Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Final Thoughts"

It's that time of year when things are crazy for many. I guess I am no exception. We will be visiting family next week so this will be the last blog for this year. What do I write? I have been pondering this for a couple of days.
Let me first encourage each of you, seek and love the truth of God's word. That's the foremost thing I could tell you. There is too much religion and little truth seeking. I had an e-mail from a reader questioning something I had said in a blog I wrote. I appreciated their willingness to write and take a slight issue with me. It shows they are thinking on their on. What hit me was their idea of what they thought was right was based completely on something they had been taught and it never came from the word of God. It sounded good and right, but when compared to Scripture, it was found false. They acknowledged that when I responded to them. That's a sign of a good heart! Jesus did not come to establish more religion. He came to establish the truth from God for man! All treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus (Col. 3:3). That means the sincere must seek them out, looking only to one source for their answers. Remember the warning given to the Thessalonian brethren, "...because they did not received a love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." (II Thes. 2:10-12) That should stir all our hearts to seek and love the truth and not blindly follow someone.
Secondly, spend time in prayer. Prayer is such a vital part of our lives, or at least it should be. Prayer is faith! Prayer is trust! Prayer is strength gained! Prayer is submission! Pray for open doors and opportunities to share the gospel with family and friends. Look for those doors to be opened.
Finally this new year coming up, if the Lord continues to allow it, there will be many shocking moments in the lives of many. There will be disasters and deaths. There will be illnesses and difficulties. Work on trusting God and growing in His name because the next thing that might crop up will be something serious you might have to deal with. I am not trying to be a downer here. It's reality! Heaven is our goal and that should be our focus in life. Reach forward to what lies ahead and let go of what is behind. We need the strength of God to continue. If you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to write. I simply want to serve. If you wouldn't mind, click the "follower" link and join in please. Until 2010...God's blessings be on each of you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Let me say a few words today about one of the greatest things that can endanger the soul. Some people live their lives this way with such normalcy, they think it is...normal! You have been around them or maybe you are one of them. I had an individual who on a weekly basis would stop by my office and it flowed from them with such ease. What am I speaking of? GRUMBLERS!
The term "grumblers" (some Bible versions use the term 'murmurers') literally means "to say anything in a low tone." In other words, it is always spoken quietly to others. Most "grumblers" are careful not to be heard but they want to make sure others hear, if that makes sense. Grumblers express an indignant displeasure for a situation or person. In Exodus 16-17, God's people in their wilderness journey were grumblers and it cost them their lives! They never entered God's blessings because of it. They displayed their indignant displeasure at grumbling against the lack of food, the lack of water and their leadership. In all, God helped them more and more and they continued to grumble.
The warning to us: "Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages have come." (I Cor. 10:9-11)
We have been given an example that grumblers will not make it! Grumblers were destroyed. That should get our attention. God is not tolerant of grumblers, complainers, backbiters, gossiping, bickering brethren. For people to do such, something is wrong with their heart. Jude speaks of such people in the church that are ungodly: "These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; the speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage." (Jude 16)
We need to be careful and not be a grumbler. Our words and conversations should express faith in God and His word. Instead of grumbling at the leadership, the way things are gone about, line up with the Lord and help. There one will find the strength and insight to understand how to better help a situation than run down the situation while expressing your discontent. At that point, God must deal with you as a problem!

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Children Are Givers"

