Wednesday, May 28, 2014

For Taylor. You will be missed.

    Proverbs 17:17
    friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. 
                                 Feb, 11, 2004 to May 28, 2014
Sometimes there are those souls that come into your life that make a profound impact. In 2003, there was a beautiful little girl named Taylor that had a huge impact on many lives by her heart and love for Jesus. She died of cancer at a young age. Her death impacted our family. 

In 2004, we moved to Texas for my first pastorate. My daughter, Heather, was feeling very down. Della and I prayed about how to comfort her. 

Soon, we saw an ad in the paper from a veterinarian. It seems she had a brood of puppies to give away for free. Someone had left them on her clinic doorstep. So, she doctored them up and gave them away. Della (my wife), showed me the ad. 

So, a couple of days later, I found myself at the clinic looking at puppies. They were all beautiful, but which one should I get? I prayed and asked the Lord to have the one he wanted for Heather to come to me. So, I stooped down within a few feet of them. I didn't reach out. I just waited.

Soon, this little black pup came shyly up to me and licked my hand. I chose her. I remember she was about the size of half my forearm and hand. She was a loving little thing. I took her home. We thought she was just for Heather. It turned out she was for all of us.

The girls named her Taylor in honor of the little girl in Mississippi that had died of cancer. From the start, she was a joy. My daughter, Erica, had a large Pooh Bear. Taylor was MUCH smaller than that stuffed animal. But, somehow she managed to drag that thing around- much to Erica's dismay.

Heather reminded me of Taylor's first birthday. Heather had made a cake for all of us (including Taylor). She bent down and was holding the cake between her and Taylor so Della could take a picture. About the time the camera flashed, Taylor was licking icing off the side of the cake.

Erica reminded me of how Taylor had her first set of pups- ten of them! When the pups grew a little, there was one that Taylor was especially fond of- Tony. Erica gave Taylor a boiled egg (no shell on it) and she took off running around the yard, with her pups chasing. She dropped the egg on the ground in such a way that Tony was the first to get to it. You could almost see her smile.

One of my favorite memories is when she was a pup. There was a picnic table there. The light from the back porch would shine across her, when she stood on the table. The shadow was cast on the large tree nearby. And Taylor would see the motion of her wagging tail and bark at her own shadow. We got many a laugh out of that.

She was a very good momma. In fact, when we gave away all but three of them, she spent days looking around the yard for her missing brood. 

She enjoyed playing with me, as well. Sometimes, when we were in the first home she lived in with us, I would come home to find the "gifts" the potty training Taylor had left for grandpa in his office. This made the girls howl with laughter at my agitation.

But, there were also other times. Like when I left for work early in the morning. Many times, she would act as the guardian of the house. We lived in some rough areas at times, and her growl ran off many an intruder. 

She was also very sensitive. And she LOVED the Holy Ghost. She enjoyed many a prayer session with her grandma Della. Because of this, she was especially close to Della (and vice-versa). When times were hard, and Della needed a listening ear, or a good hug, Taylor was there. Sometimes, Taylor would sense grandma's heartache and would show up to be with her- even after she lost her sight.

Recently, Heather (who's married now) had our granddaughter Ella. When Aaron (her marine husband) had to be gone overnight, Taylor would lay at Heather's bedroom door as if to protect her and Ella. 

About a year ago, Taylor was bitten twice by a moccasin. The venom took it's toll. It damaged her insides and caused her to go blind. She lost a lot of weight. Finally, she developed cancer and we had to put her down. 

There has never been a better friend to a family than Taylor. Truly, as the passage in Proverbs above says, she loved at all times. Sick or healthy, with plenty or little. She loved us all and would've given her life to protect us all. Some might say, "Well, you can always get another dog." But, those that say that didn't know Taylor. 

