Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The power to love comes from God not from us!

                 A young mother was putting her four year old daughter to bed and was listening to her prayer. It was their custom that, after the child would recite a short memorized prayer, she would recite a short prayer of her own. One evening, after speaking the first prayer, she added these words, "O God, make all the bad people good and all the good people nice."
We can not be sure what was meant by these words. But, it would appear, that she was expressing an important biblical truth. The only way "bad people" can become "good" is through faith in Jesus Christ. This would be a prayer that asks that unbelievers would be brought to faith. When she asked that "good people" would be "nice," it would seem to mean she hopes that all Christians would live as children of God ought to live.
This prayer makes use of the observation that Christians do not always live the way they should. One would expect a child of God to live a life that brings glory to God's name. Now, we know that a child of God is not going to live a perfect life. Christians are sinners before they come to faith and after. Perfection is reserved for the life to come.
The problem, that’s so often present, is that many Christians just don't let their faith reflect itself in their life. They curse and swear, lie, cheat and steal, they argue and fight and can carry a grudge with the best of them.  In essence, they live like the "world," like the unbelievers around them.
So what is the answer? Where do we find a solution to this problem? How can we find the strength to live our lives more like that of Jesus?
If we simply set out to do it on our own, we will certainly fail. "Being a nice person" is not what we are talking about. Many unbelievers are "nice people." Showing love, Christian love, is something different. Living a life of Christian love is not something we can muster up for ourselves. It comes from God. It is God's love for us in Jesus Christ that is our motive and our power to show love for others. "It is God who works in you both to will and to do according to his good pleasure." (Phil 2:13)
            Every day, as you pray and read his Word, ask the Lord to fill you with his love so that you will be equipped to show love toward others. Ask him to help you be a "nice person," one who has a close relationship with Christ, one who lives in ways that are pleasing to God.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Have you ever disappointed anyone?

              Have you ever disappointed anyone? I know I have. Now I am not talking about little things like forgetting to send them something I told them I would send. The disappointments I am taking about do not deal with bowling a bad game when the team needed me to do well. No, I am talking about things much more important.
I know that I have disappointed people when I didn’t do a good job on my Bible Class study or a sermon I preached because I didn’t spend enough time on it. I’ve disappointed people by not following through on some plans I made in my ministry. The biggest disappointments of all have to deal with my personal character as a pastor, husband, son, father, and brother. There are times when I’ve lost my temper, been selfish, lazy, and done things far worse, things I am too ashamed to mention.
I pray those I have disappointed, those who have counted on me to be something or to do something, have forgiven me even if I didn’t ask for that forgiveness or didn’t know that I’ve hurt them. I pray this especially true when it comes to my sins and failures that reflect on my service to the church, my spouse, and family.
While I may try to comfort myself in saying ‘I do well most of the time;’ or, ‘I’ve never murdered anyone, had an affair, or embezzled money from the church’. Scripture leaves no room for such excuses. It makes it clear all sins are displeasing to the Lord. All our sins are an offense to him and deserve his wrath and punishment. Bottom line is that we are all wretched sinners before the Lord and deserve nothing but his wrath and punishment. We have not only disappointed those around us, those who love us, friends, and family, we have disappointed the Lord.
There is only one who did not disappoint others – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He alone is the one with whom the heavenly Father was “well pleased.” He alone did not sin. Our only hope is found in him, our Savior. Our only comfort is that Jesus did nothing to disappoint his Father in heaven and he did it in our place. He lived a righteous life because we can’t. He died so we might live.
As one of God’s children, through faith in Christ, my only comfort is that my sins against others and the Lord have been forgiven. While I can’t go back and undo all my sins, go back and get a second chance, I know that the love of God through Jesus Christ has declared me righteous and will welcome me into heaven.
           Until them, I pray that I will do better. I pray that each day the Lord will make me a better servant to the church I serve, a better witness to the lost, a better husband, friend, father, brother, and so on. All to his glory.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Forgiveness is easy to talk about, hard to do.

