Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful opportunity to spend time in fellowship with friends and family, and I know we have all heard the story of the Pilgrims and how the Native Americans helped them and that they had this huge feast to celebrate and give thanksgiving. However, who were they giving thanks to? Was it to the Native Americans or to each other? Actually, they were giving thanks to God, amazing how often that gets left out of the story. That’s right, they were thanking Jesus for His Providence, and that is what we should be doing on this day. We should thank Our Lord and Savior for everything that He has given us, and then share those gifts with everyone. “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” – 2 Corinthians 4:15. Jesus has given you the greatest gift, now take that gift and show others, by your thankfulness, how they may have the same gift.
This week is a time when we as a country honor those who have fought to defend our freedom. Veteran’s Day this year will be recognized on November 12, 2012 and it is a time that I remember those people who served our country. I remember people like my father, who served in the Navy and was stationed in Vietnam, or my grandfather who served in the Army during WWII. Veterans put their lives on the line to protect our lives and freedoms. It reminds me of Proverbs 31: 8-9 where it says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” These are instructions that are laid out for kings, however they apply to our veterans. They defend our rights and they are our voice that speaks out against those who would oppress the right to freedom throughout the world. If you have the opportunity, thank a veteran for defending your freedom.
Last week we began the Gospel Project with a discussion about “The God Who Speaks” where we discussed how God has communicated to us from the very beginning the truth of Jesus. This week we will be studying Psalm 19:1-6 where it says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” This passage is telling us that “God is Not Hiding” and that he has revealed himself through all creation. I invite you to spend some time with God and see Him in everything that He has made.
Last week we covered three of the twenty-four questions that we are studying at this time and we realized that these questions are not easy to answer. These are challenging questions that can be thrown at us at any time and we need to be in the Word to be able to provide the truth in love to those who do not know Jesus. However, this reminded me of Luke 12:11-12 where it says“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Jesus will not leave us without a defense for the attacks of the world. Through the Word and the Holy Spirit we will be able to answer the questions that continue to try to hide the God of the universe. With that in mind I have included the next three questions so that we can research these questions and be prepared to answer them Wednesday night.
- Why are we just a speck in the universe?
- How long did it take to create the universe?
- What about Jesus believers who only do good things out of fear of punishment?
We are at the end of summer. It's back to school time and we are about to start a whole new study. Before we do this I want to challenge the youth of our church with a list of questions that was sent to me by a young lady. These questions are designed to challenge the faith of a Christian and shake the foundation being built by Christ. While I was answering this list of questions it reminded me of Acts 17:11-12 “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” These Bereans verified the message that they were receiving by comparing it to the Word of God and that is what we will be doing as we answer these questions. We will look at these questions and use them to prepare and equip ourselves with the skills to examine the Scriptures for our daily walk with Jesus.
We are continuing our study of the parables, and this week’s parable is known as the Parable of the Weeds. This parable is found in Matthew 13:24-30. “Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” So what is Jesus saying in here? We need to look carefully at the analogy that Jesus is using here. What do the field, wheat and weeds represent? Are you the wheat or the weed and at the time of reaping where will you be? All of this is really what Jesus wants us to explore within ourselves as we read this passage. This parable is a brief story of the world, God created the world, sin entered the world, the world continued to grow and soon, the Lord will reap his field. He will save His wheat and the weeds will be burned.
This in many ways sounds like there is nothing that can be changed, however Jesus came so that we who are weeds may be transformed into wheat. If you trust in Him, he will bring you into His barn and save you from destruction. Share the love of Jesus so that others may be transformed and brought home.
So last week we discussed the concept of “Quenching the Holy Spirit” and this week we will be looking at a concept that is similar, yet distinctly different, “Grieving the Holy Spirit”. In scripture this is reference in Ephesians 4:30 where it says “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” So the next question is what does grieving the Holy Spirit mean? In this case the word that is used for grieving means the same as to make sad or sorrowful. I think it is safe to say that when we grieve the Holy Spirit, we are deliberately making God sad. I don’t know about you, but this is the last thing that I ever want to do, but how do we deliberately make Him sad? Well, when we sin we make God sad, but there is a difference between sinning on accident and deliberately and willfully telling God that we don’t care about the rules and continuing to sin. In the same way that quenching the Holy Spirit can lead us away from Jesus love, so can grieving Him, this happens because by deliberately disobeying, we openly tell God that He doesn’t matter to us. However, there is a way to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit that lives within us, what is it? It is a simple solution, confession and repentance, coming back to Jesus and asking Him to change the condition of our heart so that we are now willfully and deliberately doing everything we can to follow and live out God’s will for our lives. This can only be done by putting all of our faith and love into Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior.
