Who just called?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite songs was “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder. I am unsure if that is something about which to be embarrassed or proud. Depends on your taste in music, I suppose. I had that song memorized, though, and I loved listening to Stevie Wonder sing.

In life, we get a lot of calls, especially now, right? We carry our phones in our pockets and set them on our desks while we work. There are days when it seems like I spend more time responding to text messages and phone calls than anything else. Now, I am a pastor, so to some degree, that comes with the territory, and I am grateful for technology that allows me to respond so quickly to prayer concerns and ministry needs. No one has ever “just called to say, ‘I love you,'” though. But, I think I am okay with that. 😉

When it comes to the most important calls, however, we want to make sure we are available, do we not? If we know something really important is likely to come, like the birth of a child, important medical news, the result of a spouse’s job interview, etc., we want to be ready for those calls.

How much more so should that be the case for God’s call on our lives? While He does not, as far as I am aware or have heard, use cell phones for such communication, He does indeed call us. The only way we can be certain of His calling, though, is by seeking Him through His Word. Knowing His Word is the only way to know His calling on our lives.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Galatians 1:11-24 on “The Calling of Grace.” I believe we can learn some lessons from Paul’s apostleship that apply to all who are called to follow Jesus. Have you heard and responded to that call? Are you fulfilling your calling as a follower of Jesus?

God does love you and proved that love by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins. God did notjust call to say, ‘I love you,'” though. He called to say much more.

By the grace of God according to the Word of God, we can understand and follow His gracious calling on our lives. To do so, however, we must be in His Word, serving in His church, and living according to His mission (being a Christ-follower who is helping others to be Christ-followers). How are you doing? How are you helping others? Let us hear and respond to the most important of calls!

To understand where the most important call begins, please check out The Story.

Russian Roulette Is Not Love

When was the last time you held back saying something to someone, though you knew you should have, because what needed to be said would have been hard to hear? We have all been there, right? Perhaps we even hold back sharing truth under the supposed act of “love” for that person. We might say or think something like, “Well, I love them and don’t want to hurt them, so I’ll just look the other way [(or accept them as they are) or (let them live their lives)].”

To be clear, though, that is not love. Love demands truth.

You cannot claim to love someone, for example, while at the same time being okay with them playing Russian Roulette. If you know what Russian Roulette is, you know that “dangerous game” is an understated description. Furthermore, if someone continues to play Russian Roulette, they will eventually “lose” (and die). Love, then, demands we share the truth with them.

To say something foolish like, “I know playing Russian Roulette makes you happy, and I want you to be happy. If that makes you happy, play on,” is not a loving thing to do. No, the loving thing to do is to beg and plead with them to put the revolver down and live. Do not take such chances with your life. Please!

As dangerous and devastating as Russian Roulette can be, how much more dangerous and devastating is the eternal death that comes as a result of sin. It is the death we all deserve because of our sin, but God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to “take that bullet” for us. Now, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Refusing to turn from sin and surrender your life to Jesus, though, is like playing the ultimate horrifying game of Russian Roulette. The consequences are so much worse than a bullet to the brain and the end of physical life. The consequences are eternal death.

We cannot be sure when this life will end for any of us. We cannot be sure when Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. And, once this life is over, the chance for repentance and faith will be too late. That is why God’s Word appeals to all, “‘Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.’ For God says: ‘I heard you in an acceptable time, and I helped you in the day of salvation. Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation‘” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Do not play Russian Roulette with your spiritual life. Do not be content with any plan other than God’s plan for you (according to His Word). And, do not think that the loving thing to do is to sit by while others play Russian Roulette with their spiritual lives. We cannot take the gun out of their hands, but we can love them enough to tell them of the consequences and plead with them to surrender their all to Jesus and let God “take the gun.”

We discussed in our adult Bible study with our church family last night the calling of Jesus on our lives – “Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them — this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

If you were so blinded from the truth that you thought Russian Roulette was the right thing to do, would you not want someone to tell you? Would you not want someone to do whatever they could to get that gun out of your hand and help you experience hope and healing? Of course you would! To love someone is to act on that love. To love someone is to speak the truth into their lives.

God alone saves. He alone has the solution to our eternal problem. Have you surrendered your all to Him and begun to experience that solution? Do you love others enough to tell them?

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). Will you share this with someone today?

Don’t Steal Your Identity

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood, misused, and misapplied passages in the Bible is Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 7:7-8 (“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.).

That promise from Jesus is not an open invitation to get whatever we want from God. In the context of what Jesus was explaining, He was talking about seeking God in prayer and receiving from God what He wills for our lives.

The more we seek the Lord and find our hope in Him, the more we desire what He desires for us. The more we know His Word, the better we understand His will (and thus know how to pray and what to pray for). Only when we know and follow Him according to His Word can we experience the life He has for us. Only then is our identity in Him.

If you are trying to live your life with some other purpose, it is like you are stealing the identity for which you were created. When you try to find hope and meaning outside of the Lord, you will only be disappointed (sooner and/or later).

On Sunday morning for our Resurrection Sunday worship celebration, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 on our “Resurrected Identity” when we live in the light of Jesus’ resurrection glory. To experience that resurrected identity and live with a purpose and satisfaction that endures, we have to know and follow Jesus Christ and continually depend on Him. To do anything else is to steal your God-given identity.

Even good things (family, career, hobbies, etc.) can be used for evil, and if we find our identity in those things (or anything besides Jesus), then we are committing a form of idolatry. We are settling for far less than God’s best for us. We are not “asking… searching… knocking” rightly (biblically) and will thus fail to find and receive what God has for us.

Are you finding your identity in Christ, or are you stealing your identity for your own purposes? Do not give in to the temptation to think any other identity will fulfill you. It will only fail you.

If you want to experience the identity for which you were created, please recognize that identity only comes in and through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Learn more.

Purpose & Meaning

Last day of school!

Our oldest four children had their last day of school Thursday. Another year in the books! I am thankful for their school and for the education they are receiving. I am also thankful, though, that they don’t find their purpose and meaning in their education.

After talking about our need for following God’s direction according to His Word, Solomon said, “But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).

The reality is that if we try to find purpose and meaning in anything or anyone besides our Creator, not only will be be disappointed; we will fail miserably and for eternity.

“When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

This morning I preached on the “Futility of Life,” challenging those in attendance to look to God’s Word for their purpose and meaning. You can listen to the message and/or others by clicking HERE.

In what or whom are you finding your purpose and meaning? You’ll never be satisfied, and more importantly, you’ll never be right with the One who created you with purpose and meaning unless you surrender to and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.