Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stress Test

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

-- Psalm 4:8

Now that we’ve consumed the last of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, it’s safe to say that the Christmas season is in full swing. And we know that’s so because the television commercials have announced it for weeks. Yes, ‘tis the season for exchanging gifts under the tree, sipping hot chocolate with neighbors and family members… and dealing with a lot of stress.

The sad fact is that stress is as much a part of Christmas (at least the secular holiday) as are Santa Claus and candy canes. And stress can be much more serious than a disagreement with your in-laws; it’s literally a life-and-death proposition. Stress leads to cardiovascular disease, workplace injuries, sleep disturbances, ulcers and even cancer. In fact, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that health care expenditures are nearly 50 percent greater for workers who endure high levels of stress.

It’s an unfortunate truth that the Christmas season comes with a high cost. And we’re not talking about those hefty MasterCard and VISA bills that will arrive in January. Like the socks or sweaters you might receive from an aunt or distant cousin, Christmas-related stress comes in a variety of colors and styles. It can be physical, emotional and financial. Not only can Christmas mean a strain to your bank account or an exhausting cross-country flight to your parents’ house, December 25 can bring emotional turmoil when it’s a reminder of a broken relationship or the death of a loved one.

The vibrant reds and greens of Christmas often seem deep blue for many hurting people. And that’s when God gets into the act.

The Bible tells us that long before the world was formed, God knew our names. He knew when and where we would be born, what sort of life we would lead and when we would die. And He also knew that we would need a Someone to save us from our failures and shortcomings. We could never save ourselves. So God decided to do it Himself by personally living the human experience on Earth through His Son, Jesus Christ.

By literally becoming God with us, Jesus truly understands the stress of Christmas (which is ironically meant to celebrate His birth!). Leading up to that first Christmas when Jesus was born among a stable-full of less-than-spotless farm animals, Joseph and Mary – His earthly parents – knew all too much about stress. They experienced emotional stress from the scandalous rumors swirling around Mary’s pregnancy. They endured physical stress from the grueling trip to Bethlehem mandated by the Roman census. And with money in short supply, financial stress abounded.

But because He experienced it all Himself, Jesus really does understand our sorrows – whether it’s December 25 or any of the other 364 days of the year. The good news for us is that He has promised all His followers that He will never leave them or forget them. His is a trustworthy promise of care and love. It’s one more thing – like that Christmas check you received from your long-lost uncle – that you can (and should) take to the bank.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Idol Pleasures

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

-- Psalm 37:4

Some call it the 5th Food Group -- an edible delight that (at least for a few people) satisfies more than any balanced meal or healthy snack.

It’s chocolate.

Each year, the world consumes more than 1 million tons of the processed confection. And annual chocolate consumption in the United States adds up to 12 pounds per person. That’s a lot of Hershey’s Kisses and Baby Ruth bars!

For many people, chocolate – and food in general – is one of life’s little pleasures. But what would it be like if we were stuck eating the same thing day after day? Or much worse, what if we faced daily hunger or even starvation. Or what if we took this blessing for granted?

The simple pleasures of life are just a few of God’s wonderful gifts. But when we overindulge in them, waste or otherwise abuse them, it becomes a real problem. Think about a child inspecting the chocolate abundance reaped from an evening of intense trick-or-treating. The first and second bags of peanut M&Ms are delicious. But a high price must be paid after consuming six or seven Mr. Goodbars followed by a sticky candied apple.

The same holds true with any God-made thing or pleasure; if we pervert it, even a God-thing can become a destructive, enslaving idol with ensuing consequences. In such cases, the gift has become more important than the Giver.

An idol doesn’t have to be a literal golden calf like the Israelites worshipped in Old Testament times. Instead, it’s anything that means more to us than following God and His ways. It’s too bad that pleasure is one of God’s gifts that we often idolize. For more than 40 years, the media’s message is that if it feels good, we should do it. And society has largely taken the bait. Watch almost any popular television show or movie these days and you’ll see destructive behaviors and lifestyles that God expressly condemns. Adultery and other illicit relationships, for example, are no longer considered scandalous. They’re “private” situations where no one ever gets hurt (right?). But if Christ-followers dare to say otherwise, they are likely to be scolded as being intolerant, bigoted or narrow-minded. After all, what does the Bible have to do with living in 21st Century America?

