Monday, August 25, 2014

"Grace and Church"

  We want to get people to the water. They are told they must be baptized or they won't go to heaven. While there is truth in that statement, too many are scared into baptism (especially children) rather than being faced with their sin and its consequences so faith in Jesus is never taught much less sought. We need to tell people what God did before we tell them what to do! The real, true motivation of faith is the grace of God. When we speak of Christianity, we are speaking of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. When we speak of His church, you cannot separate Christ, grace and the Church. Paul expressed this thought when speaking with the elders from Ephesus (Acts 20:28) and Paul teaching the church at Ephesus (Eph. 3:21/5:25-27).
  Today, I want you to think and realize to believe in the grace of God is to love His Church! It was Jesus Himself that told Peter He would build His church and Hades gates would never prevail against His Church. (Matt. 16:18) This is one of the more familiar Scripture but we need to read it carefully and think. Jesus didn't say He would build 'a' church or 'your' church. Jesus built His Church and it was based on Him being who He is and He is the grace provider. Too many are making the Church their own private property or ownership. I know of congregations where certain families dominate and if things are done according to their way, the one or ones not following are removed. That is not the Church Jesus built. That is a man built church by man's ideas. Jesus did not build 'our' church!! Grace from God through Jesus Christ built the Church of Jesus.
  What do we learn? The Church is about God's grace to us. Jesus built His Church without man's involvement. That means it has nothing to do with man's efforts but Christ's efforts and God's grace. The Church Jesus built is not self-reliant. It is completely dependent upon the grace of the Lord Jesus. The Church is where God's grace-works are done! (Eph. 2) Grace is through faith. Think about how you feel about the Church, not a denomination because the Church Jesus built is not a denomination. That's man's doings! Grace teaches us to love His Church and to love His Church is God's grace toward you at work. That should give us each something to think about!   

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Alter Your Course!"

    He was a young naval officer. His first assignment at sea was given and he was determined that nobody would push him around or abuse his authority! One stormy night he saw a bright light coming toward his ship so he sent a message to the ship, "Alter your course by ten degrees!" Immediately a message came back to him, "Alter your course ten degrees!" The young officer was put out with such a message. He spoke out about the disrespect for his authority and the defiance! He sent a second message, "Alter YOUR course by ten degrees...this is the captain!" Almost immediately came the message back, "Altar YOUR course by ten degrees...this is the lighthouse!"
  Too many in Christ are like that young naval officer. Too many want to guide their own 'ships' without any anyone telling them what to do. We want independence and prove that no one will tell us what we can or cannot do. We act as if we are completely capable of doing things for ourselves, without instruction.
  A friend of mine was sharing with me about a congregation he worked with. Every time he spoke or wrote an article about dress, he had one family that became upset at him and they would let him know. "No one is going to tell me how to dress my daughters!" is what the woman would tell him. It didn't matter if God's sacred word asked for the women to dress for God rather than for the world (I Tim. 2:9-10). It was nothing than pure rebellion. As this family took on difficulties later in their lives, it became apparent that none in that family had a real firm grip spiritually while fear and anxiety seem to bury them. They never recovered.
  That is sad to hear but yet there are many living in arrogance, self-maintained brethren not taking any instruction thinking that someone would dare tell them how to live. Jeremiah spoke plainly, "I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23) The Psalmist wrote: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psa. 119:105) God's word is our lighthouse and if we do not take action as He asks, we too are headed from a course in life that will crash us into the rocks. What's worse is you can see it coming while they can't.
  How many difficulties could be avoided if we would only heed and make certain we are taking proper instruction? How many congregations would resolve matters if only we would accept what the Lord asks when we want to strike out on our own? Let's not defy or fight God's authority. It's always better to alter our lives according to His word. How do you receive the authority of God's word?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"God's Goodness"

