Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Why We Assemble"

  Why do you "go to church" or not "go to church"? I use that expression because that's how the majority see what they do. They "go to church". Rather wouldn't it be better if we could grasp and think of ourselves as the "assembly"? Why do you "assemble"?
  Why do people NOT want to "assemble" to worship the Lord? That might put things in a better focus. I am gaining some insight both to myself and others in respect to this. Here is what I am discovering as I continue my studies of God's word. Lousy sermons, lousy in content, lousy in relevance, lousy from the lack of true study can be some of the reasons people do not want to "assemble" to worship God. Say what you will but people, even the good hearted people get tired of hearing "one more time" the same worn-out lessons, the same worn-out denunciations while using some kind of trivia to amuse. It truly has drastic effects on the heart.
  Some have no desire to "assemble" to worship God because of the dishonorable lives some of the brethren demonstrate and people know it! I know it is ridiculous sounding but the hypocrisy demonstrated does have a profound effect on some. They are weak and childish and have never taken an opportunity to grow so this becomes their cry. It's like going to a recital in which the someone butchers Beethoven and we walk away saying we are done with music! That doesn't make a lot of sense does it? Yet there are those who lean heavily on this defense. Yes, I have personally known preachers do things against God and His word, or someone was taking out of the offering for their personal use or different ones commit adultery but that doesn't mean the majority are like that and that Jesus is real to most of His followers.
  Some won't go because they feel the "assembly" is unfriendly or have little cliques. I must say, this is sometimes the sad truth. However, we must not put too much weight on this type of "assembly" worship. People sometimes have no awareness of how they make others isolated rather than being part of God's "assembly".
  Finally, some won't "assemble" to worship God because they simply have not and will not submit their lives to Christ. They know that's what they will be called to do if they "assemble" to worship. They will be confronted by God and they have no will to submit. That is spiritual suicide.
  Many do "assemble" to worship without fail wanting their lives to express their love and devotion to the God who bought them. Yes, there are some there who are there for a boyfriend or girlfriend or maybe establish business contacts and the like, but the majority are there for one main reason. THEY WANT TO WORSHIP GOD! Simply put: no matter what excuses anyone uses, the saved desire to worship God with God's people. The rest have their unspiritual reasons. What's your reason?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Sacrifces That Please"

  As we read about the animal sacrifices in the OT it is interesting to find that many times the Hebrew people were offering the sacrifices as God wanted but were still rejected. Places like Isaiah 1 where the people were offering their worship in sacrifices but God plainly stated He takes no pleasure in them (Isa. 1:10-15). In fact, not only was their worship in these sacrifices worthless, their prayers were an abomination! What? An abomination? That's how God saw them. How could God feel that way about those who are worshiping His name?
  There seemed to be something greatly missing. Could it be we too are missing the same thing today? What is missing? God never accepted a sacrifice without a true and honest heart! The people thought it was about showing up with some sacrifice. God wanted a heart, a life of honesty and truth!
  In Psa. 50, the psalmist speaks God's heart in verses 7-14. It comes in this form: "Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God." What a statement we need to remember. God was not against their sacrifices as He had seen plenty of those from the people. The sacrifices were not lacking! Just as today,  while we don't offer animal sacrifices but there are those who are together at every opportunity and the Lord has seen it plenty from some of us. What's the issue? Their (our) heart!!! God wanted a sacrifice that had meaning from the worshipers heart. God wanted from the people loving gratitude, faithfulness and people that kept their word!! Offer sacrifices that are truly thankful. Offer to God what you vow, keeping your word!
  We turn to Psa. 51 and find David speaking that God wants a person that has truth within their innermost (51:6). God wants sacrifices from hearts that are pure and clean, not tainted with sinful attitudes or deceitful (51:10). Then David concludes that what sacrifice God really wants is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (51:17). It's all about the heart of the worshiper! If the sacrifices offered did not come representing the worshipers heart, it was an abomination in God's sight! Even God made it clear to King Saul that it was obedience of the heart the Lord wanted and without that there would be no acceptance of a sacrifice (I Sam. 15).
  For us today, to sing without heart meaning what words we sing to His name (the words should reflect our hearts), to pray without a heart of thankfulness, even in the difficulties, to feast at the Lord's table without a heart reflecting on the offering of Jesus of forgiving me as I forgive my brother/sister as I have been forgiven, it is bringing condemnation upon us (I Cor. 11:28-29). How many times do we worship God and just mouth some words but our hearts are not engaged? How many times do we come together to worship just because it's the thing to do and not consider our hearts? How many times do we give our sacrifice offering by just tossing some money in a basket without any heart? And God asks, "Should I honor this?" Should He be pleased with us? Sacrifice, worship without heart is an abomination in the eyes of God. And speaking of Jesus offering of Himself to God as our atoning sacrifice: "After saying above, 'Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, not have You taken pleasure in them' (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, 'Behold, I have come to do Your will.' "(Heb. 10:8-9) Jesus had a heart to do the will of God. And God saw His heart and was well pleased. What are we doing with our sacrifices we offer to God? Are they from the heart or from habit?

