Archive for February, 2012

The Day

February 14, 2012

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place,” Acts 2:1

In one’s lifetime there are many specific days that hold wonderful memories for us.  In my life I always think of 5 great days above all others.  First, was the day in 1974 when Jesus Christ opened my heart to the gospel when I was only seven years old.  The second day, was May 30,1992 when Sherry and I were married.  The third day was August 22,1993 when Beth was born.  The fourth day was April 20, 1995 when Keith was born.  Finally the fifth day was August 27, 2001 when John was born.  These days are days that I always remember and I always praise God for.

Also in one’s life there are days that do not hold wonderful memories.  Each of us can remember the tragic day of September 11, 2001.  Certainly there are other days as well.

This morning, I was reminded in our More For Christ reading, Acts 2:1-21, of another day that stands out not only in my life but in the life of the church.  The bible identifies this day as, “The Day Of Pentecost.”  Certainly we know that this day is on of the three feasts days celebrated by the Jews.  This feast takes place fifty days after Passover.

For the Christian this day takes on another meaning because it was on this day, 50 days after the death of Jesus (who arose from the grave three days later) that the promised Holy Spirit came.  The New Covenant was finally inaugurated.  We as the church celebrate this day as the day when Christ who came to do a work for us, now does (Through the Holy Spirit) a work in us and through us.

Personally, I celebrate that day in 1974 when the Holy Spirit came to reside and preside in my life.  Because of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling the Child of God has an understanding of God’s word and God’s will.  Because of the Holy Spirit’s filling we are empowered to live out God’s word and we are empowered to accomplish God’s will of sowing the gospel in the world.

Question, “Are you celebrating this day?”  If you are a child of God you should celebrate your spiritual birthday.  You have so much to be thankful for.  This very day, you are blessed with a blessing beyond description.

I pray this brings you great encouragement.  I know for some who read this, maybe this is a day that brings back a bad memory or maybe even know you are having a record bad day.  Take heart my brother and sister, you can rely on the one who came on the good day to guide you through all bad days.

For further study consider John 14-17, also Gregg Allison’s chapter on the Holy Spirit in his wonderful work, “Historical Theology.”  

 

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The Work Continues

February 13, 2012

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to so and teach, until the day he was taken up…” Acts 1:1-2a

Today is once again Monday (No big revelation there).  For me Monday is aways a great day because it is a major study day.  I have the opportunity to spend almost all day in God’s word preparing to preach His word.  So for me Monday is not a negative thing.  However for many people Monday is all about the day that they go back to the job they have to do in order to make ends meet so they can do what they want to do when they have time to do it.

This morning, I want to spend some time helping you to be able to look at Monday and actually every day in a different light.  This morning’s scripture reading is from Acts 1:1-26.  Dr. Luke has been tasked by the Lord to write the continuing story of the Lord’s work.  The gospel of Luke tells us the story of our Lord’s work for us.  The book of Acts tells us of God’s work in our brothers and sisters in Christ during the first thirty years of the church.

As the chapter begins it is clear that the disciples were confused.  They were not sure if their work was beginning or if it was over.  Here is their question, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel.” Acts 1:6.  These guys, without question, wanted it to be over.  The fact is, anyone would love to be a part of God’s kingdom.  But the fact is, there is much to do here.

I wonder, “Do you find yourself sometimes praying, ‘Lord help me to just get through this day at work or maybe even at home.'”  If so, consider the disciples.  These guys had been harassed.  Their leader had been killed and now was resurrected.  The unrest was still at a fever pitch in Jerusalem and they really were not for sure, if they would be the next on the hit list of the religious establishment.  You think you have it bad?

In this moment, Jesus gives a charge to the disciples that I am sure all of you have read before, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8.

The work Jesus began was to now continue through these men and then through those who would follow.  The work would continue and it continues today.  Now here is the big part for you.  The work of the gospel is a work that takes place in the streets, homes, and offices of our world.  Those who take seriously their work realize their place of work is their mission field.  They realize their home is a mission field.

Suddenly everything has changed.  For me this change brought about a great change in how I read the book of Acts.  Now I read discovering truth about our God and I discover the testimonies of the those who surrendered themselves to the God who empowers their work.

Oh how I pray this day is the first day of a week of work that is joyous because you are now working for the Lord.

For further study consider, Colossians 1-3 and also reading the book “Tell the Truth,” by Will Metzger.

