Monday, July 30, 2007

Luke #21 – Check it Out for Yourself

Luke #21 – Check it Out for Yourself

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, ‘Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.’ And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” (Luke 2:15-20 – King James Version).

I love taste tests. When I see a taste test on TV I am always skeptical. Of course the participants think whatever they taste is good or else they would not be in the commercial. My favorite type of taste test is the kind I get to participate in. Now I am a fellow that enjoys a good meal and a scrumptious snack rates mighty high as well. I run into taste tests in the grocery store from time to time. Often, I have noticed, the samples that look the strangest taste the best, so I have learned that appearances can be deceiving. The person administering the test often gives it away. If I see them eating it, I definitely will try it. If they don’t try very hard to get me to try it I become wary. In the end, though, I have to experience it to pass proper judgment. A salesperson’s testimony is one thing, but actually trying the product for myself is the proof in the pudding (hey, I made a funny!). If I like it I will tell total strangers to go and try it; if not, I will still tell strangers about it, but my report won’t be favorable.

When I read today’s Scripture, this is what I think of: “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him” (Psalm 34:8 – KJV). Those shepherds had been given a quite unbelievable message; they were told the Savior was born in Bethlehem…I mean Bethlehem of all places! It was a dinky little town and the Savior was born there and wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger…really…who’d believe such a thing?

The only way to prove it was to check it out! They had witnessed an elaborate, angelic commercial. That would seem pretty unbelievable if you ask me (or at least it would have freaked me out). The only way to truly find the truth would be personal investigation. So, they took off to Bethlehem, to the manger to find out for themselves. Obviously the proof was in the pudding sure enough; when the shepherds left that place “they made known abroad” what they had seen.

I am a firm believer that we cannot properly witness of a God that we do not have first hand experience of. When I stand to preach I can only share what I am first experiencing or have experienced. Once I have tasted the Lord and found Him good, I cannot only tell the people that my tasting of the Lord will bring them satisfaction; I must bid them taste for themselves.

I believe that we do not make known abroad the things of God because we do so little tasting of Him. We know much ABOUT God, but I fear we seldom go farther (if not seldom then surely not enough!). Much is told to us but we do not do enough personal investigation. My advice and exhortation is simple; check it out! Taste the Lord and see that He is good! Hear the word, trust the word, and try the word. Hear of Christ, trust His promises, and experience Him! Second hand experiences are little more than hearing stories. Make the story personal, check it out! When we do we will be all too glad to tell total strangers (and everyone else too!).

As a side note: if any are wondering why Mary “kept these all these things” in her heart, I believe it was because she had a God given understanding of what Her Son would suffer. Though they praised Him then I believe she knew the cross loomed.

An addendum: we stand on the other side of the cross. We do not look forward at the cross in fear but backwards in thankfulness. We look ahead at the glory that the crossed purchased; Mary looked ahead at the suffering it caused. Don’t believe it? Check it out!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Luke #20 – Where He is there is Praise!

Luke #20 – Where He is there is Praise!

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’” (Luke 2:13-14 – King James Version).

I’ve witnessed it in dozens of places. It has happened in cars and on a porch. Once I witnessed it at two in the morning in a driveway. It has happened in living rooms, parking lots, flood damaged homes, movie theaters, in a barn, by a stream, on a rock, in hospitals, and even in a funeral home. I saw it happen in an ambulance, a garden, on a construction site, in the lake, and by a fire. You might not believe it but I have even witnessed it on a Sunday morning at church of all places! I could go on and on and on and on, but pretty soon I’ve got to tell you what I am talking about. Simply put, every where that Jesus shows up there is praise.

When Jesus came into this world as a babe a host of heavenly beings came from their heavenly residence and praised Him. Wasn’t it enough that the prophets had foretold this event? Wasn’t it enough that an angel had spoken to Zacharias, Joseph, and Mary? Wasn’t it enough that Jesus very own star marked His birthplace? Wasn’t it enough that wise men sought Him? NO, NO, NO and NO. He deserved more; He deserved praise because He was (and IS) God.

I have often contended that we can tell when Jesus is on the scene and when the devil is. It seems that since Satan is a deceiver, a divider, and libelous that wherever he shows up there is those things and fruits of the flesh. Where there is strife and pride there is Satan. Where there is a divisive spirit that does not consider the word, will and way of God there Satan is.

Where there is brokenness and meekness, THERE is Jesus. Where there is joy in spite of circumstances THERE is Jesus. Where there is assurance in spite of condition THERE is Jesus. Where Jesus is there must be praise! It is ridiculous to think we can have a relationship with Christ Jesus and spend little or no time praising Him.

I believe the reason I have seen Jesus praised in so many places is the awesome privilege of being around godly saints who love their Savior. When Jesus is Lord over a person’s life they simply live in response to Him. The most natural response is glorifying and praising Him. That’s all saved folks are going to do when we get to heaven; praising God will not be a duty or something regrettable that must be done, but will be a natural response to seeing and experiencing God.

Wherever Jesus is there is praise. Have you met with Him lately? Have you felt His near and dear presence in prayer, Scripture reading, and ministry service? Have you seen or experienced miracles that could only be attributed to the divine? How did you respond?

Please Help

As I am sure you all are aware that Rev. Victor Blackwell's Son-In-law, Larry Thaxton has brain cancer and he and his family is going through a very rough time. Our Sunday School Class is having a BBQ fund raiser at Olive Branch Baptist Chruch on August 4, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. Plates are $7.00 and you can also buy BBQ by the lb. for $8.00. We are selling tickets and taking pre-orders so would really appreciate you all spreading the word to your Church and friends on Sunday. If your Church has as many as 10 to 20 orders or so we will have yours delivered to your Church at 5:00 on Saturday, August if you are interested or you may pick up at Olive Branch Church.

We will have dine-in and take out drive-thru so you may want to mention that Olive Branch is only min. from Mayo Park where the Gospel singing will be on August 4 so if anyone would like they can come to Olive Branch and eat and then attend the singing. We would be glad to bring flyers and tickets to your Church tomorrow if you would like any.

Please see flyer below and anyone may call 336-599-4875 to place an order even if they do not have a ticket.

Thanks so much for your help,
Donna Elliott

BBQ Fund Raiser & Benefit

For: Larry Thaxton
Cancer Victim
(Son-inlaw of Rev. Victor Blackwell)

Saturday, August 4, 2007
at 4:00 p.m.
Olive Branch Baptist Church
7588 Dirgie Mine Road
Roxboro, NC 27574
From Roxboro, 49 North go about 9 miles, turn right on Olive Branch Rd. Church will be about 1 mile on left From South Bosten, Va., US-501 to Roxboro, go about 20 miles, turn left on Bowmantown Rd. go to end of Bowmantown Rd. to stop sign, go straight across at stopsign, Church will be on left

BBQ Plate with all the trimmings - $7.00
Or $8.00 per lb.

