The Central Message of the Bible

 

The topic of today’s Coffee Break is titled,

“The Central Message of the Bible” …

“Dr. Barth, you are recognized as perhaps the greatest theologian of this century,” one reporter began in an interview. “What is the most profound theological idea you have entertained?” After a moment’s thought the Swiss theologian replied, “Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so!”

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We hope that the content of this article will encourage you to think and bless your life.

How You Finish

I am a lifelong baseball fan. My family and I have been to all 30 major league baseball stadiums in the U.S. and Canada, and I have been involved in baseball—either as a player or a coach—since I was 6 years old. For those who are not baseball fans, I will share with you one of the key theological truths we can learn from this game: It is not how you start, but how you finish!

A professional baseball season consists of 162 games. That means that there are more baseball games in a season than in any other professional sport in the U.S. or Canada. A long season provides many opportunities to start fresh, regroup, and have new success. However, a long season also allows opportunities for teams that start strong to lose sight of their goals, become complacent, and experience defeat.

Baseball was not around during New Testament times. However, in the Greco-Roman culture, there were long foot races (similar to marathons) that, like long baseball seasons, required consistency, focus, and endurance.

Paul compares the Christian life to such a race, not in the sense of competition between Christians, but in terms of the need for endurance and consistency in order to spend our lives walking in the ways of Jesus.

Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (I Corinthians 9:23-25, NIV).

This race that we run is not the result of human talent or even our own initiative. Rather, we are invited into running this race—living this new, Christ-centered life—by God Himself. Furthermore, God equips us and prepares us to run the race, to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him and bears witness to His ways. We often call this way of living (of “running the race”) the “way of holiness.”

Living the “way of holiness” is not something we do in order to impress God. Instead, it is a gift from God—a relationship God provides by His Spirit through the work of Jesus Christ—so that we may run with perseverance and victory.

Our response to His leadership makes all the difference. It is not our one-time response that gives us victory in the race. It is, instead, our ongoing focus upon the person and work of Jesus Christ as we are led by His Spirit to the finish line, where, like Paul, we can proclaim: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7, NIV).

Prayer for the Week:

Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. —Thomas Aquinas

Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.

Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.

The Good Kind of Deperate

Desperation is not often a good thing.

For instance, we should never fill a position in the church or even in a corporate setting out of sheer desperation. This can lead to a short-term fix that causes great disruption in the long run. Desperation can give way to a fear-based approach that sets a dire tone for the direction of an organization.

However, there is a kind of desperation that is positive and can lead to a sharp focus and a tenacity that seeks to quench spiritual hunger and thirst regardless of the cost.

This kind of desperation is described in the following examples from the Bible:

My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God! When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:2, NIV)

My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. (Isaiah 26:9, NIV)

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1, NIV)

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1, NIV)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6, NIV)

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. (John 6:27, NIV)

The “good” kind of desperation, described in these verses and many others like them, is a desperate desire for God and for God’s ways to be above all else.

It is the kind of healthy desperation that causes fishermen to abandon their nets and follow Jesus. It causes a thirsty woman, drawing water from a well, to run into the village, proclaiming that she met the Savior. It is the kind of desperation that causes distractions from the ways of God to be cast aside so that holy love can become our primary focus.

A worship song penned by Marie Barnett sums up this kind of holy longing:

   This is the air I breathe; Your holy presence living in me;

                This is my daily bread; Your very word spoken to me.

                And I am desperate for you; I am lost without you.

When we are filled with this holy desperation—abandoning our own ways and priorities that compete with the ways of Jesus—we find our thirst quenched and our lives filled with the refreshing leadership of the Spirit of God.

May we be the “good” kind of desperate this week, waiting for God to take His rightful place as the focus of our lives.

Prayer for the week:

O God, forgive me for longing for anything but You. Fill my longing heart with the only water that can quench my thirst: the living water that is Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen.

Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.

Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.

Ministry with a cup of coffee

While we may not see our day-to-day jobs as ministry opportunities, people in every context need to hear the message of the Bible.

I found myself somewhat frustrated in accepting yet another position as a barista. I was days away from entering the final semester of my undergraduate career with a degree in Christian ministry, and being a barista was not how I pictured myself ministering.

A few days later, I was angrily wiping down counters when a dear friend reminded me that ministry is all about service. I couldn’t think of a more practical way to serve than in a coffee shop! That day, something changed within me. I had been preaching to the teens in my youth internship about “ministering everywhere you are,” and I realized that the coffee shop was the perfect place to do just that. The message I had been teaching others was becoming real to me. A textbook opportunity presented itself: I was able to practice what I was preaching . . . funny how that happens.

So, I set out to bring my Christian lingo into the workplace.

I began asking guests, “How can I serve you?”

Many customers were taken by surprise at my question.

I started to notice that people tucked into the coffee shop corners were often trying to escape or avoid their current realities.

Real people and real struggles sat before me each day.

One day it was a woman just diagnosed with stage IV cancer who didn’t know how to tell her children. Another day it was a man staring down at the divorce papers on the table in front of him, with a pen in his trembling hand and doubt in his eyes. Another day it was a weary pastor who hadn’t practiced Sabbath in months . . . and the list goes on.

Amazing conversations have happened whenever I stopped to notice these people and intentionally stepped into their reality, holding a cup of coffee and bearing a smile that said, “I’m ready to hold these burdens with you.”

The coffee shop has given me an opportunity to build an incredible relationship with a young man who calls himself a pagan. Slowly but surely, he’s started asking questions about scripture and about why I have chosen a career path in ministry.

One night, in particular, he said, “Ashton, the only reason I trust you and am willing to actually talk to you about my beliefs is that I can tell you care. I don’t believe in your God, but you didn’t stop caring about me when you found out I wasn’t interested in your belief system. If I did believe in your God, it would be because finally someone who calls herself a ‘Christian’ hasn’t written me off because I didn’t fit into her perfect mold.”

I have realized that hurting people are everywhere, just waiting for someone to walk over to the corner and ask, “How can I serve you? What’s going on in your life?”

We all have a place of ministry, even if it is not always the setting we would choose for ourselves. I am so grateful that God is leading me into His mission field over a cup of coffee.

Ashton Mason is a licensed minister in the Church of the Nazarene and a recent graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University.

Expectations

James 5:13-16 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up, and if has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

We are called to pray. EXPECTING God to hear and answer is a critical part of effective prayer. Praying with expectancy in our hearts tells God we truly believe He will do what we are asking.

A passing thought isn’t focused prayer. Take the time (literally STOP whatever you are doing, taking a few seconds out of your day) to get quiet and focus on the un-matchable, incredible power of Our Lord.
Please take a few minutes today and offer a focused prayer for greater expectation in the hearts of all believers. Let’s see what the Lord is willing to do in our church and in our lives!

Installation of New Pastor

We celebrate the installation of Pastor Ann Hohner as senior pastor.

Gary and Pastor Ann Hohner, and Pastor Sam Flores, Assistant District Superintendent of the South Texas District.