Archive for December, 2015

Where can I turn? (Zechariah 4; John 7; Revelation 8)

December 17, 2015

Then he said to me, ‘this is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts.”  Zechariah 4:6

There are moments when one has to recognize that he or she does not have the ability to accomplish the task at hand.

This reality happened with me a few weeks ago.  Our garage freezer had quit working.  I investigated and discovered that our ground fault plug was fried.  So I went to the hardware story to buy a new plug.  So far so good!!!  I came home, took out the old one and put in the new one connecting the wires on the new one exactly as were on the old one.  Then, in all my glory, I turned it on, and it did not work.  I tried for several hours to figure it out and finally came to the conclusion, “This was beyond my ability.”

Question:  “Are there situations at work in your life that are beyond your ability?”

If so, where do you turn for help?

Consider the people of God in the book of Zechariah:  “They are back in their homeland, but still their beloved temple has not been completed.  They have started, but have hit a snag.  What would they do and how would they rebuild the temple and greater still, “how would they repair their spiritual lives that were now in shambles?”

In chapter 4, the prophet of God receives vision number 5.  In this vision the prophet points the people to the one place where they needed to turn.  They were to turn to God!!!

Zechariah 4:6 is one of the most encouraging verses in all of the Bible.  The prophet reminds the people, it will not be by military strength (Might), and it will not be by human wisdom (power), but it will be by His Spirit (Holy Spirit) working that the victory will come.

Here is what we must learn as believers:

  • It is God’s power through the Spirit that leads us and empowers us to do His will.
  • It is God’s perspective that is needed, Vs: 10.

“Little is much when God is in it.”

  • It is God’s presence that assures us of the final outcome, Vs: 14

In Christ we see the fulfillment of this prophecy, Rev. 11:4!  Jesus is the “Living Water” that changes us from dead in the water failure to living above the water in victory.  John 7:37-38

When I could not fix my problem, I turned to someone in our church who in a few minutes fixed my problem.  Each day I turn to Jesus with every situation of my life.   I challenge you to do the same.

How Can I be clean? (Zechariah 3; John 6; Rev 7)

December 16, 2015

“Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments,”  Zechariah 3

The longer one lives he or she, without doubt, has more and more deeds that they would like to forget.  For example, when I was a teenager, there was one moment that I would love to forget, but it is edged in my mind as one of my greatest failures. On that dark day, I denied my Lord before someone who desperately needed to know Him.

This morning that memory flooded my mind as I read Zechariah 3.  This is the prophets fourth vision given to the people.  Israel is back in the land and she is being called to live a holy life before God.

In this vision the High Priest is being accused of sinfulness, of which he is guilty.  In this dramatic scene we view a people who have two common to man distinctions:

  • They are covered in iniquity.
  • They are desperate to be cleansed from their iniquity.

The glorious part of this scene is in the prophecy given of a branch that is to come who will cleanse those who are willing to be cleansed.  Who is this branch?  His name is Jesus.  On the Day of Atonement, He made possible our cleansing, Hebrews 9:14; 10-18!!!

As I read the following words I began to rejoice, “I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.”

Because of what Christ did, I have been made clean.  There is no record in heaven of the dark moments in my life.  This is why we see the church passionately praising the Lord in Revelation 7:11-17.

Think it through:

  • God has prepared His people for worship.
  • God’s people are passionately worshipping Him.

Today, I have been made clean by the blood of the lamb.  Today, if you are a Christ follower, you have been made clean by the blood of the lamb.  Isn’t it time that you and I stop what we are doing and spend some time passionately worshipping Him.

We serve The God who has made us clean!!!

A visit to the hospital (John 5; Revelation 6; Zechariah 2)

December 15, 2015

“In these lay a multitude of invalids-blind, lame, and paralyzed,”  John 5:3

Question:  “When was the last time you visited someone in the hospital?”  As a pastor, this is a regular part of my pastoral responsibilities.

In John chapter 5 we read, Vs: 1-16, of Jesus visiting a hospital.  Certainly this was no ordinary hospital, as we in America would consider.

This was a hospital only in the sense of people who were sick filled this place.  The place, “the sheep gate,” which was the main gate where the shepherds brought their sheep into the city to be taken to the temple for use in sacrifices or for the market for the use of marketing.

Near this gate was a pool named the “Pool of Bethesda.”  This pool was supposed to have mystical powers in that occasionally an angel would come and stir the water.  The mysticism grew even more as it was believed that the first person to get in the water after the stirring would be healed.

Here was a hospital that had three distinguishing characteristics:

  • Filled with hurting people.
  • Filled with frustrated people.
  • Filled with spiritually blinded people

It is to this hospital that our Lord comes.  I want you to notice how Jesus conducts His visit:

  • Jesus engages the sick in their environment .

