Monthly Archives: January 2012

Who is Jesus to you, really?

The question of “Who is Jesus?” is a question that is asked many times. Almost everyone has heard such a question. The question of course, can be asked in many different ways and I won’t take the time to list them here (but I just became inspired for sermon outline. LOL).

To the Christian, Jesus is the Lord of all. He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer, the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice for our sins, the One who brings peace between God and man. He is the King and Ruler and all authority rests with Him. That last one is important.

Authority lies somewhere. You might have a problem at a business establishment and so you talk to the clerk and maybe the manager and if the problem is bad enough, you can talk to the owner or the CEO and even then, you can go further to the stock holders or the public opinion route. If the offense is bad enough you can talk to the courts and if the laws aren’t what they should be you can talk to your congressional representative, up to the president and Supreme court and then back again to the people to change the law if needed. All in a search for the person with the authority  to deal with the issue.

You can’t go higher than Jesus. The Father has given to Jesus all authority. (Mt 28:18-20) So to the Christian, the statement that Jesus is Lord and King, should mean allegiance to Him and what he wants of us.

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (Joh 8:24)

We accept that statement as Gospel truth. However, now the question is, Since we know who Jesus is, do we live like we believe it? Take for example, James’s statement:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! (Jas 2:19)

Mark records that they knew him as well.

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God.” (Mar 1:23-24)

And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mar 1:34)

Do your actions show your belief in Him? Knowing him, believing that God is one, and even calling him the Holy One of God was not enough to save the demons. (For those who have read my blog for a while, you will remember that James is breaking the word “believe” into components and uses it to indicate a simple “mental acceptance of a fact” and lacking actions that show that the fact has any importance to you.(read this or this one)

So again, I ask: Who is Jesus to you really? The answer can be found, not in your words but in your actions. Even reading the Bible might not be an indication because we are “to be doers and not hearers only” (James 1) but doing something like ‘visiting the widows and orphans” while certainly an action, might not be done in faith. Both are necessary.

Here is the challenge: 99% of us will read a post like this and think , Yes, I can, or need to, do better. Well, make a plan to do so. Pick ONE item today that if you start doing it will make a difference in your spiritual walk with the Lord. It might be more time reading of the Bible (and that is a great place to start so that you will know better what to do), more time praying, it might be taking the list of sick in the church bulletin and sending a card to them. A 101 other activities can be done to help and not all actions will make a difference in your life or in your life today. However, we, a Christians walk and talk and live in a certain way. Let’s do more of it.

Who is Jesus to you? Really?

A lesson in Envy and Covetousness

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  (Luk 12:13-15)

Undoubtedly, this brother who was on the short end of the inheritance felt he could do a better job with the money. Perhaps he felt he deserved the money laboring under the impression that he deserved it. Funny thing about inheritances, you have to wait till someone dies to get it. Which begs the question, what is more valuable, the person or the gift the person left behind? Only when the person is of more value, can a person truly appreciate the inheritance left.

The difficulty when others have money and you don’t is that you often feel as if you could benefit from what they have, especially when that money is viewed as a surplus. “They have enough”, “they won’t miss it”, “a little given to me won’t be missed”, you begin to think judgmentally. If you spend enough time thinking about this, it can quickly become a source of covetousness, envy, or jealousy that will ruin relationships.

Let’s start with a basic fact: God is in control. If you don’t know that and name the name of the Lord, you need to go back and read the Bible in places like Daniel, Joseph, and Job. Learn that God is in control. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights (James 1) and he is a generous God who also knows what we can handle and what we cannot. The brother in the text above may not have been capable of dealing with more money.  Can you deal with a lot of money? (The parable Jesus tells next demonstrates a person who could not handle it and used it poorly)

Second, even when you have money, it is not your life. If we have food and clothing, with these we should be content. Here was a man who wanted to money and without it did not seem to be content. His brother had the inheritance and it just didn’t seem right. Even if the money had been divided, life is not found in physical possessions, nor even in good health. Your life ( the whole of man) consists of fearing God and keeping his commandments. God is able to take care of you.

Still, even in the lesson, we can learn something for both sides. Those with and those without money. Your life does not consist in what you have, or what you can buy. The parable that Jesus tells next, I think addresses those who want and those who have much money.  Money is a tool and the best use of that tool is promoting the Kingdom of God. For an individual, that means that they work to have for their needs and yet, should not fail to do good to those who have a need. Still, the rule of thumb is your family needs first because to not tend to your family needs makes you an infidel, actually worse than an infidel. Then you have to give to those who have a need also.

