http://bit.ly/1cI2nLW and read the remarkable story about the deciphering of an 1,800-year-old letter written by an ancient soldier to his family.
I found the letter to be deeply moving, as it revealed the aching heart of a young soldier far from home. He has written multiple letters to his family, but hasn't received any response. Something is wrong, and he is concerned about what it might be. He intends on asking for leave to go home and work out whatever the problem is.
Throughout history, nothing has impacted lives like the relationships we experience. From being a source of great joy, to the reason for an aching heart, our relationships shake our lives to the core. So piercing are our relationships that they can even impede our worship of God.
Jesus knew how our human relationships can rock our world, so He taught us this ...
"So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the alter in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the alter. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God," Matthew 5:23-24.
If you're trying to worship God while ignoring broken relationships, you'll likely discover you're just hampering your relationship with God while overlooking the hurt that remains between you and others. If you want a deep communion with God, you'll have to get serious about making right other relationships in your life. You cannot love God and harbor harmful feelings toward others ...
"If someone says, 'I love God,' but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters," 1 John 4:20-21.
"Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone," Romans 12:18.
Is your heart aching over hurt relationships? Then go and do what you can to mend them. Ask God to help you make peace with others and to love others in the same way He loves us.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
We need to exercise our faith, not just when we can't see far enough down the road or around the corner, but also when everything seems to be right in front of us. We need to exercise our faith that God is directing our steps even when we can see where to place our feet because too much sight can lead to a lack of faith!
Charles Kettering once told the following story ...
"When I was research head of General Motors and wanted a problem solved, I'd place a table outside the meeting room with a sign: 'Leave slide rules here.' If I didn't do that, I'd find someone reaching for his slide rule. Then he'd be on his feet saying, 'Boss, you can't do it!'"
Faith isn't something to employ when you have no other choice because you just can't see anything, or see enough. It's also something to exercise and rely on when the facts and realities are laying in front of you. That's because if you look at it with your own human limitations, and just that, you'll miss what true possibilities there are with God.
And regardless of what you can see in front of and around you, there is always a spiritual dimension in play that you may not have the eyes for but still must be factored into every decision and every step ...
"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places," Ephesians 6:12.
Are you living by faith at all times? Is your life a walk of faith, or do you stifle faith when you think you've got everything in sight and can handle things yourself?
Friday, March 7, 2014
You're one of those people!
That's because "Futureville," written by Skye Jethani (published by Nelson Books), is one of those important books that people will be impacted by in a way they will tell their friends about it and pass along their edition.
But "Futureville" is so layered with meaning that it can be difficult to describe. An easy approach is to say that Jethani begins with the critical premise that what we believe about the future directly impacts --- in a powerful way --- our lives today. Yet, the book isn't about the future, as the author makes clear from the very beginning of this book.
Jethani writes from the start, "This book is not about the future. It is about the present. It is about determining what sort of life is truly meaningful. It is about rethinking the way we relate to the world and our purpose within it. How we decide what matters today, however, cannot be separated from what we believe about tomorrow."
Like a delightful and delicious seven-layer cake, Jethani serves up some intelligent, even brilliant biblical teaching that layers one important thought upon another until a whole dessert of sound theology is served up.
From his initial premise, the author identifies and describes three key positions from which we look at the future --- evolution, evacuation, and resurrection --- and how those positions determine how we live today. Factored into those views is the ever important but largely neglected theology of vocation. Then layered upon that is an understanding of order, beauty, and abundance. As the author writes his way through these layers of teaching, you'll identify with where the church has gone wrong, and what a more accurate biblical view would be. In the process, some people who have entrenched themselves with certain shallow theological positions will politely find their toes stepped on, but in a way that will positively challenge them to take a closer look at what scripture actually says.
"Futureville" is, happily, not a theologically shallow book like so many written by megachurch pastors whose more trite sermon series have been converted into a paperback. Instead, Jethani takes his time to intelligently establish his points. But this book isn't written for theologians; it's easy-to-understand style leads any reader from a significant premise to a thorough and profound conclusion.
