Why have you come? Are you not entertained?

Entertained by chance

I grew up in a small denominational church. On any given Sunday, we had about 110 people in the building. The church was full. The choir loft was full.  The pews were all taken. The hymns were old and the message was good. The pastor would hit you over the head with brimstone, slap a cross on your back, wash your tears away with the Blood, and have you rejoicing as Resurrection came at the end of every sermon. Entertained Believers was not the point. It was a happy coincidence. That was reality 25 years ago. As I fast-forward to this post-COVID reality, much has changed.

The church is still there; the hymns are still old, the message is still good but the passing of time exposes more and more of the blood-red cushions on the pews. Some have moved to different states where life is cheaper. However, too many, I feel, have moved on to other “bigger”, more hip, churches. No pews, just folding chairs. “Standing-room-only” is for the late comers. Choir lofts give way to concert stages. The hymns are replaced with modern music and the message has more in common with Dr. Phil’s self-help than Jesus’ self-sacrifice.

Entertained on purpose

In the churches where many have gone off to, pastors New York Times best-selling authors. The sanctuary is musically fine-tuned for maximum sound efficiency. The lighting is complex and computerized. the songs are popular and copyrighted by the church. The associate pastor is the pastor’s son and the message feels like a great big hug and a pat on the back for time well-served. You can’t help being entertained. In fact, the only real question everyone is asking themselves and each other is:

After all, who doesn’t like good music, young friendly faces, feel-good message, a light-hearted atmosphere, and a guilt-free conscience? My answer is “I don’t know, but I sure know who does“! I know what you’re saying, “there’s nothing wrong with…..”. And, begrudgingly, I would have to agree with you. God made it all: good music, good feelings, good atmosphere, etc. Consider this. Would anyone remember what the preacher said if the title wasn’t on the screen? Better yet: does anyone care what the preacher said? Another great question to get to the heart of the matter is: what are you here for?

The reason for the show

Don’t get me wrong, churches should stay relevant and people should feel “entertained”: as far as music and social media and architecture and all the rest: but not at the cost of the Gospel. You want no dress code: great; loud music: fine; you want a “come one, come all”: amazing; Jesus did too! But once you have them, hit them with the mind-numbing, Life-altering Truth of Jesus Christ. Give them the “streams of living water”; give them, the “Truth that sets you free”: give them the whole Gospel, not this new-Age “God loves you just as you are, and He made you just as you are”!

Yes, tell them God loves them, but tell them why God loves them. Tell them God loves them in spite of what they did and tell them what to do about it. Give them their current state of affairs and tell them of the amazing Love of God: But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

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If anything in churches needs to modernize let it be everything possible but not everything imaginable. The Truth, as always, needs no compressor to smooth out the edges, no equalizers to make it universal, no filters to give it the right appeal, and no sub-woofers to give it the proper emphasis. If the message needs all of this then it’s not the Message that anyone needs. If they are to be entertained let it be on their way to heaven, not on their way to perdition.

The Anatomy of an Insult – Part 2

Sticks and Stones

In a recent post, we discussed how Nathaniel’s unthoughtfully sincere words were not enough to cause offense to Jesus. We also learned how something good can “come out of Nazareth”: whether it be in the natural realm, meaning Jesus Himself, or in the spiritual realm: the majority of the people that will read these words are “gentiles” by birth but Jews and Royal Priests by our adoptions as sons because of what came “out of Nazareth: the Nazarene and His disciples.

The last time you read the passage in John 1:43-51, what probably stuck out to you the most was Nathaniel’s “insult”. Nathaniel’s audacity to speak such a thing about Jesus is not a likely Sunday School lesson. But don’t forget, Nathaniel didn’t know then what he would know just a short time later. Although Nathaniel’s name doesn’t ever return to prominence in the New Testament accounts, his words would surely become the “faithful wounds of a good friend” in short order.¬†

Fruits worthy of repentance 

For too many people nowadays authentic Nathaniel-like sincerity is insulting. Unfortunately, all too often this is offense-taking sentiment is prevalent in the Church as much it is in the World. Thankfully Jesus shows us how to peer into the heart of the matter, overlook the “letter” of words and find hidden treasures in their “Spirit”. Jesus goes on to teach us the meaning behind “the faithful wounds of a friend”.¬†

When looking at the loving way Jesus answered Nathaniel’s sincere heart cry for the Truth, it couldn’t have been any more different than the total disdain He reserved for those who insisted they knew better but in fact these scholars and scribes and Pharisees but could not bear witness to anything resembling fruits worthy of repentance“.

