Monday, February 28, 2011

"Standing Ovation"

In the middle of the 20th century, a woman by the name of Shin'ichi Suzuki developed a philosophy geared to achieve high ability and beautiful character in children who want to play an instrument. Within the guidelines of a nurturing environment, the Suzuki method takes a child through small steps that allow for individual growth on their instrument of choice through immersion, encouragement, and an unforced timetable. Most often the Suzuki method is used with children who want to play the piano or violin. Now a world-famous approach, this method has helped thousands of children attain an advanced level of musical achievement.

For children who play the violin, the first two steps of the Suzuki method are ingenious. The first step is to learn the proper stance. Standing correctly is the basis for success for every violinist. I am reminded how the great basketball coach, John Wooden, routinely took his UCLA men's team through their first practice teaching them nothing more than how to wear their socks correctly and how to tie their shoes.

The second step in the Suzuki system for violin players, is to teach them how to bow. How many times have we gone to concerts and not known exactly when to applaud? When there is a pause, is the music over? Was a mistake made? Unless you are familiar with the music, you really don't know. So children in the Suzuki system are taught to stop and bow. The automatic response from the audience is always applause. This gives positive reinforcement to the performer and an opportunity for supporters to express their gratitude.

It occurs to me, that in the Lord's church we need these two principles. We first need to teach people how to stand in the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). If we stand correctly then everything else can also be done correctly and we will be pleasing to our heavenly Father. Second, we need to appreciate each other more. We should not have to wait for people to bow before we praise them. We need to exhort one another all of the time (Heb. 10:25). How important it is for every Christian to participate in edification! No Christian can ever be encouraged "too much" in matters that deal with the development of their faith.

I am interested in teaching my children to stand correctly. I am interested in applauding their efforts. I believe most parents are interested in these things. If we will apply these interests to the life of every child of God, our music will be more beautiful, our offering more sweet, and our lives more blessed.

"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification." ~ Romans 15:2

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chained to the Pulpit?

"...for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ" ~ 2 Cor. 10:14

In defending his ministry, Paul makes a point that every preacher should take to heart. He and his companions had traveled a long way to bring the gospel to people. They endured hardships, persecutions, and experienced diffculties that Christians today cannot even imagine. Read Paul's list of things he had suffered in order to help people come to Jesus (2 Cor. 11:23-28).

My question for you preachers out there is simple: When was the last time you took any risks to teach the Bible to anybody? I am sorry to have to say some of this, but many preachers need to hear it. I did not grow up in a culture of "pulpit ministers." I was raised in a area of our country where we were lucky to have one true church in a town of 50,000. Pulpit preaching alone just didn't cut it. The only way people came to Jesus Christ was when Jesus Christ came to them. Many preachers and Christians alike need to repent immediately and start beating the pavement.

Would you be ashamed if you had to honestly answer concerning how many Bible studies you have tried to set up in the last five years? If you are wondering why your ministry is suffering - check and see when you last changed your schedule or cancelled a hobby to study the Bible with someone. And shame on churches and their leaders for turning preachers into elders and deacons - who have to spend so much time shepherding and serving tables that they cannot focus on evagelism. Read Acts 6 and see if the apostles would ever allow people to be lost in order to make the church members happy.

We have oft ridiculed and chastised the denominational world for chaining the Bible to the pulpit. Certainly these accusations are warranted and documented. But at the same time, we need to look in the mirror. Many of us have also chained it. When the gospel rarely leaves our church buildings we need to rethink our plea. Or maybe we should consider whether or not we still have a plea.

I love the church. I love the leaders and I love every member. But I love the lost just as much. So I am going to continue to speak up on this issue. I will not allow my ministry to be limited to a pulpit. No preacher should ever live from Sunday to Sunday. May God help us to get down from the pulpit, and to get out of our offices, and take the gospel to a lost and dying world!

"For which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained." ~ 2 Tim. 2:9

Monday, February 21, 2011

Trouble in the "Audit"-orium

Have you ever audited a class? Have you ever audited a relationship with God? Seriously - there are too many people who are just filling a pew. Consider the danger you may be in spiritually if you are doing nothing more than sitting in the "audit-orium."

