Instant Gratification or Waiting

Instant Gratification or Waiting

It is remarkable how much our society contributes to our expectation for there to be instant gratification for whatever we want. James shows that this concept may not always have application in our lives. “Be patient, brethren…see how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your heart…” (Jas. 5:7-8).

Instant Gratification

Are you patient enough to wait for the Lord?

Think about the simple illustration used by James. Farmers understand this principle. Hours and hours, days and days are spent in planting and weeding, and when all of that is done, he waits. The time of harvest is coming, but it does not come immediately. Christians must learn to exercise patience in serving our God.

Blessings He Gives to Those Who Wait

There are those blessings which await those who have learned to be patient. David speaks of the fact that God will exalt those who wait (Psa. 37:34). Solomon reminds us that another blessing God gives to those who wait is salvation (Prov. 20:22). While we tend to tire as we wait, the words of Isaiah promise us that as we wait, God will renew our strength and we will soar as the majestic eagle. We shall “…run and not be weary” (Isa. 40:31). The prophet Micah reminded Israel that as they waited for the Lord to act, God would hear them. Zephaniah added the assurance that God will arise to help us (Mic. 7:7). Paul describes our walk with the Lord based on the fact that we have assurance as we wait that the Lord will return to receive us some day (Phil. 3:20).

Our Response As We Wait

There are those values we must have as we wait for the Lord to respond to our petitions. We must continue to seek Him. “The Lord is good to…the soul who seeks Him” (Lam. 3:25). Paul describes it this way: “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). Think of how often David had to wait for the Lord to deliver him. The psalmist said, “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psa. 37:7).

There is no doubt that we shall win the battle and gain the victory. In His word, our God, who cannot lie, has promised this. Write these words on your heart, “In His word do I hope” (Psa. 130:5). It is this hope that is the anchor of our souls and reaches far beyond a present trial. It reaches beyond the veil into the heavens (Heb. 6:19-20). By faith we look upward and see our Savior sitting there. He is our forerunner waiting for our arrival.

God, help us to learn to wait on You!

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Jesus and The Revelation

Jesus and The Revelation

The book of Revelation is about Jesus and His saving work. There are many portraits of Jesus in the book. Perhaps the clearest is Jesus as the Lamb. Twenty-nine times the word “lamb” refers to Jesus. This isn’t the only image, though. He is also pictured as The Angel, the One riding on the white horse, the Alpha and Omega, the male Child, the Son of Man, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the One sitting on the throne, God Almighty, Jesus, Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, Faithful and True, the Word of God, the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star, and many more. Through Jesus, the saints overcome all enemies.

alpha omega

The Alpha and Omega, Revelation speaks of Christ in so many ways.

Many interpret the book of Revelation on a timeline thinking that one event must chronologically follow another. This is the wrong approach. John writes that the events happening “must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1, 22:6). What does that statement mean? Instead of trying to force the events into a chronological sequence, a timeless interpretation means the events recur cyclically in the present. Thus, the book of Revelation is as relevent to us today as to the first Christians who read it because the same issues that Christians faced then are issues that Christians face now. Jesus and His workis always at the center of each story in Revelation. Every single heroic character in the book is victorious, and every single villainous character is defeated because of Jesus’ work.At the end, we are introduced to Jesus’ bride, the culmination of Christ’s work (Revelation 21:9). The church is that bride (Ephesians 5:25-33), and the saints are the church. This means that as you live out the gospel in your life, the book of Revelation is fulfilled in you.

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Using the First Amendment?

Using the First Amendment?

Wisconsin U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin once outraged a lot of churchgoers by saying, “Certainly the First Amendment says that in institutions of faith that there is absolute power to, you know, to observe deeply held religious beliefs.  But I don’t think it extends far beyond that.”  When it was reported that she said that, the religious community manifested in the blogosphere, talk radio, cable news, and social media responded with fear and outrage.  Indignant cries like “How dare she tell us we can’t practice our religion except in a church building?!?!” and “Freedom of religion and freedom of speech is doomed in this country!!” made their rounds through the various Facebook posts and Twitter feeds of American New Testament Christians and denominational folks, and to an extent I can’t say I blame us for reacting in this fashion.  There are legitimate fears held by myself and others that outrageous fines and jail time will eventually be the price paid in this country for advertising and exercising in any way our deeply held religious convictions that homosexual marriage is sinful, whether or not we happen to be inside a church building on Sunday morning.

first amendment

Are you exercising your rights?

