You’re Dead!

cemeteryWilliam was tired of telephone solicitors. They would always seem to call at inopportune times, offering products or services that held no interest for him. Nothing seemed to dissuade them. So, he changed his tactics.

“May I speak to William, please.”

“Actually, you can’t. William died.”

“Oh … I’m so sorry” Click.

The number of calls has diminished dramatically.

Now, you might think that such a tactic is deceptive, but, in reality, it was true for William. Colossians 3:3 tells us, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” William really is dead. And, in all honesty, I think William is on to something.

As Christians, we have two natures. There is the sinful nature – the old Adam – and the new nature through Christ. Both are real. Both are present. But we get to choose which one we feed and nurture.

If someone else – or even your own inclinations – tries to entice you to be involved in some sinful activity, you can respond, “I can’t. I’m dead.” Romans 6:11, tells us, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

The most potent weapon we have to overcome sin is the Word of God. There are few verses that offer more practicality than these. We’re dead to sin. We have a new nature.

When sin comes knocking at your door – or when your conscience is riddled with guilt – remember: you’re dead.

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Do You Have God’s Attention?

Isaiah 66-2The second half of Isaiah 66:2 causes me to wonder. “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

Humble. Contrite in spirit. Trembles at His Word. Those are the people to whom God looks. It literally means that God will turn His attention toward such a person.

Let me be uncomfortably candid for a moment. I am rarely any of those things.

My “natural” default setting is toward pride, not humility. I find it much easier to be haughty and arrogant rather than humble.

According to my dictionary, the word “contrite” means “filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement; penitent.” Certainly I repent of sins regularly, but I don’t think I am often “filled with a sense of guilt” and rarely a true “desire for atonement.” I’m pretty sure that contrition should be my companion much more frequently than it is now.

And I’m not entirely certain I have ever trembled at God’s Word. Sure, I’ve been amazed at the greatness and holiness and majesty of God. But trembling at His Word? Not so much.

Yet those character qualities are the people toward whom God turns His attention. He looks at people like that. They have His interest.

May we – you and I, both – conform more to the Word of God.

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Big Buildings and Small Coins

Solomon's TempleOne day, Jesus and His disciples were leaving the temple area. We’re not told which one, but one of the guys commented, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1) At least one of the disciples was clearly captivated by the grandeur of the temple.

Granted, it was a magnificent structure. You can read about the design and construction in 1 Kings 6 and 2 Chronicles 3 and 4. The temple in Jesus’ day was about 50 feet tall, the equivalent of a five-story building. That’s pretty impressive for not having the use of modern machinery.

Yet, it’s important to look at this story in context. Immediately prior to this scene, Jesus had just commented to His disciples about the woman they watched put two small copper coins into the offering box. It was a pittance from a monetary standpoint, but Jesus said, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.” (Mark 12:43) Jesus was telling them plainly that the actual dollar amount wasn’t all that significant.

The juxtaposition of these two scenes makes me wonder. Could Jesus have been thinking, I just told you that money – material possessions – are not really that important, and you think I’m going to be enamored with an impressive building?

I’d like to ridicule that disciple – and, honestly, each of them from time to time. Yet, I can too often empathize with them. It would likely have been me asking Jesus about the temple. How many times do I hear His Word, and then, with my next breath, ignore it?

Lord, forgive me.

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The Everlasting Arms

Everlasting ArmsGod gives us lots of promises in His Word. Some are intended to offer comfort during tumultuous times. Ever had any of those times?

Such promises cause us to recognize that, no matter what it looks like on the surface, God is still in control. Like this one from Psalm 75, for example: “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.” (Psalm 75:3)

That’s quite a promise from the Lord. He is our stability. Regardless of what is happening – even in the midst of an earthquake, or what seems like an earthquake in life – He holds us fast and secure. This verse reminds me of another Scripture, “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

He’s our support. He’s the solid foundation that we can build our lives upon. Always underneath us are His everlasting arms.

Aren’t you glad You know Him and that His everlasting arms are holding you today?

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“Stay Awake”

Sleeping on the JobIn the Gospel of Mark, Jesus talks about end times. “Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come…—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:35-37)

Obviously, Jesus didn’t mean that we should never fall asleep. Our bodies need rest. It is essential for us to sleep. So, what did He mean by “Stay awake”?

Peter makes a statement that may help us in this regard. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, author’s emphasis) The word translated here as “be watchful” is rendered differently by various versions of the Bible. The NIV uses the word “alert.” The KJV says, “be vigilant.” Others say, “keep watch” or “keep on the alert.” Paul uses the same word Peter used when he tells us to “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it…” (Colossians 4:2).

In fact, the same Greek word is also in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. He tells them, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith…” (1 Corinthians 16:13). The NIV translates it “Be on your guard…”

That’s really the point of what Jesus was saying. Keep an eye out. Be watchful. Be vigilant (literally, “keenly watchful to detect danger; wary”). Don’t let your guard down.

Years ago I heard a great true statement. “As Christians, spiritual warfare is not a choice we make; it is part of our identity.” That’s true.

We do not have the luxury of letting down our guard or thinking we don’t have an enemy. He is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Don’t give him an easy meal. Stay awake.

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citizenshipAs a citizen of the state of Missouri, I have certain rights and privileges. I can, for example, get a major discount on tuition at state-run colleges and universities. This is not something that is afforded to just anyone, but only to those who are actually citizens of our state.

Yet, I’m not only a citizen of Missouri, I’m also a citizen of the United States of America. That status affords me other certain privileges. Social Security benefits, Medicare, and more are included in my citizenship. Those aren’t accessible because I have attained some sort of elite status. They are simply a part of my citizenship.

So, when the Bible declares that Christ’s followers are citizens of heaven – “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) – what does that mean for us? As citizens of not only our particular state or province, as well as our country, but also of heaven, what rights and privileges can you think of that we have?

Of course, we should realize that there is more to the story than just the benefits to us. As citizens, we also have certain responsibilities. What are our responsibilities as citizens of heaven?

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meaningDoes anyone else find it ironic that so many people today are searching for meaning? I keep seeing it in news stories, movies, novels, television … even in everyday conversations with regular people. They want to know what life is all about. Somewhere inside there seems to be a void – something is missing – and they can’t figure it out.

Am I the only one who wants to say, “Duh”?

Having removed the real reason for our existence – relationship with God – from the equation, it only makes sense that people will search in every nook and cranny, and through every means possible, to find meaning.

Of course, God seems like the logical answer. Yet, if there is no God, then the answer must be somewhere else. And off they go, trying to find meaning through any number of ways. Drugs, sex, money, and power are obvious ones. Others try rescuing striped salamanders in South American jungles, or going “green,” or stopping global warming, or bringing an end to corporate greed – or some other such noble cause. At the end of the day, though, none of those will bring lasting meaning.

Ironically, God is standing there, waiting, the whole time.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:28-31)

I’m amazed by how accurately the Apostle Paul described our current society nearly two-thousand years ago.

Church of Jesus Christ: Don’t be silent. We have answers. There’s a God Who longs to give meaning and purpose to the lives of His people. Let others know about the Lord Who came to earth to rescue them and be in relationship with them.

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