Be Sincere

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

 Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Sincere Love

Today’s Scripture:  1 Peter 1:22  Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

 A rather well built man saw an advertisement for a job at the zoo. When he went there, he was horrified to find that the only job they had open was for somebody to play the part of a gorilla. A lot of children were coming in the next few days, and the zoo, having no gorillas, needed someone to impersonate one. Since money was tight, the man decided he would take the job.

 He arrived before sunrise, got into the gorilla outfit, and slipped into his cage. Finally, day dawned, and the children came. All he had to do was pensively pace the floor, look rather adept at swinging between trees, and eat the peanuts and bananas whenever they were fed to him. After eight or ten hours, he became thoroughly exhausted. The bananas were getting the better of him. As he swung from one tree to another, rather nauseated, he slipped and fell into the lion’s den next door.

 He shouted, “Help! Help!”

 The lion leaned over and said, “If you don’t shut up, we’ll both lose our jobs.”

 We have become pretty adept at impersonating others. Young children impersonate their parents. Teenagers impersonate their friends. Poor people impersonate the wealthy through the use of credit. Men impersonate husbands while constantly looking for other opportunities for gratification. Christians impersonate the non-Christians to avoid suffering. Non-Christians impersonate Christians to be accepted in the church.

 We all need to ask ourselves if we are impersonating anyone else right now because we believe it will bring us some measure of acceptance or value. Chances are we are. Maybe your personality is a copy of someone else you once knew, you saw the favor it brought to his or her life, and you wanted that for yourself. Maybe your current lifestyle is a choice to keep up with a neighbor down the street. Maybe your career choice was made to imitate the person from whom you wanted to gain approval. I’ll bet all of us are impersonators of some sort.

 God has a plan to expose impersonators. It’s a rather simple plan. It starts with the indwelling Spirit of Christ at the moment of your salvation. When God’s love takes up residence in us, it exposes all of our impersonation attempts. Peter states that the result of having our life purified by obedience to the truth is that our love becomes sincere. We cease to impersonate love and we begin to truly know and show love. So what’s the difference?

 The person who is a love impersonator may look like they really love someone, but if their heart were exposed it would reveal the ugliness of self-gratification. Their actions may appear to be as meaningful as the Christ-impersonator, but underneath are the motives of self-acceptance, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification. They are impersonating love to gain an advantage for themselves. It may be that they need acceptance, or worth, or meaning, but the fact that they are trying to get those things from others and not Christ makes them a love impersonator.

 Those who truly know Christ know that their value and acceptance come from Him and not from others or from self. Once we learn that truth, and surrender completely to the qualification of our lives by Christ, we will become a transmitter of love, not an impersonator of love. That’s what it means for love to be sincere. Sincere love gives to others with no expectation of return benefits. Impersonators of love always need something back from the ones they love.

 We cannot claim to love God and not sincerely love one another. The depth of our love for God will never exceed the width of our love for others. The Apostle John said, if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.(1 John 4:12)

Stanley Hauerwas said, We can risk loving as passionately as God loves. For we know that the love God makes possible is no scarce resource that must be hoarded so that it may be distributed in dribs and drabs—a little here and a little there. Love is not a rare commodity; rather, the more we love with the intense particularity of God’s love, the more we discover that we have the capacity to love.

So here’s how you can get started sincerely loving others. One of the greatest expressions of love is simply to notice people and to pay attention to them. We get so wrapped up in our own little worlds and the overwhelming busyness that results from our own selfish choices that we tend to look right past other people unless we can somehow benefit from noticing them. We are love impersonators. True love – the love of Christ living in us – makes us notice others. We don’t get frustrated with interruptions, but rather we embrace them as opportunities to truly love.

So take the mirror away from in front of your eyes. You know the one I mean – it’s the one that you pretend to being seeing through when in reality you are always looking at yourself. Get rid of it. You don’t need a mirror – you are one, and you are to be reflecting the love of God to others. He has already made you complete. You don’t need anything from anyone else. You have everything in place to become a true giver of love. So take notice of all the people around you that need God’s love, and pay attention to them.

