Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Faith Comes By Hearing"

I receive many e-mails of heart moving stories as I am sure you receive them too. Some are touching and can stir our senses. One of the top sellers in books is called, "Chicken Soup For The Soul." Maybe you have it or heard excerpts from it. It is a book filled with stories that are heart warming. However, we need to realize these "feel good" stories, even though they may speak of Jesus or God, are not faith building stories. I know there may be some who do not like hearing that, but we need to understand the nature of real, genuine, saving faith! Many are equating faith with an emotional stirring of the heart but God's word does not do that. Too many cannot distinguish the difference between real, saving faith and an emotional stirring!
Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). For saving faith to take hold in us, it must come from Him. He followed the voice and the will of God all His days on this earth. It was God's interest that came first. Jesus hurt and wept over situations, but He never called that faith. It is God's design that saving faith can only come from His word and nowhere else. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17) Notice there are two key ingredients to saving faith: (1) "Faith comes from hearing." The word "hearing" is not the physical sense of hearing but the internal, spiritual heart, accepting and receiving what God says. When Peter and the apostles spoke on that day of Pentecost to the lost nation of Israel, they were speaking God's word. Some were "hearers" but the majority were not. "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41) Notice they "received" the word. They heard it, accepted it and brought it into their heart by responding. They had ears to hear and it brought about saving faith. (2) "Hearing comes by the word of Christ." We can hear a lot of things around us, but only by the word can faith increase. God planned it that way. It doesn't come from man's word or stories but only His word. God's word is living and active (Heb. 4:12). Faith in God's word is produced in the heart (Rom. 10:10). To try to obtain saving faith through any other means shows a lack of reverence and love for God's word.
Paul told Timothy to preach the word (II Tim. 4:2). Not some moving story, or read from a man written book or teach some pop psychology. The purpose was to create saving faith. There is nothing wrong with emotional stories just to read, but never equate them with faith that moves the heart. I have never seen anyone, in a time of difficulty be moved by some heart warming story to overcome their circumstances, but I have seen people with a genuine saving faith move forward, relying on God and His word in such circumstances. Have you ever wondered why so many are moved by man's stories but the word of God seems to do little for us? I wonder what that is saying about us?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"What Does Your Heart Treasure?"

Whatever one stores in their heart, that is what they speak about. Whatever one speaks about, comes from the treasure of their heart (Matt. 12:34-37). Treasure in the heart is what you deem as valuable and most important. Give me 5 minutes with anyone and I can tell you what they love the most. The mouth speaks that which fills the heart! If one loves sports, that is what they will spend the majority of their time engaging in conversation. If one loves crafts or 'blogging', that is what they will speak about. There is no getting around it.
Do you ever wonder why we have so little to say about the Lord? What kind of things about Jesus are we treasuring in our hearts? I am not trying to 'bully' us into speaking about the Lord. Our relationship with the Lord should lead us into a newness and freedom that only those who know the Christ and have been set free from their sins understand that freedom. It is a freedom that takes hold in the heart and creates an awareness of our relationship to Him. Our desires from the heart change and we want to speak about Him, serve Him and love Him. People tire of religious talk! It grates on people to hear how one church is competing with another, like we are going to convert someone because of that! People use stats to prove one road is better than another. The spoken message from the heart of those converted is not a message of: "Look how the Lord changed me!" or a message of what the Lord has done for me. That's just as empty. The message proclaimed by God's people centered on Jesus Christ and Him crucified! It was about Him and His relationship to God on our behalf. Recently, while preparing a radio program, a dear brother in Christ came up to me and said, "I have a great idea for your radio program!" I gave him my attention. He then proceeded, "Why don't you let some of us members come on and give a testimonial of how the Lord changed us because many in this city know how bad I was growing up!" I gave little response but it made my mind think. Have our hearts become "us" centered? "Testimonials" never changed one person and cannot lead anyone in the power of the resurrected Christ! To speak about us only waters down and weakens the power of Christ! It might make us feel good, but it makes us more self centered and self conscious.
God's word tells us plainly, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom so that we may present every man complete in Christ." (Col. 1:28) It is about "...Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) Our speaking, our hearts should be wrapped up in Jesus because all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him (Col. 2:3). No one on earth can bring life changing power to the heart like Jesus!
Where's your heart? What and who do you love the most? Just listen to your conversations and it might surprise you. We need Jesus and Him crucified to fulfill every purpose and thought in our lives. He along brings life giving change and that comes from the inside out. Do you know Jesus?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"It's Not About Me!"

