Are You A King?-Nov. 25, 2012

Are You A King?-November 25, 2012

Scripture:  Matthew 21:1-13, John 18:33-38

The story of The Prince and the Pauper is one of roll change and walking a few steps in the shoes of another person.  During our children’s message we spent time seeing about the different hats one might try to put on but there was no crown in that bag.  There is really only one crown and only one worthy to be called the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and that is Jesus Christ.  All to often though we seem to try to take up that crown and dictate to God what we would do and how we would like for Him to act in a situation or on our behalf.  We have no right to do that for He is our King.

It is easier to desire Jesus as Savior than to honor Him as King.  Accepting the benefits and even willing to celebrate Him as King, without honoring Him with our service.  Obedience may require a sacrifice.  As Jesus moves toward the final hours of His life, He is fulfilling scripture by the way in which He is entering Jerusalem.  The crowds begin to lay their coats on the animals and then on the ground, along with branches so that not even the feet of the animals would touch the ground.  As the fervor begins to increase in this parade of sorts, the excitement is heard before the arrival.  When He entered the city, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”  Like hymn of our day, asks the question “What Child Is This?”  the answer is the same, King Jesus.  The Magi of old came to worship Him as a newborn king, and now the people of the time are giving Him the celebration of a King.  Jesus then does not go to the seat of government but to the temple, and began to overturn the money changers tables.  Condemning those who would try to sell God for profit.

He was not like king of this world.  Kings of this world would try to use their power, might, and even the lives of their servants to bring about their honor and glory.  This is not a battle of flesh and blood but eternity is at stake.  Much like how we can not put on the crown of the King of Kings, He did set aside His former glory to enter this world and live as a holy, blameless, perfect Son of God, and then died in our place that we could be saved.  The King sacrificed Himself for the good of His people.  Wow, what a thought.  He is worthy of our honor, our praise, our worship, our sacrifice, and our obedience.  While we still try to pick up the crown He laid it aside temporarily for us and we must exalt Him as King and honor Him with our obedience.

Pilate asks if Jesus is the King of the Jews, and Jesus responds with a question.  Basically, do you really want to know this or did others tell you about me?  Pilate tells Jesus that he is not a Jew, and it was Jesus’ own people who brought Him there and Pilate wants to know what Jesus has done.  Jesus jumps back to answer Pilate’s question,  My kingdom is not of this world, if so then my people would be fighting to prevent this from happening.  Oh, so you are a king?  Jesus answers you are correct in saying so, I was born to come into the world to bear witness to the truth, everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.  Pilate asks, “What is truth?”

My kingdom is not of this world or my people would do what all other kingdom’s people do, fight.  My kingdom will not happen that way, it has to be different.  Instead Jesus lays down His life for us.  The King died for me.  Bearing witness to the truth.  Jesus also said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father, except through me.”  Often we want a Savior and sometimes to celebrate Him as King but not as often to honor Him as King with our sacrificial obedience.

Contemporary Christian group Downhere in their song How Many Kings? captures some of the greatness of what has happened in Christ.  These are some of the lyrics:

How many kings step down from their thrones?  How many Lords have abandon their homes?  How many greats have become the least for me?  And how many gods have poured out their hearts, to romance a world that is torn all apart?  How many fathers gave up their sons for me?  Only One did that for me.

Let us close with the video featuring the famous sermon from S.M. Lockridge That’s My King!  Lockridge describes in detail so many of the wonderful qualities of Jesus, and he states several times, “that’s my king, I wonder do you know Him today?”  An honest word of testimony from one of God’s dear servants of the Word, and then the haunting question, I wonder do you know Him today?  He describes the wonderful kingly qualities of Christ, and asks do you know Him?  Many of us are will to accept some parts of Lockridge’s description but to honor Him as King encompasses all.  I wonder do you know Him today?

Learning to Be Content-Nov. 18, 2012

Learning to Be Content-November 18, 2012

Scripture: Luke 17:11-19, Philippians 4:6-20

In Luke’s gospel we find the story of the Ten Lepers Cleansed.  As Jesus entered the town the cried out to Him asking for mercy, and Jesus instructs them to “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  On the way to the priest who was the one who had to pronounce them clean, they were healed.  When one of these saw that he was healed he turned back glorifying God and fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and giving thanks.