1. When auditing, you are not required to take any tests.

People who are not going to be tested are less likely to study. The reason many church members don't know the Bible anymore is because they are not being tested on its contents. If you share your faith, you will be tested. If you are tested, you will have to study and prepare. Tests are healthy and make for a stronger faith in Christ.

2. When auditing, you are not going to receive credit for taking the course.

You do get to listen, and you can learn some things, but at the end of the semester you are going to be in the same place as far as your degree in concerned. People who only sit in the auditorium and do nothing else are not making good progress. They may not even have any spiritual goals they have determined to meet, and so they end up wasting away.

3. When auditing, you are not accountable for your attendance.

The reason why assemblies fluctuate so much in attendance is because there are many people who are not invested deeply enough in their relationship with God. There has always been an attitude out there with some people that missing the assembly is no big deal. I am glad I do not understand that mentality. When we don't come to class, how can we expect to pass? It makes sense to link the level of our dedication with the probability of our being pleasing to the Lord.

4. When auditing, you don't receive a grade.

Maybe this is the main reason why people audit their religion. They may be afraid they are a C- Christian or worse. We need to remember that God is going to pay each and every faithful person the same wage. Yet some folks would rather not be graded at all. They would rather not hear how they are doing. The ultimate problem of course, is the fact that God IS going to judge our souls and either count us as His child, or as one who belongs to Satan.

Every time we come together as a church, we will gather in the auditorium as a family to worship God. What a wonderful opportunity! It is a place of love, fellowship, family, grace, peace, joy, and many other spiritual blessings. Let's not let the auditorium become the "audit"-orium. May God help us to be Christians who are fully dedicated to the Lord and His church!

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." ~ James 4:7

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Papa is Also My Hero

On February 27, 2011, my grandfather will preach his last regular Sunday morning lesson as an every Sunday gospel preacher. This post is dedicated to his 63 years of preaching and evangelism...I could write novels, but this will have to do today.

Those of us who are currently preaching or who plan to preach in our family can easily say that it is because of Papa Bill. I first remember going to Ramona, CA as a kid to see Grandma Barbara and Papa Bill. I remember their Christmas tree. I remember “storm the fort” in their yard. I remember playing football or basketball at their house. I remember 100 more other things (at least) about Ramona. I remember VBS there and helping my Papa lead the singing. That was the first time I ever remember doing anything in front of other people as far as church service goes.

I was so blessed to have my Papa as my preacher in Turlock. From age 12-20 he was the one I was able to learn from. I remember helping him with Bible drill. I remember how much I looked forward to his Bible class when he was teaching. I remember learning more in his Bible class than any other. I remember sound, loving lessons. I remember singing at weddings and funerals and learning how to conduct them by watching Papa. I remember his warm, comforting presence when people needed him.

I also remember church picnics, three-legged and sack races, softball games and tug-a-rope. Papa knows how to have fun with God’s people. I know his chuckle. I can see him putting his hand to his forehead because he missed a shot just barely. I can see him slapping his knee and laughing whenever he won. I think that everybody who had Papa as their preacher knew they were lucky. They knew what kind of man he was and still is. Preachers come and go, but Bible men who walk like Jesus are rare, even in the church.

If there is one thing above all in preaching I have learned from Papa, it is a love for souls. He has a passion for saving people – a love for the gospel that could seldom be matched by anyone. I have always understood what has driven him to work so hard for the kingdom – the Bible is too great a message not to share. I have always had the idea that what makes him wake up in the morning is the possibility of a new Bible study, or a new contact with someone who needed God and the church.

Some of my favorite moments include fishing trips, eating licorice in the car on long drives, singing with Papa and Grandma while cleaning the kitchen at the restaurant or while in the car, playing cards or dominos, ping-pong, watching sports with him on TV, going to games, golfing, and so much more. I remember once when he was in his 60’s he was conducting a Bible study at one home where there were two teenage boys. They were outside playing basketball as he was walking in. He took the ball at the 3-point line and made his first 18 shots in a row. Then he went inside and conducted the study. Papa is a good athlete!

