Archive for June, 2012

Going To Church

June 29, 2012

“To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace.”  I Thessalonians 1:1

Recently I was talking with a young family in our church.  This family had been blessed to see two of their daughters come to know Christ during our VBS.  As we shared together, I discovered that the husband had grown up going to church.  As we talked, his wife said, “He was dragged to church as a kid.”

I immediately knew what she was referring to, as I also had grown up in church.  My mother had gone to church since her early life.  She came to Christ as a teenager at a Christian camp and had been faithfully following Christ since those days.  But my father was different.  He did not attend church and when he and my mother married, he still would not attend.  My earliest memories of church were going without him.  But that all changed when I was six.  My dad attended a revival at our church and God opened his heart to the gospel and everything changed.  From that moment on, our entire family was committed to church.  I praise God for those days now, but I can remember as a teenager wanting to stay home on Sunday nights.  So I can identify with my friend.

However there was a moment when everything began to click and I wanted to go to church as a young man.  This morning’s More For Christ readings, I Thessalonians 1:1-2:11, help us to see the desire of a family (A faith family) to go to church.  We know them to be the Thessalian  family.  Notice their lives:

1.  Their character proved they had a passion for Jesus, Vs: 3-4

This family walked in faith, labored in love, and had a steadfast hope.

2.  Their calling was powerful in that they responded to the gospel, Vs: 5-9

The gospel came through a preacher who was filled with the Spirit and with the Word of God.  This gospel convicted, cleansed, and challenged this family to live a different way.

Their convictions were a powerful witness to the gospel, Vs: 5-10

They immediately began spreading the gospel in their hometown and fruit was immediately seem in the lives that were being changed.  As people encountered this family they encountered people who were expecting to meet Jesus and they wanted to be ready.

I must confess, I would have loved to have gone to church with these people.  And I confess that I want to be a part of a church like that today.

For this to happen today, I must be willing to examine my character and my convictions.  And I must be willing to submit both to Christ’s adjustment.  This day, I challenge you to become the follower of Christ that causes others to want to go to church with you!

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A True Heartburn

June 28, 2012

“And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Luke 24:38

The last few weeks have been extremely busy in my ministry life.  During these weeks I have experienced many faith building moments.  One of the these moments happened to be this morning while reading our More For Christ scripture, Lk 24:13-53.  

The death, burial, and… has occurred (Yesterday’s blog).  The scene in Luke gives us the narrative of two followers of Christ who are returning home discouraged in heart.  What takes place really challenges the person who seeks to have a heart set on fire for God.  Notice the progression:

1.  Hearts that are burdened with discouragement: Vs: 13-55

These two followers of Christ, had witnessed his ministry, his message, and his martyrdom.  They were now headed home.  Here is a summary statement concerning their discouragement, “But we had hoped.”  Brothers and sisters, this is not hope deferred.  This is hope destroyed.  One must remember there are days when discouragement can become so deep that one loses hope.

2.  Hearts are blessed with discernment, Vs: 26-35

In this moment Jesus begins to teach the Word.  As the word is being taught, their eyes are opened.  Brothers and sisters, it will only be as we read God’s word that we will find ourselves in the path that will plow through a discouraged field.

3.  Hearts that are burdened with doubt, Vs: 36-49

Next we encounter the disciples who are perplexed by all the events of the resurrection.  In this encounter Jesus enter’s the room and removes all doubt. Brothers and sisters we need Jesus presence in our hearts to overcome the doubt’s that can prevail tough moments.

4.  Hearts that burn with dedication, Vs: 50-53

As Luke concludes his gospel we see the burning dedication of men who at one point were discouraged and doubting.  However God’s Word and His presence changed it all.

This morning, I came away from my readings with a true heartburn.  I found myself falling on my knees and crying out to God, “May my heart burn with a passion for you and may my mind and lips burn with the majestic gospel.”

This day, I pray that the discouragements and doubts that burn in your heart would be replaced with discernment and dedication to the one who transforms dead hearts into living hearts.

For further reading, check out II Kings 22 and Warren Wiersbe’s book, “50 people every Christian should know.”  

Death, Burial, and…

June 27, 2012

“The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid.” Lk 24:53

This past week former Major League Baseball star, Roger Clemens, was acquitted of all charges that he lied to congress under oath 5 years ago.  The charges came as a result of many who believed he along with others had taken enhancement drugs during his playing days.  He denied it and 5 years later still denies it.  Just last week a jury agreed.  But the question remains, “what will be the and of his life?”  History will record, “Roger Clemens acquitted of crimes and…”

Brothers and sisters this often is the problem with our lives.  There are things we know but the unknown variable is the “and”.  The fact is our legacy depends on the  “and.”  I will go as far as to say, “Our eternal legacy depends on the and.”

