We live in a crooked and perverse world. The darkness can cause people to lose hope.
The Bible promises that the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It promises that the God of peace will be with you. It promises that God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. It promises all this just in Philippians 4.
But the Bible doesn’t promise this without qualification.
It doesn’t say that these promises are yours if you put them on a bumper sticker. It doesn’t say this will be true if you wear it on a t-shirt or sing it loud enough. These offers aren’t promised if you have them memorized or written on a refrigerator magnet.
We are supposed to take hold of these amazing promises by pressing on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Every job has certain occupational hazards. One of the hazards of being a preacher is getting funny looks or outbursts from the people you are preaching to.
I’ve been preaching and teaching for about a decade. I’ve seen some interesting things in that time. I know I missed a good amount in the years I preached without my glasses. I couldn’t really see anyone clearly past the third or fourth row. Now, I see it all.
By far the most hostile and aggressive hearers I’ve encountered are those who have heard me preach outside of the church building. When proclaiming God’s Word in the open-air you should expect a little more… colorful responses. Preaching in the safety of your own church building tends to minimize the negativity and hostility.
But not always.
Once when preaching on everybody’s favorite subject – obedience – a young woman emphatically crossed her arms, made eye contact with me, then stuck her tongue out. Her body language perfectly communicated her distaste for the topic at hand. She wanted to make her dissatisfaction with my topic clear to me.
I get it. Teaching obedience isn’t popular. It can be labeled as being legalistic. But it’s part of the Great Commission whether we like it or not.
When I was a kid I gave my mom a lot of grief. I was angry, argumentative, and full of energy. Every parent’s dream.
I remember one particularly difficult day. I was acting out. My mom was exasperated. But it was all about to change. Peace was right around the corner.
My mom grabbed the phone off the wall. (Back then it was attached to the wall with a long, curly cord.) She shook the receiver at me and angrily asked me point-blank: “Do you want me to call Santa Claus and tell him how you’re acting?”
Let’s all settle down for a minute. Let’s not do anything rash. Let’s not do anything we’ll regret or that can’t be undone.
No. Clearly I do not want you to call Santa Claus.
I’ll be good. I swear. Put. The. Phone. Down.
I believed she had the ability to fulfill her threat in that moment. I didn’t even think to call her bluff. I never asked if she really had his number. It seemed to me at the time like the kind of thing adults could do. I believed. And I changed. At least, temporarily.
Our family is memorizing the book of James together.
As a parent, I’m delighted to hear my children recite the words of Scripture each week. The older kids are doing a great job. It is easier for some than for others. All of them are putting in the time required to learn.
The younger kids are also participating by hearing us recite what we’ve learned. They, too, can recite big chunks of Scripture that they’ve memorized simply by hearing their siblings and parents practice. It’s not required for them but it is adorable.
As a Christian, the practice of memorizing Scripture is always fruitful. Hiding God’s Word in your heart and meditating on it day and night has wonderful implications for your character and formation into Christ’s likeness. I’ll never stop being amazed at how often the passages we’ve memorized become immediately relevant to daily life and interactions.
Part of our memory section this week is James 1:21-22.
When I was a bachelor I didn’t cook. Now that I’m married I still don’t. I eat much better though because my wife cooks.
In college I don’t think I even owned a plate. I know I had a plastic cup. I might have had some silverware but it probably belonged to my roommates. It didn’t matter. I didn’t need it.
Left to my own devices I only ate fast food or microwaveable food. No dishes. No prep. No cleanup. No fuss, no muss.
It was easy. Clean. Convenient. Fast.
It was also unhealthy. Very unhealthy.
The appeal for easy, clean, convenient, and fast doesn’t just affect bachelors. The same unhealthy approach is often applied to discipleship.
Daddy, will you push me?
As a father of seven I hear this question about a thousand times a year. Our swing set sits faithfully outside waiting for someone to hop on. Back and forth. Back and forth. Then back to rest while it waits for me to say yes again and give someone another push.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Riding the swing is a great way to spend some time during the summer. But it’s a lousy way to spend our time in the church. Continue reading
Do this. Don’t do that.
Shop here. Don’t shop there.
This is acceptable. That is an abomination.
Is this really what following Jesus is all about?
Don’t get me wrong. Christianity does have a moral code. That’s undeniable.
And that moral code is not popular. Not by a long shot. The Bible is clear that the moral code is contrary to the flesh. By definition it goes against the grain of fallen human nature.
But Christianity isn’t moralism. Continue reading
Following Jesus can be hard.
That’s the truth.
The Scripture tells us how to find the strength to carry on. We need to consider Jesus so we won’t grow weary and lose heart.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, Bold added)
As I consider Jesus and the hostility He endured it gives me strength to do the same. Three events stand out the most to me. I pray they will encourage your heart as you consider Jesus and run your race today. Continue reading
Mission. Vision. Direction. Purpose.
These are powerful concepts. Organizations that want to be successful need to skillfully employ them to get people to participate.
This same strategy is often used in local churches.
Many pastoral job descriptions include casting vision. Successful churches often have mission statements as a focal point of all their church ministries and literature.
Do you have a mission statement? Does your church?
Do you know God’s mission statement? Continue reading
Stop playing defense.
If we’re going to let Jesus have His way in His church then we need to stop playing defense. We need to focus on playing offense.
Look carefully at what Jesus said about the nature of His church: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
Gates are defensive structures. They are built to protect their own territory. Jesus plainly said that He would build His church. This building would happen on the rock of people confessing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
As Jesus builds His church people will come out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light (1 Pet 2:9-10). The gates of Hades will not be able to stop the advance of Christ’s kingdom expansion. Continue reading