Friday, January 10, 2014

Herald to the Unloved and the Unwanted:

Herald to the Unloved and the Unwanted:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 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. 
Luke 2:8-15 (KJV)

As Christians, we all know the story. Christmas was last month so why write about it now? The question comes up, “Why did the Lord chose shepherds to announce the birth of our King too?” It would make more sense to announce the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, to the Kings of the land. To the religious leaders of the temple. Why shepherds?

At the time, shepherds were the lowest of the low when it came to society's standards. Because of their job, they would have to be in the fields for weeks and even months at a time. Therefore the religious authorities consider shepherds ceremonial unclean. They were not even considered lower class. They were the bottom class of all classes. Because of their job they could not participate in Jewish traditions or the 613 laws of the Sanhedrin, better known as the Mosaic Law. Shepherds could not even testify in court because they were considered thieves and untrustworthy. They were the unloved, the unwanted, the rejected, the outcasts of society.

How often as Christians or not, do we feel unwanted, unloved, rejected and turned away as an outcast? It hurts especially when the rejection comes from one(s) we love and trust. Rejection from a friend or when even you find yourself rejected by the very church you needed help from. As Uncle Si would say, “That is rejection, Jack!”

These shepherds did not just experience it. They had to live with it day after day. We too see it daily, if we would just open our eyes and hearts. I see it every time I go to Walmart. The sales clerk, checking out hundreds of people a day with few if any acknowledging their name. Which could be easily read on their name badge. Lonely souls at a bar trying to drown their misery and pull up joy for a fleeting moment. I see it in the eyes of others in a crowd. Their eyes tell of the sadness dwelling inside. Feelings of doubt, rejection and just feeling unloved. While trying their best just to fit in the now.

So why did the Lord chose the shepherds to announce or “Herald” the coming of our King?

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 
Romans 10:9-13 (NIV)

Notice in verse 13. The word “Everyone.” Jesus came for everyone. Not just the ones who think they have their act together. Not the ones of authority over others. Everyone. That means you and that means me.

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Matt 19:28-30 (HCSB)

This is a warning that we all must come to grips with. The first will be last. We all want to be first. First in charge. First to finish the race. First in line to receive. We want to be number one which is the exact opposite of the 1st Commandment. Being last is hard. Being unloved and unwanted by others is very hard to deal with. I like what Pastor Rick Warren once said, “ I fear God's disapproval more than I fear yours or society's.”

Christian-BE BOLD! Teach, Preach and Reach <><

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mealtime Devotions by John Avery Whittaker

Meal Time Devotions:

It might be targeted for kids, but it goes a lot farther than that. A wonderful book to get you started on the right conversation.

In today's world. Sitting at the dinner table is a rare thing indeed. With our busy schedules. Work, school, church, social events, family events, work around the house and others. Dinner has become more of a pit-stop than a family gathering.

The original purpose of this book is to get your family talking about the spiritual matters that count. To help prepare our children to face life's matters God's way. With that said, I personally am using this book for an entire different purpose.

I am responsible for my church's Men's Ministry. Getting a group of men together is much more difficult than even getting your family together at the dinner table. Early morning is usually out of the question due to work and family. After work is even harder. So what do you do?

One of the best ways for men to meet is at a local restaurant after work for about 45 minutes to an hour at best. After work we are tired and hungry. Meal Time Devotions is the perfect lesson plan for us. Prayer, Appetizer, Main Course, Table Talk, then some Vitamins and Minerals. The issues affecting our youth are very similar to what we as men are facing in today's busy backwards world. The easy to follow format of this book makes leading the group a breeze.

Table Talk, open discussion is key to a productive Bible study group, in my opinion. We sit down during Sunday School and listen. We listen to the Sunday sermon. This is a chance to ask questions and discuss what is going on in our lives while keeping God the focus of the discussions.

Though I am using this book for an entire different purpose, it works just as easy with a group of men as it will with your family or any group gathering. Easy and compact to carry around in your back pocket. Youth Ministers wold benefit greatly by using this book too.

Vitamins and Minerals is the closing session. Leaving everyone with God's Word to follow for the rest of the evening and/or week. This book is a wonderful tool.

Teach, Preach and Reach!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Post Easter Week

Post Easter Week:

Jesus is knocking on your door.
Well Easter has come and gone this year. Last week, prior to Easter Sunday, my mailbox was filled with invitations from churches all over town asking us to come to their special Easter Sunday service. A few days after, it seems all things are just as they were. Like it will be another year until they, the churches, seem to get excited about going to church again. Sad commentary I know.

