Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

Jun
29

When I finished up the final preparations for a wedding ceremony recently, I concluded with some simple thoughts that I wanted to share with the couple. In the midst of this important and exciting season of their lives, how could I add value to their new relationship that would hopefully sustain them for the years ahead? I settled on this concept: The Priority of Oneness.

Here are the general thoughts I shared with them:

We discussed when we met together the Bible definition of marriage. It comes in the very first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, details of how God created brought together, and joined in marriage the first two people, Adam and Eve.

In the book of Genesis, chapter 2 the Bible defines marriage this way:

24 A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

{Genesis 2:24}

So marriage is when a man and woman leave behind their individual, distinct lives and come and are joined together into one new life. The Bible defines marriage as when God takes two individuals and unites them into one new entity.

I want us to think about the importance of oneness.

Recently as I was reading the Bible, and I came upon a verse from the Letter of Philippians. As I pondered it, I thought that it is a perfect description of the meaning of oneness. It read as follows:

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.{Philippians 1:27}

The Apostle Paul writes and he says that we are to live here on earth as citizens of heaven. I think that in marriage, and in daily life, we are to live to bring a little bit of heaven down to earth.

And then Paul says we are to conduct ourselves in a manner that is worthy of the good news of Jesus Christ. The good news of Jesus Christ is a message of reconciliation, renewal, redemption, and restoration. To conduct marriage in a manner worthy of the good news of Jesus Christ means every day to live lives embodying reconciliation, redemption, renewal, and restoration. We seek to live life in such a way that people see the renewing, redeeming, restoring, reconciling, power of Jesus Christ at work daily in life, and in marriage.

Perhaps the most important part of this verse occurs when Paul writes that the way we embody the good news of Jesus Christ is that from this day forward you are to “stand together, with one spirit and one purpose” {Philippians 1:27}.

That’s what it means to have oneness! It means from this day forward standing together with one spirit one purpose—living out the good news of Jesus Christ in daily life and marriage!

Oneness requires prioritization. It means that before everything else, you have to put God first. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” {Matthew 6:33}.

We put God first because God is the One who brings us together, who joins you together, and who keeps you together. Secondly we make our spouse a priority. In the Gospel of Mark (8:36), Jesus said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” Jesus said what good does it do you if you gain everything the world has to offer if you neglect the important things in your life in the process? Maybe Jesus would say that it would be better for us to neglect to the whole world rather than to neglect each other. Maybe Jesus would say it like this when it comes to marriage: “What good would it be if you were to gain every thing the world had offer but you neglected your marriage?” I like to think about it this way: “God is first. My spouse is next. I am last.”

Oneness requires unselfishness. The world of athletics helps here. One of the famous sayings and sports is, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Another saying goes: “The goal is more important than the role.” But my favorite one of all is: “The ‘we’ is more important than the ‘me!’” Unselfishness says “Whenever I put the ‘we” before ‘me,’ in the long run the ‘me’ is a whole lot happier.”

Oneness requires forgiveness. The beauty of marriage is it offers many opportunities to practice forgiveness! Accordingly, marriage also offers plenty of opportunities to ask for forgiveness. The Bible states in the book of Ephesians: “…Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” {Ephesians 4:32}

A key to oneness is to forgive each other like God, through Jesus Christ, has forgiven us. How does Jesus forgive us? He forgives us willingly, freely, completely, selflessly, and sacrificially. He calls us—he expects us—to forgive each other in the same way.

Oneness requires enjoying every moment. A familiar portion of the traditional wedding vows include the words, “in richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.”

I think what that means is simply this: you are to live, and to love, and to enjoy each and every moment of life together. You don’t want to wait and just enjoy the moments only when we get richer; when we get healthier; or when things are better—the time to enjoy life is now!

There is always the temptation to say when things get a little better, then we will enjoy each other, or when we get through this hard time, then we will enjoy each other, but I think what God would have us do is live into, and enjoy every moment of life together whether it’s “better or worse, whether it’s richer or poorer, whether it’s sickness or health.” There’s no better moment to live life to the fullest, and to love one another, than this moment right now!

The Bible captures this idea so well in Proverbs 15:17: “A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.”

The Bible says it’s better to live in the moment, and enjoy the moment, even if all you have is a bowl of vegetables!

The Bible says that we are to live our lives with one spirit and one purpose standing together in oneness. So what we do to strengthen our oneness?