In fact, God’s Word shows us that things never change when it comes to illicit relationships and the destruction they render (Ask King David about Bathsheba!). And just as our ancestors did centuries ago, we today are too willing to turn our heads and accept and justify our behaviors: all clear signs that the pleasures in question have become idols. What’s worse is that we then resist choosing between the idols and God. We might say that we want God in our lives. But we also want Him to make room and share the thrones of our hearts.

This is totally unacceptable to God. He holds a jealous love for each of His children and wants only the best for us. Sharing therefore isn’t an option. So to fully acknowledge His love, we must destroy the false idols that hold us back from worshipping Him. It’s when we change our priorities and focus on God that we find true pleasure – a pleasure that’s both lasting and real.

Friday, October 31, 2008

American Idol

So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.

-- Ephesians 6:13

The old saying goes that on the battlefield, you won’t find an atheist in any foxhole.

There’s probably a grain of truth in that observation. And maybe a whole lot more. After all, is there really such a thing as a full-fledged atheist – someone who doesn’t worship any god? We all worship something; at least in one way or another. God has even hard-coded this intense longing into our very DNA.

Christ-followers worship the true God revealed and proven through the Bible. Other religions around the world promote false gods, ancestor worship, and even the reverence of living things or nature (worshipping the creation rather than the Creator). And let’s not forget today’s popular false teachings such as New Age, Scientology and Kabbalah. It’s a very long list.

Even those who claim to be strict atheists are really active worshippers. True, they may not be regular churchgoers and proclaim Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. But they – like everyone – bow down to favorite idols. Some worship money, luxury and pleasure, and others intellect and higher learning. Still others kneel at the altar of more negative gods such as alcohol, drugs and illicit relationships.

So no – there are no atheists to be found on the battlefield. But there’s a different type of battle that rages each day within everyone: the God of the Bible struggling against the world’s gods and idols. Our hearts and souls are the prize of war.

Perhaps we don’t literally kneel and worship before some golden idol. But we all must recognize that we secretly (and maybe not-so-secretly) cherish our own personal gods. Think about the things you worry about or sacrifice your time and money for. What are the issues that make you angry? What brings you the most joy? And here’s a revealing question: Whose attention and applause do you most crave?

If the answer to each question doesn’t involve God, then you’re likely worshipping an idol. And idols can be difficult to recognize through the smoke and confusion of spiritual warfare because they’re experts at camouflage. Even apparently good things can evolve into “god things.” It’s then that they’re unmasked as personal idols.

It’s particularly important for Christ-followers to remember that the real God – the God of the Bible revealed in person through Jesus Christ – doesn’t want to share His glory with any false god or cheap idol. We therefore need to reflect on the God – and gods – in our lives. And then we must choose the only One to serve and live for.

Let’s be thankful that our God guards a jealous love for each one of us. In fact, He loves us so much that He let His own Son suffer the death penalty in our place so we could be His children and heirs. And as children of the King, an incredible inheritance awaits each if we’re willing to accept His gifts of forgiveness, love and grace.

This is what love is really about. And it’s a love that refuses to share.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You Be the Judge

This was before kings ruled Israel, so all the Israelites did whatever they thought was right.
-- Proverbs 14:12

Have you ever been accused of intolerance?

If you’re a Christ-follower who’s open about your faith, you probably have – or soon will be. Turn on the TV or surf the Internet a while. You don’t have to look hard to find articles or videos featuring Hollywood celebrities or “open-minded” journalists who point their fingers and use the dreaded “I-Word.”

But what exactly does tolerance mean? And depending on the situation, is intolerance always such a bad thing? Many see Christianity as very intolerant. For instance, Jesus declared Himself to be the exclusive path to God. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” He said. This bold proclamation defies today’s all-inclusive, politically correct atmosphere. But Jesus has no tolerance for false, second-rate gods and allegiances.

It’s helpful to understand that the meaning of tolerance has evolved over the last few years. Not too long ago, to be tolerant meant recognizing and respecting the beliefs and values of others – even if you would never accept them as your own. But that’s all changed. Today, tolerance means accepting and acknowledging the beliefs and behaviors of others as equal to your own. All faiths and religions are of neutral value. And everything – even the simple concept of right and wrong – is now relative. My truth is just as good as your truth.

This viewpoint sounds very enlightened and liberating. But it has a few fatal flaws. As with man’s grasp of knowledge, man’s concept of tolerance constantly changes. On the other hand, God’s right and wrong never changes. The Bible – God’s words of truth to us – is rock-steady and dependable. That can’t be said for the fickleness of popular culture.

