October 21 – Read The Fine Print

Psalm 84:1-7; Jeremiah 9:17-26; 2 Timothy 3:10-15

Have you ever read those “Terms of Service” put out by a company that you are buying something from? I mean all the way through? Or do you, like most people, click the “I’ve read it” box without even opening the TOS? Or perhaps you open it and your eyes glaze over after the first 20 or so paragraphs so you click that box and go on. Gamestation counted on that April 1, 2010. For that day only they had in their terms of service that unless you checked a specific box you would forfeit your soul to them. You wouldn’t be selling your soul to the devil, you’d be giving your soul up to buy a game. 7,500 people bought from Gamestation that day and not one person clicked that box.

People were probably so excited by the fun of the game that they didn’t want to wade through all those terms. I think that’s true with faith, too. We hear that our sins will be forgiven; we hear that God will be with us; we may hear that everything will be great since God is now in control of our lives. We don’t read all the terms, though. We overlook when Jesus tells us that if the world hated Him, it would hate us too. We don’t like truths like that. We don’t like the idea that living for Jesus will actually bring us troubles we would not have had otherwise. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13)

Did you realize that when you “signed up” to be in God’s Kingdom? I didn’t at first. When I came to Christ I knew that the fellowship with God and His people and the joy of being with Him was what I had been looking for. Some are led to follow Christ because when you follow Him, “He’ll take care of all your problems.” The truth is that if you commit to following Jesus and living for Him daily, persecution will come. It may come where the persecutions lead to death, as in many countries through the years. That doesn’t happen to most of us, though. For most of us, that persecution will come in the forms of looks or hateful things said about us, either as a general remark about Christians or directed specifically at us. It will come in the form of lost jobs or promotions when our commitment to Christ interferes with job duties. Even worse will be when it comes from within the church as people attached to the church for social reasons seek to tone down your behavior because people don’t like it when you apply your faith and act on it. So, as you think about following Christ, persecution is part of the TOS.

While we should not seek persecution, of course, we should not run from it. Our response to persecution should be the same as that of Jesus. He loved those who persecuted Him. He challenged them at times. He showed God’s love to them, around them, with them, and through them. Most of our persecution now is very light, have no doubt about it. We have not faced death. We may be ridiculed; we may lose work, but we haven’t had to endure a lot. The best way to deal with persecution is still the way of Jesus: show God’s love and grace to the persecutors. A couple of interesting things happen in persecution. First, those who are evildoers and imposters in the church drop out of the church. Church loses its social status and people who are just in it for appearances lose interest. Second, the church grows as people see our commitment to Christ and our love for others in the face of persecution. What persecutors don’t realize is that persecution will never kill the church, it only makes it stronger in the long run. Keep the faith and show the grace!

Lord, the natural thing to do when I’m persecuted is to lash back. Hold my tongue. Protect me from my attitudes. Let me show Your love and grace to any who would persecute me even mildly.

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October 21 – Telling “Them”

Psalm 84:1-7; Jeremiah 9:1-16; 2 Timothy 3:1-9

There is a story of a pastor who began to be annoyed by one of his parishioners. After every sermon, the farmer would say, “You sure told ‘em, pastor,” as he shook the pastor’s hand. After a while, the sermons became more person, more pointed towards the sins of the farmer – yet every week, it was the same response. Finally, one day it snowed so hard that the only people to make it to church were the pastor and the farmer. The pastor realized that this was his chance after they decided the services could still happen and he laid into the farmer up one side and down the other. At the end of the sermon the farmer came up to the pastor and said, “Well, they weren’t here today, but if they were, you sure would have told ‘em, pastor.”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the admonitions, warnings, and threats of judgment in the Bible are meant for “them.” I am beginning to think that’s not true. I am beginning to wonder if many of those words are meant for those who claim to be followers of Christ, but do so only for appearances. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Those verses are easy to use by pointing to “them.” When you really think about the verses, it can just as easily describe those in the church who claim to be following Christ. Oh, we in the church like to point at those outside the faith who are living “wrong,” but let’s face it: do we really expect people who don’t claim to follow God, to follow God’s laws? And, if we are being precise here, not God’s laws but our interpretations of God’s laws? We who claim to follow Christ can’t follow God’s laws, we need His grace each and every day for forgiveness and strength to live. If we can’t follow God’s laws, how can we expect a non-believer to do that. Our message to non-believers should never be “live right!” with the subtext of “and maybe God will forgive you.” Our message must always be “God loves you and I love you. Let me show you the grace of God.”

