Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Preparation 2/27/2013 (rp)

"And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground." 1 Sam 17:49

There are few who are not well familiar with the story of David's triumph against Goliath. He was a child with 5 smooth stones and a leather sling shot prevailing against a 9 foot armored giant who had put immobilizing fear into an entire army of soldiers and their king. How could this boy have the temerity to even think such a thing let alone attempt it and accomplish it? Observe what the word says about what took place before this famous event:

  • Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.”

Beloved, David was confident and able for two reasons: God had prepared him and God was with him. Often when troubles come our way, we bemoan our situation and ask, "Why me Lord?" To be sure there may be a variety of answers, however, we must consider that the Lord may be preparing us to prevail at a bigger challenge down the road. Teams do not win championships without painful and exhausting preparation. Individuals do not succeed without testing themselves against lesser obstacles for extended amounts of time. There is no strengthening without effort against resistance. This is why James encourages us to "Count it all joy when we enter in to diverse trials; knowing that the proving of your faith produces perseverance," Jas 1:2-3. Life is filled with struggles. Each is an opportunity to grow and learn in order to be able to prevail against the next. When you again see obstacles, issues, circumstances and situations that fill you with fear and dread, think of little David fighting lions and bears and then Goliath. His God is your God and He is likewise with you.



Friday, February 22, 2013

Not Forsaking the Assembly 2/22/2013 (rp)

"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

While it is true that none can get to heaven simply by virtue of knowing or associating with people who are on their way, doing so can help us along our way. Each of us is responsible for our own relationship with Christ, however, Christ would have us relate to (love) one another as well as himself. The Christian life is designed to be lived in fellowship with fellow believers. The benefits for doing so are countless.

One important benefit is the availability of help in times of need. This need can be just about anything, but perhaps the most important need is when faith begins to waiver. We have all been there. We have all wondered what life is all about, what it means when bad things happen to good people and if all of this is really real. The help available from stronger members of the body in times like these is surely represented in the proverb, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity" Prov 17:17.

The fact is, at one time or another, in one way or another, we need each other. This is why the Hebrew writer encourages us to avoid missing the appointed times of assembly, be it worship, bible study, prayer meetings or what have you. When the saints gather, it is most surely for a purpose designed to encourage, edify and educate all who are present. What effect do you suppose that the activities a person is doing instead of assembling with the saints has on their eternity?

Beloved, it is wonderful that we show up for Sunday morning worship services. Unfortunately, that is often the only time we see some of the family. Of course it is understood that not everyone is going to be able to make it to every event held at the building, or every single small group meeting, but the difference between the attendance on Sunday and the other times of gathering is astounding. Absences during non worship times are a way of life for most, rather than an occasional incident and even absences from worship are a way of life for some. Failure to establish the relationships and receive the teaching available during the assembly can be a dangerous thing. It is often these that complain that no one comes to "check on them" when in many cases, not enough presence was established to realize that 1 was missing from 100.

We are not just the "called out" but the called together. When one misses, not only do they deny themselves others but they deny others themselves. Let us endeavor to be together on earth as we will one day be together in heaven.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Simple Evangelism 2/21/2013

"He answered them, 'I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?'” John 9:27

Jesus had just healed a man who had been blind from birth.  Then, as now, Jesus was very controversial and in some circles, very unpopular.  The religious leaders at the time called the healed man before them and interrogated him about the healing.  When they asked how it was done, he replied that mud Jesus put on his eyes, told him to wash and could now see.  They asked who Jesus was.  The man replied that he was a prophet.  Doubting his story and more importantly the righteousness and claims of Jesus, they brought his parents in who verified that he was their son and that he had been born blind.  Still trying to get to the bottom of it, they asked the formerly blind man again how this thing came to be.  He provided the perfect answer: "Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see," (v 27).

Beloved, many faithful Christians are afraid of the word and the concept of evangelism.  When it is uttered, few will take up the charge, many will turn away and most will go about their lives as if they've never heard it.  There are a variety of reasons for this, the biggest of which is fear.  This fear is evidenced by statements such as, "I don't know what to say," "I don't know enough Bible," or "They might reject me." It is time for us to be honest with ourselves.  Which of the things that occur in our lives that we consider among the best things to happen to us would we not shout about from the rooftops?  Whether a promotion, graduation, engagement, marriage, child birth or even the acquisition of a new car, we cannot wait to tell others and in some situations even take out ads in the media.  There is no fear in these situations, quite the opposite in fact.  What, then, is the best thing that has ever happened to you?  I hope that Jesus is the answer.  Will we not share him with even one person?

