Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Disputable Matters 7/31/2013

"I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love."
Romans 14:14-15

The church at Rome was one that had a very interesting history and make-up. Initially it consisted almost solely of Jewish Christians, however, this changed when the Jews were kicked out of Rome leaving Gentile believers as the members of the church. Eventually, the Jewish Christians were allowed to return. This presented a number of problems in that there were disputes among the two groups regarding a number of things, not the least of which was what type of food could legally be eaten. The Gentiles who had never really had any prohibition on types of food they could eat thought that it was ok to eat anything, included meat sacrificed to idols. The Jews had problems with certain types of food because of the prohibition against eating anything unclean or that had been sacrificed to idols. For this reason, those chose the vegetarian lifestyle at that time and place.

It is not unusual for me to get emails from people who find me on our congregation's website that want to engage in debates about what should and should not be done in worship or a worship facility. Most of these things have nothing to do with the essentials of the Christian faith. Some want to debate about whether we should support ministries that are also supported by other denominations such as the local food pantry. Some say that weddings and funerals should not be performed in the sanctuary and that it should be reserved solely for worship service. Still others feel that we should not have a kitchen facility anywhere in the building.

Beloved, these are what are called disputable matters. There is nowhere in scripture that addresses these issues specifically. Scriptures can certainly be pointed out that tell us that we should be kind to all men as we have the opportunity (food pantry), that Jesus performed his first miracle at wedding (though it does not say that it was in a church building) and that the first services were held in homes (which undoubtedly had a kitchen equivalent). This is all magnified when we would dispute with one another within the congregation over personal differences like tattoos, piercings, suits and whether women should wear pants, hats or makeup.

The point of the love of Christ is to bring people together, not to divide over non-essentials. Tragically, there are thousands of denominations today because everyone wants to have it their own way and wants to be separate from those who do not agree with them. Let us endeavor not to let our liberty cause us to judge others who may have a different opinion, method or means of expression their love and worship. Paul said, "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God" Romans 14:10-11.



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

God Still Speaks 7/30/2013

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." Hebrews 1:1-2

Many people claim that God has spoken to them and told them to do this or that. Many more people wonder if God has ever spoken to them. Most people assume that He has not, does not and will not speak to them. In fact, God has a long and varied history of communicating with man. In the Garden of Eden, He spoke with Adam and Eve directly. He spoke similarly to Noah. Abraham was spoken to directly as well as through the angel of the Lord. Moses was spoken to directly and through a burning bush. Joseph was spoken to by dreams and Peter had visions. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the point is that God speaks to us. And while some would ask, "Of course he spoke to all those guys thousands of years ago but what about me today?", the answer is that He still speaks!

Beloved, God desires that we get to know and love him. The only way to accomplish this is through communication. He has the power to choose whichever means to communicate that suits Him. Some will tell you that He no longer expresses Himself in dreams and visions. I am not prepared to limit God. He can do whatever He wants however He wants to do it to whom He wants to and whenever He wants to. But scripture is clear that despite all other means, discussed or not, He communicates through his word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired [breathed] by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." The same breath that made us living souls literally authored the Bible. Further, we know that he has communicated through his son but did you know that Jesus is also known as "the Word?" John 1:1 informs us that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It is incontrovertible that God, Jesus and the Word are one. It is through and by this fact that God yet speaks to all of us to this day.

There is more to be said about hearing God's voice through the Spirit, circumstances, the words of others (such as sermons, songs and conversations) and various other ways. We must learn to tune in. Nevertheless, his voice is never farther away than your nearest Bible. Listen to what God has to say to you today.



Monday, July 29, 2013

The Compassion of Touch 7/29/2013

"Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him." Matthew 20:34

Jesus had become well known in his day for a variety of reasons. Most assuredly chief among them was his compassion in general and his ability to heal specifically. The story is told of two men that happened to be blind. When Jesus came to their town and happened to pass near them, they began to cry out for mercy. Though the crowd tried to quiet them, they cried out all the more. Jesus heard their cries and stopped. He then engaged them and asked what them what they would have him to do for them. They asked to be relieved of their blindness. Jesus then applied compassion through touch and healed them.

