Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31, 2009

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22

You have probably heard this: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death."
The moral:

It doesn't matter if you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.
No one enjoys being fearful, but fear is a powerful motivator. In our verse for today, the Psalmist offers some great advice, "Let your anxiety drive you to the Lord."
"Cast your cares".
"Cast" in Hebrew means: to throw out, throw down, throw away, to hurl. It does not mean to take back what you have cast, nor to cherish, or keep - but to cast, toss, throw away from yourself.
"Cares" in Hebrew means: whatever is given by providence. That means every part of your personality, talents, thoughts, body, emotions, worries, burdens, joys, and gifts.

"LORD" as used here in Hebrew means - Eternal, Jehovah, self-existent. The One with no beginning and no end. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty." Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13.

Piece all these truths together and you get: "Throw and hurl everything that has been given to you onto the Lord. Everything that has been given to you, you are to throw onto the Lord and not to take it back."
That is your part. If you will do your part, here's what God will do:

"Sustain" in Hebrew means: "To keep in and contain, To abide, remain with and reside, To receive, comprehend and guide, To feed, nourish, make provision for and provide sustenance for."

God makes this personal - "You" - means God is willing and able to do this for you, just the way you are. No changes are needed to come before the Lord God Almighty.
Putting this all together: The Lord Jesus Christ will do all these thing for the one who casts to Him all that they have been, are now, and will be. Every facet of your life must be given away for Him in order for your joy to be full. God Himself will nourish and help you through what you are going through, no matter what it is!
"Fall" in Hebrew means: "To waver, slip, shake, fall; To be carried, cast, be out of course, be fallen in decay."

Add it up like this: The Lord God Almighty will never ever cause the just, clean and righteous person to slip and fall or be carried, cast, or be out of course and be fallen in decay. The Lord God will keep His child, that means the one who trust in Him and loves Him and obeys Him in Spirit and in Truth, He will keep that child cared for and nurtured, steadfast in His Love and protection.
What kept you from sleeping well last night? What caused you to awake with anxieties today? You can carry that again today or you can cast it on Him. Your fears can drain you or they can drive you to Him.
Listen to the Psalmist!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 30, 2009

"For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge." Psalm 51:3-4

Sin may be in but sin is serious - seriously destructive.

King David, one of the godliest men in the Bible, was overcome by a moment of lust and committed a heinous sin. Then he compounded it by having her husband killed.

Destructive. Despicable.

As we focus on the anguish of the King, we get a sense of the awfulness of sin. Here's how damaging it can be:

Sin Desecrates

David's sinful acts had wreaked destruction on the sacred trust he had with God and with Israel as the King.

Also, he desecrated his marriage as well as the marriage of Uriah and Bathsheba.

His lustful fling destroyed two marriages and an innocent loyal life.

Sin Alienates

David's flagrant disobedience alienated him from his good conscience. It set him at odds against what he knew was right and holy. His peace was gone. His joy was gone. His fellowship with God was badly strained.

Sin Humiliates

Once David came to his senses (willful sin is much like temporary insanity) he could hardly believe what he had done. This man who loved God so much had dishonored God. This man who held the Kingship in such high esteem had dishonored the throne. This man who revered the Army of God, had violated military honor by betraying one of his loyal officers.

Everything good and sacred to this Honorable man had been dishonored by his indulgent act. This was so opposite of what he desired and dedicated his life to, he could hardly believe what he had done. He completely humiliated himself and all that he loved.

Sin Separates

God is Holy. That means He cannot sin nor can anything sinful exist in His presence. We are sinners by nature. We are sinners by habit. Therefore, our nature is incompatible with God's nature and that separates us from Him. We can have no fellowship with Him. He is a stranger to Him and we to Him.

David, who had been chosen by God and had entered God's presence through obedience and imputed righteousness was now separated from God. How tragic!

Sin Complicates

God exists in unity with the Son and the Spirit. Three in one through the mystery of the Trinity. God exists in the simplicity of love, holiness, and eternity. He created man for a simple fellowship of love and creativity. Because He wanted man's freewill to matter, He gave Adam one option to obey - don't touch the Tree of Life. As long as he abides by that simple rule, he had a perfectly simple existence. But his willful rebellion against God immediately complicated his life. Humanity's plight became exponentially more difficult.

David's world became incredibly complicated by his sin. Yours will, too.

Enough already? Have I made my point? Sin is destructive.

Fortunately, God is merciful. Thankfully, a merciful God sent His Holy Son to assume the desecration, the alienation, the, the humiliation, the separation and the complications of our sins so we can know the holiness, purity and simplicity of living in His love!

That's serious!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29, 2009

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.' God's Wrath Against Mankind The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." Romans 1:16-23
Remember the good news, bad news jokes?
Doctor: I have some good news and I have some bad news.
Patient: What's the good news?
Doctor: The good news is that the tests you took showed that you have 24 hours to live.
Patient: That's the good news? What's the bad news?
Doctor: The bad news is that I forgot to call you yesterday!

