Friday, September 30, 2022

The Dump

 



Have you ever accidentally thrown out something only to find you REALLY needed it? Recently, we were assembling a new bed when we discovered we had mistaken the support slats for extra packaging and thrown them out with a bunch of other stuff.  We had a service truck come to pick up the trash, and after about an hour, my wife realized what had happened.  We frantically called the driver who said that they had already dropped everything off at the dump.  Quite kindly, he offered to meet us there to see if we could recover the slats (he even recalled seeing them, thinking to himself that they looked like they might be more than excess packaging). So off we went to the dump and when we got there, it was everything you might imagine it to be: smelly, hot, smoky, dusty, flies buzzing all around. Thankfully, after a few minutes of rummaging through the trash, what was once lost was now found!

Luke 15:32 –“…he was lost and is found.”

 

Things to think about:

·       There is so much to this story that reflects the Gospel:

o   God had a plan to build something very special and man’s mistake threw a wrench into it

o   Sin has caused Eden to be transformed into a dump with all of the stench that goes with it

o   But God knows that we are valuable and there is no length He won’t go to in order to rescue us from being burned up

o   Just like we benefited from the graciousness of the trash haulers to help us, God uses ordinary people like you and me to help pull people out of the dump

o   Many times, it’s inconvenient and unpleasant to go to the dump to salvage that which has been tossed and lost

o   If you hang around the dump too long, you can actually get used to it and not really be offended by it

o   The dump does have its place though.  There are worthless things in our lives like idols and bad habits that need to be hauled off and burned

 

Never look down on those still living in the dump.  It is our purpose and calling to be God’s hands and feet to go to the dump and help recover those God sees as having infinite value.  Never forget, He went to the dump for you.

 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Different but the Same

 


Every one of us has a unique story to tell.  We each have our individual traits, experiences, failures, and successes.   At the same time, there is a commonality rooted in each believer’s testimony and it’s found in Ephesians 2. If you ever find yourself in need of sharing your story with someone, here’s your template!

 

Ephesians 2:3-5 -  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

 

Things to think about:

·       If called upon to give your testimony, could you do it with comfort and confidence?

o   For most people, I suspect it would be a little nerve wracking.

o   If we look at Ephesians 2:1-10, there is a perfect framework anyone can attach their unique story to.

·       Dead

o   Ephesians 2:1-3 - As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

§  This is the sin nature we were born with, cast into the broken world we live in, adopting its practices.

·       BUT

o   My favorite word in the Bible! (coming soon in another study)

o   Ephesians 2:4-5 - But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

o   We have an active and intervening God.  He did not let us stay stuck in our sin and transgressions but because of His great love for us, made us alive in Christ.

·       Grace – not works

o   Our passage tells us not just once, but twice that we are saved by grace

o   We cannot work hard enough to earn God’s favor or forgiveness

·       You have a place in Heaven right now with your name on it

o   Ephesians 2:6-7 -  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

o   Your future is fully bought and paid for!

o   Why would He do this – to show the incomparable riches of His grace

o   How does He show it?  Through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus

·       So do we just coast until it’s time to go home?

o   Nope, we have important work to do NOW

o   Ephesians 2:10 - For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

o   We are God’s handiwork to do good works – He says, “Look  what I can do through these broken pieces I picked up and put back together to be the hands and feet of my Son”

o   His plan includes YOU to get busy and make Him known to a dying and unbelieving world

§  Not through scolding or shaming but out of the same Love He showered you and me with

Dominos

 


A few weeks ago, we did our annual Picnic in the Park with our brother, LeQuan Mack.  It got me thinking about all of the dominos in my life that had to fall into place for that event to happen. 

·       Becoming a Christian in college

·       A “random” encounter in a NYC Starbucks 25 years ago that lit a fire in me for the poor

·       Being introduced to a new friend at a Billy Graham crusade 20 years ago

·       A “chance meeting” with a young hotel clerk in Atlanta

·       Meeting a stranger on the golf course

 

Romans 8:28 – “For we know that all things work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose”

 

Things to think about:

·       Every minute of every day for the entirety of history, God’s plan has been unfolding.  And it’s still unfolding.

