Monday, July 27, 2015

Not in a place to grow

There is a bridge that crosses the Catawba River called Castle Bridge. Just beside the bridge are the supports for the previous bridge that crossed the river at that spot. All that's left of the old bridge is a few supports. I have driven across the current bridge more times than I can count when going to the hospital for a visit or to Myra's for ice cream. Nearly every time I drive across the bridge I look at one of the center supports for the old bridge. On top of the support is a scraggly little tree. The tree isn't all that tall, maybe 3-4 feet high at most. There isn't much to the tree in the way of limbs or even a thick trunk. It's really reminiscent of the scraggly trees you see hanging off of cliffs and barren mountainsides. I have noticed this tree for years and I truly think it's the same size today as it was when I took my wife on our first date to Myra's over 18 years ago. So why is it stunted? Why hasn't it grown into a much larger tree? What has limited it from growing? The answer is simple. The tree hasn't grown because it isn't in a place where it can grow. There was just barely enough soil, water, and sunlight for a seed to germinate on that bridge support many years ago. But eventually the tree used up all the dirt it's roots had access to. Without a proper place to grow the tree was stunted and didn't grow to it's full potential.

Many times Christians will find themselves in the same type of place as this tree. The only difference is the tree didn't have a say in where it's seed took root. We as Christians have to guard ourselves from places of spiritual isolation that will stunt our spiritual growth. It's easy to find ourselves in a rut lacking in prayer, daily bible reading, service in the church, or even church attendance. We can find ourselves to be slowly isolating ourselves from God and eventually we'll find ourselves high on this isolated point, far from God, and in a place that isn't fit for us to grow in our faith. As hard as it is when we find ourselves in this position, we need to take the leap and head back to Him. The first step is always the most difficult to take, but once you do you won't regret it. As you start to grow in your faith again you will wonder why you wandered in the first place. As you grow in your faith you'll be able to live up to the full potential of what God designed you to be, rather than settling for a scraggly, gnarled, and growth-deprived version of your self. My encouragement to you today is to take the first step back towards a place where you can grow spiritually. If for you that means getting back in church this Sunday, then get there! If that means picking up your bible on your lunch break today, do so. If that means finding time this evening to spend some time in prayer with God, then do it! I can guarantee you that you won't regret growing spiritually and growing closer to God.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Time to Clean Up Your Act

There are a few things you can usually find people doing when it's 95 degrees and sunny outside. Swimming. Sunbathing. Washing a car. This past Saturday I took the time to wash my truck and my wife's car. While I was washing Misty's car one of our teenagers from church walked up to talk to me. We chatted for a few minutes and towards the end of our conversation he made a comment that caught my attention. He said, "I guess I need to go home and wash my 4Runner." Now this mundane comment probably could have gone unnoticed in a conversation but I realized something in that moment that relates so well to our spiritual life. Whether we like it or not our actions have a direct impact on those around us.

The only reason this young man thought about washing his own vehicle was because he saw me washing mine. Whether I realized it at the time or not, my actions were having a direct impact on this young man. We've all seen this happen in life where people are encouraged to do good and bad based on the actions they see in others. Call it peer pressure. Call it influence. Call it what you will, but in the end our actions impact others.

When it comes to the way we live out our faith in front of others, our actions can have an impact, good or bad, on those around us. Ephesians 5:15-16 says “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We have one shot at this life and it's important, when it comes to matters of faith, that we make the most of every opportunity. Especially when we realize how our witness and actions impact others. When others see us cleaning up our life, they will want to do the same. When others see us praying over our meal, it will encourage them to do the same. When others see us making God a priority, they will look to do so as well.

Our actions leave a lasting impression on those around us. Our kids. Our friends. Our family. Our co-workers. It's vitally important that we take every opportunity we can to leave a positive and faith-filled impact in the lives of those individuals. Look for an opportunity today to live out a great Christians example in the lives of those around you.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

This World is Falling Apart

Friday, June 26, I was in Sandusky, Ohio on vacation with my family. Shortly after lunch, I stood watching my sons ride an amusement park ride and I took my phone out to check Facebook to see what was going on. In my News Feed I began to see articles about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. I was a little surprised by the decision but what bothered me most is the fact I couldn't shake this uneasiness in my soul. The uneasiness lingered the rest of the day. To me it felt like our society had taken a tectonic shift in the wrong direction. Over the course of the next few days I saw and read many articles online about the decision and the ramifications it had on pastors, churches, and Christians in general. Some gave fresh perspectives to a difficult place we find ourselves in as a society and as members of the Body of Christ. But now having had some time to digest this major shift in our society I have some thoughts for Christians to consider.

Society's beliefs do not change God's truths.
God's standards of holiness and righteousness are not dictated by the whims of finite and fallible men. Society's affirmation of same-sex marriage in no way changes what God has stated to be true, that marriage is a holy institution between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24). It would be like society affirming adultery, theft, or murder, all of which are explicitly forbidden by God (Exodus 20). Just because society says its okay, doesn't mean that it is.

Don't expect non-Christians to live like Christians.
One of the more surprising things through all of this has been how Christians have seemed to be shocked that non-Christians don't want to live by Christian values. How else would we expect them to live? If they have not been changed by the power of Christ's blood, we can't expect them to conform to His teachings. We must expect that the millions of non-Christians in our country today will not live by God's standards. It's our responsibility to show the light of Christ in this ever darkening world.

It will only get worse.
Another thing that surprises me through this ordeal our society is facing is the surprise Christians have as they see things declining. I've read through the Bible a few times and each time I see the same thing. It tells us that things are going to get bad before Jesus returns. This is just the one of many decisions our society has made that leads us downward spiritually and it's only going to get worse. On one hand it can be bothersome to know that things will continue to get worse. On the other hand it is reassuring to know that it means Jesus is that much closer to returning.

Your job is to speak the truth in love.
In Ephesians 4, Paul writes about the maturing faith of a believer. One thing he mentions is that they should speak the truth in love. As followers of Christ it is our responsibility to share the truths of God's Word to this dark, lost, and dying world. They need to hear that there is hope. They need to know that God loves them and wants a relationship with them. We must do that but not through condemnation and critical remarks about lifestyles and a lack of faith. Instead we do it by showing love and compassion. Just like the love and compassion God once showed us.

There is plenty that could be written on all of this but these are just a few observations from this pastor that I hope will help you as our society continues to change.

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