Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"You Gotta Believe"

  Today will be my last post until Aug. 11 as I am planning on taking some time off to head to the mountains of Colorado. This is a yearly trek and I always look forward to getting time to reflect and fuel the soul. 
  Take time and read the John's gospel, all of it! It was written to the church and the purpose is stated in John 20:30-31, to increase our faith in Jesus which brings one to life, His life. But here's the interesting part about this word "believing". It is a present tense, active participle meaning a faith that is produced, continues and increases. It is not a one time act for salvation as many have tried to teach. It is on-going, ever increasing. The same word "believe" used in John 3:16 that so many use as a salvation verse is the same tense and meaning there also. John uses the term "believe" in some form some 99 times.
  When one looks at this word "believe", there are three elements that happen in the heart to produce a faith that continues to increase: (1) It is a conviction! A conviction is a confidence so that you will stand firmly. (2) It is a trust! When there is a believing trust it means there is a complete reliance upon Jesus. There should be. Jesus our Lord is the visible image of God, the exact representation of God Himself, so we can trust Him to show us God and bring us to God. He and the Father are one. (3) It is obedience! To believe and continue for faith to grow there must be obedience. People who claim that believing in the Lord as your personal Savior and never respond to His word are not believers! There must be an active obedience. Read Hebrews 11 that many call the faith chapter and there you will find every faithful man and woman, when God called, they obeyed! It takes all three of these elements together for a faith that brings one into the life of Jesus.
  One way of seeing these three elements of faith is seen in John 2 where Jesus does His first miracle. In verse 5, notice Mary's faith: "Whatever He says to you, do it." Within that statement to others we see a conviction, trust and obedience called upon. You find that throughout this gospel account.
  Grow in your faith in Jesus. Grow in your trust. Respond to His word when He speaks because He speaks about the Father. He knew the Father and His life was in loving communion with the Father. We need to know both the Lord Jesus and the Father better. The door is open for you to progress. It's time to take our walk more seriously. Jesus did!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Hope In God"

  Wars, injustices and natural disasters are taking place all over the world. It is a sad state our world has become. On the lips of many is the end of time while others use this as prophecy about some cataclysmic event that is soon to take place. The real question is: Is there any hope?
  As Jesus spoke to His own disciples about the impending judgment upon Jerusalem (Matt. 24), one thing He reminded them was there will be wars, rumors of wars and all sort of tribulations. Many of the disciples would lose their lives. Then comes His words: "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." (Matt. 24:13) And how would they endure? Be ready and alert! That's what they are instructed. Instead of getting caught up in all the events, hold to Jesus! Prepare your heart! Watch over your life! That's what they were told about the impending doom of Jerusalem.
  For us we too need to do the same. Don't get caught up in what you see or hear. Get caught up in the Lord by the renewing of your mind and setting your heart to sober thinking. The Psalmist found himself on the verge of despair and penned these words: "My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?' (Psa. 42:3) Then as the Psalmist struggled, he came to a sober and proper conclusion: "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence." (Psa. 42:5) HOPE IN GOD! That is the course of the believer!!
  The preacher was finishing his lesson for Sunday and the phone rings. The words came from the caller: "My child died." The hurt and anguish was heard even though there were no more words spoken. "What can I say to him?" thought the preacher. The words came to his mind:
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor hold within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way, 
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
  Where is your hope when wearied? Hurting? Fearful? It's time to take inventory!

Monday, July 21, 2014

"What's Happened To The Message?"

