We live in a world in which we can hear about all the bad things that have happened throughout the day any time we want.  While instant communication can be a great blessing, sometimes we can be overloaded with negativity.  While we have been hearing more bad news than any other generation, we are not the only ones to wonder why those bad things happen.  In Jesus day, bad things would happen and there was a common assumption behind the circumstance.


Luke 13:1-5, "There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

The assumption was that because something bad happened to these men they must have been great sinners.  A similar thing is recorded in John 9:1-3, "Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him."

Jesus corrected the mindset that bad things happen to bad people.  This is extremely helpful for all of us to understand since bad things could happen to any one of us at any time.  This is does not mean that there is something that we must fix to be right with God; sometimes things just happen.  

This reminds me of the book of Job as well.  Job was afflicted and his friends were under the same assumption as the men in the first century.  Job knew that there was no sin in his life that was to blame for his illness and struggled to see God's plan in his suffering.  The same thing can happen to us.  We can wonder "why" the entire time we are going through tough times and lose our faith in the process. Let us take heart from the words of Jesus and know that God's plan for us lies not in an easy life now, but a eternal day of rest after this life is over. 



Three Pillars of Christianity (compiled)

When trying to describe what the Christian life is all about, sometimes we can get stuck in some of the more obvious experiences.  We can talk about church services, community outreach, building upkeep, and so on.  But when you boil everything down to its most essential parts, I believe we can summarize what it means to be a Christian in three simple words.  The first word I would suggest as being a pillar of Christianity is love.  

 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.  

This passage does a great job displaying the best motivation behind the Christian life.  It is not the act of sacrifice or service that is most important then, but the motivation of love which is paramount.  That is one reason why John 3:16 is so well known: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The motivating factor of God sending His Son to earth to die, was love.  

Love is that which identifies the follower of Christ as well. John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  If we do not have this defining characteristic, we cannot truly call ourselves faithful Christians.  As we continue this discussion about upon what Christianity is built, we must firmly establish how important love is. 


Last week we discussed briefly that love was an absolutely essential part of what it means to be a Christian.  This week I would like to uncover a second element: Hope.  Hope is one of those intangible things that we can all identify mentally, but is hard to pin down in conversation.  According to Webster hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” in the noun, and in the verb “…want something to happen or be the case”.   This is not the best way to define what is meant in the religious sense because it almost appears to be like a wish that we would like to come true.  


If we are to define what true Christian hope is, we must first understand that our hope does not rely upon our wishes but upon Christ Himself.  “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1)“To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).  Our hope is identified as a living hope because of this. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 3:3).  

Also hope is an identifier of what we have as Christians.  “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).  Also 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”  

Most importantly hope is clearly identified as being one of the most significant attributes to Christianity in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Next week we will be discussing the last great pillar of Christianity: faith. 



Based off of 1 Corinthians 13:13, we have discussed so far two essential elements of Christianity.  We have noticed that love is not only a motive of our actions, but also a motivation for us to do good.  Also we have seen that hope is a fundamental part of our belief; not a blind hope, but a hope in the promises of Jesus Christ.  Now let us conclude our thoughts on this subject with the mention of the essential “faith” we are to have.

In our religious world today we see the word faith used in a variety of ways.  Sometimes faith is used in reference to just belief.  If I believe something to be the case, no matter how much or how little evidence there is to justify that belief, we call it faith.  This is not the best working definition in my opinion.  The Bible does a good job defining it’s own terms.  Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Substance in this passage is more literal than most places.  Sub = underStance = support.  So literally faith is the “under-girding” of our hope.  In other words, the reason why we can have hope of invisible things is faith.  But not only that, faith is further defined in this passage as that which pushes us towards actions of faith.  It is not enough to simply have faith something exists, but we must be full of actions that reflect that level of confidence.  For example, look at Hebrews 11:4-31 and notice all the people who accomplished something through faith.  

“By faith Abel offered, By faith Enoch was taken away, By faith Noah…prepared, By faith Abraham obeyed, By faith Sarah…bore a child, By faith Abraham…offered, By faith Isaac blessed, By faith Jacob…blessed…and worshipped, By faith Joseph…made mention…and gave instructions, By faith Moses…was hidden, By faith Moses…refused, By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish.”  And there are others which are mentioned in this text as well.   

What can we conclude then? James 2:17, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  So as we consider what are the pillars upon which Christianity stands: love, hope, and faith are key. 



The Ant and the Grasshopper

I remember an old story about an ant and a grasshopper and how they spent their summer.  The ant was busy at work collecting food for the winter and stones for her shelter, while the grasshopper lounged around all day long drinking lemonade.  After a while the grasshopper began to make fun of the ant because of her arduous routine.  But, slowly the seasons changed and Summer turned into Fall…and Fall into Winter.  And then one day, a blizzard came upon them both.  The ant retreated into her prepared shelter while the grasshopper searched frantically for a place to go.  Eventually the grasshopper hobbled to the ants from door and begged to come in and get some warmth.  The ant kindly let him in and shared her shelter and her food with the one who previously made fun of her preparation.  


