Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Under Attack

  There are times when we are convinced that we must have made a wrong turn somewhere.  We still have the conviction that God is leading in a certain direction, and we are doing our best to follow.  The problem is that things have become so difficult that we are sure that we must have missed something along the way.

  This happens both at individual and group levels.  People lose heart and lean towards throwing in the towel because things just aren't going as they had envisioned.  This road was supposed to be smoother, the path straighter.  We are sure of it.  We find ourselves tired and hurt.  At moments like this, it is hard not to look back and ask ourselves, "What went wrong?".  Surely, if we can just sort out the answer to this question, things will get better.  We just have to find where we have strayed, because the path can't be this hard.

2 Corinthians 11:23-33

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I more; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, there is that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is caused to stumble, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for evermore knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes in order to take me: and through a window was I let down in a basket by the wall, and escaped his hands. 

  As ambassadors of Christ, we find ourselves in a strange land.  It is a land who's forces have come against us in full measure.  We can rest assured that when we are in His will, nothing can stand against us.  This means that we will be victorious.  His will is going to be accomplished.  The enemy will do anything and everything to stop us, but he will fail.  The only recourse that remains is to convince us to quit.  When the enemy turns on you, it is an attempt to steal the victory that  can never be taken otherwise.  

  I urge you to remember this:

2 Corinthians 4:8

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

  Remain steadfast and cover yourself in prayer.  Pray that those involved in all aspects of your ministry stay the course.  Don't give up your victory.  God certainly won't.  He sees us through in all things.  Keep faith.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Yes, you have to do it again...

  Have you ever been called to do something that seemed futile and a complete waste of time?  I had one of those moments recently in preparing for Sunday morning in our home church.
  Sunday was approaching; it was Saturday night, in fact.  I still did not have a message to share for the next morning and there was a mountain of errands to run.  We loaded up the car and headed out.  I did, in that moment, something that I almost never do.  I asked Kendra to drive.  I climbed into the passenger seat with my Bible and ipad.  Shortly thereafter, I decided it was pointless, and set my Bible aside.  I was just going to wait until I got home.  God had a different plan.

  I was suddenly drawn to pray on the matter.  I did.  Then I opened my Bible to nowhere in particular and started to read.  There it was, a passage from 1 Samuel.  I knew this was it.  Then came the other problem.  I was getting nothing out of it.  I put everything aside and we ran our errands.  

  On the way home (it was a bit of a drive to the next town) I put together my notes for that message.  I then read through my notes and decided this couldn't possibly be it.  We arrived at home, put the kids to bed, and I returned to my Bible in prayer.  Again, I was drawn to the same passage.  I started again, and was coming up with the same notes.  What was God trying to tell me?  I just wasn't grasping it.  I prayed again, begging for God to intervene if this was not right.  I did not want to make the mistake of delivering a message that was nothing but a well intended guess on my part.

  Sunday morning came and I didn't feel any better about the message.  I had no doubt that this was what I was supposed to be sharing, but had no idea where it was going to go.  I prayed for the epiphany that I hoped was only moments away.  We progressed through the children's worship service and the lesson that followed.  We moved into the adult service, still no epiphany.

  Worship moved into the message.  We prayed.  The selected passage was read aloud.  I started to read through my notes one last time, but stopped and instead just listened to the Word as it was read aloud.  When I again looked at my notes the words were the same, but there was a whole new meaning.  I was reading them in a different light.  I started to speak.  The words came from my mouth, but not from my understanding.  I was hearing this message as I was sharing it.

  Tears and prayer followed.  This was a word that was needed.  God had moved in my complete lack of understanding and made His message clear.  I stood there in awe, and then remembered the children's lesson from only an hour or so before.

  Luke 5: 4 - 11

  When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch"
  Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
  When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.   So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, LORD; I am a sinful man!"  For he and all of his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
  Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men."  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything, and followed him.

