Faith Matters - Current Posts

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Make a Difference!

A newspaper reporter once asked me why our church chose to get involved in helping people in Africa suffering from HIV/AIDS. My answer was quick and simple, “We’re just doing what Christians have always done. Christians have responded with love and compassion during epidemics all the way back to the bubonic plagues and smallpox epidemics of the Roman Empire. That’s what Christians do – they make a difference in the world.”
And what’s true of Christians as a group should be true of us individually as well. At the end of our lives, we want to be able to say that it mattered that we were here. We want to have made a difference in the name of Jesus Christ. No one wants to finish life poorly. We don’t want the measure of our lives to be the money we earned, the education we received or the possessions we accumulated. We want to make a real difference.
One of the best ways to get started is by simply looking for opportunities. You know those bumper stickers that say, “Start seeing motorcycles”? The point is that there are motorcycles whether you see them or not. Just open your eyes and look around and you’ll see lots of things that you would otherwise miss.
I challenge you to try it for a week. Look for ways you can reach out and make a difference in the lives of other people. God will give you lots of ideas – and they will be ideas that fit who you are and what you can do.

Related Scripture: Mark 12: 30-31 & I Corinthians 12:4-6

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, October 19, 2007

What Motivates You?

It’s said that “Love makes the world go ‘round.” But for many, guilt is a greater motivator. How often do you do things not out of love, but because you feel obligated?
Those who find themselves in positions of leadership within a church setting are particularly vulnerable to this.
When God calls us to lead others we are to respond willingly, understanding that spiritual leadership is an awesome responsibility and a privilege. Listen to St. Peter’s challenge to leaders: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers. Not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.
Peter wanted us to be aware of the wrong reasons to say “yes” to spiritual leadership. The first is obligation. Sometimes when asked to lead others in church or community we do it out of sheer duty. It’s perhaps better than saying “no,” but hardly the best reason. The second “wrong reason” is greed. This is when you take on a responsibility because it will benefit you by providing you with recognition, power or financial gain.
Peter tells us to be eager to serve and eager to lead. Our attitude toward should not be “How can others serve me?” but, “How can I serve others?”
When we are called upon to be leaders, to shepherd others for God’s sake, may we eagerly say “yes” because we are willing and we want to bless others.

Related Scripture: I Peter 5:2

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Getting a Second Chance

When we make unwise choices and mess up, we can’t always count on getting a second chance to go back and do it right. But that’s exactly what happened to Jonah in the Old Testament. God gave him a second chance.
The first time around when God asked him to go warn the city of Nineveh to repent, Jonah had refused and run away. He ended up in the belly of a great fish with three days to think about it. Then God caused the fish to vomit Jonah up onto dry land, giving Jonah a second chance.
This time when God said, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim… the message I give you," Jonah obeyed. He delivered the message, but his attitude hadn''t changed. Jonah still hated the people of Nineveh and didn’t want them to repent and be forgiven. He wanted them judged and destroyed. His ride in the belly of the fish had caused his behavior to change, but not his heart.
To Jonah’s dismay, his enemies in Nineveh listened to God’s warning, repented and were spared. Jonah was angry. He didn’t want God to give them a second chance. Jonah did the right thing but with the wrong attitude.
What about you? Don’t wait until you’re in a situation as hopeless as the belly of a fish. Decide right now to do what God wants you to do whether you feel like it or not. If God is offering you a second chance, say “Yes,” but do it with the right attitude!

Related Scripture: Jonah 3:2 -4:1

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Power Corrupts

An old axiom says that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Very few leaders handle power well.
The Bible tells the story of Joseph, a young Hebrew man who was sold into slavery in Egypt because his brothers hated him for being their father’s favorite. In spite of the hardships of slavery, Joseph remained faithful to God. After years of suffering, God rewarded Joseph’s faithfulness by having the ruler of Egypt promote him to the position of Prime Minister.
Drought spread throughout the region and because of Joseph’s wise management, only Egypt had food. Joseph’s brothers were sent by their father to Egypt in search of grain. When they stood before Joseph they didn’t recognize him. They thought he was dead.
How would you treat those who had mistreated you if you were in the position of control? At first Joseph struggled with what to do, but soon the character of this man shone brightly. He forgave his brothers, giving them food, protection and land. He used his power for good. When his brothers eventually realized that this powerful prime minister of Egypt was actually the kid brother they had sold into slavery, they were scared to death. But Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid.…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
What a stunning perspective! Joseph realized that even when people intend to harm us, God intends those very acts be used for good.

Related Scripture: Genesis 19: 19-20

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Monday, October 8, 2007

When Life Isn't Fair

What do you do when everything goes wrong and life isn’t fair? Thousands of years ago a boy was born to a nomadic Middle Eastern family. His father, Jacob, had more than a dozen children from two wives and two concubines, and his most recent son to be born was named Joseph. Perhaps because he was the youngest, his father favored Joseph. And that favoritism nurtured resentment among his brothers.
When a caravan of traders came by, the brothers sold Joseph into slavery, telling their father that he had been killed by a wild animal. When the caravan arrived in Egypt, Joseph was sold to Potipher, the captain of Pharaoh’s palace guard.
Joseph suffered the hard life of a slave but he didn’t complain. He honored God and faithfully served Potipher. God blessed Joseph and gave him success. Potipher promoted Joseph to the position of top slave in charge of his estate. But things got worse again when Joseph was falsely accused and put in prison. Two years later, in a dramatic turn of events, Joseph was able to interpret two dreams for the Pharaoh that none of the other wise men in Egypt had been able to do. Joseph spoke with stunning clarity, giving the credit for his wisdom to God. As a result, Pharaoh believed him and promoted Joseph to the position of Prime Minister.
Joseph experienced a life of extremes: hardship, good fortune, imprisonment, release and promotion. Yet he never lost sight of the fact that God is in control.

Related Scripture: Genesis 39:1-23

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, October 5, 2007

Don't Misuse My Name!

How would you feel if you heard someone gossiping about you, or saying that you are a cheat and a liar?” It would hurt and you probably wouldn’t like it. Did you know that God is also sensitive about the use of his name?
It’s important enough to him that the third of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” The initial meaning of this commandment was not what we most often think of today. It was saying that when you use God’s name to swear a promise, as in a court of law, always make sure that you keep the promise. It still applies to marriage vows, baptismal vows, court testimony or whenever the name of God is invoked.
The second understanding of misusing God’s name is profanity. One of the most frequent insertions into every-day American conversation is, “Oh my God.” People say it in regards to the weather, sports, or just about anything that is happening. I don’t even know that they hear themselves saying it. But such flippancy in the use of his name is really an insult to God. We wouldn’t like it if our names were used in a similar way, and God doesn’t like it either. It’s a matter of respect. Remember, “The Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

Related Scripture: Exodus 20:7

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Benefits to Being a Christian

Did you know that there are enormous benefits to being a Christian? The Bible says that when you put your faith and trust in Jesus “you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This doesn’t mean that when we become Christians we’ll never sin, make mistakes or face hardships in life; it means that there is nothing that will take us down or that God cannot overcome.
The Bible was written during the time of the Roman Empire and the picture is of soldiers marching to battle. In the Roman army a unit of one hundred soldiers was called a century – and its leader was a centurion. If the century was marching along and one soldier tripped or fell, the assurance was that the century would not leave that soldier behind, they would help him up.
The same promise is being made to Christians. Becoming a Christian isn’t just an insurance policy for heaven after we die, the benefits begin immediately. And one of those benefits is that God will come along side of us and help us not to fall or be destroyed by the circumstances of life.
A second benefit is a rich welcome into the presence of God. Every Christian is guaranteed a place in the eternal kingdom of God. When you think of it, this life is comparatively short, while eternity lasts forever! Believing in Jesus fills our lives with joyful anticipation of the destination that awaits us.