I was please today though. One church, actually from out-of-town, sent a card re-inviting us to church for their series on Joseph. I am impressed. Someone was thinking outside the box. Or is it that someone out there really cares about delivering the Good News about Jesus?

I know from experience that most churches have very little money to spend on advertising. But is it really advertising? We are not selling Christ or widgets. It is called OUTREACH! What did Jesus tell us before He ascended back to Heaven?

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt 28:18-20 (NLT)

The key word here is “GO.” Yes, it costs money for printing materials and mailing not to mention the work involved in creating such postcards, newsletters and flyers. I was once a member of a very large church in town. Even before I became a member I had seen their yearly budget sheet. Out of nearly a half a million dollar a year operating budget, all they ever budgeted for new member ministry was 150 dollars. It was that way from 2004 through 2012. Surprisingly most churches are like that. After utilities, insurance and labor costs there is not much left over. Sounds like a sad business model. Therein lies the rub. Too many churches are ran as if they were a business. Looking to stay within budget. They even pat themselves on the back for doing so. Is that what Jesus told us to do?

Imagine for a moment that you or I or especially the church had to give a report to Jesus. We would tell him that we are keeping the doors open. The lights on. Working on getting our Sunday School attendance numbers up. Attendance is down, but we are working on that. What does Jesus tell us?

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matt 6:21 (KJV)

If that verse does not gut you like it does me. I do not know what to tell you. That verse applies to us individually and should be the role model for all churches to follow. Sadly they do not. Sadly we do not. We are all guilty before God no matter how hard we try otherwise. That's the point and why we need Jesus.

We can treat each Sunday as if it is Easter Sunday. Why not? For that matter we should treat each day as if it were Easter Sunday. Jesus took my punishment. Paid my fine. Fulfilled my penalty for the law.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:23 (KJV)

We need to teach God's Word among ourselves first!
Before we as a church can share Jesus with others, we must first be able to share Christ among ourselves. Encourage one another during the week. With a phone call or a text message. Perhaps an email or a post on FaceBook. Yes, prayer is first. The power of prayer has no limits. This I know from personal experience.

The time is long overdue for ACTION. The same action churches use before Easter Sunday need to be continuous week after week. Just last week a friend and brother in Christ came by my house. He was visiting all the homes in the neighborhood. He is now at a different church as am I. The difference, he is out there for Jesus. Doing it. Action!  

Teach, Preach and Reach! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

American Patriots by Rick Santorum

American Patriots by Rick Santorum

Let me tell you from the beginning, this is a wonderful book. If you are in a leadership position or ever plan to, you need to read this book. It's not a “How To” book. In fact it is a collection of stories. Stories of our American past. Each one, each person vital which gave us the freedoms we enjoy today. I found myself returning to several chapters again and again. Inspiring and motivating. These are stories of our past that you will not find in a classroom history book. Yet, each one, each individual played a part in the building of what we call the United States of America. Each one boldly and against all odds to step up to the call to freedom.

Imagine for a moment back in the late 1700's. The 13 colonies are hard at work. Living and working. Paying bills and looking forward to the weekend. Not much different from what we are doing today. Taxes keep going up. They are ruled by a disconnected king, thousands of miles away. They have tried to organize. They have tried to work with the king, but he places his thumb even harder on the colonist. They do not consider themselves Americans. They are British. They wish to remain loyal to the king. Even a whisper of revolution is treason. You have little organization. No means to raise money or materials. No army. No voice to be heard by the king. To top it all off the majority of the people around you have no desire for change let alone defy their king. This is what our Founding Fathers and Patriots faced many years ago. Would you have been able to step up against the tide for the freedom you knew was needed?

Rick Santorum captures the spirit that makes us Americans. It is through the individual efforts of a few. Joined together for a cause that is beyond ourselves. A cause that requires the ultimate sacrifice much to often. Many in this book gave their all.

Because of the individual stories I can begin to relate to each respective situation. You will too. That is what makes this particular book unique in my opinion. Ordinary people faced with extraordinary responsibility. Many died so you and I can now live. Once you read this book, you will not look at today's headlines with ignorance or ignore seeing history repeating itself.

This book inspires me too. Many Americans of that time did not want war. They were content with life and how things were going. Much like today. They did not like their situations nor wanted their children to endure the hardships they were facing at the time. Few had the guts, determination and conviction to do what was needed. We face those same problems today.