  These men were fishermen, they knew their craft.  They knew those waters.  There was no reason for them to think that what they had done over and over all night would bring a different result now.  Yet they trusted and obeyed the LORD.  They were blessed with an unexpected result.  What they knew did not matter.  It went out the window and was replaced by what God intended to do.

  Jesus did two things in that moment.  He blessed them with a large catch as a lesson in faith.  He also used something that they did understand, and did with it the impossible, to reveal something that they never would have grasped in any other way.  They were to be the start of a ministry that would change the world for God, overflowing church after church, just as Christ had done with the fish in their boat.

  It was this sort of thing that God had done for me with that Sunday morning message.  He took what I thought I understood and used it to teach me something I never would have caught any other way.

  Yes, I do intend to share that lesson at some point, but the one that I learned in the process warrants pondering in the mean time.  I should have remembered this:

  Proverbs 3: 5

  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

  We would all do well to remember this lesson from time to time.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Heart of a Servant

  Consider this:

   Genesis 18: 1-8

  The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was  sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.  Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.  When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
  He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.  Let a little water be brought, and then you may wash all your feet and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way-now that you have come to your servant."
  "Very well," they answered, "do as you say."
  So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah.  "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of flour and knead it and bake some bread."
  Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender, calf and gavce it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.  He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them.  While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

  Abraham didn't have to have someone tell him that it was right to honor the Lord.  He knew it from day one.  God had made a promise to Abraham, and was, from Abraham's perspective, yet to deliver.  Yet, this did not stop him from paying the Lord due honor and respect.

  He approached God with the heart of a servant, and one eager to please.  He begged the Lord for the honor of His presence.  He asked only to serve Him.  God honored this request and more.

  We can learn a great deal from this father of Israel.  What could be better than to stand in the presence of the LORD?  What could possibly compare?

  Christ came to us and showed us how to live.  He showed us in word and deed that our role is that of a servant.  We are to serve the Lord.  Jesus made it clear what form this service to God should take.  We are to spread His gospel.  We are to minister to one another.  He who will always be the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, was a servant to us.  As Christians, we strive to follow after our Lord.  It is our joy to follow His example.  We are to have the heart of a servant.

  What boon will you beg of the Lord?  For Abraham, it was the joy of service in His presence.

  "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Bread of Life rejected...

Read John 6: 25-71

Christ lays it out for the disciples very simply.  He tells the truth of His mission, and what He is giving up, that we all may have life.

Jesus is the bread of life.  Unless we eat this bread and drink this cup, we shall not have life within us. Those who believe in Hm will have everlasting life. Nobody comes to Christ without the father's call. The Spirit gives life and the flesh counts for nothing.  We must accept this and put our faith in Him rather than the things of this world.

This is so important, that it was this, the breaking of the bread, that He used to reveal himself to the disciples when He came to them when He had risen.

People, his own disciples; People who had been with Him through miracle after miracle, teaching after teaching, left Him when they heard this message.  There is nothing new about people rejecting the truth of the gospel.  It breaks our hearts.  We believers, trying to spread the message of Jesus, desire to see the whole world saved by the truth of who He is and what He has done.  We just can't understand how people can hear the truth and walk away.

They walked away from Him.  He did not give up.  He did not quit.  They nailed Him to a tree.  Still He saves us.  He gave us His word, Hs love, His power through the Holy Spirit, knowing we would turn on Him and put Him to death.  None of this stopped Him.  How can we, who are so much less than He who is God, even consider letting embarrassment or ignorance stop us from fulfilling His commission for us all?  We are called to be like Christ.  He did not stop teaching  because many would not listen.  He knew that those who would listen, those who would believe, were worth it.  To Him, we were worth even the pain of the cross.

John 6: 63-64 "The spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Who is in your boat?