How do you say in a few short words thank you for the man who is your hero? I could talk for hours about very vivid memories and the things I appreciate about him. There is nobody I know who I want to be like more than Bill Watts.

Today, my Papa still helps me even though we live across the U.S. from each other. As a preacher, there are a few things I want to make sure I do the way he has always done them. 1) I want to be humble. My Papa is the humblest preacher I have ever known. 2) I want to be loving and also sound. Papa has always told the truth in God’s word in a way people can know he loved them. 3) I want to be a soul-winner. I have always understood that the main thing Papa was trying to do was get people into heaven. All of the other things that come with preaching are just there so you can do the main work. 4) I want to be kind when mistreated. I have watched my Papa be so good to people who were determined to be his enemies. All I saw in his response was quiet compassion. 5) I want to live every day, like Jesus. Beyond everything else I see in my Papa Bill – I see Jesus. He is the most Christ-like man I have ever known.

There are going to be so many people in heaven because of Bill Watts. If you ask me, that is what defines a successful life. Every time I ever reach anybody, his hand is in it. He would only say that it was the work of God, and of course, as always he would be correct. So this man, who is not a “big name in the brotherhood” – is in my opinion, the greatest preacher I have ever known. He has lived the great commission. He has done so without ever neglecting his family. He has given us a living reflection of Jesus Christ. He has given me a walking, talking hero to emulate.

Papa, I hope you know just how much you have done, and how much you continue to do – for the world, for the church, for the family, and for me. Thank you for loving me the way every child dreams their grandfather would. Thank you for being my hero, just by being Papa Bill.

I love you more than words or deeds will ever tell.


"He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." ~ 1 John 2:6

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Makes it all Worth While

I received a card this week from a friend. I have received many cards over the years, and have appreciated every one. There have been thank you cards from funerals, visits, baptisms, and sermons. There have been birthday and anniversary cards, holiday wishes and more. At one time I counted over 2,000 get well cards I had received through my battle with cancer. I HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH CARDS! But I have never received a more meaningful card then the one I received this week.

Sometimes your life in preaching does not work out just like you had planned (welcome to life in general). We recently moved from our wonderful congregation in Lawrenceburg to another wonderful congregation in Cookeville. Anytime you leave one work to go to another - the hardest thing to leave behind is people! I am talking about relationships and dear friendships. The people you leave behind have become the most important people in your life.

Preachers have some special blessings that most elders will never experience. Because elders in the church do not shepherd enough as a whole, the blessings that come to shepherds are usually deferred to preachers. People that you have sat with in hospitals, or studied the Bible with into the late hours of the night...people you visited when they welcomed a new baby into their family - will appreciate you and love you in a special way. You baptized them. You conducted their family funerals. You married their children.

While there are times that elders have frustrated preachers because they were primarily "business meeting" elders, every preacher would also admit that they are thankful that people love them as their preacher in a special way for the shepherding they do.

The man who sent me the card is in his 80's. When I first came to town, this man had been worshiping in this congregation for 50+ years, but he had never obeyed the gospel. When his Christian wife contracted lung cancer, I began to spend a good bit of time with them. At the end of one visit, after we had prayed for her, I asked this man if there was anything I could do for him...He said, "Well, you can take me down to the church building and baptize me!" We could not get there fast enough! God had worked on his heart for many years. Preachers had come and gone and they had worked on his heart with the gospel message. His wife, through her silent but humble obedience to God's will, had worked on his heart by example.

I will never forget that day. I got to call his two Christian sons down to the building, so they could see their father, nearly 80, be baptized into Christ. They had to get over the shock first! But they were so thankful to God.

When the baptism was over we gathered to pray. His wife asked to be restored as well. I remember as he sat down on the front pew, he let out a loud sigh and his shoulders dropped about 2 inches. He said, "I should have done that a long time ago."

