God got my attention last night. He made me think about being thankful. As I was trying to decorate our house, I remembered that our church secretary had laid out the letters I had asked for our church sign. I knew it was supposed to rain the next day, so I drove to the church and with sprinkles coming from the sky, I rushed to put the letters up advertising our Christmas Concert by the Childress Family on Dec. 1.

To reach the top row of letters I have to stand near the top of a six foot stepladder. It was while I was working on the side that the ground slopes down away from the sign (which makes the ladder unstable), that one of the letters got stuck. (I use a yard stick to slide them across to the other side to prevent having to move the ladder.) It was beginning to rain, I've got a thousands things to do, my wife has supper ready, and this letter refuses to slide over. I looked up to the heavens and said sarcastically "Thanks." At that moment I almost lost my balance, but fortunately, regained it before failing backwards off the ladder.

We let little things upset us, and fail to truly give thanks for the big things in life. (A stuck letter is nothing compared to a broken arm, leg, or neck.) Unfortunately, we do this with our spouses, our friends, our employers, and our God. As Thanksgiving approaches think about being thankful.

So as Thanksgiving Day approaches, give it a little thought. It's a day to emphasize our thankfulness, but it something we should do all the time. It's so easy in our busy schedules to fail to be thankful because it takes reflection to truly appreciate what we have or what we don't have. In order to be thankful, we must be thinkful. We must consider what we have, and if necessary look around. We may not have as much as some, but we have a lot more than others. But most of all, we have all we need if we have the people we love, an inner peace that comes from a relationship with Christ, the Prince of Peace, and a hope that circumstances can't take from us and death can't destroy.

Last night I found myself being thankful for something that didn't happen, an unscheduled departure from a six foot stepladder and its possible consequences. As it turns out, moving that stepladder one more time wasn't really all that bad.

There She Blows!

I'm not talking about a whale at sea, but rather a whale of a mess at home. It happened Thursday. My daughter went to the bathroom sink and turned the water on and suddenly a fountain of water was shooting into the air splashing off the ceiling and drenching her and everything in the bathroom.

When I answered my phone at the office, I heard, "Dad come home right now. Hurry, there's water going everywhere." I said where at? "The bathroom sink. Is there a way to cut it off?" I replied "yes, under the vanity, there's a valve."

I then jump into my car and sped home. When I arrived the water was off, my kids were wet, and there was water in the floor, on the ceiling, walls, and just about everything else. What happened? The hot water handle and valve assembly broke off in her hand.

Who should I blame? Isn't that the game we play? If we have a mess before us, around us, or in us, don't we seek to blame someone or something? It's the game we've played ever since the days of Adam and Eve. Adam blamed the woman God gave him.

Did Elizabeth not know to restrain her super human strength? Could she not have used a kinder, gentler turn of the knob? No, the problem was a corroded, weakened valve assembly. Yes, her turn of the knob broke the proverbial camel's back, but it would have happened no matter who turned the knob.

When we blow up and spew forth a torrent of anger-filled, bitter laced, inflammatory words, or cutting remarks, instead of looking inwardly for the cause, we naturally look for something or someone to blame. We look for the hand, the tongue, or the circumstance that provoked us. But just like the corroded handle that broke off in Elizabeth's hand, a corrupt and defective heart will pour forth a stream of vile smelling, horrific sounding, life draining, relationship destroying, children disturbing, actions and words.

The answer to my bathroom problem was not a new daughter with a softer touch, but new faucet. The solution to our blowups that causes major foul ups is not a new environment, a new job, a new spouse, or a new church, but just a new heart. Our hearts are corrupt and defective and only Christ can transform them. A refusal to let Him, dooms us to a "Ground Hog Day" life, forever repeating the same old scenarios, with one exception, finding someone or something new to blame each time.

Jesus once said, "And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? ....  19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone" (Matthew 15:16, 18).

Filled Vessels

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 ESV).

