Monday, September 29, 2014

Are You As Happy As You Think You Are? 9/29/2014

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

More and more it seems that society equivocates on religion or rejects it altogether. Of course there are many reasons for this but among them have to be the perception that a relationship with God is too restrictive and too burdensome. There are so many bright, shiny, comfortable and sensually pleasurable things out there that seem to be prohibited by the Christian faith that many people are more interested in fulfilling their desires than securing their eternity.

A closer look reveals that the pursuit of pleasure and the rejection of structure and discipline come with their own cages and are often difficult and costly to maintain in more than a senses of the words. When we make our interpersonal relationships our number one priority, there is no one who does not know the effort this can take and the heartbreak that it can involve. It is only Jesus who has truthfully said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," Hebrews 13:5. When we make working our priority for the sole purpose of gaining more and more and then conspicuously consuming it, we find that it is never enough and become trapped in a cycle of trying to protect what we've accumulated while attempting to gain even more. Jesus asked the question, "For what will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose or forfeits himself [his soul]," Luke 9:25. Lastly, what of the things that look, feel and taste good to us? Does not the pursuit and enjoyment of some of these things cost us dearly in health, relationships, finances, time and even inner peace? It is written, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" James 4:1.

Beloved, a relationship with the Lord and membership in his body is not the trap that some would make it out to be. It is submitted to you that living outside of him is the true trap. All of the things outside of him that are dangled in front of us are merely bait designed to trap us and keep us imprisoned. Jesus offers freedom: freedom from worry, stress, strife, consequences of our sin and everlasting destruction. Are there observances that we must maintain, obey and respect? Absolutely, just as there are with everything from traffic laws, to work policies and procedures to family rules. None, however, are more beneficial than Jesus' offer of rest from the burdens and weariness generated by the choices we make and an easier yoke with a lighter burden. Let all who have ears hear and let all that hear understand.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Spiritual ADD 9/22/2014 (rp)


Last week, the family and I took a well needed vacation. Thanks to those who offered prayers for our safety and rest. As it would happen, our favorite way to vacation is on a cruise. Being on the ship reminded me of a time a few years ago when we went with members of our congregation. From this wonderful time together came a series of lessons called the "Water Gospels." As the Lord has conducted us safely back home, I thought it was worth a look back and reflect on both the goodness and the lessons of God.


"Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep." Jonah 1:2-5

Oftentimes, we as Christians suffer from spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). With our minds and mouths we acknowledge God as the King of our lives, our Creator, the Almighty and our Father. We are His people and we know it. We are to be obedient and we know it. He loves us and wants the best for us and we know it. Our actions from time to time, however, belie these truths. In fact, we will sometimes go out of our way to be out of His way.

Jonah was a prophet of God. His whole reason for existing was to impart God's word to those whom he was charged to give it. That said, not only did he refuse direct instructions from God to preach to a people desperately in need of the word, he actually paid money to get on a ship headed the opposite direction.

As we continue in our "Water Gospels" during our study time on the St. Louis Area Family Gospel Cruise, note that it was on the water that God got Jonah's attention. The bible said that a great storm came upon the ship causing all to fear and seek out divine intervention.

Beloved we all have storms in our lives. They come in a variety of guises, but none of us is ignorant of a storm when we are in one. During these storms, we must ask ourselves if God is trying to get our attention.

It is interesting to know that once guilt ridden Jonah was thrown overboard at his own request, the storm that was afflicting the innocent around him ceased immediately. Further, Jonah spent the next three days in the belly of a fish. This was plenty of time to contemplate both the benefits of obedience and his relationship with God.

What will it take for God to get your attention?



Monday, September 8, 2014

Alignment 9/8/2014 (rp)

"If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;" 1 John 1:6

Let's face it. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian behaves like one should. If the estimated 247 million Christians in the US alone truly reflected the teachings of Jesus in word, thought and deed, Christianity would not be experiencing the decline that has been documented. Our children would not be leaving the church as they enter adulthood at the levels they are. And our country would not be in the state of moral degradation that it clearly is. But this is not about what others are or are not doing. This is about self examination.

Beloved, the questions about why things are as they are must begin with a long look in the mirror of Scripture. We as individuals must make an honest determination about how much the word and will of God exists in our lives. It is the easiest thing in the world to do to cast stones at others or point out the "motes of dust" in their eyes, but are we as quick to recognize deficiencies in our own lives? The Scripture says, "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does," James 1:23-25.

It is beyond both our ability and our commission to "fix" the whole world. That is strictly within the purview of God. We can, however, do all within our ability to be in alignment with His will as reveled in His word in our own lives. It would be amazing how "fixed" the world would become if everyone focused on ensuring the orderliness of their own houses.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Encouragement for Troubled Times 9/2/2014

"For son treats father contemptuously,
Daughter rises up against her mother,
Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me."
Micah 7:6-7

There is no one that needs me to tell them that we are enduring tough times. The news is filled the heinous crimes ideological extremists are perpetrating against humanity in general and Christians specifically in the Middle East. Planes full of innocents have been shot down in the Ukraine by one government that wants to overtake another. And in the bread basket of our own country, riots reminiscent of some of America's most turbulent times are playing out right before our eyes.

Times like these can seem so hopeless. One wonders what is the source of all of this conflict and more to the point, what is the solution? Why does it seem that war is so easily engaged while attaining peace is among the most difficult endeavors known to man.

Conflict is older than humanity itself. Though it may seem simplistic to the non-believer, Satan rebelled against God before we were created. Soon after we were created, humanity was influenced by Satan to also rebel against God. Not long after this, a man took the life of his brother and we have been warring against one another ever since.

Though we must deal with the conflict that exist between us, starting with that between ourselves and members of our own households, it is important to know that the struggle is larger than any of us. It is written that, "...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places," Ephesians 6:12. The age old battle between good and evil continues and we have become part of it. We are not, however, without recourse.

Beloved, though there are many things from the word of God that can be offered for our instruction and consolation, think on these three things:

"Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:13-17

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-7

"‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" Matthew 22:37-39