Let’s start looking at things in a new way. May I say that non-Christians do not need to “clean up their act, they need the grace of God.” If I can say that, then maybe it will affect how I deal with people who don’t know Christ yet, or have rejected Him, or a facsimile of Him, in the past and haven’t come back to Him yet. I’m not going to focus on all that they do wrong – I’m guessing they could point out a lot of wrong things I do too. I’m going to focus on the God who loves them and has loved them since the beginning of time. I’m going to focus on showing them the grace of God and the forgiveness shown in Jesus Christ. (How can I focus on forgiveness if I don’t tell them how bad they are? I think most people have enough guilt that they know they need God’s forgiveness.) At the same time, when I read passages like the passage in 2 Timothy above, I’m not going to use it as a way to get “them,” I’m going to use it to look inside myself and see how I need to let God work inside of me.

Lord God, thank you for Your grace that brought mercy and forgiveness to me. Remind me of that grace whenever “they” begin to frustrate me by their actions. Remind me that the “thems” of this world need Your grace and mercy, not my condemnation.

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October 19 – When Disaster Strikes

Psalm 57; 1 Samuel 25:36-42; Luke 22:39-46

Disaster movies have been a favorite of moviegoers for a long time. Whether they show aliens invading and seeking to destroy the earth, giant earthquakes that appear to split the world in half, tsunamis that overturn ships, bugs overrunning the world, or anything else you can imagine, movie buffs flock to them. One common theme in all of them, though, is the hero who stands out and saves the world, or at least many of those involved in the disaster. Disasters bring out the worst in people, but they can also bring out the best in them as well.

I don’t know how I would do in a real disaster. If you’re like me, you may even joke that a movie made about your life must be a disaster movie. Especially on THOSE days. You know the kinds of days I mean. Things start going wrong from the minute you wake up until the minute you try to go to sleep. Even when you lay down at night, your mind is racing from all the issues that still need to be dealt with after the day and you can’t fall asleep. It is on those days that we must cry out to God and seek His mercy. “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 57:1)

If anyone faced disasters it was David. He had been anointed king by Samuel. Instead of being able to take office right away, David had to wait on Saul. David had reverence for God and wouldn’t overthrow Saul, because God had anointed him at one time also. Saul feared David, so he attacked David and sent him into exile. From then until Saul’s death, David was on the run. It seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong; it seemed like everything that couldn’t go wrong, went wrong. He suffered abuse and insults from kings like Saul and from common people like Nabal as told in the story from the Old Testament readings the last few days. Instead of cursing his situation, though, David sought God. He sought His mercy and he sought His presence in refuge. He also had faith and hope that the disaster would pass.

A friend of mine once told me that his favorite words in the Bible were “…and it came to pass….” His point was that nothing is ever permanent. So, that disaster of a day that you’re having now? It will pass. At the same time, that amazing day when everything goes right will also pass. The persecutions of my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? That will pass. (Although to be honest, I sure would like it to pass more quickly.) We live in a sin-filled world, so we will experience troubles and disasters. While we are waiting for those troubles and disasters to pass, we must throw ourselves on the grace and mercy of our Lord. Remember how much He loves you. Remember that He continues to show us grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. In the midst of adversity, lean on Him to get you through things. Then, when the trouble is over, you will realize that you have grown stronger in your faith because you dealt with your troubles by trusting in God. Maybe they could make a disaster movie about your life. If they do, remember that each of those movies has a hero who brings redemption. God, in His mercy and grace, sent Jesus to bring redemption in the midst of our disaster.

