Our grandson is staying with us this weekend and brought his bicycle with him. He was anxious to show us how fast he could go. He indeed had learned to ride it fast. Watching him I was brought back to my own childhood and the thought of affixing cards to my bike to mimic the sound of an engine. So I fixed him up and soon he was tearing down the street with the “roar” of the cards hitting the spokes at a fevered pitch. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The simple things still hold true.
Earlier this week I was privy to a conversation about religion. Viewpoints were being exchanged about doctrine and the other tenants of religion. Mind you these were all Christians yet the differences being discussed were present. I made a comment about not being a fan of religion and was met with questions. On the surface many would say I am a religious person. I completely understand that comment. So in a nutshell my explanation is usually, a relationship with Jesus has nothing to do with religion. That is where salvation starts and stops so anything apart from this begins to become extraneous. Religion takes the word of God and tends to mold and shape it in ways that were never intended. My point here is that I’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories about how RELIGION has pushed or kept people I know and love away from knowing Jesus. Why bring someone into Church and then start Nickel and Diming them on their actions, especially when we all have stuff we need to work on. That has never been our “job”. An introduction to Jesus is what we are called to do. He will then do the work from the inside out. I’ll say it again, The more things change, the more they stay the same. The simple things still hold true. A relationship with Jesus is just that! Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
What are the qualities we look for in our friends? People with the same general interests? Those who accept us as we are? How about the one who calls you out when you’re doing something wrong? When King David betrayed one of his best soldiers by stealing his wife and then having him killed, he felt as King, that was something he could probably get away with. After all, who would dare challenge God’s appointed King? That would be his trusted advisor Nathan. Instead of looking the other way Nathan made it abundantly clear that the King had sinned and would surely pay for such. David heard his friend’s words and prayerfully repented to God.
Today it seems as most people want a “yes man” as their “wing man”. The thought process goes something like this, If I don’t call him or her out on their stuff he or she won’t call me out on mine. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church he had some pretty pointed remarks about their behavior. Remarks that stung but also caused the Corinthians to think. In his second letter he recounts this while apologizing for making them feel bad but at the same time rejoicing in their repentance.
Accountability is in decline among friends. The appropriately timed “come to Jesus meeting” has been replaced by the desire to get along, by going along. Have you witnessed a friend do something you feel isn’t right but were afraid to create a scene or even lose that friend if you spoke up? Is that really being a friend? Don’t we owe it to each other to be honest about the lives we live? Make a commitment to be that friend that cares enough to speak up and look for friends like Nathan & Paul in your life too.
2 Corinthians 7:9 Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us.
They say you are what you eat.
They say if you want to see your future take a look at your friends.
There’s no doubt that we are influenced by everything around us. In a world where subjectivity is the norm, good and bad can get pretty blurry. I remember a long time ago hearing people talking about this funny new TV show, The Simpson’s. Being a fan of humor I took in an episode. I was immediately bothered by the disrespect I saw from the children to the adults, it wasn’t the way I was raised (not that I always practiced such). Unfortunately, this show was groundbreaking as since then we have been subjected to countless programs showing disrespect to authority for the sake of “humor”. I’ve heard “it’s just a TV show” and I know that but as I have said many times before, our children learn more by what they see. I’ll go a step further and apply it to adults as well. This applies to any form of entertainment.
In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul continues his letter telling the people of Corinth how he has seen them change. He warned them of this in 1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” They allowed themselves to be slowly influenced by the world. That is what generally takes place with us as well. No one ever plans to take up bad habits or behavior but it happens. We should carefully consider what we consume on a regular basis. If we eat fast food and bon-bons regularly our bodies will reflect that. So why wouldn’t we apply that same principle to what we feed our hearts and minds. Be aware, stand watch over your heart and be prepared to turn away from something or someone they may negatively influence you.