We put too much confidence in us! We have skills and smarts and we rely on them. The problem comes when our skills and smarts out-smart us and we miss Jesus. We think too much and try to reason our way through life. Our lives become empty shells, just going through the motioins. We depend on who we are rather than who "HE" is! No wonder our lives are so weak and sometimes, such a mess.
Paul found himself a man with smarts and a heritage beyond most of his contemporaries. If anyone could put confidence in his skills and smarts, it was Paul. Just read Phil. 3:2-6. But there is one thing Paul makes very clear, that he does not put any confidence in his flesh (Phil. 3:3). He glories in Christ Jesus and looks to Christ for His power. Paul surrendered himself completely into the hands of the Lord Jesus. His attitude toward his heritage, his skills and his smarts are summed up like this: "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ." (Phil. 3:7-8) How many of us look at us and our accomplishments in our flesh as rubbish? (Paul actually uses the Greek word 'skubalon' which means refuse, excrement from the body!) He gave his all into the hands of the Lord. Why? So he could be found in Jesus, not being self maintained or self righteous because he was following external commands but wanted the righteousness of Christ placed on him and to know the power of being resurrected into His life. (Phil 3:9-10)
What do we learn? This gives us great insight as to why we struggle so. We do not see Jesus for who He is. We never grasp His resurrected life that gives us His power and life. Think about this: the very power it took to raise up the dead body of Jesus to life, that same life giving, life resurrecting Spirit dwells in those in Christ Jesus! (Rom. 8:11) How much power does it take to raise someone from the dead? That's the power available to us! When we surrender ourselves completely into the hands of Jesus, that life giving power begins to work within. Our lives take on new meaning, new hope and a new direction. The things that once dominated us are overcome because Christ overcame and He lives in us. Maybe we need to read again Paul's words of encouragement written to the Philippians and realize by us living for us, we are cheating ourselves out of the life and power of the Lord! Maybe that's why so many fake it?!

Monday, October 27, 2008


"In Hebrew, it is called "seper tehillim". It means "the book of praises." ("seper" is book/ "tehillim" is praises) That is the Hebrew title of what we call the Psalms. The book was written by individuals under different circumstances. Some were written from the wonderful things the Lord provided. Others were from the hearts of anguish and pain.
When you take a close look reading the Psalms, you will find great insight to the things of God. People hurting from disappointments. Some were bewildered that they felt themselves cut off from mankind. Here is what is remarkable...they did not go off somewhere, finding another person to sit and pour their heart out to. They did not find support groups in which they could share their innermost turmoils. They didn't find someone they could sit and both bash the difficult circumstances caused by others around them. They didn't spread their stories of their heartache so others would "feel" for them. What did they do? They brought their heartaches, their disappointments, their confusion into the presence of the Almighty as part of their trust in Him! Their complaints and worried hearts, their adoration were poured out toward the Lord and the Lord heard and responded!
But even more remarkable, these are "tehillim", praises that were sung! These wonderful teachings were sung by the writers and by the "church" over the many years. There was no looking around to see if the harmony was right or if people were on key. It was not to prove anything other than broken hearts singing out, crying out to the Almighty Lord God that had the right to hear all their complaints, praises and hurts first hand! There were wonderfully happy "tehillim" that were sung and those downtrodden could sing right along with them in the "church". When the hurting "tehillim" were sung, those happy sang along with their hurting brothers and sisters. The lonely people and those under pressure were not left to sing alone. They sang the hurt of others to God! Their brothers and sisters added their voices of the anguished and carried those words to the throne of God.
The "book of praises" was the songbook of the Jewish nation. The people of Israel by the Spirit of God and in light of their history put all their songs together, put them in a hymnbook and stamped across the cover "seper tehillim". Maybe we need to learn some lessons and do more reading of the Psalms.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Whatca' Doin'?"

After speaking to so many people each week, teaching classes right and left, preaching two sermons, counseling couples and personal Bible studies, I sometimes forget what I say and to whom I say it! If you find me repeating something in my blog, forgive me of that. My mind just can't keep up sometimes.
My granddaughter came by my office this week and she has her normal routine with me...she quietly knocks on my door and slowly opens it, she peeks in and yells "surprise!", running over and jumping in my lap giving me a kiss and a big hug. Then she says "Carter's comin!" (Carter is her baby brother, my grandson.) On this day, she jumped in my lap, gave me her kiss and hug telling me Carter was coming and she asked me, "Grandpa, whatca' doin'?" I looked at her and said, "Oh, I am just trying to get my thinking cap going today." She smiled real big and said, "Can I help?" to which I replied, "Sure! What do you have in mind?" She said, "Look at your screen..." so I did. Then she said, "Get some good blinks with your eyes so you can see good..." so I did. Then she stated, "Now think! It will happen!" You know what? She was right! Think I did. It struck my mind why the Lord said children are a gift from Him (Psa. 127:3). Children have a way to remind us about simple life things. No wonder Jesus taught us all that unless we are converted like children, we will not enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:1-3). We need to learn to trust and stop letting evil and things weigh so heavily on our heart and in our minds. We need to give our minds and heart totally to the Lord, allowing His way to take place, not our ways. It's too easy to get all 'gooey' over little things and stories like this when your children bring them to mind. We need to become God focused. As soon as you read this, where do you think your mind will head? Things that are true, right and pure (Phil. 4:8)? Are we going to set our minds on things above where Christ is seated (Col. 3:13)? Your mind set will determine how much you allow the Lord to lead! Your mind set will be what determines if you react fleshly or spiritual in certain situations! We need to seriously think about that. Maybe I need to ask you, "Whatca' doin'?"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Forgive Yourself???"

