Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Bitter or Forgiving?"

  Are you a person that is bitter about someone that has done something to you in your past? We know God speaks that bitterness and unforgiving hearts will cost one eternally. Why is it so difficult to let things go? Listen, we don't like anyone wronging us and what is worse is when we have been wronged we don't want them to get off like nothing ever happened! So we take up arms with our attitude toward them thinking we will show them their wrong and pay them for what they have done. That is a faithless response.
  Bitterness and resentments will eat the soul away. It will erode faith to a point that being bitter about someone doing whatever it is you feel like they did, you no longer respond by faith. What do I mean? "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." (Eph. 4:31) How many congregations have split over the refusal of this verse? The Lord say put it all away. It will destroy you spiritually, even if you find reason to justify it.
  There is another side to this. Sometimes when we believe something to be the way it is, it might not be that way. "But I investigated it and found it so!" Maybe but maybe not. Sometimes what we do when we dig up things is the individual we are speaking with is bitter and in their bitterness they want you to see only the wrong done in their claim. It comes from a bitter heart rather than a tender heart, a forgiving heart. We come to our conclusion from one trapped in the sin of bitterness. That's not good. That's why we must be careful and guard our hearts. I see it all the time in marriages where one mate will sit and destroy the other by making all sorts of accusations of their past only to find that things were not exactly that way when you get them both together. One is bitter and that bitterness leads into false attacks to make one look as bad as possible. 
  There is something to do be said of witnesses! When one is in sin and will not listen to what is true and right, there needs to be witnesses. The Lord wanted witnesses to confirm matters from the OT to the NT. Witnesses are what keeps things above the board so that when people become bitter and unforgiving, the witnesses can help pull them up to the level of righteousness rather than sink everyone in the sin of bitterness. If there are no witnesses, leave it alone and allow the Lord to work it out. No one will get by Him! Leave it alone!! You cannot afford to sink into the mire with those who are bitter about someone. Leave it to the Lord. That way you will find your faith stable and hopefully get the opportunity to help the one in the state of bitterness. 
  "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."  (Col. 3:12-13) Therein is faith in action! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Open Our Eyes To Sin"

  Sin wants to rule our lives. That baby who grew into a child so innocent and undefiled one day grew into this dark individual that is no longer innocent. Sin took hold in their heart and began it's rule. The result was separation from God. We have seen it and we have all been through it! Parents are heart-broken over the lives of their children. Marriages are ruined because of sin. Lives are sent down a path of destruction because sin has it's way with us. 
  Sin shows itself in people who verbally destroy others. It shows itself in drug addiction and craving for the next drink. There are sins of the flesh of immoral behavior and passion. But there are sins of the flesh like bitterness, irritability, outbursts of anger and strife. There are the sins of self-righteousness and haughty minds and spirits. The announcement from heaven has been made: "As it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one.'" (Rom. 3:10) "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  (Rom. 3:23) I'm in this too just as you. 
  In the New Testament the most common word for sin is one which means "to miss the mark" or "fall short." We have missed the mark! We fall short! Jesus Christ didn't come to pat us on the back and say we are just a bit off but good people at heart as some seem to say. Jesus saw our lives as empty and wasted enveloped in this power called sin (I Pet. 1:18). Jesus watched man as lives were wrapped about trivial things, showing themselves as mighty and religious and fragmenting over nonsense. We see ourselves as nice people who associate with other nice people, singing nice songs in another's nice presence to a nice God who wants us to do nice things! In all this too is wrapped the cloak of sin!! There is none righteous, not even one. 
  We weren't created for sin but for God! That's what Jesus came to mankind for, to redeem us from this awful mess of sin and death. Sin that works so easily in us and the death (separation) it caused between us and our God. We are a very blind people to think that we can strip sin off easily. Our understanding of sin and death is shallow if we think that God saves us from something which can be defeated by a few prayers, church attendance and resolutions. What are we too do? SEEK GOD! King David knew the solution for his sinfulness as found in Psa. 32. Go read it and see what David speaks. Forgiveness must be sought with God or you will live life always in doubt trying to work your way out. Jesus arrives and we have recorded some 60 plus days of His life. That's it! But what is recorded for us is to show us His work for us in dealing with our sins. Those aren't just words, they are life and life giving. Take time and read from the gospels. Start with Luke and look closely at this Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming work on our behalf. There you will begin to see the fight against sin and the ultimate victory over sin. Then you will sing His praises and realize it is all up to Him, not you! May God open our eyes to sin and His salvation!!! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Struggle of Sin"

