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This an excerpt from my book “Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him.” It can be found on virtually any on-line bookstore in both hardcopy and digital formats.

First Peter 1:3 exclaims, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” In other words, Christ’s all-powerful and glorious resurrection gives us more than a future hope; it gives us a living hope. The Lord’s death and resurrection created for us a transforming power that goes beyond His ability to raise us from the physical grave. It provided a power that can energize and give purpose to daily life.

Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him” (Philippians 3:10). In saying this Paul affirmed the predictive words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). What Paul is saying is that the resurrection empowers us to experience supernatural living now as well as eternal life in the future. In other words, the reality of physical death being overcome by eternal life through that all-important resurrection victory has real spiritual connotations for living.

Paul explains further: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8). What did he primarily lose? Himself! What did he gain? Christ and the power of His resurrection! That’s why he tells the Roman Christians, “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). This is a more important part of the Gospel than many give it credit for.

You see, in order to experience the power of the resurrection we must die physically and spiritually, literally and figuratively, now and in the future. You can’t be physically resurrected unless you physically die and you can’t live in spiritual resurrection power unless you die spiritually to self. This involves transitioning from our old self-oriented person to one whose focus is now on Christ. Then, through faith, we experience His resurrection power and presence. Paul elaborates: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

You see, when Paul talks about many of his travails, he considers the resurrection the root of his endurance and hope. The resurrection does give Paul hope that he’ll live with Christ in Heaven, but additionally it gives meaning to his life. In First Corinthians 15:30-32, as he connects his dying to self with the power of the resurrection, Paul says, “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” In short, he has gained everything in Christ because of the fact of the resurrection. Without it, life is worthless.

Understand that without the power of the resurrection, our living (and dying) is in vain. First Corinthians 15:14, 17 clarify: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Our lives in Christ become meaningful and powerful only when we see the glorious ramifications of the resurrection. That happens only when we “die to self” and all things become secondary to His will and glory. This means that we forsake self-determination and self-absorption. Instead we live in the power of His presence and are guided by His purposes instead of our own (Philippians 3:7-8).

My prayer is that God will give me the desire to daily die so that I might live in Him and the power of His resurrection. After all, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Corinthians 15: 36).

Religions Inspire Charity – 

Given the interesting nature of this article and that our church just concluded a 4 week series entitled Financial Freedom (where, believe it or not, the church gave us money – a crisp $20 bill for each family attending on the last Sunday of the messages), I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on giving. This is an excerpt from my book Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him, which is available in both digital and hardcopy formats at most online bookstores.  

Joyous Giving 

Ever used a calculator to determine what tithe amount you “owe” based upon ten percent of your take home pay or monthly salary? Ever hesitated when a church need presented itself that would cause you to go above that ten percent threshold? Have you ever rationalized your tithing as a means of lowering your taxes, perhaps even hesitating to give to a situation that wouldn’t work as a tax write it off? I know I have, and I imagine most believers have too. 

Despite the theological debate surrounding the issue, giving really is a blessing to those who do it (Acts 20:35). With that fact in mind, I’d like to suggest that the struggle to give cheerfully and freely is actually a heart issue. God began to deal with me on this topic by gradually enlightening me to the compulsory and obligatory nature of my giving. Actually, at that point in my life I wasn’t giving: I was tithing (which has very little New Testament justification). I saw giving the Lord the first ten percent of every pay check a legalistic duty or spiritual standard. I didn’t enjoy it; in fact, I resented it. I dutifully calculated the amount each week before slowly writing a check to the church. When I reticently dropped it in the offing plate, I felt nothing. I didn’t even have the satisfaction of feeling “righteous” in my “obedience.”  

Looking back, I realize that my irritation over the tithe came down to two facts: (1) I loved money, and (2) I sought to hoard it as a form of (false) security. The truth is that I didn’t love my God enough to cheerfully give back what He had given me. In those days I tithed―not out of overflowing love—but in an attempt to appease my joyless and empty sense of obligation. No sacrificial satisfaction came in the process, and I found very little reduction of that nagging guilt that accompanied the forced activity. I became burdened over the hollowness of my tithing and confessed to God my insincerity. 

