Monday, January 31, 2011

"The Standard"

I had a phone call from a fellow who was seriously ill in the hospital. I never had met him before but his voice seemed rather urgent. Upon arriving he was almost pleading with me to pray for him so I did. I could feel his pulse in his hand beating. After the prayer, I began asking about his life and what brought him to calling me. He revealed something rather interesting. He said, "You are the last of the preachers/pastors I called to come pray for me!" It struck me there had been a line of people he had called. I asked him why everyone? "Because out of all the religion and non-sense in the religious world, I figured calling everyone to come pray for me, one of you surely is in fellowship with the Lord and the Lord would hear your prayer." That day revealed a lot to me. This man, who upon speaking with for a little while, was not in Christ Jesus but he was knowledgeable of God's word. He knew there was a standard of teaching! He knew that fellowship with the Lord is a must for God hears the prayers of a righteous man (Jam. 5:16). He knew that all this religion and teaching out there was not of God even though they used God's word.
There is a standard of teaching from the Lord. I realize many don't believe that. Paul believed there was a standard and just because someone says they believe in the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior does not make that a reality! Paul told the young preacher Timothy to "retain the standard of sound words which you heard from me..." (II Tim. 2:13). The brethren at the church at Rome was praised that they had been "slaves to sin, you became obedient from the the heart to that form of teach to which you were committed." (Rom. 6:17) Things like "that form of teaching" stand out to me. It wasn't a general form but a specific teaching they were committed to. Paul and Timothy both taught the same thing everywhere they went (I Cor. 4:17). You don't see that today.
Our society has quickly become a society where there is no teaching standard. Every thing is mixed together and poured and truth seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Paul was a preacher of the truth and that standard could not be changed. He preached it, taught it and eventually died for it! What about you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"More Information"

For some reason there are those who think that God did not give us exhaustive instructions on life and living. (Goes against II Pet. 1:3.) Many believe there are things that God never spoke that we need to explore. I had a person who is extremely intelligent speak that to me the other day. I asked what they think God didn't go far enough in revealing to mankind and they had a list of things, the majority dealt with the human mind and worship. They were in pursuit of something they weren't sure what but they believed God had not revealed everything to us in His word. (It made me wonder how they were going to find whatever it was they were looking for when only God can reveal what belongs to Himself!)
I don't believe that. I sincerely believe God has given us every single thing we need to understand for man and how to apply the understanding properly. Paul revealed from the Lord that if we would present ourselves back, whole heartily to the Lord because of His mercies, there would begin a transformation of the mind and heart in the will of God, the things that are good, acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2). The Corinthian brethren were warned that Jews run about seeking for signs and the Gentiles, they pursue knowledge and wisdom and that was not what the Lord was wanting (I Cor. 1:22). The apostles preached Christ and Him crucified as the power and wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:24). Jesus prayed before His arrest and death that knowing God was eternal life (John 17:3). We have all we need and more! The problem is too many are listening and looking everywhere but where God placed His wisdom and power and that is in His Son and nowhere else (Col. 2:3). Coming to know and understand Jesus will fill that void.
To pursue things that aren't mentioned tells us we don't need to know. If we would come to know Jesus, present ourselves back to God and renew our minds from what He has revealed, our lives will take on power that is beyond us. Searching for more than revealed is an endless search with no answers. It keeps man occupied but never coming to truth. Paul spoke to Timothy there are those who are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (II Tim. 3:7). We have all the information we need! We need to learn to submit and believe it without twists and turns from our own thinking!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Throwing Our Weight Around"

