Jun 8, 2015

I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND, DO YOU?

Have you ever wondered why those who do not know Christ as Lord can't seem to understand why others do?  Something that seems so clear to me, as a believer, seems like foolishness to unbelievers. 

In the book of First Corinthians, Paul the apostle, spoke of those who wanted something that would prove to them the reality of Christ. Greeks wanted wisdom and the Jews wanted a sign.  The world in all its supposed wisdom could not see the truth about Christ, and the Jews would not accept any sign, although many were indeed given. 

My wife and I have raised our kids in the church and by the Word of God or at least we thought we did. However, at this point the result is rather discouraging. Neither of our boys profess faith in who Christ is.  They are quite caught up in the philosophy and thinking of the world.  They might as well be "Greek" or "Jewish," as it seems like foolishness to them.  They are okay with us thinking that way, but as yet have not seen it to be true for them.

Proverbs 16:25 states a profound thought, "There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death" The frightening reality of this statement is that a person can go through life thinking they are right in their mind and heart, only to discover that they were wrong.  And at that point, it's too late.

I don't want that for my boys or for anyone else.  God wants the best for you and for me and that is to live our lives under the truth of who he is.  When this is in place, all other things fall into line.  This does not mean that a believer has no problems but rather that the believer does not have to fear. They can face anything with the peace of God in their life.

Proverbs again says in 16:9 that "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."  Here we see what happens when a man or woman is centered in Christ.  The way they plan their lives may not be perfect and without error, but the end result is that God watches over them and establishes their steps.  So much so, that he (God) will "...make even his enemies to be at peace with him" (16:7).

I want this for me and I want it for my boys.  I hurt when the choices they make hurt them and sometimes others around them.  I long for them to commit their way to the Lord but I can't make it happen.  I am committed to praying for them and will continue to keep that promise.

Perhaps you are in the same life boat.  You have those whom you love, friends or family members who just don't get it.  That is, they don't see why you and I love the Lord so much that we trust him completely. Someday, I hope they do.  May God bless you as you keep that faith and as you share it with those whom you love the most.

Jan 1, 2015

YOU GET ANOTHER CHANCE!

It's probably true that most people do not look at the New Year in this way, but every time we enter one, we have a chance to set a new direction for our lives.

There's something about a new beginning that can be a catalyst to becoming more effective at living our lives the way we want to and more importantly, the way the Lord would have us live. As I have given this some thought, a few ideas have emerged that seem important if we are going to be serious about making the most of our new"chance" to live more purposefully.

As a Christian, we must remember the absolute priority of the Word of God.  I am taken back sometimes when I hear that people are making decisions and actions regarding something for which they have not looked one time to see what the Bible says about it. Perhaps, and even worse, is the practice of doing something in our lives, and assuming that we know what the word of God says and discover later that we are not even close to what the Bible prescribes.

Next, in order to make sure that our new effort for change in the new year sticks, we must share this with someone we trust.  It has to be someone that knows us and is willing to share in our attempt to be more purposeful in our daily lives.  We must share the specifics and not speak only in generalities. It seems that we must say more than "I want to lose weight."  It would be better to say that this is what I weigh now and by May I want to lose 30 pounds.  I want to walk, drink more water and keep track of my progress.  By doing this, my friend can hold me accountable and support me along the way.

By being specific, I can commit myself to praying for results in the specific areas of need. The third thought I had was that any part of my life is important and worthy of thinking about spiritually.  God is not only concerned about my faith, He is interested and concerned about everything that I seek to do, especially those things that will bring him honor.  Our example above is perfect.  No one cares more about your body than the Lord, since your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The great thing about a new year is that there's plenty of time to reevaluate and adjust your original plans.  Sometimes we overshoot our target and sometimes we underestimate what we can achieve if we put our minds to it.  Regularly evaluating where we are in achieving our goals can enable us to see exactly what we need to do in order to hit our target.  If we are doing well, there will be the opportunity to change our goal and achieve even more than we thought we could do.

These are very basic steps but often overlooked when we try to have a fresh beginning in the new year. I, like you, want to make the most of this year for the Lord and for all who know me. What's really great is that we get another chance to get it right and make the best of all the Lord gives us.  I hope your New Year is filled with creativity, purpose and fulfillment in every way.  Happy New Year!

