One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found at the very end of Matthew. It gets me though the hard times, the good times, and all the times in between. It reminds me of my source of comfort, joy, and power. You’ll find Matthew 28:20b at the end of the Great Commission, where Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
What if someone else made your New Year’s resolutions?
That was the question our pastor posed to us. It got an embarrassed twitter of laughter. Seems we all have something that needs changing, but we don’t want to admit it. Or maybe we do admit it—but we aren’t willing to put out the effort to deal with it. We laugh, but the question obviously hits home.
Does God speak to you? One of the greatest joys of the Christian life is hearing the voice of God. He may be telling me what to do, which way to go. He may be revealing new insights about Himself or others. Sometimes I just hear a quiet “I love you,” and those are the words I cherish the most.
One challenge in listening to God is that He so rarely speaks audibly. Rather, it’s that “still, small voice” inside of us, whispering to our spirit. We have to still ourselves to hear Him. And while God is perfect at making Himself known, we don’t always hear perfectly what He has to say. Sometimes, we simply get it all wrong.
Twenty-twenty hindsight is a wonderful thing. As I read once again through the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, God’s warning seems oh, so clear. Both of these prophets warned the people over and over to stop their idolatry, turn to God, embrace justice and righteousness, and live. And over and over the people ignored them.
It’s easy for me, sitting here in 2015, to think, what idiots. God told them what He was going to do! Why didn’t they obey Him? Wasn’t it obvious that an idol they themselves made of wood couldn’t solve their problems? And who would choose to sacrifice their child, when God never asked them to do so?
I’d been feeling pretty good about myself. I haven’t been committing adultery, I wasn’t coveting my neighbor’s wife or donkey, nor had I murdered anyone, at least lately. I figured that God must be pretty pleased with how well I was obeying His instructions.
I was a bit less self-assured when I got to the part where Jesus takes the Ten Commandments and expounds on them. No, I hadn’t murdered anyone, but there was that time when that driver cut me off…. But calling him a fool was justified! Did you see what he did? Er, God?
So I was still fairly confident—until I came to Matthew 5:48. This is the verse where Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Perfect? You’ve got to be kidding! Nobody’s perfect!
And that, of course, was the point. God is perfect. We are not.
How successful are you at being a Christian? If you’re like me, you have your ups and downs. Some days I’m full of faith; other times I doubt. Sometimes my prayers are answered, but not always. I may gain a victory in one part of my life, but not in another.
For years, as I slowly grew in my knowledge and understanding of God’s ways, my response to failure was to try harder. I’d confess my mess and promise to get it right the next time. Likely as not, I’d fail again. Like Paul, I’d gripe (but not as eloquently) about my inability to get it right.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
“God wouldn’t have given you a dream without giving you the ability to accomplish it. You have everything you need. … When God laid out the plan for your life, He deposited in you the skill, the wisdom, the creativity; everything you need to fulfill your destiny.”
This little quote appeared on Joel Osteen’s website on January 20. A friend noticed it and posted it to Facebook, where I finally saw it a week later. I must be part Berean, because for some reason these words bothered me and I, like the Bereans, felt compelled to “examine the Scriptures every day to see if what [Joel] said was true.” (see Acts 17:11) Can we all fulfill our dreams with abilities we already have?
TRUE or FALSE: the Bible tells us to pray for people to be saved.
Have your answer? Probably, like me, you read this question and answered, “Of course we should pray for people to be saved!” I thought it was totally obvious, until our pastor said something that challenged my belief.
He told us, “God never said that we should pray for the harvest. We are to pray for workers!”
At least, the American church is a wimp. Happily there are exceptions, but for the most part, I see American Christians going to church, doing “good deeds,” perhaps tithing (although most give far less), even praying. But something is lacking. In most areas of life, we don’t stand out from the crowd. And we’re supposed to.
I think the problem lies in what a friend of ours (thanks, Dave) summed up as the focus of most Evangelical churches—they worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible.
I’m reading Romans now, and in the very first chapter Paul writes, “who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power….” A footnote explains that this verse could also be translated “who was declared with power to be the Son of God.” (Romans 1:4) Either way, it boils down to the same point—Jesus and power go together.
When telling someone else about your faith, what do you think is most important? A clear, concise presentation of the Gospel? Good theology? Answers to all their questions? An exciting testimony?
No question, all those are important. As the church, we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure we can explain the Good News in a way a non-Christian can understand. We have tracts, websites, and billboards. Churches and neighborhood Bible studies describe themselves as seeker-friendly. We take classes in evangelism, learn the “Roman Road” verses and memorize John 3:16. Fans hold up signs at ball games and players tattoo Scripture on their arms, crediting God with every win.
With all the witnessing going on, you’d think the church would be growing by leaps and bounds—but it isn’t, at least here in the U.S. Why not? Could it be that we’re going about evangelism all wrong?