Doctor: I have some good news and some bad news.
Patient: What's the good news?
Doctor: The good news is they are naming a disease after you!
In Romans Chapter 1, Paul tells you about some Good News and some bad news. I suggest you pay close attention.

Before I pursue that thought let me call your attention to the fact that their is no such thing as "Neutral" news. There is "Good News" or "Bad News" and you are involved in one or the other.
The good news is that the "Good News" IS the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Gospel" means "good news". Jesus came to bring good news from God for mankind. Jesus came to be the Redeemer that would take away the sins of the world.

Paul says that the Gospel is "the power of God for salvation". Salvation from what? Salvation from the bad news.
How does that work? What is that power?
The "Gospel" is the good news that there is a righteousness that can deliver you from the bad news. That righteousness is found in a Person, Jesus Christ. The "Gospel" is good news exposes the bad news and points to the way out. When you place our faith in that good news of God's righteousness, you enter into a relationship with Jesus that gives you His righteousness.

Part of having faith in His good news requires you to confront and confess the bad news in your life. As you cling to His righteousness and repent of your "rottenness", you enter into a personal relationship with God through Christ that gains you access to all His power and holiness! "Rottenness" is rooted in your refusal to believe the goodness and avail yourself of His righteousness. Bad news loves being rotten and revels in it.
The first chapter of Romans lays it out simply. There is good news about God's righteousness and bad news about our rottenness. It also clearly details the choices, the motives and the ultimate outcomes of each way. And it issues an ultimatum:

Live in righteousness or die in rottenness. Have the joy of knowing you are right with God or suffer the shame of rejecting Him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 28, 2009

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Psalm 46:10-11

Here's a pop quiz: "I have learned more about life through: (A) Listening (B) Talking.

Yea, me, too.

Maybe God was giving us a hint when He created us with two ears and one mouth. Unfortunately, listening doesn't come naturally to us - talking does.
I think that what the Psalmist is telling you is the same thing my Mom and my Kindergarten teacher taught you - "be quiet, pay attention and keep your hands to yourself". Great advice!
Apply that advice to this Psalm and I think it works pretty well. "Be still" means essentially that. Be quiet before the Lord, look at His Word and listen to His Spirit, and keep your hands off of what you want God to do. That sounds like it might work!
Here's what's in it for you if you can take the advice you got from God, Mom and Miss Jenny:
You will "know that He is God".
It is one thing to know that in your head and quite another to know it in your heart and spirit. Nothing gives you more confidence and boldness than knowing that God is real in your life.
You will see Him exalted in your life and in the world. In other words, when you confidently know Who God is and He becomes real TO - He becomes real THROUGH you. That is how He exalts Himself through you. When He exalts Himself through you He begins to become real to others through your life!
You will know that the "Almighty" is with you.
How great is it to know that God is with you! And as Romans tells us,"If God be for us, who can be against us?"
You will know that He is your "Fortress".
I like the sound of that, don't you? He is a FORTRESS - that's strong! He's strong!
Be quiet before God! Pay attention to God! Keep your hands to yourself! He will make it worth it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

July 27, 2009

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." Psalm 42:1

You have been there. So have I.

On a hot summer day after exercising or working in the yard, you feel like you are dying of thirst. You can't get to the 'fridge fast enough to crack open a bottle of water or a sports drink. And when you do - ahhh, the relief! The cool feel of the liquid down your parched throat and on your tongue is immediately refreshing. You thirst is slaked and your strength returns.

The Psalmist parallels that physical experience to a spiritual need. He says that he has the same desperate thirst for God as when he longs for a refreshing drink of cold water. His soul "pants" for God.

He was in the heat of a spiritual battle. He was opposed on every side. The heat from the battle was exhausting him and he was about to faint. His need was critical to the point of desperation.

When was the last time you were that desperate for God?

Jesus said, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."

God promises to respond to spiritually desperate people.

And I want you to notice that the Psalmist was not just talking about a drink of water, he was talking about "streams" of water. That is significant for several reasons.

First, a stream flows from a source. It always flows down from a source that is higher than us.

Second, since a stream flows, it is constantly fresh. Unlike a pool or a pond where water collects and stands, a stream continually refreshes itself.

Third, a stream is a steady and reliable source of refreshment.

Fourth, it is an unlimited supply of fresh cool water.

Are you getting thirsty?

Science says that about 60% of our bodies are made of water. So God built us with a big need to be hydrated with water.

Spiritually, the same is true. Our spiritual life and growth are highly dependent on His living water. You can say that we need to be hydrated or "high-drated" - or "He-drated".

Are you desperate for God? Is your soul panting for Him? What are you thirsting for?

When you have the thirst, He has the stream.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26, 2009

These are challenging times for many of us with health problems, financial stresses, family pressures and fear and frustrations related to your jobs. It can get overwhelming. These things can test our faith and cause us to give into doubt and discouragement.

