Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Meditation

This is the season for a lot of, peace, good cheer and all of that. It is also the time that many pause to remember the birth of Christ.

Nearly everyone who has even a passing knowledge of the scriptures agree that it's not likely Jesus was born anywhere near the 25th of December. In fact, we know that this date comes from a merging of Christians and Pagans and their beliefs.

Nevertheless, to me, there is never an inappropriate time to talk about anything having to do with the Savior. In fact, since peoples' minds are focused on it, or at least open to it, it's probably the best time.

Not long ago, I heard for the second time but paid real attention for the first time, to a song that is probably the most beautiful I've ever heard. It was moving to me on every level imaginable. Singing it and hearing it sung with a group of worshippers who believed it with all their hearts was an experience that nearly brought me to tears.

I thought I'd share the lyrics, written and copyrighted by Mark Lowrey and Buddy Green, with you for your "all season" consideration. May the Lord richly bless you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know---The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb---.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great--I--- AM---.

Each one reach one.
Each one teach one.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Oneness Despite Differences II

Last night, along with some of our brothers and sisters, I had the privilege of fellowshipping with literally hundreds of saints from across the St. Louis area. The event was the annual Area Wide Praise and Worship Service. I'd like to commend Phil Gold and his team for all the work that went into what was a very enjoyable and uplifting time in the Lord. I'd also like to thank Mike Root and the folks at Florissant Church of Christ for hosting the event.

One of the greatest things about our time together was the diversity of brothers and sisters in attendance. Now I know that when the word diversity is mentioned, the first place many minds go is to race and/or ethnicity. Allow me to provide you with a different perspective:

  • Diversity is the many qualities and characteristics that make each individual unique.

Certainly race, gender, age, national origin, ethnicity and religion all qualify as aspects of diversity, but I submit to you that it is so much more basic than that. It can literally come down to whether you were raised in a two parent household or a single parent household. It can involve whether a person was raised at either end of the socioeconomic spectrum. In any case, I prefer to think of it as differences in culture.

What does that have to do with the church? I'm glad you asked.

Our heritage in the Lord originated within and affected by cultures much different than most if not all of us know. We know almost nothing of the differences our ancestors in the faith dealt with on a daily basis. Within the Jewish faith, there were many different views. Sadducees didn't believe in angels nor resurrection while Pharisees did. There were the relatively uneducated fisherman whom Jesus taught and the highly educated students of Gamaliel. There were "common folks" and members of the Sanhedrin. Then there were the Samaritans to consider. They were those that were originally Jews, but became intermingled with historical captors and became estranged from more orthodox Jews. If that weren't enough, then came the introduction of the Gentiles. These, as we remain today, are a people greatly varied in history and belief. Three of the major civilizations in New Testament times involved the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Europeans had also begun to significantly influence the world as well.

The history of the church as we know it today, began at the intersection of all these and many other cultures.

One of the largest divisions between peoples was between the Jews and the Gentiles. There are many scriptures that chronicle these differences and "what saith the Lord (or Holy Spirit inspired scriptures)" about them.

  • The book of Acts discusses the genesis of the church among Jews from a variety of countries (each with their own cultures) in chapter two.
  • Phillip preached the gospel to those in Samaria and one in particular from Ethiopia in Acts 8
  • Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in Acts 10
  • The majority of the book of Romans deals with how these disparate cultures interact and are to come together under one head
  • Galatians 3:25-28 instructs that we who have put on Christ in baptism are one in Him, despite our differences
  • Ephesians 2:14-15 reveals that Christ, through his sacrifice, has removed barriers between "us" and "them"
  • Ephesians 4:4-6 drives home the fact that we are one.

Of course there are many other scriptures that fortify these points. My encouragement to all is that we stop trying to build walls that have already been broken down by the Master Himself.

  • "Accept him who is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters" Rom 14:1

Many of these disputable matters are merely church or congregational traditions and have no basis whatsoever in scripture. Christ busied himself by reaching out to the poor, indigent, hurting, hungry and lost. And He spent his time teaching all who would listen, despite the admonishment and accusation of the then so called establishment. What would Christ say today about our controversies over saying "Amen," lifting "holy hands," singing with multiple song leaders and what we wear to worship? Brothers and sisters, I don't know. But I suspect He would have walked away and attended to the needs of someone in pain.

So again, I salute all those involved in bringing the people of God together. It is what is meant to be. Do any of us really expect a homogeneous heaven? Luke 5:4-6

Each one reach one

Each one teach one

Saturday, November 24, 2007

He That Hath An Ear

Over the past couple of months, I've done a casual survey among members of our congregation as well as others with whom I am familiar that attend other congregations. My main question is, "What is the biggest area of opportunity in the church today?" Of course the same question less positively queried is, "What is the biggest problem in the church today?"

