Become As Little Children

We have a great program at the congregation where I attend worship that caters to our youth and allows them to learn of God’s loving kindness through age-appropriate lessons.  The program is called Sonshine Parkway, and the children of the church absolutely love it.  Their classrooms are decorated with different themes to resemble things like a café, a library, and even a movie theater.  Needless to say, the children are excited to learn about God, and their parents know that their young ones are receiving fun, godly instruction while attending worship.

Recently, my 10-year-old daughter Emma was asked to be a tour guide for this program, leading kids to their designated classrooms and assisting with the instruction and activities for the day.  She was thrilled to be asked to fill such a responsible role and has taken the time to do her very best in honor of God.  What excites me as a parent and makes me more than a little proud, is her zeal for the opportunity to serve.  While it’s sometimes difficult to get adults to want to participate in church activities and service because of how busy everyone is, here’s a young person willing to step up and to do so with a positive attitude and a heart of love.

I think this is how Jesus felt when the little children were brought to him for prayer and the laying on of hands.  As soon as the parents brought their children before Jesus, they were rebuked by the disciples.  Now, why on earth would the disciples have a problem with some harmless children coming before their Rabbi?  Maybe it was just crowd control or maybe they had somewhere else to travel.  Most likely, they believed that Jesus shouldn’t be bothered by such trivial things like dealing with children.  Whatever the reason, Jesus’ response was quite interesting.

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

(Luke 18:16-17)

We gain a little insight here as to the kind of heart Jesus is looking for to inherit his kingdom.  What I hear him saying is, “Regain your innocence.  Rejoice in me.  Quit worrying about all the trivial arguments in life and just come and be in my presence.”  You see, somewhere between giving our life to Christ and dealing with our own problems in life, we forget what it was like to first hear about God.  We get sucked back into the “I must think this, and I must do that” mentality.  We lose our wonder for the beauty of God and our zeal to serve him with all of our heart.  There’s a reason why Jesus says,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.”

(Matthew 22:37-38)

He wants us to become like little children in the presence of their Father.  God wants us to approach him with a trusting, excited, curious, joyful, and carefree heart.

All of this has taught me a lesson as a father as well.  It’s not enough just to raise your child in the church.  It’s not enough to attend worship several times a week and then go back to doing your own thing.  If I want my daughter to remain zealous for God, to love Him with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength, I must model that behavior myself.  I must remember to become like those little children who are mentioned in the Bible and daily desire to sit at the feet of my Father and learn all that he has to teach me.

Have the heart of a child when thinking of and approaching God, because without that attitude and innocence, we’ll never enter the kingdom of God.

-Joe

Monday Motivation: Don’t Let Fear Keep You From Your Promised Land

Sometimes you’ve got to feel sorry for Moses. It must have been tough for him having to listen to all of the complaints from the nation of Israel. After all God had done for his people during their rescue from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 7-12), after all of the provision God had given them during their time in the desert, they still found enough energy to complain about their situation.

In Numbers 13, spies were sent into Canaan to take a look at the land God was giving them. Sadly, they came back to report their inability to successfully take the land. They had absolutely no faith that God was able to fulfill his promises. Fear kept God’s people from entering the Promised Land and they were punished accordingly (Numbers 14:20-45). The punishment even affected the next generation. Our fear and its results is far reaching isn’t it?

God has many great blessings for us, but sometimes we miss them because of a lack of faith. What blessings have you missed out on because you didn’t act in faith? How many times have you blamed God for your circumstances but in reality, they were self-induced? God desired to bless you but he couldn’t because you didn’t trust the gift giver.

Don’t let fear keep you from your Promised Land. Don’t miss out on the wonderful treasures that are ours through our inheritance with Jesus Christ. Don’t settle for living in the wilderness like Israel, continually pouting over your lot in life. Our God is good, his promises are true, our Promised Land is waiting. All you need is the faith to reach out and take it.

-Joe

What is the Body of Christ (Part 3)

Today, we finish our study of the fruits of the body of Christ.  Please make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 where we looked at the first ten fruits that are evident in the functioning body of Christ.

