It is infuriating to me how addictive this election is! Even in spite of the sermon presented, the concern and worry and anxiety still seem to affect me. Yes, it is true…everything in the sermon is true.
It is true that God is Sovereign and He is in control! God raises up nations and brings nations down. Just because the USA is the nation I live in and want to see continue (although, the direction should make a shift back toward Godly principles), it doesn’t mean that God is going to let it continue. Nor do we know how this country will end (or if it will end) nor what plans God has for the leaders that are currently in power. However, God does.
Daniel shows us in chapter 2 and 4 that God gives the rule to whom HE WISHES! Of course, government is to serve a purpose such as punishing the wicked and upholding the obedient even though it does not always do so. Babylon was 110% a moral (by God’s standards) government but He raised it up and used it to punish Israel and other nations for what had become a moral decline in the world at that time. Then He brought the Medes and Persians against Babylon. All this plays out on a stage that we cannot see clearly. We might glimpse bits and pieces of it but to understand it…we don’t have the perspective to do that.
Who will win the election? Honestly, does it matter? Yes, it does and No, it doesn’t! It is true that the right leader might allow more peace than the wrong one. Such a result could be a good one for those trying to do God’s will. However, on the other hand, it doesn’t really matter because a Christian’s life is not focused on the things of this world and that does include politics in the country you live.
You see, Christians are not first, citizens of a nation in this world, but rather of the Heavenly Kingdom of God. As such, our focus is to please our King and Savior. It is not that we do not have an interest in the welfare of our country but it is secondary to promotion of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Our primary mission is to preach the Gospel and live for Jesus. If we allow ourselves to become too tied up or preoccupied with politics, there is a danger that we can become unfruitful in the things of God.
Whatever our political opinions are, we should all agree that expanding the borders of God’s kingdom is more important than who becomes President!.
The sermon can be heard here.
The Scriptures reveal to us that God knows the hearts of men. He knows the character of a person even if the rest of the world cannot see it. As Samuel was at the house of Jesse to anoint a new king for Israel, he saw the oldest son, Eliab, and thought that he would make a fine king. God said that Eliab was not to be king and reminded Samuel that He looks on the heart of a man not the outside.
Even though we like to think of our hearts are hidden and our thoughts a secret, they are not so from God. So Solomon’s advice to his son has a lot of activity for us to do or not do but it starts with the heart. Because from the heart flow the issues of life. The downstream consequences of our thoughts will be seen by the actions we take.
What happens when the heart is not guarded?
The problem we have is that our “bad” thoughts tend toward selfishness. It is not always as extreme as Genesis 6:5
Gen 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
But, even the shortsightedness of the rich man shows that his thoughts were on himself when they could have included others.
Luk 12:17-21 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ (18) And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (19) And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ (20) But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (21) So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Most of us, are interested in the “what’s in it for me?” part of anything. Unfortunately, when we focus on that, we will find ourselves wandering away from God.
How can we guard our heart?
It begins by what you put into the heart. So we need to pay attention to that carefully. Jesus said in Luke 8:18 “take heed how you hear”. So we need to pay attention to the advice given by Solomon and, by extension, God.
Children are commanded by God to obey their parents. There are many reasons for this but one that fits in this context is “Parents have more experience.” Why reinvent the wheel? Learn from those who have gone on before you. As children, we often think, “I know better” but later on, after we grow up, we realize that our parents were not so ignorant after all.
Parents, then, have the responsibility to train their children correctly. Yes, this even includes telling them “how” to think: what is a good way to think and a bad way to think. We train them in God’s ways so they can live to God. Don’t think that they will just find it on their own.
Of course, as adults, we need to realize that God is our Father and we are His children. So we need to be willing to let Him train us as well.
First, Guard your heart!
The sermon dealing with this topic can be heard here.
Last Sunday, the sermon presented continued in the book of Philippians chapter 2 with the example of two individuals who are worthy for us to follow in their footsteps: Timothy and Epaphroditus.You can listen to the sermon here.