Naturally, I received many different answers, but one thing that seemed prevalent among all of the answers was member apathy. Let me say parenthetically that "member" includes servant leaders. A biblical study of this problem reveals that this is not new. Take a look at what the bible says:

"He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ' I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 'Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 'So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you." Rev 3:1-3

I won't expand on this too much because our next series of sermons will be on the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. You may realize that this is the letter to the church at Sardis. I will say however, that I did glean these thoughts from God's Holy Word:
  1. We are still the church and are recognized as such by Christ
  2. We have at some point fallen asleep
  3. We know what to do, we just need to do it
  4. We need revival

I can't help but think of how things were when the church began.

"So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2:41-47

Let's look at some of the things that were going on in those days while mentally asking ourselves if they are still going on today, and if so, or not, why or why not?

  • The word was being shared and received with great affect and result
  • There was great and constant devotion to learning more about God through the availability of His word (preached or otherwise)
  • The people lived their lives together and pursued the things of God with vigor as a way of life (this is so significant)
  • They shared a common belief, faith and way of living that, by extension, cut down on a lot of discord
  • The people were in awe of God
  • There was sacrificial giving for the benefit of the whole of the body
  • They shared each others lives
  • There was an overall sense of joy and happiness
  • The people were sincere in their worship and fellowship
  • They praised God
  • The church grew, ostensibly though the work of the Spirit and as a result of those outside the body seeing the benefit of being members of the body by observing the interactions of the body

It is my prayer that each who happens by and reads these words would meditate and pray on them. It is not about what I have said, it is about what God has said. Take the time to examine where we are as a church. Take the time to consider where you are as an individual and then compare both to what the word directs us to do and to be.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Rev 3:6

Each One Reach One

Each One Teach One

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oneness Despite Differences

Let me first say thanks to those of you who happen by now and then to check out the blog. My original intent was to have an update weekly. It seems that it has become more of a monthly thing. I know how difficult it can be to maintain a readership with that kind of consistency.

Hmmm...consistency. That sounds like a great subject for a future entry. I will make every effort to get back to a weekly update.

This week however, our upcoming combined area worship service is on my mind. The excitement is building as we look forward to hosting an event like this for the very first time. We have invited over 30 congregations to come and share God's goodness and worship with us. I don't know how it could be anything but a great time in the Lord.

For those of you that don't know, this idea found it's genesis in the St. Louis Area amongst some of the congregations in the city when they began getting together every other month or so. North Hills, West Central, Berkley Heights (now Ferguson Heights), Wagner Ave., along with Illinois congregations, Logan Street, Centerville and Buckmaster were the congregations primarily involved. Each would take a turn in hosting the others for a great time of singing, praise and worship.

When I began to serve at O'Fallon, it seemed natural to continue the affiliations I had previously known. This time however, I was part of a new family. It occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons the Lord brought us together was to bring Christians together. Graciously, a number of O'Fallon members were willing to go and participate in the services. Nearly a dozen enjoyed the time we had at West Central earlier this year and a few more at North Hills. Then, my dear friend in the ministry, Thomas Jackson of the Ferguson Heights congregation, invited me to bring the message at the service they were hosting. Something along the order of 60 O'Fallon members attended this service (and I appreciated the amazing support). It was here that a strong appetite was developed to host this multi-congregational fellowship.

My desire was to expose my new family to a style of worship that some may never have experienced before. I think we all understand that there are differences between people and therefore there are commensurate differences between preferences, styles and techniques. It does not mean that one is better than the other, but that they are simply different. I've always believed that by opening yourself to things outside of what's "normal" or fits well within your comfort zone, you expand your knowledge, experience, awareness and appreciation of any number of things to which you allow yourself to be exposed. More simply put, if you taste calamari, you might find that you like it and will ask yourself, why you waited so long to try it.

To most in our family, I represent a difference. Whether it's preaching style, subject matter, personality, perspective, etc., it is surely different than what many have previously experienced. Since I've not been thrown out of the building, I'll take it that the difference is at least palatable and at most, enthusiastically welcomed and appreciated. Conversely, both serving in this capacity and with this family, represents a significant difference to what I've previously experienced as well. I can say with all sincerity that it is an amazingly horizon expanding experience and I'm grateful that the Lord brought us together.

At the combined service, we will have an opportunity to share OUR uniqueness with congregations that may have never experienced it before. Additionally, we have invited a number of other congregations that were not previously a part of the group that regularly worships together. It is my hope, and that of the brothers and sisters that are working so hard to make this a God pleasing experience, that we will all come together as one and celebrate the goodness of God and the great privilege we all have in being His people.

"There is one body (church), and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Eph 4:4-6
And being one church, we are ALL God's people, despite our differences.

Next week, I'll continue this theme from a scriptural standpoint.

Until then...