Beloved, touch is among the most human of actions we can take. There literally could be no life without it. Compassion also comes naturally to us. When we meet someone, the impulse in our culture is to reach for the person's hand. In other cultures it involves and embrace or even a kiss. When someone receives bad news or suffers a loss, our impulse is to comfort them by hugging. And when serious prayer is needed, we tend to hold hands with or lay hands on the person for whom we are going to God.

Let us consider the source of this trait. It was God who scooped up a mound of dirt and formed man. It was God who removed Adam's rib and formed woman. It was God who took on human flesh so that He could more intimately interact with the pinnacle of his creation. The apostle John famously wrote, "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—...we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" 1 John 1 & 3. God made himself available to us that we might touch him and that he might touch us. What an amazing display of compassion and love.



Friday, July 26, 2013

Answering the Call 7/26/2013 (rp)

"Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.'" Acts 2:38-39

If someone were to ask, "Are you saved?", what would you say? If someone were to ask, "How do you become saved?", how would you respond? If someone were to ask, "How can I be saved?", what would you do?

Unfortunately, questions like this are far too rare. Most Christians do not experience having people just walk up to them and ask these questions. Perhaps the world does not see the things in us that would draw them to the God that we serve. Nevertheless, it was Jesus who instructed us to go to all nations and make disciples of them. He reiterated this in his last recorded statement to his followers when he said, "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be my witness both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even the remotest part of the earth" Acts 1:8. It was subsequent to the fulfillment of this promise that the Holy Spirit did indeed come upon Jesus' disciples and they immediately began to serve as his witness. During the very first gospel sermon, the people asked, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

Beloved we must not only maintain readiness to answer such a question, but to initiate the conversation. Events such as the movie theatre massacre in Aurora, Colorado on July 20th prove that we live in a sin sick world and that there are people in serious need of God's love. Would this event be part of our history if someone had shared with the man who committed this heinous act? There is no sure way to say, but it might have. What about the victims? Could they have used the opportunity to hear the gospel of the Lord? The survivors surely can.

We are here for a purpose, just as those are who shared with us. Let us do what we were created to do.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to Handle a Bad Day 7/23/13 (rp)

The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;" Acts 16:22-25

Beloved, have you ever had a bad day? Think a moment about your worst day ever. Was it a situation that was completely outside of your control? Did it involve something you did? Was it public or private? Though it is important to understand the who, what, when and whys of negative things that happen in our lives, it is by far more important how we respond to such events.

Paul and Silas had what some would interpret as a very bad day as a result of doing the will of God. Their work was very unpopular with some people who reported them to the local authorities who in turn had them publicly beaten and thrown into jail without the benefit of any due process whatsoever. Anything remotely similar to this would be an extremely challenging situation for just about all of us. There is, however, more than one way to both look at and respond to "bad days," particularly as a child of God.

After having a similar day Peter in Acts 5:41 rejoiced that he was "counted worthy to suffer shame for his [Jesus'] name." To him, and his associates, it was not a bad day at all, but a good day of both obedience to the will of the Lord and the opportunity to share the gospel with all who heard it. This brings us back to Paul and Silas. Despite being in pain, prison and shackles, they did not bemoan their circumstance, but sang praises to the Father.

It may be counter intuitive to do such a thing, but not for the person of faith. As Christians we must grow into Job's faith who said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" Job 13:15. We must believe that according to Rom 8:28, "all things work together for good for them that love God and are the called according to His purpose." And we must remember that, "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" Rom 8:18.

As an epilogue to this passage, note that the other prisoners were listening to the singing. What a tremendous testimony! If they could continue to praise God under even the worst conditions, that could cause even the most avowed unbeliever to develop questions. Further, we know that the jailer and his family came to Christ as a result.

No, we may not look forward to or enjoy "bad days" but we trust God through them and praise Him for every one in which we draw breath.

Let us comfort one another with these thoughts.



Monday, July 22, 2013

Such a Time as This 7/22/2013

"Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, 'Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?'” Esther 4:13-14

There are times when we wonder why we are in a particular situation or place.  To be sure, we work hard to attain certain positions or circumstances but it is not unusal to occasionally look around and wonder if there is something more regarding the reason for being there.  This can be especially true if we happen to have our spiritual glasses on that day.

