Friday, March 30, 2007

What Should We Do When Someone Sins Against Us?


Every one of us is sinned against. It is a normal part of life.

Can you think of specific examples in your life?
- Your brother yells at you in anger
- Your sister arrogantly looks down at you
- Your classmate mocks you
- Your friends gossip about you
- Your parents treat you impatiently
- Your teacher critically judges you

Because of the sinful nature within each of us, we sin against others and they sin against us. It is sad to think about, but a reality of life.

What are we suppose to do when someone sins against us. In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus teaches the following four steps:
1. Go to the person in private.
2. If he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you and go to him again.
3. If he doesn’t listen, go to a leader in the church and get his help.
4. If he doesn’t listen to the church leader, the church should place the person under church discipline.

Scripture really does apply to real life. God has given us a clear guide to respond when sinned against. The question is will we follow his plan?

What are some common mistakes we can make? 1) We can neglect to take the first step. In laziness or fear we can neglect to even go to the person. 2) After step #1 fails, we can fail to take the matter to the next level. We can wrongly think we have done our part and the rest of the matter is up to God. 3) We can talk with the wrong people. We can talk about the matter with our friends (Scripture calls this gossip) or talk down about the person who sinned against us (Scripture calls this slander).

Someone is going to sin against you – maybe today or this week. Be ready for it. Commit to following the Matthew 18 principle and be ready to forgive the person as God has forgiven you.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Family Traits


I have a friend who grew up in New York City and loves the Mets. Despite living in Maryland for over 30 years, he is still passionate about the Mets, and he as passed this love on to his sons.

I have a friend who teaches literature, loving Dante, Shakespeare, and Twain. It has been a great joy to watch her inspire her students year after year. Recently her daughter earned a degree in English and is now a teacher too.

My dad works in Christian education. He started a small Christian school years ago and has been working in this field for about 45 years. He passed on to me a love for learning, teaching, and Christian education, and this year is my fourteenth year as a teacher and administrator too.

Our parents influence us. Our family traits tend to rub off on us. The likes and dislikes of our family often shape our desires. The goals and accomplishments of our parents often inspire us to achieve similar feats.

What about being a part of the family of God? What kind of traits are rubbing off on you?

Here are a few to consider:
- Do you love holiness? Do you hate sin?
- Do you pray to your heavenly Father asking for help and lifting up thanksgiving to him?
- Do you go to the Bible for direction and guidance in your life?
- Do you demonstrate love and kindness towards others?
- Do you seek to forsake the sinful values of the world?
- Do you talk about God and the things of God?
- Do you honor and obey authority?

Christianity is a matter of your individual heart, but every member of the family of God should demonstrate similar traits. Take time today to consider your life?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Temptation


Yesterday morning my senior pastor, Joshua Harris, preached an excellent message on I Corinthians 10:12-13, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

The messaged focused on recognizing and rejecting four lies of temptation:
1. I’m beyond temptation
2. My temptation is unique
3. God has left me alone, and my temptation is to much
4. There is no escape from my temptation

I can relate to each of these lies. Can you?

Read again I Corinthians 10:12-13 and identify the four truths Paul lays out for the Corinthian church.

Today stand ready for the temptations you are bound to face. As the Holy Spirit to help you see and choose the way of escape God has provided you. And experience the power of God as you seek to endure in the midst of temptation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Faith & Works

James 2:26 says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

James gives us a simple illustration to understand the relationship between faith and works – a human body. With a spirit, the body is alive; without a spirit, the body is dead.

Like the spirit and body, true faith and works are inseparably linked. Works demonstrate that the faith we claim is real, living, and active. Works reflect a heart that has been transformed by the gospel. Works reflect the Savior’s effects on our hearts.

If a person claims to be a Christian but he does live like a Christian, we should wonder if he is truly saved. If we do not live in a way that pleases and honors God, we should reconsider our own hearts. Maybe we do not possess genuine faith.

Consider today the works in your life. Do they reflect real faith? If they do, praise God for his amazing work in you. If they do not, pause now and ask God to transform your heart and make you one of his own.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Be Perfect

Matthew 5 records the first portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus lays out the distinctive marks of a Christian, and he does this with strong and decisive statements.

Consider these strong words: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 5:20; “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 5:48

At a first glance these words can be very discouraging. The Pharisees prized themselves in following every detail of the law. They were considered the godliest ones of their day. And then in verse 48 Jesus raises the bar much, much higher. He says we must be perfect because this is the standard and character of God the Father.

How are we to live up to this standard of perfection? We cannot. None of us can be perfect. None of us can live a life that is sinless of thought, word, and deed. In fact, we cannot go a few hours without sinning, let alone a lifetime.

But we are not without hope. We know the end of the story, something Jesus’ original audience did not know. He became our substitute, our Savior. Jesus fully bore the wrath of God for our sins and God credited us with the righteousness of Christ. When we believe in Jesus’ finished work on the cross this glorious exchange takes place, and God sees us as perfect.