  Life will take us down many roads and across many waters.  Those roads will at times be rocky, and those waters turbulent.  There is nothing new about this.  There will be storms.  It is going to get unpleasant, and sometimes scary. What we have to ask ourselves is one simple question.  "Who is in the boat with me?"
  The boat, of course, is metaphorical.  The question however is the same.  Either we are on board with Jesus Christ or we aren't.  If we are, in fact, on board with our Lord and Savior we have nothing to fear.  Remembering this isn't always easy.  The twelve disciples found it difficult, even with Jesus there in plain sight.

 Luke 8: 22-25

  One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Lets go over to the other side of the lake.". So they got into the boat and set out.  As they sailed, he fell asleep.  A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
  The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, we're going to drown!"
  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples.
  In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this?  He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."

  They had, at this point, seen countless miracles by His hand.  They had every reason to stand firm in the knowledge that their master would save them.  Yet, despite all of this, they faltered.  Panic took them.  They cried out, "We are going to drown!" They did one thing right.  When all seemed lost, they called out to Jesus.  What they had failed to see, was that He was with them the whole time.

  I am reminded of the story of the footprints in the sand.  The individual is talking to Jesus.  The person points out that through most of his life there are two sets of footprints.  He is upset though, because there are portions of his life's path where only one set can be seen.  These are the times the man remembers being the hardest.  These are the times he thought he would never make it through.  He demands to know why.  He wants to know why he sees two sets of footprints where his life was easy, but the minute things got tough that second set seems to have disappeared.  He asks why, why wasn't Jesus there?  Why is there only one set of footprints when having the Lord there at his side would have really counted for something?   In this story, Jesus gives only one reply.  He says, "Where you see only one set of footprints, I carried you."

  This is a story (from a much debated source)told to  illustrate a point.  It is that same point that was missed by the disciples in the boat.  Do we know who we have with us?  Are we missing the gravity of WHO HE IS.  The creator of the universe is with us every step of the way.  What we must do when the world  around us slides into chaos, is take a deep breath and remember.  We have to trust in Him.  Nothing can compete with WHO HE IS.  "He commands even the winds and the water."  

  There is nothing wrong with crying out to the Lord.  There is everything right with doing exactly that.  Just remember, He already knows.  He is there with you.  Do not lose faith.  Do not fear.  Cry out to the Lord, but do not be reduced to panic and fear.  Do not forget who it is that you have in the boat.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Holding out for His will...

Psalm 37: 1-9

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord willerinerit the land.

  How many times have we seen others prosper where we struggle?  As if this were not frustrating enough, we know that certain individuals are doing it through unethical and immoral means.  We see those who head out into the world time after time, living it up, sinning like there is no tomorrow, and seem to get away with it.

  What we must do in these cases is resist the urge to throw in the towel.  God has called us to be different and we must remain steadfast in His Word.  He has a plan for each and every one of us.  Rest assured that this plan is not for us to fail.  Oh, we might not succeed where we think we want to, but God has something deeper and more meaningful in mind.  He knows where we really need to be.  He also knows the desires of our hearts.  This is not the urge for something fun, or that techno gadget we have been wanting.  This is that deep down yearning to attain what we cannot without His hand.

  We have to remember that the paths we see, while seeming to be quick routes to our goal, often end up taking us places that we never wanted to go.  It is certainly this way with sin in any form.  Things may seem to go well for those going about worldly ways at the present time, but the Lord has made a promise as to the story's end.  It is those who remain still and steadfast that will prosper.  Those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

  Whatever your challenge, consider the cost.  Consider the prize.  Isn't it worth holding out a little longer?  Commit to the Lord.  Draw to Him, and give Him your trust.  Accept that you may not fill all of those wants.  But know that God will take care of your needs.  Even more so, He will see that you realize the true desire of your heart.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Don't you know who I am?

  We all have our reasons for the things that we do and don't do.  When it comes to our calling from the Lord, none of these otherwise solid and air tight arguements seem to hold water.  Invariably, we turn to the one argument we have left.