This mornings, “More For Christ,” readings, Lk 23:44-24:18,” speak to this issue.  This passage is Luke’s overview of Jesus death, burial, and…”

The death of Jesus, Vs: 44-49 

Luke’s gives us and overview as we see several things:  1) There is darkness over the land 2) The veil of the temple is torn in two 3) Jesus declares, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”  In this we see the price of our sin be paid in full. Man can now be forgiven and have access to God.

The burial of Jesus, Vs: 50-56

Luke again gives us and overview of several things: 1) A man takes his stand 2) Women see where He is buried 3) The tomb was unique so we again could know of the and.  In this we see clearly that Jesus paid for our sin with his own life.  He shed his own blood for you and me.

The and (Resurrection) of Jesus, 24:1-18

Luke in this glorious scene helps us to see the glorious “and” of Jesus life.  “He is not here, but has risen.”  In the “and” we understand this very fact, “Because He lives we also live.”  By his resurrection we have victory over the grace.  We have power to live a resurrected life, defeating our old nature and Satan himself.

Question, “Has the “and” kicked in your life?” The power of the resurrection must be evident in one’s life if he or she is to live for Christ.  This very day, I praise the Lord for the “and.”  This very day I seek to walk in the power of the resurrection.  We can proclaim with the saints of old, “I was dead and I was buried by my sins, but Jesus came in and now I live in the power of His resurrection.”

Three Futile Attempts

June 26, 2012

“A third time he said to them, ‘why, what evil has he done?’ I have found in him no guilt deserving of death.  I will therefore punish and release him.”  Luke 23:22

Our more for Christ readings, “Luke 23:13-43,” cover the trials of Jesus before both Pilate and Herod and scenes from the cross.  As I read these verses I found myself crying out to God for fresh eyes and a focused heart to what God’s Word was communicating.

Suddenly as I read Vs: 22, “A third time,” I was taken back by the number of times Pilate tried to secure Jesus freedom from the cross.  Follow the scenes with me:

1.  Pilate’s first attempt:  “I will punish and let him go.” Vs: 18-19

The people did not agree.  They were now a mob.  They asked for a murderer  instead.

2.  Pilate’s second attempt: ” He desired to release him.” Vs: 20-21

At this moment the people shouted, “crucify him, crucify him.”  They would not stop shouting.

3.  Pilate’s third attempt: “What evil has he done?”  Vs: 22-23

Again, it is useless.  They are urging and they are demanding.  Finally their voices prevail.  Here is the commentary, “So Pilate decided that their demands should be granted.”  In this moment I thought, “Wow, his attempts to change the crowd were futile.”  But then I realized how wrong I was.  The fact is, “his attempts to change the plan of God were futile. Jesus was destined to go to the cross and this man could not stop the redemption of man.

This was God’s will.  I challenge you to read Isaiah 53:11-12 and discover the beauty of God’s plan for us.  This morning I take away from this study a renewed desire to know and follow God’s will in everything.  I realize there can be moments when I have good intentions but if they are not God’s intentions, I am fighting the will of God.

Lord, we submit this day and this hour and this moment into your hands.  We will follow you.

A Weighted Down Heart

June 22, 2012

But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”  Luke 21:34

Last week I read and article cited from Ed Stetzer’s blog entitled, “Confessions of a failed church planter.”  The article was very helpful in many ways.  In particular there was one comment that stuck like a knife, “I became a demented dabbler.” The author continued to describe his demented dabbling, “I found myself self involved in so many things that at the end of each day I had only dabbled in all of them.”

Question, “Am I the only one who says, ‘ouch,’ at this point?”  For me the ouch got worse as I began my study of our More For Christ readings, Lk 21:34-32:23.  Here Jesus finishes his discussion concerning His second coming.  And then Luke records the scene of the last supper.

For our time, I want to focus on Lk 21:34-38 as Jesus helps us to not be a demented dabbler.  Two things stand out:

1.  We see a strong warning of things to flee, Vs: 34-35

We are to flee those things that would cloud our minds away from the truth.  Jesus lists these things as dissipation and drunkenness.  I wonder, “What are those things that cause you and I to be clouded in our thinking?”  Daily we must flee such things.  We must flee from those things that would cause us to lose focus on God’s calling in our lives.  There have been many well-meaning believers who lives have become unproductive because they have found themselves consumed with the cares of this life.

2. We see strong wisdom for the things we must focus, Vs: 36-38

Jesus teaches us to focus on purity instead of perversion.  Jesus teaches us to focus on prayer and we will not be preoccupied.  Jesus teaches us to persevere instead of giving in.

Some day we will stand before the Lord.  Oh how I pray that you and I will be found completely focused on Him and we will not be weighted down with the cares of this life.