Today’s definition of tolerance is also hypocritical. When someone attacks Christian values, that viewpoint – by its own definition – is intolerant. “All viewpoints are equal,” they reason. “But some viewpoints aren’t as equal as others.”

As Christ-followers, we have open access to God’s truth through the Bible, prayer and even wise counsel from fellow Believers. We should have less trouble than others with telling right from wrong. We look toward the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, as our Guide. But following Him in front of an unbelieving world is another matter. And it opens us up – and rightfully so – to charges of hypocrisy.

As the saying goes, when you point your finger at someone, your other four fingers point back at you. Christ-followers must therefore look in the mirror before accusing others. As Jesus put it, we need to remove the plank from our own eye before removing the speck from our neighbor’s eye. To do otherwise risks the charge of self-righteousness. We also need to consider the person in need of guidance. Is this person a fellow Christ-follower? Or is this someone who never signed up for Jesus’ walk of faith?

These two situations demand different responses. As Christ-followers, we must hold ourselves to much higher standards of behavior. And on the flipside, we must let God be the judge of others outside the faith. He knows the whole story; we’re hardly in the position to condemn anyone.

But in all cases and with all people, love must be our motivation. Regardless of what the world tells us, it’s love – not tolerance – that’s our core value.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Knowledge is Power

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.
-- Psalm 119:65-67

Consider him the Albert Einstein of his day. Scottish physicist Lord Kelvin was the dominant figure in science in the second half of the 19th Century. He published more than 600 scientific papers and filed 70 patents. He was the president of the Royal Society from 1890 to 1895, and introduced the world to the term thermodynamics .

Kelvin was obviously brilliant by the world's standards. But as it turned out, his knowledge was limited to the information that was available at the time. For instance, he famously declared that "heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." The Wright Brothers proved him wrong just eight years later. And in 1900, Kelvin said, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." The renowned genius also asserted that "X-rays are a hoax."

So goes the power of knowledge.

It's ironic that so many otherwise intelligent people regard Christ-followers as weak or uninformed because they accept the Bible on simple faith. After all, they say, knowledge is the answer to freedom and a better world. If everyone would think like them, peace and prosperity would multiply!

The problem with this viewpoint is that worldly knowledge is constantly changing and correcting itself. On the other hand, the wisdom and knowledge that God gives us through the Bible is rock-steady. But that hasn't stopped people over the centuries from trying to discredit Jesus and the Bible. There are even organizations, books and movies that are dedicated to the pursuit. (Remember the Da Vinci Code ?) But their efforts always fail. In 2004, Biblical truth struck again when archeologists discovered the Pool of Siloam - a site of one of Jesus' miracles of healing. And to think there were some cynics who had up until then claimed the pool to be an imaginary place!

The lesson here is that for all its prowess, human knowledge is inherently untrustworthy and limited. God's Word - by contrast - is proven to be all-powerful, reliable and true. We can and should trust it. After all, the Bible is God's owner's manual for living a productive life and making a positive difference in our world. It's also a dependable roadmap for finding our eternal home through faith in God's own Son, Jesus Christ. There's a very good reason why the Bible is called The Good Book.

Don't misunderstand: education and human knowledge can be quite valuable. And learning new skills and earning college degrees are definite career-builders. But as Christ-followers, we must remember our Source of real knowledge and the words of true life. We're to trust Him with a simple, child-like faith. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me," invites our Teacher, "for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Can there be a more powerful lesson worth learning?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who's the Boss

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field,
God's building.

-- 1 Corinthians 3:9

The old saying goes that if you love what you do for a living, you'll never work another day in your life. That's when a run-of-the-mill job has become a passion.

So are you one of the fortunate few who absolutely love their jobs - or do you keep one eye on the time clock and live for the weekend? TGIF indeed!

Whether you're thrilled by your career or simply put in your hours for a steady paycheck, the Bible has some words of wisdom that help put things into perspective: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart," advises the Apostle Paul, "as working for the Lord, not for men."

In other words, whatever you do - whether you're the CEO of a multi-national corporation or a 9 to 5 ditch digger, you need to do your job for the glory of God. That means you should consider your workplace to be as much a place of worship on Monday through Friday as a church is on Sunday.