Each one reach one
Each one teach one

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


In my spare time (ahem), I do a little creative spiritual writing. I thought I'd take this opportunity to share a piece with you. I hope you enjoy and find it edifying.


i've waited my entire existence to meet you
anxiously awaiting the time when you
would turn and see me there
standing there
arms outstretched
for you

the glories of heaven with all of the angelic host
are not enough
to keep me

there is no length that i would not go
no pain that i would not endure
no sacifice that i would not make
to give all that you need
to gain your love

my spirit groans when you are hurting
my heart bleeds when you are lost
and confused
once you are mine
i would leave EVERYTHING
to retrieve you
if you

when you turn to another
when you turn to THE other
i feel that i could just die
and that it would be in vain
but i love you still
with my whole heart
i love you

so i leave castle and kingdom
to come to your humble abode
to knock on the door to your heart
can't you hear my voice

won't you let me in
won't you at least
be my

just to show my heart to you
just to prove my love for you
i would

Rev 3:20,21

Each one reach one.
Each one teach one!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Choose Ye This Day...

It was Joshua, in my humble opinion, that best exemplified the idea of choice; that is to say, whether to choose God or not. Based on what we know of Joshua's history, he always chose God. Consider the following:

  • We first meet Joshua in Exodus 17:9 where at the urging of Moses, he leads the famous battle against the Amelekites at which it was necessary to have Moses' arms supported in order for the people of Israel to prevail. He chose to fight for God.

  • Exodus 24:13 first refers to Joshua as Moses' servant. It goes on to say that it was he that accompanied Moses to the mountain of God so that Moses could receive the ten commandments. In that Joshua was not actually a slave, it is clear that he chose to serve and support the man of God.

  • Having been chosen as one of the 12 spies to investigate the promised land in Numbers 14:6-9, it was only Joshua and Caleb that brought back a good report and encouraged the people to, with God's help, go and take the land promised to them. He chose to have faith in God.

  • As a result of his choices, Moses chose to groom him for leadership. God chose to allow him into the promised land, even when Moses was prohibited along with nearly every other person of his time. And God chose him to lead his people.

The exploits of Joshua are many, but I want to guide you to the thrust of this discussion. In the 24th chapter of the book that bears his name, he outlines a brief history of God's relationship with the people of Israel. He then issues the following challenge:

  • "Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seems evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell..." Joshua 24:14,15

Brothers, sisters and friends, we all have choices. Man has been making choices since he was first brought to consciousness. Some of the decisions have been good; the pursuit of cures for disease, assisting one another in time of need, acting as peace makers, and ultimately, choosing God, for example. Some of them have been phenomenally bad; the decision to eat the forbidden fruit, robbing, murdering and all manner of other sinful behavior.

The bottom line however, is that we DO HAVE CHOICE. God made us that way, ultimately for His glory. I've said many times from the pulpit that it would have been easy for God to make us into automatons that did whatever he commanded. However it is clear from studying scripture that God wants us to choose to love Him as He chooses to love and provide for us. Even in our personal relationships, who among us does not want our love requited? Who does not want to be loved by the ones that we love.

God has provided greatly for us. It is up to each individual to decide whether he/she will serve Him. How does one serve Him? We serve Him and show our love to Him by being obedient to His word (John 14:15). We know that this pleases God and contributes to our growing closer to him, which in turn contributes to his coming closer to us (James 4:8). Our goal is to return to the relationship with Him that was originally intended. You've read about it in the first couple of chapters of Genesis.

I'll close with what Joshua said at the end of 24:15:

  • "...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Each one reach one.

Each one teach one.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Importance of Preaching

By way of a disclaimer, I'll start by saying that what you will read today will seem self serving from my point of view. I can assure you that it is not, but in fact, there is a purpose for me recording these particular thoughts. That purpose is consistent with everything that you read here and that is 1) for the glory of God and 2) in service to His people. That having been said...

There are a variety of opinions about the person whose responsibility it is to provide the preached word. There are some that idolize and place these men upon pedestals far beyond reach. Conversely, there are those that feel that the preacher, minister, evangelist is no better than anyone else and only exists to share a few words for a few moments and move on. Admittedly, most people feel that the importance of what the man does (rather than necessarily who he is) lies somewhere in the middle.

I'd like to share a few thoughts about what thus saith the Lord about the "man of God."

"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!'" Rom 10:13-15

Allow me to extract a couple of points from this passage:
  • God's ultimate aim is that all men everywhere would be saved. The reason He sent His Son was to seek and save the lost. Jesus' death created a path of reconciliation between man and God. His fervent desire is that His ultimate creation love Him and seek Him. The reality is that people don't instinctively know the truth. According to Romans 1:20, there are things that should give all creatures an inkling of a higher power, but there is so much more to it than that.
  • It is only when there is an awareness of his existence that belief can be nurtured and brought to full fruition of obedience. Only through obedience can one be saved.
  • This awareness and everything that follows cannot happen unless there is someone to do the telling. Someone must introduce the concept, explain the rationale and reality. Someone must show the "how to", the benefits and the consequences. It is nothing less than evangelism.
  • Though we all have the responsibility to share God's word and God's love with all we meet, there is a particular individual in the church that is charged with that responsibility. According to the scripture, that is the preacher. This is fortified by the fact that preacher is sent. To under gird this thought, read Eph 4:11-16 to see not only that God placed these men in the church, but also to see WHY (and you know we as thinking people always want to know why). I submit to you beloved reader, that each one mentioned in vs 11 was in fact engaged in preaching; sharing the word, bringing good tidings, carrying forth the word of God, teaching, reproving, correcting and instructing in righteousness. Each apostle was a preacher. Each prophet was a preacher. Many disciples were preachers.

