Monday, February 28, 2011

Hampered Fellowship with God

Yesterday, I was preaching on the need for consistent fellowship with God. I only had a few minutes to finish up and was not able to go into detail on what can cause our fellowship with God to be less than what God desires and we need. So here it is...

Fellowship with God is hampered when…
1. We are not thankful
When you see God the way Scriptures reveals Him and the benefits He provides His people, it is easy to give thanks at all times.
Psalm 100:3–5 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We are His. He has made us.
We are His. He is our Shepherd.
We are His. We can enter His house and praise Him.
We are His. He loves us forever.

2. We are not mindful of God’s presence
When we understand the omniscience and omnipresence of God as Scripture reveals, we will never feel alone. We will know that God is with us. There is no where we can go where God will not be present with us.
Psalm 139:8–10 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

3. We are not fulfilling our commitments to God
When we understand the plan of God given to us in God's Word and live it, we gain a blessing and a sense of God's powerful hand at work in us, through us, and around us. It is in obedience that we put ourselves in a blessable position.
Psalm 1:1–3 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

4. We are not right with other believers
When we live as one united people under Christ as commanded in the Bible, we enjoy the encouragement of God and one another.
Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

God is glorified in the love His people give to one another. It is in the act of forgiving and forging ahead united in Christ that the Gospel is revealed to be real in our lives.

If we live in a constant state of prayer asking God to enable us to do these things, we will discover a deeper fellowship with God and the joy of the Lord will be our strength.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Can Do It!

I find myself saying this a lot these days. My older children have just finished their basketball seasons and one of my encouragements to them and their teammates has been, "you can do it!" I tell them this when they complain about how tired they are, how good the other team is, or how poorly they feel they are doing.

God says something similar to us in His Word...
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God makes it clear that there is nothing that will come at us today that we can't handle with Him. We can do it by faith in Christ as we live lives surrendered to the power and might of our God.
Henry Blackaby writes...
It is marvelously freeing to know that God controls your life and knows what it can become. Rather than constantly worrying about what you will face, your great challenge is to continually release every area of your life to God's control. The temptation will be to try to do by yourself what only God can do. Our assignment is to "abide in the vine" and to allow God to do in and through us what only He can do (John 15:5). Only God can be God. Allow Him to live out His divine life through you. He is the only One who can.

In Christ our lives are protected. We can do it in Him. He will do it through us.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where You Are & Where You're Going

We are getting new parking lot signs at the church. With the expansion of our facilities we have found that we need signage at the entrances to let people know where they are so they can determine the right direction to get where they want to go.

This is good information to know about your own spiritual life. It is very important that you have a firm grasp of where you are and where you are going. In a world of temptation, frustration, and contention it is easy to get off track and lose sight of where you are and where you want to be.

By Saturday I will have done three funerals in a weeks time. This may sound strange, but I enjoy funerals for the redeemed. I love thinking about where they are and what they are experiencing. It is a joy to be able to comfort grieving loved ones with the truth of the Gospel, the power of God's love, and the hope of heaven.

It is especially enjoyable to get to sit and talk with a family about their loved one that has passed away and hear their stories. People are fascinating and wonderful and God is so good and gracious. So many good things happen in life and we often forget that. Even painful dark days gain greater meaning and significance in light of eternity.

Those that live lives in confident assurance of their faith in Christ and seek to show the love of God to others to the best of their ability leave an amazing legacy. In their living years they know and their loved ones know where they are spiritually. When they pass on and stand before God to give an account of their lives, their loved ones know where they are going.

Knowing where you are and where you are going is not only important for you, it also provides a road map for those you love to follow. A life lived in the grace of God gives peace to those who love you, when you pass away.

If you are lost, cry out to God and look to Christ for salvation. If you have gotten off of the narrow path, return to the God of your salvation. Let your family and friends know where you are and where you are going. It will serve you and them well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Lone Rangers...

So many younger men don't know who the Lone Ranger is, but I think everybody gets the concept. It is a hero that can stand alone and fight off evil. But everyone who knows the show knows the reality... The Long Ranger was not alone. He had Tonto.

The Lone Ranger concept is a myth at best, but really more of a lie. God did not make us to be in isolation. He made us to live in community. God is community. He is three in one. He is One bound in love and holiness as Father, Son and Spirit.

God made us to be in community with Him. That community was also meant to expand to our human connections. God made us for Himself and called us to be His gathered people. What unites us is Him. The key is Jesus and the outcome is community.

I praise God that I have a wife that I love and can count on through thick and thin. I praise God that I have men that I can call on at any time and know that they will be there for me. I praise God that I am a part of a local church that teaches and lives out God's command to live in loving relationships with one another.

Right now there are a couple of men that are on my mind all of the time. They are dealing with serious pain. The sadness that I have in seeing them go through this pain is alleviated by the joy they receive from being with the band of brothers each of these men has around them. They are not walking through the valley of the shadow of death alone. They have Christ and Christ has given them brothers.

