Archive for April, 2019

Who lives over there? (Revelation 21)

April 16, 2019

27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:27

Last week, Sherry and I took the scenic route to Alabama for a funeral of a staff’s family member.  There was one city we drove through that captured Sherry’s attention.  It was a city with a large amount of restored old homes.  Sherry commented, “I would love to see inside those homes.”

As I opened my Bible to Revelation 21, my attention was captured by the scene in heaven.  I could picture the glory of the Lord filling all of heaven.  I focused on the pearly gates of the city and the crystal city called the New Jerusalem.  I looked inside the gates where there will be no night and the gates are never closed.

Suddenly I was reminded of who and what is not in heaven.  Satan is not in heaven with his destructive ways.  I do not see anyone who has rejected Jesus in that place.  John writes:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” 21:8

John writes, they will not live in that place.

Question:  Is there a place there for you?

I could not help but raise my hands in praise to the God who has freed me from my sin.  I rejoice in knowing my God has paid the price for my sins so that I am forgiven.  I sing praises to His name knowing I am a new person headed to a prepared place.

Who lives over there?  Heaven is filled with former sinners who have been forgiven and given new life in Jesus!!!  Oh that more would want to live there.

Take the time today to tell someone about where you are headed!  And by the way, invite them to join you in that place.  There is still room!!!

In Case you forgot (Revelation 20)

April 15, 2019

 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10

These are days of great turmoil and trial.  I see it in people’s eyes and I recognize it from their emails and media pages.  One person said to me recently, “It’s enough to get a person down.”

Another brother said to me recently, “Pastor I have my good days and bad days.”

In that moment the Holy Spirit spoke through me to my brother.  Here was what He led me to say, “Brother, where you are going there will only be good days.”

Brothers and sisters, I know life can be tough.  I think about the Fincher family whose father died three weeks ago and just on Thursday of this past week the mother died.  What makes life even tougher is the reality of our enemy.  I also know our enemy has teeth.

But in case you forgot, brothers and sisters, where we are headed our enemy has no authority or access.

However, in this moment, I know our enemy who is described as “the ancient serpent” is still deceiving and destroying each and every day.   However, he has no victory over you and I (I John 5:1-5).

Revelation 20 encourages us to look ahead to the moment in time when Satan will be bound (Vs:2) for a 1000 years.  Then for a moment he will be released (Vs: 7-9).  Then he will come to a moment when he will fully answer for his crimes (Vs: 10).  He will be cast into a lake of fire to be in torment forever and ever.

In case you forget, you encounter a moment of fear, or you feel like falling away from faith, let me remind you of where we are headed.  We are headed to a victory parade with Jesus in heaven!!!

Look up my brothers and sisters, our redemption is drawing near!!!

Who are the rich? (James 5)

April 12, 2019

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. James 5:1

As I sit here on my comfortable couch drinking fresh coffee I ask myself this question, who are the rich in James 5:1?  I turn and look up at the bright lights in my office and then I look down at my clean shoes and my pressed pants.  I pan across the room to see my Mac Computer and my desk.  Suddenly it hits me, I am that rich man!

Here in this chapter James identifies the rich as those who live in luxury and self-indulgence.

James describes how they got rich and how they stayed rich.  Such people inflicted misery on the poor.

James declares, there is a payday coming!

Now, I can hear what some of you are saying, yes it is true, I do have money but I am not like the rich people described by James.  Brothers and sisters, I am like those rich people, especially when I want to live above the means the Lord had put before me.  When I am self-indulgent I am taking God’s provision from someone else that God entrusted into my hands to distribute to those who are poor.

Here are two goals that can lead to a productive Godly life as a rich person:

  1. Make it a goal to live in a liberated way.  Live a life that reflects God’s provisions in your life and not a life that reflects debt and greed.
  2. Make it a goal to live in a giving way.  The Lord loves those who are cheerful in their giving and the Lord pours resources into those who will give to those in need in Jesus name.

Father may we each be liberated to give as your hands and feet to the world.

What will I do? (James 4)

April 11, 2019

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7

If anyone ever tells you the Christian life is easy, get away from this person because they have never lived the Christian life.  In James 4 we are reminded of how the Christian life is a constant battle between two opposing forces.  The passions of our flesh does battle with the passions of our faith.

In our faith we want to do the will of God.  But in our flesh we want to do our own will.  James gives us a picture of the battle in 4:1-5.

How can we know, who is winning the battle?  The answer is this:  When I am angry, mean-spirited toward others, and pushing to get my own way, I know I am losing the battle.  When I pray and there is silence from heaven, I know I am praying in the flesh.

But the opposite is true when I am winning the battle.  When I am humble, kind toward others,  and seeing God’s answers in my prayer life, I know I am walking in the passions of my faith.