For further study consider, II Peter 3:10-12 and I Thessalonians 5:5-10

 

All You Have

June 21, 2012

“And He said, Truly, I tell you, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  Luke 21:3-4

Last week during our VBS I experienced what Jesus experienced some 2000 years ago.  It was the last evening of VBS.  Our Preschool director was cleaning up the sanctuary with her two children because we were having closing assemblies in the family life center.  I walked into the sanctuary to just say thank you for all she did.  Little did I know but I was going to hear a story that mirrored part of our More For Christ readings, Lk 21:1-33.

Here is the story.  This Preschool director’s children were preparing themselves to come to VBS and it became apparent that the little boy was seriously considering his offering for the evening.  Our Mission’s offering is designated for FBC of West Liberty Ky.  This church was devastated by a tornado in March of this year.  We are partnering to rebuild this church.  Aston had been deeply considering what he should give.  So in his child-like faith, he chose to not give a little or a lot.  Aston chose to give all he had.  His grandparents had given him money and he was saving for a train.  But God’s work was greater than his work. So to even his grandparents surprise, he gave it all.  Here was his why, “I want other boys and girls to hear about Jesus.”

Brothers and sisters, this is the heart we must evidence as followers of Christ.  I believe this was this poor widow’s heart in Luke 21.  Others were giving out of abundance, but she gave all.  They were in the category of offerings, but she was in the category of sacrifice.

This very day, I am challenged to move beyond offerings to sacrifice.  Maybe you ask, “Why?”  I want to have radical love for Christ.  Oh, how I pray this for your life as well.

On The Firing Line

June 20, 2012

“So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authorities and jurisdiction of the governor.”  Luke 20:20

Shockingly, I have discovered that life is not always cake and ice cream.  The fact is, it is most often just the opposite, aches and pains.  Now this may seem to be gloom and doom but it is not.  Here are the words of a great man of faith, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”  Job 23:10

Ours (as followers of Christ) is a life that is lived with daily opportunities of growth in grace.  One could say, “Ours is a life that is lived on the firing line.”  We have things hurled at us, by our enemy, to trap us and to derail our witness for Christ.  But at the same time these things are allowed by God to strengthen our walk and to magnify the witness of Christ in our lives.

For example, consider our More For Christ readings for today, Luke 20:19-40.  Jesus is on the firing line.  There are those who are seeking to trap Jesus.  But their trap turns into and opportunity for Jesus to teach truth that magnifies the name of the Father.

This morning I discovered two things:

1.  The wisdom in always using truth as our weapon of choice on the firing line.

Jesus faced a question about allegiance.  His answer was God’s truth.  Brothers and sisters we must arm ourselves with His truth while on the firing line.  Anything else leaves us wounded and in shambles before the world.  Jesus faced a question about marriage.  Again His answer was God’s truth.  If truth was Jesus weapon of choice, I want it to be mine as well.

2.  The joy in knowing that the truth will set you free from all attacks.

As we study God’s word our minds are freed from the confusion of the matter.  We can see clearly and we can stand firmly on the rock of Jesus.  As we study Gods word our lives become powerful examples of what it means to live the Christ life.

This day I pray for you as you are on the firing line.  This day I plead with you to arm yourselves with the word of God.  His word is the only weapon you need in your fire fight.

 

More To The Story

June 19, 2012

“And so the Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death.”  II Kings 15:5

How often have I been taken in by one of my children’s pleas for help in getting out of punishment for something they said they did not do.  I learned very early on that there was always and I mean always “More To The Story.”

This mornings, More For Christ readings come from Luke 20:1-19.  I encourage you to read the passage and discover Jesus answer to his critics.  But I also want you to consider II Kings 15:1-7.

This chapter was part of my personal reading this morning and I could not help but write about it today.  I and II Kings give us the overview of the kings of Israel and Judah.  Often as I read these chapters I find myself saying, “there is more to the story.”  When I do, I find myself searching the cross references which always lead to I and II Chronicles.  These two books give us intimate details of the king’s life.  Such is the case of II Chronicles 26.

The chapter begins with a listing of a king by the name of Uzzaiah who actually is also called Amaziah.  This king was blessed by God because he chose to seek the lord (Vs:5) but as soon as he was powerful, he chose to allow pride to creep into his life and God struck him with leprosy.  From this moment he had no fellowship in God’s house and he had no fellowship with God’s people.

Pride always has a way of severing us from the two most important things in our faith.  But often we cover up the pride with blame for others or bitterness toward God.  We consider ourselves right in all situations and no one is as worthy as we are.  Pride is always an obstacle to true gospel growth.

