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.