Living in a Tent

Bear-Warning-Sign-Entrance-.jpg

“Don’t feed the bears!” the Park Ranger told us when we entered Yosemite National Park.

“Don’t take food into your tent.”

“Don’t leave food on your picnic table.”

“Don’t leave your ice chest setting out—Put it in the trunk of your car.”

Fortunately, I was driving a 1978 Buick Electra 225 and the trunk was as big as Texas. We could have slept in the trunk if we had needed to. So we agreed to abide by all the warnings about the bears. I made a mental note of the rules for future reference.

Pat and I set up the tent while Daren and Julie played around the campsite. Our tent was a canvas classic. My dad had gotten a “real deal” at the Army Surplus store. The tent was Fatigue Green—I mean really fatigued green. The mosquito netting was mostly torn and the zippered window flaps only went halfway up. The all-important zipper on the door flap did work, which would come into play later.

We had a great evening, and like most campers, turned in pretty early. I went to sleep thinking about Rule #1, “Don’t feed the bears!” All was calm until about 2:00 a.m. when a lot of yelling and a huge ruckus awakened us. Pat zipped the door flap down halfway and peeked out. Sure enough, our neighbor was screaming at a huge black bear that was tearing up his ice chest. So, my first thought was, “Man! That guy neglected Rule #4!”

Our neighbor was yelling and beating on something to “scare” the bear—but when he stood on his hind feet and looked down at the man—he suddenly fell silent. Remembering Rule #1, Pat zipped that door flap up, as tight as it would go. About that time we discovered a drawback of camping in a tent—amazing vulnerability. The Army Surplus zipper on that tent flap would not really do much to stop that bear. We were just glad we obeyed Rule #2, and lay wide-awake until daybreak.

Living in a tent has its drawbacks—especially if there are bears around. Now, I know there are people who live their whole lives in tents, but from my experience, I am glad I am not one of them.

However, living in a tent can yield some great spiritual lessons. In Second Corinthians 5, Paul used the tent as a metaphor of our physical bodies, to teach powerful truths about our lives, here and hereafter. Notice the contrasts between life here in our earthly tents—and life there in our heavenly house:

There is a Contrast in their Endurance”We know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (verse 1)

Tents are vulnerable—as are our earthly bodies. Tents offer no protection from intruders and are designed for temporary use. So are our bodies. They are easily injured. They are fragile—one accident can end a life. They are short-lived.

Buildings are stronger, durable and long lasting—as our heavenly, resurrected bodies will be. “It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body…it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42, 44).

There is a Contrast in their Comfort”For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven” (verse 2).

Tents are uncomfortable. They cause us to “groan.” As the physical body, our tent, gets older, more groaning results—“Indeed, while we are in this tent, we groan” (verse 4).

Buildings are mostly comfortable, roomy and secure. After you become a believer in Christ and begin to grow in your faith, you get to “longing” for your future abode, your future home that God provides and Jesus prepares (John 14:2).

There is a Contrast in their Duration…We want “to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life” (verse 4).

Tents are, by nature of their material, of short duration. Fabric decays—Bricks endure. Whether tents are made of animal skins, canvas or nylon, they don’t last very long. The longest life in this physical tent is short.

Buildings are made to last. Eternity is just that—eternal—never ending. To believers, Jesus promised: “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish” (John 10:28). People think now that life is swallowed up by death, but not so, in Christ, death will be swallowed up by life!

There is a Contrast in their Location…We “prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (verse 8).

The physical tent in which you now dwell, will be left earthside, when you pass from this life. Life in this tent is tied to this mortal environment.

But the building, that new body you will receive, which is eternal, is fitted for heaven. Paul said he would rather be “absent” from here, in this tent, “to be at home with the Lord.” Wouldn’t you really rather be at home?

Though life here on earth is contrasted with life hereafter in heaven—Our aim should be the same—“We also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (verse 9). Whether living in a tent now—or in your eternal house later—your aim should be to please God with your life. For the best life in a tent here, until you get your “building not made with hands,” aim your life at His glory!

 

God’s Choice Tools

images.jpeg

God loves to use the insignificant for His glory—the overlooked for feats of greatness—the weak to rout the mighty. When He does this, only He gets the glory.

During the last months of World War II, the British conducted daily bombing raids over Berlin. The bombers would take off from an airstrip in England and fly, surrounded by smaller fighter planes whose job it was to keep German fighters from attacking the bombers, which were easy targets.

