Saturday, April 29, 2017

Now You're Cooking!

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

-- Matthew 10:8

Think of them as hours of low-calorie entertainment.

They're those cooking shows on cable TV found on channels ranging from The Food Network to The Cooking Channel and all the way to Bravo. And whether it's Top Chef or Chopped or even Cutthroat Kitchen, their culinary contestants literally cry over spilled milk and put all their eggs into one basket every episode.

Some are eliminated in the first round of competition, Top Chefwhile the best-of-the-best go all the way to become that week's Chopped Champion. But every one of these would-be Rachael Rays and Bobby Flays--regardless of their nationality and upbringing--say that becoming a great chef was always their life's purpose. Moreover, it was a purpose that guided them in nearly every aspect of life. Their culinary career paths even determined their personal relationships!

Believe it or not, there are culinary parallels between the Bible and what it takes to run a popular restaurant on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. For example, to succeed in life God's way, Christ-followers first must gather the right spiritual ingredients. That starts with one part unity with other Christ-followers mixed with a measure of regular prayer and Bible study. Then blend in 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.) Place this mixture into a hot oven of daily circumstances, trials and crises. The result is a rich life marked by a demonstrable willingness to serve others.

Christ-followers are called to be Jesus' hands and feet on earth while we wait for his return, or that day when he calls us back home (whichever comes first). Until then, our Creator wants us to help prepare his Kingdom by making the most of the different ingredients (gifts and talents) that he's given to each follower. It's by adopting a lifestyle of service that we'll become more like our Master, Jesus: 

"In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served," Jesus explains. "He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people." 
When we serve, it's not about us; it's instead about him and his creation. So as Christ-followers, let's turn our faith into action by accepting Jesus' invitation to help feed a dying world that's hungry for guidance, truth and love.

Are you ready to try out God's never-fail recipe for finding purpose in life through service to others? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding! 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Everyone on earth has a body like the body of the one who was made from the dust of the earth. And everyone in heaven has a body like the body of the one who came from heaven.

-- 1 Corinthians 15:45

The Garden of Eden must have been quite a place.

And indeed it was. We read in Genesis that it was a literal paradise filled with beautiful fruit trees, gardens, rivers and animals. God created Adam to care for it, and later introduced Eve to complete the equation. There was no crime, violence, unemployment or any of the other realities of our modern existence. And the first man and woman communed with God in a world without pain or sickness. Or even death.

Then...everything changed. Adam and Eve's disobedience through eating from the garden's forbidden tree led to their permanent eviction from Eden. And ever since, human existence has involved toil, conflict, illness and mortality. It's a price that we're still paying to this day.

Just how far has Adam and Eve's sin Prescriptiontaken us from that place of perfect health? According to the most recent data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), our nation's healthcare spending reached $3.2 trillion in 2015. That's more than $10,000 per person. Experts predict that healthcare could represent 20% of America's total economy by 2025. And with so many Baby Boomers entering their retirement years, our need for healthcare and related services will only grow.

It's obvious that our nation--as well as the rest of the world--is in desperate need of healing. That's why it's a good thing that God sent us a Great Physician in the form of his own son, Jesus Christ.

The New Testament reveals that Jesus, with only a touch or a word, healed lepers, the blind and the paralyzed. He even returned a man and a young child from death: all incredible miracles that proved Jesus is indeed God among us. But if you think about it, these miracles were only temporary. All those whom Jesus healed or resurrected eventually died. Just as we all will one day.

But Jesus' healing was much more than physical. It had (and still has) eternal, spiritual significance. In our 21st Century culture that worships vitality and outward appearance, Christ sees our real condition like an X-ray of our souls. Truth be told, every one of us hurts in one way or another through the wounds and fractures of daily life.

What's the prescription for true healing? It's our simple faith in him.

According to Luke's Gospel, one desperate woman, who had been plagued by bleeding for years, believed that her cure lay in touching Jesus' garments. And she was right. Luke also tells us about a humble Roman centurion who sought Jesus' healing for his deathly ill servant. Remarkably, this would-be enemy of Israel trusted the ability of Christ's word alone:

When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel."

