Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It has been said that church (organized corporate worship) is fading into irrelevance. Today there are so many distractions that take away from our coming together. People are choosing social media to connect. Many stay at home and watch televangelists, citing no need to go to a house of worship. Then there are those that consider the Christian lifestyle and the belief in Jesus Christ as too restrictive and tend toward a more open "spirituality." Finally, there are those who do not believe at all. These are the folks you see playing golf, going to the gym, tailgating at professional sporting events, etc., on your way to worship.
Somewhere along the way we have forgotten (or turned our backs on) the importance of worship. There was a time when this was the center of our lives. Our social, spiritual and even physical needs were met via the gathering of ourselves together. The church was with whom we communed while communing with God.
Beloved, there is no substitute for our corporate worship: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Heb 10:23-25. Let us always endeavor to meet together and learn of our God and then share what we have learned with all whom we meet.
Monday, November 29, 2010
So often in life today, people are concerned first and only about themselves. To borrow a phrase from a popular entertainer, "I've got mine [fool], you gotta get yours!" This is the epitome of worldliness. It has everything to do with selfishness, greed, materialism and a complete disregard for the needs of others. This is outside what Christ has called us to be.
In reality, God has given us all various gifts and talents. No one possesses them all and no one is without one or more. What most fail to realize is that those gifts are not for ourselves alone but for the benefit of others.
Beloved, consider this thought: if everyone looked to the needs of his brother and sister, no one would have unmet needs. Surely this is a righteous thought that leads to righteous acts. The Lord has said, "Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (the meeting of your needs) will be added unto you." His work and His promises are revealed in us, particularly when we obey His commands. Remember, we are to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
In this day and age, we busy ourselves with all kinds of pursuits. They are many and varied in their content and scope. These activities often involve setting goals, creating action steps and measuring impact or results. This is what every job teaches us to do. That training filters into our family life and becomes who we are.
I submit to you that there is a missing component in all of our grand planning. Too often, we fail to consult God. Surely he has equipped us with ability, however, the greater gift is His ability. The scriptures are replete with examples of times and events where God's direction was sought in prayer and times when it was not.
To be clear, prayer does not guarantee the success of our plans. The point is that He may have other plans for us or the situation. We are but a small component of the His grand plan and we do not often see or understand our place in it. This is where faith comes in. We must rely upon our Father to know what is best and to do what is best.
When you plan pray. When you pray always pray that your righteous desires will fit within the will of the Almighty.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Beloved, we all experience times when things seem to be at the worst. Despite our best efforts (and sometimes because of our worst efforts), we find ourselves walking through the valley of the shadow of death. To be sure, this is a metaphor for difficult times.
We all have our own way of handling these times. John the Baptist, while in prison, sent his disciples to the Lord to inquire whether he was the expected Messiah. Gideon asked for a sign from the Lord. Most of us, however, look to our trusted friends.
When Job was at the lowest of low points, 3 of his good friends came to comfort him. What a blessing friends and brothers can be at times like these. We are told in the word of God that we are to bear one another's burdens. We are also told to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. The truth is, we need each other. We need to know the privilege of serving others when they are in need and the humility of accepting help when we are in need.
Perhaps the greatest example of all was Jesus. In his darkest hour, he was accompanied by three friends. It is true that they slept on the job a bit, but they were there, just as they so frequently had been. May the Lord be thanked for true friends that are there when needed.
Monday, November 22, 2010
While incarcerated, Paul wrote two letters to his young protege, Timothy. Among the final thing he had to say in life were these last words of encouragement to a young preacher charged with a great responsibility.
Though many who pursue the ministry use the "Timothies" as a "how to" manual, there are words of wisdom for us all. We are, in fact, a royal priesthood to whom all of the word of God applies. For instance, Timothy is advised to be sober. This means to be watchful. We should always keep an eye out for any type of threat to the cause of Christ and our own steadfastness. Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Those threats, as outlined in both letters, were both internal and external to the church and the person.
