Friday, February 28, 2014

We Beheld His Glory

The Gospel of John gives us a unique look of the entrance of Jesus into the realm of humanity when it begins, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Then starting in verse 9, "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

In the next section of this scripture is the text upon which we will focus today.  "14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

John says, "We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son," and my question is,  "What did John and the others see in Jesus, that brought John to write, 'we have seen his glory?'" 

Closer examination of John's writings help us discover in John 20:31, "these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John also tells us of a wedding feast in John 2, a celebration of marriage and Jesus and his disciples were invited guests.  Jesus' mother came to him and told him all the wine was gone. Thus, the first miracle of our Lord was performed right then and there, when Jesus turned water into wine. The six vessels, each held 20-30 gallons, were filled with water.  All of this was according to the instructions of Jesus.  When it was drawn from the huge stone jars, it was no longer water, but wine. 

There is not much said about these miraculous happenings, other than the banquet master complimented the quality of the wine.  The party continued, but John had some deeper words to say about the matter.  Chapter 2, verse 11, "What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him."

Ah, that was the first, so there must be others.  The blind were given their sight, the lame walked, demons were defeated, the dead were raised, sins were forgiven.  On and on the stories go as the news of the miracles of Jesus continued to spread. But John gives us insight into their deeper meaning when we understand his miracles were also a revelation of his glory, which caused people to believe in him. 

When people saw Jesus, they saw love and concern, tears and compassion, grace and mercy, forgiveness and truth.  They saw in him the things which revealed his glory, and they believed.  Sometime later, Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, and to us, “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”


Thursday, February 27, 2014

I can take care of myself......or can I?

Andrew Wommack, pastor from Colorado, recently posted on Twitter the following statement, "God is El Shaddai, not El Cheapo. The Lord will take care of us better than we take care of ourselves. "  As a child of God, I really want to believe that, but my actions and even my mind get in the way and sometimes I think I know what is better for me.  That type of living and thinking is very often what gets us into trouble. 

Wommack also added a scriptural reference, Matthew 6:33 with is post, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Jesus had been teaching in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, about the subject of worry. In fact, he had told his hearers, "do not worry about your life, what you shall eat or drink: or about your body, what you will wear."  Jesus then asks them, " Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"

The Lord's teaching continues by giving examples and asking more questions. " Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them."

What about those birds?  They don't do a thing to produce their own food, and they don't stockpile the things they need for the future, yet God feeds them.  Aren't YOU more valuable than the birds?  And what about your clothing?  Look at the lilies growing in the field. They don't have to work for their survival, and yet even someone as great and Solomon was not dressed better than these lilies.  If God clothes the grass growing in the field which is here for a while and then eaten or destroyed, don't you think God will take care of YOU?  Scripture is quick to point out our faith is lacking if we doubt God in these areas. That's why God says, "Do not worry about these things.  These are the things that pagans chase after, and God already knows you need them."

Immediately following in the scripture is the verse we started with, ""But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I must admit I don't know how to bring in all the ramifications of homelessness, hunger, sickness, disease, and tragedy.  There are some sad things happening in our world today. But I must, in all things, cling to the One which promises to "take better care of me, than I can take care of myself."


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

David's Victory

Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.
2  Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah
3  But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
4  I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah
5  I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
6  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah                   
Psalms 3:1-8

Yesterday we visited with you about the struggles we sometimes face as Christians.  The verses we saw from the writings of Paul seemed to identify struggle and adversity as being common to life itself.  For Paul, a New Testament writer, writing about difficulties seemed normal, probably because of all the things he had suffered in his ministry.

The verses above bring us to see King David, distressed because of his enemies.  Apparently he had a lot of them as he tells us, "Many are they who rise up against me."   David further states there are many of those enemies who are saying things like, "Even God cannot help him now."
There is a tendency in the human experience to think, when troubles surround us, nothing can help me now. There is nowhere to turn because even my enemies are declaring God will not be supplying help. We usually have those thoughts right before we have the thought, "Nobody has a bigger stack of problems and struggles than me."

I'm glad David kept his focus on God.  He confessed his faith in God through his declaration, "You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head."  (That verse is verse 3 and it needs to be underlined and highlighted in the Bible of every Christian.)

