They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. We’re innately clever beings. Look at the marvelous things we have created. Most inventions go through a trial and error process. The inventor works diligently, changing this or that, until it is refined and perfected to work as intended. So the question here is, if we are so clever, why do we not learn from others or our own behavioral mistakes? From the child who continues to get punished for not cleaning their room to the adult who’s just been arrested for their 3rd DWI, we seem to have issues perfecting us.
Well the problem is us. We’re not perfect beings and many times our flesh is the motor that drives the “us” engine. Thus, regardless of previous experience, as Paul so eloquently stated in Romans 7, we continue to do the things we know aren’t good for our well being. He addresses this issue with the Corinthian church by pointing out the numerous instances when the people of Israel disobeyed God. I’ll paraphrase again, hey guys, remember what happened to the Israelites in the desert when they made that idol? We should probably make a mental note of that. God knows our weakness and forgives us through blood of Jesus but we would be wise not to take license with it. He provides a way out through these examples. If God’s chosen people could not get away with it why would we think we could? That my friend would be considered insanity …….
1 Corinthians 10:11 – Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Just last week I read an article that someone had posted on Facebook claiming that Hillsong Church was a cult. The author attempted to dismantle every aspect of this church including the immensely successful music ministry.
Before I get too far here, this is not a defense of Hillsong. I’ll let the hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, who have come to know Christ through them, make that case. I know much of what Hillsong does would be considered unconventional to many Religions especially strict legalists, is that a double negative? Does that make them a cult? Frankly there is a lot of debate going on in “the church” about some of the more contemporary methods being used to reach people. Fortunately, we have precedent to guide us here. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul goes through the many methods he used to reach people for Christ. He basically says he’ll be whoever he has to be for the sake of the Gospel. This in no way gives anyone, including Paul, editorial authority. He made that clear in 1 Corinthians1:22-23. Doctrine must remain intact but the method in which it can be delivered, can and should fit its audience. In closing, Paul states, if the end truly justifies the means then that is what I will do. Paul sought to win people to Jesus Christ by being sensitive to their needs and identifying with them, sounds a little like Jesus, doesn’t it? We should try to reach people where they are today. As they learn and grow closer to Jesus, God willing, the changes will come. I know without the former, we’ll never have the latter. 1 Corinthians 9:22b – I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
Out of all the great versus and teachings in Proverbs this one should resonate for all of us. Think back to when you were a child and you were trying to talk your parents into to letting you do something they were against. As kids, our negotiating skills left a little bit to be desired, so our best argument was, “Johnny’s parents said it was ok for him to go” and they answered with the classic line, “if Johnny parents said it was ok for him to jump off a cliff would you?” You knew that was coming, right? . . . The truth is that they were only looking out for what they thought was best for us. I
would say most of the time they were right on the money.
As we mature we become responsible for our own decisions via the free will we are granted by God and the Great County in which we live. The “them” Solomon speaks of in Pro 1:15 refers to “Sinners.” They say a man’s character is judged by the company he keeps. I think our character is greatly affected by the company we keep. If you hang out with people who use drugs there’s a good chance that one day you’ll do the same. If you associate at work with those whose ethics are not pure, then soon enough, you’ll be heading down that same path. It’s really that simple to head down that wrong path, unless, you choose the “road less traveled”. “Going along with the group” is an issue we all have faced since we were kids. It was not easy back then to say, “No, that’s not something I want to do”, and it is not any easier today, but this is exactly what Solomon urges us to do.
Do the decisions you make on a regular basis lead you to the peace that only righteousness can offer or are your decisions affected by what others might say or think?, and possibly leading you down a dark path! Pro 1:15 – my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths;
Below are quotes from 4 different men of varied backgrounds. However, they all seem to understand that service to others is the “secret” to true happiness.
No time is better spent than that spent in the service of your fellow man.
-Bryant H. McGill-
Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
The best way to find your self is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one’s self. We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart that goes out of itself, gets large and full of joy. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.
Now think about this . . . . How do you get your happiness “fix”? Do you go buy “stuff”? Do you go to the hottest places to be seen? Are you wrapped up in your business’ success and how much money you’ll make this year? If you’re doing this or that and at the end of the day you’re laying in bed thinking there has to be more . . . well there certainly is.
