Friday, November 3, 2017

Please Bring Your Bible



DON’T TEXT AND WORSHIP

At the risk of sounding legalistic, I am going to suggest that you consider bringing an actual bound Bible to the meeting house on Sunday. It is more and more common for preachers to use iPads and other electronic devices in the place of the bound paper Bible. I’m not sure if they are following the trend in the congregations or the congregations are following their lead. Nevertheless, it is more and more common to see folk looking at their phone during the preaching.

What difference does it make so long as the participant is looking at Scripture? Maybe none, if that’s all that is being viewed. Smart phones are used for many things other than a Bible. It doesn’t only represent that in which the word of God is found, it represents everything else in one’s life and in this world. There is at least a subconscious connection to your busy life when you are handling the nerve center of communication in your life. Isn’t that distracting? Do you really tune all else out and focus upon the word of God and the gathered worship when you are holding your smart phone? Be honest.

Oh, and what about the vibration or pop up message that comes in the middle of a pressing point in the message, or even prayer? Can you honestly say that you are not distracted? Isn’t it easy, and tempting, to quickly check a message, and even send one when a thought enters your mind? It can’t wait, can it? That’s one of the problems with bringing a phone into a church meeting. It really can be a distraction.

Hold and Bible instead of a phone in the assembly, if for no other reason, to aid you in staying focused. We are gathered for the important purpose of collectively praising our God, praying, reading Scripture, and being taught and exhorted from God’s Word. Handling a phone in a service can be spiritually distracting: “don’t text and worship.”

Friday, October 20, 2017

HOPE IN GOD, PERIOD

Ps 42:5, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Ps 42:11, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Ps 43:5, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Ps 71:5, For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.

We often encourage ourselves or others when facing a major trial in which we desire a certain outcome, by saying, hope in God. By which we mean hope in God for a particular outcome. If that desired outcome doesn’t come, or is delayed, we are negatively affected: emotionally and practically.

We are saved by hope (Rom. 8:24); we have a lively hope, which includes an inheritance assured by the resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 1:3); God has determined an expected end (Jer. 29:11) for His people. There is certainly nothing out of line with hoping for that which has been promised.

But are we hoping in God when something else beyond God is that for which we really hope?
Hope in God is not a means to an end, so that the thing beyond God takes precedence over HIM. God is not a means to an end – He is the highest good and the chief end!
Hope in God is not a step to something else, but the end…the resting place.

When we come to this conclusion in the exercise of our faith, it has a profound impact upon us.  

Hope in God:
·         Affects our emotions…He never changes. When we know by the witness of His Spirit in us that we are His and He is ours, then knowing Him in Whom we hope is emotionally stabilizing. Peace, joy, confidence, contentment, and rest are all effects of hope in God.
Psa 146:5, Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
·         Affects our expectations…knowing that His will is perfect, hope in God keeps us expecting no more or less than what He determines is best for our lives.
Ro 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Produces a spirit of thankfulness, in everything: Inevery thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thess 5:18
·         Affects our exertion…knowing that His way is best, hope in God keeps our will submissive to Him and our lives committed to do His revealed will. Produces motivation to serve Him.
Titus 2:12-14, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
·         Affects everything, every day…life can get really difficult and challenging. Jeremiah experienced this and was ultimately encouraged with hope by meditations upon God:
Lam 3:21-26, This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.                                                                                        
HOPE THOU IN GOD!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Work For More Than Yourself



ABILITY TO GIVE IS A BIBLICAL REASON TO WORK 

Working is the ordinary means ordained by God to provide the necessities of life. But have you considered that simply providing for your necessities is not the only reason for having an income? Far too many think only of making a living for themselves. “So long as my needs are met I can give thanks and be satisfied. After all, isn’t this what Paul taught? And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1Tim. 6:8).” This is obviously true, especially in light of the greedy heart that Paul is exposing. But this is not the only truth to consider.

At least two other Scriptures indicate that part of God’s intention for you in working is to have extra to be able to give. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth (Eph. 4:28). And, I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). It is godly to make enough money and budget what you make to have extra to be able to give to the needs of others.

