Friday, June 8, 2018

Sleeping in Worship 6/8/2018

"And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead." Acts 20:9

Beloved, this started out as a light hearted tale of the dangers of falling asleep in church. At some point, we have all done it or been dangerously close to doing it. My mind raced with all of the things I've seen from the pulpit when people fall asleep, such as snoring and startling oneself awake, heads bouncing from nodding, mouths hanging open, etc.

It then occurred to me that there are larger issues. Are we sleepwalking through our spiritual lives? Are the things that God is trying to show us being missed because we are dosing? As it was with the disciples in the garden, are we leaving the Lord hanging?

It is interesting to note that the young man in the window who was evidently a Christian and was there to hear a word from the Lord not only fell asleep but fell to his death. What a great tragedy to think that we can lose consciousness of the word while literally listening to the word and fall away to our ultimate death. I guess it is not so funny after all. Let us remain focused and diligent in our Christian lives. Let us not come this far by faith and come up short.

Of course I can almost hear someone responding, "Well if the long winded preacher wasn't preaching all night the poor child would have never fallen asleep!" I guess that's sort of funny.

No it isn't.

Building God's family,


Friday, May 25, 2018

The Message to the Messenger 5/25/2018

“'Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.'" Ezekiel 3:17-18

Every now and then I run across a Bible passage that makes my blood run cold. Ezekiel 3:17-21 is just such an example. The prophet Ezekiel was being sent by God to the rebellious people of Israel to deliver a warning from Him. One of the reasons he was being sent was so that the people would know that a prophet, and by extension, God Himself was among them. In turn, the message he was sent to deliver was designed to warn the people to turn from their wicked ways and return to the previously established covenant relationship lest they die.

The message God gave Ezekiel to deliver was a critical one, however, before he was given a word to speak, God impressed upon him the importance of carrying out the assigned task. In short, He told his prophet that if anyone perished (due to their own iniquity) without him having delivered the assigned message, he would bear responsibility.

Beloved, the reason this passage caused a chill to run down my spine is due to the realization that we have been given the same charge and bear that same responsibility. Those of us who call upon the name of Jesus are the messengers of God. We are sent to all nations to bear witness to the love of the Lord and to deliver His message (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to fill our mouths with His word and warn the stubborn, obstinate and unrighteous about the dangers associated with pursuing their current course. We are charged with nothing less than attempting to literally save the lives of the lost. Our failure to speak up and speak out condemns to death the people we refuse to warn just as if we failed to take the keys from an inebriated person attempting to get behind the wheel of a car. It is not our fault that the person is drunk, but we would bear responsibility for refusing to intercede if that person tragically died or worse, caused the death of someone else. Chilling indeed.

Let us not view our Christian lives simply as "going to Church," attending bible studies, participating in pot luck dinners and fellowshipping with those of like faith. Let us instead act as fire marshals engaged in literal fire prevention and fire fighters engaged in literal rescue of those in danger of being lost in the fire.

Building God's family,


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Promise is a Promise 5/22/2018

"In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us." Heb 6:17-18

  Throughout history there have been attempts to gain assurances regarding the reliability of a person's word.  We are familiar with handshakes, blood oaths and even "pinkie swears" which are popular with pre-teens today.  Biblically, it was customary to swear by someone or something greater than oneself though Christ encouraged saying simply "yes" or "no" rather than making oaths at all ( Matt 5:33-37).  But we all know what it is like to have someone make assurances and promises but fail to deliver.

Beloved we can rejoice today because we serve a God that is not subject to the fickleness and failings of men and women.  It is good to know that it is beyond His capability to lie and that therefore, He will do what He says He will do.  God has an amazing track record.  Within the context of the Hebrews passage, the Bible indicates that he made promises to Abraham but "since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself" Heb 6:13.  Remember that he promised to make an old man and his barren wife the parents of descendants as numerous as the stars.  Even we are products of that promise.