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Self Denial"

  It is one of the most difficult things to do but it leads to the biggest gain in ones life. It's called self-denial! It's called surrender! Jesus knew of the need in  man as three times He speaks that one needs to deny themselves if they were going to be His disciple. In fact, one CANNOT be His disciple without it! It's impossible. We speak of hope and forgiveness and they are too are bound up in Jesus but the surrendering of self to Jesus, it is when hope an forgiveness are truly found.
  Self-denial is nothing more than dethroning yourself as Lord, moving away from what you want, and giving the Lord access to change you from within. Self-denial is the choosing Jesus as Lord and dethroning ourselves. Self-denial is that inner resolve that I willingly give Him the right over my thoughts and will. Self-denial is where you stop elevating you and pursuing your will. Self-denial is where "He Himself will come to have first place in everything." (Col. 2:18) Everything!
  Self-denial is treating parents with the respect the Lord asks! Self-denial is about forgiving ANY hurts and letting them go for His name sake, not allowing the mind the dwell on them. Self-denial is about looking for opportunities to help His body move toward Him in your service. Self-denial is about becoming conformed to His image.
  One thing Jesus makes clear about self-denial, it is what leads to life! "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."  (Matt. 16:25) We just don't believe it. We talk about it, quote the verses but believing it is another story. It's difficult because the older we get, the more we love serving ourselves, being in control of our lives. But then, that's where the hardness of heart begins to set in and our ways become stubborn. Self-denial keeps one tender and their heart is for the Lord and no other. It leads us into true life.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


  Time is an element that God created used to control man. We speak often how quickly time flies and the older we get the more it rings in our ears. Look around at the new born babies. They attract our attention and we love babies because for those few moments they take us into a realm of innocence and purity. They grow into little children and we are simply amazed  with the simplicity how they view life. No wonder Jesus used a child to show they are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:1-3). The children move into adolescence and there we start seeing their first conflicts arise. Attitudes start to change and it leaves us wondering what happened. They grow and leave home and find themselves on their own, making their own decisions. Concern stays in the heart of the parents for their well-being and safety. They are completely out of your control. Marriage follows and families of their own. We sit and reflect. Time has taken us into another realm of life but that life is fading quickly.
  David saw it. "Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow." (Psa. 144:4) James reminds us, "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."  (Jam. 4:14)
  What does time speak? God uses it to tell us that we are headed somewhere forever. Not for a few passing years but eternity. From the day of our birth, eternity is our destiny! We are controlled presently by time and we are headed to a spiritual realm where time does not exist. You will simply exist like God has always existed. 
  What is God teaching us? What should we be doing presently? "The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil."  (Ecc. 12:13-14)  That child in your care, what are you placing in their heart? Are you teaching them, training them for eternity? That adolescent child, do that see in you that God matters more than anything created? We are all headed for eternity.
  Take a few moments (time) today and look back over this year. What have you surrounded your life with? Have you gained spiritually (for eternity) or earthly? Is your home stronger spiritually (eternally) today than it was a year ago? If your life drawing  nearer to God each passing day? Eternity is right at the door for each of us. We are standing facing entrance to this eternal world and we need to make certain we are using time wisely in preparing. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Do Not Follow People"