  What's your view of God? How do you really perceive Him? Your conviction and understanding of God are revealed in many different ways. What you do in your worship reveals your understanding of God. It can also reveal your lack of understanding also. But mainly what you say to others, what you speak reveals your insight of God. And we need to speak!
  Moses asks of God, "I pray You, show me Your glory!" (Ex. 33:18) God responds by letting Moses know that no one can see His face and live. But God does grant this: "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you..." (Ex 33:19) The goodness of God is nothing like the goodness of man. We compare goodness with one another but God's goodness, who do we have to compare it too? How are we going to get a glimpse of God's goodness and speak about it?
  Look at the cross! The death of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Lord speaks volumes about the goodness of God. Yes, we see mercy, grace, righteousness and all those elements of God but His goodness is demonstrated also. 
  Here is Micah the prophet never witnessing or hearing about the saving death of Jesus but he speaks loudly the goodness of God. "Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."  (Micah 7:18-19) Micah speaks of God before a sin-filled people. Micah speaks to this sin-filled people that God does all the above with delight and compassion. God doesn't have to be begged or bribed or cajoled into forgiving. God does what He does with a fullness of generous joy. 
  Why can't we believe that? To realize what God does with delight brings about a recognition of His goodness so that we can adore Him and know Him. And here Jesus stands, the complete delight of God on our behalf and God delights in this love for us. Isn't that what Rom. 5:9-10 speak? What do you speak? How do you view God? Speak of Him! Tell it to one another! This is what we proclaim every Lord's Day at His Supper! Tell is clearly and speak it often. The goodness of God has passed before our eyes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Upon Death"

  There are all sorts of questions that surround death and I understand why. It is something we have never experienced to speak about. But Jesus spoke of it. After all, He was face to face with God from the beginning because He was God (John 1:1-4). With that being said, He knows what death is about for man and He taught on it when He walked in our world.
  Here are a few things and I will draw these from Jesus teaching of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. First, we need to realize that a person's consciousness after death is still there. When death separates us from the living on the earth, that individual does not stop existing. They are very well aware and conscious of things around. "...remember that during your life you received your good things..." (Luke 16:25) Death does not destroy a person's consciousness. I have heard ones use Eccl. 9:5-6 stating that the dead have no awareness of anything. That's not what Solomon was saying. The dead do not lose their conscious state but Solomon states that people on earth soon forget the one who passed as a faded memory. I just wanted to throw that in.
  Secondly, death does not destroy destiny! Death is the entrance into our destiny. Death is a reminder that there are only two possibly destinies open to every person. Jesus is plain about that. One is a destiny of torment and the other is the destiny of comfort. Jesus knew this well as the purpose of His dying to remove our sins was to offer a destiny of comfort to those who would choose Him over the world. Each of us has a choice and in our choices our destinies are set. Too many are careless not realizing what choices they are making will have an eternal destiny at the end. 
  Finally, upon death we can and will recognize others. The rich man recognized Lazarus and Abraham. The rich had never known Abraham before but he knew him there. Death does not diminish the ability to recognize because they are conscious and aware of their surroundings of their destiny. Those who have died know who others are. 
  I know there are so many things we don't know or understand and this is so brief but what I was trying to do is give you something that would prick the heart and make you think about your eternal destiny. Jesus came to rescue us from the destiny of eternal torment and it must be so much worse than we could imagine or He wouldn't have given His life in our place. God wants our destiny with Him. Jesus pleads us to choose our destiny carefully and not allow anything to get in the way of our eternal home with Him. What are you planning for presently or are you just living each day with little direction or thought? Your destiny is at stake! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Trembling Before God"

