Monday, August 31, 2015

This week at Prince of Peace, we saw that we don't accept what the Bible says about us.  We like to think that we're good people.  We like to think that our intentions are good.  We like to think that we're deserving of salvation.  However, this isn't the case.  In reality, our heart is filthy.  It defiles us in the eyes of God.  The only thing that can cleanse us from The Filth Within is Jesus.  To listen to this message, click on the link.
For those of you who haven't seen it, I have a brand new publication available.  It's titled Reflections on Faith.  Here's the description:

Faith is essential in the life of the Christian. But what is faith, and what does it mean to have faith? These questions are explored as we look at the teaching of Jesus, relating to faith, in the gospel of Matthew.

If you're interested in checking it out, click on the link.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

“…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

(Acts 1:8 ESV)

            As school is resuming here in Beulah, and as my own children are back in school, this verse has often come to mind in recent days.  It comes to mind because it reminds me, and hopefully them as well, of the calling God has placed on their lives.  Like the apostles, and like you and me, they have been called to be Jesus’ witnesses.  And school provides them with a great outlet for this calling.

            It’s a great outlet because there are many in the schools who do not know the Lord.  Students and teachers alike, there are many who do not have faith in him.  And they are able to share the gospel in this mission field.

            As most of you know, a witness is someone who testifies to what he’s seen and heard.  He testifies about something he’s experienced first-hand.  And this is what young people can do in the schools.  They can testify before others about the wonderful things God has done in their life.  They can testify concerning Jesus, how he’s saved them, and how he’s given them the hope of eternal life.

            I’ve run into many Christians over the years who’ve told me that children are not capable of carrying out this call.  They’ve told me that they’re too young.  They’ve told me that, instead of being a witness, they’re in the position of being corrupted by unbelievers.

            We can’t deny that it’s possible for our children to be corrupted.  It’s possible for us to be corrupted as adults as well.  However, Jesus gave this call to all of his followers.  As I search the Scriptures, I don’t see any age limit put on it.

            And not only is this true, we see also how God used young people to do great things.  We see that, when he was only a child, God spoke to Samuel and he became a great prophet.  We see that, when David was quite young, God used him to slay Goliath.  We aren’t given Mary’s age, but most scholars believe she was young when she was told that she would bear the Son of God. 

            God can use young people because they don’t fulfill this call by their own abilities.  And neither do we.  It’s not our wisdom that enables us to carry out this call.  Nor is it our maturity or strength. 

Jesus told his followers that, when his Spirit came upon them, they would be his witnesses.  It was the Holy Spirit who enabled them to carry out this call.  And, in the same way, it’s by the Holy Spirit that our children, that young people, can carry out this great work.

            I was a believer throughout most of my childhood.  And as I think about school, I see mostly my failure to reach out to my teachers and classmates.  I was so desperate to fit in that I kept my mouth shut.  I hope and pray that my own children, as well as yours, will not fail in this way.  I pray that they’ll fulfill this calling.  I pray that they will be the start of a revival here in Beulah.  I pray that, through their witness, many will come to know the Lord and his salvation.
This past Sunday at Prince of Peace, we concluded our series on failure.  As we did so, we looked at the apostle Paul.  Once again, we see his sin and that he's no better than us.  But we find that we are guilty of the same sin, and just in need of God's mercy.  And we see the grace of God given him in spite of his sin.  To hear this message, click on the link!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Do We Love God's Word?

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
(Psalm 119:97 ESV)

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
(Psalm 119:105 ESV)

