Archive for October, 2011

How Long Will This Take?

October 31, 2011

“”Calling to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb,’ for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”  Revelation 6:16-17

It seems that for some people, they never learn.  Consider the person who tries to find a relationship that gives them true love.  They search through person after person and discover less than they bargain for.  This was the case of pop star, Jennifer Lopez.  Recently CNN reported that she broke down on stage while singing a song about love.  She said, “The song took me down memory lane.”  Lopez has been married and divorced three times.  She went on to say, “There is love and then there is love.”

I wonder if Lead and Rachel knew what they would face when they both were married to Jacob.  This morning I walked through the dysfunctional path of their wrestling with each other to try to gain Jacob’s affection, Genesis 29:31-30:24. It seems that these sister were always fighting for one man’s love.

Here is what I discovered about this one man, “Jacob.”  Here is a guy who has the call of God on his life, but still yet he has not been broken from his pride and distrust.  Here is a guy who often operated by his wits instead of operating by faith.  We discover Jacob did not have it easy during these years of God bringing him to a place of brokenness.

“These 20 yeas I have been in your house, and there I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.  If the God of my Father had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed,” 31:20-21.

During these 20 years, without a doubt Rachel and Leah, witnessed Jacob’s struggle with coming to place of brokenness before God.  However they would see him get there in chapter 32.  Jacob would pray, “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of your steadfast love and all the faithfulness you have shown to your servant,” 32:10.  In chapter 32 Jacob would experience God in a way that would break him and he would live in brokenness.

Believe it or not, brokenness in the sight of God is a good thing, because it leads to blessing.  When God broke Jacob He changed his name to Israel, “Prince with God.”  Here this man who battles with his wits and his will becomes a man who is walking in the will of God.  Certainly he was not perfect, and we will see this as we study on through Genesis.  But He is walking in dependence and that is a blessing.

As I finished my time of personal study, I wrote the following in my journal, “How long does it take for a person to come to the place of blessing?  I wonder, ‘have I come to the place of being broken from the sins that so easily ensnare me?” 

Certainly the people in the tribulation are refusing to be broken.  For them, an eternity in hell will not break them of their rebellion.  But for those whom Christ chooses to reveal himself, we discover He was broken so that we could be blessed.  2000 years ago Jesus went to the cross and paid in full our sin debt to God the Father.  We can walk in forgiveness because of Christ.

My this day be a day of blessing to you through being broken from sin to walk in obedience to Christ.

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People Who Need Help

October 28, 2011

” And they sang a new song saying, worthy are you to take the scroll and to open it seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language  and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9.

Last Friday morning I sat in shock as I read an online story of a 74-year-old elderly woman(Mary Ann Rivera) who has lived for the last 25 years in Ga. Authorities from Texas claim that 40 years earlier she killed her husband by throwing hot grease on him and then she fled Texas.  Her neighbors were in shock and most were asking, “How could this be?”

Brothers and sisters, “if you look close enough you will discover, there are problems in every family.”  Consider the descendants of Abraham in Genesis 27-29.  Abraham’s only son has been blessed with twin boys who are both trying to acquire their fathers blessing.Isaac has been told, by God, that the blessing belongs to the younger, but Isaac loves Esau more than he does Jacob.  So trouble comes as Rebecca, who loves Jacob more, decides to deceive her now almost blind husband into giving the blessing to Jacob.  The scene of chapter 27 is so messed up that at one point Jacob says, “Because the Lord your God has granted me success.”  

The scene of deception intensifies to the point that Esau says, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother,” 27:41.  Hatred always comes to a home where it’s leaders operate in the flesh.  Time does not heal the wombs.  Brothers and sisters every family needs help.  The help they need must come from the Lord.  Certainly this family does not deserve the help of the Lord, but neither does mine and neither does the family of Mary Ann Rivera.  But thankfully God, in his grace, offers grace to all kinds of people.

This happens with the family of Isaac.  We see this in chapter 28 when Jacob is fleeing for his life. The very first night of Jacob’s fleeing from his brother is a testimony to this truth.  As Jacob lies down on the ground with a rock for his pillow, we read of a dream that would change Jacob’s life.  In his dream Jacob sees a ladder coming down from heaven.  It is God who is at the top of the ladder and God comes down and speaks to Jacob, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land,” 28:14.

Brethren this is all grace!!! Here is a guy who is a deceiver and is in a mess but God comes and extends grace.  When I look at my own life I see this same truth of grace.  When I think of Mary Ann Rivera I think of someone who needs grace. One thing is for sure, grace is not cheap.  Jesus Christ had to go to the cross so that we could be redeemed.