One night after a successful bombing raid, as they were heading for the safety of England, the bombers were attacked by a large group of German fighter planes. During the dogfight, one British bomber found itself flying alone with no protection, and suddenly, a German fighter appeared out of nowhere. The crew of the bomber watched as the German plane moved closer and closer. The bomber crew prepared for the worst and watched helplessly as tracer bullets began spitting from the fighter. Bullets whizzed by them, over and over until, five bullets slammed into the fuselage of the bomber near the gas tank. The crew braced for the explosion, but nothing happened. They could see fuel pouring from the bullet holes, but there was no explosion. Miraculously, they were able to make it back to their base and get safely off the plane.

A few hours after they had landed, one of the mechanics showed up in the crew’s barracks. He had found five slugs inside the fuel tanks, crumpled but not exploded. He handed the slugs to the pilot. The pilot carefully pried open the slugs and to the crew’s amazement found each one empty of explosives. Inside one of the bullets was a tiny wad of paper. When he unfolded the paper he found a note which read: “We are Polish POW’s – forced to make bombs in a factory. When the guards do not look we do not fill with gunpowder. It is not much, but is the best we can do. Please tell our families we are alive.” The note was signed by four Polish Prisoners of War. It wasn’t much, but it meant life to that British bomber squad! (“Messy Spirituality” by Mike Yaconelli). Seemingly overlooked people and unimportant events, may prove to be the most valuable people performing the greatest actions in the world.

On His last trip to Jerusalem, Jesus was in Herod’s Temple, standing by the treasury. Mark stated that He “began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury” (Mark 12:41). As Jesus watched, “many rich people were putting in large sums.” You can imagine the pomp and circumstance surrounding the giving of wealthy donors. Jesus had just warned His disciples to, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes…and like…chief seats in the synagogue and places of honor at banquets” (verses 38-39). They wore expensive flowing robes, sat in the dignified seats and expected preferential treatment.

What caught the Lord’s attention were not the extravagant gifts of the wealthy, but the menial offerings of a pauper. “A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent” (verse 42). She gave two lepta, which was the smallest bronze Jewish coin in Palestine. It equaled the value of one penny, which was 1/64th of a Roman Denarius, a day’s wage for a laborer.

However, in the Lord’s sight, that miniscule amount was enormous. Jesus said, “This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury” (verse 43). What made those two mites so large? Jesus praised her because proportionately, she had given most. He said the wealthy, “put in out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (verse 44). The widow sacrificially gave all she had. She gave 100%. She, not they, was God’s choice tool!

Consider what God can do with a little. He used a small boy with a sling and stone to defeat a giant (1 Samuel 17). He enabled one man to slay 1,000 with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15). He whittled an army of 32,000 to 300 and then empowered them to defeat an enemy numbering 120,000 (Judges 7—8).

Scripture reveals that, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen…so that no man may boast before God” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

Did you graduate at the top of your class? Are you successful in your business? Do you have graduate degrees? If so, God can use you, but He has to work at it! He specializes in using common, ordinary, average people to accomplish great things in His service. That way there is no doubt that God did it, and He gets all the glory!

The Lord can use YOU and ME. He wants us to be FAITHFUL to do what we can with what we have, for His glory. What matters is not what you would do for the Lord if you had the money, the time, or the talent—it is what you do for Him now—where you are— with what you have—that makes the difference! Receive Him, honor and serve Him today! Remember the widow’s mites!

Anticipating No More’s

th.jpeg

Living as fallen people in a fallen world takes a toll.  You can see evidence of the Adamic curse on people, plants, animals, world and national events and in all of creation every day. We regularly see natural disasters and human caused calamities. Have you ever known a 150-year-old person? Why not? It is because we live in a universe alienated from God’s person and His original plan and every thing and every person is in the process of decay and eventual death.

That is a sad reality. However, according to the promise of God, it will not always be that way. Through Jesus Christ, all who belong to Him anticipate a time when God will literally be with us, and His full favor will shine upon us once more. A time is coming when God will reclaim and restore His fallen creation. John wrote about this glorious change that is coming in the future—“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3, 4).