This brother would have been better off focusing on his relationship with God first and let God bless him as He saw fit. At the very least, we know that those who serve the Lord, are laying up for themselves treasures in Heaven.

Joseph, an example of Jesus

Today’s morning sermon dealt with the similarities of Joseph to Jesus. It was not a full look at these similarities but there are so many that one could preach several lessons on such a topic.

Just look at a few of the things that Jesus had happen in his life. He was with his father before coming to his people. His father sent him on His mission. His people did not receive him, sold him for a small amount of money. He was condemned for something and yet he was innocent of the charges. The condemnation might have been the end of the story except that God had other plans and raised him up and exalted him to sit on his throne. Jesus also suffered temptations that would have thrown him off his path.

If you are familiar with the story of Joseph you will easily pick out the similarities to Jesus. Joseph suffering his own family problems and being sold and condemned, though innocent, and yet, in the end, God was with him and raised him up to sit on his throne and rule.

It is interesting to me that the book of Genesis, is in a way, a summary of the world and the whole Bible message. You start in the beginning and end with someone on the throne and by that person, many lives are saved. The whole Bible, of course starts with Creation and ends with Jesus on the throne with many lives saved.

Today’s lesson focused on the temptation of Joseph however, because such temptations are common even today. We may think of people in the “olden days” as being more moral but it is apparent when you read passages like this that not everyone was a moral person. Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph, pestered him, hounded him, and finally framed him. Joseph, on the other hand did everything he could to avoid her. Look at the passage and a couple thoughts I shared.

And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. (Gen 39:7-10)

I have emphasized some interesting phrasing in these verses. I admit that it may not have been in the intent of the text but it does fit a common problem today when someone is in a predatory mode.

The first request of Potiphar’s wife was to “lie with her” which is a clear invitation to commit adultery and violate the marriage covenant that she had with Potiphar. Many implications of this relationship could be made by such an invitation but Joseph was much more concerned about avoided a great wickedness and not sinning against God.

But she was not finished. She kept at it. Notice verse 10 and see what else Joseph was avoiding. He also did not listen to her to “lie by her” OR to “be with her”. I have to admit that this sounds an awful lot like “oh, let’s just lay here on the bed, nothing will happen” or “well, let’s just spend a little private time alone, just talk with me”. Now, I grant you that “spending time with someone” is a good way to get to know a person better, but you have no business “getting to know” someone else’s wife in such a setting much less either of the other two options.

Jesus provides us a perfect example of doing the Lord’s Will. Joseph, being human, undoubtedly was not perfect but his story is still an example for us to follow and serves as a mold or type/anti-type of Christ. I would encourage all of us to strive to do the best we can to follow the footsteps of the author of our Faith and those, like Joseph, who followed those same steps even before they were made.

The sermon, if you would like to listen, is here.

 

You or God first?

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
(Hag 1:2-4)

For many people, the time to serve the Lord is when things are better in their life. This is a very short sighted perspective. If your life got better so that your dream life became a reality, whatever that might be, we need to know that it is only temporary. Not temporary in the sense that the job you have or life you have will end in ten years with an economic downturn (though that can happen), but temporary in the sense that in 100 years, you will not be there to enjoy it. For some of us, that number is 50 years. When God cannot get his people to pay attention to his priorities, you can be sure, He is not going to pay attention to theirs.

It is always time to work to rebuild the house of the Lord. While the house in Haggai’s time was a temple where people would go to worship, we know from Jesus’ own words (John 4:21) that the worship of God is not confined to one location, it is something that his people do on an ongoing basis and they make up the temple of God.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1Co 3:16)

(sidenote: 1 Cor 6:19 which says almost the same thing is a verse of the individual Christian, but the above first fits more as the congregation that Paul is writing to, a group of Christians)

The sad thing is, that just like a house that is not constantly being mending and tended to, it will begin to deteriorate and that, whether fast or slow, is a type of destruction we should not be part of:

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1Co 3:17)

Sure, I think most people would tend to think of rampant active destruction, but we should also consider the destruction that comes about due to inactivity and neglect.

