Saturday, January 28, 2017

Breaking Bread

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

-- 1 Corinthians 10:16 

If you're like many people, some of your fondest memories involve food. You might remember Thanksgivings with family whenever you smell the rich aroma of roast turkey and sweet potatoes. The unmistakable odor of hot dogs, popcorn and cotton candy could take you back decades to your first State Fair. And maybe even the sight of a homemade apple pie reminds you of the ones your grandmother used to bake when you'd come for a weekend visit.

Yes, food holds a powerful place in our Breadlives. And not just because we need it to survive. There's something special--even joyful--about sharing a good meal with family and friends. As Christ-followers, we remember our Savior's sacrificial death through Communion: a symbolic meal of bread and grape juice that reminds us of the last supper he shared with his disciples. The bread and juice represent how Christ's body was broken and his blood was shed for us.

So while we're on the topic of food and its spiritual significance, what's the recipe for a joy-filled, Christ-centered life?

The Bible tells us it's one part unity with other Christ-followers mixed with a measure of regular prayer. Then blend it well with a heaping helping of discernment--the ongoing intentional functions of living, thinking and acting constructively. It's all about habitually looking for the good and dwelling on the positive.

When we have lives that are filled with joy, even the most unpleasant of circumstances can't bring us down. The Apostle Paul exemplified this truth. He spent years in prison chained to his guards while under the constant threat of death. But Paul always prayed thankfully. And instead of feeling sorry for himself, he used his circumstances to change the lives of his fellow prisoners as well as his jailers--and all while writing much of what we today call the New Testament.

Are you hungry for some tasty joy in your life? If you haven't done so already, the first step is to invite Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior. Those who grasp this opportunity become the ones he calls the Salt of the Earth: the special people whose distinct "flavor" makes all the difference to an otherwise bland world that lacks hope and meaning.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Teachable Moments

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. 

-- Psalm 119:65-67 

Before there was Albert Einstein, there was Lord Kelvin.

Born William Thomson, this renowned Scots-Irish physicist and engineer was the dominant figure in science during 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 he introduced the world to the term thermodynamics

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

Just as Lord Kelvin derided the notion of airplanes and X-rays, many otherwise intelligent people regard Christ-followers as uninformed because they accept the Bible on simple faith. After all, they reason, knowledge is the answer to freedom and a better world. If everyone would think like them, peace and prosperity would prevail!

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 Scriptures. There are even organizations, books and movies that are dedicated to the pursuit. (Remember The Da Vinci Code?) But their efforts ultimately fail. For example, Biblical truth struck again in 2004 when archaeologists discovered the Pool of Siloam, the site of one of Jesus' recorded miracles. Up until then cynics claimed that the pool was 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 the dependable road map for finding our eternal home through faith in God's own son, Jesus Christ. There are many good reasons 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."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Building Blocks

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

Church means different things to different people.

Maybe it's one of those modest clapboard places of worship that dot America's countryside. On the other hand it might be a massive European basilica, bejeweled with majestic stained glass. And still others might think of the small home churches found in China and Cuba.

We may envision church as a cathedral, Churcha coffee house or something in between, but the Bible defines it quite differently. Rather than being a structure filled with pews and crowned by a soaring steeple, the church is a collection of people: all those who count 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.

What a remarkable concept! We speak different languages, are of different races and reflect different cultures. But we're all united by Jesus' death on the cross as payment in full for all the wrongs we have done (and continue to do) in our lives. As varied as we are, we're a single family that has accepted Jesus' free gift of forgiveness and anticipation of eternal life.

As with 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. But why should it be? After all, its members are imperfect people who do very imperfect things.

This leads us to another key Biblical truth about the church: It's not about us. Instead, it's all about Jesus. Everything we do as Christ-followers should be done to glorify God through Christ, who the Bible tells us is the head of the church. So whether it's a local gathering of believers or the collective 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 precious blood. So whether we worship him in a massive cathedral, a quaint country church or maybe a refurbished drugstore, we're ultimately one body joined through a common faith.

Let's strive as Christ-followers to make his church a body that's healthy, productive and worthy of his sacrifice.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Gods and Idols

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

-- 1 Corinthians 10:31

We're all worshipers in one way or another.

Christ-followers worship the true God revealed and proven through the Bible. Meanwhile, various religions around the world promote man-made gods, ancestor worship and even the reverence of living things or nature (worshiping the creation rather than the Creator). Then there are 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 Idolare actually vigorous worshipers. True, they're not Sunday morning churchgoers who proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But they--like everyone--bow down to something. Some worship money, luxury and pleasure while others bend the knee to intellect and higher learning. Meanwhile, others kneel at the altar of more negative gods such as alcohol, drugs and illicit relationships.

The saying goes that there are no atheists on the battlefield. But there's a different type of conflict that rages every day within us all: the God of the Bible versus the world's gods and idols. It's our hearts, minds and souls that are the prize of war.

Perhaps we don't literally kneel before and worship graven images. But the fact is that that we secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly) cherish our own personal gods. Consider the things that we worry about or sacrifice our time and money for. What are the issues that make us angry? What brings us the most joy? And here's a revealing question: Whose attention and applause do we most crave?

If the answer to each question doesn't involve the Lord, then we're likely worshiping an idol. And idols can be difficult to recognize through the smoke and confusion of spiritual warfare. That's because they're experts at camouflage. Even seemingly good things can evolve into inferior "god things" if they're misused. 

With this in mind, let's remember that our Creator--the God of the Bible revealed in person through Jesus Christ--refuses to share his glory with false idols, man-made religions and philosophies. We therefore must consider the God--or gods--in our lives, and then choose the One to serve and live for.

"Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord," declared Joshua, the courageous Old Testament leader who brought the Israelites into the Promised Land. "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."