            As we read through Psalm 119, one thing is plain.  The author of this Psalm loved the Word of the Lord.  His thoughts were focused on God’s Word throughout the day, and they guided the actions he took.  But, reflecting on this, I’m forced to ask: Is this our attitude today, when it comes to God’s Word?
            So often today, even in the church, a different attitude is prevalent.  Even though we will say that we love God’s Word, we never take the time to read it or study it.  It’s not something on which we focus during our day to day life.  More often than not, we have no idea what the Bible even says. 
            Quite often, reading God’s Word and reflecting upon it is seen as more of a chore than a joy.  If we do it at all, it isn’t done out of our desire to know the Lord or the words he’s spoken.  It’s done out of a sense of duty.
            God’s Word is also not what guides our steps.  Instead of looking to Scripture when making decisions, we look to our own wisdom.  Instead of looking to Scripture to determine the right course of action, we look to our feelings and to popular opinion. 
            When we do look to God’s Word, we often find that it makes us uncomfortable.  It makes us uncomfortable because it contradicts what we tend to think and believe.  And this forces us to make a choice.  What do we believe is correct, our feelings or the written Word of God?
            Quite often, we look to Scripture and think that its teachings are outdated.  We believe that we’ve evolved past these doctrines of old.  We believe that if the authors of the Bible knew what we know now, it would read much different.
            When confronted with the uncomfortable aspects of Scripture, I’ve often heard people say something to the effect of: “My god would never say such a thing…My god would never do such a thing.” We often act as if we speak for God.  We act as though we’re a better judge of his character than he is himself.  We act as though we know him better than those who walked with him and who were inspired by the Spirit of God to pen the words preserved in the Bible.
            In closing, I want to leave you with a few statements, made by Jesus, regarding his Word:

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."
(Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."
(John 8:51 ESV)

“The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment-- what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me."
(John 12:48 ESV)

"If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.”

(John 14:23-24 ESV)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Honoring the Aged

“Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.”
(1Timothy 5:3-4 ESV)

            When I served my first congregation, I lived in a parsonage in inner-city San Diego.  Around me lived people from many different cultures and ethnic groups.  And something always struck me about these people. It was impossible to miss the fact that they are very family oriented. 
I had a Vietnamese family living on one side.  And in their home lived the grandparents, the parents, and the children.  On the other side of my home was an apartment complex where several Mexican families lived.  And they also maintained strong intergenerational connections. 
            I learned from a friend that, when a Vietnamese couple married, they moved in with the bride’s parents.  Her parents would help with the children and the housework.  And, as they aged, they were cared for by their children and grandchildren.
            This struck me because, in American culture, our goal is to get out of our parents’ house.  We want to get out on our own and take care of ourselves.  We have little, if any, desire to stay and to care for our parents.
            And this mentality is seen not only in the young.  As adults, we want to get our children out of the house so we can enjoy the quiet of our golden years.  Among older adults, it’s viewed as strange to have adult children living with you.  It signifies that your children have not succeeded and are not able to take care of themselves.
            As they age, many older adults are unwilling to live with their children.  They say that they don’t want to be a burden.  And, for this reason, they choose to move into a nursing home.
            It seems to me that we’ve lost sight of the call of God to take care of our family.  Paul, in the above passage, was talking about the care of widows.  And he encouraged the church to care for widows who were truly widows.  What he meant by this is that, not only have they lost their spouse, but that they have no family left to care for them.
            However, if a widow had family, if they had children or grandchildren, it was expected that they would provide care.  He refers to this as showing godliness to their own household.  He says that, in this way, they’re making some return to their parents.  And he tells us that this is pleasing in the eyes of God.
            We often fail to remember that, by serving our parents, by caring for them, we are serving God.  After all, it’s he who called us to honor our father and mother.  As Jesus points out, in Mark 7:9-13, by providing for our parents, by caring for them, we fulfill this command.
            In verse 8 of 1 Timothy 5, Paul makes a very strong statement, one that we’d do well to consider.  He says: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Even unbelievers understand that it’s right and proper to care for their family.  So, if we fail to provide for our family, and this is especially true if we’ve failed to provide for those of our own household, we’ve denied the faith.  We cannot sincerely profess faith in Jesus if we’re unwilling to care for our family.

            Considering this, I think that it’s good for us to be counter-cultural here in America.  As the church, let us not fall into the mindset that’s so prevalent in our nation today.  Let us not ignore our parents as they age.  Let us not seek independence from our parents to the point where we no longer honor them.  And let us, as we age, willingly receive the care and provision of our children.

Monday, August 17, 2015

This week at Prince of Peace, as we near the end of our series on failure, we looked at the sin of Peter.  We see that, after Jesus' arrest, he followed at a distance.  He did so because he didn't want to be too closely associated with him.  And, when asked, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. We too are guilty of following Jesus at a distance.  We too are guilt of denying him.  But we're encouraged by the grace given to Peter in spite of his guilt. To hear this message, click on the link.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Partner or An Enemy?

