Ponderings on Je Suis Charlie Masacre…

Words that come into my mind amidst this recent tragedy –
Sad.
Freedom.
Terrorism.
Murder.
Criminal.
afraid1
I keep thinking of Charlie Hebdo’s final words: “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees!
Talk about bold.
Talk about defiance in the face of certain death.
Talk about bravery in the midst of a cowardly attack on unarmed innocent people.

afraidMuch discussion has taken place this week as to who is to blame.
Was it the artist’s works of satire?
Was it the media’s fault?
Was it extremists?

Much like the US, there is the freedom of the press in France.
The United States is even partially modeled after the French model of government.
Some have asked if there are consequences to be paid for freedom of expression?
Should there be consequences?
While others have said, that the works of extremists and terrorists will not repress such expressions and the liberty to do so freely.

I keep coming back to Charlie Hebdo’s final words;
I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees!
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My point: 
I abhor violence of any kind.
Violence upon unarmed innocent people equally abhorrent.
Violence for the sake of any religion – intolerable and wrong.
Repression of anyone’s freedom of expression – wrong as well.

On the subject of faith:
My mind is drawn to many places in the world where Christians are executed based solely upon their freedom (or lack there of) to express their faith.
Places where public murder is allowed.
Places where any expression besides the prescribed expressions by the majority are forbidden and punishable by death.
If religion = violence.
If religion = repression.
If religion = death
If religion = the strong prevailing over the weak…
then I don’t want anything to do with religion.
I don’t want to live in a world like that.
I don’t want others to die in a world like that.

              I would rather die standing, than live on my knees.
And yet, I hear the words of Jesus in the back of my mind –
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”(Luke 9:23)
In other words – in my defiance to these things, I will live on my knees in utter humility.
I will pray for both victim and foe.
I will long for the day when violence ceases in all corners of the world.
I will kneel in this life and not attempt to become greater than others by stepping on them and silencing them.
How far will this take me?
To the foot of the cross.

What if we are “doing” Church all wrong?

Have you ever stopped to wonder about why we do what we do in church?
Was this how Jesus did “church”?
Was this how those first disciples and apostles did “church”?
How did some of these practices come to be…and what if we’re doing “Church” all wrong?

Let’s face it – Church is more than a building.
It is more than ceremony and ritual.
It goes deeper than the color of the carpets and how comfortable the pews are.
It is more than how much this entity gives to Missions, World Services and Benevolence funds.

Here are 3 ways (trust me there are more) that could indicate whether we’re going about “Church”
 all wrong:

concertErroneous Concept #1:
It’s all about the music –
Believe it or not, the role of music within the early church consisted more of chants than fancy electronics, strobe lights, amplified guitars and thumping drums. Many times the usage of music was more to bring to mind the works of psalmists and other well known songs of praise from the Torah.  All of these songs or chants pointed to the Almighty.  His deeds.  What He has done for us.

Many people, within a wide demographic, (not just the younger generations) tend to gravitate to those churches that possess a rockin’ worship team.  Many times the focus becomes more about the band playing all of our favorite worship songs than about the content of any scriptural teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE, LOVE music.  I love worship bands and performing/leading worship music…but it shouldn’t become the focus and sole identity to any church.  People should not come and go solely because they like the music or they think the music stinks (or is too loud).  These reason for staying or leaving a church seems to me to be very fickle and shallow.  It almost says to me “I only go to church to be fed and I have no responsibilities other than receiving what I WANT”.   -Don’t even get me started on traditional or contemporary styles either…SERIOUSLY does it truly matter in the grand scheme of things?  It’s a preference, it shouldn’t dictate (or become the sole reason) which church you go to.

entertain meErroneous Concept #2
Church is about MY entertainment…it’s all about the “show”!
It is both a blessing and a bane to grow up in such a media saturated culture.
We spend hours and hours a week on social media sites, we check the weather, sports, latest news feeds via our portable devices (even during church…ahem…)…and so when we view “Church” through THIS lens, we sometimes expect to be entertained at church as if it’s some sort of show.  Why else go to church?  (sarcastic font)  Why else pause our latest episode on some season that we’re currently watching on netflix and come to church?  In our day and age we want entertainment…and so we seek out those churches that “gets it”.  We want videos, and music and drama so that we feel like we could reach for a bag of popcorn while singing “Mighty to save“…don’t choke on that kernel.  (sarcasm again, sorry)