The body of Christ is…

  • MOTIVATING (“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” – Hebrews 10:24)  I have gone through many stages of maturity of faith in my years as a Christian, and one of the key factors that has led me to where I am today is the motivation I’ve received from others.   I have had brothers and sisters in Christ stir me to grow in my knowledge of God.  I’ve had people who’ve encouraged me to write and preach more and told me how beneficial my work was for the Lord.  Christians should be in the business of motivating one another to work for God.
  • PRAYING (“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.– James 5:16)  I’ll be the first to admit that my prayer life has some room for improvement.  I imagine most of us feel the same way about our ability to pray consistently.  We don’t give the power of prayer the respect it deserves, but God teaches that a righteous man’s prayers have the ability to affect great change in our lives.  The body of Christ should be known for its desire to turn to God in prayer for our every need.
  • TEACHING (“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16)  This fruit in the active body of Christ is near and dear to my heart.  As an educator for the past 12 years, I see the effect that good teaching has on the minds of the children in my care.  It is the same for Christians as well.  While many people would shy away from opportunities to teach, it is a sign of spiritual maturity when God’s word so richly dwells within us that we can passionately and coherently pass along that message to others.  I believe God calls all members of the body of Christ to be working towards teaching others about Him and his saving grace.
  • WEEPING/ REJOICING (“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15)  Let’s just get right to the point.  Life sure has its ups and downs doesn’t it?  One day we’re on cloud nine, and the next we’re walking in the valley of the shadow of death.  What better way to walk through life’s victories and defeats than to have others along for the ride.  As the body of Christ, we should be that shoulder to cry on when times are tough, and we should cheer one another on when times are good.
  • RESTORING (“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:1-2)  I don’t know a single Christian who hasn’t been challenged by the lies of Satan.  Sometimes, we’re strong and persevere through the temptations that we face.  Other times, we stumble and succumb to our sinful nature and the challenges that the Devil presents.  We must gently help one another to pursue righteousness and pick up the faltering Christian who falls into sin.  If not, we may be led away by the Great Deceiver and lose our opportunity of an everlasting life with Jesus in Heaven.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed and been challenged during our study of the body of Christ and how we can reflect Jesus in our daily walk with him.  Make the effort to put these things into practice and encourage other Christians to do the same.  It can only help in growing the church in our lifetime and honoring God in the process.

The body of Christ is…

  1. Caring
  2. Loving
  3. Accepting
  4. Giving
  5. Serving
  6. Instructing
  7. Forgiving
  8. Encouraging
  9. Honoring
  10. Comforting
  11. Motivating
  12. Praying
  13. Teaching
  14. Weeping/ Rejoicing
  15. Restoring

-Joe

What is the Body of Christ (Part 2)

*Be sure to read What is the Body of Christ (Part 1) as we are examining the fruit evident from a church working for the Lord.  Part 1 contained the first five fruits.  Today’s post will look at the next 5.

The body of Christ is…

  • INSTRUCTING (“I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” -Romans 15:14)  One of my favorite acts of service within the body of Christ is teaching.  All Christians should pursue wisdom so that they may instruct others in the knowledge of Christ.  We all should take every opportunity to study God’s word, not just for our own spiritual growth, but for the benefit of the whole body.
  • FORGIVING (“ bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. ” -Colossians 3:13)  Part of being in a family is learning to live with one another.  The harsh reality is that it’s not always easy.  Just as Christ has borne with our difficulties, we should bear with one another.  Just as Christ has forgiven us through the shedding of his blood, we too should forgive others of their trespasses against us.
  • ENCOURAGING (“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11)  How do you feel when you are encouraged?  How much more determined are you when people are cheering for your success?  My guess is that you’re greatly uplifted by the encouragement from others and others find strength in the encouragement you provide them.  The body of Christ was made for circumstances such as these because we will always be more effective together than apart.
  • HONORING (“ Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10)  Christianity is not about bringing honor to oneself, but striving to bring honor and glory to God.  One way to make that happen is by loving and honoring one another and treating the needs of others as greater than our own.  Jesus himself exemplified the heart of a servant, and we too should be zealous in our attempt to honor each other in the body of Christ.
  • COMFORTING (“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)  If you take an honest inventory of the blessings God has provided you, you will most likely find that you will never reach the end of his goodness.  One of those blessings is the comfort that God provides us.  The most logical response to that blessing is to extend the comfort we have found in God to others, and especially those of the body of Christ.  Life is tough sometimes, and we need one another to fall back on in times of trial and affliction.

Be sure to return tomorrow as we look at five more fruits that the functioning body of Christ should show.

-Joe

What is the Body of Christ (Part 1)

What is the body of Christ?

The body of Christ is everyone who has put on Christ (Galatians 3:27-29).  The body of Christ is composed of those who live for Him, who are actively changing their lives to pursue the righteousness of God (2 Timothy 2:22).  The body of Christ is made up of those who have responded to the one call, God’s call (Ephesians 4:4-6).  In its simplest terms, the body of Christ is you, it’s me, it’s the church.

