Monday, March 31, 2008

I Need Some New Shades.


1 Peter 4:7-11

7 The end of all things is near. So keep a clear mind. Control yourselves. Then you can pray. 8 Most of all, love one another deeply. Love erases many sins by forgiving them.
9 Welcome others into your homes without complaining. 10 God's gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully. 11 If you speak, you should do it like one speaking God's very words. If you serve, you should do it with the strength God provides. Then in all things God will be praised through Jesus Christ. Give him the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(New International Reader's Version)

Here apostle Peter is warning the early church that the end is near. If the end was near for them over 1900 years ago, how much more is the end near for us? I dunno.... Mark 13:32 "No one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows." What I do know is that apostle Peter is warning them, and us, to be focused, to be ready, to be prepared, to be serious, to be watchful, to be clear minded, and to be self-controlled, so that we would be able to pray. Hello. That's a call for me. How hard is it for me to pray? I tell you that I worry and fret all month long whenever I know that my name is on the prayer duty list at church. I think about recent events at church, I read over the prayer list, I count my blessings, I think of answered prayers. But when it comes right down to it, most all of that goes right out the window as I'm praying, and I forget most of all what I had planned to say. Prayer for me is hard, and public prayer is even harder. Some people can do it and make it look so easy, but others struggle. I think prayer is something that definitely "gets better" with practice. In addition to my shortcomings as a public pray-er, I'm also distracted as Peter states, by my mind and the distractions of this world.

What my real focus is on in this writing, is the topic of Love. So many times, our families, our friendships, our church, our body (church), our family (church), our business, in fact all kinds of relationships are torn apart due in part to Love - well actually, the Lack of Love. It's hard being human (sigh). Sometimes, it's just hard to love some people. It's hard to look at certain people, and see what's inside them. All too often, I criticize people before I can even think about myself. I do admit that I am very far from perfect. Yet, my human nature is quick to judge others, quick to point out sin and shortcomings in their life while I'm turning around and falling into sin. I need to find and buy me some Jesus Goggles. They are very rare in deed, but are really so cool. Put them on, and they allow you to see the best qualities in others. They allow you to overlook all the "hang-up" you have in others, and see what Jesus sees in that person. Just think of it. Jesus, knowing how evil and sinful mankind was and is, He obeyed His father - God, and come and lived on this earth. He lived a perfect, sinless life so that He could be the way - the only way for us. For you, for me, and for everyone. He chose to die for me, because he loved His father, and because both He and His father - God, loved us.

Peter said it best, and it needs to be said again, 1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." The same phrase is used elsewhere in the new testament as well, over in James 5:20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are to love each other. We are to look and see others in the same way that Jesus sees them and us. We need to look at ourselves and ask ourselves, "What do I need to correct in my own life" before we start casting stones at other people. Luke 6:42 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye. We need to spend our empty time worrying about ourselves, and where we stand in front of God's eyes, rather than spending our time worrying about some one else's life. We need to spend more time "Welcome others into your homes" being hospitable, being concerned and loving rather than condemning people.

And now, here are some verses, found in the new testament, about Love. It could be argued that I'm taking verses out of context. That may be true. Just read for yourself and you decide.

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'

Matthew 22:39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

John 15:9 "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.

John 15:10
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

Romans 14:15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Philippians 2:2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

I Love You!

Are you listening to what God is saying in His Word?