Why do we need to attend church regularly, read our Bible consistently, and pray daily? There are two reasons. First we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit of God. Second, we are leaky vessels.

Although we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit of God, there seems to only be a few instances in the New Testament were someone is credited with being full of the Spirit. The seven men chosen as the first deacons in Acts were required to be full of the Spirit. One of them, Stephen, was said to be full of the Spirit just prior to being stoned to death.

Could the reason there are few instances then and now is that being full of the Spirit of God is not easy, especially when we consider the fact that we are leaky vessels. For many their salvation experience becomes more of a distant memory instead of a life-changing event with the passing of everyday. We can only retain a portion of what we read in God’s Word and with the passing of time; much of it slowly fades from our memory. If the Word of God is not constantly abiding in us and our salvation experience is not as relevant and real to us as the day it happened, then we cannot claim to be full of the Spirit.

We are like the cooling system in my car. The other day I noticed that my car heater wasn’t heating like it should when my car was not moving and the engine was just idling. A few days later I noticed that my car began to run hot whenever it was sitting in traffic. It turns out that I have a leak in my cooling system.

The best solution is to get the leak fixed, but that takes time and money. The next best solution is to keep a check on it and refill it when it gets low. At the present I chose the latter.

When it comes to our being leaky vessels, we don’t have a choice. We can’t stop being leaky vessels. Only a glorified body can remedy it. Thus, we are stuck with being leaky vessels, but we can refill them on a regular basis with God’s Word and prayer. Partially filled lives are like partially filled radiators, they will cause us problems at some point.

The Sin Underneath The Sin

What is the worst sin a person could commit? What is the most common sin that people commit? It’s called the sin underneath the sin.

 



When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39)

Our greatest sin and most common sin is that we violate God’s greatest commandment by loving our self more than we do God or others. Tim Keller, pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New City, once preached on this. He asked, why do people tell lies, cheat, steal, rape, and commit murder? It’s the sin underneath the sin.

Our love for self above that of God or others provides the foundation for all sin. This self-love seeks to reward self either monetarily, emotionally, physically, or socially with limited or no regard of others. We can even see this in such things as our refusal to give Him the portion of our income, or our time that belongs to Him.

Unfortunately, it is our nature to love our self more than anything or anyone else. This is why the new birth is necessary. This is why we must receive a new heart and spirit from God. This is why we, who are Christians, must guard against it. This is why we must look to God for deliverance from this unhealthy exaltation of self, for only He has the power to free us from loving ourselves to the exclusion, or detriment of others.

A Value-Oriented Life!

This is the life we all live whether we realize it or not. What we value in life determines how we think and live. We justify our actions and our beliefs according to the values of our heart.

Can we claim to be followers of Christ and continue to live and think in ways that are contrary to the teachings and guidelines of the Bible? The many who do so, would unequivocally say yes, but what would Jesus say? And He is the one who sets the standard as to what it means to be His follower. The Bible is clear on this. The key to being a follower of Christ is not whether we’ve made a decision for Christ or have joined a church that claims to be Christ’s church, but whether our values, the things we treasure in our heart, not only includes Jesus, but has Him at the top of our value-oriented life.

The apostle Paul, whom God used greatly, understood this concept. Although he was warned by other disciples and by the Holy Spirit of the dangers and suffering that he would face if he went back to Jerusalem, he valued Christ and the sharing of the gospel of Christ above his own welfare. “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Is this true of us? Do we value Christ above our favorite TV show or sports team? Do we value Christ above our favorite singers, whether they're secular or gospel? How much do we give to missionaries and those in need whom God puts in our pathway? How much money, time, and effort do we spend on the things that we enjoy, whether secular or religious, in contrast to the things that we know Christ valued?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  (Matthew 25:31-40 ESV)

Jesus wants all of us, not just part of us. He wants to be the main thing, not just one of many things in our lives. He gave all that we might be saved, but in return, He asks us to give all to Him. This is what it means to be a follower of Christ. We must make a decision for Christ, but that decision must be to follow His teachings, His example, and adopt His values, even if they are out of synch with modern day thought, higher education dogma, or liberal theology.