Is that how we truly view God as well?
Some higher divine form, God of the universe,  the “Big Cheese” sent here to “entertain” us?
I mean, beyond the smoke and mirrors, and big screen tv’s and expensive sound systems…what sort of substance is there?  Don’t get me wrong, there are some very slick churches that DO get the message across this way.  I even use videos in my services, but is THIS all that “church” is about?  Have we, in some way, lost our way?  Are we so focused on ways to entertain that we have begun to lose the main reason we gather in the first place?  And what does it say about us when our attention spans are so short that, in our minds, we’re flipping channels and checking our facebook status’ in church during the “boring parts”…oh what’s it called?  Oh, that’s right THE MESSAGE or the teaching, or the sermon…whatever your church calls it.  Could it be that we’re in search of the wrong things in church?  Could it be that we demand these things in our worship while subconsciously we’re look every which way other than in the direction of Jesus?

churchErroneous Concept #3
Church is all about “OUR” Fellowship and edification!
Sometimes our entire focus in Church remains “IN”.
Now, what do I mean by that?
What I mean is that sometimes we stop looking outside of our pretty buildings and fancy sanctuaries.  Sometimes we stop looking into our own communities.   We usually don’t do this on purpose.  It’s just safer this way.  It’s easier to just “hang out” with our church friends.  It can almost become an exclusive social club where outsiders aren’t welcome…and if we do get the occasional visitor, either they fit into our mold or we just pity them.  What happened to becoming “all things to all people”? (1 Corinthians 9:22)  Do we care about others?  Do we still care about the lost?  The hurting?  The broken?  Or do we just wall ourselves up in our churches and expect those that view as sinners and wretches to just come to us if we sing all of the right songs and act in just the right way?   Has the Great Commission taken a back seat to our comfort and safety?

Sometimes we have this division between our “Church life” and our “Work” or “School” or “Social” lives.  Seriously, do we behave differently from one area of our lives to the next?  Do we differentiate and keep these places separated?
When we get to church it can become about not only “entertain me” but this is “My group of friends, My source of strength…not yours”.  It’s easy to fall into this train of thought.  It happens because we crave acceptance with a group, and we don’t really like change.  When new comers come, it upsets the balance of OUR Church.

Were the disciples like this?
Was the early Church a social club?  An internally focused community?
Was it one dimensional like that? -NO.

Sure there is safety in Christian fellowship, and in a way that’s good.
BUT, if this fellowship only benefits you and your group and there is not outward looking focus then we are doing “Church” all wrong!

Questions to consider: 
Who is your church ministering to?
What are the reasons you go to church?
Why do you worship the way that you do?
Are there aspects of your motivation to worship that are misconstrued, improper, shallow?
How can you break these erroneous molds (when they appear) in your church, in your life?

Note: there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of the three things that I mentioned,rather if they become an idol in our worship and n our religious practices then we have issues to contend with.  Be mindful of the true purpose for Church. Be aware of the trappings that surround our practices…and in so doing, perhaps we will regain the proper priorities if they have become lost.

Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory…far above anything else!
-Amen.

Ps. Thank you for subscribing to http://www.pastorsponders.org
Thank you for your comments and your questions!

“I Got Saved Because Of A Halloween Gospel Tract”…Said No One EVER!

Here’s a bad poem to convey my chagrin, to all those who would drop these tracts into children’s Trick or Treat pail…sorry, but it just doesn’t work.  Seriously stop…it’s annoying.
Stop, it’s not helping.
Stop, you’re making it harder for the rest of us.

Grrrrr…….
Halloween candies were not provided
while eyes and words swiftly chided
an absence of sweets to children in dresses
hell fire papers inserted instead.