          There was a man who loved dogs. He served as a speaker in various civic clubs to benefit the SPCA. He was known far and wide as a dog lover. One day his neighbor observed as he poured a new sidewalk in front of his house. About the time he smoothed out the last square foot of cement a large dog strayed across his sidewalk leaving footprints in his wake. The man muttered something under his breath and smoothed out the concrete. He went inside to get some twine to string up around the sidewalk only to discover dog tracks in two directions. He smoothed those out and put up the twine. About five minutes later he looked out and the footprints indicated that the dog had cleared his fence, landed on his sidewalk and walked right through.
          The man was mad now. He troweled the wet concrete smooth again. As he got back to the porch he saw the dog come over and sit right in the middle of his sidewalk. He went inside got his gun and came out and shot the dog dead. The neighbor rushed over, "Why did you do that? I thought you loved dogs." The man responded as he cradled his gun in the crook of his arm. "I do. I do like dogs. I like them in the abstract, not in the concrete.
          I recently saw this amusing story which was written by a pastor named David Leininger. We often speak of things in the abstract but putting them into practice is another matter. Forgiveness is like that. It’s easy to talk about forgiveness but quite another to show it. Forgiveness is fine in the abstract but hard to practice in the concrete.
          Oh, we are quite willing to forgive the new guy at work who parked in OUR parking place by mistake. We’ll forgive our spouse for forgetting our anniversary so long as it happens just once. Are we ready, however, to forgive someone who has really hurt us? Someone who spread lies about us and ruined our reputation? Are we ready to forgive the drunk driver whose car crossed the road’s center line and put our son or daughter into intensive care? Can we find it in our heart to forgive a spouse who has been unfaithful? It’s easy to think of forgiveness in the abstract but hard when it comes to the concrete. More often, our hearts are filled with revenge, anger, and we are just waiting for a chance to get even.
          What helps me to be more forgiving is Jesus? The only way to find the strength for true forgiveness is from him. When those Jesus came to save, cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ response was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) It helps me to be more forgiving when I think of how much forgiveness the Lord has shown to me and how often he has done it.
          Ask the Lord to help you learn to move forgiveness from the abstract to the concrete in your dealings with those around you. Then, ask the Lord to forgive you when you fall short. He will. His forgiveness is always there. You have his Word on it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Resolve to live each day of 2013 for the Lord

          New Year's Eve and Day are associated with many traditions.  For some, it just wouldn't be New Years if they didn't watch the ball drop in Times Square in New York City at the end of each year.  There are also the traditional New Year's parties accompanied by champagne, party hats, noise makers and confetti.
You can't escape the ushering in of the new year without at least thinking about some sort of resolution.  "This year, I'm going to lose that twenty pounds I've put on."  "This year, I'm going to stop smoking - again." "This year, I plan to get back to my exercise program, just as soon as I finish my year end reports, do my taxes.
When we usher in a new year, it is also customary to look back and look ahead to the future.  I don't care who we are, I'm sure, that there have been times when you wish you could go back and have another chance to live some part of your life over again.  This is what happened to Bill Murray in the movie, "Ground Hog's Day."  He not only lived Ground Hog's Day over but he lived it over and over and over again.
While we certainly would not want to live just one day over and over, hundreds or thousands of times, we have had the desire to go back and redo some part of our past.  How often don't we say, "If only I had done this or said that?" Or, "I could kick myself for not....."   All of these expressions express the desire to go back and redo or undo something we have done or said.  The problem is that we can't.  The past is behind us.
As God's child, we have the blessed comfort of knowing that no matter what happened in the past God was there to bless us.  He's forgiven our sins.  He turned our troubles into blessings as He promised.  So, bottom line, we don't need to go back and redo anything.
When we think of the future, we may have mixed feelings.  Will the new year and beyond be good or not?  Will the new year be filled with joys or heart aches, good times or bad? Here again we have the comforting promises of God.  We can face the future without fear for we know God will be with us and he will bless all we do.  He will help us with our problems; give us strength when we are weak; take us to glory when our lives our done.  What a glorious future awaits the child of God!
          What we need to focus on is the present.  We can't go back to the past.  The future is in God's hands.  Let us, therefore, direct our attention to the present.  This is the moment God has given us.  This is the time we have to live for him.  Now is the time to share his Word with others.  Today is the day to walk in the path of righteousness.  Now is the time to turn to God in prayer.  Don't wait to give thanks to God. Do it today. Now is the time to rejoice over your Savior. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).