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As Much As You Can

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Click here to read Acts 10 on BibleGateway.com

imagesIf you have spent much time talking with non-Christians, or anyone who is questioning God, it’s surprising how often simply reading the Bible can clear up people’s questions.  Too often, people get the wrong idea about God (sometimes due to faulty understanding by Christians, unfortunately), and then reject Him based on misconceptions.  Actually reading the Bible can go a long way to understanding God (shocking, right?).

For example, you may have heard certain non-Christians complain that the “rules” of the Bible aren’t fair; that God favors some people, and leaves others out in the cold.  You have probably even heard people say “what about people that never hear about Jesus? What kind of petty God would send them to hell?” But look at the case of Cornelius in Acts 10. He was not a Jew; in fact, he was a member, a commander no less, of the hated Roman army. No wonder that Peter wanted nothing to do with him.

AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

Luckily for Cornelius, God didn’t have any such qualms. He sent separate visions to Peter and Cornelius, setting up the meeting between the two. Of course, Peter took a little bit more convincing, but the Bible says that Cornelius pleased God. What had Cornelius done? Was he keeping the Jewish Law? Was he following Christ’s commands? Nope. In fact, he probably hadn’t heard about Jesus at that point. However, he was praying to God the best he knew, and he cared for the poor. He followed as much of God’s commands as he knew.

That’s how God is. We are responsible to follow as closely as we can with what we know. If we reach the end of our knowledge, God finds a way to take us deeper. The majority of the time, that’s through a deeper study of the Bible. However, in some cases, God does something supernatural. Sometimes we forget; God wants to be with us. His whole purpose for creating us was for fellowship; for us to know Him. He’s not gonna balk at a little supernatural action when people are striving to know him. He will make a way.

HOW FAR WILL YOU GO?

Please God as much as you can, with what you know. It’s true, you many not know as much as some one else. Perhaps they grew up in a Christian home, attended church every time the doors were open, and attended Bible college; whilst your parents were in jail, you were passed from foster home to foster home, and had to drop out of high school to take care of your siblings. Is it fair? Absolutely not. But you can take comfort in the knowledge that God holds you responsible for what you know (or have had the opportunity to know), not what anybody else knows.

Of course, that said, you do have a little obligation. You must move forward with what you do know. If you have the opportunity to read your Bible, read it. If you have a church close enough to attend, you are responsible to go. If you have the opportunity to read awesome Biblical devotions online everyday, you need to take it.

One more thought: God did a supernatural act to bring the Good News to Cornelius, but He still worked through Peter. God can and does use angels or other means of reaching people on occasion, but by far the most common method is Christians sharing their faith with others. That’s our calling. You may be the special agent God is using to reach your neighbors; you may be the supernatural method he uses to reach someone on the other side of the globe; you may be the answer to prayer. Like Cornelius, you just must do as much as you can as best you know.

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can
– John Wesley

Click here to read Matthew 7 on BibleGateway.com

yawn4If you have ever been a youth pastor or teacher (or even perhaps a teenager yourself at some point in the distant past), you have seen the fascinating mating rituals of the Unattractive Male. It goes something like this: identify a prospective Attractive Potential Date; stare at APD from across the room; plan epic speech to win the heart of APD; begin to approach APD with eyes down and glances in all directions; take slight detour to barf in bathroom; return to proximity of APD; mumble sounds faintly reminiscent of human speech; run away. The UM may return at a later date with presents, or perhaps an amazingly terrible love note passed in class, but after repeated attempts have failed, they often abandon the quest with the futile question “What’s it gonna take?”

People who are new Christians or non-believers often ask “what will it take to get to heaven?” If you’ve been around church much, you’ll know the standard answer is “no works will get you to heaven, only a relationship with Jesus Christ.” And, as far as it goes, that’s true.

TELL ME YOUR NAME AGAIN…

But the next question is eventually, “ok, but how do I do that?” People want to be in a relationship with Jesus (or at least know they should be), but they don’t know exactly how that works. Do you just go to church? Do you just pray? Do you have to give a bunch of money to the church? Do you love other people? If you sin, does that rule you out? How much can you sin? What exactly does it take to make it?