Over the next months I began to seek God as my Provider, asking Him to move me from being a mundane tither to a joyful giver. In response to my prayers, He drove me to Second Corinthians 8:1-5: 

“We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” 

I was captivated by the attitude of these impoverished Macedonian Christians as recorded by Paul. Look at the phrases used to capture the attitude behind their sacrificial offerings: overflowing joy, rich generosity, beyond their ability, entirely on their own, privilege of sharing, in service to the saints, and in keeping with God’s will. When I realized that the poverty-stricken saints of the early church were so inclined to give to the Lord and His work that they saw it as a privilege, I was moved to shun calculations and gaze on Calvary. When I did, I was emboldened to forsake obligatory tithing and to embrace happy, love saturated, and sacrificial giving.  

Over the next months, the Lord helped me develop a giving model. It may be effective for you as well: 

  • Give a set amount out of every check to the local church. Christ’s church is an instrument and witness for the Gospel. Giving to a local assembly helps facilitate the expansion of His Kingdom. 
  • Give either a planned or spontaneous figure to a mission’s organization. In order to broaden our vision of God’s global purposes it is encouraging to contribute financially to His work outside of our own community. 
  • Give a spontaneous gift to a specific missionary family. This helps our giving become more personal and intimate. We are more engaged as we partner with “real” people who have dedicated themselves to full-time missions. 
  • Prayerfully look for additional opportunities to meet individual local needs that will draw people to God. We model Christ’s love by helping to meet legitimate human needs. We need to be aware of opportunities to joyously give as a testimony to what He has given us.  

I believe that out-of-the-heart giving often exceeds the ten percent Old Testament standard that we so often hear about from the institutional church. The Lord wants us to live and give out of “the abundance of [our] hearts” (Luke 6:45). When we pursue sacrificial and joyful giving we embrace Christ’s example. The more we become like Him the more satisfied we are in Him. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

*This is an annual post is in memory of my father. He entered into eternal worship and rest with his Savior on September 4, 2006 (appropriately on Labor Day). Today whould have been his 91st birthday. This is an excerpt from “Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him” which was published in 2008.

Nearly a year and a half after my father’s death, my mother sent me his one volume Bible commentary. Thankfully, she left it as he did: she didn’t even remove the papers he had slid between the binder and the text. It was The Liberty Commentary, a book published by the school from which I received my Master’s degree. The book’s significance, however, was neither in that fact nor in the helpful Bible background information it contained. The most impressive thing about the commentary was my father’s hand-written notes that adorned nearly all of the book’s two-thousand seven hundred pages. The book had well served Dad, a faithful Sunday School teacher, for many years. 

Next to my own Bible,  the picture of my son at 15 minutes old, and my wedding album, I consider Dad’s commentary my greatest earthly possession. My father left within it musings, highlights, underscores, outlines, and his own personal comments. The book is heavy with the authentic faith of a man who did life the right way: by the Bible he so honored with his study. To Dad, Scripture’s precepts were principles to apply to every aspect of life. 

Dad’s commentary is a tangible reminder of God’s grace in my life. I’ve often said that I thank God for giving me the Christian family that I myself would not have had the sense to choose. In our culture it’s quite popular to make our parents scapegoats for all of our issues and bad behavior, but I claim the opposite in my situation. My folks are one of God’s greatest gifts to me. 

Because my dad loved me so much―as evidenced by his life of sacrifices for all his children—I’m sure there are a few tear stains on the pages of his book. As he sought refuge in God’s words of hope and comfort, I’m sure he cried for rebellious me on more than one occasion. (In retrospect, I hope that he knew my rebellion was never a reflection on his parenting.) Dad parented as one should: God’s commands were at the center of all he did. I, however, was trying to escape a loving heavenly Father’s care. Thankfully both my heavenly Father and my earthly one continued to love me and give me support in spite of myself. Gloriously, they both saw me come home. 