Related Scripture: 2 Peter 1: 10-11

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Seeking Confirmation

There’s nothing quite like a free trip! Recently I cashed in some frequent flyer miles. I went online, entered my Frequent Flyer number, chose my destination and travel dates, and selected my flights. I was issued a confirmation number but I wanted to talk to a real person to make sure. So I called the 800 number. The agent said, “You’ve got an e-ticket.” Well, I wanted something more tangible so she offered further confirmation by e-mail, fax, or by mail. I told her that I would like all three. I really wanted to be sure I was getting that trip!
I was reminded of St. Peter’s words when he told us to be “eager to make your calling and election sure.” Peter wasn’t writing about an airline destination, but about our eternal destination. He was talking to those of us who have called up God in prayer and asked for a reservation to go to heaven.
God gives two confirmations. First there is confirmation from the Bible. It says, “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then there is a change in our behavior. Becoming a Christian changes a person’s desires and behavior. It’s not that living a good life makes us a Christian; it’s that being a Christian makes us live a better life. Seeking confirmation of our eternal destiny from God enables us to joyfully anticipate the benefits of our reservation.

Related Scripture: Romans 10:9

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Monday, October 1, 2007

Like Father, Like Son

One of America’s top crimes is larceny-theft. It can be robbing a bank or writing a bad check. It can be copyright infringement, especially with music where you are cheating someone out of their royalty. There are lots of different ways of taking something we shouldn’t have.
There’s a story about a father who found out from the school authorities that his son had stolen pencils. The father was outraged. When the son came home, he gave him a spanking and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Why do you steal? Don’t I bring home enough pencils for you from work?”
Compare that with the actions of Ascension Franco Gonzales, an illegal immigrant living in Los Angeles. He earns $1,300 a month as a dishwasher and sends $800 of that to his parents in Mexico every month to help them build a concrete block house. The newspaper reported that Gonzales saw bags of money fall out of an armored truck. He agonized over what to do but then called the police and turned it in, knowing that he risked being deported. It turned out to be $203,000. He said he just couldn’t keep it. It wouldn’t be right. He was raised by his parents to be a good Catholic and he could not steal what was not his.
In both stories it was like father, like son. If we are trusting in God as our father, when we face temptation we’ll know what to do.

Related Scripture: I Corinthians 10:13 & Matthew 26:41

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, September 28, 2007

No Other Gods Before Me

In the ancient world everyone was a polytheist—believing in multiple gods. Every nation had different gods and humans struggled to stay out of the way of their conflicts.
For four hundred years the Hebrew people had lived under the control of the Egyptians who worshipped many gods. Then, under the leadership of Moses, they were suddenly set free from their slavery in Egypt. Talk about a life change! Even more revolutionary, Moses had a mountaintop encounter with God where God gave him Ten Commandments. The first commandment was, “You shall have no other gods before me.” All they knew was living with multiple, conflicting gods. Now they were being told that their God (Yahweh) was to always have precedence over other gods. This was a risky notion. What if the other gods didn’t like it?
An even better translation of the Hebrew words in the first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” In other words, Yahweh was not to be their top god, he was to be their only God.
We live in a society with many competing gods with names like “Luck,” “Money,” “Science,” “Counseling,” “Education,” and “Things.” We often believe that these gods can cure our cancer, solve our problems and get us what we want in life. But the Lord of heaven and earth is saying that it’s not that way. He alone is the true God and we are to swear our allegiance to Him and Him alone.

Related Scripture: Exodus 20:3

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who "Creates?"

Did you know that every time the verb “create” appears in the Old Testament it is always about what God does? It is never about what humans do. We are not creators. As much as we may be impressed with our human ability to invent machines and medicines, we are merely the stewards of what God has already created. Even the creations of the most innovative science fiction film makers are comprised of variations of creatures we already know. Only God can speak a universe into existence.
In the New Testament it says, "By Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”
In our world, creation defines ownership. Those same science fiction film makers “own” the movie they create. If God created the world, then he owns it. In the book of Psalms it says, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.”
One of the most basic questions of life is over the question of ownership. Does everything belong to God or do we own it? Is it our world and our environment for us to treat as we please? Are these our bodies so that we can determine our own destiny? The answer to this question of ownership is the essential difference between being a Christian and a non-Christian, between being a believer and an unbeliever. If God is truly the creator, and therefore the owner, then we are accountable to Him.

Related Scripture: Colossians 1:16 & Psalms 24:1

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dr. Einstein

Several years ago when Billy Graham was honored at a special luncheon, he replied to all the accolades with a story. “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist…. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached into his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn’t there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat by him. He still couldn’t find it. The conductor said, ‘Doctor Einstein, I know who you are.… I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.’ Einstein nodded appreciatively.
The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, ‘Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.’ Einstein looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I too know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.’”
Billy Graham went on to explain to his audience, “I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.” He knew he was trusting in Jesus and that the Bible promises, “whoever believes in [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life [in heaven].” Do you know where you are going?

Related Scripture: John 3:16

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Finding Meaning in Tragedy

Author Richard Exley tells the story of a pastor whose son committed suicide. Returning to his pulpit ten days later, his text was Romans 8:28. With a trembling voice he read, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He said, “I cannot make my son’s suicide fit into this passage. It’s impossible for me to see how anything good could come out of it. Yet I realize that I only see in part. I only know in part.”
Fighting for composure, he continued, “It’s like the miracle of the shipyard. Almost every part of our great ocean-going vessels are made of steel. If you take any single part…and throw it into the ocean, it will sink. Steel doesn’t float! But when the shipbuilders are finished, when the last plate has been riveted in place, then that massive steel ship is virtually unsinkable.”
“Taken by itself, my son’s suicide is senseless. Throw it into the sea of Romans 8:28, and it sinks. Still, I believe that when the Eternal Shipbuilder has finally finished, when God has worked out his perfect design, even this senseless tragedy will somehow work to our eternal good.”
In the midst of his despair, this Christian father’s hope was in God’s promise to “work for the good of those who love him.” He came to realize that God shapes our lives through both agony and ecstasy to make us more like Jesus.

Related Scripture: Romans 8:28

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Monday, September 24, 2007

Who Are Prophets

Do you ever wonder what the Bible means when it talks about “prophets”? “Prophets” are those that speak God’s truth to humans. Prophets were authors of the Bible. Listen to how the New Testament explains it:
You will do well to pay attention to [the word of the prophets].… Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation, for prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
The authors of the Bible didn’t think up what they wrote all by themselves. They didn’t spin their own interpretation of history. They didn’t make up a religion. They spoke the words God gave them and they wrote with the authority and accuracy of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is the most studied and documented book in history. What it says has been dissected, analyzed, attacked, criticized and verified for almost two thousand years. Bottom line, the Bible is the Word of God and it’s the truth. And when you put your own personal experience of faith together with the truth of the Bible, you have the two pillars upon which Christianity stands – faith and the Bible, personal encounter and truth. Christianity is not just your own experience and it’s not just the truth of the Bible. It’s a supernatural combination of faith and facts. And, together, they are life transforming.

Related Scripture: 2 Peter 1: 19-21

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Mountain-top Experience

The Bible tells us that Jesus went up on a mountain with three of his closest followers, Peter, James and John, where he was “transfigured” or changed in appearance. His clothes became dazzling white and the three disciples heard the voice of God the Father out of a cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” It was an intense, life-shaping experience that fed their faith.
Many people have stories to tell about their own personal experiences with God. Most of them are wonderful, a few are weird, and some are downright wack-o. But what we need to understand is that faith is always tied to personal experience with God and these experiences are different for everyone.
Personal faith is how a person becomes a Christian. That’s why we talk so often about a personal prayer of commitment to Jesus. Faith is not something that someone else can decide and do for us—every one of us needs to experience Jesus Christ. But it’s important that we don’t try to copy somebody else’s experience. If we climb a mountain expecting to see Jesus, as Peter, James and John did, we’re going to be deeply disappointed. That was their experience. Unfortunately, some well-meaning Christians try to impose their experience on others. They expect others to see their visions, to speak in their tongues, or to experience their miracles. But that misses the point. For God’s plan is for each one of us to personally experience Jesus Christ.