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Story of God's Love

After the emotional lesson I heard yesterday at church, my mind could not stop thinking about God's love. I spent several hours yesterday going through tons of my photos and putting together this short video. It's kind of rough, as this was my first attempt to do this. But God's world is amazing. However, as amazing as it is, it's only temporary. But His message is timeless. More to come about Love.
video

Saturday, March 22, 2008

God Loves Me - a sinner



We know that the law is holy. But I am not. I have been sold to be a slave of sin. I don't understand what I do. I don't do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate to do. I do what I don't want to do. So I agree that the law is good. As it is, I am no longer the one who does these things. It is sin living in me that does them. I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can't. I don't do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don't want to do. I do what I don't want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me. Here is the law I find working in me. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Deep inside me I find joy in God's law. 23 But I see another law working in the parts of my body. It fights against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin. That law controls the parts of my body. What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord. So in my mind I am a slave to God's law. But in my sinful nature I am a slave to the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25 (New International Reader's Version)

Huh? You say. I wanted to find the verse that kept saying to me that sin is a constant struggle. This verse is it. Isn't sin frustrating? Isn't sin just awful? Sometimes it feels like I can't even stop myself from sinning, even when I’m consciously aware of my guilt, even while I’m right in the middle of sinning. I know to do the right thing, I know what I'm supposed to do, but I just can't. I know what I'm supposed to avoid, I know what I shouldn't do, but I just do it anyway. Argh! I like how the old King James reads in Romans 7:24 “O wretched man that I am!”

For me, it's slightly comforting to know that even the great apostle Paul struggled with sin. Not that he had a habitual sin problem, but he was at times weak and did fall. He was frustrated to be such a mature Christian, and yet still have to fight within himself to beat down his humanity. 1 Corinthians 10:12 We've got to be careful, and compare our lives with the pattern -- God's word -- to know whether or not we are standing. Our lives can't just 'feel right’; we've got to know for sure. Romans 10:17 God is wonderful in that he would never 'leave us hanging' and have us not knowing what we are to do. God tells us and His way is found in the bible -- the word of God.

It also says a lot about apostle Paul in that he was such a mature Christian he was able to distinguish the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. We must continue our walk in Christ, continue to learn from Him, and continue to grow and flourish and bear fruit. One of our Christian goals should be that we should resolve to never stop learning God's word, it is inexhaustible. Each time we read a passage of Holy Scripture, we can think about it, chew it up if you will and allow it to nourish us, and grow in us.

The point that's made in Romans 7 shows how the law was necessary and that it did its job perfectly. The law is holy. One of the things that it did perfectly was to show, or to expose sin. Without the law, no one could know what sin was. But with the law, everyone knew what sin was, and everyone knew that it was impossible to be perfect. What a bummer it must be to go through life and be unable to be found perfect. But, we do have hope. Hebrews 7:19 Hebrews 7:22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. It is up to us to study for ourselves and determine what God's word teaches about sin. We must know for certain if our actions or practices are sinful or right. And it is through this knowledge of God's word that we can see that we certainly cannot save ourselves. Romans 3:10

But we do have hope. We do have grace. We do have love. Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 5:2 God sent His son to this earth, in order to be the perfect sacrifice -- to take away the sin of the world. No longer is offering sacrifices, or burnt offerings for sin necessary. These practices were only a pattern of what was to come. John 1:29 And also, John 3:16

Sinning is definitely a hard thing to swallow. Every time I sin, I just feel like kicking myself. The 'silver lining' if you will about sin is this, Romans 5:6 Romans 5:7 Romans 5:8 Romans 5:9 Romans 5:10 God's love is so deep and wide, that I just cannot comprehend. I cannot even put myself in His position to fully understand. I'm not required to comprehend, or to fully grasp His love. But I can freely accept it. I must believe that He is, and that He can save me. It's called faith. Hebrews 11:6

A few more passages on God's love, and then I'm finished with this one:

Romans 8:31, Romans 8:32, Romans 8:34, Romans 8:35, Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39

Ephesians 3:14, Ephesians 3:15, Ephesians 3:16, Ephesians 3:17, Ephesians 3:18, Ephesians 3:19, Ephesians 3:20, Ephesians 3:21
Are you listening to what God is saying in His Word?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Noah Wanted A Cool Ride





Genesis 6:13 Then God said to Noah, "I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14 "Make yourself an ark of gofer wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside. 15 This is how you are to make it: The ark will be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. 16 You are to make a roof, finishing [the sides of the ark] to within 18 inches [of the roof.] You are to put a door in the side of the ark. Make it with lower, middle, and upper [decks]. 17 "Understand that I am bringing a deluge-floodwaters on the earth to destroy all flesh under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives. 19 You are also to bring into the ark two of every living thing of all flesh, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of everything-from the birds according to their kinds, from the livestock according to their kinds, and from every animal that crawls on the ground according to its kind-will come to you so that you can keep them alive. 21 Take with you every kind of food that is eaten; gather it as food for you and for them." 22 And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him.
 


