A few years ago, I strolled up to a door of a nearby house without a thought in my head, as I began to knock on the door I looked around to my see my door-knocking partner one house down. He had already knocked on the door and was passing along information about the upcoming gospel meeting. As the door opened I invited the resident to our meeting and heard the fateful words, “Sorry, I’m Baptist.” I gladly smiled, handed the resident some information and proceeded back to the road to walk to another house. As I told me friend the news, he smiled and told me he had gotten the same response. I asked what he said to the lady and his response was simple, “That’s OK, you can come too.”
How many times have we let our religion get in the way of truly seeking to understand the message of the Father and His Son?
If you have done any door-knocking you have heard them all…
“I’m Baptist.” “I’m Methodist.” “I’m Lutheran.” “I’m Presbyterian.” “I’m Episcopalian.” “I’m Mormon.” “I’m Catholic.” “I’m Pentecostal.” “I’m Church of Christ.” (yeah, I have heard that one too.) “I’m Community Church.” “I’m First Baptist.” “I’m ______________________.”
All of those labels and nothing about, “I’m with Jesus.”
I often wonder what Peter, James and John would say when asked with what religious group they identified. I have found a pretty close answer in Acts 4…
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
(The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ac 4:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)
Did you read that? “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” They knew that Peter and John were not educated at the greatest schools or the greatest secular teachers, but they realized they had been with Jesus.
Can people tell you have been with Jesus?
The labels of this world should mean nothing to us, instead our focus should be the label of “Christian.”
While the disciples of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch, the name with which their character was founded has become the focus of their lives. Even today, Christians are seeking the majesty of the Creator God and that, only that should be the continual goal of our lives. Being close to the Father is not a position to be won, but a life to behold.
Can those around us see that the religious labels of the day hold nothing to the power of the Almighty?
Our lives should not be a reflection of the building we attend, but the life we are following!
Just some thoughts,
Last night, Senator Ted Cruz suspended his campaign after a second place finish in the Indiana Primary. As soon as the Senator suspended his campaign, social media was flooded with disgust over the elections, concern for our country and an unwavering pattern of whining about what to do next. Some say they will not vote, others will go to the polls and hold their nose as they pick the lesser of two evils and still others are joyous to pull the lever (or push the button) on election day.
May I remind you this election season has not turned out the way it has not because of the past year or even two years? It is due to a pattern of behavior which began years ago with the entitlements, a “that’s the way we have always done it”, a troubling financial system and a pure lack of respect for mankind. If you do not believe me, I would challenge you to research it.*
The fate of our country is not in the hands of the politicians, but it begins at our kitchen tables. It begins in our homes, not in Washington D.C. Our homes are suffering due to a lack of parenting, a lack of relationships and a lack of respect. If you want to turn the culture of our nation back to its founding principles, then start at home.
Let your family know that you are committed to them and their future; along with the legacy that you are leaving to your family. Let them know what you will make mistakes, but it is time to rise above the status quo and begin living for a greater purpose.
Start by talking; not texting. Put away technology and begin a conversation with your family over their interests, their goals and even how their day went. It is time we build the family through our relationships and not through problems. Allow your children to speak and allow them to learn.
Continue by getting your hands dirty. This nation was not built on watching television, but it was built by the hands of those willing to get out and work to make things happen. With the summer approaching, I believe there is ample opportunity for you and your family to get outside, breathe a little and get a little dirty. Teach your children the benefits of growing your own food, digging in the dirt and living a fulfilled life.
Teach your children respect. Just because you disagree with someone does not mean you have to throw up your hands, degrade them, unfriend them and never speak to them again. It means you disagree. The current process of disagreements is filled with insults, hatred and anger; instead of a respectful discussion.
Teach your children that they can respect others, but not agree with them. Allow them the ability to have a discussion over a disagreement and not a blatant, cutthroat domination. This country needs to talk, not fight like cats and dogs over the smallest of matters.
Teach your children there are things worth fighting for in life. There are standards and morals that must be fought over, but fought the right way and with the right information.
Stop giving everyone a trophy. Not everyone wins in life and each person needs to understand that every day. Some people will lose; they will fail. Some of the greatest winners in life have had the greatest failures. Allow your children to fail. It is ok, they will survive. Teach them.
Teach your children the value of hard work. Notice I did not say, “teach them to work,” but instead “teach them the value of hard work.” The future generations will need to work harder than we do; even with the power of technology. Teach them to value hard work. The value of hard work is remembered best in the value of a day off. Many people see a day off as another day because they have not valued hard work during the week. Value hard work.
Read the Bible. It does not matter if you are religious or not, just read it. It is the best-selling book of all time and so many will never read it. Begin in Psalm 11.3 if you want, but read it. (read the verses that follow it too)
My friends, this world is not over because of one election, it is over when a people of standards, morals and power cower behind the excuses that are currently being made.
Step up. It is time.
Just my thoughts,
*I really dislike providing all the information to people, but instead letting them do some groundwork and find out for themselves. I believe it is better that way.
Today, you stand on trial.
Your nerves shake your body to the core, as you sit in the hard wooden chair behind the defendant desk. You are alone. No attorney would take your case because the evidence is stacked against you. Behind you sits no one; the courtroom is empty.
In front of you, behind the large wooden bench, sits the judge, gavel in hand. He listens intently as the prosecuting attorney makes his case. After each piece of evidence is presented, the judge shakes his head as his eyes glance toward you. Your stomach sinks.
At the prosecuting attorney’s every word, you feel the plea for mercy slipping away. The evidence continues pile. When he speaks, his firm, raised voice announces; you are guilty. There is even a little smirk on his face; he is enjoying every moment.
The evidence against you sits as a mound on the prosecutor’s desk. It is as if it has followed you for your entire life. Every lie you have ever told is there, every harsh word is there, and simply put…everything is there.
