In an article in Christianity Today (October 2019), Gerald Sittser wrote about the early church and the Christians who embraced a new story. “The story of Jesus opened their eyes to see history not as a narrative of the empire’s achievements—and atrocities—but as a narrative of God’s redemptive work in the world, which often occurs in quiet and mysterious ways. For them, Bethlehem and Golgotha occupied center stage, not the Roman court.”
I encourage to pause today and reflect on the babe of Bethlehem who died with His innocence intact on the cross at Golgotha. His life was a message of redemption, and His death was the sacrifice that redeemed us.
Among the last few words that He spoke, His concern was for those who persecuted Him, and “Forgive them. . .” was a last request.
Make it your mission today to give life to His dying words and “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).”
On March 8, 1713, Matthew Henry experienced an unfortunate incident that offered proof that he was a preacher who could not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.
Henry had preached a sermon in a London church that focused on the joyful sound, and based on the words of Psalm 89:16: They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness.
Shortly after he left the church, Henry was robbed by a couple of thieves. As Henry reflected on this incident in a prayer, he said:
Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.
Henry’s prayer is an expression of gratitude. He chose to focus less on what he had lost and the danger he had faced and more on what he still had, what he had never been, and that he remained safe and secure in Christ.
Instead of allowing bitterness to take root in his life, Henry chose to cultivate a spirit of forgiveness and nurture an attitude of gratitude. Can the same be said of you? Which of these three is indicative of your attitude today–bitterness, forgiveness, or gratitude?
To help you stay focused on this discussion I’ll end with the words of Zig Ziglar: Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.
Do you judge-mentally or are you judgmental? One is a well-reasoned response to a given situation, while the other is an irrational reaction. One investigates the specifics seeking the best outcome for everyone involved, while the other is condescending and self-serving in its handling of the facts.
A judgmental person thrives by focusing on your weaknesses and failures. As long as he can do that, he doesn’t have to think of his own puny performance and fatal flaws.
Paul challenged the church at Galatia to address this issue: “If a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. For each one will carry his own load . . . whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith (Galatians 6).”
Here are some questions for you to consider:
- When someone stumbles and falls, do I reject him or restore him?
- Am I reaching out with a “spirit of gentleness?”
- Do I have a “holier-than-thou attitude?”
- Have I examined my life to deal with my own shortcomings?
- Do I look for the opportunity to help carry the burden of the heavy-hearted?
- Am I like the Good Samaritan, and try to do good to all?
Your answers to these questions may help you determine if you are a picker-upper or a put-er-downer. Which of the two are you?
Some people are so busy talking down to others, they never share an uplifting word. One stokes the smoldering ashes of human misery, while the other shares the comforting warmth of God’s mercy. Will you do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12)?
Most Americans were familiar with Ryan Lochte long before the Olympics began in Rio. Now that the Olympics have ended, it will be a long time before the people in Brazil will forget him.
As a member of Team USA, Lochte has been known as one of swimming’s fiercest competitors. Today, however, he is known more for his lapse of judgment and his questionable antics.
Although his behavior has led to a loss of his four major sponsors including Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren, Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops, has just signed the 12-time Olympic medalist as a spokesman to advertise their company.
Rider McDowell, CEO of Pine Bros said, “We all make mistakes, but they’re rarely given front page scrutiny . . . I’m confident that Pine Bros fans will support our decision to give Ryan a second chance.”
As someone who has needed a second chance on more than one occasion, I applaud the decision of Pine Bros, and I’m reminded that God also gives people a second chance. Think about an incident in Jonah’s life and this principle from the Proverbs:
- After Jonah’s gut-wrenching experience, The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you. ~Jonah 3:1-2
- A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance. ~Proverbs 28:13
Examine the lives of Jacob, Samson, Peter and Paul, and you’ll discover that God is the God of second chances. He is the God of grace, of mercy, of forgiveness, and the God of beginning again.