I’m so thankful Dad modeled Christ in his spoken words and written ones, but the testimony he lived out daily proved even more significant in winning me to the Lord. You see, Dad’s most insightful and valuable commentary was written outside the bound pages I can hold in my hands. As much as his writings mean to me, the reality of his life leaves the greatest impact on my heart. Dad’s example spoke volumes. To me he was a real hero, one who applied the admonition of Second Timothy 2:15: “Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  I’ve decided that it was the reality of Dad’s life that most molded me. His commentary serves as a sweet reminder of why I so frequently thank God for him and Mother. 

One of the last things I heard Dad say followed my mother’s adoring words to him, “You are an angel!” He responded immediately: “Yes, I just haven’t gotten my wings yet.” Though Scripture is clear humans don’t transform into angels when they pass (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-50), it does support the sentiment Dad was trying to convey. Those who give their lives to Christ can live as blessings to all they know. Only in heaven, however, do they find glorious and eternal reward for their service to the Master. 

I love you, Dad. See you soon!

**** This is an excerpt from Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008.

I’ve always been amazed by John 4:23: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” Here Jesus indicates that true worship of all that God is necessitates worshipping with all that we are. This is the type of worship that God desires. Just as intriguing as the subject of this passage is its audience, an adulterous Samaritan woman who sought spiritual sustenance. Christ could have revealed His advice on worship to His disciples or the religious folks of the day, but He chose a commoner with deep rooted sin issues (See John 4:18). 

Worship, Jesus says, is a well-spring of spiritual vitality. But, like the Samaritan woman to whom He spoke, I have not always understood what it means to worship in a way pleasing to God. Part of my confusion was a misinterpretation of John 4:23. Growing up, I was led to believe that truth must be combined with the activity of the Holy Spirit in order for true worship to happen. Although there is truth in this point, I’ve since come to realize that the word translated “Spirit” to me as a child is actually “spirit” with a small “s.” That suggests something that many of us miss. While worship must be centered on an intellectual understanding of the truth of who Jesus is, it must also be done with the involvement of our emotions or affections. 

You see, true worship is both intellectual and emotive. I believed my worship was doctrinally orthodox, but I often felt my heart was unmoved as I attempted to come into God’s presence. I had the “worship the Father in truth” part down, but I wasn’t doing so well on the “in spirit” part. Since I have always struggled with suppressing my emotions, I had allowed the “in spirit” aspect of my worship to pale in comparison to my intellectual worship. Thankfully, God prompted me to ask Him for help in worshipping Him with my affections as well as my head. He graciously responded to my request. 

Suddenly, emotion began to play a new and amazing role in my worship experiences. I began to acknowledge God’s incredibleness with my whole heart. As I did, I found myself spiritually moved in much deeper ways. I discovered a new appreciation of God’s worthiness (from which the word worship comes), developed a sense of reverent awe, increased in thankfulness for all of His gifts, felt an utter dependence on Him, and established a greater and more intense vision of all of His divine attributes such as holiness, justice, wrath, love, and sovereignty. In short, I found myself falling more in love with Christ than ever before. 

This process of learning to worship with my heart came to a head at a typical baptismal service at the church I was attending. As water cascaded from the face of one who had just dedicated his life to the Lord, I became overwhelmed. Suddenly, all the truth packaged into the act of baptism swept over my heart. I felt as if I was ushered into the throne room of grace! I began to weep as my intellectual understanding of the sacrament crashed into and then merged with the core of my affections, Christ Himself. I was emotionally transported. My vision of God and His grace captured my spirit. I believe I have softly cried at every subsequent baptism. 

Emotion is not the most important aspect of worshipping God. I have come to believe, however, that it is an integral part of fully acknowledging who Christ is and what He has done. I have found that as I ponder God’s truth I am increasingly moved in my spirit. As my spirit is moved by His awesome presence, I seek more knowledge of God and His Word. I believe this dynamic is God-pleasing. He seeks worship based not just on head-knowledge but on heart application. 

Like the Samaritan woman, I desire nourishment that only comes from the total experience of worshipping God in “spirit and in truth.” May God increase in both my heart and my mind the desire for more of Him.