  The book of I Corinthians is the church today! The exaltation of preachers, the arguments, the accusations among themselves, the fleshliness, the over-looking of sin, court cases and the list goes on. When the church began exalting in the preachers, Paul makes it very clear that he was no part of that!! He was with them in weakness, fear and much trembling (I Cor. 2:3). It wasn't Paul's ability that was making anything go. It was Jesus and Him crucified. That's the message of the Spirit! Paul pointed that the church doesn't thrive on the preacher or any man otherwise people's faith would rest on man's wisdom and not God's power! That's where we miss it.
  Paul then unloads and let's them know that it has nothing to do with the messenger but everything to do with God. In I Cor. 2:6-16 Paul declares the name of the God some ten times. It's all about God...God...God...not any man! Here were people who had once turned to Jesus and Him crucified, drawn to Him and now they were glorying in themselves. They wanted to speak about Jesus and Him crucified but their glory was in the methods, their men and that's what they upheld. So they took great pride in one preacher over another, one apostle over another and exalted themselves in their spiritual gifts as people who were special and great. But their problem was this was all part of the baggage the world glories in and they were now part of that scene. They couldn't see it. We don't see it. 
  In all the mind-set of the brethren at Corinth, they gloried in the wrong things. The physical was the attractant. Here's the major point that seems to be missed so much today: if we as true believers seek to bring Christ glory and live in the glory of Christ, it will come solely from the word of the cross and nothing else. To bring glory to the Lord Jesus, the steward must be faithful and being faithful to the trust committed to them (I Cor. 4:2). Preachers aren't called to strike out as some maverick working on their own personal agenda. Too many are working off their personal interests and agendas rather than knowing nothing but Jesus and Him crucified. That's where the power comes. That's where faith is built. Preachers/teachers aren't discovering anything new unless it comes from an arrogant, sin-filled word around! A self-glorying, worldly minded assembly that dives deeply into their interests and desires and the Christ, even though He is mentioned often, is left outside and the church grows dimmer and dimmer among the lost world. So many just migrate into other religions, looking like other religions, competing with other religions or even uniting with other religions because that's what we have become....another religion. When are we going to learn?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Love Life and See Good Days?"

  Today I travel to Harrison, Arkansas to speak to a group of believers this evening. It will be a long trip for a short amount of time but the journey is well worth it because of what I gain in the time. A time to think and reflect on the Lord. Yes, I do that when I travel and vacation. I reflect a lot on the Lord and my relationship with Him. I want to grow in my love for Him. I need to grow in that.
  As I leave, I would like to leave you with this: do you want to love life? Do you want to see good days? Even when you may be in a time of difficulty? Listen to the Lord: "Let him who means to love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. And let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears attends their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." (I Pet. 3:10-12) What do you want today?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Repent and Love"

  The man sat in the office of the minister wanting direction and help. He was in his mid forties and began to explain how his marriage of some twenty years was no longer satisfying or fulfilling. As incident after incident was expressed, fighting through tears he finally spoke the words: "I just don't love her anymore!" Then came a question, "What can I do?"
  There was a brief moment of silence and the minister spoke, "As I see it, you have only one option..." The man perked up a little anticipating what was going to be said. Was the minister going to suggest divorce maybe? Would this man be free to pursue a life-style of the younger generation that he was wanting to enjoy anyway? Would this be his chance to return to his fleeting youth he saw was gone? Questions swirled his mind in this brief time of waiting. 
  The silent pause was broken by the following: "Are you a Christian?" The man looked and said, "Of course!" "The only thing, the only option left for you is to repent and start loving her again!", spoke the minister. No words were spoken. He slumped down in the chair. The minister continued: "According to the Lord who called you to Himself, we are commanded to love our spouse just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her."  The conversation was over. What would the man do? It all depends on if he has faith in the Lord or not. His response will tell his conviction and faith.
  Too many that claim Christ are going through this same type of battle. People "fall" out of love with their mate having no clue what love is. Love is a choice, not a feeling. The love of God is a love that chooses to love and sacrifice no matter what you feel. It's a love that seeks the highest good of another. Yet people are looking for something that the world has flaunted in their sinfulness that exciting, never ending feeling of utopia running around which really never exists because when the feeling is gone, there must be another new high to gain from someone else. It's called immorality, sensuality and impurity, all deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19) and will cost one their soul. It is not enough  to be committed to your spouse for life, you must be committed to love your spouse for life if you are part of Jesus!
  This love we are commanded to practice is a love of choice that has a beginning but no end! "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:6) Love is demonstrated by actions for the best of the other. 
  This love we are called to from God is a love that we offer our spouses. When one starts sacrificing for their spouse with a heart committed to the Lord, it will only build up the marriage and make the marriage lasting and wonderful. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