Related Scripture: Matthew 17: 4-5

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, September 14, 2007

Confusing Faith and Culture

Throughout history Christians have often made the mistake of confusing faith and culture. Just because we do things a certain way in our culture, doesn’t make them biblical, Christian or right. It’s a mistake to try and super-impose Western culture in the name of bringing the gospel of Jesus.
Historically we have taken non-Christian symbols and activities and Christianized them. One is the Roman cross. We have taken what was a symbol of hatred, pain and condemnation and turned it into a symbol of hope, love and eternal life. The German Yule tree has been renamed a Christmas tree and the celebration of the winter solstice has been replaced by the celebration of the birth of Jesus in the third week of December. We refer to the hymns written by John and Charles Wesley, the founders of the Methodist church, as traditional Christian music. We forget that the Wesleys used the contemporary music of their day. They wrote Christian lyrics for the tunes that were popular in the pubs of England.
Christian missionaries have sometimes gone to other cultures and insisted that they dress the way that we dress; sit in chairs as we do; gather together for worship on Sunday morning as we do and worship with our kind of music. None of that is biblical. It has nothing to do with true worship. What matters is bringing people to the point of trusting in the one true God – and in Jesus Christ, his only son, who came into this world to save sinners from every culture.

Related Scripture: John 3:16-21

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Misled by a Bumper Sticker

A police officer pulled over a car and asked the driver to show his license and registration. The driver was obviously taken back because he said, “Officer, I didn’t go through a stop sign, I didn’t run a red light. I’ve actually been driving under the speed limit.”
The police officer said “What you say is true, but I’ve been following you. I saw you wave your fist at that lady in the left lane who wouldn’t get out of your way. And then when that Hummer cut you off, I was close enough to see how red your face turned. You were really flushed. I couldn’t understand the words you were saying but it appeared that they were pretty explosive. And then, back at the exit when the traffic was all backed up, I could see you pounding on the wheel. So I decided to pull you over.”
The man said “Wait a minute. Since when are any of those things crimes?” The police officer replied, “There’re not – but when I noticed the bumper sticker on your car that says ‘JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO I,’ I figured this had to be a stolen car.”
What’s my point with this story? Some of us are not what we claim to be. We pretend to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ when, in reality, we’re hypocrites. Let us examine ourselves to make sure that we are living in a way that honors Jesus in all that we say and do. Jesus calls us to walk in integrity.

Related Scripture: 2 John 6 & Titus 2:7

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Two Largest Religions

In the 18th and 19th centuries the world issues were exploration, conquest and colonialism. Side effects were commerce, slavery and a multitude of wars. In the 20th century, the world issues were Communism and Totalitarianism vs. Capitalism and Democracy. The century was a ferocious battlefield for land, bodies, minds and souls.
It appears that the world issue for the 21st century is religion. Around the globe there is fierce competition for the religious allegiance of our souls. What happened in America on September 11, 2001 was not the cause, but an effect of the religious competition that is sweeping the globe. It made Americans more interested in Islam than ever before.
Christianity and Islam are the world's two largest religions, together making up about half of the world’s population. Both are multi-national, evangelistic, and growing very rapidly.
In America we are mostly Christian. We belong to different branches of Christianity with names like Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist or Methodist; but the rest of the world lumps us together under the broad title of “Christian.”
With the Muslim population in the United States steadily growing, we are very aware of Muslims. Public opinion ranges from seeing Islam as a religion that is equal to and as acceptable as Christianity, to a well-known leader describing Islam as an “evil and wicked religion.”
So, what’s a Christian to do? Just be yourself! As a devoted follower of Jesus, see Muslims as potential friends rather than as enemies. Treat Muslims as you would treat any one else – with the love and kindness of Jesus Christ.

Related Scripture: 2 Peter 1:6-7 & Galations 6:10

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, September 6, 2007

God is Our Highest Authority

Life’s decisions are seldom simple. Christian ethics aren’t always as easy as some would like to make them out to be. There sometimes is a conflict between God and government.
The religious high court told Jesus’ followers, Peter and John, “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” Although the court had the authority to make that demand, Peter and John immediately answered that they would disobey the ruling because their ultimate allegiance was to God and not to government.
What if everybody did this? If we each decided to pray about what speed we should drive instead of accepting the speed limit laws, we would have automotive chaos. On the other hand, if government must be obeyed without dissent, we have the potential for totalitarian oppression.
Listen to what the New Testament teaches, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
That seems pretty clear to me! Christians are to keep all laws. Yet those words were written by Peter – the one who told his leaders he was going to defy their orders to keep quiet about Jesus.
The broad Christian principle here is that Christians should do their best to obey every law even when the laws are wrong. However, there are limits. God is our highest authority and we must ultimately obey God even if it means breaking the law.

Related Scripture: I Peter 2:13-14

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Slave for Jesus

St. Paul was a man willing to do whatever it took to persuade people to become followers of Jesus Christ. Listen to his extraordinary words: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law.…To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel.” Paul was a true believer.
During the 19th century the Dutch ruled a part of South America that is now called Suriname. Off the coast of that Dutch colony there was an island that some missionaries wanted to reach for Jesus. Most of the islanders were slaves and the plantation owners forbade the missionaries access out of fear of what would happen if the slaves became Christians. They were concerned that outside influence could cause an uprising. As a result, the plantation owners made a rule that effectively excluded missionaries from their property. It said that only slaves may talk to slaves.
Do you know how those missionaries responded to this edict? They sold themselves into slavery. In spite of the harsh treatment and the tropical diseases, they worked on the plantations for the rest of their lives.
Like St. Paul, they became slaves to reach lost people for Jesus.

Related Scripture: I Corinthians 9:19-23

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Do You Believe That?

Our American culture says that everyone is good, everyone is headed for heaven and every religion is a way to get there. As a result, the New Testament teaching that non-Christians are lost from God and that Jesus is the only way to salvation, is not very popular.
Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already.”
In 1854 a criminal named Charlie Peace was hung in London. In those days part of the execution ritual was having an Anglican priest read this liturgy as the condemned was led to the gallows: “Those who die without Christ experience hell, which is the pain of forever dying without the release which death itself can bring.”
Charlie Peace shouted at the priest, “Do you believe that?”
Surprised by the unexpected outburst, the priest haltingly replied, “Well...I...suppose I do.”
“Well, I don't,” said the man about to die. “But if I did, I'd get down on my hands and knees and crawl all over Great Britain, even if it were paved with pieces of broken glass, if I could rescue one person from what you just told me.”
If we really believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that we can affect a person's eternal destiny by sharing that information, we will tell others.

John 3:16-18

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Too Important not to Share

The Mercedes Benz Company created a television ad showing one of their cars crashing into a concrete wall. The purpose of the ad was to demonstrate Mercedes’ superior technology in the ability to absorb the energy of the crash so that it would save lives in otherwise fatal car crashes. In the ad someone asks the Mercedes’ representative why they didn’t use patent law to protect their ingenious engineering ideas from being copied by other auto companies. The Mercedes Benz representative answers, “Because some things in life are too important not to share.”
That’s the way it is with the very good news of Jesus Christ. It’s too important not to share. Jesus started out with a handful of followers and today it is estimated that there are almost two billion people around the globe who call themselves Christians. How did it happen? The answer is obvious – Christians convinced unbelievers to follow Jesus. That’s what Christians do. We tell others about God. We explain the gospel of Jesus Christ. We send missionaries. To be a Christian is to act in ways that produce more Christians.
When Jesus returned to earth after his death and resurrection, he told his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Jesus expected every Christian to join with him in recruiting new Christians who would be real Christians – disciples who are baptized and learning to obey everything Jesus commanded.

Related Scripture: Matthew 28:19-20

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Monday, August 27, 2007

Building the Panama Canal

As a pastor I’ve experienced my share of criticism in the ministry. And along the way I’ve learned that it’s important to follow both a short term and long term approach in dealing with criticism.
For the short term, it’s important to avoid the temptation to hastily respond to criticism in ways that will make matters worse in the future. For example, don’t lose your temper in writing. It can come back to haunt you!
Another tactic is to try avoiding the criticism in the first place. This is actually a Biblical approach. Because the apostle Paul knew that money matters can trigger criticism, he wrote, “We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” Paul made an extra effort to head off the criticism before it came.
As for the long term approach, allow me to share a great story about Colonel George Washington Goethals who worked on building the Panama Canal. Although he faced formidable problems with weather and geography, his biggest burden was severe criticism from people, politicians and the press back at home. A co-worker once asked him when he was going to answer his critics and Goethals said, “When the canal is finished.”
The Bible says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” In other words, the best long term response to your critics is a life well lived and a job well done.

