Archive for February, 2013

The Gentle Christian

February 24, 2013

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love”, (Ephesians 4:2 ESV)

Many so-called Christians are not gentle at all. They are when things are going their way.  But if something doesn’t suit them, they become mean, arrogant, and generally manifest anything but a Christ-like spirit. They are woefully immature, understand absolutely nothing of the person and teaching of Jesus, and cause serious temptations for the Christians who are trying to do right. I fear their souls are in grave danger if they do not repent. And the sad thing is, they do not see that they are acting this way. I pray for them. I really do.

The task for the rest of us, who are trying to do right, is to forgive them, pray for them, and treat them with kindness and patience. This is hard to do when it seems there is no desire on their part to change their behavior. They don’t think they need to change and they have acted this way for years and in some cases for decades. But, we must still be kind, gentle, forgiving,  and patient. I must love others whether they love me or not. That’s what Jesus did.

May God help us and them.

Lord Jesus Christ,  Son of God, be merciful to me a sinner.

Salvation is Only Through Jesus Christ

February 21, 2013

We must not back down on this. We must not try to be politically correct. We must make a clear and forceful stand for Jesus. We must mount an aggressive offensive attack on satan and his helpers. Victory is ours through Christ and no one else if we do not default the fight and abandon the field of battle leaving it to our enemies.

Jesus is the way. Jesus is the door. Jesus is the bread of life and the living water of life. We must eat His flesh and drink His blood by taking His teaching into our spiritual lives as we take physical food into our physical bodies.  We must live Christ. We must be proud to be a Christian and not cowed by a liberal, materialistic media-driven agenda.

Christian, take your stand and never retreat, never surrender. You want to make the world a better place?  The world’s only hope is Jesus Christ. Choose for Him to control your life. Preach Him. Live Him. Show Him to your neighbor.

All glory to Jesus Christ: Son of God, Savior of the world.

If you believe this, share it!

God, You, and Human Suffering

February 20, 2013

This is a difficult subject and I sure don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I want to share only one thought that occurred to me a few years ago and was very helpful to me personally. There are many other angles on this subject that I will not discuss in this brief post. Here’s what hit me one day that I found really encouraging.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul said God would not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to bear. Temptation and trial is not technically the same, but they are related, and I am treating them the same in this post.

When I am faced with a trial, I can know that God believes I can handle it because of what He said in the text above. So, the fact that He has allowed the trial to happen rather than providentially stopping it, means that God has confidence in me, perhaps like He had confidence in Job when satan wanted to cause suffering for him.

My thought is that if God allows me, as a Christian,  to suffer, it means God believes I will show others how a Christian deals with adversity. It means God believes in me, loves me, and is pleased with me. It doesn’t mean the opposite of those things.

Therefore, my feeling is not to try and blame God in some way, but to want to make Him proud of me. After all, He has already indicated He has confidence in me. It’s kind of like God has said to the devil today, “Have you considered my servant John.”  God has singled me out, not because He hates me, but because He loves me.

I find that pretty encouraging.

God and Fear

February 19, 2013

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Christianity produces strength, love, self control, and endurance – not fear. If your Christianity doesn’t,  then maybe you’re listening to someone other than Jesus. That someone may be you. At least that’s a struggle I face.

I should be trusting Jesus when what I’m doing is trusting John. It never works. To really trust Jesus,  I have to completely let go of self. Paul talked about crucifying self or putting self to death. I can never take hold of Christ or let Him take hold of me till self is out of the way. I told you it was a struggle.

You just have to let go in total surrender to Jesus. When you finally let go of self and begin uniting with Christ, you will find a peace you never knew existed. Fear will begin to disapate. Hope and strength will begin to grow.

Dear Father, mercifully grant me the strength to quit trusting in me and start trusting in You.

Austin’s Sermon

February 18, 2013

Austin did great job last night preaching at Vernon Church of Christ.

He told a story about two coal miners in the 1400’S. One went to work in the underground mines so his brother could go to college. The brother miner would supply the financial support for his brother since the family was very poor. Conditions in the coal mines in the 15th century were very poor, but the brother did it so the other brother could realize his dreams.

Austin then compared this story to the story of the firey furnace in Daniel. The three Hebrew young men went down in the furnace for God. God took care of them.

The application was – “Who would you go down in the coal mines for?”  Would you do it for your family?  Your friends?  Who?  Would you do it at all? 

It was a powerful lesson. Wish you could have been there. I am so proud of Austin.

Austin

February 17, 2013

I am looking forward to hearing Austin preach at Vernon Church of Christ tonight. He won’t tell me his subject, but I’ll be glad to hear him whatever it is.

We preach some kind of word constantly by the way we live our lives. I hope it is THE word. Paul said we are ambassadors for Christ. We are His representatives.  Austin has chosen a career where he will influence hundreds, if not thousands,  of young people as a teacher and coach.

We influence every person we see, every day.  I must remember that and make my influence a good one. It is a choice I make. May God help me.