In Timothy’s case, his is a behavior of service. Imagine being spoken of the way Paul spoke about Timothy.
Php 2:19-21 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. (20) For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. (21) For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
What an endorsement! I don’t know about you but when I read that, I want to stand up and shout: “I want to be like Timothy!”
Where do your affections lie? Are they divided between Christ and the world?
In the case of Epaphroditus, here was a Christian who had come from Philippi to bring support to Paul and who stayed to help Paul with what was still lacking! Even to the point that he nearly died.
Php 2:25-30 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, (26) for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. (27) Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (28) I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. (29) So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, (30) for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Here was a man who would be willing to be spent in service to God. Sometimes we will put aside our health for an important thing but Epaphroditus chose to risk his life for the most worthy thing possible: the preaching of the Gospel.
What other things would consider important enough to risk your life for?
A few weeks ago, I preached a lesson from Philippians chapter 2 in which we discussed the behavior of some individuals which are worthy of imitating. In the third chapter of this book, Paul writes:
Php 3:17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
How many times have we heard as we grew up: “You need to be a good example for….”? Just fill in the blank. A younger sister, a new student, co-worker, or anyone who would be likely to imitate you and pick up your bad habits if you displayed them. Parents learn this lesson real quick with their children who watch and imitate them, sometimes to the embarrassment of the parent.
The idea, of course,that Paul wants for the Christians at Philippi, and even for us today, is to follow and imitate the behavior of those who follow God well.
He begins with the example that Jesus set for us in verses 5-11. This is an example of humility. Possessing so much and yet being willing to set it aside. Then, not just laying aside all of His glory in Heaven but being born into the world of man as a lowly carpenter’s son. As He began His ministry, He was totally dependent on those who would support Him. He had nothing in this world even though He created it all…and it was all His. Then the one thing which you could call His, His life, is the one thing that He did not withhold….He gave that up for us too.
For His humility, God has rewarded Him richly. He has been exhaled on High. It is an important example that we should strive to follow. The Scriptures teach in several places that humility is honored by God.
Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
1Pe 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
The rest of the chapter has more examples we can look at in another lesson. The sermon can be heard here.
Who are the Biblical characters that you most relate to and what behavior do they model for you?
Last Sunday’s sermon was taken from Jeremiah 36 and you can listen to it here.
In the days of King Jehoiakim, Jeremiah sent his scribe to read to the people in the temple a message from God. Eventually, that message was brought to the King and his response was not too different from the response many people, both inside and outside of the Church, have today…he took a knife to it. Whether people do this literally or figuratively, they cut out from their life words that they find offensive, insignificant, or of no use in their opinion.
As you read Jeremiah 36, you will notice that God sends a message to the people which might cause them to change their ways. This message is heard by some God-fearing men who then want the message read to the King. Jehoiakim, on the other hand, as he listened to the scroll being read to him, took a knife and, every so often, cut what had been read from the scroll and burned it. God told Jeremiah to have it rewritten and added more words to it-specifically condemnation of Jehoiakim.
So what can we learn from this? Here are a few lessons.
First, God is a merciful God who wants all to be saved. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17) and so God sent His word to the people and to the king with the hope that they would repent. If you read from 2 kings 22, you will see what happened when Jehoiakim’s father Josiah had God’s word read to him; he humbled himself and made reforms to cause the people to serve God. God’s word will lead us in the ways we should go, if we will only humble ourselves, listen and do.
Second, God’s word remains. Even though Jehoiakim cut and burned the scroll with God’s word on it, God had it rewritten. 1 Peter 1:22-25 tell us that God’s word lives forever. It is relevant and is able to save us. We can try to fight against it but there is no way to change it, it will either change us…or we will break ourselves against it.