Related Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 & I Peter 2:12

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Consider the Source

When we’re the target of criticism, it’s easy to think of just ourselves. But as Christians, we need to think about our critics as well.
The Bible tells us, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” We need to look at what is happening in our critics’ lives. Why are they so angry? What is their need?
Sometimes the criticism has little to do with us and everything to do with the critic. Some people don’t know how hurtful their words are. They’ve never learned to be kind. They’re not just that way with you; they’re that way with everyone. We sometimes need to feel sorry for the critic, instead of being angry with the critic. Hostile criticism from someone may be a sign that something else is going on in the critic’s life – a lost job, poor health or low self-esteem. All these may burst out in criticism against others. And you may be a handy target. Hurting people often act out against parents, teachers, friends or persons in positions of authority. You may be the target of criticism because of who you are, not what you’ve done.
Some people are critical of everyone and everything. We should not reward their dysfunction by taking their words as seriously as those of thoughtful, loving, careful and occasional critics. When you are criticized, analyze the critic and the criticism. Consider the source.

Related Scripture: Philippians 2:4-5

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Take it Slow

Coping with criticism is never easy, but the Bible has some practical advice to help us deal with it.
In the New Testament, James wrote, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
It’s important to hear what a critic says. Restate the criticism back to that person to be sure you correctly understand. It doesn’t mean the critic is right; it’s just that we need to humbly listen.
In the book of Proverbs it says, “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.”
The advice here is to take it slow when you’re insulted or criticized. Take a deep breath. And ask God for wisdom. Tell God what has happened and ask him if you should answer your critic or just let it go. Think through your response. Don’t escalate the situation; deescalate.
Then it’s always good to talk it over with a godly Christian. Many of us are deeply hurt by criticism and it’s easy to get defensive and angry. Talking to a wise and godly Christian can help to settle us down so we can process what’s been said and test some possible responses.
Personally, I’ve been enormously helped by trusted fellow Christians. They have helped me respond with strength and love. They have counseled me to accept the criticism and change. They have helped me to laugh it off when appropriate.
Coping with criticism is much easier if we hear out our critics, pray before responding and seek the counsel of godly Christians.

Related Scripture: James 1:19 & Proverbs 12:16

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Monday, August 20, 2007

Handling Criticism

I once served on the board of directors of an organization that hired Christians for a variety of ministries across North America. One of the questions asked of the references was how the applicant handled criticism. It was invariably one of the lowest ratings the applicant received. In fact, I don't remember reading a reference of anyone described as enjoying criticism or receiving it with enthusiasm.
I think we can safely assume that none of us enjoys being criticized. So what should we do when we’re the one being criticized?
We should listen to the criticism. The New Testament says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It’s important to pay close attention because the critic may be right.
David was a man in the Old Testament whom no one would want to criticize. He was the king! But he had a critic named Nathan, who was a prophet. Nathan dared to confront King David about his adultery and murder. Now, it’s not easy to confront a king. You do so at risk of your life! But Nathan had a message that David needed to hear and he was right to confront him. David’s response was stunning. David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” He listened to the criticism, considered it and realized that Nathan was right.
We would be wise to heed David’s example. We should hear our critics out and humbly consider what they have to say. Because, often they’re right!

Related Scripture: James 1:19 & 2 Samuel 12:13

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Church is for Everybody

Every story recorded in the Bible is there for a reason. And when a story is retold several times, you know it’s important. One such story is of a Roman army officer named Cornelius. Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army occupying the Jewish Promised Land. It was a dangerous assignment because the Jews hated the occupying Romans.
What makes Cornelius unique was his fascination with the Jewish faith, in spite of the animosity between Romans and the Jews. Cornelius reverenced the God of the Bible. He prayed regularly. He even gave money to Jewish charities.
So why is his story included in the Bible several times? God was doing something new and different. Cornelius was the “poster child” to demonstrate that Christianity wasn’t just for Jews. Jesus died on the cross for everybody. The church is for everybody – even the improbable, like a Roman Centurion. Jesus goes after pagans and seekers.
Is Jesus pursuing you? Cornelius was on his way to becoming a Christian, but he wasn’t there yet. Are you, like Cornelius, curious about religious things? Do you pray, not really knowing God personally? If you’d like to move from being a seeker to being a real Christian, I invite you to pray this prayer with me, right now.
“Thank you, God, for pursuing me. I want to become a Christian today. I admit that I’m a sinner and I’m sorry. I know that Jesus died for my sins and is the way to eternal life. I vow my full allegiance to him today and forever. I pray this in the Name of Jesus. Amen.”

Related Scripture: Romans 6:23

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

God Changes our Preferences

The Bible is full of marvelous and practical instruction to help us live with purpose. Listen to the wise advice of this Psalm:
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways.
The phrase, “Delight yourself in the Lord,” means putting God absolutely first. Whatever God wants is what we choose – even if it’s none of our preferences.
“He will give you the desires of your heart” doesn't mean we get our preferences, but that God will change our preferences to want what is best.
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him” means having absolute confidence that God will accomplish his purposes in our lives.
“Wait patiently” means trusting God's schedule.
“Do not fret when others succeed” means we don't need to compare; just trust God.
Allow me to put these ideas into a prayer. I encourage you to pray along with me. “God, I commit the purpose of my life to pleasing you. You will be number one all the time with everything. I trust you to fulfill your purposes in me even if that means giving up my preferences. I’ll leave the timing to you even if it means dying without knowing. My life purpose is to please you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Related Scripture: Psalm 37:3, 5-7 & Romans 12:2

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Didn't do it on Purpose

When I was eight years old and in the third grade, I walked home from school for lunch each day - it was about a mile. I quickly ate lunch so I would have a few minutes to play before having to head back to school. One day I went out in the back yard to play with my dog. I took the dog’s leash and started spinning it around until it made a whistling sound. It was really whipping. My mother called me and said it was time to walk back to school so I stopped spinning the leash. It snapped around and the metal hook squarely hit and split my front top tooth. I intuitively caught the pieces and ran into the house. I was driven to the office of Dr. Stillwell, our family dentist. With tears running down my cheeks, I held out the pieces to him and said, “I didn’t do it on purpose.”
That was my favorite excuse every time I did something stupid. And it was true. To this day I'm still missing the back half of my front tooth and I want you to know that I didn’t do it on purpose.
Life is all about purpose. Some things we do on purpose and some things we don’t. The practical question for us as Christians isn’t about what we didn’t do on purpose. The practical question is what we did do on purpose. Let us think through every day how we can purposefully, thoughtfully, intentionally and deliberately live our lives to please and honor God.

Related Scripture: Romans 12

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, August 10, 2007

It's Not About You

The opening line in Rick Warren’s best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, says, “It’s not about you.” Meanwhile, our culture tells us that it is all about us – what we want, our happiness and fulfillment. As Christians, however, our purpose is not about us. It’s living to please God, to honor Jesus and to make him happy.
I’m impressed with the emphasis that the Bible puts on purpose. In the first chapter of the New Testament we learn that Joseph’s purpose was to marry Mary and serve as Jesus’ father. Mary’s purpose was to be the mother of the Son of God. Jesus’ purpose was to “save his people from their sins.”
If our purpose is to please God and live for him, we need to examine all areas of our lives against this purpose: our marriage, job, budget, friends and how we spend our time. We need to devise a plan to fulfill our life’s purpose and then follow it. We also need to regularly ask ourselves, “How am I doing at fulfilling my purpose?”
The amazing thing about our lives as Christians is that God has established a purpose and plan for us as well. Listen to this supernatural promise, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”
God is working to make everything come together for good in our lives, even our mistakes. His plan is to make us like Jesus.