Christ-followers aren't promised freedom from pain, illness and death. That wonderful prospect disappeared long ago with Adam and Eve. But we do have the promise of perfect health and happiness once we reach our eternal home with the Father. But why wait? Spiritual healing can begin today. And it all starts with believing in Jesus' power, asking for his help and having faith to the end.

"Daughter, your faith has healed you," Jesus told his patient. "Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." 

Saturday, April 15, 2017


"Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me."

-- Matthew 10:40

It's a time-honored tactic at dinner parties and job interviews.

It's name-dropping, which means introducing the names of celebrities or otherwise important people Partyinto the conversation to imply a relationship. Claiming that our spouse is the fourth cousin twice removed of a B-list Hollywood actor is often enough to garner nods of approval at the office's Christmas get-together.

Name-dropping can be silly or even annoying, but sometimes it's OK to brag about a relationship with the right person. And in the Bible, it's actually encouraged:

"But the one who boasts should boast in this: that he understands and knows me--that I am the Lord, showing faithful love, justice and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things," we read in the Book of Jeremiah. "This is the Lord's declaration."

With this in mind, maybe it's no surprise that Christianity is a faith built on relationships. For example, there's a parent/child relationship between us and God. And it's a bond that's only made possible through Jesus' death on the cross--a fate we all rightly deserve for our lifetimes stained by personal failures and shortcomings (also known as sin). But since we're connected with the right person (Jesus), he's already paid the price to save us from certain death and eternal punishment. Moreover, this same relationship makes us heirs to his Father's Kingdom.
That's great news. But God also wants us to make relationships with others so they too can begin their own faith journey. That means introducing them to Jesus, sharing his story and relating all that he's done for us. And when these future Believers come to the inevitable rough patches in life, they'll always know The One to call.

How do we get the ball rolling? 

One of the best ways is to begin praying for people by name. They can be our family members, co-workers, neighbors, political leaders, the unsaved...and especially our enemies. After that, we shouldn't be surprised when we begin to see God's power at work. Jesus set the example long ago when he sent 12 of his followers to nearby Jewish communities to spread the Good News (the Gospel):

"Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel," he told them. "As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give."

That was an occasion when Jesus' followers actually became the answer to someone's fervent prayers, and they used their close, personal relationship with the Savior to overcome the impossible. But let's not forget that Christ-followers today have this same power and access to the Almighty. As the saying goes, it's not always what you know that counts; it's who you know that makes the difference.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Overcoming the Inevitable

...This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

-- 1 John 5:4-5

Few people like to talk about it, but it's something we'll all have to face one day or another. It's not a trip to the dentist's office, an audit by the IRS or even a ballet recital. It's something much more inevitable: DEATH.

Why do so many people worry about death? For those who aren't Christ-followers, death represents the unknown. It's a gaping, black hole. And who knows what's at the bottom of that pit or who's on the other side? And besides, death is just

What we don't know or understand frightens us. It frightens us a lot.

That doesn't sound very reassuring. ButVictory there is some very good news: If you've accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have absolutely nothing to fear from death. In fact, death is simply the transition between our relatively brief existence on Earth and an eternity of joy. It's from Revelation--the final book of the Bible--that we learn that all troubles, tears, pain and sorrows will be things of the past. That's something to anticipate rather than fear!

How is this possible? 

It's explained through the Easter story. After Jesus willingly accepted the death penalty to pay for all of our sins, he proved that he is indeed God-in-the-flesh by fulfilling Old Testament prophesies and rising to life. The huge boulder that had earlier sealed his grave was rolled away, and the tomb was empty and hollow. Likewise, so now was the devil's greatest weapon against mankind: the threat of death.

Easter is a reminder of an obvious truth: One day, death will take you. But there's some very good news in this sobering thought. If you've surrendered your life to Jesus, death can't keep you. It's already been defeated through his triumphant resurrection. In John's Gospel there's a familiar passage about Christ's power to overcome the grave:  

"I am the resurrection and the life," the Savior proclaims. "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

When Easter arrives next Sunday, remember that it's not about chocolate rabbits and colorful, hard-boiled eggs. Easter is instead a celebration of victory over death. You can believe in Jesus' promises and have great confidence in your eternal future. It's because he conquered death that you never have to worry.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

DIY Disaster

In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

-- Psalm 10:4

Do you like to DIY (Do-It-Yourself)? 