The easiest, least stressful and most natural way to share Jesus is to do as the blind man did.  Simply talk about the difference he has made in your life.  You are a Christian for a reason. Just be willing to talk about those reasons.  Some will receive you and some will not.  Some will follow you and some will not.  Our love for the Lord should drive our behavior.  Part of this behavior is to become more familiar with his word, more confident in your abilities and not fearful at all.  This will make us more apt to both defend the faith and to do what Jesus did; seek and save the lost.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Looking for Answers? 2/20/2013

"Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.  Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord."  James 5:13-14

In this day and age, everyone has an opinion, advice and a solution.  Even the most casual survey at any bookstore will reveal rows and rows of self-help books addressing everything from how to fix a faucet to how to fix your heart.  The reality is that there need not be any qualification or expertise to write a book, yet the fame of the author will catapult it into the ranks of millions sold.  Recently a comedian/radio DJ wrote a book advising women to think like men in order to be successful in relationships.  The author is on his second marriage and his first wife rebutted most of what he said.  This did not prevent the book from becoming a popular movie and generating great sums of money.

Beloved, it is obvious that people want and need answers.  There are so many things we do not know about how to remedy, sustain or endure both circumstance and situation.  We are constantly seeking expertise in the areas that affect us.  The good news is life actually comes with a manual and it is called the Holy Bible.  Whatever your question might be, there is a spiritual answer.  It covers everything from what to do when you are afflicted to what to do when you are happy.  It has diet advice, financial advice, health advice and relationship advice.  It provides object lessons by relating case studies of individuals who have been through what you are going through.  It provides the story of the greatest person who ever lived and makes it a point to say that he is not one who was not touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" Heb 4:15."

If you are looking for the ultimate in advice, how-to, self-help and "what do I do now," try the Bible.  It is the best seller of all time.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Absolute Confidence in God 2/19/2013

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?"  Psa 27:1

What a joy it is to have absolute faith and confidence in God, even in the presence of trial, tribulation and danger.  Far too often, we, as Peter did when walking on the water toward Jesus, take our eyes off of him and find ourselves being overtaken by our circumstances.  The Psalmist shares with us that this need not ever be.

Beloved, as we continue to pursue spiritual maturity and completeness in God, we should always be mindful that earthly life is not the destination nor the pinnacle of our existence.  The Bible records,      "What is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away," James 4:14.  There is no comparison between the time we spend going about our busy lives day to day and the reality of eternity.  When one considers that God made all things, that He has a plan and that plan involves you, it becomes easier to trust Him and to look forward to receiving the promises He has made to us.  With this perspective, the relative small things (and even the big ones) that can sometimes tie us into knots fade into insignificance because we know something of the great things we have in store and we rely on Him who is over, around and through all things.  With this thinking, our confidence and absolute faith in God grows.  Familiar passages such as, "no weapon formed against me shall prosper," "nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus," "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me," and "we have not been given the spirit of fear but of power, of love and of a sound mind" all take on new meaning and relevance.

Let us model David's confidence, conviction and joy in all that we do.  We serve the same God and He is amazing.



Monday, February 18, 2013

No Excuses 2/18/2013

"'Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.'   But Moses said to God, 'Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?'” Exo 3:10-11

As we consider what it is to have a relationship with God, two inescapable facts should come to mind: we enjoy both privileges and responsibilities.  Most of us have no problem accepting the privileges.  We are grateful to God for His blessings of peace, provision, answered prayer and promises of an eternity with Him.  When it comes to responsibilities, however, a certain hesitance can be seen in all of us.

Moses is one of the most well known and loved figures in all of human history.  He enjoys his reputation because of his relationship with God and the things that were done through him for his people.  Anyone truly acquainted with his story knows though, that it was not always this way.  Moses began his walk with God by offering a series of excuses for not wanting to do what God was commanding.

Beloved, we are all called upon by our heavenly Father to accomplish certain tasks (consult your bible for a list of these things).  It goes without saying that if God commands it, He expects that we will accomplish it.  Further, He will equip us.  For every excuse Moses offered, God provided a solution. When Moses informed God that he was not the most eloquent speaker (thereby asking to be excused from the task) God replied, "Who gave human beings ther mouths?  Who makes them deaf or mute?  Who gives them sight or make them blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say" Exo 4:11-12. 