I recommend this book in a heartbeat. In fact, I would place it in my top 10 books to own and read often. We need to be reminded of what our ancestors endured and gave their lives too. We must also realize how close we are to losing the very rights we have in this country that have been paid for in blood. Read this book.  

Teach, Preach and Reach!  <>< 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Revival, Revitalization, Revolution:

Revival, Revitalization, Revolution:

We hear these terms often in Christian circles. We need revival. We need revitalization within our souls, our neighborhoods and within our churches. But the word “revolution” seems to take a back seat to the action needed for such change.

Such words and such action was treasonous within the 13 colonies which would later become our Nation. Our founders believed in limited governmental control and faith in God-given potential of the American people. Our Declaration of Independence was and still is a radical idea. Tested and executed daily. That all men are created equal. Not some but all! Sound familiar?

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. John 12:46 (NLT)

The key word here is “All.” As author, Rick Santorum writes; “America is not about birthrights, classes, or bloodlines. We are not a tribe or an ethnic group of a civilization with a long written history on this continent. America is an ideal-set of common values that unite us not only as states, but as a people.”

As we now look across our Nation we see those with poor jobs associated within poor neighborhoods. Seemingly trapped within the chains of bondage. The first thing to be lost is HOPE.

Our inner-city churches struggle to stay alive. Fighting the good fight each day. Struggling just as the neighborhoods they serve, just to keep the lights on. This while larger churches sit on the sidelines along open stretches of road with their big campuses of glory. They look more like country clubs than churches to outsiders. These are the churches that rich folks go to. Outreach is done with the signing of a check. Like a mother holding a baby tapping at the window of your car asking for money. You give her a dollar in hopes she will walk away and leave you alone.

Make no mistake, I too am guilty.

The problem with our churches today is the empty pews and empty chairs at church events. We build it and think they will come. That is not what God's Word tells us.

And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15 (NKJV)

Key word here is, “GO.” If God wanted us to build great palaces, entertainment events, elaborate programs and festivals within our “Fellowship Halls,” He would have said so. You think?

Personally I have never heard testimonies from a fellow Christians that he/she was so moved by a Christian concert or church event that he/she immediately gave themselves to Christ. It is always someone who took the time to share the gospel of Christ with them that lead them to repentance and a right relationship with Christ. Events are just that, “Events!” A concert is a concert. A picnic is a picnic.

Crusade after crusade new believers come in droves. Months or years later they are nowhere to be found in fellowship. What happen? Was it lack of followup? Perhaps. Was it lack of more events? More entertainment to keep them in the pews? Or is it the strange unspoken truth that they never accepted Christ's offer of salvation. They never truly repented? Matthew 13:1-23.

I was once a member and even a church staff member to a very large church in my home town. We had wonderful and huge events. They still do. Hundreds come. Few have remain to become members. Many who are members have no idea of the hard work of a few that makes these events possible. Its like going to an “Earth Day” rally the day after. All you see is an empty field with the liter left behind. The truth trampled on. Are these just dry bones or trophies of victory for the evil one?

Revival: An evangelistic meeting intended to reawaken interest in religion.

That's the text book definition of Revival. Dry and sometimes uninviting. To unbelievers this statement runs true. For many a Christian too. We come to church on Sunday morning expecting the choir to inspire our worship when it should be us bringing our worship to inspire all of us at church. We expect the preacher to invigorate us. To motivate us like a football coach at half time of the big game when we are down thirty to nothing. Pushing us to do better. To believe we can win. Except we will not allow the preacher to kick us in the rear to get us moving which we most desperately need. We say things like, “Its the preacher’s job to bring them to Christ. Not mine.” Or, “We pay people to set this up and arrange this or that. So what if we do not pay them enough to make a living? They are here to serve us anyway, right?” I have heard this over and over for the past 7 years. Back when I was in California, I never heard any mordacious statements like these in my church back home. Here in the South, Christians have told me, “You California's have no idea about church and God.” My experiences tells me different.

Revitalization: Bringing again onto activity and prominence.

Again that is the text book definition of Revitalization. Bringing again would be the key words here. Trying to bring back our first love. But without love, what do we have to offer?

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. 1 Cor 13:3 (MSG)

Bringing back that which you do not have in the first place is futile. Yet, we expect our preachers to keep banging on the same drum. Calling out for the selfsame thing, a message to a profoundly deaf crowd who call themselves Christians, who claim to have love for others. Just what is futile?