And for those of us who have realized the horribleness of our sins and the joy and greatness of God’s forgiveness, have no problem with the teachings, example, and values of Christ. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5:3-4).

What Will Your Dash Be Full Of?

At funerals that I officiate in, I sometimes read a poem entitled "The Dash." It talks about the birth date that is first on the tombstone and date of death that is last, but that the most important part is the dash in-between for it represents the life of the person.

 

On Monday, (09-10-12), we laid my father-in-law to rest. He was 77 years-old. His dash was full. A look down below will show that his life was more than a dash, but rather a dash followed by a semicolon, for his life and influence no doubt touched and impacted many thousands of lives. In a sense a part of him continues to live in the family members, in-laws, friends, co-workers, church members, and Bible College students that has had the pleasure of knowing him, being connected to him, or being taught by him.

 

There is so much about him that I wish was true of me. His knowledge, his disciplined mind, simple but pure lifestyle, and commitment to the Lord and His Word are almost a thing of the past. Our focus today is visibility, notoriety, humbers, and successfulness. But is this the focus of Christ? Did Christ not focus on humility, holiness, and contentment? Did Christ not emphasize faithfulness over fanfare and devotion over dead works and discipleship over dull traditionalism, learning over laziness, and sharing over self-serving activities? The answer is YES! But the question that we must ask ourselves is this true of us? When our lives come to an end, and they will sooner than we think, what will our dash be full of? And  more important than that, will there be a semicolon after it? 

 

I've included a copy of part of Ralph Hampton's obituary. We may not be able to get all the degrees he obtained or teach in a Bible college for many years as he did, but we can let Christ fill us with His Word through the study of it, and we can pour ourselves into the lives of others. We can influence our neighbors, co-workers, friends, family members, church members, and those God puts in our path along the way. We can and we must if we are to fulfill the calling of God on our lives, for we have been called to be disciples and to be disciple makers.

 

I give thanks for having known Ralph Hampton and for the privilege of being his son-in-law.

 

HAMPTON, Reverend Ralph C. - former chairman of the Biblical and Ministry Studies Department at Welch College and a member of the college faculty for 50 years, died September 7, 2012, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 77.


The Oklahoma native was converted at age 12 during a youth camp and ordained to preach in 1960. Hampton's ministry to the broader denomination included six pastorates in Tennessee and Missouri, articles for Contact and ONE Magazine, and curriculum writing for Randall House Publications. His signature leadership role came during a 15-year span when the National Association of Free Will Baptists elected him moderator nine times (1987-1996) and assistant moderator six times (1981-1987). He moderated during several controversial and pivotal sessions, including the emotionally-charged 1995 national convention. Ralph began his 50-year tenure at Welch College in 1958 at age 23. Like most young educators, he wore several hats, which meant that he taught 15 hours per semester, served as Christian Service director, and was the dormitory supervisor. The son of a Free Will Baptist preacher and oldest of four brothers, he spent half a century changing the landscape of denominational education, preparing students for ministry in a world-wide community, and raising a family of three children with his wife Margaret—all three children graduated from Welch College. He pushed himself hard as an educator, earning five degrees—A.A. degree from East Contra Costa Junior College (1955), B.A. degree from Welch College (1958), M.A. degree from Winona Lake School of Theology (1961), M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary (1970), and the D.Min. (ABD) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

 

Getting a Grip on Anger (06-27-12)

"Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:26-27)

 

We are an angry society. From road rage to child abuse, we see the devastating results of anger. The emotion that we call "anger" is not wrong. It is a God given emotion that motivates us to good deeds. In the Bible we see that God, the Father, and Jesus both expressed anger. Righteous anger is good anger.

