Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thought of the Day !!

"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
                                                                          Luke 17:3-4 (NIV)

Forgiveness is not a suggestion in the Gospels.  It's a command.  As a matter of fact, in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells us that if we don't forgive others, then our Heavenly Father won't forgive us. 

But this isn't what God wants for us.  He sent His only Son to die so that our sins would be forgiven and so that we would have a way out.  What He requires is that we show the same love and forgiveness to others.

Several years ago while I was still living in Memphis, a tragic event happened just across the river in West Memphis, AR.  Three young men were tried and convicted of brutally murdering three eight-year-olds.  It was all over the news. When the three guys were brought to trial, the father of one of the victims suddenly rushed at them screaming, “I’ll chase you all the way to hell!” 

It’s certainly understandable how the father had to have anger like he’d never had before in his life.  But there is something almost prophetic about his words.  If we allow our hatred for those who have wronged us to go unchecked, it will eventually destroy us. 

Forgiving each time is exactly what God does for us.  And so it’s what He expects from us too.

In the love of Christ,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thought of the Day !!

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
                                                                        Romans 8:18 (NIV)
Paul was one who really knew what it was like to suffer.  He'd been beaten, flogged, imprisoned and even stoned (and miraculously survived the stoning).  So when he makes this statement, we hear it from one who's a pretty good authority on the subject of suffering. 
We all suffer to varying degrees.  Some of us are lucky enough to suffer relatively little while on this earth.  We'll never know what it feels like to go to bed for the 2nd or 3rd day without food.  We'll never know what it looks like to wake up in a war zone.  We'll never have to try to go home to a place that has been destroyed by a natural disaster.
Some suffer more than others.  But the fact is that we will all suffer.  And this should not be taken lightly.  I hate it when someone says, "I know how you feel" or "Well, everything will be better one day."  In actuality nobody knows exactly how another person feels and even though things WILL be better one day when we get to Heaven, it's normally said because the one saying it doesn't know what else to say.  And it doesn't change the fact that we're suffering in the here and now. 
So what do we do.  We realize that some sufferings can actually make us stronger.  They are the lessons of life that we learn from.  Some will break us down and make us more dependent upon the one who created us.  And some will seemingly not have any purpose.  Of course only God knows that for sure.  But the key is to lean heavily on your Lord to help you through any situation and know that He often uses others to help you.  And even though we don't just say that things will be better one day and leave it at that...the fact is that they really will be.  For God has so much planned for you and me who love Him and believe in His Son. 
So listen to Paul as he tells us that nothing compares to what is to come for you and me...not even our sufferings.
In the love of Christ,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thought of the Day !!

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
                                                                                  1 John 4:16 (NIV)

How do you think the Apostle John came to the conclusion that God is love?

I figure, being with Jesus for so long and knowing him so well, John saw the love that Jesus embodied.  He saw the love that Jesus had for his family...his friends...the children...the poor...the sick...the lame...the prostitutes...the tax collectors...and even his enemies.  Jesus was the true living-breathing-walking definition of love.  He spoke love.  He taught about love.  He showed love.

So if John were to do the math, he would come up with the simple algebraic formula that we all learned in high school math (if a = b and a = c then b = c also).  In other words, if Jesus = love and if Jesus = God, then God must also = love.

The gist of this is simply that Jesus' life equated to love in every aspect of it.  As Christians, we are supposed to have the desire to be like Christ.  So the real question is what are our own lives equating?

In the love of Christ,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thought of the Day !!

As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.
                                                                                 2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)
Knowing Jesus better means growing in our relationship with him.  We do that through finding out more about him and speaking to him constantly, while allowing him to speak back. 
When we do this, His divine power (being used through God's Holy Spirit) enables us to do things we couldn't do before we grew in this relationship.  For instance, before I had a strong relationship with Jesus, I was a follower.  In high school I would do just about anything to be accepted by others, even if it was something bad.  But now, I know I am accepted by my Lord and Savior and do not feel as though I have to do anything to be accepted by others.  And this has led to me living a more godly life.
This is merely one example of how the divine power of God gives us everything we need for living a godly life.  Jesus knows each and every one of us and sees where there are things in our lives that we can battle on our own, but will never win.  For the temptation to do them is too strong.  If we will only seek the help of our Savior, his divine power is enough to defeat whatever the devil throws at us.  It may not be all at once, but as your relationship grows, so will your ability to fight sin. 

In the love of Christ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thought of the Day !!

Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.  

Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD's unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.  

Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!                                  
                                 Psalm 32:9-11 (NIV)

First of all, we're told to not be like those who have no understanding.  Our understanding of God's ways, His will for our lives and His plan of salvation for us can be found through reading our Bibles and praying to Him.

Secondly, David makes it clear that the wicked have many problems.  Sometimes it may seem as though the worst people are the ones with all the luck or all the stuff.  But what they don't have are the things that only God can give.  Peace...Assurance...True Joy...Eternal Life.

Lastly, we find in verse 11 that we should rejoice.  Now I don't feel like rejoicing all the time.  Sometimes I get down.  But even in my worst moments I can always know that God is with me and that He is not going to let anything come my way that will completely sink me.  And that is something to rejoice about.

In the love of Christ,

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sunday's Sermon "Amazing Grace"

(Sermon preached on Oct 12, 2014)

Amazing Grace                                                                      
Ephesians 2:1-7 (NLT)
I. Grace Defined
            Grace!  Just exactly what is the definition of grace?  It’s unmerited favor from God.  It’s His abundant love and forgiveness given as a gift to us who are incapable of doing anything to deserve it.  It’s love.  It’s forgiveness.  It’s free.  And it’s available for you and me. 
(Read Ephesians 2:1-7)
·      Paul tells us that there’s a diff between then and now for those of us who’ve accepted Christ.  We’re changed.  If we’re not changed then that means we don’t have Jesus in us. 
·      Vs. 1 – Dead because of disobedience (separated from the life of God)
o   Dead – living verses Zoe living
·      Vs. 2 – Do we literally obey the devil? Yes, when we disobey God – He is real.  He is here on this earth.  And his one sole purpose is to do whatever is needed to take bring you away from God.  He is a very jealous being and will do whatever he can to accomplish his goals.
·      Vs. 3 – Sinful nature
·      Vs. 4 & 5 – God’s grace leads to life (Zoe life now / eternal Zoe life later)

II. Why God loves us

            If you read the Psalms that David wrote, you will find a man who is desperate for God.  And if you read 1 John 4:19 you we see that we love because God first loved us. 
            But why is He so desperate for us?  It’s because as 1 John also says, “God is Love”.  It’s in His nature to love us and there’s proof of this ever since our existence. 
            He showed His love through the very act of creation.  He created the Garden and everything in it perfectly for us.  Then He created us out of love with freedom instead of into slavery.  Over and over in the OT He comes to His children’s rescue even though they continually turn their backs on Him.
            And then the ultimate show of love came in the person of Jesus Christ.   He sacrificed His one and only Son for us to show us just how great His love was.

III. The three-in-one Grace
            God’s love, or grace, is always given to us and is always the same.  But we speak of it in three different ways.  There’s prevenient grace, which is God’s love that comes to us before we even know God.  It woos us into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus.  Then there’s His justifying grace, which is God’s love as we come to that know God.  You could call it the grace that brings about salvation in our lives.  And then there’s sanctifying grace that leads us towards sanctification, or perfection after we’ve been saved.

            So no matter where we are in our spiritual journey…or even if we don’t even know we’re on a spiritual journey…God’s everlasting grace (His love and forgiveness) is always with us…always readily available for us.

IV. Amazing Grace
            The hard part for people of our culture today is the fact that on the whole we’re taught that we deserve certain things.  We’re a privileged nation with many freedoms who’ve taken them for granted.  We’re taught from childhood that we can do anything that we set out minds too.
This leads to many people that they be good enough for salvation.  They feel that they’re not all that bad.  Christians time and again will say that they’re going to Heaven because they’re good people. 
And we can shirk at the fact that we actually deserve punishment for our sins instead of forgiveness.  Paul makes it clear that before we choose Christ it doesn’t matter how good or bad we are, we’re still dead in our sins.  (Read verse 1)

There is a way of believing called total depravity that teaches us that we are totally bad.  Nothing about our physical selves is good.  And since I’ve taught you before that David spoke of being born a sinner and that we are basically sinful since birth, I want to make sure that today I place this in perspective so that we don’t go down that road of total depravity. 
You see, we were created in the image of God.  We were created with the capacity to do great and wonderful things.  But we also have free will, which means that we are continually choosing between what the Holy Spirit leads us to and what our sinful (human) nature leads us to. 
All you have to do is read your bible and you will see where people so often choose the road of their sinful nature.  As a matter of fact, all you would have to do is look back at your own life and if you are honest you will see where you, yourself have chosen the road of your sinful nature over and over.  We all have.  It IS human nature.

            Then there’s God’s Grace.  It’s a gift given to us that we don’t deserve.  It’d be like us losing our jobs and the bank telling us not to worry, that they’d just write our house notes off.  It’d be like gas stations putting out a sign saying that since the cost of living had gone up so much, they’d give us our gas for free.