So you may ask, “How do I know if I’m part of that body?”  I think I’ll let Jesus speak in response to this question.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

In order to be a part of the body of Christ, we must be his disciples and disciples bear fruit. Today, and in the next few posts, we will study some examples of fruit that the body of Christ should be producing.  I ask that you remain honest with yourself and be real about whether or not these fruits are evident in your life.  Since the body of Christ is made up of individual Christians, we must look first to ourselves and consider whether we are living in a manner that brings glory and honor to God.

The body of Christ is…

  1. CARING (“25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”1 Corinthians 12:25)  How well do you care about other Christians?  Do you place more importance on yourself or do you seek to remain unified with the members of Christ’s body?  If there is no divisiveness among you, you will care deeply for every child of God.
  2. LOVING (“34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” –John 13:34-35)  Did you know that loving one another is such an important command to God that he placed it second only to loving Him?  This is how those outside the body of Christ will know if he truly exists and is a loving God.  If they see our love for one another, then they can believe that there’s a Father that loves them too.
  3. ACCEPTING (“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” –Romans 15:7)  What is one way to glorify God?  By accepting one another the way Christ has accepted us.  No, this doesn’t mean accept a “live and let live” mentality that ignores the commands of God.  It means not to play favorites, but to treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
  4. GIVING (“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” –Acts 2:45)  Just stop and think for a moment how generous God has been to you.  You can’t even count all the blessings you’ve received, can you?  Whether we like it or not, there are many in the body of Christ who suffer from want.  Who is to meet their needs?  We are!
  5. SERVING (“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” –Galatians 5:13)  God has granted us tremendous freedom in the body of Christ and that has been given to us for a purpose…so that we will serve one another.  The body will always have its needs met when we are looking out for one another and considering the needs of others before our own.  There’s no better way to emulate Christ than to have a heart of a servant (Philippians 2:3-8).

Be sure to check out the next post as we examine more fruits of the members of the body of Christ.

-Joe

Monday Motivation: Talk is Cheap

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Talk is cheap.”  It’s a go-to comment when we want someone to prove what they say by providing some action.  I like the phrase because in this day of social media and instant technology, it’s become easy to talk about anything we want.  It doesn’t take commitment or hard work, but simply the ability and time to spout off about anything.

There’s probably no argument more valid against Christianity in today’s world in a general sense than that we need to be more about action and less about talk.  Action is about actually doing what we say we believe.  It’s making our life match our faith.  Even the Bible spends some time specifically addressing how we should put our convictions into action:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

(James 2:14-18)

Today and the rest of this week, strive to put your faith into action.  Open your eyes to the very real and numerous needs around you and make every effort to do something about them.  Be the example of Christ in the lives of others.

-Joe

In Pursuit of Righteousness

I haven’t done so in quite some time, but for many years, I played lots of golf as my go-to hobby.  Not only was it a hobby, but it was also my job, as I was employed as a golf pro at a couple of courses in my area.  It was a pretty fun job, but boy does the sport of golf test your patience! Even on a good day, it was a difficult sport to play no matter how easy the pros make it look on television.  I was always trying to make improvements, and no matter how good I got, there were always areas in which to improve my game.

A lot of areas in life are like golf.  Time, practice, and determination can be used to ultimately gain mastery of something and on the surface, it appears like you’ve got it all figured out.  While that may work for most tasks in life, pursuing righteousness is not one of them.  You and I can work hard every day to be good people, to do right and think right, and yet somehow, regardless of effort, come up short in the end.  According to the Scriptures, not a single one of us ever comes close to righteousness in the sight of God.

“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

“The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)

Wow!  What a killjoy huh?  Maybe, but it’s important to understand that we really are not as good as we think we are.  It’s vital to remember to remain humble, knowing there’s nothing we can do to make ourselves righteous in God’s eyes.  We simply are not capable of putting forth enough effort to make it happen.  Pretty grim right?  Well, it is if we stop there.  But immediately following the passage in Romans 3:23, we read this:

24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:24)

You read that right.  While we are incapable of mustering up enough effort to become righteous, God, who is all-powerful, is strong enough to do so for us.  Through his Son Jesus, we were made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Because Jesus, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, we are justified in the sight of God.

While this gift of righteousness is priceless on its own, what should be our response to it?  Once accepted, should we wear God’s righteousness as a badge of honor, a get-out-of-jail-free card, and continue to live with a sinful state of mind?  Absolutely not!  Instead, we should be compelled to pursue righteousness with all our heart (2 Timothy 2:22), not to earn God’s grace in some way, but to show gratitude for it.  We should ultimately try to reflect the character of God and reap the blessings that that lifestyle would provide (Psalm 106:3).

So aim high and think low.  Remember that without God, you would be nothing, and with him, you have everything you’ll ever need.  Run away from the sins of this world and pursue the righteousness of God and remember to use your life to daily honor him.

-Joe