Like Them or Not

When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory.

 Really?  What about all those people that you didn’t get along with while here on earth?  What about all those “brothers and sisters in Christ” with bad habits about whom you gossiped?  Have you ever considered that some of those people whom you don’t like will be in heaven with you?   

 Perhaps it’s time that we check our attitudes.  Everyone is guilty.  I can name people that I don’t particularly like.  You can name people you don’t particularly like.  (I sure hope I’m not on your list.)  Everywhere you go, you will find some Suzie So-And-So or Howie Whoever-He-Is with whom you just can’t seem to get along. 

 If you can’t get along with a brother or sister in Christ here on earth, how do you expect to get along with them when you’re in heaven?  “Well, it will be different there.”  Yeah, maybe you won’t be there.  I know that sounds harsh, but let’s think about it.  Paul said to the church in Philippi, “…consider others better than yourselves.”  

 There will come a day when all the saints will be gathered together and we will cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”  I plan to be a part of that glorious day.  I may not always agree with my Christian brothers and sisters but my attitude toward them must still be worthy of the cross of Christ.  All of us must live a life of love with one another because Christ has lavished His love upon us.

 If your relationship with a Christian brother or sister is marred by bitterness and resentment, it is your responsibility to reconcile those differences.  Your home in heaven depends on it.

 “14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:14-18 NIV)

When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory.

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It’s Forked!

To the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph 4:29 NIV)

 It is likely that everyone has heard the old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  I’m sure that most people abide by that saying most of the time.  But, it is also one of the hardest things to do.  James said, “No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 4:8 NIV)

 James, also, relates the tongue to a spark of a fire that can set an entire forest ablaze.  The words we say can be extremely harmful.  It is amazing how often we are aware of the hurtful things that we think and still we voice them aloud.  Be it gossip or a truth, our tongue can do unspeakable harm to an individual, an organization or to ourselves. 

 You have heard, “Think before you speak.”  It is always wise to weigh the possible perceptions that could be taken before you make a comment.  I will never forget when, as a counselor at Camp Blue Haven, we were doing a skit about the pain and hurt that a cut-down can cause.  We had done this skit time and time again and it was always very effective.  One night, I decided to call the counselor next to me “fat”.  It was meant as a realistic example but the woman standing next to me did not take it well and our relationship never recovered.  The words we say can so easily cut to the heart.

 It is sometimes startling the things one person will say to another.  In frustration and anger, it is easy to say things that are inappropriate.  Whether airing dirty laundry to a third party or chewing out someone who has upset you, the result can destroy confidences and mutilate friendships.

 When your tongue lashes out to another individual, the pain is contained between you and the receiver of the lashing.  However, we live in an unprecedented time.  We now live in the age of e-communication and social media.  It is as though people forget all of the filters they ever learned when their fingers touch the keyboard.  Just as you cannot retract your spoken words, you cannot pull back an email from cyberspace. 

 The only saving grace you have when you speak harshly to someone, whether it is in person or through email, is that it remains between the two of you.  It is not so when you enter the realm of social media (i.e. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.).  All of a sudden, you are announcing your personal conflict to the world.  So many people use social media to vent their frustrations or to bicker back and forth with family members.  In what manner is God honored?  What kind of light have you cast upon yourself? 

 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 4:9-10 NIV)  Sometimes, our praise to God is void because it is issued from such a forked tongue.   If our tongue is to be an instrument of praise, then we must control its use, both verbally and written.

Everyone is guilty.  No one has escaped the snare of the unbridled tongue, nor has anyone been free from the brutality of a good tongue lashing.  It is among Satan’s most terrific devices.  You may never fully tame the tongue, but it must be reined in.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18 NIV)

LGBT and the Church

Here is a great article concerning what is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Church in the 20th and 21st centuries.  There are two things in this article that really stick out.  One, the Church must take a firm biblical stance regarding homosexuality.  Two, the Church must approach it’s stance with love rather than condemnation.

Paragraph from article:

“Though homosexuality is just one of the “new realities” with which young people must contend en route to adulthood, I can’t take any “new” stance on this issue. It’s just not needed. I’m convinced that Jesus Christ’s followers must formulate – and articulate! – a doctrine on this issue that’s congruent with scripture, a doctrine of compassion and truth.  Then, the Church must live in accordance with that biblical statement.”

The Gay Movement’s Recent Growth

Who Is the Audience?

What do you expect out of church?

If you are about to answer that question, then back up and think about it again.  I would imagine that the first thing that popped into your head was a worship service.  Since church and worship are two separate things, let’s reword the question…What do you expect out of worship?

STOP!  Don’t answer that.  That question is one of the biggest problems that Christians try to answer.  Who is the audience?   Last time I checked, God is the audience.  We spend so much time and energy trying to make worship (or what we call “church”) meet our expectations.  Too often, worship is about us.  I didn’t like that song.  That prayer was too long.  Why did the preacher talk about that today?  We’re going to be late for lunch.  When did we become the object of our worship?

God must be at the center of our worship.  We are called to praise and honor Him who has created us in His image.  When we begin evaluating the quality of worship according to our needs and desires, we diminish the purpose of our praise.

We often think that we come together to hear a great lesson, encourage each other through singing and pray for those who are sick.  While all of those things are good and important, they are not the purpose for our worship.  The 19th Century Danish Christian philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, said that “worship has three components: the performers, the prompter, and the audience.  It is vital to know who plays each part!” (Mike Cope, In Search of Wonder, p. 31)

Consider what the psalmist, David, wrote:

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100 NIV)

Notice that it is the Lord God who is the recipient of David’s praise.  It is for the glory of God Almighty that we worship.  God is the audience.  He is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Salvation.

The question should never be, “What do you expect out of worship?”  The question must always be, “How am I honoring and glorifying God through my praise?”  Who is the audience?  God is the audience.  Worship has never been nor will it ever be about us.  Worship is for God alone.  It is His name that we praise.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord. (Psalm 106:48 NIV)

Pruning

I have a holly bush in my front yard that is just nearly dead.  For a long time, Susan and I have talked about what we could do to improve the curb appeal of our house.  There were six holly bushes in front of our house.  At one time, there must have been seven, but one died so a previous home owner pulled it out and put a birdbath in its place, leaving a hole in the hedge.  We decided that we would remove the two holly bushes that were around the brick column of the front porch.  One morning, I borrowed a tow chain and pulled them out of the ground with my truck.

The plan was to just throw both bushes out.  However, after pulling them out, I thought, “Hey, why don’t we put one of these bushes where the birdbath is so that there is a full hedge.”  The roots were badly damaged but we thought we would try it anyway.  I dug a hole and put the bush in making sure that all of the roots were well covered.  It’s been a couple of months now and the bush looks terrible.  From the street, it looks completely dead, but there is some new growth on it.  I think that if we will give it a good pruning, we might save it.

Sometimes, the same thing happens to us. We go through traumatic experiences that seem to rip us apart physically, emotionally and spiritually. While the bush in my yard is dying from the outside in, we tend to wither away starting with the heart.

Fortunately, there is a master gardener.  Our God has the ability to give new life to a once dying heart.  Jesus said, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful,” John 15:2 (NIV).  It may be painful and there may be a lot of pruning that needs to take place.  There may be times when the pain seems unbearable but if you allow God to work on your heart and mold you into the person He has called you to be (and in the place where He has planted you) your life will turn out more beautiful than it was before.  You will be stronger and more resilient through the work that God does in your life.


Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)