Reflections

What Are You Doing This Sunday?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

As the weekend draws near, I hope you are preparing your heart and mind to attend church. Some will say, “Churches are filled with nothing but hypocrites!” While this might contain an element of truth, the statement is not an absolute. If one expects a church to be perfect, he is expecting too much. For this is like expecting a hospital to be filled with healthy people; after all, it has doctors, nurses, and medicines. One does not go to a hospital because he’s healthy but because he is sick. The same is true why persons attend church. It is not because we have it all together but because we are sinful and flawed—in need of God’s grace.

“Well,” someone will say, “I can worship God at the lake.” But what does God desire? Does He not desire the corporate worship of His people? If anyone knows the shortcomings of people, it is God! Yet, church is His idea. There are at least three important reasons for attending a church: 1) To worship God corporately; 2) to be encouraged in your walk with Christ.; and 3) to be involved in ministering to, and investing in the lives of, others. Contrary to the misconception of some, faith is not a “private matter.”

Yes, churches are made up of imperfect, sometimes even hypocritical, people. But these are not to have our attention. God is. And understand, even if you or I were to find the perfect church, it would become imperfect as soon as we became a part of it. What a wonderful place to experience grace than in the midst of a people in a need of grace!

What is your perception of church? Does the New Testament portray perfect churches? How do the apostles address problems of churches in their letters?

What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Let Us Give Thanks

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It is common for persons to wonder what God’s will is for them. Should they become this, should they do that, what direction should they go? For the follower of Jesus Christ, God’s will is for him to be continually grateful. To be thankful does not require an education or ordination. Being thankful does not depend on any special skills or talents. Gratitude simply requires a choice from an appreciative heart yielded unto a faithful Creator.

Life is both difficult and painful, but each of us experience blessings we can give thanks for. Many can give thanks for tangible things like food, housing, vehicles, and clothing. Many can give thanks for physiological things such as good health and the abilities to walk, see, hear, and reason. Some, indeed, walk some very difficult paths, but they have faith, hope, friends, and mercies. And for those are Christ’s, we have new life, forgiveness, every spiritual blessing, the Holy Spirit within, and God’s guidance and presence.

One of the supreme marks of a Christian is simple gratitude, even when life is not going the way one would necessarily like. This week, try to count your many blessings. As the old hymn notes, you will be surprised by all the Lord has done and given!

Are you a complainer? If so, is your life really as bad as you make it sound? Do you regularly give God thanks for what you have? There might be things you desire to have, but are you genuinely grateful for what you do have?

The God Who is Love

    Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

    Although God is holy and dreadful, He is also very benevolent and kind. He is gracious, understanding, and compassionate. It is because of His love He looks upon us with compassion; provided the Savior to pay the debt of our sins; and pities us when we falter and fail. God delights in mercy and reconciliation. When you approach God, put off all hypocrisy and excuses. When you do, know that you come before the one who loves you more deeply than you can even begin to comprehend.

How do your prayers reflect the love of God? Do you believe God genuinely desires to hear from you or do you think He has more pressing concerns? Why does this matter?

~ from Our Father in Heaven: Christian Reflections on Prayer, Geno Pyse

More Than a Servant

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ…. Our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~ Jude 1, 4

Some translations use the English word servant in the opening of Jude’s brief epistle, but this is a poor translation of the Greek word, doulos, which means “slave.” One definition for doulos is “one who is in permanent relation of servitude to another, his will altogether consumed in the will of the other.” Jude was all in when it came to his devotion, loyalty, and service to his Master and King, Jesus. If you profess the name of Christ, are you all in or is your profession mere lip service? Do you recognize His authority or do live as though you can select which commands you’ll obey or dismiss? Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17:14), and His reign is founded upon righteousness. Is He your King? Is your will consumed in His holy will? Are you a doulos or a mere professor who denies Him in practice (see Titus 1:16; Jude 4)?

Truth We Can Be Absolutely Certain Of

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ 8:32

There are those who say there are no absolutes, that truth is “relative,” or that the only thing that is certain is uncertain. Such thinking has even crept into many seminaries and churches by individuals claiming to be persons of God. However, such thinking is in direct opposition to what Jesus says. Jesus declares to be the truth (see John 14:6) and that His words are absolutely permanent. Jesus’ words are in direct opposition to the words of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Truth is absolute, it can be known, and it is revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Deeper Purposes of Grace 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. ~ Titus 2:11-13

There are many who see God’s grace simply in terms of forgiveness; however, the power of His grace goes much deeper than that. God’s grace instructs and transforms. Whereas persons once lived immorally, dishonestly, and godlessly, grace begins to teach persons to think differently (see Rom. 12:1-2). As a result, persons begin living and behaving differently. They begin to live morally and as persons with a growing integrity. If one’s life, thinking, and desires have not genuinely changed, it is doubtful he knows the first thing about God’s amazing grace. Redemption in Christ is far more than just being forgiven, but it is about metamorphosis (transformation).