What we think of the man engaged in preaching is a separate issue. From these passages, we can see that the heralds of Christ, the ministers, preachers, evangelists, etc. are sent men, ordained by God to carry forth His word to His people. This is primarily, but not exclusively done in the worship service. Christ Himself repeatedly spoke both in and out of the synagogue, not about social events or how to build cabinetry, but about God. We know that it was Paul's habit to go into the synagogue (a place of worship) and preach the word of God. Even the gentiles were attracted to these Jewish institutions to hear about the Lord. In fact, the preached word (unfortunately) is all the God that many people get. It is absolutely indispensable and shares an important role in the worship service along with the other elements we characteristically lump together as "worship." Preaching is a critical part of not only the worship service, but of our Christian lives. God has ordained it. So let it be understood. So let it be done.

Each one reach one.

Each one teach one!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Haven't You Heard?

In our human interactions, one of the most frequent activities in which we engage is communication. One way or the other, we are almost constantly sharing information. Whether we do it verbally, in writing, body language or gestures, ideas fly back and forth between us at rates of speed that would flabbergast if one were to stop and think about it.

The question of the day, especially to Christians, is what information is being transmitted and what information is being received? I submit to you that each of us should be employed in sharing the good news of Christ's sacrifice for us. There is no information that can be shared that is as important, as critical, as timely and as classic as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Of course this is something that we all know. Big deal right? RIGHT! Our problem is that we don't treat it as the big deal that it is. What is the most urgent thing you might share with a co-worker, neighbor or acquaintance? Is it highlights from your favorite TV show? Is it a fabulous sale at a local retail outlet? Is it gossip about a mutual acquaintance? More to the point, is it EVER the gospel?

You see as Christians, we have been given specific instructions to share the good news. Matt 28:18-20 is known as the Great Commission. It is a command to all believers to help make other believers.

Some may realize this but are not sure how to go about it. Without going into an extensive class on evangelism, I'll give you three simple tips that, properly employed, will work for anyone who uses them.
  1. Know the gospel: It is important that you familiarize yourself with God's word. For everyone that believes, this should be a life long pursuit. If you have come to the knowledge and understanding that God has granted you a free gift that you cannot earn, it stands to reason that job one should be learning what else He has provided. One of the things He has provided is instruction. Acts 17:11-12 reveals that our ancestors in the faith received (heard and learned) the word, verified the teaching through study of the word, and believed by confirmation of the word. The key is the word!
  2. Live the gospel: You can always tell what's important to a person by how they spend their time. You can always tell what type of person someone is by what they do when they think no one is watching. Do the people in your sphere consider you a child of God or a pretender...or do they have an opinion at all. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matt 5:16 It should be obvious that you serve God in your words AND deeds. It is this light that attracts those that are in darkness.
  3. Share the gospel: It is the greatest story ever told and the truest story ever told. Of all of the things we could share with others, none exceeds the fact that our sins have been paid for through no effort of our own. Salvation is full and free! This is something that should be, as Jeremiah famously said, "like fire shut up in our bones," ostensibly, burning to get out. There are many ways to start a conversation about the Lord, but my advice is to just be yourself and tell others what your experience has been. Talk about the difference He has made in your life, talk about what He has done for all mankind, and talk about how anyone can accept God's free gift. It's not nearly as hard as we make it. You could always tell someone what you were told that caused you to accept Christ.

Sharing God's good news should not only be something about which we are all enthusiastic, but it literally should come naturally to us. Sometimes we just need to shut off the radio, TV and Internet and just have a little talk about Jesus.

Each one reach one.

Each one teach one!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Running This Race

I thought I'd take the time out to share with you some thoughts from my favorite scripture in the bible. Even having a favorite scripture is a stretch since there is so much good there, but we all have areas of need, concentration and significance in our lives and this matches well with mine.

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Phi 3:13,14

Let's take a closer look at this:

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended..."

A perusal of the previous verses will show that Paul's main goal is to win Christ, to know Christ intimately, to be found in him and to know and attain the power of his resurrection (vs 8-11). These are lofty goals indeed, but to Paul, goals are indeed what they are, for according to his word, he has not yet attained or apprehended them. He goes on to say in vs 12 that he is diligently pursuing this apprehension, the attaining of all aspects of a relationship with and true understanding of Christ. These are worthy goals for all Christians. I submit to you that we are all in the same state Paul was, having not fully grasped all that is Christ Jesus.

"...forgetting those things which are behind..."