Within a year's time, his wife passed away from lung cancer. For the next 7 years I enjoyed being his preacher. He was always there. He was always happy. He was always singing!!! A simple and soft spoken man, he never communicated much. But I knew that we loved each other. And that was enough.

I left that congregation a few months ago. But he found my new address, and I received his card in the mail. Inside, the card had these words, written by the manufacturer:

"I always thank God for you..." ~ 1 Cor. 1:4. "I just got to thinking how blessed I am to have a friend like you. All the thoughtful, loving things you do mean more than words can say."

He did not write anything in the card himself. He just signed his name at the bottom. He didn't have to write anything. I understand exactly why he sent it.

You see, it does not matter how many times people ridicule you for what you preach. It does not matter how many times people question your activities or your motives. It does not matter how many false accusations may come. It does not matter that people sometimes misread you, misrepresent you, or misuse you.

All that matters, is that there will be people in heaven one day because you loved them enough to help them get there. The costs cannot be compared with what can be gained.

I have a special friend in Lawrenceburg, TN. We have touched each others' lives. God's providence brought us together. This is what makes life worth living. This is what makes everything I experience in ministry worth while.

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." ~ 1 John 4:11

Monday, February 14, 2011

"How Do I Get In?"

Everybody wants to know the answer to this question. Jesus was once asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). He responded, “…if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). Christ also said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

Robert Frost once wrote about two roads which diverged in a yellow wood. He knew he had to make a choice to take only one. He concluded:

I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

The direction the Son of God gave mankind also deals with a road less traveled. It is a road of compassion, forgiveness, righteousness, selflessness, obedience, sacrifice, and truth. It is a road of kindness, gentleness, patience, temperance, fruitfulness, faithfulness and hope.

The narrow road is the road the world refuses to take. It is not as appealing to the flesh as is the broad way. There are fewer companions who will walk with you. It is a longer journey. It is filled with obstacles. It is at times dark and lonely. But notice that Jesus still says, “Enter” by this road (Matt. 7:13).

Believe it or not, the greatest consolation to the decision one makes to take the road less traveled is not discovered at the end. Frost points out in his poem that it was not the final destination, but the experience found in the journey that changed his life. Jesus, as He lived on this earth, took the narrow road. When we choose to walk in the steps of Christ, not only do we purify ourselves through His sufferings, we become more like Him with every step we take.

So maybe the greatest question is not, “How do I get in?” Perhaps the better question – “Which way am I going?”

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and not be able” – (Luke 13:24).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Holding Back

When the church was just beginning, the sin of Ananias and Sapphira served as the ultimate object lesson about the need for faithfulness. Acts 5:1-11 tells all about their great lie. Peter said to Ananias, “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4). To Sapphira he replied, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the spirit of the Lord?” (Acts 5:9).

Actually, they had lied to men as well as God. They had deceived the church into thinking they had done all they could. Peter was simply pointing out that nothing is worse than dishonesty to the Creator. To think that one could somehow fool God is ridiculous. To believe that person could justify partial obedience is not in harmony with God’s commandment. To “seem religious” is an abomination in the eyes of He who weighs the hearts of men (Proverbs 21:2).

Though Ananias and Sapphira committed a great sin before the Lord and His people, perhaps their greatest mistake was in what they did not do. They “held back” (Acts 10:2-3), while making it look like they were giving all. God knows about everything we have. Is there even one physical or spiritual possession, talent, or blessing that exists that He did not bestow (James 1:17)? Therefore, when the Master wants to visit concerning our progress, we should realize no hole is deep enough to bury our talent from His eyes (Matthew 25:25-27). There is no excuse at work or play, asleep or awake that will make holding back from God acceptable. God wants all or none, hot or cold, because in-between makes Him sick (Revelation 3:15-16).

