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Saturday, May 18, 2024

God's Children

This week, we’ll continue our series on the Christian home by talking about what it means to be a child of God. Some of us are children, some of us were children, and some of us still act like children! 

The Bible draws of this shared experience we each have to help us understand faith better and to help our faith grow. We are not just people that get a little older as time passes, but we are also meant to be Christians whose faithfulness, holiness, and righteousness is also growing as each day we try to be more like Jesus. We have so many opportunities to sin or obey, to work towards our mission or for self, or to honor God by honoring others. Yet many times, we still find ourselves living in our childishness rather than as children of God.

First of all, I hope we remember that it is a child-like faith that Jesus expects from us. He says as much in Matthew 18:2-3, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” He also says in Luke 18:17, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Therefore, we must, as these children did, trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus, and commit to following him. Children are trusting, brave, and bold. The faith of a child must equally be. 

That is not to say that we must have a blind faith. Children, and you may not know this, but they tend to ask a lot of questions. A lot! So too the “noble Bereans” are praised not for having faith alone but for having the faith to ask questions until their questions are answered. Acts 17:11 tells us their faith led them to “ . . . examine the scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true.” How’s that for a blind faith?

But the Bible also cautions us concerning our child-like attitude. While our child-like faith is important, what we must avoid is childishness, bickering, selfishness, and tempers. None of these qualities are ones we should retain. In fact, Paul writes “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11, KJV). Our faith is to be a growing one that leads to maturity. 

Mature Christians love. They sacrifice. They put others first. They obey. If we are to believe ourselves to be children in God’s household of faith, we must look at our life and spiritually discern whether or not we are being faithful or if we are still being childish. 

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Training

How well do you think a musician would do playing a piece they’ve never seen before? When I was in the school band, our band director would challenge us from time to time with the expectation that we be able to play, and play well, music we’ve seen for the first time. This is something called sight-reading and it doesn’t come easy and very often it doesn’t turn out well. 

How well do you think an athlete would do competing in an event they’ve never practiced in? When I was on the high school track team, we would sometimes be at a meet a little short-handed. Being down a teammate or two, the coach was left with the decision to either forfeit the event or possibly put someone in that wasn’t ready. So, sometimes you’d have a sprinter run a long-distance race, it doesn’t come easy and doesn’t often turn out well.

How well do you think you’d do on a math test or science test when you’ve never reviewed the material? There’s been plenty of times I’ve shown up on test day unprepared. In the end, I’ve got no one to blame but myself. I had the time, the tools, and the opportunity to prepare but when it came time to take the test, I wasn’t always ready.

In the same way, how well do we think we can stand up to temptation, vices, evil, and injustice if we’ve only walked with God about an hour per week? How prepared are we for trial and crisis if our faith is only attended to infrequently and by others? Is our time in worship together the only time we spend with our God and Father?

Paul writes to the church in Corinth and he compares the Christian faith to something familiar to the Greek and Roman culture of the day. Athletics was a worthy endeavor and taking care of the body was a high priority for Paul’s audience. He had an easy time picking something out that he knew people would be willing to suffer for, sacrifice their time for, and dedicate their efforts towards. How much greater value is the result of a faithful life? 

Paul tells the church in 1 Corinthians 9, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Later in the same letter we also find, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Therefore, just as much as we know a musician, or an athlete, or a student must be prepared in order that they might meet their goal, how much are we as Christians preparing ourselves to meet our Lord?

I hope our time together here is just a small piece rather than the whole of Christ in your life. This week, we’ll begin a series of lessons looking at the Christian home and relationships, pastimes, and plans that should be but are not always under the rule of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Training is valuable and helps us in times of need. Let us not neglect the opportunities we have every day. 


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Moving Mountains of Baggage

Jesus says that when we pray, we can move mountains (Mark 11:23). Sometimes, the biggest mountains we have in life are not the ones that are climbed but are the mountains of baggage we’ve accumulated over the course of a lifetime. We’ve all had a lifetime of choices (sometimes those made for us) that add up to the kind of person we tend to be. We are shaped by our experiences and sometimes they leave us bitter, angry, or confused. We had baggage and we need Jesus to help us move mountains.

Jesus sure had a way with people. He could not just talk to them, but He could listen. I think what people need today is to be heard. We need to hear their story, their afflictions, and their hurting. Christians can be good at running straight to the solution – we know Him, we have Jesus, we found Him, He saved us – we’re excited to share the good news! But in our zeal for speaking the truth (Eph 5:15) have we forgotten to listen?

Jesus sure had a way with people. He could listen. We need to learn to listen. Listening is part of “bearing one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). People need a shoulder to cry on and they need to know they can find it in us. It shows how much we care when we take the time to listen and to try to understand (James 1:19).

Jesus sure had a way with people. He spoke, He listened, and He never left them where He found them. That’s the difference between listening then and listening now. Today, some people just want to be heard and to have their story told, but they don’t want to be challenged. The Gospel challenges us to be better, to be different, and to be transformed by our encounter with Jesus.

Jesus had just such an encounter when He listened to the woman at the well in John chapter 4. Yes, He knew her life and her story before she told him, but Jesus still listened to what she had to say. She shared her beliefs with Him saying in verse 25: ““I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

She knew in part. She lived in part. She had a difficult past. In Christ, she found her future.

But she may not have, had she not had a humble spirit and ears to hear.