What Really Matters

Revelation 2:1-7

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…

We these lyrics, Dionne Warwick spoke to a generation that had lost its will to show love. One can only look at the abundant evidences of our loveless society to know that these lyrics ring true. The divorce rate today is hovering around the 50% mark. There is violence and racial discord in the streets across our country. Bullying in our schools is at an epidemic level, causing some young minds to just give up and give into suicide. Children are being brought up in single parent or foster homes, because the ones that should love them the most, don’t. And what about the church? Well, most people who our unchurched will tell you that the reason they don’t go is because of the way they were treated when they did. What an indictment upon the American society and the church.

In the second chapter of Revelation, Jesus wrote to the church at Ephesus a stern warning about living life without love. “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:4,ESV) Leading up to this charge, Jesus had commended the church at Ephesus for the many good works that they had accomplished. He states that they had worked hard for the cause of Christ. Further, they had endured under very intense persecution from Rome and the local pagans of the region. Also, they had even been sound in their discernment of false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Nevertheless, none of this matter without the love of God saturating it all. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul declared that without love all else is worthless. Even if one speaks with the tongue of an angel, without love as the catalyst of such a feat it would sound like a child banging on the cymbals of a drum set. All these great works without love are worthless in the eyes of God.

So how do we remedy this situation? Jesus gave the church at Ephesus a threefold exhortation on what to do to make things right. Remember, repent, and do the works of love again. First, we must remember. Think back to when you were first saved. Do you remember how you felt? Remember the joy that accompanied your decision for Christ. You literally couldn’t wait to go and tell someone what Christ had done for you. This is how we get back to the first love, by remembering the first love. Start every day as if it were the first with Christ. This will make a difference in how we approach life. Next, repent. Losing our first love is serious business to God and it should be to us. When we repent, we first see our wrong and then we turn or stop doing what is wrong. We beg for forgiveness and we walk in a renewed state of life. Simply put, we stop not loving and just start loving. Last, we do the things we did at first. We embrace the love that God showed us in Christ and manifest that love to others. The great commandment tells us that we are to love God with our all and love others as we love ourselves. If we live by this rule, we will fulfill the mandate to live in a state of love.

So, where do we start? First, by realizing our fault and determining to remedy it. Simply put, just start loving. Allow love to be the catalyst of all we do. Second, look for ways to manifest God’s love to others. Serve the Lord with love as the catalyst. When you do this, get ready to be used of God in ways you never thought possible.

The 5:30 Challenge

Recently, I have sensed God’s urging to rise early (5:30 AM) to have time in His word and prayer. This has always been a challenge for me. This Sunday Pastor Johnny Hunt shared with the church that he spends time alone with God at 5:30 AM every morning. At that moment, the light bulb went on. I need this time alone with God to start the day. I believe that all of us do! Now am I saying that you should get up at exactly at 5:30 AM every morning to spend time alone with God. No! However, I am saying that all of us need a time every day that we set aside to be alone with God. Listen to what Jesus revealed in John 5:30:

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Jesus literally is telling us that he (God in the flesh) needed to hear from the Father before he did anything. And without hearing from him, he could do nothing. Wow! If this is true of Jesus, how much more is this true of me? And of you? So I invite you to join me in the 5:30 Challenge. And let’s see what kind of difference this time alone with God makes in our lives.

If you will join me, go to my Facebook post and like the post.

New Years Resolution

As we journey into a new year, many of us will make resolutions that we will strive to keep. Good luck! Seriously, will look to change our image or some other aspect of our person. Yet, have we took time to contemplate what the Lord might be leading us to do?

Paul, in Philippians 3:12-16, provides four attributes that we would do well to incorporate into our lives going into the new year. In Philippians, Paul confronts two distinct problems in the church at Philippi, false teachers and apathy. The latter was causing people to have the wrong mindset about their spiritual condition. The former was causing division and disillusionment among the congregants. We face many of these same problems today. After delivering the verdict of the problems this church was experiencing, Paul offers the solution to the problems. The church needed to follow Christ. Here are four points from Philippians 3:12-16 that can help us to resolve to follow Christ in the new year.

