Memory Lane

Memory Lane

 

I sit gazing at pictures.

Pictures of my life

Like my first steps.

Or perhaps my first love.

I think to myself, those were the good ole days.

These pictures progress on over my mind.

I close the book.

I think of how far I’ve come…

 

I realize now what I once had,

What ever happened to those good ole days?

When life was simple and enjoyable?

The world could benefit from a trip down memory lane.

 

A TBT-from the early 90s

 

For God So Loved…May 29, 2014

For God So Loved…May 29, 2014

“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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” ~John 3:16-17

“For God so loved the world,” God so loved us (the world, or your name). Do you know that God loves the world and that part of that world is you and me? God loves us so much that “he gave.” He gave so deeply of himself, that he gave his one and only Son, not because he had to but because he so loved us.

Did I do anything to deserve God-loving me so, and giving so much? No not me! But “whosoever believeth in him should not perish.” Whosoever includes me, and if I then believe in the one and only Son of God I will not perish. If I believe in the one and only Son of God, I will not die, and if I don’t die then I will live.

It was because of God’s great love for us that he gave his only Son. It is hard sometimes to understand a love so great that would give so much. If we would only believe in him death is not the verdict or the end, but a passage way into eternal life. God loves us and desires for us to spend eternity with him that he was willing to send his Son to make it possible.

Talking about the gift of God’s Son and the cross, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor once said “what kind of man must I be for it to take that for my salvation?” So what kind of God is willing to let his Son come and die in our place, a God who loved us dearly?

Many people mistakenly think God wants to condemn the world. That God wants to punish the world. The plan all along is to provide his Son, the Way, the Truth, and the Life for us. I love the way The Message translation reads here, “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” John 3:17 MSG

God loves you and me, sent his Son to die for us, so that we could spend eternity with Him. I know of no greater love in the whole world.

God loves you, me, and the whole world, and that really is good news.

Unity and Peace in the Family-May 28, 2014

Unity and Peace in the Family

Galatians 6-May 28, 2014

If someone is caught in sin and you are a spiritual person you should try to restore them gently. The point of confronting sinners is that they be restored in their relationship with God and man, and not to shame or condemn. It should be our desire that our brother or sister is restored to a right relationship with God. Should we desire any less for our earthly brothers and sisters? If we knew an action that was being done by a brother or sister caused them to have a strained relationship with our father would we not want to lovingly confront and gently restore them, for the sake of their relationship to out father and our relationship to them.

We too must be careful not to be tempted or fall into pride. Instead we must be willing to love and serve one another, quick to forgive. It is in this type of restorative gentle confrontation that we are becoming more humble and like Christ. Anyone who thinks they have it all and have it all together, when they really don’t is only deceiving themselves and are in no position to help our brother and sister and certainly no position to judge them. We should bear one another’s burdens as much as possible, but also take personal responsibility for our actions too. It is way too easy to start sinning ourselves when we start blaming others.

Before you confront someone first see where your relationship is with God? Are we in a good place? We should be prepared that the outcome of any of these situations may be different from what we were expecting. In receiving the word we must also share the word. They are reminded that what we sow we also reap. No one plants pumpkins seeds and then when they have grown to maturity expect to find watermelons instead. If we sow or invest in the sinful nature, at maturity (harvest) we will reap destruction. Likewise the one who sows to please the Spirit, at maturity (harvest) will reap eternal life.

Do not grow weary of doing good because that investment in the good will yield a harvest if we do not quit too soon. As opportunity presents itself, do good to all people, and especially those that belong to the family of believers. So let your motivation for confrontation be pure and restorative. Do not sow seeds of hate and destruction by do right by them, so that they may be restored in a right relationship with their heavenly Father and we have gained back a brother or a sister.

Paul is getting personal. He is no longer dictating this letter to someone, but is writing in his own larger print. Paul goes back to the original point, the division over circumcision and the unity of the church. Paul states that those who want to make a good outward impression are trying to convince you to be circumcised. Paul then exposes the motivation that they themselves are circumcised is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.

Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to folly in the law with them so that these may boast about your flesh. There will always be people who will try to convince us to do things another way, whether it is the world’s way, the easy way, another religions way, our way, but there only one Way, Truth, and Life. Why not boast in Christ? Boast in the cross of the Lord. Paul said it was this same cross that was his death to the world and the world to him. The cross held so much value, it was worth Paul’s life and if he continued to live it was worth giving up the world.

