Monday, June 11, 2018

Do You Have a Religious Preference?

What do you do when you're asked a question that requires more than a one-word answer, but the answer has to fit in a little box?

"Do you have a religious preference?" the nurse asked me at a first-time medical visit recently.

"I'm a Christian," I responded, and then I watched intently to see if she found it on her list.

Because, to me, Christianity isn't a box you check on a list of spiritual preferences.

Christianity is a relationship, a way of life, a position before God that is undeserved and never-ending.

Being a Christian means I'm part of God's family and a citizen of another country. I have eternal life to look forward to and daily hope that puts joy in my heart despite my circumstances.

Who I am isn't a religious preference.

Being a Christian means God knew me before He created the world. Long before I was born, He sent His Son to die for the sins I would commit. He formed me in my mother's womb and planned every day I would live. He invited me into His family, forgave my sin, and promised me an inheritance along with His own Son.

I call Him "Father." I talk to Him every day. I don't go to mass or kneel before an idol. I don't rent a pew or check off a list of good deeds.

I have a relationship with the God of the universe, because He reached down and made me His own.

Christianity isn't fitting into a little box and hoping God is happy.

God is already pleased with everything His Son accomplished. Those who believe in Him are forgiven, changed, ready for eternity, and blessed every day of this life.

That truth doesn't put us in a religious box.

What God did for us defines who we are.

We are Christians.

And that's not a preference.

That's the most important thing that can be said about you and me.

"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Next post (June 25): The Tools of Providence

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Monday, May 28, 2018

If God Were to Answer Your Phone Call

Sometimes life throws curve balls, hands us difficult decisions, and asks us to deal with complicated relationships. We want to respond Biblically and choose wisely. We search the Scriptures. We pray.

But if you're like me, sometimes you just want to pick up the phone and let God tell you what to do.

I've recently concluded that if I could pick up my phone and ask God for advice, He would always give me the same answer.

Whether it's a major decision, a tough relationship, the need to respond properly to the various curve balls that come, His answer would always be the same.

I believe this, because so much of Scripture is centered around this answer.

Those who were under the law knew what God wanted of them. He spelled it out plainly in several books of the Old Testament.

Those of us who are no longer under the law are told how all those books of rules can be summarized (Romans 13:19):

  • Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. This command summarizes the first five commandments.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself. This command summarizes the last five commandments.
Everything God expected of His people came down to these two commands.

If this is all God really asks of us, couldn't we apply this desire of His to every area of our lives?

If I had a major decision to make and I called God on the phone, I think His answer would be:
  • Which decision would increase your love for Me and help you grow in your love for others?
If I had a relationship I was struggling with and I asked Him for advice, I think He would say:
  • How can you demonstrate that you love Me with everything in you and that you want to love that person to the max?
If a curve ball came my way and I wanted to respond properly, I think He would tell me:
  • What response would come from your deep love for Me and your desire to love others as yourself?
God lets us make decisions, handle difficult relationships, and respond to curve balls.

But if He were to tell us what to do in each of these cases, it would always be grounded on these two principles.

Love the Lord with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.

Love others as yourself.

I believe this is what He would say.

If God were to answer your phone call.

"There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31

Next post (June 11):  Do You Have a Religious Preference?

Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Debt We Always Owe

Recently, the Lord enabled me to get out from under a debt that would have taken years to pay off. As soon as it was paid, I logged into my account to look at the zero next to my loan and to bask in the feeling of "Paid in Full."

That night, I read these words in Romans, "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." (Romans 13:8)

No matter how many bills we pay or loans we pay off, there is one debt we will always owe.

We will always owe love.

We can love the people today who God puts into our lives, but they will always need to be loved tomorrow. It's impossible to love too much or to love enough.

Too many people are looking for ways to get out of this debt. Divorce rates are high because someone chooses to pay off that debt and stop loving. Families are torn apart because the debt gets too heavy, and love stops being an option. Neighbors fight, coworkers gossip, in-laws bicker.