I have had enough conversations and counseling sessions with you guys to know that some of you are walking through some deep waters and other are in the heat of the battle. So I thought that some encouragement might in order this morning. Let me begin by sharing a great portion of Scripture for you who are struggling:

“But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…..” Isaiah 43:1-3

From Exodus 14 I want to show you how God can use the things that threaten to destroy you and deliver you! We will look at “A Celebration By the Sea” and draw from it some truths that I hope will strengthen and encourage you.

This is very evident in there verses, but also we see how God has proved that He is in control of other situations:
"One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD." Job 1:6-12
God orchestrated the terms and conditions of Job's trial.
Paul told us in Romans that same truth:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” I Corinthians 10:13
Jesus assured Peter that He was in control of the testing that was to come:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:31

God uses the enemy, the accuser, to accomplish His purpose in our life for His glory. These Scriptures affirm that and this story proves it.

Pharoah amassed his power and might to come against God’s people. He thought he had them right where he wanted them – BUT IN FACT, GOD HAD HIM RIGHT WHERE HE NEEDED HIM TO BE!

I want you to know today that whatever is opposing you – whatever person, whatever relationship, whatever circumstance, whatever need – God has allowed it and He has you right where He wants you and He has the enemy right where He wants him and you will prevail!



This was Moses’ first big move as a leader of God’s people. He led them where God told him, but from a strategic point of view, it was the worst possible place they could be, surrounded by hills and backed up against the Sea.

Not only did this put them in a bad position with Pharaoh, it also caused many of his own leaders to doubt him and criticize him.

This was not a good day for Moses!

But again, God had them right where He wanted them. Moses was in this place because God had led him there.

There is so much good truth here! Let me try to apply this for you:

1) I know that many of you are in the place of vulnerability because you are trying to follow God.

Let me assure you – and this story proves it – that you are never stronger than when you are where God leads you. His strength is made perfect in your weakness. If you are in this struggle because of following God – He will turn this weakness into a win!

2) I know that you prefer to work from your strength not your weakness.

Well, I will speak for my self, I would rather feel like I am working from strength rather than weakness. I don’t like feeling vulnerable. I don’t like being weak. I don’t like the feeling of being under attack by the enemy – AND BY SOME OF MY FRIENDS! That is where Moses was. Maybe you are there right now.

Let me help you here – this great victory happened because their vulnerability put them in a place where God’s power could be manifest!

Do a study of the miracles and you will see that every one of them happened at a point of weakness and vulnerability.

If I could point to one reason why the Church – including our church – does not see the power of God working through it today is right at this point – WE DON’T WANT TO EXPOSE OUR VULNERABILITIES – So, therefore, God can’t work.

James says, “Confess your sins one to another and pray for each other – SO YOU MAY BE HEALED!”

Here’s what we do – when our business goes bad, or when our marriage goes bad, or when we give into a habit, or our finances tank – we run from the church and hide! What we ought to do is run TO THE CHURCH!

We could change the spiritual dynamics of this church overnight if we would begin doing that!

3) I know that there are other people, including yourself at times, who are questioning your judgment for being where you are.

Moses put his leadership credibility at risk when he obeyed God in what appeared to be an illogical move.

Have you ever failed to obey God because you didn’t want to risk your reputation or look bad to your peers?

If you will dare to be vulnerable – God will turn your vulnerability into victory!


There is an old saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. There is truth to that, but God can do even more than that!

When we understand that God is orchestrating the opposition in our life, and when we are willing to trust Him in our vulnerabilities, we allow Him to demonstrate His power and His glory!

I Want You To Notice Several Things:

1) God Works When We Work, Vv. 19-22

2) What He Wants From Us

- Deliverance Comes Through Bold Declarations, Vv. 13-14
- Deliverance Comes Through Bold Decisions, Vv. 15-18
- Deliverance Comes Through Bold Deeds, V. 21-28






Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 25, 2009

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.'" John 14:6
I found this story that illustrates the power of life in Christ, the power of knowing that you are in the truth and on your way to heaven.

“I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said.His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette. Robert has cerebral palsy.The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips. And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language. Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa. I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched his stiff fingers force open the pages. And I watched people in the audience wipe away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need for joy.”
Everything needed for joy? What is he talking about?
He is talking about life - life in Christ, Who is Life. And because of the Life that was at work in him, he pointed others to the "way, the truth, and the life".
What about you? Do you know that life? Do you know that Jesus? Are you telling others how to find "the way, the truth, and the life"?