Good Morning

February 16, 2013

Today will be a good day. My children are here from Montgomery and Lebanon (Tennessee).  My grandson, Benton, is playing in the floor with Grandee. My grandson, Brooks, is having his birthday party this afternoon. I don’t have a preaching place tomorrow, but I hope to eventually.

My goal today and each day must be to be a little more like Jesus. Christ must be formed in me, as Paul taught. This is always an ongoing process, a little more, a little more.

With my children here, I have a special opportunity to influence them. They will note my behavior and be influenced by it, no matter how old they are or how old I am.  Parental teaching never ends. I wish more people understood this. I wish I did a better job at it.

Constant watchfulness, constant prayer, and constant meditation on the word of God are my allies.  Pray for me.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,  have mercy on me, a sinner.

Seeing God

February 14, 2013

To see God, you have to look for Him. He is everywhere present, but you have to look with your mind and heart to discern His presence. You have to yearn for God with your heart and think of how His presence manifests itself with your mind.

Looking out my window right now, I see a group of trees, bare of their summer leaves, with the clear blue sky in the background. Though the trees are leafless, they are very much alive. I know this because I have watched these same trees for the better part of 60 years. The life of the trees reminds me of their creator God. I see Him in the trees. He is present in them. Looking closer, I notice that the tree limbs are naturally bent in all kinds of angles as they have grown in the various directions in search of the sun, which is essential for their life. It is the sense that the limbs have gone to great effort to be united with the sun. This reminds me of the supreme effort God expended through His love in the giving of Jesus so He could have a relationship with you and me. The blue sky I see through the limbs makes me think of heaven that God has prepared as a place to dwell in perfection with all who die as faithful Christians. I see God in the trees, the tree limbs, the sky . . . and I could go on.

It helps me greatly in my struggling Christian walk to see God’s presence in so many places. It’s like He’s constantly watching me to catch me if I stumble, like a loving father would watch his children as their guide and protector. 

May He watch over me always. May He do the same for you. May God bless you and keep you.

How to Pray for your Enemies

February 13, 2013

Jesus says to pray for my enemies,  so how do I do that?  Here are a few of my thoughts which I intend to be informed by the teaching of the Master. I don’t personally have all the answers,  but I believe Jesus has all the answers we need to know.

I need to pray that God will forgive my enemies. On the cross, Jesus prayed that the Father would forgive those who were doing this to Him. If He could pray like that, why can’t I ask forgiveness for those who have said something emotionally hurtful about me or who express their disagreement with me?  I could if I wanted to. I could if being like Jesus is really important to me.

I need to pray that they will change their behavior, if their behavior is actually bad. It is in my best interest interest for me to act good. If I pray for them to act good, I am praying for what is best for them. I need to want what is best for everyone. I should not pray this in a selfish manner, but out of real love for my neighbor. “Help _______ to be a better person and help me to be a better person as I try to influence _______ for good.” 

I need to pray that God will bless my enemy. They have taught me humility. They have taught me that this life is not the main thing. They have reminded me of the importance of mercy, mercy like God has shown to me. They have reminded me of the sinfulness of this world, and its need for a Savior.  It is my mission, as a Christian, to show that Savior to the world. So they have helped me focus on my purpose in life.

Only a Christian can pray for their enemies and really mean it. We can do it because Jesus has shown us how. I need to shut out the world and listen to Jesus. I really need to pray for my enemies.

Pray for Me

February 12, 2013

Ever asked anyone to do that for you?  It works both ways, you know. How often do you pray for your friend?   How often do you pray for your enemy?   Yes, your enemy.

Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to pray for them. It is one of those commands that we find easy to explain away, but extremely difficult to actually obey. But, Jesus says we’re not His disciple unless we do what He says. So, looks like this command is a required course of action for me and not an elective.

Upon a few moments reflection, you can see the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching. If you have an enemy, do you find yourself cultivating feelings of hatred, resentment, and revenge toward them?  Are these pleasant feelings?  Do you enjoy living your life feeling that way?   There is a way to rid yourself of those life-sucking feelings. It has to do with love, prayer, and living more like Jesus. Let’s talk about prayer.

I personally find it hard to dwell on negative emotions toward a person for whom I am praying. That makes a lot of sense since Jesus said to pray for our enemies. Not only is there the potential in this prayer to help that person who is so annoying at work to behave better, there is the vast reality of the improvement in my own attitude which will likely affect my behavior for the better.

Prayer for my enemy, and everything that flows from it, could very well lead to my enemy becoming my friend. Had you rather have friends or enemies?  

You have heard the old saying, “Reward your friends and punish your enemies. ”  A better way to look at that is, “Reward your friends and convert your enemies. ”  Prayer can help you do that. 

Control What You Can Control

February 11, 2013

Have you ever been treated badly?  Maybe someone did something to you or said something about you that just wasn’t right. That ever happen?  It has to most of us.

