Thursday, May 17, 2018

Here's Why You Have to Know the REAL Jesus

Mike Hosey, An Elder
I know a guy in Mississippi, a family friend, who learned a costly lesson a few years ago. He’s an experienced man, old enough to have acquired plenty of wisdom. He is a man who’s knowledge of farm and rural life had endowed him with powers of discernment. One day, he pulled into a gas station and bought some items from the convenience store, then filled up his new truck. For whatever reason, he had not taken the time to practice the discernment he already knew how to use. As he pulled away from the gas station, he was confident that all was well and that his day would end comfortably as it always did. But it didn’t. A few miles down the road his new truck met its fate. He had put gasoline in his diesel engine.

It’s not an uncommon mistake. Diesel and gasoline are pumped from machines that are very similar in appearance. Diesel looks like gasoline. In their unburned states, they smell somewhat similar. The nozzles that dispense the fuels, on first glance, appear identical. But all of this is only appearance and not reality. A diesel nozzle is larger than a gasoline nozzle so that you can’t fit it into a gasoline vehicle. On the other hand, because it is smaller, a gasoline nozzle fits far too easily into a diesel tank. Diesel is also a lubricant in addition to being a fuel, so it will often have a black oily residue on it’s pump and nozzle. A diesel pump is almost always painted green, and labeled with big letters that say DIESEL.

But none of those differences matter if you don’t take time to discriminate.

The world of bible teaching is similar to the diesel problem, with one big difference. Diesel is a good fuel that is meant for running certain kinds of cars. False bible teaching, is destructive fuel meant to damage any person interested in learning about Jesus or true spirituality. Unfortunately, the bad bible teaching often comes from a “pump” that looks, smells, and feels o.k. at first glance. But the apostle John knew better, and warned his students to test every spirit to see if it comes from God (1 John 4:1). He gave them a test to help make that discernment (1 John 4:2-3). John argued that a teacher who didn’t pass that test wasn’t from God, but was instead a kind of antichrist. So look carefully at the pumps where you get your spiritual fuel. If you don’t practice discernment, you’ll break your spiritual engine.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

4 Ways To Honor Your Mother Everyday

Mike Hosey, An Elder
One of the most important commands in the bible is to honor our mothers. It is one of the first direct commands the bible gives us, and it is repeated directly at least 8 times throughout scripture (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Matthew 15:4, Matthew 19:19, Mark 7:10, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, Ephesians 6:2). It’s also repeated indirectly numerous times (Proverbs 1:8, Proverbs 30:17). Jesus himself modeled the concept (Luke 2:43-51). The Hebrew word for those Old Testament verses means to make something weighty. The Greek word for those New Testament verses means to place value or esteem in something. So to honor your mother means to place weight or value in her positional relationship to you.

So how can you honor your mother? Well first, don’t limit your efforts to Mother’s Day!

1) Adopt a Proper Attitude: Monitor your thoughts about your mother. Are they resentful? Are they resistant? If so, is this resentfulness or resistance justifiable? Or is it because you just didn’t get your way? Enough thoughts will coalesce into an attitude, and your attitude will then shape your behavior, and your behavior will reflect your level of honor. If your having a problem with your attitude, take it to God in prayer. He specializes in helping you through such problems.

2) Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude: Be thankful for the things your mother has done for you. Remember that she is human, and raising another human is easily one of the world’s most difficult tasks. She birthed you. She took care of you when you could not take care of yourself. And she probably raised you in a world that did not have the tools and luxuries that you have. Gratitude will also shape your behaviors.

3) Honor Her With Your Words: Tell her that you love her. Tell her that she looks nice in her new clothes. Tell her that you enjoyed the meal. Tell her that you are thankful for her. Everyone likes to hear such things, even if they won’t admit it. Remind her of the good things that have shaped the good parts of you. She gets discouraged, and often thinks of the mistakes she made while raising you.

4) Honor Her With Your Actions: Be committed to her well being. Love her dearly with your behaviors. Carry the groceries in for her. Wash her car. Fix the pipe under the sink. Give her a day off regularly. Hug her. Kiss her on the cheek. Help her when she needs help. Do all of it without asking.

Doing these things comes with a promise from God (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What Does Love Got To Do With It?

Mike Hosey, An Elder
The bible is a book of action. Rarely does it introduce a concept and not follow up that concept without its application in the form of some kind of real action. Just consider God’s first creative moments. In Genesis 1:3, God said, “let there be light,” and there was light. His words had real evidence behind their utterance. The bible famously declares in Isaiah 55:11 that the words of God shall not return to him void, but that they will accomplish his purpose. In other words, when God speaks, things happen. This shows that he means what he says.

