Saturday, August 30, 2014

Spiritual Speeders

Luke 10:30-35 - Jesus took up the question and said: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.

When my two older children were in college, we made a road trip from Vermont to South Carolina. The weather was great and somehow we managed to avoid all the road construction and rush hour traffic. We had no delays on the trip, with one exception. As we neared Charlotte, North Carolina, we came up on a long line of traffic due to a tractor trailer that had slid off the road. A fire truck, a rescue vehicle, and a state trooper were on the scene. The line of traffic had all shifted to the far lane to give the emergency vehicles room to work. As we approached the actual scene of the incident, an SUV flew down the road, passing the line of traffic, and narrowly avoiding the emergency vehicles. Apparently the driver was unconcerned about anything other than where he was headed in such a hurry.

It occurred to me that many Christians are just like that SUV driver. People all around us have slid off the road of life. In the rush to do everything, we often pass by those who need help the most. We see people mired in difficulty and trouble. Though some Christians respond, many just keep flying by like spiritual speeders too busy to help. They narrowly miss striking concerned Christians who are responding to needs around them. Spiritual speeders cruise past other Christians who are at the very least slowing down to pray as they see needs around them.

I suspect we have all been spiritual speeders at certain points in our lives. But perhaps we need to learn to slow down and spend more time praying. Perhaps we need to pull over and spend time helping others. Perhaps we need to encourage ministers and lay leaders who are helping, instead of putting them in greater danger through our reckless attitudes. Perhaps it is time to actually live like good Samaritans instead of spiritual speeders.

Lord, help us not to become so busy in life that we miss the opportunities to help those in need who are all around us. Amen.

----------------------------------------------------

This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Learning Truth from Seahorses

Colossians 2:6-7 "Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude."

Recently my family visited the Mystic Aquarium and was fascinated by a tank of seahorses. There were several clumps of seahorses with their tails wrapped around stalks of sea grass. Other seahorses had their tails wrapped around other seahorses, which were in turn wrapped around stalks of sea grass. I was not sure why the seahorses were doing this, so I googled it. After looking at several websites, I learned that seahorses are not very good at swimming. They basically move by being carried along by the currents. Sometimes the currents take them to safe places with lots of food; other times it takes them to places that are not so favorable. When seahorses get to a place that is safe and has abundant food, they tend to wrap their tails around sea grass, or other seahorses, so they can stay in place and not be carried away by the currents.

When I realized this cool fact about seahorses, I could not help but think about how it relates to people. If we were honest, we would have to admit that we are not very good at life. We tend to get carried away by the currents of popular opinion, fads, and culture. That sometimes offers us good experiences, but most often it does not. Riding such currents make our lives feel as if we are swirling in a hurricane headed for destruction and we seem powerless to stop the wild currents that carry us. But when we find Christ as our Savior, suddenly we have something strong we can cling to. Like seahorses and sea grass, we can wrap our lives around the Lord, His Word and His strength. In that process we also find churches filled with people just like us. As we build healthy relationships with people in such churches, our lives become intertwined with other believers, which also gives us strength when the currents try to carry us away. Seahorses teach us to cling to something stronger than ourselves and to cling to each other for safety and security. That is a great lesson to learn!



Lord, help us cling to You and to other believers as we move through the currents of life.

----------------------





Dr. Terry W. Dorsett is a church planter and writer who has lived in New England for over 20 years. An energetic speaker, he often finds ordinary things in life to help him teach powerful truths from God's Word.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Glofish Serve Their Creators' Purpose

Colossians 1:16 - For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Recently my family was visiting the Mystic Aquarium and saw an interesting tank of fish. These particular fish literally glow in the dark. However, they are not a naturally occurring fish. They are a species that has been designed by scientists. The common Zebra fish was genetically altered by genes from another fish. The result was a new man-made species of fish. According to Glofish.com they “were originally bred more than ten years ago to help detect environmental pollutants. By adding a naturally derived fluorescence gene to the fish, scientists hoped to quickly and easily determine when a waterway is contaminated.” It did not take long for scientists to find other uses for these fish and their use spread to a number of experiments across the nation. Once the public began to see them in various experiments, interest also spread for their use as a unique decorative fish in aquariums around the country. That was how the school in the tank we saw in Mystic arrived came to be.

What caught my attention about this tank of fish (in addition to the bright colors) was the big deal the curators made about THESE fish being “designed” by someone instead of being a product of evolution. There were several signs explaining it, as well as a recording one could listen to at the push of a button. There was a series of interactive screens that could be pulled across the front of the tank that showed the fish in different lights which simulated various types of pollution the fish helped expose. It was quite the display for a simple group of fish derived from something as common as the Zebra fish.