A look of defeat hidden by darkness
walk down the street recover this mess.
I got saved from a hell fire tract…
okay, not really…it was camp, in fact.

These paper witnesses do not attract
it’s annoying and it really detracts
Find another way to convey God’s word
instead of hell fire and some deadly swords.

Dear Salvation Army – The Pathway Of Duty Is Agony Sometimes!

It is not our Salvation that keeps us Holy.  It is but a component of this saving grace.  It isn’t our intellect that saves us either.  It is the work of Christ and the continuing fellowship of the Holy Spirit within us.  We are but instruments of His peace, His love and His encouragement.

wounded3Times of Trial And Wounding:
There will be times when we are accused, slandered and wounded while serving Christ.  I am not saying that we look for the opportunities to be persecuted or wounded, but they will indeed come our way if we are living out kingdom priorities as kingdom people!

There will be some who will stand in our way.
There will be some who will betray us along the pathway of duty.
There will be some who will laugh when we face out trials and wounds.
Some, even unknowingly, are ambassadors of hell as they entertain and execute malicious attacks on those who are faithful.

I am not saying we are perfect by any means.
We are all faulty, we are all in need of a daily washing of God’s grace upon us.  Yet, if we choose to walk this narrow path and are led by the Holy Spirit, we will face opposition, persecution and wounds along the way.  It is inevitable.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

I’m sorry, what was that?
Pure Joy?  In the midst of trials of many kind?
That doesn’t sound like a joyful or fun opportunity does it?

Yet pain comes to us.
Faith produces greater faith and reliance on God, but the side-effect in this “growth process” (for lack of a better term)  is that we will experience discomfort, trials and hurt along the way.

No Pain, No Gain…no-pain-no-gain
I’m not a glutton for punishment, really I’m not…but I do know that there is a desired outcome to this “faith” thing.  We wish to be more like Christ is every way!   Ephesians 5:1-2 says, Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as afragrant aroma” (NASB)

Becoming an imitator of God will take a journey through pain and suffering.  Why?  Because our fallen world won’t allow it to happen.  Because our fallen, old sinful selves and habitual wanderings will trip us up.  Because imitating God and becoming like His son Jesus will take immense sacrifice…sometimes more sacrifice than most of us realize at the beginning of the journey.

We will suffer at the hands of others.
We will suffer at the hands of ourselves at times.
We will experience discomfort and even pain at the lengths in with we are called to sacrifice!

Without pain we will not gain our freedom within His holiness!
It sounds sadistic doesn’t it?
It’s not.  It simply is.

walking-aloneYour Path Right Now…
How is the pathway of duty right now for you?
Are you experiencing any discomfort along the way?
Is it because you have had to make sacrifices?
Is it because you are at times alone in your convictions?
Is it because you have faced (or you are currently facing) persecution and ridicule from others and felt the sting of it?

We are soldiers of Christ.
We have been set apart for His holy purpose!
We will find ruts in the road.  We will find agony, bruised shins, and distressed hearts at times along this journey.

Do you need to come the well of refreshing again?
He is able to refresh and restore you!
He is able to replenish your spent reserves.
He can and will carry you when necessary.
He wants to encourage us today and to spur us onward even in the midst of persecution, suffering and the onslaught of those who would see us destroyed because of this faith.

Be bold.
Be strong.
For the Lord your God is with you today!  (Joshua 1:9)

Carry on and know you are loved, encouraged, and supported by the Father himself!

-Just something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory! 

What If We Carried The Stretcher Of Others?

I’ve been thinking about a bible story recently.  The about a paralyzed man (it doesn’t say how he became paralyzed) and how he is carried to Jesus by his friends.  They get to the house where Jesus is supposed to be and discover the house party is standing room only.  There is no way to haul some guy on a stretcher to Jesus in that crowded house…there’s no room.

I can almost imagine his friends who have carried him for a few village blocks. They breathe heavily, trying to tap some reserves of strength as sweat drips from their arms and faces.  There is a purpose for this burden.  There is a reason for this journey.  They want their friend to be healed.    Anyone else might have given up at this point.  Anyone else might have said, “well we tried, I’m sorry but there’s just no other way.”  Yet these friends don’t give up.  These men find another way to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus – They tear a hole in someone else’s roof.  Talk about persistence.  Talk about determination.