By this point in time in Luke’s gospel we know that Jesus is God’s Son and He has power to work miracles and is a healer.  Given this knowledge it is not surprising that all the men were healed to me perhaps the surprising part is that only one came back to give thanks to Jesus.  If you think of the people in Jesus’ time and even today there are so many that forget the blessings of God.   In America we begin to think we are entitled and move further away from God.  Our churches are beginning to understand this as fewer and fewer come to church on a regular basis.  There may be far too many distractions, but even good distractions that take us away from God’s glory are harmful.

Jesus asks if the others were also healed, already knowing the answer, asks where are the other nine?  It may be easy to ask where the others are, but we must first remember the mercy of God upon us and give Him thanks and glory.  The only one the Samaritan could speak for was Himself, and the testimony of His act of obedience is recorded in scripture for all eternity.  Examine your heart and find each day there is much to be thankful for.

The Pharisees begin to question Jesus about when the kingdom of God was coming.  Jesus responds that it is not coming with visible signs, nor will it be in this place or that.  For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.  Jesus is speaking not of a physical reality as much as a spiritual one.  It requires faith to understand the kingdom of God.

Glory and thanksgiving to our God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  The kingdom is among us.

Paul’s words to the church at Philippi are to be anxious for nothing.  Trust God, pray, and give thanks.  Thanksgiving comes before the miracle.  God will then give us peace in our lives, not necessarily a changed situation.  Paul reminds the church to let our minds dwell on worthy things.  Now live it out in the presence of others.

Paul then says that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstances.  He lists the some of those circumstances, but I am drawn to his prayers concerning the “thorn in the flesh” after three times the Lord reminded Paul that His grace was sufficient, and that in our weakness God’s strength is perfect.  A daily reminder of the sufficient grace of Christ should bring all of us to a more thankful heart.  Will you then give thanks always and glorify God or will you be like the nine?  Will you be the one?  Learning contentment is the key to having a thankful heart.

Discipleship-Nov. 14, 2012

Discipleship-November 14, 2012

Matthew 28:16-20-The Great Commission reminds us of Jesus’ last words to His disciples then and now.  As you go into all the world we are to make disciples.  The verb is to make and we are to be making disciples, so the question then may be what does a disciple look like?  And if we don’t know how to be disciples ourselves it may be hard to make disciples.  Making disciples is much harder than making church membership, and here are a few basics that might help with our understanding of discipleship:

Abide In Christ.  Then God will help you grow as a Christian; but you must keep a close relationship with Him.  As a disciple you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and live daily for Christ (Luke 9:23).

Live in the Word.  You grow as you study the Bible regularly (I Peter 2:2).  Plan a daily time for reading the Bible and your will grow to maturity (2 Peter  3:18).

Pray in faith.  Prayer is worship and talking with God (John 15:7).  Your prayer delights God.  Talk to God throughout each day.  Believe God’s promises.  Prayer will help you gain strength and overcome temptation.

Fellowship with believers.  Christ wants you to fellowship regularly with your brothers and sisters in Christ in His church.  Your love for others will show that you are a disciple (follower) of Christ (I John 13:34-35).

Witness to others.  Tell others how came to know Christ (Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).  God is pleased when you bear fruit (John 15:8).  The greatest fruit is leading others to Christ.

Practice of faithful stewardship.  Giving helps keep your priorities in order.  Start systematically giving a portion of your income to Christ’s church (I Corinthians 16:2).  Practice giving to meet the needs of others (Luke 6:38).  You will reap joy as you sow (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

*Adaptation of Personal Counseling and Commitment Guide through Virginia Baptist Mission Board

300-Nov. 11, 2012

300-November 11, 2012

Judges 6:11-17; 7

The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”  Gideon’s response is if the Lord is with us why then has all this happened to us?  Have you ever also felt this way?  If God is around why do these bad things happen?  Where are His miracles?  The Lord’s response is I am here and now I am sending you to help solve this problem.  I choose you.  Perhaps sometimes when things don’t get better for us in our little part of the world, it may be because we are resisting what God is trying to do in and through us.  Gideon’s response is I am a nobody, isn’t there someone more important for this task?  The Lord tells Gideon that He will be with Gideon and the Midian will be defeated.

The appearing of the messenger of the Lord sparked questions from Gideon and then excuses before He finally submitted to the will of the Lord.  Do we often look at similar obstacles, and question where God is in this and make excuses when God says ready or not I choose you.

