Friday, August 31, 2018

September 1, 2018

"To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”  Genesis 3:17-19

Is your work a job or a joy?

We established that work came from God. The first glimpse we get of Him in the Bible He is working! Creation was a joyful experience for Him but it WAS work! He found it necessary to rest on the seventh day.

After He created Adam the first thing God did was to put him to work in Eden, aka - Paradise. It is clear that work has a sacred aspect to it.

So, when did work stop being a joy and become a job? What changed that working became more of a pain than a pleasure?

Sin happened. Adam got on the wrong side of the Boss when he disobeyed God. Everything changed after that from a labor of love to labor. Because of sin his relationship to the Boss changed and his attitude toward his job changed and his motivation for work changed. That took the joy out of the job.

Before Adam sinned he worked to please the Boss. After sin he had to work to pay the bills. Before he sinned all of nature was working with him, but the curse of sin was that nature turned against him. Suddenly the earth was not as fertile and weed and thorns grew like wheat and corn once did.

If you have a hard day on the job today, you can blame Adam! He caused work to change from joy to a job. But rather than feel sorry for yourself, feel the sting of sin and determine to turn from it. Decide to get right with the Boss and put Him in charge of your attitude. Remind yourself of the sancity of work and do your job in a way that honors God. As you work to serve the Lord, the joy will return to your job!

Work at bringing the joy back to your job.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

August 31, 2018

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."   Genesis 2:2-3

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."  Genesis 2:15

Maybe it is just me, but doesn't it seem a little strange that we would honor the Labor Movement in America by taking a day off of work?

In advance of the Labor Day week-end, I want to share some Biblical perspectives on work. Like every relevant thing that happens in your life, the Bible has quite a bit to say about work. For instance, our verses referenced above shows where work came from - GOD! God created work!

The very first time you see God in the Bible guess what He is doing - WORKING! If you don't think that creating the universe was work then explain why God set aside a day to rest from His work. Sure, God is different fom you, but the reason people generally rest is because they need a break from working.

Maybe you don't feel like your job is divine, but the concept of work is! Notice that not only did work originate with God, but when He placed Adam in Eden one of the first things He did was set him up with a job! He was to tend to the plants and animals that God had placed in Paradise. Talk about a dream job and a perfect work environment - move over Apple headquarters!

Work is worth celebrating! Maybe it would be more appropiately celebrated by actually working, but work is God's idea for His creatures! Work has God's seal of approval!

So, you may want to re-examine your attitude toward work in view of the fact that it is God's idea and His invention. And further, I had a college professor who proffered the idea that if you want to know what heaven will be like, look at Eden since it was the original paradise! There could be some validity in that view. It would be easier to make the case that it's true than to argue it isn't. Therefore, you can figure that there will be a job awaiting you in Heaven. Dying doesn't get you out work but it will certainly get you a better Boss!

Celebrate God's gift of work!

August 30, 2018

"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ" II Peter 1:1

Not only does Peter identify himself as a "servant of Jesus Christ" - which IS significant - but notice that he signs in using two names, "Simon Peter".

In the Jewish culture names were significant. Unlike today when children are often named after a sports celebrity or entertainment star, in those days the name was given according to some prominent characteristic of the child.

You may remember that when he dropped his nets and left his boats to begin following Jesus he was known by the name "Simon". The name "Simon" means "shifting sand". If you know very much about Peter you will understand why that name was appropriate.

When he identifies himself by his given name he is acknowledging the way he was when he began to follow Jesus. He was weak and inconsistent in his new found faith. One moment he would get it right and the next moment he would be fall flat on his face.

Maybe you can relate to that. I sure can!

But Simon received a name change. Here is how it happened:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Matthew 16:15-18

When Peter began to understand Who Jesus really was, it began a dramatic change in his life and Jesus recognizing that change marked it in a pretty big way - He changed Simon's name to "Peter". "Peter" means "rock". So you could say, his name changed from "Sandy" to "Rocky". As you recall that a name reflects the character or nature of a person you see what a significant change that was!

Let me mention a couple of significant insights about Jesus in this story. First, Jesus sees your potential long before you do! Peter was far from being a rock when Jesus changed his name to "Rock". Second, Jesus patiently empowers you until you become the "rock" He knows you can be! Jesus believed in Peter when Peter doubted himself. Even when Peter betrayed Jesus, Jesus never doubted Peter. And sure enough, Peter become not only a rock but he became a foundation upon which the Church was built! Once he got his eye on the prize, everything changed!

