Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Seven Churches

I'm listening to a sermon series (9 sermons) on the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. John, who was exiled to an island after being boiled in oil, was delivering the words of Jesus to the churches of the first century in modern day Turkey.

Jesus admonished them all and rebuked six. What did they learn? How did they respond?

Today, it is interesting is that Turkey has about 70 million people and only 3,500 evangelical Christians. Most of these seven churches do not exist today. The seven growing churches then were booming. Now, Turkey is probably the most unreached country in the world.

3,500 churches close in America each year. 4,000 are planted. What if Jesus specifically wrote us a letter commending and condemning us? How would we respond? He did. As He said to all the churches, "Let him who has ears hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches." (Hello, that's us!) Philadelphia, the church Jesus didn't rebuke, lasted about 1,200 years. Wow! What an anniversary party I'm sure 1,000 years was. But now, the ruins of the church is shadowed by a Muslim mosque.

Where will our church be after we are all gone? Who are we imparting to, discipling, and evangelizing to ensure the future of Jesus' church in our area? How strong is the generation beneath our supervision? Legacy or forfeit? What we do today directly affects those years from now-your grandkids and great, great, great, etc. grandkids. It is more specific than how is Family Church doing. How are you doing? You-the church. Hear the Spirit and respond. Let us (it will take us all) plant many churches (even the ones we may question locations of) that will extend beyond our grandest dreams and give Jesus the glory due Him.

I did a wedding rehearsal in Sheridan last night and spent 30 minutes driving around town praying for doors to open. I will do the wedding Sunday and pray some more. How exciting as I see Sheridan as a mission field and potential church plant to reach those who are lost without Jesus.

Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Steps To A Fulfilled Marriage

It is interesting to me that Satan didn’t tempt Adam and Eve to sin until after they were married (Gen. 2 and 3). Of course you can be tempted when you are single but even more so when you are married. Why? Satan wants your oneness. He seeks to destroy your unity. What is interesting is it really is not about you. The underlying treasure at stake is the marriage between Jesus and His church. Satan wants to destroy the church one marriage at a time. The temptation you face today is always bigger than yourself. Your sin, guaranteed, will destroy you and potentially others.

A few months ago I wrote a devotional entitled “Seven Steps To Destroying Your Marriage.” Today, I want to give great hope and instruction through seven steps that will lead to the ultimate marriage. #1 - Stop fighting with your mate and start fighting with your mate. What? Isn’t that the same thing? Absolutely not! You must stop fighting with your mate as though they are your enemy and start fighting with your mate against everything that seeks to destroy your relationship. Start fighting for one another instead of with one another. #2 – Ask God and others for help. You are not alone in your marriage struggle. Others have had problems as well. Stop wondering what others might think if you reveal your issues. Your appearance of perfection isn’t important; your disappearance of marriage intimacy is! Seek help and healing from God and a trusted counselor who is growing in Christ.

#3 – Stop trying to fix your mate and let God fix you. Usually, the number one problem in marriage isn’t the other person. Allow God to search you. You will never be happy or satisfied trying to just fix your mate. There is always something to nitpick. Guess what? They are not perfect – and neither are you. Let God repair your sins and faults before rushing in to those of your spouse’s. #4 – Start believing the best instead of the worst about your mate. Love, 1 Peter 4:8 says, covers a multitude of sins. This doesn’t mean you overlook sin but stand side-by-side with your mate loving him/her as they work through the sin. If you always speak or think negatively about your spouse you will reap resentment and bitterness. You will never change your spouse by belittling them. Believe that the Lord is at work in them and allow Him to change them. #5 – Look at your mate through Jesus’ eyes. Perspective is everything. If you see them as worthless, sinful, and hopeless then that is what your marriage will become. When you start seeing them more as God’s child and less as your pet project then you will treat them with respect, love, admiration, and compassion.

#6 – See your mate as someone you can serve, not as someone who serves you. It is selfish to think your spouse was created to serve you when we are all created to serve God. Because we love Him, we serve one another. Jesus didn’t want to be served but sought to serve others (Mark 10:45). When was the last time you served your mate without expecting something in return? #7 – Be the first to repent and forgive. Here are some actions that will destroy your marriage: resentment, grudge, cynicism, anger, fury, and offense. Some life-giving actions are forgiveness, repentance, love, compassion, and service.