It amazes me how some people love to give orders! They feel their importance and position gives them the power to 'throw their weight around.' Elders can be really good at this! They are filled with pride and that pride drives them to barking instructions and determining the actions for others follow. It seems there is this invisible pedestal they stand on and nothing pleases them more than having people to bend to do their will.
Meet Diotrephes! He had a feeling of importance and power that he refused the apostles teachings and would not even acknowledge John's authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ (III John). He refused to welcome the brethren and even put some out of the church who did. What arrogance.
We look at Paul. Here was an apostle with some real weight but he did not employ it. Paul used his position to serve others. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he and his companions were not seeking a reputation or standing on their dignity to require respectful attention and subservience. They weren't glory seekers even though they had the authority of Christ Jesus. Paul wasn't demanding and pushing his way (II Thes. 2:5-8). The authority the Lord gave him as an apostle was not to tear anyone down but only to build up (II Cor. 13:10). Jesus was his model and Savior. Jesus was the one Paul took instructions from and if Jesus being a servant to those around, how could Paul be anything but that?
Maybe its time for us to look at us in light of Christ. Paul said, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." (I Cor. 11:1) If we would do that, I wonder what things might look like in the church? The work of our Lord is far too important for anyone to strike a pose, develop an attitude of superiority or throw our weight around!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Jesus brought the unseen spiritual world to light for man to understand. One of those understandings was the Greek term 'Gehenna.' What did this word mean to the people of the first century? It had a significant meaning! The term came from the Old Testament Hebrew 'valley of Hinnom', a place just south of Jerusalem. This valley was part of the Israelite history where at one time, the corruption of the people burned the bodies of children as an offering to strange gods (Jer. 7:31). Can you imagine offering children as a sacrifce and burning them to death? God changed the name of the valley of Hinnom to the valley of Slaughter because God found their acts so repulsive and disgusting (Jer. 7:32-33). It became a place known as a place where God piled up the carcasses of unrighteous dead!
This Greek term 'Gehenna' would send fear and dread into the heart of the Jews. In the first century as one would approach Jerusalem from the south, they would pass by this valley on the left. It had become a garbage dump and the carcasses of dead animals were visible everywhere. Most people traveling would avoid entering Jerusalem from the south because of this valley. The stench was great and the smoldering of the flesh of dead animals was everywhere. To top it off was the visible hideous sight of millions upon millions of worms and maggots feeding on what was not being burned.
Jesus used 'Gehenna' in Mark 9:43-48 which we translate as 'hell.' A place of torment, the gnawing worm and fire. It is such a place that Jesus said extreme measures should be used by man to avoid. Jesus warned that man needs to not fear those who can kill the body but the one who can kill both body and soul in 'Gehenna.' (Matt. 10:28)
A place that is so horrid that Jesus took our place to keep us from there. Yet today, there is so little respect for God, His judgments and teachings. We throw the term 'hell' around at the drop of a hat. We speak of a person that suffers in this life as, 'going through hell.' We talk about a rough day using this term or a golf game that uses this term. We have more respect in this life for the term cancer than we do 'hell.' We have known people (and even our loved ones) who have suffered from cancer. We don't say, "They had one cancer of a time." We just don't use the term that is so deadly in that sense. Have we lost the fear of the Lord, respect for the One who can ruin both the body and soul in 'Gehenna' that we would throw that term around so loosely? Jesus sure didn't as He brought to light the horrible final dwelling of the unrighteous. It wasn't intended to be used in as a by-word or an exclaimation! That just dulls the spiritual senses.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Salvation Is The Issue"

People want to be religious or feel a part of God through their belief. People talk about God and we are flooded with seminars, workshops, counseling, build up, tear down, do this, do that, give this, buy that, help here, reach out there and who knows what else. We are so busy with "stuff" that we might be missing the point. All this talk about religion and God, reading His word seems to miss the main point of what everything is about. The issue of God and our Lord Jesus is about SALVATION! Just read the gospel accounts and over and over you will see Jesus was concerned about salvation!! People fed, healed and helped with the end result of salvation. Jesus speaks, "You're sins are forgiven." The help wasn't about just helping but salvation! Even upon the Lord's return back to heaven, He left His disciples with the words to preach that gospel to all creation so those who would believe it and be baptized would be saved. It's all about salvation. The apostle Paul spoke that the gospel is God's power to save and he wasn't ashamed of that (Rom. 1:16).
Salvation is about being rescued from impending doom. Something is terribly wrong in our lives that we need to be delivered from. Man, all man, comes under the power of sin which results in death, separation from God and the ultimate penalty is eternity away from the presence of the Lord (II Thes. 1:9-10). People are in need of salvation. ALL PEOPLE!
Jesus said he came not to serve but give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). Jesus knows what is at stake. He is the ransom, the price paid to be released from impending doom. That means salvation is the issue. People can be religious, do good things and be active "for the Lord" and still be in their sins. People can assemble to worship, take the Supper and still be in their sins.
It leads us to a final question: why are we not converting more people to Jesus? Because many are content with religion and with all the religious business, there is little concern for people being lost. Religion didn't need to be established in the days of Jesus. It was very prevalent but they were still lost. For over three years Jesus proclaimed His death would be for rescuing of all manking. That is what His teachings were about. Religion never saved anyone! All the activities in the name of the Lord never saved a soul. Salvation is the issue, has always been the issue and will be the issue until the Lord returns.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Can't Believe A Word"