  The king of Judah was frozen with fear and it was spreading to the people. Syria and Judah had entered a pack to take down Judah. Assyria, the world power, also was headed their way. Fears from all sides and elements hit them and it was the talk of the people. Everywhere they were talking about what was coming and fear dominated their lives and thinking.
  Isaiah comes along and God, however He did it, spoke with "mighty power" and told Isaiah, "not to walk in the way of this people!"  (Isa. 8:11) God was sending a message to Isaiah that you cannot and must not get carried away by the hysteria of the people and their fear. "And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread."  (Isa. 8:13) If you are going to be in dread of anyone, it is the be the Lord God, the Almighty!
  We look around us and there are so many things that make us fearful today. Health issues, political issues, financial issues and it seems the list is added to daily. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were this 100 foot person, muscles bulging, looking undefeatable coming to us and saying, "Do not fear!"? But we know God is Spirit (John 4:24). All Isaiah had was some word of the Lord and it created within him faith. God speaks telling Isaiah that those who had faith in Him heeding His voice, "He shall become a sanctuary." (Isa. 8:14) For others, the Lord would be of no aid or help.
  Why do many today, who claim faith in God go so easily into a panic mode? I can see that through those faithless and have no clue about God but what about those of us who claim faith in God? I know its not hard to be carried away by some dread or fear when everyone around you is speaking in that tone. People are anxiety-driven, or depressed, or become pathetically shallow when all they pay attention to is fear and dread from some source of man. This should help us see that we as God's people should not follow the way of the populace. It's times of fear and dread that we could do some the best work for the Lord making it crystal clear that He can always be trusted!
  God knows how things look and He is aware of how people react to what they feel and hear when things seem to be flying into pieces. God knows how difficult it is for His children to be easily led into paths away from Him. But that's just it, He doesn't pat us on the back telling us to continue our path. He speaks through His word to us: "Do not follow the way of this people!" Heaven rules! God rules! The question is do we believe it?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Spiritual Malnutrition"

  The appeal for help came as an ad asking for help in those third world countries and their malnutrition. Pictures of children are shown with bloated stomachs and gaunt faces. It pulls at the heart which is exactly what they are trying to do.
  Another ad comes on and it is about the mistreatment of animals and the faces of starving, hurting animals that need our help. Face after face of animals are put in front of our eyes to appeal for help and have some compassion.
  We see shows that show us prisoners of war, especially in Germany in the death camps and we wonder how such men could have ever survived being completely skin and bone. Some look like walking skeletons with skin stretched over their frame. It upsets us to see that man could treat man in this manner allowing people to basically starve to death.
  But then we turn to the malnutrition spiritually. People who each week attend some sort of religious service having no clue why they are there and have nothing to offer. Maybe out of duty or habit but there is little there to feed them and they offer little back. Their lives too are in the state of malnutrition. People seem very unconcerned. "Just as long as you believe, that's all that matters." A host of people march off into eternity believing that lie starving to death.
  The Hebrew writer speaks, " have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food." (Heb. 5:12) We need teaching what the word of the Lord is really about. We don't need psychology, entertaining stories, fun tidbits, moving testimonies and philosophical approaches. We need the word of the Lord. The church is poorly 'nutritioned' in many places and is slipping more and more into the worlds approach. Teachers teaching that know little about what they speak but they are good at saying a lot of words! Preachers preaching that can hold the attention because they are polished but no sustenance from heaven. The Word of God is not upheld and if it is, many times it is used only as a reference. Without the food from heaven, weakness, misguided lives and skinny spiritual bones will begin to be exposed. Division will occur. There will be no standard but all will look the same and think the same. Yes, it is shocking to see ads for help in the lives of people and animals but what if we could look into a mirror on our spiritual side, what would we see? We have that mirror and it's called the Word of God if we would use it honestly and desire the Lord's truth with all our heart.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Where's My Faith?"

  Paul stayed out of the way in his teaching/preaching. He made certain Christ wasn't presented in some 'cleaver' way (I Cor. 1:17). Paul made certain that he (or any other man) was not promoted in the eyes of the hearers (II Cor. 4:5). He made certain that he wasn't just peddling the word of God but spoke in the very sight of God (II Cor. 2:17). Why? So that the hearers faith would not rest on ANY of man's wisdom but on the power of God!! What about us? When we do things for others, do they clearly have their faith looking to the power of God, which is Christ Jesus (I Cor. 1:24), or do they listen to the wisdom that man offers and drawn to man in some form?
  In the church, how many have really placed their faith on the power of God? That power that overcomes and pushes one toward Jesus? How do we know our faith rests on the power of God? I think a few simple illustrations will help. Have you ever been offended because someone in the church didn't shake your hand or speak to you? The offense sets us off and there have been some who claim they would never return because of this. Where is their faith set? What about the one who loaned another some money and they weren't paid back? It ends up that the one owed will not return and sit in the same place where the 'thief' sits in their hypocrisy. Where is their faith set? What does that have to do with Jesus?
  If our faith is set on the power of God, Jesus and Him crucified, how did Jesus treat those who harmed Him? How did Jesus respond to those who were hypocritical and betrayed Him (as seen in Judas)? There is where faith in the power of God begins to present itself. Faith on the wisdom of men will divide, be offended and not return! Faith in the power of God brings one forward, moving ever so closely to helping. Faith in the wisdom of men will divide while faith in the power of God gives one the power and ability to reach beyond man and act like Christ, even to those who have offended. Faith in the power of God helps people toward salvation. Faith in the power of God will love (sacrificially) those who have hurt us and offended us. Faith in the power of God seeks the unity of the faith. Faith in the wisdom of men, well, man's wisdom killed the Lord Jesus (I Cor. 2:8) and man's wisdom will always lead one into confusion and selfish-ambition (Jam. 3:14-16). Faith in the power of God does not complain and grumble but knows God is working even when things don't go our way. Where does your faith rest?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Give In To The World?"