Paul outlines his pedigree in vs 3-6. In it, he explains why he is a Jew of Jews, and had every right to brag on his lineage, upbringing, education, associations and accomplishments. The key is in vs 7 & 8, where he says he willingly turned his back on all of that and counts it all as dung compared to the quest for Christ! Too often we put more stock than we should on things that pump us up, even as we fail to give Christ credit for who we are and what we have. This interferes with apprehending him. Think about it this way: looking back often results in going back. Remember Lot's wife?

"...and reaching forth unto those things which are before..."

Now I'd like to introduce you to the race analogy that Paul is employing. The Olympics in Greece were a big thing during this time and everyone could identify with athletic competition, particularly running. In fact, athletes were the rock stars of their day. The thought is that everything, the gaze, the legs, the arms, all reaching forward toward the goal, with great intent and never looking back. The Greek word here indicates stretching and straining. How often do we slip into remembrances and old habits that distract us from moving forward in our Christian lives? How much effort do we really put in to "winning" Christ?

"...I press toward the mark for the prize..."

The Greek here refers to the speed and effort. It conveys that he is doing everything to win. We know that the race goes to them that endure rather than the swift, nevertheless, you must figuratively be the first to cross the line in order to win. Paul wants to win, but what he wants to win is the prize of the high calling of God. What is that we are hoping to win? Popularity, wealth, fame, or heaven?

"...of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

The high calling is nothing short of the upward calling. It conveys not only that we need to lift our lives, lift our spirit and lift our way of living, but that we want to attain that which is above. God has been calling us home since Adam and Eve got thrown out of the garden. We can only make it home through Jesus (John 14:6). Godliness and our final reward should be the goal of all Christians and it should be seen in the lives that we live.

Brothers and sisters, consider your own favorite scriptures, why they are and what they truly mean to your life. Study this scriptures and attempt to extract every bit of meaning from them. I assure you that the longer you live and the more you go through, the more God's word will have to say to you.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Slippery Slope of Sin

I saw a movie once that imparted the following:

If you were to toss a frog into boiling water, it would hop out immediately.
If you were to place a frog in temperate water and slowly increase the heat, it would stay there and boil to death.

In thinking about sin, I find it to be a lot like that.

Faced with things that offend our Christian sensibilities and that we might find egregious in nature, we typically avoid quite easily. We know the difference between right and wrong and for the most part avoid the wrong, particularly if it is blatantly and obviously so. We will give that type of sin a wide berth and go a long way to avoid it. In fact, we may even speak out against it warning others of its harmful nature, just like we would boiling water.

The challenge comes when we allow the "little things" to creep in. You know those things by some of the following names:
  • little white lies
  • minor indiscretions
  • no big deal
  • just a little
  • slight exaggeration
  • everyone else does it
  • at least it's not _______
  • it was just once

It is these things that begin to drive up the temperature of the waters of our Christian lives. When you participate in whatever your particular variety of sin might be, you may find that you experience all types of remorse, anguish and depression over your transgression. But when the opportunity comes around again, you find that it's just a little bit easier the next time and the pain of godly sorrow is a little less. It is in fact, a slippery slope that will speed your descent into a pattern of regular and premeditated sin.

Brothers and sisters, this will ultimately introduce you to temperatures I am confident you will not find comfortable.

"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren." James 1:14-16

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Experiencing Prayer (Prayer II)

Today, prayer is on my mind. In fact it's on my mind all of the time (as 1 Thes 5:17) directs.

Prayer is such an important aspect of Christian life. It is nothing short of our direct and private conversation with our Creator.

I was speaking with a member of the congregation the other day and he mentioned that he was feeling very close to God at the moment. My response was, "When is the last time you talked with Him?" I went on to explain that any relationship depends on communication. The more you talk with someone, the more you get to know them. If it is a positive and healthy relationship, the more you get to know them, the more you feel close to them. The closer you feel to them, the more you love them. This is what God desires of all of His children.

So I thought I might continue a series of messages on prayer I began a month or so ago. Many people have no idea how to pray, but instead imitate what they've heard what someone else does, without making it a personal communication with God. For this reason, I'll continue this series of notes with an analysis of the model for payer Jesus established in Matt 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

Our Father which art in heaven,
  • Acknowledge your relationship to Him
  • Acknowledge His presence and preeminence

Hallowed be thy name.

  • Offer glory, praise, reverence and honor to Him

Thy kingdom come.

  • Express faith and trust in his promises

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Express hope and look forward to the day when all will be as originally designed by God

Give us this day our daily bread

  • Don't be afraid to ask God for the things that sustain you. He knows what you need, but remember, you are communicating with Him and he loves to grant the requests of His children

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

  • Ask for forgiveness of all sins you have committed while keeping in mind your need to provide forgiveness (Matt 6:14, 15)
  • Ask for blessings for others, include those who persecute you

But lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

  • Request support and and a means of escape from the influences of Satan and from our own lust of the eye, lust of the flesh and the pride of life

For thine is the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

  • Praise Him again for all He is and all He has, can and will do
  • Closing your prayer with "Amen" indicates "so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled"

It is my prayer that these thoughts will be of value to you and your prayer life. Later, we'll discuss examples of prayer, contents of prayer, instances of prayer and results of prayer.