James develops this idea more fully. He argues that a person who truly hears the word, acts on what he hears (James 1:22-25). He takes this a bit further in James 2:14-17 where he strongly states that a person who says he has faith, but then doesn’t do anything with that faith, is a person who has a defunct faith, or no faith at all. Faith, without works, he says, is dead. True faith always produces behavioral results.

Love, like faith, is measured in deeds and not words. Therefore, real love also produces behavioral results. If it doesn’t then it isn’t love. John presents this idea in no uncertain terms. In 1 John 3:16-18 he shares that the reason we know love is because Jesus laid down his life for our spiritual well being. The actions of Jesus demonstrated his love. He drives even harder, and tells us that we ought to lay down our own lives for the people who belong to our faith community. In other words, we are to show our love in the same ways that Jesus did. He then asks how can the love of God be in us if we aren’t willing to commit to the well being of those brothers and sisters around us. Finally, he sums it up by encouraging us to love in deeds and in truth, and not just with words (1 John 3:18).

Words without actions are just words. Faith without works is dead. And love that doesn’t produce sacrificial deeds isn’t love. Your love and your beliefs should produce behavioral results. And those behavioral results should be evidenced most in your families and in your faith communities. If they don’t, go to God and ask him what’s missing in your walk.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What it Means to Keep on Sinning.

Mike Hosey, An Elder
Sometimes the bible presents us with disturbing truths. These truths serve as dire warnings of terrible things to come, and they should not be ignored. However, some teachers have relied too heavily on these dark truths as a means of scaring people into serving God, rather than inspiring them to serve God by illustrating his enormous love and overflowing grace. When this is the sole tactic used, people serve God because they don’t want to be punished, and not because they actually love him. This makes for fake service. Imagine a wife who supplies her husband with intimacy because she fears that if she doesn’t she’ll be beaten. Such intimacy is either cold, or fraudulent. 

Because these ominous truths are so potentially terrible, they sometimes color how we read other parts of the bible. If we are not careful, we will misinterpret those other passages too darkly. One such place where that often happens is in 1 John 3. In that passage, the apostle whom Jesus loved tells us that “no one who lives in him keeps on sinning, and that no one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him (1 John 3:6).” A truly saved person gets a gut check after reading that. Most people freak a bit because they realize that even though they’ve honestly submitted their lives to Jesus, they continue to have moments of sin. In fact, they may even continue to battle sinful desires. Their fear comes because they have focused on the second part of the verse, and forgotten the first. It also serves as evidence of their salvation. Whenever we are living in Jesus -- that is whenever we are placing him as the highest priority in our lives, and following in his footsteps, and adopting his attitudes -- we won’t keep sinning. In other words, we won’t make a practice of sinning. Because we can’t. Our lives will have a different pattern and a different proclivity. If we are living in Jesus, we will feel remorse for sin, and try to correct it. It’s actually a very positive message. A person who lives in Jesus does not keep sinning as a practice and lifestyle, because his new nature supernaturally compels him or her to separate from sin. This may play out in long, painful and difficult battles against the former patterns in our lives, but it will play out. On the other hand, a person who has never really known, or never really seen Jesus, will continue in a lifestyle of sin, will have no remorse for transgression, and will fight no painful battles against his or her former patterns of behavior. In fact, his or her sin will compel him or her to avoid holiness. If sin doesn’t bother you, then you might not have actually submitted yourself to Jesus. And if you didn’t, you are missing out on a life that’s way better than any fleeting (and corrosive) pleasures your sins currently bring you.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How Healthy are Your Food Sources

Mike Hosey, An Elder
You’ve heard the old saying, “you are what you eat.” Obviously, this statement is not to be taken absolutely literally. Instead, its a figure of speech designed to help you remember to watch your eating habits. For instance, the statement doesn’t mean that if you eat carrots, you’ll turn into a root vegetable. And it doesn’t mean that if you eat twinkies that you’ll turn into a spongy, cream filled pastry. What the saying means is that if you put healthy food into you, then you’ll be healthy, but if you fill yourself with junk food then your body will pay the price of becoming unhealthy.

 So much of the truth of that statement is to remind us to consider the source of what we intake. An interesting process occurs based on how we source our food. The more good food you eat, the more your body will crave good food. And the more junk food you eat, the more your body will crave junk food. If you drink sodas all of the time, then when you become thirsty, your body will crave soda. If you drink water all of the time, then when you are thirsty, your body will crave water. When you discipline your body’s sourcing, it takes on the attributes of that sourcing. A person who is healthy doesn’t regularly partake in unhealthy activities, because to do so would change him or her into something unhealthy.