 Pastor John

Start Dancing

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

 Current Study: First Peter

 Today’s Topic:  Faith Is Hope Dancing

 Today’s Scripture:  1 Peter 1:20-21  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

 I need you to pretend you are a doctor today. I need a diagnosis. I have a fever. It’s been a low-grade fever for about a week now, but today it has risen to a peak. I have a few other symptoms that go with the fever. I’m sneezing. I’m anxious and jittery. I’m distracted and find it difficult to concentrate. My muscles ache a little. I wonder what I have? Do you have it figured out yet?

Before you get too worried about me, I’m talking about Spring Fever. It’s an annual event for me, but this year I’ve discovered something very significant about this malady – it’s caused by hope. That’s right – HOPE. You see, the memories of everything that I’ve done in the past when the weather gets warm form a list of all things I expect to do again. The list gets rather long, and the reason I get anxious and jittery is because my personality says that everything on the list has to be done now. That’s why my muscles ache, from trying to do too much all at once.

 My list is so overwhelming that I can’t even decide what goes on the top of the list. Fishing season is already open and I haven’t even gotten my boat and poles ready to go yet. There’s a lawn to mow, a garden to till, flowers to plant, golf clubs to swing, turkeys to hunt, and a motorcycle to ride. Hey, I did that one this morning. So much to do and so little time.

But the truth is I will get to do all of those things, unless the Lord comes back today. I hope He does. But if He doesn’t, little by little, I’ll conquer spring fever by fulfilling the hope that caused it. One thing I’ve learned is that activity fulfills hope. Spring fever is simply the anticipation of the activity.

 Consider how much faith we demonstrate when we confess to spring fever. Consider the fisherman who spends hours reading about the latest techniques and works in his garage preparing his boat, fishing poles, and lures so that he’s ready when the season opens. Consider how much faith it takes to buy all the garden seeds early and plant them in little cups in the house in anticipation of the growing season when they can be transplanted to the outdoor garden. True hope always results in the activity of faith.

 Rubem Alves said it this way in Leadership – Hope is hearing the melody of the future. Faith is to dance to it. That’s really cool! He’s really right. Our hope is in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ and the glory that will be revealed in us when He returns. Our faith is the activity of our lives today as we prepare for His return.

The hope of heaven brings a fever of faith. They are inseparable. One cannot claim to have true hope in Christ without backing it up with the activity of faith for Christ. The measure of true hope is found in the activity level of faith. Every day, our faith should be dancing to the music of heaven with good works that glorify God. So start dancing.

 Pastor John

We’re Empty

Daily Devotions  Tuesday, May 05, 2009 

Current Study: First Peter 

Today’s Topic: Emptiness

Today’s Scripture: 1 Peter 1:18-19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.   

Eighty-four years ago today, high school science teacher John Scopes was arrested in Tennessee for teaching the theory of evolution in a public school. It was a contrived attempt to accomplish two goals. First, a few men from Dayton, Tennessee, had decided that their city needed more recognition, and thought that a trial of this magnitude would generate the publicity they wanted. Second, and more importantly, the American Civil Liberties Union was notified of the plan, and they agreed to pay the legal fees of any teacher who would put the Tennessee law that required teachers to teach creation to the test. They quickly agreed, running a full-page ad in the Chattanooga Times the day before Scopes was arrested.

Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution, something to which he had already admitted. But the trial was not really about Scopes’ guilt or innocence; it was about whether or not God should be the foundation of our educational system. When the verdict was announced, a vocal critic of the trial, who was also a reporter named H.L. Mencken, explained to readers of the Baltimore Sun and the American Mercury:

All that remains of the great cause of the State of Tennessee against the infidel Scopes is the formal business of bumping off the defendant. There may be some legal jousting on Monday and some gaudy oratory on Tuesday, but the main battle is over, with Genesis completely triumphant. Judge Raulston finished the benign business yesterday morning by leaping with soft judicial hosannas into the arms of the prosecution. 

Unfortunately, it was not the end. An appeal was filed. Scopes conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court on a technicality. However, that same court upheld the constitutionality of the state law forbidding the teaching of evolution. But that started a nationwide battle in multiple states, and eventually the United States Supreme Court, which resulted in not only the legalization of teaching evolution, but also the outlawing of the teaching of creation. 

On the official Library of Congress web site is this quote about the results of the trial. This would appear to be the official position of our government’s historical records on this subject. While volumes of scientific evidence support the theory of evolution, many felt that it contradicted the story of creation as described in the Bible and thus did not want evolution taught in schools…The trial did bring Dayton, Tennessee a great deal of publicity, mostly comprised of reinforcements of a stereotype of the south as an intellectual backwater, certainly not the type Daytonians had hoped to attract. 