Children are simply...amazing! I never realized how being a "grandpa" could change the way you looked at children. Children are just fascinating! No wonder Jesus said they were the greatest in the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:1-4). Jesus spoke to the adult that they needed to be converted and become like children. Why? They trust, can change their attitudes and love so easily and quickly. Even when little children are in abusive homes, they still reach out to their parents for their love and acceptance. It is just amazing the capacity of their heart!
One thing that really catches my attention about children is their willingness and wanting to give freely! They don't know a penny from a dollar. They have no idea of a dollar from a twenty. It makes no sense to them about amounts. The only thing that they desire is to give and give it all away willingly. To a child, giving is love in action. I remember one of my sons, when he was about 4 years old came and brought me all the money he had in his little bank. He told me to take it and I asked him why he wanted to do that. Apparently he had over-heard his mom and I speak about things being difficult for us financially and in his heart, he wanted to give it all knowing it would help. I'll never forget that evening!
Here's the strange part...parents take away this desire to give from their children and seem to train in to have a heart for greed! That's what Peter reminds us about those ungodly who reside among us in the church. "Having a heart trained in greed..." (II Pet. 2:14). For some reason we as parents have taken our children and taught them to hoard, to get, to want and flood them with every gift we can get out hands on all in the name of love! We say we love them that we want them to have what we didn't or couldn't so we train them, advise them and encourage them to be selfish and keep. As they grow up, they become "wanters" and when things don't go the way they want, it upsets them. What are we doing?
Children have this ability to sense the need of the moment. They see an opportunity and delight in helping. We need to train our children to understand the value of a dollar but it is more important to train our children, encourage our children the value to continue to be giving. Paul encouraged the elders from Ephesus, "In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35) As I observe many of our young couples today, most have spent themselves into such a tight budget that hoarding is natural and giving has gone by the way. Their children have everything it seems and there is little giving both monetarily and with their lives. No wonder many never find the blessings of God.
Jesus knew that children are the greatest and maybe we need to re-think what we are training our children into becoming. Are we training them to have a heart for greed or giving is always much better than receiving? Oh, for a heart of a four year old!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Recently while listening to an individual that was going through some marital difficulty, the husband and wife decided to seek out a counselor in the world. The wife went in to visit by herself, then the husband. The conclusion by the counselor: they had seen situations like this for many years and never once has the problem like the husband had ever been overcome! In other words, once you have a particular practice, there is no cure. We have heard that for many years. Once an addict, always an addict. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Once a sex addiction, always a sex addiction. Once a liar, always a liar. I have heard this MANY times over the last 30 years of my preaching/counseling experience.
The question that needs to be asked: is this really true? The majority of counselors and psychologists deal with the lost world. People that are separated from Christ are in their sins and controlled by sin. That is why many can never change or it is a limited change by acting out certain practices in their own lives. "Count to ten to manage your anger!" and things like this to control our lives. God spoke from the beginning to Cain that "sin was crouching at the door and its desire is for you." (Gen. 4:7) Paul spoke of himself, before he came into Christ in Romans 7 that sin dwelt in him and it was sin that controlled his life, even when he desired to do what was right! But what about a person in Christ? Paul taught that such a person has a "new self" that can be "renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." (Col. 3:10). The new self is from God, created by God, according to the image of God. Paul reminded the Ephesian brethren to put on this new self, which is in the likeness of God (Eph. 4:24). The brethren at the Rome congregation were instructed that it was the predetermined plan of God that His children would be "conformed to the image of His Son." (Rom. 8:29) In all this, we find that one in Christ can change, can overcome and not be a hopeless case. The world has no power to become conformed to God in righteousness and truth. They have not been united with Christ, raised with Christ so there is no help from God! Unreconciled people are still in their sins and they conform to the image of sin!!
When Jesus said He had overcome the world that one could take courage in Him because in Him we have peace (John 16:33), He wasn't speaking of behavior modification. He was talking OVERCOMING! John reminds us: "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world..." (I John 5:4). If one is in Christ, the only issue is will we put on the new self or resurrect the old self that was buried with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:6-7) that is enslaved to sin? Too many are listening to the world, taking the advice of the world, thinking like the world and having to depend on the world's resources to control their lives. What if we would listen to Jesus? "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." (II Cor. 5:17)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"What's The Purpose?"