It may seem like a small or even insignificant that the Great Apostle opens his second letter with the moniker "Simon Peter". But since the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit, EVERYTHING is significant and the significance of using both names was to glorify God by recognizing His transformational power!

Like Peter, you may be a believer in transition. You may be changing from shifting sand to a rock. I want to encourage you to keep your eye on the prize. I want to remind you that God believes in your potential even more than you do and He promised you an new name:

"I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.  The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."  Revelation 3:11-13

Hang tough, Rocky! Keep your eye on the Prize!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Key To Fighting Right

“If a house is divided against itself that house will not be able to stand” Mark 3:25

You hear it at every wedding and you see it in the Bible and it sounds so wonderful – this thing about “two becoming one”.

How does that happen? It defies any mathematical formula known to man!

Obviously it is talking about unity.

You may think, “Well, if she would just agree with me all the time then we could get along!”

She might think the same thing. One thing is for sure, you can’t agree with one another all the time so how do you achieve unity when two people don’t always see things the same? How do you get it right when only one of you can be right?

To achieve unity and oneness in a marriage you have to learn to fight right and disagree agreeably.

Some of my best friends in ministry are guys that I have had heated disagreements with but because we both love God and we both loved the ministry and we loved each other, we fought through the issue in a godly way and learned to know and love each other even more.

That is what God wants for marriage. And your best chance at learning to fight right is to first learn what is right and fight for that. But how do I know what is right for my marriage? Ask God.

The key to fighting right is to learn what God says is right for your marriage and fight for that. That means that if my idea or my desire does not line up with what God’s Word says is best for my marriage then I give that up for the good of the relationship.

Several things that NEVER work and should be out of bounds in a fight:

1) Never drag up things from the past
2) Never resort to name calling
3) Never raise your voice
4) Never withhold sex as a weapon

You and your spouse should set down and establish rules for how to fight right. Use the Bible as your rule book.

What will you do today to help you fight right? 

Will you fight through your disagreements and fight your way to a better marriage?

Monday, August 27, 2018

August 28, 2018

"Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." Genesis 3:13

One of the first popular game shows in America was called "Truth or Consequences". It premiered on the radio in 1940 and continued on TV until the late '80's. That is a long run!

Any show that can make the transition from radio to TV has to be intriguing!

"Truth or Consequences" was the show that first made Bob Barker famous and led to his long career as host of "The Price Is Right".

One more bit of trivia about the show before I attempt to make a point. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico derived its name from the game show. Original host, the great Ralph Edwards, once promised on the air that he would host a show from any town that would take the name of the show as the moniker for their city. Hot Springs, New Mexico took him up on the dare. They changed their name and he did the show!

Perhaps the reason for the show's popularity was its simplicity. A contestant was given trivia question to answer and if they could not answer the question they would be assigned a stunt to do. Most questions were so obscure that they could not be answered and the consequences would be endured. After awhile contestants began missing on purpose just to do the stunts.

What does this have to do with us?

Adam and Eve erred from the truth and we are suffering the consequences. Boy, are we!

The plight of the human race has become like a non-stop game of truth and consequences. Except it stopped being funny long ago and the consequences are eternal.

Due to the deliberate rebellious decision by Adam and Eve, our judgment has become permanently flawed. We have trouble recognizing the truth and it is easy for us to believe a lie. And worse, it is not just lies that we believe, it is THE LIE. What is THE LIE? It is the thought that we can be like God. It is pride in its worst form. It is Independence run amok. It is a perverse fantasy of being able to sin without any consequences.

Here's the good news! Jesus, Who IS the Truth also took our consequences! Believe that! Receive that! Exchange your fantasy for a faith-based relationship with Jesus. Confess your sinfulness, repent of your pride, and humble yourself to the Truth!

It is no game. Let Him show you what He can do!

August 27, 2018

"And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:8

What a crazy way to save the world! Crazy amazing that is!

It looked hopelessly impossible. Here is a Holy God separated from His beloved creatures by their sins. They would always be sinful and He would always be holy. Man could no more change his nature than God could His!

God longed for fellowship with man. Man needed fellowship with God. Man had tried to become like God - that didn't work too well! In fact, that is what created the problem! So, what was to be done?

If the guilty cannot become innocent, could the innocent become guilty? And if He could, would He? And if He would, why would He?

