Monthly Archives: February 2015

“…what has happened to me…”

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Phil. 1:12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.

In his letter to the Philippian Church Paul recalls the “things that happened to him.” In this case Paul wasn’t pointing out his tremendous accomplishments, nor his dazzling adventures that might leave his audiences spellbound. What exactly had happened to the Apostle Paul? Some pretty horrific things had unfolded in Paul’s life leading up to the time he wrote this letter to the Philippian church; shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, exposure, imprisonment, and the list goes on (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

As a pastor, it seems as though I am constantly confronted with the “things that happen” to Godly people. My office is often a place of tears, worries and uncertainties that accompany the lives of good people, people I admire who have faithfully served the Lord for years. I am frequently reminded that bad things happen to some really wonderful and Godly people. Yet I am also reminded that the Bible teaches us that trials are an inevitable part of our Christian journey. Whether emotional, spiritual, financial, physical everyone will face difficulties in life. We live in a fallen world, in a world that is far from what it was originally intended to be. The fall has led to consequences that even we as Christians have to face. This means that, like Paul, we will all face significant trials.

There are some in the church today who suggest that if you have enough faith or if you are spiritual enough, you will never get sick, you will become prosperous and you will simply not have “things happen to you.” As best as I can understand my Bible this is simply not true! Jesus reminds us that, “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

The problem is that many believers have bought into a bad theology that asserts, “If I follow Christ closely and intimately, if I am a good Christian…..the wind will always be at my back, the sun will shine on my face, heavenly bliss will ubiquitously hover over me with good fortune, and all trials will bounce off of me because God will never allow these things to happen to his child.” And when these things don’t happen…..they ask, “Where is God? Christianity doesn’t work!” Their faith begins to flounder in the turbulent waters of real life.

In her biography, former First Lady, Laura Bush described an event that illustrates this approach to faith. When she was 17 years old she ran a stop sign, collided with little boy and killed him. Describing the aftermath of this event, she wrote, “I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years.” As I read the book and felt the agony of her suffering, I thought that she had articulated so perfectly what so many in the modern church believe about faith. When something terrible happens in life, we give up on faith or we look away from God. We suppose, “God is not working for me anymore, so I will try something else.” Consequently, some will walk away for years and eventually return. Others will walk away never to return. Yet this kind of “faith” is a misguided faith, not based on a biblical reality of our world because the Bible is quite clear that we live in the same fallen world as everyone else. It assures us that we will experience all kinds of trials.

After experiencing a series of trials, a church member once shared with me, the same sentiment that Laura Bush articulated in her biography, “Pastor Chad. I think I am not sure about God anymore, I might be losing my faith.” I replied, “Good! …because we need to replace your current faith with a rightly guided faith, a faith that recognizes that you will experience trials like everyone else. Let’s get rid of the wrong theology and replace your faith with one that is based upon the truth of Scriptures. Then you will no longer follow a faith that lives in a fantasy-land. Instead, you will possess a faith that gives you the tools to deal with the real pain of our world that you will invariably experience and then you can received the strength to overcome that pain.” Remember Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble but take heart I have overcome the world.”
Beloved in Christ, are “things happening” to you today? I won’t tell you that a prayer will remove those things, visiting your pastor will solve everything, or a trip to church will ease your suffering. However, I do know that you will overcome through Jesus. He has promised it. Stand firm in Him. Don’t run away from your faith in Him. Instead, know that your suffering may persist, but that Jesus has a purpose for your pain and that he has empowered you and granted you the spiritual equipment to overcome anything that you will face.


TRUE Love

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Valentine’s Day is over, the candy, roses, balloons, and romance is no longer advertised on every corner. The thought of love and selfless acts becomes something that is put away for 12 months for some. But for the Christian love is more than a holiday or a nice gesture, love is a commandment. Matthew 22:36-40 says

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The question is do we treat the love for others in the manner it deserves? 1 Corinthians 13 gives us the attributes of what God desires love to be. A love that is not of the world but rather a love that can only truly be understood with an intimate knowledge of the love that has been shown to us by God through Jesus Christ. This week I challenged my children to live this commanded love out daily despite what the outside world shows. Not allowing themselves to be controlled by outside sources but rather inspired by the spirit that dwells with them from God. My hope is that each of us will love others in a manner that shows others exactly what true love truly means to us.