"The Starless Society"

  They were magi, wise men, making their way to Bethlehem following a star in the east. They arrived below the star before the giver of life in the person of Jesus Christ. 
  Too many today are following little to nothing but their own desires. There is nothing that pricks the heart or causes them to seek for life in Jesus. In other words, they drift through life starless! There is no sense of destiny which results in no sense of mission. There is little to accomplish. Lives end with nothing but worn-out bodies. 
  Life to many is nothing but party time, work and save, dance and booze, exercise and tan, listen to music and buy the latest cell phones with all the gadgets that we wrap our entire lives around and live for, have holidays in the sun and go for a little church attendance. Further they drift without any sense of why. There is no star beaming for them to see. They feed on their pressing impulse, worry about the latest headlines about the economy and get fixed on the political affairs wondering how this nation will be when they arrive at an old age. Freedom of rights of a country dominate their thinking but there is no star!
  Drifting is their world from one event to another chasing whatever it is they chase. Nothing is accomplished but every thing empty is desired. People attend church meetings all their lives but just dabble in it. No real sense of meaning or heart involved but they were in church. No sense of awe, no tap of God on their heart and no stirring of their spirit. Just sitting among others sitting with no real accomplishment in their heart or spirit. There is no star pointing them. More preaching is about history or interesting approaches to God's word and clever statements to get us laughing. The 'church-goer' heads home feeling something but completely starless. Year after year starless. Decade upon decade starless. The end of life starless. What are we missing?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"The Purpose of the Church Among the World"

  There were 8 of us in a discussion. Men whom are men of the word holding it with all their heart and with attitudes of humility. We were discussing the purpose of the church of the Lord. What was realized and agreed upon was this: if the church among the community we live offers nothing but more advice on how to live rightly, if it offers nothing more than a call to treat people right, if it offers little or nothing more than ways to make us more attractive, if it offers nothing more than how to make our marriages and families better, or the giving out commodities,  if this is all we focus on, we need to shut the doors! We ought to close the doors and quit pretending that we are offering something distinctive, something that can't be gained anywhere else! We ought to close it up because on these terms we are only offering what every other socially useful group is offering (and many times using their material) while they deny the gospel call of God in Christ Jesus!
  What is more alarming is the church of our Lord is not in the 'business' to compete with other religious movements which many have sought and pronounced. The 'business' as the one body, the church of Jesus Christ, is to be a bearer of God's story of redemption!! We aren't here to help societies and nations to live up to some moral code. We aren't here to stand for freedom rights and political awareness. Too many in the community around are standing on these issues. These are not what the life of the church is built upon.
  When God made His covenant with Israel, He warned them that this covenant was based on who He is and not on their success of military, economics, government or any thing else. That was not the basis of the God's people. God warned His people not to buy into the nations around about what they worshiped, spoke and followed. But Israel slowly drifted into the mind sets of the nations around, picking up their habits and thinking. God sent the prophets calling His people to repentance reminding them about the Exodus, the Wilderness, the Passover and the Almighty who was their God. In all the commandments given, they were embedded in the redeeming work of God on their behalf. This is why they sang, prayed, studied because they had a story of redemption from the Holy One. The lives they lived were not an attempt to live up to some moral code to be shared equally with the entire human race. It was a life lived in the image of God, a life bearing witness to God! They weren't speaking about themselves but about their God, the God who in holiness created them to be His witnesses to the lost world around (Isa. 43:9-13).
  We as God's children, Christ's church are not to forget our 'Exodus' from sin. We are not to forget our baptism in union with our Lord and Redeemer. We are called to eat His Supper just as Israel was called to eat their Passover. It doesn't matter if the world pokes holes in it. It is our redeeming relationship to Jesus that makes us who we are and we have a story to tell...HIS STORY!
  The NT church is the creation of God and in and through it (even with our many flaws) we are to hold up a life saving message before the face of all people. The church was not to accommodate and sink itself so that we can become another 'nice' moral group, with 'nice' messages on how to make your marriage stronger (but it will do that), or that you will find prosperity in life and happiness in our assemblies! This isn't the message that has been entrusted to the NT church of the Lord. We are not placed here simply for social dynamics! Any hope, joy and happiness that is distinctively found in Jesus rests completely on the Gospel of God. The NT church like the OT church (Israel) fails and grows weaker when this is forgotten. The church will suffer the loss of identity and purpose and the world around us will suffer loss because of it!
  We are here simply because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That's how we originated and that's how we are sustained. Our study of Scripture (Bible study) is not about getting more information or merely understand what an writer meant. It is about being shaped and sustained by our oneness with Jesus and Him crucified which results in His body. We must be careful that we aren't swallowed up by the drifts and cultures of the community we find ourselves in. We are in Jesus as His body to teach and speak in the presence of the entire human family God's gospel of redemption found only in Christ Jesus!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"An Empty Life"