You can replace a dog. You cannot replace part of your family. We love you, Taylor. And, if there are dogs in heaven (and there's no scripture that says there ain't), we have no doubt that you're there- playing with our son, Samuel, who died before he was born, and kissing Jesus. We look forward to seeing you when we get there.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A true memorial

Philippians 3

King James Version (KJV)
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

I realize that this is a strange scripture to use for a memorial day post, but there's a reason for that. 

I see many posts on Facebook that say, "if you enjoy your freedom, thank a veteran." In principle, I find myself somewhat in agreement with these postings. It is true that we enjoy our freedoms in this country due to the sacrifices of those who were willing to fight and die to gain and keep our God-given rights.

However, freedom won does not equate to freedom lived well. Do we use our freedoms wisely? Do we make godly choices that glorify God, aid our families, and help our fellow man? Or, do we use our freedoms to sew to the flesh and it's every ungodly desire?

Has our national freedom been used to make us better? or worse?

Many veterans shake their heads when they see the way our freedoms have been abused and misused to make society worse, not better. Many will tell you that what our nation has become is NOT what they fought to preserve, but rather it has become something they no longer recognize. Something far less than our founding fathers aspired to.

The best way to honor our veterans (living and dead) is to return to and lift up the ideals of our founders. We should stand firmly on the Constitution and stand against those that would destroy and change it.

Some 2000 years ago, Paul reminds us in the above passage that- due to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ- we have a high calling to attain to. We are not to allow God's grace to become a do as you want, it's covered thing. We are, in light of the battle fought and won on Calvary, to live our lives in such a way as to glorify and honor the one who died to give us the chance for salvation.

Pithy, religious sounding slogans, don't cut it. Going through the motions of religion doesn't cut it. We are to live our lives in the light of the one who called us into his marvelous light. We should honor him daily in everything we do and say. We should strive to let him live through us to touch a lost and dying world- who have no hope except through him.

He didn't call us to build grand cathedrals. He called us to be his hands and feet. He called us to build into the lives of the hurting, the broken, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the unwanted of society. He called us to shine his light of truth into the dark places of humanity- even when those places are occupied by the rich and powerful- in order that they might see themselves as HE sees them and repent before it is too late.

Yes, we must be biblically born again (Acts 2:38), but real Christianity is so much more than that. Paul said that in spite of his well educated and high standing social status of his past, he counted it all as DUNG that he might attain Christ!

We need to stop holding onto yesterdays anointing, yesterdays blessings, and yesterdays revivals. God has promised us revival in these last days, but we won't be a part of it unless we live our lives immersed in him. We must immerse ourselves in his word and spirit and allow him to change us. We must let his holy fire burn away the chaff that we've allowed into our souls so that the world can see him in all we do.

So, on this memorial day, lets rededicate our lives to the cause of the one who truly should be lifted up- Jesus Christ. Let us seek first his righteousness and watch him work. He's not interested in our abilities and education. He's interested in our availability and submission to him as Lord (supreme controller). This truly is the best memorial we can give him.

In closing, let's pray:

Lord Jesus, we repent of our shortsightedness. We repent of being caught up in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We repent of getting caught up in the "me generation." We ask that you move deep inside us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. We ask that you strengthen us to walk in your word and ways- whatever the cost. We ask that you help us to be your hands, feet, heart, and mouths in this backward and broken generation. Lead us to such as would be saved, and save them. Let us look past the pride and see the pain. Give us the wisdom to know when to speak and what to do. Use us to spread you word and your love to this lost and dying world. In Jesus name! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

To and Fro, to and fro, which way will you choose to go?

Galatians 6:7-10

King James Version (KJV)
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

2 Chronicles 16:9a
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

Job 2:2
And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

Ephesians 4:14
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

This thought hit me today, as I was in church and listening to my pastors sermon. Honestly, it came partly from the scripture he read (Galatians 6:8) and partly from my habit of reading around the scripture being quoted. So, I read verses 7-10. 

At that point, these thoughts began to come to me in rapid fire succession. So, we're gonna put the fruit of the spirit on hold for a few days and concentrate on this thought. 