I have heard people make the statement in one form or another, "I know God forgives! I just need to forgive myself!" When I hear that, and I hear it a lot among spiritual minded people, it makes me realize how little people know about forgiveness and the God who forgives. Follow cannot forgive themselves! We never could and never will. That's nothing but pure, unadulterated pride! Forgiveness lay only with God. Sin is abhorred by God and He never takes our sin lightly. When we come to God with humble hearts, seeking His presence through our Lord Jesus Christ, that's when forgiveness is granted. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9)
Psychologists and many professionals have duped us into believing that we can't find true release until we learn to forgive ourselves. It saddens me when worldly minded people have more impact on our thinking than God and His word. When one speaks of "forgiving themselves", they are actually looking to themselves as the power. I know that might sting a little to some, but we need to think about what we are saying. Forgiveness lies with God alone and He grants it! (II Tim. 2:25)
When guilt and shame batter our hearts and mind, we must not think we need to forgive ourselves. We need to find the power of the blood of Jesus to cleanse our conscience (Heb. 9:14). We need to be honest and face God with our sins. Our fears and lack of faith keep us from doing that. We look for other ways to find freedom because we hurt and don't want to admit to it as it causes us pain. Simply put, we just don't know God! Not once do we find in God's holy Scriptures that anyone forgave themselves! Until they reached and grasped hold of the forgiveness through Christ, they remained guilty and in their sins. Just read Psa. 32 and see how David found forgiveness, and that was before Christ. See how Paul found forgiveness when he had so many imprisoned and killed because of their faith in Jesus. Not once did they say, "I need to forgive myself!" They embraced the forgiveness of God.
We need to think clearly and realize the covenant God has made with those in Christ Jesus. The covenant reads, "...and their sins and lawless deeds I remember no more." (Heb. 10:16-17) If we confess our sins, coming humbly before the Lord, why can't we embrace our Lord and receive what He offers? That takes faith and faith reaches beyond us. But I know there are still those who want to believe that they must forgive themselves...what a tragedy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"So Powerful, So Simple"

There is simply too much talk and not enough...we want to say action! I will say "belief!" We simply read God's word and set it down, putting little faith in what we read. Instead of reading, absorbing and accepting, we take God's word and set it down like we just finished a newspaper or some magazine. It leaves us drained in the face of life's trials. We need to put our faith in what we read in God's word. We need to let our hearts rest in the Lord and the power of His might. That's enough talk, let's just read, listen and believe...
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Just as it is written, 'For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor thing present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:31-39)
What more needs to be said? Do you believe it? Have a good day!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Filled With the Spirit"

After preaching yesterday, it struck me how little people know or understand the Spirit of God. When we speak of the Spirit, it makes some winch because the lack of understanding. Some believe and teach that the Spirit only works in and through the word. While there are verses to show us the Spirit uses the word of God, He is not the word of God. When Paul says, "and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph. 6:17), there is a major difference between the "sword" and the one bearing the "sword." The Spirit of God dwells in those in Christ Jesus! Paul taught that that plainly in Romans 8. The word cannot intercede for us but the Spirit of God does (Rom. 8:26-27). We cannot grieve the word but we can grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). We can read and take in the word of God, which is the Spirit's sword, and it performs its work in us bringing us to salvation (I Pet. 1:23-25/I Thes. 2:13). But the word is not the Spirit! The word cannot testify with our spirit that we are children of God. The Spirit of God cries out to God that we are children of His (Rom. 8:16-17). Others want to tie the Spirit to feelings! He is God's Spirit, not some emotion or emotional tie. He was given as a promise, not some emotional outpouring.
The question comes, how can we be filled with the Spirit as Paul taught in Eph. 5:18? Let's look closely at this. Here is the verse, "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit." Wine controls a persons inner being! Drunkenness affects a persons faculties and diminishes your life. When a person drinks, we know it diminishes our faculties as we can see when people drive and drink. One doesn't have to be drunk to be be affected. However, in this verse we are told not to get drunk with wine. Why? Because it is dissipation! Some versions read "leads to debauchery." Dissipation and debauchery means a wastefulness. It leads one to wasting their life and serves no purpose. Something greater is to control and that is "being filled with the Spirit." When we are speaking of "filled" we are speaking about something influencing, controlling you. How are we to be "filled with the Spirit?" It is not some miraculous feeling that comes across you that makes you "feel" something. In Eph. 5:19-21, there are 5 participles used in the Greek and those participles modify the verb "filled". In other words, here is how to be filled with the Spirit. (1) "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymn and spiritual songs." "Speaking" is the participle! (2) "Singing" is the participle. (3) "making melody" is the participle. (4) "Giving thanks" is the participle. (5) "Be subject" is the participle. What do these mean? Whenever we speak in our songs, whenever we sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord, whenever we give thanks in all things and be subject to one another, something begins to happen within your being and you allow the Lord's entrance and control in your life! There is nothing miraculous, but simple, common things we give ourselves to and the Lord will respond by filling.
"Being filled with the Spirit" is simply focusing on God and His desires, allowing Him to influence your thinking and heart desires! How many times do we rob ourselves, especially in our worship, not realizing we allow or not allow the Lord's entrance into our hearts by our attitudes and desires! To have little to no interest, to have no desire to speak or sing, to not be thankful for all things and never think others as more important, you cut yourself off from what the Lord wants. Maybe we ought to think of it this way: are we quenching the Spirit of God?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"For Troubled Hearts"

