Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Better Question

The Better Question

“…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”  Ephesians 5:25

Joe was blessed when he truly understood the Bible for the first time. “Imagine the love of God for a sinful person like me?” he thought.  Following accepting Jesus for salvation, Joe began to study the Bible with another church member.  Soon after he was baptized and was excited to be part of a loving church where he could hear the Bible taught each service.  He attended both services Sunday and even got up early for the Bible study in Sunday School.

Joe was busy just like everyone else.  His job required late nights and the shift hours were tough at times.  He was trying to advance his career and was taking classes to earn another degree.  His son played in the local baseball league, and his daughter was busy with music lessons and performances.  Yet he still prioritized giving Sunday to the Lord.  His life was changing.

Then one day, he was sick, and unable to take the family to church.  His wife and kids went without him.  He next week he needed to be out of town for completing a certification for his job and he did not make it back in time for Sunday church.  The following week a family reunion was to start at 1:00 PM and it took about 2 hours to drive to the location, so he and the family had to miss church again.  That fourth Sunday, Joe was simply tired.  He had been up all night working on a house project “We have to have heat,” he grumbled.  He was not a plumber, but he was working on the heating system to make sure his family was warm.  “I’m tired, leave me alone,” was now rubbing off on the whole family.  Each one was now discouraged.  No-one in Joe’s family went to church that Sunday.  After several months, Joe’s family were not heard of again in the church.

A story like this happens in every church. Much. Too. Often.

Why is it that some Christians “give up” on faithful church attendance?  The consistent attendance and participation in church worship services is an integral part of the Christian life.  After all – the Lord Jesus gave His life for the church.  What an example of love for church Jesus demonstrated for us?  Could we give ourselves to faithful church attendance?  The world, our flesh, and Satan are enemies of this godly routine of setting a day aside to worship the Lord.

Some believers get out of the church attendance habit.  They do not decide to, but it just happens.  One service here, one sickness in the family, a vacation or trip, a snow day or an inconvenient change in the work schedule.   After missing 3-4 services, some Christians begin to lose their resolve to go back to church.  With a sense of defeat they think: “I missed this much, what is one more?”

After several months of no church attendance some Christians ask: “What will the church members think of me if I show up this Sunday?”  The reasoning is that the other Christians will be judgmental or harsh for the lack of attendance.  I have found that this reasoning is faulty.  The regular church members are happy for the “backslidden believer” coming back to church.  The faithful church members have been praying and have missed the wayward brother or sister in Christ.  Instead of commendation – the others congratulate the friend for coming back to church.

A better question to ask than “What do the church members think?” Is this question – “What does Jesus think?”   In our misplaced pride, we can speculate the response of other people.  We should live to please Jesus, not others.  Avoid letting pride about what others think to prevent you from getting back into the church attendance and worship participation habit.

Jesus wants you to come back to church.  Even though the church is not perfect – yet, you make it a better form of the image of Jesus when you show up and participate in worship and service to the Lord.  Go back to church this Sunday.  The people will congratulate and welcome you.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Readers Are Leaders

“Readers are Leaders”

The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.  2 Timothy 4:13

“Readers are Leaders” It is a thoughtful statement.  As learned as Paul was, he continued to read the Bible (Parchments) and books.  This is a good example for us today.  The Bible teaches us to continually grow spiritually, personally, relationally, and professionally.  Reading is a good way to accomplish this.  Make sure you are “especially” reading the Bible.  In addition, here are several suggestions for your library.  In a day of disclosures, please note: While recommended, not everything may be endorsed.

 

General:

The Calvary Road, Hession

I Am a Church Member, Rainer

Church Still Works,  Chappell & Reed

The Pastor in Prayer, Spurgeon

Be Committed, Weirsbe

The Power of His Presence, Rogers

How God Answers Prayers, Towns

Key Words in the Christian Life, Wiersbe

Understanding the Times, Ham

The Plan B Prayer, Zacharias

 

Marriage:

A Firm Foundation, Chappell

A Faith Full Marriage, Chappell

The Right Romance in Marriage, Rice

The Love Dare, Kendrick

How to Save Your Marriage Alone, Wheat

Christian Living in the Home, Adams

The Five Love Languages, Chapman

The Christian Home, Sexton

Making Home Work, Chappell

Live Lighter, Love Better, Schmidt

The Love Dare Day by Day, Kendrick

 