Dine in or Take out
Drive thru provided
Only min. from Mayo Park
If you have several orders from your Church we will deliver to your
Church at 5:00 for pick-up!
Please call 336-599-4875
if you would like delivered to your Church.

Thanks for your help!

Servant's Song, August 07, part 1

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

Servant's Song, August 07, part 2

Servant's Song, August 07, part 3

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Luke #19 – Readiness

Luke #19 – Readiness

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:8-12 – King James Version).

They warned me, but I am hard headed…I didn’t listen and almost had my skin scared right off of my bones. It was a horn; a very, very, very, loud horn that blew for what seemed to be forever. When I arrived in Camp Essayons in the town of Uijongbou, South Korea my fellow comrades warned that our battalion commander was fond of having readiness alerts. We were stationed in a dangerous place and the times in which we lived were filled with tensions. To top it off, part of the commander’s “welcome to the battalion” speech was to say “You are now part of the number one target of the entire North Korean military.” With all of these warnings I should have expected that stinking horn. I didn’t. I literally felt like I was about to have a heart attack. The first time that horn blew made a complete believer out of me; I believed it was always going to blow and was never surprised by it again. (It still freaked me out because it was so dramatic and loud, but it never caught me off guard again.)

Hey little shepherd man…WAKE UP! The angel that announced the Messiah birth was akin to the first sounding of that horn I heard over in South Korea. I know I have said it before but Micah 5:2 was the warning / prophecy that the Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem. Those Jewish boys had been warned but seemed to be caught off guard. It may have been that an angel was a fearful sight and I would imagine that was the greatest part of the surprise. I also believe they were surprised by the message of the announcement, but they shouldn’t have been. Prophecy was clear; the world wasn’t ready.

Are we ready for what will happen next? According to Luke the Messiah is coming back (Acts 1:11). Are we ready for that? That is definitely an event that we don’t want to be caught sleeping when it occurs. When Jesus returns there will be no opportunity to get right with God or to make amends or seek the forgiveness of sins. When Christ splits that eastern sky we will either be in right standing with God or we won’t.

Each of us has received many warnings in Scripture about Christ next coming. We have to ask ourselves if we are ready for it. It’s coming; no doubt about it. Are you ready? Personally, when I read the verses above I get the testimony of Dr. Luke and those shepherds (somebody had to tell it to Luke) and I know that Christ did come just as Old Testament prophecy said He would. That makes me confident that He will return just like the Scripture says too. Today…right now…are you ready? Don’t be caught off guard. What is at risk is more than a temporary scare.

The angel gave those shepherds a good announcement. Christ return is a good announcement too. I simply want each of us to be ready for it.

July 07 YFC Newsletter; Part 1

July 07 YFC Newsletter; Part 2

July 07 YFC Newsletter; Part 3

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Luke #18 – To it and Through it

Luke #18 – To it and Through it

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:4-7 – King James Version).

When God called me into the ministry I knew I had to enter the arena of higher education. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to quit working; I liked that paycheck. I didn’t want to struggle through school. Plus I wasn’t sure that I was smart enough to perform in school. I’d only been married a year and a half to the day when I surrendered to the call. Literally days later, Care and I were blessed to find out that God was giving us our first child. We needed a bigger and warmer house. All of these things and more swirled in my rational yet simple mind. I constantly asked myself and the Lord “What am I doing?!?” From somewhere (and I honestly cannot remember the source, but I want to say it was Johnny Smith) God gave me this phrase: “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” It penetrated my heart!

As Joseph and Mary began their great adventure of traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem they must have been thinking this same thing. They were dealing with primitive traveling methods and Mary was in the delicate state of pregnancy. How could they do it?

Mary and Joseph arrive at their destination only to find no suitable temporary lodging. Their place of rest amounted to what is equal to an animal barn. How could they stay in a place like that knowing that they she carried the Son of God in her womb?

Before Mary and Joseph left Nazareth I am sure they faced much public scrutiny. Imagine their situation: a young girl claiming she was pregnant in a virginal state; a man deciding to marry that young girl in spite of her pregnant state. I believe it was through these kinds of experiences that they learned to trust the ways and plans of God. It was as they trusted and followed God moment to moment that strength was built into them. It was as they followed God minute to minute that their faith was built up. By the time they were ordered to leave their home and travel to Bethlehem they KNEW that God would take care of them. So…Mary was “great with child”…big deal, God is just plain great!

I see the simple yet powerful hand of God in this. It is encouragement for us all. Whether it is a difficult physical or spiritual trial God is there. As we look back over the months and years that we walk with the Lord I would imagine that all of can find some evidence that God has been building us in a fashion that prepared us for more and more difficult trials. By the time we get to a very difficult situation we know how God has worked in the past in our lives. We first LEARN that whatever God brings us to He will bring us through. THEN we KNOW that! Once we know it we can live fearless lives that do not let circumstances overwhelm us.

I don’t know what you may be facing today but it cannot be any more severe than being a pregnant virgin traveling under difficult circumstances. I do not say that to belittle your circumstances. I simply say it to remind us all that whatever God brings us to He will be certain to bring us through. Know that…live wide open for God!

Praises and Pleas

Youth for Christ Roxboro July 25, 2007

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be
rewarded…For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen
those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.
2 Chron 15.7,16.9

Praises: for the young foster gal who sticks to Summer Intern Amy like glue
and soaks up all the love she can get; for the many city boys who have
played paintball in the country, experiencing uneven ground for the first
time; for the volunteers who are chinking the Outdoor Mission Camp lodge;
for questions like, “So how do we know the Bible is true?” and the Spirit
working in teen brains and hearts; for Your strength and Your perseverance
as we continue this work, Lord.

Pleas: hearts that are fully committed to You—among our board, staff,
volunteers, supporters and youth; more monetary support as our income has
fallen this summer; our work rewarded with salvations among our summer
campers and other teens, DW; Outdoor Mission Camp to be com-pleted this
year; plans/ideas for the fall to be exactly in line with what You want,
Lord; copies of Light Steps to disperse like bread cast on the water
(usually lots of fish eat it quickly, so we pray people will feed on it

Monday, July 23, 2007

Book Sales and Signings


In case this is the first you have heard of this, let me announce that I have published a devotional book (details below). Please tell your friends and please CONSIDER possibly buying a book to support the ministry. Thanks for your time!

I have planned two "book signings." The first book signing will be July 26 at The Warehouse from 6:30-8:00 PM. The second book signing will be August 11 at Person County Public Library from 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM.

ALL PROCEEDS from this book will go to Youth For Christ Roxboro. I have signed all royalties over to this ministry, so buy with confidence, knowing that I won't be driving a new truck with your hard earned money. (I'm going to do that with the oil well I am digging in my yard!)