It makes me wonder how persistent we are with our friends in need.  There are times when we must carry the burdens of others.  There are times when we must bring broken souls to Jesus only to discover the house is full.  How far will we go to carry that stretcher?  How far will we go so that others will find the healing that they need?  We can be a healer in the ways that we serve and love those who are hurting.  We can provide a means for others to find Jesus, but we may have to go out of our way to do so.  We may have to exert a lot of energy and time.  Are we willing?  Are we available?

stretcherCarrying the stretcher for those in need isn’t about our glory…it never was. Carrying these burdens and sharing the load for those who have succumbed to life’s challenges is a purest example of love and self-sacrifice.  Are we still willing to pick up that stretcher?  Are we still available when it cuts into “me” time?  Displaying authentic care and sacrifice will cost us something.  Are we prepared for the consequences of authentic care and love?  I hope our answer is “yes“, because if we talk about evangelism yet we not willing to step up and carry the stretcher then action speaks louder than our fickle, shallow words and promises.

Give of yourself.  Carry the burdens of others.  Walk beside them and encourage them.  Don’t quit and walk away.  Be willing to give sacrificially without any thought of personal gains or returns…after all, isn’t that what Christ did for us?

-Just something more to ponder today.

“The Family of God and How We Get It Wrong” by Deb Thompson (Captain) “Perspectives” Day 3

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The Family of God and How We Get It Wrong

by Deb Thompson (Captain) 

While growing up, in rural Iowa in a home that served Christ, I always believed I had two families: one was my natural family and my second one was my Church Family.  I believed someday my family of origin would be replaced with a husband and kids.  Then I grew up, remained a single woman past our culturally acceptable age, and was convinced by others that I was off balance.  None of this was taught from a Bible passage, a sermon, a Sunday School class, nor from everyone I met.  Rather, this was taught through socializing in rather indirect ways, from some people inside and outside The Church.

Last October, I discovered a sermon on Youtube entitled, “Singleness and the Next Generation” given by David Platt.  From this sermon, my whole concept of Church Family was completely redefined, reworked and was reborn out of Bible passages instead of the stereotypical Christian culture.  For the rest of this blog, a small cased “family” will mean earthly family, whether biological or by legal documentation, and a capitalized “Family” will mean Church Family (just to save on some verbage).

The concept of family is introduced to us from the very beginning.  Shortly after Adam and Eve were created, God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  From here on, family lineage and family heritage were vital throughout the Old Testament.  God’s chosen people were Israelites, which is lineage and heritage.  When a woman’s husband died, she was to marry the younger brother and have children so that she would be taken care of and because of the significance of inheritance (hence the importance of the stories of Tamar, Naomi and Ruth).  Abraham was told he would be a father of many nations, which is lineage.  If a woman was barren she was considered an outcast and cursed (hence the significance of Sarah and Isaac).  From the Patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were born the 12 Tribes of Israel which is lineage.  The high priest was to be born of Aaron’s lineage.  Kings were decided by lineage.  Jesus was to be born from the root of David, the Tribe of Judah, to a virgin, which all signify lineage.  Then we come to the Book of Isaiah…

Isaiah 53 is a popular passage.  It prophecies of Jesus being pierced for our transgressions, how we, like sheep, have gone astray, and of how Jesus, like a lamb was led to be slaughtered yet did not open his mouth.  In the midst of this passage, in verse 8, it reads, “For He was cut off from the land of the living”.  What’s important about that?  Jesus would not marry nor would he father any children.  To us, it’s an overlooked fact, but thinking about how important lineage was in the Old Testament, and then to learn, the Savior of the world was NOT going to pass on any lineage or inheritance is a shock!  Then in verse 10 we read, “When You make Him a restitution offering, He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will succeed by His hand.”  Wait!  We just read two verses ago that Jesus would be cut off, and then we read about His seed?   That is a complete contradiction!   