Oh Lord, there are times when I am a walking fount of disaster. Sometimes that happens because of my mistakes, sometimes it happens because of what others do. Whatever the reasons may be, Lord, I need You to take care of me. Grant me mercy and grace to endure through the difficulties. Remind me of Your sheltering presence to protect me. Let me live victoriously through the disaster so that others might see Your glory and power.

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October 18 – Sing!

Psalm 57; 1 Samuel 25:23-35; James 5:7-12

It’s easy to get weighed down by the troubles and concerns of this world. We have an election coming up and we know every negative thing about each of the candidates. I would be guessing that based on the stories, none of the candidates’ mothers love them anymore. “Normal” murders don’t make the news anymore because we have so many other murders. Our world is in turmoil and in some parts of the world God’s people are being persecuted to the point of death. I could go on and on about the problems of this world, but it would be too depressing.

There is a way to deal with our attitudes and gain strength to face each day. We do that by focusing on God. Do we trust Him to handle things in the world, in His time? I know that He does things a lot slower than I would like to see, but I know that I can trust Him. If I can trust Him, then I need to acknowledge that and praise Him. For me, the best way to do that is in song.  “I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” (Psalm 57:9-10)

Oh sure, we all sing during the worship services at church, don’t we? Well, not everyone. Sometimes I don’t, but that only happens when I am having trouble with coughing. But I sing in my heart, or with my hands in sign language. Singing frees my soul and brings me closer to God. Singing and praising God doesn’t only happen in the good times. David wrote this Psalm as he was fleeing Saul. His response to trouble was to sing. His response to good times was to sing. Psalms is the song book of the Bible and David wrote a lot of the Psalms. I’m sure that David had a lot of things on his mind through the years: working on the sheep, keeping peace with Saul, running away from Saul to save his life, dealing with treachery and betrayal, dealing with his own sin, and countless other issues. In the midst of all this, he found time to sing these songs showing his faith and commitment to God no matter what he had done or no matter what circumstances he was going through.

One of the reasons many people don’t sing is because they don’t like the sound of their own voice. I’ve got to admit; some people emit some pretty bad sounds when they attempt to sing. But I guess that I can compare that to life. I’ve done some pretty bad things in the past. God forgave them and granted me mercy because of Jesus Christ. If He can forgive those things that I would rather not mention, I think He can forgive bad singing. In fact, I believe that God loves your bad singing. When you sing praise to God with all your heart in spite of having a voice that could sink a thousand ships, God revels in the praise. God might even expect that from those who have a beautiful voice and have the ability to share it with others. But when people sing from their heart to tell of His love when they don’t have that kind of voice, it shows far more effort and commitment to praise Him. Today, the challenge is simple: sing praises to God. Sing in your heart during the difficulties. Sing at the top of your lungs in the car when you get stopped by every red light along your path. Let your voice fill the shower as you sing praises to God. Make today a day when your songs fill the air and others notice the joy you have in Jesus.

Lord, help me to sing today. When troubles come, let my heart and my voice praise You. If good things happen, let others know that I am grateful as I praise You in song. Lord, no matter what happens today, let me sing Your praises. Make today such an amazing day of praise that I remember to sing to You and for You every day.

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October 17 – This Was Your Life

Psalm 57; 1 Samuel 25:2-22; 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

One of the first reality TV shows began as a radio production in the 1940s. This is Your Life moved to TV in the 50s and ran until 1961. In the show, participants were surprised by the host who then brought in all kinds of old friends and family members to talk about this person. The idea was to show that they had endured so far and give them hope for the future. Many of the celebrities who were featured on the show bristled at the invasion of privacy, obviously this was years before Facebook and Instagram, but it was an audience favorite for many years. People craved that positive touch.