In Matthew 7, we read one of the scariest verses in the entire Bible. Jesus says,

  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day,‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Think about that. Can you imagine getting to heaven after a lifetime of preaching, healing people, even driving out demons, and hear Jesus say “and…who are you again?” Ouch. If you ever draw a sense of comfort from the idea that you’re the leader of the worship team, or the head of the Women’s Ministry, or you give to the poor, and so you must be ok for heaven; think again.

A COMMAND I GIVE TO YOU…

So, if doing all this work for Jesus doesn’t cut it, what does? Yes, reading your Bible is an important part; praying is important; loving your neighbor is important. But Jesus clarifies things for us: “Only the one who does the will of my Father.” Simply put, the ones who obey. Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

It sounds a little too legalistic for our modern ears, but there it is. You cannot separate the concept of love for God and obedience. You cannot love Jesus and know Him unless you follow His commands. (And of course, that means you have to read the Bible, otherwise, how will you know what the commands are?)

Jesus gave around 50 different commands in the New Testament; how many do you know? If you really want to get close to Jesus, to know Him, to hear “well done, good and faithful servant” when you see Him, then you know what you need to do. The challenge for today is to find ten commands of Jesus in the gospels, and see if you can keep just those ten this week (or at least attempt to.) Obedience starts with knowing what to obey.

Then Love and Know Him to the best of your ability today.

House Rules

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Click here to read Acts 6 on BibleGateway.com

monopolyDo you know what the best selling board game in the world is?  No, not the Farming Game, though it should be (seriously, if you haven’t played it, go buy it today).  No big shocker: it’s Monopoly, with 275 million copies of the game sold in 110 countries and 40 languages. Nothing better than winning a game by driving the opposition into a steaming pile of bankruptcy.

One reason: the concept of House Rules is built into Monopoly.  If you’re unfamiliar with house rules, this is the idea that whoever’s home you happen to be playing at has the right to change the rules in such a way as to guarantee their win.  Oh sure, they say it’s fair, yet somehow you always lose at Jimmy Jo Jo’s house, what with their special 10,000 dollar bill that you get for every J in your name.  ( That’s right, some things you don’t forget, Jimmy.  Here’s a J for you, Jerk.)

The reason we tend to hate house rules (at least, other people’s house rules. ours are ok. ) is that they seem so unfair.  If we’re all going to play the game, we should all be playing by the same rules. But house rules make it seem like we can’t win, no matter what we do. Might as well just go home and play Tetris.

LET US UNREASON TOGETHER

Unfortunately, we often try to carry of our idea of “fairness” into the way we as Christians interact with the world.  We feel that if we share the truth in love, then people will see the way and come to Christ.  However, if you talk to anyone who has tried this method (or just read about Paul in the New Testament), at some point most people come to the realization that you can’t (or very, very rarely can) argue someone into the Kingdom.

Why not? In Acts 6, we read of one of the early confrontations between the followers of the Way (the early Christians) and the opposition.  In many ways, it’s very indicative of witnessing debates throughout history.  Stephen is arguing with some non-believers, and the Bible says “but they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him.”  Case closed, right? Stephen wins the debate, the others admit the truth of Christ, and get saved.

Not even close.  Instead, “they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’” Since they couldn’t out-debate Stephen, they simply lied.  And if you know the rest of the story, you’ll know that it worked and poor Stephen had a scant few moments to reconsider his evangelistic methodology. When people don’t want to hear the truth, they’ll find a way to silence it.

HIM CRUCIFIED

Sound unfair?  It is, but is it really so surprising that the Enemy of all that is Good and Right does not play fairly? It would be more surprising if he played by any rules at all.  The foundation of sin itself is based in the idea of not following the rules.  People who are opposed to Christ will not play fairly, and we should not expect them to.   Paul concludes, after several frustrating attempts, to preach one thing: Christ and Christ alone.

Our attempts to reach the world for Jesus must always come back to this central point.  It’s easy to get distracted with “winning” debates, getting our candidate elected, or promoting a certain viewpoint.  But we need to remember that only Christ will ultimately save people, and winning a debate does not mean that people will come to Christ.  Only a life-changing encounter with the Living Lord can do that.

That’s the only rule that matters.


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