Saturday, August 13, 2011

#84 Empty Tank

Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Coming to Michigan was an adjustment for our family at first. As with any major regional change in one's life, there are different things you have to grow accustom to. Yes, the amount of snowfall was new to us, the flatness of the scenery took some getting used to, and the type of heat used up here was different than what we had normally had.

Our house was heated by an outdoor wood furnace that heats water that is then pumped under ground through special pipes into the house through a radiator where air is blown through to push warm air throughout the house. This system is shared with our landlords. Last year the wood was changed over to corn and pellets and each works very well to provide heat for both homes. When the outdoor stove is not in operation we have propane backup which also serves to heat our water throughout the year.

That propane tank is not high on my watch list and sometimes I do not think to check the gas level for months. Well, if you don't check the gas level you may not realize that it is about to run out. However, the system has a built-in feature that serves to alert you when the gas runs out. Yes, you guessed it; the alert comes in the form of seemingly icy cold water from the hot water side of the faucet. Not paying attention to the gas level can be painfully cold until the gas company can come out and refill the tank. Note to self: check propane tank every month!

Of course you and I have tanks that need to be checked too. We have emotional tanks, physical food "tanks", and we have a spiritual tank believe it or not. Emotionally, we all want to feel needed and appreciated. Ultimately we want to feel valued by the people around us. Physically speaking we have to fill our food tanks several times a day to maintain our bodies in good health.

I would suggest to you that out of our three "tanks" mentioned here the spiritual is the most important. Yes, we need to be emotionally healthy and we must have food to live, but if we attempt to live on an empty spiritual tank then our lives become very meaningless and hopeless. Those who attempt to live without the spiritual filling the Lord wants to provide for us often gravitate towards harmful things in an attempt to fill the void left in our soul that only Jesus can fill.

Have you checked your tank lately? Are you keeping a watchful eye on the state of your spiritual condition? Are you making time each day to commune with the God of heaven that His Spirit might fill you to overflowing? My challenge to you today is to make checking your spiritual tank daily part of your existence. If we seek the Lord while He may be found, He will take care of every need that we too might echo the psalmist who wrote "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

Dear Father God,
We love You, and we praise You for Your goodness. Thank You for filling us each day that we seek You. Please keep us focused on serving, loving, and living for You each day till You come to take us home. We pray this in faith and in Jesus' holy name, Amen.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

#83 Mistaken Identity

2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us:

Not too long ago my family and I were visiting friends and went to church with them on Sabbath. It was a church where we know a lot of people and have often enjoyed worshiping with them in times past. This particular Sabbath my good friend had the sermon and we were blessed by having attended that day.

After church the usual greetings and friendly exchanges took place in the foyer, but soon it was time to make our way home for dinner at our friends' house. My buddy's wife had ridden with us in our Honda Odyssey van. Her little boy was restless so she asked if she could have the keys to take him on to the van. My response was, "Sure, here you go." as I handed her the keys. Just then though I looked up and saw that the van was already unlocked and the side door was already open.

She then made her way to the van, climbed inside, and attempted to buckle up her child. Once inside she began to realize that something was wrong. Things looked a little different and her child's car seat was missing. As all this was swirling through her mind, the electric side door began to close "on its own". Confusion quickly set in as she realized she had climbed into the wrong van. The actual owners of that van had closed the door remotely and then came up ready to go home themselves and my buddy's wife had to climb out of their vehicle with embarrassment painted on her face and walk about five spaces down to where our van was actually parked.

All of this happened without my knowledge so as I came along a few minutes later I too approached "my" van only to discover a group of young boys hanging around "my" van. So naturally I asked them in a jocular fashion why they were all hanging around the outside and sitting inside "my" van. One of the boys meekly and carefully spoke up and said, "There's only one problem Pastor Bentley. This is not your van." That realization flooded my mind as I too noticed there was something different about that van. I tried to play off my embarrassment, wished the boys a happy Sabbath, and made my way over to "my" van.

As my buddy's wife and I related our tales of mistaken identity regarding the vans, my mind began to wonder about our Christian walks in this world. The Bible teaches us in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that we are to be ambassadors for Jesus. In other words, we represent heaven and God's mission for this world when we accept Jesus as our savior. Ambassadors do not seek to accomplish their will in a given situation, but rather the will of their respective government agency or nation.

It made me wonder how many times I misrepresent Christ. Yes, I openly proclaim to be a follower of Christ, and I am a minister of the Gospel. But are there times when I do not fully live for Christ and instead of being His ambassador I seek to represent my own agenda. Sadly, yes.

I would venture to say that far too many of us profess the name of Christ, but if the people around us were polled about who they think we are there would be some cases of mistaken identity. Yes, we may look like a Christian, wear Christian t-shirts, listen to Christian music, and have a Jesus-fish on our bumper, but once people get to know us and look at the finer details of our life they may realize that we are just an empty shell of profession and not actually the real deal.

My challenge to each of you today is to live out who you profess to be so that the world knows clearly whom you represent. Don't get caught in the trap of just saying your a Christian, but your heart remains unconverted to the Lord. To simply profess Jesus with your lips and to actually deny Him by your lifestyle only seeks to tell the world that being a Christian is just a game that is not worth playing. Choose today to live fully for Christ that you might truly be His ambassador to this world who desperately needs to know Him.

Dear Lord God,
Thank You for loving us and calling us to represent You in this sinful world. Please forgive us for the times that we have caused people to mistake us for the lost. Please teach us daily to live completely for You in private and in public that we might honor You and rightly lift You up before the world around us. We praise You today as we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.