A Bible Thought From My Child

A while back our family began a practice that I enjoy very much.  We have an evening Bible thought as we say goodnight to our children.  It is a fairly simple practice.  Most of the time I read a verse or a small passage and then we discuss one lesson from the text that we can put into practice.  Every once in a while one of my daughters will ask to do the Bible thought for that night.  Depending on the circumstances I usually allow them to provide our thought.  My seven-year-old provided a thought last night that will serve as a great reminder for each of us.

She read the story of the ten lepers who were cleansed from Luke 17.11-19.  After reading it, I asked her what we should learn from the story.  She said that we need to be like the one leper who returned to Jesus to give thanks.  So simple, yet so profound.  Ten lepers had their lives changed forever.  Ten lepers freely received a needed cleansing from Jesus.  Only one returned to give thanks and glorify God.

thank-you

Pay close attention to Jesus’ question.  “But where are the nine?”  I wonder if Jesus ever thinks in a similar manner today with His church?  After being baptized into Christ and added to the family of God, how many continue to act as if nothing has changed?  Let’s not be like the nine.  As my daughter said, let’s be like the one.

From one servant to another,

Robert Berghorst

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A Ray of Son-Shine

ray-of-sunshine

I grew up in West Michigan and currently reside in Northern Indiana.  In these places there is one thing that you can count on during the winter months – darkness.  The days are short and often cloudy.  At times you can go more than a week without seeing a blue sky and sunshine.  In fact, I did not even realize that the sun actually shined during the winter season until I moved to Arkansas.  Then I realized just how dark it is was where I grew up.

Last Sunday, just prior to our evening worship service, I had one of those moments that you long for during January in Northern Indiana.  The sun was shining.  I stood for a few minutes with my eyes closed and just soaked it up because I needed it.  The effects of the sun on the body have been well documented.  It is beneficial for our health and our mental well being.  The sun has the ability to lift our spirits and help create a feeling of joy and happiness.

However, the Son can have an even greater impact than the sun.  A regular dose of Son-shine can produce joy (Philippians 4.4), peace (Philippians 4.6-7), a healthy mind (Philippians 4.8), godly actions (Philippians 4.9), contentment (Philippians 4.11-12), and confidence (Philippians 4.13).

Please do not misunderstand.  This post is not intended to be a superficial, feel-good post about Christianity like I commonly read.  True Christianity demands sacrifice and commitment.  It also draws persecution and makes one an outcast to the world.  Nevertheless, at times we, as Christians, must simply bask in what comes through constant exposure to the Son.  In a world filled with darkness, we need the Son.

From one servant to another,

Robert Berghorst

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The Spirit of Renewal

What do the following dates have in common: 1985; 1955; 2015; 1885?  Those who are familiar with the Back to the Future movies likely recognized the dates immediately.  Each of these years played an important part in that trilogy.  I enjoyed those movies as a child.  I still enjoy them today.  The movies are also an example of an important spiritual reminder.  God has given us the ability to change the direction of our lives.  Marty McFly and Doc Brown needed a time machine to accomplish this feat.  We only need God’s word and a new heart.

renewal-image

The spirit of renewal is pervasive throughout the scriptures.  In Romans 12.2, Paul encourages the Christians at Rome to renew their minds.  This idea was directly contrasted with being conformed to the world.  Instead of being led by the desires of the world, they were to follow the desires of the Spirit (Romans 8.13-14).  The lesson is rather simple.  We change our lives when we renew our minds.  I cannot change what has happened in the past.  I do not have a time machine.  Thankfully, I do not need to change the past in order to affect the future.  It is “now” that matters.  In one of the movies, Marty McFly was reminded to consider his future.  Are you considering your future?  Are you considering eternity?  I hope each of us can develop a mind like Paul, who could forget his past because he was more concerned with his future (see Philippians 3.12-14).

