Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"We Are New!"

   Listen carefully to God as spoken through His apostle Paul: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (II Cor. 5:17) We are new in Christ! You are a new man! You are a new woman! I am new!
  In Rom. 6:4, we are taught by the Lord that we are raised in baptism with the Lord that we might walk in newness of life. We are daily in newness of life! We are new creatures! That means when you awoke this morning, you are a new wife or a new husband. You are a new mother or new father. You arrive at your work and you are a new employee or a new boss. You are a new friend or a new neighbor. You have been created new in Christ Jesus and today new things have come! Every first day of the week you are new fellowshiping in the blood of the new covenant through the Supper. It's not the outer that matters but the new creation we are in Christ (Gal. 6:15). Our new self is made in the likeness of God and we put him/her on every day!
  What should this do for us? It should tell us to shed and move away from the old of yesterday! Stop the mental games that is old from yesterday. We are new each and every day or at least we should be? Paul said: "I have been crucified withChrist; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Gal. 2:20) Paul was new and he lived in his newness NOW! What about you? Get up and look to Jesus. You are a new creation. Be new today! Let go of the old from yesterday. Renew your mind! Renew your heart today. When someone comes up today and asks you, "Hey, what's new?" Look them in the eyes and say, "I am!!!!" 

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Who Would I Change?"

   Let's give you something to think about in an unusual way. I want you to really think about this for a few moments. Think of those in your life or in the congregation where you attend and if you had the power to change one person, who would you change? Maybe it's a father or mother, a kin-folk or that mean spirited person who always seems to distract people with comments when we assemble to study and worship our God. Who would you like to see changed? Maybe it's the one who is always seeing the negative side no matter how good things are going. What about an elder? A preacher? If you were given the power to change one person, who comes to mind? Do you have someone in mind? Now, write their name down. Go ahead, I'll wait. Take a little piece of paper, or a corner of a notepad or maybe a calendar and jot down their name or initials. Have you done it? Please read no further until you have done this! Look closely at who you put down. What really bothers you about them? Think about them for a few seconds as you read. What kind of changes do they need to make?
  Let's make this a reality. You do have the power to change someone. That someone is you! "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye." (Luke 6:42) Yes, we all have our flaws don't we? We have the power to change one person and it is us! It is easy to see the flaws and mistakes of others but there is something that seems to prevent us from seeing our own. 
  I've sat and listened to people attack others with relentless words. Attacks on the elders, other members, while trying to pull verses to provide them with more ammo. Verses at times used in ways they shouldn't be used trying to make a weakness look like sin. While they sit and condemn, they can't see themselves. They can't see their ungodly disposition. They can't recogize their disdain and hateful attitude. They think themselves as above and right. It's only when we are sincere and serious about our own lives that we can see clearly how to help another with their speck. You will help another, not condemn!! 
  One of the greatest lessons I've learned in all my years of preaching/teaching is to take care of my own heart and faith! I am flawed. God knows that and I am very aware of that. Preaching is about using God's word to effect change in all lives as God intended but it speaks to me as I say the words. I must deal with God too! I expect it to affect my heart first and foremost. The rest God will deal with.
  The next time you find yourself thinking that a congregation would be better if this change or that change would be better in your eyes, you might take a step back and think how you are affecting things with your attitude. What if it is you who needs the greatest change? Welcome to the realm of God where change needs to take place in the church and the blind region that needs to be addressed is...SELF!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"What Kind of Man?"

  It was a great storm. These experienced fishermen had been on rough water before and in many storms but this one was different. They believed they would perish in this one. The men on the boat came and awaking this man Jesus, asking Him to save them (Matt. 8). Jesus did not respond as they had hoped. He pointed out their fear because of a lack of trust in Him. They had little faith and great fear. Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea and the calm ensued. Then came the response from their mouths: "What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" (Matt. 8:27) These were His disciples and they didn't know THE MAN, Jesus Christ. 
  Fear is what allows people to always see the worst in situations. Fear paralyzes. Fear takes our hearts away from looking to Jesus and looking at the present situations we are facing. Fear keeps one from allowing the peace of Christ to rule in the heart. Fear keeps us from allowing Jesus to have the final say in all matters. As our faith grows in Jesus, as we come to know "what kind of man is this", fears begin to leave and trust begins to grow along with assurance.
  The ultimate solution for all our fears are found in I Pet. 3:14-15. The weaker we are the more prone we are to fears and it can be very difficult to overcome. "And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled." (v.14) When the Lord gives us instruction, He expects us to trust and follow. How could the Lord expect such from us? Is this too high to achieve? Here's the reason: "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts..." When fears hit, when people intimidate us we have to make a choice, a faith response to the Lord. Sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart!!! You have to choose who will be your Lord. Either fear, intimidation's of others or the Lord. The disciples allowed their emotions to determine things and their fears ran high. Emotions completely dominated their thinking. Too many today allow their emotions to determine directions and outcomes. The disciples had no clue who was in the boat with them. What about you? When you sanctify (set apart) Christ as Lord in your heart you will begin to settle down. Jesus cares but one must exercise faith on their part for this to take effect. God never complicates matters. He simply waits to see if we have any trusting faith! Little faith, great fears. What kind of man is this? You will determine with your heart.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Hearing and Accepting"

