Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I'm not in control...

We've had some difficult and disappointing days in the past week or so.  Our country continues to be on alert for the terroristic threats which have become common.  The presidential primary arguments and accusations have started heating up.  Racial unrest is on the increase.  Let me mention just one more thing, and that is the decision of the highest court in our land to allow same-sex marriage.

I really appreciated the words of the preacher this past Sunday who pointed out to us that courts can rule on just about anything and often it decides things which are contrary to the traditional Christian values we have held all our lives. Those values have been threatened and from some viewpoints, have dealt morality a death blow.  None of that changes God's truth on the subject of marriage.

But all the bad things happening open many doors for Christians to make their stand on the Biblical truths which we hold dear.  My reading and research into the news accounts cause me to shake my head in disbelief, but let's look at some opportunities, too.

First of all, we have the chance to demonstrate  our love for others, even those with whom we disagree, to an ever growing extent.  While Bible truth has been trampled by those who would like nothing more than the elimination of Christian values, it's time for us to look beyond the words and actions which go against Christianity, and find that love Jesus called us to have in loving others as ourselves.

That can be so difficult for me sometimes, to actually love the sinner while hating his sin, but I am sure glad Jesus was willing to do that for me, and in so doing, continues to show me I should be as loving as he is.  In showing this kind of love toward my neighbors I continue to learn how much our Lord has loved us, even though we sin and disappoint him frequently.  The Bible still says, "while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us."

My other observation during these troubling times, carries my thoughts to the safety of my family and friends, and the safety of our country.  Things around the world seem to be going downhill in a hurry and I would be untruthful if I said those things didn't have me concerned.  As I think about the threats and how things seemingly change for the worse, I try to think of ways we can avoid being causalities to all the unrest.   

It's then I remember my vows of committing my life to God, and the lives of my children and grandchildren, and my closest friends and acquaintances.  In times like these, we all need a good dose of renewed commitment to the Lord.  We must never forget, as committed people, we are believing God loves us, cares for our well-being, and more than ever, we need to place our trust in Him.  HE is in control.  

Talk to God in prayer today about our country, asking him to be our strength and our hope.  He loves you and has promised to be with you always.  


Monday, June 29, 2015

A Roaring God

The Old Testament prophets had a really difficult job.  We know that God spoke to the people through the prophets, and often the message from God to Israel was not something they wanted to hear. God's chosen people had the reputation of being "roller-coaster" followers. They had made vows and declarations of their allegiance to God, but ultimately they disobeyed him and strayed from him.  There were times when they sought and received forgiveness and God blessed them and fulfilled numerous promises he had made.  Before long they would find themselves straying again. 

In the arrangement of the Old Testament, scholars have made a distinction between the "major prophets," and the "minor prophets."  That might indicate to us the message of God through the minor prophets was less important than the messages revealed through the major prophets.  I assure you that is not the case.  In fact, some of the most important revelation from God for that day came from those we call the minor prophets. 

One such prophet was Amos.  In doing some research on another topic, a Bible reference led me to a section of Amos and before I left that short book of the Old Testament, I noticed something I had read before but just today started to sink in.  Remember, the messages are from God, through the prophet, to the people.  In the opening verses of Amos 1, look closely at the first part of verse 2, 

“The Lord roars from Zion, and thunders from Jerusalem."

Apparently God was not happy with his followers, and in language which is expressed rarely, our God is described  as roaring and thundering!  What do you supposed they did to bring that on?
Chapter 2 reveals their actions. First, these children of God were actually abusing and stealing from the poor.  They were taking advantage, not only of the poor people, but the widows, orphans, and others who were what we call "the less fortunate."  These were not isolated cases, instead they held entire villages and tribes as slaves.  Chapter 2  and chapter 5 also give information that they had become perverted in their sexual relations. 

So here is the prophet Amos, with the task of relaying God's message to the people, calling for their repentance and turning back to God.  This lifestyle of the people would not do. These were not the actions of people which God had made his own, and brought them through so much.  The corruption which now motivated them cause the anger of God.