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24, 2009

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.'" John 14:6
Truth is still highly valued in our culture even though it is rarely practiced.
We take an oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." We have truth in lending laws and truth in advertising laws because we understand that truth is the foundation of trust and trust is necessary if we are to have a coherent functioning society.
The quest for truth is as old as mankind. For centuries thinking people have asked, "What is truth?" Good question.
When someone asks, "What is truth", I think they are asking three things:
What Is Real?
Truth defines reality for us. Or at least it should. Jesus not only knows the truth, He IS THE TRUTH! Truth is not just a concept or a precept or a principle, it is a Person. Jesus came to earth to make God real to us. Jesus was God in the flesh so we could see Truth, and hear Truth, and touch Truth.
I don't know anything more real that Jesus, do you?
What Is Right?
I believe people still prefer to do the right thing. I think people nowadays have trouble knowing what is right and doing right does not come naturally for us. These days right and wrong are determined primarily by how a person feels about a situation. So right and wrong have become entirely subjective. That is for those who don't believe in Jesus.
Jesus showed us what it means to be right. Right means being right with God. Jesus was not only right, He was righteous and became our righteousness when He died for all the wrong we did. The reason He could die for all our wrong was because He was righteous.
What Is Reliable?
Truth is reliable. It stands. It will be the same tomorrow as it is today. Another word for reliable would be "absolute" - but we don't like that word.
Jesus is reliable. He is "the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow". Who else do you know like that?
When it comes to the truth about how to get to heaven, who is more real, more right and more reliable than Jesus?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 23, 2009

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.' John 14:6'"

Logically, it seems that there should be several ways or even many ways to get to heaven. Afterall, there are multiple ways to get almost anywhere. You can google or mapquest a location and have the option of finding the fastest way or the most direct way. Americans love options. We are used to options because........well, because we're AMERICANS and we can have them!

With that being true, it is not hard to understand why many in our culture are offended by the notion that there is only one way to get to heaven. That doesn't resonate with post-Christian relativist Americans. When you make that claim you will get some resistance.

Maybe you have discovered that. If you haven't you may not be taking a strong enough for the faith.

So, how can you take a reasoned and confident stand on this unpopular position - the truth - that there is only one way to heaven and it is through Jesus?

It is pretty simple, actually. If you believe that Jesus IS the Son of God Who died for the sins of the world. And if you believe that He rose again from the dead. Then obviously you should know and believe what He has to say.

Our last post dealt with the fact that Jesus is "I AM". Today we focus on His second claim, "I am THE WAY....."

Do you want to know the way to heaven? Know Jesus, He is the way to heaven. That is true because He is the way to God and God is in charge of heaven.

Jesus is the way to heaven because He is the way to forgiveness from sins. Sin keeps us from God and therefore, it keeps us from heaven.

Jesus is the way to heaven because He has been there, came here and went back there. Who else can make that claim? If I want directions to a certain place, should I ask someone who has been there before or should I take directions from someone who has not?

Jesus is the way to heaven because He has paid the price of admission. Heaven, like almost every other place, has an admission cost. The price of admission is a righteous relationship with the God of heaven. But since you are morally and spiritually bankrupt you can't pay the price. That is why God sent Jesus to pay the price for your sins. When you trust in Jesus you get access to God which also gets you entrance to heaven.

Jesus is the way because He is the Son of God. Abraham needed a way to get a son. God made a way.

Noah needed a way to save his family from the impending universal destruction of the flood. God made a way.

Israel needed some one to deliver them from captivity in Egypt. God called Moses and Moses became the way.

When Moses was leading God's people through the wilderness to the Promised Land, he ran into a barrier known as the Red Sea. Moses needed a way over or through the Red Sea because Pharoah's army had trapped them against the sea. God opened the sea and made a way!

So, when Jesus says He is the way, you can believe Him. He has always made a way where there was no way.

Until you can find someone else who is a better "I Am" and who is also "the way", you had better trust Jesus to provide the way to heaven. In the meantime, stand confidently in Jesus, the "I Am" who is the "way"!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22, 2009

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" John 14:6

Let's take it head on. The thing that is most offensive about our faith in this age of relativism and diversity is the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ.

Honestly, we don't even like to think that our neighbor, Bob, who is so kind and helpful, who is a model husband and father, who volunteers in the community and coaches little league is going to die and go to hell if he does not trust Christ for salvation.

If that thought is hard for us to handle, imagine how it sits with an non-believer.

No wonder we will be challenged in our belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Expect it. Prepare for it. Brace your faith for the attacks.

How can I do that?

Consider Who it is that make the exclusive statement, " one comes to the Father except by me."

Jesus said, "I am...."

Where have I heard that before?

God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

When Moses asked for credentials to use when he went to face a powerful skeptic, God simply said, "I AM WHO I AM". God is the Eternally Present, Eternally Powerful, and Eternally Personal God. Jesus is His Son. We either believe that or we don't. If we believe it, then we must stand on it. The only way to stand against relativism is with absolute truth.

By the way, how did that work out for Moses?

If God is Who He says He is, and if Jesus is His Son, then what He says must be obeyed. Even if it offends people. Even if it doesn't "feel right" to us.

Moses prevailed over Pharaoh because He believed God and obeyed Him, even though what God told him to do didn't always "feel right".

