I want to see every single person come to know Jesus and be shaped into his likeness.
As a pastor, that is my goal; as a preacher, I primarily use words to accomplish that mission.
My question sounds simple, but it is highly complex. “What can I say that would help me accomplish my work?”
Maybe I could learn creation science and show you all the ways modern explanations fall short?
Would it help if I learned philosophy and used the arguments for the existence of God?
How might you respond if I told you about all the ancient manuscripts that prove the reliability of the Bible or the archaeological discoveries that support its stories?
Perhaps I could articulate the elements of logic and why the story of Jesus makes sense?
Should I just teach the Bible and allow the word of God to cut people to the heart?
Please tell me what I can say to help you know Jesus and follow him completely? All the information is there to convince you. Other Christians and I have been working on this for years. We can help you know and understand faith in a way that transforms you.
The only thing I cannot do is make you want to listen. I wish I could. Other people are praying for it too. I have the right words for me to say. Listening and learning are totally up to you.
They said, “He may not have gone to Church, but in his heart, he believed in God.”
For the next hour, they told me stories about this person’s life, and none of them sounded like someone who believed in God. But then again, the issue is really about how you understand faith.
The Church struggled with a false teaching called Gnosticism in the early years. The basic idea is that it only matters what you believe in your heart and soul, while what you do with your body has no connection. They concluded that you could do all kinds of evil and still go to heaven because you have the right things in your heart.
The New Testament has several books, especially from the Apostle John, that explain there is a connection between our heart and actions. It is not enough to see someone hungry and feel compassion; the proper response is to feed them. What exists in our hearts will be seen in how we behave.
We now live in a time when Gnosticism is on the rise. Our modern times have been called “The Information Age” since we have so much knowledge at our fingertips. We can get our questions answered with a quick internet search. The answers are easy to access and even easier to believe.
But for it to be genuine faith, it must be evidenced in our actions.
When we say things like, “I don’t go to Church, but I believe in God,” or “Faith is a private matter,” or “I know what I believe deep inside,” we are often buying into heresy.
True faith in Jesus will be seen in our actions, heard in our words, AND believed in our hearts. If any of those things are missing, your ideas about faith may be flawed.
Many people are running away from something. They have a mess in their past and are trying to get far away. It can be the pain and hurt that someone else caused. It could be a choice to sin that has left the stain of failure. Each day is an attempt to move beyond their past.
Other people are running toward something. They also have issues in their past, but they are moving toward something better. They are seeking healing, forgiveness, and mercy. Each day they attempt to start fresh and get closer to the life God desires for them.
Which direction are you running?
Every Church I have led has had a person or a group of people who continually tell me they are having trouble hearing me preach.
Without exception, every one of these people has sat in the back row during worship. They would consistently pick the farthest point from the stage. Then regularly, they would tell me how I should speak up or that our sound system needed to be turned up louder.
Several issues might be causing this problem. First, some people need to have their hearing checked or upgrade their hearing aids. But that is cost prohibitive for many older adults. Another issue is noise coming from some other source in the auditorium. Distractions can come from people getting up and down, coughing, or a baby crying. I have no control over those areas, but I understand they impact others’ ability to hear. Finally, I know there are mornings that our sound system is set a little low for some people to hear, and we could turn up the volume.
I try to be gracious with everyone who complains about the sound. I do understand issues occur that make hearing difficult. My response is usually, “I am sorry, and I will look into how we can make it better.”
In every case, I have found that a straightforward solution seems to miss everyone. That is for the person to sit closer to the front so you can hear better. From there, you will listen to my actual voice and not what comes through the sound system. There are always chairs available near the front, and my words are always audible.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the ones that allude us. We tend to blame someone or something else for our issues. We can overthink the problem and look for complex answers that don’t exist. We can miss that some effort on our part could be the answer to our problems.
Often the best way to handle our hearing troubles is to change our behavior. That truth applies to so much more than listening to a sermon.
Being a Christian is more than being present at a program each Sunday morning.
It involves doing these things while you are there:
-Connecting with other believers
-Communing with God
-Learning God’s will and his word
-Serving others in the name of Jesus
-Teaching the next generation of believers
-Sharing our joys, hurts, and experiences
-Giving to the work of the Lord
-Welcoming new people to the faith and the Church
-Helping someone who needs help
-Being discipled in the way of Jesus
I am glad that many of you will attend a Church program this week, but if you are hoping to punch a card so you can go to heaven, you are entirely missing the point.
The Bible tells us about the world’s end in apocalyptic language that can be hard to understand. It is incredibly complicated when you separate it from the rest of the Bible. However, I do believe with some effort and reading within the proper context, the mysteries of the end times can be understood. But it will not be easy to do.
With that said, I want you to know that the goal of faith is not to spend our efforts trying to understand the mysteries of the end of the world so that we are ready for the day Jesus returns.
The goal of faith is to live out what you already know so that you are always prepared for the return of Jesus. The bridesmaids in Matthew chapter 25 needed to be ready for the groom to return at an unexpected hour. Christians must be equally prepared for Jesus’ return, but not through charts, graphs, and modern interpretation. They are to be ready by their obedience to the words of Jesus.
Doomsday preparation is not about reading the times but about following Jesus with sincere faith.
Often we look back and think, “What if?”
What if I had bought those stocks? What if I had taken that job? What if I went on that trip? What if I did that ministry? What if I started doing that years sooner?
It is easy to spend time thinking about all the missed opportunities of the past.
A better question than “What should we have done differently” is to ask ourselves, “What should we be doing now?” What opportunities will we look back on from today and feel a sense of regret?
Good things are going on all around us, and focusing on potential opportunities is far less maddening than replaying the past.
Sure, not everything will work out the way we hope, but we might be blessed by our effort. After all, we will never be able to rewrite the past; but the future is full of unlimited potential.
Please don’t compare my present life with your current situation.
Also, don’t compare your past with my past.
Only compare my present situation against my past. If you do, you will see I am making progress in every area of my life.
I may not be the person I want to be yet, but thank you, Jesus, that I am not the person I was once.
I can preach from the Bible.
I can write blogs about all things related to faith.
The Church can get teachers to lead classes on the Christian life.
Leaders can put together groups for connection and opportunities for fellowship with other believers.
The people of the Church can provide childcare and godly instructions for young children within their care.
We can purchase resources to give you, offer online training, and provide you with books to help you grow.
The rest is up to you.
If you are not learning, growing, and connecting. That might be on you.
Looking back on my life, I had no idea what God was doing most of the time.
God used activities and people to shape me when I had no idea. I didn’t acknowledge any of his work, but I see it now.
Even the little things like listening to my dad tell me stories from Church board meetings have proven significant. The pain and the joy I experienced through loss and victory have molded my emotions. Conversations with mom, the aloof kid in youth group, and both of my siblings helped prepare me for what I am doing today. I could not have imagined any of it was significant at the moment.
God is shaping you today in the seemingly insignificant things in your life. He has something great in store for you and is using today to prepare you for tomorrow. So listen and learn because one day, you can use all of this for his kingdom.