Look at your checkbook. It has been said that a person can be known by the items his money is spent on. For me, you would see a number of Sonic Happy Hour drinks (For those not in Texas, Sonic is a fast food establishment and “happy hour’ is 1/2 priced soda drinks from 2-4pm), you would find Netflix charges, Half priced book charges among the various bills for rent, gas, lights, regular weekly contributions to the congregation, etc. In other words, you might be able to deduce that I like specialty sodas and watching movies along with other things but you would also see a desire to help the congregation meet its task to spread the Gospel.

Look at your life for the last week. If you were to look back at the last 168 hours, and look for things that built the house of the Lord, what you find? 3 hours at worship services (4 if you went to midweek study) and then what? Prayer, reading, calling a sick brother, visitation, talking to someone about God? Talking about God’s laws to your kids when they get up or sit down or go to bed? Memorizing scripture?  What do you do to build up the house of God?

It is true you are one brick in that house, so be sure to build yourself up but it is often better to be built up with others, be in a group study, be in contact with other Christians.  It is also true that God builds us up. Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up. Spend time in prayer and study of His  word, grow in the knowledge of Christ, let the Scriptures which are able to make you wise unto salvation and adequately equip you for His service live inside of you.

Put God first and HE will take care of you. Easy to say, hard to do…unless you live by faith.

 

what is right in your eyes

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Jdg 21:25)

This statement, found twice in the book of Judges is often used as a theme for that book. The verse says that two conditions existed for the nation of Israel at that time. 1) there was no king and 2) everyone did what they thought was right.

That there was no king was true, at least not in the earthly king manner. When the people finally asked Samuel to set a king over them (I Samuel 8), someone to be in charge, the response of God was first to calm Samuel down. He said “They haven’t rejected you…” It was not a slap in the face of Samuel at all. There was no cause for Samuel to feel slighted.

What God went on to say though is something that should have caused Israel to pause. “…they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”  Rejected God? or just Rejected God’s reign? It didn’t matter. The effect was the same, they wanted to be like the other nations and so they were not satisfied to let God rule their lives from heaven.

We see that they did whatever was right in their eyes. I have not yet lived 50 years in this world, but I have noticed that my perceptions of what is right and wrong have changed from time to time. Of course, most of that change has come from my reading and studying God’s word, as I see an error in my life clearly, I eliminate it and continue to grow. But even among those who do not learn from God, standards they had when they were young change into adolescence,adulthood, when children come along and for a whole host of reasons.

It seems so clear to me that the world has rejected God as being King in their life. Jesus was given all authority in Heaven and on Earth (Mt 28:18ff) and yet, there are many who will not follow his authority, they want another one instead. True, in the world, there are lots of choices to make when it comes to standards you will follow, but among those who name the name of the Lord, there is and should be only ONE.

It saddens me when I see people who would rather listen to their pastor or some special preacher rather than understand the  item themselves.  It is no problem to talk to a minister and ask for some insight, or their insight into a particular issue. However, it is another thing when you won’t look at the text yourself and verify that the person is correct.  Children are taught stories that make things easy for them to understand. The whole story may not be completely revealed to them but as adults, we should learn for ourselves.

How many of you grew up hearing that Noah took 2 pair of every kind of animal into the Ark or that the wise men came to Jesus in the manger? By now, you should know that Noah took 2 pair of the unclean animals and 7 pair of the clean. (When I was a child, I was thinking but did not ask about that animal Noah sacrificed, perhaps I thought it was the unicorn and that is why we don’t have them anymore…it is clearer now). As for Jesus and the wise men, the text clearly says they came to the HOUSE where he was not the manger.

Are these great differences upon which we can base doctrine and salvation? Not at all, but those passages do exist.

There are those who think “I live a good Christian life” but do not even read the Bible, much less go to services. Then there are those who go to services but don’t read the Bible. They hear but I imagine it doesn’t last long.

There are those who hear and do what the word of God says. Those are the ones who say “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” They are the ones who are not hearers only but doers. They are the ones who say “not my will but thy will be done”. These are the ones who will be blessed in their doing.

Let’s not be like those in Judges who rejected God’s kingship and did what they thought was right, let’s listen to what He has said and do that.

Present yourself to God approved

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)

While the advice given to Timothy may, in the context, be directed to an evangelist and the work of ministers, much of what Paul says to Timothy can be applied to every Christian. Put another way, there is no character that Paul asks Timothy to develop or exemplify in his life that every Christian should not strive to do as well. We may not all be preachers but we are all servants of God and in our work we need to be “not ashamed” as we present ourselves to God.