As I wandered through all the other tanks, I wondered why those same curators could not realize that ALL the fish in ALL the tanks were designed by Someone. They did not simply evolve. All fish, in fact, all of life, is the product of a mighty God, not the product of a muddy glob. The evidence of the Designer is all around us, and we do not need interactive screens, or professionally prepared voice overs or plaques on walls to understand this. All we need do is look at the order of nature and realize such order must have come from a Designer. For those who know Christ, we know the Designer by name.

Lord, may everyone who looks at the engineered Glofish come to understand that all of us are designed for a purpose by a Designer who cares deeply for us.



------------------------------------------



Dr. Terry W. Dorsett is a church planter and writer who has lived in New England for over 20 years. An energetic speaker, he often finds ordinary things in life to help him teach powerful truths from God's Word.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Growing Up Emotionally and Being Authentic

1 Corinthians 13:11 - When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.

Technology allows us to share our thoughts with the world. We can tweet, Facebook, instant message and blog our opinions about anything to anyone with the touch of a button. In an instant the whole world can know what we think.

Though there are some positive aspects about being able to share our thoughts with the world, there are also negatives. One negative is that sometimes we let our emotions speak before our brain thinks through what we are going to say. That usually results in us saying something we should not have said. Another negative is that sometimes we do not really know what we are talking about, but we keep talking anyway. Though people may not say anything to us, they think less of us when we go on and on about something we obviously do not really know much about. All of this miscommunication creates a mass of data available to anyone with a computer, even though a lot of it should never have been expressed anyway.

What is the result of all of this miscommunication? Politicians who spin opinion stories in order keep their poll numbers up, even when facts say something different. Celebrities who hire press agents to project personas that do not really exist. Teenagers who get mad at someone and start a rumor that goes viral in an afternoon ruining reputations and destroying relationships. We are surrounded by half-truths and falsehoods. It has become difficult to know who or what to believe.

The prevalence of incorrect information has caused many people in our nation to value transparency. We are tired of all the fake stuff and the spin zone. We just want people to look us in the eye and be honest with us, even if we do not agree with what they are saying. We want genuine authenticity from our leaders and from those around us with whom we interact on a regular basis.

A lack of authenticity keeps tension levels between individuals higher than what is healthy. It makes explosions of anger and public temper tantrums more common. While our society may accept public temper tantrums from preschoolers in a grocery store because their parents will not buy them a candy bar, do we really want it from 35 year olds in the office, or the fitness center, or the church?

It is time for us to grow up emotionally. I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” Paul reminds us that as we mature emotionally, we should be able to act more mature. That includes learning how to have transparent relationships without acting like children. It is possible to be authentic and still leave certain words or comments unsaid. The whole world does not need to know what we think about everything in life. Though our culture may have made a mess of all of this, Christians need to be emotionally and spiritually mature enough to show people a better way to use technology to interact with those around us.

Lord, help us be authentic with those around us but also help us to learn when to share our thoughts and when to keep them to ourselves. Amen.

----------------------------------------


This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:


Friday, August 22, 2014

Helping the Poor vs. Salvation - Christianity 101

 
Mark 8:36-37 - For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul?



Shortly after Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March 2013, I heard an interesting discussion on the news. A commentator was talking about the new Pope and his emphasis on compassion for the vulnerable. In the banter back and forth between the various commentators, this fellow said, "It's just Christianity 101. The basis of Christianity is to help the poor." This commentator was not a theologian, nor was he an official spokesperson for Pope Francis, but he expressed a common misconception that many people have, which is that the primary purpose of the church is to help the poor and needy.

While helping the poor and vulnerable is a key part of how Christianity demonstrates the love of Christ to others (James 1:27, John 13:35), it is not the basis of Christianity. The basis of Christianity is what Christ has done. Christianity 101 is that people, by nature and by choice, are sinners. Anyone who doubts this need only watch the nightly news to see the depravity of mankind. But Christianity 101 also says that God loves us and that His love is more powerful than man's sinfulness. Christianity 101 teaches us that our sinful condition must somehow be corrected. After all, a loving God would never leave us in our messed-up condition. The idea that sin must be atoned for is where our concept of justice comes from. Innately, we know that there is a consequence for bad actions and a price to be paid when a wrong is done. One does not have to be a theologian to understand that. Thousands of years of human history have clearly proven that we are incapable of fixing our messes ourselves. Therefore, God sent His Son Jesus to earth to not only show us a better way to live, but to offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. His life and death satisfied the justice of God, as well as set an example for how to live. That is Christianity 101.

This does not mean that helping the poor and the needy is unimportant. Clearly Jesus expects us to do that, but helping the poor and needy is Christianity 201, not 101. People must first address their own sinfulness before they can help others in ways that make a long-term difference. People must first find the love of God in their own lives before they can adequately give that love to someone else through compassion that really helps, instead of a patronizing attitude that actually hurts.