The Son of does not shy away from such people.  He engaged them, fully confident in His power!!!

  • Jesus challenges the sick in their environment.

Jesus asks, “Do you want to be the one who is healed?”  The man still in his mystical viewpoint wanders if Jesus is going to give him a hand into the pool.  This would require Jesus to stay for a while.

  • Jesus speaks healing to the sick in their environment.

This is totally mercy.  This man does not ask and does not give thanks afterward.  He is not even a believer.  But God, in mercy, heals this man. Yours and mine is the task of speaking the life giving message of the gospel even to those who do not know what we are sharing.

  • Jesus confronts the sick in their environment.

Jesus seeks out this healed man and finds him in the temple.  This was a place he had not been in 38 years.  I wonder was he worshipping the true and living God?  Was he giving thanks for an angel?  Was he being religious?

Jesus deals with this man’s life with clarity, “Do not sin unless a worse problem comes.”   The problem of eternity without God is the deepest sickness in all the world.”  Jesus knew there would be a day when this man would again stand before Him, John 5:29, and He wanted him to be ready.

Our desires should be that all people would be more than respectful and religious when they hear the gospel.  Our desire should be to see them redeemed.  

We must work as did Jesus, 5:17, for there is coming a day when men will no longer be able to work, it will be judgment day!!!  Revelation 6:17 “the day of wrath has come, who can stand it?”

Takeaway:

Recently my brother Ovi in Malawi visited the hospital on two different occasions:  One was to carry a sick pastor and the other was to carry his own sick son.  Both were in great need and both were given great mercy in a healing from God.  Either would have died without being carried to the hospital.  You and I have been called to visit the hospital and carry people to Jesus!!!

The gospel at the well (John 4; Revelation 5; Zechariah 1)

December 14, 2015

“A woman from Samaria come to draw water.  Jesus said to her, Give me a drink.”  John 4:7

Conversation starter:  “How is life going for you?”

In the USA and in many European countries personal conversations have become less and less of a cultural happening.  In our nation, one has to really be intentional to have conversations with others.

Gospel fact:  “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” Romans 10:17

It is impossible for someone to understand and respond to the gospel apart from someone sharing the gospel (either through written, spoken, or media presentation)!!!

On this Monday I want to ask you to place yourself in Jesus position at the well in Samaria.  Would you have followed His path?  Here was His path:

  • This was a shocking moment as He engaged her in conversation, Vs: 7-9

This is not what people of different nationalities would do.  How often are we the same on airplanes, in line at Kroger, at the gas station, or at the mall?

  • This was a spiritual moment as He engaged her in things of eternity, Vs: 10-14

The woman is talking of earthly things and Jesus is speaking of eternal things.  Was your conversation, this past weekend, filled with sports or the gospel?   Was it filled with the world news or news of eternity?

  • This was a shameful moment as He engaged her in the light, Vs: 15-19

The gospel always brings light into our darkness.

  • This was a salvation miracle as Christ opens her eyes to her need, Vs: 20-30

God is looking for people who will worship Him.  It is Christ who is Savior and it is the Holy Spirit who awakens us to our need.  Our job is to share the gospel and it is God’s job to save them!!!

Gospel significance: This woman believed the gospel, shared the gospel, and was changed by the gospel.

This morning I prayed, “Father give me a well moment this day!!!”

May this be your prayer as well.

 

Why all this mess? (Zephaniah 3; John 1; Revelation 2)

December 11, 2015

“The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame.”  Zephaniah 3:5

A couple of days ago, I traveled to Atlanta with two guys to make a hospital visit.  The experience of driving on I-75 is at best described as, “A Mess.”  The road construction and traffic alone make the trip stressful.  However, there are other things that contributed to the mess.  Things such as crazy drivers and trash everywhere on a section of road for about 10 miles.

Certainly anyone driving on the road could easy answer the question, “Why the mess?”

However, in other things in our world the answer may not be as simple to answer.

Think it through:  “Ours is a nation among nations that are truly in a mess.”

Our answers to the question, “Why the mess,” will vary based on who we listen  as well as to how we also formed our opinion.

Imagine living in the day of the Prophet Zephaniah.  He finds himself living in a day (640-609 BC) when Israel was experiencing the last of her free days before being conquered by foreign powers.  This prophet was called to both warn of judgment and  God’s call to repentance.

Chapter three is the Prophets prediction of both judgment and mercy.

