December 25, 2011

Remember The Military

On this Christmas day I was just thinking how wonderful it is to be with family and I remembered all our military personel who are serving our Country, that's you and me, abroad and often in harms way.
take a moment to thank God for them and pray for their safety and their family back here in the states.
(Author unknown)
It's the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us the freedom of the press.

It's the Soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us the freedom of speech.

         It's the Soldier, not the politicians
            That ensures our right to Life,

        Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness...

                It's the Soldier who salutes the flag,
                     Who serves beneath the flag,
           And whose coffin is draped by the flag.

December 24, 2011

The Best Way To Live

Christmas is such a wonderful time of the year. Now that Christmas day is only about 8 hours away, it is getting even more exciting! How wonderful to take the time to stop and reflect upon the Birthday of the King, our wonderful Savior! Although Mary and I are down in Lakeland, Florida we plan to Skype with our son and his family tomorrow morning. We actually exchanged some gifts with the children right after Thanksgiving when we were in Fairfax.

We have always had the tradition of gathering around the Christmas tree before any presents were opened, and all quote the first twenty verses of Luke 2 together. Then we have prayer and begin to open presents. It is just a fun time together as a family. It is also a great time to share with our special friends. Any way you look at it, we have been blessed!

Although I don’t think there has ever been a young child who didn’t look forward to receiving gifts at Christmas time, somewhere in the maturing process, we should actually learn the axiom that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” I ordered a special gift on line for my dear wife and I can hardly wait until tomorrow morning for her to open it!

Giving truly is a blessing and joy. The problem is that most people only get in the spirit of giving during the Christmas season, which doesn’t last long enough. “Giving” should describe what all Christians do all the time. This is not to be a seasonal activity but a way of life.

Our giving should start with an understanding that everything we have belongs to God and that for the rest of our lives, we are to be stewards of that which He has entrusted into our hands. This starts out with a recognition of God’s ownership by paying back the tithe and giving offerings above that. Then we should invest in eternity by giving to Grace Giving, or Faith Promise Missions Giving.

Paul said in his letter to the Corinthian church to “let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (I Cor. 12:2). Does your giving represent God’s blessings and prosperity upon your life? What does you equation look like?

Then above all our giving to Him that we do on a weekly basis, we are to learn to give to the poor and those in need. Some time later I am going to address the “how” to do this (not that I have arrived) by way of setting up a “Gleaners Fund” as my wife and I have done.

A man by the name of Kenneth Kantzer said, “We must give up all our wealth. We must own nothing. We are only stewards of what God owns. The point is not that we must be merely willing to give it up and then live like anyone else. Rather, we must actually give it up. We are to abandon completely any claims to the wealth of this world. It is not our own and we do not have ultimate control over it.”

We all know that God hates idolatry of any kind, and we all also know that without using that label it is easy to be brought under the spell of money. Money, like our hearts, can be awfully deceitful. Often time the people who love money the most are those who do not have much to begin with, meaning, just because you are hurting financially, don’t think you are exempt from this money monster.

Remedy for it all…give, then give, and then give some more! Find some people at church you could be a blessing to and put some money in their hands. Take different ones out to eat and pay for their meal. Send a missionary you know a little extra from your pocket to encourage them.

I close with a quote I read in one of A.W. Tozer’s books where he quoted someone else with the following: “He who has God and everything, has no more than he who has God alone.” Amen!!

December 20, 2011

No Winners

Christmas is a most wonderful time of the year. Everyone has a little extra time off to enjoy with the family. As a Pastor, the time between Christmas and New Years was and is a special time to relax and reflect upon the goodness of God.

However, the excitement and joy of Christmas does not resonate with every couple. Many families find their problems to be exacerbated during this season. I remember one time receiving a phone call on Christmas day from a couple (professional business people) who were having one of the worst arguments of their lives. I went immediately to their home to help them resolve their conflict.

I just read a statistic from Barna’s website that said, “In fact, when evangelicals and non-evangelical born again Christians are combined into an aggregate class of born again adults, their divorce figure is statistically identical to that of non-born again adults: 32% versus 33%, respectively.”

Since divorce is not an answer to our problems, it is incumbent upon everyone to work on and resolve problems as they come, and they come to all. I have learned through the years that there are no winners in divorce. The innocent party (if there is one) doesn’t win, the guilty person doesn’t win, and no child has ever won when their parents split.

I would encourage every pastor to be on the alert during this season to look for those who may need a little extra help. Let’s face it, finances has always been one of the three main reasons for marital problems leading to divorce. For many, Christmas is little more than a financial burden that, hopefully, will pass soon. Although I know it is a little late to be saying this, but a lot of presents under the tree is not what Christmas is about anyhow!

A good verse for all of us to remember this season is, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Find someone you can help with this verse this week. Let’s lift up and exalt the name of the Only Begotten (Thank God for Christmas!) Son of God!

December 14, 2011

Do Christians Sacrifice To Serve God?

Ted Wieler, who was a Corporate Attorney before serving with me on staff, wrote an essay that is ‘must read’ for every servant of God. When I first read it about ten years ago it really impacted my life to help me see once again what a privilege it is to serve the Lord.

Some times, while comparing one’s life with others, one can start to feel sorry for himself, or even take on a ‘sacrificial’ identity. We think because of a person’s leadership or management ability, “He could have made it big in the business world.” What a tragedy that would be if God had directed differently. Please read, and reread the second paragraph particularly until it’s philosophy and understanding has sunk in. Every Preacher and his family needs this.

