Monday, January 31, 2011

A Message To The Church

Week after week, pulpits are filled with noble people who have been deceived. Each week a preacher is put in a position between humble, obedient service and pride. Ego is a demanding ogre!

I am not here accusing any preacher of wanton exhibitionism or purposeful attention seeking. What I am saying is that we have gotten the weekly meeting of the church ting totally wrong for so long that it is no longer relevant to our society.

Before we go too far here let’s look at what the Apostle Paul said about his approach to ministry at the Corinthian church.

"And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling," I Corinthians 2:1-3

It would see that our teachers are no longer satisfied with the simple clean message and must dazzle us with words from the Greek or a treatise of some theological issue. All the time the congregation sits in a well practiced trance; hearing little, thinking much. The problem is that their thoughts are not toward the wonderful grace of our God but run the gambit of every mundane thing that is going on in their miserable lives.

Judge for yourself. Is the church more healthy today than in the past? Are we heading in a better or worse direction?

I know very well that this is a harsh and radical statement. It would seem that few care to listen to one who issues such condemning accusations. But the cost of eternal lives is in the balance. Last week I heard a new, to me anyway, term that is funny but shocking.

The conversation was centered around evangelism and the discussion mentioned three spiritual states of man: believer, unbeliever and make-believer. This “make-believer” thing is a huge change in thought for me. How many people sit in our churches as “make-believers” because we have gotten the Sunday morning thing wrong?

Jesus told His followers a story one day about some sheep and some goats. The startling thing to me is that the goats, who would not inherit eternal life were shocked at the news. They thought that they were sheep and no one told them differently until it was too late.

I don’t know your personal contribution or participation in today’s sham each of us must examine our own view of the message that we deliver with our own witness. Is the message convoluted and defensive or is it simple and clean?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Desperation or Wonder

I call out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depths and You heard my voice…Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.

While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple…I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving
Jonah 2:2-9

By the reference you most likely know that the author of the text placed himself in a pretty precarious position due to his own choices and decisions. I’m quite certain that you haven’t encountered the wrong side of a big fish but, undoubtedly, you have placed yourself in your own precarious situations due to some less that stellar decisions of your own. So how did you feel when the weeds were wrapped around your head?

A flood of feelings come to mind but a desire to pray isn’t likely one of those. Desperation oftentimes compels us to "cry out" to the Lord. This type of desperate prayer is absolutely valid and necessary from time to time. We see another example of this when Peter jumped out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the surface of the lake only to begin to sink. Peter discovered that he had few options and he "cried out" "save me Lord". Of course Jesus did rescue Peter from his decision in spite of the weakness of his faith. Likewise, Jonah found himself in a desperate situation due to decisions that he had made and had few options available to him therefore he "cried out" to God for help.

Although valid and acceptable because of Jesus, desperation prayer is not a prayer of faith. A prayer of faith accomplishes things beyond our ability to comprehend and oftentimes beyond our ability to see. After all, that is what faith is all about.

The pathway from the prayer of desperation to the prayer of faith is illustrated in Jonah’s text: I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving.

Oh, how easy it is to express our thankfulness when things are going well. It is a different matter entirely when we are wrapped in seaweed at the bottom of the ocean. This is the type of sacrifice that reaches the very heart of God. This is the sacrifice that is modeled after Jesus when in agony caused by his physical pain magnified beyond all reason by my sin on His back He ask the Father to "forgive them".

Today, right this moment, there are things or people or situations that are not to you liking. You have been burdened by this thing for some time. Now would be a good time to offer Jesus a "sacrifice of thanksgiving" as you throw yourself upon His mighty shoulders.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rejoice and Persevere

Romans 12:12 says:

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer"

How easy it is to "rejoice" in hope. I know that we sometimes lose focus on the "hope that is within us" but we nevertheless know deep within who wins!

Being patient in suffering is a bit more difficult. Perhaps we easily fall into impatient frustration over our suffering at times but eventually we have no choice but to be patient or to be continually frustrated.

The last part of this phrase is intriguing don't you agree? "Persevere" in prayer? Does God know us intimately, or what? Prayer is tough; no not the simple act of praying, that's not what is tough. What is tough is to remember to pray, desire to pray, and to effectively pray.

Perseverance is "hanging in there" in spite of everything else. Do you think we would have an issue with praying if God immediately granted our every request? If we could simply make our request and turn around at see that it had happened, surely we would find praying easy and desirable.

It is the faith component that makes praying difficult and makes staying faithful to prayer a matter of perseverance.

Don't be discouraged when your prayer life seems cold. That happens to all of us. If it were easy anybody could do it; it isn't easy that's why God has called you to do it. It's not about us being perfectly faithful; it's about a team that God has brought together to see that prayer is a constant in and in behalf of His Church and His world!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Home in the Kingdom of Peace

Our society is spinning out of control; contentious politics, terrorism and war around the world, partisan news agencies, incessant unemployment, angry drivers...the list goes on and on. Pressures mount around us and before long we begin to internalize our surroundings.

Life was never meant to be this way. Remember the setting of the Garden of Eden? A garden with plentiful food and comfort all around. A man and a woman with an appointment every day to take a casual walk in the garden with their Creator.

Jesus came came to restore the balance surrendered by Adam. He has completed His task but it is up to us to accept His gift. Too many of us turn to so many other things to placate our stress. Some turn to alcohol, some to pornography, some to movies or television, others to music or literature. Each of these has its own traps hidden within them that lead to only temporary relief from our issues.

Isaiah 9:6 And He shall be called...Prince of Peace...

Sure we've heard the words many times before but have they taken root in your spirit? Jesus is the Prince we are His subjects, the land that we are offered is the kingdom of peace.

Don't forsake the gift of peace; deep, deep peace. Regardless of any circumstances God's peace is stronger still!

So important was our ability to dwell in peace that God guaranteed it be providing it as a trait and a gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

Galatians 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...

Does this sound like your life? Why not? It is a gift that is waiting for you!

Surrender and become a subject to the kingdom of peace!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Will You Be One?

In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Your and eagerly watch Psalm 5:3

Here is a radical thought. Why not take God at His word?

And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive. Matthew 21:22

Do we think that we need to be something more than we are to get results through our prayer? Jesus had not preconditions on His promise other than to simply believe. Like the psalmist "eagerly"watching for the results is what believing is about.

but he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:6

Faith is important to our God. It is the language of heaven that brings results.

Why not use the Psalmists method: In the morning, I will bring my prayer to You! and then, I will earerly watch!

He promised, He is faithful, He is capeable, He is searching for people of faith to do mighty things through. Will you be one of them?