Paul wasn’t always that positive, though. He was upset that believers were suing each other and appearing in courts before unbelievers. Again, this was obviously years before Twitter, or even the pamphlet wars of the 1700s when Christian leaders fought their battles in public. He reminded Christians that it was better to be wronged than bring disrepute on the word of God. In the discussion, he recited a long list of sins, but reminded his readers that This Was Your Life. “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:1-11)

There is a two-pronged message for followers of Christ as we look at that list of sins and we read Paul’s commentary. The first was that we have no right to boast about our current position with Jesus Christ. You’ve seen people like that, haven’t you? They talk about people who are still caught in their sin with complete disgust, forgetting that they themselves were caught up in one sin or another before they came to Jesus. For some, perhaps, they never realized the extent of their sin was because they came to Christ early in life. They don’t realize what a great difference Jesus made in their lives. There is a second message that we must remember as we see people caught up in their sin. They may appear proud of their sin, they may be held deeply by the bonds of their sin, but if the grace of God can save someone like me, He can save anyone. The people we see whom we might label as “terrible sinners” because of the depth of their depravity are not hopeless. They have the hope of God’s grace whether they realize it or not. There is no sin among those in Paul’s list of sin the places them outside the reach of God’s hope.

The most important implication of those two truths is that we are to accept our call from God to share His grace with everyone. Our attitude should not be one of superiority, for this is what we once were. We were saved by the grace of God. This should make us humble as we share. We must also remember the pull of sin on our own life. Even today, some of my old sins seek to re-appear in my life. It is still a battle to fight off the temptations even though I am years removed from being held “in sin’s dark sway.” If it’s still hard for me, remember that the people we are talking to often have never had any kind of experience with God’s love and will be more likely to reject the grace of God at first than to accept it. When that happens we have the responsibility to keep on loving that person and keep on showing them the grace of God. If their sin is not outside of God’s grace and ability to forgive, it shouldn’t be outside of our ability to forgive – especially since we once lived in the same way.

Lord, when I look back on the way that I once rebelled against You I am so grateful that You were still able to forgive me and grant me Your grace. I look at friends and relatives who are caught up in their sins and I long for the opportunity to show Your love and Your grace to them. Remind me, Father, that I have no cause for boasting in my relationship with You, for that is what I once was also.

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October 16 – Justice

Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3:14—4:5; Luke 18:1-8

One of the most revealing “commentaries” on prayer and how we who follow Christ use prayer comes from Janis Joplin. Her song “Mercedes-Benz” cuts to the quick when we think about those people who think prayer, especially persistent prayer, is a way to twist God’s views and make Him come around to what we want Him to do. In the song the “Christian” needs a Mercedes-Benz, a color TV, and a night on the town because, compared to everyone else, what she has isn’t right. It isn’t just.

Some seem to have taken that song and added to it the idea of persisting in prayer to make faith little more than a means to great financial gain. Persistence in prayer is important, but the focus of that prayer is important too. Jesus told a parable about a widow who was persistent in seeking a judge who finally wore down and gave her what she wanted. Note what it was that she wanted. “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” (Luke 18:4-5)

The widow wants justice! The judge finally gives it to her because of her persistence. The point of this parable is not that we have to browbeat God into submission so that we will get justice. The point is that God wants justice for His people. If an unjust judge will eventually do the right thing and grant justice, imagine what a loving, just God will do when His people seek justice! Do we seek justice anymore? Oh, I know we want mercy instead of justice when it comes to our sins – I don’t think that’s what Jesus is talking about. I think Jesus is talking about a society that is just, a society that is fair to all people. It’s easy to sit back when things go well for us and decide that society is just. Often we don’t see the underlying injustice when those who are poor are forgotten, or abused. We sometimes long for the “good old days” when things seemed to go right…for us. We forget the prejudice and hatred that existed towards people who are different. America was not perfect then, nor is she perfect today.