Dec 17, 2014

CHRISTMAS spirit ALL YEAR LONG!

There is something different about this time of the year.  I get the same type of feeling when the Easter season comes around.  People are seemingly kinder, more polite and just seem to be in a better mood.

I don't know if people realize that they are acting differently, but they do. Go into a store during another time of the year and you do not always sense the same kind of generous spirit or attitude. Don't get me wrong, I like it but I do find it interesting.

Indeed, we are created as emotional people.  The way we feel has a lot to do with the way we act, especially toward others.  But where does our emotional makeup come from?  According to pastor Pete Scazzero, author of the very popular book "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality," a lot of who we are comes from how we were raised.  Over the years, the emotional imprints become visible in how we look at life, treat others and in many ways, even how we relate to what God wants to do in our lives.

Once Jesus was confronted with a very important question.  The lawyer asked, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"  Jesus responded by saying, "You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Mt. 22:37).  He followed it up with a second commandment just like the first, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 22:39).

To be able to obey these two commandments one would have to be spiritually and emotionally healthy. If one is obedient to these two commandments, he or she would be able to have the right attitude all the time, whether it was Christmas, Easter or not.  The christian's goal should be to develop a lifestyle of obedience to the degree that everything they do gives evidence of their spiritual and emotional health.

Yes, it is Christmas time and it is a special time of the year. But, everyday is special when one understands the privilege and responsibility that we have as believers in Christ.

Sep 3, 2014

Equipping the Saints to do What?

No too long ago I read an article where the author was addressing the role of church leaders in the context of the local church. His point was simple and based upon Paul's writings in Ephesians where he defines the work of the pastor as one who "equips the saints for the work of the ministry" (4:11-13).

This would be, I think, especially true for the pastor-teacher.  For many of us, he is the one who takes the majority of responsibility for carrying out this work.  According to the author, this not only is true for the pastor-teacher but for the other leaders God has given to the church.

One only needs a small amount of exposure to a present day local church body to realize that much is missing today when it comes to this mandate being fulfilled.  Of course, there are many things expected of the pastor and leaders that in and of themselves aren't bad, but nevertheless fall way short of what it seems God wants for the everyday believer and member of his church body.

Many will say that the primary role of the pastor is to preach.  In fact, there are many who would judge a pastor to be good if he is a good speaker.  While I agree that preaching the word is central and very important to the work of the pastor-teacher, this alone falls way short of the ultimate standard.  What then, is Paul suggesting the leaders of the church be able to do?

The text says that they (church leaders) are to equip the saints (believers) for the work of the ministry.  It would seem easy to figure out what this means but maybe not.  No one would not expect believers to serve the Lord in connection to their spiritual gifts and talents. But, to get at the heart of the mandate we probably should ask a question about the primary focus of the early church at this time.

Without question, the answer seems clear.  The early church was about evangelism. That is, the expansion of the gospel into an unbelieving world. With this view in mind, the use of our gifts makes a lot of sense.  We are to use our giftedness as tools to be use in reaching out to a world without Christ.

Now, if we go back to the point at which we began, we can see why many churches are not growing and what must be done.  In order to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, we must return to the work of equipping the saints to understand the gospel and show them how to share their faith with  others who do not know him yet.

If we stop at talking about evangelism or be satisfied with preaching occasionally about the importance of evangelism, then we deserve what we get.  But, if we are committed to what's important to the Lord about the church, then we must equip the saints to evangelize effectively.  And this will take a lot more than mere talk. What do you think?

Aug 8, 2014

Is HIS Resurrection YOURS?

Many folks will remember the excellent book written by David A. Dean many years ago entitled "His Resurrection and Ours!  This book explained with clarity that our future resurrection is tied to the resurrection of Christ.  Paul the apostle put it this way:if Christ is not raised then we will not be raised! (my italics).

Recently, I was asked to preach at my local church and I chose to speak on this topic but I approached it in a little different way.  I began with the apostle Paul's words in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 where he reminds the believers in Corinth of the gospel he preached which had at the center of it an emphasis upon the resurrection of Christ.

