|One of the things that we must always be on guard against is the idea that we can never stumble or fall once we have been to the cross. When we come to Christ, we become a new creation and we are redeemed and sin has lost the war…but there are still many battles with sin that can cripple and disable us. Do you remember the name Oscar Schindler? Do you remember Schindler’s List and the amazing story of the German who used his wealth and wiles to rescue 1,200 Polish Jews? What a noble effort that was. If only the credits rolled and that was the end of the story.
Yet there is more to it. You see, after the war, the one who had been so brave, so noble went down a dark path. When the war was over he abandoned his wife, became a womanizer and a drunkard, and lived out his life in destitution and dependence on others. He got so bad that he took that gold ring that was fashioned for him out of gold harvested from the teeth of the people he rescued, and he pawned it for a bottle of schnapps.
Now this is not about losing our salvation and once saved always saved, but rather that even after we are saved we still have to battle the darkness that exists around us and within us.
That is why we all need a few things in this spiritual life. We all need help from the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ (yes…you need the church.) to help us stay on the straight and narrow. We also need grace to pick us up when we stumble and fall. Yet like what Paul said, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 10:12
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
|There is an old story about an old dog that fell into a farmer’s well. After assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the dog but decided that neither the dog nor the well were worth the trouble of saving. Instead he planned to bury the old dog in the well and put him out of his misery.
When the farmer began shoveling, initially the old dog was hysterical. But as the farmer continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It dawned on the dog that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back he should shake it off and step up. This he did blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up, shake it off and step up, shake it off and step up!” he repeated to encourage himself.
No matter how painful the blows or how distressing the situation seemed, the old dog fought panic and just kept shaking it off and stepping up! It was not long before the dog, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well. What seemed as though it would bury him actually benefited him—all because of the way he handled his adversity.
So the question for us is this: how are we dealing with the adversity in our lives?
Will you not revive us again,
|“Return to Me and I will return to you”. What a promise! God doesn’t say, “You made your bed now lie in it!” or “too late, too bad, so sad, bye bye…” No. He gives us this promise. No matter how far we have wandered, no matter what we have done as we wandered, the promise is still the same. “Return to Me, and I will return to you.”
Oh if it was only that easy, right? Who is going to create in me that desire to return? Who is going to handle my guilt and shame for all the wrong I have done? Who will be the one to even pave the way for me to return home?
Let me illustrate it this way. Let’s suppose that my daughter decided that her parents were two sticks in the mud who never let her do anything fun. So one day she decides to hop on a plane heading to California with a ticket she purchased with the credit card she stole from mom. She gets out to California and realizes she has made a huge mistake. Yet, how does she come home? Is her room still available? Who will buy the ticket to get her there? (mom cancelled the card once it was stolen…she is smart like that.) And when she gets there, how will she be able to look Mom and Dad in the eye, knowing all the trouble she has caused (and what about her sisters…even the dogs will give her the look of shame and disappointment!)
The answer is of course that Mom and Dad still love her and will always have a room ready for her. Not only will we buy her a ticket to come home, we will go and get her and come back with her. And her sisters, well they know that they have also been there so they will welcome her the same way they were welcomed back by Mom and Dad themselves (and dogs will always love you, regardless).
So to the previous questions…Yep…you know the answer. Not only does God promise that He will return to us when we return to Him, He also is the One who makes it possible for us to return to Him. That is the Gospel. That is our story. So the only question that remains is will you return?
1 In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:
2 “The Lord was very angry with your ancestors.
|Allergies! Don’t you hate them? I have had an ever present headache now going on two weeks that never seems to go away. Oh, it is not a severe headache just that constant reminder that all is not well in nasal land. And I have taken medicine upon medicine, but sometimes the medicine is worse than the headache! I’d rather suffer from a slight headache than a dazed balloon head. I know what I need to do. I need to go to an allergy doctor but here is why I haven’t thus far: 1) It is not bad enough in my mind to warrant a visit to the doctor. 2) Doctors no longer accept chickens as payment so thus I would have to pay in cash. 3) Doctors tell me mean things about myself that I don’t like to hear. 4) I think I can fix it myself by choosing a cocktail of allergy pills from the Walmart allergy aisle. 5) Did I mention that they expect money?
Now, why am I telling you about my allergy dilemma? Well, first sympathy (everyone go awww). But seriously, I think that how I deal with my allergies is how many of us deal with sin in our life. We know it is causing discomfort to us but not bad enough where we have hit rock bottom with it. We know who we need to go to in order to deal with the problem, but we don’t like what He has to say about us. So we think we can find our own way to fix it…which ends up costing us a great deal more than if we had just went to the One who could fix it in the first place. Now Jesus doesn’t expect money from us in order to deal with our sin problem (regardless of what that preacher in the polyester suit said on TV), but He does expect you….and all of you. So what issues are you dealing with in your life today and why haven’t you taken them to Jesus?
17 For I am about to fall,
Recently I went to a concert where there was an opportunity to give to a child’s fund that helps support kids overseas who are in need. This is a great ministry and really helps spread the love of Christ. After talking to one of the sponsors, I was intrigued by something. He explained to me the difference between a one-time gift and a monthly donation. He said that folks could give a one-time gift and help a child, but that would be the end of it. Yet, if they were to give a monthly gift, it would be a continuous stream of help to that child.
This got me thinking. It is so much easier to show love as a onetime thing than to do so on a constant basis. I can put up with that crazy uncle once a year at Christmas but having to put up and love him every day would be so much harder (that’s why you always want to live at least 3 hours away from said Crazy uncle).
Jude reminds us here of this when he prays that love, mercy, and peace not simply be upon us, but that they be multiplied to us. In other words, not a onetime thing. (Clarification needed: I am not saying a onetime gift is bad. The point is that a one time love that does and then forgets is not how we are called to love. God wants us to invest our lives in others. Clarification over.)
Ok, so let’s put this in real life. Do you love God as a one-time thing? Do you love others as a one-time thing? Do you help in a one-time way or do you invest your life into that of another? Is your love a one hit wonder or are you multiplying it?
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
|Here is a little poem that deals with how we deal with our children. It goes as follows:
Take a Moment to Listen
Take a moment to listen today
To what your children are trying to say;
Listen today, whatever you do
Or they won’t be there to listen to you.
Listen to their problems, listen for their needs,
Praise their smallest triumphs, praise their smallest deeds;
Tolerate their chatter, amplify their laughter,
Find out what’s the matter, find out what they’re after.
But tell them that you love them, every single night
And though you scold them, be sure you hold them tight:
Tell them “Everything’s all right;
Tomorrow’s looking bright!”
Take a moment to listen today
To what your children are trying to say;
Listen today, whatever you do
And they will come back to listen to you.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
|Do you know the difference between a testimony and hearsay? Now, this is not the technical definition but my own paraphrase. The difference is that one is something you have experienced yourself and the other is something you simply heard someone else say or do (kind of like gossip…but we Christians wouldn’t know anything about that, would we?). John starts his letter off by saying this is not hearsay. We have touched, we have seen, we have heard….this is a testimony. John was not only establishing his credibility here, but also reminding us that this faith we speak of is not simply a fairytale, but it is real.
Makes me wonder, if we in the church have a faith that is a testimony or simply a faith of hearsay. When we go and tell others about Jesus, is it from a deeply personal and real experience with Christ where we know His love and we love Him, or is it something we heard from or about someone else? There comes a time when the faith of the Apostles becomes ours, and we join in the story with John because we have seen it ourselves…maybe not with our eyes, but with our hearts.
1 John 1:1-3
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.