**** This is an excerpt for Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008:

Some so-called Bible studies do little to teach the Bible. They focus not on biblical grace but on Christianized pop-psychology. Case in point: I recently attended a Wednesday night Bible study at a growing evangelical church. The sessions were led by the pastor and revolved around the subject of having a grace-filled home. The lessons were based upon a popular book by a Christian psychologist, but the content said nothing about the source of grace; God, or the vehicle of grace; Christ’s death on the cross, or anything related to biblical teachings on the subject. The study could’ve been easily entitled, The Characteristics of a Humanist’s Home or The Characteristics of a Positive Atheist’s Home for all the Bible-based logic it lacked. To me the study was an affront to foundational doctrines of original sin and human depravity on which the concept of grace rests. 

Since the core issue behind this particular study was self-esteem (and not grace) I must admit my prejudice: I’m dubious of the spiritual value of any concept that starts with “self” as opposed to starting with God. Beyond that is the fact that many scientists are discovering that the self-esteem concept is an indefinable notion. Furthermore, much research indicates that supposed self-esteem is not an indicator of enhanced performance or a cure for social ills. Even in the workplace, secular organizational psychologists are recognizing that self-esteem is not a precursor to productivity: high productivity actually leads to higher “self-esteem.” The self-worth bandwagon has a flat tire. 

Perhaps what bothered me most about the Bible study I attended that was no one seemed to think it was anything other than Bible-based. No one questioned the instructor when, at the end of one meeting, everyone was instructed to chant, “I am lovable.” The session closed with a sing-song distortion of the real meaning of grace, which means unmerited favor. The study defined grace as the love of God directed toward those that are already lovable. Nothing, however, could be more false. Nothing could be more graceless. We are sinners. God is perfect. We are not lovable. God alone is. 

Jesus’ statement “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a command to love ourselves but an acknowledgement that we already do (See Matthew 22:39). We naturally look out for our own best interests, we care for ourselves, and we protect ourselves. Nowhere in Scripture is self-love commended. On the contrary, it is viewed as the primary barrier between a holy God and sinful man. James tells us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). The Lord desires followers who accept their salvation for what it is: an unmerited gift straight from His generous hand. 

We are wise to heed the warning of Second Timothy 3:1-5: 

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 

It is obvious from this passage that self love is among the most heinous offenses to God. Although it looks and sounds godly it is, in fact, a denial of God as our real source of power. Paul conveys the clear message that this is a form of idolatry and should have no part in a believer’s life. 

William Carey, the pioneer of modern Christian missions, put this on his tombstone: 

William Carey

Born 17th Aug. 1761, died 9th June 1834

“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm on Thy kind arms I fall.” 

Carey’s inscription explains grace. Therein rests our true hope. The Lord cares not for the self-esteem of finite man. Instead, He chooses to meet man where he is, saving Him and giving his life worth through the power and promise of a sovereign, infinite, and gracious God. He chooses to love us in spite of ourselves. 

May we cast our worthless self-esteem into God’s loving arms. For while we were yet unlovely, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

**** This is an excerpt form Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008.

John 1:29: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” 

Have you ever wondered why this verse doesn’t say sins (plural)?  Could it be that there is a difference between our sin and our sinfulness?  Well, there is.  Our sinfulness is the root of our sin.  Let me explain. 

Sinfulness is our nature.  That sinful nature causes us to sin.  That’s why they say, “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart”.  That’s why Jesus came to deal with our sinfulness so that we might be declared righteous and be given the capacity for good deeds in Him.  He knew what the heart of the problem was so He came to change the human heart.  Now this will not happen completely until we are glorified but it should give us pause to our inherently depraved nature (our sinfulness) and the unrighteousness (sin) that it produces. This is critical in understanding His redemptive purpose.  

I think that we see these 2 different uses of sin in John 8:7-11: “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” 

The pious and disapproving crowd wanted to condemn her for her sin (adultery) yet Jesus pointed out that they were not without sin (sinfulness).  They too were capable of sin, even though they may not have committed the sin of physical adultery.  In other words, they and the adulterous woman had the same problem – they were sinners by nature – although their transgressions may have varied.  But don’t we do this?  We readily condemn the sins of others without seeing our own twisted and distorted deviance from God’s holy standard.  Yet when we do recognize that we have “missed the mark” of God’s perfection we often do not go deep enough in our analysis. 