Wow! Those who believe in creation and deny evolution are called stagnant intellectuals. The reason I share all of that with you is very simple yet very profound – we live in a world that seeks to eliminate the need for God’s involvement in human affairs, and goes so far as to eliminate the very existence of God. According to the majority of people alive today, all man needs can be found in man. If honesty were to ever prevail, people living under such a belief system would have to declare that they are empty. 

Lee Atwater, former Republican Party chairman, said this before he died: “The eighties were about acquiring: wealth, power, and prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth and power and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty.” 

I remember what Tom Landry said years ago, just after they had won the Super Bowl. “The overwhelming emotion—in a few days, among the players on the Dallas Cowboys football team—was how empty that goal was. There must be something more.” 

As we discovered yesterday, we are called to live our lives as strangers to this world. That is only possible if we come to this realization – everything in this world from which we seek to gain approval, acceptance, or acquisitions, will leave us empty. None of the things the world offers can rescue us from the empty way of life we live. Most of us claim to know that, and say we have experienced the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus Christ. HOWEVER, even though we say we know this great salvation, we continue to pursue the things of the world to fill the emptiness we claim to still feel. 

Why? Well, I think it’s truly a heart issue. We haven’t yet fully surrendered our lives to Christ. There is only one reason for a sense of emptiness in our lives – God doesn’t fill that part of our life. And as long as we don’t let Him completely fill us, and continue to pursue other means of satisfaction apart from Him, we will continue to be empty. 

Pastor John

 


We’re Empty

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

 

Current Study: First Peter

 Today’s Topic:  We’re Empty

 Today’s Scripture:  1 Peter 1:18-19  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  

 Eighty-four years ago today, high school science teacher John Scopes was arrested in Tennessee for teaching the theory of evolution in a public school. It was a contrived attempt to accomplish to goals. First, a few men from Dayton, Tennessee, had decided that their city needed more recognition, and thought that a trial of this magnitude would generate the publicity they wanted.  Second, and more importantly, the American Civil Liberties Union was notified of the plan, and they agreed to pay the legal fees of any teacher who would put the Tennessee law that required teachers to teach creation to the test. They quickly agreed, running a full-page ad in the Chattanooga Times the day before Scopes was arrested.

Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution, something to which he had already admitted. But the trial was not really about Scopes’ guilt or innocence; it was about whether or not God should be the foundation of our educational system. When the verdict was announced, a vocal critic of the trial, who was also a reporter named H.L. Mencken, explained to readers of the Baltimore Sun and the American Mercury:

All that remains of the great cause of the State of Tennessee against the infidel Scopes is the formal business of bumping off the defendant. There may be some legal jousting on Monday and some gaudy oratory on Tuesday, but the main battle is over, with Genesis completely triumphant. Judge Raulston finished the benign business yesterday morning by leaping with soft judicial hosannas into the arms of the prosecution.

 Unfortunately, it was not the end. An appeal was filed. Scopes conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court on a technicality. However, that same court upheld the constitutionality of the state law forbidding the teaching of evolution. But that started a nationwide battle in multiple states, and eventually the United States Supreme Court, which resulted in not only the legalization of teaching evolution, but also the outlawing of the teaching of creation.

 On the official Library of Congress web site is this quote about the results of the trial. This would appear to be the official position of our government’s historical records on this subject. While volumes of scientific evidence support the theory of evolution, many felt that it contradicted the story of creation as described in the Bible and thus did not want evolution taught in schools…The trial did bring Dayton, Tennessee a great deal of publicity, mostly comprised of reinforcements of a stereotype of the south as an intellectual backwater, certainly not the type Daytonians had hoped to attract.

 Wow! Those who believe in creation and deny evolution are called stagnant intellectuals. The reason I share all of that with you is very simple yet very profound – we live in a world that seeks to eliminate the need for God’s involvement in human affairs, and goes so far as to eliminate the very existence of God. According to the majority of people alive today, all man needs can be found in man. If honesty were to ever prevail, people living under such a belief system would have to declare that they are empty.

 Lee Atwater, former Republican Party chairman, said this before he died: “The eighties were about acquiring: wealth, power, and prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth and power and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty.”