Don’t you love the way John worded that promise? “God Himself will be among them.” God HIMSELF—Not another, but He Himself—the Creator, Master, Lord and Savior, will “dwell among them, and they shall be His people.” No longer will people wonder: Where is He when it hurts? Is He hearing my prayers? Does He really care about my problems and burdens? We will wonder no longer because “He Himself” will be with us!

It will be a time when God Himself, “will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” What a beautiful picture. As a loving mom gently wipes the tears from the cheeks of her hurting child, so God will wipe away all tears. Imagine dwelling in a place where there is never a reason to cry—where there’s never a sorrow that brings weeping.

This will be a time of no mores—“no more death. . . no longer any mourning or crying …or pain; the former things have passed away.” Imagine a place of “no more.” The place of “no more” is for every believer in Christ, when they come into His presence. Don’t you long for the day of “no more?”  One day we will see and experience this place because of that person—The Lord Jesus Christ—who gave Himself to redeem us to be with Him forever!

When I was about ten-years old, visiting my grandparents in Lipan, Texas, my grandmother asked about funerals I had attended. I told her I had never been to a funeral. She was taken aback, thinking I was not respectful, to the deceased, or the families of those who had passed away. Recognizing her reaction, I quickly explained that I had never attended a funeral, because I had never known anyone who had died. As I look back on it, I was in a blissful state, and did not know it. During the next decade I would attend a score of funerals, including hers’. Unfortunately, now it seems, I know as many people who are deceased, as who are alive. It was better not having known of death.

The Bible teaches that: “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children” (Psalm 103:15-17). As God describes it, human life is as fragile as a flower that can be destroyed by the slightest breeze. It is as temporary as grass. Though human life is frail, short, sometimes difficult and always hanging in doubt—God promises that His love is forever and His righteousness from generation to generation. Those who fear Him are carried from fading life to eternal glory. And, since God is sovereign, all-powerful and all-knowing, nothing can derail His plan or alter the course He has planned for His people.

In February, 2008, Mercy Me recorded a wonderful song entitled, “I Can Only Imagine.” The song was an instant hit, a movie was made about it, and the song can still be heard on the radio, eleven years later. Two stanzas read:

I can only imagine, what my eyes will see

When Your face 
is before me.

I can only imagine.

I can only imagine, when all I would do

Is forever, forever worship You.

I can only imagine.

Another older song says, “There’s a great day coming, a great day coming by and by!” The future is bright for those who know and love the Lord. No matter what happens in life today, for believers, things will be better when Christ returns. But, now is also the time, for unbelievers, to turn to God, repent of sins, and trust Christ alone to save them. Life is uncertain and short at its best, and today is the day to make your peace with the One who loves you, gave Himself for you, and will save you, if you call on Him.

Meanwhile, His people are to live for Him, learn of Him and love Him and others. The time of “no more’s” is probably not so far away. Prepare for that day. Anticipate that day. Begin today.

The Broken Fence

Amazing-Grace.jpg

An American missionary friend, in Lodwar, Kenya, East Africa, came home to an infuriating sight. Two teenage boys were crawling through a hole they had made in his fence. He was livid with anger.

He wrote, “They ran into the house across the street from me. I went to the door but the girl that answered said their mother was not home. I told her to tell her mama to come see me as soon as she got home.”

When the mother got home, the missionary went to her gate and told her what he saw. “She calls for the boys to come outside. They admitted they cut open my fence to get their ball they had kicked inside. She has them pull down their pants and lay on the ground. She calls for one of the girls to bring her a stick. By this time the rest of my neighbors are all gathered around us.

“Part of me wants these boys beaten for tearing a hole in my fence and coming inside like thieves. But there is the other part of me…the part that I hope controls my life. God has forgiven me greater trespasses than cutting a fence to get a ball…how can I not forgive them? So I do. I do not wait for them to ask. I simply told them I forgive the offense. I ask the mama not to beat the boys this time.

“However, she insists on beating them. She tells story after story where those two boys have done wrong and she is a single mama. She needs them beaten!

“I do not know why I did it, but right then, I laid down next to the boys and told her to beat me first. If they were going to be beaten for this, then beat me too.

“She started to cry….the boys were crying….and so was I. Mama told us all to get up. We hugged and I told her and the boys I forgive them and asked that we be friends.

“Grace does that—enemies become friends. We are called to be vessels of grace. Period!” – Eddie Williams

God’s grace affects life beautifully, in many ways—It is God’s grace that enables Him to forgive and save sinners—It is God’s grace that, like Eddie did, extends forgiveness and pardon to people who sin against us—And it is God’s grace that is the message we share with people around us.

