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Spare Change - May

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Have you ever sat and wrestled for a while with big questions?  I know that most of us have a little more time on our hands, so this is a good time to meditate and ponder.  I was reading in James this past week and came across a verse that I had read many times before, but it struck me differently this time.

You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God.  James 4:4

First, we need to understand the context of this verse. James is the elder of the church in Jerusalem.  He writes this letter to give some very practical instruction to the believers.  You can see that he is getting tired of Christians playing games.  He has had enough of weak faith.  He calls out some very bad habits that Christians were apparently struggling with, like not controlling their tongues or having trouble dealing with trials.  In this passage, he really gets going.  He rebukes the believers for infighting among the brothers. Why?  Because they do not have all they want.  Not that their needs are not met, but rather they are craving things of the world that they do not have.  James speaks up to tell them that friendship with the world comes with a price, you will become an enemy of God.

This theme is not new.  All the way back in Psalm 1 we see there are two paths.  One worldly and the other godly.  Jesus addresses this a couple of times with a metaphor about sheep and goats and again when we talk about two paths: one wide and one narrow.  All these things are driving at the same point.  We cannot walk down the worldly path and expect to find God.

In fact, to choose a worldly path is offensive to God.  You are saying that you know better than the creator and Lord of the universe.  You are saying that all the good gifts that God has given are not enough.  You are saying that sin and wicked deeds are better than the righteous teaching of God.  You are basically saying that you do not trust God.

The world is seductive, with its constant newness, never mind that all the "new" are usually shined up versions of old sins.  The world draws us in like a shiny lure does with fish, but we do not realize there are sharp hooks that grab a hold of our hearts.  We get trapped by the shininess of it and before too long we are addicted to it.  The sad reality is that the world can never fulfill us, that is not its purpose.  Rather it just keeps us craving more and more until we are so deep into sin that we do not even recognize who we are anymore.

I realize it is hard to resist because the world is entertaining and often we can rationalize it in our lives.  The world has a firm grasp on many Christians because, well, it is just easier. Resisting the world and following God takes work.  Paul compared training for godliness to training for a race.  You do not get up off the couch and run a marathon without extensive training.  Godliness does not just happen by accident either.  It takes time and dedication to study God’s word, to pray, to obey and to cultivate a relationship with the Lord.   However, there is great hope even if you have been walking down the path of worldliness.  James helps with this in verses 7-10.

Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.  James 4:7-10

We need to repent, turn our hearts back to God and commit to His ways.  If you have been walking down the path of worldliness, turn back to God today.  The world will only leave you empty, craving more and more.  The path of godliness will fulfill you and bring you close to the Savior.  Forsake the world and turn back to Jesus to walk the path of righteousness today!

 

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Spare Change - April

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Our family's new favorite show is Lego Masters.  First, because we love to see the awesome creations that the contestants come up with.  Second, it’s a show that the whole family can watch, and third, we just love Lego! The fact that you can create anything you can imagine, you can follow the directions, or you can go off script and create something original.  If you have never played with Lego, I would strongly encourage you to get in touch with your inner builder.

This reminded me about a great truth that I felt was very appropriate for this time.  God is the greatest builder and one of His greatest builds is the church. We see this in Ephesians 2:18-22.

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the  cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:18-22

We all know the church is not a building, it is the people of God.  God has built the church through the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has collected people, His children, creating a great structure called the church.  We see the foundation of this is the apostles and prophets. The great teaching from these two groups of men forms our foundation of God’s Word and points to the greatest part of the structure…Jesus.  Jesus is the cornerstone. This is the perfect stone that keeps the foundation in line, the walls straight, and makes the whole thing work. This structure, the church, is a holy temple created to bring glory to God.  He brings this all together by joining all His children in the Holy Spirit.

This truth points to the fact that we are all united because we have believed the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When we become believers, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to help us, guide us, convict us, and strengthen us.  All believers throughout all time have had the Holy Spirit on them. This is a great uniting factor that helps us to know we are a part of God’s family.

What a timely admonition, especially as we are under a Stay-At-Home order from our governor.  Even though we can’t meet in person for worship or Bible study we are still one in Christ, bound by the Holy Spirit.  Remember the church does not exist because we have a brick and mortar building. Don’t get me wrong, buildings are nice.  We can provide a ton of ministry for our church and community because we have a building; however, we are reminded that the church is more than a building.  We have had to find new ways to connect through old and new technology. Our staff is actively seeking to keep connecting, teaching, and discipling even though we are not physically together.

The truth that we are united in Christ should be a great encouragement to all believers.  God still wants to use us during this difficult season. He is still building the church! Just because we do not get to be together does not mean we should not be looking for ways to grow the church.  I would encourage all our families to connect with teaching opportunities that the church is offering through worship, and teaching. We should all be looking for ways to connect with others during this time.  Call them on the phone, write letters, send emails, text, or video chat with each other. While we are sitting at home, possibly bored, use that time to do something for the Lord. Grow your relationship or encourage someone else.  Don’t let this time be wasted! God is going to continue to build the church, be a part of what He is doing!

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