Let us then be grateful that God is true.  Let us be encouraged by the things he has promised.  Let us look forward with hope and faith to the day that the promises he has made regarding our living ever with him will come to pass.

Building God's family,


Friday, May 4, 2018

Persistence Pays 5/4/2018

"Then He said to them, " Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' "I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs." Luke 11:5-8

Far too often, we treat God as a clerk at a local store while thinking of ourselves as customers. We expect to be able to put in our order with Him and have it filled in a manner that exceeds our expectation and for it to be done right away. Should He, in our minds, fail to deliver, we become either angry and indignant or defeated and hopeless. Many of us will try to fix whatever the problem is or obtain whatever the need is ourselves and will step outside of God's will for our lives if we feel it necessary. "Oh we of little faith."

None of us can begin to know the entire will of God. None of us can see things from His perspective. None of us has access to His intent be it past, present or future. We do, however, have access to His assurances and promises. He has promised to provide for all of our needs (rather than the wants on which we so often base the health of our relationship and even His existence). He has promised to hear our pleas. He has promised a way of escape for any temptation that threatens to overtake us. And He has promised everlasting life to those that are His.

Beloved, if your situation is not covered by one of these or the many other promises and assurances given by the Lord, which is doubtful, be persistent in your supplications. Beseech the Lord in all you do, day and night. Draw closer to Him and He will draw closer to you. In short, as our scripture of the day clearly indicates, bug Him! For after this He has said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened," Luke 11:9-10.

Building God's family,


Friday, April 20, 2018

Will Alignment 4/20/2018

"He said, 'Thus says the Lord, 'Make this valley full of trenches.' "For thus says the Lord, 'You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts." 2 Kings 3:16-17

The kings of Judah and Edom had allied themselves with aggrieved king of Israel, Jehoram, in an effort to do battle with the offending king of Moab. It should be noted that Jehoram was a wicked king but the king of Judah was righteous. Having set their battle plan to go through an area of wilderness, they found themselves without water for their men and animals. Wisely, they sought the prophet Elijah to advocate for them with God. It should also be noted that Elijah would have had nothing to do with Jehoram had it not been for the presence of Judah's king.

God's instruction, in short, was to prepare themselves for a miraculous blessing. They would have all the water they needed if they followed His instructions. They would not be inundated by rain which might have actually hindered their efforts, yet the Lord promised that they would have water.

Beloved, we do not always know how God will accomplish those things for which we have prayed, but we should always be prepared for an affirmative answer when the request aligns with His will. In this case the Moabites had offended God and wronged His people. It may be in your life that God take action in order to accomplish His will. Perhaps you WILL receive that promotion in order to be able to carry His word to more people and contribute more financially to His kingdom. Perhaps you WILL recover your health in an effort to be more convinced of His grace and mercy and will in turn be an encouragement to others. Perhaps He WILL send a spouse to you in order to allow you to defeat temptation and thereby be preserved. But as the kings did, you must prepare to receive such blessings.

God truly delivered on His promise to the kings. Water was delivered to the people of God via a flash flood from a distant storm. Not only did they have water to drink, but the blood like appearance of the waters' reflection of the rising sun caused the enemy to believe the kings had fought among themselves. Thinking this they went out to meet the prepared army and were themselves consumed.

Our God is a mighty God who blesses His children in accordance with His will. Does yours align with His? Despite the fact that there may be Jehorams in your life, be sure that you are the Judah that finds favor. God always comes through.

Building God's family,


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Keep Your Feet (Don't Stumble) 4/5/2018

"But Peter said to Him, 'Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.' Jesus said to him, 'Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.'” Matthew 26:33-34

Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be experiencing his last night before being hung on a cruel cross and dying. Spending time with his inner circle, he had just partaken of what we know as the Last Supper and informed them that one of them would betray him. Subsequent to this, however, he told them that they would all fall away (or stumble). He quoted Zachariah 13:7 which states, "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." We all know that it was Judas that betrayed the Lord but what of those who stumbled? What does it even mean to stumble? And why was Peter pointed out in particular?