Jesus just told His disciples, Peter in particular, some disturbing news about up-coming events (John 13). Afterward Jesus speaks, "Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me." (John 14:1)
How many times have we been with people, who are hurting, troubled in heart and frivolously say, "Don't worry about it! Everything will be fine!"? To a broken or troubled heart, those words mean little.
Jesus was not asking His own (or us) to deny what we feel because He had shortly before this confessed that He was going through some deep, inward struggles Himself (John 12:27). What does Jesus mean by saying, "Do not let your hearts be troubled..."?
He is calling on them (and us) to act on the truths revealed and the realities of those truths. Truth is just as real and even more powerful than fears and the inner turmoil one may experience. There is nothing more irritating than people, who have good intentions, who have not suffered or experienced serious heartaches, spew out advice that is so shallow and glib. Remember the saying that was popular for a while, "Don't worry! Be happy!"? They were printed on shirts and made into jewelery. That is one of those shallow and glib sayings. On the other hand, you have those who insist that if you truly trust in God, you will not experience that pain in the heart! Those kind of people are an irritant and have little clue on how to overcome.
Listen, there is no sinfulness in the feeling of a heartbreaking experience! Our sense of deep loss is a great measure of the genuineness of our love. Look at Gethsemane. What was Jesus going through? I can hear people, "If He really trusted God, He had nothing to fear or worry about!" The deep, intense struggles were realities in the heart of our Lord and He felt a great pain. Why? Because of the lostness of His creation and the price to pay for our lostness. That's the deep sense of love for people.
Sometimes things are very difficult when disappointment sets in. People we loved and trusted go off into a depth of sin that leaves us hurting to a degree few understand. The power and depth of the pain is real...but so is the Lord and His truth!
After taking His apostles to the side, with no interference from outside, the last words He said to their troubled hearts, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John16:33) Right there, in Jesus we have our answers. Overcoming is the answer and He is the power for overcoming. Does it hurt? Oh, yes! But the hurt is not to be the focus. The truth of God, the power of Jesus and His resurrection become our hope and focus. The bottom line, we need to believe in the words that our Lord spoke and take them to heart. Only then do we find relief in the midst of pain.
I am careful not to change the words of Jesus or speak in His place . That would be arrogant and wrong. By looking closely at the Greek text, understanding the words John 14:1, here is what it seems was flowing from the mouth and heart of our Savior: "Do not let the turmoil you feel control you. The trust you have in God and Me is well placed so make that the controlling reality in your lives." Place your faith, no matter how little or great it is, in the truth and reality of God. Believe the Lord! Believe His word! Believe who He is! "...if it were not so, I would have told you!" (John 14:2)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Amazing Grace"

God's word tells us that "by grace you have been saved." (Eph. 2:5) Grace is an amazing thing. I'm still learning about it, trying to grasp hold of it better. Grace is simply God's unmerited or undeserving favor extended to us. It has nothing to do with us and every thing to do with God. It comes from God's heart to us through Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with your performance or good deeds. "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise, grace is no longer grace." (Rom. 11:6)
Grace is one the most misunderstood, mistaught and abused things from the heart of God. We need to carefully read Romans 6 to get a better grasp of God's grace. Many religious people today teach grace as a blank check from God that allows one to do as he wishes, and God will save them in the end because His grace out-does sin! What an abuse of God's gift. Others teach that God has saved all the religious people, no matter what they teach, because His grace reaches all. People seem to over-look that the grace of God operates in the sphere of the truth! In the church of our Lord, some believe that the grace of God is available as long as you perform. This too is wrong.
Sometimes our songs preach better than preachers! We sing about grace many times, not even aware of what we are singing. Just listen carefully to the song "Amazing Grace". We sing..."how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me." Grace is for the wretched and sinful. Grace is extended to sinners. It is for the one, who in their sins, can only appeal to God's undeserving favor through the death of Jesus. "I once was lost..." Were we? Do we really believe that? When people are lost, they feel the pressure of guilt and the sting of sin. We should feel it! Sin makes people miserable. Grace is for those who are lost and desire help outside themselves. Lost people cannot save themselves by their works! Is that not what Christ's death shows us? "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear..." Grace is a teacher (Titus 2:11-12). It teaches us to reverence God and His majesty. The fear of the Lord is what keeps one from abusing God's grace. Grace is received by faith. Grace produces trust. Grace produces obedience and obedience is not some legalistic rule-keeping. The fear of the Lord brings about a simple obedience to respond to His will. He asks us to respond in faith to receive His grace. Grace is a wonderful teacher. "Do not be carried away by varied and strange doctrines; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited." (Heb. 13:9)
Grace...God's undeserving favor to us undeserving people. Faith in Christ Jesus brings His undeserving favor right into the middle of our lives. We live by His strength, His power while simply humbly following, depending on His grace to get us through and it will get us all the way to the end.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"After Death, What Then?"