·       Each of the events I mentioned above on their own may not have amounted to much but when woven together as only God can do, a godly moment occurred that brought His people closer to one another and collectively, closer to Him.

·       Often we can only see these things in retrospect

God has a plan

o   Jeremiah 29:11 – “I know the plans I have for, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

o   Isaiah 46:10-11 – “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’

o   Proverbs 16:9 – “In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.”

o   Ephesians 1:11 – “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will”

God knows best

o   Romans 11:33-36 - Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! 

God can make it happen

o   Daniel 4:35 – “He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back His hand
 or say to him: “What have You done?”

o   Isaiah 14:26-27 – “This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations.
For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?”

o   Job 42:2 - “I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

o   Luke 1:37 – For no word from God will ever fail”

God works on His own timeline

o   2 Peter 3:8-9 - But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

o   Ecclesiastes 3:1 - There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

o   Psalm 27:14 - Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

While the dominos are still being laid out in your life, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight.


Monday, September 5, 2022

Light Bulbs

 


A light bulb sitting in its package has a lot of potential but isn’t accomplishing much.  It may want to be bright and shine a lot of light but of course it can’t make itself do that, it has to be plugged into its power source to be of any use to its owner.

 

John 15:5 - Apart from Me, you can do nothing

 

Things to think about:

·       Light bulbs don’t try hard to shine.  They use the power given them to do their job.

o   Ephesians 3:16 -  I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being

·      Jesus said He is the power source and apart from Him we can do nothing. 

o   Light bulbs that refuse to be plugged in become broken and thrown in the trash (see John 15:6)

·       You were designed for a specific purpose, to bring light into darkness, and so glorify God.

o   When brought together with many other light bulbs, the brightness can make day out of night. Think of the flood of light at a nighttime football game.

·       Light bulbs come in different sizes, shapes, and wattages.  Some are fancy and for indoor use, some are more rugged and are for outdoor purposes.  Each was designed for a specific use, no bulb is better or worse than another, just different according to its purpose.

o   1 Cor. 12:4-6 – “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

·       Light bulbs must be properly installed into a lamp, and that lamp must be plugged into a power source.

o   We too must be installed into a community of believers who are plugged into the same source of Power

o   A light bulb is very fragile and left on its own it is likely to be shattered and of no use

·       Lights are placed in plain sight.  They don’t hide. You were designed for a specific purpose, to bring light into darkness, and so glorify God.

o   John 5:16 - Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven

o   When brought together with many other light bulbs, the brightness can make day out of night. Think of the flood of light at a nighttime football game.

·       Our enemy is called the Prince of Darkness.  His dominion is one of darkness.  Jesus said He is the light of the world. 

o   Ephesians 5:14-16 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Living Life in 4D

 



A few years ago, TV manufacturers were pushing 3D as the latest technology you had to have but it never really caught on.  Wearing funny glasses and getting a little woozy just didn’t seem to be that popular of an idea 😊.  As usual, God has a bigger and better idea, living our lives in the 4D of Christ’s love.  Let’s look at these four dimensions individually and how they fill us to the measure us of all the fullness of God.

 

Ephesians 3:18 - to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ

 

Things to think about:

·       Wide – this covers every facet of our lives, not just the narrow parts we might think of with religion or that we’re comfortable letting God have a say in.  Think too of when you hold your arms out to show how wide something is, you are reaching beyond yourself and touching the lives of others.

o   Are there areas of your life that are easier or harder to accept Christ’s love?

·       Long – Christ’s love for us runs the entire length of our lives.  It isn’t for short periods when we are “feeling it” or a phase we go through.  It also shouldn’t run out as we get older that might lead to us to not finishing as well as we could have.

o   How can we stay in His love so that we do not falter and stumble?

·       High – Christ’s love for us reaches high into the heavenlies where the glory of God resides. It is here where things so unspeakably beautiful are that Jesus showers us with.

o   Paul prays that we might have the power to grasp the four dimensions of Christ’s love for us and this one may be the toughest one to take hold of (at least it is for me) since it deals with the infinite nature of God.

o   Which of God’s qualities are the most mind-blowing for you?

