Archive for November, 2013

Make Every Effort (I Chronicles 26-27; II Peter 1)Th

November 29, 2013

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith…” II Peter 1:5

Twice in II Peter 1 we read the words, “Make every effort.”  For me, these words took on great meaning.  I will get to this meaning in a moment.  But first I want to give you a quote from the a new study Bible that was recently released.  The Bible is called, “The Gospel Transformation Bible.”  Here is a quote, “The Gospel is not opposed to effort but to earning.”  You and I cannot earn our salvation.  But once we have received salvation we are to make every effort to grow in the new life we have in Christ.

As I read II Peter 1, I came away with a great longing to make every effort to grow in my faith.  Peter’s desire was to leave behind such a witness that all who would come behind him would desire the same.  Here is what he said, “I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”

Think it through:

Have you and I made every effort in our walk with Christ?  A few weeks ago, while in Malawi Africa, the missionary said this, “Even though I am on the mission field, I still need to grow in my faith.” Every believer needs to make every effort.”

Helpful ways to make every effort:

1.  Be thankful for the possession of faith, Vs: 1

2.  Praise God for the new nature that gives us the ability to grow, Vs:3-4

3.  Daily seek growth in the qualities that accompany the new nature, Vs: 5-11

Spend time discovering what they are!!!

4.  Study God’s Word every day so that you will know how to grow, Vs: 16-21

As we look at these helpful ways to make every effort we realize we have everything we need to grow in life and godliness.  Father help me to be thankful for each and every quality you have given us.  May, we all make every effort to grow in our faith!

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Something for everyone (I Chronicles 24-25; I Peter 5)

November 28, 2013

“Likewise you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,”  I Peter 5:5

Today, we as a nation, celebrate Thanksgiving.  This day means many different things to many people.  To our brothers and sisters in Malawi Africa this day means another day of being thankful for God placing the necessities of life on their table.  They are thankful for rice and cabbage.  To our brothers and sisters in Romania this day means being thankful for salami (cabbage rolls) and the necessities of life.  Here in America many of us will have a feast on our table.  We have much to be thankful for and to be accountable for.

This mornings More for Christ readings place before us a feast of things to spiritual take in.  I would like to highlight two:

1.  The early church was blessed to live lives of humility, Vs: 5b-7

The early church was instructed to have humility toward one-another and toward God.  Everything they had and needed was a gift from God.  

2.  The early church was blessed to live with heaven’s wisdom, Vs: 8-11

They could be alert and they could be successful in warfare because of God’s wisdom.  The church could face great suffering with the reality that victory was ahead.  

Think it through:

You and I have been blessed with both spiritual and economic resources that are beyond our worth.  I want to challenge you to both humble yourself and be thankful for what God has provided.  I also want to challenge you to think through how you are going to use, for His glory, what God has given.

Happy Thanksgiving for the glory of God!!!

Last Day in Malawi (Ephesians 3:20)

November 18, 2013

“Now unto him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we ask, think, or do…”  Ephesians 3:20

Today we completed the last assignment here in Malawi.  We were ministering to the pastors representing 28 churches.  God moved in great power as many received the first every training for their call as pastors.

This past two weeks has been characterized by both heartbreak and triumph.  We had triumph in seeing over 200 children come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.  We had triumph in see 4 people respond to Christ in Sunday services.  We had triumph in entering into a long-term partnership with this people.

But we also had heartbreak in knowing that 1 out of 3 children in the villages will be dead before the age of five.  We prayed with people who would not live out the year.  But praise be to God that many of them have heaven in the future.  Please pray that we are able to adopt as many of these children as possible.

We leave in the morning looking forward to being home and continuing our work.  But at the same time we are leaving part of our hearts here in Africa.  Thanks for praying and partnering with us.  Please pray for our safe travels home.

Happy Birthday to my beloved wife!!!

November 15, 2013

“An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.”  Proverbs 31:10

Today is very special day in my family.  Today is Sherry’s birthday!!!  For the past 23 years I have been able to shower her with love and token gifts that reflect her value in my life.

This is the first time I have been away from her on her birthday.  This day finds me in Malawi Africa with a great mission team.  I know my bride would not have me anywhere else.  I am writing today to say, “Happy birthday to her.”  But to also ask that each of you would send her an email today wishing her a happy birthday.  Here is here email, sherryjoseph502@gmail.com

Sherry, thank you for being the best part of my life (other than Jesus).  For 23 years I have loved you and have been loved by you.  Those first two years before we married were days spent in praying that God would allow me to marry you. The last 21 have been in thankfulness for God placing you in my life.

You have given me more than I could ever place in an email. Thank you for 21 years of seeing the best pastors wife living her life in front of me.  Thank you for being my partner in the good times and in the bad times.  Thank you for being the mother of 6 children.  Three have given us joy in this life and all six will give us joy in heaven.  Thank you for always reminding me of the why of ministry!  Thank you for enduring 21 years of preaching and many hours of being alone as I serve the church.

In our night stand is your birthday card with a letter that says what I cannot say here.  Just know I love you and I am with you in spirit on this special day when we celebrate the day God gave you to this world.

