Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Meet Titus

Titus was a young man who assisted Paul in duties relating to Paul's ministry.  The New Testament letter to Titus serves us well even today, in that it is like a letter from a seminary professor to one of his recent graduates. Letters like that are always worth holding on to, and reading again and again. 

Titus, having been brought to Jesus through the efforts of Paul's ministry, is even called Paul's son in the faith.  A true and pure relationship existed between Paul and Titus, a relationship in which the student was continually encouraged in those areas that would be primary in future ministry opportunities. 

The letter is called a "pastoral" letter because Paul, the seasoned and well traveled apostle is a pastor to Titus. For example, young Titus might not be very experienced in some areas such as church leadership, so Paul uses the means of writing him a letter, encouraging him to appoint elders  in every city. Paul then gives the criteria for those who would become such church leaders. 

The most important reason for further training of Titus was so he could touch more lives with the gospel and the salvation that is available to all men through Jesus Christ.  Apparently Paul thought it important that Titus make the gospel an essential part of the ministry of this young servant.  Paul even mentions it twice.  Look at these verses:

 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,  while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you."   Titus 2:11-15

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”     Titus 4:3-7

Like the encouragement of Paul to  Titus, I would hope that our church leaders today could see this as the primary focus of our ministry.  And like the church of the first century, today's church must be built on the spiritual strength of the message of the gospel. 


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I'm Testifying!

I read an interesting story this week.  It's from a setting inside a court room, complete with a defendant, a prosecutor, judge, and several witnesses. In the story, the nervous defendant realizes he has one more witness to testify on his behalf.  He also knows the testimony of this witness is the only thing that will prove his innocence.  Anxiety fills the air as the time comes for the witness to speak.  However, the defendant's attorney advises the court that in spite of there being one more witness which can prove the innocence of the defendant, he's not going to call the witness.

I came to this point in the story thinking, "This doesn't make any sense."  This attorney can set an innocent man free if only he will call the final witness.  Instead, the attorney advises the court and everyone in the room, he has discussed the matter with the witness and he is convinced the defendant should be set free, so he advises the entire courtroom to take his word on the matter and turn the guy loose.

So I start to ask myself, "Why should I believe the attorney?"  He isn't the one that can speak words of truth to prove innocence.  Why should the jury and the judge believe him? We need to hear the witness ourselves, not some second or third-had rendition of the defendant's innocence.

The story's writer has reached the point where he inserts a basic truth.  We can hear words of truth relayed to us, but an actual testimony carries much more weight.  The testimony is more powerful.

I thought about this today as I pondered hearing a Bible truth or a testimony.  I especially thought about the words of God's truth which I might share with the lost.  I know some people who really enjoy sharing the stories of the Old Testament, or the Gospels, or even the writings of Paul.  I will also say that I could never disagree with the need for Bible truth to be shared.

There is, however, something much more powerful.  It's the testimony of the person whose life is filled with the evidence of "Let me tell you what Jesus has done for me."  Yes, we need to read and hear God's word, but the real power comes in our testimony of actually experiencing  the goodness, love, and grace of our God.

It's time we become more active in sharing our personal testimony.  It's more powerful than any sermon.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sharing The Story

A couple of weeks ago I told you through the blog, about a new study starting at the campus locations of Oak Hills Church.  The beginning of the 31 week study begins this coming Sunday, September 4.  I am mentioning the study again, just in case there are those among our readers who would like to join with us in The Story.

Groups are still forming throughout the area and we would be glad to hook you up with a group that will have the study on a weekly basis.  For those desiring to purchase a book, "The Story," and the associated study guide, those are available at discounted rates on the Oak Hills Church website. 

Today we learned about an app which can be downloaded to your phone which will help you in the memorization phases associated with the study.  This pic will give you the information on the app.

Let us know if we can help you with a study location near you.   Please be in prayer for all the groups as they learn and experience more of God's story of love.  Thank you for your support of The Story.

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.

Friday, August 19, 2016

God Holds Us Close

A five year-old girl brought home a crayon drawing which had been a project for her kindergarten class. When she delivered it to her mom, she was crying.  Some "mean boys" had made fun of her project picture.  Now, arriving at home, she was still upset because her picture didn't get picked to be placed on the class bulletin board.

The little girl went to sit on the front porch, unable to be consoled by the kind words of her mother.  Even though mom hung the picture on the refrigerator and complimented her work, she continued to cry.  She sat there for some time, re-living the events of the day........and still crying.