God’s grace is amazing! It interacts with us in three ways:

  1. We are to be Recipients of Grace. Grace is the spontaneous, unmerited gift of God’s favor, forgiving sin and granting salvation, to people who do not deserve it, and who could never earn it.

But grace—though free to the receiver—is costly to the giver: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

The only way sinners can ever be saved is by trusting Christ alone to save them. Paul summed it up: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Salvation by Grace is an undeserved gift from God. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

  1. We are to be Dispensers of Grace. This is what the missionary did. He was a recipient of grace—who chose to extend grace, pardon and forgiveness—in place of punishment—even if it cost him.

Jesus taught His followers to extend grace and forgiveness in Matthew 18 where He told of a slave who was forgiven a great debt, but then refused to forgive another indebted to him. The slave owner said, “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I have mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33).

Believers in Christ are to dispense grace and forgiveness in all they do. Paul commanded: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).

  1. We are to be Messengers of Grace. Because God has “reconciled us to Himself through Christ,” He has given to followers, “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Believers in Christ—reconciled to God by the death of His Son—are then to become messengers of God’s grace to others—“He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (verse 19).

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Knowing Christ means you are to share Christ with others who need Him. We, and churches like Corinth, are to be devoted to communicating the message that through Jesus Christ, people everywhere can be forgiven of sins and become reconciled to God.

This message of grace is possible because “He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (verse 21). The message of grace is that sinners can become righteous because the righteous One became sin for them!

God’s message of grace is to be received, emulated and proclaimed! Let us never forget, “that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Perpetual Praise

Praise_the_Lord.jpg

Is it just me, or did you ever think—Somewhere there must be a limit to the number of books and songs that can be written and sung? Creative writing and singing by people in billions of combinations of words and notes are mind-boggling. Every piece of music ever written, played or sung is based on only 7 notes with 12 tones and about 120 pitches. Every single song since creation has been bound by these parameters—from Beethoven to Bill Gaither—from the Beatles to Brandon Heath—all their music is based on the same 7 notes!

Not only that, but, every word spoken and every book written is based on different combinations of the same words. Words are the product of the alphabet, which, in English, totals 26 letters. Think about it—every book or article that has ever been written or translated into English—is the product of combinations of only 26 letters of the alphabet. Whether Homer’s “Odyssey,” Melville’s “Moby Dick,” Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” or the current Best Seller on the New York Times’ list—they all come down to various combinations of familiar words made of only 26 letters. There is a best seller on your keyboard—and all you have to do is figure out how to put them together! The King James Bible alone contains 783,137 words made of over 3 million letters. And every verse, statement, promise, command and hope, is unique!

This kind of amazing creativity reaches its zenith when words or music are employed to express, sing or speak God’s praise and His message. David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, was on such an exalted plane when he, by inspiration, penned Psalm 108:1-5. Listen to the majesty of these words: “My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul. Awake, harp and lyre; I will awaken the dawn! I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your lovingkindness is great above the heavens, and Your truth reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Your glory above all the earth.”

Perpetual praise to God was so important that one of the constant duties of Levites and priests was to, “stand every morning to thank and to praise the LORD, and likewise at evening” (1 Chronicles 23:30). So, “the priests stood at their posts, and the Levites also, with the instruments of music to the LORD, which King David had made for giving praise to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (2 Chron. 7:6). God’s praise from His children is also meant to be perpetual, as the psalmist wrote, “My soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30:12). We are to “declare Your righteousness and Your praise all day long” (Psalm 35:28), and “In God we have boasted all day long. And we will give praise to Your name forever” (Psalm 44:8). We are to praise Him forever—because His love is forever.

This praise worship of God must have been glorious to hear, for Ezra recorded that “when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD” (Ezra 3:10). The book of Psalms fittingly closes with a magnificent praise hymn to God. Following the admonition to “Praise the LORD” (Psalm 150:1), the psalmist encourages praise music “with trumpet sound…with harp and lyre…with timbrel and dancing…with stringed instruments and pipe…with loud cymbals” and “with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD, Praise the LORD!” (verses 3-6).

Why is praising God so important? Because, “He who offers praise honors Me” (Psalm 50:23). God longs to hear His redeemed people thank and praise Him. We can understand this because we never tire of people who say “Thank you,” for what we have done.

