Jesus’ Letter if Recommendation

Every job that I have had since leaving the U.S. Army 6 years ago has required at least 2 “letters of recommendation”, letter from someone outside of my family who looks favorably on me. Usually these letters reference good work ethic, applicable skills or experience, or simply an urging to hire the subject of the letter. Paul had his own version of the letter of recommendation. When writing to the church at Corinth he refers to the members of the congregation as “a letter from Christ” (2 Cor. 3:3a). Through the knowledge and wisdom passed on to them from Paul through his ministering and the gifts of the Holy Spirit they have been speaking of God with sincerity and proclaiming salvation through belief in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 2:17b). Through their worship, discipleship, and competence as ministers they are providing their own letter of recommendation for Jesus. Are you proclaiming recommendations in your life for Jesus? Do your words and actions urge people to seek out Jesus and want to know God? When you act and speak you may not be getting recorded on paper or video, but our actions and words are being inscribed on other people’s hearts and on our own souls. Be sure that what is written for you is a recommendation for life in Christ.

Freedom isn’t Free

 I once spent a night in jail. I was young, dumb, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. I found myself accused of trying to steal a car, something I lacked the skill or experience to even attempt trying. Nonetheless, I found myself behind bars for one night. The next morning I was released, they had captured the actual culprit, and I was amazed at how much I appreciated being out that building after only about 8 hours of imprisonment. Paul spent quite a bit of time in prison, of course his reasons for being locked up were vastly more noble than my own, and I would imagine he truly appreciated his freedom whenever he was released. I would go so far as to say he was an expert at “becoming free”. Paul was set free by judges, government officials, an earthquake, and angels. His life may have ended while under house arrest but his soul and spirit were never in chains after he met Jesus on that dusty road to Damascus. Paul explains our Christian responsibility as free children of God in 1 Corinthians 10:23, ““I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive”. Being saved by the sacrifice of Jesus and free from sin’s hold on us does not mean we can do things that make others stumble in their belief. Our freedom is a gift that we must use to bring others closer to God, through seeing our own relationship with Jesus. We must do what will be beneficial to the Church and the lost (v. 33). For since we are no longer imprisoned by the chains of sin in the World we are called to help free others through our faith and our actions. That is the key to freedom, Jesus paid for our freedom so that we can show others that he paid for their freedom too.

Man’s Plans and God’s Design

 How often have we made plans that were changed by the weather? Or just simply had to be rescheduled because of a lack of time? As a species we have become almost completely dependent on our watches and clocks. I have to be early for everything, it’s something that was trained into me as a Soldier and I still do my best to be early. As an old platoon sergeant once said, “If you ain’t early, you’re late”. But what happens when our plans get changed by forces outside of our control? If an accident or traffic jam causes me to be late for an appointment should I complain? Or perhaps God’s goals require me to be on his infinite schedule instead of my finite one? 

 Paul had a similar situation on a trip to Macedonia. In 2 Corinthians 1:16 he tells the church in Corinth that he had planned to stop and see them on the way to and the from Macedonia. Unfortunately, the people of Corinth did not look favorably on the change and began to question Paul’s ministry by connecting the inconsistency of his promise to the message he preached. Paul reminds the Corinthians that he has shown them through his teaching and preaching that he is not a fickle man but that he rests in the knowledge that God’s plan is greater than his. There ended up being a very important reason that Paul did not go to Corinth, at the time he was supposed to be there he was very upset about news that he had received. His reaction toward the church in Corinth would have been out of distress and anguish instead of joy and love (2 Cor. 2:2-3). Instead his plans changed so that they might receive a letter with his words of admonishment and when he arrived in person they could share the joy of his arrival instead of fear of a reprimand. Next time you find outside forces urging you to change or delay, don’t meet them with anger or frustration, just recognize that there is a reason and be happy in whatever part God gives you to play.

Fairness

Fair does not mean equal. This phrase has come to mean a lot in my professional life and has had me thinking lately of how it applies to our spiritual life as well. I currently work in the Special Education department of my local high school. In the past, as a Soldier in the U.S. Army, I was always taught that “fair” meant everyone gets the same training, same food, same bed, same uniform, etc. As a paraprofessional in Special Education this definition does not work, fair for one of my students does not mean that he or she gets the same education in the classroom as their peers, it means they get the same opportunity, much like every person should get the same opportunity to receive the grace of God. That means if there is a learning disability or a behavioral problem then fair means that additional help is need in order to absorb the same lesson. It means sometimes extra attention is needed, or a steady hand, and sometimes it means therapy or a special classroom. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that we are to “become weak to those who are weak”. Not all people will come to Christ in the same way, relating to others on their ground or at their level does not change the goal of your message, it just adjusts the route that you take to get them there. To be “fair” to all who are lost I must “become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (v. 22b-23). Paul understood that an equal message to all would leave some out of touch with the Gospel, only by meeting people where they are can we help them get where they are going.