  I'm talking about the one argument that seems to get in the way, even when we desire to do the thing God has called us to.  It goes something like this: "This can't have come from God.  I can't do this.". We then turn to our bibles.  We get down on our knees in prayer.  We ask for clarity.

  Now, at the point where we have confirmation in scripture and in Spirit, we start to get upset.  Now begins, "Why me God?  Don't you know who I am?  I know you have seen the things that I have done.  You know how I used to be.  How can you call me to this?  Nobody is going to take me seriously!"

It is time to consider three solid cases for this same argument where God chose someone who was not only unfit, but of a dubious past.

  Moses was the son of a slave, raised as a prince, who discovered his own origins, committed murder, and left town.  He didn't just leave town, he ran.  He knew that, in Egypt, he was known as a murderer.  Were he to return wearing the mantle of deliverer, he would be seen as a traitor as well.  Yet, in Exodus 3, God sends Moses to that exact place with that exact mission.  The Egyptians had every reason to kill him, and the Israelites had absolutely no reason to trust him.  We all know what happened next.

  Now let's move to the New Testament.  

  Matthew was a tax collector.  This was considered to be the lowest of low by the Jewish and Roman people alike. This was a group who sought out their own and demanded money to be paid for both government and temple taxes.  They were known to be dishonest on the whole, and were little better than thieves.  Yet, Christ called one of these to walk with Him and preach the gospel.

  Matthew 9: 9-13
  As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth.  "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
  On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

  Matthew had every reason to doubt the sanity of Jesus' call.  I can only imagine the overwhelming power of that call, made in person, by the Word made flesh.  Matthew did not argue, but obeyed.

  Now consider Saul, the Pharisee.  This man was a lawyer, prosecuting attorney, judge, and jury, all rolled into one.  He sought out Christians and made sure that they were punished, usually put to death.  He made an example of them. He was good at his job.  Then something happened on the road to Emmaeus.

Read Acts 9: 1-31

  Saul was confronted by God.  He was so set in his ways, that it took this grandios intervention by God to get his attention.  God knocked him down and struck him blind.  Then after following God's instructions, he was healed.  He was then sent to join the disciples and preach to the Gentiles.  Now, he was a being called to go to a group of people that he knew wouldn't trust him (and they didn't at first), and join their ministry by going out and and sharing the gospel with a people that prior to then had been considered unclean and unworthy.  He knew good and well that the disciples wouldn't go for that either.

  Yet, Saul, now Paul, did go and do as the Lord directed.  His ministry was anointed from the start.  This man reached the far corners of the known world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He cast out demons and healed the sick.  He converted the masses and is responsible for  writing a good portion of the New Testament.  What if he had fallen prey to his own "solid argument"?

  It comes to this.  God knows who you are.  He knows where you have been and what you have done.   He calls us to Him.  We submit to His authority and he makes us clean.  None of that from before matters from that moment on.  It is how we choose to live our lives then and every minute after that counts.  In that moment, the Lord of all creation has informed us that he no longer cares about our past, and that he is going to use us for His glory and the good of His kingdom.  Will we dig in our heals and defeat ourselves in stubborn arguments born in shame or doubt?  We have a choice.  We can do what we are called to do, what we were created to do, and obey the Lord.  
  God changes us when we step out in faith.  We become less of who we were and more of who He has called us to be.  It is our honor and privilege to serve the Lord.  It is our responsibility as citizens and ambassadors of heaven.  We have only to put aside our own prideful ideas and limitations.  We have to trust in Him.  That is the greatest challenge of it all.  It is also absolutely necessary.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Wrong Turn

  We all know someone who has slipped away.  Either through temptation, peer pressure, or as the result of some tragedy that they could not accept in light of what they thought they knew about God.  What are we to do in these situations?  

Matthew 18: 12-14
  "What do you think?  If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost."

