Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Remember the Garden"

  It started with stirring of desires by words intended to stir. "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3:5) They ate. A rejection of God's word and a desire to be like God. The result? Uncertainty and fear! This word of the Lord was to help man, keep man on the proper path but it was used against man and death (separation) was the result. This was an act of treachery against God. The very weapon God armed man to use for his good was used to slay! Paul spoke of this same idea in Rom. 7:10-13 of sin using the commandment of God to kill him.
  Not only was there the death that occurred between man and God, from that day man tried to cover their shame and guilt. Man began trying to find someone to blame other than meet God face to face. Has anything changed today? Where there had been joy in the relationship with God, there was fear and heartache. Where there was an intimate walking with God, there was division and shame. Man's unwillingness to listen to God cursed all of creation! Since the death of man had taken place, God sent man back into the world which man was responsible for creating. A world full of thorns, thistles, hardships and the ultimate, man would go back to the dust he was created from.
  From this beginning God took charge to end the death of man, the division and shame. While God's righteous judgment must fall upon man, while sin must be treated with the utmost seriousness, God began His work of the redemption for man. We see it begin by God providing coverings for man as one of the first things. (Gen. 3:21) The same of Christ Jesus. Our Lord gave His life to become the clothing of sinners whose shame needs to be covered (Gal. 3:26-27).
  To this day, we have before us a reminder by seeing the curse this creation has been placed under. It reminds man the loss of glory. It points us back to God to seek His redeeming love through Christ Jesus. Every time you come into shame because of your sins, remember where it started. Every  time you stick your finger with a thorn or weeds must be pulled from your garden, think of the consequences that sin brought into our lives. Every time you feel like hiding because of some disapproved act you and you alone performed, remember the garden. Every funeral you attend remember where it began. But also remember no matter how you feel about the sin(s) you have committed there is a God who seeks you in your shameful hiding place. Not to do you harm, but offer you a covering and restore the relationship through His Son, Jesus Christ the righteous. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Marriage: It Begins With Me"

  Over the many years I have personally witnessed individuals destroy their own marriage. It is a sad case because those who destroy it blame the other and take little responsibility. But that's not the worst. The worst is listening to the Lord has little or no impact on their heart. They will carry out their desires they way they wish no matter what the Lord may call them to do.
  Too many blame their mates in the marriage. When one goes off into sin, they say their mate drove them to do what they did. How ridiculous. All sin is our choice and no one makes another sin. Just read the Genesis account of the garden and fall of man and it is real clear God holds each accountable for their own actions. Let me lay this out clearly: no one, no one, NO ONE causes another to sin. We are drawn into our own desires and want to fulfill those. Take a close look at James 1:13-15.
  How do we keep our marriages strong? First, it begins with me! I must be committed to the Lord in my own heart and follow Him. That means I must deny myself (Matt. 16:24). Secondly, we need to realize just how little is spoken of marriage in the Bible. Think about this. There is not extensive teaching or instruction on having a home where God resides. Why? Because when we dethrone ourselves as Lord and keep Jesus in His rightful place in our lives, the home will be what God intended! When we read of the relationship of husbands/wives mentioned in Eph. 5, we see in actuality the relationship between Christ and the church (5:32). That's the model Paul uses for the home. If husbands would love their wives just as Christ loved the church, what would that do for the home? If wives would submit to their husbands as to the Lord, as the church does to the Lord, what would that do for the home? In all this we see it is a matter of the relationship to the Lord. Throw out the relationship to the Lord and there we will see the product of our own hands. 
  Our homes need to built around the Lord Jesus and nothing else. Too many times people in the home talk a good game but are really self-centered. That's the opposite of love. When individuals are self-centered the only time things go smoothly is when things go their way. The problem with wanting your way will eventually destroy. Love doesn't do that. When people want their way it blocks God's intentions. When people want their way it causes arguments and dissensions (Gal. 5:19-21). When people want their way it ends up dividing, not drawing nearer. When people want their way it will separate you from God and you will find that you have reaped what you have sown.
  Are you truly committed to the Lord with all your heart? Are you willing to do the very best for your mate no matter what? Do you want a stronger marriage and a fulfilling marriage? It's the Lord Jesus we serve, not man and we find that it all beings with me!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Our Heart"