Retirees:

Fourth Quarter, Sisk

How Do You Feel Today, Harness

 

Parenting:

Basics of Biblical Parenting, Chappell

Do You Mind If Your Kids Don’t, Rice

Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tripp

 

Ladies:

The Choice is Yours, Chappell

A Joyful Heart, Gibbs

Wisdom from Women in the Bible, Maxwell

 

Men:

The Steps of a Good Man, Sisk

Lest You Fall, Hummell

Turn Away Wrath, Hummell

One Being a Servant of God, Wiersbe

Living Beyond Your Capacity, Chappell

Learning From The Giants, Maxwell

Great Hunting Stories, Chapman

 

Teens:

Discover Your Destiny, Schmidt

Just Friends, Mike Ray & Cary Schmidt

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn for Teens, Maxwell

Money Matters for Teens, Burkett & Wooding

Boyhood and Beyond: Practical Steps to Becoming a Man, Schultz

 

Young Adults:

Boundaries in Dating, Cloud & Townshend

Before the Ring, Coleman

Starting Out Right, Burkett

 

Finances:

How to Manage Your Money, Larry Burkett

Giving & Tithing, Larry Burkett

Never Enough?,  Blue & Guess

 

What book are you currently reading?

What book has helped you in your Christian life the most that you read in the last year?

Please leave your encouraging comments.

When God’s Word Grows

When God’s Word Grows

 “But the word of God grew and multiplied.”  Acts 12:24

People were being saved. Lives were changed. The church was overcoming intense persecution.  More people were saved.  Many were added to the church.  Church leaders were imprisoned.  The Lord led several jail breaks.  In Acts chapter 12, Peter is released from jail by the Lord and walks to a church prayer meeting in the upper room at Mark’s mothers house.  Rhoda answered the door and did not believe it – Peter was supposed to be in jail.  The Lord did a miracle in this escape.  So many miracles are accounted for in the Book of Acts.

When the Bible says: “The Word of God Grew” it does not mean that their “Bible” was getting bigger.  While the entire Bible was not yet committed to parchment, it does not mean new books of the Bible were being written.  It means two things:  The number of Christians increased and the level of discipleship increased in each believer.  Consider how we as Christians are responsible to put ourselves in a place where we see the Word of God growing in our lives.

More People.  Many churches and individual Christians settle on the idea that spiritual growth is exclusive of numerical growth, but that is not correct thinking.  When the Word grew in the book of Acts, more people were saved and numbers of more people were added to the local church.  Avoid spiritualizing the lack of visitors at church, or the lack of people being saved as a “sign of the times” or a lack of spiritual interest on the part of others.  It could be we do not see the church grow because we do not care that it grows, do not think that it can grow or in selfishness do not want it to grow. May the Lord grow His word in our hearts so that we in response live it and give in and the yield can be an increase in the numbers of people attending church.

Greater Maturity. Spirit growth is a goal in each Christians life.  Becoming more like Jesus is what the Christian life is all about.  Philippians 2:5 says imperatively: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Developing the mind of Christ happens when we not only read through the Bible, but let the Bible get through us.  To think, speak, and act like Jesus is a natural progression for a spiritualy focused person.  Each day we are striving to be more like Him.  This can only happen as we read the Word, hear the Word preached, and practice living the Word.

Bible reading and Bible study can change your life.  There was a man named William McPherson who read through the Bible faithfully.  The American Bible Society reports: “He was the superintendent for a stone quarry when a blast severely injured him. He lost his eyesight and both hands in the explosion. He was determined to read the Bible, and learned to read raised letters with the tip of his tongue. It is said that he read through the Bible four times in this manner.”  The Word grew in his life.

For some of us when God’s Word grows in us, we will go to church more often.  Others will read the Bible more frequently.  Some will step up to a teaching or support role in the church.  There are many needs in a local church for Christians who are continuing their spiritual growth.  If you have arrived spiritually, please do not apply for a position. Churches need people who are consistently allowing God’s Word to grow in their lives.

No matter what may happen to you in the coming days, you can rely on God’s Word to help you.  Persecution, trouble, health issues, job loss, loved ones hurting – no matter what – the Bible will help you get through it.  The miracle for us today is the same as it was back then.  We will not see jail doors open or the laying on of hands for healing, but we can see the miracle of people being saved, lives and families being changed, and new people coming to church.  We can see the Word of God multiplied in our lives and in the lives of those around us as we decide to be more like Jesus each day.

