Saturday, April 11, 2009

#36 A Flat Wheel

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

One thing I loved to do when I was growing up was ride my bike. We were far too poor to afford motorcycles so we had to make do with the motor-less motion of the bicycle. I loved riding around the old country road at my grandparents and even at my own house. Of course riding your bike is not near as much fun by yourself so I was thankful to have some buddies that lived nearby that I could ride with. I can recall us spending hours and hours on those bikes. My favorite bicycle when I was growing up was a black one that had a sparkly red-looking banana seat with a huge sissy bar on the back. For those of you born after 1980, a sissy bar was at the back of the seat and could rise up even past your head in some cases. It would resemble the end of a trombone that was fastened to the back of the bicycle seat.

This particular bike was bought for me at the flea market by my grand paw for just $20. There was a guy there that rebuilt and spiffed up old bikes and I loved this one when I first saw it. The only bad thing about the bike was that the front tire was missing some of the spokes. I am not sure how they came out but there were about 3 or 4 of them gone when I got the bike. About a month after I got it I had a wreck and when the bike fell over it landed on something lying around my grand paw’s junk yard and I ended up losing about 4 or 5 more. By this point the wheel had developed a little wobble but it was still able to be ridden upon or so I thought. I had always wondered why a wheel had spokes and not too long after losing those other spokes I found out why they were there.

My buddy and I decided to ride to the old country store that was about two miles from the house. The greatest part about riding the store, other than buying a soda when we got there, was being able to ride down the long hill that took us from one dirt road to another that wound its way back and forth through the country to the old store. My grandparents lived and my grandmother still lives in an area called Rocky Face. It is names such because of the large amounts of rock that are near the surface of the ground all over that part of the county. There were even rocky places in the road and there were even a few rocks on the nice long hill. I was just slightly ahead of my buddy that day when as I headed down the long hill my front tire struck one of those slight rock outcroppings. Normally those rocks made for some really cool natural jumps that would boost the bike into the air briefly.

This particular day saw no boost. Instead of getting a boost my front tire gave up many of the remaining spokes and the front tire actually begin to fold in on the lowest side. You do not have to be a physicist to know that semi square wheels do not roll as effectively as round ones. Yes, my bike came to a crashing halt. But thanks to inertia, I keep going and landed hands down on the old gravel road. I think I was picking small pieces of rock and dirt out of my hands for about 3 days. It was sliding into home base after jumping out of a moving vehicle. Not a good idea at all. I learned that the spokes had rusted on the inside of the rim and that is why they were breaking loose and falling out. I also learned that a wheel with too few spokes will collapse under enough pressure.

The wheel illustration reminds me of the body of Christ. Not His physical body, us the church of which He is the head. The body of Christ needs all of its spokes too, so to speak. In other words if we do not have all the parts pulling together and working for the same cause it causes us to fall apart too. I have seen churches where people were more concerned about who was in charge of what than actually reaching souls for the kingdom of Christ. When the body of Christ—a.k.a you and me—are not pulling together and working as a team then we essentially become like that broken wheel of mine. Things begin to fall apart and eventually the body becomes so weak that it loses its effectiveness.

Yes, the only reason that we have any strength at all is because Jesus is the head and He sustains and empowers us, but if you have a body of believers that refuse to work together and who pull in opposite directions until is causes a split within the body then the Holy Spirit cannot bless that spirit of confusion and strife. Eventually it will sort of be like my wheel that suddenly went flat and the church will be in a spiritual wreck. I pray that each of you who read this will determine in your mind to not be the one spoke that falls out of the wheel. I pray that you will not be the body part that ceases to function to the detriment of the rest of the body.