You cannot give to needs that arise above your own if you do not have a sufficient income, savings, and budget with purpose to give. You should be prayerful stewards of what God entrusts to you, and then trust Him for more, that you might have more to distribute (1 Tim. 6:18). 

Oh, by the way, make sure you are not robbing God by holding on to all that He gives you. It is all His. Acknowledge Him by designating a healthy portion from the top, not the leftovers.  He is worthy of worship. One way to express that worship is through monetary giving. You will always find a way to invest in that which is most valuable to you.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Your Treasure and Your Heart



YOUR BUDGET SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR HEART

What does your budget, or use of money, say about you? Have you looked over your expenses recently? Is it even fair to evaluate one’s heart, or placement of priorities, by looking at one’s budget?

When Jesus was asked a question by someone who was concerned about getting his fair share of the family inheritance, He responded in Luke 12:15, ...Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. What do your expenditures say of what you believe life consists? Jesus’ warning is still valid today!

After speaking about life priorities and exhorting His disciples to live with a different value system than the world around them, He gave this well-known dogma in vs. 34, For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Jesus certainly seems to make the connection between what you treasure and your treasure. What you treasure (your heart) will always be revealed by where your treasure is going. You support what you believe to be valuable. What you give yourself to and what you give to is really what you treasure. 

While the applications are many, and it would do you good to evaluate other areas of your life objectively, I’m especially thinking here about financial resources. That takes us back to the budget. What do you see about yourself when you consider where your money goes? Is there evidence that your treasure is somewhere other than this world and this life? Do you see significant resources going toward support of things that have eternal value?

Don’t misunderstand. Using your resources to provide for your family in every way that is proper is godly and reveals a right heart. There is no need to think that you need to starve your children in order to support a missionary. God is not calling you to abandon personal and family care and responsibility to build up His kingdom with all of your finances. He doesn’t really even need your finances to build His kingdom! But if He has your heart, your finances will reflect that.  

While it is possible to tithe and your heart be far from God (Pharisees), it is not possible for your heart to be after God and your budget not reflect that. The ministry of the gospel is the primary mission of Christ’s church. Are you contributing generously and cheerfully to the support of the ministries of your church? Where is your heart?

If you don’t see how your budget can handle giving unto the Lord, then it is time you evaluate the priorities of your heart. ...seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you (Luke 12:31)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Strength In Weakness



MANAGING SEVERE INFIRMITIES

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Whatever this thing was in the Apostle Paul, he calls it an infirmity. The word is typically used to refer to a physical sickness, or some form of weakness in the physical frame. This seems to be the way Paul intends it in this context. The word is translated weakness in verse 9.

It is certainly proper to pray fervently for the removal of one’s infirmity. This requires identifying and naming it. It is not out of order to investigate one’s infirmity as one seeks to determine the cause, and perhaps a solution from the Lord. If the Lord grants healing, those who know about His intervention will join together in giving Him praise.

But, God may have other plans for us in regard to infirmities. They certainly affect us. We are weakened by them. We are challenged physically, emotionally and mentally. We need help! 

God gave Paul as an example to us that we might know how to best respond to continuing and severe infirmities. If through prayer God is not pleased to bless means or directly intervene to grant us healing, we must assume that He will grant us grace. This includes a special measure of the power of Christ resting upon us. 

It seems that this special grace comes when one resigns to glory in the infirmities as that which God has ordained. To glory, in this case, is not incessantly focusing upon it and talking about it. This glorying is to recognize the infirmities to be from our Father’s hand so that in the context of our recognized weakness we might be instruments that manifest the power of Christ. 

This is really an amazing response to infirmities that only makes sense to one who is a recipient of the grace of God. It is a response of self-denial. It is an attitude of repose, deflecting attention from one’s infirmities to the sustaining grace of God which overshadows with the power of Christ, which reaches into dimensions of life unknown in times of strength.