Someone wrote and asked me the purpose of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. To the reader, they look like many of the same things restated but to those who want to grasp a deeper meaning, they aren't just repeating the same incidences over and over.
Matthew, an apostle and tax collector (Mark calls his name Levi - Mark 2:14, His Jewish name), is a book that is completely Jewish in nature. There is one purpose for the book and that is to show the Jewish Christian that Jesus is the Messiah. The Jews were the first to hear the gospel message of Jesus Christ! One can quickly pick up on it in the genealogy of the first seventeen verses. Genealogy was major to the Jewish culture. Matthew often records the Old Testament prophets to show the fulfillment of the Messiah, the anointed of God.
Mark is also Jewish in nature. It is probably the first of the four gospel accounts that was written, around 50 AD. The purpose of Mark was to stress the action and works of Christ to prove He was the Son of God. It focuses heavily on the miracles in His life.
Luke is the only Gentile writer in the Bible and written to the Gentile (what most of us are). He addresses Theophilus, which we know little about. One thing for certain, Luke made certain each and every detail was accurate (Luke 1:3-4). Luke does not rely heavily on the Old Testament Scriptures as Matthew and Mark because a Gentile would not be as familiar with them. Luke stresses Jesus as the Son of man. Luke focuses more heavily on the prayers of Jesus as the Son of man than Matthew or Mark.
John the apostle wrote this book. John spells out his purpose in John 20:30-31 to produce and keep producing faith of those who are in Christ. In other words, his book was written mainly to the church. John stresses three things in particular: (1) "Believe (2) "Life" (3) "Truth".
Read them, study them. Keep in mind their purposes. Read with a heart to understand and look at Jesus. Therein you will find answers to life and His purpose.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Don't Walk In Their Ways"

They were completely surrounded. It looked like doom for sure. Assyria was the world power! Syria and Israel had allied against Judah to get the Judean troops to side with them in their fight against Assyria. In the eyes of those of Judah, there was no way out! Judah was in the full blown state of panic. What were they going to do?
God grabbed tightly to Isaiah and said that he was not to walk in the way the people! (Isa. 8:11) The word of the Lord thundered, "You are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it." (Isa. 8:12) The people were being carried away by their own hysteria and fear. If Isaiah was going to be in dread of anyone, it was to be the holy Lord God Almighty (Isa. 8:13).
People who do not know God or have little faith in God turn to people to sooth their fears and woes. What is difficult is that those who profess to be servants of the Lord God Almighty turn to the same avenues of fears as those of the lost realm. I realize it is easy to be carried away when everyone is in a state of fear. It's hard sometimes not to be carried away in fear when it seems all you hear and see in every news broadcast how bad certain things are and the spread of sicknesses. But maybe that's the more reason God's people should NOT follow the ways of those around us. It is the times of panic and fear that we could do our best work for God, making it clear that He can be trusted!
God is very aware of how things look and He knows how people tend to respond when it seems like things around us are flying apart. Our faith is so weak at times, we react instead of trust. Trust is something difficult amid troubles but that's not an excuse. God is still God and wants His people to put their whole being into Him and stop listening to the fears of those around. Because people panic and are fearful is not reason for us to respond the same. God has control and knows all the answers. In the end of all matters, God expects His people to consult in Him rather than turn to the people around for their insight (Isa. 8:19) It is very troubling to see the people of God talk, react and think like the faithless. Was it not Jesus who spoke, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)? He overcame the world and the only way we are going to overcome is by our deep convictions and trust in Him. Where are we turning to for our answers and insight? I know things can be troubling when we look at the seen, but God still speaks and says, "Don't walk in their ways!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Christmas...According To Christ?"