 

It's okay to be angry over injustices toward others and ungodliness toward God. But even this kind of anger must be under control and allowed only to be expressed in ways that are godly and right according to God's standard of love, mercy, and holiness.

 

Unfortunately, most of the anger we see in society is not righteous. Most of our anger evolves from our sinful nature. We get angry when we feel devalued. We get angry when we feel we are not getting our needs met. We get angry when we are unable to control a situation. (This is a much greater issue for someone who has a controlling personality.)

 

Although our anger may be directed at self, it often is expressed as anger toward others. Dealing with the internal issue will remedy the external expression of it.

 

When someone's anger toward us or someone else is way beyond what is appropriate for the deed or act that ignited it, the anger is more about an unknown factor that the angry person is concealing.

 

Non-productive and destructive anger is what the Bible is referring to when it reads, "and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil."

 

Submit to the authority of God's Word. If you have problems with anger, do the following:

 

1. Understand that we each need to understand what the source of our anger is. This is not the same as what triggers it. When we get angry over inconveniences, little comments that don't sit well with us, actions and attitudes that others easily overlook, we have an underlying issue that is the source of our anger.

 

2. Think back to a time when anger wasn't a big issue in your life or relationship, and then try to pinpoint what has created this anger in you.

 

3. Pray for God's help in determining what is behind your anger.

 

4. Seek the counsel of friends, family, or counselors such as your pastor, who could help you in your search.

 

5. As you search for the source of your anger think on these possible sources:

 

   1) Is it a hurt you received in the past, even as far back as childhood?

   2) Is it a need you feel that is not being met by someone who could and should fulfill the need?

   3) Is it the lack of control that makes you angry? If so, why do you feel a need to be in control? Is it a fear that necessitates desire to be in control?

   4) Is it unrealistic expectations that are not being met that are causing the anger, if so, why the unrealistic expectations?

   5) Is there something in your past that you feel a sense of guilt about, whether justly or not?

 

6. Do you understand the sovereignty of God?

 

7. Do you understand the sufficiency of God?

 

8. Have you experience the love and forgiveness of God?

 

9. Is Christ your Lord and Savior?

 

10. Do you understand how to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit?

 

11. Search the Bible for verses that you can memorize to help you deal with your anger and its source:

 

Phil. 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

 

Phil. 4:11-13 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

 

1 Peter 5:7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

 

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

 

Galatians 5:19-26Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

 

God doesn’t want us to go through life angry. He doesn’t want us to allow anger to hinder our relationship with Him and others. He wants to help us, but we have to be honest about the source of our anger. We  must also humble ourselves and depend on God’s power to equip us to be more than conquerors. When our lives are filled with Christ, there is no room for anger to fill us.

 

Pain: The Universal Friend (05-23-12)

Pain is common to all of us. It can hit us without warning and come from any
source. One minute life is good and then bam, pain fills our body or our life. Just ask my daughter who was playing softball yesterday. Life was great at first base until she heard someone yell "ball." She turned her head just in time to see a brightly colored softball slam into her nose.

 

Her team lost the game and she lost some blood, but what hurt most was the words of the doctor, "your nose is broken and it looks like your softball season is over." For her the emotional pain of "no more softball this season" was greater than the physical pain from the ball.

 

Although pain hurts, it has not been given to us for that purpose. Pain is the universal friend of us all. Pain helps doctors to find the problem in our bodies and it helps us to find it in our life. But will we listen to it or look for someone to blame for it? Will we face up to it, or mask it with drugs, sex, pleasures, anger, resentment, bitterness, etc.