  Have we missed something about our God? Maybe I'm looking for a little help from you today. It seems that too many are making the Father as their good 'old buddy' or 'pal.' They seem to speak in ways that make me think they just stroll into His presence like those who give a big hug asking, "How ya doing?" I hear others say, but I don't believe them, how God spoke to them in this manner or that like they were selected out of all those on the earth to hear this special revelation. 
  I read where Moses encountered God in the wilderness seeing a bush burning and God calling him by name. When it was revealed that he was standing in the presence of God Almighty, the ground was sacred, Moses didn't say, "Hey buddy, good to hear from you!" Moses hid his face and was afraid to look at God!! (Ex. 3:6) 
  When Moses requested to see God and God explained no man can see Him and live, God placed Moses in the cleft of the rock, put His hand over Moses to shield him and passed by, Moses could not stand up but made haste to bow low and he worshiped the Almighty (Ex. 34:8) Moses and God were close as friends (Ex. 33:11) yet it was not a common friendship. James speaks that Moses was called a friend of God (Jam. 2:23). There was a great reverence and each of those encounters with God, this closeness of relationship, God spared Moses by protecting him each time as God revealed no man can see Me and live. 
  Jesus showed God to man in Himself. As close as Peter was to Jesus, when Peter and his partners had fished all night and the Lord bid him to let out again into deep water, their nets filled with fish so great like nothing they had ever seen before. And what did Peter do? He fell down at the feet of Jesus bidding, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8) There was a confession, a realization in the presence of Jesus. While Peter was pleased to be near, there was a reverence in the presence of Jesus. 
  How about Thomas the doubter when He encountered the risen Lord? In his touching Jesus, Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28)
  What do we learn? Are we to be a people that come crawling into the presence of the Almighty, taking the Supper with gloom and doom in our heart? Of course not! Too many see the Lord God as One who is ready to crush us with His mighty fist! This God protected His friend. This Lord spared His apostles.That's what friendships do but we are called to pursue the sanctification (holiness) which we were called to or we will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Holiness is serious both in living and worship! This same God who loves us and this Son who committed His life for us calls us with a holy calling that we are to show gratitude. How? "By which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." (Heb. 12:28) Acceptable service with reverence and awe. He's not just a pal and chummy buddy. The Lord God Almighty and His Savior needs to be revered and held in high esteem, not some encounter as we would see in on the street corner or with some other person. He is holy!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"There Is God!"

  God created and it was very good! That's what Gen. 1:31 tells us. There was a time in this world's history that every single element was in perfect alignment with God. What kind of place would that have been? Have you ever thought about it? There was no record of any decay or corruption. It was all exceedingly good. On top of that the blessing of God was bestowed to flourish in this great harmony together. The Creator, man and all living things were in unison living and talking together. All of this speaks of the relationship of God to His creation and it something beautiful. We sometimes don't allow it to impact us but God brought all that exists into existence. His great wisdom and might brought into existence things that had no matter, no material but He spoke and there they (we) were!! The Creator organized it and gave things their proper place.
  And we think we can live on our own power? We act like it at times. We think as God's people, the church, it's all up to us to do this or that. We believe without us God can't get things done. We organize and work hard. Many of our efforts fail and fall short. We get frustrated as we try harder. Too many have become self-sufficient rather than 'God-sufficient'. Our thoughts are we must take care of things rather than allow God to take care of things. We put our hands on too much and trust too little. That's it...we simply don't trust our Creator or at least that's how we approach things. Maybe it's time we backed off and reflect while meditating about this Creator that we have been called into fellowship with through His Son.
  God alone stood in bringing all things into existence. No one told Him how, when or why. All the elements are His created servants. It was the Creators mind that put every single detail into place and how they function. There were no other gods or forces to be conquered in order to do this. The earth stands on its base because of God. The waters of the earth keep their place because of God. The animals are fed and watered because of God. The sun rises and sets on its time because of God. The seas team with life (which man is discovering something new almost daily) because of God. There are no gods, just the Almighty Creator. There was no "mother nature", just God. Why can't we trust Him to put us in the right frame of mind instead of turning to the creation for answers that does not understand how we function? 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Amazing! Simply Amazing!"

  It was a sight to behold. I've seen it before, many times in fact, but that day it was something different. I stood in awe and couldn't get enough. We were camping and the day was beautiful. A few small thunderstorms had gathered and it would rain for a few minutes and quit. We had decided to drive to the lake and take a look at things, about 4 miles away. 
  We turned out of our camp onto the pavement and there it was, right in front of us, road high as bright as I have ever seen it before. God's rainbow! It wasn't a normal rainbow. This was bright and brilliant shining like I had never seen before. Every color was vivid, even the purple at the bottom. It is a rarity to see the purple with brightness or at least that has been my experience in my years. This rainbow God placed before our eyes that day was a sight to behold. Each individual color in bright array on display before our eyes. I had to stop and get pictures. They never do justice. A couple of cars whizzed by while I stopped and I wondered if they even realized what was before their eyes. I couldn't wait to get back to camp and read about it. I wanted to hear from God Himself what He was showing us that day. 
  How many rainbows have you seen in your lifetime? We are amazed aren't we? We tell our children or anyone else around, "Look at the rainbow." Over 5000 years and it still impresses man. God is faithful. That rainbow is one way God speaks to His world, His creation. Why won't people believe and listen? 
"'I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.' God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." (Gen. 9:11-16) I wonder if the creatures can see it?  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"A Holy Calling"

