Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Don't just talk...DO!

John 3:16  "God so loved"…amazing, wonderful

"That He gave!!" Christmas is all about that.  God gave. He didn’t just feel or even talk…He gave. James 1:22 – God commands us also to DO.    Flip over one chapter… James 2:17 –  He actually goes one step farther: If we don’t do anything, our faith is effectually DEAD.
Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 25:32. In separating the sheep from goats it was not by who had the most theology degrees or the strongest “belief” system…but by ACTIONS.

Over & over throughout Jesus’ ministry, the people listened to Him speak & were amazed but their belief in Him came after He performed some miracle that they could actually SEE. Examples: John 11:45 (Lazarus) & John 4:45 (the Galileans) & again John 4:54 (healing of the royal official’s son).

Biblical definition of faith - FAITH IS A PRODUCT OF ACTING ON THE WORD OF GOD. It's in acting on it that our faith is proven & the result of that acting grows our faith even more.

We can talk til we’re blue & breathless, but if our faith isn’t backed by our actions we’re wasting our time.

Why did the Pharisees get into such hot water with Jesus?  In fact, weren’t they the only ones in His entire ministry that He really called out?  Their religious beliefs (which Jesus also shared, by the way) were not the problem. They were "administering" OT laws that had been prescribed by God!  Their problem was that they didn’t back up those beliefs with Godly actions. They used their beliefs as a hammer to beat people over the heads, but didn’t follow them correctly themselves. Talk about legalistic. They enslaved the people with rules & regulations, but eliminated the love that those rules are supposed to motivate. In my childhood, we called those kind of people “Bible thumpers” and I’d venture to say that all of you know one or two. They are really good at quoting Scripture & telling YOU what you should be doing but they are all talk & no action. Their lives may or may not reflect those same beliefs that they spout. In fact, when you are witnessing isn’t the first thing you always hear something about how the church is full of hypocrites?  Well, guess what! It is. Is something wrong with our Christian beliefs? No! The problem is that we are forgetting the REASON for those God- given rules…it’s all supposed to be about Love & pointing people towards the  God who is love. And while none of us is perfect, we should all desperately try to avoid deliberate hypocrisy!

Love in Action. That’s what the Bible, what this season, what our Christian lives, are supposed to be about. Our Christian faith is not just verses & rules. 
One of my favorite verses is Matthew 5:16!!
Does it say, “Let your light shine so that you can show others how bad & rotten they are while making yourself look bright & spiritual?”

Does it say, “Let your light shine so that everyone can see how strong your faith is & come running to you to bless them with your incredible Bible knowledge?”
Not in my version – It says, “Let your light shine among men that they will see your GOOD WORKS & GLORIFY YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN!”

You see, my motivation should not be about me at all. It’s to glorify God. Do you want to know why the Mormon church is exploding in the world?  Why the Jehovah’s witnesses are so good at capturing the hearts of the hurting & the needy? It’s not their theology…it’s their good works. They care & they love through their actions. They put feet to their faith, as Pastor Evans was fond of saying. They do the practical things…things like Jesus did.

Remember in Matthew where Jesus fed 5000 (not including women & children) or another time recorded in Matthew 16 where He refers to feeding 4,000. Words followed by actions. Jesus taught, but He also acted. His miracles validated His message. That’s the key to today’s thoughts.  Throngs are leaving the organized church because it is seen as “irrelevant” to their daily lives. Spouting “Christianese” is ineffective to reach the world. There are so many Christians who are like the ones referred to in James – the ones who see someone in need and yet do nothing but SAY pleasant words.  This is tragic. Nothing should be more important for us, those of us who know the truth, than to SHOW the love of God through our lives and actions so that other WANT to know our God of love that they see witnessed in us.

1 John says they will know we are Christians by our love….(yes, it’s a song as well but the truth remains). We can say what we want but it’s our actions that matter.  Read 1 John 3:18. The Amplified version is awesome… "Let us not love merely in theory or in speech, but in deed & in truth, in practice and in sincerity!!" It doesn’t say not to talk about our faith. The Great Commission says Go & preach! (teach, talk, witness) as does Acts I:8 - it’s the reason for our empowering by the Holy Spirit. But our words need action.  Remember our definition of faith: It is the product of acting on the Word of God. We show our faith by doing! And our faith grows as we reach out and DO!

So practically, what does all this Talking mean? It means Do. (In some ways I’m preaching to the choir here…the girls that help with WM, the faithfulness of our ushers & worship team, the ones of you who are constantly giving rides home…etc.) but through this season especially, we need to give because God gave…not just $$, although if you have some to spare the ministry can always use it, but in reaching out in practical, needed ways to share the love of God. Blessed to be a blessing is the key.

Last women’s ministry I handed out scrolls called ACTS OF KINDNESS SCAVENGER HUNT.   It listed just a few ideas for showing random acts of kindness (a new catch phrase that I hope is more than a bumper sticker!) It’s a Biblical principle. Use the scroll as a springboard for ideas but I challenge you to do one other thing. Attach a church card or add  the church phone number with a little note of encouragement. Reach out with a purpose...the purpose being not just earning brownie points in heaven but of ministering God’s love for His glory & being a witness to those who yet need to find Him..

And don’t forget that the Bible also adds “especially to those who are in the household of faith.”  You might not be able to do great things, but you can do what God puts on your heart to do.   So ask Him! Give someone a ride to church or home from church, donate towards the children’s ministry gift fund, pick someone who is struggling & treat them to coffee or a meal.  There are so many things we can all do!

You get it. You are all creative & amazing. It doesn’t have to be a big thing obviously, but  to borrow a phrase from Niki… JUST DO IT.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spelling "Thankful"

       I know...Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is in full swing. I've heard my first "Chia Pet" commercial and several stations are playing 24 hour Christmas music. The rush is on. Calendars are filling and "to do" lists are growing. Maybe more than at any other time in the year, however, we need to counter the "gimme/ I want" season with a reminder about thankfulness. What spurred my thoughts was a quote I was sent that said "Only in America do people trample each other for bargains on the day after they were supposedly thankful for all that they already have!" So I decided to share  "How do you spell 'Thankful?'" The letters in "thankful" were used as an acronym to teach a reminder lesson on fostering thankfulness.

T - Tally your blessings (you have so much to be thankful for...really...so remember)

H - Hold your tongue (once said, there's no rewinding either the words or their affect)

A - Ask for God's perspective (our own is so limited by time & experience)

N - Negate negativity (negatives cast a dark shadow on every situation & every relationship)

K - Keep your emotions in check (they're easily fired up but much harder to tame)

F - Foster family fellowship (chosen or biological, none of us are meant to go it alone)

U - Unleash your passions &  creativity (there's joy in serving others with your gifts)

L - Live in expectancy (God has a good life for you, full of amazing things....trust Him)

      These are simple reminders & yet in this busy & often frustrating time of year, we can lift our spirits by taking time to consider them. Gratitude is a spark that ignites both joy & peace. It reminds us of what is really important, helping us keep the reason for the season as our priority and that reason is simple ...God gave! Refocused, our lives will reflect a constant consciousness of all that God has done for us & the many blessings He has given us. His sacrifice & love will then cause us to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness that will permeate everything we do, spreading the true Christmas spirit in ways that nothing else can.