The biggest barrier to church growth is the church itself. God has given every provision to the church. He has given His word, His Son, and His everlasting promise. He has equipped the saints for the work of ministry and edification (Ephesians 4:12). He has given abundantly that the church may reach “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

Holding back is for the Christian the most dangerous of sins. It attempts to disavow the promise one makes when obeying the gospel. It hurts the church because the world is observing the church’s level of dedication. It hurts individuals because they are deceived into thinking partial service is obedience. It weakens faith. It breeds apathy. It gives Satan a place to stay. It is sin punishable by death (James 4:17; Romans 6:23; Acts 5:5, 10).

When Ananias and Sapphira died, “great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11). This fear led to the purification of the church, and to the glory of God. People stopped holding back, at least for a little while.

If God punished today the way He did then, who would be alive? Who would be dead? Who would respectively respond in obedience? Who would dare continue to “test the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9)?

“By myself I have sword, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, ‘in blessing I will bless you...’” (Genesis 22:16-17).

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Wait for the Lord" - Zeph. 3:8

(a few people have asked for my chapel address in written form - of course this is not verbatim, but these are the notes I used)

What are you supposed to say to a family who is watching their most beloved patriarch slowly die in the hospital? The doctors perform multiple surgeries and procedures in an effort to save his life, but he remains unconscious for weeks. Prayers have been lifted up to God for him by half of the brotherhood, but still no resolution. Nothing but a shadow of your hero attached to a breathing machine remains. And so, you wait.
What are you supposed to pray for when your grandmother resides at the nursing home alone? Her husband of 60 years has passed away. She has lived a full life. She has no prospects here. Every time you visit her tears roll down her face while she asks, “Why won’t God just take me home?” She is longing to die. She wants to be with God and with her husband. But there is nothing you can do but hold her hand. And so, you wait.
What are you supposed to take consolation in when you are a young person striving to find that special someone? You see all of your other friends pairing up. You have been patient, not willing to sacrifice your faith for a relationship. You have ended other relationships you knew would not be a source of strength for your future. Yet you find yourself falling further and further away from your dreams. And so, you wait.
What are you supposed to understand when you and your spouse have been trying to become parents for years, while others in the world abort their pregnancies? You read in the newspaper about another newborn left in a duffle bag at the airport. Friends of yours who are parents constantly complain about the rigors of child-rearing, and yet you would give anything to experience that kind of challenge. You have prayed. You have seen doctors. You have exhausted all of the pregnancy methods and fertility technology. The years are passing, and your time is running out. And so, you wait.
What are you supposed to believe when you get a phone call that shakes your entire world? You are still young, but the doctor says that dreaded word, “cancer.” You have a wife and small children who are depending on you to guide and support them. There are no promises from the medical field. You endure surgeries, tests, radiation treatments, and more tests – a cycle that never seems to end. How do you adjust to the reality that you are not in control? You try to live from day to day with hope, yet no guarantees for your future can be granted. And so, you wait.
“I waited patiently, and…then He turned to me and…” (Psalm 40:1-4)

But Judah was not trusting in the Lord. The nation of Judah had been sinning for decades. The southern tribes of God’s people were 60 years removed from the reign of Hezekiah, having been led most recently by the wicked kings Manasseh and Amon. The Biblical record states, “So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 33:9) Of Amon it is written, “But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done; for Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and served them” (2 Chronicles 33:22). Now, in the place of these ungodly men, a mere child by the name of Josiah is placed upon the throne. In this difficult time God called Zephaniah, one of King Hezekiah’s descendants, to prophesy to Judah.
One Bible Survey suggests these 3 major doctrines being presented in the book - 1) God is sovereign over all nations. God is still above the Jews who have become complacent and think that God will not act (1:12). God is still in power and a time will come when no comfort or deliverance will be found in silver and gold (1:18). God will humble, even to desolation, every society that boasts securely that they have arrived, who say there is nobody else but them (2:15). 2) The wicked will be punished and the righteous will be vindicated on the day of judgment. 3) God blesses those who repent and trust in Him. (2:3) – “Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD's anger.”