Third, people today fight against what the Scriptures say and cut out or ignore God’s word. Here are somethings they do:
- Ignore God’s plan of salvation- Mk 16:15-16, Acts 2:38, 2 Thes 1:8
- Ignore God’s plan for marriage-Eph 5:22-33
- Ignore God’s plan for assembling with the saints- Heb 10:24-25
- Ignore God’s plan for modesty- 1 tim 2:9-10
And many other passages people cut out of their life and ignore. However, God’s word is still there. Perhaps if we would spend more time reading it and doing it, our lives would be more at peace….Certainly, we would be more at peace with God.
The sermon yesterday morning dealt with mistakes we sometimes make in prayer. You can listen to it here.
Prayer is an important part of the Christian life. It is a discipline that can not only bring us closer TO God but one that brings us closer to being LIKE God. Still, being human, there are times that we may pray in a way that is not appropriate. Sometimes it happens in our own weakness, other times, in our zeal for good things to happen. In no particular order, here are four mistakes we should avoid in prayer.
First, praying for our own selfish motivated reasons. In James 4:1-6, James chastises those who fight because they don’t receive, says they don’t receive because they don’t ask and then even when they ask…they don’t receive because they ask with wrong motives to spend it on their own lusts. Why would a Christian pray that God let him win the lottery when there is no reason a Christian should be gambling in the first place? Yes, we can ask for things we want but we need to check our motives. God is not mocked.
Second, we may ask that God intervene in the free will of another. God, who wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4), is able to ‘force’ us to do His will but He created us in His image and gave us the opportunity to choose good or evil.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
So, in our desire to have others become Christians, praying that God would make this child or friend a Christian is something God won’t do against that individual’s will. A better prayer would be that God would guide/lead us to be sure that we do not put a stumbling block in the life of any individual. Still, be careful, God won’t make YOU do good either!
Third, we sometimes put God into our own conception of what He needs to do or not do. It goes like this “God, if you don’t want me to do this, then stop me!” (see the point on free will above) or “God, if you will do….XYZ by tomorrow at 2pm then I will know that you want me to do this or that”
You might say that Gideon (Judges 6) did this so “Why can’t I?” While it is true that God did respond to Gideon’s request to verify the message given to him by an angel, I would suggest that we would do better if we stopped trying to be Gideons and simply asked God for wisdom in the choices we are going to make, something He promises to give us. (james 1:5) And if God does send an angel to tell you that you take on a particular task, then maybe at that time, you might ask for an appropriate sign for verification.
Fourth, we can use prayer as a substitute for other spiritual activities. There is a time for prayer and there is a time for action. Jesus says that those who hear his words and DO them will be blessed. (Matthew 7:24-25) There are times when we need to get off our knees and do what is set before us to do.
This is especially true when it comes to studying the Scriptures. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s word, not by pray. (Rom 10:17) When the Bereans wanted to verify Paul’s message of Jesus being the Christ, they did not pray to God about it, they searched the Scriptures. (Acts 17:11)
I have made some of these mistakes in my prayer life and I imagine you may have too but if we can recognize these mistakes, we can avoid them.
(The sermon with this post can be heard here)
In the book of 2 Samuel 12, Nathan is sent to David by God to condemn him for his sin with Bathsheba. It is probably one of the most famous scandals in the Old Testament. In this chapter, David is told that he will be punished for the sin and one of the consequences was that the child which was the result of his affair would die.
The story shows us a few things about David that are worth noting.
First, David did admit that he had sinned. He did not do as we sometimes/often do-deny the sin. In this David shows his humility before God. David shows his heart and desire to be right with God.
Second, David pleads with God for the life of the child. David had an advantage that we do not have. (If you want to call it an advantage….) He knew that the child would die based on what God told him. Still, he fasts and prays and humbles himself for the 7 days in which the child was sick. Although God had said the child would die, David knew that God has relented from punishments in the past. (cf 2 1 Sam 21:14-15) So he sought the Lord’s favor.
Third, When the child had died, David accepted the situation and went on about his life. It is important to note however that David did this with two thoughts in mind: First, the past can not be changed. Two, there is a future for David with the child after death.