The truth is, there is never a person who always wins the battle.  It is possible to win all the battles you face, but to do them it requires a complete submission to God!!!  How does this happen?

  1. I have to daily submit to God’s will.
  2. I have to daily resist Satan’s lies and His appeal to the flesh.
  3. I have to daily do battle with my flesh. I must repent quickly when I sin.
  4. I have to moment by moment draw near to God gaining His heart for my life and His heart for the world.

Take time today to simply ask God, What do you want for me Lord?

Victory over my tongue (James 3)

April 10, 2019

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.  James 3:2

Have you ever been guilty of saying something and then later you regretted it?  Even worse, have you ever said something and regretted it the moment you said it?  I shamefully have to answer, yes, to the previous questions.

James reveals my heart attitude when I say such things: In the moment I am spiritually not mature, I am revealing a bitter and selfish heart.  I am evidencing jealousy and self-promotion.  Truly my heart has as it’s intent the destruction of whomever I am talking to or about.

As I type these words I am in true sorrow and repentance.  I don’t want such a heart.  I want to live a different way.

Maybe you feel the same way?  The question is, what must we do?  I believe we must daily crucify our flesh (Galatians 2:20) and  daily seek for  God’s Words to be in the center of our hearts.

When this happens you and I will desire God’s Words to come from our lips in every moment of every day.

I long to have pure and peaceable speech.  I want to be gentle and full of mercy as I speak. I crave His wisdom in my reasoning.  I want to be impartial as I speak to others.

Brothers and sisters, when you and I engage in the language of the new heart, we are speaking words of peace to all who are around us.

This is my prayer today!  I want to bear good fruit.

Here is what Jesus has to say about our topic today:

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37

What good is it? (James 2:14)

April 9, 2019

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? James 2:14

Recently a brother in our church shared the following story with me.  He said, my daughters car broke down a few weeks ago close by our house.  Her tire suddenly went flat.  She called me and I came quickly.  When I got there, there was a guy sitting in another car behind her.  He said, “I just wanted to make sure your daughter was ok.”  My friend said, I thanked him and told him I would handle it from there on.  As the guy drove off, I thought, oh no, I missed an opportunity to share Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, what good is it to have faith if you keep it to yourself?

In James two we see a church that says they have faith, however they only share it with a certain class of people.  By doing so they become judges who have evil intent.  What is their intent?  The intent is clear, they can personally benefit (in their judgment) from those who have wealth.

James says, this is showing partiality!

How wicked it is when we only share faith with those who can benefit us.  James teaches us to “love everyone we come near.”  This is pure and undefiled faith.

This morning I thought about my brother, who shared that story with sorrow in his heart.  But then I saw the sorrow leave as he told me the rest of the story.  He said, a few weeks after this, I was greeting people in our early worship service. I suddenly thought, I now this person.  Suddenly I realized, this was the very guy who I failed to share my faith with.  Here is the deal: God is a God of a second-change for those who desire it by true faith.

Brothers and sisters, James two reminds me of several things:

  1. I must have authentic impartial faith.
  2. I am called to love all people.
  3. I sometimes fail to be authentically loving.
  4. When I fail, I am to confess my failure and get right back in the race of authentic love for the God who gave everything for me.

Brothers and sisters, let’s make good on our faith today!!!

The Full Effect (James 1)

April 8, 2019

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:4

I love the book of James!  I always get excited when I come to read its content. In context James is writing a letter to believers who are living as foreigners. The intent of James letter is simply for the believer to live out his or her life before an unbelieving investigating world.

In chapter one the content is filled with truth for living out such a life.  I want to focus with you on Vs: 2-4.  The truth is “God intends for trials to have their full effect on your life and my life.”

Follow the truth to get the full effect:

  • Trials come in various forms-They are multicolored.  Be careful  in mislabeling what happens in your daily life.  There is truly a difference between consequences and trials.
  • Trials challenge us in various ways.
    • Sometimes they test what we believe.
    • Sometimes they test our endurance.
    • Sometimes they test our maturity.
  • Trials change us in various ways:
    • Some people bail out in the midst of the trial and never experience God’s full effect.
    • Some people get bitter in the trial and they become ineffective for God.
    • Some people get better in the trial because they are growing in endurance, patience, wisdom, power, and maturity.

Brothers and sisters, are trials having their full effect on your life?  Please do not bail out or become bitter.  If either of these is the case in your life, repent of your failure and return to faith in this wonderful God who never leaves us.

For those who are getting better, I join you in praying ““God implant your Word deeper and deeper in my life.  Lord, strength my resolve to stay the course and Lord show me the end results of the full effect.”

Gazing or Going? (Acts 1)

April 5, 2019

 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,  Acts 1:10

Everything had happened so fast.  The family was left in a state of shock.  Each family member did not go to bed that night thinking, one of our family members will die tonight.  But that is exactly what happened.  The next morning the family sat together and wondered, what do we do now.