Love is paid in full, and it's not supposed to be.

I thought I was done with debt that day. Seeing that "zero" gave me indescribable joy.

But I'm not debt-free.

I have people in my life who need to be loved. Today. Right now. Tomorrow. Always.

I owe them love, and I always will.

When you think you've loved enough or you want to stop loving, put a little more on the account.

Love to the full, but never let it be paid in full.

"Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Next post (May 28):
"If God Were to Answer Your Phone Call"

Monday, April 30, 2018

Three Reasons Why Tomorrow Helps Us Live Today

What drives you out of bed in the morning? Your child in the other room? The thought of freshly brewed coffee? A time clock? A to-do list? Chores?

As believers, we have a more compelling reason to fully live today.

We’re on a timeline.

Christ is coming back, and His return is closer today than it was yesterday.

“Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Romans 14:11)

His return gives us perspective. No matter how much we are blessed or how many trials we endure, this life isn’t all there is. We can hold everything we own in an open palm, because we don’t know when it will no longer be ours.

Knowing tomorrow is coming helps us live today with an open palm.

His return gives us hope. Sometimes hoping for the thing we’re waiting for brings as much pleasure as the thing itself. The truth is, there is a set time when Jesus will come back for you and me.

Knowing tomorrow is coming helps us live today in expectation.

His return gives us strength. Life can be overwhelming. Some days, the thought of pressing on is as hard as the pressing on itself. When we have perspective and we have hope, we can do that thing one more time, because we know we won’t have to do it forever.

Knowing tomorrow is coming helps us live today as if it’s the last day we will have to live.

What should be our first thought when we wake up?

We’re on a timeline.

And Christ’s coming is closer today than it was yesterday.

The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout

. . . And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17

Next post (May 14): The Debt We Always Owe

Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash

Monday, April 16, 2018

An Emperor's Forgotten Story

Everybody loves a good story. Some of the most nostalgic pictures portray children sitting at the knees of their grandparents, listening to tales of the past.

Stories outlive the lives they tell about. They teach truths. They remind us that generations and ages gone by were no different from today.

God is the Author of stories. He sovereignly weaves them together and omnisciently knows their end from their beginnings.

But the stories God elevates the most are the ones that teach of His power. He highlights those that tell of His love and that point the next generations to Him.

This is why the story of an emperor, named Yu, lies forgotten. 

Yu was one of the few emperors in China to be given the title, “the Great," yet very little is recorded of this ancient life.

Around 2000 B.C., while Yu the Great ruled a dynasty and built flood control systems in China, the Creator of the universe turned His eye toward a young shepherd.

Jacob, poor and unfavored, lived a life of deception. But God chose to bless this man and give him twelve sons. From this one man’s story, God created a nation. God sent His Son to be a part of that nation. And many promises in Scripture center on the purposes He had for this man He later named, Israel.

God preserved Israel’s story in a Book, read by many generations. Some count Emperor Yu’s story fictitious, possibly passed down by oral tradition.

One man depended on his God to bless him with children, a land, and a name. The other ruled an ancient dynasty, and some wonder if he really existed.

While Emperor Yu lived a forgotten story, God wrote the history of a shepherd. His legacy tells of the reach of God’s power, highlights His love, and points future generations to the God who is their only hope.

Some think it strange that God would look to a poor man and take no notice of an emperor.

But when you belong to a King who chose to call you His child, your story does not go unnoticed.

The rulers of the world live and die. They leave legacies or lie in graves forgotten.

But the stories God writes for His children never go unnoticed. No hour of the day is forgotten. No hope is ignored. No need escapes His attention.

While Emperor Yu earned the title, “the Great,” God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel.”

And your story will not be forgotten by the same God who chose you.

“The LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people." (1 Samuel 12:22)

Next post (April 30):
"Three Reasons Why Tomorrow Helps Us Live Today"