  Jeremiah speaks of the heart of man. "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the result of his deeds."  (17:9-10)
  It's hard for many to believe that their heart is more deceitful and desperately sick. Yet here is God speaking through Jeremiah that's the case. Listen to this in Proverbs: "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered." (28:26) Only a fool trusts in where his hearts leads him. What are we to do? If the Lord is the one who searches the heart (and He does) and tests our minds (and He does) the only thing we need to make certain is our hearts are surrendered to Him. God never intended for us to follow our heart but give it wholly to Him to direct our lives.
  In Luke 18, a ruler came to Jesus inquiring of Him what could he do to inherit eternal life. First, the man knew Jesus possessed eternal life and secondly, he knew eternal life was different than human life and he didn't have it! What does Jesus do? He went for the heart of the man. Jesus spoke of the commandments and the man admitted he had kept the commandments from his youth (v.21). But something was still missing. Jesus points out there was one thing still lacking. He must part ways with his possessions! The man's heart was tied to possessions. Yes, he could keep commandments but his heart couldn't let go of what possessed him. His heart wasn't wholly involved.
  Jesus dealt with the heart of man. People can do well religiously but the heart needs to be given over fully. The Lord searches the heart! The Lord knew he loved his things. So the test came: sell and follow! Was your heart really in it? The heart is more deceitful and desperately sick. This man became very sad (v.23). His heart grew heavy because he couldn't give up what possessed his heart. Yes he could keep some of the basic commands but his heart wasn't in it! That day three things happened: (1) Jesus exposed a deceitful heart showing the man loved his possessions more than he did God. (2) The man, though religious, was an idolater. His possessions was his god and he couldn't give them up. He was unaware he was an idolater. His heart deceived him. (3) Eternal life was nothing more than another possession for him and he wanted to gain eternal life based on one good thing he could do. He wanted to merit eternal life by something he did! How many do that today? How many believe that God will bring them to heaven because they are basically good?
  Too many are trying to walk with the Lord, worship the Lord and live for the Lord without a sincere heart given to the Lord. They are religious in all aspects but their heart loves other things more. People get upset at something and they spew their venom at the person rather than self control and love. That's a heart issue. People use foul language or by-words substituted when upset and that all comes from the heart, exposing the heart. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."  (Rom. 12:14) The only way that can happen is a heart given to the Lord to place within the proper things from God and during the times of stress, it comes to showing our hearts. How's your heart?

Monday, February 24, 2014

"What About the Heart?"

  The book of Malachi is a eye-opening study. Here is the last prophet to come to God's people to try to turn hearts. After Malachi there will be no prophet or teaching from the Lord for some 440 years. This prophet points out that all the sacrifices and service that the people, especially the priests, were offering to God were worthless. And what made them worthless? There was no heart!! It was all rehearsed and done with lives that are sinful. God rejected them and said He would curse their blessings.
  We learn over and over from Scripture that God wants hearts, not religion! There are too many places to quote and reference to show this. But a few will suffice. In Psalm 51 we find David dealing with the sin between him and Bathsheba. David knows what God wants, truth in the inner man, a pure heart and a steadfast spirit. He ends the Psalm acknowledging God does not "delight in sacrifices" or "take pleasure in burnt offerings" but that "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart."
  We find Isaiah 1 where God says the offerings and prayers were sickening to Him. Why? Because they had become meaningless. God was looking to the sacrifices offered to be an expression of the worshipers repentant heart!
  In all this we find that when one offers to God their worship, their desires, their attitudes were all to represent the heart of the offerer. If the heart was not deeply involved they were worse than offering nothing!
  Just from these illustrations we learn what our worship is to be. To sit and observe, to have an attitude running within that heart that is cold or indifferent will bring us condemnation from the Lord. Jesus is our sacrifice. He gave His life for mine. In all this there is a rescuing, saving, redeeming us from the destruction of sin. What should that produce within us? A heart that gives thanks. For one to be touched by the redeeming work of Jesus on their behalf should produce within the forgiven a heart to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It will be a heart of joy and love for the Lord. Without that, we make our lives a bunch of clanging noise, nothing and it all has no profit (I Cor. 13:1-3). What is going on in your heart when you worship with the saints?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Fixing the Mess"