Stay tuned...

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thoughts and Answers

The Holy and Divinely Inspired Scriptures never cease to amaze me.

I think about all of the millions of books that have published and are still being written as we speak, but can honestly say that I've read none that are more interesting, fulfilling, meaningful and necessary as the Bible.

Think about it. There's something there for whatever literary appetite you have. There's horror (or certainly things that seem horrific), intrigue, poetry, self help, how-to, romance, prophecy, action, adventure, religion (of course) and on and on. You name an interest and it's there.

I encourage you to read your bibles. Of course I'm a strong advocate of studying your Word, but sometimes it's good just to read it. You have every reason to do it and no reason not to. You'll be amazed by the things you'll pick up. And when you come across something particularly interesting or meaningful to you, stop, consider it, pray on it and perhaps dig a little deeper to see what can be extracted and what can be revealed.

As I was preparing for the message this past Lord's day, it was necessary for me to spend time in I & II Kings to learn more about Elijah. I could just encourage you t read that alone and will have said enough to make it worth your stopping by this week. He has a fascinating story, and the things God did with him will really draw you in. But the thing that caught my attention was this:

"Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD {came} to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He said, " I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." So He said, " Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; {but} the LORD {was} not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, {but} the LORD {was} not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, {but} the LORD {was} not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard {it,} he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice {came} to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 1 Kings 19:9-13

Now I could preach for a month on just these five verses, but one of the things that jumped out at me was the fact that God was not in the strong destructive wind, the earthquake, nor the fire, but in fact was in the calm and gentle breeze. I was blown away!

A lot of people wonder why God does or allow things that are so destructive. I would invite them to read this passage.

I will withhold my thoughts on the deeper meanings of this passage for now, but I would like to know what this says to you, your life and your walk with God.

Suffice it to say that the Word challenges, enlightens, educates and edifies. Pick up your bible and read it today. You'll be glad you did.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

What Is Your Priority?

I find that being too heavy handed can diminish the receipt and the impact of a message, but I'll risk it as I endeavor to amplify a point made in yesterday's sermon entitled, "Will You Be Ready?"

Conventional wisdom states that you can always tell what's most important to someone by where they spend the greatest percentage of their time and resources. I would add that the beneficiary of the expenditure may be what's most important rather than the activity itself. For instance, a person that spends 12 hours a day at work may have providing for his or her family as their priority rather than the job itself.

Far too often, however, what a person does with the majority of their time is indicative of what is important to them. Most people will deny this when confronted with it, but there is much truth in what can be seen in a person's activity.

Many of us claim that losing weight is a priority. The reality is that it cannot be if none of our time is spent pushing away from the table or getting exercise. By default, the enjoyment of food and leisure outweight the importance of sacrificing to change it. Can the health of a marriage be a priority to someone who spends little to no time communicating with, dating and sharing with their spouse?

This brings me to our Christian walk.

Allow me to ask all of us some challenging questions:
  • How much time do you spend in prayer every day? Is it just at meal and bed times?
  • How much time do you spend reading/studying your bible outside of scheduled classes at the building in a week?
  • Does your giving exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees?
  • Are you conducting any bible studies?
  • Do you return for evening services or participate in Life Groups?
  • Do you come on Wednesday evenings?
  • How many of the un-churched have you shared the gospel with in the last year?
  • Do you visit the sick and the shut in?
  • Is your best friend a member of the church?
  • Do members of the church make up a significant percentage of your social circle?
  • Are you walking "in the light" or "in the flesh?"
  • Are you reaching out to all people, especially those of the household of faith?
  • Are you loving God with all of your heart, all of your soul and all of your mind?
  • Are you loving others as Jesus loves you?
  • Of the approximately 112 waking hours we have each week, how many are dedicated to HIM?

These (and others) are questions that we must ask ourselves each day. The love of God must be REAL to us. The promise of Heaven must be REAL to us. The dangers of Satan and Hell must be REAL to us. And we as Christians must strive to live our lives in faith according to REALITY.

There is an old saying that asks, "If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it again?" We must be serious about our relationship with God...

...while we have time.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Throwing Stones From Glass Houses

During a conversation with one of our members yesterday, it was shared with me that someone in the family said some very unkind things about them in a very public way. Naturally, it is not unusual for any of us to suffer these kinds of things, but that fact does not diminish the pain caused by it. In fact, when the character assassination comes from within the body, it can greatly exacerbate the impact of the blow to one's spirit, confidence and emotional well being.

We all grew up with the phrase, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Perhaps words will not harm us physically, but they most certainly can and do harm."

