Friday, June 9, 2017

Righteousness

                                                               Romans 14:13-18


      The things in this world that people look for to find joy are very different from what the Gospel tells us. I think it is most clearly pointed out in the scripture reading above. If we look into the political world, the financial world, the business world, or the world of education, it becomes very obvious that the world's ways puts stumbling blocks into the way of others to slow them down and gain the advantage and leave them to eat dust as we pass by them on the road of life. But, what is it that brings us true joy as disciples of Christ? I think Paul says it best in Romans when he gives us a pep talk and encourages us to seek righteousness, and in doing so, find peace and joy. How do you seek righteousness you may ask?

      Well first, you must check your attitude you carry in life. If our spirit is competitive, then we will
never approach it. If we carry a spirit of  bitterness, then we will never approach it. While this scripture uses food as an example, it's not about food at all. It is something totally different that gets in our way as we seek righteousness in this world.

      There are those that say you can only obtain righteousness through the classical spiritual disciplines like prayer, worship, meditation, fasting, and studying. And, while is I strongly encourage Christians to live out those disciplines in their lives, I don't believe that you can find righteousness exclusively through these disciplines. They may help you on your path, but they are of little use to you if the spirit behind it has a "Holier Than Thou" attitude. "Self Righteousness" is one of the greatest errors in our search, and is totally opposite of what we are taught as disciples of Christ. It's like taking the pharisees approach to it, and shouting your piety from the roof tops. or making sure that everyone knows when you are fasting, or praying. By doing this, we become self righteous and fall further away from righteousness.

      What I think will help our journey toward righteousness is to look truthfully at our own lives and remove all the things that would keep us from finding the righteousness that God desires for us. What is it that causes, as the scripture says, "A weaker brother or sister to stumble"? What is it that turns people of the world away and causes them to be skeptical about the Christian Faith, and want nothing to do with the church or the people that follow Jesus?  How about a negative spirit, a judgmental attitude, a legalistic approach to faith, or pointing fingers at the weakness or frailties of others? All of these do nothing to bring people into the faith and can turn people so far away that we will never be able to share the love of Christ with them.

      I sit here and tell you that we cannot shame people to faith, we must love them to faith. We must get close to them in their frail and sin scarred condition and show them how much Jesus Christ loves them. It is Christ's desire to have a loving relationship with us. It is also His desire that we would lead others to share his love. There is not a better example of the love we are supposed to share than the love Jesus shares. He has never said to one person that they must live a sinless and blameless life before He healed them. He never once passed judgement on someone for their position in life. Instead, he met people were they stood and shared His love unconditionally, and that drew them to Him.

     It is that kind of love that we should show the world, and we should do it so that our weaker brothers and sisters won't stumble, but that they should walk safely into the arms of a waiting and loving Savior. You want to know true joy? Seek righteousness. Where does that righteousness come from? It comes from a loving response to Jesus Christ. We cannot do it on our own, we can only get it as a gift from God, and a willing spirit that is the image of and likeness of Christ......Amen

Monday, June 5, 2017

God is Love

                                

We are not the source of our love, God is. Scripture says God is love, and that He sent His Son into this world so that we may live through Him. And, as we experience His life we will naturally radiate love, for it says God IS love. It is not that God has love, or does love, it is the fact that love is defined by the nature of God. And if God is love, nothing that you have done can make Him love you less, and if you doubt the depth of His love, just think about Christ stretched out on the cross for you, because He wanted to spend eternity with you.

When we realize God loves us even though we have done things that don't please Him, We will learn to love others that have done things that don't please us. The Bible says God hates divorce, but even if you have been through a divorce, I want you to know that God loves you. God is truth and He hates lies, but even if you have lied God loves you. If you have cheated on your taxes, God loves you. Even if you have had an abortion, God still loves you. In Ephesians 3, Paul tries to explain that our passion should be to embrace as much of the love of Jesus as possible. It is not enough to say that we must seek to know His love, we must understand it's dimensions, and Paul gives us 4 dimensions to explore. Width, length, height, and depth.

When I try to imagine the width of God's love, I think about how encompassing it must be. He loves the unlovely just as much as He loves the lovely. His love expands to those we dislike, and to those we like. When everyone else walks out on you, He walks to you. What kind of tape measure can you use to measure that kind of love? Here is how wide it is, as far as the East is from the West.

I think when Paul used the word "length," He was talking about the endurance of God's love. When we are ready to quit and give up, God is just getting started. His love endures forever, and it goes far beyond anything we can imagine. He is so stubborn in His love for us that He refuses to stop loving us. Into the dark and through the storms, He looks beyond our failures and our faults and His love endures forever.