We all need a circle of people that we can call on and count on and that can call on and count on us. Yes, it is not always neat and pretty. Relationships are messy, but they are necessary. God in His grace has given us the tools in the Gospel to successfully navigate through the difficulties that relationships can bring so that we can experience the blessing of being in a committed Christian family.

Do you have a family of faith? Within that family of faith do you have a circle of people you are devoted to? We all need the love and support of others and others need our love and support.

Friday, February 11, 2011

He Gets It

As a pastor, there is nothing quite as enjoyable as seeing someone "get it." There is a moment when a Word is delivered, a circumstance comes, or an inspired moment happens and the lights come on. Their life is changed. Jesus makes sense and they are renewed.

This is one of those moments for Judah...
Genesis 44:33–34 (ESV) Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”

Judah was not always a good man, but this was his moment and in his moment he took his stand. Like Jesus, he was unwilling to go back to his father without his father's love (captured son Benjamin) even though it would probably cost him his life. Jesus was not willing to abandon the cross. Instead, Jesus took our place and became our penal substitutionary atonement (see also). Jesus rescued us and Judah rescued Benjamin. Judah finally got that it is better to give your life for love of others than to live for self.

Judah's decision to sacrifice himself led to God's blessing on his life...
"Though reckless in his behavior with Tamar (Gn 38:6–30), Judah showed firm resolve in taking personal responsibility for Benjamin’s safety in Egypt and acting as intercessor for his brothers before Joseph (Gn 44:14–18). At the time of Jacob’s blessing Judah was granted the birthright privileges of the firstborn; the leadership of Jacob’s family would come through Judah’s seed, as would the promised Messiah of Abraham’s covenant (Gn 49:8–12). Later, Judah’s house was praised at the time of Ruth’s engagement to Boaz (Ru 4:12), and both the Davidic line of kings (1 Chr 2:1–16; 3) and Jesus Christ’s ancestors (Mt 1:2, 3; KJV Judas; Lk 3:33; KJV Juda) traced their descent from Judah." Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988), 1227-28.

How can you be like Jesus today? What can you give up to serve your Heavenly Father?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

So Many Surprises

I am not big on surprises. I like the illusion that I am somehow in control of what happens. The reality is that life is full of surprises and none of us is really in control. God is sovereign and we are responsible. That means that God has a plan and a will to accomplish His specific purpose. We are responsible for how we respond and live under God’s sovereign care and power. You either fight against Him or simply submit to Him.

This morning I woke up to see our city blanketed in snow. I didn’t see that coming and I don’t think the forecasters did either. But here we are under what appears to be one of the biggest snows in years.

God knew this was going to happen. Some are happy. Most are concerned about the kids missing so much school. In it there are blessings and problems, but what matters most is God’s will in it. What does God have for us that are under four inches of snow today? What does He want to reveal to us about Himself and His love? How does He want us to grow in our faith through this?

Everybody is going through something, but I am thankful God has a plan for it all. There are families in hospitals, hospice, and facing hard painful decisions today. No matter what, we can know that God loves us and desires to grow us and bless us through the good and the tough times. We need only call out to Him, trust in His Word, and live lovingly under His leadership in grace.

Psalm 103:15–18 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Until It's Your Faith Challenged...

Genesis 42:35–36 (ESV) As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.”

It's easy for us to look back and know that Jacob had nothing to worry about. His favored son was behind what was causing His fear. But for Jacob, in that moment, he didn't know what was coming next and his faith was challenged.

It's easy when it's not our child, our job, our health, or our responsibility to think, "oh, they just need to trust God." It is easy to trust God. It's hard to live through the pain that God allows.

The Lord always strengthens His children with joy (Nehmiah 8:10). But joy does not always occur in happiness or good times. Joy is often felt best when things are at their worst.

This is why we need brothers and sisters that can comfort and encourage us. If this is a good time in your life, be faithful to God and build your faith in preparation for the hard days ahead. And while things are good, reach out to those that are struggling. Pray for them often, let them know you care, and give this some time and attention. They need you and one day, you will need them.

In Christ we are a family and as the children of God we need to stand with those who face faith challenges today.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

God's Will & Timing

This morning my mind is on a young couple dealing with heart ache, a servant of Christ in the hospital, lots men looking for work, several friends fighting off cancer, and a young person sidelined with a knee injury. I am praying for them and asking God to give them peace, hope, and confidence in this difficult season.

When it comes to unplanned unwanted circumstances, I believe the best and right thing to do is to look for God. He is there. Nothing surprises to Him.

It is one thing when we sin or someone's sin causes consequences on our lives. That happens and we have to deal with the pain and difficulty of the cause and effect impact of sin.

When it is clear that the circumstance we are in is bigger than the mere actions of humanity or even in the give and take of human frailty, seeking God's face is so very important. God works all things for good for those that love Him that have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) and God knows the plans He has for His people - plans to give hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Based on these facts the best thing any of us can do during dark days is...