Yet, I also am reminded of the fact that there aren’t that many of us who are that vocal about our Christianity outside of the church building anyway, and it has been that way for some time.  According to the Barna Group, an evangelical Christian polling company:

When asked if they have a personal responsibility to share their faith with others, 73% of born again Christians said yes. When this conviction is put into practice, however, the numbers shift downward. Only half (52%) of born again Christians say they actually did share the Gospel at least once this past year to someone with different beliefs, in the hope that they might accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

As with most convictions, there usually lies a dividing line between theory and practice. When it comes to evangelism, that dividing line looks different among various demographics.

Barna defines evangelicals according to adherence to nine theological perspectives (defined in the details below), including one’s personal responsibility to share their faith in Christ with others. So in this study, of course, evangelicals (100%) claim this responsibility by definition. Nearly seven out of 10 have acted on this conviction within the last year, meaning evangelicals have the highest rate of evangelism among the various religious segments that Barna examined.

What stands out among the data, however, is that evangelicals also have among the highest rates of failure in follow-through from conviction to action when it comes to sharing their faith. Nearly one-third (31%) believe they should evangelize, but have not done so—at least within the past year.

Catholics (34%), on the opposite end of the spectrum, are the least likely across Christian faith traditions to affirm their personal responsibility to share their faith. Yet, this minority is also the most consistent in linking their belief and behavior. Roughly one-third of all Catholics (34%) believe they should evangelize, while one-third of born again Catholics actually do.

This 2013 report goes on to indicate that millennials or young adults as well as the elderly and those in the low income bracket are currently the most evangelistic among us, while those of us in the 30’s and 40’s bracket, 50’s and 60’s bracket and those in the middle-class income bracket are less personally evangelistic than we were in previous years.

To bring it closer to home for churches of Christ in this country, I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to look around in the auditorium this coming Sunday morning and check the bulletin where they record the attendance numbers.  Are those numbers below 100?  Probably, according to brotherhood statistician Flavil Yeakley.  In 2008 he reported that 45% of the almost 13,000 churches of Christ in the United States have fewer than 50 members and more than 70% have fewer than 100 members.

How many churches of Christ do you know of who have 1,000 members or more?  Not many.  How long does it take your average local congregation to increase in size by 50 members?  Years, right?  At least two years, possibly three.

Of that growth of 50, how many of those were Christians who moved into the area or transferred their membership from another congregation?  How many of the 50 were baptisms?  Out of those, how many consisted of children of adult members of your congregation…as opposed to complete outsiders whom you personally know and invited to church or studied with because you knew they were lost in their sins and wanted to do your part to make a difference in their lives?

How many in your congregation are actively involved in regular, weekly personal evangelism…other than the paid preacher?  One or two, right?  Five or six, tops.

Now, let’s compare us to the evangelism recorded in the New Testament Christianity we always say we’re wanting to restore.  The very first local congregation read about in the New Testament grew by 3,000 in one day (Acts 2:41).  It then continued to grow day by day (Acts 2:47) so that the number soon rose to 5,000 (Acts 4:4).  After that, even in the shadow of repeated persecution of her leaders (Acts 4:1ff; 5:17ff), divine church discipline of two of her members which was quite violent in nature (Acts 5:1-11), and strife over possible prejudice within the congregation (Acts 6:1ff), the numbers of the Jerusalem church “multiplied” (Acts 6:6).  It didn’t stop there.  Even after extreme, violent persecution which scattered that congregation to the four winds (Acts 8:1ff), the church as a whole in that region “multiplied” (Acts 9:31).  Around a decade or so later, the Jerusalem church was said to once again have “thousands” of believers (Acts 21:20).

The difference is striking, isn’t it?  Painfully striking, when you think about it.

Church of Christ, it’s time for a wake-up call.  We talk a lot about “speaking where the Bible speaks, and being silent where the Bible is silent.”  We’ve made a lot of progress in accomplishing that worthy, biblical goal (1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19; Prov. 30:6).  However, when it comes to evangelism we still have a lot of work to do.

Here’s what the New Testament Christians did.  They went about preaching the Word (Acts 8:4).  The gospel was being proclaimed by them in all creation under heaven (Col. 1:23).  It took only two years for the whole region of Asia Minor to hear the gospel because of them (Acts 19:9-10).  Their voice was going out to the ends of the earth (Rom. 10:18).  The word of the Lord was sounding forth from them, and their faith in God had gone forth everywhere (1 Thess. 1:8).

They were exercising their First Amendment rights…and they didn’t even have the First Amendment. 

So while I get that in one sense why we are so outraged over this senator’s statement that Christians need to keep their First Amendment rights confined to a church building, at the same time I wonder why in the world most of us are so upset about it…considering that for a generation or so the church building is the only place where so many of us choose to exercise our First Amendment rights to begin with.  Why be upset with her idea of limiting a freedom which we ourselves have already limited?