Wow! Aren't there some awesome stories found in the Bible? I've said before that there are certainly some times that I read in the Bible that I wish I could've been there to witness. Well, let me clarify. I certainly wouldn't want to be stuck on the earth when that event happened. Well, let me think about that again. I don't think that I'd like to be stuck on/in the ark for a year either. Shooo-weee. As a matter of fact, I appreciate the Bible even more now that I think about that a little longer. I can read of these magnificent/horrible stories from the Bible and learn something from other peoples examples. God truly is amazing, and I'm so glad he's blessed me to allow me to live in this time on earth.
 



I want to have a little fun at Noah's expense right now. I sort of want to make a modern day funny story in order to make a serious point. Now let's be clear - right up front. There's no way in this earth that Noah would ever do what I'm fixing to tell. But I'm using Noah and his situation as an example of how I see some people in their religious freedoms today. I'll try not to drag it out too long, but maybe just long enough so you can get my point. So again - this story is definitely not true. In fact, we just read in Gen 6:22 that Noah did everything that God commanded of him.
 



The next day, after Noah thought about what God had said to him, he was very thankful that God was willing to spare him and his family. Noah was proud that his righteous living and many lessons that he taught his family were paying off for him in such a special way. "I can't believe that we're the only one's going to be left on this earth. We'll have it all to ourselves." he thought. "But before any of that will happen, we've got to get busy on building this humongous ark. Let me think.... God said build an ark out of what? Gopher wood? He didn't say Gopher wood did He? Surely not. Does God know how hard that wood is to cut? Does God know how heavy that stuff is? Does God know how far away those trees are? Why there's hardly any Gopher wood around here, but way over in the next territory. I'd have to cross other peoples lands and set up some kind of trading arrangements to get that. I think I'll just skip that and get some local wood that's lighter, softer, closer by, and right in my own back yard." 



The next day, after chopping a few trees down and sawing them into boards, Noah started to check his notes again. "God said build the art how big? 450 feet long? And 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall? Does God know just how much wood I'm going to have to chop down to get that done? I think I'll make it just a tad bit smaller. Let me see....how many trees do I have around here anyway? I'd also rather not use tar pitch on the inside of this ark anyway. Between the smell of pitch and all the other animals, I just don't think I could take that smell. Besides all that, my wife will already have plenty to complain about anyway, I certainly don't want to add any more that she can whine about. I'll skip that step." 



A few years later, as Noah was finishing his decked-out yacht complete with sun roofs, moon roofs, horns, digital satellite tracking devices, large screen TVs, soft leather seats, showers, game room, cafeteria, xbox entertainment system, surround sound speakers, theater style seating, and on and on.... He started to check his notes again. "God said bring two of every living thing into the ark, plus seven sets of clean animal. Uh, well, how am I gonna get those wild animals that are too dangerous to handle. No one can even get close enough to capture such wild and dangerous animals, let alone capture them and live with them on my yacht. I gotta bring food and store it in the ark for all these critters too. There's just no way that I can even accomplish these task. Surely God didn't mean to do all that. Surely God just meant to do just what I was able to and he'd save the rest from perishing in His own special way. Besides, I don't want all these animals getting my shiny new yacht dirty and smelly anyway. I'll just get a few of my favorite animals and bring them along so that we could have a few to play with and and few to sustain us once the flood leaves."
 