Back Cover: "Some devotions tickle; some soothe; some make us uncomfortable; some make us cry; some convince; some convict; some heal; some cut straight to the heart. All are needed. Light Steps shares common stories that illustrate uncommon truths. These devotional stories range from the living room to the office to the playing field to the back forty of the local farm, but these truths fall like manna from heaven. The stories are often about common people, but the truths come from God, who is anything but common. Light Steps takes ordinary life and points out the extraordinary work of God in it. God always desires that we shed the light of His word on the darkness of everyday life. Be challenged and encouraged as you read these stories and realize God's truth. For your desk, purse or night stand; as a gift or for yourself, Light Steps is for you!"

The price of the book is $21.00 and all checks should be made to "Youth For Christ Roxboro."

IF your church has a bookstore we can also arrange for multiple copies of the book to be purchased.

This book is relevant for most anyone, but if you are a Person County resident it will resonate sharply with our life here.

If you'd like to see what the front cover of the book looks like:

Luke #17 – From the Feed Trough to My Heart

Luke #17 – From the Feed Trough to My Heart

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:4-7 – King James Version).

My wife has her egg collection in a cherry display case with glass shelves. I keep my lap top computer in a nice padded case. Get this…for my baseball cards I keep the most expensive ones in a special type cases called “screw tight” cases that has a lifetime guarantee; the next level of worth are kept in individual plastic card holders; even the least expensive of my cards are kept in plastic sleeves and stored in acid free boxes. I keep my ten year old car, with its peeling paint, under a car shed (my beat up truck is right beside it). We tend to take care of our things of value.

When I think of how we give special treatment to our possessions and then I read today’s Scripture I find a stark contrast. When our Savior was born into this world He was placed in a manger. When I use the word “manger” it doesn’t sound that bad, does it? Let me explain what a manger is: without any fanfare, the best definition is to call it a feed trough. Knowing that I cannot help but picture some of the things we used over the years for the purposes of feeding our animals. To feed dogs and cats at various times we often used old hubcaps. Of course we used a lot of different buckets over the years. One of the longest lasting feeding troughs we had was a hot water heater tank that had been split the long way to make two separate feeding trays. Very similar to that, and the most common, were fifty-five gallon barrels cut in half the long way to make two troughs. Now every time I read the story of Christ’s birth I cannot help but think that Jesus lay in something that was akin to a cut barrel. All of a sudden “manger” is not so attractive.

That was the lowly estate that God chose to usher our Savior into the world. I am so moved and encouraged that Christ understands the lowly. What hardship would we have that He cannot directly relate to? How perfectly at home I feel when I talk to my Savior! How sure I am that He understands the things I lack, my financial needs, the raggedy car I drive, the threadbare cuffs on my pants, and the host of other things that are wrong in my life. How humbled I am when I complain, knowing that Christ Himself was born and raised poorer than I could imagine and I find no record of complaint from Him.

Furthermore, how amazed I am that Christ’s current earthly residence of choice is me! Let me explain it this way; recently I visited Duke Chapel. It was absolutely beautiful! While I stood open jawed, drooling at the wonder of that place I had an epiphany (that’s an “Aha!” moment); God COULD reside in such a place as this, but He chooses those who give their lives to Him. AMAZING! Christ was born poor, died broke, but gained all with His obedience. Now, were that a person (such as me), they would get a fancy mansion to help assuage the pangs of former poverty. Christ doesn’t do that. The little manger He was placed in was probably made of wood. The cross He died on was made of wood. The place He desires to inhabit now is heart of any who would trust Him. That meager little manger and our sinful hearts are not worthy to hold the King of Kings but He took them both.

Today I am in awe and very thankful that Christ moved from the feed trough to my heart. I cannot completely wrap my mind around it, but I will live in grateful response to it. How about you?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Curious Hypocrisies

Riddle me this:

I have always wondered about such things as driving on a parkway and parking on a driveway and putting braille on DRIVE-UP ATM machines, but these things, though humorous (distastefully on some levels), can easily be answered by a little look into the English language and making a study of cultural political correctness (or by understanding that blind people can sit in other seats in a vehicle than that occupied by the driver).

Events of late though have caused me to question the nonsense that we are living under---namely the hypocrisy our government calls law.

Here are two examples -- be careful not to let my heavy sarcasm make you think I am a proponent of what I am about to say --

Example #1: Michael Vick has been indicted for federal dogfighting charges. This happens in the same state that allows "LEGAL" cockfighting...hmmmm

Example #2: If someone perpetrates abortion it's called choice. If someone kills a pregnant woman, it's called "double murder" (or murder and manslaughter if the person didn't know the woman was pregnant -- or a thousand other combinations depending on forethought, malice, etc. -- the point being the murderer is charged doubly for a pregnant woman).

Explain those things to me if you can. Seriously, I want to know.

From my book, exercising dominion over animals, a right I believe we are given by God, comes with an AUTOMATIC understanding that we are to practice good stewardship over animals and merciful treatment of them. Dominion does not grant us the right of cruelty; exercising cruelty is proof of authority misunderstood and / or abused. Secondly, as we have dominion over animals, so has God dominion over us. HE decides when the vapor that we call life is dispensed, disbursed, or distributed...we don't! HENCE, I believe that ABORTION is MURDER. (Admittedly, I struggle with capital punishment...I also believe if you tell someone "Hey, if you plan to murder someone and ruthlessly carry out your plan, the penalty IS warned of the consequences before you commit what is in your heart!") (As a side, albeit humorous -- to me-- irony, I think the consequence for SEX is the possibility of pregnancy, as well as the possibility of MANY things, that we must also RESPONSIBLY accept as we engage in the act.)

At any rate...explain these things to me...

I welcome all responses, but if you cannot be a lady or a gentleman, keep your thoughts to yourself. I am passionately anti-abortion, but I am NEVER ungentlemanly about it.

At the end of the day, you cannot legislate morality, so we should concentrate on conversion to Christ for that. We should only ask that legislation seek to create order in a society of mixed moralities.

Make no mistake of what I believe, lest anyone wonder if I am hedging on anything...fighting animals is CRUEL and sinful. Abortion is murder.

And when I say these things also hear that my lying tongue and prideful heart are equal sins in the face of a holy God. I am not better than anyone. I am in as much need for God TODAY as I was the day I prostrated my entire being before Him. I am simply frustrated that we live, seemingly at ease, with so much blatant hypocrisy.

Luke #16 – Behind the Scenes

Luke #16 – Behind the Scenes

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city” (Luke 2:1-3 – King James Version).