It is in this lack of perfection, this atmosphere of sin, that we live. It is in this world that Jesus called on the Jews to pray for justice. It is in this world that Jesus calls on us to pray and work for justice. When we look for injustices to work against, look for the people on the margins. Those in power, those who are wealthy, probably don’t want justice for all – they are happy with the way things are. It is the poor and the outcast who need a more just society; it is the single mother and her children; it is the unskilled laborer trying to care for a family. All of these and more are crushed by society today and just as Jesus cared for the woman caught in adultery, the blind beggars, the Syro-Phoenician woman, and so many others on the fringes of society in ancient Israel, we also ought to be caring for and working for justice for all in our land today. Don’t know where to start? Begin with prayer. Seek justice from the God of all justice and follow God’s direction.

Lord, we need justice in our land. So many are hurting, so many are crushed by society today. Bring justice to those who are oppressed and on the fringes of society. Use me to speak up or to act for justice. Bring justice to Your people, and use Your people to bring justice to our world.

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October 15 – Reconciliation

Psalm 121; Genesis 32:3-21; Mark 10:46-52

Family reunions can be tense times for some people. Two family members had a falling out years ago, and you could never have them in the same room together without some kind of problem. The tension runs thick when the family gets together and sometimes, people almost hope for the explosion to happen so they can get it out of the way and enjoy the family time. We don’t always know how these feuds start, but reconciliation is a rare occurrence.

To say that Jacob had wronged Esau would be putting it mildly. He had taken advantage of Esau to gain his birthright. When their father was dying, Jacob found a way to steal Esau’s blessing, with mom’s help. Dad favored Esau, mom favored Jacob, and Jacob won out. The problem was, Jacob had to leave town quickly to protect his life. He traveled to his ancestral homeland, ended up being tricked himself and married two sisters which caused an interesting family situation. After many years of service, he had a large family, was prosperous, and he and his father-in-law started having issues. Jacob decided to go home. Knowing that he would have to face Esau, he took the bull by the horns and sent messengers to let Esau know that he was coming. “When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, ‘We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’” (Genesis 32:6)

Jacob was worried now. Laban was behind him and Esau was in front of him, and it sounded like Esau was ready to get revenge. Jacob made preparations. He split his family, servants, and livestock into two groups, hoping that if Esau attacked one, he wouldn’t know about the other and one of them might survive. He prepared a gift to send to Esau. He sent herds of 5 different animals to Esau trying to bring peace. I don’t know much about the cost of animals today, but it would be safe to say that he was sending over $100,000 of gifts in today’s terms. Jacob didn’t even know if Esau would be pacified by these gifts, but he hoped and prayed for favor in Esau’s eyes. To make a long story short, Esau was a better man than Jacob had given him credit for being, and he embraced Jacob when they met.

What’s the cost of reconciliation? I guess it depends on the family and the situation. How much money would pacify a family member who was upset with another one? What changes in attitudes would need to happen so that the person who was wronged would be able to accept an apology? When we realize the high cost of reconciliation in families, perhaps the high cost God paid to bring us reconciliation with Him stands out even more. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. We, who wronged God, find that we cannot do anything to initiate reconciliation, but that God, in His mercy and grace, sought to reconcile us to Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Reconciliation is an amazing event. When families reconcile, there is joy and peace. When those who have been opposed to God reconcile with God, there is rejoicing in Heaven.

Lord, there are many families who are at odds with each other today. I pray that You would bring reconciliation and establish peace in those families. Even worse is the number of people who have not sought reconciliation with You. Show them Your grace and mercy. Let them know of their need to reconcile with You. Use me as one of your agents of reconciliation so that they may be drawn to You.

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October 14 – Where Do You Look?