After Noah gathered a few of his favorite animals, and put them away in their compartments, he and his family climbed in his yacht and shut the door. Soon, it clouded up and started to rain. Aw cool. Never seen that before. That's pretty neat. Rain and rain and floods quickly covered the earth and just as quickly the yacht started springing leaks. "Shem, Ham, Japheth! Get me some of those reeds we gathered for the animals food. Stuff them in these cracks. I had no idea that God was going to lock us up in this leaky yacht. Honey!!!! Bring me some of them rags so I can stuff them in here. Ya'll tie them animals up. (blub, blub, blub) Turn the TV off and get over here." ( blub, blub, blub)
 



Okay. That's all I can come up with. I think that we can see in this fictional story that Noah and his family were sunk. Why? Well, they didn't listen to God. God told them what to do. God told them how to do it. God found Noah to be faithful in everything that He told him to do.
 



What I get out of this story (and believe me, I didn't even have to be there to get this though my thick head) is that in order to live and be pleasing to God, I'd better figure out what he's told me to do and do it -- and do it right. I see no reason to be consumed in finding "better" ways to do what God has told me to do. His words are sufficient for me. If God's ways were good enough for those before me to do it, then His ways are good enough for me.


Are you listening to what God is saying in His Word?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What Motivates You?


Numbers 16:16 Moses said to Korah, "You and all of your followers must stand in front of the Lord tomorrow. You must appear there along with Aaron. 17 Each man must get his shallow cup. He must put incense in it. There will be a total of 250 incense cups. Each man must bring his cup to the Lord. You and Aaron must also bring your cups." 18 So each man got his cup. He put fire and incense in it. All of the men came with Moses and Aaron. They stood at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.
Numbers 16:35 Then the Lord sent down fire. It burned up the 250 men who were offering the incense. 36 The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, 37 "Speak to the priest Eleazar. He is the son of Aaron. Remind him that the shallow cups are holy. He must take them out of the fire. He must scatter the burning coals away from there. 38 The men who sinned used those cups. And it cost them their lives. Hammer the cups into bronze sheets that will cover the altar. The cups were offered to the Lord. They have become holy. Let them serve as a warning to the people of Israel." (New International Reader's Version)

There's no doubt in my mind that something went terribly wrong here in this story. Wow! To God be the glory in everything that we do, see, and hear. Not only was this story dramatic enough, I didn't even mention the verses in between, where God had the earth open up and swallow lots of people. Something new that had never before been seen, God used the earth to carry out His righteous punishment on disobedient mankind. I was reminded by my preacher's call to worship just this past week with this very same story. What a wake-up call to me. A call that I'd better get my act together because I was in the Lord's presence -- I'd better get my life straight, and clear my thoughts and mind and focus on the purpose of worship. Praise and Glory be to God. He is truly awesome and Holy.

In talking with a close friend from my church, we were talking about how to get our youth interested in becoming an active participant in church services, and even further, in bearing fruit for Christ. This topic definitely got me thinking. What was my motivation for choosing a life dedicated to Christ? Not that I'm a perfect example. But what influenced my decision to give up self, and follow Christ? So again, the question is this: What motivates you?

Today, I believe whether right or wrong, most of our focus is sighted on God's love. Try these:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

The study of God's character is definitely one study that interest me. If we could just make a list of all the qualities of God, and then study those qualities into their simplest forms, we would benefit greatly. But for today, lets just think a little if you will, on God's wrath, God's jealousy, and God's anger. What? Huh? Really? God gets mad you say? God is jealous too? God gets angry? Well, yes, yes, and uh yes. Re-read the scripture above if you've already forgotten.

Here's another story of God's wrath upon mankind:

Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood;

So here's what Noah did:

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Wake up people. Why do you think Noah built a silly, huge ark, out in the middle of nowhere? "Crazy Noah" they said as they mocked him. Was Noah motivated by what those people said? It did have an effect on him, but God's warning had an even greater effect on him. Noah obeyed God rather than bowing to the pressure of the people. God's character has not changed. I believe that God deals with mankind differently today, than he did in Bible times, but God definitely still gets angry.