Unfortunately, that can be a difficult proposition. After all, churches are usually filled with Christ-followers - or at least people checking out the faith. They're eager for the message. But the workplace is most often where spiritual discussions are avoided for fear of alienating fellow employees. No one wants to be known as the office Bible-thumper or some sort of Jesus freak.

But demonstrating your faith in the office doesn't have to mean cornering the bookkeeper in the break room. Instead, you can show God's Spirit at work in you by consistently doing your job with excellence and enthusiasm, demonstrating honesty and integrity, and going out of your way to serve your fellow employees. Your co-workers will notice the difference. And if someone asks what keeps you ticking, be prepared to tell them.

As Christ-followers, God wants us to be lights to the world - and that world includes your place of employment. Pray through your workday that God will use you to make a positive difference on the job. And whatever you do for a living, approach each day as an opportunity to show Him living through you.

Yes, it's OK to thank God it's Friday. Just don't forget to do the same on the other six.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

For Better or For Worse

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives
as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

-- Ephesians 5:25

One of the great things about the Bible is what it's definitely not: an unpractical book of rules and regulations delivered to humankind by some distant, unknowable power.

In fact, the Bible is quite the opposite. It reveals that God is Love, and He will go to any lengths to bring His creation back to a healthy, growing relationship. And to make His mission even more personal, He sent His Son - Jesus - to live among the people to experience all the joys and sorrows of life, and then pay for your way and mine for an eventual eternity of joy. How better could God explain His ways than by coming to live and teach among the lowly, the abused and the oppressed?

God understands the human experience because He lived it Himself through Jesus. And Jesus' teachings and principles - available to us today through the Bible - draw a roadmap for how we're to live our lives and grow among friends, family, neighbors - and even our enemies. The Bible is really God's owner's manual for our lives. In its pages we find practical guidance on topics that are just as relevant today as they were 20 centuries ago.

Marriage happens to be one of these timeless topics. But since Jesus never had a wife, just how much first-hand advice can he give us?

Quite a bit. It's true that Jesus never got married, cut a wedding cake or went on a honeymoon to Niagara Falls. He had no wife to keep up the homestead as he preached, healed and saved. But the Bible tells us that Jesus actually does have a bride - the entire body of Christ-followers around the world known collectively as the Church.

And this is where Jesus teaches us some important lessons about marriage. First - like He did during His earthly ministry - husbands and wives need to submit to each other. This involves voluntarily relinquishing some of our rights while honoring and affirming the husband's leadership in the family. As Jesus explained about Himself, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

A related Biblical lesson about marriage is that husbands should show sacrificial love toward their wives - just as Jesus showed for His Church. That's unlikely to mean that husbands will literally need to die for their wives (although it could), but it does point to an intentional sacrifice of time and a genuine commitment toward a Christ-centered life together.

Both lessons reveal a critical insight that our modern culture chooses to hide: successful marriages demand work, vision and commitment. And there's much more truth where that came from. From the first passages of Genesis to the last verses of Revelation, the Bible teaches volumes about love, marriage and relationships.

But let's step back and consider Jesus' attitude toward His bride -- the Church. How much stronger would our own marriages become if we adopted His principles of submission and sacrifice -- and then put them into action?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer.

-- Hebrews 10:25

Ask a dozen people what comes to mind when you say the word church, and you’ll likely get several different answers. Their responses will likely range from little white clapboard country churches to impressive Northeastern stone and stained glass churches to massive European cathedrals. Others might take a different approach with answers citing the small home churches that are common in China and Cuba. And believe it or not, some might even talk about churches meeting in movie theaters (imagine that!).

The common denominator is that these answers equate church with a location or style of physical building. But that’s not the way the Bible defines church. Rather than an impressive structure filled with pews and crowned by a soaring steeple, the church is really people – all the people on Earth who have accepted and trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. No matter who you are and where you live – if you’re a Christ-follower – you’re part of His church called the Body of Christ.

That’s a remarkable concept because it means you’re a part of a literal body of believers spread all over the globe. We speak different languages, are of different races and come from different cultures. But we’re all united by Jesus’ death on the cross as payment in full for all the wrong we have done (and continue to do) in our lives. As different as we are, we’re a single family that has accepted Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness.

But like all families – even the best and most stable – differences, disagreements and disappointments are bound to arise among the siblings. And the fact is that the church isn’t perfect. And why should it be: it’s made up of imperfect people who do very imperfect things.

