I recently learned (or remembered from high school geology) that a rock that has a different origin than the igneous rock in which
image via: commons.wikipedia.org
it is embedded is a xenolith. The picture to the right of this text shows what a xenolith looks like. As magma flows, it collects other objects including rocks. When that magma cools becoming a igneous rock, the material it collected becomes embedded in the rock and to the observer is part of the overall igneous rock. It just stands out. The xenolith is different.
When I read the description of a xenolith I began thinking about some statements in Scripture about followers of Christ. There are ways that as Christians we are similar to xenoliths.
- Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
- John 17:14, ” . . . they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
- Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”
- 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
We are not the same as the world. We are to be different. The world should see that difference and realize that we do not belong.
This comparison becomes more interesting to me when I consider that the beauty of an igneous rock is not the magma that cooled, but the xenoliths that give the igneous rock its attractive characteristics. We as Christians can be a saving influence on the world (salt) giving the world a certain beauty. To do this, we cannot just sit in the pew and sing songs of longing for heaven or of our love for Christ, we must be in the world benevolently working to bring our fellow sinners to Grace found in the blood of Christ.
First let me emphatically say that this post is NOT about money! This post is about you and the church, specifically the congregation of God’s people that you assemble with.
Where you assemble to worship is probably similar to Central, where we attend and where I preach. We are a good group of people. We are active in our faith and are decent folk. But like you, we can be better. I put some thought to this idea of congregational self-improvement and I have a few suggestions on how we can all Help Our Individual Church Family Grow.
- We Can Live Pure Lives. The local congregation needs to have the respect of the community it is in. That level of respect lies squarely upon the shoulders of each member. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, (Titus 2:11-12).“
- We Can Be Friendly. Each visitor needs to feel welcome. They should see we appreciate them and love them. Such a realization will make them want to return. Do not stand back and let someone else greet visitors — you be one of the first. The Hebrew writer says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Heb 13:2).”
- We Can Give Our Full Support to the Leaders. Effective leaders are a great blessing to any congregation of God’s family. None can progress without faithful and efficient leaders, and as members we can make or break our leadership. Again from the Hebrew writer we learn, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17).”
- We Can Promote Unity. Peter gives us a formula for unity in 1 Pet 3:8-12, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’ ” The unity formula is: Unity of mind, sympathy for each other, brotherly love, having a tender heart, having an humble mind, Not being vindictive, and blessing each other.
- We Can Work Hard at Being a Soul-Saver. This is as simple as letting your non-Christian friends and family know why you are a Christian and how you came to Christ. Remember the wise preacher tells us, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. (Prov 11:30).“
Keep Growing for the Lord.
The rain is falling in my corner of the world. The rain started Sunday and we are expecting rain through Friday. Six days of rain! Thirty-four more and we might face a flood of Biblical proportions.
Even in the rain, there are rays of sunshine. Yes, the sun sneaks through the clouds. Yes, the rain washes away salt and dirt on the roads from the last two weeks of icy weather. Yes, the rain waters the earth for the flowers of spring. But there was something else I saw yesterday. Something nice, something sweet.
I should back up a bit and tell you that I work in a college town. That is an understatement. I work in Tuscaloosa, Alabama the home of the University of Alabama where enrollment this academic year was approximately 38,000. There are a more than a few students and young adults everywhere.
Now I come back to the rain and yesterday. Yesterday evening, I was driving to the hospital as the rain was beginning to fall as the light faded from the sky. As I crossed the railroad tracks, there they were, a young couple walking in the rain, sharing an umbrella and having a great time. They were smiling and laughing. You know, the laugh of young romantic love. It was a sweet walk for them and a sweet moment for me to see.
I thought of a few things as I saw this couple.
- I thought of Amy (my wife of 25 years) and all the walks we have shared since we started dating 28 years ago.
- I thought of the talks we have on those walks.
- I thought of the last chapter in “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott – Under the Umbrella.
- I thought of the second verse of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by the Police.
- I thought of the talks and walks I have with God as He holds my hand through life (Isa 41:13; 1Jo 1:7).
Growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s family vacations were events. We did not fly, we drove and drove. We would pile into the 1967 Chevrolet Biscayne, the 1968 Dodge Polara, or later the 1981 Buick Century and head to the Smokey Mountains, to Orlando, or to southern Ohio. Did I mention hours in the car? On a few occasions my brothers and I would play backseat games, like “Don’t Cross This Line.” You know this game, a participant draws an imaginary line on the hot vinyl seat and dares the other sibling(s) to cross it. Then the accusations begin to follow. “He is on my side!” “He is touching my seat!” “He is touching me.” The obligatory follow-up are statements of defense, “I did not!” “He is taking up too much room!”