It is not what is done to the body through outward signs that matters. What counts is new creation. The new creation of Christ living in us, but also the new creation of the body of Christ, although steeped in Jewish tradition Christ is ushering in the wholly and completely new creation. This is the church of Christ, the believers of the way. This is a way that leads to peace and mercy for those who have His. Collectively they suffer outwardly in this world but have peace that their suffering is not in vain, their Lord suffered too for our sakes, and there is more beyond that is worth the wait.

Paul contends that his body bears the marks of his willingness to suffer for Christ, and that no one should ask more through circumcision or otherwise. He pronounces the grave of Christ to be with they spirit, and he calls them brothers and calls them to agreement.

The Road Less Traveled…Is Not Taken Alone-May 25, 2014-Graduate Sunday

The Road Less Traveled…Is Not Taken Alone-May 25, 2014-Graduate Sunday

John 14: 15-21

When it comes to the time to recognize our graduates I also remember back now over 20 years ago and try to think of what those times were like for me. I remember the television show the X-files. This was a show about government conspiracy, unexplained phenomenon, and the possibility of the existence of aliens. It started to be more of a cult or niche program but began to gain a wider appeal. I do not personally believe in aliens, but the show I think gained appeal for those in my generation because of what it represented. In the opening to each show where a few interesting clips, it introduced you to the main characters, and then ended with this phrase, “The truth is out there.”

The truth is appealing. People want to know the truth. I am reminded of the scene from the movie A Few Good Men, when Tom Cruise’s character says, “I want the truth.” Jack Nicholson’s character responds, “The truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Sometimes people think that the truth is appalling and so they try to protect others from it. The truth is honest, the truth is appealing, because the truth will set us free. The reality is that the truth is out there (but it’s not aliens), and the truth is also in our hearts. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The truth is what we need to hear, and that truth is that we are not alone. We have a God who loves us, always has, and always will.

This message may seem to be directed at our graduates today, but truly these words are for the whole body because what they remind us of is that throughout life we will continue to go through seasons of change. It may be during those times that some will believe they are all alone and fall away from God, and others will run to God trusting, that the one who has always been can sustain us during times of change and transition. Change comes at all times in life. It could be the change of one school to another, transition to the workforce, leaving the workplace, losing a spouse, struggling with health, or dealing with family issues. There is no age limit to change in our lives, it is happening to us, and the greatest comfort we can have during those times is that we are not alone.

Some of the myths the world tries to tell us is that we are independent, we can do it alone, we can manage, we and our happiness is the highest authority. We will not get ahead by putting ourselves first. All of the biggest and lasting things in this world were larger contributions to society and man as a whole. People don’t seem to remember who won what championships but the people involved. We were created to be in relationship. Not long after the first human came on the scene God declared the first thing that was not good. It was not good for man to be alone. We were created to be in relationship with God and others.

The law and prophets are summed up in this love God and love others.

The good news of the gospel is that we are not alone, that God will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus declared that he is with us always even until the very end of the age. Jesus tells the disciples that they will not be alone so that he will send the Holy Spirit to be with them. They are never alone. We too are not alone. We have the Lord and we have one another. We are not called to be independent but were created to be interdependent.

He will never leave or forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

This is the great new of the gospel it starts with the relationship of God to man in the Garden.  It goes continues in God reaching out to man through Jesus Christ, then in the promise of the Holy Spirit, and lastly in Christ’s return in Revelation “behold the dwelling place of God is with man.”  We are not alone and have never been alone.  He is not a nagging God but an abiding God.  This is what the world struggling through change needs to know that God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is with them and for them.

Freedom and Life- May 21, 2014

Freedom and Life- May 21, 2014

Galatians 5

Christ set us free that we might have freedom in and because of Him. Paul instructs the church at Galatia, since you have been given this freedom stand firm in it and don’t let yourselves become slaves again. Slavery is an unjust burden, why would anyone choose it? Paul takes it a step further and tells them, if they let themselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to them. I personally would also reverse that too; if you have all you need in Christ why cut yourself? It would be like saying we can treat something with antibiotics but the patient still says, “No, why take my chances just go ahead and cut my hand off too.” Who would do this and what would the value be?

Paul states that to live one part of the law makes them obligated to the law, the whole law. The ones who are trying to justify themselves under that very law, and in so doing takes us away from Christ. It is in faith that we eagerly await instead of trying to do something. We wait for the righteousness that comes through the Spirit. For in Christ if someone was circumcised or not doesn’t matter, it has no value. The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love. Faith is all that matters.