Dear Father,

Please help us each one to remember what Jesus has done for us. Please help us to realize that now more than ever we need Jesus. We thank You that He lived, died, and rose again that we might have victory over sin and be able to live with You for eternity. Please help us to stay focused on our tasks and to always be an effective part of the body of Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Friday, April 3, 2009

#35 Inside Out

Matthew 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

About two weeks ago I had the opportunity to teach my children about how a light bulb works. It seems that bulbs always burn out when you are out of extras doesn’t it? Anyway, I began to draw out a sketch of what the inside of a light bulb looks like. The bulb we had that was burned out was white so you could not see inside it very well at all. So I drew it out for them. I told them that there is a wire that runs from the very bottom of the bulb where it screws into the light socket and that wire goes up inside the bulb. After it gets up to a certain point the wire ends. Then another wire begins just a short way away from the other wire. In between the ends of those two wires is connected another piece of wire called the filament. The filament is a smaller gauge of wire typically made of tungsten in an incandescent bulb. When the electricity is sent through the wire and across the filament the filament heats up and begins to glow.

Tungsten is used because it has an abnormally high melting temperature (6165°F). Since it does not easily melt it is ideal for being used as a filament. A light bulb ceases to work when the filament is broken or shaken into or somehow comes loose from the connecting wires. Often times you cannot see that the filament is broken because the inside of the glass is painted. That is why we all shake a bulb to listen for the broken filament flopping around inside.

I have learned that Christians are a lot like light bulbs. They are wired by their Creator to shine the light of the gospel everywhere they go. In this crude analogy, Jesus is the filament of a Christian’s life. No, Jesus is not made of Tungsten, but it is only when Jesus is in the heart of a believer that they are truly connected to source of power in this universe. When we are connected to the power source of the universe—our heavenly Father—there will be a light that shines through us that will draw all people to Christ. The difficult part is that, just like the colored bulbs, you cannot see inside a fellow believer to see if they are connected. You have to look at external indicators to see what is going on.

The problem with that is that some people are very good at playing like they are Christians and not very good at living surrendered lives for Christ. Some get so good at playing “the game” of Christianity that they miss out on experiencing the fruits of the Spirit that truly bless us. Please understand friends that I do not think we should be judgmental and go around trying classify people as to whether or not they are committed Christians. Sure you will be able to tell with some folks, but the reason I want us to consider this today is because we need to be constantly evaluating ourselves.

We need to live a life of reflection and evaluation so as to know whether or not we are living connected to Jesus. And it does not take a lot of time to know whether or not you are living for Christ. Each of you reading this knows right now if you belong to Jesus or not. Each of you knows if you are truly living for Jesus or if you are simply playing a game that has a form of godliness and denying the power thereof. I want to encourage each of you to make sure that you are serious about your relationship with Jesus.

Truly I am not the judge of mankind, but I believe the Bible when it tells me that we should let our lights shine before men. What does it mean to let your light shine before men? It means that we have to have a relationship with Jesus that moves us to tell the world about Him. If you have a flashlight and walk into a dark room everyone who is in the room will be able to see because of the light you bring. How much more will the world be able to see the love of Christ if His followers allow the Holy Spirit to live in and work through them? How much brighter would the world be if everyone who professes Jesus lived daily to serve Him?

My challenge to you all this evening is that you think about how brightly your light has been shining for Jesus. Have you been living up to what you know is right or have you been playing a game trying to fool the world around you while all the while your filament has been broken. The great thing about Jesus is that He never wears out or breaks. He is the only One we can count on to always be there for us. He promised us in Matthew 28:20 that He will be with us always even unto the end of the age. Jesus is in heaven right now ministering on our behalf before the Father.

So how does he remain with us? Through the Holy Spirit. He promised us in John 14:16 that He would send us the Comforter. I praise the Lord that we have the Comforter. I praise Him that we can always count on having the Spirit of God within us to lead us and equip us for His service. I pray that each of you will let the Holy Spirit come in that He might shine in you from the inside out.

Dear Father,

I thank You this just now that You love us more abundantly than we can imagine. I thank You that we have the Holy Spirit available to us right now in this instant. You are not slack concerning Your promises and if we live a surrendered life before You then You will fill us with the love of Christ to the point that we can illuminate the darkened places of this world with that love. Please forgive us for the times that we have not been truly faithful but have only pretended to be so. Please forgive us and consecrate us for Your service. Please let Your Spirit shine through us from the inside out. We pray this in Jesus’ wonderful and holy name, Amen.