 

Instead of blaming the pitcher who threw the ball, she acknowledges that she should have kept her eyes on the ball. The emotional and physical pain makes the lesson unforgettable. Every lesson in pain can make us better or bitter. Our pain can reveal much about ourselves if we will let it, but we have to look for it. Most refuse to do this, for it usually brings us more pain. We don’t want to face up to our  failures, weaknesses, and hidden demons. We'd rather look for the ugly truth about others, and everybody has some, instead of our own. Unfortunately, learning or discovering the ugly truth about others doesn’t help us. We can only be set free by the truth of God’s Word, after we’ve acknowledged the ugly truth about ourselves. When the pain comes, we have to choose to see the truth it reveals and deal with it. We have to face it and reach out to God and others to help us with it.

 

I'm thankful that my daughter is doing well. I'm also thankful that she allowed the umpire to carry her, others to assist her, and the doctor to treat her. She let the hands of a stranger touch her, a needle stick her, and a bandage be applied to her because she acknowledged she was hurt. If only, we could all be willing to do this, we’d be amazed by the healing that comes from God’s truth.

 

If only we could face the ugly truth about ourselves in order to stop the merry-go-round of problems and pain that often comes our way. Today I received a phone call from a man who doesn't know which way to turn. He has no home and no job, and has a wife and three small children to care for. We often receive calls like this. We can help them, as we've done for this man in the past, but only on a temporary basis. His problems and the pain they cause him are, as in most cases, the result of some ugly truths about himself that he refuses to deal with.

 

We, just like this man, can be helped on a permanent basis, but only when we face the ugly truths about ourselves and then seek help not with our surface problems and pains, but with our inner demons and weaknesses that plague us all.

Reconciliation (05-03-12)

A couple of nights ago, our evangelist pointed out that one of our responsibilities as followers of Jesus is to be agents of reconciliation. Every one has sinned and come short of the glory of God, thus we need to be reconciled to God, and we need to work at helping others become reconciled to God. He then used the illustration of reconciling our check book with our bank statement. At that moment God reminded me of a past event in my life.

 

When I first established a checking account, I didn't understand the importance of reconciling or balancing your checkbook. I went over two years without doing so. When the need to do so was brought to my attention, I tried to reconcile my checkbook with my bank statement. I found mistake after mistake. I spent hours and hours on it, but I could never get my records to match the bank records. I finally gave up and simply accepted what the bank said was my balance.

 

When we come to realize that our lives don't match what God says it should be, what do we do? Regardless of how hard we try, we can't do enough to reconcile our lives with God's standards. The only thing we can do is just accept what God says; we are sinners in need of God's grace and forgiveness. Despite what we think our righteousness balance should be, the balance is zero. Only by accepting what God says about our sinful state, and by applying His solution to our sin can we be reconciled to God.

The Question of Evil (04-26-12)

One of the arguments used to deny the existence of God or to ridicule the belief in God is the question of evil. If God is all powerful and loving, why does He allow evil?

 

We must first acknowledge that there are no satisfactory answers to this question. This is also true of where did God come from? It's also true of how can there be only one God, yet be in the form of three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--the Trinity. For the non-believer, it's is also true of where did matter or the first particle  come from. There are no satisfactory answers to some questions in life.

 

Do we have to know all the answers in life? Do we have to know all there is about someone to trust them? Do we have to know all there is about how our cars work or electricity operates to depend on them and benefit from them? The answer, of course, is no.

 

A bigger and more important question that I think overshadows our lack of understanding when it comes to God and evil, is our desire or need to understand all things. A God that operates in a way that we can always understand is a God that's on our level which means He's no God.

 

Trust is built on what we do know, not we do not know or understand. God has revealed Himself to us by way of His Word and by way of His Son. He has given us what we need to believe. We can come to a place of trusting God, with the Holy Spirit's help, if we examine His Word with an open mind, and the evidence He has provided--nature, the laws of nature, historical impact, and the radical changes created in followers of Jesus, including the conversion of former enemies of God and atheists.

 

If we have made up our mind that something is not true, no amount of evidence or truth can convince us otherwise, but if we are truly seeking the truth regardless of whether we believe it or not, we will find it.

 

Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart."

