Archive for April, 2014|Monthly archive page

Plank and speck

It’s hard to see yourself as others see you.

I tend to have a better view of my strengths and weaknesses than others do. And this blindness is widespread among Christians.

This tendency to excuse or overlook our weaknesses and magnify those of other people can be a serious problem in our churches.

I have seen these damaging effects a number of times in my years as a believer.

Jesus cautioned us to be careful about judging other people with these memorable words in Matthew 7:3-5:

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

So, how am I to see the plank in my eye? Ask God.

In Psalm 139:24, David tells God: “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

To begin with, I have to be serious about having my shortcomings revealed. Asking God to show me is an indication that I am ready to change at his direction.

So, how does God point out to me the plank in my eye?

I see several ways. One obvious way is to listen to other people. People are not shy about telling you where you are going wrong.

I tend to react badly initially – and sometimes for a long time – to negative comments about my behaviour or what I am doing. But, over the years, I have changed. I believe God has helped me change.

Another way is meditating on scripture. How does my life line up with what Jesus did and said? Am I willing to follow him in the path he has laid out? In other words, am I willing to be led in “the way everlasting” as David said?

Still another way is listening to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can touch my heart when I say something damaging about someone. Do I have a critical spirit? Am I tearing someone down?

If I’m honest, I have to admit that Jesus is more concerned about me than my complaints about someone else.

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Alive – not dead

The words “He is risen” strike a chord in the hearts of Christian believers – especially on Easter Sunday when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

But have these words made a difference in our lives? Have we changed? Are we still changing?

This morning, our pastor told us about the first of Jesus’ followers who found out that Christ had risen from the dead – Mary Magdalene.

She went to his tomb to dress his body with ointment. As she approached the tomb, she was certain Jesus was dead. She had watched him breathe his last two days earlier.

But her life was forever transformed when she saw the rock that covered the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. An angel told her that Christ had risen from the dead.

From grief to incredible joy.

If we are followers of Christ, we all believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But do we act on this truth?

The early disciples did. This fact turned their world upside down. And they were so excited that they told everyone about it. And thousands believed on the basis of their testimony.

“He is risen” tells me something about God’s great power – the power of the resurrection as the apostle Paul called it. It tells me that God defeated Satan. It tells me that I can belong to God’s family and be with him forever – if I so choose.

But, putting my faith in Jesus also means that I belong to him forever. Paul put it this way in the great passage in Galations 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

In other words, Christ is the new me. Everything I do is governed by the Spirit of Christ. When I put my faith in Jesus, my old self joined Jesus on the cross and when Jesus rose from the dead, I rose with him.

As Paul said in Colossians 2:13, God made us alive with Christ.

The key to living as if we are alive in Christ is to live by faith that Christ is now in control.

It’s easy to say, but harder to live. As I read these words of Paul, I realize that I now fall far short of living as if Christ were in control.

But I take heart from Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6 that God has begun a good work in me and will continue doing so until that work is completed in me. He – not me – is doing the work in me.

I need to remember every day that “Christ is risen”. It is his power – not mine – that changes me.

A life of strife

I think it’s safe to say: Most of us want peace.

But Jesus never promised peace in this world.

In John 16:33, Christ says: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

This is an important point. As believers, we sometimes feel that God should take away the hard things in life and give us peace and quiet.

But the peace we look for can only come from God himself within our hearts.

What good is all this heartache we suffer? On occasion, we don’t see any good coming from our troubles.

But Moses said in Deuteronomy 8:2,3 that God let the children of Israel wander in the wilderness for 40 years “humbling and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands”. God’s purpose, Moses said, was to teach the Israelites that they do not live by bread alone but “by every word that comes from the mouth of
of the Lord”.

But what about when we do obey God – at least, we think we are? Well, Jesus’ disciples asked him in John 9 whether a man, who was blind from birth, suffered because of his parents’ sins. Jesus replied that was not the reason for his blindness – he was blind to show the power of God. And he proceeded to heal him.

Indeed, how we react to suffering can be a testimony to others.

Paul responded to imprisonment by saying he had an opportunity to witness to the people in prison.

On another occasion, he and Silas sang praises in a Philippian prison after terrible beatings. The result was that God intervened to free them and the Philippian jailer and his family became believers.

I always come back to the passage in Romans 8:28 where Paul says that everything works out to the good of those who love God.

Ultimately, of course, we can look forward to a time when there will be no more tears. Then, we will be with God himself.

God is good

I believe God is good. Does that matter?

I am convinced that my faith in God’s goodness will guide my response to life. I will see God working in the tough times just as much as in the good times.

I have been reminded of this truth recently as I have had to deal with some people issues in my life.

My tendency when people problems crop up is to try frantically to find a solution that satisfies everyone. But sometimes that isn’t possible.

Am I to blame God when things don’t turn out the way I hoped they would?

Clearly, the answer is “No.” God is always good and he does not wish to buffet me with bad things.

But, if I am knee-deep in trouble, what reason do I have to believe God is good?

I can begin with Christ’s death for me on the cross – and on his glorious resurrection. When someone goes so far as to die in your place, you know he loves you and wants the best for you.

Then, I can believe what the Bible says about God. In Psalm 103, King David writes that God is “compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love”.

Jesus is the perfect example of this compassion and love. His heart went out to suffering people and he healed them and offered them hope.

I also can put my faith in the fact that God has a plan for me – a plan for my good.

For instance, there is God’s great promise in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Along with this are the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We can rejoice that we have been called according to the purposes God has given us. We have been given the honour of being specially chosen by God to serve him for his glory and the advancement of his kingdom.

Paul was a living example of this. He suffered greatly, but his words rang out with praise for the Lord, even when he was in prison.

He knew he would have an eternity of bliss with Jesus. We do, too.