The Bible

This past week I came across some stunning reports that spoke of ‘regular church attenders’ and their ability to identify certain well know passages of Scripture. For instance, it would give John 3:16, “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.” Than it would ask the respondent what verse this was. In one portion of the study it asked if regular church attenders knew what ‘The Great Commission’ was. Surprisingly, 51% of the people polled said they had never heard of the great commission. There could be a lot of underlying factors in this but none the less, it is shocking. The phrase ‘Great Commission’ is not found in Scripture. Rather it is what we have titled that portion of Scripture where Jesus gives those orders to ‘Go and Make Disciples of all Nations.’ (Matthew 28:16-20). This interaction that the Resurrected Lord had with the Disciples occurs each of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) as well as in Acts. Each account gives similar yet different word for word accounts of Jesus’ words. It is arguable that this understanding still does not give excuse for why 51% of the people polled have not heard of the Great Commission. I believe it to be one of the greatest instructions given in Scripture. Of course, we know from Matthew 22:36-40 that the greatest commandment is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ The second is like it, Jesus says, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Beyond this, a love for God and neighbor is a desire to see them enter into a relationship with the one that can heal, bring peace, restore their lives. If we are loving them, we should be leading them, leading them to the very feet of Jesus. There is a great amount of this sobering study that lies on the church’s shoulders. There are churches across the country, even the world, that has allowed the Gospel to be cherry picked as if we were looking for our favorite piece of candy and not wanting the other stuff that ‘might not taste as good!’ Our pastors, lay leaders, elders, teachers, all have a responsibility to preach all the gospel, even those areas that do not seem as popular. I am not certain why the Great Commission would not be on the upper end of sections to preach but for some reason our church people do not know about it. Now, you are not off the hook! The study and recognition of the authority of Scripture in our life is not just for those who are the leaders of the church. Proverbs 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on you lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” As a member of the Kingdom of God you have a responsibility to be feeding yourself with Scripture both day and night. You should be growing, not just from the teachings of others, but from your own study!

Beyond our own self, we should be teaching others as well. Who can you share scripture with? Who can you help grow an young Christian to a more mature Christ Follower? Each of us can grow and help someone else grow. If you do not have anyone, or you need to grow yourself, pray to God to help give wisdom and insight in this area. If you want him to provide someone you can mentor, I am confident He will! If you are interested in reading the full study regarding this Scripture understanding simply go to: https://www.barna.com/research/future-teaching-great-commission/.


Responsibilities

I have spent the last couple weeks preaching on responsibilities. The word responsibility carries significant weight in different settings. In our jobs we have responsibilities that were probably set out for us long before we came. We call them ‘job descriptions’. In our homes, depending on our situation we have responsibilities there as well. I have a responsibility to do my part in caring for my four children. I also have the responsibility of caring for our family pets and the upkeep of our home. In my job I have a responsibility to care for a church and its people. In my personal life I volunteer with a few civic groups and have responsibilities there as well. Responsibilities are everywhere! It is what keeps us going from day to day! But how often have we stopped to consider what our responsibilities are in the church? We have the greatest commandment that perhaps could summarize all responsibilities. In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus is asked, ““Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” We obviously have a responsibility to love. Whether it be our love toward God or to our neighbor. But to the greater Kingdom of God we have a responsibility there as well. Here are five areas we can serve the Kingdom: (1) We have a responsibility to furthering and advancing the Kingdom. We are to be doing the work of the Lord in all areas of our life seeing to it that the Kingdom is advancing. (2) We have a responsibility to preach the gospel to everyone in the world. In Mark 16 Jesus gave the commands to the disciples to ‘go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.’ Imagine if each believer, just here in Newton, choose one friend to preach the Gospel to. Not preach at! But preach to! (3) We have a responsibility to help a fellow believer get back on the right path. I know what some people are thinking. What about that Matthew 7:5 verse, you know the one about the plank? Well, you are right to have some concern if you are calling out a brother or sister for something you do not have straight in your own life. But each of us who have experienced salvation and grace have the responsibility to help correct and lead in the right path a brother or sister who has gone astray. But we must do it lovingly and with the right intentions! (4) We have a responsibility to do what is good because of God’s grace. It is in our nature and our human flesh to want to rebel sometimes. But God’s grace, the death of Jesus on the cross, should spur us into making decisions that are good. It should cause us to want to do what is right. And finally, (5) We have a responsibility to defend others in need. Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” We can simply offer a hand of help, a cup of water, to those who have a need. We can be a voice to those who need it.

There is no doubt these are lofty responsibilities. But God has called us into a fellowship with Him. We respond by loving God, loving others, and carrying out the responsibility’s scripture has set out. Take a moment to pray and ask God how you are doing in carrying out the commands and responsibilities we have. Ask Him to search your heart and then respond appropriately! Blessings!