If so, you’re certainly not alone. According to the Home Improvement Research Institute (yes, there really is such an organization!), home improvement product sales at retailers like Home Depot and Lowes grew by 5.9% to $346 billion in 2016, and the organization forecasts 4.3% growth for 2017. From building a backyard deck to installing indoor lighting, consumers can save thousands of dollars doing their home improvement or repair projects themselves rather than paying a licensed professional. Websites, magazines and even entire cable TV channels are devoted to showing DIYers how to do it right.

Of course, this all comes at a hefty price for the many would-be handymen
and handywomen who discover that they’re in over their heads—and then have to call in the pros to fix the mess. The This Old House website features a DIY Disaster section that chronicles the woes of homeowners who thought they could do it themselves. One Colorado women wrote that because of her area’s extremely-high property values, she bought a condemned home for $160,000 just to get into the market. She thought she could afford to re-pour the house’s foundation—but failed to calculate the additional cost of re-wiring, new duct work and landscaping. And when the house was lifted during the foundation repair, the back 300 square feet of the structure collapsed! In the end, the ambitious DIYer paid $12,000 to transform her 2-bedroom house into an uninhabitable 1-bedroom shack!

In many ways, this DIY disaster story has much in common with passages we find throughout the Bible. A recurring theme is that God has a grand vision for his people and a plan for achieving it. But mankind—through its arrogance and ignorance—decides it knows better than the Creator and sets out to do it itself.

Predictably, the results are both tragic and disastrous. In one of the earliest passages of Scripture we read that the devil convinced Adam and Eve that God was holding back from them and preventing them from reaching their true potential. Naively falling for Satan’s lies, the first man and woman ate the fruit that their Creator had commanded them to avoid. Unintended consequences such as illness, crime, poverty and death have plagued mankind ever since.  

Yes, there are some relatively simple household tasks that we can do ourselves to save time and money. But for the larger, more important projects that we can’t afford to foul up—whether they involve our homes or even our souls—it’s always best to depend on a Pro.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What Happens in Vegas

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 

-- 1 John 3:11-12

Las Vegas has been known as an anything goes type of town for decades. And its reputation is well deserved. No matter the time of day or night, high-stakes gambling, quickie weddings (and divorces) and risqué entertainment are just a casino away. But several years ago, city officials decided to broaden Sin City's appeal. Rather than targeting the lowest common denominator, Las Vegas began to promote itself as a family-friendly vacation destination: a pseudo-Disney World, but with lots more glitz and glam.

If you don't remember that brief change, Las Vegasyou're not alone. It wasn't long before the message was scrapped in favor of the famous What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas campaign. And when an advertising slogan enters the everyday lexicon, you know you've hit the marketing jackpot!

Essentially, a visit to Las Vegas promises days and nights of no-guilt fun and excitement. Nothing that happens has to leave the city limits. And if you don't tell, they certainly won't. At least that's what they say. But that's not how real life works. And as Christ-followers, we know that our Creator already knows about all of our thoughts and actions, regardless of whether we're alone or at a crowded blackjack table. There's no hiding. And one day, we'll all have to give an account of what we've said and done over our lifetime. That should be quite a story for most of us!

Until then, Christ-followers should be light to a dark, blind and desperate world. However, doing the right thing and standing up for our convictions is often tough--and sometimes even painful. Those who refuse to cut corners, shade the truth or puff up their resumes can lose out on careers, friendships and much more. No good deed goes unpunished.

That's what can happen when people are watching. But what about doing the right thing when no one will ever know? Maybe it's that car door you scratched in the crowded mall parking lot. Or the $20 bill that fell from your co-worker's pocket. And think back a few years to when you were playing baseball in your backyard. Who really broke your neighbor's living room window?

Daily circumstances constantly challenge our faith, values and convictions. But Christ-followers are to be true witnesses to the freedom God has given us through the costly sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ. When we accepted his forgiveness for all of the ways we've hurt ourselves and others, we gained the liberty to make a positive difference in this world, and shine a beacon of hope to its inhabitants.

Maybe Las Vegas is the town that never sleeps. But if you stick with Jesus' admonitions for living through faith, you'll see that a good night's sleep with a clear conscience pays off in greater riches than any winning hand at the poker table.