  One of the most difficult things is to hear and accept. Many people hear but they don't accept. The Hebrew writer tells us that Israel of the Old Testament provoked the Lord when they heard (Heb. 3:16). Why? Because the word they heard was not united with faith within them (Heb. 4:2). Simply put, they would not accept!
  I recently received an email from a friend of mine asking me why when you preach people seem to respond so little. I explained it was an acceptance problem. They heard the lesson but accepting it to take effect on the heart is another thing. We can move back to the marvelous day in the beginning of the new covenant in Acts 2, when Peter and those apostles began preaching to the crowd. The majority of those hearers walked away that day, back into their own mind-set of what they want to believe about God but still separated. Those that heard and accepted (received) made a heart change, a commitment by responding (Acts 2:41). The result was a pardon by the Lord and they "continually devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42).
  As parents when we corrected our children, many wonder why you have to tell them over and over the same thing. The question seems to pop-up, "Did you hear me?" Yes, they heard but the real question is will they accept your instruction to effect change in their life?
  How well do you hear and accept? When confronted with the Lord, do you take it to heart by responding to receiving His word? I realize at times there are things difficult to accept but they need to be accepted in order to effect the change we need to have. When Jesus spoke the parable of the sower, the good soil are those who have a heart that the word is sown on and they hear it and accept it which bears fruit (Mark 4:20). Paul speaks of a fleshly, unspiritual person will not accept the things of God and sees them as foolishness (I Cor. 2:14). We can see why there are many varied teachings! The apostle John wrote to the church and a fellow by the name of Diotrephes wanted to rule and would not accept what John wrote from inspiration from God (III John 9). The Lord still speaks today through His word but it seems many hear and fewer seem to accept.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Division or Unity?"

  There are so many questions that can't be answered with explicit instructions from the word of God. Some things are left unexplained and unity can still exist without answering them. We can see it throughout Scripture. When God gave His laws on gleaning, they were told not to reap to the very edges of the field but leave them for the poor (Lev. 19). What constitutes an edge? We are told to honor our father and mother but does that honor mean under all circumstances, believe and do everything we are told to do? Don't covet but where is the line of coveting? There are many things that aren't explained and we are left on our own. I'm not trying to stir any controversy here. I am trying to get us to have a more humble attitude and sincere desire in what we call defending the truth. Baptism, taking of the Supper and such are defined clearly. Maybe we are trying to defend what some call the truth and spend endless hours debating matters that really have no definitive answers?!
  We should always strive for the truth in all matters. We need to be a people of the Book as we seek God's guidance but sometimes there is no definitive truth about certain things. Have we ever thought maybe God wants us to work it out among us in harmony in a spirit of love and unity that honors Him and promotes peace among us? Does God wants us to be maintaining love and united in spirit to follow Him when we don't have clear understanding? Jesus prayed at His Supper establishment over the bread and fruit of the vine. Was He teaching two prayers? He apparently passed one container and they all drank from it. Must we do that? Must we divide over this? Was that the point being made that we permanently bind that as doctrine? In all honesty the holy Scriptures do not answer such for us and we split, argue and debate over these issues.
  We might not be able to agree on everything but we must agree to unite and be together NOW! There are the "non-jugular" matters and we must not be allowed to obliterate one another. What a message we send to the world! Too many are debating issues ceaselessly because they think they are of all importance in defending the truth. Debates continue and verses searched trying to find definitive answers and that's just the problem. There sometimes are none!!! We need to learn to be loving and agreeable when we can't reach an agreement on a view-point that isn't really addressed. There simply seems to be too much about nothing and little about the settled issues. Jesus calls for unity! What do we call for?

Monday, June 11, 2012

"Celebrating Marriage"

  This will be my only post this week. We have a rare opportunity that we are taking advantage of. My parents will be celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary this year! What a blessing. We have made arrangements to get them up to my daughter/son-in-laws home and from there they will be taken to a special place we have arranged for them where all the great grandchildren and ourselves will be joining up with them to spend some time together.
  Marriage is such a blessing when coupled with the Lord! It takes work but the work is not so much toward one another as it is toward the Lord. If a husband/wife would reach out, learning to set their minds on things where Christ is seated, allowing the Lord to transform you into His image, our marriages would be something to behold. There would be NO flirting, no eyes on anyone else, no smooth talkers taking those in and a joy in the home. Made into the likeness of the Lord. Now that's a noble goal. But one thing about it, you can't do it yourself. You only can offer yourself back to the Lord, start the renewal of the mind so the Lord can start transforming you into His image, approving His will in your life which is good acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2). There are no short-cuts to this! There are no "step" programs for this! There are no games or gimmicks to accomplish this! It is simply a heart responding to His mercies and through that offering of yourself back, the Lord begins His work. You see it transform you in your marriage, in your jobs, in raising your children and loving/working in the body of Christ. That's the goal of the Lord. When the mind does not renew, is not set on things above, there will be no transformation and that's why we see so many times many in the body of Christ bring shame to Christ because their marriages are in shambles or ruin. They are no different than the lost, separated people of our world!
  Thanks to my mom and dad for their dedication to one another. I've never known them to waver from that dedication in their marriage. Never once! Thank you my Lord, for allowing them to live long enough to be able to celebrate such a blessing!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What Keeps Us Preaching?

  Over the years I have attended and spoken at a lot of lectureships. Sometimes the speakers were rich in content taking us to the Lord while others were involved in too much dancing and entertaining. At one lectureship, an older gentleman, very humble spoke and afterward I heard so many statements like, "He was so monotone! I would hate to listen to him week after week. There would be no one left coming!" What was sad, he was a man of great spiritual insight and many missed it because they were caught up in man's enthusiasm and methods! There seems to be less and less discernment between fleshly and spiritual. Another sermon, another class, another lecture with information thrown out which most remember the funny stories or illustrations and the rich insight to the word (if it is central) seems to get lost. It makes the honest hearted preacher wonder what good is really being done.
  As I have preached so many, many years it is wonderful to discover there are honest and open hearts that yearn for a nugget from the Lord to build their trust in Him. There is another side also and preachers need to hear: not everyone listening to you teach/preach is longing to hear this sermon and those in the future. I sometimes think preachers think that people like to hear them speak! Sometimes preachers get carried away and on and on they go drowning everyone in nothing. I'm not trying to be rude, just real. 
  What is most important is to keep God at the center, opinions in check and a heart open to allow the Lord to do His work. It's not about being smooth or right on target. It's about God conveying a faith building message through His word. The preacher has presented himself to the Lord and the Lord uses him to build His people. When the word is central, God can speak to the educated and uneducated in the same sermon. God speaks to the young and old. It's not about you! It's about God! It's not about a story or illustration you build around. It's about God! It's not about sugar and spice. It's about God! It's not a history lesson or a written human book. It's about God and God speaks: "Preach the word! Preach MY word!"
  In the end, some will sit bored, waiting until the preacher shuts up, thinking about lunch, ballgames, vacations or who knows what else. That's not the disciples of Jesus and you don't have to worry which ones they are. The Lord knows. In His message you deliver, there are some there, thriving, longing and wanting to hear from the Lord. They aren't moved by your words but His word! God confronts them through His message and they know. These are the true, good-hearted disciples of Jesus and it is those that makes a preacher keep preaching!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Could We Be Missing Something?"

  How well do we really know God? I'm trying to discover greater depths to Him. Too many make shallow comments about God they learned in years gone by, still regurgitating the same stuff over and over while never coming to a greater understanding of His complete character. Was it not Jesus who said that knowing God was eternal life (John 17:3)? Is it not true that those who will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from His presence are those who do not know Him (II Thes. 1:8-9)?
  Our relationship with God is to lead us into His blessings. God wants us blessed through the relationship. How we view God affects our lives, our worship and the world around us! Too many believe the God of holiness and righteousness that punishes sin, that is the God of the Old Testament, not the God and Father of our Savior who loving laid down His life for us. We have too much sugary gooh  in our approach to God and in our society. Was it not Jesus who spoke that if your eye offends, pluck it out (Matt. 18:9)? Or if your hands offend, cut it off? It would be better to enter life with one eye or one hand than both end up in Gehenna (our term hell). That's why Jesus spoke to count the cost before entering a relationship with Him because trouble and pain will come as a result of the relationship. But the Lord wants us to be blessed because of the relationship.
  We create our own messes by not listening to the Lord. We take up our causes in the name of the Lord, whip together some verses to prove our points while ignoring other verses and there we have our GOD. As a result, people suffer because that's not the Father of the Lord Jesus. Just as God's people in the Old Testament ignored His holy and righteous behavior, we too find ourselves at times on that same path. Let's love while turning our heads to sinful behavior. That's not love! That's not God! Love says for those who continue to display sinful attitudes, sinful practices something must be done because that sinfulness will affect the whole! A father hides his sins, is caught and the family suffers. A mother loves the night-life and that family suffers. Preachers/elders practice deceit and wickedness, the church suffers. Didn't we learn anything about God from His dealings with Israel? That's where we come to know God's intentions. And we look at Jesus, listening to Him and through Him see the greatest display of God condemning the self-righteous while upholding the truth at all cost no matter what others thought. That should get our attention that this holy, righteous God who calls us to Himself through Jesus is serious about sinful practices and behavior and listen to ALL His teachings with a heart of humility. Could we be missing something?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Who Are We?"

  It is a sad case these days and times. I've heard it while speaking at different congregations from certain members. They simply want to tell someone, someone outside of their immediate fellowship how disgruntled they are knowing I will be gone in a few days from them. I'm not a threat to their attitude. It is the statement, "If I had another place to worship, I would go!" That's the attitude that seems to prevail more and more these days because many do not even know what they are looking for. It's the elders at fault. It's the preacher at fault. It's this family or that family at fault. Attitudes come to the forefront without speaking a word. You can see it in those who make such statements. They might smile at you or say hello but it is just an empty shell and you can sense it. There is no brotherly warmth. 
  How would you like to be part of the brethren at Corinth? Now they are a lovely congregation. There were quarrels among them (I Cor. 1:11). They were siding with certain men as their followers. They were fleshly, acting like mere men because they had jealousy and strife among them (3:3). They did not recognize they (all of them) were the temple of God. They judged Paul as unfaithful (4:1-5). They had a man practicing openly immorality and did nothing about it. They had court cases against one another making a mockery of the Lord in the eyes of the world. They didn't know what to do about marriage. They were running over the top of one another with their liberties. They claimed Paul and Barbabas could not be supplied financially in their preaching. They were abusing the poor while taking the Supper. They were looking down at those who did not possess spiritual gifts while abusing spiritual gifts. Their assemblies were out of order and frantic. False teaching on the resurrection was happening. Is this where you would want to worship your God? Would you call these your family? What a mess!
  And yet the apostle Paul looked at these tied to Christ and called them the church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus and saints (I Cor. 1:2). That's who they are. Paul called these saints, these holy brothers and sisters, to grow up and start practicing the love of Christ. He called them back to Jesus! He called them to look at their relationship to Christ as they relate to one another.
  Why can't we see that? People who have been in Christ for years, grew up in families in Christ yet here they are wanting to leave for some petty reason or because of some bad attitude. What's worse? They can never receive anything from the Lord because their attitudes won't allow it. Everything is looked at with a smirk, with a heart of disdain and a shallow mind-set. Simply put...they refuse love! If we are looking for that perfect place, you won't find it on this earth. If we are looking AT the Lord with a sincere heart, you love the brethren and help! No one tied to Jesus will ever want others lost. No one!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

"A Thought of Eternity"

  I was reading the words of Jesus about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16). I've read it many times before but something struck me as I was reading the words spoken by Jesus. Something caught my attention about eternity. People wonder about eternity as there is so little that we can grasp in our human comprehension. People wonder if we will recognize one another? People ask where do we go when we die if we are faithful in the Lord? I guess the list of questions continue but I'm not addressing any of these. Something really grabbed my heart.
  The rich man was in Hades upon death. Just a very quick side-note. Lazarus, despite what some are teaching and charts that have been made, is not in Hades. That's not mentioned but we mention it as if it were stated. He is in Abraham's bosom. Abraham is the father of the old covenant. Jesus hasn't died. (Just for those who wonder, Paul said to die is to go be with Jesus (Phil. 1:23) but again, I'm getting us off track to the point!) The rich man is in agony in the flames. Not only agony but torment. How bad was it? If one can be so parched that the request is to take the tip of finger and dip it in water and cool off the tongue, that is major! I know when I have been so thirsty that to dip my finger tip in water would not suffice! This man cried out just for that which tells us how horrible his situation was. What is the depth we miss that Jesus was teaching?
  Here's another thought. It is a place eternally that is set. There is no hope of improvement or possible parole. There is no hope of cooling and ending agony. There is no relief from misery. Why? Because it is a place that God does not reside! When God is absent, hope is absent. Being away from the presence of God brings everything that comes without God. Even in our society, at least God gives His physical blessings to even His enemies with sunshine and rain, His air, the beauty of creation but when eternity is entered, ALL aspects of God are removed in the place of punishment. "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." (II Thes. 1:9) Think of everything that God brings and when you are left completely without God, what is left? What a horrid thought.
  What about you? Rejection of God here will leave you in a place where God's presence is completely removed. Is that what people want? Apparently because people seem more comfortable with enjoying themselves without God now, giving little thought to His will or ways but enjoying His creation and some of His benefits now. That will be taken away one day and Jesus knew it! That's why He died because He fully understood the fate of man and He could not bear the thought of man in eternity, living in a place where God's presence is removed in EVERY aspect. Thank God for Jesus!