Point One: We must be truthful in our assessment of where we are in our walk with Christ. Paul declares, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected.” (3:12) Consider what Paul is stating here. At this time, he is at the final stage of his life. He is imprisoned in Rome. By now, he has accomplished much for the cause of Christ. He has led three great missionary journeys. He has planted various churches throughout the known world. He has been beating and jailed often. However, he declared that he has not reached full perfection. In other words, he has more work to do. How much more should we have this same assessment of our own lives? Jerry Rice, considered by many to be the greatest football player of all time, was known for his rigorous training regimen. Many of his peers were awed by the fact that he trained like a rookie even into the latter years of his career. This is Paul’s point in this text. We should never fool ourselves into believing that we have arrived or have perfected this Christian life. We will never experience true perfection until we one day see our Lord face to face. Until that day, we must continue to contend for the gospel of Christ.

Point Two: We must forget the past and move toward the future. Paul states, “but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” (3:13) Paul here reminds us that we cannot be hindered by the past. Rather, we must press toward the future. What was Paul’s past? Take a look at Philippians 3:4-6. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, literally in his own words, blameless. He was also a persecutor of the church, a fact that would undoubtedly plague him for the rest of his life. If anyone had cause to celebrate the past, it was Paul. However, if anyone had cause to be ashamed of the past, it was Paul. Paul was adamant in his call for believers to let go of the past. Therefore, he modeled it in his own life. How has your past achievements and/or failures hindered you from serving the Lord? Are there some aspects in life that you need to let go of this new year in order to go forward with God?

Point three: We must press forward toward the goal that Christ has called us to. Paul declares, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (3:14) Paul calls for us to pursue the goal of serving Christ wholeheartedly. Here is the picture of the foot race that most of Paul’s original audience would have understood. He is calling for us to run the race of the Christian life fervently, as if our very lives depended on it. Ever wonder why brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted around the world are typically very fervent in serving Christ. Because they know firsthand what it means to run the race as if your life depends on it. We ought to serve the Lord in this new year with the same fervency, as if our very lives depended on it. We ought to leave all the baggage behind and go all out for the Lord.

Point Four: We must possess the right mindset. It has been said that 90% of the game of life is played between the ears. Paul declared, “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind.” (3:16) Literally, fervency starts with the right thinking. Romans 12:2 reads, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This is a daily process. A daily surrendering of our minds to the word and will of God. It is a discipline that must be incorporated into our lives. How can we do this? By incorporating the daily routine of prayer and the Bible into our lives. Then, making a conscience decision to serve the Lord framed by the Bible and prayer. Everything starts with the Bible and prayer. You might be thinking, hey that’s easy for you to say. Listen! Just start where you are at. “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” (3:15) “Paul recognizes that Christians, though proceeding along the same path, may be at different stages of progress and should be faithful to as much of God’s truth as they understand.” (Homer Kent Jr.) You do not have to be super Christian to make a difference for Christ. Just start where you are at. Just do it!

So what is a good starting point for the new year? Take an assessment of where you are spiritually. What is good and can be carried over into the new year? What do we need to leave behind in 2018? Together, let us make 2019 the year of running with fervency in order to serve the Lord. Ready, set, go!

Prayer Request

James tells us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Paul declared, “pray without ceasing.” With this in mind, I welcome your prayer request and praises. Just drop me a note on the contacts link of this page. This is the heart of Toward Christ.

Hall of Fame/Faith

Recently, my family and I visited the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. One of the highlights of the visit was the interactive kiosks located throughout the building. Literally, one could carry-on a conversation with one of the Hall greats, cyber style. This experience caused me to think about God’s Hall of Fame/Faith found in Hebrews 11. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could visit the Hall of Faith and converse with some of its members. We could ask Noah how he felt about God asking him to build an ark. I am sure he would tell us about how it took great faith to follow God’s call in the midst of great scrutiny from his peers. What about Moses talking to a burning bush on the mountain top. Can you imagine the tale he could tell about the faith he needed just to believe that a bush could talk? And we could go on and on…In short, the Bible is wrought with stories of ordinary men exercising extraordinary faith. I truly believe that God is not done adding members to His Hall. Just like the Hall of Fame, He is constantly scanning the globe for those who exemplify what it means to be faithful. If we determine to live by faith, who knows, we might be next.

What this is all about…

For the past several months, I have felt an urgency to launch a new online ministry to glorify our Lord and Savior. Many of you know that I have been in exile from active ministry for a while. Much like Jonah, I have tried to run from the call of God and have experienced His chastening for doing so. Nevertheless, God is faithful and has never given up on me. Therefore, I am determined to start off 2019 by following Him and launching a new chapter in my life. I would like to invite you all to join me on this ride and to pray for what God will do in and through this ministry. Much like Paul, I must humbly confess that I have not apprehended all that this call is about. However, I press on that I may apprehended it in His time. Until then, I will do my best to glorify Him through word and deed. (Phil. 3:12-14)