One instance where the fruits worthy of such repentance were put on display immediately! In the account of Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:24-29) lies the well-known encounter of Jesus and the disciple Thomas. This passage is where we get the expression “Doubting Thomas”, which we use when people are distrusting of any news, no matter the source. Thomas demanded proof that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thomas told his fellow disciples that he would need to put his finger into His pierced side and perforated hands. An empty tomb is one thing; saying that the body in the tomb is not dead elsewhere is a whole different story.¬†

Doubtful by default

The Greatest Insult is Doubt

To be honest, in a secularized modern world such as our own, no one blames Thomas for being so… rational. It is reasonable to imagine that Thomas had seen many people crucified in Palestine. The Romans had made crucifying enemies of the State into an art form. Thomas simply couldn’t conceive how anyone could survive such punishment. I’m sure that many other disciples had even shared his pragmatism until they saw Him in the flesh again. Thomas however, was bold enough and honest enough with¬†himself to speak it out loud.¬†

As they assembled there together days later, Jesus walks through the wall and puts His hands up for closer inspection by Thomas. He shows Thomas His chest wound where the spear had punctured all the way through to His heart. Thomas falls to his knees and bears witness that Jesus is truly the Son of the Almighty God. 

So, what was it that offended Jesus? Was Jesus even offended at all? Were the “faithful wounds of a friend” that Solomon was referring to the insult and offense that comes from those who are the best positioned to do the most damage and yet handle their words with the dexterity of someone with no impulse control? If Jesus really was offended by Thomas’ words there is little evidence here. However, He does make an example of Thomas and his secularist, materialist mindset. After all, believing after having seen is easy. Jesus takes the opportunity to pronounce a blessing on the billions of Believers that would come to Him throughout the millennia: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed” (John 20:29). After all believing¬†after¬†seeing that no faith at all.¬†

Friends and their faithful wounds

Jesus was surely not pleased. After raising the dead, walking on water, feeding the thousands, silencing a storm, and healing the sick, one of His most trusted friends doubted this final triumph over the forces and the Laws of nature. Thomas’s doubt was unbecoming of a man that had spent the better part of 40 months together with Jesus.

Unfortunately, Thomas’ doubt and double-mindedness were not exclusive traits to this one disciple. Judas’ internal conflict brought to the end of his rope, it brought Peter to deny Him to a little servant girl and caused the majority of others to run, scatter and hide. In fact, the Gospel accounts only place John the Beloved at the crucifixion of Jesus.

Unmitigated Tamarity

Thomas, like Nathaniel, spoke from his honest internal dialogue. Unlike the latter, Thomas had a purely worldly view of his surroundings. Thomas was perhaps the kind of man that struggled with his doubts even as he witnessed the miracles themselves. Thomas had room for miracles in his mind and as his relationship grew closer to Jesus he struggled less and less. But there was just something about Jesus raising Himself from the grave that was too much for him to handle.  

Pearl of Great Price

It is therefore our greatest fortune that the “faithful wounds of a friend” are the ones Jesus bears on His body to this day. Jesus overlooked, covered, atoned, and erased the insults of both Thomas and Nathaniel. The blood that oozed out of His hands and gushed out from between His ribs paid for not only the insults of those that accepted His forgiveness; it lies in wait to be discovered as payment in full for the countless millions around the world that have not yet come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They unwittingly spew insults on Jesus all day long and bearing in their own lives the cost. It is our sacred responsibility to introduce the world to this magnificent Forgiver of wrongs. For those of us who have found this great Pearl, we too often discard it in the busyness of life.¬†