Related Scripture: Matthew 1:21 & Romans 8:28-29

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Crossing the Lines of Prejudice

Most of us prefer to spend our time with people who are like us. We’re more comfortable with those who share our values, beliefs and our culture. It was no different in the ancient nation of Israel.
Philip, a man from a Greek cultural background, was a Jewish leader of the Jerusalem church who dared to overcome the prejudice of his day. The New Testament reports, “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.” That may sound harmless, but the feelings between the Jews and Samaritans could be compared to the Israelis and Hezbollah in Lebanon or Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.
Philip crossed the line. I can imagine what others must have thought: “If Samaritans become Christians they will ruin the church. They don't worship the way we worship. They don't look or sound like us. There are parts of the Bible they don't believe.” Preaching to the Samaritans was spiritually risky business.
But it was because of Philip and other Christians like him that the church changed the world. They were willing to cross lines, take risks and reach out to new people. If they hadn’t, Christianity would still be a sect of Judaism with a handful of purists tucked away somewhere around Jerusalem. We need to ask ourselves if we are uncomfortable with the way some people differ in their beliefs, race, language or culture. Many of us are. The lesson to learn from the early Christians is to take a risk. Be a Philip who loves people who aren’t just like you.

Related Scripture: Acts 8: 5-8

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

God Uses Bad Things for Good Ends

When everything is going well, when our favorite team is on a winning streak, our business is piling up profits and our romance is blossoming, life is good.
That’s the way it was with Jesus’ followers when the church was just a few months old. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 new believers were added to the church. Within months the Jerusalem church exploded to as many as 15,000. The church was blessed by God and extremely popular with the people of Jerusalem.
And then bad things started to happen. The Bible says, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
It didn’t look good for those first Christians. Stephen was killed because he was a Christian, believers were being thrown in jail and many others fled Jerusalem to save their lives. But their situation was a picture of how God often operates – he uses bad things for good ends.
When the Christians were run out of town, they told about Jesus wherever they went. Without persecution, they never would have reached out to Judea and Samaria. It was the persecution that scattered them to nearby provinces where they began to fulfill Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Related Scripture: Acts 8:1-4

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Church Cannot be Stopped

Persecution is ugly stuff. It’s usually inflamed by fear that the targeted person or group will spread their beliefs, will undermine the establishment and may eventually take over. The threat is perceived to be so great that any method is justified – including deception, personal attacks and violence.
Stephen, one of the most promising young Christians in the early church was murdered by a mob. Leaders of the religious establishment pressed charges against the leaders of the church and a rising protagonist named Saul became the primary persecutor of those who believed in Jesus. The Bible tells us that on the day Stephen was martyred, “Saul began to destroy the church.” Saul went house to house looking for Christians. He had authority from the religious establishment and warrants to arrest and imprison. And it wasn't just the leaders he was after, Saul seized anyone he could get his hands on, men and women alike, and threw them into prison. He was out to stop the church of Jesus Christ no matter what it took.
But, let me tell you, the church cannot be stopped. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The Sanhedrin, the religious court of the day, couldn’t stop the church. The critics couldn’t stop the church. Saul couldn’t stop the church. Satan himself cannot stop the church.
Wherever the Christians went in those early years, the results were amazing. In spite of persecution, people believed the message of Jesus, felt the power of the Spirit, and experienced the joy of God.
Related Scripture: Acts 8:1-3 & Matthew 16:18
© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, August 3, 2007

Praying for Boldness, Not Deliverance

When you go into your boss’s office to ask for a raise, you don’t walk in the door and say, “I need more money!” You start out by telling him what a great boss he is. Even more so with God we should begin our prayers with respect – remembering who God is and what he’s already done.
When Christian friends were praying for Peter and John after their release from prison, they began their prayer by acknowledging the greatness and power of God. Then they asked, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
We can learn a lot from the way they prayed. Amazingly, they didn’t pray for the problem to go away. I think I would have been inclined to ask God to exempt them from further persecution. Instead, they prayed for boldness in talking about Jesus, even though that would actually defy the law and get them in more trouble. They weren’t praying for deliverance from their problem, but for boldness to represent Jesus well in the midst of the problem. They ended their prayer asking God to perform healing and other miracles. Their prayer wasn’t to defeat their enemies, but to do acts of compassion and kindness.
The lesson for us is to ask God for strength more than for a solution. More important than having God eliminate our problems is asking God to make us bold and strong through the problems we face.

Related Scripture: Acts 4:29-30

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Friends That Pray

When Peter and John were released after having been imprisoned for preaching the gospel, they went straight to a gathering of Christian friends who were experienced veterans in praying for others. Listen to how these friends prayed: “Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David.” Note that they started their prayer by acknowledging God, not by asking for protection for Peter and John. They acknowledged that he is the Sovereign Lord who created the universe; he’s the God who revealed himself in the Bible; he’s behind what happens in history.
Their prayer continued, “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” In other words, King Herod of Israel and the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate conspired to kill Jesus, but God was in the background using their decisions to accomplish human salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross.
So, what's the point of all this? Their prayer acknowledged that God is the Lord of creation, revelation and history. He can do absolutely anything – including protecting Peter and John from the angry religious leaders. This declaration bolstered their faith that God could handle the problems Peter and John were having. God had done it before and God could do it again.

Related Scripture: Acts 4:24-28

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Where Would You Go First?

Winston Churchill said, “There’s nothing quite so exhilarating as being shot at and missed.” That might have been the feeling of Jesus’ disciple Peter, when he was arrested, put in jail and then miraculously released. An angel appeared to Peter, loosened his shackles and led him out of prison past the sleeping guards. The Bible tells us that as soon as he was released, Peter “went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.”
You may have never heard of this mother named Mary, but probably you’ve heard of her son. His name was John Mark, although he is usually known simply as Mark. He was the author of the second book of the New Testament called “The Gospel According to Mark.” He was a man whose mother raised him in a house that was famous for prayer. This mother named Mary had the go-to house in Jerusalem for Christians who had problems and needed prayer. I’m sure she was a marvelous Christian mother as well as a trusted Christian friend to many.
So my question to you is, where would you go first if you were just released from jail? Who would you go to and who would you ask for prayer if you faced the biggest problem of your life? Can you think of someone? We all need to cultivate godly friends who will understand and who will pray to God on our behalf. It’s a wonderful thing to have a relationship with praying Christians we can turn to in times of crisis.

Related Scripture: Acts 12:12

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Turning the Subject

Late one night as I flipped through the channels, I started watching a training session on C-SPAN for new members of Congress on how to deal with the press. I found it intriguing and stayed up far too late! They talked about such things as the difference between being on-the-record and off-the-record, what to wear on television and how to check out press credentials. One of the most memorable parts was the explanation of what to do when you are asked a question that you don’t want to answer. The instructor said, “In that circumstance, answer the question that you wish that you had been asked.” In other words, totally change the subject.
In a way, that’s what the apostles did during an interrogation by the religious leaders. When they were accused of continuing to talk about Jesus after they had been commanded to stop, the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men.” But then they changed the subject and said, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead – whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Although the authorities intended to entrap them with their hostile interrogation, the apostles used the opportunity to talk about Jesus. Turning the subject to Jesus is a good strategy for us, as well.

Related Scripture: Acts 5:29-32

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

God Intervenes in Persecution

In the first century the apostle Peter was persecuted and thrown in prison for his faith in Jesus. Then one night an angel came and set him free. Now the apostles definitely believed in miracles, but they weren’t expecting a “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” card from God!
So, what about when we are persecuted? What should we expect? God doesn’t always send angels. Sometimes the outcome is not what we expect; but, God is always there and always involved.
Hawa Ahmed was a university student in North Africa. She decided to become a Christian after reading a Christian tract. Her father was an Emir whom she expected to disinherit her, but she never dreamed her brothers would do what they did. They stripped her naked, tied her to a chair, attached a metal plate and plugged it into an electric outlet, intending to torture and kill her. But the electricity malfunctioned – four times.
Finally they untied her and threw her into the street, completely naked. She ran as fast as she could, eventually arriving at the doorstep of a friend, shaking with fear and humiliation. Her friend pulled her inside and clothed her. The next day neighbors asked Ahmad’s friend why the young woman was running through the streets the previous night wearing a beautiful white dress. God had intervened, not only in saving her life, but in covering her nakedness.
Today Ahmed goes by the name Faith and serves as a full time Christian evangelist. She learned, firsthand, that when a Christian is persecuted, God intervenes.

