Do You Remember?

The Holy Spirit is so gentle and yet so intense. I had this devotional written and just about ready to go when I knew I needed to change a sentence. So, I opened my editor, but as I searched for that sentence, I could tell that I needed to make some other changes. Finally, I got the message, literally. A cut and paste job wasn’t enough. I had to change the intent of this devotional. I’m thankful that God cares enough about us that He has a purpose for this site.

Do you remember when whole local churches used to visit other churches? It was usually on a Sunday night. The host church would be overflowing, every pew filled and even some folding chairs in the back.

I remember one time when the elders became worried and started counting heads for fear that we might exceed the Fire Marshall’s posted maximum occupancy. I’m not making this up. That’s what church services were. And, when the church was packed, we had church. My spirit stirs within me just from those memories.

One of the things that we had back then was a face-to-face presence within the community. The shop owners knew church members. Some of the shop owners were church members. Unchurched people in our town knew of us and would get a message to us if they needed prayer. It always seemed odd that local citizens were afraid to cross the threshold of our church, but if they ran out of all options, then they’d contact a church member and get their message to us. Again, this seems unrealistic. You may think that, perhaps, my memories are inaccurate. But they are true.

I think the reason most churches no longer believe they can support missionaries, or visiting evangelists, or choirs from Christian universities is because our culture has changed so quickly. When this happened, we closed ranks instead of running headlong into the cultural battle. Here I am speaking as an actual casualty. I was raised in the church and was truly saved and baptized at a young age, but when I needed the church the most, I was pushed away because I had long hair. I remember the day when I decided there wasn’t a place for me in church. Thankfully, several years later, God sent someone to me to remind me of the Gospel and to guide me back to Jesus.

To save their churches, many Christians believed the lie that “religion” is a private matter that should stay at home. That is the antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus. Now, sadly, many local churches back then listened to the whispers of culture instead of the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, God’s will is for every Christian and local assembly to be actively engaged with their communities. Let us remember Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” Good deeds are the expression of our love. Love is dead without action.

Okay, Gary, we got it. Church used to be great and now most struggle to keep going. Where’s the devotional? Here’s the good news for you to embrace and carry to your local church and to everyone you meet: We, as Christians, have a compelling message that rises above every message in the world; Jesus is back from the dead, He is in heaven, and He’s ready to do the same for us. And right now, He’s prepared to fill churches with overflowing attendance. However, there’s one thing. It is a straightforward thing standing in the way of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit beyond anything we can imagine. God requires us to be holy. “Get real,” I can hear some say.  No, this is the only thing we need to do. Here’s what God’s Word says in 1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV):
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

As I close this out, I feel like I need to make a comment related to holiness. Don’t love money. It’s excellent if God provides you with wealth. Still, people should know by your actions that your love is for God and his righteousness. Even simple things like being stingy when you tip at a restaurant speaks of who you trust. And, perhaps worst of all, Christians file lawsuits for money. What does it matter? As God said in Job 1:21 (ESV), And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Anyway, I pray that the Holy Spirit would breathe overflowing life into each of you. As Jesus said in Luke 6:38 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English), “Give and it will be given to you in good measure, pressed down and overflowing, they shall cast into your lap. For with what measure you measure it will be measured to you.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

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Just Jesus and His Cross

Our society is more fractured now than it has ever been in my lifetime. You would be hard pressed to pick any social topic, be it ethnicity, gender, economic, political persuasion, the morality of computer games, or anything that comes to your mind, if you say what you think online, in a forum, on facebook, and now even face-to-face, the topic will immediately spark a vicious debate with no possibility of anyone changing their mind. These are not exchanges of ideas but mechanisms for demeaning people. 

Christian, we are all created in the image of God; do not participate in this useless “arm wrestling” that tempts even the best follower of Christ to create homegrown scripture to bolster their position.

Instead, the next time someone tries to draw you into a debate, say what Paul said to the Corinthians, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (MSG), “You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” I think we can learn something from Paul’s approach.

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Bubble Wrap

Bubble Wrsp

God has designed us with five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. These are the inputs into our mind and body. If we never use any of these, then nothing bad can get in, but, then, nothing good will be accomplished, either. The conundrum is how to access the world without letting the world come in and harm us.

The fundamental problem is the world is a sensual world, meaning its highest priority is enticing all our senses to exceed God’s intended use.
We have sight to see the glory of God’s creation but the world wants us to go beyond that and see what God never intended us to see. Our smell and taste provide us with the joy of delicious food, but the world pushes us to exceed this, to have a Downton Abbey ten-course meal.

We can see too much, taste too much, touch too much, overloading our senses, leaving us ill, exhausted, and burdened with guilt. The problem is kind of like popping bubble wrap. The purpose of the bubbles is to cushion and protect but there’s a visceral satisfaction in exceeding the structural integrity of each bubble so it ruptures with a satisfying “pop”. It’s okay to pop bubble wrap but we shouldn’t do the same with our senses.

Like that Christian children’s song goes:

O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
is looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV

Miika Silfverberg (MiikaS) from Vantaa, Finland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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