Back to the story found in Numbers. God shows us his character and we can read and learn from other peoples mistakes. Disobedience will result in punishment if unforgiven and if unrepented. See 1 Peter 3:21-22

Do me and you a favor, and read for the next few minutes this other great story found in Matthew 25:31-46

Are you listening to what God is saying in His Word?


Saturday, March 1, 2008

God's Love is available to All



I have a Saturday ritual that I look forward to each week -- as long as it's not cloudy and raining. The night before, I make sure the coffee pot is set, so that the next morning I can get up early and sit on my back porch just as the sun is starting to rise. I love the quiet times with no one around, before the world wakes up in my own little back yard. It is definitely a reflective time when I can clear my thoughts, reflect on the events of the week, and think about what's to come. It is also a time in which I go to God in prayer -- thanking him for His beautiful creation in which I am currently enjoying. Give God the glory for His creation is marvelous! His blessings are beyond my comprehension. I often times feel guilty that He has blessed me more than approximately 80-90% of the rest of the world. Try this site and you'll see: (http://www.globalrichlist.com/)

The night before, I had stepped out to my bird feeders to fill them up in preparation for the day ahead. Most of the times, the early birds get to my feeders even before I can get up, so I wanted to have everything ready for them. I forgot to offer them food the whole day before, so I wanted to make it up to them by having a nice amount ready for a new day.

As I got up early Saturday morning, got dressed and poured myself some coffee, I was looking forward to the nice calm quiet morning. The birds are used to my coming and going and so it never bothered them of my entrance into their world. I took my seat and sat my coffee down and relaxed and watched and listened. This is one of the highlights of my week.

Then the thought entered my mind as I started thanking God for the morning and for His creation, of what I was witnessing. I was witnessing an example of God's love -- right there in front of me. The bible uses examples of God's creation all the time. I can think of many examples of how we as God's creation are compared to sheep. But what God was saying to me this morning is a little simple story about the little birds that I was watching.

God had prepared a glorious creation. Every intricate little detail, some of which have yet to be discovered. God had created mankind in His own image. God had made a way so that mankind could be saved. His way is available to all -- given freely with love for us. If we choose to accept His love, and act on that love, we will be saved and will have a place in heaven with Him.

Just as I had put some bird seed out for my expectant birds the night before, God had made a way for us to come to Him. Just as some birds chose to come and partake, we make a choice to accept His love and pattern. Some come to Him, while others just sit and watch. Some accept the gift, while others reject it. Some feed from Him abundantly, while others only take a pinch. Some go and tell others about His offer, while others keep it to themselves. Some are so overjoyed at the gift that they cannot help themselves to sing out loud His praises. Some are quiet.

As I continued to watch all the pretty birds, suddenly some big ugly birds came to the feast. I did not like that. I wanted the big ugly birds to go away. I shuffled around to disturb their presence. They were startled and flew away. Wait a minute. Does God scare His creation away? No, I don't believe He does. Who was I to choose who could partake. I repented and waited silently. The big ugly birds came back and I sat still. They too enjoyed the free gift. God's love is available for ALL.

God's teachings are wonderful. Such a simple lesson if I could only be still and watch. Isn't is amazing how God teaches us? We read and study His word and He speaks to us in amazing ways. He shows us His will if we search for it.

My prayer is that we will be still and silent and listen to God's voice. That we will give God the glory in all that happens. This is God's creation, and there is so much for us to learn if we will allow Him to teach us. My prayer is that every day, we will realize our responsibility that God's love is for all. We are not to choose who should receive God's love, but we should go out and tell everyone of God's loving gift -- God's plan for mankind. Go and tell, and leave the rest up to God. Some will accept God's love, while others will reject it. God's message is so simple.

Are you listening to what God is saying in His Word?