  • The prophet predicts the day of judgment, Vs: 1-8

Internally the nation was filled with wickedness, Vs: 1-5.  Despite this wickedness there was Holy God, Vs: 6-7, who offered the people the opportunity to repent of their wickedness.  However, the people did not fear God and would experience the fire of God’s judgment, Vs: 8

  • The prophet predicts the day of mercy, Vs: 9-13

The nation would find itself in the darkness of judgment, but there would be those who would experience mercy in the following ways:

  1. God would redeem those who would repent through the miracle of the New Birth, Vs: 9.
  2. God would remove those who would not repent, leaving a clean place for people to grow in God, Vs: 10-11.
  3. God would rule in the Millennium, Vs: 12-13

These predictions led to the prophet giving praise, Vs: 14-20, to the God of judgment and mercy.

Brothers and sisters, “The mess in our world is simply because we live in broken ways.”  The judgment of God is happening and will happen for all who refuse to turn from their mess.  However, there is a great hope for all who place their trust in the God who came to clean up the mess, Colossians 2:15.

Take heart in the God who is to come, II Thessalonians 1:5-10.  The mess will turn to a miracle because of the grace of God.  May this be our holiday message to the world.  

A blessing awaits (Revelation 1; Luke 24; Zephaniah 2)

December 10, 2015

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and those who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”  Revelation 1:3

This morning I opened my Bible to a familiar place, the first chapter in the book of Revelation.  Over the past four years the book of Revelation has become my favorite book of the Bible.

Believe it our not, it is not because of all the symbols and crazy predictions people make after reading Revelation.

The reason why I love this book so much is because of the blessings that always await when I take time to walk through this book of the Bible.

Maybe you ask, “What blessing?”  The blessing promised in Vs: 3.

God has promised to give a heavenly blessing to those who do three things with the book of Revelation:

  • To read the book of Revelation.

John is not saying, “Just read it as a novel or as one who skims it.”  James is saying, “A blessing comes to those who genuinely study and dig into the truth of the book.”

  • To heed the book of Revelation.

God’s desire is that you would heed what is written in the book.  Here is what we are to heed:

  1. There is coming a day when the Lord will return, (Be prepared).
  2. There will be suffering in our lives as the day approaches, (Suffer well).
  3. We must prepare others for the day, (Proclaim the gospel).
  • To share the book of Revelation.

We are blessed when we engage others in the book of Revelation.  As you share the Word the blessing comes when people are encouraged in their trials, when people are saved from the wrath of God, and when we grow in anticipation of the Lord’s Second-Coming!!!

A dear older Pastor once told me this, “Every night, the last thing I do before going to sleep is to read one chapter in the Book of Revelation.  In this I am ready if He comes, and I am ready to work tomorrow if He does not come.”

Wow, what a blessing!!!

 

 

 

Get into the fight (Jude 1; Luke 23; Zephaniah 1)

December 9, 2015

“I was eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Jude 3

As a child I always did my best to stay away from any trouble, especially getting into fights.  This would be a great problem to me, in one particular year of my elementary days.

There was this one particular boy who took it upon himself to make my life miserable.  Day after day and week after week he would bully me both on the way to school and on the bus ride home.  It seemed to me that all I had to do was to wait it out and eventually he would stop.  Sadly, my theory was wrong!!!

Brothers and sisters, “how often do we take the position, I do not need to get into a fight for the gospel.  Eventually it will all work for God’s glory?”

This might have been Jude’s thought.  His desire was to write a letter sharing about the glorious truths of the gospel.  He wanted to encourage the saints of their common faith in Jesus Christ.  However, God said, “Get in the fight.”

Consider the following:

  • Many believers live, at best, a side line faith.

You ask, “What is a side line faith?”  This is a faith that simply goes to church, studies the Bible in small groups, and goes about life not making any waves.

  • God calls all believers to live a fully engaged faith.

Jude reminds us of the false teachers who are infiltrating the church as well as filling the world with lies.  James description, Vs: 4-16 is horrific and is discouraging to those who have a side line faith.

However, his words are also encouraging to those who want to live a fully engaged faith.  He gives the church 5 action items that will keep us engaged and will give us victory.  Here they are:

  1. You must grow strong in a disciplined faith, Vs: 20a
  2. You must passionately pray in the Spirit’s leading and power, Vs: 20b
  3. You must focus on loving God and making disciples of all people, Vs: 21
  4. You must constantly be ready for the Lord’s return, Vs: 21b
  5. You must engage in Christian apologetics as well as Biblical evangelism, Vs: 22-23

As we live out these actions, God will give us victory in the fight!!!

It was to be this way in my life.  Finally, I had to fully engage the bully who made my life miserable.  It was not an easy task, but in the end, he no longer bothered me any more!!!

