Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Did You Hear?

Psalm 62:11-12
One thing God has spoken,
    two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
     and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person
    according to what he has done.

These verses which are the final two verses of Psalm 62, offer somewhat of a riddle-like challenge to those who search and study the Scriptures.  There are several interpretations of the verses, as to the reference to God speaking his law once to Moses and the Moses speaking it twice to the people, therefore the reference to God speaking one thing, but the psalmist saying he heard two things.

We know God has spoken more than once and that truth is easily seen because he spoke more than one thing during creation. He also spoke the law to Moses, just as he spoke his message through the prophets.  In the last days, he speaks to us through his Son. 

The core meaning of God's message is in what is heard and what we can learn from the things God says to us.  Notice in the first part of this psalm, there is repeated reference to all that God means to the writer, David.  In the opening verses, for example, David confesses, "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him." Later in the chapter David confesses that hope comes from God and that God is our fortress.  It all is summed up by David when he says again, "My salvation and my honor depend on God." It is safe to say that we have many lessons to learn from David's relationship with God and how much God means to him. 

Then come the verses which we have printed above.  "One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard."  Tell us, David, what did you hear?

1.  "That you, O God, are strong."  David could write volumes on the power and strength of God. In his experiences with God, ranging from David's younger life when he killed Goliath, to his later life as the king over the Israelites, David could testify that God is powerful. 

For those of us who read the gospel narratives and learn of the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and then see the spread of the early church, and the preaching ministry of Paul, we can see the power of God in its fullness.  We read terms like "God's power to save," and know that power is applied to sinful mankind that cannot save himself. Not only that, God blesses us with his power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

2.  "And that you, O Lord, are loving."  Regardless of all the other things we learn about God, the fact that he loves us is paramount.  His love for us continues in spite of where we are, where we have been, or what we have done. He loves us to the point of giving his Son to die, paying the price for our sins. 

Those are the two things David heard.  God is strong and powerful, and God is loving.  Placing our trust and obedience in such a merciful God is our only way to eternal life. The last sentence of the verse says, "Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done."

God is powerful......God loves you.  What more do we need?


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

God is Bigger Than He Looks!

My great-niece, Brylie, was recently singing songs which she made up, and brought some thinking to the minds of us grown-ups about the size of God. Brylie's song had mentioned that God was bigger than the ocean. Her verses were sporadic and most cannot be remembered, but she got to the point of divulging to theologians and Bible scholars of all generations, "God is a lot bigger than he looks!"

Brylie's observation of God really got me to thinking and wondering how I would describe how big God is. I surfed through several pages of Google articles, most of which were attempting to  answer our question by comparing it to the size of the universe. I read statistic after statistic and came away with some mind boggling information about space and galaxies and solar systems. 

I liked what one researcher, David F. Coppedge,  of the Institute for Creation Research, had to say. He went into great detail about our galaxy and its size, and then told how some recent discoveries had concluded there were over 100 billion galaxies in the visible universe. To give you an idea of the size of our galaxy, Coppedge says if our galaxy were the size of North America, then our entire solar system would fit in a coffee cup somewhere in Idaho. (I warned you it was mind boggling.)

So if there are 100 billion galaxies that we know about to date, and each galaxy, like ours, contains over 100 billion stars, my view of God changes to one of awe when I read in Psalm 147:4 that he calls each star by name.  

I also get to wondering if seminary studies were elaborate enough in telling us of God's omnipresence, meaning that he is everywhere.  While still multiplying 100 billion stars times 100 billion galaxies reaches the limits of my hand held calculator, I do admit that I momentarily visualized God spreading himself thin across such  a mass of space.  How could he hear the prayers of those who inhabit this tiny speck called earth? How can he show his love and concern for what seems to be such a small segment of the universe? 

Another verse, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork," comes to mind. If all those stars in all those galaxies are declaring the glory of God, the things I do in my Christian life to bring him glory must seem so insignificant to him.
The work of David Coppedge brought me to realize something else. Omnipresence of God, God being everywhere, doesn't mean that he is spread thin to reach out to all of those galaxies. Omnipresence means that all of God is present in all locations at all times.
All the science, all the scripture and all the study brings me to the point of just saying, "Wow! He really is a big God."  Perhaps the matter is equally summed up in the gospel song, "He's big enough to rule the mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart." keep on singing and making up songs. You are onto something in the song,  "God is Bigger Than He Looks." It's already a #1 hit for me. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Would you like that supersized?

Matthew 7:7-8
 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

That is a nice sample of the promises of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The promises of asking and receiving, seeking and finding, and knocking and the door will be open, are some of the most misunderstood of the promises.  We read words like that and immediately are overtaken by our natural greed and think that we have received a license to ask for everything.