Christ will have a seed, but it’s not what the tradition of what The Old Testament holds dear.  In John 1:12-13 we read, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  In I John 3:1 we read, “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the children of God.  And that we are!”

In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle was a physical place of worship.  In Hebrews, we see the Tabernacle expands to mean Jesus.  Then in Revelation, we become the Tabernacle.  This concept of worship goes from something physical, to Jesus fulfilling it, to something we will all live together as one day!  I see the family evolving the same exact way!  The nuclear family is created in the Old Testament, Jesus then fulfils the concept of Family to include all people (Gal. 3:28-29) and someday we will all live and reside together as one Family (Rev. 19)! So what does this mean?  This means, I have a family: Mom, Dad, sisters, brothers, sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and grandparents, and then expanding from there is my Family.  I don’t have two distinct families; I have one gigantic Family that someday will all reside together in Christ’s presence and made whole!

The purpose for the family is to populate the earth and to teach about what it means to be a Family.  There’s a saying that goes, “I have my family, and then I have my second family” but I disagree.  Because usually this means we look at people who we get along with and label them as our second family.  The problem is that how well I get along with someone doesn’t determine whether they are Family or not, the blood of Christ does, and F/family sticks together through the good and the bad!

When I was in my first appointment, I had a volunteer approach me and tell me about a dinner she had attended, “…and guess who I sat by?  Your Aunt Opal!  She told me all about your dad and you when you were little.”  I replied, “Oh yes…  Aunt Opal…”  Then I went home later that day and phoned my dad, “Do I have an Aunt Opal?” I asked.  My dad said, “Yes.”  I give this illustration to say, not knowing someone very well, or not at all, doesn’t make someone any less blood related than someone in our family we know well.  Same goes for the Family.  There are millions of people in my Family that I have yet to meet, and they are not any less my Family than those I know well and have met.

There is a Bible passage I now claim, hold close to my heart, and brings me comfort.   It is Matthew 12: 46-50, where Jesus is teaching the crowds and someone gives Him the message that His mother and brothers were outside wanting to speak to Him.  Jesus replied, “Who is My mother and who are my brothers?” then he motions to His disciples and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, that person, is my brother and sister and mother.”    When I was a kid, I always thought it was horrible Jesus didn’t just go running to His family.  Now I understand, He wasn’t neglecting His family, but rather, He was being inclusive to all who follow God’s will, and was teaching them He came to expand the Family, not to limit it.

We also see in John 19:25-27, as Jesus was on the cross and John and Mary were standing next to each other, Jesus says to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.”  Then Jesus says to His disciple, John, “Here is your mother.  And the passage concludes with this sentence, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”  Why?  Because they were Family, that’s why.

If we go back to Isaiah 54, we read this in verse 1, “Rejoice, barren one, who did not give birth; burst into song and you who have not been in labor!  For the children of the forsaken one will be more than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord” and then it continues to address barren women.   Although, this is speaking directly to one group of women, I think this applies to anyone who is “lacking” in their family.  In the Family, the fatherless find their fathers, the motherless find their mothers, and the childless find their children.  The abused family members find Family members who want to cherish, and where the abandoned family members find committed Family members, etc…  The Family of God is inclusive and everyone fits in perfectly! 

My shift in understanding my Family has changed my ministry.  In Church, I do not sit alone in the front pew, as many probably perceive, instead, I sit with Family.  I am not childless; there are kids I work with in ministry at camp and in youth programs.  I have a limitless amount of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who need my support.  I have a limitless amount of fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters that I need.  It has brought me closer to others, and it has made it easier for me to love those who I share differences with and see the vitality of agreeing to disagree.

The biggest change that has come for me is, once again, I’m reminded of the importance of everyday.  I do not have family that I get to take from appointment to appointment.  With each move, I am required to leave Family behind to be nurtured by someone else, while I go to a new place to meet more of my Family and start all over again.  As a single, I feel it is necessary that I take every opportunity to create memories with my Family, because I will only be allowed to create memories with them for so many years before I move on to minister to more of my Family.  That may be the down side of things, but the exciting part of it is I will never run out of Family!  With each new appointment, with each new group of people, with each new corps, with each new community, my Family will continue to expand.  I will not die alone, as people like to say to singles so often, I will die with an amazingly large Family that I will not be able to count all the members of, and that my dear Family, is awesome to know!