  Too many treat sin as something trivial. Sometimes there are those who belong to Jesus that just can't understand how sin can so easily take some down. Smugness sets in and we really question the motives and intentions of those who seem to be overwhelmed time and time again by sin. Too much at ease with sin and many stroll along with their hands in their pockets while thinking they have arrived spiritually. To much pouring over sin that it is almost impossible to beat sends people reeling into anxieties and depression.
  We need to realize that sin is a very powerful and deeply rooted force in lives of humans. But can it be overcome? I mean, my sin that seems to take me down, can I overcome it if it is so powerful? Yes indeed. Just look at the cross and see where sin was defeated completely. There is great hope! To give others the impression that sin is an easy 'fix' can send them off into depths of hopelessness. Some really struggle in their battles. They see others looking with scorn at them and it takes its toll. Sin is tough! Sin is a powerful enemy! But sin is not the Master!
  You belong to Jesus and He beat sin and its consequences. There is where your faith is placed. Our salvation, the covenant of the forgiveness of all our sins continues to be an on-going process. When we were united with Jesus in baptism, we changed Masters. Why? Because Master Jesus defeated sin for us. That doesn't mean sin will never try to find its way back into your life. It doesn't mean that sin will no longer try to bring you under its influence and mastery. It means holding to Jesus while growing in Him. We have been saved and we continue to be saved. Peter speaks of growing "in respect to salvation." (I Pet. 2:2) How are we to do that? By longing, like new born babies, the pure milk of the word! It means learning to put off the things that will entangle you and that sin uses to control you. Yes, you will stumble but sin will not master you! Quickly we confess to the Lord and embrace Him and sin is washed clean while strength is given upon our failure. We stand more and more with Jesus humbly submitting. Strength comes from Him, not us. We find ourselves overcoming anger issues, immoral issues and the strength the Lord gives begins to have a greater and greater effect. One day you find yourself that the things in which once caused you such difficulty are now nothing but a faded memory. Praise and thanksgiving are given to the Lord and Savior. Help those in sin! Encourage those struggle with sin that they can overcome! Sin has died and Jesus sees to that. Rejoice in your salvation!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"The Mouth Speaks"

  Jesus, speaking with the Pharisees, rebuked them for their words spoken against God. They weren't aware but Jesus was! From this Jesus revealed an important fact. "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart." (Matt. 12:34) Whatever is in the heart of a person, that's what they will talk about. It doesn't take long to listen to someone and they will talk about what means the most to them. 
  Let's turn the page. The same with God. What means the most to God is what He speaks about. And what He speaks about should be very important to us. When those Holy Spirit inspired apostles wrote about the resurrected Christ, the power of His resurrection which this gospel surrounds it was the single most important thing to God's heart. The result? These men could not stop speaking about this Jesus. There was no shame in speaking about their Savior. Jesus commissioned those apostles to  go about in this world preaching this gospel and they didn't stop talking about it!
  God also speaks of a covenant surrounding the resurrection of His Son. God is a covenant God! He keeps His promises with man and when we come to the agreement made, His covenant because of Christ speaks volumes: "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Heb. 8:12) God speaks! Jesus speaks! What do we speak? The mouth speaks whatever fills our hearts. What a promise God has made to us and He will keep His covenant. Will we keep His covenant? It depends on what means the most to you. Whatever you love, you will talk about. If you pay attention in your relationships in day to day life, what is it that you speak about the most? That reveals to others what you love the most. Take time and read God's word. You will hear what means most to Him. Listen to your conversations today and hear what you speak. What do you learn about yourself?

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Grandmothers and People"

 God's message of saving grace comes through preaching/teaching and preaching/teaching comes through people. God has always used people to get His saving message to other humans.  For good or bad, people have an influence in our lives. In the same sense, the Devil uses people to crush people. People destroy one another, speak ill of one another, attack one another to do the bidding of Devil. 
  One of the greatest blessings is when you find the teaching of salvation within the family. We can see this clearly with Timothy. "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well." (II Tim. 1:5) We gain more insight later in Paul's letter to Timothy: "And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (II Tim. 3:15) All along the way, Timothy's grandmother and mother taught him Scriptures!
  I love grandmothers! Maybe it's because my wife is one. But there is something so important about a godly grandmother. They are they unsung heroes of our day and time to their grandchildren. Parents throw God out of their home and many time its the grandmother that brings comfort and peace to the heart of the little children. Grandmothers are a place of safety and peace when the Devil uses others to try to tear apart and destroy. Thank God for grandmothers. Many a child was reared by their grandmother and the influence over the child's life is carried all the way to the end. Oh, don't get me wrong about godly mothers. What a blessing they are also. But there is this depth that is touched that only a grandmother can bring. 
  How much did your grandmother influence your life? If they were a blessing from the Lord for you, please take a moment and thank God for them being brought to you with a message from God. Paul saw the value to Timothy. It's people that point us to a hope beyond what we see. God gives them to us. It's people that God brings to us His message of comfort and hope. Give thanks! You will be called upon one day to do the same. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Today's Mission"