Kindness

This past week I was flipping through the pages of the Bible looking for a certain verse. The sun was shining, the window blind was open, and I could hear my children’s laughter outside of my office window. I would like to say that I am usually very focused during my studies and nothing gets me off track but that would be a lie. Usually, I have a million things running through my mind. Is the next sermon ready? Is the church ready to go? Are visitor bags ready for the guest? Is there activities after church Sunday? On those nice days when I am home, I am thinking about being outside, with my kids, or even working in the garage for a bit. But when I was flipping through the pages of Scripture, I found myself in Proverbs. A word jumped out at me and despite all the things going on in the world around me my eyes became captivated on one word.
 
Kindness.
 
It seems like such an elementary word. I remember my kids learning how to be ‘kind’ in preschool and kindergarten. We taught them things like sharing toys, helping a friend who is hurt, giving someone else first pick on snacks as all being ways we can be kind. We taught them that words are one way we can be kind. It was actually a verse on words and kindness that caught my attention. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
 
In the news of this past week words have taken center stage. Words that are not kind. Words that we do not want our kids to repeat. Words that can be rather offensive to people. After reading this verse, listening to the news, it made me wonder, are my words kind? So, I asked myself, as an adult, what does it mean to be kind? I thought primarily about the words I use. The things I say to my kids when I become frustrated. The words I choose to use with my wife. The things I say to a cashier, a server, or someone else who is serving me. But then there are actions to. When someone gets in my way at the store, pulls into the gas pump I was planning on going to, or when someone doesn’t use a blinker. These are all times when we have a chance to respond in a way that isn’t kind.
 
I believe that Proverbs 16:24 is telling us that not only are our words and actions sweet and healthy for others but they are sweet and healthy for us as well. As a Christ follower a mark of identification can be that of kindness. A healthy Christ follower will clothe themselves with kindness. In the same manner someone who does not clothe themselves with kindness, well, I have to wonder about the relationship that person shares with the Lord. No, its not too late. No, its not that a Christ follower isn’t unkind sometimes. But it means that we should be working toward displaying ourselves in such a manner that kindness consistently flows through our words and actions. Through my studies on this word I read Proverbs 3:3 which says, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” There is also Proverbs 11:17, “Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.”
 
When I came back from my thoughts on kindness, I couldn’t help but wonder if the actions of my kids, those both kind and unkind, were reflective of what they had seen form their dad. My prayer for all who find themselves in the fellowship of the Kingdom of God is that their life will always display acts of kindness to all of those around them. Blessings!
 


Trust in the Lord

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Imagine in this new year if the decisions we made and the things we sought after were all things we bathed in prayer. I believe as we begin this new year one of the biggest reasons for failures on resolutions or goals is that we do not fully commit to them. For instance, how many times in your life have you made the commitment to eat healthy and lose weight? It usually doesn’t take too long to realize that you enjoy certain foods you gave up and that extra hour sleep in the morning is worth sleeping in for! Because we enjoy food and sleep, we do not fully commit to the resolution and it doesn’t take long for us to fail. On a side note, for those of you who have succeeded in this resolution before, congratulations, you are amazing! This scripture from Proverbs is really about a commitment. We cannot give our full heart to something (trust) if we are not fully committed. I have had conversations with individuals and families before in a midst of a crisis. If this is a ‘marriage’ or ‘family’ threating crisis, the issue of commitment can usually be found as the root cause of the crisis. I believe the same is true in a relationship we share with the Lord. If we have difficulty in finding a full sense of trust in the Lord, it is typically because we have not fully committed to the relationship with Him. Then of course, we begin to rely on our own understanding instead of His. Each of us have a path to follow this year. We can choose to forge our own path and brave the elements all alone. While this may be a path the world wants us to pursue it is not one that God wants us to pursue. He wants to seek after Him. He wants us to rely on His guidance and wisdom. He gives wisdom to those who seek it and guidance to those who ask for it. I am thankful that in this new year each of us can stop what we’re doing and ask God to guide our paths this year. And you know the best thing about this? If we ask, He will do it!

I can only imagine what our churches, our homes, our families, jobs, community would be like if all Christ following Christians made a commitment to fully seek Him in this new year. I don’t think there is anything wrong making new years resolutions or goals but shouldn’t the most important thing we do be that of committing with a full heart to trust our ways to Him? Perhaps, that simply needs to be the resolution or the goal in this new year. Our Father wants the absolute best for you in this new year. If we trust, if we allow Him to lead, if we commit to being in relationship with Him, He will lead us down the path to take! Happy New Year!