Then it was time for Dad to get home.  As he pulled his car into the driveway he knew something was wrong.  He could tell his daughter had not had a good day.  When he exited the car he was met by his little girl, now almost screaming, and trying to tell him of her disastrous day.

Her father scooped her up in his arms and held her tight.  The longer he held her close to himself, the hurt and hours of crying subsided.  It was as if the caress of her father and the encouragement that everything was going to turn out just fine, made her aware he understood and his understanding became good medicine for her.

Her story made me think of some of the wrestling I have in my prayer life.  I will admit for a long time I looked upon prayer as just one of the routines God expected me to do.  Like the little girl in the story, I realized one day there are events that happen in my life and I feel so empty when attempting to make the bad go away.  Those bad things kept haunting me and sometimes controlled me, until the day I learned that prayer is like climbing into God's lap and feeling his arms around me, drawing me closer to him.  He understands, and just the knowledge of his presence and his concern for me,  makes things better.

What is bugging you today?  The God who loves you wants you to know he understands and he cares.  He is longing to handle your tears, your stress, your difficulty.  We all need to experience his arms surrounding us, and his willingness to forgive, and his desire for us to be whole and complete.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

By Faith

Hebrews 11 is widely known as the "faith" chapter of the New Testament.  We know as Christians, faith plays an important role in our relationship with God, with others, and as an old hymn suggests in one of its verses, faith is our victory.

The faith chapter is known by that name mainly because it has one of the clearest examples of what faith really is.  Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."  That's an easy verse for us to remember and even memorize.  If you are like most Christians, you enjoy reading verses about confidence and hope, and especially assurance.

Another verse from Hebrews 11 tells us more about faith.  Look at verse 6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."  That verse contains a few more words or phrases which we like to consider.  A phrase in this verse lets us know we can't please God if we are without faith. Before we can come to God, we have to believe he exists.  And God himself rewards those who seek him.

Now look, starting in verse 5, the number of times the Hebrew writer starts a sentence with, "By faith..." followed by the name of a biblical character and the success that character experienced because of his faith.  Reading this list of the faithful is something every Christian should do often. In fact, the entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is a marvelous source of strengthening our own faith now that we can see the outcome of faith in these Bible characters.

When we come to the next chapter, Hebrews 12, pay special attention to the first three verses. The writer of this Bible verse calls those examples of faith in chapter 11, a great cloud of witnesses.  Their example of demonstrating a faithful lifestyle is good spiritual medicine to us and everyone who has had a chance to read and study their examples.  Now read the first part of Hebrews 12.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Read and be encouraged.  Read and be strengthened.  Read and fix your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  God bless!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Story

I want to let you know about an exciting Bible study that I am going to be involved with, that is one of the best ways to understand and live the story from the Word of God.  While this study comes to you through my blog, I am going to be just as much the "student" as everyone else who has committed to the study.  It comes primarily from a chronological arrangement of scriptures, and will be lasting 31 weeks, starting the first week in September. 

The Story comes to us from Max Lucado and Randy Frazee of Oak Hills Church.  Their work on this arrangement of scripture has been ongoing for several years, and has been studied by numerous churches.  This time, it comes with a study guide which is directed toward individual and group studies.

We may be referring to "The Story" in some of our daily blogs, but it's going to primarily be a study for us to not only learn, but come to live The Story of our lives and especially how it fits into The Story from God's word.  Have you ever considered the Bible is really a love story of God toward his people?  That's the basis of the beginning of this study. 

If you desire more information on this 31 week Bible study, you may go to the website of Oak Hills Church,  Click on The Story tab and you will be given directions to order the book and the study guide at an 82% savings.  There are also books available there for The Story, for youth groups, children's ministry, as well as the basic The Story books. 

Also, you will be able to follow along with the weekly sermon from each chapter of The Story.  They can be live-streamed from any of the service times of the church, or watched any time from the video downloads. 

I'm excited and wanted to share with you what a great opportunity this will be to start at the beginning with Creation and in 31 weeks ending with Revelation.  It's going to be fun and life changing.  God Bless!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Living in Reliance of God's Faithfulness

Vindicate me, Lord,
    for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
    and have not faltered.
 Test me, Lord, and try me,
    examine my heart and my mind;
 for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness. 
Psalm 26:1-3

First glance at this psalm might cause us to think David is writing these things from a boastful point of view.  Closer examination of the entire segment of scripture opens our eyes to the deeper meaning of integrity.  Who are the Christians at your church that you know to be people of integrity?  What is it about them that makes you classify them as such?