  We are all called to love and serve on another, as Christ served those who were with Him.  Sometimes that love took the form of harsh correction.  When one of the twelve did as much as utter words forged in a strayed line of thought, Jesus confronted him with the truth.  The apostles loved Jesus, and wanted to follow His commands.  They made themselves subject to His will, but sometimes they strayed, or came up short.  

 Mark 9: 14-29
  When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.  As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
  "What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.
  A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground.  He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."
  "O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you?  Bring the boy to me."
  So they brought him.  When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion.  He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
  Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
  "From childhood," he answered.  "It has often thrown him into the fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
  "If you can?" said Jesus.  "Everything is possible for him who believes."
  Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
  When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit.  "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."
  The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out.  The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead.". But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
  After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"
  He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

  We see  that Christ discovers the disciples arguing when there are to be no divisions among us.  Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 1:10.  He then discovered that they are suffering from a crisis of faith due to their failure to drive out this particular evil spirit.  Look at what happens next.

  Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith.  He then shows them that this spirit, like all things, must submit to His authority.  He shows them that, despite what they have seen, it can be done.  He then instructs them on how to be successful the next time.

  It all sounds simple, a logical approach to correction.  I'm telling you though, that it isnt that easy.  Emotions are going to be involved, and strong ones.  You have to be in the Word.  You need to be able to turn to scripture.  You need to be sure that you are reaching out to correct in love, even if the circumstances require hard words.  Most of all, you need to be covered in prayer.  This is the most powerful tool that we have been given as Christians, and we must use it.  You must pray for that individual, over them if they will let you.  You must pray for wisdom, and the right words to say to that person.  You have to act.

  We, as the church, cannot afford to sit silently and watch those who have been marked as His, slide back into darkness.  We cannot afford to let those who are His, continue to suffer when we have been given the power and authority to make them whole.  We must venture out, now and then, to rescue the one.

  Christ made His heart clear on this matter, and it is Him that we serve.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Get going already!

Mark 16: 15-18
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will pick up snakes with their bare hands, and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all, they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well.”

These words are both inspirational and terrifying. God has endowed all of His children with the authority and responsibility to do His will. It is not a request, but our duty and our joy as slaves to Christ. We have from Him, a comission. We have from Him, the power of the Holy Spirit. We have His protection. We must find within us the boldness that He requires.

He has not said to pray for them that perhaps they may be healed. Do this from the safety of your home, where none may hear.

Read again how our Lord said that his own will be known.

"...they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well."

This is a powerful thing that we are called to do in His name. This is a scary thing. We are called not to doubt but to faith. Every step is a challenge. We have to trust in the Lord. We have to be hungry for Him, hungry for the Spirit, hungry to see the spread of His kingdom. We have to stop trying to act secretly behind closed doors. We have to acknowledge him with our lips and in our actions.

Luke 6: 46-49
"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building his house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

What have we to fear when we stand firm upon the rock? Yes, the floods of the enemy will come against us. Yet, we will endure the storm in all its terror, for the Lord is with us. We must listen to His word, and follow it. We are to pray to God that we may see His will in all things, that we may hear His direction. Let us pray for those divine appointments, ones such as that of Philip, on the road to Gaza.

Acts 8: 26-39
Now and angel of the Lord said to Philip, “God south to the road-the desert road-that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, and important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So, he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the Good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, the came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

I pray that all God's church will truly seek Him. I pray that we will hear His call and keep those appointments that will make all of the difference. Let us live in faith, and not in fear. Let us stand, even in the face of adversity and show the truth and power of our savior. May we be obedient to the Lord and serve Him in the sharing of the gospel and the blessings of the Lord that he pours out in abundance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What do you long for?

The longings of many have been put into song. John Denver longed for that country road to lead him home. Ray Charles sang of thoughts and longings for Georgia. He said it was always on his mind.
Read what the psalmist has to say about longings.

Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.