Amos warned them, "the Lord is going to roar!"  "God will make his desire known to you in thunderous ways."  What else is a prophet to do?  The whole world had gone mad and God was not happy. 

Today I watched the news and heard stories of terrorism, rape, murder, hunger, homelessness, strife in families, and destruction of personal relationships. I know it will not be easy, nor will it be pretty, but I, for one, actually find myself longing to hear God roar.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Let's give God the glory

Christians are happily given the task of glorifying God.  But what does this mean?  How do we accomplish it?  How can we know God is pleased with our accomplishments in glorifying him?

The weekend study before us deals with scriptures which will answer these questions, and probably others.  I am suggesting you pay close attention to the scriptures we share, and even turn and read those which we just have the room to list.   Let's get started.

Believers are to glorify God
Isaiah 42:12 -- Let the whole world glorify the LORD; let it sing his praise.

                              See also   Isa 43:5-7; Isa 66:18-19

Glorifying God is the believer’s natural response to him

Psalm 118:28 -- You are my God, and I will praise you;  you are my God, and I will exalt you.

                              See also    Ps 34:3; Ps 69:30

Jesus is our example in glorifying God

John 13:31 -- Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.

                              See also    Jn 14:13; Jn 17:4

We wish to glorify God because of his holiness

Psalm 99:9 -- Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is   holy.      See also  Rev 15:4


We glorify God for his great deeds


 Psalm 86:8-10 -- Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with                yours.    All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring     glory to your name.   For you are great and do marvelous deeds;  you alone are God.

                              See also  2 Cor 4:13-15

We glorify God for his loving mercy

 Psalm 63:3 -- Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

                              See also   Romans 15:8-9

We glorify God for his righteous judgments

 Revelation 14:7 -- “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.    Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

                              See also  Romans 11:33-36


God bless your studies, and may we all continue to glorify Him.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Becoming Kids Again

It was a Sunday morning when the church was making the usual preparations for their worship assembly, but this particular Sunday, another event was taking place, too.  It was an annual event where all the younger babies in the church received blessings as their families made a public declaration to dedicate their child to the Lord.  The ceremony also called on the parents to make a vow to be a Christian parent, devoted to bringing up their child to learn Christian principles, along with the promise of the church family to pray for them and help in every way.  This was the way this congregation chose to promise to be a nurturing influence on the young families.

Following the worship service on that Sunday, several of the families of these new babies had gathered on the front steps of the church for pictures and to visit a bit.  One grandmother was attempting to hold her grandchild while digging through her purse for a camera.  Realizing she needed a little help, the grandfather offered to hold the baby while grandma found her camera.

When there were some free hands, the grandfather passed the child off to someone else and retreated for a moment to be alone.  He later confessed the holding of the baby on that occasion had a tremendous impact on him.  He had assumed his roll of responsibility in assisting in the upbringing of his own grandchild, but suddenly realized the vow of prayer and assistance in the raising of all the babies introduced that day.  He made the rounds to find as many of those families as he could.  He wanted to hold each child and snuggle them close to his heart while making the promise that he would lead an exemplary life and be available anytime these children needed him.

Maybe your church observes this practice, too, or something similar.  It makes me want to make sure those babies grow up knowing they are loved by their church family, and every member has seriously accepted the responsibility of being near, to be available and eager to help these kids to grow up knowing Jesus.

So this brings me to ask you, and every adult Christian, to remember making those promises and to do something every Sunday to make these families welcome in your church.  Learn their names and show you care about their problems and struggles.  You can be a blessing to each one, and at the same time, give them the example of an entire church standing with them as they cultivate and ultimately reap the harvest of growing up with a church family.  Oh, and you, being a blessing to them, will receive countless blessings yourself.

Matthew 18:1-5     "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When God was not pleased...