Christians, do you want our society to get back to God?  Do you want your church to grow?  Most importantly, do you want the souls of every single person you know to go to Heaven?

It’s up to YOU to do something about it.

And it’s going to take a lot more than you nodding your head as you read this, saying “Amen!”, clicking the “Like” button on Facebook and posting this article on your wall, and re-tweeting it on Twitter.  Remember, according to the Barna research above that…and only that…is what most of you are going to do.

No, it’s going to take more than that.

It’s going to take YOU, you PERSONALLY, deciding to ACTIVELY, on a DAILY basis, talking with the people in your life about Jesus and sharing the gospel with them.

If you do this, guess what?  God’s going to open the doors of Heaven to you regardless of whether a single person listens to you.

But if you DON’T do this, guess what?  Everyone you know who is lost will stay lost and end up in Hell for all eternity, and you will be right there alongside of them.

That’s what God has promised (Ezek. 3:16-21).

So go out there and use your First Amendment rights while you still have them…and then keep on “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) even if they should be taken away.

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Honor Your Cool Parent?

What Ever Happened to Honor Your Mother and Father?

Almost everyone these days wants to be a cool parent. Don’t believe me? Just check out social media and look at the posts of parents dressing like their children, taking a million selfies with their children. While there is nothing “sinful” about a 40-year old dressed like an 18-year old, I do see a trend that troubles me.


To busy acting like a child to be functioning as a parent?

The problem with being a “cool parent” is these parents often forget their primary job—to parent. Instead, they seek to be friends with their children. As a result, discipline and training is thrown out the window, and instead, parents negotiate with their young children. Or worse yet, they don’t do anything when the child acts up, opting to allow the child to misbehave instead of have a confrontation. They recognize the child is acting badly, but they don’t want to ruin their trademark of being the cool parent, and so the child acts out without fear of being corrected.

This trend has gotten so bad that some parents with small children are choosing to stay home and miss opportunities to fellowship because deep down they are embarrassed with how their children behave. Friends, this should not be the case with Christian parents. What happened to honoring and obeying parents? What happened to correcting a child that talked back to his or her parents? What happened to being a real parent?

I’ve heard young children call their parents everything from idiot, stupid, and mean, to even much worse. This is not honor. This is not cool. It tells me the child is calling the shots in that family. What does it say about a child who does not honor his or her earthly parents when the time comes for him/her to honor and respect their heavenly Father?

Stop worrying so much about being a cool, young, hip parent—and just parent. Say no—and mean it. Find your wooden spoon—and use it. I promise you that any tears you see today will be much easier to deal with than the tears that might come in 10-15 years as a result of you letting them run wild. Want to be a cool parent? Then how about bringing honor and obedience back into your home. Yes, it may be extremely hard—and you may even have to start over. But it will surely be worth it.

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Finishing the Race

Finishing the Race

There are many illustrations used in the Bible to describe our lives as Christians. We are warriors in His army (Eph. 6) and harvesters in His vineyard (Matt. 20). We are boxers who do not simply throw blows into the air against an imaginary foe (1 Cor. 9:26). One illustration used repeatedly is that we are competitors in a great race.

This figure is used in the book of Hebrews. After describing those heroes of faith throughout chapter eleven whose lives were all lived by faith, the Lord then turned His attention to the Hebrew Christians. That this chapter is directly tied to the men of faith is evidenced by the first word in chapter twelve. “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

face finish

Keep your eyes on Jesus.

How do we maintain our strength and stamina in this race? The answer is found in the next verse. “Looking unto Jesus…who for the joy set before Him endured…” He never let up. He ended the race by saying, “It is finished.” He is our model and our example of endurance as we are faithful until death.

Yet, we struggle in this race. When we first read the words of Isaiah, we may not realize just how difficult the race can be. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31). We may overlook the fact that even this verse speaks of renewing strength and forget the energy expended by eagles as they soar above us.

Look further into this passage to see the importance of endurance in our race. The trials of this race are part of how God uses adversity to chasten and mold us (vs. 3-11). We are told to not despise these difficult times for afterwards it “yields the fruit of righteousness” (v. 11). As we run the race, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and finish the race at whatever the cost.

The Lord then urges us to realize that we owe a debt to help others in the race. “Strengthen the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees” (v. 12). We need others to help us endure. They need us. When we see others struggling, we need to help them in their run.

Finally, He talks about showing others how to run the race by the way we live. The Lord says, “Make straight paths for your feet” (v. 12). The Greek literally says, “make your wheel tracks straight.” Remember that others are following you in the race, so leave distinct ruts and tracks clearly defined so they can follow in your steps.

God help us all to “finish the race” (2 Tim. 4:7).

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