I remember the first time I watched a documentary about the making of a movie. I was amazed at all the people that worked behind the scenes. Sure, I know each movie has a list of credits but I had only paid attention to who the actors were; never had I really looked at all the people that it takes to organize and film a cinematic production. Not only that, but there are a host of people who do the music for the average film. Many movies use songs that have been out for a long time making those folks who produced that song a larger part of the production team for the movie; they go unlisted for the most part on the movie credits. Then I began to consider movies that had been “shot on location” in various towns. All the people in that town or cities’ past who had built it became, at least in my mind, a part of making that movie. I carried to the “Nth” degree and began to think that that movie would have been drastically different had not it been shot in the United States, thus making all the people who made this country a part of the production. I know I got carried away; it was simply a matter of realizing that a lot goes into making a movie to get it to the point where I am viewing it in the theater or my home. Certainly there is much more than I had thought of before.

Those verses above make me think of a grand movie production. Without them I would be left wondering about a lot of the cast in the life of Jesus. We know that the mother of Jesus, Mary, was from Galilee. We know that Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (5:2). So…we are left with the dangling question: “How can Jesus be born in Bethlehem when His mom is from Galilee?” Easy…refer to Scripture above.

This “taxing” is not the kind that makes our American ears cringe at the hearing of the word. This was more like a census. Caesar wanted to know who all was in his kingdom. He had attempted to deify himself and wanted to number and locate all the folks who were supposed to worship him.

I read this one time and think “Typical government junk!” Upon a second reading I see so much more! God’s hand is clearly at work! Beyond a tyrannical emperor’s attempt to count himself god-like, GOD used that conceit to move people into place therefore making a seemingly unlikely prophecy become not only likely but proven fact. Amazing! This is an amazingly BIG production and God was clearly in the director’s seat. In the least…there was more going on behind the scenes than we can appreciate if we don’t take the FULL credits into account.

What’s this have to do with us, here, now? Our local, state, and national governments and international powers are all under the watchful eye and in the perfect will of God. Many of these powers may do things that we don’t agree with; sinful things; hurtful things. Don’t think for a minute that God does not notice! Don’t think for a second that our gracious and sovereign God cannot take man’s sinful ways and use them for His glorious ends.

As we sit back and look at the grand production unfold before our eyes, let’s be ever mindful that there is a sovereign Director behind the scenes moving players into place. We can take this realization and have a certain confidence that there is nothing to fear. Rather, there builds in me an excitement; knowing that I am in this production and have the Director’s favor in Christ Jesus. “Tax” me; I don’t care…behind the scenes, the beat goes on.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Luke #15 – Let’s Get This Party Started Right!

Luke #15 – Let’s Get This Party Started Right!

“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He sware to our father Abraham, that He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:67-80 – King James Version).

We knew it was coming. We weren’t sure of the time. We were positive of the place. We were there; waiting. It was a “surprise” party. All the preparations had been made; invitations sent; supplies on hand. Then I walked in the door and a hush fell over the room. My buddy walked in behind me and everyone yelled “Surprise!” It was really no surprise for my friend; he knew it was his birthday. The only surprise is that he was fooled that I was used to keep him away from the party.

That may be the case with John the Baptist; or at least how John’s dad saw it. Zacharias had trouble even believing that a son would be born to him in his old age, but that happened. When John was born, Zacharias’ unbelief was cured. Not only did Zacharias believe that John WOULD be born, but the Holy Spirit carried it to the next level. Through Zacharias, the Holy Spirit communicated all that the Messiah would mean to the world. Furthermore, Zacharias finally understood what John’s role would be. John was bringing the news that Jesus was on the scene; it was time to get the party started!

John’s job was to tell the people that salvation was coming; the Messiah was on the way. John was to preach repentance; it was time to face up to sin and get ready to receive the gift of eternal life. John was telling the world “Clear your calendar! It’s time to come together and celebrate!” Now preaching repentance as a way to get invited to a party may seem strange, but think about it for a moment. When invited to a party for a friend the first thing we have to do is decide if we will accept the invitation. The very next thing that we must do is decide if we will forsake our own plans in order to go to the party. That, though crude, is an illustration of repentance. Spiritually we must decide if we will accept God’s invitation and then we must clear out any sin that is in the way of coming to the salvation party that He is throwing for us.

Often we never see it coming. God will use strange and wondrous circumstances to get us to the party. It may be the death of a loved one. It may be an experience with bad health or an accident. It may be a sermon that made us squirm in discomfort. It may even be some strange person like John who leads us to the knowledge that we’ve got to change because the Lord Jesus wants to do a work in our lives.

In the case of Zacharias, he saw past the simple birth of his son and through the Holy Spirit understood the magnitude of what was to come. Three things in closing: (1) God is still calling people to the party. Have you accepted the invitation? (2) God is still using people to call others to come and celebrate in the gift of salvation. Would you be used? (3) Zacharias looked forward to the cross and salvation in faith. We are to look back at it. We have a decided advantage that we KNOW that what Zacharias said would happen DID happen. Are you enjoying the party today? That’s what it is. If you have joined the throng of saints you have a part in the greatest celebration of all time. Any who would come have been freed of their previous commitment to sin and hopelessness and have been guaranteed a spot around the throne of God where we will worship Him forever. All we need to do is repent, confess, believe, and profess. Let’s get this party started right!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Luke #14 – An Opened Mouth

Luke #14 – An Opened Mouth

And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, ‘His name is John.’ And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, ‘What manner of child shall this be!’ And the hand of the Lord was with him” (Luke 1:62-66 – King James Version).

I tell young people who complain about their parents that they probably are not obeying their parents. One such young person said “I hate my mom!” I thought those were pretty strong words and told the youth that. He said “All we ever do is yell at each other or say nothing at all.” I told that teenager that the cure to that was obeying their mom. He said “She’s not a Christian and she doesn’t understand me at all.” I asked, “Are you giving her a picture of faith worth noticing? It doesn’t matter if she is not a Christian, YOU are still ordered to “honor” your parents. If you lived a faith worth noticing, began to rejoice in God rather than acting like a sad-sack your mom and you would have a different relationship.” This particular teenager was at a camp that I spoke at for a week. I saw him a year later. He informed me that he began to obey his mom, began to ask God to help him live a more REAL faith, he and his mom began to have a great relationship, his mom began to come to church with him, and she accepted Christ.

Zacharias reacted with unbelief when God told him that he and Elisabeth would have a son, so God prevented Zacharias from speaking for a while. The moment Zacharias got on the same page with God he had a lot of praising to do. Concerning this passage, J. Vernon McGhee said, “As a rule, weaker saints do not do much rejoicing. The stronger saints, with more faith, rejoice in all circumstances.” Zacharias’ faith increased the moment he began to obey God. Again, the angel had told Zacharias and Elisabeth to name the child John. When Zacharias obeyed God on this note he had something to rejoice about.