It's been around 50 years since John E. Hunter wrote a book called LIMITING GOD.  After its release, Moody Monthly wrote about the book in their monthly magazine, "Moody Monthly."  Here is the quote:"

"A probing discussion of problems in Christian living which can become spiritual nooses choking a vital Christian life.  Some of these are unbelief, fear, disobedience, selfishness, pride and ignorance.  Read it for a revealing X-ray of your impotent Christian life. Along with spiritual diagnosis, a scriptural remedy is prescribed."

There is one chapter in Hunter's book which I have gone back to read several times.  If there is an act we do, or neglect to do, that actually limits God, the chapter about disobedience sends us clear evidence.  He begins with quoting the scriptures found in 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul is reminding his readers about the children of Israel in the wilderness.  "For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ."  1 Corinthians 10:1-4

We talk about unity in our churches, and do everything we can to practice unity, however the people Paul is describing are the picture of unity.  Read the verses again with special notation to Paul's use of the word "all."  Church leaders today would love to have such unity as described in those four verses.  

Then we come to verse 5....."Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them."

God was not pleased in spite of their unity and correctness of their spiritual experience.  Let's pay attention to this united band of followers of God, and see how the problems which plagued them are the problems which plague us today.  Problem number 1...Although united in spiritual things, they were guilty of wandering and complaining.  Sound familiar?   Problem number 2....The situation which caused God to be displeased with their lives was their personal disobedience.

Like us, the people Paul was describing from the wilderness days, spoke of how much they loved God and wanted to serve him, however they were guilty of idolatry.  What they needed more than anything else was repentance.  Joshua's pleadings with them were simple.  "Put away the strange gods which are among you and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel."

The message for us is to learn the same thing they were taught by Joshua.  If we are really inclined to be the children of God, we must come to him with the penitent heart, determined to be obedient his will.  This is why Paul, in writing to these Corinthians stated, "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new."


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lord, Make Me Like You

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.   Ephesians 4:22-32

Paul has written earlier in his letter, concerning the eternal inheritance  of the Christian, the strength and power belonging to those in Christ, and salvation as the gift of God's grace. He begins in chapter 4 with the subjects of unity and maturity in the body of Christ and actually outlines how we are all members of the one body.  The body only grows when each part is functioning properly.

When Paul's writings in chapter 4 reach the verses we have printed above, he is talking about each individual's life, contrasting  the before and after Jesus has brought about eternal changes. Notice we are to put off the old self, and be made new in the attitude of our minds' and to put on the new self. Especially notice Paul's description of the new creature in Christ, "created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

Let that sink in a bit and make some application to yourself. Is there any wonder that Paul used similar words when writing the Roman Christians? "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come."

The rest of Ephesians 4, (verses 25-32) give us the short version of those things associated with being like God in true righteousness and holiness. These verses are revealing the inward and outward evidences of lives that have actually "put on Christ."  Read them again and see the areas where you may excel, and the areas where you need to grow.  The ultimate goal is to become like God in true righteousness and holiness. 

While we still recognize sin and neglect in our lives, God's grace and love keep us pressing forward, striving to become more and more like Jesus. The journey is an exciting one, designed  by God to keep us in relationship with him, and sharing the good news with others. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Making the Choice

From the words of Joshua, hundreds of years ago, ". . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ..." Joshua 24:15

Have you made the right choice?  Have you made any choice at all? If you made the choice to serve God, are there evidences of the change in your life?   There is another verse that comes to mind when considering these questions. It is also from the Old Testament, but was repeated by Peter in his New Testament writings. Read it closely.

"For I am the Lord your God: you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.." Leviticus 11:44  (and 1 Peter1:16)

If we have made the decision to serve  God, and if our lives are to be holy, like his, what are the characteristics of your life and mine which would be evidence of that? There are some things which would immediately come to mind....things like prayer, and worship, and praise. Maybe we will have cleaned up our language and we're working on having only pure thoughts. Or perhaps we would think in terms of visiting the sick, ministering to the homeless, or even signing up to teach a pre-school age Bible class. 

I must admit these were my immediate thoughts.  Closer examination of the matter led me to another word which I think comes closer to what God had in mind when he instructed us to replicate his holiness. The word is SURRENDER.