 


Mike Row, Dirty Jobs, and God

Mike Row, Creator of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs

I saw a recent quote from Mike Rowe (creator of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs) that spoke so clearly to our issue of motivation in America: “Stop looking for the ‘right’ career and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable.” What struck me about this is the idea that many Americans are waiting for the perfect job – the perfect life, the perfect car, the perfect everything – without making any effort at a job they can do “right now.” The waiting mentality defines us and stops us from reaching our true and full potential as humans, let alone Christians.

I think back to the Exodus story and wonder if Moses ever thought that he would be the leader of millions of Jews. He complained to Yahweh and said, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” In our contemporary setting, I imagine that coming out as, “God, I can’t do this job, because it’s not the right fit for me. I’m not sure that I am capable of accomplishing what You’ve asked of me, so would You provide something a little easier?” Moses even asked Yahweh to send someone else, but received anger instead. God was not content with Moses to sit on the sidelines. Instead, pushed Moses out of the nest and used him to accomplish one of the greatest tasks in Israelite history!

Yet another man who had great potential was Jeremiah the prophet. Many people quote Jeremiah 29:11 as their life verse, but we are quick to forget that Jeremiah was timid and scared. When Yahweh called him, Jeremiah’s response was, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” I can just imagine God’s response: “AAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!! C’mon Shelly! Stop being a sissy lala!” One would think that if the God of this universe was calling you to do something, He would also equip you with the skills to do it. But, over and over the biblical texts express our human fears before the calling of our God.

We are afraid to move forward. We become stuck in the rut of our current life and forget that an all-powerful God is there to guide us through life. The God that revealed Himself as, “I will be what I will be,” is able to sustain us, provide for us, and do anything necessary to see us succeed. So, what is the missing key ingredient?? Us!

You have amazing potential as a creation of God. Allow Him to mold and shape that potential so that you blossom into the person that God has created you to be. At times, that will seem excruciatingly difficult. In other moments, you will feel completely at peace and blessed. All the while, there is one promise that you can always hold on to: God will be with you.

So start working now. Work out your faith. Get to work in your job. Work hard for your marriage. Work well in everything that you do! The reward of being a faithful worker will be more than you could ever have imagined. As the Lord is faithful, so I also encourage you to remain steadfast and faithful. (2 Thess. 3:3)


Christian Unity

The idea of unity is too fleeting to understand in a few paragraphs, a couple of sermons, or even a couple of Bible studies. Yet the idea is crucial to a healthy Christian community.

To be clear, true unity is impossible outside of the influence of Christ. Without Christ, we have too much pride, too much hate, too much selfishness. Even within a relationship with the Savior, we are too quick to point out the faults of others in the hopes of securing benefits for ourselves.

But unity, much like many of the virtues we strive to exemplify in our lives, is not given as much as it is learned, honed, and worked for. Several years ago, when I prayed for patience, God didn’t give me patience. He put me in situations where I had to learn to be patient. If we truly want unity in the church, we must pray for it and we must learn to be united in Christ.

Consider other key traits of the Christian life. Love. Humility. Service. Peace. All of these things contribute to unity. Consider the greatest commandment found in Matthew 22:37. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Imagine if we actually, consistently loved the Lord the way we were meant to. Would we be so concerned with what other people do “against” us? Would we be so concerned with the offenses of others we currently hold onto and use against them? Our offenses against a Holy, Righteous God are far greater than anything any one person can do against us. Let God’s example (casting our sins away) be a model for how we should treat one another. Forgiveness. Love.

Galatians 5:13 says that we should not use our freedom in Christ to indulge our flesh, but to serve one another humbly in love. Put others first. Put their feelings before yours. That means you have to give more consideration to your brother or sister and less for your own desires. If you let your plans, your ideas, your traditions, hold a position over others, you may have forgotten what it means to humble yourself.

In my own life, in situations where conflict and contention could pop up, I tell myself all the time “It doesn’t matter.” Just last year, I was asked to lead a service at an event. At the last minute, plans were changed and I was no longer leading. Did I get mad about it? NO! My purpose for leading was not to receive glory for myself. The purpose was to promote Christ and His kingdom. Although the plans had changed, the purpose remained focused on Christ. At the end of the day, the fact that I was not going to lead “didn’t matter.” Maybe we need to look at the conflicts in our lives and realize, “It doesn’t matter.” God is on the throne. He is still in charge. What does matter is that I am ready to respond to the Lord’s will, not my own pride.