Jethani is establishing himself as a brilliant writer who authors intelligent works that offer important contributions to our thinking. His last book, "With," was also excellent and worth making time to read (you can find my review of that book here http://bit.ly/1qgfzkn). "Futureville" is more than a book I can recommend, it is a book I can endorse. I encourage you to buy it and linger long in the significant lessons you'll find within it.
I received this book free from HarperCollins Christian Publishing as part of their BookLook book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Do you see something wrong with this true life scenario?
It's impossible to lie --- whether it's to your "benefit" or not --- and it not be sin. The sum total benefits of lying equals zero.
"Just say a simple, 'Yes, I will,' or 'No, I won't.' Anything beyond this is from the evil one," Matthew 5:37.
Whenever we go beyond the simple clarity of truth, we enter into evil. How are you doing with this? Is your "yes" and "no" just that? Can your words be trusted because they represent the truth? Or have you bought into the lie that you can benefit yourself with a departure from the truth and still be like Christ?
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Wesleyan Methodist missionary, James Calvert, committed his life to reaching the indigenous peoples of the Figi Islands. It is reported that upon his voyage, the ship's captain warned him to turn back, saying, "You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages."
To that, Calvert responded, "We died before we came here."
"Then he said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it," Like 9:23-24.
"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me," Galatians 2:20.
Are you still trying to hang onto your life? Or have you given up your life to Christ so that He lives in and through you?
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
The shorter, easier, less might appeal to our carnal nature, but it does nothing to disciple us to walk with Jesus Christ, who spoke this way about following Him ...
"Then he said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me'," Luke 9:23.
Searching for a Christian-Lite version of faith isn't seeking out Christ, but looking instead for a way to dodge Him and the commitment of our lives that He demands. Are you trying to live a lite version of the Christian faith, or have you responded in full obedience to Christ?
Monday, March 3, 2014
So we walk from the bed to the coffee pot and begin loading in the day's stimulation.
We turn on the TV to get the news as we eat a sugar-laden breakfast and check our text messages, sending our first round of texts for the day ...
.... before getting dressed for work, we squeeze in that after-meal cigarette, even though we're already running late ...
... as we move from the house to the car, we take a travel cup of coffee and switch on the radio ...
... we check and respond to texts at each red light, and even a few green ones ...
... when we get to work, we top off our coffee cup and switch on our computers, checking our social media sites before transitioning to our email ...
... we later run outside for a cigarette, grabbing a soda on our way, and catch up on the latest workplace gossip while puffing and texting ...
... over a junk food lunch, we read the gossip tabloids until joined by co-workers and the conversation turns to real gossip over more text messages ...
... the afternoon is broken up between work, checking social media sites, a switch to Red Bull for some afternoon energy, a couple more cigarettes and a final round of gossip ...
... on the way out the door, you grab a soda for the commute home, then have a quick smoke before hopping in the car, where you place another soda in the cup holder and immediately turn on the radio ...
.... once home, you grab a beer, switch on the tabloid programs on the television, and start swapping stories about your day, especially the ones with gossip ...
... at dinner you switch to wine and include the kids in the story-telling, they have their own gossip to contribute ...
... after loading the dishwasher, it's time for an after-meal cigarette with another glass of wine, then time to boot up the laptop for catching up on social media ...
... you finally tell the kids goodnight, and make a little time for sex before falling asleep.
It's been another day filled with stimulation and titillation. You managed to keep your mind and body stimulated all day long. It makes you feel alive!
There's no time for silence. No time for contemplation. No take for organic functioning.
We saturate our lives with things that stimulate and titillate.
Living this way is why so many of our relationships are hollow at best; why we're bored with spiritual things; why quiet moments are avoided like the plague; and why we have so little interest in God. It's a far cry from the life the Apostle Paul challenges us to live:
"So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks to everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," Ephesians 5:15-20.
Do you feel like you have to fill your mind and body with stimulants or titillation to feel alive? To enjoy the moment? Can you sit still and enjoy the silence? Can you hear the voice of God? Is being filled with the Holy Spirit enough for you?
"Be still and know that I am God ..." Psalm 46:10a.