Standing Tall

I’ve posted quite a few photos of this bell tower on this blog, but never from the front.  It is located across the street from my house, so the views I’ve posted before are from the side… not that it really matters I suppose.

It isn’t the church I attend, but I like seeing it there.  It has stood there for decades, standing tall and proud to proclaim the name of Jesus to the community.

I hope that we are all doing the same thing!

It is easy these days to kind of shrink into the background as culture moves from Christian to post-Christian and now to post-modern.  As it does, Christianity seems to be marginalized as a natural progression with those who would still proclaim His name being viewed by many as quaint relics of a bygone era.

The only thing is that these folks are really quite mistaken.  Our God is busy across the land raising up His people to change lives and tell of His glory. The evidence is all over for those who will choose to notice, and God’s move is unstoppable.

Just as this bell tower stands tall and proud in His service, so do we!  Our God is an awesome God and this world, this community needs to know that, and we are here to ensure that they hear the Good News!

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Love One Another

I write this post on Thursday morning (June 28) while listening to radio reports of US Supreme Court decisions.  I have just completed this Sunday’s Class Notes (for July 1) and I must say that it has been an interesting little experience that I thought I would share. Since this will post on June 29, the dates may be relevant…

The Class Notes are dealing with John 15:1-17 and the ending of that text reads as follows:

 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit —fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

(John 15:12-17)

There is much more here than meets the eye and much more than churches usually teach, but seeing it all together is of great use and blessing to anybody who wants to follow Jesus Christ.  Here are the elements that can change lives:

1. Love each other

2. Love as Jesus loved you

3. A friend of Jesus obeys His commands

4. We are not just His servants but His friends

5. Jesus has commanded that we a) Love each other and b) bear fruit

OK, here’s how these concepts fit together:

First, we must love each other.  To love (agape) is to make a commitment to place others ahead of ourselves in everything, and in order to do this we must put self aside in all things.

Second, To love as Jesus loved us is to be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers.  This is the most selfless thing a person can do.  Even if we are not called upon to make such a sacrifice, we must be willing to lay self aside and put others first.

Third, Jesus’ friends do what He asks of them in obedience to His commands.

Fourth, There is a great contrast between a servant (Greek slave) and a friend, for a servant relationship is a relationship of inequality.  A friend on the other hand is a relationship of equality.  (We might want to think about the implications of that sort of relationship)

Fifth, now let’s put these all together.  Love each other by putting selfish desires and motives away for good: Always be willing to serve each other in unselfish love.  Obey the Lord in all things, particularly in the matter of unselfish love for each other.  Doing this will enable us to bear fruit for Christ, and in so doing our joy will be complete and our relationship with Him solid, sustaining and eternal… and God will grant our requests to fully enable us to bear fruit for His Kingdom. Oh and by the way, as we bear more fruit, the world around us will be impacted in a big way.

Remember: We were not singled out to simply receive untold blessings, we are His disciples to accomplish His purpose, and in so doing the blessings will be greater than we can even begin to imagine.

What am amazing contrast to the news of what goes on in this world!

Just think about it…  What I have spelled out from John 15 is so utterly revolutionary that the people around us cannot help but see this godly love at work and marvel.  Anybody with a brain has got to ask us where they can get some! And of course those without brains won’t like us very much as the next section (vv. 18 ff.) warn.

On the road again

I think we all have times when it seems that our world has been turned topsy-turvy.  I think we all have times when we aren’t quite sure which way to go or how best to proceed…

We might cry out to God and wonder where He has gone or why He is letting things be so crazy, but then we remember that God hasn’t left our side even for a minute. He is always there for us to lean on, for us to draw strength and courage from… and then we look directly at Him and things become more clear.

God is our refuge and strength, 
    an ever-present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way 
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 
 though its waters roar and foam 
    and the mountains quake with their surging. 

(Psalm 46:1-3)

Take heart, for God is near!  Even though we can’t always quite figure things out, we can have the courage to get back on the road and move forward because He renews our strength.  Even though we may not know exactly the best thing to do at any moment, we can be strong in the knowledge that we are not going alone.

Disrepair

When things are going along well, we are able to take of routine maintenance and keep up with the necessary repairs, but in rough times these things can get away from us.  When it comes to a house, we might end up with peeling paint, a sagging roof or floors and even a few broken windows.  If this trend continues unchecked, a house can become a ruin.

Houses are not the only things that can suffer when the owners don’t keep up with regular maintenance.  Spiritually the same thing can take place.

When things are right, we spend time in God’s Word, we have time each day for prayer; time to spend with the Lord.  When we are doing this, we will probably have no problem serving others, giving or going to classes or small groups at church…  These kinds of things are the regular maintenance of a spiritual life.  Every so often, however, we might let some aspect of spiritual maintenance slip, and then another area, then another.  Before we know it, our spiritual lives become ruins…

Houses can be renovated and restored and so can we.  Don’t skip church!  Take time for God every day and get back into His Word; better yet don’t let any of these things slip!

I know, some times these things require some effort, but that’s normal enough for Jesus told us to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door…” (Luke 13:24)

A little effort can go a very long way in keeping our spiritual houses in order.

Summer’s Story

A lot of people I know only think of the summer time as hot and muggy; I think they might be missing something…

I’ve always thought of summer as a glorious time, but I must admit that early on that was just because I didn’t have to go to school.

I took a drive the other day, and summer’s story was all around.  You could see it in the backyard BBQ’s where friends and family were gathered together.  You could see it in the small town festivals where communities are gathered.  You can see it in the church VBS  announcements where little kids will hear all about Jesus, and their parents and other adults will experience godly service for others.

You can see summer’s stories driving through farm country and seeing growing green fields as far as the horizon in every direction.  No, don’t say that is a boring sight!  This is where men and God work together to feed the nations and I daresay we’d all notice if it wasn’t going on.  Summer is a time when many have a chance to relax and recharge, to vacation with family and to just slow down a bit.  You can sit outside in the evening and hear the symphony of the land, the late calls of birds and the rustle of leaves in the trees, and you can enjoy the sight of the tiger lilies bright orange all around.

Yes, I’d say summer has a lot to tell if anybody cares to notice.

God Provides

God will provide for our needs; this is something most people know, but some become a little confused by it.

The statement does not mean that all we need to do sit on our chairs and wait for Him to give us what we need or desire, but it does mean that He is more than just mindful of our situations.   Consider the following passage from Matthew 7:

 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

(Matthew 7:9-12)

Did you notice something odd about the passage?

Yes, this is from the Sermon on the Mount, and this particular passage comes within a fuller context of 7:7-12 and is about God answering prayer and providing for us.  The odd part is that Jesus added the “Golden Rule” (v. 12) at the end of this, and that is set up as a summing up. Isn’t that interesting?

There’s a connection between the two, God’s provision and answering of prayer and the manner in which we treat other people.  It seems to me that this connection is twofold:

First, secure in the knowledge that God will answer prayer and provide, we need not, in fact must not envy others who appear to us to be in better shape than we are in the area of our need.

Second, God’s children always put others first. Jesus always served God by serving others in a way that advanced God’s purpose and so must we.  The Golden Rule simply puts this into words.

What God will not do for us is to answer our selfish prayers to put us at advantage over others, for this is not the motivation of His humble servant. Thus, we learn that serving God in humility is our proper response to a gracious God, and that His provision will ensure that putting others first will not leave us alone and destitute.

What an awesome and amazing God we have and serve!