A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Romans 12:10,13 "Be Devoted To One Another"

Romans 12:10,13  “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love....Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”

      Over a hundred years ago, the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody made an observation about church that I think is still true today.  He noticed that the vast majority of church people think that church is a place to come and rest –to be refreshed and renewed and empowered to go face another week.  

      While there is a sense, I suppose, in which church is a place of refreshment and rest, it is supposed to be more than that.  If all of us come on Sunday morning with a mind set of demanding that my own needs get met in a manner and style that I personally find comfortable, there are going to be a lot of other people that end up falling through the cracks and getting hurt.
      Let me give you a mental image to hang on to.  Picture in your mind a tightrope walker at the circus, 100 feet in the air, high above the center ring. Picture this tightrope walker walking slowly and carefully across the wide-open space high above, and then his foot slips –he falls.  Although it all happens in a moment, it’s a very intense moment –everyone in the audience gasps –and then a collective sigh of relief as the tightrope walker lands safely in the net below. 

       Now picture the exact same scenario –the tightrope walker walking slowly and carefully when his foot slips and he falls to the net below -but this time the net breaks.  What happens if the tightrope walker falls and the net breaks?  Bad things.  The net is only useful if it is functioning properly.  If the net isn’t functioning properly, it may have actually caused the situation to be worse.  Maybe if the walker had realized that there was no net, he would have been more careful.  A false sense of security is a dangerous thing.

      That a safety net is something like what God has in mind for His Church to be –a safety net to catch people when they fall.  If we are going to be the church God desires us to be, we have to be a functional net.  This is a very practical matter; it’s not about how nice we look; it’s not about style; it doesn’t matter a whole lot exactly what programs we have and don’t have; it doesn’t matter too much which publishing company’s curriculum we use with the kids in children’s church; it doesn’t really matter how the chairs are set up in the sanctuary.  We all have preferences –and that’s ok, but much of what consumes the time and energy of the average church goer, doesn’t actually make a whole lot of difference in the bigger scheme of things.  What does make a difference, however, is making sure that when someone is falling –when somebody needs the safety net –our net holds.  

      Any given Sunday as we gather in all sorts of churches, some of us are truly hurting, needing to land in the safety net. I'm sure that no follower of Jesus wants the safety net to break –do we?  I believe that we all want to do our part to make sure that the church functions as it ought.  So, let’s talk about how we become the safety net that holds –let’s talk about how we become the church that is there when people are hurting and afraid and confused and struggling.

      When the church is functioning properly –when we are devoted to each other and love one another, and care about each other, we develop ministry sensitivity.  We learn to detect and recognize needs in others –we notice when others are struggling –we notice when others are hurting, and we mobilize to meet the needs. 

       Ministering to the needs of people around us, especially the needs of other Believers, especially the needs of those in our own fellowship, is an activity that all of us have a privilege and a responsibility to do.  We are all called to serve and minister to one another.

       The bottom line is this:  Get involved in the ministry of your church.  For the sake of Christ and the better good of His Body, don’t withhold what you have to offer.  Don’t be content to come and be ministered to, look for ways in which you can minister to others.  Take the initiative in ministry.  Look out for the needs and the feelings and struggles and the hurts of others, and use what God has given you  -do what you can to help.  And whatever you do, do it cheerfully and enthusiastically, just as if you were doing it for Jesus himself.  

Friday, April 3, 2015

"Worship With One Another" Acts 2:42-47

        “They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's Supper and in prayer.
        A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

        Now, remember, this happened within the context of a particular culture.  These early Christians sold their property and gave it to the church to care for the widows and orphans because with the persecution they were experiencing in Jerusalem following the birth of the church, there were lots of widows and orphans.  Persecution has a way of making like-minded people dig in and band together.  We have a whole different circumstance here in America, so, I’m thinking that you can probably relax just a little –I’m not going to ask you to sell your home and give the money to my ministry or even your local church. 

         Instead, I want to point out something that began there in Jerusalem –maybe was fostered by the persecution, but was then taught to all churches everywhere as the church grew and spread out –it’s the sense of community.  Community is God’s plan for the church.  While on the one hand, our faith –our relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus is very personal and intimate, it is intended to play out –or perhaps I should say that it’s intended to be lived out in community.
         I know quite a few people who have told me in different ways at different times that they don’t feel the need to be involved in a local church –they don’t need to be a part of a faith community in order to be sincere, effective Christians.  I think those people haven’t read and understood God’s Word.  Together we grow –separated we shrivel and die.  We were never intended to be lone-ranger Christians.  We were intended to be a community.  This is God’s plan.  How do I know that this is God’s plan?  Let me put this into a perspective. 

        How many of you believe that the Bible teaches we shouldn’t lie?  Of course it does.  In fact, according to a quick search of the New International Version at biblegateway.com we are specifically commanded not to lie or practice deceit in 15 different places throughout the Bible.  If the Bible says something in 15 different places, we ought to take that seriously, shouldn’t we?

       How many of you know that the Bible teaches us not to steal?  It teaches us specifically not to steal in 10 different places.

      What about murder?  Again, we are told not to commit murder in around 15 different places.

      What about Adultery?  The Bible actually has a lot to say about adultery.  In fact, if we include other sexual sins, the Bible specifically commands against it in at least 40 places.

         These are some of the foundational commandments of the Bible.  We all know the truth about these things.  The Bible speaks clearly and often about lying, stealing, killing and adultery.  And yet if we roll together all of the times the Bible speaks specifically about these things, it still isn’t as many times as the Bible gives us commandments about how we should treat one another in the church. 

        There are more “one another” commandments showing us how to treat others in the Body of Christ –the community of Believers than all the other commandments combined.  Don’t you agree that is amazing?  Don’t you agree that’s significant?  Can you see that this shows us a little bit about the heart of God?  God wants us to take our personal, intimate relationship with Him and live it out within the context of Christian community.