As followers of Jesus, we should never give people a reason to criticize us, but we shouldn’t compromise our commitment to Jesus in order to avoid criticism either. We should not be ashamed to be associated with Jesus.
The fact that Paul could be at peace and stay content in the midst of everything that he had experienced was an amazing mindset, but it’s also one that’s available to every other follower of Jesus as well. And so, how can we get to a place in our own life where we can actually say with integrity that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”?
When we talk about reaching others, in a sense we are talking about what most people would define as evangelism. This means actively trying to share the good news about what God has done through Jesus with the hope that people will respond to this news by repenting and following Jesus as King. However, if we’re not considerate in our efforts to do this, we begin to fall into the trap of becoming Christian-salesmen peddling Jesus as our product and strictly focusing on ‘closing the deal’ and moving on to the next customer.
What is the appropriate response to hearing and embracing the gospel? Sometimes we are told that all we need to do is repeat a prayer and raise our hand. But if this was indeed the way that we were intended to respond to the gospel then there’s no doubt that it would have been made clear right here in Scripture. However, Scripture provides a different answer concerning “What shall we do?”
Minor League Baseball can breed this awkward team dynamic where everyone's individual pursuit of the Big Leagues secretly but not-so-secretly trumps the overall performance of the team. Sadly (but truthfully), this can cause players to struggle with the success of their own teammates (especially those who play the same position). And so, even though your teammate's success will help the overall performance of the team, it can also be seen as a potential threat to your individual pursuit of being the next guy who gets called up to the Big Leagues.
The history of humanity's progress is often characterized by advancements in empire, discovery, renaissance, enlightenment, industry and information. Mankind has worked tirelessly to subdue the universe and with great success has brought to light many of the wondrous things hidden within it. However, in spite of all his great discoveries and progress, man is still searching for that most illusive treasure that seems to continually escape him.
The first groups of Jesus followers devoted themselves to core habits that helped strengthen their unity as a group and their allegiance to Jesus. These are core habits that have been carried on throughout the history of the church and are the essential elements that make up a healthy group of Jesus followers.
A careful reading of the Old Testament (OT) may lead us to ask a disturbing question, “Is God’s love conditional or unconditional?” This week in the bible reading plan, we read a particular portion of Leviticus where we heard God warn his people that “if you walk contrary to me then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you.” This certainly seems like a conditional love, and we’d be hard-pressed to convince anyone otherwise.
This is an astounding description of God’s love for man and a beautiful promise to those who love Him back. This is perhaps one of the most awesome sentences in all of Scripture. However, I often fear that this summary statement made by Jesus has been hijacked at times to promote a distorted gospel message.
After the reign of King David (the son of Jesse), God brought judgement upon the faithless people of Israel reducing them down to a small remnant. Abraham's family tree was chopped down to the stump. God's covenant promise to bless the world seemed hopeless and forgotten. But in God's own mysterious way, He promised to one day spring to life an everlasting kingdom from the very stump that appeared to be dead.
This Sunday we enter into the season known as Advent. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means coming. Traditionally, Advent is celebrated as the season leading up to Christmas which begins exactly four Sundays before December 25th. As early as the fourth century A.D., Christians would normally fast during this season because the whole purpose of Advent was to look forward to the second coming of Christ.
There is a particular type of faith that we can possess which is the same type of faith that we see in the nine who didn't return. It is a faith that is commonly birthed from experiencing circumstances of great desperation. It's a faith that cries out to God for mercy and is even willing to try anything the Lord might prescribe. However, it's a faith that at its core is seeking personal gain rather than God’s loving grace. It's a faith that cares more about what God has to offer rather than the offer of God Himself.
I am a regular at the local coffee shop in Downtown Woodstock as it has become my own personal office. Rather than playing zone defense in an attempt to defend my privacy from four children under the age of eight, I sit quietly at my favorite table up against the wooden bleacher seating unique to Copper Coin Coffee in Woodstock, Georgia. This coffee shop get-a-way is an application of wisdom and discernment on my part. As I sit there each week and cherish my Ethiopian pour-over, I seek to take advantage of this quiet time. It is here that I often find the Holy Spirit subtly offering His wisdom aimed directly at my heart.
This is an invitation into His Kingdom which leads to eternal life, but it’s not the most inviting invitation. We can walk into a great number of churches and listen to a great number of preachers on any given Sunday, and we will be given a much more welcoming invitation into the Kingdom of God than what Jesus offers us here.