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“Occupy Church”

Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching

Can you remember a time when you were away from home? It could have been on a vacation or business trip. When you leave you’re excited about what lies ahead but as the days pass you begin to long for home and all that it means. Home is where we are grounded and in essence who we are. Home is comfort, home is belonging, home is discipline, home is learning, home is unconditional love and so much more, in fact, without a home we’re pretty much lost.  Of course there is a point when, if we’re gone too long, we begin to forget about some of those things that makes home so special. You’re not sure why, but you begin to feel empty inside, like a part of you is missing.

The same can be said for our Christian walk and in particular, Going to CHURCH. Just as we lose a part of ourselves when we’re not at home, we can’t be the same Christians when we’re not in church. Church is a way of regenerating ourselves after a long week of dealing with the world. Corporate worship is important. I know many people who believe they don’t have to go to church to believe. They’re right, but are you going to be the same student if you don’t attend school? I doubt it. I’ve heard lots of explanations as to why people don’t go to church and by and large it’s tied back to RELIGION, not church or God. If you’re one of those, find a Bible based church that brings the good news of the Gospel every week without a lot of ceremony, just good old Bible based sermons (the good & bad) and great worship music!

When we neglect the benefits of going to church then our relationship with God will soon become the victim. We are stronger in our faith when we share and experience it with others. When we bond with other believers we’re more likely to follow God on a daily basis, especially in dark times. In short, we grow in our relationship with God through experiencing worship with our fellow man. Rejoice in knowing that church is home, with a family ready to support you through your highest highs and the lowest lows.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

How strong is your Faith?

Mathew 9:22 – Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

I’ve just started a new job (actually pretty much the same job just a different location) anyway during my move I came across a couple of rulers I must have picked up at a trade show. I set them aside for a while and then picked them trying to decide if I needed them. They were made of a very flexible plastic and I could almost bend one in half without breaking it. I then turned one and tried to bend it side to side. Now, I was dealing with much more resistance and it obviously wouldn’t bend at all. It was the same object but one “viewpoint“, was much stronger than the other. The thinner objective was much easier to bend and probably would have broken, if that was my purpose. The other being thicker across the surface did not bend at all.

Our faith works in much the same way. If we put on our “Christian hat” once a week and that’s it, our faith will be much easier to bend and eventually break. However, if we live our lives for Christ on a daily basis our faith is much stronger and hopefully unwavering.

In the verse above this woman, was sick for12 years, yet her faith in Jesus was so strong that she knew that just by touching His garment she would be healed. His promise throughout the Bible and to us is to reward those who have such faith. It is important to note that this faith must be based on our acceptance of his plan and not our own selfish needs. When we are able to do this our faith increases immeasurably.

1 John 5:14 – And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

The Hope of Christmas: from Prophecy to Promise

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Christmas is such a great time of year. We all look forward to the season and spending time with family and friends. For many it also marks the birth of Jesus and the beginning of a life that changed everything. The Bible holds hundreds of prophecies telling of the coming of Jesus. The verse above was written about 700 years prior to Jesus’ birth. Think about that for a second . . . the book of Isaiah gives us more prophecies about the coming of Jesus and his purpose; Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)- But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. There are countless other Biblical Prophecies that have occurred. Fulfilled prophecy is strong evidence that God is the author of the Bible, because when you look at the mathematical odds of prophecy being fulfilled, you quickly see a design, a purpose, and a guiding hand behind the Bible. We rejoice in such evidence that the Word of God is alive, but as Believers “we walk by faith, not by sight”; 2 Corinthians 5:7.

The Bible also gives us many promises. Promises that give us hope when we are stricken. Promises that assure us that this is not our true home. Promises that tell us that we are loved by a truly awesome God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”; John 3:16.

When we read about the birth of Jesus and refer back to the prophecy of Isaiah, how can we look at the many promises of the Bible and not be encouraged. How can we doubt His plan for those who believe . . . and unfortunately for those who don’t? In the days ahead, the best gift you can give someone is the Truth of the Bible and the Creator of all things!

Luke 2:14 (KJV) – Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Greater Love

John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

I recently attended a concert and was blessed to receive a special gift from a man who sat nearby. As we were seated awaiting the concert to begin this man and his daughter sat next to us, more specifically, my wife. I mentioned to her that I really liked his “skull cap”, which had a cross embroidered on the back of it. While I was distracted my wife asked him where he bought it as she wanted to get me one for Christmas. He explained that he had the cap for quite some time and it had been with him for 5 tours of duty in the Mid-East. He then took it off got my attention and gave it to me. This was not just some run of the mill cap, it was something he held dear, as it served as a constant reminder of who his real protector was.

It’s no secret that our military sacrifice a lot to help preserve our freedom, sometimes with their lives. In the verse above Jesus points this out, but like most of his statements, it reaches even further. We don’t like to admit it but much of the time our love is conditional. It might not be a “conscious condition” but nevertheless, it is there.” If we love someone we want them to love us back. If we do something for someone, we expect something in return. We’re pre-programmed to think and feel, “what’s in it for me.