 I remember what Tom Landry said years ago, just after they had won the Super Bowl. “The overwhelming emotion—in a few days, among the players on the Dallas Cowboys football team—was how empty that goal was. There must be something more.”

 As we discovered yesterday, we are called to live our lives as strangers to this world. That is only possible if we come to this realization – everything in this world from which we seek to gain approval, acceptance, or acquisitions, will leave us empty. None of the things the world offers can rescue us from the empty way of life we live. Most of us claim to know that, and say we have experienced the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus Christ. HOWEVER, even though we say we know this great salvation, we continue to pursue the things of the world to fill the emptiness we claim to still feel.

 Why? Well, I think it’s truly a heart issue. We haven’t yet fully surrendered our lives to Christ. There is only one reason for a sense of emptiness in our lives – God doesn’t fill that part of our life. And as long as we don’t let Him completely fill us, and continue to pursue other means of satisfaction apart from Him, we will continue to be empty.

 Pastor John

Strangers In The World

Daily Devotions

Monday, May 04, 2009

 

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Strangers

Today’s Scripture:  1 Peter 1:17  Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 

 Last week’s final devotional dealt with holiness, and the call to each of us to be people of integrity. We discovered that holiness means to have a core character that is consistent. Holiness is to be fully separated unto God, from the inside out. It does not allow for cracks through which the flesh might leak.

 One crack that might develop is favoritism. Our flesh leans towards partiality. It must, because the flesh is self- seeking and self-fulfilling. We not only want what is for our own benefit, but we want what will benefit those whom we love. We reserve the right to play favorites and be partial to our favorite people. We even do it with our kids and grandkids when they model certain characteristics or personality traits that touch us in a special way.

God, however, in true holiness, is never partial. He sees each one of us as absolutely equal, and will review our lives of service for Him with absolute impartiality. When we stand before Him someday to receive our rewards, we will not be able to claim any privilege. Our family heritage will not matter. Our social standing and success will not be called into account. Even our positions of leadership within the church will be of no consideration. Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, learned this lesson the hard way. Here’s his story:

 One evening I stopped by the church just to encourage those who were there rehearsing for the spring musical. I didn’t intend to stay long, so I parked my car next to the entrance. After a few minutes, I ran back to my car and drove home.

 The next morning I found a note in my office mailbox. It read: “A small thing, but Tuesday night when you came to rehearsal, you parked in the ‘No Parking’ area. A reaction from one of my crew (who did not recognize you until after you got out of the car) was, ‘There’s another jerk parking in the “No Parking” area!’ We try hard not to allow people—even workers—to park anywhere other than the parking lots. I would appreciate your cooperation, too.” It was signed by a member of our maintenance staff.

 I’m sorry to report this staff member is no longer with us. He was late coming back for lunch the next day, and we had to let him go. You have to draw the line somewhere ….

 No, I’m kidding. Actually he’s still very much with us, and his stock went up in my book because he had the courage to write me about what could have been a slippage in my character.

And he was right on the mark. As I drove up that night, I had thought, “I shouldn’t park here, but after all, I am the pastor.” That translates: I’m an exception to the rules. But that employee wouldn’t allow me to sneak down the road labeled “I’m an exception.”

 I’m not the exception to church rules, nor am I the exception to sexual rules or financial rules or any of God’s rules. As a leader, I am not an exception; I’m to be the example. According to Scripture, I am to live in such a way that I can say, “Follow me. Park where I park. Live as I live.”

 None of us are exceptions to the rules. Peter says we are all to be the example of holy living. We are to live our lives in reverent fear of God. He is the one and only judge of our works. According to this verse, one foundational principle of His review process is this – did we live our lives as strangers in this world or did we live seeking to be connected to this world? That’s huge! Think about it. Every day we live with the choice to seek our identity from the world or to live out our identity in Christ. With absolute impartiality, showing no favoritism, God will judge His children based on that issue.

 Charles Wesley wrote a poem that says it well:

O that I might the power receive

The simple life of faith to live,

A stranger by the world unknown,

To live, shut up with Christ alone!

Jesus, my real Life Thou art,

Inspire Thyself into my heart,

And fill’d with purity divine

I live, thro’ endless ages thine.

Live today as an expression of your identity in Christ. It will make you a stranger to the world, but better that than a friend to the world and a stranger to God.

Pastor John