Which Religion?

In a recent column, Dear Abby gave this advice to someone who asked for direction in choosing between religions—“…consider which religion meets your needs…”

Unfortunately, that’s the way many people think when they are seeking religion. They are looking for an institution that will serve them. The consumer mindset is far too prevalent among religious seekers today. They are more concerned with what a church can do for them than what they can do for the church.

The key to choosing a religion is to find a church that gets its truth from the source—Jesus Christ.

“Jesus answered: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”—John 14:6.

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When Life Is Hard

During a 1957 Philadelphia Phillies baseball game, batter Richie Ashburn hit a foul ball into the stands, breaking the nose of a female fan. When play resumed, Ashburn hit the woman again with another foul ball as she was being carried off on a stretcher! Talk about adding insult to injury!

Life can be hard sometimes. Paul the apostle often recounted the hardships that he had to face as he spread the gospel message. (See 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 for an example.) Jesus warned us that life would not always be easy. But even in the midst of life’s worst trials, we can experience the peace of God because we know that Jesus is ultimately in charge.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33.

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Joseph: Man with a Plan

While in prison, Joseph gained a reputation for being able to interpret dreams (Genesis 40). When Pharaoh had some disturbing dreams, he was told about a prisoner who might be able to give him an interpretation, so he called for Joseph. God enabled Joseph to explain to Pharaoh that the dreams meant that there would be seven years of abundant crops, followed by seven years of terrible famine.

Joseph not only interpreted the dreams for Pharaoh, he also gave him a plan for how to survive the coming famine. He suggested that they store up food from the years of abundance and hold it in reserve to see them through the lean years.

Pharaoh not only thought that this was a good idea, but he also gave Joseph the responsibility of executing the plan. Joseph was put in charge of the whole land of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself (Genesis 41).

Joseph’s family was also affected by the famine, and they came to Egypt to buy food in order to survive (Genesis 42). Thus, Joseph was instrumental in keeping alive the young Israelite nation, through whom the Savior of the world, Jesus, would come.

From this episode we learn the importance of planning ahead. When God brings success to our plans, we help others in ways that we can’t even imagine. It’s all a part of God’s plan to save the world through Jesus. And he so graciously allows us to be a part of His plan!

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”—Colossians 3:17.

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Joseph: Man of Forgiveness

Joseph’s brothers had cruelly sold him into slavery. Years later, Joseph found himself second-in-command in Egypt. Furthermore, he was in charge of the food that Egypt had stockpiled to get them through the famine that had been predicted. When his brothers found it necessary to travel to Egypt in order to buy food for their survival, Joseph found himself in a position to pay them back for their terrible sin against him. However, Joseph chose to forgive them instead. Genesis 50:19-21 says, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

Forgiveness is a critical part of living out our faith in Jesus. When we forgive those who have done us wrong, we are following in the steps of our Savior Jesus, who died on the cross to make forgiveness possible for all sinners who will respond to him in faith.

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Joseph: Man of Integrity

Joseph’s jealous and hate-filled brothers sold him into slavery. Genesis 39 tells us that he ended up in Egypt as a slave to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. Joseph did such a good job for his master that Potiphar promoted him to be in charge of his entire household.

Potiphar’s wife noticed how attractive Joseph was, and she tried to seduce him. Day after day she propositioned him, but he continued to say, “No.” One day she caught him by the cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he ran out of the house.

This scorned woman concocted a lie that Joseph had tried to rape her. Because of her false accusation, Joseph was taken to prison.

Joseph showed his integrity in two ways. First of all, he did a good job for his master even though he was unfairly sold into slavery by his brothers. He didn’t mope about his circumstances, he just did the best he could in the situation in which he found himself.

Secondly, Joseph showed integrity by resisting sexual temptation. He knew that sexual relations are only for a husband and wife. Anything beyond that is sin. He ran away from temptation rather than giving in to it.

We need to show integrity if we are going to make a difference for God. The Lord can use someone who has fallen and later repented, but our capacity to serve God is greatly enhanced if we hold onto our integrity.