Only our perfect God could design the crown of His creation with limitless ability to create repeatedly changing combinations of words and music. Though based on the same musical notes and simple words, they are continually re-combined to uniquely speak to people’s hearts. In 2012, Christian musician, Phil Wickam, wrote these lyrics of his powerful song, “This is Amazing Grace’”

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness

Whose love is mighty and so much stronger

The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder

And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder

The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who brings our chaos back into order

Who makes the orphan a son and daughter

The King of Glory, the King of Glory

Who rules the nations with truth and justice

Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance

The King of Glory, the King above all kings

[Chorus:]

This is amazing grace, This is unfailing love

That You would take my place, That You would bear my cross

You lay down Your life, That I would be set free

Oh, Jesus, I sing for All that You’ve done for me

Phil Wickam ends his song by reminding hearers of the One who is worthy of our highest worship and deepest devotion—the Lord Jesus Christ. God made people in such a way that they can creatively praise and exalt Him—or as the song goes: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain…Worthy is the King who conquered the grave…Worthy, worthy, worthy.” Amen! Let us keep on with perpetual praise for only He is worthy!

 

 

 

Sunday’s Coming!

maxresdefault.jpg

Pastor S. M. Lockridge (1913-2000), who pastored Calvary Baptist Church, a prominent African-American congregation in San Diego, California, is credited with originating the phrase, “It’s Friday—but Sunday’s Coming!” These words are the perfect answer for Passion Week. During that week Jesus was abandoned, rejected, tortured and mercilessly crucified. His body was laid in a borrowed tomb, but was gloriously raised from the grave on Easter Sunday.

The true meaning of Easter and the resurrection of Christ is a problem for some people. But for me, believing in the actual, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was never difficult. I cannot recall ever not believing it. The human impossibility of it; the uniqueness of it; and the implications of it, were not always comprehended. But I just figured, if God could make a living man from a pile of dirt, how hard would it be to restore life to someone who had died? Child-like faith is a wonderful thing!

From the strictly human viewpoint, however, death has a cold finality about it. As far as can be seen from the physical side, death is the end. It is a period, not a comma. When we stand helplessly on the sideline as death snuffs out life, it reminds us that giving and restoring life is far beyond any human power. Those obvious facts make the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave all the more important.

When that Sunday finally came, initial reactions to the news of Christ’s resurrection revealed not many were expecting it. The women who first came to the empty tomb, “found the stone rolled away” but were “perplexed” about it, until an angel told them, “He is not here, but He has risen” (Luke 24:2-6). The empty tomb surprised this sweet ladies auxiliary.

When Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James told the apostles they had seen the risen Christ, “these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them” (Luke 24:11). It was not pagan unbelievers who thought the news of the empty tomb “nonsense,” but the apostles of Christ.

Later in the day on Easter Sunday, when two disciples on the road to Emmaus encountered an unrecognized Jesus, they admitted their disappointment at the crucifixion of Christ. They acknowledged that some had seen the empty tomb, but they were puzzled by it all. You can feel the pain and sadness in their words: “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Their confidence had been shattered by His death on the cross. Now they were at a complete loss. The Lord’s words of rebuke must have stung when He said, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25, 26).

Despite the doubting disciples, the Lord Jesus made five appearances to a great number of followers on Easter Sunday, which convinced them He was alive. Later, Jesus appeared to hundreds of followers, as Luke noted, “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

From that day until this, the good news of the gospel always includes the news of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). As evangelists and missionaries carried the message to people in the first century, the resurrection of Christ from the dead was always an essential part. Without the resurrection of Jesus, the gospel is not good news. As the gospel spread from Asia to Europe, the reaction of people to the resurrection continued to be mixed. It was gladly received by Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:38-43), as well as by many Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:28-33, 38, 39), but was ridiculed by some Athenians on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:18, 30-34). There, the inclusion of the resurrection in the gospel, got mixed reviews: “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this’” (Acts 17:32). Thankfully, despite the ridicule, some believed and were saved (verse 34).

What are the implications of Christ’s resurrection?

If Christ was not raised from the dead:

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised” (1 Cor. 15:13).

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain” (verse 14).

“And your faith also is vain” (verse 14).

“Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God” (verse 15).

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless” (verse 17).

“And you are still in your sins” (verse 17).

“Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (verse 18).

If Christ was raised from the dead:

The resurrection of Christ declared Jesus to be God’s Son with power (Romans 1:4).

Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all believers (Romans 8:11).

His resurrection gives His followers living hope! Believers have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3, 4).

“It’s Friday—but Sunday’s Coming” reminds us that, no matter how gloomy things appear to be right now—Sunday’s coming! For Jesus, the agony of Passion Week ended in ultimate victory. His victory over death and the grave means that every believer in Christ will also share His triumph through eternal life He gives.

As we remember and celebrate His resurrection, let us rejoice that, “He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:6). Thank God—Sunday’s coming!

Active Listening

listening.jpg

“Do you hear me?” My mother asked me that question a thousand times. Looking back, I am sure it was rhetorical. She really didn’t expect an answer—what she wanted was obedience. My problem was not poor hearing, but neglectful listening. I needed to be an active hearer.

I find it is easy to hear, but hard to listen. It is effortless to talk, but difficult to act. It is painless to dream, but costly to perform. James summed it up best: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was” (James 1:22-24).

In truth, many people who claim Christ are hearing, but not doing, the will of God—they are discussing, but not performing the work of God—and are quoting but not obeying the Word of God. If this is true, they face the worst kind of deception—self-deception! One who deceives himself thinks he is something he is not. He is deluding himself, or as the King James Version renders it, you are “deceiving your own selves.”

To be a “doer” of the word means you will do what it says, and not merely hear. If we hear without doing—listen without obeying—we will not be pleasing to God. Instead, we will be fooling ourselves into believing that we are pleasing Him.

Putting it another way, some may think they are Christians, when they have never actually trusted Christ as their Savior. That is the worst kind of self-deception, because it will impact their eternity. Others may think they are serving God by showing up, but are actually doing nothing for Him. John wrote, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). When people do what Jesus commands, they show that they know Him.

Some people talk a good game, but never get on the field. “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). Someone described a football game as twenty-two people on the field badly needing rest being watched by seventy thousand people in the stands badly needing exercise. For most of us football is a spectator sport, but Christian service should never be like that. We must get into the game and get involved in the action, doing our part and willingly paying the price.

The fact is, we are saved to serve. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul wrote that the Ephesians were “His workmanship” – God’s masterpiece – “created in Christ Jesus” – born again by grace through faith in Christ Jesus – “for good works” – deeds and actions of service – “which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” – following His plan for our lives of ministry for Him. We are saved apart from works of any kind—unto works of every kind—for His glory.

On one occasion, the Lord challenged His disciples: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). It is one thing to call Jesus your Lord, but quite another to live with Him as Lord of your life, your decisions, your habits, your words and actions. If we call Jesus, Lord, we need to know Him and obey Him.

In January, 1933, during the midst of the Great Depression, a lady found this poem pasted to the wall of an old farm house. She was so impressed by its truth she copied it for each of her seven children. This powerful principle of life is still true today.

Someday!

There’s a loving letter I mean to send,

There’s a visit I mean to pay;

There’s a careless habit I hope to mend,

When I get the time, someday.

 

I will carry flowers to the sick and sad;

I will seek for those who stray;

You may trace my steps by the hearts made glad,

When I get the time, someday.

 

There’s a dusty Bible I mean to read;

There’s an hour I’ll keep to pray;

And I’ll turn each dream to a golden deed,

When I get the time, someday.

 

So we have thought and so we have said,

Yet, how sad it is to relate—

That, busy with less important things;

We waited until too late—

 

We never will get the time, dear friend,

To be kind along life’s way,

Unless thoughtfully and prayerfully,

We make the most of today!

To become a Christian, we must actually repent of our sins and trust Christ, inviting Him into our lives. To do God’s will, we must actually do something! It is never enough to hear; not enough to wish; nor merely to talk or think—we must do His will and work! To actually do God’s will calls for faith, trust, prayer, commitment, action, diligence, endurance and faithfulness.

Why not make it your goal to hear and do the will of God in your life? Begin by receiving Jesus as your Savior. Follow up by joining a church where you can learn what God’s Word says and can surround yourself with like-minded believers. Then put your faith into practice by serving God where you live and work.

I wonder if God is not raising His voice to us, as my mom did years ago when she asked, “Do you hear me?” I hope you will be an active listener by receiving Him and doing His will, while you have opportunity, today!