Happy Birthday Babe !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Look, its the High Priest (I Chronicles 3-4; Hebrews 9)

November 14, 2013

“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  Hebrews 9:28

I can still remember the mixed emotions in the crowd as a local priest led a processional of village people on a parade through a particular town during a particular Greek Orthodox holy day.  Some in the Romanian crowd were happy, others were sad, and some were indifferent.  

This scene came to my mind as I read the last verses of Hebrews 9.  Our author is contrasting the earthly holy place and the eternal holy place.

The earthly holy place was characterized by the following:

1.  Built by human hands

2.  Filled with rituals and laws

3.  An earthly holy of holies where the high priest visited only once per year.  He offered a sin offering for the people and also for himself.

4.  Could never make man perfect (Remove his sin debt)

The eternal holy place was characterized by the following:

1.  Not built by human hands

2.  The beginning of a New Covenant

3.  The eternal holy of holies where the sinless high priest entered once for the sins of all men.  He offered his own blood as payment.

4.  Perfected all men who surrender their lives to this priest.

Think it through:

This High Priest is Jesus who spilled His blood for the remission of our sins (Heb. 9:22).  This High Priest paid the debt we owe to God.  Judgment no longer awaits those who know Jesus (Heb. 9:27).

This High Priest is coming again to receive all who love Him.  

The emotions of people will be varied when he comes:  Some will stand in awe of their God, others will revile him, but all will bow before him (Revelation 19).

Thoughts to consider:

As I spend these days in Malawi Africa, it is my honor to tell these people of the High Priest who came the first time to redeem us and who is coming the second time to receive us.  

Allow me to challenge you to spend your day sharing this message with the people where you live and work.  Our Great High Priest is coming again!!!

Welcome to My World (Romans 10)

November 13, 2013

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  Romans 10:15

Yesterday was an amazing day here in Malawi Africa.  Our team had the honor of working with 22 churches in the first ever pastor’s conference in this part of Africa.  I must admit that I found myself often overwhelmed as I spoke to these pastors about their role as a pastor.  I could not contain the emotion as I taught them about the significance of the Lord’s Supper.  The topics were many during the day from 9 am to 4 pm.

At one point our Student Pastor commented, “They are going to think that American pastors are wimps.”  We truly cried our way through our teaching times.  Both Chris and Chris gave powerful testimonies which received great hand claps of response as they finished.

Pastor John and Pastor Ben were exceptional as they were faithful to the leading of the Spirit and the Word of God.  For me the day was spent in not only teaching but also in perspective.  I thought much about my personal journey to this place.

5 years ago I went through a tough transition in my personal ministry.  I went from pasturing a large church with a wide scope of ministry to medium size church that seemed to never be able to do great things.  But how wrong I was.  Kings Baptist Church has afforded me personally the opportunity to see greater things than I would have imagined.  The Bible says, “Do not despise the day of small things.”

I confess my sin in failing to see the wonder of God in a group of people.  Thank you Kings Baptist church for allowing me the honor of serving with you on three continents over the last almost 5 years.  Thank you for doing greater things in Jesus.  This very week we have the potential to see a nation touched if these 22 churches catch the vision for the gospel.

My God grant us the ability to see what He wants to do through us.  May we have the hunger for God’s work that one of the pastors has here.  He left at 3 am ridding on a bike to arrive at the conference at 9 am.  He rode for 6 hours here and for six hours home.  By the way, he is in his 60’s.

So great was God’s impact that we are going to spend next Monday with these men once again.  Keep praying for all God is doing.

When God no longer pardons (II Kings 24; Hebrews 6)

November 11, 2013

“And also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not pardon.”  II Kings 24:4

“I will not forgive you.”  These were the strong words of a young man who would not forgive his father for a wrong against him that had been committed years ago.  When one investigated this young man’s life it was clear that his heart was now hardened by bitterness and his life was not characterized by mercy.

When one investigates the character of God, he or she finds just the opposite.  God has been long-suffering and merciful (II Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2: 3-5).  As we see God in the Old Testament, we find him constantly working with a rebellious people.  Year after year the Father offered forgiveness to His chosen people if they would repent and follow Him (II Chronicles 7:14).  But now as we come to II Kings 24 God will no longer pardon.

In this chapter we are clearly made aware that Judah is at the end of her life as a free people.  Each king was now clearly following in the evil footsteps of the sins of Manasseh.

Think it through:

1. Their last days were characterized by both sin and judgment, Vs: 1-7.

2.  Their last days were characterized by rebellion and arrogance, Vs: 8-9.

3.  Their last days were characterized by captivity and poverty, Vs: 10-20.

Dig a little deeper:

In the last days (Revelation 15-16) we see these same character traits in the life of all of humanity.  In these days God will no longer pardon.  Men will receive the due reward for their rebellion.

But until then God is still extending grace to the masses.  This is why we are in Africa this morning.  This is why we can with conviction share with the people of Malawi their need of repentance, for Jesus is coming again.

Join with us in praying for God’s harvest here and for God’s harvest where you live.