We see many examples of prideful men in the New Testament.  Such men as Peter and Paul stand out.  But when God broke these men, they became great humble servants.  Here is what they wrote, “For when I am weak I am strong, His strength is made perfect in my weakness,” II Cor. 12:10.  “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and he will lift you up.”  I Peter 5:6

This morning, I ask, “What is going on in your life?”  Could it be that there is more to the story than you want to admit?  Maybe you are struggling like Uzzaiah in the Old Testament.  If you are, I plead with you to confess the pride in your life.  You may not realize it but the leprosy of pride is keeping you from true relationships that are meant to grow deep in the Lord.

A Tough Road Ahead

June 18, 2012

“And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.”  Luke 19:28

Question, “What does this week look like for you?” Often Mondays is the day when people look at their upcoming week and they cringe or they seek to get away from what is ahead.  But often, people have to face the week and ultimately they fail to enjoy the week because of all the anxiety before them.

Consider our More For Christ readings, Luke 19:28-48.  The cross was before Jesus as he came to Jerusalem.  As Jesus made his way on this road that had been marked with suffering, we find the greatest suffering still in front of him.  I want you to consider three scenes:

1.  The temporal blessing from the crowd

Here we find people rejoicing at Christ entry into the city.  It’s seems as if everyone is for this king.  But very soon (Within days) popular opinion would change and this crowd would proclaim, “We have no king but Caesar.”

2.  The tender brokenness of Christ

Here we find Jesus looking over the city.  His understanding of what was ahead for these people brought him to tears.  These people would turn away from Jesus and they would embrace a religious system that was locked arm in arm with the political wheel of the day. This would cost them greatly as their city would be destroyed time after time because they followed the wrong king.

3.  The task before Christ

As I read this text I am amazed at how Christ maintained his witness and how Christ fulfilled his work.  The task before Jesus was one of defeated sin and death on the cross.  Jesus was faithful to his task.

This morning we find great application for our lives in the tough road ahead.  We first must remember friendships at best are short-lived.  Many people will bail in hard times, but we can be assured that Christ is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.  We secondly are reminded that all that happens this week is only temporary because Christ is coming again and all we have here will be lost.  Finally we see our task of living for Jesus in this world and our work is to spread the message of the gospel.

May we find grace in this day to follow Christ example.

On The Way To?

June 15, 2012

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.”  Luke 17:11.”

Every day it is the same, “A calendar filled with activity.”  Daily people arise to look at their iPhone calendar’s that have a host of blue dots on each day.  First there is getting the kids to school, on time hopefully.  Then there is the 8:30 meeting with one of your clients. You have to hurry because at 10 Am you have to be across town to meet with another client.  By now you are trying to land the big one, but in the back of your mind is the 12 o-clock lunch meeting with your boss when he is going to look over your production reports.  You hope it goes well.  As you sit there, you cannot enjoy the meal because, at three you have a conference call with a client that is very disgruntled.  Finally you hang up the phone and it is 4:45 pm and you have to be at the soccer game by 6 pm. And by the way it is rush hour traffic.  You arrive at the game at 6:15 Pm and your son has just kicked his first ever goal and you missed it.  As you wife tells you about it, you have to hear from Mr. so and so who is retired and has much to say.  The game is over by 7:30.  Now it is time to get the kids dinner and then baths and off to bed.  To your shock it is now 11 Pm and you have to be up at five.

Question, “Where did the day go?”  Also, “What time did you have to spend with God.”  This morning’s more for Christ readings, Lk. 17:11-37 reminds us of our Lord’s mercy and His soon return. Our scripture begins with the story of 10 lepers who come to Jesus.  As we read this story we discover two things:

1. God’s mercy on display, Vs: 11-19

Here we see 10 men who had leprosy (a picture of sin in the bible). They cry out to Jesus for mercy and Jesus heals them.

2.  God’s mercy is distinguished by only one out of ten, Vs: 11-19

Only one leper returns to give praise to God.  Question, “do we who have been cleansed by Jesus stay so busy that we forget his mercy to us?”  We once again need to slow down and distinguish his mercy to us.

The second part of our scriptural text reminds us of our Lord’s return:

1.  We are reminded of Jesus first coming, Vs: 22-26

When Christ came the first time there was no fanfare.  When he came it was for the purpose of purchasing our forgiveness.  Once this work was completed he returned to heaven.

2.  We are reminded of Jesus second-coming, Vs: 27-37

When our Lord returns it will be both sudden and a shock to many.  There will be those who will face severe punished for their refusal to follow Christ.  For others, they will experience the mercy of God.

These two texts remind me to never allow my earthly calendar to dictate my life work.  I am a recipient of God’s mercy.  I must praise him every day and I must tell others of him every day.  I am also going to meet him very soon.  I do not want my calendar to reflect a life that does not expect to meet Jesus.

Lord, we are on the way (By your mercy) and we will soon meet you.  When we do and entrance will be given to us into heaven.  I praise you this day and I plan this day according to your purposes for my life, for your glory.”