 

In The Hands Of Sinners

February 10, 2012

“And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.”  Matthew 27:2

Last evening I had the honor of leading 20 guys in Bible Study in my home.  In the midst of our study someone said, “We must allow the just judge to judge.”  This brother was making reference to Jesus Christ who alone is just and who alone gives just judgment.

Here in Matthew 27:1-26, Jesus is just a few hours from the cross.  On the cross Jesus would be judged in our place.

The scene in Matthew 27 is a scene where our just Savior stands before unjust sinners.  As Jesus stands before these sinners (They determine what is the quickest way to have him exterminated).  So they turn Him over to the Roman authority.

Matthew gives us a sidebar note as we read, Vs:3-10.  Here we see Judas’ remorse for in his own words, “Betraying innocent blood.”  Judas goes out and hangs himself because a man who only has remorse does not know how to repent.  Judas is trying to get away from his agony.

Matthew leaves us to contemplate this scene as he returns to Jesus in the hands of sinners.  Vs: 11-23 remind us of the hardness of sinners as we see Pilate amazed at Jesus but he will not admit that Jesus is the Christ.  The crowds are so hardened that they ask for a sinner to be released and that our Savior should be crucified.

In this moment I am reminded that sinners do what they do because they are unjust judges.  Pilate tried, Vs: 24-26, to absolve himself from any guilt but he could not.  The fact is we are all unjust judges.  We are all sinners under the wrath of God.  Everyone participated in the death of Christ.  My sins cried out, “Crucify Him!”

This very morning I praise our risen Lord for being willing to be given into the hands of sinners.  My redemption was secured by Jesus Christ.  This very morning I praise him for His salvation.  This very morning I await with confidence the day I stand before Him.  He is a just judge.

Certainly all who read this today live in a society that is filled with unjust judges.  They work with us, they shop with us, they play sports with us, and they even live with us.  Bottom line, “This is us!”  Our task is to model Christ’s life.  We must entrust ourselves to a just judge and we must emulate  his life before this world.  Only as the world sees Christ will they see their need of Christ.

For further study consider Max Lucado andRandy Frazee new book, “The Story,” which teaches you the seamless story of the gospel. 

3 Chances, 3 Cave-ins

February 9, 2012

But he denied it before them all, saying,”I do not know what you mean.” Matthew 26:70

I cannot believe you just stood there and said nothing.”  These were the comments of a teenage boy to his friend who just blew his change to ask out the girl of his dreams.  Certainly all of us have had those chances in life that we just caved in.

This morning’s scripture reading, Matthew 26:57-75, includes the well-documented (Included in all four gospels) story of Peter’s three cave-ins.  This scene takes place during the events of Jesus trial before the High-Priest.  One can feel the tension in the room as the religious leaders vicious attacks come wave after wave upon Jesus (Vs:59-63).  I am amazed at Jesus calmness and commitment in the face of false testimony and fervent testing.  One can rejoice as Jesus voice rings out, “You have said so…” Jesus was and is the Christ.  Even when the verdict is given, “He deserves death,” Jesus stays focused on the goal of our redemption.

In the midst of all of this Matthew offers this footnote about Peter’s whereabouts, “He was following him at a distance.”  More about this in a moment.

In this text we see Peter in the courtyard out side of where the trail was taking place.  Three times Peter is given a change to stand up for Jesus and three times he caves in.  Personally I see the same thing over and over again in the lives of believers today, including myself.

Three times Peter is giving a change to stand up for Jesus.  Here they are for your review.  First, Peter is given a change in a conversation, Vs: 69-70.  How often do we have the opportunity to share Christ in random places with the simplest of conversations?  Second, Peter is given a change in a crowd, Vs: 71-72.  Here Peter is challenged by bystanders who call out for his response. Again he caves in.  How often do we find ourselves in the midst of crowds with a great opportunity for the gospel?  Third, Peter is given a change in the midst of confrontation, Vs: 73-75.  Here Peter is forcefully confronted and he once again caves in.  How often has the Lord afforded you opportunities in tense situations to share you faith?

I truly believe Peter thought he was ready for every change to stand up for Jesus, but in this moment he was not ready.  Certainly others thought he was ready but he was not.  In this moment he loved his life more than he loved the lord.

Who am I to say that I would be any different.  One thing is for sure, if we follow the Lord from a distance we will cave in throughout our lives.  This morning we must strength ourselves in our resolve to love the Lord and to walk closely with our Lord.  We must seek to love him unconditionally.

