Saturday, December 27, 2014

Church life can be messy -- so what -- so get over it

In my years in ministry I have heard many excuses from professed Christians  for not attending church, not serving, not giving, not _____, etc... The most annoying excuse is that the church is full of hypocrites. What is lame about that excuse is that “Everyone is a Hypocrite!” I am a hypocrite. You are a hypocrite. No one lives consistently with whatever they profess to believe. Twelve Step Recovery programs encourage honesty with oneself and others. We need honesty with ourselves, God, and others.

The Bible clearly calls on Christians to be in relationship with one another in a local body of believers.
         Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
         24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting       to  meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 “Let us” speaks of a community of fellowship of believers that are to encourage one another to love and good works.
“Let us” speaks against “Lone Ranger” Christianity which is the habit of some.
“Let us” speaks to how we can encourage one another. You cannot encourage someone that you do not know through a relationship. You cannot be encouraged unless someone knows and cares for you.
“Let us” live in relationship as we look forward to the Lord Jesus Returning in Glory.

A healthy church encourages those relationships. In reading the Bible the early church had relationship problems.
        Philippians 4:2 (ESV)
         I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.
The Apostle Paul - under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - was encouraging these two women to work through their differences to serve the Lord.

We don’t need excuses, we need honest effort to serve the Lord together - within the messiness of the human condition - through a community of faith, a Bible-believing church.

Message Outline: "Living Skillfully with Opposition” 1 Thes. 2:13-16 Dec 28th 2014

"Living Skillfully with Opposition”
1 Thes. 2:13-16
Dec 28th 2014       

How to Live Skillfully with Opposition to Your Faith

I. Receive the Word of God which is at Work in You(13)
 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

1 Corinthians 1:18
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

II.  Imitate those Walking in the Word of God in Difficult Circumstances (14a)
 14a For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.

III. Expect Opposition to  the Word of God - (Unfortunately, its Common).  14b-15a
14b For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,
15a   who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out,                                   

We need to keep perspective as we think of the death of Christ.
1 Cor. 2:8  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Hebrews 2:9    But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

IV. Persevere in sharing the Word of God (15b-16a)
15b  and displease God and oppose all mankind
16a  by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved

V.  Remember the Word of God Explains the  Wrath of God  (16b)
16b—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Finishing Well

The following is from   -- Craig Brian Larson, "Strong to the Finish,"

   It was a hot day--Tuesday, July 20, 1993, in Washington, D.C.--as Vincent Foster sat in the Rose Garden. That morning he watched as President Clinton announced his new FBI director. Foster returned to his White House Counsel's office after the ceremony. He took care of some legal business, then talked with President Clinton, his boyhood friend, for a few moments. He ate lunch that day at his desk.

   A little after one o'clock, Foster left the office, telling his staff he would return. He pulled his Honda Accord onto the streets of Washington, D.C., and drove to a little-visited national park on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River. He got out, leaving his suit coat in the car. In his hand was an antique, .38-caliber revolver. He walked across an open field. Standing beside a cannon pointing out over the woods, Vincent Foster took his own life.

   When President Clinton heard the news, he called together his staff to console them on the loss of someone that they all loved. Then President Clinton said these words: "It would be wrong to define a life like Vincent Foster's in terms only of how it ended."

   Clinton is right in one sense. But the sad fact is that no matter how much Vincent Foster's friends, family, colleagues, and workmates try to put the end of his life out of their minds, how his life ended will always overshadow his memory. Because how a life, a ministry, a job, or a relationship ends defines and colors all that goes before it.

From Chuck:
I've had the pleasure of knowing people who have finished their lives well. That is a joy to see. I have a friend who is in his late 80's living in a care center who has a young heart to serve the Lord. While his life (like most) has had its share of disappointments, he stills prays for people, serves others, and witnesses to the grace of God in the Lord Jesus.

I've also had the disappointment of seeing others who professed to know the Lord, but for whatever reason (lost love, disappointment with God, etc...) they walked away. When I was a new Christian in my first year college, that surprised and disappointed me. Now many years later it just disappoints. Sometimes people pursue the Lord thinking that it will get them what they want (fixed relationships, a new job, happiness, etc...).  While God may give us some of those things we want, He does not owe us those things. However, God is still worthy of our worship and service for who He is, regardless of what we think we want.

Finishing well comes from pursuing knowing God better in all of the circumstances of our lives.

Message Outline: “How to Walk with The Lord” December 21st 2014

“How to Walk with The Lord”
Heb 12:1-2, 12:28, 13:12-15
December 21st 201
To walk with the Lord, Let Us....

I.  Throw off distractions and the sin which easily entangles us. (12:1a)
12:1a  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,

II.  Run the our individual races which were marked out for us (12:1b)
 12:1b  and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

III.   Fix our eyes on Jesus through all of life (12:2)
12:2   looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

IV.  Be thankful and worship our awesome God with our full being (12:28-9)
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

V.  Identify with Christ’s purpose and focus on our eternal home (13:12-14)
 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

VI. Continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise (13:15)
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Baby that Changed Everything

"The Baby that Changed Everything"
[story from Bruce W. Thielemann}

Did you ever read Bret Harte's story The Luck of Roaring Camp? Roaring Camp was supposed to be, according tot he story, the meanest, toughest mining town in all of the West. More murders, more thefts--it was a terrible place inhabited entirely by men, and one woman who tried to serve them all. Her name was Cherokee Sal. She died while giving birth to a baby. 

   Well, the men took the baby, and they put her in a box with some old rags under her. When they looked at her, they decided that didn't look right, so they sent one of the men eighty miles to buy a rosewood cradle. He brought it back, and they put the rags and the baby in the rosewood cradle. And the rags didn't look right there. So they sent another of their number to Sacramento, and he came back with some beautiful silk and lace blankets. And they put the baby, wrapped around with those blankets, in the rosewood cradle. 

   It looked fine until someone happened to notice that the floor was so filthy. So these hardened, tough men got down on their hands and knees, and with their hardened and horny hands they scrubbed that floor until it was very clean. Of course, what that did was to make the walls and the ceiling and the dirty windows without curtains look absolutely terrible. So they washed down the walls and the ceiling, and they put curtains at the windows. And now things were beginning to look as they thought they should look. But of course, they had to give up a lot of their fighting, because the baby slept a lot, and babies can't sleep during a brawl. 

   So the whole temperature of Roaring Camp seemed to go down. They used to take her out and set her by the entrance to the mine in her rosewood cradle so they could see her when they came up. Then somebody noticed what a dirty place that was, so they planted flowers, and they made a very nice garden there. It looked quite beautiful. And they would bring her, oh, shiny little stones and things that they would find in the mine. But when they would put their hands down next to hers, their hands looked so dirty. Pretty soon the general store was all sold out of soap and shaving gear and perfume and those kinds ... the baby changed everything. 

   That's the way it is for those of good will. That's the way it is for those who please God. The baby enters into their lives, and he slips into every crevice of their experience, until they say "Hark! Listen, the herald angels sing! God is for us. And Christmas is forever." 

 -- Bruce W. Thielemann, "Hark! The Herald Angels," Preaching Today, Tape No. 63.

See: Isa 9:6; Jn 1:14; Php 2:7.

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

John 1:14 (ESV)
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Philippians 2:7 (ESV)
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.