As Paul said, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ~2 Corinthians 5:17
When I read the news from France early this morning, I was reminded of the words of Jesus: “a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God (John 16:2).”
The truth of Jesus’ words is crystal clear in the spiritual climate in which we live. The twisted theology of radicalized terrorists compels them to murder in the name of their god. While it’s true that there’s just a minority of the population who engages in these inhumane and atrocious attacks, the partisan silence of their fellow acolytes is deafening.
This morning, two men armed with blades entered a church in northern France and held several people as hostages. French media is reporting that the attackers cut the throat of the priest.
Please pray for the citizens of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and the grieving people of this church.
Today is Good Friday, and it’s a day that I focus my thoughts on the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. The essence of Good Friday and the hope of Easter is clearly stated in I Corinthians 15: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (3-4).”
In the death of Jesus, we see the innocent dying for the guilty. Bill Crowder has said that “…death was not Jesus’ penalty; it was His destiny. It was not His lot in life; it was His mission. It was not His unavoidable fate; it was His purpose statement for coming to earth that first Christmas: ‘Born to die.'”
The crucifixion was an open display of the love of God for sinful man, and John Piper has commented: “The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift, and, if necessary, at the greatest cost, to the least deserving. That’s what God did. At the loss of His Son’s life to the totally undeserving, God gave the best gift –the display of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”
When Jesus spoke of His impending death, He would also speak of His resurrection. In regard to His death and resurrection, Watchman Nee said, “Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.”
On this most somber day of Christianity, I ask you: What is your history with Jesus, and what is your future without Him?
You da’ man! You’ve probably heard this exclamation after someone has done something great or unusual. The only reason I even mention You da man, is to help you with the pronunciation of Eudemonic (yoo-di-mon-ik).
A lot of what I do focuses on the end results of Eudemonics which is behavior that produces happiness and a sense of well-being. This type of happiness is not associated with the circumstances of the world, but it has more to do with the concept of joy and your relationship with the Lord.
With this in mind, it’s easy to identify a few of the Eudemonic Principles in the Bible. There is the:
- Joy of Knowing God: But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You (Psalm 5:11)
- Joy of Forgiveness: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (Psalm 32:1)
- Joy of Mercy: Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (Psalm 106:1)
- Joy of Restoration: Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:12)
I encourage you to give some thought to your relationship with God, and to take the time to mediate on the joy-filled message of Psalm 62:
Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You. All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.”
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13
When I was in the military, the uniform of the day specified what I wore on a given day. I usually wore drab olive fatigues and combat boots, but on occasion I was required to wear my dress blues and spit-shined shoes.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, he described their uniform of the day, and he instructed them to:
Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. ~Colossians 3:12-14: The Message
Regardless of whether you’re wearing blue jeans, a black tie and suit, or a stylish dress, don’t forget to put on the love of Christ—it’s your “all-purpose garment” and uniform of the day.
When you look at the picture to the left, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it tennis, effort, skill, or the disciplined regime that developed the muscled frame of France’s Gael Monfils? The picture was shot at the Australian Open, and the first thing I focused on was Monfil’s shadow.
There’s something interesting about shadows—they’re universal. Only about 1% of the world’s population will be born with red hair, but 100% of people have a shadow.
Shadows were the focus of Paul’s discussion in the third chapter of Colossians where he contrasted the shadow of your old nature to your new nature in Christ. Paul challenged people to come out of the shadows and to live in the light. There are three things you need to do to accomplish this:
- You need to “set your mind” or focus your thoughts in the right direction: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2).”
- You need to peel off the rags of unrighteousness and walk away from the shadows of your former life: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… in these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices (3:5-9).”
- You need to wear a new wardrobe: “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator…Put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other; And above all these put on love (3:10-14).”
To shake off the shadows, you’ll need to develop spiritual disciplines that are as demanding as the physical regime that’s practiced by Gael Monfils. When you begin to do this, you will find that you are walking in the light and in fellowship with Jesus.