“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”(I Cor.8:13) Paul is addressing with the church at Corinth the problem of eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. We don’t struggle with that particular issue today but the principle in how Paul handled it is very applicable for us today. Paul knew that idols were nothing and certainly were not gods so it was irrelevant if the meat had been sacrificed to idols or not. Paul knew that he could eat whatever he wanted but not every Christian had this same mature knowledge. To some Christians, it would violate their conscience to eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. So, Paul would refrain from eating meat for the sake of his brother’s conscience. Paul could’ve eaten the meat, knowing it was okay, but he knew that if he did he would cause his brother to stumble spiritually. Paul denied his own rights for the spiritual well being of his brother. Paul would go on to write: “For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”(I Cor.10:33) The lesson you and I should learn from Paul is that our brothers and sisters come first. It’s not easy to deny ourselves for the interest of others but it is Biblical and what Christians are expected to do. In fact, Jesus said that we must deny ourselves to follow him. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”(Lk.9:23)
I can only speak for me but it seems that our world is so angry. Just plain mad about everything. As I’ve followed the news in recent months I’ve learned that people are offended by everything. Every word spoken or step taken offends somebody. What gets to me the most is that the things that should offend us don’t and everything else does. I believe there are things that should offend us but I also believe that we shouldn’t be so easily offended over every little thing. I’m offended that a disgruntled former employee walks up and shoots and kills a reporter and cameraman while there doing their jobs on live television. Anymore there seems to be a senseless shooting almost daily and they all offend me. My point is that there are definitely things that should offend us, but not every little thing. The Bible says that love “is not easily angered.” (I Cor.13:5) The person who honestly practices love is not offended over every little thing. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”(James 1:19) Let’s take a stand when necessary but let’s not be offended by every little thing.
I don’t know about you but from time to time I need simple reminders. What I mean by “simple” reminders is being reminded of the simple and most important things in life. Several years ago through my office window in Arizona I could see mountains. If I was stressed or had a rough day or just couldn’t get a thought for a sermon I’d open the blinds and sit back and look at the mountains. Seeing those mountains in the distance reminded me of our creator who was in total control no matter what was going on in my world that day. That simple scenic view reminded me that my problems weren’t that big and that I had a beautiful wife and three healthy children at home. That pretty picture out the window said to me that I serve the God of the universe and He has my back. That may sound ridiculous to you but I believe there are times when we need to slow down and be reminded of what’s most important. We all have those things in life that remind us of the simple but important things in life. Maybe a quiet cool morning sitting in your deer stand reminds you of God. What about being in a boat in the middle of the lake waiting for the fish to bite? It may be that when you look into the eyes of your spouse or children that you are reminded that everything is okay and that you are very blessed. My point is in our fast paced lives there are moments when we need to slow down and remember what’s most important in this life. “Be still, and know that I am God.”(Psalm 46:10)
This is a very busy time of year, isn’t it? School has started and football season is literally just days away. The cheerleaders and dance team girls are putting in hours of practice and preparation. The band is working their instruments overtime in anticipation of the first game and performance. Teachers are getting acquainted with students and lesson plans for each day. So much excitement as we think about the coming of fall and the changing of another season and welcoming the cooler weather. With the close of summer the busy rat race of school and crazy schedules begins again. In the midst of our ever changing and time demanding schedules we still must make time for the Father. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”(Mk.1:35) I know it’s not shocking that Jesus was prayerful while he was on earth. What gets my attention most about this verse is that Jesus got up before daylight so he could spend some time with the Father. Jesus’ schedule was busy every day with multitudes of people wanting his time and attention for one reason or another. Once the world woke up Jesus knew that he wouldn’t have any quiet time with the Father so he gave up some sleep to rise early and have time with the Father. As our schedules take off and our lives move at light speed, let’s make sure we make the sacrifices necessary, so we can have time with the Father.
I like the phrase “Be The Church” because we are the church. The church is those who were called out of darkness by the gospel message. The question is what does “Be The Church” mean? I think it means a few different things but I’d like to look to Peter for his thoughts on the subject. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”(I Pet.2:9) When Peter uses descriptions like “chosen people”, “royal priesthood”, and “holy nation” he is basically informing Christians that we are different. Christians are odd and peculiar people because we are different from those of the world. The idea of being the church is embracing your role as a Christian and understanding that as a Christian you are different. Being different is who we are as Christians. By being different we influence and challenge the world. Christians “are the salt of the earth” (Mt.5:13) and “the light of the world.”(Mt.5:14) Be the church and be different and be an example by your Christian life to the world.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”(II Cor.4:18) A question I have to ask myself from time to time is am I focused on what matters. I think at times we all struggle a little with having and maintaining the right focus. If we’re honest, I think we’d all agree that sometimes our focus just isn’t where it should be. I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to focus on what I can see. The external things of this life from schedules and plans to worries and burdens often take my focus from where it should be. As challenging as it might be, we Christians must work hard every day to keep our focus on the spiritual. On Sunday when we’re all gathered praising God and studying from His Word we’re focused on the spiritual. What about the rest of the week? It’s a natural thing to focus on what we can see, but Paul encourages his readers to focus on the unseen spiritual things. It’s those unseen spiritual things that really matter because those are the things that are eternal. We give so much of our focus and attention to things that are temporary. We get so stressed out and overwhelmed by temporary things in this life when we should be focused on the unseen spiritual things that are eternal. Let’s challenge ourselves daily to focus on the spiritual things that are eternal instead of all the physical worries of this life.