It’s been said, “Some people’s idea of progress is to improve everything but themselves.” Too many times we want things to get better, but we don’t really want to change anything ourselves to see our situations get any better. This is true in our physical lives, as well as, our spiritual lives. There are seasons when we feel distant from God and even spiritually lethargic. We begin to question our surroundings: Why is my church not feeding me? Why does the preacher not relate to me? Why can’t worship be the way I like it? Why won’t people change around me at work, so I can feel more comfortable being open about my faith. And the list could go on and on. However, the problem is we are questioning our surroundings when we need to look into the real heart of the matter…our own hearts. Yes, maybe we are surrounded by things that don’t fit our preferences, but couldn’t the real problem be that we have grown complacent in our own spiritual walk and we just wish everyone and everything would come down to our satisfaction? As Christians, this type of thinking is totally backwards to what we have been called to do. Jesus made it clear that we are to take up our crosses and follow Him daily. That means we have to give Him more than lip service, but instead, we need a healthy dose of repentance. Turning our lives over to Jesus is not a onetime event, but it is a daily choice to humble ourselves to the life-changing power of our Lord. So instead of sitting around spiritually waiting on everyone and everything else to change, we need to personally seek out God and His ways every day. When we make this a normal standard of living, we will find a wellspring of spiritual blessings fresh and new every day. And that is worth personally changing for.
With the passing of Billy Graham, our nation has lost more than a generational icon. We have lost one of the greatest evangelist of our time. Yet even Billy Graham knew that all of his great accomplishments would not get him into heaven. We know this is true by what he preached. Once Rev. Graham declared, “I will not go to heaven because I am a preacher. I am going to heaven entirely on the merit of the work of Christ.” You see what he knew and what he proclaimed, was that all that Jesus did on the cross was sufficient enough to provide for us eternal life and a home in heaven. God is not looking for great works of merit or good deeds for us to earn a spot in heaven. By His grace alone, can we obtain forgiveness for our sins and new life. Thus all we can do is turn away from this life of sin and turn to Jesus by faith. This was the central message of Billy Graham’s life and it is the most important message any of us need.
Why should we support missions? Why is it the Christian’s concern what happens to the people around them and in far-off lands? The answer should be plain and simple, but for many folks, it’s not. For some, I’m sure they just don’t give much thought to missions. To others, there may be an inward focus; “I’ve got my own troubles to worry about.” Nevertheless, these reasons or excuses do not negate the responsibility of every Christian to be concerned with missions. Why? Because if we are truly disciples of Jesus, then we will develop a heart like Jesus. We live in a world full of people who are spiritually lost and without hope. Every second of every day, people slip into eternity. Those who exit this life without Jesus, face eternal damnation. If we truly believe that, it should prick our hearts to help advance the cause that carries the only solution to this problem. If we have truly been saved from such as horrible destiny, why wouldn’t we want others to experience this sweet salvation as well? Do we truly believe the gospel? Do we truly believe Jesus, when the He says “No man comes to the Father but through me”? If our hearts are right with Jesus, then we will have a yearning for the nations. We should have a desire to see more and more people come to a saving relationship with the Lord. Therefore, those who aren’t sent to the nations, equip those who are sent to go. Now, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t to be missionaries in our own backyards and neighborhood because all Christians carry this responsibility. But we should each take up the example given to us by the New Testament church and support our modern day Pauls and Tomthys and Lukes. Missions is the best investment we can earthly make because we will spend an eternity enjoying the dividends. So yes, we support missions and the reason for it is because we love Jesus.
Earlier this week I was reading about Jesus’ interactions with the people of His hometown of Nazareth in Mark 6. From that text, we read about Jesus being unable to minister in this city because the people who knew Him growing up rejected Him. But there is a small detail found in verse 6 that really caught my eye. The Scripture says that Jesus “was amazed at their unbelief.” After reading that I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Is Jesus ever amazed at my unbelief?” I know there have been occasions in my life when I have been amazed at my own unbelief. Those seasons in my life when I wasted so much time fretting and doubting about my circumstances. Those times when I went about worrying and trying to control outcomes, knowing in the back of my mind God is the real one in control. While yes it is true that Jesus marveled at the unbelief of the Nazarenes, the wonderful truth is this. Jesus doesn’t hold grudges. While we may faultier in our faith, Jesus never fails in His faithfulness. So instead of living day in and day out wondering how much we have disappointed the Lord, as Christians, we need to embrace the wonderful reality of His grace. It is true that we become weak in faith and that we do sin daily, but it is also equally true that through Christ, God doesn’t see a bunch of disappointment when He sees us. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, God now and will always see us as His treasured people. And to that, I truly stand amazed.