False teaching will never go away on its own!!!  Darkness cannot be eradicated apart from the shinning of the light into dark places!!!

Both in the same congregation (III John; Luke 22; Habakuk 3)

December 8, 2015

“Beloved do not imitate evil but imitate good.  Whoever does good is from God, whoever does evil has not seen God.” III John 11

The letter of III John is seldom, if ever, brought up in conversation.  However its content has much to say to local congregations in the 21st century.

The writer is the Apostle John.  His letter is addressed to a loving church member, by the name of Gaius, who was walking in the truth.

  • John commends him for his hospitable lifestyle.

Here is a man who both practices and proclaims truth in his actions toward others.  He is a brother in Christ in whom was a great role model.

However, in the same congregation, was another man who was not walking in truth.  His name was Diotrephes.”

  • John condemns him for his horrific lifestyle.

He is a man who exalts himself and hiders the work in the congregation.

Question:  “Are these two men members of your church?”

The fact is, they are both in most churches today.

Fact:  “God used both these men to further His purposes in the world.”

Now, it is important that we do not hide behind this view in simply allowing the horrific person to go on without accountability.  John is very clear of the need of repentance.  But God does us this failed witness to emphasis truth.  Here is the truth:

  1. We are to focus on God’s path for our daily lives.
  2. We are to follow Godly patterns of faith.
  3. We are to forsake godless patterns of faith.

Gaius was a servant who focused on God’s path.  He was person who we could follow and he was a person who was not taken in by godless paths.

Here are the words of Jesus:

“Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”  Luke 22:26

A settled place (Luke 21; II John 1; )

December 7, 2015

“Settle it therefore in your minds not to mediate beforehand how to answer.”  Luke 21:14

There are many things that are unsettling about life today.  This reality came rushing into my heart this morning as I read Luke 21.  Jesus life was unsettling at this moment, that is, in the eyes of the world.  He was in Jerusalem, speaking in the temple.  He is answering those who asked, “What will be the signs of the times.”

Unsettled moment:  “When you see your world upside down or being shaken, it is very unsettling.”

A father of one of my young men on our basketball team commented this to me last week, “thanks for trying to invest in my son, we live in a world that is trying to destroy everything.”

What do we need in unsettling times?  Answer, “A settled place to stand.”

Consider Jesus teaching in Luke 21 that will bring us to a settled place:

  • There will be times of persecution in both the immediate future and in the long term future, Vs: 10-35

The immediate future, Vs: 10-24

The church will be persecuted, the temple will be destroyed, and the people of Jerusalem will be taken captive.

The long-term future, Vs: 25-35

There will be a time of tribulation worse than the world has ever seen.  God will give us clearly identified signs and many will not be aware until it is to late.

There must be true preparations made before the future comes.

  1.  Jesus is clear in giving us four preparations we must make: We must make our commitment to Jesus, Vs: 14.
  2. We must stand in our commitment, Vs: 28.
  3. We must be alert to the signs, Vs: 36.
  4. We must pray a ton, Vs: 37.

In this moment we see the settled place we come to when we make true preparations.

Here was my prayer and may it be yours as well:

“Father, I am sold out to you, may I never turn back.  I am not afraid of your coming, I look forward to your coming.  My I be alert to the signs, the traps, and be ever reminded of my call.  I will have a consistent attitude of prayer.”

 

What is your practice ? (I John 3; Luke 18; Nahum 2; II Chronicles 3-4)

December 4, 2015

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God,” I John 3:9

In I John 3 we continue to discover how people who “known him” are visibly changed in the “practices” of their lives.

Consider this, many people profess but do not practice what they profess!!!  In I John 1 we are instructed of the impossibility of saying, “We have never sinned.”

Consider this, “Some people say, ‘practice makes perfect.'”  According to I John 2, we will fail from time to time in our practice.

Consider this, “practice makes us progress!!!”

Faith fact:  “Those who profess Christ must possess Christ so that their progression of faith with continue to grow.”

Notice what John says about people who are practicing their possession:

  • Christians are known as the Children of God

The present implication of this is simply, “So we are.”  The future implication of this is, “we will be like Jesus in heaven.”  Vs: 1-3

  • Christians are known as people who practice righteousness.

The life of sin has been defeated by Jesus and the liberty we have is in and through Christ.  Our lives are filled with righteous practices when we live and love all who around us, Vs: 4-11.

Those, on the other hand, who are not practicing righteousness are known as being both lawless and without light.

Question:  “What is your practice?”  The answer can be seen in how we treat others.  John writes, “if we love we are of God and if we hate we are not of God.”

Father, may the practice of my life be to life for you and love all you place before me!!!