Life Back Then

This was posted by John Mark Hicks this morning on Facebook. I thought it was too good to not share. We get to take a look into the early life of the church!

Letter of Mathetes to Diognetus (probably around 130-150 A.D.)

“Christians are indistinguishable from other people either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life….With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign…And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through…Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country….They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all people….A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult.”

1 Peter 2:12, “Conduct yourselves honorably among the nations, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.”

The Cost of Freedom

Today (Monday) marked the 154th anniversary of the final day of battle at Gettysburg. The battle lasted three days and the combined casualties were in excess of 46,000 men. So many lives were lost, or forever changed by the events that happened during that battle. All for the cost of freedom.

Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. That number is staggering, and to think that these casualties took place during one battle in a multi-year, multi-continent war is just hard to believe.

According to one article I read, the combined total number of American casualties in all wars since its inception is around 2.9 million troops. That’s 2.9 million brave men and women who were willing to put their lives in harm’s way for the cost of our freedom. Praise God for our freedom.

While all of those lives are valuable, and have played a key role in where we are today, there is one life that stands out above the rest. One life that was given for all people, in all times, and in all nations.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:16-17 NLT

This Independence Day, let us remember and celebrate the freedom that God has given our nation. Let us be thankful for the multitude of men and women who have been willing to sacrifice their lives for our earthly freedom. But let us never forget Jesus, the only life that can give us eternal freedom. May Christ our Savior be praised this day, and every day!

From Hacked Email to Changed Lives

Our church email got hacked this morning. Someone pretended to be our secretary, and made it sound like they were stuck in the Philippines and needed money. Needless to say the rest of our morning was full of changing passwords, creating a new email account, answering the unending phone calls of helpful people letting us know they received that email, and rebuilding email lists that the hacker deleted. What a pain!

On the positive side, we were able to create a better email work environment for our church office! We now have all email accounts on the same domain as our website (www.eastsidefamily.church), and we now have access to a number of resources and really awesome tools that we didn’t have with our old email setup. We were able to recreate new, more usable email lists and found a few mistakes we had in the old ones. As of now, our email setup is far better than it has ever been, and none of this would have happened if someone hadn’t hacked into our email! We were able to take a frustrating, bad event, and turn it into something great! (Even though our secretary’s fingers are still tired of retyping all the email lists!)

God often works in a similar way in our lives. All of us have made mistakes, or have failed at some point in our walk with Christ. Some of us lived lives we’re not proud of before we found Jesus. Most people I know are afraid to even talk about their failings. As a dear sister phrased it, we wear our “church face.” We don’t want anyone to know we struggle.

Paul lived a life he wasn’t proud of before he met Jesus. Yet the change in his life was so great that it encouraged others. Paul wrote this about his conversion:

22 …the churches in Christ that are in Judea didn’t know me personally. 23 All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” 24 And they praised God because of me. Galatians 1:22-24 NLT

We often run from our pasts, but our past in conjunction with our changed life can produce a powerful testimony for Christ! The group I Am Second produces tons of inspiring testimony based on changed lives. The testimony of a changed life is powerful. Don’t run from your past…share your testimony!

Attention Christians: Stop doing this!

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Christians have a problem. We tend to put ourselves in the middle of every debate, every issue, every situation whether it is our business or not. I think we’re well-intentioned in doing so, but we bring a lot of unnecessary grief and heartache upon us in the process.

Meddle is defined as “interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.”  I know many Christians who have spent seemingly unending hours, and dollars as activists for various causes. Men and women who take a certain political stand on government-funded health care, or marriage rights, or refugees entering the country, or whatever the cause of the day happens to be.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get involved in our political process. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t vote. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about the world around us. I’m not saying we should support issues that go against God’s teaching.

What I am saying is that far too many Christians spend all their time meddling in the affairs of the world when we should be taking care of the business that God left us to do! We are called to pray for the sick in faith (James 5:15). Does that responsibility change if we have single payer healthcare or not? God teaches us that he wants us to pray for those who are in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Does this change our responsibility if our favorite choice isn’t in office? God wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Does gay marriage or transgender bathrooms change that desire? Jesus expects us to baptize and make disciples of “all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Does refugee status change that command?