  His name was Meriwether Lewis, born in 1774. The man was a man of great success with the admiration of thousands. He was the private secretary of President Thomas Jefferson. He became a distinguished war veteran and President Jefferson asked him to lead an expedition into the lands west of the Mississippi. Enlisting William Clark they began the greatest expedition of what we know as the Lewis & Clark expedition. 
  At the height of his fame, Meriwether Lewis wrote a letter to a dear friend with these words: "I feel all that restlessness, which I cannot help but thinking proceeds from the void in our hearts. Whence it comes, I know not, but certain it is, that I never felt less like a hero than at the present moment." Shortly after this letter, Meriwether Lewis passed away of what was believed to be his own suicide.
  Hopelessness seems to plague so many. People living with no sense of direction or they feel great shame and disappointment over decisions they have made which sends them into despair. How many do we know or maybe its you that feels the void in the heart, an emptiness of life? Judas found the same when he realized he had betrayed innocent blood by betraying His Lord. His answer? Suicide. Yet here comes Peter who denies Jesus, even swearing he never knew the man but what does he find in his dire need? Jesus! One of faith knowing the source and one of hopelessness not realizing the source.
  Jesus spoke these words: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)
  An empty life, a void in the heart can only be filled by Jesus and nothing/no one else. If we would only stop looking at us and our situation and look to Him we could find rest for our souls. That means we must yoke up with Him. Walking hand in hand, learning from Him knowing He will lead us into life, His life while we walk our journey on this earth. Jesus is waiting!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Death Changes Everything"

   Death changes everything! The passing of a loved one is difficult even if we know their love for the Lord and His truth. Death changes everything! The memories become dear. The holidays that we once shared aren't the same. Some days you long for the loved one so deeply. With all our advanced medical technology, death cannot be stopped.
  But what about the death of Jesus? Everything changed the day He died! EVERYTHING! The people stood in their insults and tears as they witnessed the elements on the earth change. The words came from the cross: "It is finished!" (John 19:30) From that split second to two thousand years later, everything changed.
  The disciples of Jesus were at a loss. Death changes everything! Their Lord simply passed on in their mind to which Peter responds: "I am going fishing." (John 21:3) That's it! Life is over. The One whom they had set their hope as the deliverer was gone. What would become of His teachings? What would they do with His teachings? All the miracles they witnessed, what was that about? Their hopes were dashed. Death changes everything!
  But the death of Jesus changed everything. He arose and defeated death on Sunday morning. He's alive and is still living. His tomb remains empty. His body that was pummeled beyond recognition was well as Jesus walked among man. "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." (John 20:27) Jesus spoke these words to Thomas. Jesus died and arose from the dead! Death no longer has the final say in the life of Jesus. Jesus holds the keys to death and Hades and is alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18). 
  The apostles stood and watched the Lord of mankind, the Lord of death and over all the earth ascend to the Father. "You shall be My witnesses", Jesus spoke to those men. The death of Jesus changed everything, even death itself! The gospel is a gospel of life, not death. It's a gospel that through death we live because of Christ. "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same, that through death He might He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Heb. 2:14-15) Death changes everything! And the resurrected Christ changed death!