  Paul appealed to the young preacher Timothy to join in suffering with him "for the gospel according to the power of God." (II Tim. 1:8) Then he continues reminding Timothy that the gospel that is according to God's power is what saved them (and us) and called us with a holy calling. In all this, Paul speaks that he was appointed a preacher, an apostle and teacher to uphold this. (II Tim. 1:9-11) 
  Paul was defending the seriousness of all this and his position he was called by God. We too need to take seriously our holy calling and salvation. Have you ever thought about your "holy calling"? A behavior and attitude of holiness before God. That's what salvation has brought us: holiness. Peter speaks that saints are to be like the "Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior."  (I Pet. 1:15) I must admit that in my past, I wasn't holy in my behavior and didn't take my calling and salvation seriously which led me to silliness and ignorant behavior. 
  While returning home from our vacation, we stopped at a place to assembly with the saints for worship. That day these brethren had a guest speaker who was well known throughout East Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska or that's what we were told. He was introduced as one who will hold your attention and after you hear him, you will see why he is invited to so many places. The man speaking for God stood up and began...with a joke! That led to a story that ended in a joke. Another funny story came, some funny off the cuff comments, a quote of a Bible verse, a funny statement from the quote of God's holy Scripture and then the lesson began. Never once did he open God's word. He only quoted. Often he would speak of something of our salvation and end his words with, "Do I hear an Amen?" I never heard ONE amen. Finally, after a funny story, he ended with, "Do I hear an amen?" I'm not certain he understood he was asking an 'amen' for a funny story. It seemed to be all a habit without thought. In all, I can see why he holds peoples attention and invited to so many places. He was a comedian that walked over the holy calling of God with jokes. My heart was broke. What was worse is I'm not sure many of the people could see anything wrong. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I've gotten too old and have become an old stick in the mud. I just couldn't see the appointed preacher, apostle and teacher Paul flinging out one liners to get the brethren rolling.
  God takes our salvation seriously. His holiness that He called us to is something that shouldn't be common as we would see at a comedy hour. Our salvation is based on the brutal death of the Lord Jesus. He took my (and yours) load of guilt and carried them to the grave. The Lord lived only 33 short years but those years were spent carrying you and me to spare us from eternal consequences of condemnation. We need to strive carrying this gospel by the power of God and that takes a serious and sober minded life. We are called to holiness. What do you think?

Monday, August 11, 2014

"Renewal Of Mind and Body"

  "But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness to pray." (Luke 5:16) This little statement that was Holy Spirit inspired has great meaning or at least it is becoming to be more of an influence for me as I age. 
  Getting alone with God, away from all distractions is vital. I just returned from two weeks away, in the mountains, reading and praying everyday and I cannot tell you how refreshed I am. It's not vacationing just to run to every thing and do every event while you are where you are. It's not about being busy spending money. It's about time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord without any distractions and it helps both the mind and body! Too many families today are killing themselves daily with worries and pleasures of life. They take their vacation and what do they find? Spending themselves into more debt (which creates greater anxieties for paying off) and running at a fast pace from one thing to another only coming home to needing a vacation from their vacation. I know this well. I used to do it! Not any more. I have since discovered the "secret" of renewing your mind and body and it's not about running but resting in the Lord. Someone might say, "But you don't have kids anymore and they want to go do!" Aw, that's just it. We kept two of our grandchildren, ages 6 and 10, with us the whole two weeks and they were well content sitting around camp, playing in the dirt, walking along side the stream of water, throwing rocks, finding rocks, feeding the chipmunks, riding their bikes down a single path, doing a little fishing and all without electronics or wanting to go and do!
  Our lives are being pushed to the limits by too many activities and electronics. Our lives are being pushed by the love of pleasures rather than the love of God. When was the last time you sat down and meditated on the word of God? When was the last time you sat down and looked for God in His word, listening to His voice alone? When is the last time you sat down and simply prayed? I don't mean the short little prayers, but a praying with a yearning and longing from the heart? The mind becomes refreshed. The soul becomes clean and focused. The heart is stirred to great depths. God touches the depth of your being! I understand a little of why Jesus would slip away often.