When God’s Word grows, it includes more people developing greater maturity in allowing the Word to shape their mind to be like Christ.

 

 

Developing Character at Christmas

Developing Character at Christmas

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

In a day of extreme excess and people forgetting the true meaning of Christmas, Christian people must purpose in their mind and be deliberate in their actions to accurately portray Christmas to the family and to others.

The American Research Group reports: “Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $929 for gifts this holiday season, up from $882 last year according to the 32d annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc. Planned gift spending for 2016 is $47 above spending in 2015 and it is the first time planned gift spending exceeds $900 since 2006.”

Black Friday, and Cyber Monday were again record breaking days in the number of sales and dollars transacted.

I like the choir song: “Much to do no time to do it, I can’t get it all done at Christmastime…”

With our schedules and minds being pulled in so many different directions, sometimes we forget the real purpose and meaning of Christmas!

Here are some ideas to help build character in yourself and your family members.

Emphasize Giving, Not Getting.  In Acts 20:35 Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

  • Encourage kids to give outgrown cloths.
  • Encourage the family to give unused toys (Even the tools and toys the men may have).
  • Exemplify giving to others in more need. Find someone to give food or essential items. Give things that you enjoy that others may enjoy them too.
  • Enjoy sharing a meal with others.
  • No matter our age, occupation, or financial status, each of us are in a position where we can give something to someone else.

Encourage Moderation, Not Excess.  Philippians 4:5 declares: “Let your moderation be known unto all men.”

Moderation means appropriate and mild.  When the wise men celebrated Jesus, they did so with three meaningful gifts:  “gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

The gold was worthy of a King, the frankincense demonstrating His purity, and the myrrh represented His purpose for coming, to die on the cross.  Most of the time a few quality gifts mean more.

Joseph was able to take baby Jesus to Egypt and escape the murderous plot of King Herod to kill all the baby boys age 2 and under.  Joseph left his job and had the ability to move because of these meaningful gifts.

With our children we have purpose behind each gift.  We give…

  • An item they were hoping for. An item that would be on a “Wish list.”
  • An item they share with others in watching or listening to. An old TV show or movie that does not take away but contributes to godly character.
  • An item they can play with others. A board game, basketball, or even a video game would work here.

Cloths are a necessity so we do not include them as an item.  Three gifts are all we plan for.  Be purposeful with your gifts.  You may have some priorities that are like the above suggestions.  Whatever you do – have a purpose of some kind behind each one.  Be generous – with purpose and meaning.

Enable Simplicity, Not Busyness.

The church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2 “left their first love.”  How can that happen?  Because of the excess, commercials, and lustful society we live in – it is easy to get caught up with material things and business too.

Proverbs 4:23 instructs: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  In order to keep safe our heart – we must have a greater purpose and plan.

Sometimes we are so busy we do get anything done.  Many of us do not accomplish anything that is worthwhile even though they have stress, work, and all the other symptoms of being productive.

SELAH – Stop and Think – is a needed practice at Christmas time.  Here are some suggestions to help you not be so busy that you forget what Christmas is really all about.

  • Read the Christmas Story in Matthew 2 and Luke 2.
  • Go to and participate in special church programs, but lesson your overall commitments of time and energy to things that have less than spiritual purposes.
  • Turn off the tv during the days off school. Our kids should not sit in front of a tv from 8 am to 3 pm.
  • Tune up beautiful Christmas Music. There are many wonderful Christian radio websites that will encourage you.  Please see the other postings for their addresses.
  • Go Christmas Caroling.
  • If you do watch a Christmas Movie, do so together as a family.

Be Purposeful – to Develop Character at Christmas.  Since Jesus Himself is the gift of Christmas, the things we do and give should reflect Him.  After all – It is His birthday we are supposed to be celebrating.

 

 

 

 

The Trees of Christmas

The Trees of Christmas

Do you enjoy decorating the Christmas tree?  Many people love them.  I like seeing the big ones in parks.  Our children have fun decorating our tree each year in our home.

We have a “Thanksgiving Tree” in our house as soon as November rolls around.  Then we re-decorate to make it our Christmas tree in December.  Use the same tree for nearly 2 months of the year.