Think about the last time you helped someone without being asked, your basic “random act of kindness”. It could be a simple gesture like taking a grocery cart in for someone or volunteering at a shelter. That feeling of helping another is unmatched and the good news is that it’s not by happenstance. God created us to help one another, so why wouldn’t he make the feeling we get when we’re helping others, one of the best experiences we’ll ever have. Sure, closing a big deal at work may give you a fleeting feeling of elation but not the comforting feeling that we get when we know that we’ve made a difference in someone’s life. The more you serve the better it gets and the more you’ll want to serve. Then
perhaps someone else will see your actions and they’ll want to serve and so on and so on. Lastly, if we don’t lead by example then how will others, especially our children, learn that service is the most admirable of deeds. Giving of your time and resources to those who truly need help is a reward unto itself. 1 Peter 5:2 – Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;
Hope, . . . . In the last year we’ve heard a lot about Hope. For a such a small word it can mean so many things to so many people. For a child at Christmas he “hopes” for a certain present. For the girl on her first date, she “hopes” that he is ”the one”. For that first time Marathon runner, they “hope” that they can make it to the finish line. For the family struggling to makes ends meet they, “hope” they can pay their mortgage.
For those who believe in Christ and that today marks his Resurrection, it is this very event that gives us “eternal hope”. Hope that when we screw up, we’ll get it right tomorrow. When I strayed from living right and partied my 20’s away my mother always had hope that God was watching over me and that one day I would figure “it” out. Her hope was that God would bring me back to her and the rest of my family and closer to him. When I did not have hope myself, she had hope for me, Why? because her hope was of Jesus and the wonderful things he can do in someone’s life. This hope is not anxiety laden, it is a hope wrapped in peace and faith that God has a plan and whatever the outcome, it is for the greater good. I can now tell you without an instance of hesitation that because of my mother’s hope & prayers, he was
with me every second. In those days, I put myself in quite a few bad spots and came out of every single one unscathed. God had a plan for me then and I’m doing my best to make use of it now. I also know that a life with Christ is not without its problems. It’s these “blessings” that make us better people, especially when we put our hope and faith in the one who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Today let’s pray for those who know and feel “hopelessness” as it is the saddest state that one can be in. Jesus overcame the world, most of the time all WE have to do is overcome ourselves. Have hope in the eternal gift that Jesus offers and tomorrow you can resurrect your life.
John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In my opinion, the above scripture is the greatest example of forgiveness that we have. Here, Jesus is dying on the cross, not only for you and me but also for the very people that are crucifying him. From the time he was betrayed in the Garden by Judas, through his “trial” by the Pharisees, punishment and crucifixion at the hands of Pilate and his Guards, he was insulted, spat on, cursed at and beaten in every way imaginable. Still, while hanging from the cross and fighting for every breath he took, he asked God to forgive these people. If we look further, these were not the desperate words of a dying man. Jesus spoke of this before in Luke 6:27-30, where he tells to us to do good to those who hate you and bless those who curse us.
Oh yeah, you may think it’s easy for Jesus to say this and do that but we are just mere humans. If you think about it how many times have you benefited from holding a grudge? What satisfaction, moreover peace, do you get from cursing at someone who cut you off in traffic? If we’re honest with ourselves there are very few things that happen to us that we haven’t done to others, that is also why Jesus said in John 8:7 – If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone . . .”, let that one sink in for a minute . . . it convicts me every time!
Back to that person who cut you off in Traffic . . . . What if they had a sick child in the car and were just trying to get to the doctor. It would be pretty easy to forgive them then, wouldn’t it? Regardless, Jesus poured out his blood to forgive our sins, is it too much to ask us to swallow a little pride to forgive others? As my good friend Dan says . . . . “not so much”!
As we approach Resurrection Sunday (Easter) think about those around you and what they may be going through. We tend to assume the worst in people and all Jesus wants us to do is look for the best.