The simple truth is that most of us avoid trouble at all costs. Jesus was considered to be and treated as a criminal and the apostles were his closest associates. On that same night, while in the company of some of them, he was arrested, beaten and taken to trial. That is most certainly trouble. As it was predicted, the apostles, with the exception of John, all scattered. Peter in particular followed Jesus to the trials at some distance but did in fact deny him three times when people recognized that he had been one who walked with Jesus. It is also known that the apostles did not busy themselves carrying out the training and mission they had received but instead hid, returning to their prior vocation as fishermen. This is stumbling.

Beloved, we must ask ourselves if we ever stumble in our faith and purpose. Though Jesus is no longer physically being dragged through the streets and falsely accused, his cause is still under indictment by some. When atheists attempt to legislate the Lord out of our lives, do we make our voices heard? When we are attacked for our stance on God ordained relationships do we hide and cower? When Satan tempts us personally do we give in or tell him to go away? The potential to stumble most surely continues to exist among the followers of the Lord. Even the most ardent, such as Peter, can find themselves out of position. We therefore must guard against the impulse to flee the one who left heaven to seek and save us. Let us not stumble but let us keep our feet.

Building God's family,


Friday, March 30, 2018

Which Ones? 3/30/2018

"And someone came  to Him and said, 'Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?'  And He said to him, 'Why are you asking Me about what is good?  There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.'  The he said to Him, 'Which ones?'"  Matthew 20:16-17

You may recognize this passage as part of the famous exchange between Jesus and one who is referred to as the "rich young ruler."  You are no doubt familiar with the fact that when given the ultimate answer to his question, that he needed to give up his earthly belongings and follow Christ, he declined and went away sad.  This is most surely a cautionary tale for a variety of reasons.  If we are more attached to earthly belongings, positions, social status, reputation and even relationships than we are to our Savior and the glories of heaven, we are a most sad and lost people indeed.

What caught my attention within this passage, however, was his second question.  The Lord clearly tells him that he needs to obey the commandments, but he asks, "Which ones?"  When you think about it, it is an astounding question.  The young ruler obviously understood that eternal life was possible and he desired it.  It is also evident that he understood that Jesus was, at minimum, a source of information about it.  Why is it then, when given the answer, he responds in a way that seems to indicate, in his mind, that there was the opportunity to choose which of God's commands to follow in an effort to achieve his objective?  Why would he not understand that they all must be followed?

Beloved, this is a problematic mindset that persists to this day.  Most anyone who believes that God and heaven exist desires to make it their home.  Unfortunately, most are not willing to do what is required to achieve it.  Let me be careful to say that eternal life cannot be earned because it is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), however, certain qualifications must be met to receive the gift.  One must enter into a committed relationship with the Lord which should inspire obedience and good works.  Many of us willingly obey the commands that suit us and just as willingly reject those that do not.  It is as if we are not willing to submit ourselves to the whole counsel of God, but instead, treat His requirements as multiple choice or optional.  Further, there are religious teachings and organizations built around this very concept.  They embrace and celebrate sinful words, thoughts and deeds as if there is no condemnation for them at all.  In effect, then, there are those conforming the word of God to their own preferences instead of the other way around.

Jesus went on to point out six of the ten commandments, all of which had to do with how others are to be treated.  The young ruler remarked that he had followed the six commands supplied for the entirety of his life.  When Jesus put that to the test by telling him to sacrifice his earthly good for the benefit of his neighbors in need and to follow him, thus storing his treasure in heaven, he proved that he was not keeping the commands at all.  More importantly and tragically, he valued adherence to his own earthly priorities over the simple and specific path to the heaven he said he desired.

It is my prayer that none of us are asking the Lord "which ones" of his commands must we obey.  Let us not "be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect," Romans 12:2.

Building Gods family,