Can you ever have too many when it comes to a battle?  Too many is what God tells Gideon.  At the first there were 32,000, and the Lord said there were too many, so the Lord told Gideon to let any of them go that were afraid.  Those that were afraid and left numbered 22,000.  The fighting force that Gideon had, was now cut by two-thirds, and the Lord said there were still too many.  The Lord instructed Gideon to have the men take a drink and depending on the way the drank from the stream men were eliminated.  In that cut there were 9,700 men eliminated.  The grand total left was 300.  The Lord wanted the people to know without a doubt that it was not because of their work or the size of the fighting force but because God alone ruled the day as He does every day.

Gideon’s fears are calmed when God asks him to go down to the tents of the enemy and the enemy were already having dreams that they would be defeated by Gideon and his men.  Has God ever confirmed something special for you?  Sometimes we will have to trust that God is true to His Word and promise and other times like with Gideon and Thomas, we receive reassurance when needed.  In a mighty act of God He delivered Midian into the hands of Gideon and his 300 men.  What looks impossible to man is always possible for God.  Will you trust that there is no obstacle for God only the opportunity to reveal His glory if we will but only trust Him.

 

Revival Moments-Nov. 7, 2012

Revival Moments-November 7, 2012

This was a time of sharing about our recent revival, what God was trying to say to us through the revival and how we need to seek & trust Him more and to live our lives as the people of God in this place.  During this time of sharing several of our folks keyed in on difficult times in their lives.  Dr. Bert Browning was our revival speaker.  Bert was Pastor at Mentow during the early 1980’s.  Bert on one evening challenged our folks to think of perhaps the worst time in their lives and to know even out of that time hope in Christ, new life (revival) can come.

During our time of sharing several spoke more personally about their stories and how God continued to be present with them during those difficult times.  Some recalled difficult times in the life of the church, and God too is working to change hearts and lives.  It was a moment for me personally to listen and reflect on these people God has sent me to.  Reminding myself again it is truly the work of God that brings about life and not anything I can offer.

My moment in revival was the night Bert shared several questions with us.  Often times we grow more through the questions than in having all the answers.  Here are a few that still stay stuck in my mind…

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?  What does God do when you don’t know what to do?  Is anything too hard for God?  Why does God revive His people?  For a purpose, to be on mission for God.  Are you ready?  Many times we are not ready for what God wants to do.  Are you ready?  To be on mission for God we need to be prepared well, for anything God might want us to do?  The nature of God is He does things we don’t expect.  God is bigger than our definitions and also the nature of humans.

Can God do anything? Yes!  Through us? Yes! Are we ready?  May our answer be, Yes!

And The Walls Came Down-Nov. 4, 2012

And the Walls Came Down- November 4, 2012

Joshua 5:13-15; 6

This event in the life and story of Joshua is often referred to as the conquest of Jericho, and although in one sense that is true in a broader sense it was not about Joshua at all and more about what God wanted to do through Joshua.  In this second sermon in the series obstacles and opportunities we see the position that Joshua is in and often times we too feel like there is so much going on in our lives is insurmountable.  We may be tempted to ask as Joshua did are you for us or against us?  God in His power, mighty, knowledge, and will may have something else in mind to reveal His glory.  We often times reduce life to winners and losers, forgetting that the great story has to do with the revealing of God’s glory in, through, and even in spite of the circumstances  of life.

Joshua looks up and sees a man standing opposite him with his sword drawn in hand, and Joshua said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”  Many times in life we see an obstacle and wonder if this is a sign is God for us or against us?  Another familiar cry is why me?  Joshua is reminded as we are that there is something much greater.  He said, “No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.”  Joshua falls on his face and asks,  “What has my lord to say to his servant?”  Joshua recognizes there is more at work here, and he makes it personal by saying my lord bowing before him.  Joshua is then instructed to take off his sandals because the place where he is standing is holy.  This very phrase is meant to confirm Joshua as God’s successor to Moses.  In another sense it is to remind us that during difficult times and during times of confusion the presences of God is among us and the place is holy because of His presence.  Are we able to see the holy in the circumstances of life?

Joshua is told that the Lord has given Jericho into his hands.  Perhaps all Joshua saw was the walls, but the Lord was already making the way.  They were to march around the city once each day for six days and on the seventh day, march around seven times and the priests shall blow the trumpets, and the men shout a great shout the walls of the city fell flat.  The Ark of the Lord went with them.  After doing as God instructed on faith the walls came down and the men went in and destroyed the city.  Only Rehab who had hidden the spies and her family were spared.  God showed the great things because they trusted His plan.  The greatest loss of life in the ancient world was getting through or past the walls of a well fortified city, God took that obstacle away.