He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2Sa 12:22-23)
The concept of the resurrection is not so clearly laid out in the Old Testament as in the New Testament but it is clear that people living with the law of Moses believed in it.
Not only David here speaking of going to his son but in the Psalms, the sons of Korah speak of being bought back (redeemed) from the grave.
Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah. (Psa 49:14-15)
Also, we see of others who believed this.
Martha told Jesus about her dead brother Lazarus: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (Joh 11:24) and while we read of this account in a New Testament Gospel, Martha grew up in an Old Testament world. Yet, she believed.
Also, Paul standing before the counsel in offering his defense cried out “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” (Acts 23:6) It is true that Paul, as a Christian, believed in the resurrection and had even written about it by this time in First Thessalonians and First Corinthians. However, such a statement would mean nothing if the Pharisees did not hold a belief in the resurrection…a belief they would get from the Old Testament writings.
It is true that we have a better understanding and belief in it. After all, Jesus has already conquered death. They saw it dimly, we see it more clearly; They waited for the hope of Christ, we live believing He has already come…and will come again. Death is never a happy event for those left behind yet I am pretty sure it is a happy time for those that pass on. Still, we do not grieve as those who have no hope, we know that Jesus will return with those who have passed on before and take us with him to dwell with Him forever more. ( I thes 4:13-18)
Comfort one another with these words.
The sermon for this post can be heard at this link
Last week we looked at a lesson based on the question of “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The actual answer Jesus gave was not as much what the young ruler needed to do as much as what he needed to give up.
In the sermon, I suggested that perhaps there would be something in our personality that we should give up. One of those personality traits that comes to mind is that of complaining. Even if you don’t think of it as personality, it certainly is a habit many of us have.
Recently, my wife and I read a book (actually, it was an audiobook) entitiled, “A complaint free world” by Will Bowen. The major premise of which is a challenge to go 21 days without complaining. As he says in his book, and I found out in my own life, complaining is an action that is never to far away from us.
This got me to thinking…Do I complain? Honestly, yes I do. I don’t think of myself as a complainer but complaints still are verbalized by me. Complaints fall into the category of expressing discontent with someone or something, criticizing someone, or gossiping about another person.
When we read the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, we see admirable things: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control…..Apparently, Complaining does not make the cut. That’s right, complaining is not a fruit of the Spirit.
There are many reasons why we complain. Sometimes because we forget the blessings of God. Israel sure did this. (Psalm 78:10-20). Other times, we complain because we do not want conflict. That is, we fear that the person we have a complaint against will get mad (or more mad) at us if we bring it up. We even complain to complete strangers just to start a relationship: “The weather is soooooooooooooo hot!”, we complain and viola! instant camaraderie.
There are many reasons why we complain but really, none of them are good reasons because they do not resolve the problem. Discussing the issue with the person who can resolve it is not complaining (as long as you don’t whine about it to them), it is taking steps to fix the issue. Telling the waiter that your dinner plate is the wrong one and asking them to fix it is not a complaint, assuming you use good manners and proper tone.
Can you go 21 days without complaining? It is a good question. I hope you will take the challenge with me. I think that the book by Will Bowen will be worth the read.
Hate! It is such a strong word. Wrath, a synonym to hate, often starts with something that offends us and then if not released will turn into a grudge and then enmity and hatred that can last for generations. (Click here to hear the sermon on what hate will do. )
Esau’s descendants known as the country of Edom continued to allow an enmity between Edom and Israel to fester and continue. While the feud between Esau and Jacob appears to have ended, his descendants appear to have borne a grudge through the years and God was going to bring judgement on them for their perpetual hatred. (Ezekiel 35:1-5)
Sometimes we relish hatred in our hearts with other people. Hatred is not of the Spirit of God, it is of the worldly spirit. Hatred keeps in the carnal nature, it leads to contentions, blinds us to its results, and is a step closer to murder.