This describes one who is truly seeking after the Lord. To long for God as a deer for water, to know in your heart that you can't live without Him, and to feel that burning in your soul. This is a person who chases after God as though his very life depends on it, because it does.

This is what God wants from His church.

Read Isaiah 30:9-11

How much of the church falls under this description. How many of us sit in congregations asking to hear "a message of hope"? How many churches are bringing people in with the good news of the gospel, but never delving any deeper? Where is the correction? Where is the guidance? The church needs this so desperately, yet the vast majority does not want it. We say the "sinners prayer". We put our name on the church roster. We sit in our pews and wait to be told how great we are for coming to church on Sunday and how God has wonderful things planned for us.

Read Isaiah 30:19-21

We have been called to wake up. We have not been listening. If we have been listening, we have not been responding. We are the church. We are God's people, citizens of heaven. Why are we choosing to die of thirst? We have but to cry out! We have but to listen! God will show us the way. He has already made the path. We just need to wake up and let him tell us where it is.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.

Do the words of the psalmist describe your heart? Do the words of the psalmist describe the church?

It is time to cry out.
It is time to pray.
It is time to open our minds and our hearts.
We have to listen.
We have to act.

Our very lives depend on it.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


In 2 Samuel 6:1-11, we find David returning to Jerusalem with the ark. The cart lurches, and Uzzah makes the mistake of touching it. David witnesses the man being burned to death on the spot. As a result, he is afraid and leaves the ark in the care of Obed-Edom the Gittite. After three months he hears of the blessings this household has seen and decides it is safe to bring the ark into the city.

Now, read 2 Samuel 6:12-23

David is overcome with joy as the ark is brought into the city. He can no longer contain himself and begins to dance before the Lord. He is completely consumed by his joy and love for God and behaves in a way that many, who are prim and proper, would consider foolish. In verse 16, we see that his own wife is filled with contempt for him at the sight of this display.

2 Samuel 6:16
As the ark was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul, watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

I was not raised in a church that encouraged “foolish behavior” of any sort. Reverence for the Lord meant that we were to be proper at all times. At least, that is how the congregation seemed to feel about it. Raised in this way, the first time I experienced people dancing in praise, I was very uncomfortable. In some ways, I shared the opinion of Michal, as she watched David dance. No, I did not have the fear of being embarrassed by extension. I was not related to any of those present in any way, so it would not be connected to me. Yet, I was upset by their apparent lack of propriety.

My response was one of evasion. I left quickly, when the service was over, hoping nobody would give me cause for delay, or worse, ask me why I did not join them in their foolishness. Michal, on the other hand, decided to confront her husband on the matter.

2 Samuel 6:20-22
When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel had distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel-I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

I thank God that he has changed me. He has spoken to my heart, and revealed through His word, that this is not only accepted, but desired. God wants our praises. He is to be given the glory in all things. It is right to give Him praise. He deserves it. If its acceptable that we get excited enough to jump up and down over something as mundane as a sporting event, how can we not do the same for the Lord of Lords and King of Kings when he has saved us from hell itself?

“I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this…” If only we had the courage to respond in this way all of the time. Oh, we dance before the Lord. We find ourselves in the midst of worship. The Spirit begins to move. We are overcome with the joy of His presence and we praise Him. It is only right. But, are we always like this? It is easy to be a fool for the Lord when everyone else is doing it too.

What are we doing when we know that our own Michal’s are watching?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where are your talents?

Read Matthew 25:14-30

In this parable, we see a master and his three servants. Each servant is granted responsibility over a portion of the master’s treasure. All three servants know that their master is one who demands results. While all three are in the same situation, we see two very different responses.

Two of the servants decide that they are going to put themselves out there and use this opportunity to further their master’s estate. They face personal risk in doing so, but they know what their master expects and want to deliver so that he will be pleased.