Dr. Wieler is a brilliant man with a heart for the Lord, and a gift for writing. Preacher if you are looking for subject matter to preach next Sunday, you might consider what you read next. Here is what Dr. Wieler wrote:

“Christians frequently talk about making sacrifices to serve God. A church schoolteacher remarks, “Government school salaries are twice as much, but I’m sacrificing to serve.” A minister comments that if he were in the business world he would be earning a high six-digit salary. “But, God called me to this office so I’m happy to make the sacrifice.” A missionary, home on furlough, might report to the churches, “Even though we are sacrificing a lot, we are in the center of God’s will.” There is a long tradition behind these remarks. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all [sacrificed], and have followed thee (Mark 10:28). All of these statements concerning service to God miss the mark. In an effort to influence future dialogue, I urge you to think of service to God not as sacrifice but as nothing but pure gain.

What qualifies as sacrifice? Sacrifice requires surrendering something of true value to you. Value exists in anything that you will take action to keep or gain. A sacrificial act occurs when you turn away from something of value to embrace something of lesser value. Turning away from something of lesser value to receive something of higher value is gain. Considered in this light, it ought to be obvious why the statements above represent a wrong view of service to God. Saying, “I am sacrificing to serve God,” is saying, “I’m turning away from something I value more than God to serve God.” I imagine that everyone reading this essay would insist “That’s not what I mean!” That is exactly my point. We truly never sacrifice to serve God.

Look at Jesus’ answer to Peter’s lamentation. …Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, [i.e., sacrificed] for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive [i.e., gain] an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).

Genesis 22 is the record of God’s testing of Abraham concerning Isaac. Abraham had two valuable relationships. One was with God. The other was with Isaac. The value decision Abraham had to make was whether his relationship with Isaac was more valuable than his relationship with God. Because Abraham was willing to give Isaac to keep God we know that Abraham held the relationship with God to be of higher value. Abraham, by the definition given above, has not sacrificed anything. Rather, he realized a profit or gain. He was willing to release a relationship of lesser value—his son Isaac— to preserve a relationship of greater value—his relationship with God. Abraham gains by showing that his greatest love was for God. Abraham gained as God restored his son to him. Abraham gained because he taught his son the importance and reality of God in his life.

I urge you to stop thinking about serving God as a sacrifice. Rather, think in terms of your gain flowing out of that same service. The old question concerning perspective is whether your glass is half empty or half full. The answer depends upon whether you are drinking [sacrificing] or pouring [gaining]. When we serve God we are pouring. We are gaining because we are living in obedience to God.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8). What is the sacrifice? What is the gain?

We sacrifice when we stop serving God to do something else.”

December 8, 2011

Dr. Paul Chappell

For those of you who, perhaps are not familiar with Pastor Paul Chappell's "ministry127," here is a link to an article of mine that they published today. Bro. Chappell has one of the most compelling ministries that I have ever seen. God has wonderfully blessed the man and his ministry and you would be blessed by reading any and all of his books and material.

Have a great day!

December 6, 2011

Counter Culture

The song writer had it right when wrote, “This world is not my home!” I would think that any blood-bought Christian would completely agree that this world leaves a lot to be desired. God has designed life for the believer to go against the grain, or to live “Counter Culturally” to this world.

Satan, on the other hand, has illuminated every thing in the world to be appealing to our old, and sinful nature. Although our sin nature has been crucified, if left unguarded, it will still try to raise it’s ugly head. The world and it’s pleasures are like the flashing lights in Vegas that say, “come and see us; experience our way and really enjoy life.”

A walk through the Mall is enough to make any God-fearing Christian blush. The enticement of a bigger church makes us do a ‘motive’ check. Money, or the lack thereof, is often a means of creating greed or discontentment. The Christmas season has gotten more than one person thinking materialistically. Look in the average Independent Baptist Church today and one will see the fashions and styles of the world. Even the music and ‘sermonettes’ are responding to the dictates of what people want, rather than what glorifies the Lord.

I am simply saying that it is getting more and more difficult to live for God in a cross cultural society unless we live our lives based on the culture of the Cross. I remind us that Paul put it this way, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

The rhetorical reply for most in this world is, “But everyone is doing it.” That is the philosophy of so many young (and old) people today. Our response should be, “No they are not! God-fearing Christians are not dipping the flag to be tainted by this world’s goods.” And anyhow, just because ‘everyone else’ is doing it doesn’t mean it is the best thing…just ask Noah’s generation!

In my Bible reading this morning I was in Leviticus and read in Chapter 18:1-5 where it reads:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God.

After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.

Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.

Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.”
The clear teaching of verse three to the Israelites was that they were not to emulate what they saw in the land (culture) of Egypt where they had been, nor were they to go “after the doings of the land [culture] of Canaan” where they were going. In other words, God wanted then as He wants now, a people who are willing to live Counter Culturally to this world. It should be every Christian’s goal to keep their eyes on the Lord and “press toward the mark” until we hear the shout!

Is this not what is meant when John told us in I John 2:15-17 to
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
God is looking for and expects a separated people who are willing to live “outside the camp”  and Counter Culturally for His glory. We are not to let this world, or culture, mold our convictions or principles by which to live. I remind us that it is not going to church three times a week (although that is expected) that makes us holy or righteous; it is Jesus living in and through us. Is your life and testimony beginning to blend in with the world, or is there a clear distinction between the way you live and the rest of the world. We all need to check our hearts, our motives, our pride, our desires, our lifestyle, and our thoughts and actions. May God help us to live Counter Culturally.

“Even so come, Lord Jesus!”