In an article in “On Mission” ( magazine, Winter 2013, issue, Pastor Johnny Hunt tells us the story of revitalization for New Hope Church in Mableton, GA. First Baptist Woodstock, which Hunt pastor's, is huge with nearly unlimited resources. It was not always that way. But on the foundation of love, they have grown beyond their dreams. The first step was for the smaller church of 17 members to ask for help from the larger church. Sounds simple enough. Yet, we rarely see it. Pride? If an inner-city church is in the trenches and a larger church away from the battlefield wants to help and serve. It makes sense for these two to get together and make it happen. It is church planting by caring for the church that is already there in the neighborhood serving on the front lines of battle. The seed has been planted. The soil has been tended too. Vinings Lake Church (formally: New Hope) is running 600 most weekends in attendance now. Together we can. Separate we lose. We are commanded to pray for the laborers of the harvest. Matthew 9:37-38

Revolution: A drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving.

I doubt most of you would describe the word, “Revolution” like that above. Yet, that is exactly what happen to form our country, The United States of America. Many in 1776 did not agree with the Revolutionary War against the crown. They still consider themselves British. Subject to the king. Subject to the ascendance of rule. Not looking at themselves as free men under the eyes of God.

What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” Luke 11:52 (NLT)

The Gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews. Deep in Hebrew traditions and heritage. Mark's Gospel is a book of action. Meant for the Romans who saw themselves as men of action. Luke's Gospel was targeted for the Greeks. Ones who put the betterment of man first. Yet Jesus taught them and us to sacrifice for one another not pursue personal perfection. The Gospel of John is seen as the universal Gospel. Showing Christ's deity without question. Radical!

In a world hell-bent for itself, these were revolutionary ideas and beliefs. No wonder Christ appeared to them in His Resurrection.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” John 20:27 (NLT)

This was revolutionary way of believing and thinking. Same as it is today despite our faults and doubts. You may stand on the road and tell everyone you do not believe in trucks. Stand there long enough and you will get run over by one.

Revolution of the heart for Christ must come first before we can even attempt to move into revitalization. Revitalization must come before we can even think of the grace of revival. Revival must come within each of us if we are to go and fulfill the Great Commission.

And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15 (NKJV)

Teach, Preach and Reach! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks Living vs Thanksgiving:

Thanks Living vs Thanksgiving:

A former pastor of a church I once was a member of said, “As Christians we should be engaged in Thanks Living rather than just celebrating Thanksgiving.” Those words are true.

We as Christians have a lot to be thankful for. Death has no meaning for us. None what so ever. We often forget that in today's busy, hurry up, stop do this, now do that world. With that alone we should be living each day in thanks living. The fact is, we often do not.

In 1 Corinthian, Chapter 13, we learn love is the greatest.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Cor 13:13 (NLT)

It is Christ's love for each of us that He gave himself willing to save us. With that said the words, thank you just do not seem to really describe it for me.

As my walk with Christ improves daily so does my love for the lost. Especially at this time of the year. One Christmas not so long ago, my wife and I sat on a bench in the middle of the mall watching the people go by. It was sad. There was Christmas music playing. People going here and there. We watched the clerks busy ringing up purchases non-stop. Very few smiles we began to notice. It seem we were the only ones enjoying the Christmas songs playing. You see, we had no money. We would like to shop and buy gifts for our children, friends and neighbors, but we could not. God gave us a wonderful gift that night. Such peace. While others were caught up in stuff. We enjoyed the moment of what the season is supposed to be like. My wife and I are still thankful for that moment. We were the least of these and happy and thankful for it.

Have our financial status improved since then? No, but we are very thankful. The last thing we need is more stuff. How many in that mall were lost? Lost without a relationship with Christ? All of us I would say. We enjoyed the moment but share it with no one. Did we share our love of Christ with others that evening? No. So what good is it to be blessed with such a gift and not share it, if not give it away to others? That is where I stand now. Being humble is hard. Hard in a world of want. Our needs are met. We should be grateful for that alone.

Is there any thing wrong with success? No. If we pass by someone in need and have nothing to offer them but prayer. Give it to them. If we have means then we should give and help others. Often as we collect things we stop thinking of others. Money can give you opportunities. We are told to spend it wisely. To be good stewards of our money. Yet does this mean we should go to the Walmarts instead of the mom and pop stores of downtown? If we do not only the Walmarts will be left. We may pay a higher price, but at least we know it is going to them rather than some global corporation.