This very day, I find myself crying out, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain for me.” This very day, I find myself celebrating Christ alone.  This very day, I find myself committing this day to proclamation of the this truth to those around me.

Paying Attention

October 27, 2011

“I will ponder all your work and meditate on your mighty deeds,” Psalm 77:12.

Last Saturday John and I spend about 30 minutes resting on the couch in the afternoon.  As we sat there John was flipping channels and stopped on a channel that was airing the Bugs Bunny Show.  Certainly I am an adult and do not often watch cartoons, but this was one from my childhood.  To my surprise, it was my favorite episode of all time.  In this episode a very forgetful wolf is chasing Bugs Bunny.  Often in the chase the wolf would just stop and ask himself, “Now what was I chasing.” Here was a fictitious character that could not keep his focus.  (By now you are getting the point)

This morning I was challenged by the focus of both God and the servant of Abraham. You find Abraham’s servants story in Genesis 24.  Abraham tasks his servant to go back to Abraham’s homeland and find a wife for his son Isaac.  This servants attention to detail is a fresh reminder of how vital it is that we pay attention to what God commands us to do.

Here is the servants prayer, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham,” 24:12.  Before us is a servant who discovered who was trusting in the promises of God.  He engages in prayer because He knows God loves Abraham and He knows God will keep His promise.

As you read the unfolding of events, I challenge you to pay attention to how this servant praises God for His direction, “I bless the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way…” 24:48. Brothers and sisters maybe you find yourself in that place where you do not know how to solve the problems in front of you?   Allow me to challenge you to pay attention to God’s path of success.  We must come before the Lord and choose to listen to Him.

This paying attention (Listening) demands that several things happen.  First, You must be willing to spend time with God.  Isaac went out in the field to meditate toward evening.”  Second, You must read His word.  Mediation involves listening to God.  We listen as we read.  Thirdly, we must trust what we read.  Fourth, we must place all our fears at His feet and walk in His confidence.

This is what the servant did and by God’s grace He found success because this was God’s plan.  Here is what the elders around the throne of God are saying about all of what we are writing about today:  “For you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created,” Revelation 4:11. 

Bottom Line:

God has a clear sovereign plan for our lives.  The amazing thing is that despite our flaws His sovereign plans are always accomplished.  Our task is to daily seek Him and daily submit to what He makes clear. 

Now pay attention to this fact.  As the servant was seeking the right wife of Isaac, little did he know that he was participating in making sure the Messianic line of Christ was being kept in tact.  God’s plan culminates in Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  Oh how we have must to pay attention to this day.  All of it should cause praise to come to our lips.

A Refreshing Fact

October 26, 2011

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true; in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life,” I John 5:20.

Nothing bothers be any more than for a promise to be broken.  Whether it was someone breaking a promise to me or I am breaking a promise to someone else.  There are so many repercussions when promises are broken.  I can still remember those times when my earthly father would promise to play with me but would be unable to because of some type of need at his work or something needed to be done around the house.  Those times were tremendous let downs and I am sure I have let down others.  Now my father often did keep his promises but like every father he was and is not perfect.

This morning I found great refreshment in the fact that our Heavenly Father always keeps His promises.  Case in point Genesis 21-23.  After 25 years of waiting Abraham and Sarah see God’s promise fulfilled in a child, “The lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised,” Genesis 21:1.

Question: “Does God always keep His promises?”  Answer, “Yes,” “From everlasting to everlasting He is God,” Psalm 90:2. As I considered this fact several refreshing realities came to my heart and mind:  First we serve a God who is Truthful.  Secondly we serve a God who can be Trusted.  Consider Genesis 22 when God tells Abraham to go and sacrifice his son on the altar.  I am amazed that Abraham does not doubt, he does not dispute, nor does he delay.  Abraham obeys God.  Certainly we see a picture of God the Father who gives His only Son for all of humanity (John 3:16).

Abraham trusts in the Father even in the greatest of testings.  As I read through the text I was reminded that Abraham was able to have calmness, clarity, and confidence in this trial because he was looking to the one who have made a promise to him.  He trusted in the Author Of Truth.  Here was his bold statement to his servants, “The lad and I will go there on the mountain and worship and return.”  And even bolder statement comes a few verses later, “God will provide for himself a lamb.”  This is exactly what our Heavenly Father did for us in sending Christ, (John 1:29).

Oh how I trust that you will read these chapters.  This story ends in triumph.  Here we see the path to refreshment.  We serve a God of truth who is trustworthy that always leads us in triumph!