I need to say a few words about the Christmas season. This might be a little long. Because of some emails I have received and people visiting with me personally, I will address this. Let me start with this, believe me I am no Scrooge! I enjoy holidays and use them as a time with my family but we need to look honestly at Scripture and see what needs to be addressed in light of Scripture.
Over and over we hear, "Jesus is the reason for the season!" or "Happy Birthday Jesus!" Some say to put "Christ" back in "Christmas." There are other forms of this. Before we address any Scriptures, let's think about this for a moment. How did someone determine this was Christ's birthday? Remember, today it is winter in that part of the world also. They would not be out this time tending their flocks but they are stabled through these cold months. No one knows what time of year Christ was born (other than not in the winter) so that will obviously mean it came from someone making it up therefore making it a tradition of men.
Paul warned the church at Colossae: "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." We must be careful we aren't taken captive. It was the 4th century that a fellow by the name of Nicholas, a Bishop in Asia Minor, who gave gifts especially to children, that the Catholic Church sainted. That's where the idea of St. Nicholas came from. It was from this Bishop, in order for the world to accept it as a religious holiday, they tied it to Jesus. Do a little research and it might surprise you.
It is easy to be taken captive by man's traditions and empty deception. If one wants to see if they are captive, listen how upset people become when you start teaching the truth about this holiday season that it is not from the teaching of Scriptures. What are we to do? Make certain that whatever we do is "according to Christ." He is the true source. What's the source of Christmas? The word itself means "the mass of Christ." Does that make the source of men or of God's word? Many teach and preach against copying the world and following the world in many areas of their lives but when it comes to the world-wide holiday, no one seems to give it little thought.
Let me give you a quick illustration for your consideration. In Matt. 17:4-8, Peter, James and John were with Jesus when He was transfigured before their eyes. Appearing with Jesus were Moses and Elijah. Peter spoke up and wanted to make Jesus equal with Moses and Elijah, making three tabernacles, one for each. God spoke and said "No!" God instructed them to listen to Jesus and Him alone. The point was to make certain that Jesus was not made common and blended with other things about man!
In the church at Colossae, someone was making angels equal to Jesus (Col. 2:18). Others were thinking they saw visions or acted so contrite and humble that was a sure sign of their superior Christianity. Paul had to straighten all this out and tell them the problem was people have stopped holding to the head, Jesus Christ. What they were doing was not "according to Christ!" To blend Jesus with a fake man called Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) is not proper holding to the head, Jesus Christ.
What is the real reason for the season? It's not Christ even though man says it is. Man has made this a tradition. When Jesus sent His apostles into the world preaching, what message were they to preach? The birth message? The gospel message is what the apostles were commissioned with (Mark 16:15-16). What is that gospel message "according to Christ?" His death, burial and resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-4). That how people would be saved! The birth of Jesus would not save one soul! The birth of Jesus was NEVER honored by any of the teachings of Jesus. It was recorded in Scripture to show the fulfillment of prophecy of the Old Testament prophets 500-700 years earlier. That was the sole purpose. Paul announced the book of Romans that he was an apostle set apart for the gospel of God (Rom. 1:1). That gospel of God concerned Jesus and Jesus was declared the Son of God with power by raising Him from the dead (Rom. 1:4)!
The religious world presses us to observe this time as the birth of Jesus. It is not "according to Christ" or Scripture. What are we, as Christian's to do? If one will carefully read Romans 14, there you will see that a person is allowed to use days individually. It is alright to use the time to be with family and renew friendships but to use this as our worship to God, tying it to Jesus because man ties it to Jesus, that's not proper because it is not of God. It is a tradition of men, an elementary principle of the world. The greatest danger is to be taken captive and forget the will of God! Oh, by the way, when are we going to put FUN back in "funeral"?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"What Do We Have To Offer?"