Remember, Jesus desires you to have the ultimate marriage primarily to give honor to Him. The end result of restoring your marriage is not you – it is Him. Jesus is not your therapist; He is your Lord.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Pity The Fool

If a man wants to make a fool of himself he will always find plenty of help. I learned this the hard way in college. One weekend we were snowed in and decided to make our own sleds out of cafeteria trays. Picture this: seven young men taking a break from pursuing higher education to pursue foolish ambitions of achieving the “most air” off the front of the library steps on a two foot cafeteria tray. Needless to say, the cafeteria trays won. Thirty minutes later and seven teeth lighter, we quickly realized what fools we had been. The only good thing I can say about that incident was thank the Lord for emergency dentistry and that it wasn’t my teeth.

The word “fool” usually refers to a person who acts unintelligently and irresponsibly. Know anyone like that? Instead of calling names and pointing fingers, it’s better to concentrate on keeping ourselves from being foolish. Scripture defines a fool as a person who says “in his heart, ‘There is no God’” and who is morally bankrupt, performing “abominable acts” (Psalm 14:1). A fool lives apart from God by denying God with their actions and words. A real fool lives anti-God in their thinking and daily activities.

Ephesians 5:15-17 shows us the opposite of a fool: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The exact opposite of a foolish person is a wise person. On our own, we claim to be wise but are really foolish. Romans 1:21-22 explains it this way, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. They professed to be wise but became fools.” Apart from God, we think foolishness is wisdom and wisdom is foolishness!

Fools mock at sin (Proverbs 14:9), reinvent God (Romans 1:21-22), follow their own false wisdom (Proverbs 12:15), talk foolishly (Proverbs 15:2), gain knowledge but lack in wisdom (2 Timothy 3:7), and even die for lack of understanding (Proverbs 10:21). A fool can be highly educated or lack education. I have witnessed many foolish people who held numerous educational degrees.
So how do you keep from being the fool you despise in others? A wise man learns by the experience of others. An ordinary man learns by his own experience. A fool learns by nobody's experience. Wisdom begins with the fear (which is humble devotion, love, learning, and service) of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). The way of God is the way to wisdom. When you turn from yourself you turn from foolishness. Thus, turning to God is turning to wisdom. 2 Timothy 3:15 says God is, “able to give [us] the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” There is no wisdom apart from Christ.

Living a devoted life in Christ will not just keep you from making dumb momentary mistakes but show you the will of God for your entire life. If you need help fleeing foolishness, ask God. James 1:5 reveals, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

Death: Beautiful?

The other day I passed by a small cemetery that was full of beautiful flowers. On every tombstone were fresh cut flowers. It was like a field of flowers in the middle of the desert. How ironic. The appearance of life (as the flowers were themselves dead) attempted to overshadow the reality of death. Death seems so dark, sad, and depressing. It made me think, “How can death be beautiful?”

From the moment we were born, we began dying. We can try to slow down the physical aging process by exercising, eating right, etc., but we cannot ultimately stop it. This mortal flesh, our outer man, is "wasting away" and moving toward decay. One day, every one of us will die, no matter how much we live. So, if it is appointed once for all men to die (Hebrews 9:27), the question still looms, “How can death be beautiful?”

2 Corinthians 4:16 tells us, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” For Christians, though their bodies age and eventually die, their spirit and soul are reborn and live forever. Listen, you are a spirit, who has a soul, which lives in a body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The real you, your spirit and soul, will live forever. The question is "Where?" For the one who gives their life to Christ, it is eternal heaven (Romans 10:13). For the one who rejects Christ, it is eternal hell (1 Peter 4:17). In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, we are told Christians will receive new, perfect, eternal bodies in heaven. So is death beautiful because Christians get new bodies to replace the worn out ones? While great, that is not the most beautiful part.

Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Isaiah foretold how Jesus Christ would swallow up death in His death and resurrection, “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 25:8). The Apostle Paul echoed this beautiful triumph over death as well, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:55-57). Death is beautiful not because we can receive new bodies but because Christ has made a way possible to defeat death, hell, and the grave. Death for the Christian is instant heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).