Paul tells them, you were doing so good trusting God by putting your faith in Christ so what stopped you? Who cut in on you and tried to keep you from pursuing the truth? Because if it was not God telling you to do something different, then don’t. If God says His Son is enough, the he most certainly is enough. God would not work against himself by calling you and then trying to stop you from following Him that is foolishness.

Paul then speaks of the yeast being little works through a whole batch of dough. It often doesn’t take a lot to mess things up. That whoever is trying to divert you away from the Lord in the name of religion will certainly pay the penalty for either keeping or confusing others as they put their faith in Christ.

Paul explains he is not being persecuted for preaching circumcision but the truth of the cross of Christ. There were people while Paul was away trying to tell the church that Paul supported and was preaching circumcision. The people seeking to convince the church where ok with the Jesus, they just wanted Jesus and this too. Paul said if it bothers them so bad and they are obsessed with circumcision, let them leave them people alone and castrate themselves. This is extremely strong language that Paul uses to make clear only faith in Jesus Christ is going to justify us before God.

You are called to be free, but don’t let your freedom become an excuse, but rather a responsibility to serve one another in love. You say you love the law but the law is summed up as “love your neighbor as yourself.” A house divided cannot stand. If you keep eating one another alive you will have completely been destroyed by each other.

Live by the Spirit and you will not live by the natural sinful desires. What the sinful nature desires is contrary to the Spirit and vice versa. They are in conflict so that we do not do what we want. Being led by the Spirit mean we are not under the law. Paul goes on to list several things but the idea here is that these things gratify our own desires, wants, and sinful nature. They pull us away from God and thinking if it feels good and I want to or it benefits me then I should do it. It is instructed that those who live life for themselves will not inherit the kingdom of God, and remain under the penalty of the law.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is not fruit from a young plant but by a mature one. These “fruits” of the Spirit increase as one matures in Christ. Paul goes on to say, “Against such things there is no law.” There is no law against these wonderful fruits, others may persecute you because they recognize their own place before the law and your life is a reminder of that. There is no law against these fruit.

Those that belong to Christ have crucified our nature and desire to take on the likeness and embody the presence of Christ. Since we live by the Spirit, don’t lag behind in following but keep in step with the Spirit. Don’t try to walk our own paths or go back to the former ways whether as ones horribly lost to sin or those under the burden of the law. Keeping in step with the Spirit will keep us together with one another. Since it is the leading of the Spirit let us not think we are better than our brother, or egg our brother on, or envy them in any way. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Road Less Traveled…Directed By God-May 18, 2014

The Road Less Traveled…Directed By God-May 18, 2014

Acts 8:24-40

The word angel literally means messenger, and so Philip is told to “God south to the road (the one in the desert) the one that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

How do we respond to what the Lord is asking us to do? Many would respond saying, “we would act or do what God wanted us to do if he would tell us His plan. Did you catch that? People would respond if they knew God’s plan. Knowing God plan is different from responding to His voice, His command, His Word, and His will. Sometimes it can be difficult to hear the God through the clutter of our world and the busyness of our lives. Although we may want to know the plans of God but God doesn’t not have to discuss those plans with us.   Scripture says, “for I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you.” It is faith to move on the Word of God even before (if ever) we know the purpose of God for that action. The true purpose may not be understood at this time or in our lifetime.

Many Christians do not act for fear that they may fail. Frances Chan once said, “our greatest fear should not be failing, but rather succeeding at the things that don’t really matter.” Are we keeping the main thing the main thing? Often times we think that God has called us to be successful but that is not always true. God first calls us to be faithful not successful. Faithfulness will challenge our views of success, because too often we assume we know the plans of God.

God is calling us to do a particular task, mission, or ministry and that may only be for a season or a particular number of years or a generation. God called us to the “this!” Does our infinitely creative God stop calling us to “be” and to “do?” We as a church exist to worship, to honor, to glory, to celebrate, to humble ourselves, to give us our ways for the one who is the way, the truth, and the life. In doing so we forfeit our right to say things like “well we’ve never done it like that before,” or “that’s just who we are.” No we “are” who God called us to “be.” God can certainly call us to abandon one task for a new task without having to reveal His plans our purposes to us.

Back to Philip, he is told to go south to a road in the desert. He is not told why or for what purpose, and amazingly he just gets up and goes. Philip doesn’t argue, question, or lag behind he just gets up and gets after doing the will of God by responding to the Word of God. He got up and went and God would greatly us Philip’s obedience for His glory.

