Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Real Black Friday

I simply love this time of year.  Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  Taking a specific time out of the year, and yes away from work, to do nothing more than to be thankful for all that God has blessed me with.  I also enjoy this time of year because I was born on Thanksgiving day.  It always seems nice to mix the turkey, dressing, and all the fixings with birthday cake!  And as much as I had dreaded my next birthday this year (saying goodbye to my 20's), I felt the need to look at my life and see all the ways that I had been blessed these 30 years.  And with those blessings in mind, look to the future at what God may have in store for me in the next 30 years.  I am truly thankful for all the things that I have been blessed with.  Most importantly, my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who is my Lord and Savior.  Now I know you may be thinking, where is he going with this since to post is titled about this coming Friday.

Psalms 95:1-3
"O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  For the Lord is a great God, And a great King above all gods,"

It is an odd thing to me at what happens this time of year.  Now I will admit that my wife and I do get a lot of shopping done on the day after Thanksgiving.  But we do not let it take away from the joy of this time of year like many people do.  It is amazing that the people in this country that I love will spend an entire day being thankful for what they have, and the next day act like rabid animals to try to secure what they want.  It just seems peculiar to me.  Now I am not including everyone in this, because I have friends that view it just the same way I do.  It is a good chance to get a lot of gift shopping done for a low price.  My wife and I usually make a date day out of it.  A time to enjoy being with each other away from the kids.  But for a lot of people, where is the thanks?  The only conclusion that I can come to is the lack of Christ in their lives.  One who is truly saved has the mindset of the psalm above.  Singing, whether aloud or just in our hearts, for the joy that we have in our salvation through Christ Jesus.  These are one of the things that should be foremost in our minds, not just one day a year in Thanksgiving, and then truly forgotten the day after.  So I would like to turn attention to what I feel is the real Black Friday of Christianity.

Luke 23:33-49
"When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”  It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things."

I will be honest with you.  I was lead to this idea over Facebook last night.  My wife found a picture on Facebook referring to this idea, and when I checked my own page, I found that quite a few on my friends list had shared it as well. These events that took place on a Friday are the fundamental basis for all that we as Christians should be thankful for.  For if it were not for his death on the cross, we would have no hope of eternal life.  He paid the ultimate price for us as a gift of life.

Romans 6:22-23
" But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

Our life no longer belongs to us.  By being declared sanctified, and receiving eternal life through His sacrifice we must become slaves to His will.  Now I know that term "slave" is not a popular one.  However, it is repeated all throughout the scriptures.  Some versions have made it sound nicer by using the phrase bond-servent.  But the original Greek word there in those places is literally translated to slave.  Which, in essence means that we live to serve Him.  It does not matter how it may affect our live styles and the things that we want.  It is all about Him.  And if it were not for Him, we would all go to Hell.  As Paul wrote to the church at Rome above, the wages of sin is death.  Death is the only payment option valid for the sin in our lives.  Jesus paid that price for us.  And for that, we should be forever thankful.  Thankful that we have the opportunity to go to heaven when our time comes.  It is the only way.

It is my prayer that I and those around me will be thankful everyday for this gift, not just this Thursday.  However, I also pray that each of you that read this make it a point on Thursday when you are with family and friends celebrating this time, that you would openly voice your thanks for the sacrifice that was made for you on the Christian Black Friday.  Even if you have family there that are not believers.  What greater opportunity does that provide us to share the gospel with those who do not believe.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you have a very enjoyable and "Thankful" Thanksgiving.  May God Bless you all!

Friday, November 9, 2012

What is My Job as a Christian?

This is a question that I feel that a lot of professing believers may not be clear on.  I have on occasion asked this question to those around me and that I have contact with, and they have a hard time coming up with an answer.  Some have said that their job was to go to church every Sunday morning.  And I think to myself, is that all?  What about Sunday and Wednesday night? (Or whatever other services there are in the week)  Along with this answer I hear a lot of things that are jobs of the church.  They say their job is to be an usher, sing in the choir, or teach a class.  Now, do not get me wrong, we are called to serve.  And all of these things are necessary.  But, how do these things truly separate us from the world?  I am sure that most religions have people that do the same sort of things in their religious meetings.  What makes us different?

What we need to do is come to an understanding of what it truly means to be a Christian.  It needs to be clear every hour of every day of who we are, not by just what acts people see us do once or twice a week.

Philippians 3:7-11
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

One of the biggest things we have to do as a Christian is to show where our priorities lie.  As the Apostle Paul taught in this set of scriptures, he counted everything that he lost as rubbish.  Another word for that is dung or manure.  Paul was a wealthy man.  He was a Pharisee and a Roman citizen.   He gave up everything that he had and was to follow Christ.  And it did not phase him to do so.  Why did he do it?  So that he could "know Him."  How many times do we gladly offer to give up the things that mean the most to us in order to serve our Lord better.  So I would say that job number 1 is to sacrifice.  Jesus paid the greatest price when He died for us.  So what right do I have to put things that I want ahead of what He wants?  What right do I have to take time set aside to worship Him at church to enjoy some other fun activity with the ones that I love or are close friends with.  If they really mean that much to me, I would want them to join me in worship of the Lord.  And this is not just about church meetings.  This is in everyday life.  The marquee at my church read a couple of months ago "What gets more of your time Facebook or the Bible?"  So, do we sacrifice on a regular basis, in order to serve Him better?

John 15:5
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
This is a big one.  Job number 2 is to produce fruit.  What are we doing that shows our faith?  What is the evidence that we are who we say that we are?  Are we going out and sharing the gospel?  Are we loving our enemies?  Are we obeying His commands without regard to how we are seen by the world?  All of these are questions that I think that it is good to ask ourselves everyday.  It helps us to keep our focus on Christ.  There are a lot people that can talk about going to church and even quote scripture in a comfortable situation.  But are we actually living it everyday?  Are we looking for opportunities to serve and honor Christ at all times?  If we are, there will be evidence of it.

Matthew 28:19-20
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." 

Job number 3 is to witness.  If we truly believe that Christ is who He says He is, then we should have the desire to share the gospel with others.  We should feel the need to go out and share the message of Christ whenever possible.  He did not say to go and get lost people and bring them to the church so the preacher could do.  He said to go and make disciples.  I think that part of this is almost foreign in some churches today.  I have talked to many people who believe that church is for the lost.  And I always respond then why do you go?  You see it is what my English teacher friends call an oxymoron.  There is this stigma that many people are lead to believe that it is all up to the pastor to do it and there is no support for that way of thinking in scripture whatsoever.  The pastor's job is to shepherd the flock.  The flock being the body of Christ, those that believe.  He is the one that is to make sure that we are getting taught the necessary tools to go out and witness.  It is our job to take what we learn at church and apply it to our lives, and to share with others that are lost.  Once that lost person comes to the point that Christ calls them because of the revelation of Himself to them, and they respond, then we bring them to church so they can learn as well.  Bottom line, it is up to us to do the witnessing.  Both by our words and our actions.

These are our main jobs.  This is what we have been called to do.  Many times it is uncomfortable and even scary.  But if Christ truly is our Lord, it will be worth it.  Nothing on this earth can compare to the glory of sitting at the feet of God in heaven when our time is up. We must be willing to sacrifice and even suffer in order to be truly His.

Thanks for reading, and I pray that God will bless you all this week!