The third servant is focused on self preservation. He is determined that he will avoid the cost of failure by not venturing out at all. He chooses to hide his treasure that he may return it when called upon with no risk to his own hide due to loss.

The master returns and calls his servants to account for their actions. The first two are rewarded, for they have put forth an honest effort and increased the holdings of their master. The third has done nothing. He has hidden his treasure. It was too precious to him to risk. He kept it close. Even an investment without risk, such as a deposit to earn interest, is more than he is willing to do. This man is punished. He is ordered to give what he has to one who will do something with it and is ordered to leave his master’s presence.

How many of us are like this third servant? We have our treasure, be it in possession or ability, and we keep it hidden. It is something that has been given to us and we don’t want to let anyone else see it or touch it. We want to keep it safe where nobody can break it or lose it. We keep our talents hidden where nobody can laugh at us or tell us we aren’t good enough. We don’t want to put our treasures at risk. They are too precious for that. As a result, we sit stagnant, gaining nothing for our covetous nature.

Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We need to break free of this stagnant pool where we have chosen to abide. Think on these words. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also. I don’t want to bury my heart in the ground. We are called to be different. If you really care about something, you are willing to invest in it. We know that Jesus is Lord. His command to us is to go out and further the kingdom. It is His will that the gospel be preached to every living soul. We are to feed, clothe, and minister to the lost and the weary. We are to heal the sick, and share the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is where our treasure should be. Our time, talents, and resources have been given to us to further His kingdom. Are our hearts in His hands, in His kingdom, or are they buried in a hole in the ground?

Perhaps you say, “I have invested in the kingdom, and I have seen that investment make a good return. I am happy, and content with what I have gained.”

Revelation 3:15-18
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm –neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and a salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

God calls us to constantly seek after Him. He calls us to take every opportunity to further His kingdom, not to push to the point where we are comfortable with our success. Every time we see our treasures multiplied from our investment, we are to sew them right back into the kingdom, and do our part to aide in making it truly “on earth as it is in heaven.” Are we so blind and pitiful to believe that we can ever afford to let this investment opportunity slip us by?

Yes, it costs us our time, money, energy, and pride. Yet think of what we gain. Think of who we have the privilege to serve. We serve the King of Kings, and His kingdom is eternal. That kingdom is the one where we will find our reward. That is the place where we will be called to come and give account for how we have handled our talents, our treasures.

2 Corinthians 4:8
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Consider this for a moment. Where is the risk? We give up something temporary, something we are going to lose anyway in the end, and gain something eternal, something we can never lose. We were created to love and serve the Lord. Doing so is a win / win situation.

Think on it. Pray on it. Act on it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are you the real deal?

It happens to everyone at some point. We set out with the best of intentions, and try to present an honest and heart felt testimony of Christ’s love to others. Then, we face the “after effect.” The comments made on the sly while speaking, or out right challenge and contradiction once we have gone, are an attack on our character, and there is nothing new about them. Consider this from Paul.

2Corinthians 10:10
For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.

This sort of attack can be hurtful to the individual, and down right harmful to the ministry calling that person is trying to fulfill. The amount of harm can be limited and sometimes prevented all-together if there is more to our honesty than a presentation. We must truly live the words that we speak, and the message that we share. God’s word is not just something that we pass on with a pen stroke or lip service. These are directions, warnings, and safeguards for life, and they must be adhered.

2 Corinthians 10:11
Such people should realize that what we are in our letters, when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

2 Corinthians 11:6
I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.

We have nothing to fear from naysayers when we are able to respond in a similar fashion. The only way that we can enable ourselves to do this is by living in truth. We have to walk the walk, or someone will call us on it. People will only listen to lip service for so long before they want to see a living example of the life that Christians are called to. If they can’t find that example in the person speaking to them, they will often leave discouraged.