“It is very hard to discern what God is doing the midst of trials when one only looks at the trial.  One must place the truth about God in front of every trial. As we look trough the lens of the truth of God we see things from a calm, clear, and confident prospective.”

Father help each of us to look through the lens of your truth today in every trial we face. For further study consider both Hebrews 11:19 and Revelation 3:7.

Knowing What To Do

October 25, 2011

If by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly,” II Peter 2:7

This morning there are many Christians and many Christian leaders all over the world who are struggling to know what to do to accomplish the mission of the church.  For example, consider the pastor whose church is doing ok, but his community is dying without Christ and it seems as if he cannot make any headway.  Consider the parent who is struggling with his or her teenager.  All of their efforts to get them to be excited about Christ seems to be falling on deaf ears.  Consider the Christian who wants to reach his neighborhood for Christ, but he struggles to find the right way to go about it.

These, my brothers and sisters are real issues before the church today.  Consider with me Abraham beginning in Genesis 18:16 and continuing to the end of chapter 19.  The men who were visiting Abraham were leaving and they were headed to where Lot was residing, “The city of Sodom.” Here is what the word records, ” The Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do…”  The fact is, God did not hide from Abraham what He was about to do.

Notice what Abraham immediately began to do, “Abraham drew near to God and began to intercede.”  Here is a righteous man who pleads for the righteous people in the city of Sodom.  When the conversation ends God says, “if there are ten righteous people I will not destroy the city.”  Genesis 19 teaches us that there are not ten righteous people in the city.  God’s wrath was justified on this city.

As you and I look at the world, certainly we should know that the word is unrighteous and deserves the wrath of God.  Certainly we should know that God will not reject the righteous (Job 8:30). But He will reject the unrighteous.  Genesis 19 ends with the tragic scene of Lot’s family being ripped apart by the Sodom ways within his family.  His wife cannot help but to look back and turn to a pillar of salt and his daughters take matters into their own hands and sin against their father and against God.

Brothers and sisters we have a choice.  We can choose to minister as Lot did or we can choose to minister as did Abraham.  I choose this day for my life and my family’s life to follow Abraham’s path.  Abraham chose to intercede with God.  God alone can change the hearts of people around us and even those who live in our homes.  Stay faithful to what you know to do.  God promises it will pay off in the end, Gal. 6:9.

Here is how Kevin Deyoung and Greg Gilbert describe our work, “We are to win people to Christ and build them up in Christ.  Making disciples-that’s our task,”  The Mission Of The Church, Pg 63.  

Brothers and sisters this work begins on our knees in total dependence on God to do the work of salvation.  We do the work of sowing and equipping.  Now that we know what to do, “Let’s go and do it!!!”

A Nagging Question

October 24, 2011

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind,” James 1:6.

Genesis 16 begins with a scene that is all too familiar to over lives.  Abraham’s wife is growing weary with the question, “God when are you going to fulfill your promise?”  This question, has been on her mind for ten years and finally she decides to take matters into her own hands.  You can read her story in Genesis 16.

I wonder, how many reading this blog find themselves in a place where you are dealing with a nagging question?  For Sarah, the question was, “How can I provide an heir for my husband?”  The question for you is certainly different. You question could come from a variety of circumstances: Career move, relocation, family, health, financial, or a thousand other circumstances.  However the bottom line is the same as it was with Sarah, “When will God come through.”

Sarah chooses to take the road that is less stressful.  She choose to take matters into her own hands.  Sarah would pay a great price for this choice.  She blames her husband for allowing her to do this, “May my wrong be on you!”  How often do we in a stressful moment blame those around us for our failures to trust God?

Thankfully God intervenes and gets this family back on track.  Thankfully  God still intervenes in our lives today.  Heed the words of James, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him,” 1:5.  

Certainly this must have happened often over the 25 years that Sarah and Abraham waited on the promise of God to be fulfilled.   We see a snapshot of this at the end of Genesis 17 when Abraham asks God to allow Ishmael to be his heir (again taking the less stressful road).  But again God intervenes and says, “No.”

Brothers and sisters we are always tempted to take the less stressful road when we have not settled the nagging question of faith in God.  Here is God’s word to Abraham and Sarah in chapter 18, “Is anything to hard for the Lord?”  Be honest there are times when we say, by our worry and our own intervention, “yes.”

In these moments we must work through what we believe about God and we must submit our minds to His sovereign direction.  Unless this happens we will never live in faith and we will always live in fear.  Sarah was able to finally answer this question of faith.  Here is what the writer of Hebrews says about Sarah, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”

Wow, this is how we answer the nagging question, “We must consider him faithful who had promised.”  This is your challenge for today.  This is my challenge for the day.  This is how we overcome our nagging question!!!