That teenager and Zacharias had something in common. When they began to obey God they had something to rejoice about. Further, others noticed something miraculous in their lives when they began to rejoice. What, in our lives today, would cause rejoicing if we really began to obey God? Would our jobs and school experiences be different if we began to honor those who have authority over us? Would our homes be different if we began to honor our wives, submit to our husbands, and obey our parents? It makes no difference if those people around us are not people of faith; our personal responsibilities remain the same. How much praises would come from our lives if we lived lives of obedience?

Listen friends, it makes no difference what people around us do or don’t do; believe or don’t believe. Our relationship with God is not conditioned by those around us, BUT it should be effective to those around us. What I mean is this; we are responsible to God and when we live for and through Him it will have an effect on every thing and everyone else around us. When we are obedient to God, He will not disappoint and we will then praise Him and others will notice. When we are praising God and loving God in spite of our circumstances, people will want to know what made the difference in our lives. Our faith will become contagious!

An obedient life of faith between us and God will lead to an opened mouth. That mouth will praise God…no matter the circumstance.

Erin Glillespie toon

Praises and Pleas

Youth for Christ Roxboro July 18, 2007

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for
what he has done.
Pr 19.17

Praises: “God, who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as
though they were,” we thank You for hundreds of opportunities this summer to
impact the spiritually dead and poor around us—for Tim buying drinks for all
those involved in a brewing fight and You opened their ears to Your word;
for all the lunches shared with summer interns who easily gather teens
starved for food and affection; for activities (rock climbing, paint
balling, canoeing, swimming lessons) that are new, real, and demand
teachable spirits from hard hearts; for the beauty of Your Name
spray-painted on a skate ramp; for a car for YFCR Staffer Aaron; for a new
air hockey table; for working air conditioners; for Your love

Pleas: Father, again we ask that the teens in summer camp this week and
next would give their hearts to You; we humbly ask for Your physical and
spiritual protection for Warehouse kids, that You would keep them from
injury, especially in the skate park; please show our unbelievers how much
they are like their father the devil, a thief, liar and murderer, and help
them want to be clean; grant them (&DW) repentance, please, Lord; may Tim’s
devotional book, Light Steps, bring You glory; may we all find joy in what
we do for the least of these our brethren because we are doing it to You.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Luke #13 – Simple Obedience

Luke #13 – Simple Obedience

“Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, ‘Not so; but he shall be called John.’ And they said unto her, ‘There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name’” (Luke 1:57-71 – King James Version).

I have a friend named Pam Cagle that is one of the finest Christians and finest human beings I know. I love to give her a hard time about whatever I can think of that will make either her or me laugh. One of my favorite things is the way Pam drives. Now you may think that she is a bad driver by that previous comment; actually, it’s just the opposite of that. Pam is a very careful driver. So careful in fact that she WILL NOT exceed the posted speed limit. (Having been behind her on the road before I don’t think she is in danger of REACHING the posted speed limit!)

One really has to know Pam to appreciate why she drives that way. Pam does not want to break the law; it’s as simple as that to her. I think Pam takes that Romans 13 (be subject to the authorities) thing seriously. She has a humble nature and an obedient life. Though I like to pick on Pam, I admire her obedience. Her husband picks on her about it; her daughter picks on her about it; Pam doesn’t care…she just obeys the law.

Now some may think Pam could be likened unto a Pharisee (she has called herself that jokingly before). To assume Pam is pharisaical or to imply it seriously would be an indication that the accuser does not know her at all. She is an intelligent, caring, giving, serving, and gracious woman of God. Pam loves Jesus; for that I hold her in high esteem and am honored to call her a friend. I hope to one day be half the Christian she is. I would imagine that her simple obedience has been BUILT one step at a time; I try to remember and emulate that so that one day I may be obedient to our Lord like Pam already is.

I bet Pam and Elisabeth would have made fast friends. When Elisabeth’s term of pregnancy was completed, she had a son (just as the angel had said she would). It was very traditional to name Jewish children after someone in the family; especially naming boys after their fathers. Imagine all Elisabeth’s neighbors’ surprise to find that she did not intend to name the new baby after the father, but wanted to name him John. This, too, was a matter of simple obedience. The angel said to name the baby John and that’s exactly what Elisabeth intended to do (Luke 1:13).

Now here’s our lesson in all of this…Elisabeth’s neighbors probably thought she was strange. Elisabeth obviously cared more about obeying God than pleasing those around her. Could the same be said of us?

How about those opportunities we have to earn money and not pay taxes on that money? Do we feel a need to report it? Do we feel guilt about not reporting it? We should! In Jesus words: “And He said unto them, ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's’” (Luke 20:25 – KJV). Things like this should be a matter of simple obedience. Does the government need our money? In some cases, yes. In others, no. That’s not the point. Does the government get enough taxes from us? Well, I certainly believe they do! That’s not the point. The point is simple obedience.

Trust me; if we are obedient in the simple things God will give us opportunities to be obedient in much bigger things. Pam Cagle is an example of that for me. Elisabeth is an example of that for me. I hope one day to be an example for others to follow. How about you? We should all gauge every decision by the leading of the Spirit, the authority and direction of the Word, and with the presumption that we will act in simple obedience to whatever God tells us to do.

Driving the speed limit; paying taxes; tithing; praying; fasting; not making decisions in a worldly manner…all of these things will cause those around us to think we are strange. The question is “Do we love God enough to risk being thought strange or different?” This, too, is a matter of simple obedience.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Luke #12 – A Singing Faith

Luke #12 – A Singing Faith

And Mary said, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.’ And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house” (Luke 1:46-56 – King James Version).

“There is a Fountain” that I was dipped into that sealed God’s “Amazing Grace” towards me. “Just as I Am,” I came to God and cried “Come, O Holy Spirit, Come” for I know that our “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” would save me if I called “That Name”. I felt worthless, but I knew that “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and “God is so Good!” “I’m so Glad that Jesus Lifted Me” that “I’m Gonna Live so God Can Use Me!” “Oh, I Know the Lord’s Laid Hands on Me” and everyday "My Life Flows On (How Can I Keep From Singing?). OH LORD, You are “Holy, Holy, Holy” and I am amazed that “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” to save a wretch like me. “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart” I sing a “Song of Hope.” No matter how much life’s gets “Over My Head”, with Christ I will truly sing “It Is Well With My Soul.”

We have a singing faith and I would confidently say that there is a hymn, contemporary, or praise song out there somewhere that expresses every sort of Christian response a person could have toward God. Sometimes I am sad and I HAVE to sing “It is Well With My Soul” to remind me that God is good in the midst of my troubles. Sometimes I am happy and I HAVE to sing “God of Wonders” to express how awesome God is. I could go on and on; I am thankful that we have a singing faith.

The song that God provoked in Mary is often called the Magnificant. In it there are several things God spoke to me about.