  Here was the nation of God's people facing a major problem that another nation has promised to either destroy all the people or they could surrender and they would have peace and be spared. Look at their track record. So far there has not been one nation able to stand against this brutal nation and you will be no different. Isaiah, the prophet of God, assures God's people that God is with them. God speaks: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!" (Isa. 43:1)
  When we hear God speak of such in the midst of a difficulty, do we trust Him? Where is our faith in His promise and attachment to us? That would make a great song for a Sunday assembly, wouldn't you say? That would make a great sermon at a lectureship filled with those wanting to hear lessons. But what about the wife whose husband has walked out leaving her with three kids and a lives to set in order? What are they to do with such? What about the one brutalized during a camp at Auschwitz? What are they to do with such? How is the one to cope with that lost child in an accident?
  Yet here we have God speaking to His people to give assurance that all would be well. Isaiah speaks many times for God in ways above yet they don't seem to do much for us (and it didn't do much for them). We read that in Christ, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  (Rom. 8:28) What are we to do with that when our lives are broken by a lost job, lost home and no direction on what to do? Or that little baby that is sick and is going to die, what are we to do with such words from God? The person(s) going through suffering and loss are to find themselves under the redemptive outworking of God? The answer is yes!
  Jesus faced death. He came to earth for one purpose...a cruel death in order to redeem those who have faith in Him. It cost Him His life so we could have life. He came to die at the cruel hands of man. Too many times our faith never takes us to the big picture, eternity! We look only at the here and now. That's walking by sight. What do many who claim a faith in Jesus do? They give in and sell out what faith they have. Give in to the world, other faiths have! Give in to the world so you won't starve and struggle, that only seems logical! Give in to the world because the whole world is offered before us and there are wonderful things to be gained! Give in to the world because you can't beat it so you might as well join it! That's what many do and we preach many times in our psychology filled lessons.
  Jesus didn't give in to the world, He overcame the world. When we face great obstacles, suffering of any kind and it looks like things are at their bleakest, listen to God. He has our best interest at heart and that interest is redemptive in bringing us close to Him and setting our lives for eternity! Just as God was committed to His redeemed people in the past, He is just as committed to us today. God had this all written down to show His faithfulness and purpose. Faith grasps that and will not give in to the world!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Holy Behavior"

  Why don't we know much about the holiness of God? Peter speaks to the Christian that "like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior." (I Pet. 2:15) Holy behavior. What comes to your mind? Perfection? That's where most go when speaking of holiness.
  God is holy, the Holy One. Anyone who claims to stand in relationship to Him should have in their heart holy behavior. David speaks in Psalm 15 asking who may stand in the presence of God, dwell on His holy hill? The answer: those who walk (live) with integrity. A person of integrity is concerned for right and wrong and what is true. They speak truth in their heart. Read the Psalm and you will see those who may stand in God's presence.
  But holiness reaches even further. At the heart of a person of integrity (and God) we find discernment. They distinguish between what is common and what is not common. All mankind is common, made the same. But those who have come to Jesus, finding their sins wiped away, given a new self made in the likeness of God, they are no longer common. They belong to God and they know it! They know others who stand in this same relationship are not common either. They treat the church as God's holy ground. It has an effect on their attitude, their actions and speech. They live a life of holy behavior.
  Many wonder how to attain that kind of holiness. Look to Jesus! Jesus is the holiness of God in the form of man. He lived with God, for God, desired God's truth and lived by that truth. That's not common! That's holiness. When we find that God desires us to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29) then there has to be the power and ability to attain to that or God lied. The problem lay is most do not put forth any effort to come to know Jesus. They only want to know facts. It becomes a life of head knowledge rather than a life of holy behavior. Holy behavior has discernment at its core. Many cannot discern what is proper and improper. They can when it comes to BIG sins or issues but no discernment in living their lives and what they involve themselves in.
  Here we find ourselves first, presenting ourselves back to God because of His mercy toward us. Show yourself alive to God by offering your whole being back to God as a living and holy sacrifice. Your body, you life is no longer common ground. It's God's ground! Here is where many fail. If there is no offering back, there will be no progress from this point. Integrity will not mean much. There will be little discernment. The result? No transformation into the image of Jesus because the mind is not being renewed from His word. We will at best hit and miss on being holy in our behavior. The bottom line is holiness is found in Jesus which should be found in us who claim Him!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Don't Shut God Out"