Only One Way

October 21, 2011

“And he believed the Lord and he counted it to him as righteousness,” Genesis 15:6.

This morning we consider Genesis 13-15.  These are awesome chapters that continue to follow the path of God’s working through a blessed man by the name of Abraham.  As we read these chapters we are amazed at the kindness and grace shown by this man to his nephew Lot.  In chapter 13 it becomes clear that Lot and Abraham are going to have to separate their flocks because where they were staying did not have enough grass to feed their flocks.  Notice how Abraham shows kindness, “Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me.  If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right…”  In his kindness he allowed Lot to choose.  Lot’s choice led him down a path that caused trouble.

One chapter later Lot finds himself being swept away in an attack against his city.  But notice Abraham, “Abraham led forth trained men, and went in pursuit…” I am amazed at this man’s grace is going after his nephew who had made his own bed.  How often have we failed to give grace to people who failed?

These examples alone would lead us to the conclusion, “That is man is right with God because of all his good works.”  If this is our conclusion, we have failed to see the truth of salvation.  Salvation comes in only one way.  This one way is by faith in Jesus Christ.

In chapter 15 in the book of Genesis we are brought back to the fact that Abraham was right with God for one reason, “He believed God.”   Paul takes up this argument in Romans 4.  Paul makes it clear, “Placed his faith in God’s word.”  Abraham knew that he could not be right with God on his own.  His work would never be enough to restore the relationship humanity lost with God when Adam sinned.  Abraham trusted in someone else for his salvation.  His faith was in the second Adam (Jesus Christ).

Brothers and sisters we find such joy in Abraham’s example.  But he is not alone, everyone who has ever come to salvation has come in the same way.  I was blessed last week in reading Charles Spurgeon’s words, “Sometimes when I walk in the street and see people with vile character, I burst forth with praise because God has been gracious to me.  I do not know why God saved me,” Cited from John925 blog.

This very day, I rejoice that God has awakened me to the gospel as He did Abraham.  As you approach the weekend, “Prepare yourself for worship with a zeal for the God who saved you.”  As you approach the weekend, “Pray that God would open eyes of the blind around you.”  As you approach the weekend, “Tell others the story of the gospel.”

How We Bless Others

October 20, 2011

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will a blessing,” Genesis 12:2.

Genesis 10- 12 makes a great transition in the world.  Here we discover life, “After the flood.”  The writer, in chapter 10, lists for us the family tree of each of Noah’s sons.  Chapter 11 zooms in on what was happening in the world.  The bible teaches us that the people of the world began migrating from the east.  They come to Shinar (Babylon)Daniel 1:2.

Once there the old nature of humanity lifts its ugly head.  The people decide that they want to stay here and build a great city that would magnify themselves.  This is always man’s desire.  Man desires to lift himself above God, sitting on his own throne.  However, God intervenes by causing the people to now speak different languages.  The people now separate and begin to populate the earth as God intends.

Chapter 12 zooms in even closer as we find God  now speaking to one family.  The family of Abraham.  God chooses that through this family that the world would be blessed.  Now here is where our discussion begins, “How was he to bless others?”  Would it be through his good works? Would it be through his kind acts of justice?  Or would it be through something else?

Brothers and sisters this discussion is crucial to our lives.  How we answer this question speaks volumes of how we live our lives on mission.  Some would say, “Abraham would bless others by the way he lived his life and by the way he did acts of kindness.”  Certainly this is a blessing to others.  But this cannot be our end goal, because if it is we will not make an eternal difference in people’s lives.

Allow me to illustrate my point, “While we were on vacation, an old friend of Keith’s came over to spend the night.  This young man lived across the street from us when we lived in Georgia.  He was often at our home and would eat with us.  The evening he stayed with us, he ate dinner with us.  As he was eating he commented, ‘Just like old times.’  Some would say, we were a blessing to him.  However I believe, there is something else we were to do and did do that really was a blessing.”

In Abraham’s life he would be blessing because he was the forefather of our coming Messiah.  Abraham blessed others and us because of his obedience to live as God told him to.  It was not Abraham’s life that blessed us, it was and is Abraham’s Lord that blesses us.

Here is how Paul describes this truth:

        “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith,” Gal. 3:8-9.

This very day you and bless others as we share the gospel with those we meet.  Yes we must show acts of kindness and we must care for the poor and the helpless.  But this comes out of the gospel, not in its place.  This very day you can bless others through the gospel.