This all leads to another key Biblical truth about the church: It’s not about us – it’s all about Jesus. Everything we do as Christ-followers ought to be done to glorify God through Christ, who the Bible tells us is the head of the church. Whether it’s a local gathering of believers or all the millions of Christ-followers on Earth, this Body of Christ answers to an audience of One.

Jesus paid for His church with something much more valuable than money or gold. He bought our spiritual freedom and eternal future at the price of His own blood. So whether we worship Him in a massive cathedral, a quaint country church or even a multiplex movie theatre, we’re ultimately one body joined through a common faith.

Let’s strive as Christ-followers to make it a body that’s healthy, strong and worthy of His sacrifice.

Friday, September 5, 2008

School Daze

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

-- Proverbs 22:6

A mother escorting her tearful child to the bus stop or classroom. The mom and dad saying goodbye to their uncertain (but hopeful) 18-year-old at the college freshman dorm. They're scenes that were repeated thousands of times last week across the nation as public and private schools opened for the new year.

If you've been a parent long enough, these familiar scenarios might evoke some bittersweet memories and mixed emotions. Letting your child leave the nest - if only for a few hours a day - might have been a difficult step. But it was also a critical milestone. And both you and your child grew up a bit in the process.

But these same steps can lead to dangers - particularly for the children of Christ-followers. That's because many public school systems and secular colleges and universities teach a world view that denies God's truth as it's revealed through the Bible. Think of it as the gospel of relativism. It's a philosophy that promotes the tolerance of dubious viewpoints on what were once steadfast issues. Relativism also shuns the notion of morality and absolute truth because teaching what's right and wrong could denigrate different cultures, religions and belief systems. After all, no one wants their feelings hurt. And shouldn't everyone succeed and aren't all viewpoints equally valid?

(In one extreme case, a school system actually banned its teachers from using red pens for grading papers because the vivid ink was deemed too intimidating for the students!)

This perspective is much more than silly. It can become a serious issue for Christ-followers and their children because God teaches that there indeed are right and wrong ways to live, treat our neighbors and see the world. And the problem is often greater in colleges and universities. In these environments that are largely free from parental guidance, secular classmates and professors often downplay or even mock Christian beliefs. Defying these same professors - the same ones who determine grades and ultimately graduation - is obviously intimidating. It's no wonder that these powerful influences can cause some students to compromise their faith, change their behavior or even turn their back on the Biblical truths that they once embraced.

So what's the answer? Christ-followers of all ages need to resolve to do what's right in all situations and regardless of the consequences. Of course, resisting certain temptations could mean losing some friends along the way. But as the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Second, there's real strength in numbers. It's therefore important for Christ-followers to seek out and surround themselves with others who share their faith and support their viewpoints. And finally, Christ-followers need to know, trust and apply the power of God's Word - the Bible. It's God's proven user's manual for living a successful life.

Let's be clear that there's nothing wrong with education - particularly education that brings about healing and positive change. But as Christ-followers in the classrooms and in the boardrooms, we also need to be agents of change - those who Jesus calls the Light of the World.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lonely at the Top

His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

-- Matthew 25:23

You’ve heard that old saying about success: It’s lonely at the top.

And for some people, achieving success and celebrity status can turn out to be a little too lonely. Let’s look at Howard Hughes’ example.

If you’re unfamiliar with him, Hughes was one of the richest men in the world when he died in 1976. An extremely successful businessman and founder of Hughes Aircraft Company, the Houston, Texas native was also an aviation pioneer, movie producer and real estate developer – and that’s not to mention his considerable financial stakes in mining and communications.

In so many ways, he was a man of the world.

And he was no doubt a huge success by the world’s standards. But during his final years, Hughes became a recluse plagued by paranoia and even an extreme fear of germs. Wracked with pain caused in part by the injuries suffered in a devastating plane crash, he eventually died of kidney failure. Perhaps it was no accident that this man of the world left his worldly existence while flying to Houston!

Obviously, Hughes’ story isn’t typical. And it’s unlikely that most of us will become billionaires any time soon. But his example does point to the pitfalls of living for worldly success.

Striving to climb the proverbial ladder of success seems to be engrained in many of us. We want a bigger house, a better job and a fancier car. And above all, we need to impress others. It comes down to our own little world of power, fame and personal advancement.

We want it all and we want more of it. Ultimately, it’s all about US.

It’s hard to believe that we have it all so backward. According to the Bible, there’s no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Everything that we have – our money, possessions, job and health – is all due to God’s generosity. He gives it freely and can also take it away without notice.

