Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Spiritual Meme

(tagged by Barbara at Tidbits and Treasures )

1. What is your life verse?

Well, as strange as it may seem for a life verse- it can be summed up in Paul's first letter to Timothy:

I Timothy 1 Tim 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.(KJV)

2. Give a bit of your testimony

God miraculously saved me from a life of sin. In my darkest, deepest despair, I cried out unto the LORD and He rescued me from certain destruction- I owe everything to Him and a debt I could never repay!

3. Do you have a favorite preacher?

It changes from week to week. I enjoy listening to a fellow minister named Loran Livingston an awful lot. But I also enjoy the unknowns. If I may wax "religious" for just a spell (please indulge me)- my "favorite preacher" is the man who faithfully proclaims the Word of Truth without compromise and without any expectations of worldy acknowledgment. He is the man who serves as the watchmen over men's souls and does so not because he is a hireling, but because (as Paul said) "woe be unto me if I preach not the gospel." Such an one is my favorite preacher.

4. What is the best bible study you have ever done?

It's so hard to pinpoint a favorite study. I have spent considerable time studying the book of Hebrews and still feel as though I have only scratched the exterior surface. I simply love studying the Word of God and in particular the Pauline epistles.

5. What do you feel God's calling is on your life?

Well, in a lot of ways I feel that I have a "fill- in -the -cracks" ministry (as a dear friend once described himself). My life's calling is to lead people towards the righteousness of Christ. I certainly don't consider myself a prophet, but I do believe God has given me a tremendous burden to warn men of the judgment to come and the coming of the LORD. I just hope to one day hear "well done thou good and faithful servant...."

I'm not sure if my buddies would like to keep this thing going, but I would hate to be the breakdown in the chain...so I'm going to tag:

Pastor Jeff, and... Bishop Darrell Garrett, his wife Libby at Libby's Fruit Cocktail
and my pal in Arkansas who goes by the pen-name Exqsme,

......we'll see if they play along- click on the links to see if they pass or play :)


Friday, May 26, 2006

Memorial Days

Exodus 13:8 And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt.’ 9 It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year. (NKJV)

In the States, we are getting ready to celebrate Memorial Day. For many, it will not be a time of tremendous significance- families will have cookouts, eat hamburgers and hotdogs, and probably go for a swim somewhere. Many of our days have lost much of their significance. This is not limited to the secular. In our zeal to distance ourselves from everything legalistic and traditional, we forget that some traditions are good. Traditions are not necessarily bad, unless they somehow undermine the teachings of God's Word and render it of none effect. In fact the NT mentions the Lord's Supper as something that should be repeated until the Lord returns. Each time we partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine, we are making a remembrance of what God in Christ has done for us.

The scripture I posted above deals with the Passover. God was concerned that there was an intentional remembrance made each year of what He had done for them. Not only was He concerned for that generation, but for the generations to come. He wanted them to be able to answer questions about their faith when the children asked the significance. I want to challenge you today- are you (and I) living a life of faith that causes others-especially our family, loved ones, and friends- to ask questions? And if so, are you (and I) prepared to give adequate answers and reasons for the hope that lies within us?

The passage I posted above is but one example of the myriad of ways that God wants us to remember what He has done for us. Perhaps this holiday weekend would be a wonderful time just to sit back and reflect upon everything that Jesus Christ means to you and I. I guarantee that it won't take long before you break forth into singing, praise, and thanksgiving unto the eternal God of glory. I'll close with one of the great doxologies of scripture:

Jude 1:25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Giving My Blog a Little Make-over Today.

Yes, this blog has reached an all-time low. Today, I'm blogging about cosmetic changes I've made to the site. But there is something refreshing about change. I can remember as a little child, rearranging the furniture in my room. I had a tiny bedroom as it was, but nevertheless, the change in scenery was always exciting. Moving my bed to another wall of the room, and moving my dresser to another corner made for a wonderful break in the motonony of life.

I'm not sure I'll love this format, so I may change it again...but I'm just trying something new today. Hope you enjoy it. I've added a few extra graphics to the site and some new links and a verse of the day feature.

Blessings in Him!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Nothing of note today...

Feeling the need to update my blog, but not feeling particularly inspired today, I thought I would simply post a link to a couple of blogs that I read occasionally. They both deal with a rather controversial guy named Mark Driscoll. I thought you might also want to read over their shoulders.


Adrian Warnock

I initally found out about this debate through my friend Barbara's Website

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Nautical Themes from the Bible

(inspired by the latest Poseidon movie)

I have yet to see the latest Poseidon movie (and probably won't see it...have very little interest and it's getting terrible reviews), but I thought I would take advantage of the recent interest to shift the topic over to my #1 interest which is...(yes, you guessed it) the Word of God.

