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    MonMondayDecDecember12th2016 Everyday Habits
    byBishop Horace E. Smith, M.D. Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Someone said that a lot of people around us aren’t interested in Christ because they see us as hypocrites. Our walk doesn’t match our talk. I know of no better medicine for this dread disease than the blood of Jesus. The most horrible means of execution has become a source of life and hope. When we look into his eyes on the cross, our defenses, pretensions, and phoniness melt away. We can be completely honest about our sins because we know we’re completely loved. And when we are convinced that the grace of God reaches us, we can’t wait to tell people the greatest news the world will ever hear.

    The Blood of Jesus must remain at the top of our minds, not just in our spiritual lives, but in our everyday lives. 

    Give blood
    When we give a pint of blood or donate bone marrow for a transplant, we’re giving the gift of life. Without it, people die. Depending on which procedure you choose, you may spend a few minutes or a couple of hours, but you may be giving someone a chance at life, and perhaps another opportunity to hear the gospel.
    You can always visit your local Red Cross office to find out where to give blood. In my work as a hematologist, I see firsthand the impact blood donation has on people’s lives. I invite you to learn more about one program that is based in Chicago which specifically helps children who are living with Sickle Cell Disease:  http://www.redcrossblood.org/info/heartofamerica/blue-tag-program

    Live it with joy and passion 
    Let the wonderful love of God sink into your soul. Sing the hymns that remind you of God’s grace poured out at the cross, and then walk out the door and love people the way God demonstrated his unconditional love for you, forgive the way he’s forgiven you, and accept even the annoying people because God had enough grace to accept you. 

    Charles Wesley wrote one of his most beautiful hymns about the sacrifice of Christ. I want to close with his insights and passion about the death of our Savior.

    “And can it be that I should gain
    An interest in the Savior’s blood?
    Died He for me, who caused His pain—
    For me, who Him to death pursued?
    Amazing love! How can it be,
    ong my imprisoned spirit lay,
    Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
    Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
    And can it be that I should gain
    An interest in the Savior’s blood?
    Died He for me, who caused His pain—
    For me, who Him to death pursued
    Amazing love! How can it be,


    That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
    Amazing love! How can it be,
    That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

    Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
    Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
    Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
    I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

    No condemnation now I dread;
    Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
    Alive in Him, my living Head,
    And clothed in righteousness divine,

    Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
    And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
    Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
    And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

    [“And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” lyrics by Charles Wesley, 1738.]

    QUESTION
    Which of the practical applications we have studied over the past 2 weeks  (look for the blood when you read the Bible, think more deeply when you take communion, become a blood donor, and live it out) do you need to focus on today?
    MonMondayDecDecember12th2016 Amazed
    byBishop Horace E. Smith, M.D. Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    The study of human blood and the blood of Jesus tells us volumes about the greatness and love of God. Both of these studies show us that God is intimately involved in meeting our deepest needs, both physically and spiritually. When we explore these two fascinating topics, our hearts are humbled by his grace and amazed by his affection. They shout that we must mean a lot to God! 

    Blood, ours and Christ’s, is precious to God. Peter wrote,
    For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God”
    (1 Peter 1:18-21)

    The saints of the Old Testament could only imagine what the final sacrifice would look like. We can look back at the historical events: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and marvel at his love for us. 

    Let me offer a few suggestions to keep this truth from evaporating from our hearts:

    When you read the Bible, look for the blood. 
    A friend of mine told me that after he studied the death of Christ, he began looking for references to blood and its synonyms—sacrifice, death, redemption, justification, atonement, etc.—in the New Testament letters. He said, “It’s everywhere! I knew that it’s the central element of his gospel, and now I realize it’s the driving force of our motivation to live for Christ. It shapes our ethics and promises eternal life.” When you read the Bible with this set of lenses, you’ll see the blood on virtually every page. 

    When you take communion, take time to remember. 
    We sometimes treat the Lord’s Table as an afterthought, and we just go through the motions. Instead, we can stop, think, and reflect on the past—the death of Christ has fully paid for all our sins and rescued us from hell; the present—his sacrifice assures us of God’s never-ending love and motivates us to honor him in every way; and the future—someday, we’ll dine at another meal, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, in the New Heaven and New Earth. The Eucharist is just a taste of what’s to come.
    QUESTION
    How will you think of blood—yours and Christ’s—differently now that you've read this study?

    MonMondayDecDecember12th2016 All In Or All Out
    byBishop Horace E. Smith, M.D. Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Sooner or later, we have enough answers to be able to determine whether God is trustworthy or not.

    We’ll never have all our questions answered, and indeed, we may have even more as we grow closer to God. But at some point, we come to a conclusion about him, and the focal point of our decision is the death of Jesus. People who “play at church” don’t understand that the cross isn't just the pivotal point of history; it’s also the turning point of destiny for every human being.

    When Jesus walked the earth, people either adored him or despised him. They understood that he demanded a dramatic response to the most colossal offer the world has ever known. Nothing else will do. In his letter to the church at Laodicea, Jesus told them bluntly,
    I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

    Cold food is delicious, and so is hot food. But lukewarm food is distasteful. We have more moral integrity by looking at Jesus and walking away than by treating him like a “good idea” or a “good leader.” In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis famously commented,
    I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
    [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), pp. 40-41.] 

