Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Button

I stood up to preach recently at church on a Sunday morning and realized one of my coat buttons was missing.  This was a minor bummer because I knew I'd have to find the lost button, and I had no idea where it could be.  My hope was it would turn up in my truck or office.

Well, I couldn't find it anywhere.  The button was nowhere to be seen.  I was beginning to wonder if it was gone forever.

But yesterday I was sitting on the front pew in our sanctuary.  I just happened to glance at a table and there it was!  My button was sitting there and waiting for me to reclaim it.

I was thrilled!  It was a happy moment when I realized that the lost item was now mine.  On the inside, I was rejoicing.

Then, I thought this:  If I was that glad over a lost button being found, God and His angels must be a million times more glad when a lost soul is found and saved.  I'll bet Heaven rejoices when people cry out to Jesus in faith and receive the gift of grace.  

See, God does care about that kind of stuff.  Actually, He cares Big Time.  People matter to Him.

When a lost person gets saved, He rejoices.

When a backslidden prodigal repents and returns, He rejoices.

Isn't it great to know that we matter that much to God?!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

When Criticism Comes Our Way

I attended a meeting this week of local ministers.  It was really great to be around other guys who are serving churches in our area.  During the session, several topics were discussed.  One of the main matters talked about was criticism.  As I listened to the guys honestly share from their hearts, I was reminded of this truth:  Everyone deals with criticism in one way or another.

So, what are we to do when criticism comes our way?

Well, here are a few things I've learned over the years...

[1]  When criticism comes, stay calm and don't react defensively.  Breathe.  Keep your cool.  Don't give your critic a quick, knee-jerk response.  Listen patiently and try to hear what they're saying.

[2]  Try to not take it personally.  Consider the fact that the critic may be more upset about the circumstances than he or she is about you.  Sometimes the critic may not know who exactly to address the matter with, and they may just need to blow off some steam to anyone who will listen.

[3]  If the critic is specifically talking about you, ask yourself if he or she has a legitimate complaint.  Let's face it:  Some criticisms we receive in life are deserved.  There are times when we certainly should be given constructive criticism because we are just plain wrong.  Be honest and take a look within.  If the critic is even half-way right, be mature and strong enough to take it to heart.

[4]  Learn from criticism.  There is always room for improvement in our lives.  If at least a shred of what is being said has some accuracy, we can grow wiser from it and decide to live better in the future.

[5]  If the critic addressing you is totally wrong and unfair, ignore it and remember that God will vindicate you in His own way.  People may just be completely off base when they tear into you.  God sees that and knows that.  And one way or another, God will deal with that situation on your behalf.  He will see to it that your name is cleared eventually.  And He will properly address people who treat you wrong.  So don't take matters into your own hands.  Speak the truth, let it go, and move on.  God will handle the rest.

I've received some criticism in my life.  Some of it was deserved.  Some of it was not.  And I bet the same is true for you.

Let's look to God for guidance when criticism comes our way.  He knows best how to deal with it.  And we can choose to let it serve as a growing time in our life.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Church To Cheer About

It was a church to cheer about!

Paul wrote to the Colossians and celebrated three awesome things about their congregation. 

First, he pointed out that they were a place of faith.  In verse 4 of chapter 1, he acknowledged their "faith in Christ Jesus."  The Colossians knew that salvation was found in none other than Jesus.  They trusted the Son of God to forgive their sins and rescue their souls.

We must do the same.  Jesus must be the center of our faith.  He is where our attention must be focused.

Second, he pointed out that they were a family of love.  In verse 4 of chapter 1, he mentioned "the love which ye have to all the saints."  The Colossians cared about each other.  They loved people from all walks of life, and they treated people right.

We must do the same.  There must be a love within us for people, regardless of who they are, where they've been, or what they've done.  Let's ask God to fill our hearts with love, and let's ask God to help us love people like He does.

Third, he pointed out they were a house of hope.  In verse 5 of chapter 1, he mentioned "the hope which is laid up for you in heaven."  They clung to the hope and assurance that a better, brighter future awaited them.  The truth of a wonderful future with Christ gave them certainty that all would be well in the end.