This is a simple story with funny characters, but sadly there is some truth to its meaning.  Some are working to prepared themselves for the future, while others are lounging around mocking those who work.  


It reminds me of Matthew 25:1-12 which speaks of ten virgins.  Five were prepared with extra oil to wait for the bridegroom, while the other five were not.  The foolish virgins tried to borrow some of the oil from the others, but there was not enough to go around.  The same thing is true of those who are not laboring for the future.  They may one day seek to borrow from those who have labored, but at that day there will be no time to prepare.  The Bible is clear about what we are to “lay up” or prepare for Christ’s second coming.  Matthew 6:20, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”. Someone prepared, like the ant, will be a New Testament Christian laying up treasures for themselves in Heaven.  But, there are some who are not laying up anything, like the grasshopper.  These individuals should wake up to the reality of mortality and begin their true walk with God to prepare themselves for the time of judgment, similar to the great blizzard in story.  I hope that all have been working to make the proper preparations for the coming times, and are not counting on those around them to be there in THAT day.



Some Somber Thoughts

There have been many funerals that I have attended in my life.  I distinctly recall that one of the first times Melissa and I spent time together while dating was attending a funeral of a classmate of ours.  Death is never a subject that we should take lightly, but we cannot be afraid of it either.  In God’s Word we learn a lot about death and mourning, and He does a great job of conveying the lessons that we should learn from these experiences.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, “A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one's birth; Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, For by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”

Why is this passage teaching that a funeral is sometimes better than a party? Because there are some inherent blessings even in grieving over the loss of a loved one.  One such blessing is family.  Often when attending a funeral or memorial service I will see families coming together through the most difficult times.  I will often hear something like “It’s so good to see you, even though its through these circumstances”.  That sentiment reminds me that sometimes in life we can get so busy we forget to spend time with the ones we love the most.  Sometimes it takes a serious event like a death to bring families and friends together again.

A second such blessing in these moments is the “reality factor”. We recognize that death is a part of life and at one time or another in the future we are all going to have to face leaving this life too.  There are many stories about people who have changed their lives for the better when confronted with the reality that life truly is short and precious.  While it is sad that we lose the ones we love, the knowledge of it should motivate us to do the most we can with the time God gives us.

So while no one likes talking about death, it can be a blessing in disguise in some ways.  Let us not get so caught up in life, that we forget to truly live the way God would have us to.  



Only One Gospel

One of the foundations of Christianity is the gospel.  That words simply means the “good news” which truly is the point of the life of Jesus. He died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and paid the penalty for our sin; that’s why it’s good news.  But it has been a problem in the church, since the first century, that people try to change that core message or muddy the waters with things that are not talked about in scripture.  

A passage that highlights this problem is Galatians 1:6-10, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”

An easy way to break down this passage for comprehension is by looking at the key words: Pervert, Preach, Persuade, and Please.

The original word translated “pervert” means literally “to turn across” or “transmute”.  It gives the sense of something original being changed to something corrupt.  Some would take the original power of the gospel and change it to a corrupted message.  The message that was preached or literally “heralded” about the good news was now not the popular message.  This corrupted message was now being preached to the people to their doom. 

The passage then goes on to indicate that this message was persuasive towards men, but it would not persuade the originator of the gospel.  Paul finishes his thought with the fact that he was not trying to please the common man with the good news, but trying to please God in his work.  

This passage is very helpful to us to let us know the message can be perverted.  Knowing this, we need to ensure the message that we tell to other, and that we believe ourselves, it the true message from God.  The way we do this is by going back to the originator of the gospel and confirming the word.  Acts 17:11, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”



The Bronze Serpent

We have been going through a large section of the book of Exodus in bible class for some time now and we are almost at the end of our study.  There are so many moments that we do not have time to discuss, but are so rich in application and lessons for us today.  One such event from which we can learn a great deal is the situation involving a large bronze or copper snake lifted up to save the Israelites from poisonous serpents.  This is not a common occurrence, to be sure.  

“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Numbers 21:4-9

This is an interesting situation to be sure.  One of the most interesting things however from this is shown later in the Old Testament in 2 Kings 18:1-4, “Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.”

So not only was the people of Israel punished for their complaining against God’s providential care, but also their ancestors actually revered the object used to save the people more than God Himself.  This is a great warning to all of us to be mindful not to place our faith in the object of God’s saving grace more than God Himself too.  



What is the Backbone of the Local Church?

Where the rubber meets the road in Christianity is the local congregation.  We see in scripture that the first century church gathered together in their communities and cities to worship, serve, and multiply.  In any congregation in the world today there’s always the opportunity for introspection and growth.  But sometimes is a good idea to consider the makeup of the local church to enhance its strength.  If we had to identify the most important aspect of the local congregation, what would it be?