To be diligent about something is to make an effort. The ESV says “Do your best”. When my mom told me to clean my room, she was not asking me to make a half hearted effort, she wanted some diligence (which, in my case was needed because it was a messy room). Sometimes, in school, you face a challenging course and you need to be ‘diligent’ in studying for that class to pass the test. Timothy is being told here to be diligent in his work and not be half heared about it.

Paul had told him in the first epistle that he was in Ephesus so that he could instruct certain men not to teach a different doctrine. In this epistle, Paul has told him to teach others who are faithful so that they could teach others. Paul is urging in this context two things. Be an example and be able to come to God without shame.

As your boss walks by your cubicle and finds you facebooking, twittering or surfing the net, rather than working on your job, you may have reason to be ashamed. However, if you are doing your job, you have no reason to be ashamed. As Timothy does his job, he can present himself to God as a servant that can be approved, not ashamed. To do this, he needs to be able to divide the word of truth correctly. 

In the context, there are those who are arguing over words and teachings that are upseting the faith of some. Timothy is to do the opposite. His use of the word of God, the sword of God (Eph 6:17), as a skilled soldier not one who is inept in its use. A scapel in the hands of a surgeon can do great things, in the hands of a plumber, not so much. (Kinda like those commercials: Would you want your doctor to do your job? don’t do his). Timothy needs to be able to wield the sword of God in an effective and beneficial way for those who will hear him.

We can all learn a lesson by these words to Timothy. We, individually, need to learn the word of God.  We understand this principle in other areas but I fear are lax in the spiritual areas. In driving a car, we know that everyone should know the basics, how to turn on the car, how to put gas in, etc but there is much more we should know. checking oil, tire pressure and the radiator water level. Even if we lack the ability to change a tire, knowing where the jack is, being sure we HAVE a spare, and a set of jumper cables is just plain smart. Then for those who are mechanics, they have a specialized knowledge on how the engine operation in a car and a police officer would have special knowledge to operate the car safely at high speeds. 

We may not wish to excel to the level of a PHd in regards to bible knowledge but we can all grow in what we know and should be able to give an answer for the hope that is in us (1 pet 3:15). Over time, of course.

Be diligent. Do the best you can. Grow so that God can use you. Read, study, learn, be hearers of the word and then we can be doers.

The sinner’s pray

Ok, Boys and girls, bible students and those who enjoy studying the word of God, I am going to take a position here: We should be able to find in the Scriptures the message that we teach to sinners. In other words, WE cannot just make up the Gospel, nor the response of the one who wishes to obtain the Gospel’s blessings.

So, please tell me, anyone, where in the Bible we are able to read “The Sinner’s Prayer”? Where do these words come from? Yes, I know that there is no specific exact prayer, everyone teaches it differently but in one form or another there are those who teach that if a person wants the blessings of salvation that some prayer along these lines is all you need to do (implied in the ‘wants the blessings’ is faith)

Dear God: I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and ask Jesus to come and dwell with me and to enter my life and to be King in my life. Thank you for your gift of salvation.

most are a little longer than that and if you listen to some TV preachers they do add a few more words, tracts do too. They will say “if you just prayed that prayer, congratulations!”

Now I am all about not laying on the disciples (would be or actual) a yoke that cannot be born (Acts 15:10) but do we have the authority to give people this prayer to pray?

I am asking the question to have anyone explain why they think it is justified to give someone the sinner’s prayer to pray so that they can be saved. I will not pretend to think that it is correct. I mention this because I am not trying to be disingenious, what I want to know is the reasons for the prayer.   Since I do not think it is correct, and I have not studied this question,  it is hard for me to walk in the other man’s shoes; I cannot elaborate that arguement.  The question is not for those who do not agree, but for those who do agree with the sinner’s prayer. Teach me.

So I encouage any to post a response here and explain, if you practice the sinner’s prayer, accept the sinner’s prayer, or think it is ok….

Why?

Dishonoring the poor!

I will repeat this post which received a lot of views. I don’t know if that made it the most popular but I think it is worth redoing while I am at a conference and writing time is limited.

