Graduates Need to Know…

Graduates Need to Know . . .

Sometimes it is hard to believe that our young men and women will soon graduate from High School and into adult life.  We ask:  Are they ready?  Will they be prepared?  Can they succeed?  What will their future be?  Who will be in their life?  Where will they go?  What will they do?  There are some things that our graduates should know.  Here are a few.

There are many graduations in our lives.  Embrace humility and self-control.

There are many graduations in our lives. Embrace humility and self-control.

First, God loves you.  Sometimes it will feel like everyone in the world is against you.  Know that God is rooting for you.  He doesn’t necessarily want you to have the big salary, fancy car, and showcase house, but He is on your side.  He emptied the greatest treasures of heaven for you (Romans 8:32).

Second, you will be your own worst enemy.  Know that you cannot be defeated unless you allow it.  Fear comes from your own mind, and you are in control of your life.  God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of love (2 Timothy 1:7).

Third, take responsibility for your actions whether good or bad.  Taking personally responsibility is hard because it means embracing your failures, but God forgives and so will your family and friends that love you (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Fourth, love yourself like God loves you.  Don’t be selfish, but do recognize your own worth and value.  Understand that you are worth taking care of yourself.  Clean up after yourself.  Practice proper hygiene.  Respect and obey the law (Romans 13:1-10).

Fifth, don’t let sin control you.  Stay away from hurtful passions: greed, gluttony, lust, laziness.  Recognize the root of these things: pride, envy, and anger.  This is a battle you will constantly fight.  Let God’s Spirit lead you, not the desires of the flesh (Romans 8:1).  God bless you, and I love you.

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Looking at the Evidence

The Perfect Church had Everything

Those who look at the world through the eyes of faith see the world so differently from those who look at it through the eyes of unbelief. Believers look at the heavens and the firmament and see a universe which declares the existence and the glory of God in every language spoken on the earth (Psa. 19:1-3). Unbelievers look at this evidence and never even think about God. The eyes of those who walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) and those who walk by the flesh definitely see two different worlds.

What do your eyes see in the evidence from the first century Church?

What do your eyes see in the evidence from the first century Church?

Look at first-century churches using eyes of faith. Most churches were despised and persecuted so much that they often had to meet in secret. James described these churches so graphically when he asked, “Has God not chosen the poor of this word to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 2:5)? However, there was one church in the first century which was so blessed financially that they did not suffer this way.

Most churches in the first century were the focus of hate from the enemies around them. There was persecution from the pagans. There was even more persecution which came from the synagogues which saw the church as being a great threat to Judaism. However, there was one church who, judging by what is described in the epistle written to them, was not the object of such hate and its attendant opposition.

The suffering of Jewish Christians was especially intense. The book of Hebrews described the reaction of the church to this suffering. “For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Heb. 10:34). However, there was one church who did not lose its possessions and remained prosperous.

Had you lived in the first century, which of these churches would you like to be the place where you worshiped and served God? A church which endured persecution and were poverty stricken or one which did not have to meet in secret? A church where there was persecution and poverty or one which had none?

Before you answer, let me tell you that the church which did not meet secretly, was not persecuted and retained its possession was the church at Laodicea. The same one which Jesus was about to vomit out of his body! The church in Laodicea saw themselves as “rich. . .wealthy and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:18). Think about it. How did Jesus see that church? He saw Himself standing outside of it, knocking at the door, wanting? That “perfect” church had everything, except Jesus!

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Spiritual is Where God Is

Spiritual is Where God Is

It is a point always well worth remembering: “spirited” is not the same as “ spiritual, ” though many people do seem to get the two confused.

The spiritual moments with God are not akin to a concert or ballgame.

The spiritual moments with God are not akin to a concert or ballgame.

A football game, for instance, is often spirited, with a lot of shouting, screaming, cheering, and even laughter. Football games, however, are seldom spiritual events. Nevertheless, when it comes to worship, its notable how many people assume that if a crowd is yelling, clapping, and cheering indicates, they are a very spiritual audience. But spirited is not the same as spiritual and God is often to be found in the quiet times, the meditative times, and the reverent times.

The prophet Elijah provides two good illustrations of this. In 1 Kings 18, we read about Elijah’s “contest” against the prophets of Baal. The lone prophet of God, Elijah, squared off against 450 of the competition, who were, in turn, supported by 400 others (cf. 1 Kings 18:19). The contest was to build two altars and see which deity, Baal or Jehovah, responded with fire. The prophets of Baal had a very spirited exhibition, lasting hours. They screamed, they danced, they prayed loudly. They even cut themselves in their “worship.” But no god answered their prayers. There was nothing actually spiritual about what they were doing. (cf. 1 Kings 18:20-29)

Elijah, on the other hand, had a short, simple prayer, asking God to do a miracle to indicate that Elijah truly was a prophet. The response from God was overwhelming, with a fire that devoured sacrifice, wood, water, and even stone and dust. (cf. 1 Kings 18:36-38). Elijah’s worship wasn’t very spirited, but it was intensely spiritual, representing a legitimate connection between himself and the Divine.

Sometime after this victory over the false prophets, Elijah was fleeing from the queen, Jezebel. She was upset that Elijah, following God’s  fiery exhibition, had persuade the people to execute the false prophets. Elijah was led by God to Mount Horeb, where God indicated that Elijah was to wait for Him. As Elijah waited, there was a mighty wind that tore apart the mountain, but God was not in the wind. There was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. There was a great fire, and God was not in the fire. Then finally there was a still whisper, and God, the text indicates, was in the whisper. (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13)

The earthquake, the wind and the fire were all more “spirited” events, full of action, noise, and visual effects. But they weren’t spiritual events, for God was not there. The still small whisper was not very exciting, from a physical perspective, but it was an intensely spiritual thing, for God was there.

Jesus taught us that true worship was worship that was conducted in the Spirit, and in truth. (cf. John 4:24) To be in the truth, it is necessary to conform to the standards of God’s word, which is truth (cf. John 17:17). To be in the Spirit it is necessary that it be a spiritual exercise, involving the heart and the mind (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:15). Too many, however, think that unless a worship is spirited, it lacks spirit, and is therefore unspiritual. The problem is that people who crave excitement, mistakenly believe that when something is exciting, it therefore has spirit, and is therefore spiritual. But that’s not what Jesus was actually teaching.

Serving God is often, in fact, not exciting. Sometimes it can be downright unexciting. For instance, Jesus washed the apostle’s feet. (cf. John 13) He did this as a loving servant teaching a vitally spiritually lesson. But from the vantage point of Jesus, if one is to be honest, one must confess that there seems to be few things in this world less exciting then scrubbing 24 dirty feet, one after another. But it was what God wanted. Likewise, with the cross. There are many words that one could use to describe the suffering Jesus endured for us at the cross, where he was beaten, crucified and mocked. Exciting is not really one of the words one would normally use. But has there even been a more spiritual service offered by one man on behalf of others?

It is notable, that Jesus calls us to remember the cross, not with an exciting, “spirited” celebration, but with a moment of meditation and reflection as we consume the bread and the cup of the Communion table. (cf. Matthew 26:26-29). It, like all things truly spiritual, is a special time, not because of how excited we are, but because, in that moment, if we are truly partaking with the right spirit, God is with us, and we are with God.

Thus it is with all of Christianity, in and out of worship. Our lives are made spiritual, not by the excitement we are feeling at any given time, but rather by the presence of God.


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