David then leads us through the events of his victory.  Look at them closely.  Read them several times.

I cried to the Lord.......and he heard me.
I lay down and slept.....then I awoke because the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid, no matter how many rise against me......God has struck them down.

David closes with the assuring words, "Salvation belongs to the Lord, Your blessing is upon your people."

Similar are the words which Paul used in his closing concerning all the troubles we face,  "And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We all struggle

The writings of the apostle Paul are an amazing testimony from the life of this transformed hater of Christians and enemy of the church. The Damascus Road experience had caused the changes as Paul became a follower of Jesus and traveled on mission tours spreading the truth of the gospel. 

One of the most personal letters he wrote was 2 Corinthians where he seemed to realize the struggles of  Christians.  His first letter to them had brought up the problems and attitudes which necessitated changes being made. Now his second letter is finding many of those problems still existing, although there are some Christians who are attempting to keep the faith and maintain their allegiance to God. 

I want us to see today, the important message early in chapter 1, which assures us that in spite of our troubles and problems God is with us to bring comfort. Read closely from verses 3-7:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
One thing every Christian should know and understand is that difficulties come our way. It may be brought about by some sin in our lives, or it could be the result of sin in the lives of someone else. In the case of the Corinthian Christians, they were having some bitter disagreements in the church, some based on lifestyles, others based on worship, to name a few. Paul himself knew in his Christian life problems arose, there was always some suffering attached to his work in spreading the gospel.
As a result of this, Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that when these trials of struggle and suffering come our way, God is there to provide comfort. The added bonus is that the comfort with which we are comforted overflows from us and becomes a comfort to others. We see from the passage above that God is a God of comfort, but we are also comforted by fellow Christians.  

We are all people who share in our sufferings, but the comfort to see us through difficult times is available from God and from His children. Those who receive this comfort from God are to become a comfort to others who are suffering. 

It was no mistake on the part of God to use the word "Comforter" when describing the Holy Spirit which lives in us. That comfort which we receive from deep within, is God recognizing our agony and dilemma and offering his peace. If you recognize that comfort in your life today, let it overflow from you into the life of someone you know is struggling.  God bless.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Thy Will be done

From time to time we hear our preachers encouraging us to "strive to remain in the will of God."  It sounds good.  I have even said it myself.  But to be encouraged to live lives in the will of God, suggests for some who wear the name of Christ, there is a struggle. 

I know we all wrestle with the fleshly nature.  God knew we would, and knows we still do.  However, is it really possible for us to know the will of God and live in the will of God, or is that just a dream we have, similar to dreaming about the Cowboys winning another Super Bowl some day?

Another thing we can know from scripture is connected to our prayer lives, and that is to pray our prayers according to the will of God.  We may pray for anything and everything, but we have learned, just to be safe, we have a very well positioned, "Thy will, not mine," in our prayers.

In looking to Jesus for our example, from the prayer we call "The Lord's Prayer," even Jesus himself prayed, "Thy Will be done." He said that in his prayer immediately after saying, "Thy Kingdom come."  William J. Carl suggests in one of his books, 'It naturally follows, if the Kingdom of God is in the process of coming, then it must be God's will that is driving it."

Mr. Carl's next observation is, "And since the Kingdom is God's, not ours, so is the will of God."  The issue is further revealed when he writes in the next sentence, "We wish it weren't so. We had rather pray, 'MY will be done.'"

No, we probably wouldn't pray like that, but the suggestion remains.  We want things to go the way WE think they should go, we want to call the shots on how everything in our church works, we want to be the decisive party to make the church and everyone in it, function according to OUR will.

While reading from Mr. Carl and thinking of some events I have witnessed in some churches over the years, every problem that has arisen, and every problem that continues to plague the churches where we attend, can be traced back to one person insisting on having his own way.  That type of leadership thinking is the very thing that brings churches down. 

I say these things not only in the way of informing, but also as a message of confession, because I, too, have been in the frame of mind that I wanted things MY way.  It might not have been anything that would bring me the glory or the praise of success, it just had to be MY way.  