If you think about your own life, is there anything you have not trusted the Word of God on?  Is there something you know God wants to do in or through you but you can only see the obstacles?  Perhaps there are walls of pride, or past hurt in relationships, and God can remove those walls too.  God wants us to experience victory in Him as we live day-to-day.

Halloween-Oct. 31, 2012

Halloween-October 31, 2012

HALLOWEEN

In A.D. 835 Pope Gregory IV designated November 1st, as All Saints Day (the term Hallow refers to saints).  The eve before this, October 31st, was known as All Hallow’s Evening.  How did we get this condensed term “Halloween”?  Look at the phrase”All Hallow’s Evening.”  If we drop the word “all,” the “s” on Hallow’s and the “v” and “ing” on evening, the result spells Halloween.

It is mainly thought as coming to us from a group of people known as Druids.  The ancient Druids were a priestly caste of the Celtic religion.  The Druids practiced many beliefs dealing with the nature deities.  Some of the practice in dealing with nature is similar to that of the Native Americans.  Druids also believed in reincarnation, specifically the transmigration of the soul, which teaches that people are reborn into animals.  Stonehenge was possibly a druidic ruin.

This also was an important time for a pagan religion.  Pagan religions are those that deal with the nature.  These people would be concerned with the changing of the seasons.  The movement of nature and their place within nature.  The significance is that not long after October 31st, the harvest is finished and the plants go through a death process.

Samhain is likely the name of the Lord of the Dead in the Celtic Culture.  The Lord of that Dead on that last day of the year would gather the souls of the evil dead, and were condemned to enter the bodies of animals.(The good dead were reincarnated as human beings.)  Bonfires, sacrifices, and other things were done to appease Samhain.  In doing so the deity may allow these spirits to roam freely and have a few hours to commune with the living.    The bonfires, and other masks and such were used to scare away unwanted spirits, and rejuvenate the sun.

Jack-o-Lantern: Comes to us from Irish folklore, “Irish Jack” a drunk tricked the devil into climbing a tree to get an apple, as the devil climbed Jack carved a cross in the bottom of the tree to prevent him from coming down.  Jack made a deal with the devil not to come after his soul.  The devil agreed.  Jack eventually died but was denied getting into heaven because of his drunkenness.  When he went to hell the devil kept his word and sent him away.  As Jack was walking away the devil through a live coal at him which he put inside the turnip he had been eating.  Pumpkins eventually replaced the turnip because it was easier to symbolize the coal.  Jack was forced to wander until he found a place to rest.

It has also been associated with Satanism and other forms of the occult.  In many places there have been those that sought to pursue spirits for both gain personal gain and for evil.  There have been many horrible things done on this day in many cultures and traditions some not too far removed from our own.

Halloween is related both to ancient Celtic practice and the Catholic concept of purgatory.  Significantly, the Lutheran Church observes October 31, or the Sunday nearest it, as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  In Martin Luther’s time, the corrupt practice of buying indulgences for the dead “suffering in purgatory” was common.  Appropriately, in 1517, Luther nailed his 95 theses, which attacked the concept of selling indulgences, on the Castle Church door (in Wittenberg, Germany) on Halloween day itself.  There are other such traditions honoring All Saints Day on November 1.  Halloween, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day are days to concentrate on, in this order: sin, sanctification, and the dead.

The question for most Christians is, is it ok for Christians to participate in Halloween?  The Bible does not explicitly say not too, however, there may be reasons that we would not want to do so.  We may be unintentionally drawing honor to things that would dishonor God.  In this same manner we should be imitators of Christ and what He was about.  Although there may be scriptures that can be cited as reasons not to participate, however, let me suggest since none of them are explicit that we practice grace and freedom in areas where the Word is not specific.

In today’s time there may be those that still look back to this darker time and do many evil things in the name of this one day.  Evil is present and among us every day and we should be aware and denounce it when and where we do see it.  The Halloween of today that has small children dressing up, pretending, and using their imaginations is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is also an opportunity for communities to come together and not just through digital media or cell phone.  It is an opportunity to share what life is really all about and the redeeming power of Christ.  Ephesians 5:16 reminds us to redeem the time, because the days are evil.  Redeem, or reclaim the day as a day of and for the Lord.  This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

*Excerpts from Facts on Halloween, John Ankerberg and personal thought and reflection.