When you’re in a situation where you know that you could be making the wrong decision, have you ever heard a small little voice in the back of your mind reminding you to do the right thing? When that voice speaks do you listen to it, or do you ignore it? Maybe a better question is what is that voice and where does it come from? The truth is, it isn’t your conscience; it is the Holy Spirit. It is God speaking to you and reminding you that He loves you and wants you to honor Him and yourself by listening to His advice. However, what happens when we ignore that voice? We are then doing something called “Quenching the Holy Spirit”. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, it says “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;.” What this means is that, in the bible, the word quench, means the same thing as to “snuff out”, like you would a candle, or like putting out the fire the Holy Spirit has burning inside of us. So every time you ignore the Holy Spirit within you, you are snuffing out Jesus when he is trying to talk to you and each time that you do that, you make it harder to hear God’s voice. Each time you quench that small voice within you, you make it more difficult to relight the fire of God within you, and you can do this to the point where you actually push that voice right out of your heart. However, always remember, when we ask for forgiveness and let Jesus know that he is the center of our lives, we open our ears to the voice of the Holy Spirit. So allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn in your heart and you will hear God’s voice.
I’ve been struggling with a discussion I had with a friend recently. The discussion surrounded the use of words and whether or not the use of them can affect our relationship to God. It disturbed me because I think that we forget that we are to be holy as God is holy and believe it or not to be holy means to be set aside for the use of God. So if we are using foul language is it even possible to be holy? And if we are using this language what becomes of our relationship to God? “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:6-7. It is pretty clear in scripture that if we are not living as God has called us we are remaining in the darkness, which is separation from God. However, it is also obvious that if we are doing everything we can to walk in the Word and coming to Jesus for forgiveness, we have fellowship with God. Now I know that using foul language is something that many people do and often out of habit or by accident, but that doesn’t change the fact that if we are willingly using it we are deliberately putting a wedge between ourselves and Jesus.
We went out and provided some sack lunches to the homeless today and I was amazed to see my friends praying and showing God’s love. We met and prayed with some men in both Arvada and downtown Denver. These people were extremely thankful and many were praising Jesus for the blessing he used us to provide. However, there was one moment that reminded me of Luke 17:11-19, which says “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” The reason that I am reminded of this passage was because of an interaction I witnessed as one of our Youth Group gave a lunch to a man in a wheelchair. This man almost cried and thanked us profusely, and then he looked into the eyes of the young man who handed him the lunch and asked if they could pray together. Many of the people we provided lunches to went through the motions when we asked to pray with them, this man, however, threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him. We prayed with him and I cannot begin to tell you how humbling and awesome it was to see God working in that moment. Let's all remember to thank Our Lord and Savior for everything that is of Him.
So I was thinking about last week’s blog and I wondered if God wants us to use music to worship and honor him, what does it mean to listen to music that might not be honorable to him? I also thought about the song that I have picked out to examine this week and how there is a reference in this song that I think may help to answer that question. The song that I want to share this week is called “What is Life?” by George Harrison, and there is a lyric in that song that reminded me of Ecclesiastes 2:26 “To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” I find this an interesting contrast, because if we listen to music that honors God, it will lift us up and give us wisdom, knowledge and happiness…through what the Lord has to teach us, however music that is not honorable is “meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Examine the music that you listen to and discern what is its purpose, is it honorable or leaves blowing away.
Many times when we listen to music we don’t realize the effect it has on us and other times we use it to ensure that we feel a certain way. Believe it or not the ancient Israelites used music for the same reason that we do…Worship. “They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, until Solomon built the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. They performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them.” – 1 Chronicles 6:32. Music is a powerful tool and we should use it for what God intended; that is to glorify Him. Perhaps we should make that the focus of the music you listen to?
“Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.” – Psalm 30:4. What does it mean to sing to the Lord? What type of song would you use to do that? I often wonder if the music I listen to is something that Jesus would find appropriate. However, I know that there are songs that I listen to that make me feel as if the Lord is right there beside me. Songs that lift my heart right out of my chest and I feel like I’ll burst if I don’t share it with someone and bring them closer to God. Do you know of songs that bring you closer to Jesus? Songs that make you want to praise God; songs that make you want to sing with all your might to exalt our savior. Take a look at these songs, and look deeper into this awesome blessing of music. Ask the Lord to be at work in your heart to help you find a song to glorify Him and praise his holy name.
So this week we are going to discuss the spiritual gift of giver. What does it mean to give? It can mean giving anything, however a giver is someone who gives freely of what they have. This reminds me of the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-35 “In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” At no point did the Samaritan have to do anything, but he gave, freely to heal someone that he didn’t even know. That is what the gift of giving is all about. The Lord has blessed certain people with this ability, and if it is yours, give with all that you have, and allow it to bless others and bring them to Christ Jesus.
So I know that it has been a loooooooooooooooong time since the last blog post and I hope you guys will forgive me. I will try harder to post them in the future…promise. So we are continuing our lessons on spiritual gifts and this week we are discussing the gift of Music. “They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, until Solomon built the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. They performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them.” – 1 Chronicles 6:32. I want you to pay close attention to the first line “They ministered with music”. Isn’t that a pastor’s job? Actually, I think this states pretty clearly that we can minister and use music to show God’s love. This is just like any of the other spiritual gifts we have learned about. That by using our gifts, just as they were using music, we draw others close to the Lord. What a wonderful way to serve the Lord. Sing His praises.
This is the time of Advent. Hold on, have you ever wondered what Advent really means? I certainly have and somehow I’m not sure the definition helps. Advent: (from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming") is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. I mean it does explain the word and that we are expecting Christmas, but why is Advent such a big deal? I think perhaps the best answer to that question is in Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, andwill call him Immanuel.” The Israelites waited over 700 years after Isaiah uttered these words for Jesus to arrive. This time of year is when we are reminded that God keeps his promises and that the gifts he gives us are perfect. We should remember to count our blessings and share the gift that God gave us…Jesus.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. –Proverbs 1:7. We are continuing our discussion on spiritual gifts and I felt that this proverb was an excellent way to start out. The spiritual gift that I’m referring to is the gift of knowledge or wisdom. A person who has this gift will truly appreciate Proverb 1:7, because they understand that the source of all wisdom is the Lord. The person who is blessed with this gift is someone who shares the knowledge of the Lord to those who don’t know the truth and knows how to answer those who have doubts. There are so many that don’t that Jesus is real, or even worse, refuse to believe that our Lord and Savior is real, it is those with this gift that provide the truth. If this is your gift pray that the Lord shows you how to share God’s wisdom with the world.
There was a song I heard the other night that really disturbed me. At first I really liked the tune; it was sort of pop meets punk with a very light-hearted and happy sound. I was really getting into it and then I started really listening to the lyrics…and then I couldn’t believe my ears. I was horrified to be honest with you; the name of the song is “Pumped Up Kicks”. I couldn’t believe the chorus, the words bothered me so much I looked them up because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. They go “ All the other kids with the pumped up kicks You'd better run, better run, outrun my gun All the other kids with the pumped up kicks You'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet”. As I’ve looked into the information available about this song, I’ve realized that it is about a boy who is acting out a Columbine style shooting. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” - Matthew 5: 21-22. The part that disturbs me the most is that this song is promoting hate, normalizing it and giving the impression that this is something light-hearted, acceptable and fun. It is truly scary that this is something the world is honoring; however, it is what we should expect in a broken sinful world such as this. Let’s pray that the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior is provided to those who are being led away by deceiving messages such as this.
