How Long Will It Last?

Yesterday was Easter. It is a big day in the Christian community. The worship was phenomenal, the crowds were large, and the people were happy. The feeling in the air was almost electric on a significant religious day like that. I get a similar sentiment at Christmas when everyone comes to Church and is in the best mood. It leaves me feeling so close to God and his people.     

I have also experienced this same kind of feeling when I have attended various conferences and retreats throughout my career. Spending a day or two reading the Bible, praying, fellowship with other believers, and listening to dynamic speakers will put you on a spiritual high.

On the flip side, I have also seen people get close to God through tragedy. This could be the loss of someone they love that causes a person to do some soul searching. It also occurs when people walk through their own issues like a heart attack or cancer. These moments in life force us to place our total dependence on God and leave us with a feeling that our lives will never be the same. 

The question I am pondering today is, “How long will it last?”

Recently I saw someone at the local grocery who told me they were “turning their life around” after a series of events. They got excited about Church and faith, and it lasted all of six weeks. Then gradually, things went back to the way they were before.

One challenge in faith is endurance. We must have the ability to stand firm in our faith after the big days have passed, and our feelings have changed. It is rarely some big sin that knocks someone off the course of faith. Usually, it is the daily grind of keeping the faith when nothing exciting happens. 

I love Easter and the experiences I had yesterday. I hope all the people who attended anywhere had a wonderful day that was a blessing to their faith. I also pray that everyone will protect the spark that was lit and keep it burning for a long time. 

Love of Another Kind

In my college dorm room was a handwritten quote that I put on a notecard above my desk. I heard the line in a sermon, and it stuck with me. It remains indelibly etched in my mind today. The line was, “The loves we had were far too small.” 

We desire love, but human love is too small to fill our souls. The love of a spouse is an enormous blessing, but it is still too small. The love of children and grandchildren can bring us joy, but it is not big enough. The love of family, friends and adoring people will even leave us empty inside eventually. 

Only the love of God can give us everything we seek.  

Today is called Good Friday. Jesus tells his followers a few hours before the cross, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 – NIV 2011

This is the day we see love beyond all understanding and expectation. It is truly a love of another kind. It is the kind that will fill our souls and leave us satisfied. 

“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 – NIV 2011

What is the Least I Can Do?

Few people say that in the Church, but honestly that is what many want to know. 

Is attendance enough? Does it have to be more than once a month? I mean, I want to be treated as an insider with a sincere connection, so what is the minimum I can attend and still feel like that?

Do I have to serve? If so, is there something I can do on a rotation every other month or so? And if I don’t do it, let’s make sure it is not a big deal. I mean, I want to serve the Lord and feel good about making an impact for Jesus, so how little can I do to achieve that feeling?

Will I need to give my money? I know ten percent was the Old Testament standard, but we live in New Testament times. Do I have to give more than one percent? Who really cares about percentages anyway? I mean, I want to feel like a generous person who is kind whenever there is a need. So what is the smallest amount I can donate not to feel selfish?

It is Easter season, and every year I am reminded that I am glad God didn’t think like that. 

Tiny Words that Shape Worlds

There are four types of words that you can say to people that will impact their lives in positive ways, sometimes for eternity.

1.Thanks

I am thankful for you.

Thanks for your kindness; it did not go unnoticed. 

Thank you for being so supportive.

2. Encourage

You did such a great job on that project.

Your work is an encouragement to so many people.

I am so encouraged whenever I speak with you.

3. Blessing

You are a blessing to my life.

I was blessed by your actions.

You are a blessing to this Church and the work of the Lord.

4. Prayer

I am praying for you and your family.

Let me pray for you.

How can I pray for you?

These statements will brighten people’s day, bring joy to their lives, and help them feel loved. 

Unfortunately, these words are often left unsaid. Today is a great day to say things that will positively touch people for God’s kingdom. Don’t be fake, but also, don’t be silent.

An Easter Appeal  

This Sunday, we officially celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as a Church. This is a great time to attend a worship service to honor the risen Lord. It is an equally good opportunity to invite your family and friends to join you and hear about the most significant event in history.  

Let me also state that this is a good day for believers to demonstrate their belief in this event through their actions. This Sunday is an excellent time to be selfless and kind to other people who need to know Jesus. 

Would you be willing to park far away from the building so that guests might be able to park close? Would you be willing to sit near the front of the auditorium so that visitors can have the back seats, especially if they show up late? Would you be ready to talk to people you do not know and do not recognize instead of your old friends so that others might feel welcome? Would you be willing to sing, pray and keep distractions to a minimum so that other people can encounter the message of Jesus enthusiastically? 

This week, one of my most challenging tasks is to get believers to do the little things that make a massive difference in the faith of others. We come together to worship a God who sent his son to die on a cross for our sins and was then resurrected so that we might have life in his name. God has done everything to secure our salvation. Are we willing to do a few small things to that other people might hear the message?

The Quest to be a Godly Man

Many believers could tell you the story of Genesis chapters one through three. God created the universe and world in which we live. He makes plants, animals, and humanity. He has one instruction rooted in obedience to him. Adam and Eve are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As you might guess, without even reading it, the man and woman cannot obey, and humanity is kicked out of the garden of Eden.  

Religious people call chapter three of Genesis “the fall” and focus on the exchange between the serpent and the woman. While they are the center of the story, a third character is present but passive. 

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:6 – NIV 2011

Adam was with her, but he passively watched the events transpire. One fatal flaw of men that keep them from being all God desires is passivity. A man is called to be a leader in his home and with his family. 

The flip side is that men have misunderstood what it means to be a leader. I have talked with women whose husbands demand they respect him. Unfortunately, their leadership amounts to either a dictatorship or a lot of shouting and anger. 

