As I look back several years to my early days as a young minister, I’m forced to accept a harsh truth. That truth, that is so difficult to acknowledge and accept, is that as young minister there were times when I did more harm than good. As a rookie minister I didn’t understand that there are times when it’s best not to say anything. I believed then that whatever season in life a church member was in always called for wise words from their preacher, me. The problem with that is that my words weren’t always wise, needed or expected. I’m sure that I did more harm than good at those times. Fortunately, I’ve learned over the years that there are times when there are no adequate words.
I remember as a young preacher being so excited and fired up about preaching and teaching that I often didn’t consider how my words would affect my audience. I knew that my teaching was Biblical, so why would it matter how it was received by the audience. At least that’s what I thought back then. I’ve since learned that without an audience I will not be preaching and teaching. Have I become soft in my older years? Am my advocating watering down the truth of Scripture for the sake of pleasing the audience? You know, the itching ears scenario (II Tim.4:3).
I will tell you emphatically and plainly, NO! No, I haven’t become soft in my preaching. God has matured me and given me wisdom through many experiences over the years. No, I’m absolutely not for watering down the truth of God’s Word. Instead, I’m for preaching the truth of God’s Word in love. It matters how you say it, because if you come across as judgmental and critical you’ll lose your audience. Then what? It doesn’t matter that you are teaching the truth of God’s Word if you don’t have an audience.
We preach and teach God’s Word to move and motivate people. But, if there is no audience then how can we motivate anyone spiritually? If we turn people away from God by our words or methods of teaching the Bible, then we have done more harm than good. I encourage us all to know the Scriptures, know our audience and know how to teach the truth of God’s Word in love. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”(Col.4:6).
“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all”(Eph.1:22-23). “And he is the head of the body, the church”(Col.1:18). The church is the spiritual body of Christ. The church is made up of those who have been baptized into Christ. The church is the people, you and me, and all who are in Christ. The church is not about bricks and mortar, it’s not the building. The church is the saved who meet in that building to worship our Lord.
I share this to drive home this truth; the church is not something we do, it’s who we are. Society has almost conditioned us to believe that church is simply another weekend activity no different than a ball game or dance competition. Do Christians today view church as something we do, and only that, when we’re in town and nothing else is going on? Brothers and sisters, we are the church. Being the church means we are a called out and different people who are to live every day for our Lord Jesus. Having this understanding about the church should challenge us to live out our faith every day. When we see ourselves as the church, the church becomes more than a calendar item and more impactful on the lives of others.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”(Col.1:13-14).
Much has been said about following Jesus, and honestly, there is no other topic worthy of so much attention. The topic of following Jesus does bring discussion, speculation and even disagreements. I totally understand the discussion because following Jesus is the single most important decision one will ever make. The speculation and disagreements that at times follow this topic are a little more confusing to me. It seems to me that Jesus is very clear about what it takes to follow Him. “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:25-26).
As harsh as His words may seem to be, Jesus is not really asking His followers to hate their family members. Jesus simply desires that we love Him more. Jesus deserves and so desires to be our number one. He wants to be our top priority in life, even above our family members and ourselves. All of this requires from the Jesus follower a sold-out commitment. Following Jesus goes far deeper than twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday evening. Following Jesus calls for you and I to be committed to Him all day every day for the rest of our lives.
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk.9:23).
I’m sure you’re familiar with the cliché, “remember to smell the roses”. I guess it could mean different things to different people, but to me, it’s about taking the time to enjoy life. We must also remember to notice the people. What people? Everyone, from our church family to those we work with and anyone else we come in contact with. We lead such busy and at times hectic lives that we don’t even notice those around us.
One of the things that stands out to me about Jesus is that He always noticed the people around Him. Jesus was busy. There were seemingly always crowds around Jesus with demands for His time. No matter how busy Jesus was, He noticed the people. Not only did Jesus notice the people, He also gave time to them. Jesus was leaving Jericho when He gave His time to healing blind Bartimaeus (Mk.10:46-52). It seems the disciples would try to protect Jesus’ time but Jesus would overrule them by noticing and giving time to the one crying out to Him.
Jesus always noticed the people. As busy as we become in this life, let us realize the importance of people and remember to notice the people around us. It may be a simple smile at a stranger or a “how are you today”. May we be more like Jesus and be more mindful of those around us on a daily basis. Acknowledge them, be kind to them, pray for them and most of all and where it all begins, notice them.
“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven”(Mt.19:14).
It seems we always want five more minutes. As a kid playing outside, all I wanted was five more minutes to play when mom and dad called me inside for the night. When that alarm sounds bright and early in the morning isn’t five more minutes of sleep that you desire the most? When our vacation comes to an end, five more minutes would be nice. When the life of our loved seems to be slipping away, we’d love nothing more than five more minutes with them. There are times when five more minutes are available, but there are also times when we don’t have another five minutes.
