True Faith Demands Living on the Edge

While in Chicago last month at the Moody Bible Institute, I heard one of the preachers there say something that has mulled over in my mind these past few weeks.  I wasn't quick enough to write it down, but loosely paraphrased: "God likes us living on the edge in believing Him."  I've come to the conclusion that he was right.  God does not see our faith as something designed for the mainstream.  Faith isn't based on the popular vote.  Real faith in God certainly doesn't win much approval in the culture.  Even internally, true faith will challenge your wits.  Our faith in God is what gets us up in the morning and off the fence in our decision making during the day.  So, understandably then, our faith should kick us in the rear from time to time and push us out into the world.  If nothing's at risk, then we're not talking about faith being required.

How scary can living on the edge in belief of God be?  How about life or death?  Paul put it this way, "We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one, we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?"  [2 Corinthians 2:15-16]

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Requirements for Servanthood

"So the twelve called a meeting of all the believers.  They said, 'We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program.  And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will give them this responsibility.'"  [Acts 6:2-3]

If people asked around about you, they would begin to see a pattern developing.  Whether good or bad, you have a reputation. The question is then, is yours good or bad?  If you want to be used by God, a good reputation will serve you better than a bad one, right?  We see from Acts 6:3 that one reason Stephen was chosen for God's service was his good reputation.  He had personal integrity.  The apostle Paul, writing to Timothy about qualifications for leadership in the church, said, "People outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil's trap"  [1 Tim. 3:7].  To have a good reputation means that people speak well of you – even non-believers.

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Spiritual Maturity

"When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do.  But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways."  [1 Corinthians 13:11]

Have you ever noticed that kids typically want to be "grown up," even when they haven't yet earned the title?  They can't wait until they are older, but don't always want to accept the maturity that's supposed to go with age.  As I was writing notes on 1 Corinthians 13 for a Wednesday Night Bible Study, I was struck by the significance of Paul's words to the church folk in Corinth.  They had been misbehaving, placing a lot of energy in their new-found spiritual gifts (knowledge, tongues, prophecy, miracles, generosity), but they apparently weren't doing a very good job of simply loving each other.  There was division in the church based on the very spiritual gifts God had given them – abusing the gift of tongues, envious of each others gifts, selfishness, impatience – the kind of behavior that disgraces the One who gave the gifts.  Spiritual gifts, no matter how exciting and wonderful, no matter how much fun they are...are useless and even destructive if they are not shared in love.  Paul tells the church that they are just being noisy gongs and clanging cymbals, that they are of no use to the kingdom, if they choose to simply run around flashing their gifts without having any love for each other in their hearts.  If the gifts of God are worth a fortune, the grace of God is immeasurable.  And God's grace is best seen in the love He shares with us and the love we share with one another.

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April Fools

I saw a sign in front of a church that made the declaration: "April 1st – National Atheists Day!"  It made me chuckle a little as I drove past.  Then I remembered the Bible tells us to be careful about calling another person a fool  (Matthew 5:22).  That passage deals more with being angry with a brother than a harmless joke on April Fools Day, but we do need to watch what we call others.

On the other hand, what better day could you pick for National Atheists Day than April 1st, April Fools Day?  The Bible makes this point clear also: "Only a fool would say there is no God!"  [Psalm 14:1]  The Bible states that anyone who denies God is a fool!

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A Landmark Decision

In February, I spent some time looking into Black History events.  I also happened to have recently seen two really good movies on Abraham Lincoln's legacy.  Many of you are aware of the landmark Supreme Court decision of 1954 titled Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education.  That legislation ended segregation in public schools.  Did it stop racism?  Hardly.  But, since then, when a lawyer stands in a courtroom, he or she can reference Brown v. Topeka, Kansas Board of Education to legitimize someone's rights today.  It was a landmark decision.

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The Ankle Bone's Connected to the Leg Bone

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."  [1 Corinthians 12:4-7]

This part of Paul's letter to the church in Corinth is probably familiar to many of you.  Paul describes those in the church (you and me) as being equal parts that, put together, make up a working and connected body that functions well because all the parts are connected and fit together for the purposes of God.

For various parts to perform outside their intended functions, it would be like an eye trying to hear.  When some parts feel it's not necessary to perform their given function, it would be like a foot not walking because it isn't a hand.  Doesn't make much sense, does it?  Eyes see, ears hear, feet walk, and hands hold.

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Making Contact

I can remember watching the New York Yankees on our black and white TV many Saturday afternoons in the 60's.  One of my favorites Yankees was Yogi Berra (this was a real person, not the cartoon character with his buddy, BooBoo).  Yogi was the catcher and by definition that means part of his job was to mess with the opposing batters while they were at the plate – talking a little trash about the batter's mother, or making fun of his hitting abilities, or that he swings like a girl.  The point was to mess with the batter's mind in order to take his focus off of why he was standing in the batter's box.

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