Faith Matters - Current Posts

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