Philip meets an important official, the treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopia. He was the chief financial person for Ethiopia. After saying these things about who he is, the most important thing we learn is where he is coming from. He is coming from worshiping in Jerusalem. It is in worship that we acknowledge God and prepare our hearts to hear His voice and respond to His will.

Philip heard a direct word from God and responded; the Eunuch was reading the word of God from the prophet and was trying to understand it. His heart was opened to respond he just needed someone to reveal the Word in the word. When the truth of God was revealed the Eunuch responded. When our hearts are opened we can better hear the word of God and respond to it in faith.

Then the Spirit of God tells Philip to “go to that chariot and stand near it.” Again Philip could have tried to ask why, and then try to evaluate either the importance or motive of God. Philip could have had a more basic fear…the Spirit just asked him to go walk beside a motorcade. This is a high-ranking money official of a foreign government, and God wants Philip to go up to this group. Philip doesn’t just go, he runs up on it, and when he gets there he hears a man reading from Isaiah. Philip takes the opportunity to ask the man if he understands what he is reading. Do we understand what we are reading when we read the Bible? The quick answer might be yes, but the thoughtful answer may reveal more. Do we read to understand and be changed or do we read to finish? When we read to finish we are not reading to learn, to be edified, to discover the heart of God, or to seek His will but as an “end” in and of itself. Reading to finish as if it is a competition or worse an obligation gives the task more significance than the life change that could happen because of reading thoughtfully.

The Eunuch doesn’t understand what he is reading but is willing to learn. He reads a prophecy of Jesus and asks. “Please tell me is the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” Philip begins where the man was at in both his place and understanding and told him the good news about Jesus. When we respond to God in faithfulness and keep our eyes open to see where people are and meet them there with the good news of Jesus then God’s will is being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a divine appointment.

The Eunuch responds to the good news of the message of Jesus Christ. It is interesting that the very Prophet he was reading from was the one who was faithful to preach the message of God for over forty years and was not successful in his lifetime. God’s plan was bigger than Isaiah’s lifetime. His plan is also bigger and more perfect than your or mine. God doesn’t call us to understand, but to be faithful. Jesus didn’t call us for a consultation, he calls us to come and follow him.

The Eunuch’s response was immediate. Stop the chariots, I want this Jesus, I want to be baptized. Amazing things happen in our lives and others when we follow Jesus. To follow Jesus means we may have to give up our plans and assumptions about who He is and what He wants us to do, to respond to His calling upon our life and church today.

Children of Promise-May 14, 2014

Children of Promise-May 14, 2014

Galatians 4

While the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. Paul said this because the child is under guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. The father has provided the inheritance through his promise and unlike the slave they will receive an inheritance at the proper time. Paul uses this illustration to describe the believer’s relationship with the law.

Paul says, “When we were children” Paul could be speaking figuratively as well as literally. He could be speaking of the “children of Abraham” the Jewish community who had become followers in the way or literally children. What Paul does say is that we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had come God sent His Son into the world and under that saw law that held us prisoner and made us slaves. He was sent to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Sons are the heirs not slaves, and because we are sons, the Spirit of his Son is in our hearts and we are no longer slaves but a son and an heir.

When we did not know God we were slaves. Now we know and are known by God. If we continue to keep our eyes on the things and principles of this world they will make us slaves again. In this letter Paul is again confront those who were free in Christ but continued to insist on the ways of the old law such as circumcision.

Paul appeals to his own experience with the Galatia church at an earlier time. He talks about how well the people welcomed, received, and treated him as they would have Christ. Paul is concerned that this once welcoming, self-sacrificing group has now become bitter. There are folks trying to pull them away and use that same energy that they once had for the gospel for their own purposes. It is ok to be zealous as long as that zeal is directed for good and not just while certain people are watching but all the time. Paul describes himself as trying to birth them all over again in Christ, and is confused why they would want to do anything other than follow Christ.

Paul goes back to Abraham as an example the child born to the slave women was born the ordinary way, but the son of the free woman was born as the result of a promise. Figuratively, these women represent two covenants. Once from Sinai and bears children that are slaves, and the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is the mother of the promise. Those born of Christ (from above) are children of the promise. The son born of ordinary power will persecute the son born of the power of the Spirit, and that was no different in Paul’s time or now.

The Scripture says, “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” We are children of the free.