Relativity is a dangerous game. Relatively speaking, someone may be a genius. Relatively speaking, someone may be good-looking. Relatively speaking, I may be holier than someone else. That's the most dangerous game of all. How many times have we comforted ourselves by comparing ourselves to others? We may be bothered by something we've done wrong, so we consider another who we may think is worse. Jesus warns us against playing this dangerous game. His disciples often played the relativity game to justify themselves, and Jesus wasn’t very fond of it. When asked if they were holier than others because they had not suffered some tragedy, Jesus gave them some perspective in return: “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). The relativity game is an easy one to play, but there is a cost for playing it. When we play the relativity game, we're not playing by our rules; we're playing by Jesus' rules.
It’s always difficult to deal with a loss of life. To be honest, I can hardly ever find the words to say to someone dealing with it. I always want to try to make the sufferer feel better or somehow make up for what’s happened. But I know nothing I say can ever heal that kind of hurt. I’m not sure there is anything that can truly compensate for someone’s loss. However, I think Jesus provides a good example of how we can help those who are grieving. In John 11, Jesus discovers His friend, Lazarus, has passed on. Jesus goes to see Lazarus, and He does something we don’t normally visualize Jesus doing; He cries. It’s strange to consider Jesus crying because He knows that He will raise Lazarus from the dead. But maybe He is teaching us a lesson— maybe the best thing we can do to help those who are hurting is empathize with them. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” You and I can encourage each other by sharing our hardships and inspiring each other with the knowledge that we will see our loved ones again (1 Thess. 4:13-18). It might not heal all our pain, but it can motivate us to look forward to the One who can.
I absolutely love college football. Honestly, if I was left unmonitored on a Saturday, I would watch college football all day. And as an avid football fan, there’s one thing that drives me up the wall: missed assignments, particularly dropped passes. The coaches call the perfect play, the ball is snapped correctly, the offensive line blocks the defenders, the receiver runs the right route, and the quarterback makes the right read. Everything works like clockwork; everyone has a job to do. But when it really counts, the receiver (whose main job is to receive) drops the ball. All of the practice and effort is wasted in one moment. If you’re not into football, let’s put it this way; how stressful is it to plan for a family vacation? You rented a nice hotel, you’ve bought the airline tickets, and you’ve gotten off of work for that week. But, at the last minute, something happens that is beyond your control, and your vacation is no more. Frustrating, right? What if we, as Christians, did all the work (we read the Bible, we went to church, we filled our lives with good works), only to drop the ball at the end? Imagine all of that time and energy wasted. Let’s make sure we’re applying what we’ve learned to our lives so that we will be welcomed into heaven in the end (cf. Matt. 7:21).
What do you think about when you hear the word “gospel?” Maybe you’d think about the 4 gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Or you might think about an archaic word that’s only ever heard inside the church walls. In the literal sense, gospel means “good news.” So when someone references the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they’re really saying “the good news of Jesus Christ.” But what makes Jesus’ news good? Is it because He was a sage man? Was it because He taught great things and stood for the poor and disillusioned of this world? What makes Jesus’ news good is that His story doesn’t end once the last page of our Bible is turned. When He rose from the grave, He gave us hope that we can rise in a resurrection like His. With Jesus as our mediator between us and God, we have an eternal hope that we’ll always be with God. As we go through this year’s Gospel Meeting, think about how much that word means to those who owe Jesus everything.
My mom always used to tell me that the “proof is in the pudding.” However obscure that phrase may seem, those who have heard it all their lives know exactly what it means. It’s not enough to just say it; we have to prove it. The Jews had a similar figure of speech: “the good tree bears fruit.” John the Baptist said it to the Pharisees, and Jesus told His disciples that false teachers could be identified by the fruit they produce (Luke 3:8; Matt. 7:15-17). The Lord thought this principle was so important that He carried it into the New Testament writings. In James 2:17, we are told that faith without works is dead. Think about that for a minute: James compares our faith to a body with our works animating it like a soul. We don’t expect to go to a funeral and see the deceased person get out of the casket, do we? That’s how James describes a faith without proof. Are there opportunities for us to prove our faith? Absolutely! James says that even offering someone food, water, or comfort can be an expression of our faith in God. As we try to give God a good name, let’s not forget Christ’s admonition in Matthew 25:40: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
Dear Skullbone Widows,
I don't really understand how you do it. I mean, it's hard for me to function without Morgan even for a couple of days. Yet, here you are. You're a lot tougher than I am. It's hard to estimate how encouraging you are to the rest of the congregation. Every Sunday, you are a faithful example of what a Christian should be, and we see it, believe me. I know that life can be especially hard on you without your loved one in your it. But I hope you know that our God has a soft spot for you. He sees and knows your troubles: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction," (James 1:27 ESV). You, above many in the church, are seated in honor. The church is instructed to "honor widows who are truly widows," (1 Tim. 5:3, 16 ESV). God uses widows throughout the Bible to show His mercy and compassion. So I want to encourage you to keep knocking, and you will find what you seek (cf. Luke 18:1-8).
Dear VBS Volunteers,
The ironic thing about writing this is you probably will be so busy with making sure everything runs smoothly that you won’t have time to read it. Organizing and planning for VBS is so hard for so many reasons. Most of us have other responsibilities outside of church which means we have to put those on hold for a while to do this. To add insult to injury, your hours of attention to detail, study, and delivery will go largely unappreciated and unrecognized by the average attendee. But you still do it because you love these kids and because you want them to grow a deeper relationship with Jesus; and that’s why I love you. I know all this can be frustrating, but remember our Lord’s admonition in Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Remember, you may not receive the credit you deserve here and now, but you will receive more than you deserve in heaven.
In Jesus’ love,