Related Scripture: Acts 12:1-11

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, July 20, 2007

When a Loved One is Suffering

Sooner or later most of us find ourselves in the situation where a friend or loved one is suffering from a serious illness. The Bible tells us to “bear one another’s burdens,” but what’s the best way to graciously do that when we are healthy and the one we love and care about is suffering?
Through the years I’ve observed many examples of Christians ministering to one another through illness. Let me offer some practical suggestions:
• See the person, not the sickness. Whether someone is suffering from mental illness, physical disability or disease, always treat that sufferer with respect as a person.
• Realize that looking okay on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean the person is okay on the inside.
• Remember that chronic pain varies; there are good days and bad days.
• Understand that depression is a frequent side effect of physical suffering.
• Beware of playing doctor. Resist the temptation to diagnose, suggest other doctors or offer some alternative medicine.
• Beware of playing God. Give a verse from the Bible, but don't speak for God as if you know some supernatural secret.
• Tell the person you will pray and then remember to do it. Pray daily with zeal and persistence.
• Be available to offer emotional support. You don’t have to have a cure, that’s up to God. Just be a friend by being there.
As Christians, we don’t have the power to take away the pain of others, but we have the opportunity to bear their burdens.

Related Scripture: Galatians 6:2

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Whatever Happens...

Anyone suffering from a serious illness eventually comes face to face with the sobering question, “Am I going to live or die?” We prefer our lives to be pain free. No one likes suffering. For the Christian, the pain is the same but the perspective is different. We know that every day we have is a gift from God. When our days are good we should live them for God and when our days are painful we should live them for God.
St. Paul wrote these challenging words: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.… For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” In other words, our purpose in life is to make God look good regardless of what happens to us. We are to live out our Christian faith in the best of days and the worst of days, in pleasure and pain, in safety and danger, in grief and joy.
Just saying these words scares me! To this point, I have not experienced cancer, clinical depression or a devastating car crash. Would I be able to “conduct myself worthy of the gospel” or to “suffer for him” if these things were to happen? But that line of reasoning leads me back to the core of Christianity. We live by faith. We’re convinced that our God is a God of grace. He will give strength, courage and hope when the suffering comes. He will not leave us to deal with it alone. He will always be there for us.

See what the Bible says about this in Philippians 1:27,29.

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's Okay to Cry

How do you think you would hold up if your spouse or child were to die, or if you were permanently disabled in an accident? What if you were to lose everything in a catastrophe or be diagnosed with a terminal disease? These are anxiety-raising questions for anyone. But let me raise the stakes a little higher. How can you act like a Christian when these things happen?
I find it very comforting to know that Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. His example shows me that it’s okay to cry when we’re overwhelmed with loss. We don’t need to hide our sadness. We don’t need to hide our anger at the loss of loved ones. As Christians we don’t need to cover up our hurt and pretend to have Christian happiness. It’s okay to grieve.
Remember that faith is for the best of times and the worst of times. Even if it is difficult to do in the middle of your grief, tell God that you believe in him and that you trust Jesus for eternal life. Don’t let your grief distance you from Jesus at the time when you need him the most. At the heart of Christianity is hope. Hope is the expectation of a better tomorrow. When we go through the difficulties, tragedies and disappointments of life, we can trust God to get us through to a better future. As Christians, even when we are looking death in the eye, we know that we will someday rise again from the dead – just like Jesus. And that’s hope!

Related Scripture: Romans 5:2-4

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Father's Grief

The ancient land of Israel was torn by civil war and King David was forced to flee Jerusalem with a small army of loyal friends. Worse yet, the rebellion was led by the king’s own son, Absalom. Absalom had already murdered his brother and was now trying to kill his father to gain the throne.
Prospects for victory that day were slim and David’s generals insisted that he stay behind lest he be killed. As David reluctantly saw them off, he said, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” Then the anxious father awaited news.
Later, two runners returned with the news. David’s army was victorious, but twenty thousand lives were lost in the battle and Absalom was one of them. The Bible says, “The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept.” In his grief David wailed, “O my son Absalom!… If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Absalom was a traitor and a murderer, but he was also David’s son and David loved his son. Armies and thrones and politics were forgotten as the king grieved the death of his son.
Grief is like that. It isn’t rational, it’s emotional and it shakes us to our core. David was devastated by the loss of his son, but he turned to God for solace – just as we can in our grief. Listen to David’s words:
“In my distress I called…out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; … He reached down from on high and took hold of me; … the Lord was my support.”

Related Scripture: Psalm 18:6,16,18

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Who's the Better Worker?

Imagine that you are choosing between two job possibilities. You write out the pros and cons and ask God for direction. Much of your life hinges on the decision of where you work – where you live, your income and the people you’ll know. But I would like to suggest that even more important than where you work is how you work.
By way of example, let’s imagine two men at the end of their careers, standing before God. Paul, a successful CEO, says to God, “I want you to know that I made great choices. I went to the best schools. I worked my way up in a Fortune 500 company and successfully ran for political office. Life was good and now I’m ready for heaven.”
God replies, “Paul, your life was bad. You walked on the helpless and hurt people every step of the way. You ignored every principle of justice and righteousness I gave you in the Bible. You were a sinful and unfaithful servant.”
Then it’s Fred’s turn. Fred, a factory worker, says to God, “I’m afraid I made the wrong choice. I should have stayed in school and become a doctor. Then I would have had a more successful life.”
God answers, “Fred, you’ve got it all wrong. I don’t measure your life by your title or income, but by the way you lived for me in the factory. I saw your love and kindness. I heard you tell my gospel to others. I watched you respond righteously to temptation. Well done, good and faithful factory worker.”
You see, the true measure of our lives is not our choice of occupation, it’s whether we chose to live God’s way or sin’s way.

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 10:12-13 & I Timothy 6:17

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, June 29, 2007

What If?

If you happen to be married, are you ever tempted to wonder what your life would be like if you had married someone else? When things aren’t going well in your marriage such thoughts may be tempting, but they won’t solve your problems.
When a Christian couple is faced with such questions, they may agonize over the absence of clear counsel in the Bible on the subject, while ignoring the counsel that is there. Maybe the issue isn’t whether or not they married the right person.
This was greatly impressed upon me some years ago by a couple who were considering marriage. There was a significant difference in their ages and family members were concerned that it wasn’t a wise idea. The man and woman were both committed Christians and diligent students of the Bible. They painstakingly researched what the Bible had to say about marriage and reached a significant conclusion. They determined that the Bible said comparatively little about who you marry, but a great deal about the way you treat one another once you are married.
I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter who you marry, obviously it’s a very important decision. But once it’s made, don’t fantasize about what life would be like if you had married someone else. Start demonstrating Christian love to the person you married.
When we ask ourselves, “Did I marry the wrong person?” we are asking the wrong question. We are wondering if we married the wrong person, while God is asking us if we are loving the person we married.

Related Scripture: Ephesians 5:28, 33

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

All of life is a journey filled with decisions. The poet Robert Frost reflects on the impact of those decisions in his poem, The Road Not Taken.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
There is hardly a one of us who has not wrestled with “what if?” What if we had chosen a different road? We are prone to mope around in regret over choosing the wrong road or getting off course. But God is more concerned about the way we walk than the route we take. He cares more about what we do when we recognize the need for a correction, than he does with the fact that we got off course.
The Bible provides direction for our lives. It says, “[God’s] word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” You see, it’s not so much which path we take, it’s letting God’s word light our way along that path.

Related Scripture: Psalm 119:105

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Power of Purpose

We tend to admire individuals who have a strong sense of purpose in their lives. They seem more confident, their direction is set and at the end of their lives there is a tangible way to measure their success – did they achieve their purpose?
No one better demonstrated the power of purpose than Jesus. The Bible clearly identifies his purpose: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” It also says, “[Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost.” All of Jesus’ decisions and actions were determined by his purpose, not chance. He was born in Bethlehem rather than Baltimore, in the first century rather than in the fifth century. He determined who he would heal, where he would preach and which disciples he would pick. Even the circumstances of his death were determined on the basis of this stated purpose. That is why on the cross, with his arms outstretched, he was able to shout out, “It is finished.” His purpose was fulfilled. He had achieved the mission that he had set out to do.
Major corporations and institutions invest considerable time and money in identifying the purpose of their organization. They recognize the power of purpose. A carefully determined and clearly stated purpose becomes the compass by which everything is directed and the standard by which everything is evaluated. They realize that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.
And so it is with our lives. We must decide on our purpose and then live it!

