Imagine that you were desperately hoping for a letter from someone special. You stand at the window, waiting for what seems like an eternity for the mail carrier to arrive. Finally, he drives up and puts something in your mailbox. You bolt outside and tear into your mail, looking for that precious letter. Maybe it's from someone you love. Maybe it's an answer to a job application.
The great preacher John Wesley was riding along on his horse one day when he realized that three days had passed, and he had not been persecuted in any way. Not a single brick had been thrown in his direction. He had not been hit by an egg. So he actually stopped his horse and said out loud, "Could it be that I am backslidden or I have sinned?" Slipping down from his horse, he knelt on one knee and asked the Lord to show him if there was anything wrong with him spiritually.
In the age of the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, our culture also has an iFaith. It's a do-it-yourself divinity that has been customized for an individual's needs. But this is not the faith that is given to us in Scripture.
If you want to learn about God and His ways, then learn to study this wonderful book God has given to us, the Bible. It is the user's manual to life. It tells us what is right and wrong and what is good and evil. It tells us how to live, how to do business, how to have a successful marriage, and much, much more.
I think when we get to heaven, we will see things differently. I think we will discover that the things we saw as good weren't as good as we thought they were. And I think some things that we thought were bad actually will be seen in a new light.
The Christian life is the greatest life there is. God takes a life that was empty and aimless and headed to a certain judgment, and He turns it around and transforms it. He removes all of our sin. That is more than enough right there, but then He puts the righteousness of Jesus Christ into our spiritual bank account. That is called justification. He removes the guilt that haunted us, fills the emptiness inside of us, and literally takes residence in our hearts. This all comes as a result of the gospel, believed and followed. That is the good news.
Imagine what an honor it would have been to know you were mentioned in one of Paul's epistles. In his letter to Philemon, the apostle wrote, "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers" (Philemon 1:23–24).
We tend to put on pedestals the first-century believers and, in particular, the apostles. We imagine them speaking in King James English, perfectly living out God's commandments and boasting stained-glass lives.
I have always been amazed by weeds. You can take a little flower, plant it in the perfect location, water it, and make sure there are no pests to threaten it. You can do everything possible for that flower, and it will slowly grow. But then, in the same amount of time, some weed springs up from a little crack in the sidewalk, and that weed chokes out the flower.
How is it that someone could appear to be radically converted and so passionate about their new faith and then, without warning, suddenly give up and walk away?
Why is it that some people never respond to the gospel? They are not necessarily mean about it, though they may be. They are simply not open to it.
When I travel, I take my laptop computer with me, because I try to work on my messages. But often I must work off the battery, so whenever I get the opportunity, I plug in to the nearest electrical outlet. Why? Because my battery is running down, and I need to recharge.
I don't think it is ever a bad thing to ask God why. Some people will say that we should never question God. But I question God all the time. I don't mean that I doubt His existence. But I do say, "Lord, I don't understand why you have done (thus and so). . . . Why, Lord?"
Even in the church today, we can write off a lot of people, sometimes even fellow believers. It seems that sometimes the slogan is, "Us four and no more." We can divide over minutiae and allow second-tier and third-tier issues to bring unnecessary division in our ranks.
Is He interested in what happens to us as individuals? Does He really have a master plan for our lives? Or are we merely victims of blind chance?
I have a friend whose father died and never had a relationship with God. As a matter of fact, my friend wasn't a believer at that time, either. But my friend told me how he went to visit his father in his hospital room and noticed that one day, not long before he passed, there was a copy of the Bible there in his father's room. It was apparent that his father had requested it, knowing the end was near.
I am the LORD . . . they shall not be ashamed who wait for me. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord
You would think that, upon hearing of Saul's (later known as Paul) conversion, the early church would have given him a standing ovation. The fact is that the believers were still suspicious, because in Acts 9:26 we read, "When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him. . . ."
The religious leaders thought they had eliminated the problem when they crucified Jesus. But now, His disciples were preaching and performing miracles. It was as though Jesus had returned. And so He had—in the hearts and lives of His people.
After hearing the voice of Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul (later to become Paul) was left blind. He was led to the home of a man named Judas in Damascus, and he had no idea what would happen next.
We don't read of anyone in Scripture actually sharing the gospel with Saul (who later became the apostle Paul). But God used a number of people to prepare his heart to receive it.
We throw the word "hero" around a lot today. If a basketball player is adept at sinking the ball in the basket, we say that he or she is a sports hero. A musician who is really good on a guitar is called a guitar hero. But do we actually know what a hero is anymore?
Do you have big dreams to accomplish something great for God?
Why does God allow suffering in our lives? Why does He allow us to experience adversity?
If the apostle Paul had converted to Christianity in our day, he would be offered a book deal immediately. He would be discussing his unexpected conversion on all the talk shows and would be sharing his dramatic testimony in churches across the country.