Too many in Christ have nothing to offer those lost. That might sound a little odd, but let's think about this. What do you have to offer your family, your neighbors or friends spiritually? Do we have "religion" to offer or something more? That's why there are all these varied teachings and people cannot distinguish between religions! They all offer one thing...RELIGION! Jesus did not come to offer "religion" but LIFE (John 10:10)! Not human life but the life of God which tells us the majority do not have it.
Judas was an apostle, appointed by Jesus. He saw the miracles and watched Jesus do incredible things, yet in all this, he passed on LIFE from Jesus and exchanged that life for money. When he looked the thirty pieces of silver in his hand, he realized what he had done, where he had lived and found he had nothing to live for despite what he had witnessed. He ended his human life without the life of God. There are thousands upon thousands of humans each and every day who go to the grave, some are our loved ones, and they do not have the life of God. In eternity, people will realize what they had was nothing more than lifeless, joyless, emptiness that was lived for rather than LIFE of God.
People live daily in human life never knowing the LIFE of God. People who have been very unfortunate cannot delight in much because all they know is disappointment. Others have learned how to be takers without one ounce of gratitude for what they are given. There are those enslaved to bitterness or hatred that will never know the possibilities for joy because the life they live in bitterness is enslaving.
Tens of millions just shrug at the name of Jesus while "partying on!" To them, Jesus is a bore and kills their lives! People who have professed Christ, who assemble in the name of "religion" are bored with the message about Him and bored with those who represent Him. Just look at our assemblies and we see those sitting, just going through things because that's what "religion" demands. We want our lives, we want entertainment and find things that appeal to our senses. There is too much "eat, drink and be merry" to even bid Jesus the time of day!
What do we have to offer? LIFE from God! Too many who profess Christ are trying to prove to the lost world around that you can fun and be in Christ too! What a horrible thing to portray to lifeless people! you really want the life of God? A life that brings power and a joy that cannot be touched by experiences good or bad. John wrote in his letter of I John that they saw the LIFE! It was in Jesus and it had a profound effect upon him.
Let's not try to compete with the non-believing world at the level of entertainment. Let's not try to make things look "religious" to attract others. We have a message, a LIFE giving message found in the form of Jesus Christ that will enrich all who come into this LIFE. Yes, the majority will probably walk away and not pay attention but the LIFE of God still bids them come. The church has forgotten the message while trying to fit in with the lifeless. Jesus Christ - in Him is LIFE, the LIFE of God! What do you have to offer?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"What Does Our Worship Reveal?"

In I Cor. 14, Paul speaks of the assembly and what takes place. According to what we read, apparently the Corinthian brethren were out of control! While many were "glorying" in tongue speaking (which cannot be done today no matter what people try to teach), Paul had to point out that "tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers." (I Cor. 14:22) The point that is being drawn upon is what is the purpose of the assembly?
In the worship assembly, there are those who have gifts from the Lord, those who were ungifted and unbelievers (outsiders) in their midst (I Cor. 14:23-25). The purpose was not about the gifts and the commotion but the center of our worship! If there were unbelievers present, they should draw a conclusion from the assembly: GOD IS AMONG US! That's what the assembly is about. Too many are making the assembly worship about themselves! When the worship assembly points to individuals and their gifts, that is no longer worship of God. There are musical arrangements, soloists and all sorts of things that go on in many worship assemblies only to have the people break out in applause. To make it look "Godward", you hear the words, "Let's give God a hand!" followed by an "amen" or some sort of religious sounding word or saying. The point being made: God is not the center and is not getting the praise. The applause and adoration is for the "gifted one!" People just aren't honest in this.
Paul points out that the worship assembly is about God and God alone! Worship is to be God centered. Too many are making the worship assembly into a production and because we live in an entertainment society, it is acceptable and fits in the thinking of many to make it "enjoyable" as one would go to a theater or play. I know this might ruffle the feathers of some but we need to look closely at what Paul was teaching. The whole point of I Corinthians 14 is to teach that the knowledge we have of God is seen in our worship assembly!! These Corinthian brethren had to be corrected!
When an outsider visits our worship assembly, what do they see? Do they see the same thing that is in those assemblies of the world who do not hold to the truth and made their worship into what they want? Or do they see that God is certainly among us? The true worship assembly is completely 100% God centered and not orchestrated or proded by our ideas. Too many are trying to create an atmosphere rather than the heart offering up a sacrifice. True worship is about the heart seeking God, speaking to God, raising it's praise to God without man adding their own twists and turns! True God centered worship convicts and discloses the secrets of the heart of outsiders while it edifies those in Christ. The conclusion: "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." (I Cor. 14:37-38)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Power Robbers"