Perhaps our preachers should preach more often about remaining "in the will of God."  I fully support every prayer including a plea for God's will to be done.  I have taken an inward look and see how real is the fact that I, and we, sometimes get in the way of God.  We used to sing an old song, "Would you live for Jesus and be always pure and good?  Would you walk with Him within the narrow road? "  After the verses ask questions like those, the chorus repeats with, "Let Him have His way with thee."  I see that as a giant step toward learning and living according to the Will of God.  His way, not mine.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sunday Worship

When you enter the place of worship Sunday, I hope your heart, soul, mind, and even your body are ready for the worship experience. You will be joining others whose lives are searching for God's will.  You will share this morning in the communion to celebrate and remember the death of Jesus who paid the price for your sins with his own blood. You will join and witness the praise of the saints as you sing and lift your voice to the Father. You will experience the solemn moment of prayer as you talk to God silently and collectively pour your heart out to him. You will share in the visiting and fellowship of other Christians as you interact both before and after the worship assembly. I am honored to be a part of all of this with you. I cannot express how anxious I am for Sunday mornings to get here. I think Paul must have felt the same thing in his prayer and thanksgiving message to the Colossian church. I have picked just a small segment of it....but please read it closely.

 Colossians 1:6
"The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace."

For many of us, worship has been minimized into a "going through the motions" and more of a chore than an opportunity. The way to examine the genuineness of your worship experience is to ask, "Did I exit the assembly any different than I was when I entered?"

Think of the excitement and encouragement that comes your way when you realize the multitude of Christians that are experiencing worship at the same time as you.

As one who has been taught of God's grace, and understands how helpless we would be without it, think of ways to share that message with your neighbor.
May we enter Sunday's worship with hope and expectation, and may we leave renewed in our commitment to God, and reach out to others with His saving grace.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Another twist on missions

Have you been on any good mission trips lately?  I'm wondering how many of today's Christians have been involved in mission activities.  I can remember when the mere mention was made of the local congregation's mission activities, people would shy away the conversation, thinking if they acted excited about mission work, they would be shipped to Africa.  While there is not anything wrong with going to Africa to be involved in the Lord's work, there isn't anything wrong with going next door to witness for God, either. 

Back in the 1980's I remember reading an article in a monthly Christian journal, and one of the professors of a Christian University made the statement, "I can sense our churches feel absolved of any mission related responsibilities if they just send checks for $100 to several foreign missions every month.  Again, I must shoulder some of the financial support for missions in foreign countries, but that does not remove the need for me to be involved in spreading the good news of the gospel in the place where I live. 

One pastor tells the story of his home church involving a youth group in a worthwhile mission project in the poorer section of the town where they lived.  They were involved in making home repairs, painting fences, removing dead trees, and other similar jobs.  The intent of the project was to work alongside the residents, mingling with them and learning new friendships.  That isn't a bad plan.  Lots of work projects were completed and lots of friendships were made.  Some of the residents they worked for and with, attended the worship services of the church on the following Sunday. 

It wasn't long before none of the project-assisted-residents were coming to church at all.  Meetings were held and discussions were made to find out why.  There is something else you should know.  All of the residents which were helped in the mission project were Hispanic.  Some local Hispanic students from a local university agreed to go visit the families, and report their findings to the church leaders.

The people who had been helped with the repair projects were very thankful and gracious for the kindness of the church folks.  The only problem was, they couldn't speak English to tell them. They had visited the services of the church but did not understand a word from the sermon, nor any of the songs, not even the prayers.  Their children, who did understand English, were overly jealous of the church kids who showed up with their iPhones, complete with earphones, resulting in virtually no interaction between the young folks. The hardest to handle of all the findings was the statement from one of the Hispanic youths which told of his feelings of being outclassed.  

So, as we said, lots of projects were completed and home repairs were made, but instead of cultivating relationships, stronger barriers resulted.  The message for us is simple, yet rarely present.  Yes, those houses needed repair, but those hearts needed Jesus, too.  No matter how much good we do in mission projects, all is in vain if we do not reflect the Spirit of Jesus to the people we help.  We can tell them God loves them, but we must never forget to demonstrate God's love overflowing from our hearts to theirs.