Sunday, February 24, 2013

Grace and Then Something More

I read the story recently about a food company that couldn’t understand why their instant cake mix wouldn’t sell. It was a wonderful creation. However they discovered that consumers felt uneasy that the only requirement was simply adding water to the mix. People thought it was too easy. So after giving considerable thought to a new marketing strategy, the company changed their formula, which required the consumer to do something more -adding an egg. This little tweak led to instant success. When thinking about it isn’t this how many Christians look at grace. The thought of God making it so easy to attain and sustain salvation reaches beyond our comprehension.  Surely there is something more that you and I should do.  Yet, Paul so descriptively spelled out our obligation in Ephesians 2:8-9.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” We read this but are tempted to reply, “Yes Paul I hear what you are saying but surely there is something more to it.  It must take adding the ingredient of church attendance, bible reading, praying, witnessing and the spice of good clean living.” The truth is most us have real difficultly when it comes to doing nothing, especially in the spiritual realm.  We are plagued with insecure adrenalin that forces us to believe that our salvation must take some effort on our part.  Yet, if more proof is needed one only needs to read the last words of Jesus while on the cross.  Gasping for his last few breaths he cried out “It is finished.” In essence He was saying “the package is complete, all ingredients have been included, and you need only to believe.” Nothing can be added to it or taken away. The directions are simple and clear it’s all grace not--grace and then something more.  


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Choosing to be Content

One of the looming problems of our day is that of contentment.  People are unhappy with their jobs, their marriage, their bank account, and a host of other things that could be mentioned.  This lets us know that although we live in a world of increased pay, technology, and enhanced living conditions our ability to be happy remains unchanged. Ours is the same issue that the writer of Hebrews contended with.  His response was “be content with what you have.”  Paul had some of the same concerns when he wrote “godliness with contentment is great gain.” It reminds me of a movie I watched recently.  A star football player is playing in his final championship game before stepping into the big league. He decides to run the last play for the win and gets injured in the process.  Being left with a crippled leg his career is now over.  However, through a series of events he gets the chance to live his life over.  He approaches the same game for a second time, but decides not to play.  While his teammates are sitting in the locker room watching the clock, waiting for their star player to appear, he is meeting with his mother. He is informing her that he has no intentions of jeopardizing his lucrative income with the risk of injury. His mother asks, “Are you not going to play?” He responds, “Things are going to be different mom.” With sternness she looks at him and replies, “What is so wrong with right now? What if this is all you get? What if this is it? It seems like nothing is ever enough for you, you know, and if you can’t be satisfied with what you got, then your never gonna be happy no matter what you get.” Fortunately, he decided to show up and play allowing providence to determine his future.  Sadly to say most people alter their attitude only after getting what they want. It is always after the fact.  But enough is never enough. However, the word encourages us to choose contentment even when our circumstances are not favorable and we face the possibility of personal sacrifice. In essence we can refuse to play the game or we can place our lives into the hands of God and His providential care. The truth is if we cannot be happy with what we’ve got, we will never be happy no matter how much we get. That’s why true happiness only comes when we choose to be content.    

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cling To The Cross

A few days ago I was summoned to the hospital to be with a family whose loved one was passing away.  When I arrived her husband was in the room along with other family members. The man’s wife was in her early fifties and had suffered an aneurism leaving her brain dead.  The family was signing papers granting permission for her to be an organ donor, which would result in life being given to others. I noticed he was clutching a cross.  When going to his room later I watched as he continued this all familiar ritual. I said to him, “That’s a mighty nice cross you have there.”  Overwhelmed with grief, he replied, “I don’t even know who gave it to me.” That did not matter, what mattered was that he held onto it. Holding this powerful object gave him the strength to endure his pain. His behavior reminds me of Paul’s in Galatians 6:14. “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” In essence the apostle is declaring that all the pain, opposition, and enticement that come against the child of God can be dealt with by Jesus’ unprecedented gift to the church.  What is that greatest gift—the cross. Paul like the grieving husband was saying, “I just can’t turn it loose. While it appears that I’m holding it, in reality it’s holding me.”  Herein the Christian is introduced to a great revelation; He was hung on the cross that we might hang onto the cross. No matter what we encounter whether it is life or death, tribulation or persecution, big or small,  temporal or eternal cling to the cross. During tough times it is our greatest asset.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Silence is Golden II

Have you ever seen or heard something that momentarily took your breath away?  This seems to have happened to Daniel and others who during silence encountered God. Maybe this is why Andrew Murray once wrote, “The very thought of God in His majesty and holiness should silence us.” If this be true then we should focus on two things, first seeing Him and then hearing what He has to say. The very importance of this gets reinforcement from Matt Redmond who writes, “In His presence, we still our heart and silence our tongue in wonder and reverence before a holy God. And often these moments of stillness take us even deeper into Him—creating essential space for us to hear the voice of God.”  This means we should appreciate those times when we are able to steal away from the hustle and bustle of life. Yet when faced with moments of stillness, many of us rush in to fill the space not knowing how to handle it. In church we get nervous and add another song, a brief commentary or scripture reading. And we do no better in our personal lives. The void is filled with TV, IPods, and cell phone chatter. But do we not need to carve out moments of hushed beholding in our daily lives? Do we not need those stilled occasions where He has center stage? Does He not deserve for us to create an environment within our heart where the only voice to be heard is His? Redmond suggests maybe we should ask ourselves the question Bill Hybels asks himself periodically. “Is the ambient noise level of my life low enough for me to hear the whispers of the Lord?”  The only way we are able to hear above the noise is to practice the words of Psalms 131 where the author states, “I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.”  To cultivate means to make a determined effort.  It was in the stillness that Elijah heard from God during a depressed, discouraging season of ministry. It was the same with the disciples as they stood huddled together in a small room experiencing loneliness and fear. As we engage in the quiet moments two truths will emerge. The circumstances that necessitate our hearing God will forever be changing. And the voice we will hear in the stillness will forever be changeless. That’s why SILENCE IS GOLDEN.