    Love Jesus or hate him, but don’t patronize him. I’m afraid that the vast majority of people in our churches each Sunday are patronizing Jesus by showing up but lacking passion for him. They don’t hate him, but they only tolerate him. The message of the cross hasn't penetrated their hearts and transformed them.

    A friend told me that in a Bible study, the leader asked, “Why do we so quickly and easily drift back to thinking that following rules will earn us points with God?” A member of the group immediately answered, “Because we demand to be in control of our destinies.”

    Following Jesus is both thrilling and threatening, but it’s never boring. When the truth of His sacrifice for us reaches the center of our hearts, we realize that there was nothing we could do—nothing—to merit God’s love and eternal life. It’s entirely a free gift. But when we say yes to Christ, we give him the title to our lives. He created us and bought us. He owns us. We belong to him, and he’ll take us on the adventure of our lives. True adventures always include a measure of risk, and this one is no different.

    We give up our demand to control our lives, and we trust God to lead us where he wants us to go and use us to accomplish his purposes. This kind of trust is the antithesis of human nature, and we have to fight the good fight every day to lay down our selfish desires and pick up our crosses as we follow Christ.

    QUESTION

    Is he worthy of our affection and loyalty? That’s a question all of us have to ask and answer many times in our lives.

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    MonMondayDecDecember12th2016 The Necessity of Doubt
    byBishop Horace E. Smith, M.D. Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    It’s not wrong to ask hard questions—about the science of nature or the theology of God. In medicine, I’d wonder about the competence of any physician who wasn't inherently inquisitive. We’re always learning more and finding ways to apply the truths we've learned.

    The spiritual world is no different. We learn and grow by thinking, asking, considering, and wondering. 
    We arrive at the point of assurance along the pathway of questions and doubts. Some church leaders are afraid of people asking hard questions, but Jesus welcomed honest discussion.

    When John the Baptist sent a messenger with a question about whether Jesus was really the One, Jesus replied, “Tell him the facts about what you've seen.” We give Thomas a hard time for doubting the resurrection, but Jesus didn't condemn him. He showed his old friend the nail prints in his hands and invited him to believe.

    In his excellent book, The Reason for God, pastor Tim Keller says that honest wrestling with doubts is like white cells producing antibodies to protect against future diseases. He writes,
    A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.” [Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, (Riverhead Books, New York, 2008), p. xvii.]

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions about cosmology, physiology, psychology, theology, or any other subject. If people try to tell you that you “just need to believe,” find someone who is willing to talk more deeply about the issues you've raised. In the church today, some patient, reflective people value rich dialogue about important topics, and they don’t settle for simplistic answers to complex problems. A few parts of the church, however, react defensively to any question they can’t answer easily. We need to honor people who think deeply, not only the learned professors and theologians, but also the people in pews who are searching for truth.

    QUESTION

    Do you feel comfortable asking hard questions about God? What are some questions you’ve wanted to ask but were afraid to voice?

     

    MonMondayDecDecember12th2016 Beautiful Words
    byBishop Horace E. Smith, M.D. Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    The cross of Christ addresses the most profound problems facing mankind. Ultimately, our most pressing difficulties aren't our different political views or environmental problems. Those are problems we need to address, but they are secondary. The primary conundrum of the human race is the darkness in our hearts caused by sin. We may be able to manage many other problems in our lives and our society by shrewd maneuvers, but sin and spiritual death can only be addressed by a single remedy: the death of Christ. 

    The Bible uses several words to describe the impact of Christ’s death in our lives. Because of his blood, we have been justified by God. Justification is a forensic term. We were guilty in the court of God, but Jesus paid the penalty we owed. Paul wrote,
    All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”
    (Romans 3:23-24)

    We don’t have to be haunted by guilt and past failures. We’re forgiven! Later in his letter to the Romans, Paul explained the implications:
    Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering”
    (Romans 8:1-3)

    Some of us go to church for years but still secretly wonder if we've done enough to earn entry into heaven. Surely, we fear, if God knew what we've done, he’d reject us. The truth of justification is that God knows exactly what we've done. He doesn't excuse our sin in the least. Instead, he sent Jesus to be our substitute and pay the price we could never pay. We’re free!

    But what good is freedom if we’re alone? A second beautiful, biblical word is reconciliation. Before we trusted Christ, we were enemies of God—not respectable adversaries but despicable ones. However, God didn't leave us as forgiven orphans (which would have been far better than condemned sinners!). He accepted us as his own children. But that’s not all. Jesus told his disciples,
    I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”
    (John 15:15)

    So, we have the Father for our dad and Jesus as our brother and friend. When we feel hopeless and alone, rejected by family and friends, we can be assured that the God of the universe delights in calling us his own.

    When we are discouraged, anxious, angry, or when we experience any other painful emotion, we can remember these beautiful words that tell about the way the cross changes everything for us. Like the children of Israel leaving slavery in Egypt, the Passover Lamb has freed us from the slavery of sin. And like the disciples who gazed into the face of the resurrected Jesus and realized all his claims were really true, we can be confident that we belong to him. Nothing can shake these fundamental, rock-solid truths about our relationship with God.
    QUESTION
    How have you experienced Christ’s justification and reconciliation in your own life? If you haven’t, what is stopping you from receiving these gifts?
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