Your life of bad is in front of you; the good is gone. Seeing the evidence, your heart weights itself with the consequences of your actions. There is nothing you can do to show yourself not guilty.
The prosecutor has done his job—well…you are guilty.
As the prosecutor closes his arguments, you sit with your head in your hands, already knowing the judge’s decision. The judge looks at you, waiting on your defense but you have none; your guilt shines as the most condemning piece of evidence. You know you have no words, no case or plea strong enough to account for mercy.
While the judge looks on, you struggle to raise your head just to acknowledge that you are guilty. Lifting your head just enough, you see the look of disappointment in the judge’s face; it breaks your heart.
The judge asks you, “Any words?” You can hear the heartache in his voice. You wonder just for a moment if he will break down. The evidence is so great it weighs on his shoulders too. Your heart breaks.
Your voice trembles and cracks as you speak, “No.”
The judge lowers his head as he raises the gavel. The sound of the gavel hitting the block scares you out of your seat. “Guilty” the judge says in a quiet tone. The decision has been made.
The courtroom is silent. You can hear the beating of your heart. It is growing louder by the moment. The silence only lasted for thirty seconds, but you were sure it was thirty minutes.
“Now, we move to the sentencing,” says the judge. “Let’s make this quick.”
You can tell in the judge’s voice, he is hurting for you. He wants to get the pain over as fast as possible and move on–as do you. Even though you know the punishment will be great.
For the second time in the day, the prosecutor approaches the bench. As he approaches, he speaks, “Your honor, there is only one punishment for these crimes. The evidence shows the guilt and now the sentence must show the consequences of these heinous acts. Your honor, the prosecution seeks death.”
“Death? Death!? Oh judge please no!” you blurt out with tears.
Your body is in shock from the prosecutor’s words. Your thoughts are rampant, “I never did anything worthy of death—maybe a few days behind bars, but not death. What is he thinking? Not death.”
While your mind races at the thought of death, you notice silence. The prosecutor is no longer speaking and everyone is looking behind you.
As you turn you see one man who just walked through the door. He walks slowly down the aisle, focused on the judge.
While he walks through the gallery section, you look back at the judge just to see the judge nod at the unknown man. The man walks through the gallery and toward the bench. Even the outspoken prosecutor remains silent–looking nervous at what is about to happen.
The unknown man looks like he is lost in time. In fact, he looks like he definitely does not belong. His robe almost reaches the floor and his sandals are as worn as any you have ever seen.
You watch in anticipation as the man speaks to the judge. Even though you are looking at him from behind, there is something familiar about this man. But you do not know what it is. The prosecutor is halfway to the bench, standing there waiting anxiously.
The judge and the unknown man shake their heads in agreement. The prosecutor quickly approaches the bench and begins to argue silently. The unknown man remains silent, before stretching out his arms. The prosecutor goes silent.
The unknown man turns and walks toward your seat. When you see him coming your way, you move to your left and give him the aisle seat.
“Is this my attorney?” You ask yourself silently, still trying to figure out who this is.
When he sits down, he looks at you and smiles. Immediately, you feel at ease.
After a few moments of discussion, the prosecutor sits down. When he sits, he plops himself in the chair like an upset child who just had something taken away.
The judge speaks again, but this time, his face looks different. Before, the judge looked burden by the sentence, but now it almost looks like he is smiling, at least on the inside. A slight grin is seen in his lips as he asks the defense to stand.
As you begin to stand, you notice the man beside you is standing too.
Quickly you glance up at the man who was once unknown to you, only to see him already looking at you. From the look in his eyes, you see that he knows that you’ve figured out who he is. A smile comes across his face. He knows you. Slowly, you finish standing up, still glaring at the man beside you. Before this moment, the robe was your focus, but now, your eyes are opened and you see the man for who he truly is.
The judge speaks, “This was not an easy decision to make, but the evidence is clear. A sentence is intended to be the consequence for the crime. The sentence will be…”
As he speaks he looks at the prosecuting attorney who is still sitting in his chair; still looking like an upset child. The prosecuting attorney nods his head in agreement, but never looks at the judge. Something is not right. When he spoke of the evidence, there was a smile on his face. He knew he has the case sealed. However, after the discussion with the unknown man, things were different. The smile has been replaced with a grimace. Who was this unknown man and what did he say?
The judge asks everyone to be seated and you begin to weep. The sentence is final and now a series of events will unfold in your life as it draws to an end. If anyone were there supporting you, they would have been in tears. But no one is there—no one but this man with a familiar face.
While you are grasping with the thought of the end of your life, the man beside you places his hand on your shoulder as he stands. Without looking at the man’s face, you turn your head to see his hand. You can feel the roughness in his hand through your shirt; this hand was worn and battered. As the man stood, the sleeve of his robe rose and exposed the rest of his hand and wrist. Through teary eyes you see a scar. At first, it looks as normal as any scar but then you remember…
“…and with his wounds we are healed.”
“It couldn’t be! There is no way!” You question yourself at every thought. “How could this be him? How? I don’t…”
Just as you are trying to grasp your thoughts of the man whose hand is on your shoulder, you hear his words. “Father, forgive him. Let me, just me take the punishment for his crimes. He is but a troubled soul in need of compassion and care. He is a sheep who has lost his way. Let me take his place.”
The prosecutor, upon hearing the man’s plea, exhales a deep breath, just like a child who has lost his favorite toy. He has been defeated by this once unknown man, who came in, gave his plea and now has accepted your sentence.
Who has accepted your case?
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2.1-2; ESV)
Advocate – One “who takes up the cause of another” (ESV Study Bible Notes)
Propitiation – “A sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it into favor” (ESV Study Bible Notes)
Just some thoughts,