Children Raising Children

My 3 year old son is bad. He’s not bad in a, “He’s going to end up in prison” kind of way. Kellan is bad because he knows how much he can get away with before flashing that cute, innocent smile at his mom. That smile that makes her heart melt; she forgets the milk he poured on his sister and the finger painted living room walls. It’s that weakness that many parents know, for some reason God decided to make a mother fall for her son’s and a father fall for his daughter’s smile. Paul had similar feelings whenever he received news about a church that he had planted (1 Cor. 4:14-17). 

I find myself wondering if he heard from travellers or in letters how there was trouble in Corinth, or Ephesus, and he began writing a stern letter of reprimand only to then hear of the new Christians that had joined the same church. Did the positive information cause him to change the way he worded his letter? Did he rewrite many letters because he received a positive report? In reading his letters in the New Testament they are full of instruction and reprimand, not as an angry supervisor, but as a loving father guiding his child. Only someone with children can truly know the fine line between a dictator and democracy that we must balance upon. God must have surely granted Paul this wisdom that many of us must learn through failures and experience. We must also look to our fellow brothers and sisters with the eyes of a loving parent, especially those whom we have helped find Christ. We must remind them of the way of life in Christ (v. 17) and treat them as our dear children, without judgement, by giving them a good example to imitate (v. 16).

June 2017

What an awesome day we had today at. Curbside Service!  Thank you to a great team that showed up and let God show out!  We had our biggest turn out yet and for the first time in 7 months Laina and I drove away with no leftovers. Sorry Alex City Police and Fire Departments…we couldn’t bring y’all a load of food but God obviously had something else planned. It was so awesome to see such a large group of kids and adults enjoying food, fellowship, and faith together. We are already planning for next month when we will have our regular service on July 1 and a special extended VBS day on July 15. Come out and see us!

Bad Day

Remember that song by David Powter…it was famous for about a minute. While the meaning of the song has been debated about as referring to a fight between a couple or as someone trying to cheer up a depressed friend, the fact is there are some Biblical elements to the lyrics. For those of you with as bad a memory as I have here are the lyrics:

Where is the moment when we needed the most?
You kick up the leaves, and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue sky’s faded to gray
They tell me your passion’s gone away
And I don’t need no carrying on

Stand in the line just to hit a new low
You’re faking a smile with the coffee to go
You tell me your life’s been way off line
You’re falling to pieces every time
And I don’t need no carrying on

‘Cause you had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile, and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down, and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Well you need a blue sky holiday
The point is they laugh at what you say
And I don’t need no carrying on

You had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile, and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day

Sometimes the system goes on the blink, and the whole thing it turns out
Wrong
You might not make it back and you know that you could be well, oh, that
Strong
And I’m not wrong

So where is the passion when you need it the most?
Oh, you and I
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost

‘Cause you had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
You see what you like
And how does it feel one more time?
You had a bad day
You had a bad day (had a bad day, had a bad day, had a bad day)

How often are we, as Christians, “faking a smile with the coffee to go”? When we pretend to be happy in a moment, or a season, of struggling we are in essence trying to solve our own problems instead of depending on God and sharing the problem with our family of believers. Instead, we end up trying to “sing our way out” or lying about how we feel.

Next time you have a bad day, go to God and give it up to him. Then, share your feelings with your loved one, your accountability partner, or a trusted friend. The most important thing is to share it with God, but He did not intend for us to be alone in this world.  Join a small group, a bible study or start one yourself.

I’m stronger than Jesus

In Acts we read the story of “the seven sons of Sceva” who were going about driving out evil spirits through incantations and ritual. Even though these seven men were Jews, and the son’s of a chief priest, they were using chants and charms to drive out evil spirits. (Acts 19:13-20) These exorcisms were not a new thing to the first century Jews. There are ancient documents that refer to “Jewish magic” being used through amulets and incantations as far back as King Solomon’s time. Though many of the Jewish magical scrolls were intended to help, heal, or cure they still showed a large dependency on man’s abilities to mix a potion or create a charm in order to defeat or control an evil spirit.

In the case of these son’s of Sceva they were using a mixture of Jewish exorcism magic and the invocation of Jesus’ name to expel an evil spirit. While this type of activity may not be something that we see or are involved in on a regular basis I am sure most, if not all, of us can empathize with them. How often do we try to use our own power, will, or strength to create an opportunity? When was the last time we walked into a situation without praying about it first? How often do you acknowledge that you can do nothing without God?