From one servant to another,

Robert Berghorst

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Peace to All

As a child some of my most peaceful memories take me back to the Christmas season.  Whether it was the excitement and anticipation of gifts or the quiet time with a loving family that caused this peace, I do not know.  More than likely it was a combination of several things that happen this time of the year.  Regardless, it was a time a peace for this little child.  By peace, I do not mean the absence of problems.  I mean the peace that is more often expressed in the New Testament.  The kind of peace which, “Surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4.7).  This is the kind of peace that leads us to believe that, no matter what happens, all can be well.  That was my belief during the holiday season as a child.  It may have been unfounded, but for me, it was still reality.

I want to wish peace to all of you.  But I wish you something much greater than what I described above.  I wish you peace that is not seasonal, but rather continual.  I wish you peace that is absolutely real in every sense of the word.  I wish you the peace of God which will, “Guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4.7).  This is peace that only comes through Jesus.  This is peace that helps us change the way that we think and act (Philippians 4.8-9).  This is peace that comes through knowing God and Christ (John 17.3).  It is peace that only comes by renewing one’s mind and completely altering one’s understanding and purpose in life (Romans 12.1-2).  It is not peace without trouble, but rather peace despite and within trouble.

So, my wish for you is peace.  Not the peace of an unfounded child, but the peace of one who follows his Savior.

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Lord, Help Me Heed Your Warnings

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 3.06.52 PMThe Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 may be the most well known sermon ever recorded.  The sermon is simple, yet far from simplistic.  It is both direct and demanding.  While this remarkable sermon begins with the possibility of attaining blessings from our loving Creator, it ends with four very grave warnings.  Our prayer this week – Lord, help me heed your warnings.

The first warning is about following the wrong path (Matthew 7.13-14).  Intellectually, this imagery is easy to understand.  There are two ways.  One way leads to life and one way leads to destruction.  Emotionally, this is more difficult to accept.  Consider three practical lessons from this warning.  (1) The majority are wrong.  As we will find out, it is about following Jesus and not the majority.  (2) Discipleship is difficult.  Jesus already taught that blessings may come in the form of persecution (Matthew 5.10).  He taught that marriage is for life (Matthew 5.32), which is becoming increasingly unpopular.  He taught that one’s priorities must be related to the God’s kingdom (Matthew 6.24-33).  This is easier said than done.  (3) Destruction is a reality.  While we are certainly not the judge, we must recognize that there is a judge (Hebrews 9.27-28).  Again, intellectually, this is easy to accept.  Yet, how many want to realize this reality?

The second warning is about following the wrong teachers (Matthew 7.15-20).  The first thing that we must notice from this is the existence of false prophets and teachers.  The second thing that we must notice is that they apparently will not look dangerous.  Biblically speaking, the imagery of sheep conveys at least two ideas.  The first is that of being harmless.  The second is that of being religious.  In other words, detecting these individuals demands more than a casual glance.  It requires me to search a little bit deeper.  Lest we fret, Jesus reminds us twice in this text that it is possible to spot them.

The third warning is about the wrong actions (Matthew 7.21-23).  This one may be the most difficult to accept.  After all, the scene depicts individuals who supposedly prophesied, cast out demons, and did many wonders in, of all things, THE NAME OF JESUS.  These are people who thought they were following Jesus, yet Jesus makes it very clear that He will have no part of them.  If we can borrow warning number two for a moment, these actions sound like incredible works (or fruit).  But, I want you to consider something for a moment.  Did Jesus ever address any of these items in His sermon (Matthew 5-7)?  Did He ever say something like, “Blessed are the miracle workers…?”  Jesus was concerned with the simple rather than the supernatural.  His concern was character over sensational.  Also, note the element of self confidence.  “Did not we…?”  When we stand before God, do we actually think that we can persuade Him with our magnificent abilities and works?  The only hope that we, as sinners, have is His mercy and grace.  The penalty for not responding to Jesus by doing the will of the Father is eternal separation.

