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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Spiritual Discernment: Making the Choice

One of the lies many people believe today is that the future is uncertain. This is not true. The future is certain.

Now, don't come asking me for your lottery numbers since I claim to have so much certainty of the future! Of course, much of the future really is unknown. I don't know what my bank account will look like this time next year. I may be surprised how I'm doing in school, or where I'm working. I don't know who will win the next election or how the outcome of it will affect my daily life. 

Nevertheless, everywhere you turn people claim to know how much worse the future will be! But really, the opposite is true. One thing about the future is certain: it will be better.

For Christians, the future holds the fulfillment of our hope. Folks across the world seem to want to take that hope away. "Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised." (Heb. 10:35-36).

Indeed, we need endurance to withstand the evils of this world that seek to harm and destroy. Evil seeks to replace God with itself. "We know . . . that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one." (1 Jn 5:19).

Do not fear! There is a solution! "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." (Heb 12:1-2).

Whatever the future holds, we know that our future is better. "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:38-39).

Whatever the future holds, my prayer for you and I is that we remain faithful to the Lord. Tests and trials will come. We pray for endurance. "Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." (Jam 1:12).

Whatever the future holds, the Lord has promised those who love Him a crown of Life. This is how we know, with certainty, the future will be better.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


There's been a few scriptures on my mind this week, and I see a connection between the two of them.

First, there's Proverbs 4:23 -- "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."

There's a lot going on in these few, simple words. Maybe the most obvious is helping me answer the question: "What am I even doing??!". Have you ever found yourself doing something or saying something that surprised you? If you could take a step back for a moment and hear the words coming out of your own mouth, would it be shocking? Christians are called to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). We are called to be encourages (Heb 10:24-25). We called to be peacemakers (Mat 5:9). And we are called to have a kind of speech that is kind and gracious (Col 4:6).

What am I even doing?!? Whatever my heart desires. 

Sometimes when we go through life, we just react. We act without thinking. We aren't deliberate in our choices of how to respond to someone, we just respond. That gut-level reaction, it comes from the heart and it's possible that can be a reflection of who we "really" are. Of course, that may not always be the case. There are times when we'd say something like, "I wasn't being myself; That wasn't me; or, I didn't really mean that." But the challenge from this passage asks us to be real with ourselves -- did what I just say reflect the kind of person I really am? Is that who I want to be?

Another thing that surprises me about this passage is the priority placed on this teaching. We are told that "everything we do" (or say?) "flows from [the heart]", so the most important thing we can do is guard our heart. Some of us might come up with a few different answers, if we had a room full of people and we asked the question, "What's the number one priority as a Christian." Maybe it's to "love God" (Mat 22:37), or maybe it's "Love each other" (Mat 22:39), or maybe it's to be humble (Micah 6:8). These are all really good answers. Maybe there's four or five number one's! Don't worry about making the list, just listen to what this passage has to say: "Above all, guard your heart." 

The second passage I had on my mind that I saw connected to the first was 2 Corinthians 10:5 -- " . . take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Going back to the first passage, we can again ask ourselves the same questions about our choices, actions, and words. If I could hear myself, would I be proud of the things I've said? Would God be pleased by my thoughts? 

Without these taking actions on these two ideas, we instead run the risk of ourselves being held captive by our thoughts. Thoughts of doubt, fear, anger, frustration, arrogance, pride, dismay, confusion want to control us. These thoughts want to hold us captive, poison our hearts, and control our will. Instead of speaking the truth in love for the building up of the Kingdom of God, we could find ourselves enemies of God because we have let our guard down and become captive in our own minds.

Jesus wants to free you. Jesus had freed you. But you can allow yourself to return again to that prison of the mind when we give Satan a foothold. Don't be led by sin, be led by the Spirit "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Rom 8:14-15).

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Spiritual Discernment: Making the Call

 Decision time: where do we go from here? Are you already nervous just at the idea of having to make another choice? For better or worse, life is made up of choices. What to wear, what to eat or drink, where to live, what to do for school or for a job -- big decisions and little ones alike seem to be staring us in the face all the time. It can start to become overwhelming, if we try to do it all alone. 

Worry comes along with choice because we're worries we might make the wrong choice. Some as simple as what to wear might turn out to be a bad decision (anywhere from socks with sandals or leaving behind the umbrella!). But the surprising thing about the teachings from Jesus is the idea that we shouldn't worry -- and this seems to include not just the "big stuff" like what happens after you die but even to the little, day-to-day stuff like "What will we eat? or "What will we wear?" (Matthew 6:25-34). Jesus assures us that He cares for us and that we will be provided for. 

But, even with this encouragement, Jesus doesn't take  choice away from us. He doesn't make the choice for us. So sometimes we are left sort of wondering, "Where do I go from here?" or "What now?" or "What's next?". These kinds of questions might fall under the idea of "Spiritual Discernment" -- that's something we might describe as "learning to listen to the voice of God in the middle of troubles". That's not to say this is going to be an audible message from the Lord, but instead what we'll see this morning is that knowing God's will or His intent for the choices we might make are not as far off as we'd like to think. You might ask yourself a few questions about your choices: "Will my choice bring glory to God or shame? Will my choice lead others to the truth or into sin? Will my choice show love or disdain?"

Paul puts in this way in 1 Corinthians 2:15 "The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments". Here, he's telling us that when we face these choices, those of us found in Christ, those who have received the Spirit, will be able to know which choices God approves and which ones lead to sin. Some might challenge this idea. Even in the next verse Paul asks, "Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" as if to say that the mind of the Lord is so far removed from us, so far and above and away from our simple minds that we couldn't hope to guess what we should do. But this is not a fair description of God. While He is so far and above, He is not away or removed. Look to the rest of verse 16: "But we have the mind of Christ."

I hope you can join us this morning as we dig a little deeper in to discernment. I think we'll see that there often isn't one right answer. God can use you, even if you chose socks with sandals. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Making the Most

Paul closes the letter to the church in Colosse with the encouragement to "make the most of every opportunity" -- now, I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty daunting task to me. It's easy to let so many other things distract us from our mission and detract from our message. We remember, however, that there just as there a time to laugh, there is a time to weep (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

So, how do make the most of every opportunity? And what is this opportunity anyway? Well, the opportunity is to share Jesus. Thing is, Jesus went through the trials of life just as we do (Hebrews 4:15) and there were times when Jesus cried, when Jesus was alone, when Jesus needed the quiet time with the Father. Do we not think that Jesus was able to make the most of every opportunity to teach, or lead, or share of the blessings of the Kingdom? I think He did, and we can look to these events in His life as examples.

"Making the most of every opportunity" may not mean what some people it means. Maybe it means we listen to others around us and hear their story and share in their suffering. Maybe it means we are in quiet communion with the Lord. Maybe it means we take a moment to be thankful for everything we have.

Look at the focus of the message in the few verses before this phrase. Paul gives us the keys to unlocking the mystery of how to "make the most of every opportunity": spend more time in prayer and thanking God. When we do this, then we will see God using us in powerful ways as we have opportunity to bring Jesus to others.