I really believe it was this way on the day Jesus ascended back to heaven to sit on His Father’s throne.  Even though Jesus had prepared the disciples for leadership of His church, they were in shock. Even though Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit, they were in shock.

If I had been with them I would have been thinking, this is a different miracle.  I wonder when is He coming back.  I would have been gazing right along with the others.

Notice what happened as they were gazing.  Two angels stood beside them and spoke to gazing disciples:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Suddenly the disciples were out of their shock mode and they were ready to step forward.  The angels reminded them of this truth, “You have much work to do before Jesus returns!”

Brothers and sisters, we often find ourselves gazing into Gods’s Word looking for one more truth or one more training session as we wait for His return.  But all the while forgetting our call to “go as we wait.”

One of the things I am trying to learn and to communicate to our flock is this: “I am to be growing as I am going!”

If we can grasp this today, the epitaph of our life will not read “gazing,” it will read “going.”

What taking so long? (Matthew 28)

April 4, 2019

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19

We sat there in the drive through line for what seemed like forever.  I timed our wait time and it was 32 minutes.  We could have gone in the restaurant and ordered and ate quicker than this.  Finally we got to the window and I asked, “what’s taking so long?”  The manager said, “over half our crew did not show up for work today.”

2000 years ago, Jesus gave the church an assignment, “Go therefore into all the world and make disciples.”  The book of Acts tells us the story of how the church was faithfully moving forward with the assignment.  The church was showing up for work every day. Even when they were persecuted, they continued to carry out their assignment:

Acts 4:20 “They spoke publicly about what they had seen and heard.”

Acts 4:29 “They prayed for boldness to keep on speaking the word.”

This was the beginning days of the church.  But now we are 2000 plus years into our assignment and still the assignment has not been completed.  We must ask ourselves, why?

I think our answer is the same answer the manager shared with me, “half of the team is not showing up for work.”  Actually it is far worse than that.  The latest studies show that over 90% of us are not showing up for work.

Truly the American church has:

  • Lost sight of the assignment.
  • Lost their love for the Lord.
  • Lost their boldness for Jesus.

As I study the church in America I realize many churches have become internalized in all their efforts. I realize many churches have embraced a secular humanistic view of life.  I also realize the church has all but forgotten the power they have to stand up against the persecution in our day.

The question comes: What is the way back?  The answer is simple:

  • We need church leaders who will lead the church too repentance and a return to Biblical preaching.
  • We need church laity who will return to the Lord and fall in love with Him again.
  • We need churches who will again experience the wonder of the Word of God and wonder of the miracles of God.

There is great hope for our day, if we get out of the drive through lines of life and into the doing something for the Glory of God line!

 

The Man on the cross (Matthew 27)

April 3, 2019

 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. Matthew 27:50

I have, as have some of you, read Matthew 27 many times. I have taught both on the narrative of the cross and the theological implications of the cross.  I have visualized the scene of the cross and I have cried many times as I considered the Man on the cross.

However, this day is different for me.  As I read Matthew 27, I over and keep seeing “The Blood,” in the narrative:

  • I see Judas who betrayed innocent blood, Vs: 4.
  • I see the Chief priest who bought a field with blood money, Vs: 8.
  • I see Pilate trying to wash the blood from his hands, Vs: 24.
  • I see the crowd taking personal responsibility for the blood, Vs: 28.

But theses are not the only times I see the blood.  I see the blood Jesus actually spilled.  Do you see the blood spilling from his body as He is being scourged?  Do you see the blood spilling from His head as the crown of thorns is twisted on His head and the reed strikes Him in the head?  Do you see the blood flowing from His hands and feet as the nails are placed in Him to hold Him to the cross?  Do you see the blood flowing from His pierced side?

Brothers and sisters, let us see clearly the Man on the cross.  It was His own blood that brought blessing into our lives, Hebrews 9:3-14.

Brothers and sisters, do not weep from the man on the cross as one who simply was overpowered and wrongly charged.  Jesus was in complete charge of these moments, John 10:18.  He went to the cross willingly and with purpose!!!  It is His blood that cleanses us from all sin, I John 1:7.

Jesus did all of this for whosoever would come to Him (Romans 10:9-13).  He laid down His life so we might have life (John 10:11-14).

When I consider the man on the cross I see not only the blood of Jesus but also the great blessing I have received from the blood.  But there is one more thing I see.  I see my blessed Savior calling out to me, “I gave, I gave my life for you, what have you given to me?”

This day I have given my sin to Him who has liberated me. This day I have given my soul to Him who is my Lord.  This day I give my steps to Him who is my leader.

This is the Man on the cross!!!