Professional Profaners

In an upcoming post, we will discuss antiquity’s best orators of calumnies and Jesus’ favorite hypocrites. When it came to this group of people, Jesus held back no punches. He hit back hard in their war of words. His replies were pubic in the form of plain language as well as in the form of parables. I hope you’ll come back for part 3 when we discuss some of my favorite passages from the Gospels. Also, if you’ve missed out, be sure to read Part 1 of this 3-part series on the Anatomy of an Insult.¬†

When Christians insult other Believers

When Christians insult other Believers

It seems these days that everyone around you keeps getting more and more thin-skinned. Total strangers get third-party offended. Family members that don’t like what you think of a particular behavior of theirs. Church members, deacons, and even pastors. None of them can take any criticism of anything they say or do with the same “sweet reasonableness” they preach that others should have (Phil 4:5). Needless to say that people are easily insulted these days and some make a profession of it. Now please understand that we are talking about Christians here.¬† Whether it is intentional or not Christians insult other Believers and, perhaps worse, Christians take offense at the words of other Believers.

Any cheek-turners in the room?

But what about Jesus, how did he handle Himself when people said unkind or insulting things about Him. Now, I’m not referring to the openly insulting statements that He received during His ministry, I’m referring to the little things along the way, the innuendos, the side jabs, the play on words, or simply the things that were not said in public where many would have heard and formed an opinion on. How did Jesus handle those?

The sin of sincerity

I’m sure our personal lives are full of instances where the words of other Christians have insulted us. By the same token, our own words have offended other Believers. Whether it was by sheer naivety or aimed with the intention to wound a friend, Christians have been as guilty at insulting other Believers as the “general population”. Fortunately, not many of Christiandom’s foot-in-mouth instances have been recorded in the annals of history. That is of course with the exception of the Biblical record.

One such comment that comes to mind is when Philip went and told Nathaniel that they had found the Messiah. Philip told him that His name of Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth. Nathaniel, thought to himself and said the first thing that came to his mind and said, “can anything good come out of Nazareth”? When he finally came to Jesus, the Master turned and said to him, “Behold! An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile”. Not only did Jesus know what Nathaniel had said and not only did He not take offense but rather commended Nathaniel for his sincerity of heart. You see, Nathaniel had his doubts. His doubts were sincere but he still had enough hunger for the Truth to go and find out for himself. When he finally arrived where Jesus was and heard Him say two things. He heard Him say that only was there no guile in him but He was aware of him under the fig tree beforehand, Nathaniel suddenly realized that he was in the presence of God.

Sincerity as a lifestyle

A little background may be called for. Why would Nathaniel blurt out at Philip’s announcement of the Messiah cause offense? In the Jewish custom of the time “nothing good could come from Nazareth”. This was a widespread proverb and this was for two particular reasons. Reasons that are intertwined and, if Jesus was and considered Himself a prophet, He should’ve known better. His (supposed) Nazarene pedigree would automatically bar Him from being considered a prophet by any self-respecting Jew.

The hometown of the thick-skinned

For starters, Nazareth is in Galilee. That’s significant because its border country. Samaria (of the Samaritans) is just southwest of Galilee. Nazareth was a fairly large commercial center. It would have lots of gentile influences (Greeks, Samaritans, Phoenicians, and all manner of other pagan cultural influences). Seeing as Galilee shared a northern border with Phoenicia (of the Syro-Phoenician woman) with cities such as Tyre and Sidon that, although had long outlived their glory days, were still important regional ports of call.

 

Palestine in the time of Jesus

Galilee was not the ideal breeding ground for prophets. With such strong gentile influence,¬† complicated allegiances to God, Israel, and Rome,¬† Temple Jews considered Galilee to be a backwater sort of place. Far removed from the Temple cult of Jehovah. The Galileans’ tolerance for outsiders living and working among them made them, for the most part in the eyes of the Temple Jews, ritually unclean. By definition unfit for the office of prophet. This confluence of worldviews created a a “peculiar” people. Galileans were comfortable with speaking their minds and quite accustomed to hearing seemingly controversial comments. The insults and comments simply rolled off their back. It’s the biblical equivalent to being a new yorker. If we were to take offense at everything a stranger said, we would never make it past getting the car out of the parking spot.