Anytime we act without dependency on God’s strength we are putting ourselves in a position to act without God’s blessing. God even tells us, through his prophet Jeremiah, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord”(Jeremiah 17:5). Without God’s strength in our decisions we are as “weak as a plant in the desert, and shall not see any good come” (Jeremiah 17:6) to our plans. But…there is hope in Jesus. When we place our faith in Him and depend on his wisdom and power we “bear much fruit” (John 15:5) because “he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49). Our love for Jesus should not manifest itself in just good works for others or only studying the Word and prayer. In order to fully commit to Jesus being our Lord it is imperative that we live in his presence at all times, doing nothing without a prayer for guidance from Him.

So I challenge you over the next few days to think about more than just Easter weekend as a time for God. Think about how many times each day you act as if you are stronger than Jesus and then be intentional about how you acknowledge His presence and your need for Him.

 

Jude’s Words of Warning

This morning at the Legacy Builders Men’s Bible study in town we learned about Jude, Jesus’ brother. Mr. Billy Coleman shared with us a more in-depth look into what Jude, or Judas (No, not that one), was trying to tell the early church and how it is still a very relevant piece of advice today. Though the epistle of Jude is only 25 verses long, the importance of the information it gives is immeasurable.

Jude was written sometime between 65 and 80 AD and directed at the Church in general as a warning against apostates who have either heard the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and denied it, or who have twisted the disciples’ words into a worldly version of the gospel. His warning is to the devout Christians and current leaders within the Church to beware of “certain individuals…[who] secretly slipped in among you” (Jude 4). These people have integrated themselves into the Church as it has grown and now are “perverting the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ [is] our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4). I don’t know about the rest of you but those words sound like they could have been spoken in my church last Sunday. And it wasn’t just Jude who saw this problem…Peter also writes to the Church, “…there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who brought them…” (2 Peter 2:1) False teachers are all around us today, not just in the pulpit but also on TV, leading small groups, and teaching our children. The only way that we can be assured of what we are hearing is by reading our Bible and praying; spending time with God and asking Him for guidance. Only in this way can we receive the true Word of God and not the distorted truth of Satan. Because at the end of the day the force behind these false teachers is just that, the Devil.

Jude’s last few words are of the most importance to Christian leaders. He says in verse 22-23, “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupt flesh”. Jude’s letter to the Church is not just a warning, it is instructions to us as Christians. Our number one responsibility is to create new disciples of Jesus Christ, but we must also protect each other, especially new Christians, from false teachings. Discuss among yourselves and make sure that there is someone among you who is knowledgeable in the Word and a trustworthy, Godly person. In doing this we can test and try the words of man to ensure that they follow the true Word of God.

The King Has Risen!

I know…we’re a little early. Our Easter version of Curbside Service was right on time and right when God wanted it to be. We had a great turn-out…especially for Spring Break…and had the privilege of serving over 50 people this past Saturday. We all dined on pulled-pork BBQ sandwiches (Thank you so much Mr. Clay Greene), coleslaw (courtesy of Jim Bob’s in Alex City), and baked beans. In between bites of food the residents were treated to the true story of Easter and our risen Lord. We told them the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry, the traitorous arrest, his illegal trial and subsequent crucifixion, and finally the amazing story of his resurrection and freeing of all mankind from our sins. Our ladies did a great job teaching this story to the children through the Resurrection Eggs. We also had an Easter egg hunt that everyone enjoyed!

Our Bible and book table was completely full at the beginning of the day, thanks to the International Gideon’s and Church of The Highlands, and completely empty when we packed up for the day. We gave away over 50 Bibles, over 20 Christian-themed books and devotionals, and more than 15 Christian music cds. Our prayer request and connection table always seemed to have someone at it praying with one of our volunteers or writing down a request, praise, or need. This week we also added a 6 foot wooden cross to the area. Guests were given a band-aid and offered the chance to write down anything that they feel might be keeping them from having a closer relationship with Jesus. Then they placed the band-aid on the cross; they laid that sin, insecurity, or addiction at Jesus’ feet.

Laina had an amazing ministry moment right there at the cross as an elderly gentleman came forward and asked her to pray for him because he had several major surgeries coming up. He had brought his grand-children by and said he didn’t intend to get out of the car, but when he saw us praying with the children he felt the urge to join in too. It was a major win for God and something that Laina will always remember being a part of.

Thank you to everyone who came out to serve and we hope to see even more of you next month.  We are having the next Curbside Service on May 13, due to schedule conflicts this will be on the second Saturday instead of our usual first Saturday.  Hope to see you there!!