Be encouraged this day by this glorious news.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Run with Endurance


Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes called the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” as it lists biblical heroes who demonstrated amazing faith in God. Then in chapter 12 the author turns from looking back to speaks directly at the reader and to us today.

He challenges us to look at the faith of others and be inspired to repent of our sins, lay them aside, and run hard after Christ.

What weight and sin clings closely to you? Are you ready to lay them aside and run with endurance? Look up to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith. He set the example for enduring hardship and shame, as he gave his life for us all.

Let’s let Christ’s example inspire us today. Let’s commit to running with endurance the race that is set before us.

Friday, March 16, 2007

In Name Only or In Reality?

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle states,

“When a man is a Christian in name only, and not in reality,– in outward things only, and not in his inward feelings,– in profession only, and not in practice,– when his Christianity in short is a mere matter of form or fashion or custom, without any influence on his heart or life,…He possesses indeed the form or husk or skin of religion, but he does not possess its substance or its power.”

Christianity is personal. God desires to have a personal relationship with us, and we respond individually to him. We are not saved because our family heritage, we are not regenerated because of the town we live in, and we are not converted because of the church we attend. We either have a personal relationship with God or not.

Christianity is internal. Our hairstyle, clothing, jewelry, car, boat, and home do not make us Christians. We cannot put on a Christian coat and become a believer. We need to have the power of God living and at work in our hearts. Our hearts need to be subordinate to Christ, and our motives and desires must be devoted to all he wants and commands.

Do you have a personal relationship with Christ? Do you have the power of God within you? If you do, praise God for his kindness to you. If you do not, pause right now and pray to God, asking for him to transform you this very moment.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A True Christian

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle states,

“What do I mean when I speak of a true Christian? Do I mean everybody who goes to church or chapel? Do I mean everybody who professes an orthodox creed, and bows his head at the belief? Do I mean everybody who professes to love the Gospel? No: indeed! I mean something very different. All are not Christians who are called Christians. The man I have in view is the Christian in heart and life. He who has been taught by the Spirit really to feel his sins,–he who really rests all his hope on the Lord Jesus Christ, and His atonement,–he who has been born again and really lives a spiritual, holy life,–he whose religion is not a mere Sunday coat, but a mighty constraining principle governing every day of his life,–he is the man I mean, when I speak of a true Christian.”

Take time to consider this quote by answering the following questions:
- Are you a Christian in heart and life?
- Have you been taught by the Holy Spirit to feel conviction for your sins?
- Do you really rest all of your hope in Jesus Christ?
- Have you been born again and really living a spiritual, holy life?
- Is your Christianity guiding you every day of the week?

Choose today to believe in Jesus Christ your Savior and surrender every aspect of your life to Jesus Christ your Lord. Come experience the joyful, fruitful, and satisfying life found in Christ.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Lord, the God of Hosts

II Samuel recounts David’s ascent to the thrown, first in Judah and then all of Israel.

I greatly admire David. He clearly had the Spirit of God in him from the days of defeating Goliath with a sling and a stone. He loved to worship God, he lived with a God-ward mindset, and he turned to God in his need. He expressed both his weaknesses as well as his worship in the many songs recorded in Psalms. He demonstrated godly sorrow and repentance when he sinned.

II Samuel 5:10 states, “And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.”

This is a wonderful summary of a great man becoming greater and greater because of the MUCH greater Lord of his life. David prospered – in wealth, in land, in family, in faith – not because of his own wisdom and own strength, but because of the Lord who was with him. The God of hosts guided, protected, and lead David. The all-mighty Lord won battles for him, gave him favor in the eyes of other leaders, and prompted the people of Israel to revere their king.

We may never have the responsibilities and wealth of David, but we too desperately need the Lord, the God of hosts, to be with us. We need strength for the tasks of this day, week, and month. We need discernment in the decisions we will make. We need wisdom as we interact with others. We need perseverance to study hard and complete our school work. We need peace as we think about the future. All of these come from the God of hosts.

Pray that God will be with you today and every day. Ask him to help you with every aspect of your life. Seek to develop a mindset that looks to him and leans on him. And enjoy the Lord, the God of hosts, with you.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happiness – Joy

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle addresses the topic of happiness. He warns, “You might as well try to make an elephant happy by feeding him with a grain of sand a day, as try to satisfy the heart of your’s with rank, riches, learning, idleness, or pleasure.”

We look for joy, excitement, and lasting satisfaction in so many ways. We seek a high rank, power, and prestige; we seek riches, money, and wealth; we seek knowledge, education, and degrees; we seek free time, hobbies, and leisure; we seek pleasure, excitement, and euphoria. But none of these yields true joy, lasting happiness, and soul-satisfying pleasure. These pursuits are as futile as “feeding an elephant with a grain of sand a day.”

True joy doesn’t come from things here in this world. It comes as a result of the Spirit’s work in us. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and results in our souls being satisfied in Christ and reflecting that in life. Then we can even consider it pure joy when we face trials. We can be happy in Christ even when all is not well in our lives.

How do you seek to find joy? Where do you go to find lasting happiness?