Biblical backwater

Along similar lines, in all the history of the law and the Prophets, not one single prophet had ever come from Nazareth. The great majority of them were of Judean descent and many of them with traceable Davidic and/or royal lineage. Jesus, in their eyes, therefore seemingly lacked both the proper stock as well as the correct birthplace to hold such office, whether it be prophet or Messiah.

Surely Jesus was well-aware of the cultural and religious stigma that came from being a Galilean. Although not recorded in the Gospels, many others would have already said or thought such things. Both before then and afterward. However, Jesus was able to see into Nathaniel’s heart and saw the sincere heart-cry of a Seeker. It was¬† “credited to him as righteousness“. When Philip came to Nathaniel he made specific references to the Law and the Prophets. Surely referring to the countless conversations they had together in the past. Perhaps they scoured the Scriptures together looking for a sign. I imagine many other would-be prophets and Messiahs had come before. As history tells us, many of them and their followers ended up dispersed, discredited, or dead.

An insult revisited

With all of this in mind we can take a fresh look at Nathaniel’s question. It was part incredulous and part hopeful. Nathaniel was open to the idea. He was also hopeful that he had misread or misunderstood something in the Scriptures. He hoped that with a sincere heart he had been sincerely wrong before. Perhaps the time had come for them to finally¬†find the Messiah. Hopefully, to be found by the Messiah.

Jesus revealed to him the condition of his heart. He was perplexed. He asked “how do you know me”? Skipping the actual question¬† He replies, paraphrasing, “not only do I know you, I even saw you under the fig tree”! Typical Jesus style. What Nathaniel responds tells us a lot about the situation that we, at first glance, are not aware of directly.

Low-lying fruit

Here’s the low-lying fruit here (pun intended). The fig tree must have been out of the line of sight for Jesus. It must have been hidden from from His view. Possibly over a hill or around a bend or something of that nature.¬† From this Nathaniel would see two things. Not only was the man before Him master over men’s inner thoughts but the forces (read “laws”) of nature. Jesus had correctly identified his internal personal state and his specific geographic location. His thoughts and location would only have been known to Philip.

Foregoing what else Jesus tells the men there assembled about what¬†else they will see and hear in the times to come, we learn a few things about both Nathaniel and the heart of Jesus.¬† Nathaniel’s eagerness and thirst for Truth pays off. His first answer is a resounding “yes!”. Good things can come out of Nazareth. By association, good things can come from Galilee. Specifically, Jesus and His motley crew of friends. Those men would go on to change history. He also answers his second question. Jesus knows Nathaniel (read your own name there) like a “wheel within a wheel”. Jesus knows our innermost workings even when we are not aware of Him.

Insult, the teacher

Perhaps the most astounding discovery we can take away is His early interaction with His disciples. We see that Jesus is available for questioning. We will study in upcoming posts the way Jesus responds to other sorts of inquiries. Here, we are assured that Jesus does not turn away anyone searching with all their heart (Jer 29:13). Also, He answers the underlying question regardless of presentation. Jesus has no interest in form. His interest is function. Nathaniel’s question may have been or sounded course but it came from a ready heart, from a heart that wanted the Truth, was earnestly seeking the Truth. In exchange for his childlike sincerity, Jesus paid him a truly beautiful compliment, one that we should all aspire to hear from the Master: “an Israelite (read: Christian) indeed, in whom there is no guile”.

A call to Ministry – July 12th, 2020 – Lighthouse Assembly of God

Receiving the call to Ministry

From the moment God saves you, you receive a call to ministry: a ministry of service to Him. “Rocking chair” Christians is not our calling in life. We are swim upstream like salmon. Against the current! We are not here to run out the clock. We are to be a visible sign of the invisible God and of the life-changing Power that He has displayed in our lives!