#1 – Mary said that her soul magnified God. That’s a big statement. It DOES NOT mean that Mary made God greater than He is…no one can do that…for He cannot be made greater than He is. It means that she was giving God glory; not just with her lips (as in lip service), but with her heart and soul, her body and being. I had to ask myself “Is God this real in my life?” I ask you, dear friend, does the indwelling presence of God in you “magnify” His name? Is He so real IN us that we are giving Him glory with our lives?

#2 – Mary recognized her need for the savior and “rejoiced” in God’s deliverance. Too many times these days Christians seem to feel as if Christ is some burden to their lives and interests. Do we rejoice that our “low estate” has been regarded by God and that He desires to lift us from the mundane and give us a future heritage that others will call “blessed”?

#3 – Mary thought that the “things” God did to her were “great”. Surely she understood that the world around her would count her pregnant, yet virginal, state as strange (at best!). Obviously whatever God DID to Mary was better than what others THOUGHT of her. She was not ashamed, rather was happy that this “holy” God touched her life. Does the song we live and sing say that we believe that?

#4 – Mary recognized that her proper “fear” of the Lord was not unnoticed by God. This is a statement that shows that Mary understood God was RELATIONAL with her. He was not distant and inattentive; cold and uncaring. God hears and answers those that truly fear Him. He is involved; He is proactive to the point that He “shewed” His arm through one who feared Him. He lifts up those of “low degree.” He “fills” the hungry! That was Mary! That is ME! That is YOU! I find so much comfort and joy in that. Are you HUNGRY for God today?

#5 – Mary recognized that God helps those who accept His promises. He’d made promises to Israel; He did not forget them. Whatever promises God has made God keeps! That makes me want to sing of His blessed assurance! JESUS IS MINE…NOW AND LATER…OH WHAT A FORETASTE OF GLORY DEVINE!

Mary’s mouth sang a beautiful song to the Lord, but the record of His love played in Mary’s life. It was only as God spun His record and as Mary was tuned into the music of FAITH could she open her lips and release praise. Are you hearing the music that God is recording in your life today? Is the needle that is your heart translating to the world around you that God is real and alive in you? We have a singing faith, but not only at a piano; the song is played and heard as our life works as the speakers for God’s will and grace. Is your life one of singing faith?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Click on the picture to see it in a larger version...

This is just a GREAT toon

Look at the guy closest to the "Christianity" flag...that is so appropriate of our times...shooting at another Christian...and the other guy is just firing off into no where...and the other cat is dealing with symptoms, not the root causes (which I believe is unbelief, which I also believe is the root of Evoluntionary beliefs and me if you want discourse on that subject).

Why such foolishness?

Hit the link; read for yourself....

What the article basically says is that Pope Benedict is reasserting the traditional Roman Catholic view that they are the only Christians on the planet. They are reaffirming THEIR traditional view that they belong to the "one true church" and that anyone that does not recognize the apostolic succession of the papal see is not a Christian.

I guess I am not a Christian by THEIR standards. Good thing is I don't care. I know in WHOM I have believed and am convinced He is able to raise me on that day.

Now, having said that, I am not ready to completely break fellowship with people who call themselves Roman Catholic (RC).

I fellowship with every kind of sinner that I possibly can; Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pagans, Muslims, Pentecostals, Episcopalians and Anglicans, Jews, Unitarians, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Evolutionists, Atheists, Hindus, Taoists, United Brethren, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodoxies....

I could go on and on....

Here's what is important to me....Jesus said, "You are with me or against me..." (my paraphrase of Matthew 12:30. Jesus did not say whoever is with the Pope and affirms the sacraments of the RC church. According to the RC church it takes a lot of stuff to get saved. According to THE BIBLE it takes whole-hearted trust in Christ (Romans 10:9-10). So, I don't really care what you call yourself or what others might call you...I care whether you are with Christ or not...

To be sure, what it means to be with Christ is that we obey Him, love each other, and bear fruit (John 15).

I like all people and I relate to the on the basis of how I can show them Christ...for people that are against Christ, I look for ways to point them to Him; for people that are for Him, I look for ways I can grow together with them in Him.

At any rate...I could go on and on and on...

I guess it just bothers me that so many people act so stupid...

Read the article for yourself, but in the end I think we would be more wise to read the Scriptures and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Pax Vobiscum

Friday, July 13, 2007

Luke #11 – No Jealousy, Just Joy

Luke #11 – No Jealousy, Just Joy

“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, ‘Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord’” (Luke 1:41-45 – King James Version).

A study group in my congregation was watching a video when the speaker mentioned that thousands of people were being converted to Christ in China. One of the members of our group is only months away from heading to China for a mission trip. When the speaker on the video mentioned the thousands of conversions I immediately looked toward our member to see her reaction. I was worried that she may feel some sort of pressure to produce results of that magnitude. My fears were immediately allayed; instead of seeming overwhelmed by such a monumental task of participating in that mission trip to China she REJOICED that God was doing a great work in China. As a matter of fact, her reaction was one of pure joy and elation.

After the angel visited Mary she went to visit her cousin Elisabeth. Can you imagine how Mary must have felt? She might have imagined that the preceding events were too unreal to have happened. It was a good move to go visit her older, wiser cousin who had walked with God for many years.

Elisabeth was no stranger to the magnificent power and ways of God. She MUST have been a woman of great faith. When God told her husband that they would have a child in their old age Zacharias acted in unbelief and God took away Zacharias’ ability to speak because of his unbelief. Elisabeth, on the other hand, reacted to her miraculous impregnation with rejoicing, believing God to do the miracle (1:25). The lesson we can learn from this is to go to more experienced Christians to seek counsel and encouragement. People who have walked in the faith longer than ourselves can often share their experiences of how God has moved in their lives and that can help us to see that God wants to do amazing things in US as well.

Another lesson we can learn from this is humility. The OLDER Elisabeth freely admitted that she was awed that God was so good in allowing the mother of Jesus to come and visit her. Was Mary better than Elisabeth? No; that was not the case. Elisabeth simply recognized that the great hand of God was at work and she was humbled to even be near such an amazing act of God. Whether in us, around us, or anywhere near us, when God is letting us see or participate in His glorious work we should be humbled by the privilege. It is commonplace for God to be at work around us; after all, He’s God and He desires to draw people to Himself. What should never become commonplace is our reaction to witnessing that work; we should be humbly moved and appreciative.

Lastly, I could not help but notice that Elisabeth was not jealous when she heard Mary’s news. I probably would have been. Elisabeth had waited YEARS to become pregnant and she miraculously was. It was her time to shine! Here comes YOUNG Mary; tender in years, yet pregnant already. To top it off, it was NO ordinary pregnancy but Mary enjoyed the great honor of bearing the child of the Holy Spirit. Here we find the ingredients to rid ourselves of jealousy; instead of envying Mary, Elisabeth rejoiced at the good news Mary came to share. Whenever we hear of God blessing someone or that God is doing amazing things in a person or church’s life, we should rejoice. Rejoicing WITH someone will prevent us from being jealous OVER them.

