Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Focus on Grace

This was originally posted a couple of years ago and we are reposting for this weekend. Please pay close attention to the content of the selected verses, namely the word "grace."  It's a good time for reading about grace, and good time for some open discussion from your family at home. 

This weekend we encourage you to focus on the subject of grace.  This important subject has been taught in our sermons, Bible studies, and even in the home.  The multitude of mentions in Scripture is proof of the importance of our knowing and understanding God's teaching about grace.

You are encouraged to read and discuss these verses on grace, with your family this weekend.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Acts 4:33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.

Acts 11:22-24 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

Acts 14:1-3 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

John 1:15-17 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Acts 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Romans 1:1-5 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

May God bless your study and meditation.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Time to Elect

Are you enjoying all the political advertising?  Have you taken sides, deciding the candidate you will support?  Now the real question.....Do you think we have narrowed down the list of candidates, leaving only the best to be on the ballot? 

We are just over a couple of months away from selecting a new leader for our country.  I am relatively sure I have my mind made up as to the candidate that will get my vote.....but even that is subject to change.  I have some doubts, not only with the candidates I have ruled out, but also with the ones I am considering to select.

I've listened to lots of speeches, trying to see if I can read sincerity in the words they say.  I have considered the "pros" and "cons" several times and often wonder if I am going to be voting for the lesser of two evils, or am I really possessing convictions of the best person for the job being selected by our country's voters?

If you are like me, you find yourself being torn as a speech is given, only to be challenged by the accusation of the speech being made up of falsehood.  I have written some of my feelings about the election and admit my struggles about wanting to vote for the candidate that will be best for our country's citizens and which will honor God in the decisions they make when in office.

I just know our country is full of anxiety and worry about this election.  I further know I do not have all the answers and I will probably still be praying right up to election day, that I can make the right decision.

Matthew 6 tells me not to worry.  God takes care of the sparrows and he can take care of me.  When I learn to accept that truth, I am open to accept the fact that our God is not controlled by human politics.  Regardless of who is in control of Washington, God is still in control of his creation.  For the Christian, that's the assurance we need.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Getting to Know God

Praise the Lord, my soul;    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
                                              Psalm 103:1-12

Few passages can teach us this much information about the God we love and serve.  You may read it over and over and come away with new thoughts showing us the extent of God's care and concern for his people.  For example, verse 4 reveals how God saves us from "the pit" and crowns us with love and compassion. And verse 10, lets us know God doesn't treat us like our sins deserve, and he doesn't repay us according to our sins and iniquities. 

Spend some time today on this Psalm, using these descriptive words of God, and see how well we can come to know him and experience how much he loves us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A failure to communicate...

While I was living in west Texas, I had a friend named Glenn that was an auto mechanic. He went into partnership with another man named Glenn, that was also experienced in auto mechanics and they opened a shop together and built a business making car repairs. Shortly after the shop opened they experienced the normal problems that are associated with starting a new business. One afternoon the phone rang and my friend answered the phone, “Auto Repair Shop, this is Glenn.” The voice on the other end said, “Glenn, honey, I have had a terrible day and I have a bad headache, so would you pick up some burgers for dinner?” Glenn responded in the affirmative and on his way home stopped at the drive‐in burger place and picked up family’s dinner. (Are you getting ahead of me in the story?) Glenn walked in the door at home with two bags of burgers and fries and noticed his wife had fixed a huge dinner for the family and it was on the table and ready for all to eat.

About the same time, the other Glenn was arriving at his home empty handed, to a house full of hungry kids anxiously awaiting burgers because mom wasn’t feeling well and had gone to bed. It’s funny to think about it now, but from the discussion at the repair shop the next morning, apparently it wasn’t a happy home setting for either family the night before. Communication problems needed to be worked out.

Similar problems happen in all of our lives when we fail to communicate effectively. We say something in a way that seems perfectly clear to the listener, only to learn later they did not understand. Often we are a poor listener and fail to receive the entire communication. Is it any wonder some of the Bible’s most important messages for us come with an encouragement to listen closely? Jesus began speaking at times with the words, “I tell you the truth,” followed by words that warrant our attention. And in the special messages Jesus dictated to the seven churches of Asia Minor, there is the repeated admonition, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” I can think of numerous passages that have seemed to come alive to me when I would pause long enough to really think and understand they conveyed a message I needed. I hope you can relate, because all of us still have lessons to learn and areas where we need to grow into the likeness of Jesus.

The tendency is for us to get the truth in our heads, without it making changes in our hearts. Knowledge is good, but the application of that knowledge brings the growth and maturity we need. James says it like this, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man, who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:2225.

God longs to communicate with us. His communication is clear that without him we have no hope. He delivers his message to us in the form of his Son, and the teaching he gives. That message continues through the event of the cross and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The message grows in its application to our individual lives, when he promises to reside in us. His message is a love letter, written especially for you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

One of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days?...or one of those weeks? Sometimes we feel like a poster child for Murphy’s Law. Everything we attempt goes south. We may even try to work harder and faster on accomplishing some task, and then it seems all our efforts were in vain. Some think these kinds of days are just going to happen and we should take them with a grain of salt and look forward to better days when things will go right. But we all know there are people we come in contact with daily, who seem to never have a good day. Being stressed, frustrated and whining about life seems to be their norm.