We need to understand this.  Because when we are aware of our sin and ask His forgiveness for it we often times don’t recognize the deeper issue – our sinfulness.  We fail to peel back the onion of our wretched and stained hearts to see the root and cause of the problem.  We go on addressing our sin without asking Him to deal with our nature.  We should be aware of both. We should be asking for God to forgive both – our sin and sinfulness.  We should be asking God for His strength to deal with both. 

It may be painful but it is purifying to dissect our innate Godlessness.  Not only does it aid in our battle with sin but it creates a new and amazing perspective on His grace.  As we begin to see more and more of our sinfulness His forgiveness will become larger and larger.  As we become lower He becomes higher. And this will cause us to love Him more and that will be the motivator of our thankful obedience. That’s why Jesus said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).    As we discover the depth and breadth of the underbelly of our unworthiness He becomes immeasurably more worthy in our hearts.  And as we see His indescribable value our dependence on Him grows.  

Do you see the Godward spiral?  We see the depths of our sinfulness, we gaze upon His purity, we marvel at His redemptive plan and provisions, we increasingly adore Him in all of His loveliness, we embrace our utter dependence on Him and our life reflects this divine communion.  He becomes our treasure and our power for He has conquered our sin and sinfulness.

**** This is an excerpt from Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008:

In this age of relativism and situational ethics we are easily confused by the concept of truth. The thought leaders of our day―the humanists, the atheists, and the modernists— are not easily identified, but they all buy into the notion that truth is a relative concept. The phrase that best captures their foundational principle is, “There is no absolute truth.” Ironically, if they truly believe that then they must also feel that their own philosophy is not absolutely true. It is intrinsically contradictory and of no value.

 As Christ-followers we believe that truth is absolute. Moreover, that belief gives us hope in something bigger than ourselves and our finite intellects. What we must understand is the radical difference between a truth and the truth. You see, Christians do not have a monopoly on truth in general because we are limited by our human natures and are simply incapable of grasping all things that are correct. What we do have, however, is access to the absolute truth through God’s revelation. God’s Word says that we can have a relationship with the truth itself: we can have fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). When we know Jesus, we know God. Now that is a radical reality we can put our hope and trust in.

Pontius Pilate, a man who was far from being a believer, recognized that truth was tangible, but he had no idea how to grasp it. In a dialogue that is heart-breaking when we recognize just how close Pilate stood to truth, Pilate examined Jesus:

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:37-38). Pilate wanted to know the truth—notice that he didn’t say a truth but referred to truth in general. The irony here is that Pilate had seen the truth right in front of Him. The Roman leader was enraptured with Christ’s perfection and briefly caught up in its vortex. Pilate did not, however, move past intellectual assent to life-transforming faith in lieu of this discovery.

So what does this mean for us? Jesus’ words explain. He said that everyone on the side of truth listens to Him (See John 16:13-15). The problem is that we have to really want to know the truth: we have to really want to know Him. We must choose between false man-made philosophies or the truth that is Jesus. Unfortunately some refuse to accept His truth. Jesus said, “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me” ( John 8:45). When this is the case “they have exchange the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25) and are without hope. Without experiential knowledge of the truth of who He is we remain in our sin. Unless we believe His truth we do not have access to God (John 14:6).

Every human faces two paths: one leads to bondage and death, the other to life and freedom. When we flee from our self-induced quagmire of doubts and our desire to believe that all truth is relative we can find a prize: freedom (See John 8:32). This freedom gives us liberty from death and sin. It also allows us to be freed from the bondage of self-effort and its futility. This freedom points others the One who came to set us free. Jesus Christ came to testify to the truth that God the Creator seeks reconciliation and relationship with His people. Let’s pursue it. Let’s embrace the reward of relationship with Him and the glorious freedom of knowing that He is truth.

**** This is an excerpt from Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008.

Jesus’ ultimate purpose during His time on earth was to glorify His Father, and that mission was integrated into every facet of His life. The Lord desires that the same be true of our lives. He wants our daily tasks and thoughts to revolve around Him. Many would consider this a directive to go to church and listen to sermons every time the doors are open. I want to suggest that the Lord has a much wider, deeper idea in mind. He wants to be just as much a part of our lives on Tuesday as He is on Sunday.