Esther was a young Jewish orphaned woman who, through a chain of evidently God led events, became queen to the king of a vast empire.  Unfortunately, one of the king's trusted noblemen developed an intense dislike for a Jewish man named Mordacai in particular and the Jewish people in general.  This dislike was so intense that he plotted to kill each and every one of them.  Upon hearing this, Mordecai urged his adopted daughter (Esther was actually his uncle's daughter) to get involved and make an appeal to the king.  Due to a law that promised death to anyone who sought the king that was not summoned or to which he did not extend his golden scepter as permission to approach, Esther was reluctant to say the leat.

Beloved, there may be times when we find ourselved in uncomfortable situations were we may even be in some type of jeopardy.  We should always be on the lookout for how we can make a positive difference.  We must examine whether there is a way we can use the position or stature we have been granted by God to do the work of God.  Though there may be benefits to us that result from the positions we hold or the situations we have attained, which was surely the case for Esther, it is more than possible that it is a platform for the Almighty and that we have been placed there for His glory.

Esther did indeed respond and as a result, all the Jews were spared and the enemy was destroyed.  We can find ourselves enjoying our situations for many years, but let us always be ready to act on God's behalf when the opportunity presents itself.  Understand that we are all placed "for such a time as this."



Friday, July 19, 2013

Perspectives on Lot Pt. 2: God's Salvation 7/19/2013

"...and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;  and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men  (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),  then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,"  2 Peter 2:6-9

It is said that there are some times that we do not seem to be able to get out of our way.  In times like these (and at all times), it is good that we have God.  Lot made the choice to live among the unrighteous heathen populating the city of Sodom.  This was an interesting choice in that he could have lived elsewhere and not had the challenges he endured there.  Nevertheless, he is credited in the word of God as a righteous man who was in fact grieved by the behavior of those around him.  We never read where Lot committed an unrighteous act, though we can see that he made a number of questionable decisions such as offering his virgin daughters to quell the passions of a mob.

Beloved, Lot represents many of us today as we pursue Christian lives.  Like Lot, we live in a world in which we are surrounded by unrighteousness, debauchery, lawless behaviors, loose morals and sin.  Like Lot, we are foreigners (Genesis 19:9, John 15:19) and are unpopular with the world.  Like Lot we struggle to maintain our righteousness.  Like Lot we are exasperated by the things we see going on around us.  And like Lot, we make questionable decisions every day about what we believe, where we go, what we do, what we say and what we think.  Not infrequently, our choices put us in situations that expose us to great spiritual jeopardy.

It is good to know that the same God that sent his angels to rescue Lot from the destruction the Sodomites had brought upon themselves is the same God that will rescue His own from this present world.  We must, like Lot, be willing to maintain our righteousness, remain open to the word and will of God and obediently accept and follow His direction in order to avail ourselves of the salvation He offers.  Wherever it is that we wisely or unwisely choose to be, let us be sure that we remain close to the Father, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?" 1 Peter 4:17-18.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Perspectives on Lot Pt. 1: Proximity Warning 7/18/31

"Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom.  Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord."  Genesis 13:12-13

Abram, later known as Abraham, having been separated by God from his homeland and the rest of his family, prospered along with his nephew Lot in the land of Canaan.  In fact, the two of them were so prosperous that their herdsmen began to fight about water and grazing for each of their growing amounts of  livestock.  Abram suggested an amicable parting of company to preserve the relationship.  In so doing, he gave Lot the choice.  Lot chose a very fertile and well watered land that happened to be near the wicked city of Sodom.  Further, Scripture reveals that Lot would make his home in the city.

It was not long before Lot, his family and his possessions were taken captive as victims of war.  This would turn out to be the least of the problems he would experience in association with that city.  Lot was ultimately rescued by Abram, yet he chose to remain a resident of the city and was there when the day of God's reckoning against Sodom and its twin city, Gomorrah, arrived.

