The Critical Eye

The Critical Eye

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.  And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?  How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.   Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.  Matthew 12:1-14

Have you ever been around a person that is constantly complaining?  Have you ever been that person?  Perhaps all of us know someone that is always “pouring cold water” on a situation or known to be a “Johnny Rain-Cloud.”  People who are hyper critical can find fault with even the best of things in life.

Think of it this way – Jesus was and is perfect.  No fault. No sin. Nothing wrong with Jesus, and yet the hyper religious pharisees found what they perceived to be a fault – Jesus was healing people on the Sabbath day and that must constitute work in their ungracious estimation.  These men were perceiving things the wrong way because they had conceived their own way of following God’s law.  The expectations they demanded of others were a figment of their own thinking – not the Lord’s.  They had added new rules to God’s Law for everyday for the year!

Everyone should grow in discernment.  This is something the Bible says we should have.  Being critical of others and having personal discernment are not the same thing.  These religious leaders, many of whom could quote long passages of the Old Testament, did not have any practical smarts about them to see Jesus was doing better than the Law was actually calling for.  Watch out – when you start to “nit-pick” others, your eye is becoming critical.

Here are several thoughts about the critical eye.

  1. Those with critical eyes tend to hold others to higher standards than they hold themselves.
  2. Those with critical eyes choose not to see the good that is evident all around them.
  3. Those with critical eyes are quick to complain and let their critique be known – no matter how foolish their words really are.  Imagine – criticizing Jesus – doing good!
  4. Those with critical eyes neglect to have a close fellowship with God.  Instead of praising God, they praise themselves with their proud stance and egotistical demands.
  5. Those with critical eyes get angry very fast.  These irate leaders wanted to kill Jesus.
  6. Those with critical eyes are more emotional and listen less to common sense and reason.  If a man had a sheep fall into a pit and he rescued it – how is it any better or worse for Jesus to heal a man with a withered hand?  Their critical eye and angry heart refused basic reason and it diminished their thinking skills.
  7. Those with critical eyes fail to see the goodness of God.

Jesus did amazing things in His time on earth in the New Testament.  I suggest to you that Jesus continues to to incredible things through His people – His church today.  If you can’t see it – reexamine your heart.  Check your spiritual eyesight.  Sadly, there are many people who look at life like the Pharisees did.

Clean your classes off.  Open the Bible and see our Good and Great God!  Look to serve others by finding ways to carry others, not criticize them.  Avoid having a critical eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Church Priorities in a New Year

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20

Time goes by so fast!  Hard to believe we are in another brand new year.  Thank the Lord for His mercy in giving you and I another day to live and serve Him!

The above verses are generally known as “The Great Commission” along with Mark 16:15.  Incredibly enough, the all-powerful God has partnered with His followers to deliver the Word of God into this lost world.  So the goal is to see people saved, discipled, and in turn, them making new disciples.  This is paramount.  This goal is #1. And then this cycle is to continue from one generation to the next.

As time goes by, even the most well intentioned Christians, and even whole churches, can lose sight of the main goal.  Our lives get crowded. Our vision of the goal becomes cloudy.  Some merely achieve good things and unintentionally neglect the best things.

As Christians and as a church we must have a heart that is not divided of affection for God, or distracted from the purposes of God for our lives.  With this in mind, my 3 objectives in leading our church this year are as follows:

  1. Salvation and Worship. The first goal is for people to engage in a close relationship with Jesus.  Knowing God truly begins at salvation.  Have you been born again?  Are you saved?  Our Sunday morning services at 11:00 AM will be oriented towards knowing God and learning how to become a Christian.  These will be terrific service to bring friends, relatives, and neighbors so they can hear the Gospel.
  2. Discipleship and Growth is the next area to zero in on.  What kind of follower of Jesus are you?  Will you participate in our Adult Bible Studies?  Small Group Bible study and discussion can cause healthy interaction with the Word with others. The 10:00 AM Adult Bible Studies are a great avenue for spiritual growth and knowing other people along the Christian journey.
  3. Service and Winning.  In what ways will you serve Jesus this year?  How will you serve others?  I am concerned if we only focus on serving the people we know and like.  We need to reach out.  We must show the love of Jesus to the people around us.  If not, how will this world know of their need for Jesus and His eternal life? I believe every saved and growing christian, must use their spiritual gift and find at least one ministry in which to serve in and through the local church.  In addition, no matter what you spiritual gift may be, you are called to be a witness to the lost.  Each of us are capable to telling others about the love of God, the forgiveness of our sin (that He paid for on the Cross), and how to be saved.  We can hand out tracts, help in evangelism outreaches, and invite people to sit with us at our 11:00 AM church services on Sunday.