Here's your challenge today: Will you be right or will you "feel" right.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 21, 2009

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" John14:6
On Sunday mornings this Summer we have been building the case for the Biblical worldview. We have examined strong evidence that God exists and that He is the Creator of the universe. And we have made a strong argument for the veracity and accuracy of the Bible as God's Word. This Sunday we considered the overwhelming evidence that Jesus is the Son of God. Those truths are essential pillars for a foundation of Christian faith.
The point I made in each of these messages is that in addition to all the strong evidence to support our worldview, the most convincing proof is a transformed life. It is hard to argue with that evidence when a person bound in destructive behavior suddenly and drastically changes.
For the next five Sundays were are going to talk about the implications of these five foundational truths. This is where it will get sticky. This is where we will need to really believe what we say we believe.
One of the things that offends people in this modern post-Christian era is the exclusivity of the claims of Christ. In a day when diversity is a sacred value, Christians get serious pushback when they verbalize the absolute claims of Scripture. The secular humanists believe that truth is relative and each individual is the arbiter of their own truth. So whatever seems true to you may be different than what is true for me. But for me to say that my truth is true for everyone and their truth is untrue, THAT'S A PROBLEM for them. Suddenly their exalted value of tolerance disappears.
Here's the problem, when a culture ceases to believe in absolutes, foundational biblical truths such a those we have been studying become incoherent to the very people we are trying to reach. Here are some troubling statistics to illustrate:
1) Almost 80% of all people believe there is more than one way to get to heaven.
2) 91% of Catholics embrace this belief.
3) 68% of "evangelical" Protestants say that a person of a faith other than Christianity will still go to heaven.
4) 65% of "evangelical" teens say that you can't be sure which religion is right.
G. K. Chesterton states, "When people cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything."
Into this atmosphere enter Jesus and His claim that accepting Him as the Son of God and your Savior is the ONLY way to heaven. That is obviously not a popular view. It is becoming more unpopular by the minute.
So, what will you believe? What will be your final answer? Will you stand on the exclusive claim of Christ or join the popular sentiment of the many roads that lead to heaven? Are you willing to bear the rejection for being right?

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 2009

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
I recently got to enjoy some time with my almost 10 year-old granddaughter, Zoey. We spent the day at King's Dominion. She rode every roller-coaster she was tall enough to qualify for. She even rode the drop tower - 172 foot high that free-fall drops over 100 feet. I watched. She was fearless. I rode the Scooby Coaster with her.
I was thinking that it would be nice to be that fearless. Then I realized that one reason she was without fear was because she was with her dad and her granddad. The other reason is that she is 9 and doesn't know any better. Plus, she is more focused on fun than she is on fear. Focus matters!
Those of us who have lived a little longer have learned to be fearful because of our failures, our painful experiences, and our losses. We fear the future because we project our past forward.
The Psalmist boasts about his fearlessness. He has chosen to fear no one. How does that happen?
Rather than project his fears forward, he chooses to frame his future with faith. But faith is only as good as its object. Fear is the result of misplaced faith. If I trust in myself or if I trust in a false hope, that faith will fail me.
His faith is in the Lord's light and the Lord's salvation. How does that work?
One of the major fear inducers is darkness. Most of us are afraid of the dark when we are children. Even as adults we are careful about about going into dark areas. Darkness represents a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding or knowing the wrong things. Darkness indicates a lack of relationship with God.
God is light. He bring us knowledge and wisdom and insight. We are able to see ourselves clearly and understand our need for Him. He exposes our fears so we can replace them with faith. We overcome fear as we walk out of our darkness into His light.
God is our salvation. Saved from what? From ourselves - our self-destructive nature. From our self-will that rebels against God. God's salvation delivers us from our past and secures our future - in time and for eternity.
Is fear an issue in your life? I am not talking about a fear of roller-coasters, I am talking about fear of the future. I am talking about fear that cripples relationships and paralyzes your potential.
These are fearful times. The days ahead look foreboding. How can we not be afraid?
Simple. Make God your Lord! How do you do that? Surrender your darkness to His light. Surrender your self-will and receive His salvation.
All you have to lose is your fear!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19, 2009

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." Psalm 23
Here is the testimony of one satisfied sheep! The source of his satisfaction? A very good shepherd!
When was the last time you felt satisfied? What would it take to satisfy you? What would have to happen? What would it take? Do you even know?
How did it happen for this sheep? How did he become so satisfied?
The Present Care of His Shepherd
This satisfied sheep had a shepherd who cared for his every need. The shepherd provided for his physical sustenance by leading him to lush green pastures where he can graze to the full. The shepherd provided for his emotional security. Sheep are not built for swimming. They are terrified of rapidly moving water. Should a sheep fall into the water and his wool become saturated, he become seriously top-heavy and sink beneath the currents. But the good shepherd knows that and intentionally leads the sheep away from the swift streams to the quiet waters.
And, the good shepherd protects the safety of his sheep. He guards them with his rod and his staff. The rod is the weapon used against would be predators and the staff is used to steer a wandering sheep back to the safety of the flock.
If you are not sure what it would take to satisfy you, think about these three things: having a shepherd who provides for your sustenance, your security and your safety. That worked for this shepherd, what would that do for you?
The Promised Care of the Shepherd
The satisfaction this sheep is experiencing is attributable to the care he is presently receiving from his good shepherd. His physical needs, His emotional needs and his spiritual needs are all being met. That's helpful today, but what about tomorrow? Can I continue to count on my shepherd?
The fact is, when the Lord is your Shepherd, the future is your friend! He promises to care for you in the future just as He currently cares for you!
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
This satisfied sheep shows you that if you can find contentment in your Shepherd with His current care, you can have confidence in His continued care in days to come.
Want some satisfaction? Follow the Good Shepherd!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July 18, 2009

"Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might." Psalm 21:13

I once had a sofa bed that I needed to move up to a third-floor apartment. There was no elevator. Fortunately I had a friend named Jack who was a power-lifter. His strength and might helped me get the job done.
When I was 14 and too young to get a real job, I got hired on to bale hay. At the crack of dawn I was on duty and the work began. I will never forget the loading the first few bales onto the wagon wondering how I would have the strength to do this for the next twelve hours. I did it for twelve hours for the next three days. I had more strength than I thought. This new found strength gave me confidence.
Not that long ago, I could wrestle with my boys and win. Now they are stronger than I am. They could crush me like a soda can except they love me too much.
One of the things that make the Virginia Tech Hokies a perennial power in football is that they have one of the best strength and conditioning programs in the country. They take strong heathy young men and make them much stronger. When the ball is snapped at the line of scrimmage, strength matters!
We honor strength in our culture. In fact, our world is governed by the aggressive use of force. The nation with the strongest values, and the strongest economy, and the strongest will, and the strongest military will win. It is a fact of life. History bears it out.
As I was reading this Psalm this morning it dawned on me that I worship God for His holiness and for His love and for His grace and for His goodness and His mercy, but the Psalmist here exalts Him for His strength.
Meditating on that I realized he is right! If it were not for the strength and power and might of our God, none of these other virtues would matter. God can manifest all of His goodness and righteousness because He has the power to execute it! If He were unable to overcome evil, His holiness would be of no consequence.
Remember when you were a child boasting that your dad could beat up their dad? The Psalmist is essentially doing that. He is exalting in the fact that His God is greater than all other gods. God is more powerful than evil, more powerful than time, more powerful than nations, more powerful than death, and always will be!
There is only one thing that God can't overpower - your will. He wants you to surrender that to His strength. Like the Psalmist, God wants you to "sing and praise His might".
If you sing about salvation - praise Him for His might. If you sing about deliverance - praise Him for His might! If you praise Him for healing - praise Him for His might! If you praise Him for provision - praise Him for His might! If you praise Him for protection - praise Him for His might!
Martin Luther had it right - "A Mighty Fortress IS Our God!"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 17, 2009

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward." Psalms 19:7-11

My son-in-law is on the road a lot because he drive a truck for Coca Cola. For the most part he goes to the same places during the week, but occasionally he will be assigned another route. For those days when he draws an unfamiliar route, he has a GPS device to help him find his way. It has never led him astray!

The Psalmist is celebrating the fact that God has given him a spiritual GPS system. What is that system? The law of the Lord, the statutes of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord, the commands of the Lord, and the ordinances of the Lord.
Of course, "GPS" are initials that stand for "global positioning system". However, in reference to this Psalm "GPS" means "God's positioning system". David wanted to be where God wanted him to be so he recognized his need to be positioned by God.

When David wrote these verses he was on the run from King Saul. He had to figure out how to stay alive, how to protect his men, how to honor God and at the same time respect the King who was hunting him down. Not unlike the challenges and pressures you face each day.

Life is difficult to navigate on a good day. David was not having many good days. He needed the guidance of God's positioning system. How does that work?

God's law. Every positioning system ever devised from the ancient sextant to the modern satellite guided ones depended on a fixed point of reference. Whether it be the sun during the day or the North star at night, accurate guidance depends on a fixed point. God's law flows from God's character and that ain't changin'!

God's statutes. A statute helps with the application of the law. It gives it definition. The law gives you the true north but the statute aims you five degrees to the right or left. Face it, your internal guidance system is flawed. When you follow it you end up lost. You need God's law and statutes to guide you through the complicated directions of relationships and obligations.

God's precepts. A precept gives you moral guidance. For example, you can get the right directions but if you exceed the speed limit or run stop signs while heading in that direction, you will not succeed in your journey. You are morally bankrupt, you have little natural regard for laws. Unless you are guided by His precepts you will be arrested in your journey. The precepts are like traffic signs posted along the way.

God's commands. Sometimes you travel unfamiliar roads that are narrow and winding. You worry about staying on the road and keeping in your lane. God's commands are like the guard rails one either side of your road. They are there to protect you. They are like the white lines and the yellow lines on the highway that mark your lane and define the other lane. The lines tell you when you are free to pass and when you must stay in your lane.