Having family customs and traditions will make your home a place of special memories.  Your kids will love it and remember it.  Even if it is inconvenient for you, the memories will be worth it later.

The Christmas Story begins and ends with a tree. 

There are Several Trees in the Bible as we think about the Christmas Tree.

Our First Tree is in the Garden of Eden.

The Garden of Eden was full of Trees: Fur, Cedars, Chesnut, etc… :  Ezekiel message to Pharaoh included trees.  The King of Assyria was compared to these trees and Pharaoh was told he would become greater than these trees:  Ezekiel 31:8-9 says, The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chesnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. 9 I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.  Pharaoh would also fall in his pride:  Ezekiel 31:18 To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD.

The “Tree of Life” is mentioned in Genesis 2:9, And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

“The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” is also spoken of in Genesis 2:16-17.  God told Adam and Adam told Eve to not eat the fruit of this tree.  They could eat all the other tree fruit, except this one.

Eve was tempted by the Serpent and Adam chose to disobey the Lord.  They fell to the Temptation of the Tree:  Genesis 3:17 says,  And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

This resulted in SEPARATION from God: Genesis 3:2 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Much SORROW came about including being kicked out of the Garden of Eden: Genesis 3:24, So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Apparently, before sin, Adam could eat the fruit of the “Tree of Life.”  After sin – God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden so they could no longer eat the tree of life.

The Next Tree is in The Garden of Gethsemane.  

While not mentioned specifically, the Lord Jesus was praying to God the Father in the midst of a grove of Olive trees.  This location is the Mount of Olives.  There are many of the same trees alive today that were there when Jesus met with God the Father in prayer. The photo above is of one of those trees.

Matthew 26:36-39 tells us, Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

From Olive Oil to Olive Branches, much is symbolized in the Olive Tree.

  • A Symbol of Preservation. Genesis 8:11 declares, And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.  The Lord preserved the human race and the olive branch was a sign of hope that they survived the global flood and a new life was emerging following the flood.
  • A Symbol of Prosperity. Olive Oil;  we cook with it.  It is used in Old Testament ceremonies.  Even Candles (or lamps) were lit with it in the Old and New Testaments.
  • A Symbol of Peace. Olive Branch. Think United Nations logo.  There is an Olive Branch.

In the middle of the Olive Grove Jesus was making Preservation Possible, giving us the Prosperity of Heaven, and Praying for believers to have Peace with God.  Peace is possible only because of His blood that was shed on the third tree we will look at – the Golgotha Tree.  Because of the sin surrounding the first tree – an our own sin, Jesus came to earth to die on a tree.

Because of sin – we are at enmity against God.  In other words we are enemies towards God.  That is not a good place to be!  Observe the following:

  • John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
  • John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
  • 1 John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

 

The Third Tree is The Golgotha Tree; Otherwise known as “The Old Rugged Cross.”

  • Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
  • 1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
  • John 12:32-33 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

WE GO FULL CIRCLE.  We Begin with a Tree in the Garden of Eden,  We walked up the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed on His way to the Cross, and then– it was on that Old Rugged Tree – Jesus died for your sin.

  • The First tree was fashioned by God and sinfully visited by man.
  • The Last Tree was Fashioned by Man and selflessly visited by God.
  • The First Tree was Perfect and wonderful to see.
  • The Last Tree was splintered, ugly, and bloody – hard to look at.
  • The First tree opened mankind’s eyes to sin.
  • The Last Tree covers God’s eyes to our sin.
  • The first Tree was Adams Downfall.
  • The Last Tree was Jesus’s Death.
  • It was because of the First Tree That Jesus had to come to earth.
  • It is because of the Last Tree that we can go to Heaven.

After spending 3 entire days dead – Jesus rose again.  After dying on the cross, and paying the price for our sin – Jesus came out of the tomb.  Just as Jesus came the first time – He is coming again, a second time.

Believe in the First Coming of Jesus.  He came to die on the cross taking your sin.  Christmas time is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to earth to make a way for you to be united with God.  Without Jesus we have no relationship or fellowship with God the Father.  While the first tree became the ruin of man, the last tree became the place of our salvation.

Why not accept Jesus by faith today?  Receive the free gift of eternal life.  It is free to us; yet paid for with the high price of the life of Jesus.

Don’t look at the Christmas Tree in your home the same way today.  Let it remind you of the first and last tree.  The Christmas Story begins and ends with a tree.