I’m sure the rich man would have loved five more minutes in this life in hopes of changing his eternal destination. “The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish”(Lk.16:22-25). The reality for the rich man is his time was up and he didn’t spend his time on this earth preparing for eternity. He didn’t have five more minutes.
We have no idea when we will breathe our last or when Jesus will return. But, one thing we can count on in either scenario is that we will not have five more minutes. Let’s live our lives in such a way that when our end comes we will not feel the need for five more minutes to right wrongs or repent before the Lord. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”(Jas.4:14).
The greatest job I’ve ever had and the most difficult job I’ve ever had is being a dad. I’ve enjoyed every minute of being a dad. From crawling, talking and walking to baseballs, baby dolls and basketballs, I’ve loved every bit of being a dad. Being a dad has rewarded me with so many unforgettable memories and taught me so many things. I’ve learned all about unconditional love. There is nothing my kids could ever do that would cause me to stop loving them. I’ve learned about forgiveness, as I’ve had to ask for it and to give it at times.
As a dad I’ve learned so much about prayer, probably because I’ve spent so much time praying since becoming a dad. I pray every day for my kid’s spiritual walk, their friends and their future spouses. I pray every day for me as a dad. Being a dad is hard and I desperately need my Heavenly Father’s wisdom and help. I’ve prayed for years and still do, that God would help me to lead my kids to Him. If I fail at everything I do in life, I don’t want to fail in helping my kids get to heaven. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, may we learn that our greatest responsibility as dads is to make sure our kids know Jesus.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”(Eph.6:4).
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”(Col.3:17). I don’t think it’s a secret that we all do things on a daily basis that we don’t enjoy. From paying bills, doing laundry and yard work to various tasks at your job that aren’t your favorite. Reality is doing things we don’t like doing is just a part of life. One thing that I believe can make a difference in everything we do is our attitude. The attitude we have toward the task affects how well we do it. A bad attitude about the chore you’re doing can reflect negatively on the finished product.
So, how do you and I make sure that we always have the right attitude toward the job to be done? Paul answers that question for us in the above cited verse. The key is, no matter the task, do it as if you were doing it for the Lord. I think if we’d face the worst of our chores as if we’re doing them for the Lord, that will change our attitude and possibly our performance. When I think about doing something for the Lord, I want to work my hardest and give my very best. Whatever task you are faced with from now on, do it as if you are doing it for the Lord.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”(Col.3:23).
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”(Col.3:1-2). Paul is encouraging Christians to focus on the things that can’t be seen. In other words, focus on the spiritual things. When you’re at work you have to maintain your focus on the task so that you can do your job effectively. The student must focus on the teacher’s instructions to be prepared for the assignment. As Christians we too must have the right focus if we expect to be pleasing and faithful to God.
We live in such a fast paced world with so many distractions and temptations that challenge our focus at times. The ways of this world today can make it a real challenge to be a Christian because there are so many things contrary to God’s will that are accepted. We don’t have to be like this world but we do have to live in this world, at least for a while. So your focus as a Christian can either make you or break you. When your heart and mind are focused on the unseen spiritual things, you will do what leads to spiritual growth. But, when you focus on the things of this world your spirituality will take a hit and you’ll practice things that will ultimately hurt your relationship with God. The Christian’s focus matters and the right focus helps us in our walk with God.
There are times in life when we need an extra measure of strength to make it. When tragedy strikes and we’re forced to endure the seemingly unendurable, we need strength from the Lord to get through it. We all go through difficult times in this life and I’m sure that most of us have prayed that familiar prayer, “Lord, give me the strength to make it.” We should pray that prayer, because God is able to strengthen us to endure what comes our way. David was no different as he found himself in need of strength from the Lord to endure a difficult situation.
“David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters”(I Sam.30:5-6). The Amalekites “had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great”(I Sam.30:1-2). Can you imagine how David must have felt? This was a husband and father’s worst nightmare and David was overcome with grief. “Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept unitl they had no more strength to weep”(I Sam.30:4).
What would you do? How would you handle such a tragic situation? David grieved which is natural, but he handled the situation the best way possible. “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”(I Sam.30:6b). Whatever prayer he prayed or Scripture he read, we know for sure that David looked to God for strength to handle the situation. David trusted God and relied on Him to give him the strength he needed. There’s no doubt that difficult times will come, so let us all be like David and look to God for strength to endure.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”(I Samuel 16:7) These words were spoken by the Lord to Samuel before David was anointed King. I don’t think truer words have been spoken. We men and women do look at the outward appearance of others. We tend to notice physical looks, flaws and imperfections. How amazing it is that God overlooks the physical appearance to focus in on the heart.
What if you and I looked at the heart of an individual instead of their appearance? If we looked at the heart it would change many views and attitudes. Our world is sending the message that you have to look a certain way and be a certain size. It’s no wonder so many today struggle with low self-esteem. They are made to feel inferior because of their appearance. God is far more interested in the heart of a person than their looks, clothes, neighborhood and car. My prayer is that we can all look through spiritual eyes straight to the heart of others and past the temporary external appearance that this world holds so dear.