We need to be busy with the work of God’s kingdom, not the arguments of this world. It’s fine to have an opinion, and to even voice that opinion, but please don’t do so in a way that makes the Gospel unattractive to outsiders! If more Christians would be about the work of the Kingdom, and not consumed with the work of Washington, this world would be a much better place!

via Daily Prompt: Meddle

Beyond the Comfort Zone

In Mark 5 we find Jesus leaving his native area to sail across the lake and go into the gentile region of the Gerasenes. They got out of the boat and immediately were approached by a demon possessed man who had been living in the tombs. In addition to this we’re told that there were large herds of pigs in the area.

Understanding exactly what Jesus is doing here can be missed pretty easily by our 21st century eyes, so let’s get an understanding of the background first. Jews did not want to associate with Gentiles in any way, yet Jesus is leading the twelve into Gentile country. Jews avoided people with unclean spirits, yet Jesus leads them right to a man who’s possessed by a “Legion” of demons. Jews avoided tombs because they felt it was unclean, yet here Jesus leads them right into that area with a man who lived in them. Jews thought pigs were the most unclean animals on the planet, yet Jesus leads his followers right into a heard of them. I think it’s fair to say that the disciples were well outside of their comfort zone during this encounter! And it’s very clear that Jesus wanted them there.

In healing the demon possessed man, Jesus is giving the disciples a preview that the Gospel would be for all people, and their location, ethnicity, history, past or current demons, place of residence, and present state in life truly didn’t matter. The Gospel of Jesus needs to go everywhere, especially the areas that make us feel the most uncomfortable!

Jesus was a true friend to sinners, and spent time with the people and in the places that the current religious leaders wouldn’t think of going. Yet that’s the command we’re given! “Go and make disciples of all nations,…” (Matt. 28:19)  The Greek word for “all nations” is ethnos. Literally every ethnicity, no matter where they are or what they’ve been doing.

So who do you cross paths with in your life that fits this description? Jesus says share the Gospel with them. That’s our job. What becomes of the message? That’s the Spirit’s job. And I trust Him to do powerful things with the powerful message that we weak humans share.

Decisions…

Why is it so hard to make decisions, let alone good decisions? Most of our time is spent making decisions.

Can I hit the snooze alarm and still make it to work on time?  Can I hit the snooze alarm again and still make it to work on time? Do I need a shower? What do I want to wear?  What will I eat for breakfast?  If I climb back in bed for a few minutes can I still make it to work on time?

It’s one thing to make meaningless decisions that affect virtually no one but yourself, but some decisions are far reaching…life changing…and they can affect hundreds of people. How do we handle those?

Psalm 86

11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

When we enter into decisions with a pure heart, seeking the Lord’s guidance, and praise our God no matter the outcome, we can be confident in our decision. My prayer today is for both you and me…that we may honor God with our choices, that we may be rely on God’s wisdom, and be confident of his love and guidance in our lives.

I’ll be teaching Bible class, and preaching in Wheeler, TX this weekend. If you’re anywhere near the panhandle region, come on out and say hi!

Never Gonna Give You Up!

This is the season of Lent. If you are unfamiliar with the season, allow me to explain. Lent is supposed to remind the observer of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he was also tempted by the devil.

Observers of Lent are encouraged to go without…usually this includes fasting, as well as giving up something you enjoy. A friend of mine has decided to give up coffee.

But not all Christians participate in the observance of Lent. Some choose to give something up, others choose not to participate. But whether you do, or don’t participate there is a lesson to be learned here.

Paul addressed a situation in Rome where some people were observing certain days as holy, and special. Others treated them as just another day.  There was also questions about what foods could be eaten or not. Here’s how Paul handles it.

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

So to all of you during this season of Lent, whether you choose to observe or not observe, do it in a way that honors the Lord, and honors one another. After all, that’s what Jesus called us to do.