The terminology and how these goals are articulated are being reviewed and revised as you read this article.  I hope to be able to share very soon a clear path to achieve these 3 goals.  With God’s help, these 3 goals will be restated and repeated time and time again.

Will you help?  Will you worship the Lord?  Will you become a good disciple of Jesus, learning and growing with other believers?  And will you make an eternal difference by finding a way to serve with your church while delivering the Gospel to others?

I believe the Lord will do good things as we keep our eyes on serving God in the entirety “His Great Commission.”

 

 

 

 

 

Letting God Grow You

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”   Hebrews 13:20-21

The Lord may use any and every circumstance or situation that may arise in your life to nurture your faith, grow your convictions, or develop your spiritual life.  The good events and the bad events can be orchestrated by God to bring about something good in your heart and life.  Think Job, Joseph, and Paul.  Each of these men endured incredible hardship – and were better men for it.

While we do not like to go through hardship, sometimes the furnace of affliction, the discomfort of pain, and the heartbreak of suffering will cause us to change, and even create more of a desire for the Lord.  A helpful verse is 1 Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ…”

The following are the same Greek words for “Make you perfect” from the passage above.  These verses, could be precise illustration and application of how the Lord wants to grow you.

He wants to REPAIR YOUR LIFE. Matthew 4:21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets and he called them.

Just like a broken net, rope coming unraveled through means or use, work, and fighting the outdoor elements, our lives are many times broken.  Our purpose, usefulness, and reason for living is sometimes called into question.  Our lives can go through seasons of despair and even disrepair.  We need to Lord to repair what the hardships of life have broken.

He wants to RESTORE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Life is full of choices.  The choices have either consequences or blessing.  Depending on the choice, there may be a need for restoration.  Pride is the root source of “people problems.”  While interacting with others, a personal “fault” or sin may be one sided – or only in the other person.  When they confess their sin and repent of it (change their life) we need to be ready to restore.  True restoration results in a relationship not being the same as before – but better than before the sin or issue.

If there is someone that has sinned against you, they may or may not know it.  If there is no sin, but you have bad feelings toward the person, as the Lord for His grace to change your heart – and your thoughts so the relationship can be restored.

He wants to REFINE YOUR FAITH. 1 Thessalonians 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

Paul prayed a lot for his friends in Thessalonica.  He really wanted to travel to their city and see them again.  But his prayer did not stop for hoping to see them again.  He also prayed that the Lord would grow, or “perfect” their faith.  Paul was asking God to refine the faith of each Christian in the church at Thessalonica.

Is your faith being “refined?”  Are the circumstances you are in just something you complain about?  Or do you pray for God’s will to happen and for the situation to turn out to bring glory to God?

Will you see God “grow you” more in this new year?  Will you allow the Lord to repair, restore, and refine your life?

Remember the classic definition of insanity?  “Insanity is to do the same thing over and over while hoping for a different result.”   We can do better than that from day to day, month to month, and year to year in our Christian life.  Don’t just go through the motions.  Be real.  Have a genuine walk with Jesus.  Let God grow you.

Let Jesus make some changes in your life in 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Lamb

The Last Lamb

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  Luke 2:8-9

When it came time for the birth announcement of Jesus to be given, the Lord told shepherds first.  These lowly and modest outdoors men were the first people God gave the “good news” to.  It is only fitting that they were the first ones to hear about Baby Jesus.  I hope to tell you “why” in just a moment.  For now consider sheep:

Sheep are used for several important things in history:

  1. Sheep cheese. The milk of Sheep is better for making cheese that Cows or goats’ milk.   According to Wiki: “sheep milk gives a much higher cheese yield than the milk from cows or goats. …Sheep milk is rarely drank as fluid milk.”
  2. Sheep wool. The wool of sheep is used for clothing even today.  It is a terrific natural product for fabricating warm, durable clothes.
  3. Sheep sacrifices. The Lord accepted the life of the sheep.