In visiting another congregation, the preacher had some high college degrees (3 to be exact) and had taken two speech classes. He could definitely speak well and had depths of smarts! He ran circles around me in those departments. Upon visiting with the brethren, several made a comment to me that was really strange, "He's a fun fellow to be around but you can't believe a word he says!" That was troubling to my heart.
Looking at Jesus when He encountered multitudes, at times He would heal and feed but upon closer looking, Jesus taught! He didn't just cater to the physical needs of people but He focused on teaching/preaching as the greatest need. People need bread and many social and emotional needs but they need the truth! They need to be taught, they need the light, they need the words of God in the gospel and covenant. They need to be taught from those who are trusted and trustworthy with God's teachings. People who say God called them to preach/teach need to pay close attention to what they were called to do!
Preachers have this tendency to want to be liked by all and they do a lot of things that have nothing to do with their role as a spokesman for God. But in this position and be such a cut-up or comic that people say "You can't believe a word they say!" is troubling. Sometimes not just preachers but those tied to Christ are such 'jokesters' that people don't take us seriously. In teaching, people glean from psychological therapy books or we try to convince one another that life is not all that bad so let's have some positive thinking here. Many are trying to convince others that "living by bread alone" can be achieved! We walk away, having met the emotional and physical needs claiming we have done well and fulfilled the Lord's work! But who heard about God? Who heard about the God who calls us into a covenant relationship without which one will die in their sins? Who heard about the fullness of an immortal life so we can walk and live with God in His righteousness and peace? What is said about the gospel? Too many outreaches are about "living by bread alone." Then the preacher/teacher or Christian turns back to their jolly, fun joking self and it leaves an people with the taste in that fun stating, "You can't believe a word they say!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Anxities and Fears"

Many live with worries and fears. Their lives are dominated by such. Recently I was speaking with an individual and they shared with me that the stay in their homes except for going to the grocery store and basic essentials. I asked why and their response: "Our world is filled with so much violence and hatred that you could be killed at any time." Their fears had driven them to a point of withdrawal from society.
The first century people lived in a time of extreme violence. The Jews that followed Paul from town to town to discredit his teachings to the point of taking him outside and having in stoned in one place, leaving him for dead. Just read Heb. 11 and we will see what many went through in their lives because of their faith in Jesus. We aren't even close today to any of this. How does one overcome fear and anxieties that hound us? How do we overcome our worries in this world?
Fear and anxiety can only be overcome by knowing that we can trust God knows we need certain things and He will always act in our best interest! Jesus taught that in Matt. 6 not to worry about food, clothing and the basic needs of life. How can I keep from it? Because God knows our needs and we need to walk with Him, trusting Him in every aspect of our lives, putting Him first and He will automatically meet those needs. One has to know God will do as He says.
When we are hit with anxieties many crumble under the pressures of life. Anxiety attacks are more common than ever and we have seem to be at a loss for direction to overcoming. Where do many turn? Medications! That's the answer of the world. But in reading that New Testament and all the physical attacks and difficulties the brethren faced, how did they make it? Paul provides the answer from the Lord: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 2:6-7) We must know God! God speaks if you will trust Me, give those to Me then I will respond. You make the move to the Lord and the Lord will be there guarding the mind and heart! That's a promise. It is either true or the Lord lied to everyone of us. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Playing Games With God"