There is an old saying that states, “The milk of human kindness never curdles.” We live in a world that sees more cruelty than kindness. Yet daily kindness to our fellow man should be the mark of truly living in Christian love. To love your neighbor as your self means that you treat others with the same amount of respect and courtesy that you long to be treated. When we are kind to others it is noticeable and it is attractive. Kindness also has a way of spreading from one person to another. After all, if we claim to be followers of Jesus, then we want others to know why we are truly being so kind. The answer, of course, is because we have the love of Jesus and we want that love to be shown to others as well.
Years ago someone once said, “Never be guilty of judging a man’s actions until you know his motives.” I think, for the most part, that is pretty accurate. That being said, there are occasions where actions speak for themselves. However, in our day to day living, we must learn to develop a heart of compassion. Those around us may do things that offend us or even hurt us to some level of degree, yet compassion drives us to seek why those people do such things. We are told from Scripture that we are to “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins” – 1 Peter 4:8 CSB. So instead of being enraged or judgmental about how others treat us, let’s start looking upon them with eyes of love and allow ourselves to see things from their perspective.
Someone said, “When you get the daily bread you have been praying for, do not grumble because it is not cake.” It is very easy to fall into an entitlement mentality. In our culture, we hear many times how much something isn’t fair. However, if we really set back and listen, many of the outcries about fairness are quite petty and sometimes absurd. For the Christian, life is not about fairness, but about thankfulness. When we stop to consider that our daily needs are being met while so many around the world are not, we really don’t have room to complain about fairness. If we have a warm home, a car, gas for the car, food in the refrigerator, and a job, then we are truly blessed. If we have a loving family and good friends, then we are richly blessed. No we may not have as much as others do or we may not have the same opportunities as someone else, but that doesn’t mean that life is not fair. Honestly, we need to be glad that God doesn’t give to us what is fair. If we really got our fair share, then we would pay for our sins and wrongdoings in hell. If God gave us what we really deserve, our eternities would only be bleak. But thanks be to God, that He doesn’t give us what is fair, but instead He shows us grace. So the next time we are tempted to complain about our lot in life, let’s be careful to keep in perspective what real fairness would really look like.
It’s been said, Time is what passes rapidly between the “easy monthly payments.” Have you ever felt like that before? Most Americans have. The invention of monthly financing has dawned the age of instant gratification and rapid suffocation of debt. The allurement of “easy payments” seems so attractive, but financially they can lead to a very slippery slope. With tax season approaching many of us will be getting some sort of tax return. Having these extra funds can be used for momentary pleasures, but in the end is that really what God wants us to do with the money He has entrusted to us? Instead of wasting away extra financial blessings, wouldn’t it be better to put out hard earned money to good use? This year why not prayerfully consider using any extra income for two major goals: 1. Paying off debt, 2. Passing the blessing forward. Paying off debt elevates financial responsibilities to our debtors and allows us to use our funds for God and our own household. Besides debt, our funds should be seen as blessings with the potential to be blessings to others. Why not give of your extra income to things that matter to God. As followers of Christ, we should be cheerful givers to missions, our churches, and to charitable organizations in our community. After all, life should be more than just living month to month making payments. We should use our daily resources to make a lasting difference.
It’s been said, “Knowledge humbles great men, astonishes the common man, and puffs up the little man.” Knowledge is a wonderful gift, but how we use the knowledge we obtain reveals whether we have true wisdom or not. People who become arrogant or “know-it-alls” with the amount of knowledge they have obtained are actually revealing how foolish they really are. The Bible says, “Wise people keep what they know to themselves, but fools can’t keep from showing how foolish they are.” – Proverbs 12:23 NCV. You see, you can have 12 Ph. D’s and still be a fool. What we do with our knowledge determines if we are great or if we are little. So remember knowledge combined with wisdom never has to be shown off.
Have you ever notice how slippery money can be? You seem to have it one day and it is gone the next. It’s been said, “Money is so hard to keep these days that a fellow is really foolish to work for the stuff.” That statement is funny, but it stings a little with the truth. From a human perspective, we do seem to be working so hard to gain what we can’t keep. However, for those who follow Christ, this shouldn’t be our perspective when it comes to money. We must remember that every dollar on our paychecks and in our bank accounts is truly a gift from God. He owns everything including our money and our very lives. Thus we must learn to be good managers of the money God gives to us. Yes there will be lean times and there will be bountiful times, but through them all, we must make wise choices with the money entrusted to us. We don’t live to make money, we live to glorify and serve God. Therefore, let’s be sure that God is number one in our pocketbooks as well as our hearts.