Over the past few weeks we have been discussing different spiritual gifts. We have looked at what apostles, prophets and evangelists do. Each of these gifts has in common a portion of providing God’s Word to others, as do other gifts. However, many people associate these gifts with speaking and teaching the Gospel. That is actually the gift I am writing about today, teaching or the gift more commonly referred to as “pastor”. The Bible says “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” – Ephesians 4:11-12. So what does that mean? It means that those who have this gift, and the others we have already discussed, are to get people ready to share the message of Christ. I think the reason that pastor is mentioned last is that a pastor works to bring all these gifts together. If you have this gift you are the type of person who desperately doesn’t want to see anyone go astray and has a heart for those who are struggling with sin. Does this sound like the call the Lord has placed in your heart? If so I encourage you to read more about what it means to be one of God’s shepherds and use that gift to further and help those who are struggling with God’s will for them.
So what does it mean to have the gift of Evangelism? Does it mean you should be on TV speaking to the camera? Or does it mean that you are someone who shares the gospel with people where they live? Well the bible says in 2 Timothy 4:3-5 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” In this case Paul is telling Timothy that people will turn from God’s word, but that an evangelist will continue to provide the truth of God’s word. So the Evangelist has the job of identifying unbelief and speaking through it with God’s truth. Is Jesus calling you to be a witness to those who have been led away by the lies of this world? Perhaps this is your spiritual gift.
Have you ever wondered what an apostle is? I know that in the biblical sense we usually think of Peter and the other 11 disciples or maybe we think of the Apostle Paul? However, did you know that the word could also apply to you? Perhaps this is your spiritual gift as it is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28, where it says “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” So what would it mean if you were an apostle? Does that mean you would be like Peter or Paul? Well the word Apostle when translated into Latin is the word “missio” and that is the root word of missionary. Are you a missionary, is that your spiritual gift? Just to let everyone know, we will be studying spiritual gifts this school season, I invite you to come and find out what your gift is and how you can use it to further God’s word.
I was honored this Sunday with an opportunity to share a message with Word of Life Church in Ft. Collins. I was sharing with them a passage from Acts 2: 1-12, where it says “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” This message clearly describes the Lord using others by way of speaking in tongues to share the Gospel. In a similar way I was used by God, to motivate the members of Word of Life to get up and share their testimony with each other and their youth. After I shared my message one of their elders shared his testimony and then a member of the church wanted to share. Additionally, we were blessed when three youth, who traveled with me to Word of Life, decided to share their testimonies as well. Remember, the struggles you go through as you walk with Jesus, become the testimony that you need to share with others, without them how will they know who Christ is to you?
I have had some interesting conversations recently regarding the way the world looks at us as believers in Christ. One of these conversations was about how the world sees and portrays us and another was about how to respond to the world in those times. These concerns can be very frightening and even depressing if we allow them to be. We know that the world is broken and doesn’t even understand its brokenness, but do we really? Jesus said “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. –Luke 21: 10-19. The world does hate believers because they don’t understand. Love them as Jesus loved them, forgive them and allow the Lord to give you words and wisdom, stand firm and know that Jesus has already given you victory!!
So we survived the convention, actually, it was an awesome time for seeing God in action. It was so amazing to see our youth grow closer to each other, and more importantly to watch them grow closer to Jesus. To be a part of their conversations made me feel like the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” – Acts 2:2-4. As I listened and spoke to them I could see the Holy Spirit moving among them, opening them up to hear the word of the Lord. We have had an incredible experience and after much prayer I have realized that it is time for us as a group to work with the Lord to discover our spiritual gifts. I urge you to read 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 14. Discover who you are when you are HIS.
As I have been looking forward to VBS and YC’11, I can almost feel my feet itching. I am so excited for these things and I can’t wait for them to get here. What I find interesting about this is it reminds me of all the other things that I can’t wait for. I have so many things that I’m looking forward to and so many doors that I know are open for me, however, I have to continually remind myself that it is the Lord who plans my steps and that I need to wait for His timing, not my own. Psalm 27: 13-14 says “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Sometimes we try so hard to make things happen in our lives that we forget that God is in control and will provide us with opportunities to do things through Him, but it is in God’s time…wait for it, He will make it awesome.