The fourth warning is about building on the wrong foundation (Matthew 7.24-27).  Again, the imagery is very clear.  We both hear and do His words or our foundation crumbles.  There is one practical lesson that I want you to consider.  Building on the proper foundation does not eliminate the storm.  Instead, it protects us during the storm as the wind and waves crash against us.  After all, if there was no storm, then the foundation of sand would suffice.  The most well known sermon ends with the destruction of those who hear Jesus foolishly.

Lord, help me heed Your warnings.

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Lord, Stay Near

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 3.07.01 PMThe above plea can elicit two very opposite reactions.  For some, the presence of God is a means of comfort and protections.  To others, the very thought of God may create a sense of fear and anxiety.  My hope is that all followers of God live in such a way that generates the desire for God’s presence due to the sacrifice of Jesus.  Along with our prayer, “Lord, stay near,” I want us to consider what is lost when God is pushed away.

The loss of God creates a loss of truth.  Notice the plea in Psalm 25.4-5.  “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths.  Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.”  Biblically, truth is always tied to God.  While Jesus is the full expression of God’s truth (John 1.14-17), truth is also linked to worship (John 4.23-24), freedom (John 8.32), life (John 14.6), and God’s word (John 17.17).  The text in Jeremiah 7.23-29 is very enlightening.  As the people pushed God away, truth perished from the land.  Not that truth ceased existentially, but rather it no longer affected the people.  Is it possible that we see this around us today?

The loss of God creates a loss of hope.  No doubt you have heard the proverbial quote, “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”  Mankind needs hope.  We have seen the results of despair.  Our God is a God of hope (Romans 15.13).  He has given us the scriptures which provide access to this hope (Romans 15.4).  Unfortunately, man has a tendency to fill this longing hope with everything but God.

The loss of God creates a loss of fear.  While that may seem good initially, the hard reality is that we need fear.  We need accountability.  History has demonstrated the depths of humanity without any fear of judgment or accountability.  Be honest.  Would you really desire to live around people who were accountable only to themselves?  Romans 3.10-18 provides an excellent description of what can happen when the fear of God is lost.  Pushing aside God may seem to release my restrictions…but I need restrictions.

I do not want to live without truth, hope, or fear.

Lord, stay near.

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Lord, Help Me Choose Right

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 3.37.46 PMSometimes we need reminders of even the simplest concepts.  Yet, even simple concepts can be profound when truly practiced.  So, here is something that we already know.  We are the product of our choices.  You may rightly be thinking, “What about the choices of others that affect me?”  While circumstances and situations can rarely be controlled, character is always a choice.  Our character is the product of our choices.

The biblical picture of choice is also straightforward.  God granted us choice.  The evidence is overwhelming.  Adam and Eve had a choice (Genesis 3).  Their children, Cain, Abel, and Seth made choices that shaped them and altered their respective paths (Genesis 4).  The depravities of man’s choices are expressed well in Genesis 6.5.  “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  Even in that atmosphere, Noah chose to be different (Genesis 6.9).  The nation of Israel constantly made choices (Deuteronomy 4.1-14).  Historically, many of those choices were not good.  We see the same ideas in the New Testament.  Jesus’ disciples had a choice to become fishers of men (Matthew 4.18-20).  Those who heard the words of Jesus made a choice of whether or not to accept and act upon His teaching (Matthew 7.24-27).  Even Jesus made choices.  Knowing His adversary, I imagine the temptations were just that – temptations (Matthew 4.1-11).  He made a choice which changed the history of the world in Matthew 26.36-46—he chose to go to the cross.

Our everyday choices mold us into the character seen in the mirror.  I can choose to be patient (James 1.4).  I can choose to be kind (Ephesians 3.2), even if someone else may not deserve kindness.  I can choose to show love (Matthew 22.39) to people who may not even love me back.  That even reminds me of Jesus.  I can put off selfish desires and choose to proactively be good to others (Galatians 6.10).  Finally, I can choose to humble myself (Luke 14.11).  Honestly, when I consider myself in relation to Jesus, how could I choose anything else?

So simple, yet so profound.  We are the product of our choices.  Since we make choices every day, let’s not forget to seek help.

Lord, help me choose right.

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