Related Scripture: John 3:17 & Luke 19:10

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Monday, June 25, 2007

What's the Point of it All?

I have a riddle for you. What can be absolutely empty when it is completely full? The answer is “life.” Life can be so full of busyness that we are booked weeks in advance. It can be filled to the brim with things to do, places to go and promises to keep, yet be painfully empty on the inside.
Centuries ago King Solomon, the wisest, richest and most married man in history, wrote these words: “Meaningless! Meaningless!…Everything is meaningless.” Solomon had an abundance of money, of insight and of relationships, yet he was overwhelmed with the emptiness of his life.
Many suffer from a lack of purpose in life. You see it in the teenager who doesn’t know where to go to college or what to major in. You see it in the individual who finds no fulfillment in spite of a successful career or the homemaker who manages the house and raises the children yet wonders, “What’s the point of it all?” We’re talking about one of the most significant issues facing each one of us. It’s the question, “What am I supposed to do with my life?”
In the English language our questions begin with the interrogatives, “who?” “what?” “where?” “when?” “how?” and “why?” The crucial one is “why.” It’s in answering the “why” question that you discover your purpose in life. Identifying your life purpose focuses your options. Then, instead of making random selections, you choose your college, your career and your mate on the basis of fulfilling your life purpose.
Related Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1:1-2
© 2007 Leith Anderson

Friday, June 22, 2007

Falling Back in Love

When a relationship has grown cold and the marriage is in trouble, often only one of the marriage partners wants to work at falling back in love. So, what is that person to do? Loving alone is hardly the ambition of most people! It’s sad to hear a man say, “She’d probably get mad if I brought home roses, or say, ‘You shouldn’t spend the money.’” Or to hear a wife say, “I’ve tried acting loving before and it hasn’t done any good. And, frankly, I can’t stand the rejection and humiliation anymore.”
These stories bring us to the conclusion that there’s no point in loving alone. But is that right? Did you know that that’s exactly what God did? The Bible says, “We love because he first loved us.” The message of the gospel is that God loved us when we didn’t love him back. God was kind to us when we were sinning against him. God pursued us when we ran the other direction. God was committed to us even when we wanted nothing to do with him.
You see, God decided to love us. He made a commitment and then he acted in accord with his commitment – totally independent of whether we would ever love him back or not. He loved us into loving him. And that’s the greatest truth of falling in love again. Even if the other person doesn’t love us back, we love as we have learned from God. That’s the way to fall in love again and that’s the way to love another person into love with you.

Related Scripture: I John 4:19

© 2007 Leith Anderson

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Love vs. Commitment

When asked why they are getting married, many couples quickly say, “Because we’re in love!” But few human beings possess the kind of love which can survive the inevitable trials of the typical marriage. Love is merely what gets commitment going.
The first car that I owned was an old Plymouth Coupe. It seldom started easily in the winter – or the summer for that matter. I used to keep a can of gasoline in the car – I know that’s not a good idea, but it’s what I did. When I wanted to start the car, I would pull the hood release, go around and pour gasoline right into the carburetor. Usually it would get the engine running enough to engage the fuel pump that would then suck the gasoline out of the tank and up to the engine, and then it would fire.
Now in some ways it’s like that in the marriage relationship. In the beginning it’s love and infatuation that prime the engine of a relationship. But it’s the continuing supply of commitment that keeps it going.
I once read an interview in USA TODAY of a lady who had been married for 54 years. In describing their commitment she said that the low point of their marriage was trying to raise two quarreling kids while her husband, an oil company executive, traveled a lot. Then she said, “But we never thought the marriage wouldn’t go on.”
They had a commitment. Love may have ebbed and flowed throughout the years, but it was their unwavering commitment that kept their marriage going.

Related Scripture: I Peter 4:8
© 2007 Leith Anderson

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Praying for Love

A secular marriage counselor might suggest that praying for love in your marriage is a form of auto-suggestion. It might help, but it would have nothing to do with God. But as a believer in Jesus Christ, I suggest praying for love out of the conviction that it is spiritually effective.
St. Peter suggested the link between marriage and prayer when he wrote, “Husbands,…be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” This is spiritual advice for Christians!
How many of us pray for love in our marriages? Sometimes we might pray that our spouse would love us better, but that’s not the way to pray. Pray to better love your husband or wife! Instead of assuming love to be an emotion out of your control, pray for love to be God’s gift in your marriage. Ask God to help you to overcome the things in your life that are unlovely. Ask him to help you change so that you will be easier to love. Ask him to love through you and to teach you how to be a better lover.
I challenge you to try this thirty-day test. Pray sincerely and fervently every day for a month that the love in your marriage will grow stronger and better. Try it for thirty days and I predict that you may well discover the link between praying in faith and falling in love!
Related Scripture: I Peter 3:7

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Marriage Models

Marital love goes through periods of change just like the seasons. Some are warm like summer; some are cold and difficult like a Minnesota winter; some are colorful and changing like a New England autumn; some are fresh and promising like a budding spring. What every married couple needs to learn is how to hang in there as the seasons change.
Marriage takes time and work. When love grows cool and the marriage is threatened is precisely when we must redouble our efforts to rekindle the fire at the hearth of commitment. Like most things worth knowing, lasting love must be learned.
In pre-marital counseling I tell couples to closely observe the marriages of others. Take note of the way he treats her. Listen to the way she speaks to him. Do they touch each other? Is there a warmth and kindness between them? We learn to love by finding teachers who are good lovers. Look for couples who model an enduring love. Get to know them and ask how they faced the struggles of life. Find godly men and women who have depended upon Jesus Christ, who have made prayer the routine of their marriage and learn from them.
We are all significantly and powerfully influenced by systematic exposure to good marriages where people are continually growing in love. We need to chose our models well!
Related Scripture: I Corinthians 13: 4-7

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Proposal

When proposing to his girlfriend, one young man said, “I’m not wealthy, and I don’t have a yacht and a convertible like Jerome Green, but, my darling, I love you.” The girl replied, “I love you too; but tell me a little more about Jerome Green.”
The painful reality is that love is sometimes a fickle thing. How often have you heard divorcing couples say, “We just don’t love each other any more.”
Love is very important to marriage, but it’s not all there is. Millions of couples have thought that all that was necessary for a successful marriage was love – only to discover that their love wore thin in the daily realities of two people living together. Love is as much a product of marriage as a producer of marriage.
Charleen and I have known each other all our lives. But it was in high school that I began to see her in a new way. My heart was captured by this vivacious, blond cheerleader and we started dating. Soon we began saying “I love you” to each other.
By contrast, the love we share today is so much more. It’s a commitment we’ve made to each other for life. Love is the product of years of shared joys and struggles, laughter and tears. It’s forged by praying together through problems and debts; through sharing the joy of welcoming each of our children into our family.When we now put our arms around each other and say “I love you,” it means something quite different – and so much more – than those words spoken as teenagers years ago.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Silence is Not an Option!

Tuesday, May 22

What do you do when you've gotten yourself into a corner and can't think of a way out? It’s a dilemma common to leaders who take strong positions. Even when faced with contrary evidence, we tend to hold on to our prior opinions. It’s commonplace to get louder and more emotional when our positions are threatened. For, after all, it’s very difficult to admit when we are wrong.

When Peter and John were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin - Israel's religious Supreme Court – its members were in a quandary. They had previously taken a formal position against Jesus and had supported his crucifixion. Now Peter and John were standing in front of them with a paraplegic man who had been miraculously healed. The members of the Sanhedrin weren't about to acknowledge that the power of Jesus was still operative and had healed this man, but they had no other explanation. Their solution was to order Peter and John to shut up about it. They said, “Don’t ever speak the name of Jesus again!”