Zephaniah’s message was not pretty. Chapter One is a proclamation of God’s fierce judgment upon the whole earth (1:2-3) – “"I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land," Says the LORD; I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, The fish of the sea, And the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land," Says the LORD.” Specifically, God pronounces his punishment upon the nation of Judah for their idolatry and iniquity. The priests had attempted to straddle the fence, calling upon Jehovah and upon Molech. They had decided to worship nature and the constellations..the political leadership in Judah was completely corrupt...and so The day coming to Judah is thus described, “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm…” (Zephaniah 1:15-16a).
Chapter Two extends the coming judgment to the nations surrounding Judah. God was going to make the heathen pay for their influence among his people. God points West, East, South, and then North…Zephaniah’s prophecy includes the picture of these godless cities being laid waste to the point that in the near future birds would build nests and wild herds would find a place of rest where their capitals and pillars once stood. Note specifically these words from Jehovah, “The Lord will be awesome against them; for He will famish all the gods of the earth, and to Him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations” (Zephaniah 2:11 [English Standard Version]).
In the final chapter of this short book (3:2), Zephaniah explains the four reasons why Judah had fallen. Jerusalem should have been righteous, but she was rebellious. She should have been pure, but she had become polluted. She should have been a blessing, but instead she was oppressing. Preach this sermon..WHAT’S WRONG WITH JERUSALEM?(Zeph. 3:2) (this is our current culture) One, it was a problem of duty, she had not obeyed the voice of God. Two, it was a disregard for discipline, she had not received correction. Three, it was a refusal of dependence, she had not trusted the Lord. Four, it was an absence of desire, she had not drawn near to her God. (from back to front, we can note the progression of falling away) If we have no desire for God, and thus no relationship, how is it that we will ever trust Him? If we do not trust God as a Father, how can we ever receive His loving discipline? If we refuse God’s direction for our lives, there is no doubt that we will never come close to being His obedient children.
“She has not obeyed His voice, She has not received correction; She has not trusted in the LORD, She has not drawn near to her God.”(3:2)

By the time of Zephaniah’s prophecy, Josiah had most likely made his initial reforms. The description of the sins in the book point to a date of writing that preceded Hilkiah’s discovery of the Book of the Law. Notwithstanding Josiah’s influence, it was too late for Judah. The nation soon turned back to the ways of the last two generations of evil.
But listen! According to his abundantly merciful nature, up from the midst of his impending discipline God offers a message of consolation and hope. Although the inhabitants of Judah are going to be taken captive for a season, Jehovah will eventually deliver his people from the hand of the enemy. The hinge on the door is 3:8 – it is the dividing point between devastation and deliverance, between wrath and restoration, between horror and hope. “‘Therefore wait for Me,’ says the Lord, ‘Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination(ordinance, justice, decision of the court) is to gather the nations to My assembly of kingdoms, to pour on them My indignation, all My fierce anger; all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy’” (Zephaniah 3:8).
The fallout from God’s wrath upon the enemies of Judah will result in their ultimate return to their God: They will once again call on the name of the Lord (3:9). They will bring their sacrifices to God (3:10). They will humble themselves before Jehovah (3:11). They will trust in the name of the Lord (3:12). They will speak the truth and refrain from iniquity (3:13). They will be glad and rejoice at the presence of God (3:14). They will be gathered together by the Lord and he will make for them a name among the inhabitants of the earth (3:19).

What is it, may I ask, that each one of us is really waiting for? We ARE ALL WAITING!
As I look out to this group of people…I know you have gathered for a reason, a reason deeper that maybe even you have considered…but you have been drawn in attempt to fulfill a need…

For years, mankind has proposed and tried to argue for an idea that we have inherited something from Adam…we know it is not sin (Ez. 18:20) – “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
•Ever since Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, something was missing…
•930 years of the garden’s call – did he ever try to go back?
•A remembrance passed from generation to generation…the gap between man and God being understood in actuality by God’s people, and reached for by godless forgetful people in diverse ways, seeking to fill the void in their lives.
Romans 8:19-23
Acts 17:26 – “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

What we are really waiting for is heaven…
An indescribable place…count up all of the joy and peace and happiness in your life, every special moment, every perfect feeling, all of the laughter, all of the love, all the comfort – now multiply this by infinity and understand that you have not even begun to comprehend what it will be like to live one second in God’s eternal home – full fellowship with God and even better than what Adam once knew – for His love will be ever more sweet being understood in its completeness as we gather ‘round the precious Lamb of God and praise Him forever!