Today you're on a mission! Today let your heart build faith around one important thought. You didn't wake up one morning and decide you belong to Jesus. No, you were called to Him long before you heard. Jesus spoke from His saving message and you accepted it! You said 'yes' to Christ's calling. It wasn't your idea; it was the Lord's idea from the beginning and will last to the end.
  Today you're on a mission! Today let your heart build faith around one important thought. You belong to Jesus! Christ called you and you answered. Let your faith rest in Him and not on you. Today let it sink into your heart that you have been called into Him and faithful He is and will always be. Let His calling through this glorious gospel be where you place your emphasis and faith. It's not about your response but His calling. You were called by God. Rejoice in that calling. Bask in that calling. Pray in that calling. Sing in that calling. "Just as also you were called in one hope of your calling." (Eph. 4:4) 
 Today you're on a mission! Jesus is life, your life! Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all!!! Enjoy your day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"God's Not the Cause"

  One thing we need to get straight is that God is always just and faithful. Paul expresses that plainly when speaking to the Jews that just because they were unrighteous doesn't mean God is unrighteous. (Rom. 3:3-6) God has always and will always do what is right! There is no injustice in God and no darkness at all! (I John 1:5)
  Where does this leave us? It's time for us as humans to fully accept the direct responsibility for the suffering that is occurring and has always occurred on this planet. Too many blame God for our suffering and that needs to stop. We need to believe our Bibles and read it more intently rather than just brush over it with a "I already know that" attitude. We give thanks to God for us as humans to have a free will and not some computer or robot that performs what it is told to perform. In the process of our free will, we scream at God why He allowed certain things to be or go the way they go. Why didn't He do something about it? So our faith wains. Is this really right? If God made us do what He wanted, we would have no choice. Man chooses their way and acts and too many dump God or question God when things go terribly wrong. People hurt one another, commit all sorts of hideous crimes and the immoral climate is just over the top yet God gets blamed. 
  From the beginning God held Adam and Eve accountable for their choosing. It was man, not God, who brought sin into this world. (Rom. 5:12) The result was the world became cursed under this power of sin. That wasn't God's intention. Someone might say, "Why didn't He stop it right there?" That means in order to stop sin God would have to destroy His creation by destroying those created in His image. This shows the depth of His love for His created! Instead of seeing mankind separated from Him, He chose to work to save mankind. In that saving, sin advanced forward while God was advancing His purpose to save. Why can't we see that? Too many living in this world create their own suffering by making more sinful choices and wonder why God doesn't rescue them. God wants to but there must be a heart to respond to Him on His terms. He isn't darkness! He isn't corrupt! God wants man to come into fellowship and He provided the means for that fellowship.
  When we look a little deeper into the life of Jesus Christ, we see that the presence of hurt and suffering doesn't mean the absence of God. We see clearly how God used suffering and pain redemptively! The cross speaks God suffers for us and with us in order to redeem our souls. Jesus refused the help of man from man's wanting to defend Him by fighting to refusing man's help to alleviate His pain by drinking from a cup. Next time you find yourself wanting to complain or ask why, look no further than your sins and there you will see God's intention!   

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"I Need Hope"

  Too many times we find ourselves in difficulties and we have a melt down. We don't mean to and we can hear those around us telling us to trust and be strong. But that only goes so far. The uncertainty we face in our lives creates fear and anxiety. What is needed is hope! Where do we find hope when facing afflictions or needs? Hope that will endure is centered in God and in Christ Jesus. It is a living hope Peter says because God is living and Christ is living. (I Pet. 1:3) 
  If our hope is not placed in God and Christ, there will be little assurance and security when facing our troubles. Hope is where you surrender your own resources and look to the Lord God for the final and desired outcome! If we place hope in people, in our skills, education or anything else you draw upon when troubles hit, you open yourself to fear and uncertainty leading to anxieties and many more mental issues.
  Too many times we do not doubt God, we doubt us! That's just it because we focus on us and the troubles we face and that's when doubts arise and fears dismay. We look to God as we are. In other words, we know how weak and limited we are and think God is like us. Simply put, we depend and look at us in situations and that's what takes us down. We would like to trust in the Lord but we just can't get our focus off of us and so our hope is never founded in the Lord. It's in us and that's not hope. The teachings of what we call Scripture came from God and we need to understand the emphasis of Scripture is God's resources and God's faithfulness! Anything less creates fears.
  Let's listen to God:
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  (Rom. 15:13)
"God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (I Cor. 1:9)
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." (I Thes. 5:23-24)
"But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." (II Thes. 3:3) 
"In the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago." (Titus 1:2)
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Heb. 10:23)
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9)

  I think these will do for now. Are you struggling? Where's your hope?   