At the end of Luke's gospel (24:44), Christ is seen reminding the disciples after the resurrection and before the ascension of the gospel message.  It seems that these guys had a hard time remembering what was really important.  Rather than worrying about overtaking the Romans, Jesus wanted his followers to think about their relationship with him.

Later on, Paul writes to the believers in Philippi that he wanted to "know Christ and the power of his resurrection (chapter 3).  This to me is amazing.  To think that the apostle Paul, of all people, was still in the process of knowing Christ and trying to experience his power in his life is mind boggling to say the least.

What about you and me?  My sermon title recently was "A Truth worth Remembering!"  This is so true.  We must remember the importance of the resurrection and more so, the importance of experiencing the knowledge and power of Christ's resurrection in our lives.  It is so easy to go through life on a daily basis and try to do what we do in our own power.  We all know that this doesn't work.  We need Christ more than we think.

So, here's a thought for consideration.  Go through your day and do not attempt to do anything without first thinking about what it would mean to do it in the knowledge and power of Christ.  I am trying to do this and I encourage you to do the same.

Aug 1, 2014

FROM CULTURAL TO SCRIPTURAL

In a context where the Lord invites all people to join themselves to Him, he invites them into his house which will be know as a house of prayer (Isaiah 56.7). He will accept the prayers of his people and give them joy as they worship the Lord.

This primary purpose for the house of the Lord has unfortunately and sadly been neglected in most churches of today.  If you are seeking fellowship as it is called in most churches and by most believers then you will hit gold.  If you desire good food, you will be filled.  If you long for programs that will scratch where you itch, look no more. Incredible effort is given to provide whatever you need, especially in larger churches.

However, if you are looking for a place where people are committed to prayer, where prayer is more than an attachment to whatever else is being done for whatever reasons, you will be looking and searching for sometime.  The reason is simple.  For many leaders and even pastors, prayer is cultural not biblical or Scriptural.

We pray because, after all, that's what Christians are supposed to do.  We pray because we think that by praying we can get what we need.  We don't pray because it the lifeline we have between sinful man and a holy God.  We just do it for brief moments and move on.
Praying was never meant to be an attachment.  God's house is to be a house of prayer.  No wonder Jesus was upset when he encountered people who had turned it into a den of robbers (Matthew 21.13).  As noted, prayer was not to be an attachment, but rather, the primary activity of God's people.

What this might mean for us is a critical question for believers longing to be the people God has called us to be.  Prayer certainly isn't limited to having a room in your church designated for prayer. No, the entire house is to be a house of prayer.  This has to mean that the people who make up the church are people of prayer. 

Jun 19, 2014

What's in Your Mind and what are you doing about it?

Every once in a while I come across a verse in my Bible reading that for some reason "Jumps" out at me.  It causes me to pause long enough to think about a number of ways in which the verse could be applied to my life.

One such verse is 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 which states, ' For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds."

Paul argues in the verse for the idea that as believers, we have a divinely potent strategy when it comes to dealing with strongholds in our lives. In essence, as long as we use the strategy of God in dealing with our problems, there is nothing that can overcome us.  We are more than conquerors in Christ. 

Unfortunately, as human beings we often try to deal with the problems in our lives in the flesh.  That is, in our own strength and by using man-made strategies.  These, however, will always fall short of what God want to accomplish in our lives, and in our churches. 

Paul uses another word in this text that most certainly should catch our attention.  He speaks of weapons and warfare.  Simply put, this is not a game.  It is war.  It is war between the forces of evil and the forces of the kingdom of God.  As long as we use the weapons of God, we are able to deal with anything that comes our way.

Our goal is to take every opposing idea and place it in submission to God.  Our goal is to find out what pleases God the most and live out that truth in full obedience. This must begin at the very first appearance of an opposing thought or behavior.  It's at that point that we take it to God and thus take it captive, preventing it from doing any damage.

My prayer for my life is that I will be able to be obedient in this task.  I do not want any thought or contemplation of sin to enter my mind to the degree that I give it the opportunity to be acted upon.  I want to take every thought captive in order that I may move closer to being obedient in the way that God wants in the first place.  May you experience this as well!