Some might say that the preacher is the most important part of a congregation.  I’m a little biased in this, but I strongly disagree with that statement.  Although the preacher has a very important role as one who instructs and encourages through the Word of God, he is completely fallible.  And even though a preacher makes a large impression on visitors to the congregation, he is by no means the only one who makes impressions on those not normally assembling with us.  No, I think the preacher is absolutely not the backbone of the local church. 

Some might say the leadership of the congregation is the backbone.  The elders who oversee the flock and the deacons who serve in their various roles have a very important work of the church, but there are many congregations who lack both elders and deacons.  Those congregation should not be satisfied with these biblical offices being vacant, but it by no means implies that the most important functioning group of the church is the leadership.  

So what is the backbone of the local church?  I think the answer is found in Ephesians 4:14-16, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

The backbone of the church, the thing that keeps the congregation functioning the way it should, is everyone.  Everyone doing their part, using their gifts the way God designed them, keep the body upright and growing.  You cant look at your own body and determine that you would be better off without any of your body parts, nor can we look at the local church and say we don't need someone in their role.  We all must do our part in the local congregation to be the hands of Christ in this world.  May God bless us in our various roles in His service.  



Why Did My Savior Come to Earth?

One of the great commands given in the New Testament pertaining to worship is the command to sing.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).  The wisdom in this is seen in a variety of ways, especially in being able to echo the sentiments of the heart which we would not be able to express otherwise.  Being able to collectively sing words of praise to the Lord shows the great amount of devotion God wants from His worshippers.  Sometimes though, we can get stuck into a pattern of singing in which we aren't truly engaged.  One of my favorite things to do when noticing this habit within myself is to reflect on the words which we so often sing.  Reading the lyrics as a poem instead of a song reaps great benefits as I reflect upon what we are actually saying to the Lord.  To illustrate this principle I have selected a song we often sing and posted it below:

Why did my Savior come to Earth and to the humble go? Why did He choose a lowly birth? Because He loved me so! Why did He drink the bitter cup of sorrow, pain and woe? Why on the cross be lifted up? Because He loved me so! And now He bids me look and live, His grace and pow’r to know; A home in glory He will give, because He loved me so! Till Jesus comes I’ll sing His praise and then to glory go, and reign with Him through endless days, Because He loved me so!  He loved me so, He loved me so; He gave His precious life for me, for me, Because He loved me so. - John G. Dailey, pub.1892

Just reading these words, slowly and with feeling, imparts an emotion which should live within all of us.  If we ever catch ourselves just going through the motions, or just singing some words in almost the right notes, let resolve to refocus our singing and give the Lord our hearts.  Let us heed the warning of Isaiah 29:13-14, “Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”


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This World is Not My Home

This week Melissa and I have been packing up all our earthly possessions to move into a house.  Since we have moved here, we have lived in a little one bedroom apartment which we had exactly one day to find when we accepted the work.  It has been a very nice experience to have lived in such a small space, but now that Madeline is here we are blessed to have a place with more space.  So much is changing in our daily routine that I can’t help but reflect about our life.  God has brought us this far by His grace, and blessed us beyond measure.  Our physical dwelling means very little compared to His eternal home prepared for all of us.  

John 14:2-3, “In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  

In light of this train of thought, King David has some words that seem pertinent.  “…Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You. For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope.” (1 Chr 29:10-15). 

What a wonderful thing to be so blessed by our loving Father.  He cares for and provides for all our needs.  Praise be to Him for His great love. 

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Some Thoughts


Some Thoughts

Last Friday at 1:52am our baby was brought into this world.  It was such a emotional and hectic time period that only now do I have the energy and time to think about all that went on.  I noticed a few things during this time which stand out to me that I would like to share with you. 

The human body is an amazing thing.  I fully understood that there was a little person that my wife was carrying around inside her, but to have that person emerge into this world is something I will never forget.  During the process of labor, Melissa’s body was to release the exact chemical to make her body bring the baby into this world.  I noticed the language that the nurses and doctors used while helping her through this.  “Your body knows what to do, we are just helping it along” they would say.  “Listen to your body and react to what it’s telling you to do”.  

A single thought popped into my head every time someone said something like that: God knew exactly what He was doing.  It has never struck me as hard as in those hours, that God designed us to be brought into this world by His creation.  So many thousands of years ago God designed the first man and woman and blessed them with this ability. And now, thousands of generations later, we are still awestruck each time.  

God knows not only what He was doing in designing us, but also He KNOWS us.  Psalm 22:9-10, “But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother's womb You have been My God.” To Jeremiah the Prophet He said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5).  Even the Apostle Paul stated, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace” (Gal 1:15).  

It is an amazing privilege to be able to have this experience, and to be able to see the wonderful care that God has for each of us.  I pray that these thoughts encourage you as much as they have encouraged me.