He then advises endurance through hardship. The scripture is replete with advisements even from Christ that the Christian life is not always a walk in the park. Being a minister certainly has its challenges. Being a Christian living a godly life likewise involves joys, heartaches, temptations and triumphs. The key, however, is to not allow those challenges to derail you from the faith.
What is the work of an evangelist but to share the word of God with a world of sin sick people? We are all familiar with the Great Commission. As Christians, we are obligated to teach, baptize and teach again. As the glorious benefits of the Lord were shared with us, so should we pass it forward.
Finally beloved, we are to fulfill our ministry. There is not one of us who does not have one. God has gifted us each with certain gifts and abilities. This gives us both the opportunity and the responsibility to employ these blessings for the expansion of the borders of the Kingdom and the benefit of others. It is not enough for us to simply claim Christianity, we must be what we claim. This can only be accomplished by demonstrating our faith by our works. Let us consider these things.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Back in the seventies, there was a popular saying, "The Devil made me do it." The originator of this phrase is lost to history but it was certainly made popular by comedian Flip Wilson. In a time of free love, drug experimentation, social change, etc., it was indicative of the struggle we have with right versus wrong. The phrase itself indicates an awareness and perhaps even a regret at having committed some act. But it simultaneously shifts the blame and provides an excuse.
Today, we still employ a form of this mentality. We should know, however, that long before today, or the seventies for that matter, God saw to it that this fallacy was addressed.
- James advised submission to God and resistance to Satan: "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7
- Jesus put Satan in his place: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me:" Matt 16:23
- Jesus also responded with the word of God: "It is written," Matt 4:4
- Joseph was wise enough to run away: "And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside." Gen 39:12
Beloved, Satan cannot make any of us do a single thing. Though he uses influence, we make the choice. Let us not look to blame anyone or anything for the things that we choose to do or not do. It starts and ends with us.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
A person's walk is no less than their manner of living. Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded to:
- walk orderly-Acts 21:24
- walk while you have the light-Jn 12:35
- walk in the newness of life-Rom 6:4
- do not walk according to the flesh-Rom 8:4
- walk by faith, not by sight-2 Cor 5:7
- walk by the Spirit-Gal 5:16
- walk in a manner worthy of the Lord-Col 1:10
- walk and please God-1 Thes 4:1
- walk according to His commandment-2 John 6
- walk with Me in white-Rev 3:4
Beloved, it is not enough to live. We must live our lives a certain way. And we must always be in motion rather than sedentary. Let us follow the dictates of our Lord. Surely our walk along His path will lead us to Him.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
There was a woman once whose son came home with the type of news no proud parent wants to hear. He had received a one day suspension from school for horseplay. It seems that he caused a young lady to fall and hit her head. Unfortunately this required stitches.
As you can imagine, the mother went into full frantic mode. "Is the girl alright?" "Is my son in trouble?" "Will the parents sue?" "Will my son be brought up on charges?" Things were made worse by the fact that there was an attempt to phone the mother of the young lady, but the call was neither answered or returned.
To be sure, it is good and right to be concerned about the welfare of another, particularly in an at fault situation. Concern, however, is the immediate neighbor of worry. Worry, in this context, is composed of anxiety. Anxiety my beloved, is like foam; it is derived from something real and tangible but is both useless, temporary and full of air. You see, unlike fear, which can prepare the mind and body for fight or flight, worry simply weighs one down with no benefit. It consumes energy and interrupts the thought process. It derails logic and threatens faith. It accomplishes absolutely nothing. No amount of worrying influences any outcome.
As it turned out, the mother of the young lady eventually called. She said that she was over being upset. She also said she did some checking to see what kind of young man the woman's son is and found the reports to be good. As a result, she felt sure that it was an accident and that everything was OK.