It is troubling to my heart what I see happening among God's people. It has been a flood this week in many lives. People who sit in a worship (or a couple of times) week after week, hearing God be taught, having access to a Bible, prayers offered and the fellowship of the Supper and what do we end up with? People trapped in their sins and that entrapment raises its head and sends those I am speaking about into a state of confusion and doubt as their lives slowly spiral downward. Where is their relationship with God? It is being exposed as they encounter difficulties with little to no answers. I call it playing games with the Lord!
The relationship to the Lord should be a faith building, life building relationship. We should be making gains and becoming more and more like Christ in His attitudes and heart. When we do little in our lives to pursue the things of the Lord expect make a showing because that's what Christian's do, lives deteriorate and somewhere down the road, it catches us. It reminds me of Moses speaking to Israel in Num. 32:23, "...and be sure your sin will find you out!" The principle of reaping and sowing come into play in each of our lives.
What would we do if we were confronted with torture for our faith in the Lord? Or our lives threatened? Put in chains and imprisonment? Shot? Loosing our homes and things and having to live in holes in the ground? That's what many of those brethren in the first century had to do. Just read Heb. 11 and you will see it. We have difficulty with little things and our ease of life makes many dull of hearing which makes us lazy toward the Lord Jesus. As one individual told me in the midst of his spiritual dilemma: "I know I haven't been doing right for years but I never saw this coming!" Exactly! Playing games with the Lord creates false security and a blindness in our sights until we are hurting and have no answers.
I encourage each of us, pursue God with all our heart. Let's not receive the grace of God in vain because today is the day of salvation. If we know we aren't walking rightly, repent. Let go of the things of the world that hold us back. Be diligent in our faith and sincere in our heart and let the Lord change us from the inside out. Too many are playing games with religion and God!

Monday, January 17, 2011

"The Atoning Work"

Does it ever cross you mind about the inhumane death of Jesus? I'm sure it does. But let's take this one step further. Sometimes we miss the love of God by focusing on the wrong aspect of the death of Jesus. When we speak of the crucifixion, many go into the details of the Roman crucifixion which history does talk about. Have you ever noticed not one writer of God's word dwells on the gory details of the actual dying of the Lord? That's our inclination to milk it for all the emotional value we can get from it. It looks like Pilate was wondering if Jesus had already died and so quickly (Mark 15:44). The two thieves were still alive!
In all this, what are we to gain? It wasn't about the amount of pain and suffering that needs to grab our attention. It was the amount of love! The power of the death of Jesus was not in His physical pain that He had to endure but the complete, holy devotion to God in doing His will. It was the will of God that was the motivation behind the whole scene and everything leading up to that point. It is not about they physical death but the atoning death we need to keep our attention upon.
We as humans will die physically, sometimes rather gruesome. What does that mean? The only thing that will matter upon our death will be the atoning sacrifice of Jesus! What makes us go for the physical and not the spiritual atonement? Because we live in a world of horrible, violent death!! People are brutally slain and the callousness of the killers make us wonder how people can be so cruel. We try to grip the emotion of things and are made emotional at what we see and so we apply that to the death of our Lord. It can make our faith a little superficial, pursue trivial things all in the name of God.
There is more than Jesus physical death involved here. That's why the Scriptures deal so little with His actual dying. Heaven beats on the body of Jesus (just read Isaiah 53) but what was accomplished wasn't the physical, it was eternal. If we could only see the atonement for us and the love in that atonement, our lives would take a different shape, our faith would be built to a greater reality and our service would not fall in line with what everyone else does but a real, saving service on behalf of the lost!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Truth Is For Practicing"