A true Godly man is actively serving in their home – they are servant leaders. They love their wife like Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. They are not passively waiting for her to make all the decisions for the family, then they can agree or disagree. Instead, they are out in front with dirty hands doing whatever their family needs. 

The story of Genesis chapter three requires a man to lead his family spiritually by lovingly serving his spouse. Being a Godly man means that whenever evil comes calling, it is better to grab a hoe or rake and rid yourself of the evil than sit back and watch what happens and complain later about the mess others created.

YOU are a Kingdom Builder

There is a story I heard years ago. It might be a preacher’s story, which means it was made up or exaggerated to prove a point in a sermon. But it might be true. It is at least rooted in history.

In 1666, Sir Christopher Wren submitted a plan to reconstruct St. Paul’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, just six days after he submitted the plan, the great fire of London destroyed the central part of the city and destroyed the cathedral. Over the next 46 years, Wren was to design and supervise the building of 51 churches in London. St. Paul’s Cathedral was his masterpiece.

The story I heard from a preacher goes like this: One morning, Wren, who was not personally known by many of the workers, stopped and asked three different laborers, all engaged in the same task of stonework, what they were doing. He got three different answers.

The first said, “I am cutting this stone.”

The second answered, “I am earning three shillings, sixpence a day.”

The third man straightened up, squared his shoulders, and still holding his mallet and chisel, replied, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build this great cathedral.”

They each had three different ways of looking at the same job. Perspective matters. 

Each week people come and serve the Lord in the Church I lead. Some mow grass while others clean the building. Some work in the nursery while others lead worship. Still, others teach small groups while some stand to greet people at the door. 

Every person who serves can see their efforts as volunteer labor. Perhaps they see it as a good deed that shines their light for Jesus. But I would suggest to you that each person is helping to build the kingdom of God on earth. 

Whatever you do to contribute to your local Church is not an insignificant effort touching only a few people. It is the kingdom of God being formed through you. You are making an impact for God in your Church and community. From there, who knows what good it will do. 

You are not just “serving in a ministry.” YOU are a kingdom builder.

The Lord Helps Those …

The expression, “The Lord helps those who help themselves,” is not found in the Bible. It appears to date back to Greek mythology and the story of “Hercules and the Waggoner.” Then something similar was used by Aristotle. The most popular use of it was by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac. 

It is often quoted like scripture, but it is not. 

It does raise an interesting question for me. Where does self-help fit into the Christian life? 

I am a firm believer in the power of God, the working of the Holy Spirit, and that prayer changes things. But does that mean that God does all the work? My job is to pray, trust and let God handle the rest. 

Well, yes … and no. 

There are so many things in this life that are beyond our control. Faith relies on a dependence that God will handle all those things where we have no power.

But some things are within our power. 

I once spoke with a lady, and she told me that she had total faith she was going to find a husband and a great job. Upon further discussion, I discovered that she lived in her parents’ basement. She rarely went out with anyone, let alone a prospective husband. She had not submitted her resume anywhere or filled out an application. She was (in her words) “Living on faith.” 

Now I believe God could move past the barriers in her life and do just what she hoped, but I also know that faith takes effort. The Apostle Paul prayed for open doors to receive the gospel … then he got on a ship and sailed to a nearby city. He started walking around and talking to people. The Lord made the divine connections while he was exerting effort. 

This question is essential for two reasons. I have met some people who have faith but use it to cover laziness. Second, I have met other people who are doing their part, but it hides the fact that they are trusting themselves. 

Neither one is correct. If you want to catch the wind of the Spirit, you must first hoist the sails while praying for the wind to start. 

Taking It Out On Jesus

“I don’t like what they did.” 

This person went on to tell me how they felt devalued and hurt by the actions of another person. 

Then they told me how they were done with this ministry because of the other person’s behavior. They were no longer going to give their time to our Church fellowship because they did not feel appreciated adequately by this person. 

This is not the first time I have encountered this. Through the years, I have had people quit giving their offerings, donating their time and talent, and attending because they were offended somehow. 

I am not minimizing lousy behavior from anyone, but if the Church is the body of Christ as the Bible says it is, then they are not hurting the other person; they are taking it out on Jesus. Therefore, whenever we get upset at someone in our Church community, and we respond by withholding our kindness in any form, it is the kingdom of God that suffers and not that person. 

Somehow, we think it will hurt those who did not appreciate us when we stop supporting their ministry. We genuinely believe it will cause them to feel our judgment and lead them to change.

Honestly, this never happens. Change only occurs when the two people sit down and talk through their issues while asking for and offering forgiveness. 

When you stop doing things in the Church, it makes me sad but be clear; it is not me you are hurting – it’s Jesus. 

Rebuild, Remodel or Redecorate

Whenever we examine an existing building, we have three possibilities for improvement. 

The first is to rebuild. This means the current structure is unusable. Therefore, it must be torn down and start new from the foundation.

Another option is to remodel. The main structure is good, but the interior needs work. Walls need to come down, systems need an upgrade, and some major work is going to happen. 

The final possibility is to redecorate. This means that the structure is sound, but it needs cosmetic updating. New paint, carpet, and light fixtures will help to improve the appearance drastically. 

These three are all options for buildings, but they are equally valid in other areas of our life. What exactly needs to happen to improve your relationships, work environment, or spiritual life?

Before you know the correct changes, you need to assess the situation thoroughly. 

You might need to rebuild your career entirely. On the other hand, perhaps you need to make minor, redecorating modifications to your marriage. 

Sometimes we do not need to overhaul specific areas of our life. However, other times we do need to make drastic changes. Some places require a little updating, and that is not enough in other areas. 

Many people who want to improve their lives immediately grab their sledgehammer, when maybe a paintbrush will do the trick.