I was sent an e-mail asking, "After we die, where do we go while awaiting judgment?" It is a great question and it shows that many a sincere believer has questions about what happens upon death. That shows the confusion that has been created in much of the teaching.
I will share with you some brief thoughts in my studies and I am open for further insight. Mountains of material have been written and people debate this or that. Many jump back to the rich man and Lazarus to show what happens (Luke 16) but I am not sure that will not do because Lazarus is in the bosom of Abraham, the father of the Old Testament. For many believers in the Lord, they think the believer "sleeps" until the resurrection, while others think that one receives a resurrected body immediately, while some teach the righteous are holding up in Hades (back to the rich man/Lazarus) and still others think the believer literally ceases to exist until newly created. I have heard all these ideas at one time or the other.
Paul says in Phil. 1:22-24 that he struggles in choosing to live or die. Here is the part he says if he dies: "But I am hard- pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better." What did he see as better? To be with Christ. He speaks nothing of waiting or a state of limbo. He speaks of being with Christ, where Christ lives! I have heard the arguments over the word "with" but I take things for what they say and try to leave them as they are stated. To "depart", Paul uses a word that soldiers used when they pulled up stakes of their tent and march home to stay or when a ship pulls up anchor and sails to home.
For the true believer in Christ, they depart and goes wherever Christ is! When John gets his visions in the book of Revelation, John sees in heaven, under the altar, the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God (Rev. 6:9-11). They were with the Lord. In my studies, and time will not allow me to go into any depth here, I find that the saint dies and goes to be with the Lord. The only thing awaiting is a new body to be resurrected to bring the three parts of man (body, soul and spirit) back together (I Thes. 5:23/I Cor. 15). The judgment day, well that's for the ungodly and unreconciled! Oh, I know the verses of standing before the judgment seat (I Cor. 5:10/Rom. 14:11-12), but when you look closely at the context, we are speaking about the Lord having to sort out anything that needs to be sorted out, so we don't have to worry about anything getting by. I probably didn't say that well. In other words, just live for the Lord and let Him determine opinions and situations if they need to be determined.
Just think with me for a second: if the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (and it does), what do we have to be judged on? If my sins were completely taken away (and they are) and I have held with all my heart to the death of Jesus as my salvation, why would I be tried for sins or misdeeds in my life? If we have been clothed with Christ through baptism (and we have), who does God see and who stands good on my account? When we die, like Paul said, we go and be with the Lord. At the judgment, there will be the revealing of the sons of God (Rom. 8) to which creation is awaiting! In the return of Christ, Paul says that "God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." (I Thes. 4:14) If He is bringing them with Him, where are they?
Do some studying on your own. Look carefully at things and be honest with Scriptures. If I have misspoken, please show me better. I am always willing to learn! Death is the entry to being with Christ.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"How Do You View Greatness?"

Our idea of greatness and God's idea of greatness are two opposite thoughts. We measure greatness by our success in our jobs, our degrees held or owning fine homes or vehicles. Pride swells up in us and we become a little arrogant thinking we have arrived and people take notice. All the while, it escapes our notice, "God is opposed to the proud!" (Jam. 4:6) The "pride of life" will cost us our relationship with the Lord and our souls in the end. (I John 3:15-17)
The last night of Jesus' life before His crucifixion, he sat at a table with thirteen men. He knew His hour had come (John 13:1). Luke tells us the apostles were disputing among themselves which one of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Poor, poor us! What did Jesus do? He showed them God! He arose from the supper, laid aside His outer garments, took a towel and washed His disciples feet. Peter protested at first (John 13:6). It seemed awkward for their Master, the One who walked on water, defied nature, gave life to the dead and healed many who were sick, to be on His knees washing dirty feet!! That's not greatness of a leader in the eyes of man. That's a lowly servants job! That's a job for the 'nobodies' who can't do better!
What does this teach us? In God's eyes, real spiritual minded people are servants. Service is the very heart of God and Jesus. The Creator of the world, the Holy One who called things into existence that never existed, who has all power and demonstrates that power, came into a world in the form of weak and feeble man. He died the death of a criminal, while shamed in the eyes of mankind. He had a following like no other. Multitudes upon multitudes crowded around Him. In all this, He served! He looked for ways he could serve the lives of others. The God of heaven and earth was on His knees washing the feet of His creation!
How much effort do we place on looking good in the eyes of others? What you do and what you go after reveals where your heart is set. What you love the most is shown in what you dedicate your life for and what you sacrifice for. I've watched numerous people destroy themselves because they go after the finest things in life, thinking it sets them apart as being somebody, only to lose it all because their lusts overextend them. They give little thought to service and great efforts toward externals. The pride of life is not from God, but from the world and it will cost many a person their souls. do you view greatness?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Why Preach?"