Consider the scene in Luke 5:1-9. Peter, Andrew, James, and John are cleaning their nets; they made their living catching and selling fish. As they work Jesus is preaching to a gathering crowd. As people come, the Messiah notices two boats tied nearby. In order for the crowd to better hear Him, Christ climbs into one of the empty boats and asks to be put out a little from shore. He teaches the crowd while using the boat for a pulpit (Luke 5:23). Before He completes the day’s lesson, He works a miracle (v. 4-6) and commissions the fishermen to begin seeking a new type of catch (v. 10).

In commandeering their place of business and in using it as the setting for one of His better known miracles, Jesus showed followers—particularly the laboring disciples―that even a place of business can become a platform for sharing the glory of the Father and for bringing Him honor. In other words, a workspace can become a forum for divine worship and even discipleship. Our cubicles, workshops, fields, and vehicles can serve similar purposes. When they do, we find that Jesus Christ is Lord of the weekday as well as the Sabbath. 

Perfect sense comes from the fact that our places of business can and should become areas devoted to our relationship with God. After all, it’s at work that we can show His excellence through the quality of our output. There we can demonstrate His holiness through the purity and earnestness of our example. We can image forth His worth through our worthy contribution to our employers, and we can glorify Him through humble thanksgiving for His provision and prosperity. In short, we can effectively worship God at our places of business by using the gifts and abilities He has given us for His glory.  I am reminded that the faithful servants in the Parable of the Talents were honored and allowed to share in their Master’s happiness (see Matthew 25:14-30). 

I find it interesting that the Hebrew word avodah is the root for the word from which we get the words “work” and “worship.” This indicates these two concepts are inseparable in the eyes of God.  Working and worshipping go hand in hand.  It’s also notable that in the New Testament, the vast majority of Jesus’ 132 public appearances were in the marketplace or workplace. The Lord knows much of our lives are spent in toil at our desks or behind machines. He wants to be a part of every part of our lives; that’s something that will never be accomplished should we choose to hold Him in esteem only on Sundays. 

Work is a form of worship. It must be. Do not think that worship takes place only at church and spiritual labor is performed only by the clergy. Our work is one of our great spiritual exercises. Just as we remember the command, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23), so too must we remember to glorify God in all we do (I Peter 2:12), using our daily tasks and chores to bring us ever closer in relationship with Him and exalting His name in the workplace.

**** This is an excerpt from Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him published in 2008.

Some in the Christian community wallow in an on-going pity party that makes them look and sound as if they actually enjoy the paralysis of self-absorption. The sad truth is that many of us, perhaps in a subconscious desire for others to feel sorry for us or possibly out of laziness, actually revel in our “inability” to rise beyond our circumstances. In so doing, we relegate ourselves to lives of permanent discouragement and defeat. (I’ve found this problem to be particularly apparent among Christian singles—myself included.) 

Haven’t we all heard the depressing chorus of excuses people use to explain why they can’t live the kind of life Christ desires that we live: “I can’t help it. I have ADD.”;“I can’t find a suitable partner; good folks just aren’t out there.” ; or, “I didn’t have a good childhood; therefore, I can’t possibly be expected to …” ? If a life of “I can’t” and “here’s my problem” defines the transforming power of the gospel then who would want it? But the truth is that Christ’s gospel of grace is victorious and life changing. Those who accept God’s offer of salvation can expect to apply its transforming power in each aspect of life. Why then do believers often wallow in the pig pen and self–induced prison of helplessness? I’m convinced it’s because we find it easier to bemoan our circumstances than to be accountable and responsible for our actions (or lack thereof). 

Here’s the deal: we must get over ourselves! Jesus came that we might have abundant life (John 10:10). Living as victims is not God’s intention for us. His Word says that “we are new creatures in Christ and the old is passed away.” If this is the case then we should make progress in Him while putting our past behind us.  Since we have become a new creation in Christ our “issues” need not lead to paralysis and defeat. Abundant living is about claiming what Christ has already given us.  This transforming power needs to be evident in all of our attitudes. 