Jesus answered that question. He stepped up to resolve the dilemma. And Paul writes about here in Philippians 2. It is an idea only God could conceive and only Christ could execute. Perhaps Paul is the only one who could explain it.

Man couldn't reach up to God so God "morphed" down to man and Jesus was the result. Through the mystery of the "hypostasis" God was poured into man and a Savior was born! The perfect solution to a perplexing problem - a Being born Who was 100% God and 100% man. Just what God needed! The only hope for men!

How ironic that man became spiritually lost in the attempt to become God and the solution was found in God becoming a man! Mankind fell in his attempt to be God. Man was redeemed by One who surrendered His Godly privilege and humbly put on flesh. The One Who is life, the One Who breathed life into the nostrils of Adam, came in the flesh to suffer and to obediently lay down His life.

God did what He did because only He could do it! He did it in a way that only He could imagine. And He did for a reason that only He can comprehend.

So what are we to do with this amazing news? How are we to respond to this incredible offer? Why did He make sure Paul explained this spiritual truth in such detail? What does He expect or require of us?

He asks us to respond in kind - to humble ourselves as He did. To receive His righteousness we must confess our sinfulness. We must receive His holiness and repent of our selfishness.

Christ became like us to provide a way for us to become like Him! What we longed for and lost, He gave up to gain!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

August 26, 2018

"In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:3-8

A preacher was once preaching about Heaven and he was good! Passionately and eloquently he elaborated on the golden streets and the pearly gates and the angelic choir and the crystal sea and the river of life and the throne of God and the eternal bliss! He was on a roll and he had the congregation in a frenzy. (Of course, if you can't get people excited about Heaven you're not much of a preacher).

At the conclusion of this stem-winder he asked for a show of hands for everyone who wanted to go to Heaven. Well, every hand in the place shot high in the air - except for one. The preacher was momentarily thrown by this but figured the man must not have heard the question. So he repeated in louder and engendered the same response - all hands except this one fellow.

The preacher was curious now so he called this guy out, "Sir, I see you are the only one who doesn't want to go Heaven. Can you tell this congregation why that is?"

"Well, preacher," the man responded, "I definitely want to go to Heaven! But it sounded like you were trying to get a group together to go today and I can wait for later!"

That is what I have found about Heaven - everyone wants to go, they just don't want to go today! You can add me to that number!

It is like the Indian scout that came back to General Custer on that fateful day. He reported to the General, "I have 'em bad news and I have 'em some good news."

"Give me the bad news first," Instructed Custer.

"As far as I can see to east there are Indians. As far as I can see to the north there are Indians. I look to the west and all I can see is an Indian war party. When I looked to the south - nothing but Indian braves!"

"Wow, that IS bad news," moaned the General.

"What's the good news?"

"You won't have to go back through Nebraska!"

Heaven has some real good news and a little bit of bad news.

The good news is that it will be an amazingly beautiful place of peace and joy and fulfillment. There will be no more pain and suffering. There will be no sin or evil. We will get to see God and we will get to see Jesus and we can fellowship with all the great saints of the ages. We will get to be with loved ones and there will be no more good-byes. And that is just a short list!

The bad news is we have to go through death to get there.

But when Nicodemus came to Jesus to find out about Heaven Jesus didn't talk to him of death, He taught him about birth. A second birth. A spiritual rebirth that has to happen in order to be prepared for Heaven.

God's Kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom. Flesh and blood cannot enter it. Especially sinful flesh and blood.

You and I are born into this world as sinful fallen creatures by virtue of our human nature which was corrupted by Adam. So, we come into this world spiritually separated from God, Who is holy. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that the reason he can't understand these spiritual truths Jesus is teaching is because his spirit is dead and unresponsive to God. God is a Spirit.

That is why sin is wrong. Sin doesn't threaten God or lessen God. Sin saddens God because it keeps us separated from Him and He desires fellowship.

Being "born again" requires a decision to turn away from our sinful desires and turn to Christ. When you turn to Christ and trust Him to be your Savior the Spirit of God enters your spirit and brings it to life. Your spirit lives because it is connected to the One Who is the source of Life.

"Born of water" refers to your physical birth. But "born of the spirit" means a spiritual rebirth is required to bring you into His Kingdom. Once you are "born again" you can live in relationship with God and He can begin the process of transforming your heart and your mind into the image of Christ.

Don't die unless you have been born - again!