In reality, God does listen and provide answers to such prayers but we fail to see that God's answer is sometimes a "no" answer. Or, he could possibly answer with, "not yet."  We also interpret this as a chance to drive up to God's window, much in the same way we drive up at McDonald's, and we expect God to be standing there asking, "May I take your order? And would you like to Supersize that?"  Then we expect him to fill our order immediately, while we wait impatiently. 

This text is sandwiched in between two others pieces of instruction from Jesus, both of which deal with getting along with others. One is about judging and the other is about treating others like you wish to be treated yourself.  Why do you think Jesus ended his discourse on judging others, talked about asking, seeking and knocking, then told us to treat everyone the same way we wish to be treated?

Yes, God desires for us to ask, seek, and knock, but in the context of us expecting God to meet all of our desires, we fail to see two basic truths.  1. What we are demanding from God may not be in accordance with his will.  2. What we pray for might interfere with God's overall plan for us.

Philippians 4:6-7
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Ray Stedman, in his book Spiritual Warfare, uses this text to show us some elements that are present in effectual prayer.
  • ·Do not worry or be anxious. This is your chance to turn everything over to God, because he can deal with it better than you.
  • ·Pray about everything!  Yes, God is interested enough in you to hear it all.
  • ·The result of prayer is peace. Look at the verse again. When we pray, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guards our hearts and minds in Jesus.
When we pray, heaven listens and answers. The asking, seeking and knocking child of God prays in accordance to God's will. 


Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Sunday worship at Oakhills Church began in a very special way yesterday. In observance of  Memorial Day, we were blessed by a color guard in the presentation of our flag, then paused to remember those who have fallen in battle, and honored the families of those who have served and are serving our country. 

Later in the service, Randy Frazee reminded us that every Sunday is a memorial day in that we assemble to praise God for the gift of His Son, and to honor Jesus in remembering his death, burial and resurrection. 

 We are truly a fortunate people to experience the freedoms we sometimes take for granted, knowing that we enjoy numerous blessings that are not enjoyed by the citizens of most countries. Further,  stop and think of the events of the cross and realize our sins put Jesus there, and his rising from the tomb brings eternal life for us. Freedom is such a great blessing. 

One of the things that happened in our remembrance of Memorial Day was the reading of another verse of the Star Spangled Banner. I had to admit I didn't know there was more than the one verse that is so familiar to us. My research found that there were as many as 18 verses, some of which are quite descriptive of the scenes which Francis Scot Key, the writer, visualized during actual battles.  

Here is the other verse which was read to us Sunday:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Memorial Day brings a special memory to me. I remember as a boy visiting at my grandparents home around Memorial Day.  My grandfather had the duty of placing a small American flag on the grave of each fallen soldier and other deceased veterans. 

As we walked through the little cemetery which my grandfather knew so well, we went completely through all the rows of tombstones and placed the flags in their appropriate places. It did not dawn on me until later years that one of those flags was placed on the grave of my grandfather's own son. An uncle that I never knew, lost his life in France in World War II. Now things are brought closer to home when I think of the numerous relatives that have served our country and have returned home safely, and I give thanks for their service. My thanks and honor continues for the multitude of families that have lost loved ones in service to our country. 

It's best said in the verse above, "may the heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us as a nation."  That power is God, and he continues to be our only hope for national preservation. Today as we give honor to whom it is due, let us ever hold as our motto, "In God is our trust."


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Let Us Persevere

Everyone have a great weekend. Next update will be Monday morning. Be safe. God bless. --RonB

When the writer of Hebrews wanted to write about Jesus, to an audience that obviously had misplaced values, he showed them Jesus is superior to the angels. Later he told them Jesus is superior to Moses. These  claims are discussed at length and the necessary proof given throughout the Book of Hebrews. 

The writer then goes into a discussion of how Jesus is the high priest of the new covenant. Some of the Old Testament is referenced by showing how Jesus was like Melchizedek, who was a king and a priest of God. In Hebrews 10 there is a plea for God's people to be strong and hang on to their faith, in spite of adversity and suffering.  Read starting with verse 19.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,  by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us.........

It's the "let us" I want us to look at together.
1. Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.  Because Jesus, our high priest, has given us the new and living way, we can confidently draw near to God. Our hearts, filled with the assurance of faith are strengthened to hold on to him. 

2. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for we know he is faithful.  The person who is not a believer is described as "one without hope." Since we now have Jesus as the high priest over the house of God, we are no longer hopeless, rather we are people of hope. And not only that we have the assurance that the one who promised it is faithful.   An additional point comes to us from the use of that word, "unswervingly."  I picture a speeding vehicle out of control.  We are told in these verses that this hope provides stability. It is an unswerving hope we profess.

3. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. I have done some horseback riding and I know the horse doesn't like to be spurred. Most Christians don't either. But the call for us here, when we are lacking in love and good deeds, we need to spur each other so the love and good deeds can become a part of us. Spur me gently, and I will consider myself spurred in love. 

4. Let us not give up meeting together. There were some that were in the habit of not attending the church assembly. The Hebrew writer lets us know that meeting together is THE way we can be an encouragement to each other. He further says that we will see the importance of the worship assembly more and more and the Day approaches.

No matter how Jesus is described, if by the word Savior, Redeemer, High Priest, or whatever else, the point remains he is still The Way, The Truth, and The Life for us. We have encouragement from scripture and should be encouraged by each other to keep on and to be steadfast in our relationship with him.

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." Hebrews 10: 35-36


Friday, May 25, 2012

Two Stories

Please read Mark 10:17-27 for today's text.  The story goes like this:   A man came up to Jesus and inquired about what was necessary to inherit eternal life. Jesus reminded him of the commandments like, "Do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not kill, etc."  The young man told Jesus he had kept all the commandments since his youth. Notice what the scripture says next'

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Mark 10:21-22

It's a sad story but a story we all need to hear. We can relate to it. We all have "things" in our lives that would be difficult to give up. In this man's life it was great wealth.  And before we examine anything else let's notice this man wasn't prevented from inheriting eternal life because he was wealthy. His failure and grief came because he loved his possessions more than he loved God. Obviously this man had not kept all the commandments. For him, his money was his god, and he was putting that before the one true God, a violation of commandment number one.

There is another Bible story about Abraham. Abraham loved God really wanted to be obedient to God. Genesis 22 tells the story of God testing Abraham. God told him to take Isaac, his only son, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed, to the point of tying up Isaac and placing him on the stack of firewood.  He reached out his knife-wielding hand to kill the boy, but an angel of the Lord stopped him. 

 Can a man be so devoted to God that he would kill his own son, sacrificing him as a burnt offering? Apparently Abraham was that devoted and willing to go through with God's instruction. But God stopped him just in time, telling Abraham, you don't have to do this.  Abraham passed the test. God knew Abraham's heart was right.

I have often wondered what would have happened in the first story, if the wealthy man had told Jesus he would follow the instruction to sell everything, give the money to the poor, and follow him?  After all, Jesus was only wanting to know where his heart was.  Would he be willing to give up everything to follow Jesus? This wealthy man chose to put his faith and trust in his possessions. 

The message from both stories is the same.  The question comes to us daily and in various forms. Are we willing to give up that which is precious to us in this life, in order to inherit eternal life?  

Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

The message of the gospel is that salvation is God's free gift for you. In the light of all that means, it carries with it such a love and devotion for God, that we are willingly dedicated to give up all that we have and all that we are, for Him. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gracious Giving

If you could pinpoint the primary goal of the church you attend, what would that goal be? Why do churches exist?  Is it for the increasing numbers on the church roll? Is it for the money? Are we, as the Lord's church, giving our world a false impression for our existence?

Churches may be to blame for this, if they are more interested in the numbers than they are in being used by God to cultivate disciples. That is when we come up with churches full of members who have an altered concept of spiritual priorities. An example of this can be seen in the number of church members who feel like, "the church only wants my warm body to fill the pew on Sunday, and my money to fill the collection plate."  Lord, forgive us if that is the way we have made people feel in your church.

The church's stance on warm bodies filling the pew on Sunday should be  in line with the biblical pattern of Christians joining in a fellowship of worship and praise.  It is actually saved people getting together to encourage each other and glorify God.  It's not about what we wear or what we drive to church. It's not a social club where our presence will make us recognized as a vital part of the community. It's not a place to be seen to promote our business income.  It's a place for God's people and other sinners to gather and experience the presence of the Father while giving him praise for his love and grace. 

As far as the collection plate is concerned, yes, churches need funds to operate and pay the bills. They need dollars to maintain the physical structure of the church as well as those invisible things the church does in support of missions, teaching children, counseling the hopeless, and numerous ministries to serve the community and world.  And when are we going to get in through our heads that everything we have and everything we are already belongs to God anyway, and the gift we put in the plate on Sunday is a demonstration of our love toward him and our neighbors?  

If you are familiar with the biblical region of Macedonia, you know those people were poor. Long before entitlement programs people who could not afford to live, usually died. Paul describes them in 1 Corinthians 8:2, "They have been going through much trouble and hard times." But Paul continues his description of the Macedonians, "their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift for the Christians in Jerusalem."  How do people with so little give so much? Paul answers that in the following verse.....and that's the lesson we all need to learn. 

"Best of all, they went beyond our highest hopes, for their first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to us for whatever directions God might give them."  1 Corinthians 8:5 (NLT)  When we are truly dedicated to the Lord and to his work, God blesses us with the resources to accomplish his will.