While we should be concerned for and care about the infirmities of others, sometimes our God chooses to manifest Himself most in the midst of infirmities. So, while it is right to seek to be delivered from infirmities, it is better to know the power of Christ in the midst of them. He is glorified as we reflect His strength in our weakness.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Christianity Is Not Business As Usual



BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY NOT MARKETABLE
For a long time I have been disturbed with what seems to me to be marketing of Christianity by churches and religious organizations. Surveys are taken and strategies are developed based upon techniques that would fit any worldly based organization. The gospel is mentioned, prayer is acknowledged, and God is given lip service. But there seems to be little deep conviction of soul that impacts lives unto holiness.
If our goal is to produce a culture that merely practices Christian principles in public, then marketing and multi-media packages may work. Excitement will generate human participation. Multi-level marketing businesses thrive in this way. Charismatic leaders are able to package a positive message that stirs the emotions and multitudes rally around, feeding off the positive energy of this environment. Many churches in our day have long used this approach and are satisfied by the results measured by money,  men and methods.
But is our goal under Christ to be the creation of a positive "Christian" environment? Should we be satisfied as a church if we are seeing additions, increased bank account, new ministries and better facilities? Jesus said that the goal of eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). It is possible to have all of the form or trappings of religious appearances and not know the God of Scripture and the power of His life in us.
True Biblical Christianity cannot depend upon man's marketing skills and new programs. Biblical Christianity is dependent upon God. We must know Him. He must make Himself known. That cannot be accomplished through marketing and multi-media, or any human production. God makes Himself known by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Word. If we are not dependent upon His ordained means, why should we reasonably expect Him to bless in life changing ways?
As a church, we must not be swayed by the influences of our day that tell us we must be more relative and must become like the culture to influence it. We must remain true to the call of God upon our lives to make Him known through our lives and His message. His life must be lived through us. His message must be ours. We must be determined with the Apostle Paul to glory in nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal. 6:14).

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why Satan?



FUTILITY OF REBELLION AGAINST YOUR CREATOR
Have you ever wondered why God created a being called Lucifer, the chief of the angelic realm? Scripture indicates there was none in all God’s creation above him (Ezekiel 28:13-15) . But he was created. God made him.

The Scripture reveals him as the chief rebel of God’s creation. He is described as being full of pride (Isaiah 14:13,14; 1 Tim. 3:7). His fall, along with a great number of angels, was great (Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:3-9).

Jesus calls him a murderer and a liar (John 8:44). Hebrews 2:14, refers to him as having power over death. His goal has always been to destroy life and separate mankind, who is lower than angels, from God. He has done all that he could to derail the purpose of God in creation. 

But we know that Satan will not win. He knows he will not win (Rev. 12:12). From the beginning it was prophesied by God that a seed would come from the woman, without the aid of a man, that would crush the head of that old serpent, the Devil (Gen. 3:15). That seed which came was the Son of God...that he might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). We know that this Prince of darkness was judged at the Cross. His place, along with the angels who fell with him, is reserved in everlasting chains under darkness (Jude 6).

Yet, his rebellion continues as he seeks to keep unbelieving ones in darkness, blind to the only hope for sinful man (2 Cor. 4:3,4). And so all who continue to follow him in his rebellion against God will be cast into the same place of eternal judgment prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41).

Satan is not God’s equal. God is not competing with Satan. Satan is going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is targeting as many as he is able, seeking to do as much damage as possible. But God is not threatened by Satan. God is not trying to defeat the Devil. His doom is sure.

Why then has God permitted him to operate so freely and with so much power in His world? There are other answers, but I would suggest that Satan represents to us the futility of rebelling against our Creator. Though he is the most powerful of created beings, his destruction is certain.  He will be bound and confined to a place of absolute misery forever.

What do you hope to accomplish in the end by continuing in your rebellion against God? Learn from Satan! He is held forth by God as the ultimate example of rebellion against Him. He will not succeed. Nor will you! Continue in love with your self and sin, controlled by the pride of your heart, and you will receive the same judgment as the devil.

This is not a cosmic game. Satan was not made so that God would have competition in His universe. God has put before us a clear example of the futility of rebellion against Him. Repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.