I think we would do well to revisit some of the old hymns. The message of “Victory in Jesus” is right on target: 

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing pow’r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and bro’t
To me the victory.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.[1] 

In other words, we were bought with a precious price.  Jesus’ blood brings healing and power.   Our broken spirits are energized through Christ.  Ultimately He overcame even death to assure our victory.  I’m certain that He expects us to live victoriously based upon His great sacrifice.  We do not serve a defeated Savior so we must not lead defeated lives. 

Second Corinthians 2:14 says, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” It’s so important that we not only believe this message but that we be willing to live it.  Jesus said to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mark 5:16). This is because they are without hope apart from Him (Ephesians 2:12) and our empowered living points them to our hope. 

We as believers must seek victory in Christ instead of allowing circumstances to victimize us. This is a true character test and our answer will very much determine our future. We must stop sending the world the message that we serve a powerless Savior! We need to let our victorious spirit shine. When we do, we’ll show others the supreme value in living under God’s grace and according to His plan.

[1] Lyrics and Composer: Eugene M. Bartlett, Sr.

****This is an excerpt form “Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him” published in 2008.

Some folks use the existence of suffering to rationalize their disbelief in God. I, however, consider the existence of suffering to be one of the primary reasons that I do believe in Him. Why? Well, suffering is a fundamental part of the gospel that we believe and the life we live in following Jesus.  Suffering exists and has a redemptive purpose in Christ.

James 1:2-4 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This verse presents an unpopular thought that is critical to developing a Christian perspective on suffering: we are called to relish suffering, not run from it. In doing so, we grow into spiritual maturity and wholeness. In a culture driven by comfort and ease this concept is counterintuitive. However, if God’s Word is true then it is suffering—not the lack of it—that develops perseverance, maturity, and wholeness, traits for which we should all long. Even though the thought of suffering runs against the grain of our sin-stained hearts, suffering is the vehicle that often accomplishes spiritual good.

Let’s saturate ourselves in the words of Peter, a man who claimed to follow Christ until the going got tough and he denied Him. Soon after Jesus lovingly reinstated Peter, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit gave the disciple a new understanding of suffering’s purpose. Listen to the positive and encouraging words that he uses concerning suffering. Give particular note to the words “greatly rejoice”:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade―kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith―of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire―may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

Peter realized that suffering points us to our ultimate glorification.  It is evidence of our faith and a refining force in God’s plan.  In that, suffering is cause for praise and rejoicing and prompts us to trust in our future hope in Christ.  As we grow more Christ-like tribulations remind us of the guarantee of our divine inheritance.

So why do so many fervently seek to avoid suffering at all costs? I believe it’s because they don’t see the redeeming significance of it. But if a professing Christian can separate God from suffering he or she doesn’t really understand the gospel at all. Without God-ordained suffering there is no Calvary and therefore no salvation. Without suffering there is no good news. Paradoxically, suffering is the good news! Christ suffered and died under the weight of our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. His pain paved the road to our access to a holy God.

It makes perfect sense, then, that Christ followers should suffer sometimes as well.  Despite our aversion to it our suffering reflects the model of our loving Savior.  As we faithfully endure life’s tribulations we point to and give glory to the One who suffered for us.  A lost world then sees our perseverance in faith and is pointed to Calvary. Be reminded that the Apostles rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).

Are Christianity and suffering compatible? Oh yes, they are actually inseparable. Without suffering there is no hope, no forgiveness of sins, and no eternal fellowship with a transcendent God. God ordained the suffering of His only Son to provide us those divine gifts. And it’s quite possible that without our human suffering we would never recognize the glorious gift Christ gave us when He died.

I pray that we dash to the cross and behold Christ’s suffering—the suffering that has saved our souls. Then we will better grasp the reality of who Jesus is and will see His majesty. Then and then only can we embrace our own purifying suffering in Him and with Him as the experience that makes us most like Jesus. After all, emulating Christ is the goal for which we should most long. The question is, do we, like Paul, love Him so much that we desire “to know him … and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10)?

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