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Answering the Call to Ministry

Today’s message is drawn from the Epistles to the Colossians, where the Apostle Paul explains what is it, exactly, that we can expect from living, or attempting to live, a life that is pleasing to God. Look at shiny tv preachers. Observing them you would think that a call to ministry is a way to be “served” rather than to serve. They mistake the prosperity of the Gospel with a Gospel of Prosperity. I like the way William Carey, the Father of modern-day missions, put it.

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Never the same again

As Spirit-filled, Bible-believing Christians we must, as the Pastor Geer proclaimed, “shine”. Let people see the Light in you. Once they do, they’ll want to talk to us about Jesus. Our prayer is that you are blessed as you take time out of your day to be in God‚Äôs presence and grow spiritually from the sharing of His Word.

Shameless Plug

We want to remind everyone that Life More Abundant is an outreach ministry of the Men’s Ministry of Lighthouse Assembly of God in Glendale, Queens, New York. Prayerfully consider coming alongside Lighthouse Assembly of God with a gift of any amount. We encourage you to do so through our Venmo Page. Every penny you donate goes fully and directly to the Church. Please share this link with someone, anyone, and everyone you know. May God continue to richly bless you and His Church. Also, please prayerfully consider becoming a patron of Life More Abundant.

 

Father’s Day Message -June 21st – Lighthouse Assembly of God

You do the best you can: bring them to church every week, prayers in the morning before school, at dinnertime and at night before bed; you surround them with godly influences and sound biblical advice but, one day, they are out there, in the wide wide world making decisions, on their own. Today’s message, drawn from 1 Samuel Chapters 9, 10, and 15, Pastor Geer shares with us a familiar story of a once-great man and a father’s heart cry for his wayward son.

Our prayer is that you are blessed as you take time out of your day to be in God’s presence and grow spiritually from the sharing of His Word.

Click the link below to watch the video from a secured server.

What shall I do about my son?

Life More Abundant International Ministries is fully funded and maintained by the Men’s Ministry of Lighthouse Assembly of God in Glendale, Queens, New York. If you would like to prayerfully consider coming alongside Lighthouse Assembly of God with a gift of any amount, we encourage you to do so through our Venmo Page. Every penny you donate goes¬†fully and directly to the Church. And if you have been blessed, as we’re confident you have been, please share this link with someone, anyone, everyone you know. May God continue to richly bless you and His Church.

Folly of Indiscretion – June 7th, 2020 – Lighthouse Assembly of God

You don’t often hear preachers talk about such topics; but, after all, Pastor Geer, is not just any¬†preacher. Western Christianity has, unfortunately, become too accustomed to soft, soothing words that build ego rather than character, remove insult rather than faults, and instill a false sense of righteousness rather than fear and trembling before a Sovereign God.¬† People tend not to want to know: “What does Jesus have to say on the subject”? In today’s message, entitled The Folly of Indiscretion, Pastor Geer teaches us from the Book of Proverbs on what happens to an unruly youth and how, through God’s saving Grace, even the most far-gone sinner can find his way Home.

Our prayer is that you are blessed as you take time out of your day to be in God’s presence and grow spiritually from the sharing of His Word.

Click the link below to watch the video from a secured server.

Warning Against Adultery

Life More Abundant International Ministries is fully funded and maintained by the Men’s Ministry of Lighthouse Assembly of God in Glendale, Queens, New York. If you would like to prayerfully consider coming alongside Lighthouse Assembly of God with a gift of any amount, we encourage you to do so through our Venmo Page. Every penny you donate goes¬†fully and directly to the Church. And if you have been blessed, as we’re confident you have been, please share this link with someone, anyone, everyone you know. May God continue to richly bless you and His Church.

 

The Blame Game – May 31st, 2020 – Lighthouse Assembly of God

In today’s message entitled “The Blame Game”, Pastor Geer brings us to a very familiar but often overlooked passage of Scripture about accountability and personal responsibility, where the echoes of this oversight are apparent all around us in our modern world. But first, we invite you to worship along with us to the praises and glory of God the Father through His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Our prayer is that you are blessed as you take time out of your day to be in God’s presence and grow spiritually from the sharing of His Word.