God's ordinances. An ordinance refers to something that is done regularly for your benefit. In a spiritual sense, Communion is an ordinance. As you navigate through the complications of life, relationships, responsibilites and obligations, you need some "routine maintenance" to stay in good condition. If you don't stop to check God's road map occasionally, you will veer off course. If you don't pray regularly, your attitude will drift. When you don't worship on a continual basis you will forget why you are on the journey.

Life is a complicated journey. It was for the Psalmist and it is for you. There is no time to make wrong turns or get off course. David successfully navigated his course. He honored God, respected the King, cared for his men, and eventually arrived at God's destination for his life - the throne of Israel. He was able to steer God's nation because he had learned to follow his "GPS".

Do you have a "GPS" - God's positioning system? Is it turned on? Are you commited to His laws, statutes, precepts, commands and ordinances? If not, no wonder you're lost!

July 16, 2009

"On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!" Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. " Acts 20:7-12

This morning I read in the Psalms and continued reading in Acts. Of course, I found a number of inspiring verses. But, this amazing incident caught my attention for two reasons: because it IS amazing how Paul raised this young man from the dead, but also, I found it encouraging that as great as Paul was, someone actually fell asleep on him when he was speaking. Maybe you have to be a preacher to appreciate that!

Pardon me for indulging myself in this moment, but there is a much greater point to be made in all of this. God's power is made perfect in the weaknesses of our humanity. Maybe Paul had this incident in mind when he wrote:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." II Cor. 4:7

Paul was in the midst of a gruelling travel schedule and the hour was late. He had been teaching intensely for hours. No one can be at their best under those conditions. Our bodies and minds get tired. And Eutychus had been sitting and listening for hours, now the hour was late. He dozed off. It is not a good idea to doze off when you are sitting in a third-story window. So, when he fell asleep he FELL - ASLEEP. The fall killed him.

Needless to say, that killed the meeting. When Paul received word of what had happened, he switched from preaching the Word to practicing it. Undeterred by the gravity of the situation, Paul simply called on God to revive this young man. God did!

Wow! It is one thing to put people asleep when you preach - it is quite another to raise them from the dead!

Here's the big message in the midst of these ramblings, GOD'S STRENGTH AND POWER ARE GREATER THAN YOUR WEAKNESSES! When you are doing your best to serve Him, He will be His best for you. Don't hide your weakness. Don't apologize for it. Praise God for revealing Himself through your limitations.

Have you surrender to God - weaknesses and all?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14, 2009

"For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring." Acts 17:28

The Apostle Paul was preaching in Athens and noticed that they were very religious but did not know the One true God or His Son Jesus. In their shrines they had many idols to many idols and to make sure they did not miss a god or offend a diety they built an idol to "the unknown god".

Paul saw an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and began to tell them about this God Who was knowable, Who wanted to be known, and Who "was not far from them."

What Paul told them about God, we could stand to hear. Let's examine it more closely:

The Centrality of God - "In Him....."

God will not settle for being "a" god. He must be "the" God. There is no god like our God. He is beyond compare. He created you for Himself. He put within you a "God-shaped" void that nothing else can satisfy. You were never designed to be happy or fulfilled without having God squarely in the center of His will.

The Vitality of God - "....we live and move......

When God identifies Himself as the "Alpha and Omega", the beginning and the end, He is acknowledging that all life begins and ends with Him. Since that glorious and ancient day when He commanded, "Let there be....", life has flourished on this beautiful planet. And He personalized life when He sent His only Son, Jesus, so that His life could flourish within us.

The Identity With God - "....and have our being."
Paul was speaking to men who were very religious and somewhat superstitious. They wanted to make sure that they covered their bases spiritually. If there was a god they needed to know - they wanted to know him. It was important for them to be right with their gods. I imagine that the Great Apostle was moved by their sincere desire to be right with a God they had yet to know. So he sweetens the deal by promising that this unknown God, his God, is One Who knows you, can be known by you, and wants to dwell in you. This God is so vast and so good that you can lose yourself in Him - and only when you lose yourself in Him do you find yourself! Some of them did!
Have you?

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13, 2009

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." Psalm 1

One more thought before we move on from Psalm 1. I have talked about three things you should NOT do if you want to be blessed and two things you SHOULD do if you want to be blessed.

