It can be uncomfortable at times to welcome and embrace someone on the fringes. You’re never quite really sure if they will do or say something that might cause embarrassment for themselves, but more importantly, the rest of us. However, there is treasure to be found by stretching our reach a little farther. Love and acceptance can make a great impact upon someone who has experienced ostracization and rejection. Life may seem less complicated if our criteria for acceptance is narrow, but we will miss out on what God has in store for us.
Many Christians believe that sound doctrine or teaching is important, but they do not always know why it is important. Sound doctrine is not an end in itself, but instead it serves as guard rails to keep us on the road of faith. Following sound doctrine will lead to sound living, sound ministry and sound hope.
It is not enough to simply believe things about Jesus. We can believe that Jesus was sent from God, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, suffered and died, rose again and will someday return and still not believe in him. We can believe all of the correct doctrine and yet still hold something in reserve that we are unwilling to commit to him.
I recall a Christmas when I was about 10 years old when I did not receive the gifts that I wanted or expected. I was vocal in expressing my displeasure to the dismay of my parents. I was neither pleasant nor civil with my disrespect and ungratefulness. I was immature and did not appreciate all of the blessings and advantages that were mine, but today it reminds me of Christians who are begging and even demanding favor from God. They do not realize how much favor they already possess.
“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.” Luke 6:43–44 (NLT) We may find it astonishing that someone who does not act like us or think like us can produce good fruit, but Jesus commanded us to love one another and in doing so, each one of us will produce even more fruit in our lives for the glory of God.
It is not uncommon to hear the words praise and worship used in tandem and even interchangeably, but do they really mean the same thing? On one level they may seem the same, but there are significant differences. There are many Hebrew and Greek words for both praise and worship as translated into English. The most prevalent Greek word for praise indicates esteem and honor, a recognition of God’s glory. The word that is used most often for worship has the meaning of bowing down, paying homage or prostrating oneself before God.
Jesus told his disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 (NIV). When we are confronted by a mountain we should ask, “Why is it there before exercising our faith to remove the mountain.”
Without a doubt, the way of love is too difficult for us to accomplish in our own strength or ability. When we see what it actually means, we may not even be inclined to try, but we must remember that we were not always as lovable as we are now.
Writers know that a provocative title can entice people to read what they have written. However, the ploy cannot be overused because it will soon lose its effectiveness. I am writing this because I have been inspired by the words of Paul to the Galatians. “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Galatians 4:19 (NIV). Paul used the illustration of childbirth to convey the seriousness and determination that he had to see the life and character of Christ developed and formed in the lives of those who were in the church at Galatia.
There are times in life when we have insight and God reveals to us specific direction and we are able to pray with targeted conviction, strong faith and without doubts, but there will be other times when we are standing between withered fig trees and mountains and we won’t be exactly sure what it means or what we should do.