John talks about this in 1 John 2:15-17. He reminds us that if we pursue the things of the world -- things that are associated with lust, or pride, or fleshly desires -- then we don’t have the love of God in us. But if we pursue the things of God, then our love for God is evident. The more we pursue worldly things, the more worldly we become. The more we pursue spiritual things, the more we become spiritual.

Finally, he reminds us that spiritual things are superior because they last forever. Worldly things, are temporary. In other words, you can have the fleeting pleasures of junk food, or you can have the everlasting well being of healthy food. So take some time this week with God to check your intake sources.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Living in a Faith Community

Mike Hosey, an Elder

Every Christian must live his or her life under authority. We are to live under the authority of the Bible, and under the authority of Jesus, and his Holy Spirit, and under the authority of God the father.  We are instructed to live our church lives under the authority of our church elders and the wisdom that God flows through them. We are even to live our lives under the authority of secular governments as long as they don’t conflict with God’s authority (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17).

This can be a difficult task because we don’t always like what God wants us to do. Further, our human authorities are human enough to be quite wrong every now and then. 

John metes out some of that authority in 1 John 2:7-8 when tells his readers that he is giving them both an old commandment and new commandment. In other words, he tells them that there is a command authority they are to respect. Typical of John in this particular letter, he doesn’t immediately identify that commandment. Instead, he moves quickly into a discussion of how hating one’s brother is a form of walking in sinful darkness. But his reference to a new commandment echoes the words of Jesus in the gospel of John 13:34-35.  In that passage, Jesus gives his disciples the “new” commandment to love one another as he has loved them, and that this will show the world that they belong to him.  Interestingly, most of the chapter before that specific command has Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. He is loving them in a service capacity. He then tells them to love each other as he has loved them. 

This sheds a great deal of light on John’s unnamed old/new commandment and his statements about hating one’s brothers and walking in darkness.  John is reminding his readers that they should be loving each other with works of service, and that if they are not doing so, but are instead actively neglecting them, then they are walking in darkness, and potentially showing the world that they may not belong to Jesus. 

The larger point is that we are commanded to live in community with one another. This is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. The act of feet washing that Jesus taught was symbolic of loving by serving one’s faith community.  So how do you follow that command to love others in your faith community? Do you serve in children’s ministry, or clean your church building, or invite others to worship, or freely give your tithe, or take meals to someone who is sick, or serve on workday, or greet new comers, or help at a small group?  There are plenty of great opportunities!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Looking at my Sins with Jesus

Mike Hosey, An Elder

One of the most liberating things I do in my life is to admit my flaws. Acknowledging that I am imperfect isn’t always easy, but it takes a lot of weight off of my shoulders because it frees me to recognize that I’m not in control of everything. More importantly, though, it prompts me to honestly look at where I need improvement. Not conceding a flaw means that I don’t have to look at it, and of course, ignoring it means that I can’t work toward fixing it. Considerably more liberating – and considerably harder – is admitting that I am an active sinner, with an actively sinful heart. Confession of sin, if done rightly, is uncomfortable, and even painful. This is because you’re not just passively recognizing a flaw. Instead, you are owning up to poor choices that you knew were wrong, or should have known were wrong. You are taking responsibility for damaging your relationship with God, and perhaps even other people. You are granting that there is a predisposition in you toward evil that requires regular attention. 

But if we don’t experience this pain by admitting our part in sinful decisions, then it is evidence that we don’t know Jesus, which in turn means that we may not have him to plead our case before a just and faithful God – a God who is faithful to punish our sins, or to forgive them (1 John 2:1, Matthew 7:21-23).  Just like when we don’t admit to a flaw, we are doomed to keep the sin and not make improvements.  On the other hand, admitting our sins allows Jesus to shine his light into our lives and expose those things to us we’d rather not touch. Doing this allows him to cleanse us, and helps us to know that we belong to him (1 John 1:5-10).

Recognizing, confessing, and turning from sin in our lives is vital to Christian growth and maturity. I realized this some years ago when I took a careful inventory of my life. I realized that I had ignored God’s desires for my life, and that I had a terrible penchant for pride, lust, laziness, and even selfishness. I rarely looked at the places in my heart that harbored these evils. And I rarely considered how these evils hurt the people around me that I said I loved. Don’t get me wrong, I still battle with all of these (and others) – often on a daily basis.  But I am more inclined to win those battles now than I’ve ever been.  This is because in my Christian journey, I have learned to take a personal inventory not every few years, or months or weeks, but multiple times a day. This allows me to catch the sin as quickly as it has happened -- sometimes even before it happens. This humbling exercise liberates me from the grip of those sins that separate me from my God, and hurt the people around me.