·       Deep – Christ’s love goes deep into our inner being where our true selves are, deeper than we even understand about ourselves

o   The human heart is deceitful above all things, who can understand it?  We don’t even understand ourselves, but our Creator does (and loves us anyway)

o   What are qualities you have He has shown you over time that you were unaware of before? These don’t have to necessarily be bad things!

The passage goes on to say that this love surpasses knowledge.  It is not a thing to be figured out, rather something to be transformed by, to be filled to the measure of all of the fullness of God.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Future Bob

 


I’ve been thinking a lot about Future Bob recently. Future Bob is me in 10+ years who is going to thank Today Bob for trying to get in a little better shape, eat a bit healthier, and have a couple of nickels in the bank for another day. While these are all good things (and I think the Bible encourages them), God is even more concerned with Eternal Bob, so what are some things Today Bob can be doing to have the best outcome for Eternal Bob?

 

1 John 3:2 

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

 

Things to think about:

·       What is Today Bob doing to help out Future Bob?

o   Being more intentional with exercise and diet

§  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

o   Being a good steward of our finances

§  The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.

o   Trying to leave a positive legacy for my children and those around me

§  Proverbs 22:1 - A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

 

·       As good as these things are, they are but a mere foreshadowing of what’s in store for Eternal Bob

o   Our bodies aren’t meant to last forever

§  2 Cor 5:1 - For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 

§  2 Cor.5: 4 - …(we long) to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

o   Treasures in Heaven

§  Matthew 6:20-21 - but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

§  2 Timothy 4:8 - in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

§  1 Peter 5:4 - And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

o   Not what man says about me but what God says

§  Romans 8:16-17 - The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

§  1 John 3:2 - Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

By taking care of Today Bob and Future Bob, I can do my part to impact the kingdom for those around me and to the honor of God.  What lays in store for you and me is unspeakably wonderful and should motivate us to make the most of our short time here!

Monday, August 1, 2022

Being There

 


This last weekend, a number of us went to visit a dear brother whose health is in rapid decline.  He has been admitted to a care facility where it seems likely he will see out his last days.  We wanted to go see him to encourage him and as we say Down South, “Love on him”.  Moreover, we felt it was important to let his family know that their husband/father has touched the lives of many men.

 

Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

 

Things to think about:

·       As our verse in Proverbs 17 points out, when the chips are down, you really do find out who your friends are.

o   A couple of chapters later in Proverbs 19:4, it says “Wealth attracts many friends, but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.”

§  We see the same thing with the prodigal son after his money ran out and he wasn’t a cool kid anymore

o   Let’s not be sunny day friends

·       Romans 12:15 in The Message says it really well

o   “Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.”

o   You’ll notice that we’re not supposed to necessarily have any answers when they’re down, just hold their hand and cry with them.

·       But let’s be honest, it’s not always easy to show up when you’re needed most.  Here are a few well-intentioned reasons people might give for not being there:

o   I don’t know what to say/do

o   It’s awkward

o   Not a good day for me, I’m really busy

o   I’m sure enough other people will go, I don’t want to create a crowd

·       In Proverbs 3, the Bible says we should move past our uneasiness:

o   “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.  Don’t tell your neighbor “Maybe some other time” or “Try me tomorrow” (emphasis mine)

o   Wow, that’s a powerful concept – your hand is God’s hand for that person

§  How does that change your perception of the importance of the impact you can have on people?

 

·       Jesus says in John 17:20-23, “I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that you gave Me, that they may be one as We are one— I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”

o   Our friend’s family and the staff at the facility definitely noticed this group of men who came to encourage and pray for their friend.  According to Jesus, this is the strongest testimony we can offer an unbelieving world.

o   Also (and importantly), our friend noticed.  Even though he was unable to speak, his smile and tears spoke volumes.

If you have a friend who needs you now, don’t wait.  We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow and they need you now.