As we seek to do this, we will fail from time to time.  But even then our great God shows us mercy in our weaknesses.  This day, I am praying that you and I both will not cave in when we are given the change to stand up and speak out for Jesus.

For further reading, John 21 and Romans 10 

The Sorrow And Agony Of Our Lord

February 8, 2012

“And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.”  Matthew 26:37

Believe it or not, “You are not the only person to ever face sorrow.”  Here in Matthew 26 we discover the great sorrow and agony of our Lord. The scriptures teach us very clearly, Hebrews 4:14-16, that our Lord identifies with our sorrows.  As you face life’s issues, be assured our Lord understands.  The bible teaches us that not even a sparrow falling to the ground escapes his loving eye.

This mornings scripture reading, Matthew 26:36-56, gives us great insight into the sorrow and agony of our Lord.  Question, “Do you often think about His sorrow?”  The answer for most of us is, “No.”  Usually we focus on all we are facing and at most maybe we focus on what our closest friends are facing.  This morning I want to help you to focus on what our Lord faced.

This passage begins with Jesus sorrow and agony in a small wooded area just outside the city of Jerusalem.  The place is called, “The Garden of Gethsemane.”  I have been blessed to stand in this small out-of-the-way place on the hillside opposite the city of Jerusalem.  Here Jesus, probably near midnight, gathers his inner group of disciples and he simply asks them to stay awake and pray (Of which they could not even do for one hour).

The scene shifts to Jesus being alone with the Father a short distance from where the disciples are asleep.  Here we discover the reason for Jesus sorrow and agony.  Jesus was about to face the wrath of God which would be poured out on Him as the substitute for each of us.

This is what caused the sorrow and agony of our Lord.  This morning I was once again reminded that His agony and sorrow was because of me.  This sorrow was no fault of his own.  He bore the punishment that should have been mine.  Here in this garden Jesus reminds us  of his submission to accomplish this great task for us, “Not as I will, but as you will.”  

Brothers and sisters in Christ, because of his sorrow, you and I will never have to experience the sorrow Jesus faced.  We will never endure the wrath of God.  This truth is a source of great encouragement to me as I face things that seem often so great. All of my sorrows are only temporary and they have no eternal effect.  Because of Christ sorrow I will have eternal happiness in heaven.

This day, I pray you find encouragement in Christ’s sufferings.  Soon and very soon we will be standing before the one who died for us.  Rejoice today in knowing that He understands our sorrow and He underwent the greatest of sorrow in our place.

For further study consider Romans 5-7 and II Corinthians 6:14-18.  

Words You Never Want To Hear

February 7, 2012

“And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  Matthew 26:21

The title of our blog, without a doubt sparked your curiosity.  You were probably not only wondering, what words, you were offering your own suggestions as to what those words would be.  For some people those words would be, “Honey, I no longer love you and I want a divorce.”  For others, ‘You have cancer.”  These are certainly words you never want to hear.

However these are the not the words I was considering this morning.  For the Child of God, Jesus words in Matthew 26 are words one would never want to hear.  But the fact is, they not only heard them, they fulfilled them a few hours later.

Our scripture reading for the day, Matthew 26:14-35, begins on the heels of Judas secret plot to betray Jesus.  It is now the eve of Passover and Jesus has gathered with his disciples in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem.  Four things will be forever remembered from their time in that room:

Jesus announces, “It is my time.”  The cross now awaits Jesus, Vs: 18.  He makes this statement to remind us that His Father is in complete control.  This very hour was the very reason for which Jesus came.

Jesus announces, “Someone will betray me.”  Each man was shocked, especially the one who was guilty.  In this moment, Judas turns down his last opportunity to repent.

Jesus institutes the “Lord’s Supper.”  In this room Jesus would begin a practice that signified the coming of the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah, 31:31-34.  Jesus was headed to the cross so that we could have forgiveness of sin.

Jesus announces, “You will all cave in this night.”  The disciples could not believe they would turn away from Jesus. But this is exactly what they did.  In this moment we see Peter’s intentions are motivated by his pride in his own ability.  But his ability would not be enough.  Jesus would explain this a few verses later, “The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak.”

Be assured, when we fail to take our stand for the Lord, our flesh is in the way.  There have been many times in my life when I did not take my stand for the Lord.  In those times, I found a gentle reminder from the Lord that standing for Him always involves a surrender of our will to His will.