            Our God does even more than that though.  He says that we’ve turned our backs on Him and been selfish and overindulgent and at times pretty ugly.  In truth, the wickedness of this world (including our own selves who’ve sinned against God) is deserving of the punishment of hell, whether we want to admit it or not. 
But in spite of this God is willing to give us His love and forgiveness (and a ton of second chances). 

(John Newton)           
One such person that surely came to understand this is the man who wrote the song Amazing Grace.  His name was John Newton. 
From his late teens until around the age of 30 Newton had been a man who spit in the face of God.  He was a sailor that got kicked off of many boats because he couldn’t deal with authority.  He was spoiled and had been gotten out of trouble many times by his father.
He caused riots aboard his ships and taught others to disrespect the captain and God.  He became a slave trader and was a blasphemer and a true foul mouth devil. 

That was until one stormy day when his ship was coming back from the African Coast.  A storm came up that basically did the ship in.  More than once John Newton and the rest of the crew thought that their lives were over.  And something happened to John.  He later wrote in his journal regarding this event.

“about six in the evening (I heard) that the ship was freed from water, there rose a gleam of hope. I thought I saw the hand of God displayed in our favour; I began to pray.”

            And this began a process that changed John Newton’s life forever.  This change is written about in his most famous hymn entitled Amazing Grace.             

Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace!
How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost,
but now am found;
was blind, but now I see.

            John Newton realized what a wretch he’d been as he remembered the days that he was involved in the slave trade.  John Wesley understood how much of a wretch that he’d been before God’s mercy was shone to him.  Your pastor stands before you admitting how much of a failure he was before he gave control of his life over to Christ.
            What about you?  When you sing this song for possibly the millionth time, does it remind you of what a wretch you’d still be without Jesus?           
            As John Newton was nearing the end of his lifetime he got to where he could barely see his hands before his face.  Ironically, even though he couldn’t see physically, he still sang this song and believed that he could see better then than ever.  He saw how the grace of God had literally saved his life over and over.  There were times in his life where for all intense purposes he should’ve died.  Even though Newton didn’t see at the time…he eventually did.
What is it that God might be trying to get you to see in your life?

V. Closing
            Just as God’s amazing grace called out to John Newton while he was still a heathen, saved him at just that right time, and worked in him perfecting him until the day he went to be with the Lord, it can do the same for each of us. 
            Some of us may be being called by God’s prevenient grace to come into a relationship with Him through His Son today.  Others of us might have experienced his justifying grace and have assurance of our salvation and are being urged by His sanctifying grace. 
            It’s up to us to choose though.  Will we allow God’s grace to cover our sins and change us?  Will we allow our eyes to be opened to our sinfulness so that we will see a better way in our Lord Jesus?

Thought of the Day !!

Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.") No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
                                                                       Romans 8:35-37 (NLT)

This life is but a fleeting moment of time.  Even if it doesn’t feel that way, it’s true.  We cannot comprehend eternity, and so these sufferings that we go through seem to be much longer than they really are.

But is all life suffering?  No.  There are joyful moments even as we go through pain.  There are the sunny days in the midst of what seems like a sea of dark clouds.  And for those of us who are lucky enough to have the heart and attitude of Christ (especially attitude), we will find the joy in the midst of a hurting world; the light in the midst of a darkened world.

Why?  Because Christ Jesus loves us that much.

In the love of Christ,

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thought of the Day !!

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
                                                                              Romans 8:5-6 (NLT)

Where will our minds go today?  We will think about daily things such as what has to be done at work or what to have for lunch or supper or what’s going on with the kids.  These things are necessary as we go through our day.

But our minds will go so many places today that have nothing to do with the mundane daily stuff that has to be done.  Will we think about sinful things?  If we are controlled by our sinful (human) nature, we will.  If we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, or if Jesus rules our heart, then we will think about things that please God.

Does this mean that if we’ve accepted Jesus then we’ll never have another sinful thought again?  No.  For we fight a battle with the temptation of sin on a daily basis.  Sometimes we lose this battle.  But if we have the Holy Spirit within us, we realize that the sinful thoughts are contrary to God’s will and it bothers us.  When the Holy Spirit is in us, we want to be better people who obey Jesus and live within God’s will.

And when the Spirit lives in us and controls our minds, we have a peace that cannot be found when we allow our sinful nature to control them.  So find peace in living in God’s will and thinking about the things of God today.  Praise Him, thank Him and walk with Him.  And your day will brighten.

In the love of Christ,