So what does it mean, “Thanks Living.” Great question. With today's pressures, do we really get up in the morning and praise God that we are alive? More than likely we wake and are ready to smash the alarm clock. We forget to look at the bigger picture. We see our own little world rather than the world itself. When is the last time you picked up your Bible and said, “Yes, Lord I can change the world.” The fact is, you can.

The clerk behind the counter who has seen over 200 people go through their line with not one person taking the time to read their name badge and calling them by name. That can be your first step. Give them and others a smile. It cost you nothing yet can and will make a difference in the lives of others. While in the parking lot or walking along the sidewalk, give someone a smile and say hello or good day. Get copies of the Gospel and just hand one to someone else. Just say, “Did you get one of these.” Then tell them to have a good day. If the Holy Spirit guides you then share your faith with them right there and then. I know of one man who sits in the food courtyard in the mall and reads his Bible and prays for those walking by. When you get home take time not to just roll your garbage bin back in but your neighbors as well. They will appreciate it. These are all acts of Thanks Living. Try it.

Teach, Preach and Reach.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What is God like?

What is God like?

If I asked this question of ten different Christians I would get ten different answers. If I asked this question of ten different unbelievers I too would get ten different answers. Why is that so?

When it comes to our beliefs we often seem ready to express how we feel rather than based on facts. We feel hot. We feel cold. There are some days I do not feel saved, but I am. That is a fact. Does not matter how I feel on that day. I am saved. My focus should be on obeying God, not the other way around.

Theology: The rational and systematic study of religion and its influence and of the nature of religious truth. I have heard the words theology and doctrine kicked around church like a football. Mostly from those in leadership positions who in fact could not explain the definitions of either if their life depended on it. There in charge and that is it according to them. Not hard to see what is wrong in our churches today.

Feelings, beliefs and facts? Sometimes it seems all three are preached in today's pulpits. My feelings are just that. Feelings. They come and go. As Rick Warren once said. “Some people will tell you it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. The problem with that is that you can be sincerely wrong. You can pick up a glass of poison and sincerely believe it is water. You still would be sincerely dead. Dead wrong”

My beliefs must be based on facts. With that said I am often asked, “How do you know the bible is correct?” Over 2,000 years the Bible has been scrutinized, examined, researched, archaeological reviewed and explored. It still is the most studied controversial book in our history. Based on such evidence I believe it is the Word of God. The facts confirm my belief. Your feelings may not.

So what is God like? This is a question I am often asked when witnessing and we need to give them an answer.

First: God is Holy:
(Psalm 99:9, 119:9, Revelation 15:4) God can do nothing that is not Holy. His love is a Holy love. His justice is a Holy justice. His wrath is a Holy wrath. God is free from all sin and evil and in Him is absolute moral perfection. This is beyond our understanding.

Second: God is sovereign:
God has absolute authority and rule over all of His creation.
(1 Chronicles 29:11-12) God is omnipotent (has all power) He is omniscient (has all knowledge) and omnipresent (in all places). God can do and when and will do what he likes and with whom He likes. (Job 23:13)

God is the God of providence:
Nothing happens by chance or luck. God is always at work in our lives. God is always in control. (Genesis 41:22, Ephesians 1:11)

God is good:
(Psalm 145:9, 15-16) Here most people will agree but seldom look beyond what the scriptures tell us. God is kind and generous. This is where most seem to veer off course. They see God's love, kindness and generosity as a sign of weakness or softness. God is not someone you can take advantage of. God is not some cosmic vending machine that you can just push a button and all your problems are solved. We are responsible for the circumstances we find ourselves in. Only through God can we be led out of them towards the will of God.

God is love:
It is undeserved love. (Romans 5:6-8) It is undesired love (1 John 4:10) It is inconceivable love. (1 John 3:1) Here again is where most people lose it. Our own interpretation of love is way off base. We love movies. We love a certain type of food. We love going out and so on. We ourselves have destroyed the meaning of love. On the cross, Jesus demonstrated sacrificial love. Giving Himself. Allowing them to take Him. Beat Him. Mock him. Then crucify Him. Publicly murder Him for all to see. It is one thing to say you love Christ. Would you be willing to sacrifice your own child? This is what Abraham was willing to do to his son Isaac for God. It is what God did for you and me.

What is God like? Here are just a few examples. Read and study your Bible. Speak from truth and not what you feel or think you believe. Speak from fact.

Teach, Preach and Reach. <>< 

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