It is hard for many to accept that the New Testament Scriptures were written for the church! Paul warns Timothy that in the church, among God's people, there will be difficult, perilous times (II Tim. 3:1-5). God's people will become wicked. That is hard for many to accept, however, let's look in the passage what makes for perilous times.
"For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."
Let's make one quick point. Many today say you can't judge another. You have to make judgments in order to "avoid such men as these." People need to be better students of their Bibles! (I'll save this for another day.) The reason one must avoid such people in the church (he is talking to Timothy about the church) that have these characteristics is because they will affect you if you walk with them!
Let's notice another thing mentioned. "Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power." It is easy to look spiritual and religious! People wear Christianity like a coat. It's just a covering, a shell. Outwardly they can say the right things, speak using religious terms and "amen" those with whom they agree. But godliness is not their life. They have denied the power! There is power involved with God. Too many try to control situations and outcomes in their lives. They have little power to overcome in difficulties other than what they can muster. People that "hold to a form of godliness" give themselves away by the things listed that are practiced in their lives. One doesn't have to have all the things listed. If any of them are part of us, that speaks volumes about us.
Notice the first thing listed: "lovers of self". One quick note. How many do you hear say that in order to love others, you must first love yourself? What does that tell us? In order to find the power of God, self must go (Matt. 16:24).
I'll not deal with each one listed but let's make a few observances about some of them and you can apply the others. "Unholy" deals with the way you live your life. Taking your life serious and not treating things or the church as common. Holiness is a life lived in reverence and respect for God and others. "Irreconcilable" is where someone will not yield to forgiving another and coming together. Some people hold so much bitterness in their heart toward another that they refuse to be reconciled. We see this in marriages where one or maybe both refuse the other no matter what. It will cost them their soul. "Brutal" is neither sensitive, nor merciful or any sympathy. It is savagery! I have met those in Christ who abuse their mates or children in their home. "Treacherous" is the idea of betrayal. It can involve one not keeping their word to taking advantage of others and situations. "Reckless" is a person that is headstrong and obstinate. They will not be influenced by wise advice. They just do things the way they want and it doesn't matter who gets hurt or the outcome. People that are reckless never consider the consequences of their actions or choices. They do what they do because that's what they want to do.
I realize it is hard to believe this happens in the church, but it does. It more prevalent than we think. Too many are hiding, faking their lives. They act one way at the assembly and a completely different way in their daily living. It is people like this that cause difficulties for God and the church. I pray we will look closely at our relationship with our Lord and move away from the things that will hurt us spiritually. If not, God says they must be avoided!

Monday, December 7, 2009

"What Do You Say?"

Are you troubled? I know we have all been through difficulties and battles in our lives. What do you say to someone who is going through a difficult time in their life? Have you been in a situation and wondered what to say when their heart was aching?
Several years ago I was asked to travel with a preacher to visit a gentleman in the hospital. I did not know the fellow in the hospital but went along because I was asked. The fellow was facing serious surgery the following day and upon our entering the room, you could see the concern on his face. A few moments went by after the introductions and silence fell on the room. The preacher had no clue what to do and the fellow in bed had small tears flowing down his cheeks. Out of nowhere came these words from the preacher: "A few years ago I had an uncle who faced a similar surgery and he died!" Before anything else was spoken and me trying to get my mouth closed from dropping open at such a statement, the heavy-laden fellow burst into crying. Upon our leaving the hospital that day, I asked the preacher why would he say such? He told me he had the rest of the story to tell but with all the commotion and reactions, he never got to finish! Needless to say from that day, I never visited anyone with him again. People have no clue what they are saying or what to say in times of difficulty!
When people have heavy hearts, we need to know what to say. Where do you begin? Troubled people need more than just some sympathetic words. They need help and hope. Let's learn something from the Bible. Peter writes to Jewish Christian's in trouble. These Christian people had been scattered, rejected by society and are facing difficult days ahead. What does Peter say to such? He tells them who they are (I Pet. 1:1-9)!!! They are the chosen of God and are the people that God did not reject! Peter doesn't deny their troubles. Read the letter. But in reaching out to them he reminded them (and us) who they are! Can you imagine them sitting, listening while this letter is read out-loud? They are being comforted by the very presence of God and that relationship they have. That is something that rejection, hurt and disappoint can never take away from the heart of those of faith!
How should we speak to those in Christ throughout the world that are struggling? What about those places that are small, with few brothers and sisters, fighting day in and out to maintain righteousness? What about those in foreign places trying to teach and suffering for their teaching (something we know nothing of)? And those that are closer to us that we speak with and see weekly but have to carry a major burden, would this not be what they need to hear? But what about someone who doesn't know Christ? Silence can be golden! Never forget people are troubled and we can't expect them to act like they don't have troubles but should we not speak to them who they are?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Purpose of Scriptures"

