The Struggle to Love

As I turn from my sins and turn closer to God, I see just how evil I truly am. I slowly see the darkness of my own heart and how much I suck at what once seemed simple.

Like love.

I don’t mean the love I show for God or even my wife and daughter.

It is my love for my fellow man and those I spend my time with.

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Where is Your Focus?

preachchrist

Recently, while doing devotions with my wife, we came across a conversation that takes place between the main character and the Teacher in C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”.

The Teacher tells the main character, “‘There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.'”

And I have to ask, when we preach the Gospel, where is our focus?

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Does the Bible Matter Today?

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” – 2 Timothy 3:16

As we are all well aware, the whole Kim Davis situation has gotten out of control. It’s gotten so bad, that people are, once again, bringing up verses and laws from the Old Testament and wondering if all the laws in Old Testament or in the Bible as a whole should be followed as rigorously as the law against homosexuality. Laws such as slavery and death to those who dishonor their parents or break the Sabbath or other such laws are all being brought into the light and people are wondering if our country should follow them as well, since Christians are apparently forcing people to abide by the law against homosexuality.

As a result, this throws a very important question out there in this disciple’s mind: does the Bible matter today?

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Why Disciple?

Recently, I was asked to define discipleship today. In other words, what does it look like today to be a disciple of Jesus?

And, in answering that question, I’m forced to answer the overarching yet underlying question: of all the terms to use, why use the word “disciple”?

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What Does God Require of You?

“No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you…” – Micah 6:8

How often have you asked yourself that question: what does God require of me?

More often than not, it’s stated: what is God’s purpose for my life?

We’ve all done the surveys, taken the aptitude tests, done the spiritual gift assessment.

We’ve read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and found out what our calling is. Our churches have probably been through his text The Purpose Driven Church and gotten some direction about how we are to live as a church.

But quite often, we find ourselves asking: what is God’s purpose for my life? What does God require of me?

The answer is more simple than we may realize.

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Freedom of Religion

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; Adopted December 15, 1791.

Within the United States, we have the wonderful blessing of the First Amendment. As stated above, the First Amendment keeps the government from focusing specifically on one religion as the national religion, and it also allows those who practice any form of religion to do so freely, without the government hindering that practice.

It is wonderful that we live in a country where the government is so supportive of the various religious institutions that are within it’s borders.

At the same time, this is a terrible curse.

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Come As You Are…

There’s a theme that has been running through the Church for decades: come as you are.

It’s a good theme. We don’t need to be of any particular social or economic status to come to Jesus. We don’t need to have our lives all together or have our dreams figured out or our finances squared away to come worship God. And we don’t need to have fancy clothes or drive an expensive car or be middle-class, white American to be a Christian.

As a matter of fact, Jesus welcomes those who are the exact opposite. When criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and a whole bunch of other unwanted, messed up people, Jesus responded ‘”Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”‘ (Mark 2:17)

Jesus wants the broken, the humbled, the messed up, the rejects, the drop outs. He loves those who need help. As a matter of fact, He wants people who know they are sinners.

That being said, I think we missed something along the way. We tell the world, “Come as you are. Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done or who you are!” And, like I said, it’s very true. But we forget one very key point.

Our call to the world should be, “Come as you are and never be the same again!”

When Jesus calls someone to Him, there is the expectation of change. Those who follow Jesus must begin to abhor the sin in their lives and despise their old lifestyle. They should be making attempts to change and become a disciple of He who called them.

Paul makes this point very clear in his first letter to the church in Corinth, “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-12; NLT)

Paul tells the church that they used to be like that, but by calling on the name of Jesus, they were cleansed and made holy, made right with God.

Can we now say that about ourselves? Are we able to say that we used to do evil and terrible and horrendous things and were unworthy to inherit the Kingdom of God? Are we able to say that we are not longer like that and only because we called on the name of Jesus and followed Him?

Being a Christian is about more than going to church and helping people. It is surrendering everything to Him and allowing Him to change our lives.

Come as you are, and never be the same again.

“So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17; NLT

This is what the Sovereign LORD says.

The Locked Door

During my daily reading, I came across an interesting passage in the book of Luke. I’m sure I’ve read this quite a few times, but this time it really hit me and made me think.

Here’s how this goes: It is coming closer to Passover and the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and He is making His way to Jerusalem, teaching along the way what the Kingdom of God is like. Someone in the crowd asks Jesus if only a few will be saved. Jesus’ response should cause every Christian to evaluate their lives in Him.

He says, “‘Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life-to God!-is vigorous and requires your total attention. A lot of you are going to assume that you’ll sit down to God’s salvation banquet just because you’ve been hanging around the neighborhood all your lives. Well, one day you’re going to be banging on the door, wanting to get in, but you’ll find the door locked and the Master saying, “Sorry, you’re not on my guest list.”

You’ll protest, “But we’ve known you all our lives!” only to be interrupted with this abrupt, “Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don’t know the first thing about me.”‘” (Luke 13:22-27; The Message)

I find so many people, largely in the American and European churches, who say they know Jesus and they are a Christian, but they don’t know the first thing about Jesus. They don’t take the time to get to know Him, to commune with Him, and follow His teachings. Honestly, you can’t be called a disciple of Christ if you aren’t willing to do what He says and follow His teachings. I fear that so many people are going to be just like Jesus says: sitting in church every week, going to Bible studies and worship services and not truly knowing Jesus and they will be left out of the whole party.

Part of me is so afraid of failing. So afraid of letting God, my Master, my Teacher, down. That’s what keeps me going. At times I feel like Paul, who said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27; The Message)

We should all be like that, willing to give all it takes to follow Jesus, no matter what, running as hard as we can, teaching others about Jesus.

So, put your mind on God. Following Jesus isn’t as easy as we make it out to be. It requires your full attention and all your energy.

Are you willing?