Here are a few simple thoughts: Put God first. We worship together. Pray together. Serve together. Keep short accounts with each other. Forgive quickly. Exercise together. Play together.

And remember what Paul says in Philippians: “That not only do you stand together in one spirit and one purpose, but you fight together the faith of the good news of Jesus Christ!”

Always remember to fight life’s battles together with each other, not against each other. Remember from this day forward you are always on the same team. It is the two of you and Jesus Christ fighting together the battles of life. And when the two of you fight together for the faith of the good news of Jesus Christ along with the presence and power of Jesus himself, you make a very formidable team!

Remember the priority of oneness: you will never be as strong by yourself, as you will be when you are united together!

Remember also the Apostle Paul’s message: “Stand together united in one spirit and purpose; and fight together to live out your faith in the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Jun
25

The psalm writer once declared, “My problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all!” {Psalm 25:17}

Have you ever felt like that?

There are those seasons when it seems like we just go from problem to problem and each problem goes from bad to worse.

When it comes to problems in life, how do you typically respond?

Do you ignore them (and hope they just go away)?

Do you deny them?

Do you run from them?

Do you make excuses for them?

Do you blame them on someone else—a friend, a neighbor, a family member, a co-worker, the devil (or just anyone else but yourself)?

Do you pray and ask God to take your problems away?

We are about to start a new series called “What’s Your Problem?” The truth is that everyone has problems. You are certainly not alone in yours! The real question is, “What are we going to do about them?” That is what our series will focus on for the next few weeks.

C.S. Lewis wisely said, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties but peace in difficulties.”

Jesus once said that the root of many of our problems lies in the human heart:

14 … “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” {Mark 7:14-15, 21-23}

According to Jesus the heart of the problem is that we all have a heart problem!

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah agreed with Jesus:

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” 

{Jeremiah 17:9}

So what is the remedy for our “heart problems?” The Book of Proverbs declares, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

{Proverbs 4:23}

The Bible teaches us that we need to “guard our heart” because it determines the direction and the destination of our life. We need to guard our heart like a valued treasure. If our heart is sick, our life will be sick. If our heart is well, our life will be well. The way to guard out heart is to:

1) keep our heart in align with God and God’s Word (daily reading and study of the Bible; weekly worship);

2) confess quickly to God as soon as we become aware of sin in our heart (“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9);

3) protect our heart by resisting the infection of the world’s priorities to penetrate into our lives.

Jun
14

One of the more picturesque expressions in the Bible is the word “stronghold.” When I think of the word stronghold a number of images come to mind. I see a well-secured fortress that can hold prisoners, or enslave the vanquished in battle. I imagine an impenetrable structure rendering no hope for escape.

Have you ever dealt with strongholds in your life? Have you ever struggled with things in your life that had such a strong hold on you that you felt as if you were in its grip and couldn’t get free?

Strongholds can be material, physical places, like fortresses, castles, or prisons. But they can also be behaviors, attitudes, emotions, and beliefs.

Fear and anxiety can be strongholds. Unbelief, and wrong belief, can be strongholds. Other things they can have a strong hold on people are alcohol and drugs, compulsive gambling, greed, eating disorders, sexual disorders, and emotional outbursts like anger, rage, and temper tantrums.

When I think about it, literally anything they can have a strong hold on a person’s life can be a “stronghold.”

The apostle Paul writes about strongholds in his second letter to the church at Corinth. He writes these words: “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy faulty arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” {2 Corinthians 10:4-5}

The good news is there is hope in the face of strongholds. Paul tells us that God gives us “mighty weapons to knock down the strongholds of life.”

One of the mighty weapons we have to knock down the strongholds of life is Jesus Himself. Jesus is a powerful Savior!

Jesus said, “Who is powerful enough to enter the house of the strongman and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.” {Mark 3:27b}

Jesus declared he is stronger than the strongman!

Another of the mighty weapons we have is prayer. When God’s people pray powerful things happen! In fact, Jesus said there are some strongholds that are only knocked down through prayer. Jesus disciples ask him one time why they had not been successful in freeing a young boy from a stronghold in his life, and Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.” {Mark 9:29}

Another mighty weapon God gives us to knock down strongholds is the strength to stand against them. In Ephesians chapter 6, the Bible says, “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so that you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground…” {Ephesians 6:13-14a}

I am encouraged, and I encourage you in return, to refuse to give in to the strongholds that attempt to limit us, and hold us back from God’s destiny. Put to use the mighty weapons God gives us to “knock down the strongholds” that are obstacles in the way of our knowing God and His good purposes for us.