A friend of mine said that he would like to preach. I asked him why and he said, "I've taught some Bible classes and people have told me I would be good at it! It got me to start thinking." Most people only see a very small part of the work of an evangelist on Sunday's and Wednesday's. The majority never see the struggle in study of God's word and the time spent in prayer to know what to teach/preach. You have to deal with disturbing situations among the brethren. You see brethren, have little interest as they sit "boringly" while God speaks and there is nothing you can do for them. Sometimes you become the target of some, listening for any misspoken word or something misstated in their mind so they can correct you. Some constantly complain about something someone else does or complains against the elders. Some have bad attitudes and you can do nothing for them. You deal with those sick, families in crisis and those outside of Christ and their ungodly ways. People threaten you at times and you deal with fleshly brethren who do not even realize they are fleshly and it makes it difficult (if not impossible) to get them to understand spiritual things. You watch some walk completely away from the Lord which creates a deep heartache. You deal with marital issues in which some are very sensitive. You must be prepared to deal with those struggling with mental issues, depression and confusion. In the whole, you deal with your own family and meeting the needs of your mate. For someone to think about preaching just because they taught a few classes and get compliments needs to seriously read I & II Timothy and Titus to see what is expected of the preacher. Why go through all this to preach?
Isaiah, a prophet of God, offered freely to go preach/teach God's message to God's people (Isa. 6). But he wasn't expecting the insight he received from the Lord. God explains this people he would be preaching to has insensitive hearts, their ears are dull and have no understanding (Isa. 6:10). Isaiah asked the question, "Lord, how long?" (Isa. 6:11) How long is Isaiah going to have to preach to this kind of people? God informs him until He devastates the majority of them! (Isa. 6:12) What a message for a preacher to hear, knowing little result will happen in your preaching. Why even bother?
Jesus tells His own apostles that they would be mistreated, some of the scourged and killed for preaching God's word. Why go through all this?
Paul explains to the young preacher Timothy that he will be persecuted. Brethren will turn on you , some will leave the faith and others will be ungodly in their attitudes and actions. There will be those who do not want the truth but their ears tickled. Why would you want to preach knowing all this?
At times I reflect on all these things. It becomes clear that God needs preaching and teaching of His truth just to save some. Too many are preaching that have no business preaching. They do not understand the need. Jesus died for us! He didn't just die for me but for all. He died for me when I didn't care and was rebellious and someone reached out with a saving message. Thank God for such! You labor and strive because of your hope (I Tim. 4:10). You persevere because the Lord wants people saved and you realize your life is hidden with God through Christ which keeps you safe. But in all of this, you hear the word of the Lord speak this it is a good fight and taking hold of eternal life (I Tim. 6:12). That's what I want! It's not about personal gain or loss in the eyes of people. It's about salvation, being driven by the death of Jesus knowing without someone trying to help, all would ultimately be lost. In the end, it will be worth it all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Losers Really Win!"

I was reading a back issue of the Reader's Digest, September 1998 to be exact, and came across an article about Ted Turner who owns several television networks. In this article, Mr. Turner states, "Christianity is for losers!" as he was describing what he thought of those who believe in God's word. After reading the article, it made me realize that in his eyes, winners are those who are successful financially and powerful in society! Bottom line, he believes being a winner has nothing to do with Christ Jesus.
Think carefully about the statement, "Christianity is for losers!" He has a very valid point. Christ is for losers! Now don't start with the positive thinking mind set. Follow me here. We are a people who had lost our way, alienated ourselves from God and at times, failed miserably in our lives. God's word reminds us of this very thing in Rom. 3:23. People can act like they have never sinned or think themselves as above sinfulness, but the facts from God tell us who we really are. "There is none righteous, not even one." (Rom. 3:10) In God's eyes, there is not one person good enough to make it on their own. We are all losers!
Here comes Christ into the world and who is He reaching to? The ungodly losers! "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." (Rom. 5:6) Christ died for the sinful, pitiful, ungodly people that have destroyed relationships and wandered off into sin, while separating themselves from God. Christ did not die for us when we were winners, but losing sinners! Our lives were doomed to an eternal separation from God, a place of eternal doom and condemnation. What did God do? He wants us to win, to be saved, so Christ became the One to lay down His life in our place.
Now comes the real beauty. Christ took us, a bunch of ungodly, sinful losers and made us winners...real, eternal winners! Our sins were atoned for and taken out of the way that cost us a relationship with God, with Christ Jesus paying the ultimate price. We were united with Him in baptism (Rom. 6) and raised with Him, being clothed with Him (Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 2:12). God views us differently because He sees Christ instead of us. We are holy and blameless before God because of Christ (Col. 1:22).
Mr. Turner was right, "Christianity is for losers!" Without Christ our Lord, there will be no winners! All of us loser really win!! Rejoice, your sins in Christ have been forgiven and God is for us (Rom. 8:31-39)! Victory is ours through Christ! I wonder where this puts Mr. Turner and others with his mindset?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"The Gospel According To Andy Griffith"