What is the height of His love? His mercies go higher than heaven. How high is heaven? There are over 1 billion stars in our galaxy, and each star is multiple light years away, some even thousands. 1 light year is 186,000 miles per second traveling for 365 days straight. There are an estimated 100 billion galaxies. Can you imagine how high that is? His love is higher than all of that.

Oh, and the depth of His love! How deep is your pit? How dark is your storm? His love goes deeper, and if you are at the bottom of a well and trying to find God, you won't have to look far because He is right next to you. Like a treasure that hides it's most precious stones in the depth, so is His love. Haven't you discovered that in the hardest of times, times when you are in deep loneliness, pain and heartache, that is when we discover the intimate times with God. His light shines brightest in the dark.....Amen

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How do I know

       The Christian walk is a walk of faith. It is very rare for God to speak to someone in a voice that can be heard by the ear. So, how do I know it is God leading me, or just my own idea? There is nothing that guarantees this is the way I should be going. It would make it so much easier if there were some guarantees, something that says this is what God wants me to do.

       The walk of faith I am on means I walk with a belief and/or hope that this is what I am supposed to be doing. I am walking with a certain feeling in my mind, in my soul that it is God leading me. I know it is God leading me because that feeling stays with me, it never goes away. I cannot forget about it, it does not just feel like an idea, but a deeper emotion. It feels more like a must do sort of thing, a deep in my heart and soul must do sort of thing.

      When I see people walking with the Lord, following that deeper emotion, when I see God working in their lives or even in my own life, I am reminded again that my life does not belong to me. When I remember who I belong to, I have more confidence that what I am doing is the right thing. When I let myself be lead by the Holy Spirit, only then do I personally feel hope in my choices, and circumstances that my future holds. Only as I am walking in faith, will I be lead by the Holy Spirit.

     I gain peace, even though I don't know what the future holds, because I walk in that faith. Sometimes I forget and the worrying and the burdens of life creep in, and I have to be reminded every now and then, but I know Christ is there saying trust in Me. My walk of faith stands firm when my eyes are set on Jesus Christ, but when I lose sight of  "why" I do things, the specifics of "what" I do will not matter. The foundation of my faith is the Love of Christ, and to spread that love to all peoples through His Gospel. All He is asking us to do is look to His face.......

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Even For You and Me

      Peter Replied, "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Act 2:38

      The words of hope from this passage are for you my friend. They are for you because no matter what your family, your neighbors, or your friends might be saying about your past mistakes, God is different. Instead of rubbing your nose in the dirt because of you your failures, God is willing to forgive you and take you in, or even take you back.

      The blood of God's Son, Jesus Christ, shed on Calvary's cross has already paid the complete price for all of your sins. Unbelievable to human mind, heart, and thinking, God has already prepared a gift of forgiveness for you. This gift comes at a great cost, but it's price has been paid for and wrapped up when the Father's only Son, our Savior, cried out from the cross: "It is finished!" (John 19:30) Jesus' resurrection on the third day tells us the Lord's great gift of Grace will always be there, always be alive. You can be sure that God is inviting you to receive this gift of perfect and total forgiveness.

      These words of the Gospel regarding the saving work of Christ were penned over 2000 years ago, and the passing of years has not changed their impact. These same words remain powerful  for the believing father now living in Africa, for the heart broken mother living behind the garbage can, or for the disillusioned teenager begging for money at the store. These words are even for you and me.

      Oh, unto all of you, to whom God has entrusted the proclamation of His Gospel, never forget, never forget, that the Gospel is the Power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes......(Romans 1:16)   Amen..........

Friday, May 19, 2017

What is Faith ?

   What does faith really mean? The translation in the dictionary puts it like this,
1
  a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
  b (1) : fidelity to one's promises
(2) : sincerity of intentions
2
  a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
  b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3
  : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs.

  Does that sum up how you feel? I know it doesn't for me.
   
  I over heard a man standing in line today at a store, and he said "faith is something you believe in, even though you know in your mind that it doesn't exist." Wow, is that really what faith is? Not to me. I think the main thing he got wrong is that faith starts in the heart and not the mind. If you go to church every Sunday and pray and worship, but in your mind you are thinking that God doesn't exist. Is that faith?
   
  Faith is described in the bible this way, (Hebrews 11 : 1 NIV) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance for what we do not see. Faith can start by looking at the wonders of His creation, which will show us His unseen attributes, but faith must grow and become active in the heart powered by the gift of God's Holy Spirit.
  