The other day I was thinking about how I was addicted to cigarettes and how through God’s grace and love I was able to overcome it. I thought about how I didn’t really want to quit and how often I would justify the sins in my life by saying things like “This is how God made me, so it must be okay to live like this.” I realize now how much I was merely trying to justify my sin and make myself think that it was ok. “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. –James 1:13-18 Here we are being told that our sins come from us. God didn’t make us sinful, we did, and to justify our sins by saying so is sinful itself. So how do we overcome this? By realizing that we are sinners, repenting for those sins, and placing our trust in the only one who can remove them, Our Savior Jesus.
Have you seen the pictures of Minot, ND recently? Flooding has covered the streets and all you can see are the tops of houses. People are sheltering in RV’s at Wal-Mart or in local hotels. One of our sister churches, Our Redeemers LB, their church building has been spared; however, many in their church body have lost their homes to the flood and may not be able to return to them until August. Additionally, they are not even sure that their Youth will be able to attend YC’11. To them it would appear that their whole world has been flooded, however there is hope. “Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” –Genesis 9:14-15. The Lord guaranteed that his floods will no longer destroy all, and the rainbow is a sign of hope knowing that we will be restored. Hope is the promise that the people of Minot have right now and they need our prayers and love. My challenge to you right now is what should we do as a body to provide for our brothers and sisters in Minot, because we have the ability right now to be used of God and to provide them with a portion of hope.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what we represent when we call ourselves Christians. I mean what are we really saying when we use that term? When I looked up the definition of “Christian” on Dictionary.com I found several definitions, however there were two that struck me in a profound way. The first: “a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.” And the second: “a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ” Both define what we mean when we say we are a Christian, however the second one is really what I want people to see when I say that I believe in Christ. When we say that we are a Christian, but we act like the world, are we exemplifying the teachings of Jesus? I think it’s pretty obvious that the answer is “no”. Jesus said “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” –Matthew 18:7. Do we want to be a stumbling block for those who don’t know Christ or do we want to show people the grace and love we have found in our Savior? Look at the way you’re living your life and examine yourself. Ask yourself, do people see me or do they see the loving God who forgave my sins?
Have you ever had a feeling like you were losing your faith? That perhaps your faith was under attack? Believe it or not all Christians struggle with their faith. There are all sorts of attacks and traps that satan lays out for us. We are bombarded by ads, TV shows and movies that try to minimalize our faith. Things presented by the media, in school, or the streets that try to lead us away from Jesus. This world is filled with sin and it is constantly trying to trick us into taking our eyes off of God. It is a difficult battle and sometimes we lose, but that is the true beauty of God’s love, for even if we stumble He is there with us. The easiest thing to forget in these times of trial is that we don’t have to win. “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” -1 Corinthians 15:58. The war has already been won, the only thing that we have to do is stand. Stand on our faith and the attack will subside, because God will not fail and that is all the strength we need. So when you feel like evil is going to overcome you, plant your feet, give your weakness to God, and stand.
Have you seen the billboards? They say stuff like “Save the Date!, Return of Christ, May 21, 2011”. These billboards also reference a website by the name of Wecanknow.com. I went to this website and read the predictions about the Rapture occurring on May 21st. The predictions are made by a guy named Harold Camping and he presents some interesting evidence to support his claims. He states that he can know with 100% accuracy that we will be called to heaven on May 21st and that God will destroy the world on October 21st. He uses this rather interesting mathematical equation to put all of this together. However, is he right? To be honest, I don’t know, and if you trust in the bible (and I do) Harold Camping can’t possibly know either. How can I say this with such certainty? It’s really very simple Matthew 24:36-44 states “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” So Jesus says that no one except the Father knows…Perhaps we should just trust the bible, and just be prepared by believing in Jesus Christ our Savior and knowing that by doing so, He’ll call us home in His time.
I remember a time when I was in middle school and I watched this guy holding a seventh grade kid by the back of his head and was threatening to throw the seventh grader’s face into a locker. I stepped up and told him to let the kid go. Now I want you to understand, I wasn’t really doing anything brave, I was larger than this guy and was able to defend the much smaller seventh grader, however the reason I did this was because I remember times when I was the small kid being threatened and wishing someone would have helped me. Have you ever been in a situation where you were being bullied or how about in a situation where you could have helped the one being bullied? I hear a lot about bullying these days and I am saddened because when I hear some of these stories it surprises me how few people are stepping up and telling the bully how wrong it is to treat others that way. Proverbs 31: 8-9 says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Now I’m not saying that you need to get into the bully’s face, but if you know someone is being tormented by a bully or if you are the one being tormented, speak up to your teachers, your parents, church leaders, or even your friends. In some way, no matter how small, you can do God’s work and find the needed protection for those oppressed. I challenge all of us to take up the cause, let us pray together and watch as God works through us, so that we all may find the strength to do what is right.