Monday, July 7, 2014

"God's Seeking Us"

  Sometimes we have a hard time believing! Especially those who struggle against sin. They get to a point believing that God doesn't want them anymore. While it is true that God cannot and will not walk in the world of sinful living with sinful attitudes, it doesn't mean He doesn't want us. God is opposed to ungodly behavior. He has to be separated from any unrighteousness to protect His holiness and righteousness! That's who He is.
  But do we really believe God wants us? Do we really believe that God delights in forgiveness? The Scriptures say He does! When Jesus explains the heavenly hosts break out into shouts of joy over one repentant one, God wants us! Jesus battled the self-righteous, sinful "preachers" of the first century called the Pharisees and was attacked by the teachers and preservers of God's Law called the scribes. Jesus was run out of districts and ridiculed over and over and then we find Him speaking of the city of Jerusalem wishing, wanting to gather them together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. He was seeking a relationship even with all that. But the bottom line fell on them: "You were unwilling!" (Matt. 23:37) There it is. That's the problem. We are never rejected by God but we reject God. It's our unwillingness to want to leave the paths of sin. We like what we do where we live and do not want to give in to Him whole-hardheartedly. The sin leaves us lonely, empty and hurting. We cry out for help and as this process goes over and over again, we conclude that He wants nothing to do with us. As we harden we believe Lord of heaven and earth wants to cast us aside. Our walking in sin's path has created a conclusion within us that the devil has convinced us that God wants nothing to do with us. That's far from the truth!
  Jesus came seeking and He still is seeking. It's us who will not give in and respond. We think that God doesn't want us because we have failed Him over and over. We do matter to God. I don't understand that either but we do matter and God has made it abundantly clear that He will keep coming after us, telling us what He wants for us and will do in us. The Lord seeks more than just forgiving us. He seeks to make something of us that looks like the image of Jesus. The question is: do we believe it? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Compounding Problems"

  They came to me and said, "Why is it that I seem to go from one bad thing to another? I pray about it and yet when one difficulty is over another hits!" I can hear the pain in the life of this individual. What I had difficulty in doing (and it was my weakness) was trying to explain to the individual that it was their personal choices that was causing one difficulty after another. They were having a hard time excepting that. 
  There are trials that come into our lives just because. James 1 points to that plainly that "various trials" can hit at anytime. Things that we have no control over or did not cause. But then there are those who go from difficulty to difficulty because they use little wisdom from above and follow their own course of thinking and decisions which compounds the results in their lives. How many times have we known someone in a financial crunch and in the moment jump to a quick loan that charges 200% interest on a small loan? It's a load to have to get this paid off and many times they end up having to be bailed out. What if we had used wisdom from God rather than seek our want, our desire at first? Our wisdom follows our selfish ambitions. God says that! Instead of following a path from what we think is a quick fix, what if we sought God's help?Paul reminded the Ephesians that when we were dead in our sins, we walked according to the course of the world living in our desires of the mind and flesh. That's why so many make poor choices and those choices seem to follow them from one situation to another.
  The Lord will put us on a path to make wise decisions. Sometimes we need to seek out wise counsel, one that can help us make wise decisions according to the Lord rather than according to our selfish desires. Seek His word. Listen to Him alone through His word. If God rescues us from our sins through Jesus Christ, wouldn't He have the answer for lessor things? (Rom. 8:32) That's where we go off course. Do we really see our sins taken away in Jesus so we can see clearly a better path to walk? Don't fear when faced with a difficulty. If it is something you didn't cause then consider it all joy as the Lord will use it to help your faith. If you made some poor choices then be humble about it and repentant, seeking the Lord's face to make wiser decisions and He will make your path straighter. It might be difficult as we need to learn doing it ourselves causes more pain but the result will free us from following us and listening more closely to Him. That's a better solution wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"The Message"

