Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

An Empty Chair at the Table

On July 3rd of this year my grandma died.

Tomorrow will be the first holiday since her death.  There will be an empty chair at the table.

Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday in theory but it is in practice.  I love the deep religious meaning of Christmas and Easter more by far, but in practice I love Thanksgiving.  There's no gifts, no imaginary mascots, there's just being thankful with and for those you love around the dinner table.  I loved being around my grandma at Thanksgiving and this year she won't be there.

There are others of you with an empty chair at the table this year.  I think especially of my wife's side of the family and my friends the Bakers.  They both will have their first Thanksgiving with an empty chair.

It's not supposed to be this way.

I'm not sad for those who died.  When believers in Christ die they go to be with Jesus and that is a far better place than our Thanksgiving dinner table.  I'm sad for those of us who are left behind.  My uncle said in conversation that Heaven won't just be a big family reunion.  He's right.  Heaven will be much better than that.  At its core Heaven is about getting to be directly and intimately with the Triune God.  Heaven is much more than a reunion, but it isn't less than a reunion.  God is so good that He died to give us Himself and one another.

As I look at the empty chair this year I will keep a couple thing in mind.

"He (Jesus) sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself." Hebrews 7:27b

Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient for my grandma and it is sufficient for me.  I don't need to worry if she screwed it up in the past or if I'll screw it up in the  future.  Jesus sacrificed for our sins once and for all and this promise is for all who believe.

"... Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!"  Revelation 19:9b

"And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:39-40

There is a feast coming that transcends tomorrow's.  Thanksgiving dinner will be great but the wedding supper of the Lamb will be the greatest feast ever thrown.  Thanksgiving will have empty chairs at the table but at the wedding supper of the Lamb not a chair will be vacant.  All who are invited to the feast on that day will attend, guaranteed!

Tomorrow my family will have an empty chair at the table for the Thanksgiving feast and so might you.  This is a sad thing and I pray that you have peace in the midst of that sadness.  But at the wedding supper of the Lamb EVERYONE who looks to the Son and believes in Him will be seated and will dine and will drink and will celebrate.

Remember the loved one missing at the table tomorrow.  Give thanks for their life and give thanks that God has great promises for them and for you.  And if you don't have a seat for the wedding supper of the Lamb make a reservation with our Lord and Savior today.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is Your Sharing Anti-Gospel?

Last Fall I was able to teach a few lessons in a discipleship class series our church created called "The Gospel and Social Media."  During one of the sessions I taught about truth and social media.  It seems that this is more relevant than ever.

The Bible calls the Gospel the "word of truth" (Ephesians 1:13), Jesus calls Himself "the Truth" (John 14:6), the Ten Commandments forbids giving false testimonies.  Truth is a central issue of the Bible.  The Bible is a source of truth and it implores us to "love the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

So, why is it that so many of us have Facebook and Twitter feeds full of falsehoods?

This recent election has further exposed our lack of love for the truth.  Oxford Dictionary recently name "post-truth" as its word of the year.  Ten years ago Merriam-Webster Dictionary named "truthiness", a term coined by Stephen Colbert, their word of the year.  These words both highlight the trend that more and more what is to be felt right is more important to people than what is right.  The Apostle Paul correctly stated that people gather around them those who will tell them "what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Timothy 4:3).

Many things may be up for debate, but as Christians we should be people who highly regard and love truth.

Too often we post things that confirm what we want to believe.  There is a rash of hyper-partisan "news" sites willing to give us what our itching ears want to hear.  BuzzFeed recently did a piece about this that is worth reading.  The Denver Post had to inform people that the Denver Guardian is not a real newspaper and never has been one in Denver.  CNN's Jake Tapper did a piece about this today.  We must ask ourselves better questions when seeing a news headline than, "does this agree with my opinion?"

Recently an online piece duped left leaning people into reading a remedy for this problem.  It is well worth the read.

I will try to give a bit of a remedy to this as well.

1) Don't post what you can't confirm.
If you can debunk it in a matter of moments on Google then it shouldn't be shared.  Regardless of how much the author insists that they are the only ones that know this piece of information, most news these days isn't picked up by only one source and one source no one has ever heard of at that.  The website snopes.com is a great fact checking source.

2) Check the source.
If you've never heard of the source it needs to be questioned.  This doesn't mean that you're familiar with all legit news sources, but it does mean that we should take "news" from fringe sites with a giant grain of salt.

3) A picture with words on it is not a news source.
There a millions of photos with words on them floating around social media.  Some have correct facts, many don't.  Just because a photo exists doesn't mean the photo or the words that accompany them are true.  Just because it is a map or a graph does not mean it is real or un-manipulated.

4) Inform your friends.
If your friend is sharing a fake news story let them know.  Most people don't want to spread falsities (some do), so let them know the article they've shared is fake.  In this current climate we need to help each other.

Lies are anti-Gospel.  "What fellowship does light have with darkness?"  (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Christians, it is very difficult for us to share the Truth with someone when we recklessly shared a lie moments earlier.  Truth must be a bedrock for every believer.  The Good News and fake news are not bedfellows.