Psalm 121; Genesis 31:43—32:2; 2 Timothy 2:14-26

The older man was walking down the street. As he came to the corner, he noted a little boy searching around the road under the street light. He was concerned about the youngster being out so late at night, so he decided to try and help. He carefully got to his knees and began looking around as he asked the boy, “What are you looking for?” “My quarter,” he replied. “I dropped it coming out of the grocery store and mom gets mad if I don’t bring home all the change.” The man looked around for a bit and then he asked, “but isn’t the grocery store over there in the middle of the block? Why are you looking for your quarter here?” “Yes, sir,” the boy replied. “I’m looking here because it’s too dark to see anything over there.”

How often do we look for something in the wrong places because it’s easier to see, or perhaps more convenient? In ancient Israel there was a continuous battle over the hearts and minds of the people. The religions of the land they occupied worshiped in the mountains and the high places. When things didn’t go just right, there was this idea in the back of their minds that perhaps they weren’t honoring the gods of the land appropriately. Sure they believed in God, but, things weren’t always easy following Him. So, for many, they returned to the high places. That struggle is shown throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

For the longest time I got this verse wrong. I thought the Psalmist was talking about looking to the mountains to get his help from the Lord. What I now see happening, as I understand God’s Word better, is that the psalmist is describing a difficult time where he needs God’s help. He sees the mountains in the background. Perhaps his friends have been inviting him to a sacrificial feast on the mountains in honor of Ba’al or some other local deity. Perhaps they might even have mentioned his difficulties happening as a result of not honoring the “local” gods. So as he’s dealing with the problem, his eyes wander to the mountains. He shakes his head because he knows that he shouldn’t run to the mountains for help; his help is from the Lord who created those mountains.

Each day we have difficulties. When those difficulties come, we can search for help in many places. Our society makes it very easy to get help without even thinking about God. We can turn to friends, the government, or even the church looking for help with our issues – especially if they are financial. Doing that in and of itself isn’t necessarily wrong. The question, though, is where do you turn first? Do you seek God when problems come? Do you cry out to Him in prayer and seek His guidance? Or do you run to your BFF and cry on their shoulder without thinking about God? When financial issues come, do you seek God first and look for His direction? Or do you apply for government aid right away? Or expect the church to take care of your needs? God may lead you to your BFF, or the government, or to the church. Sometimes He may lead those people to you. Sometimes He may have a different solution that’s even better. The important point is that we remember to seek God first in our difficulties. His love and grace and work miracles!

Lord, how often I slide away from You. I think I can handle my problems myself. I look to others for help when I should seek You. The mountains are so beautiful, it’s easy to be drawn to them instead of looking to You. Remind me in my weakness to seek You first in all that I do and whenever I have trouble.

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October 13 – Who Are Your gods?

Psalm 121; Isaiah 54:11-17; Acts 17:22-34

“next to of course god america I love you….” I remember this poem from my childhood. I thought of it today and wondered, what god is e.e. cummings speaking of? Perhaps I should extend my question some and ask all of us, who is your god, America? Or, who are your gods? We seem to worship power as many in the church fall into political camps and seek to be seen with the future powers of America. Wealth appears to be another one of our gods because, as has been said lately, when you’re wealthy you can get away with anything. Perhaps we could spend a long time listing all of our gods, but the point is made: we have many gods that are worshiped in our country and the church isn’t doing a very good job of showing the difference between these gods and the One, True, God of the Universe.

Paul walked into a situation in Athens and was quite disturbed. He saw all the statues and icons to all the various gods that were worshiped. I don’t imagine that allegiance to these gods was a life changing commitment, perhaps it was cultural, perhaps the Athenians were just hedging their bets. Whatever the case may have been, Paul used his discomfort as an opportunity to preach the good news of Jesus. “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23)

It is far too easy to believe that when people use the word “God” that they mean the same thing I mean when I say it. Perhaps they think they mean it. But in practice we have placed many things ahead of God in our lifestyles. Money becomes so important that we hoard it instead of using it to help others. We “keep score” with our wealth and try to make sure we are ahead of the other guy. I think if God were to use our wealth to “keep score” anything that we had stored away would be negative; the only positives would be when we used our wealth to help others. We place power and prestige on a pedestal. How many of us fawn before celebrities and powerful people, hoping to catch a crumb that falls from their “table?” It’s not that power and prestige are bad, or that money is bad, it all comes down to what we do with it. If we accumulate any of those at the cost of helping other people we are making it a god in our lives because that accumulation has become more important than God’s call to help others.