Just like that, the woman's worry, like foam, evaporated, having served no purpose and accomplishing no good. It had only caused discomfort and exasperation...and then was gone. Jesus asks, "And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? "If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?" Luke 12:25-26. Perhaps a better use of our time in situations like these is prayer.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Joshua was in the process of being charged with the leadership of God's people due to the recent death of Moses. God had a number of commands for him as it related to the leadership of the people, but this particular command was directed at Joshua in particular. It is a command that we would do well to follow ourselves.
We must first speak God's word both to ourselves and each other, Eph 5:19. In so doing, His word and His commands are always top of mind for us. Deut 6:6-9 provides us with the priority this should hold in our lives. It is only when we pursue familiarity with the word that we can truly benefit from the word. So many claim, "If God said it, I believe it and that settles it." In reality, we know far less of His word than we think. In fact we know more about current events and the latest ball game scores than we do about the Word of Life.
Beloved, prosperity is tied to our knowing and doing the will of the Father. This can only be accomplished through the reading, studying, meditating, speaking and keeping of the teaching contained in the Holy and Divinely Inspired Scriptures. Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me." If you want prosperity, seek it out in His word. That prosperity is spiritual and eternal.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Beloved, the judgment is surer than our next breath. Many live their lives as if there is no such thing. There are far too many that believe death is the end of existence. The scripture has revealed to us that, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment," Heb 9:27.
At the judgment, no one will be exempt and a great separation will occur. It will be a glorious day for those who have clothed themselves in Christ. After all, the very purpose of him leaving heaven was to make this opportunity available to those who would simply accept it.
I pray that we all find ourselves among the sheep on that great day.
Friday, November 12, 2010
It is said that this is one of the most difficult passages in the book of Ecclesiastes. How do we take its advice and remain the holy people God has called us to be? A careful examination of what is being imparted to us reveals this: avoid extremes.
Throughout the course of history, every religion has adherents who tend toward asceticism or an exaggerated and feverish form of religious life. A person like this "denies himself all pleasures through the fear of sin; he separates himself, not merely from vicious indulgences, but from occupations and amusements which he admits are innocent enough and lawful enough for those who have not the end in view he has set before himself. He is not content with the good works commanded by the Law of God; he must have his works of supererogation [doing more than duty requires]." (from The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.) You may have met this person in Luke 18:9-14 or perhaps in your own congregation. The purpose of such behavior is to store up merit and to place oneself above others in both the affections and rewards of God. It does not work that way. God is not subject to the extortion of good works.
Concerning wickedness and foolishness, many will take the sometimes lack of immediate consequences as license to misbehave. Solomon gives this advice because he says, "I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness." Eccl 7:15. It sometimes seems that the worse a person is, the more that they are rewarded. Without the conditioning of immediate reward for good and punishment for bad, many tend to do what feels good and is right in their own mind rather than follow the instruction of God. His patience and longsuffering should not be taken as unawareness or in any way interpreted as His level of concern. His overriding justice may be slow but it is sure.
Beloved, we are to lead moderate and temperate lives. We must judge the expediency in all things. The object of a godly life is neither to attempt to deserve God's grace nor to see how much we can get away with that His grace may abound. He has given us this life to enjoy , and to live in manner that glorifies Him and expresses our adoration. Think on these things.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Contextually, Solomon is extolling the virtues of wisdom while simultaneously imparting it. Here we are cautioned to not pay too much attention to the expressions of others where we are concerned. Very often we actively seek or present an inquiring ear for the positive things people say about us. It is human nature to want to hear flowery compliments about our personality, abilities, accomplishments, expressions and the like. This can lead to a false sense of security and reputation that does not represent the whole picture.
Likewise, we must not give undo credence to those who would criticize. People are very quick to form opinions and express them, often based on limited experience and understanding regarding that which they speak. Giving undo credence to these can lead to an ill advised response or an unnecessary alteration.
Perhaps the greatest wisdom contained in the passage is the gentle reminder that we ourselves have been guilty of speaking out of turn about others. The scripture says this has been the case "many times." Sobering. It is well known that everyone has something to say about everyone else. We are card carrying members of "everyone."
Beloved, let us take the whole of Solomon's advice. The apostle Paul put it this way, "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."