For us, it is a matter of faith.  If we know in our hearts that God desires certain things of us, it should become job one to accomplish it and we should do so without worries about how, why or the outcome.  Better said, "If God brings us to it, God will bring us through it."  God brought Moses through it all.  He learned to trust God and rely upon Him.  For these reason, we know him and look up to him to this day.



Friday, February 15, 2013

Remember Who You Are 2/15/2013

"Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them."  1 Cor 7:17 (NIV)

When I was a very young man, my dad used to always say to me, "Son, remember who you are."  At that age, the statement came across as less than chastisement but more than advice.  Of course I did not fully understand all of the ramifications of the statement, but the older I got, the more it made sense.  Dad was reminding me of how I was raised, what the rules and regulations were and that wherever I went and whatever I did, I needed to reflect those things.  In short, I represented him.

Beloved, this is true of all Christians as it relates to our relationship with our heavenly Father and leading godly lives.  He has given us His word and in it is found first, His overwhelming love and provision for us.  But it also contains His expectations, most of which are for our own good.  As Christians we must endeavor to resemble Him in all things.  We are reminded in Matt 5:16 to "let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Further, it is important to not miss the fact that God lays out the path for His own.  This means that we might find ourselves in places or situations not necessarily of our own choosing but possibly of God's.  It may very well be that we are there to do the work of the Lord by accomplishing a certain task or reflecting His presence for the benefit of another.  When Paul, who was famously afflicted with a metaphorical "thorn in the flesh" asked to be relieved of it, he was told that God would be glorified through his affliction.  In other words, Paul's overwhelming love for and loyalty to God, despite his discomfort would be an encouragement to others going through the similar or lesser trials.

Let us endeavor to remember not only who we are but whose we are.



Thursday, February 14, 2013

You Can Always Go Home 2/14/2013 (rp)

"So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." Luke 15:20

There are many of us who were either born into families that were members of the house of God, or have been so for a very long time. We knew from early on what it was like to grow up with his laws and discipline, but also his great love, provision and mercy.

It seems, however, that human nature often follows the path of restlessness. We become dissatisfied with all that we have in God and desire to take our blessings and strike out on our own. We leave the safe confines of the church and righteousness to test the color of the grass on the other side. In these situations, we leave when we should not, go further than is wise, spend more than we should, and stay longer than we ought.

Beloved, when we finally come to ourselves, we are filled with shame, bereft of answers and longing for home. Some never make that trip. They feel that they are too reprobate and that God cannot forgive them. Brothers and sisters, is there anything too hard for God?

Know that though you may have left home, you still have a home where the Father is constantly on the look out for your return. When you humble yourself and start moving back toward him, you will find that He will quickly close the distance between the two of you and that He will welcome you with love, compassion and open arms.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Blessedness in Things We Do Not Do 2/13/2013 (rp)

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night." Ps 1:1-2

In Christ, we are to be known both internally and externally as much for the things we do not do as the things we do. Observe the progression of things that lead us away from God.

Walking is our manner of life. It is the combination of things that make us who we are. For example, in Col 1:10, we are encourage to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." The wicked, also called the ungodly, are those who have failed to embrace the Almighty and live according to his word. They are dedicated to walking their own path without seeking the face of He who made us.

Once this path has been taken, ones feet become planted in a sinful life. Since God is not a factor in the lives of the godless, the barometer of morality becomes irrelevant and seeking after the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life become a pattern and thus, its own way of life.

Once an individual becomes rooted in a way of life, a home is made there. All things are brought in to support the decision and the likelihood of change, though not impossible, is unlikely. Not only do the scornful not embrace God, but actively reject Him. These are the atheists (in word and deed) among us. Not only do they not accept the Great Lover of our souls, they actively oppose (scorn) him.

But all praises to our Father, beloved, who has made a way for us to avoid this reprehensible progression of soul destruction. He has, through the Holy Spirit, given us His word. The more we read, study, concentrate on and live by the words of life, the less likely it is that we would ever need concern ourselves with the slippery slope that leads away from him. This is why the language used regarding the blessedness of those who avoid that walking, standing and sitting is emphatic. What a TREMENDOUS blessing it is to not do such things! Further, it is to be read, "How very blessed is THAT person..." indicating that not everyone avoids the pitfall, but the very fortunate and few who pursue the right path.