If we are to truly follow Jesus we have to think differently. We need to recondition ourselves, to lose ourselves. If we were to die in service of another we could not receive any reciprocation for that act. Jesus wants us to take that attitude into the world and demonstrate His love to others. To serve and sacrifice out of the love that Jesus demonstrated to us throughout his life.

I’ll treasure this cap and the meaning it had for my new friend Brian but also for the selfless gesture he made by giving it to a total stranger. For such a seemingly small act of kindness it’s a lesson for us all on a much grander scale.

1 John 4:11 – Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another

Brian wearing the "cap" in service of our country

God is Able

2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Last night I attended a Hillsong concert. Their newest song is called God is Able, that title says so much. Today I looked up some verses and the above verse from 2 Corinthians not only spoke to me from the stand point that God is Able, but this verse really encompasses one of the endearing parts of the Christmas season, Giving.

I often refer to the commentaries of David Guzik to gain insight on a particular verse. His commentary on this verse is so well put that I am going to bow out here and let him expound on God’s Word.

As we give, we must be persuaded that God is able to reward our giving. Just as God is able to make the sowing of seed abound to a great harvest, so God is able to bless our giving.

Jesus taught that even the smallest gift, if given with the right heart, would not go unrewarded. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)

In rewarding our giving, God does it with all grace. Our giving is rewarded in many different ways, materially and spiritually. Materially, God may bless our giving by promotions with better pay, unexpected gifts of money, or by making things last so we don’t suffer the cost of replacing them. Spiritually, God may bless our giving by freeing our hearts from the tyranny of greed and materialism, or by giving us a sense of blessing and happiness, or by storing up rich reward in heaven. There is no end to the ways we can be blessed when God is able to make all grace abound toward us.

Always having all sufficiency in all things: The word for sufficiency (autarkeia) may also be translated contentment. This is how the same word is used in 1 Timothy 6:6: Now godliness with contentment is great gain. God gives a special gift to the giving heart: always . . . all contentment in all things. That is a lot of all!

Materially speaking, how can someone always have all contentment in all things? By receiving this contentment God blesses the giving heart with.

It’s easy for many Christians to say they have this contentment; but whether they have it or not is often more truthfully known by their spending and shopping habits. How much of a place does shopping and buying have in your life? How does material loss affect your happiness? How happy do you get from having some material thing?

When we live and act without contentment, we are trying to fill needs in our lives. It might be the need to be “somebody,” the need to feel secure or cared for, or the need to have excitement and newness in our lives. Most people try to fulfill these needs with material things, but they can only really be met by a spiritual relationship with the God who made us.

Barclay says of this word autarkeia: “By it they meant a complete self-sufficiency. They meant a frame of mind which was completely independent of all outward things, and which carried the secret of happiness within itself. Contentment never comes from the possession of external things.” “The apostle useth many ‘alls’ on purpose to cross and confute our covetousness, who are apt to think we have never enough.” (Trapp)

With this contentment, we can be the richest people in the world. A man might have the wealth of the richest man in the world, yet lack contentment. But if we have this contentment, it really does make us better off than the wealthiest people who don’t have it.

May have an abundance for every good work: God blesses us, materially and spiritually, so that we will have an abundance for every good work. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. God wants us to be channels of blessing, not reservoirs of blessing.

No Greater Privilege

Psalm 127:3 – Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Children, “our kids”,  . . . I’ll go out on a limb and state that nothing changes a person’s life more than becoming a parent. They bring us such joy and sometimes a little sorrow. I’m blessed to have a wonderful son. I have raised him as best I can but like his dad he’s not perfect. Lately the news has been filled with stories of abused children. I can’t for the life of me try to figure out what would make a person take advantage of a child. I don’t understand why a parent would choose a life of drugs over their children. I can’t process the fact that many mothers & fathers discard their relationship with their children when the relationship with the spouse fails. I would just as soon cut off an arm. The above examples are fairly common in our society and I assume that is why we hear so much about them. What are we to do?

The Bible is very clear about how we should regard and raise our children. Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. The responsibility of raising children is huge, but make no mistake, it is a privilege that should be revered. By and large most children don’t face the abuse mentioned above but they are subjected to other “abuses” that may not seem as such.

Here are a few questions to think about:

  • Are you spending so much time at work that you rarely see your children?
  • Are you getting so wrapped up in your own “commitments” that you miss a soccer game?
  • Are you watching TV in lieu of playing a game with your child?
  • Are you allowing your children uncensored view of TV or the internet?
  • Are thier role models “hollywood types” or godly men and women?
  • Do you know their friends?
  • Are you leading them to Christ on a daily basis?

It’s easy for parents to become complacent about the responsibility of raising children, we all fall victim to it. In light of recent events we need to take a look at the value that God has placed on them and their upbringing. Serve the Lord by honoring the importance of being an ACTIVE parent on a DAILY basis. There is no greater privilege.