And yet we keep waiting in this life…and the world is a land of many disappointments. But day by day we are learning that they are disappointments we so desperately need to experience.
•Two kinds of people, those who are humble, and those who will be humbled…

Until one has been tested, one cannot know true faith. Until one has been defeated, one cannot know genuine victory. Until one has been devastated, one cannot know of the activity of God’s providence in their life. Until one has been humbled, one cannot be raised to the higher plain of God’s eternal habitation.

Every tear you have ever shed, every moment of suffering you have ever endured, every struggle you have ever overcome, every painful moment in both body and spirit you have ever suffered, is only a reminder of the fact that you are waiting for something better that cannot yet be attained…

As long as the earth remains, we will wait in hospitals until our loved ones take their last breath. We will wait for unrealized dreams to come true. We will wait for relationships to develop that never materialize. We will wait for test results and get bad news that will cause us to number our days. We will wait for the continuing storms of our life to pass over until there is a temporary calm and the clouds begin to gather once more.

While we wait for these things…let’s not forget to WAIT FOR THE LORD…may we put our trust in God, and consider again what it is we are really waiting for…

Rom. 8:18 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Zephaniah’s message is the reality of God’s judgment upon all men. For those who deny Him and live in sin, His anger will be justified, and the execution of His wrath will be complete. But for those who WAIT for Him there is a promise that is so great, no tongue can describe it. It is a promise so divine that the WHEN of its fulfillment does not matter…

Zeph. 3:17 – “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
1 Cor. 2:9 – “But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

Adam’s desire is our desire. His promise is our promise. His hope is our hope. This is what we are waiting for….Heaven remains in our future…the WHEN of its fulfillment is irrelevant. The Lord your God is in your midst. The Mighty One will save…

And so, we wait…

Friday, February 4, 2011

If I Were Every Christian…

In the church, every Christian has a job to do. When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he described the variety of functions that exist within the body of Christ – “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…” (Eph. 4:11-12).
Knowing that we each serve in the kingdom in a different way gives each member of the Lord’s body a sense of belonging and worth. However, we often will use this idea as an excuse not to do things, because we say we can’t do it, we’re not good at it, or that it is somebody else’s job. What if I were every Christian? How would the body of Christ function? Would God be glorified? Think about the following statements and apply them to your spiritual life:
• If I were every Christian, how many children would be without a Bible class teacher?
• If I were every Christian, would the building be open on Sunday and Wednesday nights?
• If I were every Christian, how many would be added to the church annually?
• If I were every Christian, could the church afford to have a minister, support a missionary, or keep up the building?
• If I were every Christian, could the church be characterized as people who know the Bible?
• If I were every Christian, how many home Bible studies or correspondence courses would the church be doing?
• If I were every Christian, how many Christians would drink alcohol socially, or light up a cigarette as soon as services were over?
• If I were every Christian, would there be praise during the song service, or just silence?
• If I were every Christian, would there be anybody to lead the worship service?
• If I were every Christian, would people know that they were missed, get a call or card when they were sick, or be alone at the funeral home?
• If I were every Christian, would there be anything to eat at the fellowship meals?
• If I were every Christian, could the church do local benevolence?
• If I were every Christian, would my hometown know about the Lord’s church?
• If I were every Christian, would the church stand against homosexual marriages, abortion, and other practices the world is currently accepting?
• If I were every Christian, would there be any evangelists, pastors, or teachers?
Paul continued– “…till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Although we have different jobs to do, we need to be united in Christ. There should be no job that we are unwilling to do for the Lord. This is the example Jesus set for us. If every Christian truly lived like Christ, just imagine how different things would be.