There is not many that enjoy the Andy Griffith Show more than myself. It's a classic and good fun. Why Barney Fife is the epitome of fleshliness! The reason I bring this up is for one reason: today in many places, the Andy Griffith Show has been made into a series of Bible studies! It is more popular in the southern states. Larger congregations are using it to help increase their attendance and stir a 'renewed excitement' for the local congregation. It is called "The Andy Griffith Bible Study Series." Please know that I am not finger pointing or trying to bash. That serves no purpose. What I am doing is showing how easily we can become persuaded "through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Col. 2:8 - emphasis mine)
Let me make some spiritual observations about such so we are not deluded by persuasive argument. (1) There is nothing wrong with using things as object lessons. God's word certainly does that, but never in a fleshly way. (2) What does God want? His word preached/taught (II Tim. 4:1-2). There are no substitutes for that. To use a man-made show to teach God's word is a little backward from what God wants. Paul said he preached nothing but Jesus and Him crucified (I Cor. 2:2). When we begin to promote Barney over the teachings of Jesus or putting him beside the teachings of His apostles, there is something wrong. The Andy Griffith Show never brought anyone to knowing God (John 17:3)! The Andy Griffith Show never converted one single person to Jesus! There is no one led to Christ, baptized into His death or raised to walk in newness of life. There is no real, genuine saving faith produced, as that comes only from God's word. Yes, it has moral values, but those moral values can never be substituted for Christ and His word. God word is reality, reveals His truth and is the only source of spiritual direction! His word teaches the best morals, more than any man can dream up. (3) God confronts man with his sinfulness, showing a need for a Savior. The Andy Griffith Show never confronts the sinfulness of man but shows tolerance and acceptance. From the beginning of creation to Revelation, one message was preached and that message led people to repentance and salvation. (4) When one assembles with the saints to worship, we are to draw near to God. Mayberry has never brought anyone to worshiping God, much less drawing near to God through Jesus.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires."(II Tim. 4:3) Now that's something to take serious!

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Looking at the Wrong Source"

He headed to the country of the Gerasenes, opposite of Galilee. Upon setting foot in this land, a man from the city came toward Jesus and the man was demon possessed. He was naked, living among the tombs which gives us an indication he probably wasn't the cleanest of people. The man cries out, falling down before Jesus. The unclean spirit within speaks. What did it sound like? The voice of a man! Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out and asks, "What is your name?" The response came, "Legion!" There were many demons in this man. Jesus showed no anxiety, no fear but stood firm before this man. What is amazing is these many demons knew who Jesus is and the power He possesses. They beg Jesus not to send them away into the abyss, a place of immeasurable depth. They wanted to go anywhere but the abyss and knew Jesus had the authority to do what He wished with them. These demons could do nothing unless the Lord Jesus allowed it. Over there, a herd of swine. Jesus gives them His permission to enter this heard of swine. You look at the herd, and see them start reacting to something unseen and suddenly, over the steep bank they go into the lake to their ultimate death! (This is recorded in Luke 8:26-33.)
Right here is where so many people get stuck, on the bank focused on the swine. "Why did the swine have to die?" some wonder. Bible classes bog down on the issue. "Why did the demons enter the swine?" others question. You might listen and even hear some animal activists cry out, "Cruel and inhumane!" Here we are standing on the bank looking, wondering and talking about the swine. As long as we stand on the bank looking and speaking about the swine, we completely loose sight of the point. This true life event is not about swine or the demons. It is about Jesus and His power over all, even in the demonic realm! His strength, His control and His ability to stand in the face of Satan's army and command them where He wishes!!! Let's move away from the bank and swine and not get stuck. Look at Jesus! Look at Jesus!
Paul taught it is all about "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) Paul spoke nothing but Jesus and Him crucified (I Cor. 2:2) in order for lives to change. Paul spoke plainly that "we proclaim Him." (Col. 1:28) It is in Jesus that all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col. 2:3). Many times our lives are lived so weak and helpless because we "stand on the bank focusing on the swine" when we need to be looking at Jesus. Life wants to overwhelm us and we look and listen to everyone and everything except Jesus. Satan attacks us and accuses us through people. We react and find ourselves upset at the people or react in a wrong way. We need to be looking at Jesus! When we are sick, afraid or angry, look to Jesus! Our lives improve so little because we are always looking at the wrong source in our lives! "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith..." (Heb. 12:2)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Too Easy To Cast Off"