We must do the same.  People in this world are hurting.  Negativity and pessimism are both in the air.  Let's give men, women, boys, and girls the message of hope that is found in Jesus.  An awesome, eternal future with Him is what people need to hear about and be comforted with.

Hey, congregation, let's be a place of faith, a family of love, and a house of hope.  Let's follow the example of the Colossians.  That's what people need.  And that's a church to cheer about. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Army Socks

"Then He said, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.'"  Luke 9:23

When I was a senior in high school at Thomas Sumter Academy, I received a post card one day from the Army.  They were advertising these cool socks with the green stripes on top.  All I had to do was check a box, fill in my contact information, and mail the form back in.  I wanted the free Army socks so I filled everything out and sent it back in.

A couple of weeks later, the socks arrived in the mail.  I was thrilled.  The next day I proudly wore them to school.

Then a couple weeks after that, I was sitting in the library for study hall.  Mrs. Sheridan, our Guidance Counselor, walked up to me with a confused look on her face.  She said, "David, there's an Army recruiter sitting in my office right now, and he wants to talk with you."  My heart almost jumped out my chest.

See, I just wanted the socks.  I didn't actually want to take on the hard life of a soldier.  In no way was I Army material.

During the meeting I made it clear I did not see myself entering the Army.  And that Army recruiter was probably thinking, "Thank goodness!"  After the meeting, my mom, who also worked at Thomas Sumter Academy, had to restrain herself from killing me.

I had wasted that recruiter's time.  I should not have sent in that card unless I was strongly considering a future in the military.  It was not one of my brighter moves.

I wanted the benefit of cool socks without the responsibility of being a soldier.

And that's a lot like people who look to Jesus for the benefit of eternity in Heaven without the responsibility of being a disciple.

People want to sign up for Christianity because Heaven looks and sounds great.  But they really aren't interested in Jesus Christ's call to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him.  Just like me with the socks, they want all the believer's benefits without any of the disciples' responsibility.

Let's remember this:  Our Savior and Lord calls us to live and die for Him.  We are to make our lives much more about Him and much less about ourselves.  This calls for us to make sacrifices and give our everything to Him.

Christianity is not just a "Get Out Of Hell Free" card.  It's a change of heart and mind which leads us to living a new life of pleasing and honoring God.  It's about responding gladly to the saving grace of God by giving Him all that we have and all that we are.

Remember that we are called to serve God.  Let's do that rather than use God for an escape route out of Hell.  He deserves way more than that.

Let's be disciples of our Savior and Lord.  Let's live for Him.  And let's remember privilege and responsibility walk hand-in-hand.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Now Instead Of Later

Proverbs 27:1  "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring."

We really have no clue what will happen tomorrow.  Oh sure, we can hope and guess about what will take place.  But the truth is, we are not totally certain about what will occur after today.

The future is a question mark for us; therefore, let's not put important things off until tomorrow.  Why?  Because we may not have a chance tomorrow.  And we may not have a tomorrow.

Let's get right with God today.  When we ask His son, Jesus Christ, to forgive our sins, save our souls, and become our Lord, we are adopted into God's family and assured of spending eternity with Him.  Give your heart to Jesus Christ now.  Don't put it off for any reason. 

Do it today.  Why?  Because you may not have a chance tomorrow, and you may not have a tomorrow.

Let's get right with other people today.  We all have at least a few relationships with either relatives, friends, co-workers, classmates, or neighbors.  Love those people who have connections with you.  Forgive those who fail you.  Help those who need you.  Be a blessing to those who rub shoulders with you.  Don't put it off for any reason.

Do it today.  Why?  Because you may not have a chance tomorrow, and you may not have a tomorrow. 

Proverbs 27:1 is so right.  We should never get too cocky about what we can and will do tomorrow.  Only The Lord knows what is in store for us after midnight.  For us to delay in vital matters is risky business. 

Let's take care of important business now instead of later.