Our Skin Or Our Sin?

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. ~ Romans 5:10

Is a person or system bad based on the color of a people’s skin? Critical Race Theory tries to say the (white) system is bad because it’s ruled by whites and white privilege. But do whites have some kind of monopoly on oppression? What about the oppression in Communist China, societies in Northern Africa and the Middle East, or by the Mexican cartel? Would the system be free of oppression and corruption if it was non-white? Does injustice exist because whites exist? Would injustice be extinct if whites were extinct? The problem has nothing to do with skin but has everything to do with sin. “Yellow, red, and black and white”—all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), but Christ died for all that we might become one unified, holy people in Him.

They Confessed Their Sins

And they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. ~ Matthew 3:6

To confess one’s sins means that sin exists. Furthermore, the word confess does not simply mean to acknowledge but to agree with. That is, when a person confesses their sins to God, they are agreeing with Him the way He sees them. God is a God of order and design. Sin creates confusion, deformity, and pain. We see sin as no big deal, even pleasurable. God sees sin as rebellion and destructive. The mess our world is in is because of sin, and each of us has contributed to it. Are we willing to agree with God as He sees our sins or are we going to turn a blind eye and accuse Him of being archaic and wrong? 

God Is with Us

“They shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). ~ Matthew 1:23

In troubling times as these, it is important to know if God is with us, because if He is, He will get us safely through whatever we might face. On the flip side, are we with Him and abiding in Him? Foolish is the person who refuses to take available shelter during a storm. Understand, God is with us in the Person of Jesus Christ. He makes Himself available to be a refuge for any and all, but safety is only for those who are willing to take cover in Him. To refuse Him is to refuse His presence and protection. God is with us, but the question is are you with Him?

Safe Abode

Safe Abode

The days are dark, love,

    The last days will be night;

But give not in to fear,

    For I am your light.

Let not your heart be troubled,

    For it need not be—

Love, you are safe as long

    As you abide in Me.

Yay, the rain may fall

    And waters surround you,

But I am your Ark,

    I’ll carry you through.

Come hell or high water,

    Come lightning or flood—

Safely abide in

    Christ, the living God.

    We are living in dark times that seem to be getting only darker. This should not be surprising, since Jesus forewarned us, as did His disciples by His Spirit. Paul writes,

    “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty [perilous times, KJV]. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people….Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5, 12-13).

    Are we not beginning to witness this? Self, money, and pleasure, indeed, are the gods of the day. We witness the love of these in politics, entertainment, education, and even in churches. We are aware of such abuse, heartlessness, and brutality as we hear of such senseless violence in our cities, terrorist attacks, shootings at various venues, human trafficking, the applause of abortion, etc.

    We are witnessing the appearance of godliness and the denial of its power, as many churches endorse all kinds of behaviors and practices the Scriptures condemn, as well as trying to mix religions and philosophies of the world with Christianity. The faith of Christianity is pure water that will not mix with the oils of this world!

    Jesus says there will be an increase in wars, earthquakes, famines, and hostility and persecution against Christians. This in turn will cause many to fall away from the faith and betray one another. Then Jesus says, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (see Matt. 24:3-14).

    Are we not witnessing the flood of lawlessness rising? What is good is being accused of being evil and evil is being applauded as being good (see Isa. 5:20), and so many are wanting to cast off all restraints and do what is right in their own eyes (see Ps. 2:1-3; Judg. 17:6; 21:25).

    Even so, despite all this, we do not need to be afraid. Although the night may grow darker, Jesus will remain our light (see Mic. 7:8; John 8:12). Although the storms may rage around us, Jesus is our peace (see John 14:27; 16:33). And although the flood of lawlessness is rising higher, Jesus is our Ark (see Luke 17:27; Gen. 7:1).

    Our safety comes by abiding in Christ and being filled with His Holy Spirit, who will strengthen us and guide us into truth (see John 14:1—16:33). If we place our trust in ourselves, our intellect, our resources, or anything else other than Christ, we will be swept away. Christ is the anchor of our souls (see Heb. 6:19), and there is complete security for all who abide in Him.

~ from In the Eye of the Calm: Reflections and Poems on Faith, Hope, Love, and Life