In the bold printed text above, David is establishing himself as a man who really desires to live according to the principles of God.  God's truth is primary to him and this has come about through David's total reliance on the faithfulness of God.  I often wonder if we would be as inviting as David when he asked the Lord to test him and examine his heart and his mind.  It takes a person of integrity to be that open. 

The verses which follow give us more information about David, all of which are points of reference for us to make similar evaluations about ourselves.  David briefly proclaims he is not going to be influenced by those who live lives of wickedness and hypocrisy.  Instead, he spends his time and focuses his influence on proclaiming the goodness of God and sharing the news about God's wonderful deeds. 

My favorite picture of David comes in the next section of the psalm where he says, "Lord, I love the house where you  live."  Now let's ask ourselves if we really know where God lives.  He isn't isolated to one place, he isn't limited by borders, and he isn't bound by pretty structures of bricks and wood.  When we come to fully understand that God dwells inside us, we then grasp the truth that where we are, God is.  In the form of His Spirit, God makes his abode in the hearts and lives of his people.  This carries tremendous connection to the Christian and worship.  Don't think this means God lives in the church building.  That building is just a building until the people of God assemble.  Then there is a multitude of hearts, filled with God, joining together to worship and praise him.

The two lines which end Psalm 26 are these:

  My feet stand on level ground;
    in the great congregation I will praise the Lord. 
Psalm 26:12


Monday, August 15, 2016

From a Fool's Heart

Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 are very close to being identical.  The scholarly type that like to analyze and compare tell us the Psalms are not necessarily in chronological order and Psalm 54 was perhaps written before Psalm 14.  

Back in college days in a Bible study class, I had an instructor that said something like, "When you see verses repeated in Scripture, it's a sure sign there is double importance to the meaning of those verses."

With that being said, let's see if there is an important message to these repeated Psalms.  Read verse 1 in both of them......they say the same thing.   "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God."
Surface recognition of the verse would lead us to believe it is dealing with the atheistic person, which is only partly right.  Looking closer, consider the words of the verse again.  The psalmist's words say the fool is a person who says in his heart there is no God. Is there a possibility this could be speaking about a person who knows in his mind, there is a God, but  convinces his heart there isn't a God?  This would be a person who could easily justify his own actions, whatever they may be, by a heart that has convinced itself God doesn't exist.  One writer says this is a person who really knows God, exists, but lives as though God doesn't exist. 

Further, consider a Christian to be one who not only believes God exists, but also lives a life of surrender to the will of God. Then if the world could silence Christian influence through making God seem less  real, the end result would be a people who believed in God while living like they wish he didn't exist.  An example of this is seen in Saul who knew God existed, but wished there was no God, therefore allowing Saul to dispose of David without guilt. 

Above everything we can learn from this, the importance of Christian influence becomes a priority of every child of God.  The world continues to examine us and sees too many instances where we are a people professing belief in God but lives being lived like there is no God.  Surely someone would call that foolish.  Just like God's word is quick to warn us, "The fool says in his heart, there is no God."


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Praise and Worship

You have an important meeting this weekend. Praise and Worship assemblies will be taking place all over the world. On the Lord's Day this Sunday, you will want to be there. Jesus has promised to be with us so I know you will not want to miss him. 

In addition, you will be spiritually fed, you will be blessed, and you will have an opportunity to be a blessing to others.  Sure, there are other things happening on the weekend which may be important to you, but none so important that you miss the assembly of God's children as they gather to praise and worship Him.  God bless.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Our Great God

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
Psalm 146:6

If you have followed the blog this week, you know we have been reading and studying about the return of Jesus.  In  all the verses and their explanations, I hope you have found something useful that will keep your heart and mind on Jesus.  From his teachings to his cross, from his ascension into heaven to his promise to come again, no one can deny his sacrificial love for us.  Our God is a Great God whose love endures forever.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

When Jesus Returns (part 3)

The return of Jesus is an event that is ever on the hearts and minds of those who love the Lord.  While we have looked together at some scripture on the subject the last few days, we have in no way attempted to totally exhaust the subject.  I'm hoping these three blogs will serve as a stimulant for the Body of Christ, the church, to help us in overcoming the inclination of making the world we live in more important than the eternal which awaits.  Here are some ways of accomplishing just that:

1.  Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."   Matthew 6:19-21   Our treasure should be in heaven!

2.  Jesus promised to return to receive us unto himself.  "My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.   John 14:2-4   Jesus promised his return, and we can count on it.!

3. Those who die before the return of Jesus will be raised first.  "and the dead in Christ will rise first."  1 Thessalonians 4:16   The cemeteries are going to be a "happening place."