  There is a faith built into every human, this faith only believes what it can detect with one of our 5 senses. With human faith we can fly in an airplane we don't totally understand, and don't know the pilot, but we trust everything will be OK. We can sit in a chair we have never sat in before and trust that it will hold. This is human faith, built into everyone by God.
   
  When it comes to faith in God, you have to believe in something you can't see. You have never seen God or the devil, you haven't seen heaven or hell, and you haven't seen sin, so you don't know what it looks like when your sins are washed away. That is the difference, you can't believe in things you can't see with human faith, you must open your heart, let God into your life, and use the faith that is powered by the Holy Spirit. This my brothers and sisters is what true faith is all about.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Envy

  I think when most people struggle with envy it is over money, or jobs, or maybe someone has more toys then you. You know the saying, he who has more toys when you die wins. But, the envy I struggle with is the envy of the Sunday school kids and the AOB students at my church.

 When I was growing up the only experience I had with religion is a pastor telling me I was no good and would never be any good. My parents were divorced when I was 5 or 6 and I grew up in the projects, I didn't have a safe place to go to hang out and receive mentorship, so by the time I was 12, I was doing drugs, and committing crimes most adults would never attempt. No one even tried to talk to me about God, they just wanted to tell me how bad I was and that I would never amount to anything.
 
  The kids that go to my church are loved and taught about God and how much God loves them. They are encouraged and told they can be whatever they want to be. But, the thing that I envy the most is the friendship they have with each other. I see them all hanging out together, laughing and having fun. The church has functions and field trips that they go on and they have a week of bible camp in the summer that they don't want to come home from. They hang out, help each other with home work, play sports together, grow up together. I never had that.

  I guess you could say I envy their childhood. I struggle with it every time I see them playing and laughing with each other. I try as hard as I can to make sure my daughter has a great childhood. I tell my daughter everyday that she can do or be whatever she wants to be, that with hard work and her faith in the Lord she can become whatever she sets out to be. But, first enjoy your childhood, be a child, and don't grow up to fast.  I didn't have the mentors in my life to help me choose the right paths and because of the choices I made and some of the adults I encountered, I lost my childhood. Don't lose yours.
 

Compassion

                                                                 Matthew 14:13-21
                            https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+14:13-21

      A man named Peter Ustinov once said, "charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible, compassion is time consuming".

      Today, I am going to talk about compassion. Godly, Christ like compassion. Compassion in the midst of our own wants, our own needs, and our own limitations. Compassion shown to others, because compassion has been shown to us. Compassion because Jesus looked for the broken and poor, He dealt with them with compassion, and then left them for us to care for.

      All four of the gospels tell this story, each with a different amount of details, some with much conversation, and some with little. But anytime something is mentioned more than once, to me that says it has special significance. 3 times means you better sit up and take notice. But 4 times? You had better engrave it into your soul. And that my friends are what we are here to do today. To make the word of God a living part of us.

      So, Matthew's account, where we are today, is pretty straight forward. Easy to understand and digest. Matthew addresses this miracle from the simple standpoint that Jesus saw the needs of the people and He met those needs in a way that only He could. Yet, He didn't do it alone. He used His disciples, just as He does today.

      I think one of the biggest statements made in this story is found in verse 14, When He went ashore He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick. Let me talk about the word compassion for a moment. It is translated from the greek word splanchnizomai, which means yearning with the bowels. Have you ever been so deeply moved with sympathy or empathy for someone that your stomach ached? Then you have a feeling of the depth of Jesus' pity was for the people that followed Him.

      Compassion is that internal yearning, that deep sense of empathy or sympathy, and concern for people who have great needs, which affects us physically because of it's intensity. It is such a deep emotion that it can't easily be shut down or ignored. We simply cannot walk away from people in great pain, desperate need, or deep poverty. Jesus had splanchnizomai on the people, and so He dealt with it. We are to have that kind of compassion for people and deal with it just as Jesus would if He were standing there in our place.

      Imagine being tired, hungry, and emotionally over worked. Then you look out and see some poor person with such a great need that they are just a pitiful sight. You can tell by looking at them that their problem is not a quick fix, it's going to take some effort. That's when most people would turn and make nimble practiced justifications for not responding to the need they see. But, Jesus completely disregards His own needs and focuses on the needs of those He came to save and to serve. No matter how tired or needful Jesus was, He always gave to others first. This is the kingdom principle that must be a part of the walk of faith of believers today. If a person is a true Christian, then they are by definition a disciple of Christ.