Let me take you to a time in the Old Testament when the God’s people turned their backs on him, and were violating his commands. Even though God had commanded them to avoid such things, his people were worshiping idols. They persisted in this state of idolatry, and in the worship of things they created, rather than their Creator.

Into this picture enters the prophet of God, Jeremiah, and notice the intimacy of his call from God, as Jeremiah is told, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah’s response was one that would probably match ours. He reminded God he was only a youth, and he didn’t know how to speak the things God would want him to say. God’s reply was exact. “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” So the stage is set for the task set before him. Jeremiah, freshly armed with the promises of God, is going to deliver God’s message to the people who are making a lifestyle of rejecting God and worshiping idols.

The Bible tells us that Jeremiah was a prophet of God during the reign of five kings of Judah, four of which were wicked and shared a leadership role in keeping the people in their idolatrous ways. We also learn that Jeremiah’s life was constantly threatened, and that he had even witnessed the murders of other prophets. He faced multiple frustrations and disappointments in carrying out his task. Then, he sorrowfully watched the defeat of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. (Talk about having a bad week!)  Jeremiah could possibly have been our example of dealing with such stress and destruction by throwing in the towel. But he didn’t. Much of what he had to deal with would cause even the strongest of us to say, “You have done more than was expected, you have gone the extra mile.” But Jeremiah chose to press on, and his insistence on remaining faithful to the message of God is OUR lesson in endurance.

With God’s people in the hands of the Babylonians, because of their rejection of God, you might be prone to ask, “What exactly did Jeremiah accomplish with this faithfulness?” The answer is in that word, “endurance.” His faithfulness to God and the message of God became a catalyst for the great spiritual reformation that would take place under the reign King Josiah. Our friend Jeremiah wasn’t a quitter.

Adverse difficulties, threats, uphill struggles were his daily menu, and yet his motivation was centered in the promises of God. The key was his life of endurance; keeping on keeping on. Although his message at times was about a God who judges and punishes, it was also about a God who has great love and mercy and grace to see us through.

So when today isn’t your day, or perhaps you are having one of those weeks, remember Jeremiah and all the troubles he endured. Remember God’s promise to be with you, to comfort and strengthen you. You see, like Jeremiah, before you were in the womb, God knew you; and before you were born, he set you apart. Learning that gives us what we need to endure.

Monday, August 22, 2016

You Pick

"I have set before you this day, life and good, and death and evil.  Choose life, that you and your descendants may live."  Deuteronomy 30:15, 19

God has such a marvelous way of letting us know we are a people of choices.  Life and good things exist as one of our choices.  The other choice is described as death and evil.  No matter how hard we try to fathom the concept of a loving God sending people to an eternity of condemnation, the Bible teaches we make that choice ourselves.

Remember Noah, of the floodwater days?  He lived in an era when wickedness was the way of life for almost all of mankind. Scripture describes that generation by letting us know "every imagination of the thoughts of the hearts of man was evil continually."  We might readily suggest God had lost control.  Satan himself must have been the controlling force.  But while it seems that way, the actual decision of each and every person destroyed by the flood had chosen the way of wickedness and evil.

We often say, "the devil made me do it," when offering an excuse for our bad behavior.  We think in terms of Satan having control over us, while God is letting us know the only power Satan has is that which we willingly give him.  If he really controls us, it's because we made the decision to allow it.

The ultimate control was that of God when he called a halt to all unrighteousness and wickedness through the flood of destruction.  He destroyed the life of every individual who had chosen to disregard him, choosing rather the way of evil.  Only Noah and the faithful of his family were spared.

We can look at generation after generation from Bible days until today, and come to appreciate and believe our God is in control.  We are his by creation and redemption.  We belong to him.  Those who put their trust in God and faithfully choose the life of loving him, obeying him and inviting him to reside in their hearts, will be participants in the "life and good" God promises.

Read the verse again.  This time, determine which choice you are making.  It's a decision of eternal proportions, but also a decision each of us must make.

"I have set before you this day, life and good, and death and evil.  Choose life, that both you and your descendants may live."  Deuteronomy 30:15, 19


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Preparing for Worship

To prepare yourself for worship on Sunday, you and your family can be in prayer for those who will be leading us in a service of praising God.  There are several specific things we should be mentioning in our prayers.

1.  Pray for those who have planned and will be carrying out our service of singing praises.

2.  Be in prayer for those who will be serving in any capacity.  This includes those who will be our greeters, teaching our children, serving the communion, etc.

3.  Pray for those who will be visiting our church.  These are the people who may be searching for a closer walk with God, overcoming problem situations in their lives, and above all, desiring a closer walk with the Lord.

4.  Pray for the preacher/teacher of Bible principles.  We know we all need a regular dose of the magnificent truth from God's word.

5.  Pray that your home church may be a shining light in the community, not only on Sundays, but in the lives of its members throughout every week.

6.  Pray for yourself, that your heart may be open and receptive to God's message for you.