Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time for a Change

"Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ."  Acts 9:19-22 

Saul had just been converted to Jesus. That conversion experience is one of the most exciting series of events in the first half of Acts 19.  In the verses above, his life is changed. He is associating with the disciples. He is preaching in the synagogues.  He is sharing the good news about Jesus. 

Everyone that heard Saul speak about Jesus became somewhat perplexed. Saul had been the man  stirring up all the trouble for Christians. He wanted them all dead or imprisoned. That was his intended purpose in traveling to Damascus. Now we read of his new birth and his growth and power in proving that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. 

Isn't it amazing the way God works?  He actually takes the strongest and most powerful enemy of the cross, and turns him into the strongest and most powerful messenger of the gospel.  What a change! This is Saul, that we come to know as the Apostle Paul, letter writer to churches, servant for the cause of Christ, diligent laborer for Christianity. 

God is longing to make changes in your life too. The power of the cross can make a huge difference in you, just like it did it Saul. Your past is just that.....the past.  In spite of all that, God wants to be in a loving and forgiving relationship with you, and watch you grow strong and powerful in his service. 

You think your friends will be baffled?  Probably no more baffled than those Jews living in Damascus,  when they heard Saul "proving that Jesus is the Christ. "


Monday, September 29, 2014

From Attitude to Surrender

Psalm 77
I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.

Sound familiar?  One of those long nights when sleep just would not come, the problems of life seemed to be closing in on you, and worse than that, it appeared God was not listening.  Notice a progression of  despair for the psalmist, then the change in his attitude of meditation. 

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
    the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
“Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

Again, sound familiar?  When the answers appear to be delayed we are quick to accuse God.  Is he rejecting us?  Has he held back his favor?  Maybe he doesn't love me anymore.  Or could this be a failure of him to keep his promises?  We run the list of reasons, and notice how we blame God. 

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Finally, the one praying remembers how powerful, how faithful, and how wonderful God has been since the beginning.  His attitude switches from one of accusation to one of surrender and see the mighty results in the next verse:

13 Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?

Our God is an awesome God!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Jesus will be here

You have the opportunity this Sunday to experience the presence of God.  His house will be open and inviting you to come and share your love of the Lord with other Christians gathered for worship and praise. 

I know the place where we worship is a building of bricks and wood.  In and of itself, it has the same qualities of the building which houses the local Wal-Mart or Dairy Queen.   But on Sunday, the Lord's Day, when God's people assemble together, the building becomes THE place where we can worship him and share in his presence. 

Through the Holy Spirit, which resides inside every believer, we can have a constant awareness of his presence to comfort and guide us.  Even more special is the Sunday gathering where we have Jesus' promise that he will be there.  We will each  have the chance to talk to him, listen to his teachings, celebrate his sacrificial death, and rejoice because of his resurrection. 

If all this doesn't excite you and make you want to be the in the Lord's church this Sunday, there needs to be a personal revival taking place in your life.  In fact, there will probably be lots of us there that need reviving.  You may recognize some that you know to be sinners, there may be some who are practicing Christians on Sunday only, and there might even be some that you consider to be strong followers of the gospel's power.  However you describe them, each and every person present will have one thing in common.......the need for God in their lives. 

If you are looking for a perfect church, your search will be a long one.  We often fail to realize the church is made up of imperfect people, just like you and me.  That's why we gather, not only to worship God, but to seek his remedy for our imperfections.  His Word will be the context of our message, and his love will be the motivation for sharing the good news. 

Praise God for the opportunity of worship this Sunday!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's a Jesus Movement

I receive notices about lots of conferences.  I have been to some and those I attended have always been uplifting, encouraging, and a tremendous learning experience.  I could easily turn into a "conference freak," knowing there is always something to learn and always an upward direction in which I can grow. 

Today I learned about a conference being held in November in Canada.  My immediate reaction was one of questioning someone who would schedule a conference in Canada in November!  I never gave it a second thought because  it's too far, and bound to be in colder weather than South Texas. 

I did a little more reading and began to understand a sense of urgency from those putting on the conference, a sense of urgency to proclaim a message which is constantly on their hearts.  The conference is aimed primarily at the age group of 25-35, an age group which makes a good target audience for the conference presentations.   Here is the statement describing what attendees can expect.