God has a totally different definition of success. Instead of living self-centered lives, Christ-followers need to celebrate Him by doing the most good with the resources we’re given. Our motivation needs to revolve around doing what’s best for others. It’s our faithfulness to God that’s the real gold standard of success.

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Jesus asked His followers. “Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Those are tough questions we all need to answer. But from God’s perspective, having it all in this world can turn out to mean having absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Soul Food

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

-- John 6:35

What's your idea of a great meal? For some folks, a grilled T-bone steak, baked potato and salad always hit the spot. Others love pizza, Chinese or seafood. And let's not forget those who crave vegetarian.

People's tastes and taste buds vary widely; it's their hungers that unite them. But there's another kind of appetite that has nothing to do with cheeseburgers and ice cream. It's the spiritual hunger that's hard-coded into our DNA. Inside, everyone has a gnawing desire to fill a gaping internal void. Some try in vain through negative pursuits involving drug use, alcohol, compulsive spending or gambling. Others attempt to fill it by becoming workaholics or escaping reality through television, video games or even travel. But after the thrill is gone, the hunger always returns.

And they're never satisfied.

Jesus addressed this universal dilemma by proclaiming (and proving) Himself to be the "food" that everyone longs for. When we accept Him as our Lord and Savior and become Christ-followers, He literally resides in us. And He does lead our lives when we're willing to ask, listen and then obey.

But it turns out that a little spiritual hunger isn't such a bad thing. In fact, we all need to have a drive - a certain level of intensity - to continue developing as Christ-followers. That's because the cliché is true: life really is a journey rather than a wide spot in the road. God has so many things for us to see, experience and comprehend during our brief existence on Earth. It's how we grow and mature into Jesus' likeness. How boring would our lives be if we already knew all the answers?

Unfortunately, too many Christ-followers experience stunted growth because they lack the intensity to continue seeking meaning in their lives. The solution is to grow by making the most of the people, places and situations that God puts before us every day. It's up to every Christ-follower to continue developing their spiritual muscles through regular Bible Study, prayer, worship, Gel Group participation and other positive habits. After all, there's nothing like a good workout to whet ones appetite.

So with all this talk about food, what's for supper?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

With all my heart, I will praise the Lord. Let all who are helpless,
listen and be glad.
-- Psalm 34:2

Imagine what might happen if someone famous from long ago (maybe George Washington?) came alive in 21st Century America. There's no doubt that George would be amazed at how his nation had grown over the last 200 years. And of course, he would be impressed with our modern conveniences and technology, our superhighways - and probably shopping malls.

But how would our first president react if we told him about modern communications? Could we blame him if he refused to believe that the air is actually filled with music, sporting events, news reports and talk shows? And how quickly he would become a believer if we gave him a radio and a television - and then turned them on to pick up the signals.

When it comes to God and your journey as a Christ-follower, are you a little bit like a modern day George Washington? The Bible tells us that God wants a relationship with us and continues to communicate with us in many ways. But if we're not able (or willing) to tune in the signals and listen, all we get is static.

So how does God speak with us today? He does it in many ways - both expected, surprising and sometimes somewhere in between. First, it's through the Bible - His timeless message and owner's manual for living a full life on earth in preparation for an eternity of joy with Him. God can also speak through a close friend, a worship service or even a discussion in your Small Group.

(Ever listed to a sermon and felt like it was written just for you and your situation? Maybe it really was!)

Then there are those unexpected sources of God's wisdom. It might be from a conversation with a co-worker or a neighbor. There's that 11 PM phone call from an old college friend or army buddy. You might meet a stranger in line at the supermarket. Or your 5-year-old child might say something straight out of the blue.

God can indeed speak through many channels. But what can we do to tune Him in? Above all, ask God through prayer to speak to you and reveal His message. Then be patient and open your ears, heart and mind in faith. In one form or the other, God will eventually answer. And if His answer seems a bit odd, check it against Biblical principles and talk it out with another Christ-follower. God will never ask you to do anything that contradicts the Scriptures.

Whether it involves your spouse, a friend, a child or God, a growing relationship calls for quality, two-way communications. And to grow as a Christ-follower, we need to make time in our busy schedules to listen to God and share our deepest thoughts, joys and desires.

That's how George Washington tuned in to his Creator 200 years ago. Now it's up to us to catch up to this revolutionary concept.