Monday, May 12, 2014

"If You Knew?"

  If you knew you would face your death tomorrow, what would you do? Would you give advice to your loved ones? Would you be upset? What would you say to your friends? What would be the most important thing to you? Would you speak of the places you visited or places you wished you had? What would you say?
  King David, before his final breath spoke to his son Solomon giving him sound advice. David had experienced so much from war, to situations that were life threatening evening facing a giant of a man but he knew his own mortality and spent his life after the heart of God. David sat down with his son Solomon and DID NOT advise him how to rule. David did not speak of the family inheritance or his accomplishments. He pointed his son in one direction: "I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn." (I Kings 2:2-3)
  Of all the things David could have said, the last words his son heard from his fathers lips was pointing him to Jehovah God and heeding His word! David wanted his son to be a man of character, integrity and be strong acting like a godly man. What sound advice!
  The apostle Paul sent two letters to Timothy, his spiritual child. As Paul's life drew to a close, Paul advised Timothy: "For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance." (I Tim. 4:8-9) Godliness is the most profitable thing to pursue. As Paul ends his second letter he reminds Timothy: "In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day; and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing." (II Tim. 4:8)
  The man was 68 yrs. of age and had only been in Christ for 5 months. Cancer was taking his life. Each day he read from God's word and was rejoicing that he belonged to Christ Jesus now. As his life came to a close, he called his family to his side. His wife, two sons and a daughter stood by him as his physical life was leaving his body. Tenderly he called on each one: "Find the Lord before it's too late!" His wife had never obeyed the gospel. He pleaded with her not to harden her heart. He told his children that he had never taught them the Lord and wanted them to know the Lord was the most important thing in life. That was the last words they heard from their husband and father.
  What about you? What are you presently living for? What are your ambitions? What are you teaching your family? Whatever means the most to you that's what you will expend your life for and talk about. If you knew you would face your death tomorrow, what would you do?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"Preaching in New York"

  What a wonderful week so far in Buffalo, New York. The Lord has caused a growth in the church and you can see it both in the attitudes of the brethren and their numbers. This is my 22nd year for coming here. That's hard to believe but I have witnessed a lot of different things over those years. This area of the country is difficult, not to say others areas aren't. We have different challenges and obstacles in the mid-west and south. Up here, the idea of God has little presence from the communities around. We are use to seeing some sort of religion when you drive in our towns/cities. Up here, there is some but they are far in between. And speak of truth, to the majority there is almost no belief in the standard of truth much less the God as revealed in His Holy Scriptures. When you do see religion, the face of some couple or person is attached to it telling the area we are the power and come hear moving and inspiring messages from a great speaker, man or woman! It made me see no wonder our nation is in the mess it's in! I guess those up here would not understand what I mean and those where I am from probably won't understand what I mean. It looks as if I don't understand what I mean!!! Forgive me of that.
  Many times being here I have had a strange experience of some sort. I realize my time is not done in New York as I still must travel to Jamestown but things have been relatively quiet in regard to experiences up to this point. There have been hearts turned back to the Lord and focusing on Him and His teachings rather than being carried away after our own desires. The brethren here really do show a deep sense of love for one another and the brotherhood. I don't see any little groups/cliques or anyone just hanging with a certain few. They all enjoy each others company and include anyone that steps through those doors. They think that in the south and mid-west the church is vibrant, growing and striving for the faith of the gospel. I want them encouraged but I explain we too have our challenges and struggles of different sorts. Apathy, laziness, taking things for granted and fleshiness just like anywhere else affects us. If it affected the first century church how much more some two thousand years down the road? That's why preaching/teaching is so vital today.
  One more thing I'd like to share and this really tells the story. I spent a little time with a brother who thinks some in the congregation are not properly teaching some Scripture. He asked me about it and shared with me what he sees Scripture teaching. He had a good point but he didn't have it all on as he over-looked some important verses. I just listened. In the end I asked him to look at these verses I jotted down and he said he would. But here is where love came into it. He would not allow his disagreement to 'unbrother' him from the rest. On the stance he was taking, I could see brethren in the mid-west and south having his view and off they would run finding another congregation that would agree with him or a little clique of dissatisfied people. This brother has some options to go elsewhere (driving a distance) but he said we must love one another and keep working, helping where you can until we all get to the goal! He lead the closing prayer and he prayed for what else: unity, love and helping one another grow!! What a blessing! What an attitude! WHAT LOVE! That man is a child of God.