2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Paul wrote this many years after his dramatic conversion. I would venture to say that this was his “life verse” as it paints a pretty clear picture of just that. Then, those who knew Saul to be the man that he was were completely amazed. Here a man known for his persecution of Christians is delivering the message of Jesus. Why? First and foremost this is what God does. He takes those who are seemingly the least worthy/unlikely and puts them in a place to fulfill his plans. Secondly, who better to deliver this message than someone who has just been on the other side of it. Our conversion and pursuit of Jesus may not be as dramatic as Paul’s but we are every bit as qualified to be a Disciple. Has your relationship with Jesus changed who you are or at lest who you want to be? To be blatant if it hasn’t then you should seek the council of a good friend or pastor. However, if you are a changed person, then you have all the qualifications you need to be a Disciple for Jesus. Like Paul, It matters not who you were before, you are now called to share this experience with others, offering them the same gift that you now experience. Acts 9:21-22 (ESV) And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. Whether you relate this to your relationship with Christ is up to you but know that like Paul, you can leave your old self and become anew.
I have been writing these devotionals since 2009. When I think about that, on one hand, it seems forever ago, on the other it seems as if yesterday. From the beginning I’ve always tried to relate my life experiences and observations attempting to tie them back to God’s Word. After all who am I to “preach” to anyone? Full disclosure alert!!! I’m not a Bible scholar by any means. I have become intentional in reading His word over the last few years and yes I know more today than I did then. During this time, I’ve learned that Jesus is more concerned with what fills our hearts, than what fills our heads. My point in saying all of this is accepting Jesus as my savior has changed my life. I wasn’t ready or worthy that day but I do know that he is changing me in ways I never imagined and I’ve felt the need to share that. I want others to know there is freedom from emptiness. That contentment comes not in acquiring stuff but in serving others. That there is joy in knowing that on your worst day there is a Father that loves you just as much as he did on your best one. I’m thankful for such an opportunity to share the greatest gift there ever was, Jesus. 2 Corinthians 4:5 – For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
Have you ever been in a place where the aroma (good or bad) overwhelmed everything else? We’ll skip the conversation about your grandfather’s bathroom but like many things the smell of a given area can change the atmosphere. If you grew up in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area in the 70’s, a trip down I-30 just south of downtown Ft.Worth meant driving by the old Mrs. Baird’s bread factory. The aroma was unmistakable bliss. It filled the air for miles around. It was so wonderful that anyone within smelling distance had to be put in a very good mood.
In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul is speaking through his letter about his ministry and how he persevered through many trials with the goal to always expose others to the gospel of Jesus in a pleasing manner. We’ve all seen our share of Bible thumping Christians, you know the ones that are telling us to get right with God. Their approach is to tell you what you need to be doing without relational context. Lots of well meaning talk that is derailed by the delivery. I’ve found that God would rather use us as more of an example than a mouthpiece. That through our actions and the way we interact with those that don’t know Jesus, we offer them a glimpse of what he has done/doing in our lives. Then when the opportunity arises we can share our story. If the old adage “you can catch more flies with honey” applies anywhere, it’s in sharing our faith with others. My story is one of God constantly pursuing me by putting others in front of me to observe. My prayer is that we all can be this to someone someday, a gentle, pleasing aroma of God’s love! 2 Corinthians 2:14 – But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
Last Sunday I was standing in the foyer at church and I observed a woman I know enter with one child on her hip and another by the hand “in tow”. To me it seemed like a lot to manage but she was smiling as if it were nothing at all.
A big part of the Christian life is sharing it with others. By this I mean, as our faith grows, we can be of comfort to others who may be in a season of doubt.
After service I was going forward to pray with others and I spotted a young woman I had prayed with before. She was heading out the door but I noticed she was crying so I stopped her to say hello and asked if she needed prayer. She shook her head yes and we went to the front to talk. She began to tell me how she was just overwhelmed by life. She has two children, six months and three years old. Her husband works and goes to school, oh and by the way she works as well. As we were speaking, to my right just happened to be the woman whom I saw enter the church with her two children earlier that morning, as she is part of our prayer team. Being a 55 yr old man as much as could definitely pray for the young woman, there is no way I could relate as well as another woman who was walking in her shoes. I pulled the two of them together and to make a long story short you could see immediate relief in the situation. We prayed and they exchanged phone numbers for future conversations.
