Faith, Action, and Love

Luke 7_4_9_Faith Action and Love.

He was one of the few people who amazed Jesus.  And by all accounts he was an amazing guy who had the respect and admiration of everyone.  Was he one of the disciples?  No.  One of the Jewish leaders?  No.  Was he a great Greek scholar?  No.

He was a Roman centurion.  A commander of 100 men.  A citizen of Rome.  An employee of Nero.  Yet a friend of the Jews.  In fact, when this man’s household servant fell ill, several Jewish elders went to Jesus advocating for the man.

“If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said,  “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” (Luke 7:4-5)

What was it that won the support of the people?  His love which led to action.  He cared for them and did what he could to meet their needs.  As an officer of the Roman army, it likely wasn’t his job to build them a synagogue, but his love compelled him to nonetheless.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is the same man who thought himself unworthy to have Jesus come to his home.  Knowing Jesus had great authority, the centurion realized Christ only had to say the word and his servant would be healed.  It was at this point that Jesus commented about him:

I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! (v.9)

Want to be respected by people and amazing to God? Then follow the centurion’s examples of love, action, and faith!  –Dave

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Praiseworthy Protection

Sunday_Psalm 5_11_Praise for His Protection

Lord, we praise you today for Your hand of protection over us!
 
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The Real Danger

Psalm 55_9_11_The Real Danger

As their king, David had an important part to play in keeping God’s people safe.  Just like today, Israel was surrounded by hostile enemies, and Jerusalem’s walls required constant guarding.  As their leader, David was aware of the threats from those outside his nation.

But as a man after God’s own heart, David was sensitive to another threat to his people.  A threat which he knew to be greater than all the enemy armies combined.  As he sized up the situation, David gave this “State of the Union” address:

I see violence and conflict in the city.  Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders, but the real danger is wickedness within the city.  Everything is falling apart; threats and cheating are rampant in the streets. (Psalm 55:9-11)

David saw it all.  The violence and conflict.  The walls patrolled against invaders.  But he knew the real danger was the wickedness WITHIN the city.  Israel could fall to foreign invaders, but over and over in her history, what made Israel trip and fall was her rebellion against the Lord.  When they walked faithfully with Him, God guided and protected them.  But when they walked away, God disciplined them.

I’m no historian, but I’ve read enough to know many of the great civilizations of the past were toppled not from foreign invasion, but from moral decay within.  Yes, a nation can reasonably protect itself.  Yes, we should try to stop viral pandemics when we can.  But while we do, let’s not neglect the real danger – the decay of our moral fiber.

Christian – which do you pay more attention to – the threats around you?  Or the potential danger within?  –Dave

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A Breath of Life

John 15_13_Fear or Love

There will undoubtedly be countless stories which emerge following the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.  But perhaps none will be better than that of Don Giuseppe Berardelli.  Berardelli was a 72 year-old priest serving a parish in Casnigo, Italy.  As one of the hardest hit areas in the country, local hospitals had simply run out of respirators.

Berardelli was among the unfortunate souls to contract the deadly virus.  However, because he had an underlying respiratory illness, he was also in possession of his own respiratory – a gift from his loving parish!  Because his parishioners had provided for him, all he need do was continue to use their gift and he likely would have ridden out his illness.  Certainly those who loved him wanted him to do just that.

However Berardelli did the unthinkable – instead of using his personal respirator to save his own life, he gave it to a much younger man who had also contracted the virus.  That man lived, Berardelli died on March 15, 2020.

While much of the world hoarded things like bread and toilet paper, one man gave away the one thing that could have saved his life.  You see, fear takes; but love gives.  History will not remember the hoarders, but it will remember the givers; and if history doesn’t remember, God will!

Friends, the world has always needed more givers; all the more so during times like these.  Will you be a giver or a taker?  What will control you – fear or love?  –Dave

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

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Not a Blind Faith

Luke 5_5_28_Not a Blind Faith.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the accounts of how the disciples readily dropped everything and followed Jesus.  And certainly they set a wonderful example of willingness to make the pursuit of Christ a top priority.

However, recently I reread Jesus’ calling of Peter, James, John, and Matthew in Luke 5.  Somehow I had overlooked something important in each account.  Jesus asked Peter, James and John to follow Him immediately AFTER He miraculously filled their nets to overflowing (Luke 5:5-11).  Matthew left his tax-collecting table AFTER Jesus had healed the paralytic lowered through the roof by his friends (5:27-28).

Here’s my point.  Ours is NOT a blind faith.  At its heart, “faith” means “persuaded.”  It’s to consider the evidence and determine if it’s enough to persuade you it’s true.  Peter, James, John, and Matthew all saw what Christ had done and were persuaded that He was whom He claimed to be.  Seeing what He’d done, they believed He would do great things ahead.

In many ways, Christ asks the same of us today – consider the evidence and decide.  Has God demonstrated His existence or not?  Does all of creation declare there is a God in heaven?  Was there a man named Jesus who lived during the era of Pontius Pilate?  Was this Jesus crucified and later resurrected?  After considering all that has been revealed, I answer a resounding “YES” to each question!  I’ve been persuaded that Christ is exactly whom He claimed to be.  I have faith in Him.

Does faith then mean we never have doubts?  No.  Does it mean we can prove everything to a skeptic?  No.  If we could prove everything, there’d be no faith required.  Nonetheless, we have been given more than enough to respond in faith.  Have you?  –Dave

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Fill in the Blank

Ephesians 2_8_10_Fill in the Blank

As a student, I loved “fill in the blank” test questions.  They were as easy as they came!  Yet there is one fill in the blank question that far too many people miss – and miss with serious consequences.  It goes like this:

It is by ____________ you have been saved.

The vast majority of adults today still believe in God and heaven.  Most also believe they are personally going to end up there one day.  However, if asked to explain upon what basis they believe they’ll attain heaven, it gets dicey.

Most frequently, people will fill in the blank with some mention of their goodness.  Because they are basically “good people” or “not as bad as Hitler,” they believe they’ll get in.  Objectively, however, there simply is no way of knowing how much “good” is “good enough.”  Such a perspective also diminishes the holiness of God.  If our human efforts alone are good enough to satisfy the requirements of an Almighty God, He must not be very holy – we lower Him to our standards.

Such an answer also demonstrates a lack of understanding about good deeds and salvation.  Certainly there is a connection between the two; but the order is critical.  Scripture repeatedly tells us that man cannot earn his salvation.  Compared to the holy standards of God, our best efforts on a good day are piles of dung (Philippians 3:8), or filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Yet having been saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ, we THEN begin to do good works out of gratitude.  James saves that a faith without works is dead and not a saving faith.  To the words above, Paul would add that God created us to do good works – but that comes AFTER a faith that saves.

It’s an incredibly important question…by what do you think you will be saved?  –Dave

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

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The Beauty of the Benediction

Numbers 6_22_26_The Beauty of the Benediction

The Lord bless you  and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you  and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Perhaps like me, you’ve heard a pastor or other speaker end their message with this benediction of blessing.  They’re beautiful words for sure, and certainly they are wonderful things for one person to wish upon another.  However, backing up a couple of verses gives us some additional perspective – and that perspective is beautiful!

Immediately before the benediction above we read:

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

What makes these blessings so wonderful is that they originated from the heart of God!  It is the Lord, and not a mere man, who wants us to have God’s blessing, protection, favor, graciousness, and peace!  And what God wants to give, God gives!

So the next time someone wishes these things upon you, remember it is really God who wants you to have them! –Dave

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