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



     

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What's love got to do with it?

    Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, While loving someone deeply, gives you courage. That is a quote by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. Though he was not a Christian, if I hadn't of mentioned the name of the person who had said this, you might have come to the conclusion that it could be a quote about God's love for us.
 
     I have been giving a lot of thought about the people in my life that gave me unconditional love. Before I found God there were 2 people that saw through everything that I was, and found the good that was in my heart. Not only did they find it, they brought it out.
 
     When I was around my mom I could feel her love physically, like it embraced me and held me tight. I  remember feeling happy and joyful inside, like it brought the good out from somewhere deep inside me. When I was around my mother I was a nice person. It wasn't an act I was putting on for her, just being around her and knowing she loved me gave me strength and lifted me up. When I was in my home with my mother the world was shut out, there was no evil or rich and poor, I wasn't a thief, or a drug dealer, I didn't need to be under the school tripping on Acid or LSD. When I was around my mother I knew I was loved. Love has a lot to do with it.

      I have been married to my wife for 26 years now, and she hasn't killed me. She has always made me feel special and important. When I fell in love with her, she was the first person that I wanted to give my heart to. I was scared and it took a long time for me to be able to let her love me fully, I always tried to push her away, because I didn't think I deserved to be loved, that what I had done and where I had come from made me unlovable. She could have gotten rid of me a few times, but she kept showing me that love, and finally it helped me gain the courage to grow and become a man who can love and be loved unconditionally. Love has a lot to do with it.
  
     I now realize that their love for me was also God's love for me. Their love has led me to God's love, which is greater then any you can imagine. God has put love in us, and through His love, has taught us how to love. God's love is amazing, and anyone can experience it if you just open up your heart and let it be filled. Let Him love you to strengthen you, then show love to Him, so you can gain the courage to go out and spread that love. As the great MLK said, " Hate can not drive out Hate, Only love can do that". Love has a lot to do with it............. Amen.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Why The Hate?

    As I sit here and write this I am thinking to myself "Don't be judgmental," but I have seen some things during this election, that as a Christian has me concerned. I have seen and heard people use derogatory and judgmental language to describe someone and it pains me to see it. Everyone on this Earth is a brother or sister in Christ and to call someone a riddled crack whore without knowing her story, or calling a pregnant 16 year old a slut without knowing her situation, or calling a homeless man sitting on the street corner holding a sign asking for help lazy is wrong and against what Jesus Christ has taught us.  In an era of tolerance, probably one of today's worst reactions is a destructive trend that needs to be put in check. There is a hypocritical, judgmental attitude that tears someone down in order to build up yourself. Jesus is not giving us a generalized statement to turn a blind eye or overlook sinful behavior just for the sake of tolerance. Today His words of warning against judging are even more needed in our angry, critical, hateful world.
 
   Jesus warned about the danger of pointing out the faults of others. He said people with planks in their eyes should not attempt to remove specks out of other people’s eyes. He challenged His hearers to choose humility rather than hypocrisy by always applying the truth to themselves before noting the faults in others........Amen

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

We Must Share It With Others


   I was doing some studying for this post the other day, looking for scripture about God's grace, and I decided to take a little mental break. On the way back from my break an idea popped into my head, I wanted to see what I could find on the subject on the internet, no matter how outlandish I thought it was or sounded, and what I found kind of disturbed me. I found site after site stating in one way or the other, that grace was conditional and had to be earned......

   Grace cannot be earned, if we had to earn grace every single one of us would fall way short. I think Paul thought this was one of the most important things in his letters and he said it in Titus 3: 4-7.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
 And, in Gal.2: 16 it says,
16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

   So, if grace is not earned and freely given, then it must be a gift. There it is right there, God's grace is a gift, freely given. I can't say it any better then that.

   Now that we have established that grace cannot be earned, that it is a gift from God, now what? We are to share His gift of grace with others. We must forgive and set aside our differences and share the Grace of God with every one. We are called to be the light on the hill, be an example to everyone, to show that even if we have different views we can come together in community and let God use us to make our country or even the world a better place. 

   Mathew 4: 4-16 says, 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 

   As Christians we need to set our differences aside and join together in the one thing we all as Christians have in common, Jesus Christ. If we are all forgiven and given grace then everything else is non-essential. We need to be the light on the hill showing that even though we have differences we can come together and work for the better. Because it is what Jesus tells us to do.

   I am going to end with my favorite quote from the 3rd book of the Apprenticeship Series, the Good and Beautiful Community........If you have the love for Jesus in your heart, than take my hand and walk with me in fellowship..............Amen