We live in a "feel good" society. Every thing positive, no negative especially when our moods aren't the greatest. Positive feed-back, positive thinking, positive words, surrounding ourselves with positive people and the list goes on and on. Positive offends fewer people and doesn't give the idea to others that we are negative. Positive can work but only at the right time. Positive can mask what needs to be dealt with and distract from the reality of the truth. Negative can also work against us pushing people away and gives us a bad taste toward someone. What are we to do?
Sometimes it takes a lot of straight forward, plain talk and foul-tasting medicine to effect a cure in the lives of people. Jesus didn't mince His words too often. He didn't walk around the covenant people of God spewing out all the up-beat of positive and everything was good. That's not what many needed to hear. God's covenant people would not hear the words of God and Jesus had to warn, admonish and tell the truth if any of them would be saved. Too many today are taking in all the talk of the world around us that are nice and fluffy! We like that because it doesn't confront us with the change that needs to come about in our own lives. Fluffy makes us feel good, smile and share with others while the same old mind set and direction continues.
What we need is truth. Truth is for practicing!!! Truth is for practicing at a personal, ethical level as well as practicing in the presence of people. Truth is for practicing in the company of the emotional basket cases whose hearts are torn because it gives hope and direction. Truth is for practicing in the church when there becomes a power struggle to show there is a standard of the Lordship of Jesus. Truth is for practicing in a world that mixes all sorts of ideas about God, ignoring God and is in great need of seeing and hearing the gospel of salvation and reconciliation. Truth is for practicing! Not for admiring or wearing as a badge of honor. Not recited as if we had it memorized, analyzed or can debate it. Truth is for practicing!
If there is anything that proves this more it is reading I John. Everything in I John stresses the need to do what is true, practicing the truth. The one who practices righteousness is of God (I John 3:10). Love is demonstrated in our actions and truth, not in words (I John 3:18). To say we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness we are not practicing the truth (I John 1:6). Truth is for practicing!
Luke records in both his gospel and Acts over and over the practicing of the truth. He frames them in questions like: "What shall we do?" or "do this and live." Truth is for practicing!
Jesus taught if anyone was willing to practice the will of God they will come to know if the teaching is from God or man (John 7:17). Jesus taught His disciples that not saying the name of the Lord means anything but the doing or practicing of His will determines everything (Matt. 7:21).
People give all their reasons why to block out the reality of the truth and just go to the positive. We excuse ourselves why we shouldn't obey God's truth. Many dismiss integrity in business, sexual purity, forgiving others who hurt us, resentments, while demanding accountability (to us) and rights (for us) but submitting to Jesus and practice truth in our lives is over-looked. Truth is for practicing and we need to heed and follow the truth in our lives because it is the only place the Lord lives and walks in Himself. The prophet Amos proclaimed God's people need to stop the songs and music and practice righteousness or to exile they must go (Amos 5:23-24). Truth is for practicing!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"God Is A Jealous God"

If you read carefully and listen to God speaking to His covenant people Israel in the OT, God makes it very plain that He is a jealous God and a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24). Moses, speaking for God, warns the people that the covenant made is not something to be taken lightly. Over and over God speaks reminding them, warning them and laying out before their eyes the way of life and the way of death.
When we think of jealousy, it makes us uneasy because we have a hard time reconciling the fact that jealousy is a part of being fleshly and wisdom of the world. However, this jealousy is not in a bad sense but a good sense that instead of God taking from another, He wants others to share in Him and Him alone! We are the covenant people if we are in Christ Jesus! God has not changed in His desire for His people that He jealousy desires His Spirit to dwell in us (Jam. 4:5). In all this, God is speaking from heaven: "Do not give to others what belongs to Me!" That brings us to asking: What belongs to God and not to others? The jealousy of God reveals that it upset Him to be rejected and refused when He wants to give His love, mercy, holiness and righteousness to us! God wants a relationship with us!!! Some do not believe that. He jealousy desires to dwell within us! God must have first place in our lives because He is a consuming fire and jealous (Heb. 12:28-29). That means our relationship should not be taken light-heartedly. Isn't is good to know that God wants us?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Let God Speak"