God works miracles everyday. He lined up so many things for these two women to connect, it wasn’t by happenstance. Now the woman who has already experienced this tribulation, can comfort the the other, like none other! All the glory to God!
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 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.
As Paul concludes his first letter to the Corinthian church he attends to some business, giving them instructions and when they might expect him. He also reminds them of their responsibilities but more importantly the way in which they should carry them out.
I’ve just returned from another visit with my brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic, where there are some treasures to be found. The fruit over there is so much more vibrant. The Mangos are indescribably juicy and the Pineapple has a crispy taste that I’ve never experienced here. I enjoy a smoothie there made from Zapote which is best described as a cross between a Mango and a Strawberry. The coffee is over the top awesome! Strong but smooth and served with an equal amount of milk, it is a true national treasure. I could go on and on about the food we were served but it was the manner in which it was served that really stays with me.
Love is something they treasure. You see it in what they do for one another and you experience it in how they serve you. From what I’ve seen over the last four years they overlook petty differences for the greater good. They depend on and in turn, serve their neighbors. The local churches see a need in their community and they go meet it. They do this all not expecting anything in return. I always come back refreshed and with a different outlook for my world. I pray that God would instill that in our hearts. In word and action, we would above all else LOVE. 1 Corinthians 16:14 – Let all that you do be done in love.
Does one bad apple really spoil the whole bunch? This is used as a metaphor in speaking about how a person of bad character can corrupt otherwise good people. However, scientifically it is a true statement. Plants located adjacent to others that have a disease or infestation of pests stand a good chance of succumbing as well. An over ripe piece of fruit produces a greater amount of ethylene gas which acts to accelerate the ripening of the fruit around it. If the actual statement is true what about the metaphoric comparison?
We are affected by everything around us. If we expose our selves to good things and good people there’s a fair chance we’ll be the same. Conversely, if we are exposed to things and people that conduct themselves in a iniquitous manner we’re apt to begin acting the same. This is a very simple concept yet we continually try to circumvent this system. It’s our choice, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the out come. Someone once said, show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. Recently I’ve also heard show me your Google browsing history and I’ll show you your character. Lastly, show me your check book and I’ll show you where your heart lies. While that last one may be a tad outdated they all point to the same place …….. 1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
A few years back while working in Commercial Sales for TruGreen. I had a fairly tight knit group of guys I worked with. When one of us had a particularly good sales week and/or month it was generally brought up by our VP of Sales. The others would then “dog pile” on the acclaimed Sales Manager. One of our favorite jabs was the phrase, “look at me”. As in, “look at me, I’m the sales king”, parading around so that everyone knows it. It was all in good fun but it brings up the subject of our motivation for doing what we do. Is it nice to be recognized for doing a good job? You betcha! But if your only motivation is being recognized, you’re probably not going to be content on a regular basis.
Such was the subject of Paul’s discussion on speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. It seems that the Corinthians loved to hear them selves babble on with seemingly no other purpose than being recognized for having this spiritual gift. Paul clearly states that such a gift should be revered and used in public worship when appropriate but generally speaking, this is something reserved for time alone with God. Here he points out much the same thing Jesus did with the Pharisees in Matthew 23, “if you’re doing this for show, you might as well not be doing it.”
So how does this relate to us? In terms of your time with God are you earnest in your worship or is God your safety net when all else fails? Are you attending church to be seen or are you truly seeking a lasting relationship with God? Our only motivation, our greatest hope in our time with God should be that when people do, “look at me”, they see and want to know Him.
1 Corinthians 14:19 – Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.