Lost Pines church of Christ

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

(Jas 2:5-7)

“Listen!” Just what you want to say to your kids, spouse, and friends sometimes. My wife often comes home from school asking me “Do you hear any sound coming out of my mouth?” “Am I speaking English?” (Apparently, first graders, as well as adults, are prone not to listen.)  He has mentioned the need to listen a couple of times already.  “Listen my beloved brethren, this is something that is needful for you to hear…

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Wanderers and those who bring them back.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (Jas 5:19-20)

James’ final statement is one of concern for another person, the one who wanders away. What they are wandering away from is of particularly importance in these verses. What the person does who brings him back is also an important thing. The statement seems to focus more on the one who goes after the brother than it does the brother itself.  Still, the “consequences” or “results” of going after the brother who is brought back should be a comfort to the one who wandered away.

Wandering away not always an active action, though it can be. A lot of times, it is the unplanned result of actions which, like a dot to dot puzzle slowly take a person further and further away from where they should be. Much as been written on the topic of whether a person can ‘fall from grace’ and the one thing I know is that one blog post will not change anyone’s mind. However, in reading James’ statement about a person wandering away from the truth (and not just any person, but a fellow Christian), needs to cause the sober-minded, God-fearing follower to take notice.

The truth that one wanders from is beyond a doubt the Gospel. The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus is the Truth, all that He has done for us and is doing for us, His promised return and our eventual home in Heaven with Him. You can’t be saved without Jesus.

That one would go out after a brother is almost an assumption. Our Lord and Savior parabalized the Good Shepherd who left the 99 sheep that were safe and went out after the 1 that was lost. Am I my brother’s keeper? The answer is yes. If you do find him and you do succeed in bringing him back, you save him from death and his sins will be covered. The blood of Christ, covers the sins of the sinner.

James’ final statement might also relate to his first one.  “Count it all joy my brethren when you meet various trials”….only this time, it is to those of us who are strong and know of one who wandered away and did not successfully meet those trials. Go after him, bring him back, and let him know  you care and that God loves him.

 

 

Breaking parental/generational habits

It is a well known phenomenon is that parents often pass on to their children character traits or habits which they, too, may pass on to their children. Those who are active alcoholics or short-tempered are likely to see their children grow up to imitate them. Cigarette smokers, regardless of repeated pleas to their children are much more likely to take up smoking as well.

What we may not realize is that this has been the case from the beginning. Abraham, the father of faith, lied about Sarah his wife, not just once but twice (Gen 12 and 20). Is it any wonder that his son Isaac did the same thing (Gen 26)? We also see Isaac and Rebekah showing favoritism for their children: Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah, Jacob.  We then see this same favoritism not just manifested with Jacob toward his wives (He loved Rachel and hated Leah) and then showed favoritism toward Joseph.

Breaking habits learned from our parents and/or the culture of the world can be a difficult thing to do. I would suggest a couple of things to make sure that they (the habits) get broken. It comes from 1 Peter 1:14 and verse 18.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, ….knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold.

Do you see it?  “former ignorance” and “futile ways inherited from your fathers”? These are things that come from our past life. Ways that come from our background, either our fathers (presumably not Christians) or the world in general. We learn what we have been taught and I would suggest that we need to unlearn what we have learned. Even in this context  of Peter there are some things that will help:

v. 13 prepare your minds for action, be sober minded, set your hope fully on the grace,

v. 14 as obedient children don’t conform

v. 15 be Holy

v17 conduct your life with fear (respect) of God

Chapter 2 will start with the need for us to long for the pure milk of the word. Reverting back to being babies and this time growing bodies that are nourished with pure spiritual milk that will help us to be the people of God that we are supposed to be and the examples he calls us to be so that we can be that spiritual house, royal priesthood before God.

If all of this is not clear enough, let me say it this way. READ YOUR BIBLE and don’t just read it but DO IT. We should not be hearers only but doers of the word (if you have followed this blog, you have read that in our study on James).

Still more important though is that we need to realize, if we are parents, we bear a huge responsibility to train our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If we tell them to read their Bibles, do they see us model it. If we tell them to pray, do we model it for them or is it a case of “Do as I say and not as I do”? (Mt 23:1-2)  Yes, the children still should but realize you help them and make it easier to follow God when you first follow God.  You were their first authority in their young lives and if you point it out to them that they should follow God because you follow God, then they are more likely to make that important transition themselves.

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