  The charge is laid down: "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season..." (II Tim. 4:2) There is a message to preach and that message preached depends on messengers. The messengers of God are instructed what to preach and no matter how it is received, preach the word. There are writers of books and other such forms of communication and they can serve a purpose but if we would be careful and pay attention, few people come to God in Jesus Christ apart from actual contact with an actual person in whom the message is embodied!
  The word of the Lord must be preached! For a man with a message from Jesus or about Jesus that he himself is not taking seriously is being a hypocrite. There can be fine men but with no gospel to tell has little to offer. There can be fine men with merely moral advice and right values but that too has little to offer. There can be fine men that are compassionate and generous but with no message about Jesus Christ is sub-par. What we need to realize is the message of the gospel that raced through that first century wasn't just a lot of nice people saying nice things. It was nice people with a message about Jesus Christ! There is simply too much fluff and not enough substance about Jesus Christ.
  What brought the idol worshipers down in many cities? The word of Jesus Christ embodied in living messengers that were convicted of the message of Jesus Christ. What turned the world upside down? The message of Jesus Christ. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends, slaves, free, Jews, Greeks, Romans all found freedom in the message of Jesus Christ. When the Lord instructed His messengers to preach the word, that word embodied Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That's where the majority miss it!
  
  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Grace and Love"

  There is so much talk about the grace and love of Jesus and there should be. His grace toward us is so deep that I know we cannot begin to understand. The love for mankind is another one of those attributes of our Lord and God that we cannot grasp fully, especially when we sin so often and easy. But there seems to be something in our teachings and beliefs about the grace and love of Jesus that is making some of the realities of the Lord obscure. 
  We as humans seem to go overboard with almost everything. When speaking of grace and love to many have lost the sense of what that means. Grace is God's unmerited favor extended to us and without His grace we would all be lost. The bounds to God's grace is so vast and enormous. The attitudes have developed that grace will cover all and therefore there becomes no boundaries for us to operate within. Many take the grace of God and run to regions unknown in Scripture making it a "believe as you want to believe" or "do as you want to do" because the grace of God outdoes it all! That's an abuse of grace. The grace of God brings salvation to us through the death of Jesus. But the grace of God also is an instructor to deny any ungodliness and worldly desires (Titus 2:11-12). The grace of God is given to teach us how to live sensibly, righteously and godly in our daily lives. Not flippant or believing God's grace will cover everything. 
  The same with love. Love, love and more love of the Lord is poured out and it needs to be. With the very nature of God being love (I John 4:7-8) it is who He is. But again we go overboard in our thinking and beliefs. Love has at its core discipline! Love has at it's core the truth! "For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines!"  That's spoken from Scripture (Heb. 12:6). When we are called to discipline someone for continued ungodly behavior, that's love in action. We seem to miss this side of love. Too many have made love 'gooey' and take it beyond what the Lord shows us. "Love rejoices with the truth, not in unrighteousness!" That too is spoken from Scripture (I Cor. 13:6). We have taken love to places the Lord never takes His character. 
  The result of these two principles of God being abused by so many in our day, grace and love, have led to a place where there is little standard anymore. It has taken us to being less reverent toward God and led us into our worship as more of a show than reverence. Our attitudes have taken on the "coffee and doughnut" attitude rather than reverence for the Lord. We need to refocus on the Lord and see what He teaches in regard to Himself. God is love! God's grace saves us through Jesus Christ! Those are the facts but those facts are to lead us into lives that honor Him and reverentially hold to His word. There is a standard from heaven and we must be careful that we do not blur what His standard has set before our eyes.