So, think before you share.  This isn't so much a political problem as it is a Gospel problem.  We must be known as people of truth.  This will take more effort, it may not get your post shared as much, but it may be the difference between an open and a closed door in your next conversation with someone who desperately needs The Truth.

Be people of truth today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After Yesterday

So, here we are on the day after yesterday and Donald J. Trump is our president-elect.  As those of you who read this blog know, I didn't vote for either Hillary or Donald out of convictions of character and policies (to be clear I voted for a different candidate).  That being said, we wake up on the day after yesterday with Mr. Trump as our president-elect.  Therefore, I want to say a few things to those who supported Trump and those who opposed him (Pastor David Miller has done a better job if you just want to skip mine and read his.)

To the winners:
Please don't spend all your time, especially all your time online, gloating.  Be gracious.  Your man won and you will see the benefits of that for four years.  Be kind.  There is a lot of anger and name calling again today.  When will this stop?  Don't hate those who didn't support Trump in the election, it's a moot point now.

As Donald Trump said in his victory speech, "Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."

Also, please don't try to paint Trump into a saint.  Mr. Trump is no saint, we know this.  He is a hedonist who at times is crude.  That is part of who he is.  There is no need today to act as if Trump were a great man of God sent to rescue America.

To the losers:
Please don't spend all day scaring each other.  Don't fear.  Don't say "#notmypresident".  Whether we like it our not Donald Trump will be OUR president for four years beginning in January.  We must honor the authority given him (Romans 13:1-7).  There is a lot of anger and name calling again today.  When will this stop?  Don't hate those who supported Trump in this election.

As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, "I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans."

Also, please don't try to paint Trump into a Hitler.  Mr. Trump reflects a demagogue in many ways, but Hitler he is not.  He is better than you give him credit for and I am preaching to myself here.  There is no need to act as if Trump will be installing himself as a dictator because he isn't.

To both:
 Pray that Mr. Trump is worthy of his calling (Ephesians 4:1 out of context).  And work to be worthy of the greater calling we have (Ephesians 4:1-6)

As God said to the exiles in Babylon, "... seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."  Jeremiah 29:7
Mr. Trump's successes in office are now linked to our successes.  If Israel can do this for its captors then all of us can do this for our presidents.

God can and will use leaders as a balm for nations or as a dagger to nations.  Pray that Mr. Trump be used as a balm.

Finally, remember where your hope is found.  We must not despair because of an election and we must not get too high because of an election.  Our hope, to steal a line from an article in Christianity Today, is not in an elephant or a donkey, but in a lamb.  Today may feel like a great victory or a great defeat, but the cross is where our hope is and always will be found.

On this day after yesterday, regardless of who you pulled for, be Christ-like.  We must as the Church shine more brilliantly.   React to the big news of the day but react in a way that honors Christ today.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why Patience Works

Today as I was reading Hebrews chapter 6 something jumped out at me.  Now, I've studied this passage before and wrote about the believer's need for solid foodwhat saving faith is and isn't, and about the abundant good news in this passage; but today one section jumped out at me more than ever before.

Why does our faith work?

My pastor has used the illustration of men walking on ice.  Do they need faith to walk on the ice?  Absolutely.  But does their amount of faith keep them from falling through?  Absolutely not.  The thickness of the ice keeps them from falling through.  Our faith is the same way.  The amount of faith isn't near as important as what or who our faith is in.

Why does our patience work?

We are often left waiting for things.  God has left us waiting on many things.  So much of the Gospel is here but not yet.  We are waiting and waiting patiently, but what makes our patience worth it?

Let's look at the life of Abraham.

"When God made His promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for Him to swear by, He swore by Himself, saying, 'I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.'  And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised."  Hebrews 6:13-15

Why did Abraham's patience work?

Well, if you know the story you know that Abraham's patience was as patient as we would think from a patriarch of the faith.  Abraham was promised descendants that would come through his wife Sarah.  So, Abraham waited patiently and stayed the course with Sarah even though she was very old, right?  Wrong.  Abraham took Sarah's servant Hagar and had a child with her that was not part of God's promise.  Abraham and Sarah weren't patient, in fact Sarah laughed at the idea of her getting pregnant.  Yet Sarah did conceive a son and through him, Isaac, a great nation was created.

So, why did Abraham's patience work if it was so not the definition of the word patience?

Abraham's patience worked because the one who made the promise always comes through.  God swore by Himself that He would do it and there is nothing more sure than that.  That, and that alone, is why Abraham's patience worked.

So, while we wait, and struggle to wait patiently, we must encourage ourselves by remembering who makes patience works.  God has given us many amazing promises and all will be kept because "it is impossible for God to lie."  Our receiving the goodness of the Lord has nothing to do with the quality of our patience.  Our receiving the goodness of the Lord has everything to do with the location of our patience.  If our waiting is in the Lord we have certainty.

This is not to say that God gives us everything we hope for, but it is without a question to say that God gives us everything He's promised.

Wait patiently on God because He never lies, He never fails and He always comes through.  Root your patience in our promise keeping God today.