Friday, August 24, 2018

August 25, 2018

"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." John 3:1-2

As a man, I hate to ask for directions. I am not exactly sure why that is. A little research threw a little light on the query. Here is one person's theory:

"It is important to understand that men are NEVER "lost." To him, that implies a helplessness that he will never willingly experience. He simply hasn't gotten there yet and he has complete faith in his ability to do so.

Also, a man's unwillingness to stop and ask for directions is consistent with his survival instincts and actually not stubborn at all. First, the act of stopping the car, and rolling down the window, makes him (and you) more vulnerable than he is willing to be just to get some place faster.

Second, from a man's point-of-view, the moment he asks a gas station attendant, or someone on the street, for directions, he has put his life and yours in the hands of a stranger! Men, wisely, only put their lives in the hands of people who have proven themselves trustworthy. The way he sees it, you are both better off searching for your location yourselves than being at the mercy of the judgment of someone he doesn't know and trust." Alison Armstrong

That sounds good to me!

Mind you it is one thing to be unsure of your location in your SUV on a country road somewhere and quite another to be totally clueless about your eternal destination. You can recover from being temporarily lost but when you are lost for eternity - IT IS OVER!

I give Nicodemus a great deal of credit. He was a proud man and a very religious man. His entire life had been devoted to studying the Law and the Prophets. This man was a knowledgeable in all 632 Levitical regulations and all their applications. All the people he hung out with were just like him in terms of knowledge and expertise. But Nicodemus was different in a very important and admirable way. He knew he was lost and wasn't afraid to asking for directions.

He knew enough about religious to recognize that religion is not enough! He understood that it is not WHAT you know but it is WHO you know.

Let me ask you, "If you were to die tonight do you know for sure you would go directly to Heaven to be with God eternally?"

I am not asking you, "Are you religious?" Nicodemus was religious but he also recognized he was spiritually lost - eternally lost! He had an urgency to do something about that. You should have an urgency about that as well!

As you read this and as you, like Nicodemus, honestly recognize that you are unsure about your eternal destination will you face it with the same sense of urgency he did? And will you do what he did? Will you look to Jesus for the directions to get to Heaven? Will you humble yourself to accept His Way? That would be wise since He IS "the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Him."

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Secret Service Saints

"His lord said to him, Well done, good and true servant: you have been true in a small thing, I will give you control over great things: take your part in the joy of your lord." Matthew 25:23

This is the age of the 24/7, 365 news cycle so everyone is looking for the next big personality and the next spectacular story. It is understandable in a medium that must draw ratings to survive (unless you are CNN or MSNBC).

But often lost in this are the people who really make America work and who are the genius of America's greatness. These are the millions who do the right things for the right reasons every day. Their faithfulness in the "small things" form the backbone of our culture. Maybe they are unnoticed by the mass media but not by the people who benefit from their dependability.

Perhaps you are one of these dependable "go to" people and wonder if anyone notices or who cares. If you are wondering whether it is worth it I have good news for you! According to our verse for this morning, God notices small things done well! (He also keeps track of the things done wrong!)

The Bible is replete with stories of "back bench" people who just showed up every day and did small things well.

My favorite is Andrew. He was one of the disciples who didn't get much notice but the few times he shows up in the New Testament he is bringing someone to Jesus.

It was Andrew who brought his brother, Peter to Jesus. Peter became an essential player in the establishment of the Church. It was Andrew who brought the little lad with the lunch to Jesus. Five loaves of bread and two fish - a simple lunch and a small act of generosity "hooked up" by Andrew. Remember how that turned out? Miraculous!

Over 46 years of serving in local churches I have developed a profound appreciation for those servants who labor in obscurity doing those tasks that no one else wants to do but are essential to the function of the church. While most never get the notoriety they deserve, Jesus notices and He keeps track. Without those choice servants there would be no great churches like North Point or Twelve Stone or First Baptist in the Atlanta area, or Spotswood or Life Point- or New Life in our region. Apart from those scores of unheralded heroes no one would have heard of  or Kevin Myers, or Charles Stanley, or Andy Stanley, or Drew Landry, or Daniel Floyd or Mike Hilson - or, you name it.......

Think about it, some unknown person changed Charles Stanley's diaper in a church nursery somewhere in Southern Virginia. Someone told Bible stories to Rick Warren and helped him fall in love with Jesus. You have no idea what God will do in the lives of those you care for or teach Sunday after Sunday that you sacrifice your opportunity for worship in order to minister to them.