  A nation can get so far removed from the Lord that the only thing left is a complete overhaul of that nation. Either man will straighten things out and fix things or God will step in and He will fix it. But when God steps in to fix it, it can lead to a complete ruin of the nation and even go as far as doing away with it! We need to read the OT Scriptures and you get this picture plainly.
  One illustration of this is Judah. They drifted away from the things they knew of God and one day, a new king, Josiah, found what was needed from Scripture and called the people back into the covenant relationship with God. It was a national sweep and restoring the hearts of the people back to God and fearing His word. Josiah cleaned up a mess that had developed over many many years. But once Josiah was gone, the nation once again left God and in 606 BC God sent the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to Judah and they were taken away into captivity for 70 years.
  The church of the Lord can do the same. Leadership abandons Scripture and twists things to what is popular. The people cry out for this direction or that and God is slowly abandoned by turning their back on Scripture. What's worse is the church cannot see it happening as they believe they love the Lord and are serving Him. Worship becomes culturally flavored! Sermons are no longer tied to Scripture but to other things and a little Scripture thrown in just to make it sound spiritual. Multiple assemblies are made available to accommodate individual preferences. Services focus on the sensational. The changes made are made to fit the changes of the culture! Worship is designed to please people.
  We read of the church at Ephesus called to repent or their lampstand would be removed (Rev. 2:1-7).  The church at Pergamum was warned that there were some in the congregation holding to different teachings. If they didn't repent the Lord would make war with them with the sword of His mouth (Rev. 2:14-16). The church at Thyatira was tolerating a lady that was teaching and leading the bond-servants of the Lord astray. Those who followed her teaching were going to be taken by death while others would be struck with sicknesses (Rev. 2:18-29). The church at Sardis prided itself on a name that said they were alive but they were dead and the Lord was going to finish them off if they didn't wake up (Rev. 3:1-6). 
  We have many in our nation that is making a mess of things in regard to God. We have some in the church who are making a mess of things blurring lines while convincing people things are fine between them and the Lord. The only question left is can we overhaul things by getting back to God's word, listening only to His voice or is He going to step in and fix it? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"When I See the Blood"

  We find in Exodus 12 the Passover and the blood applied to the doorposts and lintel of the houses in which the meal would be eaten. As we think about the meal and the events that were to transpire that night what do you think was happening? Was there fun and laughter? People just leisurely nibbling on this part of the meal or that? Was it laid back? Of course not because what the Lord God had told them was coming that night and they were told to eat it in haste (12:11). The declaration had been made that on that night the Lord will strike every firstborn of the land, both man and beast.
  Can you imaging eating this meal wondering what was about to take place in its entirety? The trembling in the presence of an awesome God who was going to demonstrate His power. Their only protection from death? "...and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt."  (!2:13) It was time for the Destroyer to do His work. Maybe the Egyptians were wondering why all this blood is applied to their doorposts thinking how odd it was for these Hebrew people to do such. It would be such a mess to clean up! We find in all this there was danger even for the Israelites!
  "When I see the blood" that was the issue. There was not one word about their goodness or good works. Not one word about loyalty or being as we would say, "a member of the church". It was simply stated "when I see the blood." That blood was the only thing that stood between them and death. The sacrifice of the animal and that blood is what kept them from dying. In the end the blood of the lamb was the only thing that spared their lives.
  What is the only thing that is going to spare us in the end? "I always attending the assemblies and worked hard for the Lord?" Too many believe that what they do is what makes them what they are. They lean on their own righteous works, their goodness as their means of getting them to the Lord Jehovah. What seems to escape notice is the only thing that will spare any of us is to be found under the blood of Jesus. When I die, the only thing that will matter will be: "When I see the blood I will pass over you." The blood of Christ Jesus, that's the safe haven for us today. That teaches us to walk humbly with our God and heed His voice.

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Time Away"

  I am taking a short trip and will return to writing on Feb. 19. In the meantime, take time to read from God's word but don't read just to read. Listen to what He speaks and listen with a heart of faith by responding to what you read. The Lord has created things that the only way faith can be grown in through His word and hearing what He speaks. Too many read just to read daily. The Lord is trying to grow us and create a conviction within our hearts. That comes from a genuine faith and faith comes from hearing the word of the Lord! God's blessings.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Lesson On Elders"