This morning, you could be facing another day before that person who is trying your faith.  Daily you feel as if you have failed.  This day can be different, if you walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.  This day you must trust in His power and not your own.  You must choose to arm yourselves with God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Be assured, when you do, God will say, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”  Trust in His provision for this day and every day.

For further study consider I Peter 3, Ephesians 6, and James 1

Of Goats and Sheep

February 6, 2012

“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46.

This morning I came to a passage that gets down to the bottom line of life, “Matthew 25:31-26:13.  Here Jesus makes a clear distinction between those who are righteous and those who are unrighteous.  Now, let’s be clear from the beginning, “Everyone begins life as unrighteous and only Christ can made us righteous.” With this said we discover that the difference in the righteous and unrighteous is clearly seen, thus the illustration of the goats and the sheep.

This is clearly illustrated in chapter 26 in the life of two followers of Christ.  Their identities are simply, “Mary and Judas.”  Their names are synonymous with the ministry of Christ.  Both were early followers of Christ. But now it becomes clear that they were on different paths.

Mary was on the path of a sheep.  She embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Here in chapter 26 Mary offers to Christ the best she had.  Be assured this was not a payment for salvation.  This was her praise offering to the one who saved her.  The aroma of her offering filled that room.

Judas was on the path of a goat.  He seemingly embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior.  However in chapter 26 we discover he really had not.  Judas was a follower for what he could get from Jesus.  Here at the twilight of the cross, Judas sees one last opportunity for gain from Jesus.  So Judas betrays Jesus.  I wonder, what was the aroma he was giving off?

Now here is where it can become difficult, “The disciples sided with Judas when Mary gave an offering to Jesus.”  For me, this was a sobering reminder that we sometimes do not understand the difference in the smell of goats and sheep.  We must seek daily to focus more on our love for Christ than we do in our labor for Christ.

I truly know that I would be a Judas this very day if not for the redemptive work of Christ. Mary gave the best she had to Jesus because she loved him.  Judas took from Jesus because He loved himself.

This day, you alone can determine if you are a goat or a sheep.  One thing I know is that there are moments when as a sheep I act like a goat.  In those moments I must be brought back into a deeper love relationship with Christ.

For further study consider, Matthew 7:21-28 and Galatians 4 where we are reminded of all we have been given as adopted children of God.  

Don’t End Up Where They Ended Up

February 3, 2012

“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” Matthew 23:33

One of the most embarrassing things that can happen to a guy is when he has to admit he does not know where he is going.  Years ago I was with a team from our church doing a missions week in West Va.  One afternoon several of us guys were tasked to go to a local Wal-mart to purchase needed supplies for our team.  We drove two vehicles to pick up what we needed.  I was ridding in the second vehicle.  I can still remember as we drove by the exit we needed to get off.  As we continued to drive we could see the Wal-mart on the left.  The lead car pulled off the next exit ramp and the driver stopped on the side of the ramp and ran back to the car saying, “it’s not my fault, someone told me this was the exit.”  We all had a good laugh.

This mornings passage, Matthew 23:27-24:14, gives us no reason to laugh.  Jesus is finishing his list of 7 woes upon Israel for her life of sin in which she was turning people away from the gospel.  The last two woes give us clarity in the fact that these present Jews were following the same path as had their forefathers.  This would be seen in the fact that they would murder Jesus as had their fathers murdered the prophets.  They were rejecting their only hope and they would end up just like their forefathers, “Without hope in the world.”

We see the depths of this in Vs:37-39, when Jesus used the illustration of a mother hen that would gather her chicks under her wings to protect them.  Jesus would protect Israel from the wrath to come if she would turn to him.  But she would not.

This morning, I wonder how many of us have come to Christ for salvation but we have failed to abide under the shadow of his wings for our every moment of life?  I often encounter followers of Christ who fail to consult, follow, or even cry out to God in their daily lives.  We often follow a course that only cries out to God when disaster has come.

Israel would do this in AD 70 only after the temple was destroyed (24:1-2).  But it was then to late.  I challenge you to not end up as they did.  I challenge you to share the message of the gospel with those who are headed to an eternity in the flames of hell.  Many of their fathers and mothers are already there.  Only the gospel can change their course.  You be the one who points them in the right direction.

For further reading, “Galatians 1, II Peter 3, and James 1:19-27.”  