      In verse 15 it says, when in the evening, the disciples came to Him and said,, this place is desolate and the hour is already late. So send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves. So, what do the disciples see? they see the need of the people, and they see their own limitations. They see the world through the eyes of the flesh. What they don't see is Jesus as they should have. They don't see their circumstances through the eyes of the master of all of creation sitting in their midst. This is the Jesus who has healed thousands, driven out demons, given sight to the blind, made the deaf here, and raised the dead. How is it that they couldn't see Him as the one who could feed several thousand people? They couldn't see it because they were focused on themselves. Sure, they saw the people and their needs, but their focus was on themselves. Isn't this like us in our own lives? We see the needs of others , look immediately at the resources we don't have, and we fail to respond to the need before us. Do we believe that we are the hands, feet, arms, mouth, body, wallet, ride, smile, kind word, gentle touch, shelter, provider, etc. etc. of Jesus Christ? Then how should we respond when we see need?

      In verse 16 it says, But Jesus said to them, they do not need to go away, you give them something to eat. In other words, take what you have and give it to those in need. Do it in faith and trust Me for the rest. Being concerned for people is just the start. Now do something for them. What was their response? They argue, can you believe it? They actually argue with Jesus. Who can argue with Jesus like that? I better be the first to raise my hand because I can. I argued with Him the whole time I was writing this sermon. But, He turned my heart around and got me to see that He was giving me an opportunity to live this message. So, I took it, and the blessing is wonderful all the way around. I can't even begin to tell you how many times , or how often I have felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit, and have discussed, argued, cajoled, minimized, justified, and rationalized not doing what was needed. There are always reasons not to, atleast I seem to always be able to find them. Maybe it's just me, but there are always this fear factor that makes me get to concerned about the response I am going to get from the gallery. But, I forget about the gallery that I am supposed to be playing to. Jesus Christ is the gallery I am supposed to play to, if you will, because He has given me the example to follow, and He is there cheering me on. Saying, They don't need to go away, you give them something to eat. Take from what you have, that I have given you, and give it to those that are in need of it.

      But, in Vs. 17-18 they said to Him, we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish, and He said bring them to me. You see? Right there, Jesus tells us that we bring Him what we have and allow Him to bless it and use it. When was the last time you took a look at what you have and prayed, Lord this is what I have and it is Yours to use as you desire to touch the life of someone else? This is not a prayer that immediately jumps to our lips when we see the need that someone else has. We, like the disciples try to figure things out in our own minds. We fall back on what we think we know, on what we are used to. Being a disciple of Jesus requires a radical shift in thinking, a drastic alteration of our view of the world and how it operates. If we truly believe that we are indwelt by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, then when we are there, Jesus is there. How would Jesus respond?

      In Vs. 19-21 it says, Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the 5 loaves and 2 fish, and looking up towards Heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. There were about 5000 men who ate, besides women and children. As the messiah promised to Israel, Jesus would provide for all of their needs. He was well aware that the sick and lame needed healing, He was even more aware that every man, woman, and child present that day needed the redemption that the promised Messiah really came to give. That is always the deepest need of every man.

      In this last portion of Matthew's account we see a pattern instituted that has been continuing on since that very day. Jesus gave to the disciples that which He blessed, and they in turn give it out to the people. This is the pattern for all those who minister for Jesus Christ. Not only do the miracles of Jesus testify as Him being the Messiah, they are His way of demonstrating the depth of His compassion fro those in need. He can provide for every need, and He will. Our focus is to be on His Kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus Christ requires that we care more about the health and well being of others than we care about our own. He will care for us, we are to care for others.

      Do you believe that this is what Jesus requires of us? Do you believe he really meant it. Do you belong to Him, or do you belong to you? Do you believe in Him, or do you believe in you? Do you see through the limited vision of the flesh or are you asking Him to open the eyes of your heart and let you see as He sees? Jesus promises that if we give, it will be given to you. Do we believe Him, or are we like the disciples and believe only what we have known, only what we see, or only what we can imagine? The message here is that all of us have an opportunity to give sacrificially to others, and we need to take that opportunity when it presents itself. It is time for everyone of us to step out of the box, step out of our comfort zone, step out of the church setting and really be Jesus Christ to this world. What do you have to lose? Nothing, it's all His anyway. We just have to live like we really believe that what we believe is really real.

      A man named Peter Ustinov once said, "Charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible. compassion is time consuming......Amen