Seek out and listen to others’ experiences with God. Be humbled that God lets you see and hear such things. Rejoice over God’s moving rather than being jealous that the same is not happening to you. Good news is good news and we should always rejoice in that; whether it is our good news or someone else’s, anything truly good is from OUR good God. Rejoice, I say, rejoice!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just something I was thinking about...

The simpler a man is the better off he is; the more things a man understands through wisdom from God without having to work so hard to receive them the better off he is. The man’s whose spirit is pure, sincere and faithful, though he has much to do, will not be distracted because such a man does all to the glory of God, and strives to free his mind from self seeking.

His Word + His Presence = Clear, Safe Vision

His Word + His Presence = Clear, Safe Vision

Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. -- Psalm 119:105; King James Version

You must love the LORD your God and obey all His requirements, laws, regulations, and commands. But you have seen all the LORD's mighty deeds with your own eyes! Therefore, be careful to obey every command I am giving you today, so you may have strength to go in and occupy the land you are about to enter. -- Deuteronomy 11:1, 7 & 8; New Living Translation

We have a storage building that has two rooms and one of them is leaking. My nephew graciously moved all of the stuff from the leaky room into the dry room. That made the one room VERY crowded. The only light in that room operates by a pull chain. The other night I needed to go into the shed, and forgot to carry a flashlight. I am lazy. I didn't want to walk back into the house, so I turned on my cell phone to light the way to the pull switch for the overhead light. Though the room was very dark and very full of boxes and furniture, the little light my phone afforded got me there safely.

That's another thing in using God's word to determine His will...this is a dark, sinful world and God's word lights the way for us to go! It's often very frightening and confusing to make our way through life. We need His "flashlight" to pick our way through this frightful, confusing world.

You know what's better than a light in a dark place? I'll tell you, someone that sees past the darkness, knows the way through it and is tough enough to whip whatever may come at us from the shadows!

Here is a simple truth about direction for our lives: God has given us His word to light the way we should go, but even more important than that, He will go along with us as we use HIS LIGHT.

The Deuteronomy passage above occurred after God gave Moses the second set of stone tablets (after he had destroyed the other set when the people were worshiping a stinking golden cow). God was basically saying, "Obey Me. I'll show you the way to go, and if you obey Me, I will be your strength and you will be okay." God didn't want them worrying as much about what was going to happen next or where exactly they were going as much as He wanted the people to simply trust Him. If any boogie-men came out to get them God would take care of business...IF they obeyed Him and follow His ways.

Moses stated the essence of God's commands in this way: "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires you to fear Him, to live according to His will, to love and worship Him with all your heart and soul, and to obey the LORD's commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good. The highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 10:11-13; NLT, emphasis mine).

That's light for a dark world right there! Why did He want us to do these things? FOR OUR OWN GOOD!!!! Not only did He provide life mission and direction, but even when Jesus was about to ascend to heaven He reiterated God's command and commitment when He said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20; ESV, emphasis mine).

So, I am going to give you a straight answer for a change; direction for life should fall under these few things: trust God to show us the way (even when He doesn't tell us exactly where He is going), use the light He has provided, spend the majority of our time concentrated our lives on Him and running every part of life through our God filter, and do that so passionately that we cannot help but sharing the will of God with others until they desire to do the same.

If we take care to do these things, we'll have our hands so full of easing through the darkness that we won't be afraid and we won't feel so lost...and, rest assured of this, He won't leave us alone in the process.

Luke #10 - Common Experiences

Luke #10 – Common Experiences

“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth: (Luke 1:39-40 – King James Version).

Common experiences are a strange thing. I spilled boiling grease on myself in 2002 during a youth retreat, receiving second and third degree burns. I learned a lot of cool comebacks like “I’m on fire for the Lord” and “My relationship with Jesus is sizzling” and “I’ve got a burning love for the Lord.” (Those were just to make you laugh and have nothing to do with today’s thoughts…I’ve got to laugh; this story breaks my heart.) I was immobile for a few days, but the first day that I was up and around I checked my email. There was an email telling me of a child that had pulled a boiling pot of water onto himself and was so badly burned that survival was unlikely. Immediately I lay my head on my desk and began to weep. I was broken. I could imagine that little one’s pain because I knew it, though on a lesser scale. Just yesterday, two full years later, I read about a boy burned in an accident and was again broken.

Not all common experiences are bad. If I read a particular Scripture or hear a song that moves me I want to talk about it with someone else. The choir in our congregation performed Experiencing God: The Musical. For those that labored over that musical have a bond. We are always anxious to sing it together. No one ever complains when we get the books out and practice some part or that entire musical. It stands as a landmark for many of us because God spoke to us powerfully through that experience.

Mary and Elisabeth had a very common experience; they were both being used of God to fulfill His purposes. Elisabeth bore the herald of God who would prepare the way for the Messiah and Mary bore the Messiah. Elisabeth became pregnant at a very old age; no doubt, a miracle. Mary, as a virgin, was impregnated by the Holy Spirit; no doubt, a miracle as well. Verse 39 says “in those days;” a more fitting rendering may be “in THAT day.” This rendering more properly shows the haste Mary made in leaving to visit Elisabeth. She wasted no time in going to rejoice over their common experience and to confirm the message the angel had given Mary concerning Elisabeth.

What’s my point? I think that if more people were experiencing the hand of God there would be more sharing, more church attendance, more giving, more testimonies, and more fellowship. We can have all kinds of common experiences in Christ, but I am amazed that we don’t seem to. I love going to church; to worship; to learn in God’s word with others; to experience the hand of God moving with other people. I make haste to get to those opportunities. I want to experience God with others and to share how God has shown Himself to me and worked in my life. I want to hear their testimonies.

Has God stopped doing miracles? No! We’ve stopped giving HIM the credit. Has God stopped speaking to people? No! We’ve stopped listening. Has the Holy Spirit stopped convicting hearts? No! We don’t want to surrender. Has the blood of Christ lost its power? NO! Heaven forbid! Has the Spirit stopped comforting hearts, drawing, and instructing? No! We simply are not responding.

Now I am sure I am speaking to the choir, but think about these things for a moment. Is God still fresh to you? Do you go to church and share gossip or does offering worship to God take the center of your activities? Do you spend time with other Christians because of a common awe of Christ or because that just the thing to do? Are we open to share our good and bad experiences with others that God may use us to minister to others? Will we comfort others with the comfort we have been comforted with?