This put me in mind of a passage of scripture found in John 8:1-11. You will recognize it as recounting the time when the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus, a woman caught in the very act of adultery. It is from this passage that I will lift a few thoughts as it relates to the overall subject of the things we at times feel the need to say about and do to one another.

Vs 3: A group of men brought to Jesus, a woman caught in the very act of adultery.

  1. Don't go looking to catch your brother or sister in a fault. If you find them in a fault, you should be about restoring them (Gal 6:1)
  2. Watch the company that you keep. These men were obviously conspiring with one another to put Jesus in a "no win" situation and using this woman as ammunition against him. "...Keep not company with the wicked for there shall be no reward to the evil man..." (Prov 24:19, 20)

Vs 4: They sat her in the midst (of all present) and reported their findings

  1. Is this the way YOU would want to be treated if someone found YOU in a potentially compromising situation, guilty or not? "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them..." (Matt 7:12)
  2. There is a way to confront a brother or a sister with whom you have a concern or conflict. It begins with speaking to them and them alone (Matt 18:15-17)

Vs 5 & 6: They quoted the bible and tried to put Jesus to the test

  1. Be sure you are on solid biblical footing. According to the Law, the scribes and Pharisees were going about it all the wrong way (Deut 22:22-29)
  2. Attempting to shine the light on other's perceived wrong doing or shortcomings can illuminate your own and subject you to the same judgement you are employing (Matt 7:1-5)

Vs 7-9: "He that is without sin..."

  1. Note that Christ did not speak of adultery, but of sin universal. We know that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)
  2. Sin is sin (Jam 2:10, 11)

Vs 10,11: "Neither do I condemn thee..."

  1. Throwing someone else under the bus can get YOU thrown under the bus (Gal 5:15)
  2. Forgiveness is available for the accused and the accuser alike. Just be sure to stick around for it (1 Jn 1:7)

My beloved, there is an enemy who is dedicated to destroying us. Let it never be said among Christ's people that we are acting as the agent of the enemy and participating in this attempted destruction. We are about "building up the saints," not tearing them down.

Let us love one another. It is by this that we are known as disciples of Jesus.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Prayer I

It has been on my mind to jot down a few thoughts about prayer. It is something that many Christians struggle to wrap their minds around.

"How do I pray"
"For what do I pray?"
"Should I raise my hands, bend my head, kneel or lay prostrate on the ground?"
"Does God hear?"
"Does God answer?"

I intend to write more about this subject, but an email I received today prompted me to make this available to you as a thought starter. I cannot take credit for the content of the following, but I find it to be a wonderful piece on communicating with God through prayer.

"God Said No"

I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, "No.
It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up."

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, "No.
His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary."

I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, "No.
Patience is a byproduct of tribulations; it isn't granted, it is learned."

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, "No.
I give you blessings; happiness is up to you."

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, "No.
Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me."

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, "No.
You must grow on your own but I will prune you to make you fruitful."

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, "No.
I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things."

I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said, "Ahhhh, finally you have the idea."

As it relates to prayer and by extension, all of life, think on this:
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding." Prov 4:7
There are many things we need to understand in order to have more productive prayers and a more more fruitful Christian walk.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Monday, April 30, 2007

They Which Die In The Lord

I've just returned from a business trip to Orlando. During a portion of the time I was there, I found myself doing what nearly anyone who visits would do while in the area: standing in line at an amusement park.

What made this time different than any other was the phone call I received from Debbie, our church's secretary. She wanted to know if I had received the email regarding the death of Jack Booker.

I hadn't.

Everything surrounding me: time, place, sounds, smells, and the anticipation of getting on one of the world's best roller coasters, all broke apart and fell to the ground like so much shattered glass.

My friend and brother in Christ, Jack Booker, had gone to be with the Lord.

Debbie gave me all of the details she could, but it seemed that blood filled my ears, preventing me from hearing with any clarity, the words she was clearly speaking to me. My mind raced with emotions, memories and thoughts about what I should do. I had flashbacks.

"Hello preacher! How are you today?"
"I'm going to get you a copy of 'Last of the Dogmen.' It's the best movie ever made."
"Hey brother! I heard it was a good message today, but I don't know because I was asleep," he would joke.
"Lee, you are a blessing to this congregation and we are glad to have you." These were the last words Jack ever spoke to me.

After Debbie gave me a number to contact Genia who was at the hospital with Charlene, I began to ask myself what I was doing in Orlando. I needed to be home, to be with the people I've come to love, during this very important time. All I could manage was a phone call to let them know that my heart and my prayers were with them all. It felt inadequate. Very inadequate.

During the time I've served at O'Fallon, there have been three passings. Though I've been touched by them all, I knew Jack best and feel that we had a personal relationship. That makes this particularly difficult.

How do I feel?
What should I feel?
What do I say?
What should I say?
How do I care for the congregation?

I'm a "new hand" at this sort of thing, but I suspect you never become an "old hand" at it.
We've lost a dear loved one.