If one wanted to learn math, you wouldn't read a sewing book because that would be a waste of time and effort. To approach God's word as something that it was not intended is to miss God completely! We need to understand the purpose of the Bible and its message. Too many use the Bible to prove their personal religious beliefs which is really doing a great injustice to God's purpose. (God's word does show us the truth!)
God's word has a central purpose. It is to produce and sustain faith in God through Jesus Christ. It is turning people whom God created back to Him, staying with Him and honoring Him. To ignore the central purpose is to completely misunderstand it! One has to be willing to listen and seek the truth through the voice of God who is calling us into fellowship with Him. The sacred Scriptures is not about drama or on-going drama! That's demeaning God and His holiness. (Just read Lev. 10:1-3) God's word is to be taken and 'eaten' rather than analyzed! It is to feed the soul rather than dissected.
But there is something more...the Bible IS NOT a substitute for God! To confuse a letter from a husband or wife with the husband or wife (or anyone else) is to violate the purpose of the letter. The letter is not the person and is not intended to replace the person. It is to bring the two together into closer fellowship with each other! One can easily read the Scriptures and completely miss everything. Just read John 5:39-40.
Once again, the purpose of the Scriptures is to bring us to the life of God and that life is found ONLY in Christ Jesus. He is the central character in God's purpose. Therefore, how we stand in relation to Jesus Christ is the issue which must be understood and settled before any other question is asked or given.
Now that we have gathered the purpose where does one begin in their reading and study of God's word? Too many begin at the beginning, like any other book. God's word is not like 'any other book.' Begin in LUKE, since he is the only Gentile writer of in the Bible and read ACTS. Luke wrote the book of ACTS. Let me make one quick point about the book of ACTS that many seem to miss. ACTS is not a history book and if we approach it as a history book, we can miss God again. ACTS is how God worked His power and accomplished bringing faith among the lost world, both religious and non-religious. Begin here and don't ignore the other letters but these two books are great places to start. These two books gives us the answers to finding freedom and life with God in Christ Jesus. This is the grand purpose of the holy Scriptures! If you would like to know more, please drop me a line and I'll do my best to answer you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Two Patterns"