I think we should constantly analyze and examine our motives. We can only worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24), so we need to make sure that is what we are doing. If we seek God, He will be found (2 Chronicles 15:15). Let’s take all of our experiences with the Lord and use them to call people to righteousness, to comfort the hurting, to rejoice with one another, to lift the weary, and to encourage the weak. Now is not the time to keep things private but to share ourselves and our Lord. Forsake not the assembling of ourselves, but encourage others to do good works, for the Day of Judgment is drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25). Have you experienced God lately? Share it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Luke #9 – The Difference Between Doubt and Ignorance

Luke #9 – The Difference Between Doubt and Ignorance (With Some Confirmation and Compliance on the Side!)

“Then said Mary unto the angel, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’ And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:34-38 – King James Version).

I’m not tall, but what I miss in height I more than make up for in berth! To be frank, I am about 5’10” tall and I weigh 295 pounds. To put it lightly, I’m a big ‘old boy! (Did you get it? “To put it lightly”…I’m funny!) Often my size has fooled people. There is a certain friend of mine (whose name I won’t say, but his initials are Craig Willingham…another funny!) thought big meant slow. We had a foot race. We tied, but that fella thought he would beat me sound and sure.

One night, after a Bible study, some of my youth and I were talking about cheerleading or gymnastics; I can’t recall which. Somehow the discussion turned to a debate over whether I could do a “toe-touch.” I wasn’t real sure what a toe-touch was; they explained that it meant one would jump up and touch the toes to one’s palms. “Why sure,” I said incredulously, “I can do that.” Several youth laughed, one said there was no way I could do it and another thought that I could (but that one youth wanted to see it!) The believer was Brittany Brown, a skinny and very athletic cheerleader. She could do a toe-touch but just couldn’t understand HOW I could, being such a rotund fellow, but she said she thought I could do it. The doubter said there was NO way I could do it. Well…I did that little toe-touch thing. Several jaws dropped, the doubter hushed, and Brittany just giggled.

The simple difference between doubt and ignorance is that the former says a thing can’t be done and the latter just doesn’t understand how it will work. The best thing to do is shut a doubter’s mouth with action. An ignorant person, on the other hand, is not bad; they might not understand the mechanics of a thing; they just need to be educated.

Zacharias was a doubter (1:18). God hushed Zacharias mouth for a while! Mary basically said “It’s not that I don’t believe, I just don’t understand.” Mary did not doubt that God could do something of this nature but she simply did not understand how it would work out. In response, the angel explains it to her. She says, “Okay, no problem.” Further, the angel’s words served as one form of confirmation for Mary and the news that her elderly cousin was pregnant as well. That’s why she has no problem complying; God’s going to do something in her life and He’s already done a miracle in the life of Elisabeth. Confirmation was in the angel’s words and Elisabeth’s pregnancy. Compliance was Mary’s willingness to be used.

Let’s look honestly at ourselves today. Are we doubters or simply ignorant? Is our faith posture one that doubts God will do something or do we simply not understand how He will do it?

Now I am a firm believer that God can do a lot of things that I won’t understand how they’ll be done. I’m just ignorant! BUT I am willing to be educated. I am also thankful that I get to participate in many of these things. Hindsight often shows me the mechanics but faith allows for the possibility! I think we ought to be open to hearing from God; that we ought not to doubt what He can do even if we don’t understand how He’ll do it. Let’s open our lives to the impossible for God is Lord over that.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Luke #8 – At Just the Right Time

Luke #8 – At Just the Right Time

“’And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end’” (Luke 1:31-33 – King James Version).

My world was rocked on March 2, 1997. That was the day that I surrendered to Christ. In a split second my whole life; its course and results; were dramatically shifted; changed; transformed. It came at just the right time. I was sick of everything, especially myself. Nothing filled me (I have told you all that before). Nothing satisfied. I remember in the moments leading up to surrendering to Christ I literally asked God that “if this salvation is not all Your word says it is…please kill me. I can’t go on like I am.” Now, that may sound morbid, but it was not. I was casting all my care upon Him. It was an all-or-nothing measure. I had tried everything else; GOD HAD TO BE THE ANSWER. Know what? He was! I was at the end of my mental, emotional, and physical rope. When I realized success, popularity, money, women and the host of other things I had tried would not work I finally came to the point of total emptiness. This was the perfect point, the perfect time for Christ to enter in! There was nothing in the way! My best efforts had failed and I was ready for His transforming presence. I was primed for a miracle; He was it! My situation was so bad that I knew that God would have to do something if anything could be done. It really was just the right time. Obviously, God knew that better than I did.

We cannot read the Scripture above without considering Galatians 4:4, which says, “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (KJV). In God’s timing…and that’s important to realize…He sent Christ into this world. It was no accident. It was no coincidence. It was not a frivolous decision. The world needed help. The world was primed; ready for something to happen. All that God had planned to redeem man and all that man had done to rebel against God came down to this moment. It was the beginning of the end of sin! Before Jesus could live perfect, die sacrificially and rise triumphantly He had to be born. Before Christ could be born in just the way and just the place that Scripture had prophesied He had to be placed in a woman’s womb.

God’s timing is miraculous to say the least. If we only considered how society was ready for this it would be amazing. Travel had become easier in the Mediterranean since the Roman Empire had come to power. Trade had opened between formerly isolated societies. People were moving around on a regular basis. The idea that many “gods” made sense was becoming supplanted by Greek philosophy. Those same philosophies were causing many to question things they’d always believed. Greek had become the common language (much as English is today) that allowed people from different cultures to communicate more easily than anytime since the tower of Babel. There are many more factors, but the point is this…God’s timing was in this moment. No coincidence. He knew better than any His plans and His timing. The fullness of time was at hand. Even if all those events had not taken place God’s sovereign plan was coming into effect.

I am comforted by the fact that God is watching over this time in which we live. Nothing surprises Him. Nothing changes His plans. He is still in the business of redeeming mankind. There might be someone you know and love that you desire to see saved. Trust God, pray, and share the truth with them. In just the right time, God will show up. You might be in a difficult relationship or in a difficult job place. Trust God, He has a different timing than you.

What, then, is our part? (1) Be ready to be involved. Be open to God using us to do something amazing. Be ready for Him to do it in OR through us. (2) Expect God to do something. He’s always at work. Seek to recognize what He is doing around you and take part in it. (3) Become familiar with His plan. Mary never doubted that the Messiah was coming, she just didn’t understand how she would be pregnant without knowing a man (Luke 1:34). That is a subtle yet amazing fact. If we are familiar with what God wants to do we will be more ready to recognize, receive, and respond to Him. (4) Know that hope is not lost. As long as we have not stood before the judgment seat, there is time to act.

We may question God’s methods because we don’t understand God’s ways, but we certainly should not be surprised that He wants to do something. At just the right time, He will. Will you be ready?