Click the link below to watch the video from a secured server.

The Blame Game

Life More Abundant International Ministries is fully funded and maintained by the Men’s Ministry of Lighthouse Assembly of God in Glendale, Queens, New York. If you would like to prayerfully consider coming alongside Lighthouse Assembly of God with a gift of any amount, we encourage you to do so through our Venmo Page. Every penny you donate goes¬†fully and directly to the Church. And if you have been blessed, as we’re confident you have been, please share this link with someone, anyone, everyone you know. May God continue to richly bless you and His Church.

 

The Tragedy of Rejection – May 17th, 2020 – Lighthouse Assembly of God

For many people around the world, including in the view of many Christians, God is a Universal Acme Bag that is constantly at our beck and call; an errand boy that is there to give us what we want with little to no consideration towards Him before or After we have received.

But, have you ever heard the phrase, “God is not mocked”?

This is exactly what Pastor Geer’s message is about today. Reading from the book of 2 Chronicles, we read about one of the many times in the Bible where God shows up in a mighty way and reminds His people of the Order of the Universe and our place in it.

But first, we invite you to worship along with us to the praises and glory of God the Father through His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Our prayer is that you are blessed as you take time out of your day to be in God’s presence and grow spiritually from the sharing of His Word.

Click the link below to watch the video from a secured server.

The Tragedy of Rejection

Life More Abundant International Ministries is fully funded and maintained by the Men’s Ministry of Lighthouse Assembly of God in Glendale, Queens, New York. If you would like to prayerfully consider coming alongside Lighthouse Assembly of God with a gift of any amount, we encourage you to do so through our Venmo Page. Every penny you donate goes¬†fully and directly to the Church. And if you have been blessed, as we’re confident you have been, please share this link with someone, anyone, everyone you know. May God continue to richly bless you and His Church.

Bewildered by Grace

Where sin abounds

My best man is not what you would call a “Christian”. We’ve been friends for years and, although he grew up Russian Orthodox, there’s very little semblance of religion in his life. He does as he pleases, goes where he wants with whomever he wants and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. He is an intelligent, classically educated, well-traveled, eloquent, multi-lingual and a very successful cosmopolitan. Although he himself is not religious, he “understands the role it can play in people’s lives”. Our prayer for him has always been that he be bewildered by grace.

All in all, he’s the poster child for a jaded, calculating, cynical yet pragmatic post-cold-war soviet youth. One might even wonder “what does this man have in common with you”? Surprisingly enough, I have to say that he is the only secular friend from my youth God has allowed to remain in my life. And I’m sure He has His reasons. I believe so that he can be bewildered by Grace.

Opportunity presents itself

On one of his many excursions to Europe for a skiing trip with his newlywed wife, they decided to cross the Alps and make some stops in Northern Italy; he wanted to take advantage of the proximity to Milan to take in the sights with his wife. As “luck” would have it, his rental car broke down. He’s not the type to panic so he very calmly called the rental company and arranged to bring his car in for repairs. He arrives at the mechanics’ shop to discover that no one there speaks English. Again, he calmly reaches out to me back in New York, explains the situation, and asks that I speak to the mechanic. He wanted me to communicate to him very clearly what he needed done to the car.

Grace abounds even more

He puts the mechanic on the phone, I introduce myself, explain that the gentleman is my best man, in Italy on vacation and that his car broke down on the road. I extend my availability to translate at a moment’s notice, I thank the gentleman for his time and add “che Dio vi benedica”.

Now, please understand that, although translated into English it means “God bless you”, unlike the ease with which we use it in America, from sneezes on the train to prayers at the altar, in Italian and in Italy, those words are hard to come by. It is not part of our daily lexicon to go around blessing people. For example, for sneezes, we say “salute” which is basically “good health”. Although we are the seat of the Catholic Church, it would surprise anyone to see just how secular Italy has become over the years. Religion and God are making a slow but steady exit out of public life.

