Archives For Acts

Are you going through the motions as you walk with Christ? I look back on a couple generations of church-going Christians who have done a wonderful job of keeping their traditions alive. How many things have come and gone since the local church began meeting? For hundreds of years, Sunday after Sunday, people have flocked to churches. Even those who can’t seem to make it every Sunday still show up on Easter and Christmas.

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While the implementation of the details has changed over the centuries, the format has remained virtually untouched: Sing a couple songs, listen to a sermon, sing another song, and go out en masse to live our lives as if nothing has changed. Such is the legacy of the modern church. There is no doubt we are going through the motions and will probably continue to do so for another couple hundred years.

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The local church has changed a lot in my lifetime. As the son of a pastor, I’ve had a front-row seat to many of these changes. I’ve seen pews replaced by theater-style seats, platforms transformed into performance stages, pulpits disappear, and suits replaced with jeans and leather jackets. Worship styles have gone from centuries of tradition to modern and contemporary. Sunday School is fast becoming a relic of the past. Vacation Bible School has transitioned from flannelgraphs to all-out adventure camps.

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There’s no doubt the local church is far cooler than it’s ever been. I’ve been a fan of many of the changes. Certainly, some have led to some coming into a church who wouldn’t have dared before. Still, I can’t help to ask, at what cost have we become cooler? I’m convinced what we have lost and what we need today is one and the same: it’s more Jesus.

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We are never defenseless. God has promised to never leave our side (Deuteronomy 31:8). He will always stand with us. A.W. Tozer wrote, “If you accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, you will have all the power of God back of you to defend you; all the will of God on your side; all the justice and righteousness of God pledged to your defense, as well as all the infinite love and mercy of God to welcome and bless you.” What amazing promises!

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Too many of us spend too much of our lives living in fear. Whether it’s a fear of failure, intimacy, confrontation, inadequacy, rejection, whatever, we spend much of our lives in fear. The fear of what complete strangers will think of our appearance or actions keeps us huddled within a protective cocoon. Jesus called us to live in love, not in fear (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:18). He didn’t call us to shrink back but to go out (Matthew 28:18-20)!

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I was recently intrigued by a thought passing through my brain: “The excess I have belongs to those in need.” It’s not the most comfortable thought to consider. I like a little excess. I appreciate the peace and comfort it affords. Yet how can I hold onto more than I need when there are those in the world suffering in abject poverty? One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 30:8 which says, “Give me just enough for today.”

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The author states if he has too much, he will take it all for granted and forget God’s provision in his life. If he has too little, he may be tempted to steal to acquire what he needs. The sweet spot is having just enough for today. Any excess should be shared with others.

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Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” Our entire lives as followers of Christ is based on this hope. The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope there is something beyond this life. Indeed, Paul said if our hope is only in this life, then we should be pitied beyond all men (1 Corinthians 15:19).

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Our hope is not things will get better for us here and now, but all things will be restored to perfection in the future. God created a perfect world and designed everything in it to worship and glorify Him. Our great hope is a return to this state, to live in complete harmony with God and nature. When we have this hope, life becomes worth living.

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Most Christ-followers are familiar with the Biblical command to tithe the first ten percent of their income. We can debate the various nuances of the tithe – and we will in an upcoming post – but today I want to discuss giving beyond the tithe. Some struggle with the concept of even giving ten percent back to God, so talking about giving even more may be uncomfortable.

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If you are in that camp, please don’t tune out yet. These articles aren’t long, and I believe it will be worth five minutes of your time to take away something to chew on. Giving beyond the tithe isn’t mandated in Scripture, but there are enough examples to make it something we should consider.

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Perhaps more than anyone else, I believe it is incumbent upon disciples of Jesus to lead by example. Christ told us to be His witnesses throughout the earth (Acts 1:8). In other words, wherever we go, we are the representatives of Jesus and His Kingdom. No pressure there, right? But in truth there should be no pressure. If our lives are fully devoted to Christ, it will be natural to walk in His footsteps.

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The problem is the majority of Christians I’ve observed have not taken their commitment to Christ seriously. They said the prayer and have moved on. That’s not going to get it done, and it dishonors the name and character of God to live in such a manner.

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Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Many will never reach the Kingdom of Heaven for they have fixed their eyes on wealth. They are sick for the things of the world. They live proudly through luxury. But those who are serious about salvation must settle this beforehand in their mind. All we possess is given to us to use for sufficiency, which one may acquire by merely a few things.” For those of us in the West, this should be especially convicting. We live proudly in our luxury.

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We take more for granted than half the world can even imagine possessing. All this extravagance will count for nothing when we stand before God and give an account of our lives. He will ask what we did with what He entrusted to us, and we will only be able to hang our heads and admit we hoarded it for ourselves (Luke 12:16-21).

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How’s this for a terrifying thought? The measure of your love for God is equal to your love for the people with whom we interact daily. There are some people, my wife for example, whom I love very much and would be comfortable with God measuring my love for Him by how much I love her.

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Then there are my friends; while I have a certain degree of love for them, I definitely want to believe I love God more.  But then there are my coworkers and the people I encounter in the store or in traffic. Now the comparison of how much I love God begins to get more than a little uncomfortable.
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I have always been drawn to the story of the rich young ruler found in three of the four gospels (Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23). I love the black and white of it (or so it would seem). I love the way it lays down the gauntlet and demands everything from us in exchange for Jesus.

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So much has been written about this story already. Yet still I keep coming back to it. What does it mean to you and me and the lives we lead on a daily basis? How does it apply to those who profess to follow Christ 2,000 years after He walked on this very earth?
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