Here is what the blessing looks like:

1) "He is like a tree planted by streams of water that brings forth fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither...." The first aspect the of the blessing is stability. Few things are more stable than a healthy tree. My neighbor had one that send out roots and one of the roots ran under my blacktop. That is not a good combination. But in the case of a tree planted by the water, that is a best case scenario. One of the blessings that God wants to pour into your life is stability. Will you put down roots into His love and grace?
2) "Whatever he does prospers" A second aspect of the blessing is success. One of the reasons that you will be blessed with success is that you will be meditating on His law. When you know His law and obey it, you will accomplish God's will. For the believer, God's will = success. Another reason for enjoying success is the stability you have from planting your roots in the grace of God. Stability leads to success. I have a dear friend in ministry who has been at his church since 1973. When he went there it was a struggling congregation of 25 people barely clinging to life. Nowadays, they enjoy nearly 3,000 people on two campuses plus a Spanish-speaking congregation. Lucky? I don't think so.
3) "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous....." Another blessing of the blessing is safety. I remember as a child seeing a commercial on TV (which was a new invention back then) and the tag line for the commercial was, "Sleep well tonight, your Air Force is on guard." That made me feel safe because I knew our Air Force was stronger and better than any other air force that might threaten us. We need to feel safe. God wired us that way. And the safety we need is the safety of knowing that even though the Air Force is on duty, God is watching over me and He is way bigger and stronger than any enemy that would threaten us. It is good to know that He watches over the Air Force, too!
It is good to desire blessings. It is good to pursue them. But the way to know blessing in your life is to know the Blesser! Don't do the three things that Psalm 1 speaks of. Do the two things it prescribes, and you will be able to know God and enjoy His blessings of stability, success, and safety!
I don't know how that sounds to you, but I think it is TREEMENDOUS!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 12, 2009

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." Psalm 1

I probably coined a word in my last post. I'm not sure that "blessable" is a word, but how else can I express the desire to be blessed? So, we will go with that word.

In my previous post I mentioned three things the Psalmist says you should NOT do if you desire to be "blessable".

This morning I want to focus on two things he says you SHOULD do.

First, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord...." - If you want to be "blessable" love what is blessed. What is more blessed than the law of the Lord? What is the law of the Lord? Does the number 10 give you a clue? God's Commandments are His law. Jesus distilled them into two: Love God with all you heart and love your neighbor as yourself. 

So, in short, the law of the Lord is love. If you want a blessing and if you want to be a blessing, delight yourself in loving God and delight in letting Him love others through you.

Second, "...on the law he meditates day and night..." - "Blessable" people seek God's blessing 24/7 and 365. God blesses consistency. He is not looking for people who show up at church and put on their happy face. He is not impressed with people who shout and praise for an hour on Sunday and live like the world the rest of the week. To be "blessable" start your day focused on the love of God - His love for you, your love for Him, and His love for others. Let Him love you. Receive His love by faith. Fill your mind with His Word. Fill your spirit with His love. Ask Him to live in you and love through you. At night as you wrap up your day, celebrate His love. Thank Him for loving you. Thank Him for touching others with His love through you. Lay your head on your pillow assured of His love through the night. Find joy in knowing that His love will await you in the morning.

What delights you? 

What is on your mind in the morning? 

What guides your behavior during the day? 

What are you last thoughts in the night?

There are two things "blessable" people delight in - His love for them and their love for Him. They dwell on His love. They dwell in His love. Delightful!

July 11, 2009

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." Psalm 1
Everyone I know wants to be blessed. In fact, many of them have formed "bless me" clubs. What's a "bless me" club? It is a group of people who chase around looking for the next blessing. They flock to this seminar, or that concert, or the next miracle rally in pursuit of "the blessing". Actually, I am not entirely sure what it is they are seeking, but they seem to think that a blessing is something quite elusive and it is an accomplishment to catch one. It must be worth it when they do.
So, Brad, are you saying you do want to be blessed?
I am not saying that at all. But my Bible reading has me in Psalms 1 this morning and it focuses squarely on the topic of blessings. "Blessed is the man" is how it starts out. As meditated on this short but powerful little chapter, I learned a few things about blessings. If you want to be blessed you need to be "blessable". I thought I would share with you how that happened and you can let me know what you think:
1) "Blessed is....." - A blessing is not something you seek or possess, it is something you are. "Blessed" means "happy". If you only know happiness in fleeting moments that are captured and then lost, you are missing what God intends for you - happiness as a way of life.
2) "who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked...." - If you want to be a blessing and live in contentment and joy, don't listen to people who aren't. One of the marvels of our modern age is that there is now more bad advice that ever, but it can be made available instantly through a variety of sources! You can get it on the Internet, TV, radio, or hanging out with the wrong people.
3) "or stand in the way of sinners..." - If you want to be blessed you act like it. God can't bless sin and sin separates you from the source of blessing. So, if your closest friends are sinners and you continually expose yourself to sinful people and their sinful thoughts and ideas and behaviors - guess what?!
4) "or sit in the seat of mockers." - Blessed people aren't critics or Monday morning quarterbacks. It seems there are more of that sort of person than there used to be. Maybe it is a result of the electronic media and the reality genre that puts you in the role of spectator and judge without actually being involved. It is much easier to sit and pronounce judgments on others that it is to do, the things that make you "blessable". Or, rather than become blessable why not try to drag down others to you unblessable level?
Being "blessable" is something all of us can do. The Psalmist recommends it and shows the way. Becoming "blessable" consists in two parts, what you don't do and what you do. This morning I focused on the don'ts. I'll have more to say tomorrow.
Is there something or someone that is preventing you from being "blessable" right now?