  It comes from a lot of different things that happen in our lives. I'm speaking of bitterness. When one becomes bitter about something, that bitterness makes it way into the heart and as long as that bitterness resides there, it skews the way we look at everything and everyone from that point. All our assessments and the way we deal with others are seen through bitter eyes.
  Someone feels slighted by an individual or the elders didn't take my needs into account or didn't do something the way I thought it should have been done. The stage is set. Choices will be made and we choose bitter! The heart is tainted and through those bitter eyes we begin to make our assessments about that individual and the situation. It might not be expressed at first but eventually it will. Another situation arises and the bitterness from the past arises in the heart. We begin to express our dissatisfaction of the present and then suddenly, the past bitterness that has settled in the heart begins to flow out of the mouth. We begin speaking about this injustice that we believe was perpetrated upon us. Angers flare and the more we speak, things continue to spiral downward. This is the reason that bitterness will cost your soul!
  The Hebrew writer speaks that bitterness is the one thing that will make one come short of God's grace (Heb. 12:15). Bitterness allowed to fester in the heart will stop God's grace toward you and leave you alone in your bitterness. Then that bitterness begins to defile and cause trouble, many times upon the innocent because you want them to hear. One act of bitterness and the defilement has spread to others. That's the way it works. Bitterness shuts out God! We are left with our own misery and powerless!! The situation that made us bitter now begins to be rearranged in the mind and heart to justify our actions and attitudes. It is to make us feel better about being bitter but in reality, it shuts God out!
  No wonder God calls us to put away all bitterness and wrath, all anger and clamor (railing against another), all slander and malice. (Eph. 4:31) Instead we are to be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving just as God HAS forgiven us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 4:32) If you are forgiven from the Lord, what should your heart embrace? If you aren't forgiven, what will your heart embrace? Why is this so important? So the grace of God toward your life won't be shut out! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Job and Us"

  Job is a wonderful book that many refer to when suffering unjustly. But what about this book and the man Job? It's easy to say we think of Job but do we really realize how he went about things? Do we go about suffering the same way? How many times do we say, "'Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips." (Job 2:10)
  When Job was put on the spot by Elihu, God stepped to the front and answered Job. What a frightening experience it must have been for God to answer Job from a whirlwind and then a storm. How did God sound? I don't know. But this we do know, God exposed Job's ignorance about this world by asking questions that Job had no clue about. Even more, God did not explain anything! It makes us think that when God steps in a suffering life, God exposes our ignorance and asks us to if we are qualified to challenge the righteous God governing this world. Job heard the Lord loud and clear.
  Job railed at God in responding to his friends. Job wanted a face to face with God and he got it. It was more of calling God into account and demanding the Lord of heaven and earth give an account to 'dust' made man! Job was putting God under his beckoning call and control, or at least he thought so.
  God stepped in, making Job tremble and asked Job unanswerable questions. God did not approach Job in a quiet hour, putting His arm around Job's shoulders, patting him gently saying, "There, there now. Do you feel a little better? It will all be alright!" No, God pointed out to Job that the human world is filled with creatures beyond the control of man! Not only is there a world of creatures beyond man's control there is also 'wild' humans that man cannot control! And man wants to try to govern God? Man wants to try to figure God out or demand of God answers as to why things are the way they are in our lives? What do we learn? When suffering in this life, we need to realize that we too are in the presence of the Lord God Almighty! He is aware of every hurt and question that comes into our feeble minds. It's then we need to realize we're ignorant, powerless and need to be humble before the Lord. It's not about figuring things out or demanding answers. It's about submission to Him who is above all, controls all and just one word from His lips will change everything. Above all, we need to remember since Christ our Lord has come, we have more reason than ever to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to lean on our own understanding! Somewhere we must put faith in "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance." (Jam. 1:2-3) Yes, as sovereign Lord, God can govern this world any way He sees fit and we need to trustingly bow before His righteousness in our suffering knowing that Jesus is still ours in the midst of the trial.