What is your first response?   Often it is to try to get the other person back in some way. Some kind of verbal or social fight inevitably ensures where each person tries to one-up the other one. What is accomplished is hurt feelings on both sides, deep-seated anger, lingering resentment,  and a relationship broken beyond repair. None of the above are desirable consequences. There is a better way.

Think about what you can actually control. Though you might try, and maybe even falsely convince yourself that you can,  the reality is you cannot control the other person’s behavior. So of the two person’s behavior, whose is left?  Obviously yours. And you can sure control that.

When someone is unkind to you, instead of responding with vengeance,  respond with kindness. When someone says something hateful, respond with a kind word or with silence. You know, it takes two to fight. Try this with your spouse sometime. I guarantee you’ll have fewer arguments.

Someone who walked on this earth 2000 years ago met hatred with love and violence with peace and forgiveness. I think you know who I am talking about. If I took seriously making my life more like His, I would be a lot happier and the world would actually become a better place.

The Church of Me

February 10, 2013

Got back from church a little while ago. We’re attending a nearby congregation while I am between pulpits.

Lately I have been thinking about worship not being a consumer activity but a producer activity. I must come to give (worship to God), not to get (entertainment in some form).  I am trying to focus my concentration more deeply on what is going on and ignore any perceived idiosyncrasies on the part of the various presenters or worship leaders. I am paying special attention to the content conveyed by words.

This morning we sang the old song, “Sweet Hour of Prayer.”  This church displays the words of the songs, using PowerPoint, on a large screen at the front of the auditorium. Scripture texts are usually done that way too.

One line in the song went, “Sweet hour of prayer,  sweet hour of prayer, that calls me from a world of care.”  Rather than think about what kind of job I thought the song leader was doing or how I thought the congregation as a whole sounded, I thought about the concept of prayer removing us from the cares, trials, and struggles of this world. I had to make a conscious effort to do that.  Satan wanted me to think about the song leader or how everyone else was singing. I had to defeat him, with God’s help, and more properly engage my thoughts.

When I got my mind under control, I began to think about Jesus on at least one occasion spending an entire night in prayer. I reflected on what a relief that must have been for Him as He faced mounting opposition to His ministry. I began to think how prayer would draw me closer to God and diminish my worldly cares. I saw an increased value to prayer which motivated me to want to improve my prayer life. All of this happened because I tried to get out of “me” and into God. And here’s the amazing part, singing that one line of that one song took maybe 10 seconds. What if I could do the same thing with an entire one hour service? 

The church of me is really the church of the devil. “Me” thinking is exactly the kind of thinking Satan is working for. If, with God’s help of course, I can defeat me, I can defeat Satan. With the path cleared of Satan, the road to God, the highway to heaven, is wide open. I don’t want to be a member of the church of me. I want to be a member of the church of Christ.

That’d be me . . .

February 9, 2013

Said Clint Eastwood’s character Outlaw Josey Wales.

It would be good if more people read the Bible like that. But most don’t. Most read the Bible, “That’d be him.”  They apply the texts to someone else and rarely to themselves. To deny that is to be either blind or naive.

When the text about being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving in Ephesians 4 is read, it either doesn’t mean me or it just means me when I feel like it or am going to get something out of it. It certainly doesn’t mean me when it requires some effort on my part or is different from what I want to do. I obey God’s word when I want too, and when I don’t – well, that’s different. I take what I want only when it’s convenient and leave the rest on the shelf (page).  Just like Wal-Mart.

God will not accept that kind of behavior. That’s what the Pharisees wanted to do during the ministry of Jesus. Jesus cut them no slack and He will not cut me or you any either when we act like them.

Jesus means what He says. He means it all the time. And, it applies to me. One of the hardest things in Christianity to do is to examine my own heart to see if I am really a disciple.

Doing Good

February 8, 2013

You do things every day. Sometimes it seems there is not enough time to get them all done. Your day is filled with activity. Know the feeling?

According to Acts 10, Jesus “went about doing good.”  His days were filled with activity too. If you really want to be like Jesus,  you will try to make your days like His days. You will go about doing good.

Think about how each of your activities can accomplish some good. This thought process will affect how you approach work, social interaction, family time, even leisure. Ask yourself, “What good thing can I cause to happen through what I am doing right now?”  Pay attention to what you are doing, think, control your actions, and go about doing good – following the steps of the Master.

A Personal Spiritual Life.

February 8, 2013

Christianity is personal. It is about my relationship with Christ. It is about being close to Christ in an effort to be like Christ. Paul used the phrase “Christ is formed in you.”  I must see every event in my life as an opportunity for Christ to be formed in me. If an event is bad, it is an opportunity to develop patience and grow my faith. If an event is good, it is an opportunity to develop gratitude and increase my awareness of God’s hand in my life. I should see Christ in everything,  either as the author of good or the source of mercy.

Christ is all. Christ is mine and I am His. My heart and hands must be a demonstration of this. There is fulness.