A good game would bring comments from the front seat. Comments similar to this, “Do I need to pull this car over?!” Or “We can turn around and go home.”
This may be a faulty recollection. This may be a nightmare I once had. But I have an image of Dad hitting the brakes, pulling over, and saying, “Grow-up!” I think I tried at that moment to get a little taller, I know I likely sat up straighter and began taking up a little less space . . .
One job parents have is to help their children mature. I heard a recently heard a lecture on adolescence and maturity. The speaker (Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson) made reference to a book by Tim Elmore entitled “Artificial Maturity.” In this book there is a list of Marks of Maturity. As I consider these, they are not just about adolescents, but about growing in Christ as well. Take a look at these seven characteristics of maturity and think about how you and I can mature as Christians.
- The mature are able to keep long term commitments.
- Mature individuals are unshaken by compliments or criticism.
- A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.
- His or her desires are based on character not feelings.
- They express gratitude consistently.
- They prioritize others over selves.
- They seek wisdom before acting.
Paul says, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” 1 Corinthians 14:20.
It is time to grow up in Christ.
What makes you happy? When are you feeling your best?
We live in a world that looks for happiness. Even the Founding Fathers of the United States include the pursuit of happiness as one of mankind’s inalienable rights. (Note that to pursue happiness is a right, not happiness.) According to these men, this right is from our Creator. Maybe that is why I hear many people defending their lifestyle and worship style choices by saying “God wants me to be happy.” Does He? Does God want me to be happy?
I did a quick search of the English Standard Version via E-Sword for the phrase “be happy.” The search yielded only one reference, “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.” (Deuteronomy 24:5) There is not much there stating that God wants you and me to be happy, instead this verse tells us about the importance of focusing on our marriages.
Just for the sake of comparison, I searched the phrase “be holy.” The search yielded 156 verses with a combination of those words and 32 matches for the exact phrase. Consider this selection as an example of the results, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Maybe, A pparently, Obviously God wants us to be holy.
With all that said, let me share with you a small piece of wisdom about holiness: When I am pursuing holiness, I find much happiness. Holiness is key to happiness. If you want to be happy then:
- Trust God, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psa 23:4
- Be content with God’s blessings, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1Ti 6:6-8.
- Live in the moment with God, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Mat 6:34.
- Set a goal of holiness, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Col 3:1-2.
Be Holy to be Happy, walk in the steps of the Lord. “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” Jer 10:23.
From deep in the files comes this type writer copy of a poem of unknown origin (I did make some updates for inflation and current culture):
- Funny how twenty dollars looks so big when we take it to church; But so small when we take it to the store
- Funny how long a 60 minutes is when we are at worship; But how short when watching a game, on the computer, or out with friends.
- Funny how laborious it is to read a chapter in the Bible; But how easy it is to read 200 pages of a best selling novel.
- Funny how we cannot think of anything to say when we pray; But do not have any difficulty gossiping about others.
- Funny how we believe everything on social media; But question God’s Word, the Bible.
- Funny how we thrill at overtime at a football or basketball game; But complain when worship extends a few minutes.
- Funny how we need 2 or 3 weeks to fit a church event into our schedule; But have no problem adjusting for other social events at the last minute.
- Funny how people scramble to get a front row seat at a concert; But scramble for the back row in worship.
- Funny, isn’t it? Or is it really funny at all?
I recently had another birthday and that makes me older that many and younger than others. I am old enough that this summer my high school graduating class will
Let’s look into this . . .
hold our 30 Year Reunion. Time truly does fly by. Sometimes I feel like the psalmist, “I have been young, and now I am old . . .” (Psa 37:25). But my years provide me with advantages of experiences and those experiences brought about lessons. Lessons not only from my own experiences but also the experiences of others. Lessons I learned and want to take time to share with you.
- I cannot make someone love me. All I can do is try to be someone who is not difficult to love.
- What we have in life is not as important as who we have in your life.
- We are each responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.
- Heroes are those that do what has to be done, without regard for how they feel or the consequences.
- Trust builds through the years, but a single second or two can destroy trust.
- A few minutes of mistaken actions can provide a lifetime of heartache.
- We are each in control of our own attitude. We can choose our attitude!
- No matter how good a friend is, we are going to hurt each other on occasions. Forgiveness is essential to life-long friendships (and marriages).
- Along those lines, forgiving others is often easier than forgiving myself.
- Maturity has more to do with attitude, dependability, and being responsible for your life than how many candles were on my last cake.