Idols of the Heart (04-22-12)

“So while these new residents worshiped the LORD, they also worshiped their
idols. And to this day their descendants do the same. (17:41 NLT)

 

Our sinful flesh is deceptive above all things. We can worship the Lord on
the outside and convince ourselves we are doing it on the inside when in fact
we are serving idols. John Calvin once said, "our hearts are idol factories, constantly creating new objects for our attention and affections. We are always pursuing the things we think are most valuable. Those objects of our pursuit become our idols."

 

Do we have to have the temperature just right or comfortable seats in order
to worship? Do we have to have a certain kind of music or the volume to our
liking to worship? Do we have to have a certain seat at church or sit next to a
certain person to worship? Do we have to have a certain speaker or not have a
certain speaker to worship? Do we have trouble worshiping when a certain
ball team is playing or after that same team has lost?

 

If something we value hinders our worship of God, we have an idol in the
house even if we choose to not believe it. Idols don't have to be wood or
stone. They can be dreams, comforts, pleasures, family members, jobs and
careers, and rights that we will not surrender to God.

 

Idols are only good for one thing, to be laid at the foot of the cross in
total surrender to Jesus, who is Lord of All.

When is the end, actually the beginning? (03-29-12)

The apostle Paul was once a very influential and respected Pharisee known as Saul, the Pharisee. He was a leader among his peers and a pillar of the community. People listened to what he had to say and sought his approval of how they lived. His future was secure and his financial status was assured. He was most likely looked upon as having achieved success with a capital “S.” But can we have all we want and not have what we need. Can we be admired by those who know us, but out of favor by God who made us? Can we be immersed in religion, yet far from God? The answer is YES!!

 

This was true of Saul. He discovered this on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). It was there that he found favor with God, but not by way of his accomplishments, but by coming to the end of himself. Only when he discovered that all his best works were like trash, did he accept the forgiveness of God and the righteousness of Christ for his salvation. The trip to Damascus did more than take him to Damascus; it took him to the end of himself, which resulted in a new beginning with God.

 

As you travel through life, be sure to let your trip take you to the end of yourself. Don’t settle for cheap substitutes when it comes to life. Don’t settle for the things of the world and the religions of man. Be willing to come to the end of yourself, for only then can you truly seek Christ.

 

The human nature has within it the need to have a relationship with God. We were created for such a relationship. When that relationship was destroyed in the Garden of Eden, we were left with a vacuum that needed filling. Since then we have been trying to fill it with anything and everything. Substitutes include pleasures, alcohol, drugs, careers, big houses, fast cars, personal accomplishments, spouses, family, riches, sex, power, prestige, and religion. Substitutes can and often do fill the vacuum, but only temporarily and minimally. When our substitutes fail us, and they always do, we look for scapegoats; we look for excuses. A. J. Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, once said the standard of society is to blame the world for our problems and look within ourselves for the solution, when we need to look within for the problem and look outside ourselves, to Christ, for the solution.

 

Our greatest enemy is not the alcohol or drug addiction that plagues us. It’s not the friend who betrayed us or the spouse who let us down and wasn’t there for us. It’s not our parents who failed us or others who don’t understand us. Our greatest problem and our greatest enemy, according to the Bible, is the person in the mirror. Until we get honest with ourselves, we can never be honest with God. Only after we see ourselves as God sees us can we then see the depth of our need; a need that only a risen Savior and Holy God can fill. Only after we finally die to self can we really live the life God intended for us; a life full of joy unspeakable. Paul, the apostle put it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

 

Christianity is not about adding Christ to our life, for that is just another version of a man-made religion. Christianity is about coming to the end of ourselves and casting our sinful and undeserving self on the mercy and grace of God that is provided by the sacrificial death of Christ. For more on how to do this click on the “Gospel” on the front page of this website and then click on the “Two Ways To Live” and follow the prompts.