We gather for Bible studies once or twice a week. Announcements are made, people rustling around and getting settled during this time. Once it is all said and done, there is probably thirty to thirty-five minutes left to "let God speak." It is rather interesting the many, many years those have taught bible classes and those who have attended and we are still rather Bible illiterate! There's not a lot of maturity or understanding the things of God. It seems as the years that go by, we just don't "let God speak."
During this time where we should "let God speak" teachers have adopted their personal agendas or thoughts that use up most of the thirty plus minutes which adds to the Bible illiteracy! Topics are discussed or studied like: "handling our finances in spiritual ways" or "ten ways to make our church more appealing" or "making good marriages better." Now please hear me out. (I can see the hands placed over the ears not to hear.) As we continue our "Bible class" on topics dipping in psychology, effective communication, how to be successful in the church or economics no one seems too interested allowing "God to speak." Oh, there are verses pulled here and there which makes us think it is God speaking but let's be honest and look more closely. The word of God is not the focus but the personal agenda of the those teaching. God's word is referred to at best and the other things are categorized or charted and God remains silent.
The class is going to study the book of Luke. What happens? The teacher approaches it like it is some ancient bit of history and the mind set of the people listening is set. We move from one verse and discuss the history and move to the next. In all maybe a few verses are covered and people have no clue what God was trying to teach or the purpose of why God had His words penned. There is a lot of discussion but about what? It becomes like a person who buys a lot of lumber to build something and has no clue what he is building but he sure has the lumber to do something!
The numbers that attend remain steady and they continue to speak but about what? The teacher has spent some time looking and studying and yet here the people sit, most never opened up God's word once during the week to look at the teachings at hand and the teacher asks for their input! Five people speak up and offer their two cents worth, let's say for two minutes each, ten minutes are used up of the thirty and little accomplished. Does all this sound familiar? Let's be honest with all this. When we come together in a Bible study, are we really there to "let God speak?" Is it really God's agenda we have gathered to hear? Here we sit in the presence of God, talking about everything that God is not speaking, having no clue how to apply what God says and make a bunch of statements that never cause us to grab hold of the deeper things of God by faith to move us forward. It makes me wonder, are we really interested to "let God speak" in Romans or John or any other book or are we more interested in our agendas about what we want and know or think than what God speaks?
There is not a simple cure here. One thing is for certain, we need to learn how to "let God speak" so we can hear Him! It takes energy and time to invest in listening to God ourselves so our hearts will desire to bring His thoughts in and let them develop our heart and attitudes. Listen, if we want to study the secular things then buy the books or attend their seminars on your own time. The church of our Lord is the vehicle of the gospel!! God's word is the vehicle of the gospel!! Our gatherings, our studies are to enrich our hearts and faith in the understanding and commitment to the gospel!!! Ideas are trying to be created to draw people's interest and the gospel becomes nothing more than a definition, not a power to save and keep us saved! Say what we want but until the people of God and those teaching the people of God will learn to leave their personal agendas and wants behind and prayerfully approach God with a heart to hear, we simply won't "let God speak"!

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Preparing For Eternity"

People just don't prepare, especially for eternity. I'm speaking of believers here! If we were really preparing for eternity, our lives would be filled and shaped by the Lord Jesus. We would be taking in His constant direction and mind set.
On December 26, 2004 the world stood is horror as the videos were shown of the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. People living ordinary, comfortable lives were suddenly swept to their end of life on this earth. It was estimated that over a quarter million people died in the rampaging waters and the devastation that followed. Entire island populations and coastal villages were wiped out. But there was one thing that escaped the mentioning in the news media. The Morgan sea gypsies are small tribe of fisherman who spend much of their time on their boats fishing between India, Indonesia and Thailand. Every December between the fishing seasons, they live in small thatch huts on the beaches of Thailand. They were in the direct path of this tsunami and its destruction yet every single member of this tribe survived! Why? The tribal chief explained that their forefathers had always warned them that if the water recedes quickly, they would appear just as quickly in a larger quantity. When the sea suddenly drained away, many of the neighboring people ran to the beach with baskets picking up stranded fish but not the Morgan sea gypsies! The chief ordered his tribe up to the mountains quickly and they were spared.
As you think about this, we sit in assemblies of worship to the Lord, singing our songs, taking the Supper and listening to a message from God, then returning to our daily routines like we have tomorrow in our pockets. What do you think happens to us upon our leaving this earth? What happened to all those swept away in the tsunami or other disaster? Where do you think we (or they) arrive? Is it business as usual? Eternity should get all our attention to prepare each day! We are headed somewhere and it's not the grave....IT'S ETERNITY! Forever, set, nothing to change, life will continue as it is wherever you reside. No more prayers, no opportunity to worship, no reading Scripture, no more decisions or faith exercised just life in death or in God. The question is: Do we believe it?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Radio Program?"