Sheep play a central role in the story of the Bible. For example:

  • I believe the first sacrifice was when God killed an animal to make clothing for Adam and Eve following their sin. It was probably a sheep.
  • Abel comes next and offers a lamb to God while Cain offered vegetables. God accepted the sheep sacrifice in Genesis 4:2.
  • Abraham, Isaac, Jacob all gave lambs to God.
  • Moses formalized the sacrifice of lambs in the Law.
  • The Lamb must be young with no blemish. This requirement is demonstrated at the first Passover in Exodus 12.
  • The sacrificial lamb at the tabernacle and later the temple were to be offered daily. Once in morning and another one in evening according to Exodus 29:38-43.  In addition there were several other offerings where a sheep was sacrificed, and killed on behalf of the people for their sin.

By the time Baby Jesus arrives on earth, the shepherds, particularly in Bethlehem, had been working diligently, since the days of Solomon, to produce the best, and most perfect lambs.  The priest in the Temple looked to the shepherds in Bethlehem to supply the sacrificial lambs to be used in the Temple worship.

When the “Last Lamb” was born, it is only fitting and quite poetic that God tells the shepherds about His arrival first!  Jesus is the “sacrifice once for all” according to Hebrews 10:10 and like John the Baptist said in John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Jesus is the Last Lamb.  He paid the final sacrifice with His very own life’s blood.  While religion says: “do” Jesus says: “Done.”  When dying on the cross, being sacrificed for our sins, Jesus said: “It is finished.”  Jesus completed the redemption plan and for you and I to be forgiven of our sin and to be saved, all we do is believe.  WE believe the Gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lamb, Jesus.  Have you expressed faith in Jesus to God?  Have you prayed the “sinners’ prayer” confessing you sin, acknowledging Jesus and the Gospel and asked God to save you?  If not, why not take a moment to pray and do so now?

 

 

 

 

 

The Sheep of Bethlehem

The Sheep of Bethlehem

He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.  Psalm 78:70-71

As the family inheritance was passed down from Boaz to Obed, Jesse and eventually David, we find Bethlehem (the House of Bread) with all the Barley fields of Boaz become a sheep herding location.  The first time we meet David, he is out in the fields, “keeping the sheep” of his father Jesse.

When it comes time for King David to make sacrifice and bring home the Ark of the Covenant to the “City of David”- that is Jerusalem, it is fitting that he would have found the sheep for sacrifice in his hometown.  Following the lead of the Shepherd/King David – his son, Solomon, at the dedication of the Temple sought after many sheep for sacrifice.  From the time of Solomon and David it is clear that the Lambs used for Temple worship and Sacrifice in Jerusalem, were raised 6 miles south in a place called….. Bethlehem.

The shepherds of Bethlehem were partially careful to take care of the sheep.  They would stay with the pregnant ewes and help with deliver.  The stables the shepherds used were the many caves in the hillside of Bethlehem.  These caves offered a safe, warm, and dry place for delivery of the lambs. And best of all: When the lambs were born the shepherds wrapped the lambs in “swaddling clothes!”

It is into this “sheep producing” town that the Lord sent His Son Jesus.  Jesus was born in the “Stable” or shepherds cave just a short distance away from the Inn his parents were turned away from.  It is to this area of the world, renowned for terrific “sheep stock” that the Lord sent the Last Lamb that would ever be needed for sacrifice.

Hebrews 10:10 teaches: By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  Yes, the sheep of Bethlehem paved the way, and painted a picture of the final sheep that would be required of God.  Jesus is the final sacrifice, making the only way for a person to be saved and forgiven of their sins.  Have you accepted the gift of eternal life?  Have you believed in the “Lamb of God” which taketh away the sins of the world?  Why not believe in Jesus today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Simple Life

A Simple Life

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  2 Corinthians 11:3

Have you felt overwhelmed lately with the busyness of life?  I am trying to slow down on purpose to be more reflective and thoughtful.  Perhaps you are busy right now.  Us Americans tend to rush to this event then run to that event. We barely make it to work, school, or church on time.  Many arrive late, if they arrive at all.  Depending on your life stage and if there are kids in your home you are running them all around as well.

Why are we in such a hurry?  Why is life so busy?

  1. We have the same amount of time as we have always had. 24 hours a day.
  2. We attempted to crowd more things into those 24 hours.
  3. With the promise of more leisure time, we depend on electronics and technology.
  4. Even with the fluctuation of inflation, and the value of the American dollar, we have more money and resources than any nation or people in the history of the world.