People can influence us in good and bad. We have seen it in our children when they play "dress up" imitating their parents or the little boy trying to walk in his dad's footsteps that seem so far apart. Teens get caught up in the glitz and glamour of some actress/actor or "musical star" or maybe an athlete. Adults are influenced by successful business people, those rich or powerful and read to find out what made them so successful or powerful. We can be influenced!
Paul urges us to join in and follow his example and the example others have set in the pattern of living for the Lord (Phil. 3:17). Timothy served Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:19-21). Epaphoroditus served the Lord (Phil. 2:25-30). This tells us that there are two different patterns that can influence us and we need to exercise great care in who or what is molding our lives. What are those patterns?
(1) There is a pattern (example) if we follow that will end up in destruction and those following this pattern are not even aware of what is coming upon them. That should open our eyes if we are spiritually sensitive! "For many walk..." (Phil. 3:18). Many...we are speaking about brothers and sisters in Christ! Paul's not addressing outsiders. There are many that the cross seems to make little impact on. It's just a story, something repeated but has little effect on their lives. Paul says "they are enemies of the cross." What makes them enemies of the One who bought them? Listen carefully "whose god is their appetite" (Phil. 3:19). They live by their own desires and it controls their thoughts and actions. Whatever they feel or want, that's what they go after. We see it often when someone is upset and they allow that to control them. That's their appetite! It is what leads people into wrong attitudes toward others or even depression. "Who glory is in their shame". Just listen to some of the things people in Christ glory about! They have no shame is speaking of how they took advantage of someone or broke a law and didn't get caught. Others have outburst toward another and justify that outburst. They feel good about it! That's glorying in their shame!! "Who set their mind on earthly things." This is where their thinking runs. They don't think in terms of serving Christ and what He expects. What does your mind dwell on through the day or in difficult situations? "Whose end is destruction." All the above is the wrong pattern and many are walking enemies of the cross and aren't even aware of where it is taking them! To many, this is normal for a Christian and what Christianity is about.
(2) There is a pattern (example) if we follow that will guarantee our ending in heaven. It is patterned after a citizen, living as a citizen of heaven. How many see themselves as citizens of heaven? If we see ourselves as true citizens, that will cause us to "eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Phil. 3:20) When we leave our children in the care of another, those children eagerly await your return because they are citizens of their home. This should influence our lives, our mind set, our desires and direction. If our citizenship is in heaven, then heaven should be in our home and lives! What is going to happen? We will be changed into His likeness by His power! It is going to happen and we should be living as if it is going to happen.
Who are you pattering your life after? What are your energies put toward? Remember, Paul warned there were many heading down the road that will end in destruction because they pattern their lives after those who walk this road...IN THE CHURCH! Maybe we need to ask, what do you influence in others?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Make God the Center"

Haven't you had one of those moments where you saw something or someone said something and realized if you could do something over again, you would do it differently? I know many times I have found myself in that position. But let's think about this: to want to do something all over again because you would do it differently doesn't make a lot of sense. Why? Because you are speaking from your present experience! That is something you didn't have and would not have if you were to do it over. We only speak from our gain now!
Having said that, there is one thing I have learned from my present that I would call on each and every one to do: MAKE GOD THE CENTER OF YOUR LIFE! I can almost hear some reading this saying, "That's a no-brainer!" It is not as simple as it sounds. Many profess to make God their center but listen to them speak (those little "spiritual phrases" they pick up from others) and watch their actions and attitudes and it betrays them. Too many speak like the religious world, draw from the religious world and think like the religious world rather than God. John warned in the 1st century when all those left the apostles and their teachings: "They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them." (I John 4:5)
How do we go about making God the center of our lives? First we must recognize that the center of the Bible is not the Bible! It is the God of the Bible. The word is not the center but the God behind the word. The central subject in God's word is God Himself! We read about the interesting people and events but those people and events are not what is being revealed. They reveal the greatness and purpose of God Almighty! The heart of the Bible is a Person, GOD!
I realize we cannot get to know the God of the Bible without learning about Him from the Scriptures. Too many are missing God while caught up in 'stories.' Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3) The term "know" is not head knowledge but a knowledge gained by experience. In other words, as God and His Lord Jesus reveals themselves through Scripture, you have to walk where they live. That's where the "knowing" becomes a reality. Too many walk after what they feel or think and therefore they never come to "know" God. For instance, to be unjustly treated and to reach out to those who hurt you (rather than withdraw into hurt and pity), you then will come to "know" God and His love.
Yes, if I could encourage us to do one thing, that would be make God the center of your life. He calls us to do that and it is absolutely essential for us to do that if we are going to gain real true knowledge of Him. There is nothing else that exists for us to make our center. There are too many creation worshipers, star gazers and spiritualists that make the Creator and Sustainer of our lives less while elevating the wrong things. Making health, fitness, education, intellect, beauty, wealth or power as your goal and desires will rob you of God and in the end, ruin your life!