Sep
12

A few weeks ago I gave a message highlighting the text in Hebrews 13:2 that states: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Not long after that, I heard a report of a person who said, “Remember that message on showing hospitality to angels…well it happened to me this week.”

The more I thought about that, the more I realized it happens to all of us, more than we realize, if we will be mindful to the work of God in us and through us.

A few days ago my wife and I were taking a drive around the community where I first served as a pastor more than three decades ago. After a morning drive we started looking for a place to have lunch. We stopped at the first place we passed; an Italian restaurant that we had never noticed before, or stopped at. When we went inside we were immediately seated by the only server on duty that day–a gregarious woman with a thick accent (that means “non southern” accent to me). She bantered with us about the menu and our order, once turning to my wife and asking, “Has he been treating you well? Because if he hasn’t I won’t take his order!”

My wife was able to persuade the server that I had indeed been treating her well, though it took some doing to convince her…

Throughout our delightful lunch the woman came over to check on us, and each time she seemed to share more about more about herself. Finally she asked, “Guess my accent…no, I am not Italian…and I am not Hispanic.” Of course I was going to guess either Italian or Hispanic… She replied, “I am from Damascus, Syria, have you ever been there?” I said “no.” I wanted to say I had stood on the Israeli border and looked into Syria, but that didn’t seem to count. At this point, our server became quite emotional. She told us that she is an American citizen, but all of her family remains in Damascus and they are in constant danger and difficulty. She specifically mentioned the health needs of her mother, and how the US government would not allow her to bring her mother here to receive medical treatment. She told us how torn she is–wanting to return to Damascus to be with her family, but also knowing that working six days a week to make money to send them is how she can take care of them. The more she talked to us, the more our hearts went out to her.

Finally, as we were finishing our lunch she said to us, “Please pray for me and for my family. We are all suffering.” My wife and I agreed that we would. As she walked away my wife called out and asked, “What is your name so we can pray for you?”

She replied, “Angela.”

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had just experienced a Hebrews 13:2 moment…

 

Dec
21

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

–Jesus (John 10:27)

Each day read the assigned portion from one of the New Testament Gospels.

Then based on what you read in the passage ask yourself these three questions:

1) What does Jesus want me to know in this passage?

2) What does Jesus want me to believe in this passage?

3) What does Jesus want me to do in this passage?

 

Think through each day’s reading by focusing on asking yourself about the reading:

What does it say?

What does it mean?

What does it mean to me?

The best way to get the most out of the daily reading is to jot down your insights in a notebook or journal.

January

  • January 1: Matthew 1:1-11
  • January 2: Matthew 1:12-17
  • January 3: Matthew 1:18-25
  • January 4: Matthew 2:1-12
  • January 5: Matthew 2:13-23
  • January 6: Matthew 3:1-12
  • January 7: Matthew 3:13-27
  • January 8: Matthew 4:1-11
  • January 9: Matthew 4:12-25
  • January 10: Matthew 5:1-12
  • January 11: Matthew 5:13-22
  • January 12: Matthew 5:23-37
  • January 13: Matthew 5:38-48
  • January 14: Matthew 6:1-15
  • January 15: Matthew 6:16-24
  • January 16: Matthew 6:25-34
  • January 17: Matthew 7:1-11
  • January 18: Matthew 7:12-23
  • January 19: Matthew 7:24-8:4
  • January 20: Matthew 8:5-13
  • January 21: Matthew 8:14-27
  • January 22: Matthew 8:28-34
  • January 23: Matthew 9:1-13
  • January 24: Matthew 9:14-26
  • January 25: Matthew 9:27-34
  • January 26: Matthew 9:35-10:4
  • January 27: Matthew 10:5-15
  • January 28: Matthew 10:16-25
  • January 29: Matthew 10:26-33
  • January 30: Matthew 10:34-42
  • January 31: Matthew 11:1-19
Dec
21

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

–Jesus (John 10:27)

Each day read the assigned portion from one of the New Testament Gospels.

Then based on what you read in the passage ask yourself these three questions:

1) What does Jesus want me to know in this passage?

