Friday, July 25, 2014

Life Changer

Have you ever met someone who ended up changing your life? Perhaps this person was a childhood friend, a spouse or "significant other", or maybe even a complete stranger. Perhaps they were a celebrity or public figure. Television shows like Extreme Makover: Home Edition based their entire storyline on the way groups of people could band together to change the lives of an individual family. Some of my favorite YouTube clips involve people being given a surprise gift to bless their life. The impact that others have on our lives is significant and we all have a tremendous opportunity to affect each other for good or for bad. It is one of the special stewardships we have from God- how we use our lives to affect others.

In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul shares a prayer that he has on his heart for the church. Ephesus was a large town, an important stop along trade routes, and a cultural center featuring the very latest in philosophical and religious thought. The Ephesians were familiar with political, social, corporate and individual power, but for those who had turned to Christianity, the apostle Paul was intent that they become aware of a new power through spiritual strength. He desired that God would, "grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…" Paul writes about the impact that coming to know the Lord has on a person's life.

Then Paul follows with these words:
"that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Eph. 3:17-19

When God steps in to change a person's life, He does so, in part, by showing us how much He loves us! He gives us a powerful strength to understand His love, and when we do, it changes us. He shows us how broad His love is to reach across the scope of all time. He shows us the lengths to which He is willing to go to save us in coming to earth to die for our sins. He shows us the depth of His love in the way that He continues to bless, refine, discipline, and lead us, and He shows us the unsearchable heights of His love as He reveals Himself to us.

Time spent in prayer, reading the Bible, and fellowshipping with other believers is time well spent getting to know God. Has your life been changed by God? In what ways has knowing God's love for you affected the way you relate to others? I join with the apostle Paul in praying that you would know the Lord by faith, and that we would be so changed by His presence that we would know the breadth, length, height and depth of His love for us.

Friday, July 18, 2014

It's "Who" You Know

In the gospel of John, chapter 14, Jesus is teaching His disciples during what we call the “Last Supper”. He gives them some encouraging words about the hard times they are all about to go through and He says these words, “...if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples, questions Him, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” The disciples were fixated on following Jesus, as they had been doing for the previous three years. It was important to them to know their master's plans so they could follow Him, but Jesus had just told them He was going to prepare a place for them in heaven so they could be with Him. Thomas' question really expresses the thought that is on many peoples' minds. What do we need to do, how do we get there, what is the proper procedure?

Jesus turns the tables and makes this statement, one of his most famous quotes in the Bible, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In other words, according to Jesus it's not what you know, but Who you know that makes the ultimate difference. Thomas was looking for a process, Jesus told him to look for a person. And that person was Jesus himself.

The same principle is true for us today. We may find ourselves with our own checklist of all of the good things we believe we must do in order to gain salvation, or we may find ourselves honestly asking, 'How can I be right with God?' While it may be tempting in such a hard working culture as ours to rely upon our commitment to excellence to prove our worth to God, the answer is found in Jesus Christ who knew no sin, but instead became sin for us and died for us so that we could have a clean record with God the Father. Jesus saves, Jesus forgives, Jesus makes old things new. What about you, do you know Jesus?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jesus is the "Answer"?

I have heard a story of a Sunday school teacher who presented a series of pictures on giant flashcards to her class. The pictures depicted scenes from the Bible, as well as commonly found objects in the Bible stories. When she held up a picture of the head of a camel and asked, “...and what is this, class?”, her young students were at a loss. One young man finally spoke up excitedly and said, “It's Jesus!” Surprised by his answer, the teacher chuckled and asked why he thought it might be Jesus. He responded, “Well, in church they tell us that Jesus is always the answer!”

Many people are told, and rightly so, that the Bible has the answers to life's questions. And while there are many fascinating scientific, historical, philosophical and practical insights in the Bible, it would be a mistake to view the Bible simply as a “how-to” manual for life. Rather, it is a “WHO-to”. The Bible demonstrates that it is written by God through inspired men, and the entirety of the book points to one thing- Jesus.

In all of the pages of scripture, we see that God reveals Himself to the world. He first reveals Himself as the creator, as a God of justice, as a law-giver, as a healer, as a provider, as our victor, as our source of strength and help, and so on. But as the pages turn, God's plan comes more and more into focus until it all funnels down to one point in history- the appearance of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. The Bible reveals God's nature and character as we see the life of Jesus played out in the gospels and expounded upon by the remaining books of the new testament. It is a truly fascinating journey.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”- Hebrews 1:1-3.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Bearing Fruit

I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5

Jesus famous words to His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches” is a reference that is rich with meaning. Jesus presents Himself as the necessary source of our spiritual nourishment, strength, and vitality, while declaring our complete dependence on Him. What kind of fruit do you think God wants to see in our lives? While this may not be an exhaustive list, I see the following fruits in scripture as the kind of outcome God would like to see in our lives.

The Fruit of Repentance- Matthew 3:8. God loves us like a parent who loves their child enough to tell them not to touch the hot stove. God knows what kinds of behaviors lead to our destruction and so He tells us to turn away from sin. When we are headed in the wrong direction, God offers us the opportunity to turn from sin (repent) and come running back to Him.

The Fruit of Thankfulness- Colossians 3:16. We have a tendency to forget that God blesses us with innumerable gifts every day. As He works in our hearts, one of the results we see is a renewed sense of thankfulness.

The Fruit of the Spirit- Galatians 5:22. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, and self-control.

The Fruit of Good Works- Ephesians 2:10 God has a design in mind for each of His children- a set of adventures and “good works” for us to enjoy and undertake. In essence they all involve a change in the “centered-ness” of our lives. Instead of being focused on ourselves, we become more focused on others, and ultimately more focused on Him.

The Fruit of Righteousness- Romans 3:21-25 Seeing the holiness of God in scripture changes our self-defined understanding of what is right and what is wrong. God sets the standard of righteousness, and if we are in Christ Jesus as the Bible says, He looks at us and sees the righteousness of His son instead of our sinful past.

Now for the big question, “Are you bearing fruit for God?”