Here's what I know about faithful servants in a local church. The secret service saints ministering in the shadows do more to make churches great and pastors successful than the other way around. So, here is my tribute to those of you who serve!

I love you! I appreciate you! I know the value of what you do! And to a much greater extent - so does God!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

August 23, 2018

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." James 4:1-3

A rather cranky old grandfather was taking a nap one afternoon when his mischievous grandsons carefully smeared some Limburger cheese in his mustache. It wasn't long until stench woke him up. Sitting up with a start he exclaimed, "My gosh! It stinks in here!"

Retreating to the next room he said again, "It stinks in here, too!"

The same happened in the next room and the next causing him to blurt out, "The whole house stinks!"

Running outside to catch fresh air he found no relief to which he complained, "The whole world stinks!"

Have you ever felt like the whole world stinks?

Does discontent and trouble you seem to follow wherever you go?

Maybe it is just a lousy world you live in. Maybe not.

James informs us that the main problem with your world is the rotten smelly stuff going on in you! And trouble follows you because you ARE the trouble and wherever you go - well - there you are! The one person you can never escape is you!

He said that, not me! I'm just the messenger!

The problem seems to be desires that are at conflict within you. You want what you don't have or can't have and you despise what you do have. Pretty miserable.

Remember that James is written to Christians. So, the desires that were at war within them were their sinful desires versus the will of God. That serves to remind you that you cannot be at war with God and have inner peace.

Earlier in his book, James comments on this same problem using another metaphor. "That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." James 1:7-8

Does that describe you? Is that the turmoil raging in you?

If you have two natures warring within you, one of them has to win and one of them has to lose. God doesn't send His Spirit into your life to be a room mate. When you receive Christ as your Savior He comes in with the plan of becoming your Lord! He won't settle for less.

Christians can be the most miserable of all because they possess the two natures. Non-Christians just sin and don't worry about it because their conscience is dead and they are just doing what comes naturally. But once Christ becomes your Savior and the Spirit is activated in your life, the fight is on! His Spirit wars against your flesh. Someone has to surrender!

Think about it. If you are at war with God, who will ultimately win? Who should win?

If God will win and if He should win why are you fighting a losing battle? 

When will you surrender? 

When will you declare Him Lord?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The War Waging Within You

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." James 4:1-6

Ever feel anxious and you're not sure why? Ever been fearful for no apparent reason? Have you exploded with anger and wondered where that came from? Does your life seem out of control no matter how hard you try to control it?

What is going on? Where does all this angst and turmoil come from?

James says there is a war waging within you. That is the problem and it is a major one!

In these several verses James diagnoses the problem and it is not good news!

First, he says you have a "lust" problem.

Lust is caused by misdirected desires. Your sinful nature, if unchecked, will pervert good God-given desires into selfish and sinful desires. Though you were created for God's pleasure you are driven to seek your own, deceived by the lie that happiness comes from "out there somewhere".

When you are on a quest for pleasure and self-fulfillment, nasty things happen. For instance, lust can never been satisfied. Living for selfish pleasure is makes you a slave to the next indulgence moment. Also, when you are out for selfish pleasure other people become either objects to be used or competitors to be defeated.

The result of this pursuit of selfish desires is turmoil within and trouble without. Being controlled by lust will wreck relationships rob you of joy.

Not only do you have a "lust" problem you also have a "trust" problem.

When you live under the delusion that you can find satisfaction from the outside in then you trust yourself to make it happen. In essence, when you trust yourself to fulfill your lust, you put yourself in the place of God. That is an impossible role for an unreachable goal.

The wisest man who ever lived once said, "Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."

To translate that in the terms of our discussion he is saying, "Trust - don't lust."

Why would you seek to fill your life with created things when you could have the Creator?

Let me ask you, how's your heart? 

Are you lusting or are you trusting?

August 21, 2018

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:13-20

Last words are important. Last words of important people are especially important. Last words of important people talking about important things are very important.

So, as James draws this important Book to a conclusion what do you think his focus would be?

Since he has been reminding these believers what a healthy church looks like it would stand to reason that what he says would be most important and he would center on important stuff. What important stuff should a church know in order to be healthy?

According to what he writes in these last several verses, healthy relationships are essential to a healthy church fellowship. And healthy church relationships center around prayer, praise, personal purity, and passion for spiritually unresolved people. Healthy horizontal relationships result in healthy vertical relationships. The better we get along with one another the better we will get along with God and the better we relate to God the better we will relate to others - especially believers in our fellowship.