Beloved, the choices we make are important.  The places we go, live and habituate can impact both our physical and spiritual well being.  The people with whom we choose to associate most surely do.  It is easy to look at a situation and see the potential advantages of being there but we must consider the lenses through which we are looking.  Having been saved from darkness, many of us are reluctant to stray too far from its border.  We make choices that keep us in its near proximity allowing us to smell the scents, see the sights and hear the sounds without participating in the activities. This, as it turned out for Lot and many who make similar decisions, can be disastrous. We must rather adhere to the bold admonition, "Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;  for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret" Ephesians 5:12.

All that glitters is not gold.  The wide and easy path is not the best path, just the most traveled.  We must make choices that place us well within the borders of God's will for our lives rather than attending to the periphery where it is easier to slip.  Despite its compelling views, there is more danger near the cliff than there is in the peaceful valley.



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Protector 7/17/2013

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies." Psalm 118:2-3

There are many things in which we place our faith and trust.  Some of us rely upon our own strenghth and human wisdom.  Others rely on their insurance policies and doctors.  Others still, their weapons and household alarm systems.  While these and other things can have their limited effectiveness, consider the literal forcefield of God.

David compared Him to a rock.  More accurately it is a cleft rock in which there is space to hide.  The strong reliability and protection are unmistakeable.  Fortress and deliverer are also metaphors of protection.  As long as we are within the walls, not only are we shielded from the enemy, but our Deliverer fights for us.  Lastly, the horn of salvation brings to mind the weapons of a great beast well equipped to defend itself and its young.

Beloved, we are encouraged to "Trust in the Lord with all our hearts" Proverbs 3:5.  It is only in Him that we can find the ultimate protection from whomever and whatever our enemy is.  For this among all of His other attributes, He surely is to be praised.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Choosing Your Attitude 7/16/2013

"Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, 'Let God be magnified.'”  Psa 70:4

Sometimes it seems that the whole world and every circumstance and situation conspire to get us down, beat us down and keep us down.  Be it health, finances, relationships, politics, the judicial system or any number of other things, it can all have a very depressing effect and lead to both helplessness and hopelessness.  But did you know that your state of mind is that which you choose?

Beloved, we are children of the Most High!  Our Father is the Creator of the universe!  There is nothing that is beyond Him and He has seen to it that we not only have all we need, but more than we deserve.  He has equipped us to deal with all the negatives in life.  Consider just a few things He has told us about navigating the course of our earthly existence:
  • Nothing can separate us from His love, Romans 8:39
  • We are more than conquerors through Him, Romans 8:37
  • We can do all things through Christ, Philippians 4:13
  • He will never leave nor forsake us, Hebrews 13:5
  • He is with us always, Matthew 28:20
  • There is a place prepared for us to be with Him throughout eternity, John 14:2
  • We can and should have the mind of Christ, Philippians 2:5
  • We are to let our light shine so that others can see, Matthew 5:16
It is sure that there are nights in which tears will fall, but just as assuredly, joy comes in the morning.  Let the people of God focus on all the good that He has made available to us.  Let us consider the things that have been done, are being done and are promised to be done by Him in our lives.  This most assuredly will guide us into not just being "glass half full" people, but being thankful for having the glass and whatever is in it.  God is good all the time.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!



Monday, July 15, 2013

Overcoming Inertia

"Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.  The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."  Romans 13:11-12

It happens that I have a vocation that causes me to fly quite a bit.  One of the most fascinating things to me about flight is the takeoff.  For the sake of argument, let us say that the average plane weighs 180,000 lbs as it sits at the head of the runway.  It takes the engines screaming at near 100% of their capacity (32,000 pound/force) to get all that weight airborne from a dead stop.  It is amazing really.  Much less power is required to maintain flight once achieved because the aircraft is then in motion.

The reason this comes to mind is because many of us are at a dead stop in our Christianity and one wonders what force value it would take for us to achieve flight.  Once we have accepted the gospel and fallen in love with Christ, some of us lose focus, direction and drive.  Sure we make it to worship most of the time and go through the motions but do we study the word of God on our own throughout the week?  Do we actively practice loving others through demonstrable things like visitation, providing help when needed or sharing the gospel with others?  Jesus said to his disciples (as opposed to the general public), "Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest" John 4:35.  In essence, his message was and is that we should stop giving ourselves excuses to not do the work that is obviously laid out for us and needing to be done.