Luke 23:34 – Jesus said, “Father, FORGIVE them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
In the 1982 movie First Blood, Sylvester Stallone’s character is being hunted down by the local police for crimes he didn’t commit. He finds himself at the edge of a cliff with really no place to go, so in desperation he jumps off the cliff hoping a tree limb will help break his fall. In any other circumstance he most certainly wouldn’t make that decision, but in situations like these people often take a radical path.
God used a time of desperation to help establish the church. Following Stephen’s death Saul led the charge to persecute all who spoke and believed in Jesus. The situation became so dire that most of the church scattered through out the land to avoid punishment and/or death. There was no plan, they just ran! In doing so Phillip ended up in Samaria where he began to speak of Jesus. In a short time, he along with those who believed, established the church in that land. A radical response to a dire situation proved to be the catalyst for spreading the message of Jesus. God had a plan!
If you’re in a season of desperation prayerfully consider the possibility that God might be leading you in a way you might not have previously entertained. There’s no question that his ways are better than ours and you can rest in the comfort that he always has our best interest at heart. A radical leap of faith might be just the answer! Acts 8:4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.
You may recognize the name Ashley Guindon. On February 27, the day after she was sworn in to serve, Guidon was gun downed on her first day in the field as a police officer for Prince William County Virginia. By all accounts she had been preparing to serve for a long time. She obviously knew the dangers of her calling but like most officers her desire to serve the people was far more compelling. Answering that call, she proudly gave her life.
Stephen being a newly appointed disciple filled with the Holy Spirit began to spread the message of Jesus. His entire life was spent preparing for this calling. He was immediately met with resistance by the Religious rulers. Upon preaching to them Stephen became the first disciple to die in the name of Jesus.
The correlation of these two stories goes beyond their premature death’s. Ashley and Stephen were both devoted to a worthy cause that carried risk, yet it never entered their mind not to do what they had been called to do.
Whatever God is calling you to do embrace it with the same passion that Ashley and Stephen did their calling. If you’re still not sure what this is, that’s ok too. Seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit and you will be shown that path. Regardless of the outcome you’ll have done right by all concerned.
Acts 7:2a And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me.
We all remember learning about the great feud between the Hebrews and the Hellenists …….. Maybe not, that’s because there was no such thing. However there did rise a misunderstanding between the two groups. If we were to compare them to modern day religion the Hebrews could be Baptist and the Hellenists possibly Presbyterian. They had subtle differences that in this case caused a petty dispute over how they were addressing the needs of widows in their church. The dispute was quickly remedied by the disciples, who with input from the group, appointed deacons to oversee such matters. Crisis averted!
Disputes and differing opinions are a part of everyday life. It’s how we deal with them that will determine not only the outcome but the relationship on the other side. A petty dispute left to steep can become much bigger than it should. Pride gets in the way and before you know it the proverbial mole hill is now a mountain of disdain and mistrust. Paul knew a little something when he wrote, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, – Ephesians 4:26
The longer we put off dealing with differences the harder it gets. Most of the time they stem from a simple mistake or misunderstanding. So it’s best to deal with it calmly, quickly and with the other persons best interest in mind. If you’re in the middle of one of these, make the first move and extend a hand of resolution, it’s the right thing to do for all concerned. Acts 6:5a – And what they said pleased the whole gathering,
The feeling we get when we accomplish something is surpassed by few others, knowing that a goal was reached through hard work and perseverance. Much of the time such endeavors are also recognized by others, maybe even by the presentation of an award.
In Acts 5 the disciples experienced recognition of a different kind. They were brought before religious rulers for speaking in the name of Jesus. Jesus prepared his disciples for events like the one described. Matthew 10:18 – and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. In this case discontent of the establishment proved to be the litmus test that they were indeed doing the right thing, even in the face of possible death. There were definitely no awards being passed out that day but the disciples knew their true reward awaited them in eternity.
Many have suffered in the name of Jesus. The name Cassie Bernal comes to mind. She was the high school girl that when asked by her assassin during the tragic Columbine shootings if she believed in God, answered, “YES”! Thankfully we won’t face a harrowing experience like this one. As Jesus prepared the disciples he also informs us that there will be a time when you will have to profess your faith in the face of persecution. The question is will you consider it an honor?
Acts 5:41 – Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.