“…for the one who is not against you is for you."
(Luke 9:50 ESV)

            This is a verse that has often caught my attention.  It’s done so because we often think of it in the opposite way.  We often believe that the one who is not for us is against us.
            However, the one who is not for us is not always against us.  They may not know us, and they may not be our fans.  But, regardless, we’re working for a common purpose.
            We see this as we look at the context of this verse.  The disciples came to Jesus telling him that they’d seen someone casting out demons in his name.  And when they saw this, they tried to stop him.  They did so because he did not follow with them.
            Jesus responded to them, telling them not to stop him.  They were not to stop him because the one who is not against them is for them.  He was in no way opposing them or their ministry while he engaged in his own.
            As I preached at our community service here in Beulah last week, I highlighted that all who have faith in Christ are brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Even though we have our own congregations, with beliefs and practices that differ slightly, we have many more similarities than we do differences.  We are all trusting in Christ, and in him alone, for the salvation he provides.  And we also share a common call and a common purpose.
            Those who attend the other churches in town may not follow the Lord with me.  And, in the same way, we may also serve separately.  But we are, in no way, opposing one another.
            We often look at the other churches in town, we often look at the other pastors in town, as our competition.  Because they are not following Christ together with us, we set ourselves against them.  We want to be more successful than them.  We’d be happy if we could get their people to come to our church.  In fact, we’d be just fine with it if their church closed its doors.
            Like the disciples, we must realize that those who are not against us are for us. Even if they aren’t following with us, they’re following the same Lord.  Even if they aren’t serving with us, we are serving the same Lord. 
            That being said, I’m not suggesting should throw caution to the wind.  We all know that there are many who profess faith in Christ and to serve him, yet their ministry is not Scriptural in the least.  And, as a pastor, I view the protection of the flock as an important responsibility. Before I recommend that someone attend a particular church or ministry, or before I recommend that they make use of a particular resource, I want to know that we’re on the same page.  This is even more the case if someone is to teach or to share in the congregation I serve.

            However, as I’ve pointed out, there are many who follow Christ who are not following with me.  There are many who serve Christ who are not serving with me.  And just because this is true of them doesn’t indicate that they are off base or that their ministry should be hindered.  He who is not against me is for me.  The one who is not opposing my ministry is following and serving the same Lord.

Monday, August 10, 2015

This week at Prince of Peace, we continued our look at failure as we considered the sin of Solomon.  We find, once again, that he was not a good man.  We find that he was not deserving of God's blessings.  Yet, we also find that God blessed him in spite of his sin.  All of this is a comfort to us, who are guilty like Solomon and deserving of God's judgment.

Monday, August 03, 2015

The Source of Healing

“Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk."”
(John 5:8 ESV)

            After listening to the invalid share about his inability to get into the pool, that he might receive the healing he desired, Jesus addresses the man.  However, his words seem almost cruel and uncaring.  He simply tells the man to get up and walk.
            Imagine telling an alcoholic to clean up his life.  This would be cruel because he obviously can’t do this for himself.  Imagine telling a blind man to see or a deaf man to hear.  Again, they can do nothing to change their condition.  Such a statement would be cruel because we’d be telling them to do something that’s beyond their ability.
            But we fail to understand something that this man seemed to grasp.  Jesus didn’t tell him to get up to insult or to mock his condition.  Jesus also didn’t expect this man to get up and walk by his own strength or ability.  Jesus told the man to get up because he had the power to make the man get up.  He had the ability to grant healing.
            It’s clear to me that the man understood this.  It’s clear because, upon hearing this command, he didn’t grumble.  He didn’t complain of his inability to get up, or continue to lay.  He simply did as he’d been told.  He picked up his bed and walked.
            In the same way, we’re told to resist the devil not because we can do it on our own, but because Jesus can empower us to do just that.  We’re told to flee from immorality and youthful passions not because we have the strength in ourselves to do it, but because Jesus can empower us to do it.  We’re told to repent not because we have the strength or the willpower to accomplish this task, but because Jesus can empower us to turn from sin.
If we want to be healed, if we want Jesus to work in our life, we must trust in his power to grant that healing.  We must surrender to him as he calls to us and follow his leading.  It’s when we respond to him in faith that we’ll receive the gift he’s offering us.