Sunday, August 9, 2009

#45 Ulterior Motives

Luke 6:35 "…love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High;"

Most of us love to get a great deal on something right? When we see a great sale going on or a store going out of business we go seeking the bargain of a lifetime. Some of us even get up at ridiculous hours the day after Thanksgiving to go wait in line so that we can be the first to buy that season’s hottest toy or to get a microwave for $25 or something along those lines. I have even heard of fights that break out over the last toy or gaming system left on the shelf.

Then there are those times in our life that we hear about an incredible price on something and we think to ourselves, “This is too good to be true.” Our suspicion is enhanced with the old adage that says, “If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.” Everyone of us who use email have probably received a email from someone claiming that they need our help to take possession of several million dollars they have inherited. The letter’s sender only needs our bank account information so that they can transfer these millions to us. They say that if you will help them claim their money they will give you a portion of those millions. When in reality the second they get your account information they clean out your account. These “too good to be true” bargains are little more than cleverly devised schemes seeking to separate us from our hard earned funds. The more we are exposed to these types of things the more skeptical we seem to become of all “good deals”.

Some people approach to Gospel of Christ with this same attitude. They hear that Jesus longs to give them eternal life in exchange for this temporary one and they find it hard to believe. Some are so wrapped up with the here and now that they have a hard time giving up the so-called pleasures of this life just for the hope of a better life that they cannot see or touch. A life that is realized only through our faith relationship with Christ. As a pastor I have the opportunity to talk with many different people from a myriad of backgrounds. Some of the people I meet are very hesitant to open up to me at first because they think that I have ulterior motives. Many think that if they talk to me that I will try to force them to come to church or that I will ask them to give money. Many people have been ripped off and lied to by so many people that they naturally begin to not trust anyone, including God and His people.

I want to encourage you all to be careful about how you attempt to share the Gospel with people you meet. Make sure that each day you go to the throne of grace via prayer and submit and surrender yourself to Christ. First, let we who profess the name of Christ be consecrated to do His work. First, let us make sure that Jesus is reigning supreme in our lives. It is only after this happens that we can genuinely reach out to a world in desperate need of a Savior. It is then that we can present ourselves as the genuine article to a skeptical world. I challenge you all this week to make sure that you are deeply connected with Christ so that when the door of opportunity opens for you and I to share the Gospel we may present the love of Christ with our only motive being to see people in the kingdom of God. Pray that by God’s grace we will not cheapen the good news about Jesus, but may we present the truth of His love in the light that it deserves.

Dear Father in heaven,

We thank You for Your abundant grace that is able to save us beyond measure. We ask that You would teach us how to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves as we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we never use deception or trickery that serves only to cheapen the message of hope that we have been given. Teach us Your ways, O Lord, that we might rise up and serve You and those that You died to save. It is in Jesus’ name that we pray, Amen.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

#44 Unwelcome Guest

2 Corinthians 13:5 "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!"

When you come home you expect that you can let your guard down and feel at peace. When you come home you anticipate that there will be no one and nothing that should not be there. Neither of these scenarios were the case the other night when my family and I came home from prayer meeting. After having talked with everyone and enjoyed a great evening at prayer meeting we came home with the anticipation of being able to relax and get ready to bed down for the evening. Little did we know what was waiting for us when we arrived.

I stopped in my study to check my e-mail quickly before tucking the kids in for bed. I had barely sat down when the shrill wail of my daughter began to echo through the house. I began to hear her say, “Daddy, there is a huge bug in the house!” Her cries of terror were quickly followed by those of my wife demanding that I come to the dining room and get the “bug”. Instantly, I began to ask myself, “What sort of bug is so horrid that it demands all this fuss and screaming?” My question was answered as I rounded the corner out of the kitchen into the dining room and saw that the “bug” that had my family in such a tailspin was actually a winged rat. Yes, there was a bat in our house. We have a dresser in our dining room and about half way up on the corner closest to the wall hung a furry black bat sound asleep. Bats are apparently deaf as all the screaming from my family would have awakened anything with the remotest ability to hear.

Now I was faced with the task of getting it outside without being bitten or scratched or whatever bats do when they attack you. I decided that if I could knock it off the dresser into a small trashcan I got from the bathroom, I could cap a plate down over the top and take it outside to release it. After we closed all the doors leading to other parts of the house and opened the front door I softly made my way to the bat. It was too close to the wall for me to get the trash can close enough to catch it when I knocked it loose so I had to ever so gently slide the dresser away from the wall a bit. As I moved it the first time the bat flinched just a little bit. My mind was suddenly filled with the thought that if I woke it up and it decided to fly around I had not protection to swat it away. I could feel my heart begin to race a bit faster and a slight clamminess seemed to crawl over my skin. I was blessed that it stayed asleep until I got the dresser away from the wall.

With trash can in hand I crept toward the winged terror. Just at the right moment I took the plate and tried to shove the thing into the trashcan. My heart sank as the bats wings came out and it fell to the floor spread eagle with its head facing directly toward me. As it hit the floor it began to let out a high pitched squeal and squeak that almost hurt my ears. I just knew it was calling more of its demon, bat friends. Before I could think what to do next it began to crawl under the dresser so I had to get my wife to man the trashcan as I moved the dresser out further. Ginger bravely plopped the trashcan over the bat and trapped it underneath. I then proceeded to slide the trashcan about 15 feet across the floor until I made it over the threshold and out onto the front porch where I lifted the can and ran back inside to the relative safety of my home. The bat scurried across the porch and fell off the side. I do not know nor do I care where it went from there. I was just glad it was gone.

Sometimes in our lives we too have things there that should not be there. Sometimes we have unwelcome guests that erode our spirituality. These guests come in various forms and shapes. They may come in the form of habits that we have cultivated. They may come in the form of friends or family members that do not enhance our spiritual growth. These unwelcome guests may come in the form of poor entertainment choices either on television, radio, or the internet. Whatever the case may be for each of us we need to follow the admonition given us by the apostle Paul. We need to regularly test ourselves to see if we are living out our faith. Just as our key text says we must “examine ourselves”. It is easy to walk the walk of the Christian life when others are watching, but what about when we are alone. What about when no one is observing our behavior? That is when it becomes a real test; when we have to walk uprightly when the eyes of our fellow Christians are not upon us.

I challenge each of you to look around your spiritual house and to see if there are any guests that should not be there. I challenge you to examine your walk with the Lord and to get rid of those things in your life that serve only to separate you from your Lord Jesus. To allow “guests” to remain in our lives that separate us from God will ultimately and eventually cause us to lose our salvation. Paul asks the question in Romans 8:35, “Who will separate us from the Love of Christ?” The implied answer is that only we can separate ourselves from Christ? And our choices are the avenue by which we do that. I pray that each of us will choose to make Jesus first in our lives from this moment forward and that an unwelcome spiritual guests will be flushed from our lives.

Dear Father God,

As we come to You just now there are no doubt some of us that need to rid our lives of the things that erode our spirituality. We need to experience a true relationship with You. One that motivates us to Love You as You have first loved us. Give us the courage to let go of the things of this world and cling only to the hand of Jesus. Please forgive us where we have failed You Lord and may Jesus come very soon to take us home to be with Him. We pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.