The Bible often speaks to us in metaphors and imagery that we can understand. Jesus taught in parables and He often used everyday, ordinary objects to convey deeper spiritual truths.

Sometimes the Bible makes mention of a "shipwrecked" faith (we will look at this later, God willing). Today, we are going to look at one verse of scripture from the book of Hebrews. It is found in the second chapter:

Hebrews 2:1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. (NASB)

I don't often dive into the Greek language (forgive the water motif please) in my blog here, but I think it might be helpful in this instance. The Greek word (translated "slip" in the KJV and "drift away" in the NASB) is "Pararrhueo" (pronounced "par-ar-hroo-eh'-o"...try saying that three times as fast as you can). According to the Strong's concordance, it is defined in these terms:

1. to glide by: lest we be carried by, pass by
a. lest the salvation which these things heard show us how to obtain, slip away from us
b. a thing escapes me
c. slips my mind

The word used here appears nowhere else in the New Testament. Some commentators argue that the meaning should be "to run out as leaking vessels."

Later on in Hebrews we read about the hope of Jesus is like an "anchor of the soul" (Heb 6:19). Anchors keep us from drifting away from the place of safety. I ask you today, are you anchored in Christ? Are you trusting Him today and looking unto Him as the Author and Finisher of your faith? He is indeed the "Captain" of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10).

And His ship will never go down! Get on board now while you still can!!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Don't Just Stand There.....Get a Conviction!!!

Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. (NKJV)

Romans 14 is one of those chapters that every church should read through at least once a year. Statistics and experience teach us that most church splits do not take place because of major theological differences, but because of conflict over non-essentials where faith is concerned. It is easy to understand how first century Christianity might clash over some things. Those from a Jewish background carry with them a rich tradition-after all, they were the only nation to be given a law directly from God Himself. They were a peculiar people. They had wonderfully beautiful symbolic feasts and special days. The Gentiles on the other hand, felt no such compulsion to follow Jewish tradition as it related to eating meat and observance of days. Remember, this chapter is about meat, vegetables, drink, and days...non-essentials as far as faith is concerned. Paul told the Corinthians that "food does not commend us to God" (I Cor 8:8). We are not talking about "black and white issues in this context"- clearly we don't need to debate whether adultery, fornication, drunkeness, or idolatry are right for some and wrong for others.

In this chapter, both the weak and the strong are commended for their faith and the way that they honor God by their convictions (Romans 14:6). We should be careful not to characterize the "weak" brethren as the Judaizers (like those in Galatia) who insisted on faith plus circumcision. Paul sharply rebuked the Judaizers at every turn, so it is clear that he does not view the "weak" brother as one who is believes in salvation by works (despite the overactive conscience and numerous convictions they held to on non-essential elements). The weak brother honors God by his convictions- he does so out of a pure heart and desire to please God. He is "weak" in the sense of knowledge, not in the sense of faith. His lack of knowledge stems from an improper understanding of Creation. Paul wanted them to understand that food is not inherently good or evil (Romans 14:14) - because the "earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (Psalm 24:1/ I Cor 10:26).

I could say much more on this chapter, but let me quickly get to a point. Here we have these two "factions" in the church. Those who insist on eating vegetables and give special honor to certain days, and those who believe they can eat anything, and treat everyday as the day the Lord has made (I could really take a rabbit trail here, but I'm going to resist the temptation for now...). Now one might expect Paul to take an ecumenical stance and say "why can't we all just lay aside our differences." But interestingly, he says exactly the opposite- let every man be fully convinced/persuaded in his own mind. It is important that we know what we believe and why we believe it. It is important to understand our convictions and what we base them upon. He will later go on to say that is important because it can become an issue of sin (and spiritual life and death). I'm tempted to compose a sermon entitled "little things that send people to hell." Paul says that there are devastating consequences for the brother who violates his conviction (conscience) and for the one who coerces or tempts another to violate his (i.e. flaunting his freedom in front of a weaker brother).

So I want to encourage you today and echo the words of Paul- get fully convinced of what you believe. I find this topic so fascinating, I may continue in later blogs (Lord willing) to unpack this topic.

Feel free to add your comments

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Sentence of Death

II Corinthians 1:9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, (NKJV)

If you know anything about the life of Paul, you know that he never had to go looking for trouble- trouble had a way of finding him. Maybe you feel the same way. Indeed, if you are a true Christian, then you know full well that the enemy is always out to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

Sometimes the trials of life can become so severe that we feel as if a death sentence is hovering over us. It can feel so overwhelming that even the strength to pray seems to escape us. In these times especially, we must learn not to trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead! Our God specializes in the "hard cases." There was a gospel song written and recorded a few years back entitled "God likes to work when nothing else will." This is a truthful situation. Think back to Lazarus for a moment- four days in the grave and yet one word from the Master was all it took to bring him back to life.