Is it possible that while we may be “getting more done” that we are actually accomplishing less?  The answer to that question’s rests primarily on your list of priorities.

  • When was the last time you began a new meaningful relationship and friendship with a person or family at church?
  • When was the last time you gave a gospel tract to a neighbor or spoke to an acquaintance about Jesus?
  • When was the last time you prayed before the Sunday morning Bible study and church service and participated with gladness?
  • When was the last time you and those in your household opened a Bible and prayed together?
  • When was the last time everyone in your house enjoyed a dinner together around the table with no television or cellphones taking away from the moment?

One of Satan’s greatest and most effective strategies has been to keep good people busy doing good things, so they cannot engage in the more important and best things.  Satan remains subtle in many ways today.  Most Christians do not run after gross and obvious sin.  Adultery, fornication, lying, cheating, are not usually where good people start to drift.  It is in the seemingly small and mundane things.  They go after potentially good things and are so busy the neglect the best things.  Before long, the best is squeeze out of their lives.

Renowned scientist of yesteryear, Albert Einstein said:

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”

I like that thought.

Are you too busy?  Feeling overworked, stressed, and frazzled?  Try taking some of the non-essentials out.  Be sure to continue or start the basic expectations of the Christian life.  The times of solitude in prayer, moments of discussion with family, and the accountability of being with others in church will only refresh and encourage you.

Sports teams, dance and art class, the local school, and the lessons you signed up for cannot replace the simple things that God has given to us – in Jesus.

While Satan is making life complicated and adding new priorities to your list – Jesus is simplifying our life! He wants you to enjoy the simple things and to find meaning in “being with Jesus” not just running around trying to achieve things in so many areas of life.  With all the available “distractions” it is a wonder that anyone goes to church or opens a Bible any more.  Yes, it is that bad for many people.

Learn from Jesus in Matthew 11:29, He said: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  While Satan wants you to carry your own weight in being busy in life, Jesus wants you to find rest.  Don’t “yoke up” with Satan or this world!  Jesus has a different and better pace of life based on relationship with Him.  It is OK to slow down.  It is good to reassess and refocus the direction of your life.  Take a step back: “Am I running all over when God wants to give me rest?”  Or: “Am I so busy that I no longer have time for God? Family?” Or: “for the things that really matter most in life?”

Find a simpler life in Jesus.  Put the main things in life – first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Never Takes a Day Off

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 

2 Timothy 3:13

Do you look forward to a vacation?  Christmas break? Spring break?  How about the end a work week?  Sure.  We look forward to moments of rest and relaxation.  Jesus even told His disciples to “Come apart and rest a while.”  Rest is good.  While we need physical rest, emotional/relational relaxation, and spiritual renewal, we should never “take the day off” from be vigilant Christians.

We have an adversary who is always on duty.  We have an opponent who never takes a break.  We are in a spiritual battle and at just the right time, a moment of weakness, or unawareness, Satan will pounce.  1 Peter 5:8 says, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…

Radio preacher Erwin Lutzer suggested: “No matter how many pleasures Satan offers you, his ultimate intention is to ruin you. Your destruction is his highest priority.”  He is certainly right about that.

Here are several sobering thoughts:

  1. Evil never takes a day off.  Just turn on the news.  Evil is escalating everyday.
  2. Satan never takes a day off.  Like a ferocious lion, he is always prepared to pounce.
  3. Temptation never takes a day off.  Every one of us, everyday, will face new temptations.  Sometimes the temptations are recycled forms of previous temptations.  Sometimes they are brand new.  Whatever the case, the Lord can give you victory over that temptation.

Because Satan, evil, and temptation never take a day off, I encourage you to not become lazy in your Christianity.  Be aware of the score.  Know what is going on in the battlefield.  Pack your “spiritual bags” at church to be more prepared when tempted to sin.  Hear more Bible preaching, not less.  Be filled and satisfied with Bible truth, not with the non-sense entertainment and distractions of the world.  Put on the whole armor of God.  Keep your shoes on to flee from Satan.  Be around spiritual people who will encourage you and challenge you to faithfulness in service to Jesus.  Open the Bible and let the Word of God into your life.  Don’t be deceived! Be an aware believer, engaging actively each day.

Your life depends on it.

Your family depends on it.

Those around you will be influenced by your choices.

Don’t take a spiritual day off.