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.
As a child remember hearing people preach or read from the Bible and it just never made much sense to me. It was like trying to learn Calculus, another subject my feeble brain couldn’t grasp. Speaking of school, I always enjoyed science, as it was usually interactive. Later on we even got to do labs which allowed us to see the theories we were studying played out in practical application. It’s so much easier to grasp something new when you are directly involved in the learning process, or in other words, Nothing beats on the job training!
In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul is encouraging the Corinthians in their faith. He compares and and contrasts the New Covenant in Jesus to the Law under Moses. Under the old law there was the following of laws and judgement that came from not aligning oneself properly. It was all very black and white. If you wanted to be “right with God”, there was a process for that too.
In Christ, that theory is somewhat reversed. Once we accept him into our lives, our relationship with him and other believers begins to reshape who we are. We learn through living and trusting in God’s plan. Through these experiences our faith grows, our hearts change and we are transformed. We learn this new way of life through living it, not perfectly, but through trial and error and the freedom we receive in Christ. If you’re having trouble grasping this Jesus thing, definitely read his word but be encouraged to jump into the “lab” and put the gospel of Jesus to the test in your life. In our imperfection he still shows us how we can be used to his glory! 2 Corinthians 3:6 – who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.