Bewildered by Grace

So, just like any other normal phone call, the mechanic and I said our goodbyes. I told my friend it was taken care of. We both moved on with my day. However, what came next was more than just unexpected, it was extraordinary.¬† The next day, after he had gotten his car fixed and left the mechanics’ shop, he called me again and said: “I just have one question: was the mechanic, like, your cousin or something”?¬†Bewildered might be an understatement.

It’s not every day that my best friend is caught off guard by anything, let alone bewildered.¬† ¬†He reads people and situations extremely well and has an uncanny ability at hedging himself against any unforeseen circumstance. So when he started our conversation with such a question I knew something very unexpected had taken place. I asked him to explain what he meant by such a left-field question. He went on to tell me how, right after we got off the phone, he noticed something different about the mechanic. I was happy to see that the mechanic was bewildered by Grace as well.

He described him as typical northern Italian: straight to the point and not very warm; courteous but not warm. He continued to tell me that after we spoke he went to work in earnest. The mechanic started bossing people around. He was telling his workers to get working on the car. He took a piece of paper and wrote down the following day’s date and a time (assuming it was the pickup time). Before leaving the shop, they shook hands and the mechanic gave him one of those half tap/half hugs sort of goodbye. But then, he said the mind-blower came the next day.

Where mercy found me

When my friend showed up to pick up the car the mechanic greeted him with open arms, welcomed him in, and personally escorted him to the vehicle: he wouldn’t even accept a tip! He said the mechanic smiled and laughed the whole time and waved him off as he left the shop! “Again, I ask you: are you related”? I assured him that I had never met him nor had ever spoken to him. So he asked me: “then what could you possibly have said to this man that changed his mood so drastically”? I thought about it for a moment and then I remembered, I had said: “God bless you”.

It made sense. The last thing I said to him was, “God bless you, God repay for your diligence and your time”. My friend said that it was as though someone had lit a fire under him. I went on to explain that, perhaps, that man had very rarely come across such a salutation and he really took it to heart and it made a tangible difference in his day. “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever witnessed”. he said. I smiled, said “yeah, ‘God bless you’ goes a long way!’ and moved on.

Living Epistles

Too often we want to preach and push and pull our loved ones into the Kingdom. My friend definitely got his share of it from a few of us when we were younger. After a while, we just loved him for who he is. We decided that prayer might work better. So it’s these rare moments when God shows up and shines out in ways that he understands that make up for years of preaching. He was able to witness first hand how God took care of his needs. Even in such little things above and beyond his expectations. So much so that he thought he had fortuitously landed among relatives of friends.

God doesn’t need us to hit people over the head with the Message: we are called to be “Living epistles, easily read of all men“. For my jaded, calculating eastern European cynical friend, what happened that day made him stop and take notice. Perhaps a few more such close encounters and, who knows, the Lord will lead him to Himself soon. We, as Christians, can only pray. As we pray, let us ask for opportunities for people to truly be bewildered by His Grace.

Acceptable Sacrifice

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. – Romans 12:1

The Bible teaches us that we are to bring sacrifices to God that are worthy of He who is receiving them. But what can we possibly bring to God that is an acceptable sacrifice; once Jesus paid the price for all of our sins, what can we possibly give God something that is new and fresh and worthy of being received by the Creator of the Universe? Just like the old saying “what do you buy a man that has everything”?

The Psalmist David (Psalms 49:14) as well as the writer of Hebrews (13:15) teach us to bring “sacrifice of Praise”. Praise is the only thing that we can bring to God that He will accept; we give it out of our own volition that is spotless and clean in His Presence. Because it comes from our spirit, it is “pure and undefiled” worship; it is not out of material goods which, technically, we received from Him in the first place.

God the Father wants us to¬†want to worship Him in spirit and in Truth. God created us so that we may have a relationship with Him. Relationship with God is no different than relationship with humans, it requires time, effort and sacrifice. Now sacrifice is not intended to be some sort of self-inflicting pain ritual but rather a willful decision to give of yourself to the other person. What better way to worship God in an undefiled Temple than to offer up sacrifice of praise, which is after all our “reasonable and acceptable service“.