Additionally, let us pray for the bullies; let us pray that God works in their hearts, so that they know that what they are doing is hurting someone. Let us pray that they find God’s love, repent and become defenders of the oppressed instead of tormentors of the meek.
In light of everything that has happened yesterday I think it is important that we keep some perspective on things. Yesterday we find out that Osama bin Laden is dead, and the U.S. rejoices, but is that really how we should react? “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” –Matthew 5:43-45. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies, that means even the ones who have done us harm. I hope that we remember that, particularly in view of the fact that our national day of prayer is this Thursday May 5, 2011. Let’s pray for all those who are our enemies, because they need God’s love as much, if not more than we do.
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom..” (Matthew 27:50-51). When I first read this passage I wondered what was the big deal about a curtain? Why even bother with telling people about it? Well, it’s important to understand about what that curtain hid. You see, behind that curtain, was the holiest of holies. Only the high priest of the temple was allowed to go in there and only one day a year. It was the only place that allowed direct access to God Almighty and when Jesus died, that curtain was torn and there was no longer a veil between us and God. When Jesus died, he tore that curtain to let us know that we have direct access to Him. Isn’t that awesome, to know that God desires so strongly to have a relationship with you, that he sent his Son to destroy anything that would hinder your ability to connect with him? So Our Lord and Savior has cleared the path to Him, but have you put things in your way? If so, know that God will help you find the path again.
You ever do something wrong and try to hide it? I know that everyone at one point or another in their lives has made some sort of mistake and then did everything they could to hide it. I remember as a kid the many times I tried to hide the stuff that I had done. The part about hiding something is it makes you feel more guilty the longer you try to hide it. In Psalm 32, David wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” When we try to hide our sins they become like weights that tie us down. So when we hide our sin all we are really doing is driving a wedge between ourselves and God. That’s what makes the next part of Psalm 32 so cool, because it says “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” So as children to God we should confess our sins and He will forgive. Additionally, He has shown us the model that we should forgive others when they come to us and confess their sins…try it sometime!
You know I think the greatest thrill I have ever gotten as a Christian was the day my son came to Christ. It has been and will continue to be something that I can’t help sharing. My son and I were on our way to buy school supplies and he made the comment to me. “Dad, I don’t understand how someone doesn’t believe in God.” It was one of the greatest moments in my life when we pulled over and he accepted the Lord into his heart for the very first time. Then recently he and I were discussing a decision he had to make regarding God’s will. I asked him “What would you do if you knew that this was God’s will?” He responded with “Well, I guess I wouldn’t have a choice.” This reminded me of 3 John 1: 3-4 where it says “It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” It is awesome to hear of others walking in God’s truth. Share these moments of truth with others, it may lead them closer to Christ.
When I was a kid, I remember how much it annoyed me that my sister could do no wrong. Didn’t matter what she did, she very rarely got busted for it. I remember one particular instance when she threw a soda can at me. It was full, unopened and thrown from the top of the stairs and smacked me square in the forehead. I was furious, I chased my sister all over the house and was prepared to give her what I felt she had coming. My mother on the other hand had other plans, I got punished and again my sister appeared to get off with nothing. I had similar issues to that all throughout my childhood. I always felt it was unfair that I never really got to get back at my sister. However, I look back on it and realize how wrong I was. You see, I wanted vengeance, not justice, and what I realize now is what is said in Psalm94:1 “O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs—O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!” What that means is that vengeance belongs to God. It is not my place to punish someone. That is God decision, and that I need to let go and trust that the Lord will deal justly with all things. Because the Lord has also told us in Psalm 103:6 “The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” So we can be assured that the Lord will do the right thing…Always!!!