1 Cor 4:3-4
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Beloved, as Christians, we are called to a higher standard. All around us we see sin and debauchery. It is the fad, style or trend to behave in ways that are not in keeping with godliness. The word has also correctly stated that, "...you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." 1 Peter 4:3. Because we have done these or similar things and have been saved for them, we should never choose to go back to the death they represent.
Instead, God offers us an alternative filled with peace, promise and prosperity. He offers a better way to behave and live. It is a life connected to salvation. Jesus has said that the yoke is easy and the burden is life. What an apt description for leading a sensible and righteous life.
Let us not be called back to that from which we were called.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Jesus was in the middle of one of his many exchanges with the so called leaders of God's people when this question was asked. It began when they challenged him about why his disciples did not wash their hands before they ate. Jesus responded by posing his own query to them. He struck right at their hearts by quizzing them about why they failed in one of the most fundamental commandments, honoring their mothers and fathers. He then quoted Isaiah by saying, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;their teachings are but rules taught by men."
As you might imagine, those who were in authority, those who were highly educated, those who publicly professed piety and love of God were seriously taken aback by this unlearned carpenter's son. Since they could not resist the words that were being said, they could only be offended at having had them spoken to them.
Too often beloved, we are more concerned with political correctness than truth. In this day and age, we don't want to offend. We don't want to go against what society favors. We want to maintain the status quo. Jesus, however, gives us all the example we need. He called people out when they were wrong. He spoke the truth regardless of how unpopular it might have been. And he left people without a doubt about where he stood.
Think about it. Had we as Christians stepped up for what we believed in, there would still be prayer in schools and there would be no same sex marriage. These days, there are consequences for praying in certain public places and anyone who stands against homosexuality is publicly castigated. Is not the United States "one nation under God?" Further, those things have invaded the church. We want to spend less time in worship and some religious organizations are allowing gays into the clergy. Galatians 4:9 warns us that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Sometimes, maybe we need to offend some people. Maybe we need to start in the pews and then work our way outward. Jesus did.
Monday, November 8, 2010
There is quite a bit of speculation regarding the particular ailment suffered by the apostle Paul. Many feel that it was an affliction of his eyes. Nevertheless, Paul asked God to relieve him of his discomfort. Unfortunately for Paul, the answer was no.
Hearing "no" from God can be an awfully disconcerting thing. Over time, we have come to a belief that if we were to pray earnestly enough, God will grant us our every desire. After all, why wouldn't He? We put all of our hopes into the fact that He will cure the illness of a loved one, grant us the employment position we desire, repair the relationships in which we participate or simply fix whatever our problem might be at the moment.
Where did we get the idea that the Creator of the universe exists to simply take and fill our orders? That having been said, there is certainly no intent to trivialize our darkest times. Our needs are real. Our pains are real. But so must our faith be real. We must trust our Father to know and do what is best. His ways are higher above our ways than the heavens are above the earth. Though it sometimes seems that we have been abandoned by Him, perish that thought.
Beloved, if God's eye is on the sparrow, it most certainly is on us. We must ask ourselves how many times have we felt disappointed only to look back and realize that things went the way that benefited us most in the long run. Maintaining our faith can certainly be challenging, particularly when it seems that God is saying "no" or "not yet." Just know that He is in control and that He has never failed.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Beloved, do we cast a constant gaze toward our Redeemer? In this life it is so easy to become distracted. The world is filled with shiny and tinkling things that so easily divert our attention. Some of those things beckon us to sin. Some cause us to doubt. Some cause us to fear. Some interest us more than God.
Let us be reminded of Peter, whose great faith allowed him to step out of a boat during a storm, only to take his eyes off the Lord and begin to immediately suffer the consequences. To whom else shall we look?