Life Changing Moments (03-15-12)

Life Changing moments can happen at any time. It happened for one family near our house yesterday. I was at the church when my wife called me to tell me there had been a car accident in front of our neighbors house. She said, "I think the driver is dead, for they've put a cloth over him."

 

When I arrived I discovered that the driver had died on impact. I also discovered that he was the father of three boys that had attended our youth group meetings a few years ago. As I stood there with my wife, I thought of how his family was unaware of the storm that was about to hit them. Their lives would never be same because of one incident. 

 

Death often comes without notice. As hard as we try we can't avoid it. But we can be prepared for it. We can live our lives with an awareness of how close death is to all of us. We can take heed to God's Word. Hebrews 9:27 "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment."

 

Death can't be avoided, but it doesn't have to be the end. It doesn't have to be a bad thing for the one who dies. The thief on the cross knew death was near, but he saw hope in Christ. He acknowledged his own sinfulness, and believed Christ had the answer to death. He believe Christ was the Son of God. He looked to Christ. He believed in Christ. He cried out to Christ. He put His faith in Christ. (See Luke 23:39-43).

 

The time to prepare for the storms of life is now, not after the storms come. Living for Christ is the only way to prepare for the end of life. Have you made Christ the center of your life?

When Our Starter Breaks (03-14-12)

Who hasn’t experienced those “No, not now” moments. It happened to me yesterday in the parking lot of K-mart. I turned the key and my car tried to start but then stopped. I tried again, but nothing happened. I tried several times and nothing. I had no tools, so I went to Big Lots (cheaper than K-mart), to buy a pair of pliers. I checked the battery cables. They were fine. My dental appointment was approaching so I called Laura to come and take me to my dentist. We later went back to the car and tried jumping it, but that didn’t help. We took the battery to get it checked out. It was okay.

 

The next logical conclusion was a bad starter. I had my car towed to someone who repairs starters and by 5:00pm I had my car back with a rebuilt starter. Cars and people can have bad starters. Our kids often need us to help them get started. They don’t need being fussed at or yelled at, but they do need to be motivated. They need to know they have no option but to get started.

 

This is also true of Christians. We get lazy in our faith. We can easily slip out of God’s Will and away from God’s Word. Every believer has the Holy Spirit living within them, but as we all know, the power of the flesh is no pushover. It will resist the work of the Spirit and hinder the work of God in us. Sometimes we find that our starter has gone bad. We still have the Spirit, but we find ourselves sitting when we should be doing and keeping quite when we should be speaking up.

 

This happened to Peter, the boldest of the apostles. While ministering in Galatia, he found himself slipping, or rather, the apostle Paul found him slipping. When a group of Jewish Christians came from Jerusalem, Peter stopped eating with the Gentile Christians, giving the impression that the Jewish Christians were better than the Gentile Christians. Prejudice and racism is always contrary to God’s Will.

 

In Galatians 2:11-14 Paul helped Peter to get started again on the right path. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

 

Helping others get started doesn’t have to involve such extreme actions, but it does require that we care enough about others that we help them get started again on the straight and narrow path. Love will not stand idly by while a brother or sister needs someone to help them get started.

The Shepherd and the Sheep (03-08-12)

Does your relationship with Christ provide a peace that passes understanding? If not, why not? Have you surrendered your life to Christ? Do you have a relationship with Christ that’s like that of a lamb and its shepherd? Lord willing, my message Sunday will be on the names of God, Part 2. It will be from Psalm 23. One of the names or descriptions of God is that of Jehovah Roi , the God who cares for us like a shepherd does his sheep. Jehovah is God’s personal name. Roi has to do with God caring for us and meeting our needs like a shepherd does his sheep.

 

We can have such a relationship. We can enjoy the peace of God and the security that God provides, but we must first surrender our all to Him. In my devotion reading this morning Oswald Chambers brings this out more clearly than I could. Read it and then ask God to help you experience the surrendered life. 