We have begun our third year into our one minute daily radio program. It's kind of amazing to me. I just recorded my 568th recording! People never will know unless I tell them but it is one of the most difficult things I have found to speak for 56 seconds (4 seconds for the intro) and make a lesson application for a vast listening audience. I record on most Monday mornings and it takes about 2 hours to record 10 one minute spots. To get the timing, editing and all takes a while but it is something that has been good for me. It has taught me to use less wording and get to a point, something we preachers need to learn (or maybe just me)!!
The Lord has blessed this in many ways. People have called and thanked us for the program. I have been offered money to keep it going (which I turned down). I have heard from agnostics, people with broken marriages and shattered lives, evolutionists, atheists, people in drug rehab and various types of counseling and the list goes on as my mind can't remember all. People from our area come to the worship service and it has opened up doors for us. Just this week I had a fellow who is in the Army came by to speak. He was just filled with anger at situations in his life. He said he felt like he would explode and the other night he scared himself. As he was home with his wife and walked into his bedroom, his mind was racing about some situations and suddenly, he ran his fist through the wall. That next day the program was addressing anger from God's word and he heard it. He listens every day according to him but that day, it hit his heart and he said he had to come and talk. As we began talking I was pointing out some answers from the word of God. It was revealed he had never read God's word. The next step was to give him a Bible and I wrote down some verses for him to get started. As he left my office, he asked if he could come back and talk again. I asked if he would like to study to which he replied it would be better than the road he was presently on. He continued to share that for the first time in a long time he felt some relief and found some hope.
We need to always know it is never us. Everything is about God and His power to draw people and transform lives. We are just the disciple, the servant not the power. It makes me think how little things can reap such a result. Too many times we think it is us and take credit for something. Books are written on church growth and how to do it. I just shake my head and remember the word of the Lord as spoken through His apostle Paul: "So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." Just serve and let's leave whatever God desires in His hands. There is no formula and it's not by our abilites, only God!!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"A Great Tragedy"

It's one of those mornings as I begin thinking of those to remember in prayer to bring before God. I began jotting names and needs and it started hitting me. People that come to my mind, whom I have tried to reach out to have chosen on their own accord, with their full heart acceptance to walk away from the Lord. It is disturbing and puzzling why people would want to throw away their confidence in Christ, push Him aside and walk over the top of Him as if He does not exist or hold their eternal destiny in His hand.
Yesterday I was speaking with a preacher from another area and he was telling me about those who had left where he preached. His words hit me as he said we need to get them back to church so they could encourage us and we could encourage them. I know what he meant but it seemed the point is missed. Back to church? Is that what they need to do, just come back to church for encouraging and being encouraged? That too troubled my heart but I guess as I get older a lot of things that I never thought about trouble my heart.
People don't need to come back to the assembly (that's what back to church really is about). The church is the assembly of the saved! Saved people assemble. Unsaved people have no drive within the heart to assemble with the saved to worship God. It is all about a relationship to the Lord. People that walk away walk away from the Lord, not the church! You get them to put their faith in Jesus and Him alone and they will be back to assemble with the saints to express thanks to God for their salvation! The unsaved feel out of place worshiping God with the saved. There is no relationship and all they have within their heart is gloom and doom, nothing to praise the Lord and be thankful for. They have no relationship with the Lord so they have no relationship with those who love the Lord. Too many times we are trying to make it more social than spiritual.
Here I sit, looking at names of those who have chosen to leave the Lord. In each case as I think of them, every single one of them is greatly strained in their life and conscience. I know for a fact as I have personally spoken with them. They know what they are doing and where they stand. It is a terrible tragedy that people choose eternal lostness but it is a greater tragedy when those who walk away believe they have no alternative!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"The Clean Conscience"