So we held our fundraiser/outreach at MadCap Comedy yesterday, and we made a total of $30.00 on the deal. Sounds disappointing, doesn’t it? I mean, we hold this big fundraiser and we barely covered the cost. However, I saw some wonderful things that happened yesterday. While I was waiting at the door; I met two couples and a group of college students I had never seen before, my best friend and his wife, and many members of my church family coming together in fellowship. We shared food and laughter and more importantly a little time with the Lord. Hebrews 10:23-25 says “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” So I look on this and am encouraged by the fellowship we had, and that $30 bucks we made, pales in comparison to the blessings our Lord Jesus gives us every day.
I was reading Exodus to my son not too long ago and I noticed something very interesting. Moses is told by God to go to Egypt and bring them out. Moses does everything he can to talk the Lord out of it. He claims he can’t talk well and even goes so far as to ask the Lord to send someone else. However, when the Lord rebukes him, he says yes Lord and goes to Egypt and does what God tells him to do. The Lord then uses Moses to tell Pharaoh what he is supposed to do. Well, Pharaoh says no, and then lies and says yes, and then tries to make all sorts of concessions to get what he wants. The Lord’s response each time is to discipline Pharaoh. He sends 10 plagues against Egypt, and each time Pharaoh does what he wants and disobeys the Lord. The reason I find this so interesting is how much it reminds me of one of my favorite parables, which can be found in Matthew 21: 28-31, The Parable of the Two Sons. “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” So here is what I think all this is saying, if you do what God wants, even when you don’t want to, He will see that and may reward you for it, however if you tell God what you think he wants to hear and do what you want, the Lord will discipline you.
I saw a Facebook posting the other day that asked “Why dont more guys call girls beautiful instead of sexy?” I thought about this myself and I have to admit I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed, but not surprised. In a world where objectifying women, and men, has become the attitude we are expected to have it doesn’t surprise me that the word “sexy” has become the adjective people use instead of beautiful. I think what we have forgotten is what the Lord says about how we were created. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27). We are created in the image of God, the bible also tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. “Sexy” is a term for a thing, that is a term that people use to say I lust after that object. Beauty on the other hand is how God views us, how we should view each other, and how we should view ourselves. Let’s use God’s standards, not the terms that the world, and those who don’t love you want to define you as. I always tell my daughter that God thinks you’re gorgeous, you should remember that is how He sees you too.
I’ve been thinking recently about what we honor in society. I was thinking about the things presented to us as honorable. This led me to think about awards shows, and the first one that popped into my head is the “Oscars”. This really got me thinking, “What award type shows are there and do any of them present a noble, pure or admirable purpose?” So I went looking for award shows, and here is what I found out. You have the Oscars, Emmy’s, SAG, Golden Globe, People’s Choice, Grammy’s, American Music Awards, Tony’s, and CMA’s. These are just the award shows that are televised by the major networks; there are still multiple cable network awards shows, dog shows and beauty pageants. However, there don’t seem to be any televised shows about this year’s heroes. Where is the award show for the police officer of the year? Or what about paramedic of the year? This really saddens me. What does this say about our society? What I really think it emphasizes is that we live in a broken world. So what do we do about it? Well in Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I think we take this passage to heart, live it and show it as an example to the world.
Have you ever wondered what your reward is? What gain is there for being a good person? Is there any gain? If there is gain, what is it? Let’s look at the opposite of that too. What is our punishment? What happens if we don’t do anything? Are there consequences for our actions? For our inactions?
I was reading Genesis recently and I read this passage. “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Gen. 15:1). I thought it was so cool to read this. Because the Lord tells us that He is our very great reward. I mean if you really think about it ultimately, that is our greatest gift. Our greatest gift is being with God forever. Because even though we may not always realize it God is in this world. As sinful, scary and broken as this world is Jesus told us he would be with us. But imagine a world without God, a world where sin and evil go unchecked and there is no law or justice. I think that would be scarier than my imagination will allow me to go. However, that is why I’m so glad for the passage above. I know what my reward is…and I’m going to cherish it and show others how to find it. Are you?
I know that this may be a strange message to share on Valentine’s Day, but what better way to show our love than by sharing the love of Jesus.