2) What does Jesus want me to believe in this passage?

3) What does Jesus want me to do in this passage?

 

Think through each day’s reading by focusing on asking yourself about the reading:

What does it say?

What does it mean?

What does it mean to me?

The best way to get the most out of the daily reading is to jot down your insights in a notebook or journal.

February

  • February 1: Matthew 11:20-24
  • February 2: Matthew 11:25-30
  • February 3: Matthew 12:1-8
  • February 4: Matthew 12:9-12
  • February 5: Matthew 12:22-32
  • February 6: Matthew 12:33-45
  • February 7: Matthew 12:46-13:9
  • February 8: Matthew 13:10-17
  • February 9: Matthew 13:18-23
  • February 10: Matthew 13:24-35
  • February 11: Matthew 13:36-46
  • February 12: Matthew 13:47-58
  • February 13: Matthew 14:1-12
  • February 14: Matthew 14:13-21
  • February 15: Matthew 14:22-33
  • February 16: Matthew 14:34-15:9
  • February 17: Matthew 15:10-20
  • February 18: Matthew 15:21-28
  • February 19: Matthew 15:29-39
  • February 20: Matthew 16:1-12
  • February 21: Matthew 16:13-20
  • February 22: Matthew 16:21-28
  • February 23: Matthew 17:1-13
  • February 24: Matthew 17:14-23
  • February 25: Matthew 17:24-18:9
  • February 26: Matthew 18:10-20
  • February 27: Matthew 18:21-35
  • February 28: Matthew 19:1-12
  • February 29: [Leap Year]
Dec
21

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

–Jesus (John 10:27)

Each day read the assigned portion from one of the New Testament Gospels.

Then based on what you read in the passage ask yourself these three questions:

1) What does Jesus want me to know in this passage?

2) What does Jesus want me to believe in this passage?

3) What does Jesus want me to do in this passage?

 

Think through each day’s reading by focusing on asking yourself about the reading:

What does it say?

What does it mean?

What does it mean to me?

The best way to get the most out of the daily reading is to jot down your insights in a notebook or journal.

March

  • March 1: Matthew 19:13-22
  • March 2: Matthew 19:23-30
  • March 3: Matthew 20:1-16
  • March 4: Matthew 20:17-24
  • March 5: Matthew 20:25-34
  • March 6: Matthew 21:1-11
  • March 7: Matthew 21:12-22
  • March 8: Matthew 21:23-32
  • March 9: Matthew 21:33-46
  • March 10: Matthew 22:1-14
  • March 11: Matthew 22:15-22
  • March 12: Matthew 22:23-33
  • March 13: Matthew 22:34-40
  • March 14: Matthew 22:41-46
  • March 15: Matthew 23:1-12
  • March 16: Matthew 23:13-22
  • March 17: Matthew 23:23-28
  • March 18: Matthew 23:29-36
  • March 19: Matthew 23:37-24:2
  • March 20: Matthew 24:3-14
  • March 21: Matthew 24:15-22
  • March 22: Matthew 24:23-28
  • March 23: Matthew 24:29-31
  • March 24: Matthew 24:32-35
  • March 25: Matthew 24:36-51
  • March 26: Matthew 25:1-13
  • March 27: Matthew 25:14-30
  • March 28: Matthew 25:31-40
  • March 29: Matthew 25:41-46
  • March 30: Matthew 26:1-5
  • March 31: Matthew 26:6-16
Dec
21

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

–Jesus (John 10:27)

Each day read the assigned portion from one of the New Testament Gospels.

Then based on what you read in the passage ask yourself these three questions:

1) What does Jesus want me to know in this passage?

2) What does Jesus want me to believe in this passage?

3) What does Jesus want me to do in this passage?

 

Think through each day’s reading by focusing on asking yourself about the reading:

What does it say?

What does it mean?

What does it mean to me?

The best way to get the most out of the daily reading is to jot down your insights in a notebook or journal.