The only way to eternal life is through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 tells us, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name (Jesus) under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Saved from what? While salvation brings abundant life and a host of other blessings, there is something bigger at stake. We are saved from death and eternal separation from God because Jesus saves us from sin. Matthew 1:21 tells us this, “The angel told Joseph: "He is the one who will save His people from their sins. That is why you must name Him Jesus." Sin causes death (Romans 6:23; James 1:15). All of us have sinned and will eventually die (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6 1 John 1:8)). Death can be beautiful because once Christians die they instantly enter into eternal life in Heaven with Christ.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Jesus My Good Shepherd

The Bible says Jesus is our Good Shepherd. In John 10:10-11 we see, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd.” What a reassuring verse! Jesus desires the best for us. As I played golf this past weekend I was overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s creation. The course was beautiful and the weather was absolutely amazing. Talk about green pastures! But given time and lack of maintenance, those lush greens would turn brown and die. Psalm 23 tells me He leads me besides green pastures. These pastures never stop producing and providing for you and me! And unlike my golf game, I’m led beside the still waters not to look for lost golf balls but to drink of the richness of Christ.

Psalm 100:3 displays the relationship all who are in Christ possess. “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of His pasture.” What is our "Good Shepherd" like? Just what makes Him so good?

First, the Good Shepherd provides. Philippians 4:19 declares God will meet all my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. How comforting to know as long as I stay close to the Shepherd I will have all I need in Him! Another blessing from the Good Shepherd is He restores us and gives us peace. John 14:27 says He grants peace in times of fear and uncertainty. When our hearts become troubled all we have to do is rest in His goodness.

The Good Shepherd also provides great leadership. If we will listen to His voice He will call us by name and lead us into the plans He has for us (John 10:3-5). The way we recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd is by spending time with Him. His sweet and soothing voice guides us to protection, provision, and prosperity. The Good Shepherd also defends us. One can have great comfort when the Good Shepherd is near as He wields a mighty rod and staff. He defends to the end as He lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:11).

The Good Shepherd knows how to give us great support as well. 2 Timothy 4:16-17 says, “No one came to my support but everyone deserted me. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.” When it seems like everyone else has deserted you in your time of trouble, remind yourself the Good Shepherd never left (Hebrews 13:5). The Good Shepherd also blesses His sheep. This great Shepherd of the sheep will equip you with everything good for doing His will (Hebrews 13:20-21).

To get the good you first must know the Shepherd. Don’t expect to get the good apart from Him. John 10:14 shows the relationship needed between the Shepherd and the sheep. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Get to know the Shepherd and you’ll realize just how good He really is. Now that you know about the Good Shepherd isn’t it time you get to know the One who gave His life for you?

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Cure for the Insecure

Are you comfortable in your own skin? Do you have a wrong view of you? Many people struggle with insecurity for several reasons. Maybe you were treated wrongly in life when you were younger. You could even be unhappy with some of your physical features. There are many warning signs that indicate someone is struggling with insecurity. Are you judgmental of others in hopes of getting eyes off of yourself? Do you attempt to find security by overindulging in beauty enhancements or surrounding yourself with stuff? Constantly comparing yourself with others, being overly defensive, people pleasing, addictive behavior, and even destructive actions are all signs you may have a problem with insecurity.

The good news is you can overcome insecurity and find confidence in the Lord about who you are in Christ. You have to deal with your insecurities if you truly want to enjoy God’s love and plan for your life. First, you have to have a right view of God. Scriptures tell us God is changeless in His love for you (Psalm 59:10). God is not mad at you nor did He create junk. God loves you! Stop wasting your life by searching for security in money, good health, relationships, work, physical beauty or anything else that is not God Himself. Only He can give you true peace. Losing some weight or getting a date won’t bring you lasting security. As God’s child through your relationship with Jesus you can have all the power necessary to overcome anything and be full of joy.

Next, you have to see yourself how God sees you. Stop comparing yourself to others. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself—you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” You are also created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Perhaps it’s time to start looking in that mirror instead of the one of inadequacy and rejection.

Another equally important step to overcoming insecurity is surrounding yourself with others who see you the way God sees you. If you have people in your life that talk down to you or cast shame on you then you need some new friends. Stop worrying yourself with what other people think of you. They don’t bring you worth, God does! You don’t need someone to flatter you with empty words. You need someone to edify you by reminding you of God’s truth. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). This means you need people in your life who are strong in Christ to help you grow stronger in Christ.

There are two enemies standing in the way of your confidence in Christ – culture and past. You’ll never measure up to the fa├žade culture portrays as beautiful and worthwhile. Equally destructive, your past loves to be your present and determine your future by dragging you through the mud of your mistakes time and time again. Repent of the past and learn from it, just don’t let it hold you back. Remember, insecurity is rooted in fear. But 1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” God’s love is the cure for the insecure.