We look at all the mess our government has made. That's not a political statement because I am not a political person. It's just the truth. The more our government (man) gets control on things, the more they mess things up. Regulations for every part of our society seems to be their answer. In the meantime, the small business suffers, families suffer and it destroys our economy. My own father, who owned a tv and appliance store, was put out of commission in one part of his business because of government regulations. (They made a law in order to use any freon, he had to buy expensive equipment to catch the old freon and get licensed to purchase any further freon!) To top it off, we have now been scared into thinking about global warming, to which politicians say it will eventually lead to warmth all over the earth. That goes completely against what God's word says. There will always be seasons, cold and hot, on this earth as long as it remains (Gen. 8:22). Only the strong survive seems to be their motto!
When we turn to the church, we look at those who have lives messed up. Sin has taken hold and devastated homes. Sin has found a resting place in the heart of some of those in Christ and they live in ways that are opposite of what Christ would want. What do many do? They just cast them off as lost! There is little reaching out to try to bring them back to their senses and the Christ who cares so much for them. Brethren just want nothing to do with them. I was listening the other day to some brethren who were speaking of another couple they had eaten with. This couple gets caught up in their fleshliness so easily but I have seen them at times to strive to move forward. There were some disheartening moments during the meal and even a comment that was not appropriate about the wife that came from the husband. How did the other brethren react? They wanted no more to do with them! It was stated they would never ask them to eat with them again. Out of the situation, one brother realized the weaknesses and the opportunity for sin to completely consume this brother and sister. Rather than cast them off, he decided he would go and talk to them face to face to get them to see what is happening. That's a spiritual man! "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each on looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." (Gal. 6:1)
Our government makes messes. Our brethren make messes. I'll let the Lord deal with our government leaders but I need to do what I can to help those who are in Christ see their relationship and the power of His love to change their lives before it is too late. It seems too many in the church really could care less about those that at one time were in fellowship with Christ and when they are caught in sins, it is too easy to cast them off. Remember, Jesus invested His life in them. May the Lord open our eyes and hearts to help one another to heaven!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Trust in God"

People that are sensitive and tender hearted know the pain and depth of their guilt. So much physical illness, emotional trauma and 'below par' living is the direct result of unresolved guilt! People have great feelings of inadequacy and their minds hold to past failures keeping them in their inadequacies. As long as guilt stays with us, spiritual growth is impossible.
Take some time and read what David said in Psa. 32:1-7. Until he sought and found forgiveness with God, David was down right miserable! As long as he refused to come into the presence of God and confess his guilt, he was wasting away. Do we realize and really believe that God delights in forgiveness? It thrills Him to no end to forgive the humble, sensitive soul that seeks His forgiveness. Just read Micah 7:18-19. Isaiah implores man to return to the Lord, call upon Him, forsaking our evil ways and the Lord will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:6-7). God wants and loves to offer forgiveness!
To those sensitive in heart, it becomes difficult to come back to God, asking for forgiveness over and over. That's good and the way it should be. But listen, we have got to stop "acting" so humble!!! We need to learn to trust God and His pardon offered. God speaks about Himself as One willing, delighting and abundantly forgiving. Wrap your heart around that! We need to trust God for what He says about Himself and not look at our weak and failing lives. Jesus said heaven rejoices when one repents (Luke 15:7,10). Why can't we rejoice rather than look at our miserable failure thinking God will reject us? That's not reaching for His love and forgiveness. That is being self consumed, trusting in our own thoughts. We must learn to trust God for what He says about Himself!
Sometimes our failure and guilt has taken us so low that we think we have so little to offer the Lord. Once again, the focus is on us and that is what makes us weaker. Christ is thrilled when we offer ourselves back to Him, no matter how little we think we have. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) It is sinful to not honor God and His Christ as He speaks about Himself! He says He is "faithful and righteous to forgive". How sinful is it for us to believe otherwise? Sensitive people are poor judges about themselves!!!! They look at their failures rather than the Christ who wants to forgive and make them into a new creation.
Bottom line is, we don't need to think ourselves as someone great, because we are sinful. We don't need to try to make ourselves sweet because we are anything less. We don't need to try to whitewash who we are but whatever else we do, do not sit in a state of guilt and judgment on yourself when Christ is waiting! Trust Christ to transform you! Trust God to raise you (Col. 2:12)! Above all, surrender your life, your heart to the Lord and take God at His word. That's the only way to overcome your burdened heart.