But that was impossible for the two followers of Jesus. It’s like ordering the sun not to rise. Like ordering a lover to stop saying, “I love you.” Peter and John were Christians and talking about Jesus is what Christians do. Once you know that Jesus has died for you on the cross, that God has raised him from the dead and that the Holy Spirit has filled your life – nothing is ever the same. For the disciples in the first century and for Christians now, silence is not an option!

You’ve Been Spending Time With…

In Minnesota, where I live, our winter days are short and as a result, many of our faces grow pale from the lack of exposure to sunlight. In January or February when we run into someone with a golden tan and a radiant glow, we can’t help but notice. The contrast is startling! Even complete strangers at the checkout in a store will say to them, “You must have been south” or “You’ve been in the sun.” It shows.

We are all shaped by the places we visit and by the people with whom we spend time. We are influenced by the company we keep. I can sometimes spend only a short time with someone and then be able to pretty accurately tell you what books they read, which radio stations they listen to, where they grew up, where they go to church and what kind of people they hang out with. I can also recognize those who have been spending a lot of their time with Jesus.

When you meditate on the words of the Bible and meet Jesus on the pages of the New Testament, it shows in your life. When you pray to him daily, experience him in worship and spend time with other godly followers of Jesus, you become more like Jesus. You begin to respond like Jesus. You love like Jesus. You think like Jesus and sound like Jesus.One of the greatest compliments any friend or critic can offer us is to say, “It’s obvious that you’ve been spending a lot of time with Jesus!”

Praying to be Dangerous

Erwin McManus is a friend of mine from El Salvador. He tells an interesting story about his young son Aaron going to a Christian camp. Dad was glad it was a Christian camp because he didn't want his boy hearing a bunch of scary ghost stories. What he didn't expect was that Aaron would instead hear a bunch of scary stories about demons and Satan. He came home terrified. “Dad, don't turn off the light!” he said before going to bed. “Daddy, I'm afraid. They told all these stories about demons.” Erwin was tempted to tell his son that demons aren't real. But they are real. Aaron asked, “Daddy, would you pray for me that I would be safe?” Erwin decided to pray beyond safety. He said, “Aaron, I will not pray for you to be safe. I will pray that God will make you dangerous, so dangerous that demons will flee when you enter the room.” Aaron answered, “All right. But pray that I would be really, really dangerous, Daddy.” That story reminded me of the Bible story of what happened when Peter and John were arrested and hauled before the Sanhedrin - Israel's religious Supreme Court. They should have been scared to death because death was a real possibility, but God gave them boldness. The Sanhedrin was so afraid of the influence of these men that they were unable to refute their defense and they let them go with only a warning. God did more than keep Peter and John safe, he made them dangerous.

Related scripture: Acts 4:1-13

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sexual Boundaries

Since creation, sexuality has been one of the premiere defining features of who we are as humans. Sex is an integral part of our identity - whether we are babies in the nursery or aged in the nursing home, whether we are celibate or sexually active. Our gender is part of who God created us to be. That’s why our sexual roles and practices are so important; that’s why sexual abuse is so damaging.
Some Christians insist that Jesus is the Lord of all of their lives - except for sex. They seek to live for God in everything they do - except for sex. It is as if there is one room in our lives that has a locked door to keep God out. But, it doesn't work that way. Our sexuality and our Christianity are wired together.
Because our God-given sexuality is so powerful, God has given sexual boundaries to protect us from dangers। Those who are single are to abstain from sexual intimacy until marriage. Those who are married are to remain faithful even when attracted to someone else. Of course, sexuality is not the only area of our lives that needs protecting. Life itself is protected with a boundary forbidding assault and murder. Property is protected with a boundary forbidding theft. Truth is protected with a boundary forbidding lying.If you have violated God’s sexual boundaries and your behavior has been less than Christian, tell God you are wrong and you are sorry. Ask him to forgive you and he will give you a fresh opportunity to act like a Christian in sex.

Related Scripture: I Corinthians 7:1-9 & Hebrews 13:4

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sex is Nothing New

In 21st century America, one of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate Christian faith is in terms of our sexual behavior. It’s not that sex is anything new. Good and bad sexual behavior has been around since the Garden of Eden. It’s just that we live in a generation where the emphasis on sex is pervasive. Now, to be sure, pornography has been around for all of history, but the Internet was not available until recently. Other generations had promiscuity, but it was not promoted on television.
The consequences of immoral sexual behavior range from disease to divorce and from disappointments to depression. So, what is a Christian to do?
Let’s take a look at sex from a Christian perspective. Sex was God’s idea from the very beginning. When we are attracted to someone of the opposite sex, it is because God designed us to be that way. The powerful distinction of male and female and all the sexual wonder that is there is part of the creation story. Imagine the delight when Adam and Eve saw each other for the first time. It was magnificent and there was no shame. When they were sexually joined as husband and wife, God was delighted.To protect this amazing relationship God set boundaries. He said sex was to take place only within marriage. As Christians we believe that the God who created us and our sexuality sets those boundaries for our good and for his honor. Our reason for behaving like Christians in our sexual life is not to avoid Herpes but to honor God.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Trust God for the Outcome

I find it interesting to see how early Christians did things. When you look at the New Testament accounts of how Christian leaders made important decisions, it appears they decided the best they could and then acted on it. Listen to some examples:
“After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem.”
“It seemed good … to us…”
“Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus…, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem.”
These early Christian leaders didn't have lightning from heaven. They didn't have absolute certainty. They loved God, read the Bible, prayed for wisdom, sought counsel and decided the best they could with the information they had.
Did they always get it right? If what you mean by getting it right is that everything turned out happy and pleasant, then they didn’t always get it right. If what you mean is that they followed a Christian process, yes, they got it right.
We’re prone to judge our decisions totally on the basis of a pleasant outcome. If the job is successful, the marriage is happy or the house appreciates in value, then we think that we made the right decision and discovered God's will. If, on the other hand, the job is hard, the marriage is difficult or the house needs a new roof, we tend to think that we missed God's will.Going back to those early Christian leaders, most of the authors of the Bible died as martyrs and many early Christians lived difficult lives. But that doesn’t mean they missed God's will or made wrong decisions, it means they lived faithfully, trusting God for the outcome.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Making Decisions

Throughout our lives, all of us are faced with decisions. We want to make the right decisions, but it isn’t always easy. In my life I’ve found that the best place to start is to pray for wisdom and then to ask others for advice. Before praying I try to check out what the Bible has to say. Three hours praying about whether or not to rob a bank is a waste of time. Just do what the Bible says. But if the Bible doesn't say anything on the subject, then pray for wisdom. Wisdom is taking knowledge and applying it. Wisdom is a gift from God given to every Christian who asks.
Try this. Instead of praying, “God, show me which apartment to rent,” try praying, “God give me the wisdom to figure this out for myself and get it right.”
In addition to prayer, it’s wise to ask others for advice. None of us is smart enough or experienced enough to make totally independent decisions. Part of asking God for wisdom is asking him who to trust, for not everyone's advice is equally good. Personally, I ask for a lot of advice when making decisions. I ask my wife, my co-workers, and trusted family members, friends and professionals. The Bible says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Multiple input is usually more helpful than just one counselor. But when it comes time to actually make the decision, you have to do what seems best. Check the Bible, pray for wisdom and listen to counsel. Then make your decision.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Love God and Do as You Please

A sixteenth century theologian and reformer said that Christians should love God and then do as they please. I like the simplicity of that. It’s saying that if we really love God, our decisions will be right. All too often we put too much of our energy in making decisions and too little of our energy into loving God.
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” When we love God that passionately, our decisions will reflect that love.
The Bible is filled with practical advice on how to live and what to do and when we’re looking for specific advice, it should be our starting place. If the Bible says something is wrong, we shouldn’t do it. If the Bible is silent on a subject, make your decision according to what seems best to you.
For example: Are you thinking about moving in with the person you’re dating? Don’t. The Bible advises against premarital sex. Are you tempted to cheat on your income taxes? Don’t. The Bible tells us not to defraud the government. But if the major decision you’re facing is what color car to buy, the Bible gives no indication as to God’s color preference so chose whatever you like! I happen to like red.The Bible doesn’t tell us which job to take, where to invest or whether we should go out for lacrosse – but it does tell us that we should work honestly, invest wisely and play fairly. And, most of all, we should love God!