 I read the paragraph a couple of times and could only think about how that needs to be a priority of every Christian.  Especially the final sentence which I want you to read aloud, spend some time in prayer, and make an effort to accelerate that type of momentum in your daily walk with Jesus. 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Living in the Light

The joy of the Apostle John is made complete, as he opens 1 John with a discourse on the fellowship that exists between the believer and God the Father, and his Son, Jesus. John wants readers of this letter to be diligent and continue in the faith because the gospel message they have learned is real and true. 

John asks the question in chapter 2 that has become a question multitudes have asked, "How can we be sure we belong to Jesus?"  Do we wrestle with that?  Do we have any assurance that we really belong to him?  John answered his own question by letting us know the only real answer is this, "By obeying his commandments."  John continues to elaborate, "Those who say they live in God, should live their lives as Christ did."

Now look in the following verses, 1 John 2:7-8
 "Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.  Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.
In the writings of Paul to the Colossians, he says that God has rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.  That is an amazing way to describe the accomplishment of Jesus on the cross.  We have such a blessing in escaping the darkness of sin and instead, living with Jesus. 

But note, in the quoted passage above, we are commanded to love our brother. John says even those who claim to be in the light while hating their brother, are in reality still in darkness.  Of special note is his comment about the process of the darkness passing and the true light is already shining. There may be times when we are attempting to walk in the light, and a wrong decision or a sinful habit pulls us back toward the darkness.  John is showing us it is futile for us to attempt to be light, when the darkness of hatred toward each other shows its ugly head. 

The theme of the letter is to remain faithful, and that theme is echoed in the life of every Christian in today's world.  John wants us to know that we belong in the light, and tells us that assurance can be ours if we are obedient to God, and loving toward each other. 


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Let's Get High

I was thinking recently, mostly asking myself questions about this roller coaster we ride on almost daily, called life.  Then someone asked me, (they always ask at the lowest point of their experiences) why there seems to be highs and lows.  There are times when we feel so good about our Christian journey, seeming to find joy in accomplishing good things for God, and there are times when we feel so low we start to think we are absolutely useless. 

The only solace I get in thinking these things is that I am not alone.  As far as I can detect, what we have called the "roller coaster" event happens to all of us.  There are some things which might help us overcome the effects of those low points, and they come in the form of answering some questions.  These are questions I ask myself often, and you can see if they are beneficial to you.

1.  When was the last time I really worshiped?   Your mind probably goes back to Sunday, perhaps a Sunday when you were present for worship services.  That point is good, but the worship suggestion I make to you today goes deeper than that.  For some of us, worship involves listening to a team leading our singing, and occasionally joining in to sing ourselves.  We have a time of prayer, a time of communion, a time of Bible study.  Any or all of these events are obvious parts of our worship assembly, but I am asking you personally, did you really worship?  Were there reflections about God and all he is to you and all he has done for you?  Did you pause to praise him and thank him for sacrificing his only son to pay for your sins?  Did you think of the instances God came to your rescue, just at the right time?  Examine not only the quantity, but the quality of your personal worship.

2.  How long since I have prayed with such intensity I poured out my heart to God?  There is a need for us to go beyond all the repeated phrases which we can remember from the public prayers, and get down to the business of confessing our sins to God, seeking his forgiveness, and a searching of our personal lives to see the areas which need genuine newness.  Start with the heart, the mind, and yes, even the physical things.  Remember we are on a roller coaster so we know what it's like to be at the peak, so can we go for more of the peak experiences and develop a stronger Christian of ourselves, learning to deal with and even overcome those low spots?  I am a firm believer that as long as we are in the process of getting closer to God, we find more and more of his indwelling comfort, his answers, his direction, and...... his everything!

3.  I must maintain a constant and regular schedule with the Scriptures.  Bible reading is one thing, Bible learning is quite different.  Learn to make the application of what you are reading directly to the experience which is troubling you.  You may need a Bible with index, concordance, cross references, and other helps.  I promise you, the answer to the problem is in the Word.  Get close to every page, and watch it become more and more of a reality in your daily experience.

Do you think God really cares about your problems.  Well, to him, they can lead you in your faith, all the way to perseverance.  James writes, "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:3