Hatred affects the one hating more than the one hated. In the book of Esther you see that Haman was much more affected by his hatred of Mordecai than Mordecai was affected by it.
Rather than let hatred fester in our lives, we should practice other qualities: Restraint, Forgiveness, Love of enemies and becoming more like our Father in Heaven who sheds his blessings on the just and unjust.
(Today’s sermon on this topic can be heard by clicking this link.) The question that the rich ruler asked Jesus was one that most of us ask as well: “What must I do…?” or as in Matthew’s account “What good deed must I do…?” (see Luke 18:18-23; Matthew 19:16-22) We all want to know what we can do. We all want to be sure that we are saved, that we will inherit eternal life. Here is Luke’s account of this discussion.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
You will notice that Jesus answered his question but there were a couple of things missing. In the first place, He said nothing about honoring God. Still, we can assume that a Israelite would understand that serving God was a necessary part in obtaining eternal life, so Jesus did not mention the first 4 commandments at all. He also did not mention the 10th commandment of coveting.
He covered the action commandments dealing our fellow man. A list of things that would not be impossible to find in a person. You can almost hear the wheels turning in the rulers head. Don’t commit adultery (Check!), Don’t murder (Check!) Do not steal (I have plenty…so Check!) Do not bear false witness (Check!), Honor parents….(Check!!!) Hey, that’s good….mmm, wonder if I need to do anything else? Uh, Jesus….what else do I lack?
Again: What do i need to do? Now Jesus brings out the 10th commandment. And this time when Jesus told him what to do, it was more like Jesus was telling him what he would need to give up! You see the 10th commandment “Do not covet” is now under consideration. This is not as much an action commandment as it is a heart and attitude commandment. It is easy to say “I don’t kill, steal, commit adultery, etc….” but to say ” I do not covet….” That is harder.
Notice that he had plenty of money. He was “extremely rich”. We tend to think of coveting as wanting something that someone else has….because we don’t have a way to get it. However, I suspect that if he had wanted the latest model of chariot that rolled out of the ACME chariot factory, he could have bought it. No, it seems clear that he was coveting his own possessions and things.
Jesus asked him to give up what he had and he was unwilling to do so. It is both a positive “Do this” and a negative “Remove this” It cut him very deeply. He went away sorrowful because he had great possessions (Matt 19:22)
What do you need to give up? You may not be a thief or murderer, you may not commit adultery or dishonor your parents but in the final analysis, what are you willing to give up to inherit eternal life? We should remember that we are encouraged to give our lives as a “living sacrifice” in Romans 12:1-2. Sacrifices always involve giving something up.
Will you give up your old friends for Jesus? Will you give up your 60 inch HDTV with surround sound? Will you give up your iPhone? Will you give up the next upgrade of the iPhone? Will you give up your Nintendo, even if you haven’t caught all the Pokemon? Will you give up a couple more hours to read your Bible, visit someone who is sick, send a card or letter of encouragement? Will you give up the one thing you want most? What is that thing? It isn’t complicated….it’s just hard.
I would suggest that for many of us, the freedom to do what we want and to live the lifestyle we want is a big draw. We have nice computers, comfortable homes, can pick up prepared food, talk with family all over the world, and pretty much be our own person.
Another thing we might consider giving up is the type of personality that we have. Some people have a way of doing things and saying things which they justify by simply saying “That’s how I am!” If I am cranky, short tempered, a loner, a party person, or what ever other flaw in character that we might have which we simply relish having or don’t care enough about it to give it up.
The process of becoming a living sacrifice can be expressed by Paul in Gal 2:20 when he says that it is no longer Paul that lives but Christ living in him. In other words, when people say Paul, they actually saw how Christ would have acted in that situation.
When people talk with you and interact with you, do they hear and see Christ? They should.
If we had asked the question of Jesus, what answer would we have gotten? It may be a different sacrifice for me than for you but it all comes down to this: If you want to inherit eternal life….what are you willing to give up?