Journey to The Journey

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The truth is, despite the sales pitch many churches and pastors are peddling these days, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that we should expect the Christian life to be more of a bumpy ride than a pleasure cruise. Our gracious election into salvation isn't a one way ticket to a life of comfort and luxury, rather it is a call to sacrificial living, humility, serving others; and, often times, trials, suffering, and persecution...all for the sake of the gospel. So, even if we persevere through all of that, Christ get's the glory, not us! With such a gloomy forecast, why even bother taking the ride in the first place?

The great American poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, once said, "I have great respect for the past. If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going." There is great wisdom in those words. So often in today's culture of short attention spans and instant gratification, our churches seek to cater to the culture rather than being a transformative influence on it. We spend so much time and energy trying to develop new and novel ways to draw people in. Rather than simply teaching the truth of God's word and trusting in its power to work in people's lives, we too often trust in our own ability to do ministry well.

We may start out strong in our faith, but like Job, the longer our suffering persists, the more we become like whiny little children demanding, "How much longer!?!?!" It takes a mature believer to be able to wait patiently upon the Lord when everything in our lives feels like it is on fire! It takes an even more mature believer to accept that it may be part of God's plan that we never make it out of "the valley" on this side of eternity. That can be a tough pill to swallow. However, the more we allow ourselves to trust God, the more we resist our urge to "kick against the goads," and the more we can place our hope in the eternal over and above the temporal...the more we will experience the gospel-fueled growth that begets more growth

Have you ever been the victim of a malicious personal attack? If you haven't, count yourself among the lucky few! Most of us have at some point in our lives experienced the hurt and frustration associated with the defamation of our good name. It's true, that no one likes being criticized, but when the claims being made about you are untrue, it adds an additional layer of insult!

Framing the gospel as our ticket to heaven makes salvation the finish line, rather than the starting point of our spiritual journey. Assuming "deathbed decisions" aren't the norm, this then can have serious ramifications for how we live in the days, weeks, months, and years AFTER our lives have been impacted by the good news of Jesus Christ. I believe the Bible clearly exemplifies for us that a genuine gospel experience is transformational in nature. One need look no further than the stories of Matthew, Paul, Zacchaeus, and many others.

This week in our lesson from Acts, we studied the familiar topic of suffering. If you teach through the Bible, you will inevitably have to discuss it. God has seen fit to speak to his people extensively on the subject. This isn't the first time, nor will it be the last time that we discuss this challenging truth.

Let me be clear, testimonies give us a great opportunity to share with others about the power of the Gospel and God's generous and loving grace in our lives, but we shouldn't use them as a means to glorify our sin. Rather the grievous nature of our depravity should be the dark backdrop against which the beauty of the diamond of the Gospel can shine forth magnificently. When we lose sight of the fact that all of our sins, from the smallest to the greatest, stand in equal contrast to the perfection and glory of the holiness of God, we do injustice to the true message of the Gospel.

There are a few things I don't like to do. I'm not particularly fond of doing dishes or laundry. I don't really enjoy yard work very much. You could say I am not much of a fan of cleaning out our cat's litter box. I don't like to do these things and yet, I regularly find myself doing them. Why???

Unfortunately, life doesn't come with GPS. Sometimes, discerning what is good and wise is a downright struggle. Not to mention the fact that we have no idea what trials await us and threaten to derail everything we have set out to accomplish. As believers, our aim should be to live our lives in the center of God's will, but, if we are honest, knowing what that is for us can sometimes feel like a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

We often think that our greatest threats come from outside of the community of Christ. If you asked a believer to list those things (groups, movements, ideas, etc.) that are a danger to the Christian faith, they would likely point to things like religious zealots, political dictators, liberal extremists, the rising tide of atheism, postmodernism, etc. But, in fact, the greatest risk to our faith is actually birthed and nurtured within our churches...right under our noses. Paul says it is from among themselves that these wolves will come (vs. 30).