Saints/Sinners

Years ago, my wife and I stayed in a Howard Johnson Inn while vacationing in Florida. As I was walking down the hallway, I past their lounge. I wasn’t particularly surprised that they had a lounge but what did surprise me was the lounge’s name: Saints/Sinners. Being a Christ-follower, I was taken back that “Saints” would be used in reference to a bar. I have pondered that name often but as I was reading the Gospels, that name came back to me.

I guess the name first caught my attention because of the vast contrast between the two names; they are total opposites of each other. Nowhere is that seen more clearly than the attitude of the “saints” and the sinners” of Jesus’ day.  No “saint” would ever associate with “sinners” and that was one of the reasons that Jesus was hated by the religious establishment. Jesus not only associated with THEM but He went into THEIR homes and even shared a meal with THEM.

Before we start throwing stones, have you ever been at  a party and felt uncomfortable around certain people? We tend to associate with people like US, don’t we? You can almost see the separation in the room between THEM and US.  I can visit a church and almost point out to you one of THEM. THEM will often sit by THEM-selves and you can often see they are  uncomfortable being in the presence of so many of US.

What are we to do? The “US” must take the first step in tearing down the walls that separate US and THEM. Ask if they would mind if you sat with them during the worship service. Purposely start  a conversation with that person that is being overlooked at the party. Invite one of THEM to go with you to a ballgame with you. (You paying for their ticket of course!)

Let’s US do everything possible to make THEM one of US!

I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work…”  Isaiah 55:8 (MSG)

As a Christ-follower, I have found many of my thoughts and actions are totally opposite of God’s. I am not talking about sin but just different. For example, when someone hurts you or does something to you, the ‘natural’ man will usually respond in a way that is totally opposite of the way God would have us respond. MT. 5:43-45  The world says if you want to be rich; be stingy. God on the other says giving is the way of receiving. Luke 6:38

Recently I have had a change in my thinking concerning how I view the church. For years, I have viewed the “small” church as inferior to larger churches. Small churches, in my thinking,  just hadn’t arrived yet. They weren’t as successful as the large church. Many people look at the small church as an “unwanted, red-headed step-child.”

But does God categorize churches by size? No. How does not see churches as large or small. He just sees THE church. Jesus is the head of the church, so wherever He is worshiped that is church. Mt. 18:20 Churches are not called to be successful (at least as others think) but they are called to be faithful. Mt. 5:21

God must love the small church, He made so many of them.

What’s New?

Isn’t it amazing how some words get our immediate attention?  Words like FREE! Or HELP! How about SALE END TOMORROW! Madison Avenue advertising companies know the importance of using just the right words to attract consumers. Probably the must overused word in advertising is the word NEW!

I am not actually sure why that word has such an appeal on us. Sometimes when we greet someone we have not seen for awhile, the question usually surfaces, “Well, what’s new?”

Usually we associate “new” as being positive or a good thing. In a few hours, we will begin a New Year. No one knows, except God, what the upcoming year has in store for each of us. But God does give us these promises:

“…but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Psalm 34:10

“…no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:11

As we look forward to a New Year, let’s remember this verse throughout the year:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

The Defense Against Offense

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” Mt. 15:12

Everybody, every single person who has ever lived on earth, has been offended. Not once, but many times. In some cases, many, many times. “Offense,””offenses,” “offend,” “offended” and “offender” appear a total of seventy-three times in the Bible. Several writers, as well as Jesus, give the subject of offense close scrutiny.

We tend to use the word “offense” in the sense of feeling displeasure. Our displeasure may range from merely being stirred all the way to feeling deep resentment and indignation.

Offenses usually occur when someone says something to us too harshly—or at least we interpret it that way. It can and does occur when we perceive that we have been ignored, overlooked or given a responsibility we do not want. Or we become offended when we are blamed for something we did not do, or on the other hand, when we do not receive credit for what we did do. We may be offended when someone has been inconsiderate or thoughtless or has used us for their own purposes. The ways to become offended are many.

Parents are “offended” by the Nutcracker because they think it is ‘religious.

Prayer prohibited at football game.

Muslim woman offended by a bacon sign.

Teachers no longer use a red pen to grade papers; so children are not offended.

The Best Defense? The best defense against offense is a healthy and growing relationship with God. We must nurture this relationship on a daily basis, and not allow it to degenerate through a lack of care. And then, when the pressure is on because offense has come, we can cry out in our anguish and desperation for help and receive the help we need. Hebrews 4:16

When people’s lives please the Lordeven their enemies are at peace with them.” Prov. 16:7 NLT

Bridges


My father was raised in the small town of Mahaffey, Pennsylvania. As a small child, Dad would take us for a visit to see all our relatives. During those visits, we would always go see the Covered Bridge. [Actual photo] I don’t know why but that bridge fascinated me.

Bridges are constructed for the purpose of bridging gaps. As Christ followers, as are to make every effort to bridge the gaps between races, social cultures, and religious denominations.

Jesus does not discriminate between people on the basis of race, nationality, level of education, or social position.  He ignores all social distinctions and accepts all people who come to Him in faith. Col. 3:11 

But acceptance is not the norm in our world. People constantly make distinctions between each other on the basis of race, gender, nationality, social standing, wealth and power. But God hates distinctions.  Acts 15:9 So tear down the walls that separate us and build bridges.