October 19, 2011

Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your family, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation,'” Genesis 7:1

At first glance it would seem as if Noah had earned his way into the ark.  At a second glance it would seem as if Noah deserved to be saved from God’s judgment because he had spent 120 years building an Ark and he had gathered all the animals as God intended.  But a closer look reveals something else.  In few moments we will see what else but for the moment consider with me the following question, “Who deserves to be saved from the wrath of God?”

I greatly considered this question last week as I walked on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean in Hilton Head Sc.  I noticed the beautiful sun coming up and I noticed the massive waves being rolled by the hand of God.  All seemed to be well in the world.  But suddenly the Lord drew my attention to what was washing up onto the beach.  I saw several beer bottles and trash of all different sorts.  This was a somber reminder that not everything is right in the world.  The fact is even the best of us have sin in our lives, “There is none righteous not one.”  

Consider Noah, this righteous one who followed God into the ark.  Even Noah was not perfect, “Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard, He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent,” Genesis 9:20-21.  The fact is the story of Noah is all about God’s wrath and mercy to humanity who deserves not the mercy of God.

Consider God’s covenant with Noah at the end of chapter 8.  God promises to never again destroy man with a flood.  God promises, “While the earth remains, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”   Because of this our world continues to exist even though we are sinful and we are walking in opposition to God.

However there is coming a day when Jesus will come. Jeremiah describes Jesus as “The Righteous Branch,” Jeremiah 33:14-25.  Some day Jesus will come and He will judge the earth.  When He judges the earth, eternal wrath will come upon humanity that is unrepentant.  Only those who by faith have embraced the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, through repentance, will be spared from the wrath to come.

Yes, Noah was not without sin and yes, I am not without sin.  And believe it or not, you who read are not without sin.  But there is one who came who was greater than Noah, His name is Jesus.  He came to be the Savior of all mankind.  This very day I rejoice in the fact that He is righteous and because He is righteous so can I be in Him.

Certainly we can conclude by affirming the fact that no one deserves to be saved.  However, by grace sinners become saints through the work of Christ on the cross. Oh how the world needs this message.  Without it, they have not hope.  Please take this message to even the best of them today.  Spend time this day rejoicing and praising God for His grace to sinners such as you and I.

The Fall Out

October 18, 2011

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart  was evil only continually,” Genesis 6:5.

I truly believe where sin is present sorrow will be prevalent.  As one walks away from Genesis 3 he or she has this sad feeling of being in trouble because of sin.

Adams existence in the world would not be one of continual progress toward godliness anymore; it would be one of frustration and painful work in a world that was now reluctant and even hostile toward him.  Now the work of fixing the disaster fell to another, to the Offspring of the woman who would crush the Serpents head,” Cited on Pg 75, “What is the mission of the church.”

As one walks through chapters 4-6 in the book of Genesis he or she can clearly see the fall out because of sin.  This is clearly seen in the family of Adam as his oldest son, Cain, kills his youngest son, Abel.  The sin in Cain’s life caused him to hate his brother, I John 3:12.  He could not stand the faith in his brother and he rose up, “Because sin was ruling over him,” 4:7.  This did not have to be, Cain could have chosen to follow God’s plan but he choose his own path as had his father and now murder was in his heart.

Brothers and sisters, we must daily wage war with the flesh.  We must choose to follow God’s plan so that we might have victory in and through Christ.  Here is what John wrote, “We know we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren,” I John 3:14.  

This very day the choice is before you.  Think about Cain’s choice, his sinful choice led him, “To depart from God’s presence.”  From this moment own we see his ungodly line develop in the world.  Thankfully God gave Adam and Eve another son, “Seth,” and He would follow the Lord.  Through his faithfulness a Godly line would develop.  But still yet the fallout was present in the world.

Chapter six records that the Godly line and the ungodly line come together through marriage and as is always the case when you marry sin and righteousness you come away with fall out.  Man’s heart is now filled with evil and God proclaims wrath upon the world, 6:6-7.

“The bible teaches us that Noah lives 930 years which means, fascinatingly, that he would have lived long enough to bounce Noah on his aged knee!  Did Adam connect the growing wickedness around him to his own sin?  Did he realize he had responsibility for all of this?” Ibid Pg 76.

Brothers and sisters we cannot blame the sin in our world on Adam alone.  We also have a part to play in this drama of life.  My question is this,”What is the way out?”  The answer is Jesus!  As God gave grace to Noah and provided an Ark for his deliverance so to does God provide Grace in that Jesus is the Ark for every believer.  Our lives are hidden in Christ.

This very day, I praise Jesus for the life I have in him.  Where Christ is present love and peace prevail.  Choose His life this day and you will we able to rule over the old nature.