Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"For What is Your Life?"

Last night it was my privilege to attend a VBS as guest speaker. As I was listening to the announcements they were asking prayers for a family whose child had recently drowned. That was the fourth family this summer that I had heard of in this area that had lost a child to a drowning accident. After that announcement of course, the rest of the evening proceeded as planned.

When I was in the middle of thyroid cancer treatments I thought about death quite often. One of the main things that kept coming to me was the fact that if I died, life for everybody else would go on. Some people might be sad for a while, but life is meant to be lived, and people are going to do just that.

So I have been thinking about these families who are so devastated by the loss of their children, realizing that the rest of the world is going to go about their business.

We need to remember that the time to make our mark is today. Most of us are not going to rewrite history. We are not going to be remembered outside of our families and local communities. In 200 years, our own families might not even know we existed, and they may never visit our graves. This is why the impact we are supposed to be making is an eternal one.

A few decades from now, your job will not matter. The ball games your children played in will not matter. Where you went on vacation will not matter. A good number of the things that occupy the majority of our time will not matter. We need to ask ourselves if the energy we are expending at this hour is really going to make a difference in the end.

James wrote, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, then vanishes away" (James 4:14). Because life is so short, the difference that we are making MUST be an eternal difference. We have a great responsibility, to not only make our calling and election sure, but also to change the eternal destination of someone else.

Is your life about this world, or about heaven? Are your efforts all for here, or all for there? Are you making an impact that is going to last forever?

For what is your life?

"While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Forgive and Forget

Some say it is impossible to forgive and forget. Some say, "I will forgive you, but I will never forget it." Some say we are supposed to remember in order to learn some kind of lesson from whatever we have suffered, even if we have forgiven the one who has wronged us. Some say that unless you have tried to forget, you have never really forgiven.

This subject could be debated for a good while. I will first tell you that I have thought about the idea of "forgive and forget" for years. I have studied this issue for lessons, articles, and sermons. I have spent time in counseling with people who have suffered wrongs. I have spent no small amount time of trying to figure out, through God and Christ's example, exactly how we are to go about forgiving others. From this, I would like to offer a few observations.

1. People who have a hard time forgiving others do not like to talk about it. Whether it is an control issue, or a matter of the need to hold on to something, people who hold a grudge want to feel justified for doing so. If they let go of the animosity they have for the person who has caused them pain, they are taking a big risk. They feel safer to harbor their ill-will then to let it go and forgive.

2. People who do not have a hard time forgiving other people are sometimes considered weak. This is especially true when it comes to the non-forgiving crowd. The people who do not like to forgive feel that they are more shrewd then the forgivers. If there is a disadvantage to being a forgiving person, it is the possibility that you may be hurt over and over again by people who love to empower themselves.

3. The capacity one has to forgive is equivalent for the capacity one has to love. People who are not forgiving are missing out on one of the greatest facets of love. In some sense, they are shutting a part of the love of God out of their lives. Jesus said about the woman who washed his feet with her tears, "...her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7:47).

4. We will forgive more when we daily contemplate how much God has forgiven us. His mercy and grace in spite of our sins should be on our minds always. If it is not, we will be judgmental, hard-hearted, and display the pride of fools.

Jesus was not only open to forgiveness, he mastered the art. He did not see it as a weakness, but a strength. It was not a risk, it was an opportunity. It was not a struggle for him, because of the capacity he had to love humanity.

"I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake." ~ 1 John 2:12

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Baptized Into Moses"

When Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthian church, one of the warnings he issued was the danger of backsliding. He was writing to Christians, many of whom had left paganism and worldliness to follow Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Within his discussion on the possibility of forfeiting liberty (1 Cor. 10:1-13), there is a gem worth keeping.

The first four verses read, "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ."

The idea of the Israelites being "baptized into Moses" is fascinating. Why have we missed this in our efforts to teach the truth about what constitutes salvation today? When one studies what Paul is implying, there can be no argument about the necessity of baptism for salvation in the Christian age. Consider the following:

1. Paul was not exalting Moses. He had already dealt with the issue of those who were bragging about who baptized them (1 Cor. 1:10-17).

2. Paul was reminding the Corinthians about their commitment. Matthew Henry wrote that the Israelites being baptized into Moses was another way of saying the Jews were "brought under obligation to Moses’s law and covenant, as we are by baptism under the Christian law and covenant."

3. Paul was discussing how God saved His people. How did they leave the slavery of Egypt? What moment initiated their freedom from bondage? It was when they were "baptized into Moses" through the waters of the Red Sea!

4. Paul was explaining how Moses was the vehicle. "Baptized into Moses" indicates that Moses was the man God chose to deliver His people. Moses was a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Peter also made this connection (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:20-26). Today, we are "baptized into Christ" to receive the remission of our sins and obtain a spiritual hope. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).

5. Paul was telling these Corinthian Christians that they needed to stay faithful. He alluded to their baptism as their pinnacle moment, and yet reminded them that the Israelites did not receive the land of promise just because they had a similar baptism. Those who died without the inheritance serve as examples for the need of endurance.

There is more to be said about this passage. But the main point is to ask ourselves the question, "Why did Paul choose the imagery of baptism to make his point?" He did so because people in the first century knew when they had entered into the new covenant with Christ! It was when they were baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins!

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" ~(1 Cor. 12:13).