Sometimes we sing the song, "All to Jesus, I surrender; all to him I freely give. I will ever love and trust him; In his presence daily live."  If we are led to know our choice in serving God is biblical, and sing in our praises to him about a complete surrender, is that the evidence of the choice we have made? If we believe and relate to the two scriptures above, then our choice in serving God brings about a holiness in us that is our way of living. 

Look at the first verse again and consider the choices we can make. It is easy for us to say we choose God, and continue to live lives motivated by the flesh. God is calling for more than that. He wants the choice we make for our lives to be a choice of our will as it is surrendered to him. It stands to reason the surrendered life must constantly be self examined to see if there are areas we still need to surrender to God. Remember he calls us to be holy, as he is holy. 

I pray we can all come to know the holy life to which God calls us. Even when we stumble and make mistakes, may we have the courage to remind ourselves there are areas of our lives that call for daily surrender. 

We, as the only thing mentioned in creation, being made in his image, are given the choice to choose his holiness as our way of life. That's' how much he values us. That's how much he loves us. 


Friday, June 19, 2015

Obedient Children of God

Are you an obedient child of God?  Only you and God can answer that.  This weekend we are going to be looking at Bible verses which deal with the subject of OBEDIENCE.


Now is a good time to read each of the selected scripture verses and see for yourself. 


Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  John 14:23 | NIV |


My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.  Proverbs 6:20 | NIV |


Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.  Deuteronomy 5:33 | NIV |


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  James 1:22 | NIV |


Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.   1 John 3:21-22 | NIV |


For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.   Romans 5:19 | NIV |


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 | NIV |

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”   Luke 10:27 | NIV |


Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.   Romans 12:11 | NIV |


Then he said to them all: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23 | NIV


We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.   Acts 5:32 | NIV |

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.   Romans 12:1 | NIV |


There are many others.  Perhaps you will want to search your concordance and look at a few more.  Certainly, a subject like obedience, mentioned or referred to numerous times in the Bible, is one which demands our attention.  May we all study and learn to be obedient children of the Father.




Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Mystery of the Missing Cross

The Mystery of the Missing Cross

The estate sale where I had been working for a couple of weeks had lots of ornamental decor, with numerous wind chimes, outdoor planters, and "stuff" from the household that made me think of the days of the old west.  When the sale was over (that's when I do my shopping), I made an offer on some things I wanted to buy.  Among those things was a metal cross which had been displayed in a flower garden. 

I was loading my shelving and tables, along with some of the other merchandise I had purchased.  Realizing I had the truck loaded and would need to make another trip to get the rest, I made a pile of all my purchases on the back porch, including the cross.

When I returned for the remaining load, I noticed the cross was gone. I asked everyone if they had seen the cross or if someone had accidentally placed it somewhere else.  With help from others looking all over the place, the cross was nowhere to be found.

So that's the mystery.  The cross is missing.

There have been lots of crosses, originally made and used for executions.  The slow, agonizing death of one on the cross has been the topic of numerous sermons, as we consider the cross of Jesus.  It happened according to the plan of God to redeem mankind.  Through tears we remember that event of Jesus' death, as he took our place and paid the debt for our sins.

Sitting on that back porch I continued to wonder if someone would intentionally take a cross.  Would they put it in their flower garden and see it daily and reflect on the work of Jesus in giving his life  so we could live eternally?  Or perhaps they would casually appreciate the garden decoration as just another piece of yard ornament?  Do you think as they admired the cross they might even remember the words of "The Old Rugged Cross?"

The incident is forgotten.  I just wanted to share with you my frustration of not having that cross in my flowers, and now it's gone. 

Not gone from my thinking, is the cross of Jesus.  How much love would it take for someone to die for someone else?  And how much love would it take for someone to die for the sins of all mankind?  My heart cannot fathom such love, but the love of Jesus for you and me, and for the rest of humanity took him to Calvary.  His cross is our only avenue to living eternally.  I am so thankful he loves me. 

Alas! and did my Savior bleed And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?