The Toughest Part Of Teaching

February 2, 2012

“So practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do.  For they preach, but they do not practice.”  Matthew 23:3

Question, “Are you a teacher?”  The fact is everyone is a teacher.  We either teach in the technical sense of communicating information to others or we teach by the way we live our lives.  This mornings Bible reading, Matthew 23:1-26, confronts each of us at both levels of teaching.

Some people would maintain that the toughest part of teaching is in the communication of information.  Such people cite the time needed to prepare, laboring over material and the stress of making sure you are correct.

Still other people would maintain the toughest part of teaching is in the carrying out of what you teach.  Such people allow the text of scripture to first shape them before they share with others.

In my life I honestly can say, “The toughest part of teaching is in carrying out what I teach.”  In the process of communicating truth, I find such joy in allowing the scripture to speak to me.  As followers of Christ we have the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand the scripture.  But when it comes to carrying out the truth I teach, I sometimes forget to walk in the power of the Spirit of God.

This morning I found great conviction as Jesus shared how the Scribes and Pharisees carried out their teaching.  Here is the overview:  They taught the law but did not live the law (Vs:3).  They pretended to keep the law in the crowd but in private it had no effect (Vs:4-5).  They longed for recognition for what they wanted others to think they were doing (Vs:6-7).  They were even glad to take honor for what they should have given honor  to God for (Vs:8-10).

As I read these verses I found conviction in that I do not always test the validity of my teaching in its effect on my life.  I confessed that I far to often am more sensitive to my obedience in crowds than I am in private. I was challenged to never want to gain recognition for God’s word.   The fact is my old  nature wants to take all credit for teaching.

In this moment when there was blood on the floor and tears in my eyes, I found myself crying out to God, “What is the solution to this problem?”  The answer came in Vs: 11-12, “The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Those who desire to be a humble servant find success in teaching.  I pray that you and I take time to discover what this means.

In the verses that follow, Vs:13-26 we see the devastating results of what happens if we fail to practice what we preach.  I challenge every teacher (Yes, you are one) to both strive to know and do what the word teaches.

For further study Luke 14:11; 18:14, James 4:6,10; Proverbs 29:23.

 

When You Are Wrong

February 1, 2012

“But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29

This mornings scripture reading, Matthew 22:23-46, should have been a wakeup call to the Sadducees (who were of the ruling class in Jewish life).  But because of the blindness in their lives they continued believing and teaching the wrong things.

Brothers and sisters how tragic it would be to be wrong about the most important thing in life.  What is the most important thing in life?  The most important thing in life is to have the right understanding of who Jesus is.

These religious elitist were challenge Jesus authority as a teacher because they did not believe He was the Christ.  Their failure to understand scripture lead to their failure to understand who was the Savior.

We live in a society that makes the same mistake day after day.  Consider what happens when people fail to understand scripture.  People live lives on a downward spiral that seems like the right path to them because they are the masters of their own destiny.  They are unknowingly headed toward a Christless hell.

These Sadducees thought they had life but they were dead.  They were not following the God of their forefathers (Vs:32-33).  They were following a mistaken viewpoint that had a miserable future.  Jesus was the Christ.  But these leaders could not see nor would they accept this (Vs:41-46).

Brothers and sisters, when it comes to eternity, we had better be right.  But not only this, when it comes to our earthly life, we had better be right.

Consider what happens when we are living this life with a mistaken understanding of scripture.  We fail to see Jesus as Lord of all and we fail to live life as God intends.  I was reminded of this as I read an article by Colin Hansen entitled, “When good isn’t good enough.”

The article centered around man’s sin problem and God’s response to this problem.  The author used the life of Joe Paterno as an example of a person who was good, but his life was not perfect.  Here is a quote from the article, “all of his good could not overcome the failure in his life to do more about the sexual scandal that took place on his staff.”  The fact is, “Only in Christ can we really be forgiven of sin.”

Most in our world cannot understand this.  Our society is willing to forgive certain sins but others they will never forgive.  But it was not this way with Jesus.  Jesus came so that condemned men might be saved.  Once a person comes to Christ, he or she now has life because they are serving a living God.  Because we have His life, we will have eternal life.

This means we have no need for marriage in heaven because no one will die there. We do not have to create life because He is the life.  The Sadducees did not see and understand sin and repentance which lead to their wrong viewpoint on the resurrection.

Dear brother and sister, “What we believe about Jesus” affects every part of our theology.  This day I challenge you to make sure you are right in what you believe.  There is so much ridding on believing in the right things!!!

For further study read Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Acts 23.