Let us always be aware of both the right way and the wrong way. With the grace of God and the constant pursuit of His word, let us be careful to choose the right and enjoy the very blessedness thereof.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Power of God in You 2/12/2013

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power."  1 Cor 4:20 (NIV)

We have all heard the expression, "talk is cheap."  The implication, of course, is that it is easy to say or claim a thing but that it is another matter all together to be or do a thing.  This is particularly true in religion today.  There are many people who claim many things but far less often are they backed up by reality and truth.  It is easy to put on a facade and mange the impression others have of us.  We show up at worship, say amen, pray reverently, slap a few backs, shake a few hands and check the box marked "holy" for another week, fairly certain of how we are perceived by God and man.  The question must be asked, however, what happens when we walk out of the sanctuary?  What happens at midnight?

Beloved, God is not impressed with any of what we say.  Adam, Abraham, Moses, Samson and David all said wonderful things and were all guilty of sinning against God at one time or another even as do we.  God is much more interested in the heart and mind.  It is in the heart and mind that truth, love and sincerity can be found.  And if they be found, they will be manifested in deeds.  It is through these deeds that the power of God can be seen in our lives.  It is not when we say we should love others as we love ourselves that the power is seen.  It is when we help someone who has hurt us.  It is not when we say that we love God but when we are obedient to His will and way for our lives in word, thought and deed that the power can be seen.

Words are important.  It is through them that we learn about our Creator.  The full expression of godliness, however, comes not from words but from the effect those words have on who we are and what we do.



Monday, February 11, 2013

What God Wants (From You) 2/11/13

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Mic 6:8

The prophet Micah's sole job was to communicate the will, words and wisdom of God to His chosen people, Israel.  Most particularly, the message was one of dissatisfaction on the Lord's part.  Micah related that God had brought them out of Egypt, rescued them from slavery, sent handpicked individuals to lead them and protected them from threats, yet they were still rebellious.  He then asks the people  what they think they should do.  Among the things rhetorically suggested were burnt offerings, a thousand rams, rivers of olive oil and even the sacrifice of a first born.

Beloved, God similarly sustains, protects and provides for us and we similarly rebel.  Despite all that God has done for us, we often seek our own way and avoid His.  When we find ourselves in the depths of despair, we return on bended knee and seek to make offerings that will assuage His apparent anger and influence Him to deliver us...again.  It is important to know that God cannot be "bought off" or bargained with by our meager offerings and pledges.  There is nothing that we can offer Him that he does not already own with the exception of our love and obedience.  More than anything, He desires our desire for Him.

This is not to say that if we "do justice, love kindness and walk humbly" with Him that no ills will befall us.  Jesus said that a life lived (near) perfectly will attract persecution.  What it does mean, however, is that if we are walking with the Lord, there is nothing from which He cannot or will not ultimately deliver us.  In any case, it is not a matter of doing to influence God.  It is a matter of loving Him because He first loved us.



Thursday, February 7, 2013

Following the Follower 2/7/2013

"Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us." Phil 3:17

Paul had a great deal of experience with God, religion and the Lord.  He had gone from a young rising superstar in the Jewish faith who persecuted Christians to becoming himself a persecuted Christian, but a leader in the faith.  Even at his worst, he was driven by his convictions and his devotion to
God.  He always thought that he was doing the right thing.  It took a meeting with Jesus on the Damascus road to help him channel his conviction and devotion in the proper direction.  Jesus told him that he would suffer many things for his namesake and he did.  But all the while he learned, obeyed, loved and taught others to do the same.

Beloved the advice Paul gave to follow him as he follows Christ (1Cor11:1) is still valid today.  Not only is he the the New Testament's most prolific writer, but the things written demonstrate his adherence to the word and the godliness of his life.  So often we look for patterns and examples to follow.  God through the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures He authored has given us this very thing.  We only need follow.  Through this, we then have the opportunity to attract others to follow not ourselves, but Jesus whom we all follow.



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Belonging 2/6/13 (rp)

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Gal 2:20

The decision to follow Christ should be an all encompassing one. It is true that we are but fleshly creatures still subject to the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, however, that decision should lead us further and further away from those issues and closer and closer to full surrender. Recently, a Christian I was talking to about his walk said, "Like David, God knows my heart." My response was, "Like David, God knows your actions too." One is indicative of the other.

Beloved, Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me" Lk 9:23. We were bought with a price. We no longer belong to ourselves but to him who sacrificed all for us. We are to make our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. If this sounds a bit much, consider the alternative. Think about why you made the decision in the first place. Examine the many benefits of being a child of the King. Paul recognized his life was no longer his own (if it ever was). He willingly surrendered himself to do the will of He who gave him life.

As we go about our daily lives, let us consider the fact that Jesus gave his life for us. We certainly can give our lives to him.