 

The Surrendered Life “I have been crucified with Christ …” (Galatians 2:20). To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin,but also to surrender his whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else. The first thing we must surrender is all of our pretense or deceit. What our Lord wants us to present to Him is not our goodness, honesty, or our efforts to do better, but real solid sin. Actually, that is all He can take from us. And what He gives us in exchange for our sin is real solid righteousness. But we must surrender all pretense that we are anything, and give up all our claims of even being worthy of God’s consideration. Once we have done that, the Spirit of God will show us what we need to surrender next. Along each step of this process, we will have to give up our claims to our rights to ourselves. Are we willing to surrender our grasp on all that we possess, our desires, and everything else in our lives? Are we ready to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ? We will suffer a sharp painful disillusionment before we fully surrender. When people really see themselves as the Lord sees them, it is not the terribly offensive sins of the flesh that shock them, but the awful nature of the pride of their own hearts opposing Jesus Christ. When they see themselves in the light of the Lord, the shame, horror, and desperate conviction hit home for them. If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.

Religion vs. Christianity (03-06-12)

A speaker at the FWBBC Bible Conference in Nashville said something that stuck with me.  He said, "Every religion tells you what to do to get to heaven. Christianity tells you that what you do keeps you out of heaven. The sins we commit & the righteousness we establish keeps us out. This is true because the Bible says that our righteousness or as the prophet Isaiah put it,our best works are like filthy rags.

 

In Christianity we trust in Christ and what He did for us. Instead of working for our salvation, we simply trust the One who has done all the work. We must repent of our sins and self-effort and trust Christ and His righteous life for our salvation.

Our God is called "Hayah" ((02-28-12)

Hayah which is pronounced as Ehyeh is another primary name for God.

 

Wikipedia gives the following information on this name for God.

 

The word Ehyeh is used a total of 43 places in the Hebrew Bible, where it is usually translated as "I will be" -- as is the case for its first occurrence, in Genesis 26:3—or "I shall be," as is the case for its final occurrence in Zechariah 8:8. The importance placed on the phrase, as it is used by God to identify himself in the Burning Bush, stems from the Hebrew conception of monotheism that God exists by himself for himself, and is the uncreated Creator who is independent of any concept, force, or entity; therefore "I am who I am" (ongoing).

 

It is also believed that the form Yahweh which is often translated as Jehovah is derived from the word hayah. It is translated in our English Bibles as LORD, Jehovah, or Yahweh. The word LORD for this word is spelled with all capital letters. Its meaning is that of “to become or exist.”

 

The important thing about these names is that they all convey the meaning that our god is pre-existent. He has always been and will always be.

 

The fact that God gave His name to Moses attaches the idea of "revealing" to it. God revealed Himself to Moses and the people of Israel. Jesus became the incarnation of God and He further revealed the personality and power of the Father to us.

 

We can know God personally and abundantly because He has chosen to reveal Himself through His Son, Jesus and His Word. If we love Him we will want to know Him better and we can by the study of His Word.

The Names of God (02-27-12)

Why would the Old Testament contain over 80 names or titles to describe God? To help us. The names and titles of God enable us know the characteristices or attributes of God. Quality relationships are built on trust and trust must be built on knowledge. The more we know about God the more we will look to Him and trust Him.

 

In Sunday's message we looked at the three primary names of God; Elohim, hayah, and Adonai. The name Elohim that is translated as God in our Bibles means the strong One or the Creator, or alah, to swear or bind oneself with an oath (implying faithfulness).

 

Whenever you see the word "God" in your Bible it is a translation of the word "Elohim." Life can become painful and times can become difficult, but we can face whatever the future holds for us if we know God, if we know Elohim, the God who is the great creator; the God who is always faithful. If God created it all, and He did, He has the power to fix it. We can trust Him. We can depend on Him. But we must first know Him. We need to know Him personally. We need to know all about Him and He has given us many names and titles to help us know Him.