words to three things: 1)They are goads. These wise words prod us on and encourage us to not quit. The driver of the mule or ox knows his animal. He knows exactly when the animal is laboring and faltering. It is at this time that he wisely uses the goad to push the animal forward. If he were to use it all of the time, the beast would kick against it and rebel. However, because the master is wise, the goad is always right on time. Maybe you are ready to throw in the towel. You have labored and are discouraged. Listen to the words of our Master and be steadfast and unmovable, continuing in the Lord's work with the knowledge that your labor is not in vain. 2)Wise words are well-driven nails. A carpenter knows that the placement of a nail is crucial. He knows that you place the nail at a joint or a place of weakness so that it is held fast and strong. Placing a nail at a position where there is nothing to nail into would be futile. God knows our weaknesses, and according to Scripture it is there that He places His strength. He told Paul that His grace (the nail of God's goodness) was made perfect in his weakness. (Just a side note, it was the three nails of faith, hope, and charity that held our Savior to the cross.) 3)Wise words come from THE Shepherd. That wise voice that calls you to Himself is our Shepherd, Jesus Christ. It is His voice you hear, because the sheep know the voice of the Shepherd. When He calls you to Himself, do not hesitate but run to Him. When you fall at His feet, listen intently to His Word and apply those things that you learn their in that place. At times, He will use others to teach us, but always listen to the wisdom of the Shepherd as you hear the words.