There are times when God allows us to be in these places. It is not that God wants to exact extraordinary punishment and affliction upon us. It is the trying of our faith that is more precious than gold. In these dark hours, we learn that God is able even to raise the dead. I think we would all prefer to escape the fiery furnace, but there are indeed times when we must go in headfirst. We can rest assured though, that the fourth man will be in the furnace along side of us (Daniel 3:25). Paul had confidence that even though the sentence of death hung over him, that God would yet deliver him (II Cor 1:10). I want to encourage you today- you may feel as if the sentence of death is hanging over you like a black cloud- but our God is able to deliver you!

For Him- even death is no big deal!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Too Heavenly Minded?

Perhaps you've encountered this phrase at some point in your life...."They are so heavenly minded they're no earthly good." Usually it's because some Christian (or more likely someone posing as a Christian) has ventured into the land of the weird and absurd. The bible does say that Christians are "peculiar people" (Titus 2:14)...but this doesn't mean weird...just different. Far too often, I find that many Christians are "so earthly minded, they are no heavenly good." (Romans 8:6)

Yet another church term that is cliche' but far too accurate is "they have one foot in the church and one foot in the world." We cringe when we see people leading double lives. Many have foolishly bought into the lie that they can live for the world six days and serve God on Sundays (in a future blog I hope to dive into the dichotomy of the sacred and the secular that seems to permeate our lives...but for now I'll just whet your appetite). So enough of the negative- we've all seen too many people who are middle-of-the-road, riding the fence, lukewarm (tired of the cliche's yet?)......moving on....

Whereas many have one foot in the church and one in the world- Paul on the other hand...had one foot in heaven and the other on the earth. Notice his words to the Philippians:

Philippians 1:23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you (NKJV)

Paul's thoughts were occupied with the activities of heaven. His only reasoning for staying on earth was to help the churches and strengthen the believers (and of course preach the gospel to unbelievers). I dare say that most of Christendom today does not share Paul's enthusiasm for heaven. If asked if they would prefer to be with Christ and enjoy the glories of heaven or spend another day on the earth...most would choose the latter. Probably a great deal of that can be attributed to a lack of good sound teaching on Heaven and the Resurrection of believers. But despite the lack of teaching, I would say the biggest reason is that people are so distracted by the world and its system that they cannot fathom leaving. Much like Lot's wife- though promised an escape from Sodom- preferred the former things. Demas is yet another example of one who left Paul for the allure of the world.

The New Testament writers frequently warn of the dangers of worldliness (I John 2:15-17)- James even went so far as to say that those who love the world are enemies of God (James 4:4). Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I do realize and believe (and try to obey) that Jesus said we must "occupy" until He comes (Luke 19:13). Today's entry is not a plea for ease or laziness. On the contrary, we must work while we still can because the night is coming when no man can work (John 9:4). But in our walk and working here...let's not get too comfortable. After all, Peter says we are just strangers and pilgrims here (I Peter 2:11) and the writer of Hebrews says that here we have no continuing city (Hebrews 13:14) but we seek one to come!

Can you say like Paul that you are torn? Or are you comfortable in this present world?

Monday, May 01, 2006

What does it smell like to you?

II Corinthians 2:15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life And who is adequate for these things? (NASB)

It's funny how different aromas cause different feelings to arise in different people. I love the smell of coffee brewing. I usually drink a couple of cups of Maxwell House Lite (half the caffeine) each morning. When I smell that coffee brewing, it makes me feel wonderful inside. My wife, however......hates both the taste AND smell of coffee. What seems so wonderful to me, smells absolutely dreadful to her. The Gospel has a similar "polarizing" effect on people.

To those of us who are being saved, it is indeed a wonderfully sweet smelling perfume or cologne. To those who reject the message of God's grace, it is indeed a stench in their nostrils...the very scent of death. It is a constant reminder that death and hell await the unrepentant. In this particular passage of scripture, Paul draws on the imagery of a victory processional. Those who triumphed in battle would often march their captives to the slaughter. As they marched there would be incense offered up to their pagan gods. To the victor of course, this would be the smell of victory.....to the captive...the smell of impending death.

The gospel is indeed a "life and death" matter. That's why Paul says "and who is adequate for these things?" As a minister of the gospel, I certainly don't feel worthy enough to be entrusted with such grave responsibilities as preaching for the souls of men. And yet God has entrusted the message of Heaven and Hell to earthen vessels like you and I. Don't be surprised if some people think your message stinks....it's because it is a reminder of the "second death" that awaits the sinner.