Mark 10:14 – But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

All in a Day’s Work . . .

John 15:4 – Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

Every day most of us wake up, go through our morning routine and then head off to our appointed duties. If we could examine this process without going into details, I think by and large it would be the same for all of us. Moving on, as you head out the door there is probably some sort of plan for your day. We have meetings to attend, customers to serve, errands to run and goals to accomplish. Our world has geared us to revel in conquering our tasks and acquiring more stuff.  

The problem here is that when we focus on these self fulfilling tasks we begin to internalize everything we do. “This is for me. I have to go here so I can get this and do that, etc.” If we are to “bear fruit”, we can’t do it while concentrating on our own pursuits. Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  

Can you imagine what our world would be like if we focused as much on helping others and encouraging those around us as we did on our own self interests? In Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Scrooge is speaking to Marley’s Ghost, telling him that in life, he was a “Good Man of Business”. Marley, enlightened and already knowing of his misgivings replies, “Mankind was my Business!” When we get caught up in accomplishing our worldly goals it becomes easy to forget why we are really here.

If you are in the habit of planning your day, start it by scheduling time to help someone out. Try reading some scripture to remind you of your true purpose in life. Put others needs before your own and you will be rewarded far beyond earthly gains.

Romans 12:10 – Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Balancing Act

Psalms 119:133 – Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

I visit the YMCA a few times a week to jump on the Elliptical in an effort to keep this aging body in some working order. It’s somewhat of a “Hamster treadmill” in that you’re pretty locked in to what you’re doing but it’s a pretty stable machine. However, if you take your hands off the machine and “run in place” you must balance yourself while “running”. This is not real hard to do, but close your eyes and wow! you’d think you were on a completely different machine. Actually, just close your eyes while you’re walking and see how fast things change for you. I’m guessing you’ll lose your balance pretty quick. Once we lose our sight our balance is all out of whack. It takes a lot of adjusting to learn to balance again without our sight.

The same can be said for our lives. With all that we have going on it’s very easy to get out of balance. In fact, we often use that exact term to describe our lives. When things are going crazy how do you regain your balance? Where is your center and what do you turn to that takes you to that place of peace in your life? Is it a bottle? Is it something as harmless as TV? Do you escape with a book? When we are burning “both ends” it’s so easy to try and escape with something that is probably not the best thing for us, but feels good right then and there.

The true center of our lives should be God and His Word. When we speak with God on a daily basis we’re able to deal with the little things that can throw us into a tizzy. When we center our lives on Him, all things seem to stay in balance just a little bit more. His Word centers us on what’s really important. When life wants you to perform a balancing act, center yourself with the Lord!    

Psalms 32:8 – I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Perpetual Mission

Mathew 25:40 – And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Have you ever gone on a Mission Trip or participated in a large project that helped the less fortunate? Experiences like this are so rewarding for all concerned. I think we all have a great feeling of accomplishment when we can be a part of something like this. It’s usually a big production and we plan for weeks and for that relatively short period of time we have the heart of a servant like we never have had in the past. Soon we return home or the project is over and we go back to living our lives and literally passing up missionary chances on a daily basis.

In the scripture above Jesus is summarizing all the things we could do for others in His service. The planned Mission Trips and Community Service Projects are a great way to do this but when you think about it there are countless small things we can do on a daily basis to reach those around us. Something as seemingly insignificant as taking a grocery cart from someone in a parking lot to save them a trip or asking a neighbor if they need anything from the store could make a world of difference in a person’s day maybe even in their life.

I guess I’m just thinking out loud here, but have performing “random acts of kindness” become cliché’? so instead we just go about our day and live for what we want/need without even looking around us for what our brother or sister may need? We all feel better when we serve others. . . . God planned it that way. So why not make it a point to do this at least once a day? Start your Perpetual Mission and reach out to someone you know or even a complete stranger. You may be the only Jesus they have ever known.

Colossians 3:24 – knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Got Super Powers?

Colossians 1:11 – May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

I’m a pretty big fan of Superheroes. One of the things that draws us to these characters are their powers. Some Superheroes possess supernatural powers, via being born in another world or through some mutated human trait. However there are a few that get their power elsewhere. One such Hero is the Green Lantern. He gains his power through a ring given to him by an alien. This ring can only hold so much power and has to be recharged on a regular basis in order for The Green Lantern to be more than a mere mortal.

The same can be said for Christians. We receive our strength from God, through our relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. We do this by reading our Bibles, going to church, participating in study groups and so on. If we do these things on a regular basis then His presence in our life will be much stronger and we will be able to fight the battles we face much easier. His strength is there to help us meet ALL of life’s challenges. Psalms 28:8 – The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. If we neglect to “power up” then we will be a much easier target for the enemy. Without the Power of God on our side, the temptations we face are harder to resist . So if you find yourself in a place where the enemy is getting the best of you, call on the one who can give you the power to overcome anything that may come your way!   

1Timothy 1:12 – I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,