A “Knock-off” or the Real Deal?

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real christians

A few years ago I purchased an electronic device that I thought was comparable to the electronic standard held by another brand.  It was cheaper and I admit that this was my original motivation in purchasing the device.  I thought I had made a good deal by going cheaper…but I was sorely wrong.  It looked quite similar to the more expensive quite famous counterpart…but upon studying the “specs” which were the inner workings or the hardware, I discovered that though it looked the part it was just a cheap “knock-off” that barely performed the way that I expected it to.  I was thoroughly disappointed and eventually I discarded my “knock-off” and spent a little more for the real deal.

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Few sentences in all the world strike at our hearts like this sentence from 1 John.  Mimicking Jesus’ own “new” commandment (John 13:34-35), John reminds us all that we are called to this holy purpose here on earth.  Dare I say that this world is already full of hell and pain, hatred and heartache…how better to display the Light of Christ to a darkened world than to love.  But John doesn’t merely remind us to love with our words and with how we speak to people around us.  That would be far too easy and a shallow, cheapened “knock-off” of Christ-likeness.

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Phony Christians:

No one likes cheap stuff if they can afford the real deal.  If we had the resources to have the original in our hands, to own it and enjoy it, we would never settle for a cheap “knock-off” copy!  The world knows a thing or two about phoniness.  There are far too many people in our world today who have experienced deceit and cons of every kind.  They can spot the phony Christian a mile away.  The kind of “Christian” who only pretends to love but is just as absorbed in their own little world as a non-Christian person.  The pretend Christian won’t fool anyone for too long, because when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road, for faith to be put into action, the phonies will scatter and disappear at the moment of greatest need.  The world does not need any more phonies, let alone phony Christians who are just artificial, cheap “knock-offs” of the real deal.

Newly Minted Originals:

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This is not meant to discourage you dear fellow Christ-follower, this is just a warning to both you and me.  Without real tangible evidence of love bedded deep within our actions towards others, we run the risk of becoming just another cheap “Knock-off”.  Don’t let your faith become jaded.  Don’t allow skepticism and judgement to taint your walk with the Lord.  There is a very real spiritual war going on; we know the final outcome, yet Satan and his minions would like nothing more than to dissuade you as a Christ-follower and discourage you in your faith so that you only resemble what you once were.  Don’t be swayed but how others treat you.  Don’t become discouraged when you feel as if you’re the only Christian left standing.  We are newly minted originals if we allow Christ’s love to permeate our faith in action.  It does nothing to simply say the right things or speak these solid truths unless it is backed up by our actions as well.  Those who are still lost cannot simply to Christ by sweet words and kind thoughts…they need real hands to show them the way.  They need real feet to walk beside them.  They need a shoulder to cry on when life has stripped them of their pride and possessions.  They need you and me to go to them and not to wait in our halls or churches for them to come to us (which will never happen).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let your love be seen from your heart to your hands!  Let your faith propel you into action.  Be bold, take risks, and discard the temptation to become just another cheap “knock-off” for Christ.

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Devotion, Grace, with a Dash of Salt…

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful….be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  (Colossians 4:2,5,6) 

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Dear Christ-followers, how are we representing Christ to the world around us?  How are we representing Christ to other believers and to those who have yet to accept Christ?  Are our conversations ALWAYS full of grace?  Or are they only sprinkled with marginal grace while the rest is so full of “know it all ignorance and judgement”?  

We may be the only living example of Christ that others might see…no pressure or anything, but what kind of example are we setting?  Are we consistent in our testimony of Him and in the ways that we conduct ourselves?  If you are anything like me you too struggle with these consistencies.  I am not trying to make us feel guilty today, but let me go a step further; how is your prayer life?  

Prayer is Vital!