4.  Those who are still living when Jesus returns will meet him in the air.  " After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."  1 Thessalonians 4:17   We are going to fly!

I am hoping these studies will help you keep your heart fixed on things above.  We have looked at several scriptures from the pen of Paul.  There is one more that comes to mind as being equally as descriptive as the ones we have already seen.  " Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  1 Corinthians 15:51-54

I pray that victory is yours.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

When Jesus Returns (part 2)

We've looked at a couple of scriptures from yesterday's blog concerning the events associated with the return of Jesus.  From the writings of Paul to the Thessalonians we have a glimpse of God's plan for our arrival in glory.  Paul says: 

15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
                                                                                  1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

So the progression is like this....There will be a loud command with the voice of the archangel; then the trumpet call of God; and things will start to happen.  Those in Christ which have died before the Lord's return, will rise first.  Then those who are still alive will be "caught up together with them in the clouds. That's when we will be meeting Jesus in the air.

I really get excited about the part of the plan that lets  me know when and where I get to see Jesus.  Paul says, "And so we will be with the Lord forever!"  Hallelujah!  Praise God!

I am especially excited about the last sentence in the verses above.  "Therefore encourage one another with these words."  I hope we realize we Christians are to be an encouragement to each other during our entire lifetime.  I would feel very empty without the encouragement I get from those in the family of God.  But isn't it amazing that here at the very end of the earthly things as we know them, the inspired writer says the events of the return of Jesus to gather us to our eternal home, can be some of the greatest words of encouragement we can speak to each other. (Part 3, tomorrow.)

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When Jesus Returns

The followers of Jesus were showing signs of disappointment and concern.  He had just let them know he would be leaving soon. These were the men who left jobs and families, and just about everything from their former lives, just to follow Jesus.  Now he announces he is leaving.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
                                                                                                                          John 14:1-4

Do you think often about the return of Jesus?  Where will you be and what will you be doing when that happens?  Will you feel a joyous excitement?  Will you be afraid?  (Those questions are for you to consider in some private time.......but please give them some consideration.)

From looking at the scripture about end times and the return of our Lord, there are some important things we can know now about that time.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
                                                                                        1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Acts 1 gives us the account of Jesus leaving this earth, and the verses we are considering today let us know about his return.  This week, we will be looking at those things the Bible tells us about Jesus coming back.  Be sure you read the blog every day.

Monday, August 8, 2016


I was cleaning out some files when I came across a report which, after reading, I wanted to share.  Bear in mind this report is about 2 1/2 years old so some statistics may have changed.

The report from the Barna Group is out. I receive those reports in my email and always read them to see what is happening in the churches of America. There are always lots of statistics, followed by some researched information, and sometimes suggestions that are worth our consideration. 

This most recent report is in the form of a question and answer session with the President of a group called  Q Place (Question Place.) This organization recognizes there are people all over the world that would be open to an interactive session where questions about the Bible, God and the church are discussed. 

In this particular report, the topic leans toward effectively entering into a spiritual conversation with others. Further, when spiritual conversation is exchanged there is a better chance of sharing the message of the gospel.

Barna gave some interesting statistics in one of the questions they posed, statistics which shook me into thinking how miserably we Christians are failing in our attempt to be obedient to the Great Commission. Here is the quoted question, "Only 4% of unchurched adults were invited to church by a friend and actually went, 23% were invited but declined, and 73% were never invited at all. Why do you think this invitational model isn’t working?"

In this question, the term "invitational model" is the spiritual conversation method under consideration. There may be a lot to say about the ineffectiveness of a conversation in which we invite someone to church, but the 4% that actually came to church when invited, and the 23% that didn't, only adds up to 27% that received verbal invitations.  That large 73% of people which said they were never invited at all, is the shocking part to me.
I hope you are bearing in mind the Great Commission is still a valid and vital command for the followers of Jesus. The command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), is our Lord's instruction to his followers which will result in bringing the unsaved, the unchurched, the untaught, into the body of Christ.

I realize not all Christians have the knack for striking up a spiritual conversation with someone. The scenario of feeling free to say, "Let me tell you about Jesus," or "Come see the exciting things God is doing in our church," isn't a scenario that is happening.  I'm just thinking of all those Christian friends of mine who have no difficulty inviting someone to dinner, or a movie, or a football game.  Shouldn't we, with the same zeal, be willing and able to invite them to church? 

I've only covered one point of the interesting and informative report, but it has opened my eyes to my shortcoming of neglecting that 73%.  It tells me again, God knows what is best. Can you imagine the effect on our churches when we get serious about conversing with that 73% who have never been invited to "come see a man?"