1. Pray and ask God to allow you to join Him in what He is doing.
2. Trust that God has gone before you and is at work to guide you according to His perfect will.
3. Live on mission in the moment. You may not be able to comprehend what God is up to. If that is the case, simply living on mission and sharing and showing the love of Christ according to the Gospel will enable you to serve God's purpose even when you don't know what it is.
4. Get other brothers and sisters to pray for you and encourage you. Let them know your hurt, fear, anger, or confusion and allow them to seek God's face with you. Sometimes we need God's Word delivered to us through His body of believers to really perceive the truth.

God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We are His adopted children that we can cry out to (Romans 8:14-17). He understands what we are going through having been through a human existence on this sinful rock (Hebrews 4:15-16). We can know God is with us, at work, and in control.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Adjusted to Our Blessings?

I so appreciated Dr. Russell Moore's ministry to Living Hope yesterday. He preached three times on what it means to be a child of God from Rom 8:14-17 and then spoke again at a luncheon for our Orphan Care Ministry where over 200 people attended to learn how they can pray, partner, and pursue caring for the needs of the fatherless. I am sure he slept well last night.

Yesterday, during his sermon, Dr. Moore posed this question to us: Have we become adjusted to our blessings? He asked the question in light of the missional demand of James 1:27 (ESV) "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." He pointed out that the reason most Christians do not heed the call to care for the fatherless and forgotten is because it is inconvenient.

Most people want to love the poor, the family, and the hurting, but when it comes down to doing it, many excuse themselves. The fact of the matter is that loving people is messy. When life gets messy, most people excuse themselves because most of us have adjusted to our blessings.

We have gotten used to the fact that we can pay our bills, live healthy lives, enjoy hobbies and time with friends and family, and still have energy to complain. Even when life hits us hard, most people have comforts that 96% of the rest of the world knows nothing about.

When it comes to serving the Kingdom cause of Christ, God's people will have to be like Christ and abandon our comforts and show care and concern for difficult people in tough circumstances.

And when we do that, we should not be surprised by those that seek to dissuade us from our God-given tasks. Most of the time it will be those that despise us the most and those that love us the most. That was what happened in Nehemiah...
Nehemiah 4:10–12 (ESV) In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.”

In verse 10 it is Judah, the tribe of the King that is saying that the work must not go forward.
In verse 11 as expected, the enemies of God's people that threaten them and discourage them from doing God's work.
In verse 12 it is their family saying that they needed to come back home and give up the cause.

I am going to work hard to stay uncomfortable for Christ and pray that God will allow me to encourage my children to sacrifice and serve God's purpose for their lives even though it will be painful and may come at a great cost. My prayer is that I and those I love will see the privilege and blessing of living on mission for God. Philippians 1:29(ESV) "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who You Belong To

Romans 6:16–18 (ESV) Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Last week I read John MacArthur's book Slave. I highly recommend it. The insights and the depth of research provided inspiration to me in my walk with Christ.

There is a tendency in me to make things complicated. What I love about being a slave to Christ is the simplicity of it.

MacArthur points out in His book, "The life of a slave in New Testament times may have been difficult, but it was relatively simple. Slaves had only one primary concern: to carry out the will of the master. In areas where they were given direct commands, they were required to obey. In areas where no direct command was given, they were to find ways to please the master as best they could."

My goal in life is to obey my Master and to please Him in all I do.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I'm not saying I am in great shape because I'm not. I'm not saying that I'm thin because I need to lose weight. I'm not saying that my diet is what it ought to be because I am a Southerner and required to eat fried foods, sweet tea, and I believe a certain amount M&Ms. BUT, I do believe I am healthy.

No, I'm not going to be featured on a fitness drink ad with this figure, but my doctor told me when I was 25 that some people are race horses and some people are like me, a mule;D For a mule, I'm healthy.

We love to make comparisons in North America. We are told by people all of the time what we are supposed to look like, what we should own, and how well we should be liked. The fact of the matter is that each one of us is unique and has a specific purpose for which God has called us. God's desire is that we be who He created us to be to the best of our ability. That does not mean that we get complacent, but we do need to be careful that we avoid the comparison games that lead to idolatry.

The same is true of families, businesses, churches, and fellowship groups. Each one is unique and has specific gifts and abilities. There is not one standard by which all things can be judged except Christ and His Word. In Scripture we find God using all kinds of people and groups for certain purposes. Bigger is not always better. Smaller is not always smarter. One's good may be another's best, but what really matters is what God thinks.

I spoke to a sweet saint yesterday that is about to meet the Lord soon. As we talked about her life and legacy, I encouraged her with the fact that very soon she will hear the Lord say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." She teared up and said, "That is all I ever hoped for. Do you really think God will say that to me." I assured her that her faithful service to our King and humble heart gives God glory and that He will surely say that to her.

There is nothing better to live for than to hear those words from Jesus... "well done." That is a healthy life. That is the goal.