There will always be those who speak out against us, but if there is no weight to their words, they will be soon forgotten. Truth stands in the end. We must always be sure that our words and deeds are reflecting our message. When the truth comes out, let it be something to strengthen your ministry, and further the kingdom, rather than a hindrance.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Rod of Correction

Someone at some point has said to you, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” None of us liked hearing this as children, and some of us still aren’t all that fond of it as parents. What does the bible actually say about this topic?

Proverbs 29: 15-17

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you peace.

There it is, right here in the bible. These are the proverbs of Solomon, the man who, when offered anything he desired from God, requested wisdom. God’s wisdom, through Solomon, gives us clear instruction in this matter. If simply knowing is not enough to motivate us in this area, take a look at the following.

1Samuel 3:11-14

And the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family- from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”

Now, we know that all sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. This is good, as we all make mistakes from time to time and would rather not experience the pain of death or the eternity in hell that would follow. Praise the Lord, that the burden of this punishment has been taken from our shoulders through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

What this does not mean, is that we are excused from our responsibilities as parents. We have to stand firm on the principles laid out for us in the bible. This is the Word of God. We don’t get to change it, or pick and choose what we are going to follow. God said it, and we have to do it.

We are not to “pick” at our children and drive them to frustration. Read “Who’s the Boss?” for more, on that matter. What we are to do is keep our children in line according to His word. God’s direction to them is clear in the fifth commandment and is echoed in Colossians with a little something extra for the parents.

Colossians 3:20-21

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.

Parents, remember that it is our job to instruct and correct our children. We want them to grow up to be strong and upright. Our children are the arrows in our quiver that we have been given to shoot at the enemy. We want those arrows to be straight rather than bent and crooked. These are the children of the Lord and should be raised as such.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Get to work

We have all heard the phrase, “faith without works is dead.” This is a quote from James 2:26. While true, it is also often twisted to mean something very different than intended.

As Christians, we all share some things in common. The most important of these is the fact that there was a point in our lives where our eyes were opened and we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. We, at that moment, claimed our salvation in the blood of Jesus. From that moment we have been able to deal with life in a new way. We know without a doubt that our victory is assured through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, though faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast

Our salvation is complete in and of itself. We were saved very moment we surrendered ourselves to the Lord. That is it, the price is paid. Nothing more is required.

This being said, take a look at the very next verse.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do

There is that work that drives everyone to frustration and confusion. We find ourselves asking questions. What is this work? If my salvation is complete, then what is this all about?

We are now going to revisit that famous quote. Only this time, read the verse in context. Read James 2:14-26 Yes, pull out your Bible. It’s good for you. I promise.

This verse we often hear quoted does not speak of works as a prerequisite for qualifying faith. Your place in heaven is already assured, purchased by the blood of Jesus. What this does tell us, is that our lives should be different after we are saved. We have accepted Christ as the Lord and Savior. It is time to start acting like it.

Consider these definitions for “work”.

- an act or deed
- a sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result
- a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being part or phase of some larger activity

Our first task is to take our salvation seriously and make a change. In John 8:11, Jesus tells the adulteress to go and leave her life of sin. She is forgiven. Romans 12:2 tells us that we are to no longer conform to the pattern of this world. We are to be transformed.

Think about this for a moment. Yes we are called to more. As we grow in faith, the nature of our “work” will grow and expand. God has a calling for each and every one of us. At the beginning of our walk in the Lord, our work is all the same. This portion of our work never goes away. It is the challenge every day as a Christian. We are to put forth an effort to be different. We are to strive to please our Lord and Savior by keeping His commandments. It is a work of love and faith, not a need to prove anything. Is our work evidence of faith? Yes. Does God need this evidence to know our hearts? No. Remember though, in Christ we are more than conquerors. It would be good if we would get to the task.

Romans 8:37
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

We have been called to more. It is not a check in the box to make sure we “make it” into heaven. It is the privilege of all citizens of heaven, to take advantage of our time here one earth to make our lives, and through them, this world, resemble our future home. We are to live our faith. This is our work.