Beloved, Christianity is not a status or a label but a calling (Ephesians 4:1).  We should not consider ourselves safe and for that reason, close and lock the doors and board up the windows until Jesus comes.  On the contrary, we should consider ourselves saved and then workout that salvation by being representatives of Jesus to the whole world.  Yes it takes effort and power to move us from being still to being in motion but remember, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name," John 1:12.  We have the power.  We only need apply it.  Once we do, we will find that it becomes a way of life and requires much less energy than getting started.



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Doing Right 7/10/2013 (rp)

"For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men." 1 Peter 2:15

Since the advent of Christianity, adherents have had to endure a variety of treatments and persecutions because of the faith. While Christ was on earth, those he came to save persecuted him and ultimately participated in his death. His apostles were publicly humiliated, thrown into jail, beaten and killed. This fate was shared by many early Christians and can still be seen in various parts of the world today.

Though we today rarely if ever endure the same type and level of persecution as our ancestors in the faith, the cause of Christ still has enemies. More and more Christian liberties are being challenged and ultimately lost. Prayer in schools has already been lost. There is an effort to remove "In God We Trust" from currency and representations of the 10 commandments from public courthouses. More to the point, individuals are criticized and castigated for holding biblical views about creationism, sexual immorality and simply believing. Humanists are attempting to get rid of God all together by influencing the educational system which influences our children.

Beloved, between the fall in the Garden and the second coming of Christ, we have and will have to endure circumstances associated with a world influenced by the enemy. And though this is primarily a spiritual thing, it manifests itself in our day to day interactions. God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has provided a remedy: always do the right thing. Throughout history, Christians have been blamed for many things (like the burning of Rome for example). The strategy then, as now has always been to be godly. Godliness may be fought against, but it cannot be confounded and it will ultimately prevail. There will come a time where naysayers, persecutors and unbelievers alike will bow the knee and confess with their own mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord. Until such time, let us be what we have been called to be; we are children of the Almighty.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Blessed be the Lord 7/9/2013

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ," Eph 1:3

How wondrous it is when we are able to set aside the demands, pursuits and responsibilities of the day and really meditate on God.  To be sure, everyone has their own way of visualizing God but how do we conceptualize Him?  How do we contemplate His existence before everything?  How do we imagine creation was realized and completed?  What comes to mind when we picture heaven?  How can we order in our minds the forming of man out of the dust of the ground and the blowing of the very breath of God into it that we became living souls?  And how can understand at all that He knew us before we ever were?

The mind spins with these thoughts, but eventually settles down to the thought, "blessed be the Lord."  And what does "blessed" mean in this context?  It comes from a Greek word from which we get the English, "eulogy."  It is to use fine speaking and elegance of language to lavish praise and adoration on someone.  Oh I bless the Lord for all He is, all He does, all He gives, all He knows, all He provides and for His unsurpassed love, compassion, grace, mercy and long suffering toward me.  I bless Him for saving me while I was yet in my sins (in which I still struggle).  And I thank Him for the wonderfully amazing gift of His only begotten son, a sacrifice for me.

Beloved, we must never neglect to take time to be with God and to consider the mighty works of His hand in our lives and in everything around us.  Our goal is to meet Him face to face, but we can know, love and serve Him right now.   Scripture confirms that we are blessed by Him and in this case, it means that we are made to prosper, to be happy and to be favored.  Most particularly, it is the "spiritual blessings in the heavenly places" that are his guarantee that the faithful will meet Him face to face and that what will occur then will be unimaginably greater than all we can imagine.

Is not God awesome?  Let us meditate on these things.



Monday, July 8, 2013

Multiplying vs. Storing 7/8/2013 (rp)

"And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours." Matt 25:25

Most of us are familiar with the famous parable of the talents. In it, Jesus relates a story of a master who left his servants with varying sums of money with the implication that when he returned, he expected to see an increase. As the story goes, two of them doubled their respective shares, returned it all to their master and were praised and rewarded. The other decided to store his out of fear of losing it and returned it to his master upon his return.