A King who knew how to pray (II Kings 19; Hebrews 1)

November 6, 2013

“And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: ‘Oh Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubin, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.'”  II Kings 9:15

“Pray for me.”  This was the desperate plea of a friend who was going through a very difficult time in life.  This friend could not see a way through what they were facing.

Question, “Have you ever been in this place before?”  This is exactly the place the King of Judah found himself in.  For the context of his problem you will need to go back and read II Kings 18.  Here is a quick overview:

 

1.  God has placed Hezekiah on the throne of Judah.

2.  God has a plan for Hezekiah to bring glory to the God of Judah.

The king of Assyria has been used by God to judge Israel.  However he has taken all the credit and has now elevated himself above God.  He believes he is to do to Judah what he did to Israel.

The King of Israel was wicked and he led the 10 tribes to do wickedness.  So they are now in captivity.  But the King of Judah was right before God.  Now we see the King of Assyria belittling God’s King.

In chapter 19 we read of the King of Judah entering the house of the Lord to pray.  His prayer is the best prayer we could offer to God in any trouble.

Think it through:

1.  The king submitted himself to the sovereign rule of the Lord, Vs: 15.

2.  The king prayed, “Save us for the sake of your name,” Vs: 16-19.

Brothers and sisters: “God heard and God honored the king who honored Him.”  Be assured, our God will always respond to prayer that seeks to honor His will and His name in the world.

How did God respond:  God took out Judah’s enemies, Vs: 35-37, and God promised a blessing to Judah, Vs: 30-31.  The ultimate fulfillment came in the coming of our true king, “King Jesus!!!”

Take it out for a spin:

In the midst of your trial:  “Trust in the sovereign Lord to always do what is best for the kingdom.”  And by the way, “You are a child of that kingdom!”

Charge it to my account (II Kings 18, Philemon 1)

November 5, 2013

“If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account,” Philemon 1:18

This morning I could not help but get totally engaged in the scene before me in the book of Philemon.  Before us is the compelling story of a slave who has run away from his master.  But in his running away he actually runs into another Master!!!  So amazing is this new master, the slave surrenders his life to him.  At this point I need to back up before I get ahead of myself.

I want us to look at this scene in correct tools of Bible study:

1.  Discover the context:

The Apostle Paul is in prison in Rome.  He is writing a letter to his brother in Christ (Philemon) who has come to know the Lord through Paul’ ministry.  The gospel so affected this man’s life that we see him opening his home for a house church.  His testimony of love and faith was known throughout his home town.

Paul is writing to inform Philemon that his slave, Onesimus has come to Rome.  While there Paul presented the gospel to him and the Lord opened his heart to the gospel.  Now Paul is sending him back, not as a slave, but as a brother.  Paul’s desire is that Philemon would receive him as a brother.

Paul goes so far as to promise to pay any debt owed by Onesimus.

2.  Discover the content:

Two things stand out in the content:

1.  The impact of the gospel:

Each man has been greatly changed by the gospel.

2.  The investment of the gospel:

Paul was willing to pay for Onesimus to be reconciled to his owner.

3.  Discover the intent:

Brothers and sisters, it is the gospel that changes mens lives.  Brothers and sisters it is Christ who paid the debt we owed to God so that we could be reconciled to God.

Takeaway:

In this moment I cannot help but praise the Lord for paying my debt!!!  This encouragement teaches me to be willing to help others be reconciled, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” 

The Devoted Life (II Kings 17: Titus 3)

November 4, 2013

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.  These things are excellent and profitable to people.”  Titus 3:8

One week from today I will be in the heart of Malawi Africa with a team of men from our church. Our purpose will be to encourage and equip the local churches with the gospel.  One of the many things we will be doing is to host a pastor’s conference.

I am always humbled by the opportunity to help other Men of God in their development as pastors.  On the of the topics that I was chosen to teach was “the character of the pastor.”  In my research, I reread some of Charles Spurgeon’s book, “Notes to my students.”  One of his illustrations haunts me today.

Spurgeon told the story of a pastor who was extremely gifted as a preacher but terribly sinful in his character.  Here is what was said of this man, “He was such a gifted speaker that no one wanted him to come out of the pulpit. However, when he was with the people, he was such a wicked man, no one wanted him to go to the pulpit.”  Brothers and sisters, this should not be!!!

This morning I found great encouragement as I read Paul’s letter to Titus.  Before us is the correct way to live a devoted life before God:

Think it through:

1.  We see the character of the devoted, Vs: 1-2

A truly devoted follower of Christ evidences behavior he or she did not have before (Vs: 3).  He or she is now submissive, kind in their speech, and humble.

2. We  see the cause for their devotion, Vs: 4-8

Here is a person who has come to understand the following:

a.  God reached out to them in mercy.

b. God redeemed them through His might.

c.  God is preparing them for ministry.

d.  God is preparing for them a mansion.

3.  We see the caution in their devotion, Vs: 9-11

A devoted person knows both what and whom to stay away from.  They give themselves over to the urgent things of God.

Taking it out for a spin:

This morning I want to encourage you to live your days in devotion to our Great and Glorious God!!!  Each day seek to evidence the character of grace.  Each day seek to avoid useless work and useless relationships. Give yourself to gospel growth.