Most of us would deny worshiping any other god. We are ignorant of our own actions and how they define our relationship with the one true God. Deep in our hearts, we want to worship the true God, not realizing that in our search for wealth, possessions, or power that He has become an unknown God to us. It is time to read Paul’s words and take them to heart. It is time to seek this unknown God. Even if you claim to be a follower of Christ, if you have joined in with society in seeking after these other things not realizing that you were giving them god-like status in your life, as I did, look at Jesus with new eyes. Call on the God of grace who grants you mercy and forgiveness. Recommit yourself to the God who created this universe and has given us proof through the resurrection of Jesus. He loves you and wants to spend time with you. He doesn’t care about your earthly wealth, power, or prestige. He cares about you.

Lord God, how easy it is to be carried away by other desires. We can even rationalize that these desires will make us better servants. Keep us focuses on You, Lord. If these other things that so many people desire come our way, help us to use them to help others and serve You.

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October 12 – Proclaim the Gospel and Meet Needs

Psalm 61; 2 Kings 15:1-7 Matthew 10:5-15

It was 1976 when one of the most iconic ad campaigns of all time took off running. Lite Beer from Miller, now known as Miller Lite created a cultural behemoth with the simple phrase “Tastes Great! Less Filling!” In the ad campaign, people supposedly argued about what was great about Miller Lite. The message of the ad, of course, was that both aspects of the beer were important. Please don’t take this as a promotion of any kind of alcohol, since I don’t drink it, but the genius of the ad campaign can’t be denied.

When you think deeply, the Christian Church has been in a similar fight for many years. “Preach the Gospel!” “Meet Needs!” and the resulting discussion has led to some angry encounters among Christians. People who proclaim one of those phrases label themselves to be conservative, and they are proud of their conservatism. People who proclaim the other phrase label themselves liberals and they are proud of their liberalism. Jesus dealt with this division among the faithful when He sent disciples out to the lost sheep of Israel. “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.’” (Matthew 10:7-8)

Which is more important? The answer is both. Perhaps the best explanation I ever heard on this discussion came from a pastor in Rwanda. We were there with Africa New Life Ministries on a Mission Trip and we had the privilege of worshiping with the church that is homebase for the organization. The pastor, Charles Mugisha, talked about his experiences picking coffee as a young man and his father watching him. His father broke in and told him that he shouldn’t pick with just one hand, he needed to pick with two hands to work more efficiently. The message from the pastor was that we as followers of Christ we need to reach out to others with a two-handed approach to ministry: with one hand we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, with the other we meet the needs of the people. I believe that this exemplifies the message of Jesus in this passage. I believe that is what James meant when he reminded us that faith without works is dead.

When you think about that ad, the problem with many of us as Christians is that we want a faith that “tastes great” and is “less filling.” The call of God is just the opposite. Sure, our faith “tastes” great in that it makes us feel good about our lives. Many use faith as a form of eternal fire insurance though, thinking that they don’t need to worry about anything else. True Christian faith, though is more filling, more demanding. We must meet the needs of people around us. We have delegated that responsibility to others, some by neglecting our call, others by design. Whatever has happened in the past, though, we, as the Church, the body of Christ, need to make sure that we are finding ways to meet the needs of the people around us. We must not foist that responsibility on others. We must proclaim the gospel with one hand and meet the needs of the others with the other hand. There is no option. There is no choice.

Lord, it’s far too easy to let others handle the responsibility of caring for the needs of others. Give me wisdom so that I can help meet the needs of others. Give my church wisdom in finding ways to meet the needs of those around us. Keep us working with both hands to proclaim and show Your grace to others.

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