But medicine for me is medicine for others. And that which I know is this:
"...Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Rev 14:13

It is not mine to determine the worth of Jack's life, the quality of his walk, the quantity of his work or the sincerity of his heart. That is the Lord's domain. But I will say, that I found him to be a quality man, a tireless worker for the Lord, a constant encourager, and an example of Christian faith.

Though the sadness in our hearts is inevitable, we of like faith cannot help but to celebrate his life and his home going. As Christians, it is ultimately to what we all look forward and that, with great anticipation and hope. Jack has gone where we all want to go...into the hands of a just God.

So to my brother and friend,
"Farewell. I thank God for the brief time we had together, to walk along the path of this Christian journey, to run on the track of this Christian race, for the conversations both spoken and unspoken. I pray that we will again see one another. Rest well from your labors. Your work has truly followed you. You are already missed.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

Brothers, Sisters, Friends & Friends I haven't met yet,

My heart, as are the hearts of many this morning, is filled with grief and overwhelming sympathy for those who experienced loss in yesterday's tragic shooting at Virginia Tech.

In times like these, many turn to each other, to religious institutions, to clergymen and ultimately to God for relief, for peace, for strength and most of all, for answers.

There are many trite answers that we as simple humans can offer. Some will blame it on this nation's disregard for God's teaching. Some will blame it on the home. Some will blame it on the world we live in today. Some will blame it on Satan.

The reality is that this is not new. Throughout history, tragedies like this have happened all over the world. Have you watched the news lately? These things go on around the world every day. Some how those of us in this country have come to feel that these things cannot happen to us. It's time to wake up.

Our mission, as Christians, is not to try to come up with immediate answers . Our mission is to meet the needs of those that are suffering. James famously asked that if we walk by and see those who are hungry, naked and lacking food and only offer the thought, "be ye warmed and filled" without supplying that need, what have we done? James 2:15,16

Luke 10:30-35 records our Lord's teaching about one who helped a victim of tragedy, described as being found half dead. Interestingly enough, it was people of God who refused to help. A Samaritan, one reviled by the people of God, had compassion on him and went out of his way to assist the victim in every way possible. Jesus asked rhetorically, "Which of these was a neighbor to him that was victimized by this tragedy?"

I mention these two passages to say that we of the church should be the first to step up and render aid to those who are suffering. People are much more interested in God when they have seen Him in the actions (outward manifestations) of His followers. This means that we must do more than think to ourselves how awful all of this is. There are many ways we can help victims of tragedies like these. We can pray, we can counsel, we can render financial aid. Depending on the circumstances and our individual abilities, we can go into situations and bend our backs, lend our hands and use our expertise even as we bend our knees. "As we therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all men..." Galatians 6:10a

When we are obedient to God and do the sometimes backbreaking, heart wrenching work of sowing seeds of love and compassion, it has been said that He will add the increase. Meeting the needs of the many is just one more way that we will ultimately help to create disciples and expand the borders of the Kingdom of God.

Let us endeavor to let the world, especially those in acute need, see that there is a God, THE God, and let Him be seen in us.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The ABC's of Simple Christianity

Dear Welcome Visitor,

Thank you for stopping by. This blog has been set up for members and visitors alike to share and discuss all things pertaining to the advancement of God's Kingdom. I plan to include articles, bible studies, bible trivia, Q & A, and just about anything that will serve the needs of Christians as well as those considering their own walk with the Lord.

You are encouraged to participate with your thoughts, questions and other offerings. It is yet another way for us to build a community of believers through fellowship and communication.

We at the O’Fallon Church of Christ believe that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16. It is from scripture that we derive our congregation’s vision and guide for all that we do personally and corporately:

"At the O’Fallon Church of Christ, our first priority and privilege is adoring God with all our hearts, souls and minds. Through His power we are building up the saints to spiritually mature in our own relationship with Him and each other, preparing ourselves to reach out to our community and the world with the goal of creating disciples for Jesus Christ through the sharing of the gospel of his love for all mankind."

We call this “The ABC’s of Simple Christianity.” Our vision springs forth from three basic components that we feel represent the totality of our responsibility to God and to each other.

Adoring God
Matthew 22:37-40 reveals to us that the greatest command we as Christians have is to love God with everything we have and everything we are. A close companion and even component of this command is that we love one another. 1 John 4:20 tells us that loving God is impossible without loving each other.

Building Up The Saints
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 teaches us that God has provided salvation for those who accept it. This is only possible due to the most miraculous gift any of us can ever receive: the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is with this knowledge, understanding and belief that we are to edify or build each other up.

Creating Disciples
Matthew 28:19 imparts to us some of the last words Jesus spoke before his ascension to the right hand of the Father. He instructed his eleven disciples to go to all nations and make disciples. We often refer to this as “The Great Commission” and count it among our most important duties as Christians.

The purpose for all things we do is to bring glory and honor, not to ourselves but to God. We hope, trust and pray that you will share in our vision and join us in our mission.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Yours in Christ,

Lee E. Lewis, Jr.

Pulpit Minister