Beloved, the Lord has blessed each and every one of us wondrously. He has given multiple gifts and talents to every person alive, and even more so to the Christian through the Holy Spirit. These gifts were not given that they may stored but that they may be used for the glory of God and the building up of His kingdom. The servant who hid his blessing stated that he knew his master was a man who expected a return where he had not invested, yet he failed to produce a return for his master from his own activities. Jesus does not physically come and share the gospel with each person on earth. Instead he has equipped us to do it. When he returns, he expects us to say, "you have entrusted me with 5 bags of gold; see I have gained 5 more!"

It is not enough to take care of our own houses, we must contribute to the care of His (the world of lost souls). It is not enough to be saved ourselves, but we must contribute to the salvation of others. It is not enough to sit on our blessings, we must share them with others who do not have that we might win them to Him from whom all blessings flow.

Are you multiplying or storing?



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Spititual Life Lessons 7/3/2013

"I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications.  Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live."   Psa 116:1-2


Hope all is well with you. I received a call yesterday from a company offering me an instructor job in Shreveport, LA. This was odd because they found me (instead of me applying) and I had been praying for a better job. On top of that Tasha's father isn't doing too well, I just spoke to both of her parents on Monday. I informed them of my plans to move back to TX for grad school. Both were happy to hear the plans and state how nice it would to have everyone closer.
In the past, I've jump on opportunities such as this, and things didn't work out too well. I was unhappy with my then current situation and allowed myself to me swayed by "possibilities". We are in a good situation (could be better) and I'm very close to finishing school. Moving wouldn't disrupt school or any of my future plan, except where I do my reserve duty (which isn't a huge deal). My problem is I feel like I'm repeating the same behavior that has caused so much friction in prior situations, friction that I want to avoid at all cost. Yet, I have been praying for something like this for a while, and I don't want to miss a blessing. I have given it to God, but for some reason I feel compelled to seek your advice. What are your thoughts on the matter? How does one know if they are being blessed or being tested?



Beloved son,

That is an age old and very deep question. Gone are the days when God appears to us in visions and dreams (though he can still do it if he wants, I tend toward Heb 1:1-2). We must now depend on spiritual discernment, movement of the Spirit and of course prayer. These can sometimes be maddeningly uncertain things and sometimes you never really know until after the fact.

I always wanted to come to Missouri to advance my secular career. I prayed to go many times but was shut down every time. It wasn't until after I received my ordination and a few very significant family things lined up that things opened up and they opened wide. During the interim, I prayed for what I wanted, but more than that I learned to pray that his will be done in my life. Not knowing any other way to make a decision consistent with his will, I told God that I would apply. I would take another turn down as a no and an acceptance as yes. We've been in Missouri 11 years now and among many other great things that have happened, I've been promoted to a dream job, become the minister of a fine congregation and finished a grad degree in religion. In retrospect, it all seems that it was the right decision and God blessed it. It wasn't nearly as clear beforehand.

I won't tell you what I think you should do as far as your particular decision. I will tell you, however, to stay in prayer, appeal to God, fast about it and go where you think the Spirit is leading you. I think it says a lot that you are approaching it this way, when perhaps in the past it wasn't as much the case.  God will bless your spiritual growth and maturity.

I have prayed that God will give you clarity regarding this issue and cause you to make a decision that is in keeping with his will for your life.

I realize that none of this as solid as a voice that comes from heaven saying do this or do that. But that is where faith comes in. We walk by faith and not by sight and that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. If you do what you do for the right reasons and with the right motivation, I believe God will bless it. And even if this particular decision doesn't end up going the way you think it should, having made it with proper spiritual intent and humility, know that ultimately, God will work all things together for good. What ever decision you make will result either either in the God intended destination and answer to your prayers or just a step along the way on the path he has laid out for you.

Remember that Peter had confidence enough to step out of a perfectly good boat armed only with faith that Jesus would sustain him and this, in the middle of a storm. Even when his faith faltered, Jesus was there to save him.