  Today I want to address something that is rarely addressed and that is about elders. Many lessons have been preached, classes taught and we have gone over and over the "qualifications". I don't like that word. I really don't see where there is a list of "qualifications." You will jump and say, "I Tim. 3 and Titus 1 speak of the qualifications of elders." Are they really? Aren't  these more in line with the character of the man? This is who he is day in and day out?  It looks to me as if they are defining the "characteristics" of a man desiring to be an elder. Maybe we are splitting words but there is a difference between a man having checked off "qualifications" and a man that has the "character" of the Lord. That's just my take.
  These men we call elders are simply! They too are under the blood of Christ, serving Him with all their heart. Some have a strong mind set while others are quiet and reserved. But these men endure a lot of attacks from brethren that sometimes are unloving and unmerciful. They quietly take it! People question why some of the men are even in this position in the Lord's church. That's a question for the ages but they are in that position before the Lord. We want to throw some out, get people to rise and voice their objections. In all this, no one ever considers that the Scripture does not teach that we can throw out a man in such a position out! There are too many overseers to the overseers and that destroys God's intended purpose and spiritual growth.
  One thing I have learned over the many years is that you don't lift a hand against God's eldership without paying a price! I have personally been through that. If the Spirit of God dwells in the church, and He does (I Cor. 3:16-17), that means God is over the whole, directing the whole and Jesus is the head. If one isn't careful we can rise up against God's anointed. That's a word we need to think about.
  We see from David in early Israel, King Saul was an ungodly king but when David found himself with the opportunity to take the life of this ungodly leader, holding up a piece of the garment of this king, he spoke: "Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be without guilt?" (I Sam. 26:9) The Lord's anointed, even if he was ungodly was recognized by David.
  The elders are the anointed of God in His church. Yes they make mistakes but that gives no reason to rise up against them. I have found over many places and years of preaching that in every case, praying for such men and keeping the proper attitude toward such allows the Lord to work things out. They are under the mighty hand of God and if God needs them removed, they will be removed by God, not man! When elders are arrogant and have wrong attitudes, members are arrogant and have wrong attitudes, the whole becomes a mess. But when members can be humble and pray for these leaders in the church, the Lord will work good things for the benefit of the whole. That's why Peter, who was an elder in the church as well as an apostle, called on the church (especially the young men) to be subject to your elders and have some humility (I Pet. 5:5). The Hebrew writer calls for an attitude of obedience and submit to the leaders (Heb. 13:17). We are serving the Lord not man but when we find ourselves going against the anointed of God, we will find ourselves fighting against the Lord and that will be to our personal determent.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"What Do We Say?"

  We know people that are having a rough ride in life. In some cases it will get worse for them before it gets better. You want to give them words of encouragement but what would you say? We generally would say that we are sorry to hear of their troubles and our hearts go out to them. There is nothing wrong with that and there is a place of expressions like this. But to those who go through great difficulties need more than our sympathy! Once you walk away, they only have the brief memory of your visit and there they stand still facing their struggle.
  We need to take lessons from the apostle Peter. He writes his letters to Jewish Christians who are suffering throughout the world and in some cases it is going to get worse. What does Peter say to them? Read I Pet. 1:1-12 and there is where you find what to say. Peter points to who they are and their security no matter what. Too many times we read such with our past knowledge and we do not focus on who we are and what we possess even in the midst of our difficulties! Right up front, they (we) belong to God and possess something that nothing on this earth can touch. Once Peter points their faith to focus on the proper things then he tells them to "gird their minds for action." (I Pet. 1:13-25). Peter doesn't sympathize with them, pat them on the back and tell them he is thinking about them while walking away. He calls on faith both to believe and act! If there is no faith, there will be no acting upon the promises. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Heb. 11:6)
  Peter doesn't deny their troubles. Just read through his letter in one setting. The Lord transformed their lives and is directing them (and us) upward. The facts are laid out...this is reality! Maybe the reason many in Christ drown themselves in their troubles is we never point their faith upward and set them on the path to seeing who they are? When you walk away, they still have the promises before them and the reality of their situation before the Lord. They can respond by faith and not be locked in such a troubled state of mind! Should this not be our words to the troubled?

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Where Does My Pain Come From?"

  Have you ever thought about your situation in life? Think about the things you might be going through and finding disappointment or heartache ask yourself, "Is this something from the Lord or did I cause it?" That's an honest question. Sometimes we think the Lord has brought something upon us and we struggle through it only to find out we caused it not the Lord.
  People ask why is it every time they turn around they run into another wall? Too many times we make our difficulties because of our choices. It's like getting on a wrong bus and expecting to arrive in the right place. Too many times we have an attitude or 'secretly' go about things and when things don't work out in our lives we wonder why. It's like the old saying, "You can't play with fire and not expect to get burned." One can't indulge in gossip and expect to have close friends who trust you. Yet we sense that people avoid us. That's not God's doings. You can't make endless demands on family or friends and not expect them to drift away from you and not be there to help when you feel you are in need. You can't be sneaking around doing things, always seeming suspicious and gain respect and confidence from your mate or friends. You can't exaggerate stories or situations and find loyalty and trust from those around you. A chronic complainer finds their lives very lonely. A sharped tongue individual finds people attacking and they think they suffer for the Lord. These are the type of things, and there are many more like them, that bring our own pain into our own lives.
  Maybe we need to re-evaluate our lives and find out that when we speak of walking with the Lord, we are walking with the Lord. When suffering comes into our lives we aren't the ones causing it which pushes us deeper into ourselves. The Lord wants us to share in His life, His holiness and sometimes He let's us go after our own personal desires until we wake up and realize that our lives are the cause of our own misery. Only then will we find a reason to submit to the Lord with all our heart and we will find rest for our souls.