“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”—2 Timothy 2:22.

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Joseph: Man of Dreams

In Genesis 37 we are introduced to a remarkable young man by the name of Joseph. Only 17 years old, Joseph knew that God had a plan for his life. God showed that to him in a couple of dreams. When he shared his dreams with his family, they scoffed at him. His brothers hated him, and his father rebuked him. But the dreams that were given to Joseph helped him to know that God had a great purpose for his life. He could not have understood the scope of that purpose, but we can look back and see how God was working in his life to help unfold His wonderful plan to save the world through Jesus.

I have often used my sermons to exhort people to dream big dreams. Some people took me up on that challenge immediately—they fell asleep before the sermon was over!

Seriously, God wants to use each of us in a big way. So let’s dream big dreams. Let’s not allow the skepticism of others to discourage us. Let’s open ourselves to the possibility that God has some plans for our lives that will bring people to Jesus! Let’s persevere until we see great things happening in the kingdom of God!

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”—Ephesians 3:20-21.

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The Life of Joseph: Introduction

Joseph of the Old Testament is one of the most interesting people in the Bible. His story takes up a lot of space in the book of Genesis. Chapters 37 through 50 are almost entirely about Joseph. There is more written in Genesis about Joseph than there is about Abraham. Joseph gets more coverage than creation, the fall of mankind, the great flood and the tower of Babel combined. Surely there is a reason that there is so much written about this man. We would do well to study his life and see what lessons we can learn.

Over the next few days, I plan to write a short series about Joseph. We will find that he was: a man of dreams, a man of integrity, a man who planned ahead and a man of forgiveness. As we study his life, let us strive to follow his example and live exemplary lives, all the while considering how God’s plan for our life fits into the larger story of God’s radical plan to save the world through Jesus.

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Resurgence

Mom’s flower

My mother-in-law received a flower at church this past Mothers’ Day in recognition of her being the oldest mother in attendance. I planted the bright red flower in front of our house. With a little fertilizer and regular watering, it did quite well. Then the summer got hotter, and the flower seemed to be suffering. There were no more red blooms, and the plant seemed to be starting to dry up. My expectations for the flower were not good, however, I continued to water it.

Recently, the flower has made quite a comeback. The plant has greened up and there are some beautiful red blooms on it once again. The resurgence has been remarkable.

Sometimes we flourish spiritually, and sometimes we go through some dry spells. By continuing to pray and read Scripture and worship and serve, we will eventually start to flourish again.

So, if you are going through a tough time spiritually, hang in there! A resurgence may be coming soon!

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”—John 4:13-14.

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Too Much Communion?

The early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis. Luke the historian writes, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread… (Acts 20:7).

Some believers today try to make a case for taking communion less frequently. They say that having it every Sunday somehow makes the Lord’s Supper less special. I disagree with that assertion.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of baptizing two of my great-nephews into Christ. The baptisms took place prior to the congregation’s Thursday evening worship service. After the baptisms, some family and friends gathered with some of the church staff to have communion. My wife and I stayed for the worship service and participated in communion once again. I had partaken in the Lord’s Supper the previous evening, at a Wednesday night service that I regularly attend. The following Sunday, I had communion with the congregation where I preach. So I celebrated the Lord’s Supper four times in one week! And guess what? Each time was very special!

I don’t think that there is much danger of any Christian having too much communion. Any time we have an opportunity to remember Jesus in a very special way, we should take advantage of that opportunity!

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Pretentious

Bill Gates

A young businessman was sitting in the VIP lounge at an airport waiting for a prospective client. Suddenly, the young man noticed Bill Gates sitting across the room. He introduced himself to Gates, explaining that he was trying to seal an important business deal. He asked Gates, “Could you possibly just say a quick ‘Hello Chris” to me when I’m with my client? It would help seal the deal.” Gate agreed. Five minutes later the client arrived, and Bill Gates tapped the young man on the shoulder and said, “Hey Chris, what’s happening?’ The young man replied, “Take a hike, Gates, I’m in a meeting.”

“Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.”—Proverbs 12:9.

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