Have faith. Have confidence. Make a prayerful decision and know that come what may, the Lord has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Walking, Standing and Sitting 7/2/2013

"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." Psa 1:1-2

Though we are taught not to judge unrighteously, you can tell a lot about a person based on how they spend their time and the company they keep.  It is easy to claim what we are all about, but unless our audio matches our video, all we are engaged in is image management.  Depending on the difference between what can be observed and what actually is, that can be a full time job.

Consider the implied admonition of the Lord.  What is walking but our manner of living?  When we are encouraged to "walk in the light as He is in the light" in 1 Jn 1:7, we are being instructed to live our lives in a godly manner.  We are encouraged to be holy as God is holy.  To walk or live according to the ways of the unrighteous is to walk the path to destruction.  Wickedness is all around us and it is easy to get caught in the current of what society not only approves, but will persecute as it relates to any lack of conformity to its deteriorating norms.

We are also encouraged to be mindful of where we plant our flags.  Our position on certain issues often define us more than anything else.  We must ensure that we are correctly positioned concerning things like abortion, abuse, sexual orientation, fornication, fidelity, gossip, morality and the love of money among many others.  It unfortunately is not unusual for the people of God to allow for positions that are inconsistent with his word.  Where we stand should be determined by looking up rather than down.

And what is it to sit but to be found resting?  By the time we have found our seat, we have found our home.  This is indicative of having chosen a position and course and being content with it.  If we have chosen to be godly, it will manifest itself in all we say, think and do, likewise if we have chosen to be ungodly.  Our walking and standing can land us in the potentially dangerous and permanent arena of sitting.

Beloved, God has promised blessings (the ultimate happiness) for those who avoid unrighteous walking, standing and sitting by being found living according to His law.  This is achieved by applying as much of our attention to His word as we do much lesser pursuits such as watching the news, sports, our favorite television programs or favorite music.  Salvation is found in none of these things, but true blessings are found in living life according to the word of God.  We need not be dragged down by society but must fulfill our mission of raising society up.  This can only be done if we are properly positioned and engaged in proper pursuits ourselves.  He has laid out the path for us.  Let us walk it earnestly.



Monday, July 1, 2013

Handling Adversity 7/1/2013

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour." John 12:27

Soon after Jesus' triumphant and final entry into the city of Jerusalem, he shares yet another prediction of his own death with his apostles.  He begins by saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified," John 12:23.  This statement is loaded with meaning.  What caused it to be said was a request by Greek proselytes relayed to Jesus by Philip and Andrew, to see him.  Referencing his coming passion, not only does it mean that the Lord, having completed his mission, would regain his heavenly home, but that having done so, these same Greeks (and the whole world) would have access to him that was not available at the moment.

At the same time, Jesus in his humanity was conflicted about the ordeal through which he was about  to go.  Most of us are familiar with his plea to "let this cup pass from me" plea in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The foreknowledge of such a painful death and more importantly, the taking on of the sin of the whole world must have caused unimaginable agony that exceeded even that of the suffering of the cross.  Yet, we are also familiar with his faithful and committed, "Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Beloved, each of us is faced with a variety of monumental situations and decisions throughout our lives.  Though none of them carry the weight and implication of Jesus' sacrifice, there is much that can be learned from how he responded to the most difficult circumstance in history.  Of course this is not an exhaustive list but consider the following:

  • He stayed on mission-Jesus knew who he was, whose he was, what he came to do and accomplished the task to the benefit of all mankind our of love for and obedience to the Father.
  • He persevered under dire stress-Jesus clearly agonized but remained focused.
  • He understood the importance of succeeding-It was so much more about us than it was him.  Not only was the defeat of Satan, the fulfilment of prophecy and our deliverance at stake but so was the example that millions would follow.
  • He understood sacrifice-Nothing can be achieved without sacrifice.  Had he not been willing to be that sacrifice, nothing would have been achieved.
  • He held close the ultimate faith-Being willing to die, he placed himself in the hands of God, trusting that all things would work together for good and launched himself into the unknown territory of death.
Let us think on these things when we enter diverse trials and tribulations, when we are attacked, when we are temporarily overtaken by sins, when we are delivered from our afflictions and when our eyes are opened to the need of our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to hear this vital story of love.