For years I have looked at this portion of Scripture and focused on the promise for healing. God does heal. But after He heals you, then what? How do you stay healthy? How do you become more healthy?

I think this is the focus of what James is communicating as he seeks to close an important letter filled with important reminders.

Let's explore some of these things together over the next several days.

I commented on prayer yesterday but there is much more to be said about it. Prayer IS the key to a healthy relationship with God and having a healthy relationship with Him is essential to your health. Praying with others is central to healthy relationships with them. Praying together with other believers is a key component of spiritual unity and power. As you call on Him together you are bonded to Him and to one another. As you intercede to God for one another, fellowship goes to another level. Love grows. Compassion grows. Trust develops. Friendship deepens.

Those are all healthy things!

You knew prayer was important but maybe you just didn't understand HOW important it is. Now you do! So, how will this influence your prayer life? What will you do differently in your prayer life - pray tell?

The old saying is trite but true, "The family that prays together stays together" and they like it!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

August 20, 2018

"Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord." James 5:10

James never says, "If you suffer", he assumes that Christians WILL suffer. And with good reason - you will!

I am not being morbid or negative but think with me why it must be true that believers will necessarily suffer. Either you will try to conform to the thoughts and behaviors of this world or you will surrender to the Lordship of Christ and follow Him. Those are your two options and either one will result in suffering.

If you are a believer and yet you are chasing the world filled with worldly desires and attitudes, God is going to discipline you through suffering. He loves you too much to allow you to walk away from Him and return to your self-centered life so He will allow difficulties to enter your life to chasten you.

And, if you are a believer and you sincerely and whole-heartedly follow Christ in humility obedience you will please your God BUT you will think and act in a way that is contrary to the world. So, at the same time you are pleasing God you will run into conflict with the people of the world.

Christians are stretched between two worlds. You can only live in one, so you will always be in opposition to one of them. That causes conflict and suffering.

Those James wrote his letter to were suffering because of their testimonies. They were trying to live for God and were running afoul of the world. The ways of the world and the people of the world were trying to push him into their mold. Their refusal to do so was bringing suffering upon them.

So, the decision is yours. You can suffer for doing right or you can suffer for doing wrong. Which will it be?

I know - you want another choice! You would rather not suffer at all!

Good luck with that one!

You can suffer for doing right now or you can try avoid suffering now and put yourself at risk of terrible suffering forever.

Choose how you will suffer!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

August 19, 2018

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." James 4:4-6

A good friend once challenged me with this question, "If you don't feel close to God, who moved?"

His point was well taken. The truth is I can be as close to God as I want to be. So can you! He longs for intimate fellowship with us.

So, what is it that keeps you from enjoying that close fellowship with God?

Sometimes it is other people.

Here are several examples:

You can allow another person to get between you and God. If you are in a relationship with a nonbeliever that can draw you away from God.

If you over-invest in a relationship where you spend all your time and energy focused on a person that can distract you from God.

You might get wrapped up in your children, running to their activities and events. Before you know it your week-ends are all spent traveling and you neglect the fellowship of your church. Soon you become a stranger with God.

Sometimes it can be other pursuits.

Here are some examples:

You might get preoccupied with a hobby and spend all of your spare time involved in it.

You might get caught up in a sports activity and focus your time and energy bowling or golfing or fishing and not have time for God.

You might get involved in outdoor recreation and spend all your week-ends boating or camping or riding a motorcycle or RV.

After several weeks or months of devoting yourself to these pursuits you suddenly find your heart cold toward God.

Always it is your pride.

All of these things we have mentioned are good and wholesome in themselves. But when you place more importance on them than you do on your relationship with God, they get between you and Him. But when that happens the problem is not them - it is you! You have placed your pleasure, your needs, your enjoyment ahead of God. That is the essence of pride.

James reminds you that God is a jealous God. He demands to be first in your life. If you are going to choose Him and decide to serve Him, He must hold first place in your affections, your thoughts, and your time. He will not occupy second place to your pride, your pursuits or other people.

These verses pronounce some harsh judgments on those whose pride comes between them and God. He calls them "adulterers". Do you want to be an adulterer?

He says God opposes the proud. Do you want to be in opposition to God?

If you are not as close to God as you once where or as close as you want to be - who moved?

Have you allowed something or someone to come between you and God?

If so, how do you think that is going to work out for you?

What are you going to do about it?