Further, it is He that delivers us from all snares. We are released from those things that have held us captive and have been made to be free in Him. Let us always look to the hills from whence commeth our help.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Nehemiah, having just received troubling news about the Jewish remnant that survived exile as well as the state of Jerusalem, was heartbroken and weeping. After days of fasting, mourning and praying, he besought the Lord with great specificity. It is worth noting that his prayer included praise, request for attention to his prayer, confession of sin and demonstration of knowledge about His word as it relates to His relationship with His people.
Nehemiah then asks for success in an upcoming endeavor and favor with one who could be the greatest help or hindrance. You see Beloved, he was ultimately praying for the ability to reunite God's own people which, in turn, would bring glory to Him.
His prayers were answered in ways that were exceedingly above and beyond what he expected. To be sure, God has told us to bring our burdens, cares and supplications to him. Note, however, that Nehemiah's prayers were for that which would ultimately glorify God. How powerful our prayer lives would be should they be closely aligned with the will of the Father.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
All things are possible with God, the great lover of our souls. There is nothing beyond his capability and His power. Not only did He accomplish the unbelievably expansive and impossible, but His eye is on the smallest detail. As moons revolve around planets that revolve around stars that revolve around great black holes at the center of galaxies, electrons revolve around their nuclei as atoms make up molecules and molecules substances, substances that make up moons, planets and stars.
It is this God that spoke light into existence. It was not darkness that defined light but the absence of light that defines darkness. The two are separate and distinct, separated by God. Where one is, the other cannot possibly exist.
Just as this is true in the physical realm of stars, moons and planets, it is also true in the spiritual realm of hearts, minds and souls. You see we were, "THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS (who) SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED." Matt 4:16. And God? He being the creator of Light, he being Light defined, as He spoke it into existence in the physical realm, He became the Light in the spiritual realm among men. It was manifested that, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1:4-5
Beloved, just as the darkness was separated from light, so were we. The Lord has called us from fear, hopelessness, slavery, guilt and destruction into joy, peace, prosperity, hope, sanctification, adoption and the heavenly realm. Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." John 8:12. We are children of the Light, meant for the light, meant to be the light to others. Let us rejoice in this and never return to that from which we have been saved.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
God, having set Moses' path from birth, eventually called him to Himself. It was the beginning of a beautiful and historic relationship. Interestingly enough, however, it started with Moses expressing a lack of confidence. He offered numerous excuses when God told Him what He wanted him to do. Among those excuses was that he was not equipped.
How well does this mirror the beginnings of our own walk with the Lord? Did we not fail to understand how He could love and forgive ones such as we? When faced with the daunting task of living a Christian life and sharing the gospel with all the world, did we not shrink from the task? Few of us thought that we could ever accomplish anything for the Lord.
But God shows us just as He showed Moses. He used what Moses had to do His will, that He might be glorified. All Moses had was a simple shepherd's staff, but God turned it into a miracle. He used it as proof of His own existence before Pharaoh. He likewise uses what we have, as simple and as insignificant as it may seem to us, to do His will. It may be your ability to cook, fix things, empathize with others, teach, run fast or just be kind. By these things, He shows Himself through you.
Beloved, never discount God's wisdom. You are the called according to His purpose. If you are called (and you are through your obedience to the gospel), He most certainly has a purpose for you. And if He has a purpose, He most certainly will equip you. More often than not, it will be by making use of what you already have. Remember David's five smooth stones, Aaron's budding rod and the boys' fishes and loaves. Our responsibility is to recognize what we have from Him and use it for Him.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Matt 15:11 reveals that, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man." It seems that most sin is either rooted or expressed in words. James likewise records that, "And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." Surely words can be dangerous and hurtful to both originator and target and should be chosen and measured carefully.
Words also, however, can be good, uplifting, edifying and encouraging. It is through and by words that the good news of the gospel is shared. Likewise, faith is established through words. It is with words that we bless the Lord as the psalmist cried out, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." And it is with words that we confess, both our sins and our faith to our Father who knows both.
Beloved, let us choose our words carefully. The good that they do and the evil that they can accomplish are more closely at hand that we realize. Let us pray that the Lord will help us keep watch.