Perhaps the problem with much of what the church is doing is that we have attempted to help the poor and needy without first finding the help that God gives in our own lives. We must first enroll in Christianity 101, and then progress to Christianity 201. When the church gets the order right, it will become what it was meant to be, a place for both spiritual peace and compassionate charity. Either one without the other is an incomplete picture of what the church is supposed to be.

Lord, help us know You personally in a real and vibrant way, and then enable us to assist the poor with both their physical and spiritual needs. Amen.


 ----------------------------------

This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Terrible Rumor Around Town

Luke 5:30-32 - 30 But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to His disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus replied to them, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

A gentle older couple from a church across town stopped by my office one day. They wanted to make me aware of a terrible rumor going around about our church. The rumor was that our church allowed anyone to worship with us no matter their past background, or their current state of sinfulness. I did not know where that couple heard that rumor, but I was quite happy to confirm that the rumor was true! Our church had worked hard to let everyone in the community know that we accept all people just as they are. I rejoiced that day that the word had gotten out about our open door policy and that people are talking about it openly in our community. I can think of worse rumors floating around out there about churches.

Jesus encountered the same kind of rumors in His ministry. Luke 5:30-32 recounts one such story. In this passage, we see that Jesus reached out to people who did not fit the typical religious stereotype. Jesus reached out to those often spurned by the religious crowd. Many people did not understand, or like, the people Jesus reached.

Jesus knew His actions were misunderstood by many, yet He made them anyway. Jesus loved all kinds of people. His love compelled Him to reach out to anyone He came in contact with, including those that others may have considered untouchable. But do not be confused. Though Jesus took each person as they were, He loved them too much to leave them where they were. Jesus challenged people to consider their spiritual condition before a holy God and called them to repent of their former lifestyles and become His followers.

Our church felt the same way. We accepted people as they were but loved them too much to leave them that way. We did not judge. We just sowed the Word of God into their lives and watched as the Spirit of God transformed them. We believed it was the church’s job to help each Christian learn to imitate Christ. However, we understood that the process took time and were patient in the process.

I thank God that our church was filled with messed up people who found a loving and accepting place where they could discover Christ and then be changed. It would be wonderful if this same rumor was whispered about churches all over our nation. When that begins to happen, we will see another great spiritual awakening sweep across our land.


Lord, help us to reach out to people who may not think they are good enough to come to church. Amen.


------------------------------

This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Nice Things Christians Say

Luke 11:42- 46 - 42 But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of mint, rue, and every kind of herb, and you bypass justice and love for God. These things you should have done without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the front seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves; the people who walk over them don’t know it. 45 One of the experts in the law answered Him, Teacher, when You say these things You insult us too. 46 Then He said: Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, yet you yourselves don’t touch these burdens with one of your fingers.

We have all known Christians who used nice words to say mean things. I lived in the South for a few years and would often hear people say “Well, bless your heart.” At first, I thought people were speaking a blessing over whomever they were talking to. I eventually realized that phrase means “I think you are a complete idiot, but I am too nice to be honest with you.” Once I realized the real meaning of this phrase, it did not seem very nice at all.

Then there are those Christians who find a scripture, usually out of context, and use it as a weapon against people they disagree with. They often start the conversation with a very sweet tone of voice and deceptive smile as they say, “The Bible says,” and then offer their out-of-context verse. Though their charm and use of Bible verses can be disarming, just try disagreeing with them. Suddenly the charm disappears and they make us feel like we are going against God Himself.  The fact that they have often ignored the full teaching of scripture on whatever the subject is does not matter to them.

Then there are the Christians who say they are “praying for you.” But the context of the conversation, the tone of their voice, or their body language indicates that they are actually judging us and are not likely to be praying for us at all. Thankfully, many are genuinely praying and since most of us can use all the prayer we can get, we are encouraged when someone says they are praying for us. But when Christians use “I am praying for you” as a nice way to tell us they think we are bad people, it takes away whatever encouragement we might have gained from genuine prayer.

I am not suggesting that Christians should stop trying to be nice. Our world has become a pretty harsh and rude place. We need more niceness in our society, not less. I am simply observing that sometimes we Christians like to hide behind nice words to say mean things. Most people can see right through this as thinly disguised arrogance. They know it is not an example of true spirituality. More importantly, God sees through it because He knows our hearts. He will hold us accountable for using His Word, prayer and Christian phrases in mean ways to hurt others.

Lord, help our kindness towards others be genuine and from the heart. Keep us from using nice words as a screen for being mean to those around us. Amen.


------------------------------------------------------


This post is an excerpt from the book, The Heavenly Mundane: Daily Devotions from Ordinary Experiences. Filled with stories of how God spoke in big ways through small events, the book will encourage people to look for God in the mundane things of life. Great for both personal use and to give as a gift to friend, either the print version or the e-book version may be purchased at this link: