Monday, November 25, 2013

"A Brief on Love"

  Too many times we associate the wrath of God with loveless, don't we? When God's wrath is kindled against the sinfulness of man, is that the absence of love? God is love (I John 4:7-8). God can never act loveless. The wrath of God is the form of love when He must chastise man! Just think about your own children. When they did things that were sinful and destructive to their lives or harm of others, did you chastise them because you were loveless? No! The chastising was your love for them to get their attention so they would change their attitude and heart. And so it is with God.
  If we keep defining love as all embracing and never correcting, we have a very distorted view of love. We will have a distorted view of God! Didn't we learn that love never rejoices in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth (I Cor. 13:6)? Love always goes after righteousness. When it comes to brethren, sometimes we must chastise them if the continue in their walk of rebellion or godless behavior. Sometimes my brother or sister might want to revile others in the church. That must be stopped for the sake of love! It involves all. Sometimes a brother or sister might be a swindler or a coveter. Love deals with that. Too many in the church seem to think that we can't say or do anything against anyone because we don't want to hurt them or get them upset! Love is concerned for the eternal destiny! Love moves to chastisement to help them turn away from whatever it is they are practicing.
  We need to stop making love out as some sort of 'touchy, feely' embrace that we all get along while turning our eyes away from the practice of sin. After all, if we correct someone and they are such workers in the church and that's the basis on which they are right with God, what does that reveal about our understanding of love? What does that say in our understanding of God?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"God Confronts"

  It's hard to imagine that God 'hungers' to be in fellowship with us. We see it from the beginning of creation, to the building of a tabernacle in the presence of Israel while they wandered in the wilderness. We see it especially clear in the Lord Christ Jesus as our offering.
  But in all this, there is another message sent to man. In the garden, when man sinned, one cannot have fellowship with a holy God while in sin. Man was sent away from His presence because of sin. In the tabernacle, while God dwelt among them, there were two veils that stood between man and God to indicate that sinful man cannot stroll into the presence of God. Man has no right to do so. This separation was a reminder that fellowship with God was a gift, not a right! And we come to Jesus. The death of Jesus is a reminder that He alone stands between us and God because of our sins. We have no right on our own to approach God. Jesus is God's gift! Yet many today think they have this right to approach God, do things as they please, with their own concepts and teachings and God is thrilled. People like this never understand the holiness or the love of God.
  God takes sin, our sin seriously. What seems to be missing in our teaching/preaching is people are no longer confronted by God in our sinfulness. Congregations fight and quarrel about who knows what. God wants to confront us because that is wrong. People are offended because of this or that. Rather than try to heal and remove the barriers, they gossip and slander behind backs while God is trying to confront us in our sins that if this continues, you will lose it all! Our sins are 'homegrown'! In other words, we are the cause and no one else.
  What are we to do? Not forgive yourself, that's for sure!! We have no capability to do that. God confronts us in our sins to humble our hearts before Him that if we are to make any progress spiritually, it will be by His help, not ours! God looks for humble and contrite hearts and those who tremble at His word (Isa. 66:2). Too many are self-righteous, thinking they are self-made. God speaks that we must be willing to confess and reach for His forgiveness, moving us away from our self-destructive attitudes and responding to His grace for us in Christ Jesus. In all, God will not allow anyone to wallow in their sin and have fellowship with Him. It just won't happen. We must be willing to listen, heed and respond from the heart so God can do the work in our lives that shape us into the image of His Son. God confronting us in our sins is not to push us away but a life-giving way to bring us into His holy presence, with a holy sacrifice creating a holy life knowing it isn't us, it's all Him!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"My Thoughts On Shrinking"

  Yesterday I was sent a link to look at a blog titled: "Why Are Churches of Christ Shrinking?" I was asked to give my thoughts on the article. Sometimes things like this are of little value because there will always be a debate about which is right and wrong. Saying that, I will say little but give a brief thought from my view because I was asked.
  In the article it concludes by giving what needs to be done differently in order to reach people. Basically the writer of this blog tells people that we need to be more consumer friendly. Use videos, a three projection screen, dim the lights, use testimonials, making preaching/teaching applicable and culturally relevant, use music before worship, engage body, soul mind in worship, and emphasize community. These were the conclusions on how to start the path to growth. There are several more parts to the series that I did not read but let me make one observance both from what I read and through my many travels and speaking engagements.
  Too much of the conclusion sounds like becoming "world" friendly to me. That's just my thinking. I'm not trying to tear down the writer, please understand that. To become more like the standard of those around is not the way to go about things. The Lord speaks that we are to be converted to Him which means there must be a change in heart and mind. The Lord calls everyone to repentance which points to a changed heart and mind of people. We are not a people with a few minor flaws. We are sinful, steeped in our lusts. The Lord is calling us into fellowship with Him and trying to get us to drop our lusts. That's why when one is immersed into Christ Jesus, not only are their sins washed away but they are to put on a new self, "which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Eph. 4:24) A new self. That's what everyone needs and only in Christ can that come about. It's not about catering to the lost around, no matter what kind of experience the younger are looking for. The Lord calls us to change by the power of God and not some cultural calling or change. If anyone is going to be saved, it will be by being transformed and not conforming (Rom. 12:2). This is why growth is stopping. The message is no longer being preached or many don't know what message to preach so that makes us gear to being consumer friendly. Paul went into a Gentile world steeped in all sorts of worship experiences and idols but he had a message and didn't adjust to them but called man adjusts to God if they were to be saved.
  There is another side to this. You have those who that all they want to do is keep preaching/teaching the same old stuff that could not and did not create faith in the Lord. It was called defending the faith when all it was doing was making people dull in hearing. The legalistic side of working your way to the Lord and a relationship with Him. The legalistic side of music and why we are right and everyone else is wrong. This too is just as bad and is killing the Lord's church is many areas.
  Here is a great example of what I am saying. A preacher came and asked me how we continue to grow and what I preach after being in a place so long. I said Jesus and Him crucified. There's the power! He said he would start doing that. About 3 months later, he came back to me and said he had exhausted all the lessons on Jesus and Him crucified. Right there told me that he had no clue what that means. The word from beginning to end is about Jesus and Him crucified. I haven't stopped preaching the cross for the 21 years I have been here!
  My take, for whatever it is worth. We have lost sight of the Lord Jesus Christ! We have no message for the lost. We have no confronting our sins and sinfulness. Our preaching/teaching are not about creating faith, but stories and things that cannot help. We spout psychology, encourage to think like the world in what we embrace and believe. When I opened God's word this morning, it still said the gospel is God's power to save everyone who believes it! (Rom. 1:16) It was Paul who spoke to the church at Corinth that had wandered away that he wanted to know nothing, nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (I Cor. 2:2). If the gospel is God's power to save, and we are shrinking, maybe we have moved from His powerful message?

Monday, November 18, 2013

"God's Word"

  The prophets claimed over and over that God gave them words to speak and write. Just read Isaiah and Jeremiah. When John came on the scene, he proclaimed that the word given to the prophets must be fulfilled. Jesus came speaking that the written word of the prophets MUST be fulfilled (Luke 24:25). The apostle Peter stated plainly that all the prophecy of Scripture didn't originate with their own personal interpretation of the spiritual and moral situation in the world. They wrote and spoke because they were moved by the Holy Spirit speaking from God (II Pet. 1:20-21) Paul informed Timothy that the OT Scriptures were "God-breathed" (II Tim. 3:16). Paul spoke to the Corinthians that the word they spoke were Spirit given (I Cor. 2:13). Peter said the same (I Pet. 1:12). The central point in all this for man is: God's sovereignty and man's submission if anyone is to be saved. In order for man to get the message, each situation was approached from God's word to give the hearer the best opportunity to accept these God inspired messages.
  The Samaritan woman was wanting to know where to worship and Jesus had to show her location wasn't the issue in worshiping God (John 4:20-22). Jesus made it clear that true and acceptable worship is not orchestrated but involves truth and spirit (from within the person). That's the spoken word of God!
  The scribes and Pharisees had to be more direct from God's word. Jesus used plain and straight-forward words of God to show how they had become so corrupt in their attitude and approach to the word of God and their blindness couldn't see anything else but what they wanted to see and teach. Jesus was teaching these "church-goers" that they needed to be warned because their heart had corrupted themselves that straight-forward is the only way to try to help them see their destiny.
  The lady was caught in adultery (John 8). Jesus took God's word and spoke so tenderly which bewildered the crowd. Jesus spoke God's word patiently with His disciples over and over. Jesus spoke passionately on behalf of those exploiting others (John 2:13-17). But no matter how God's word was conveyed for the need of the moment, it was always truthful and not manipulated. What do you learn from all this? I'll let you apply it today for  your need in your life!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


  Sometimes we hear words and we have an image that comes into mind. For instance, we hear the word "worship" and many think of a building. They associate the two. We hear the word "justice", what would you associate with that? Maybe a court hearing or trial? That's how we mainly use the words. When you hear the word "righteousness", what comes into your mind? That becomes a little more difficult to connect because it's not a word we use often in our language. It is a word that many link with perfection and morals.
  When looking at God and hearing these words, we find that in His "righteousness" we see God's holiness. The holy God is seen in being righteous. In other words, you can count on God doing and acting in ways that are right. We see this thought conveyed in Isa. 5:16. Many times love and righteousness are used together in speaking of God. They seem to be companion words that express the qualities of God and His actions. One example is found in Psa. 36:10. Other words that seem to speak of the character of God and are linked together many times are "truth" and "faithfulness". They stress stability and trustworthiness.
  When one looks closely at Rom. 3:3-7, Paul is laying out the failure of the OT Jewish nation, we find the words of "faithfulness", "truth", "righteousness" and "justice" all revealing the character of God in one section.
  In all these words, we see the character of God and they were revealed openly to man in Christ Jesus! In relationship to Christ, we find God's faithfulness and His being just. Christ is the height of truth and righteous. In all these, our union with Christ has brought these elements of God to us and we need to learn to trust Him and His character no matter what we face in life. We have a running history that God has never been anything less than who He is. Who is He? A God of faithfulness and truth. A God of love and righteousness. A God that of justice in dealing with us. And if we belong to Him, what should be characterizing our lives? "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom. 12:2) Transforming into the character of God, that's what a true child of God becomes!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"It's Not About Winning"

  Winning the arguments! When we are challenged by some notion of false teaching, immediately we want to show and win the argument against such falsehood. But that's just it. It's about winning on our part, or so it seems many times. I'm not saying we shouldn't stand against falsehood. We should and the Lord wants us to. It's the way we stand against it. Sometimes smug and with an attitude above we will win. That's what our flesh wants. Our flesh likes to argue and win the argument. Everything around us in this world tells us to win, win, win!!!
  Several years back, a young preacher stood up in front of the brethren and stated that he was going to have a debate with a denominational preacher over instrumental music in worship. He announced it and was rallying the troops. The things he said "puffed" up many and the time to meet with this was set. I asked one simple question: "If you show where they did not use it in the first century church, and you can, they drop their instruments in worship, are they saved?" His reply was this was a starting point. My next statement was such: "If we got every single denomination to drop their instruments in worship, would that save them?" Silence fell loudly!
  Here's my point. It's about the gospel. Bring people to Jesus and the other things will take care of itself. It's not about winning an argument and making one feel superior. It's about saving. It's all about saving. God is about saving. The power of God for salvation is found in the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and nothing else. Jesus wanted His disciples to preach the gospel. Paul taught Timothy that the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome (II Tim. 2:24). What are we to do? Realize what is at stake in the soul of another. The key in this is God at work, not you or me. Gentleness is needed when people are in opposition because it boils down to one thing and one thing alone: "With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."  (II Tim. 2:25) God must grant repentance!!! We need to help soften their heart with gentleness and not with argument. We need to soften their heart when we correct false notions without blasting them or making them feel inferior. Quarrels create a sense of superiority! Gentleness creates an atmosphere where the heart can soften and allow God to grant the repentance so they can come to their senses (II Tim. 2:26).
  Listen, this is all about God, not us! God calls us to Himself. God is One who brought about salvation through Jesus. God is the One who justifies. Salvation is from God, has always been from God and is always about God. We need to humble ourselves and be willing to allow Him to grant what He grants. We need to make certain we aren't making things more difficult. Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Can You Believe It?"

  Life is difficult at times. Things hit us and overwhelm. To some, the difficulties send them reeling into depths of despair and a sense of hopelessness. What if each day we read from God's word? And let's not read just to be reading thinking we accomplished something. Let's not read to be a daily bible reader so we can raise our hands on Sunday! (Some places do this.) Let's read with a heart of faith and conviction by responding to what we read. Accept and move in the direction of what you read. Here's a great start...
"What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Just as it is written, 'For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." (Rom. 8:28)
  Having a difficult time in your life? Put some faith right here. The Lord speaks loud and clear. Enough said! God's blessings.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"The Sabbath"

  Why the first day of the week to worship God? Why Sunday? We know that it is the day of the week Jesus arose from the dead. But there is more to it.
   God brought about the Sabbath and in His commandments said, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Ex. 20:8) We know that well but listen to the rest: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work...For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Ex. 20:10-11) The seventh day God rested. God took pleasure in His creation and rested in satisfaction. "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen. 1:31) As the Lord Jehovah gave His purpose and instruction, He wanted Israel to enjoy the blessings from Him from six days of their labor and enjoy the seventh as a rest. That seventh day was a reminder that God had provided everything thing they needed that week and there is nothing to be added! It shines as a reminder that man is completely dependent on God and not ourselves.
  We turn to the present. Our society is filled with debts and wanting more. We rush to this and that and all week we work hard to make our way, just to pay for the great debts we have accumulated. We work every hour we can for money. The weekends are filled with more debts of spending and pleasures so we go back the next week to pay for it all. The cycle is killing us. We need the message of a Sabbath rest.
  Jesus arose from the dead. It declared Him as God's Son and  He was raised for our justification (acquitted of the charges of sin). This speaks that we are not self-made or self-maintained. It takes Jesus to bear our sins. It takes God to provide our needs. It takes the promise through Jesus from God that He will provide our EVERY need if we would seek Him first. That first day of the week, that day we call Sunday is a day that we need to learn how to enjoy the blessings that came our way from God. That first day is a day where we need to reflect, praise and honor the One who has brought us into the presence of a holy and righteous God. It takes Jesus to intercede for us, to stand in our place, to sanctify (make us holy) us, to keep us blameless and beyond reproach and assure us of eternal life. We need this day to come in peace and turn loose our thoughts of control, fears of not making it both physically and spiritually. We need to reflect on God, fellowship His Son in His Supper, praise His promises, adore His faithfulness and allow His peace to surround us. While we have lost sight of all this and what it means, we continue our hustle and bustle thinking God needs us! We seem to loose sight that God is our adequacy and Jesus is the ONLY hope we have in this life and especially the life to come. We need this "Sabbath rest" and seem to have forgotten what it means!  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Sin Is About God!"

  It isn't enough that we sin. We turn ourselves into tragic figures in our sin by stating that we feel completely and utterly useless in the sight of God. Some speak in their sin as if they are 'fated' to condemnation. Sin stays with us. We know we do wrong, we want to do better but somehow we think that God will have nothing to do with us, especially if we have sinned the same sin over and over. Our faith starts faltering and we become discouraged. We cannot speak to another because if they ever find out the depth of your sin(s) they would be appalled and not have anything to do with you. There becomes the double edged sword. God won't have me and people won't have me! Doomed for eternity and the guilt just builds and builds one block at a time.
  Why are we this way? Because what sin does to us is make us very self-centered! The more self-centered one becomes the more difficult it becomes to penetrate the heart. Listen, our sins stand between us and God but instead of turning ourselves into this pathetic person (and sometimes we are) we need to be turning to God. It's not about us!! It's about God and His holiness. God is holy and so pure that He cannot look upon sin....BUT....God is also love and He will not allow sin, any sin(s) to stand over us if we want to be rid of it! God doesn't want us wallowing in our weaknesses. God doesn't want us to quit when sin has penetrated into our lives. God wants to come and offer forgiveness through His Son, whom He sent, who sits at His right hand with His own blood, interceding on our behalf! Do you believe that Jesus is your sin bearer? We tire and struggle and sometimes even find ourselves drifting with the current of sin. We might feel like quitting or speak that the Lord would want nothing to do with us! STOP IT! That's what the Lord would speak. Of course we are not worthy of Him but His love won't let us go easily! We might speak the words, "He couldn't want me. Not me!" Why do we keep telling ourselves these lies? Is the only reason we speak such or think such is because we love sin too much?
  God wants us! His holiness will not fellowship sin but His offering for our sins speaks of His love that He will not let you go easily! God will not allow us to walk away with a lie on our lips without trying to get you to stop focusing on you and look, listen to His Son on your behalf. Then we speak, "It's just I can't forgive myself!" That's foolishness and pride on our part!!!! That's nonsense. We speak as if forgiveness lay with us and not with God. Once again, another form of self-centeredness. The holy, righteous and faithful God willingly forgives every speck of unrighteousness when we confess (I John 1:9). But we seem to be more focused on our sin than Him. If you continue to wallow in your sin(s), to feel that He pushes you away, that He would not want you, maybe the real questions needs to be asked: "Why don't you want to be forgiven? Why do you want to remain free from the Lord? Do you enjoy your drifting away from the Lord?"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


  This previous week has been one of the most strangest of weeks I think that I have ever seen. Strangest in the sense of the number of people that passed away in just a few days of each other that effected so many in our own congregation. My wife Resa was one of those who was affected. Her brother passed away and we traveled to Texas for his memorial.
  As I was driving home reflecting, it struck me about our lives and being prepared. It made me ask are we living as if our lives were going to be here forever? Are we living for the now and doing little to prepare for eternity?
  One thing that seems to ring clear from the word of the Lord is being ready! Death can come at any time to anyone. When we are reminded, we know that but why does it take us by such surprise? I understand about the shock of something but where are we placing eternity in the heart and mind of our lives? Every man and woman, every child on this earth, our lives are headed to one event under heaven and that being a date with eternity. Just as we need food and water to sustain us, we need Jesus in our eternal date. We all have the same appointment with death unless Jesus comes before. In knowing this, in believing this, we need to be making preparations for that date. We are told by God that it is appointed for everyone to die once (Heb. 9:27). Yet we live as if this isn't a reality and our lives show it. We play hard and give up spiritual ground to enjoy the temporal passing of pleasures. Families forfeit the souls of their children for the things of this world pushing and prodding them into things that they will soon embrace and love with all their heart while the things of the Lord fall into the background. Truth is not sought and the love of God is not the foremost thing sought. Parents just exist for their children. It's all part of the whole that gets obscured that one day, one day in the near future, we have a date with eternity and there will be only one thing that matters from that point and our lives will be set FOREVER!