April

  • April 1: Matthew 26:17-29
  • April 2: Matthew 26:30-35
  • April 3: Matthew 26:36-46
  • April 4: Matthew 26:47-56
  • April 5: Matthew 26:57-68
  • April 6: Matthew 26:69-27:2
  • April 7: Matthew 27:3-10
  • April 8: Matthew 27:11-23
  • April 9: Matthew 27:24-31
  • April 10: Matthew 27:32-44
  • April 11: Matthew 27:45-56
  • April 12: Matthew 27:57-66
  • April 13: Matthew 28:1-10
  • April 14: Matthew 28:11-20
  • April 15: Mark 1:1-8
  • April 16: Mark 1:9-20
  • April 17: Mark 1:21-28
  • April 18: Mark 1:29-39
  • April 19: Mark 1:40-45
  • April 20: Mark 2:1-17
  • April 21: Mark 2:18-28
  • April 22: Mark 3:1-12
  • April 23: Mark 3:13-21
  • April 24: Mark 3:22-30
  • April 25: Mark 3:31-35
  • April 26: Mark 4:1-9
  • April 27: Mark 4:10-20
  • April 28: Mark 4:21-34
  • April 29: Mark 4:35-41
  • April 30: Mark 5:1-9
Dec
21

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

–Jesus (John 10:27)

Each day read the assigned portion from one of the New Testament Gospels.

Then based on what you read in the passage ask yourself these three questions:

1) What does Jesus want me to know in this passage?

2) What does Jesus want me to believe in this passage?

3) What does Jesus want me to do in this passage?

 

Think through each day’s reading by focusing on asking yourself about the reading:

What does it say?

What does it mean?

What does it mean to me?

The best way to get the most out of the daily reading is to jot down your insights in a notebook or journal.

May

  • May 1: Mark 5:1-20
  • May 2: Mark 5:21-34
  • May 3: Mark 5:35-43
  • May 4: Mark 6:1-13
  • May 5: Mark 6:14-29
  • May 6: Mark 6:30-35
  • May 7: Mark 6:35-44
  • May 8: Mark 6:45-56
  • May 9: Mark 7:1-13
  • May 10: Mark 7:14-23
  • May 11: Mark 7:24-37
  • May 12: Mark 8:1-10
  • May 13: Mark 8:22-21
  • May 14: Mark 8:22-30
  • May 15: Mark 8:31-9:1
  • May 16: Mark 9:2-13
  • May 17: Mark 9:14-29
  • May 18: Mark 9:30-32
  • May 19: Mark 9:33-41
  • May 20: Mark 9:42-50
  • May 21: Mark 10:1-12
  • May 22: Mark 10:13-16
  • May 23: Mark 10:17-31
  • May 24: Mark 10:32-45
  • May 25: Mark 10:46-52
  • May 26: Mark 11:1-11
  • May 27: Mark 11:12-19
  • May 28: Mark 11:20-33
  • May 29: Mark 12:1-12
  • May 30: Mark 12:13-17
  • May 31: Mark 12:18-27
Dec
21

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

–Jesus (John 10:27)

Each day read the assigned portion from one of the New Testament Gospels.

Then based on what you read in the passage ask yourself these three questions:

1) What does Jesus want me to know in this passage?

2) What does Jesus want me to believe in this passage?

3) What does Jesus want me to do in this passage?

 

Think through each day’s reading by focusing on asking yourself about the reading:

What does it say?

What does it mean?

What does it mean to me?

The best way to get the most out of the daily reading is to jot down your insights in a notebook or journal.

June

  • June 1: Mark 12:28-37
  • June 2: Mark 12:38-13:2
  • June 3: Mark 13:3-13
  • June 4: Mark 13:14-23
  • June 5: Mark 13:24-37
  • June 6: Mark 14:1-9
  • June 7: Mark 14:10-21
  • June 8: Mark 14:22-31
  • June 9: Mark 14:32-42
  • June 10: Mark 14:43-50
  • June 11: Mark 14:51-65
  • June 12: Mark 14:66-72
  • June 13: Mark 15:1-5
  • June 14: Mark 15:6-15
  • June 15: Mark 15:16-20
  • June 16: Mark 15:21-32
  • June 17: Mark 15:33-41
  • June 18: Mark 15:42-16:8
  • June 19: Luke 1:1-4
  • June 20: Luke 1:5-25
  • June 21: Luke 1:26-38
  • June 22: Luke 1:39-45
  • June 23: Luke 1:46-56
  • June 24: Luke 1:57-66
  • June 25: Luke 1:67-80
  • June 26: Luke 2:1-7
  • June 27: Luke 2:8-21
  • June 28: Luke 2:22-38
  • June 29: Luke 2:39-40
  • June 30: Luke 2:41-52