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The very first words of the section of Colossians speaks of devoting our lives to prayer.  Prayer is THAT important!  We shouldn’t view prayer as our last resort but our primary weapon and the source of strength and endurance in this life. The word “Devote” implies a deep commitment, something that becomes our sole focus just as we become devoted to our spouse in a lifetime commitment to marriage.  Becoming devoted to prayer is a serious commitment, not a part time job!  Prayer shouldn’t be treated flippantly!  Either we are committed to prayer or we aren’t.  Prayer is our lifeline to God.  It is our source of hope, restoration, and renewal of strength for the journey that we are on.  

Wrapping it up:

 Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we still have our struggles.  We still endure hardships of many kinds.  Yet may we be devoted together in prayer for one another, and coupled with that, may we also be full of grace and seasoned so that our consistency of testimony and action be an accurate representation of the One who has taken up residence within us through Salvation by the shedding of His blood.  Do not quit this fight or grow weary of one another!  Stay in this fight!  Work side by side with each other even when we share differences.  For just as Christ prayed that His disciples would be united, He too prays this for us as well!  

-Just a thought for us today!  

“Brothers don’t shake hands…Brothers gotta hug!”

The title I have used today is a quote from one of my favorite Chris Farley movies: “Tommy Boy”.   In it he discovers (falsely so) that he has a brother and so he is ecstatic to welcome him into the family.  The film is a little crude at times, yet Chris Farley had a way of hamming it up for cameras which made him extremely funny.

Do you know what’s not funny in this world though?  Brothers and sisters in Christ facing discouragement and frustrations alone in life.  Why does this happen?  Isn’t the Body of Christ supposed to uplift and encourage?  Where are the helping hands at times to come along those who are suffering through various blights of discouragement?

Paul puts it rather plainly for the early church and for us still today when he says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) 

Why then, in times of despair, does it seem as if some are trudging through it alone?

Do you remember the story of the paralytic who wanted to be healed by Jesus?  How did he get to Jesus?  He certainly didn’t walk there.  No, instead his friends took the time to care for him.  They took the time to pick him up on his mat and take him to Jesus.  In fact they had to go to great lengths to place their friend at the feet of Jesus.  When they got to where Jesus was teaching they discovered that the house was full of people, there was absolutely no room for them to carry him in on his mat.  So instead of calling it quits or abandoning their friend they instead devised a shrewd plan.  The hefted him, laboriously up onto the owner’s roof and tore a hole in it so that they could lower him down to Jesus.  (Mark 2:4)  What friends!   They took the time to encourage and lift (literally) their friend to Jesus.

What of us today?  Do we take the time to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Or are we too preoccupied with our own worries and our own busy schedules?  These friends who lowered their paralyzed colleague down through a roof could have called it quits once they found the house to be too full of people.  They could have shrugged their shoulders and said, “well we tried” and carried him back home with no change in his living situation…yet they didn’t.  They took time out of their busy schedules.  They went the extra mile.  They weren’t interested in what they could get out of the situation.  It wasn’t about them, it was about their friend, their brother on the mat who couldn’t move.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is sometimes a danger of becoming too comfortable in our lives that we lose focus on others around us.  Others who could use some encouragement.  Others who need to hear a word of love and kindness from their peers.  We can’t afford to be little isolated islands or clusters of Church goers who never engage and connect with other parts of the body of Christ!

The poet John Donne once wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 

Today, there are fellow Christ-followers who need your support.  Today there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are about to give up because they feel all alone with no one to support them.  Today is another shining opportunity to be a brother or a sister to the discouraged and distraught.  You can be a source of encouragement.  You don’t need to be a professional counselor or a degreed Psychologist to help, you just need to be present and available.

Are you willing?  Are you available?  Ask the Lord for guidance and discernment and then get involved in the lives of other believers which will extend far beyond the pew on Sundays.  Give them a hug, love on them and then allow God’s fellowship of love to penetrate your hearts so that self isn’t number one but Christ is first and others are even before our own wants and needs.

-Just a thought for today.

and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith...” 1 Thessalonians 3:2

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