What is the value of a clear conscience? Think about that. What is the burden of a guilty conscience? Haven't we done something to which we were so ashamed and didn't want anyone to find out? How were we going to get out of the situation? To tell someone? Will they think little of me? A lot of questions and the conscience screams.
How could the apostle Paul, who had members of Christ's body imprisoned or killed and yet he could stand before God's people, looking them in their eyes without blinking in shame after his conversion, speaking to them about the Christ and Savior? It was due to a clear conscience. Paul had grasped hold of the blood of Christ and that blood had cleansed his conscience so he could serve the living God (Heb. 9:14). The blood of Jesus grasped in a heart of faith will cleanse the conscience.
I remember of many things in my past that were horrible but one thing in particular stands out. When I was a teen, eighteen to be exact, one of the deacons was teaching our bible class. I wasn't about to pay attention and showed no respect. Without the details, let's just say when the man asked me to leave and I refused, he tried to escort me out of the class to which I pushed him away causing an awful ruckus! I've never forgotten that. A few years back I was given the opportunity to go to my home congregation and preach. After the worship, this man came walking up to me and said, "I never thought you would amount to anything. Do you remember when..." Yep! I remembered it well but I looked him in the eyes and said, "Aren't we thankful for the blood of Christ?" With a big smile and a warm handshake, he then gave me the biggest hug and said, "Thanks be to God!"
The conscience is so important to be kept clean. Peter said that we are to "keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame." (I Pet. 3:16) Doing right in your behavior is what a good conscience is all about. Doing wrong in your behavior keeps one running and moving away from things that remind them of their failure. Seeing the reality of the blood of Christ keeps your behavior intact, even though someone might try to slander your name or reputation, your behavior has been above the board and your conscience knows that. Take Jacob when as a young man deceived his twin brother in regard to the family inheritance. He tricked his own father a few years later, cheating his brother our of further blessings. Twenty years went by and he was going to face his brother and was scared witless! If Jacob had lived with upright behavior, there would have been no reason to fear!
Until the conscience is cleansed by the blood of Christ, there will be little service to the Lord. The conscience is powerful and dwells deep within us and that's where the Lord does His work. People that are guilty in conscience spend more time in shame and guilt and little service. When they do serve the Lord, it is out of that guilt trying to makeup for their failure. When a certain issue comes up, they immediately avoid it because it brings back such shame to the memory. There is no freedom until the conscience is cleansed and once that happens, the service to the Lord speaks and you can face people and situations without regrets!

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Holy Is Different"

When you hear the word "holy" or "holiness", what comes to your mind? Holiness speaks of "difference and separation not the sameness." God is revealed as a holy God because He is like no other. His power, glory, purity and majesty separate Him from all else that exists! We can hear God speak in Isaiah 46:5: "To whom would you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we would be alike?"
Peter speaks of those who have been called into a relationship with the Lord that His holiness is who they are (I Pet. 1:15-16). We have been invested with "difference!" We have been called out of the common and ordinary use, service or status and have been separated to God and to His purposes. That is a divine calling that makes us holy!
When God claims a section, a piece of ground it becomes holy and it will be entered or walked upon under holy conditions! If it is a place in the desert with a burning bush, the worshiper must remove their shoes and approach. If it is on a mountain, it will be roped off and transgressors warned, even to the animals. If it is a table, candlestick or other utensils, they will be used ONLY for the service as instructed by God who makes them holy. If it is money or other gifts, it will be used solely to promote the glory and purposes of God.
God is holy and that is who He is by just being Himself! When we were called into union with Him through Jesus, we should no longer be the same. Our lives will be marked out and will be made visible in our worship and patterns of behavior. Having been made holy, we can longer be the same as the rest of the common man. Since we have embraced as Father the One who judges the lives of people in His righteousness and holiness, we are to live our lives in reverent fear.
The Hebrew writer reminds us that we are holy and share in that holy, heavenly calling. This holy God disciplines us so we may share in His holiness (Heb. 12:10) and calls us to pursue holiness if we wish to see Him (Heb. 12:14). Paul urged the Corinthian brethren to clean out the "leaven" from their assembly that they might become who they were called "unleaven". We are not only called from something but to Someone that is different and our lives should reflect that.