Verses 7 and 8 read: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

There are two distinct choices listed here. 

A) We can sew to our flesh and eventually reap corruption. In order to be a child of God, we must be born again (Acts 2:38). In order to remain a child of God we must crucify our flesh and strive to be like him (with his help, of course). If we allow our flesh to have free reign in our lives, we will once again begin to practice the works of the flesh: 

Galatians 5:19-21

King James Version (KJV)
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

In so doing, we separate ourselves from the spirit of God and we can lose our salvation and wind up in hell. After all, even Paul said: 1 Corinthians 9:27
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

B) Or, we can sew to the spirit. We do this in many ways. Prayer, Bible Study, public worship, hearing the taught and preached word, being careful what we read, watch, and listen to, being careful who we hang out with, etc. Sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't. 

Becoming a Christian is a lifestyle change. We MUST turn away from the world and our flesh. We MUST seek God first and his righteousness.

I love my wife. As such, I try to discover her likes and dislikes. Why? I want to keep my relationship with her and I want it to become deeper and stronger. Therefore, I try to do more of what she likes and try not to do what she hates. I begin to modify my behavior because I love her. Why should I do any less for my Lord and Savior? 

As part of his bride, my purpose is to learn his likes and dislikes. Therefore, I change my behavior in order to deepen and strengthen my relationship with him. 

The problem is that we, as humans, sometimes are double minded. We want God sometimes, but sometimes we want to feed our flesh. This makes us unstable in all our ways. 

Both God and Satan are going to and fro. Satan does it seeking whom he may devour. If we choose to sin, we step into his trap and are ripe for the eating. God does it (with is eyes- he's everywhere, so he doesn't have to move about to see what we are doing. He's already there) to look and see who is loving and serving him (and who is ready to love and serve him). He also does it to see what the sinners are doing as well- he is the righteous judge, after all.

So, obviously, Both heaven and hell are vying for our attention. Both God and Satan will do everything within their power to help us to choose their sides and to help us to stay there once we get there. So, who decides whether we make heaven or go to hell? 

We do! 

And we daily must decide whether we will follow Jesus, or follow this world. With some of us, Jesus must become really frustrated. Did you ever have a relationship where the one you wanted sent mixed signals to you? One day they wanted you. The next, they wanted someone else. Eventually, you grew tired of it and gave them up- if they didn't stop playing both sides and chose you, right?

Eventually, if we don't make up our minds, God will give us over to a reprobate mind. Why? Because we "received not the love of the truth." We have a choice to make. God will not always strive with us. And he doesn't hold onto the double minded for very long.

We must stop being blown about with every wind of doctrine. We must stand firmly on the word of God and seek him first.

The more we go to and fro, the higher the chance of our being lost. 

So: James 4:8
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded

It is high time for us to stop flirting with both sides. We must choose. I choose Jesus. What about you? 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Take a fruit break today (and every day).

Galatians 5:22-23

King James Version (KJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

John 14

King James Version (KJV)

14 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Philippians 4:6-9

King James Version (KJV)

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

We live in a truly messed up world. We live at a very fast pace. We're going to work, to the store, to the doctors, and to kids concerts and practices. We have to fix our cars, our hair, our families, and our lives. We're always going and going. 

Is it any wonder that our stress levels are up, our families are in turmoil, and and our hearts are under tremendous pressure? We worry about everything and have peace about almost nothing. As a result, we scream at our families, rather than talk to them. 

Our lives seem to be built around overcoming one obstacle after another. It's crazy. What's a Christian to do in this overwhelming world?

First, take a cue from Jesus. Every time he started his day (and many times during the day and at the end if his day), Jesus prayed. Yes, Jesus was (and is) God in human flesh. But his flesh was still human. In order to make it through the day, perform the ministry he had to do, and overcome the enormous obstacles that were set before him, he had to pray.

The scriptures say that "(we) can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth (us)." (Philippians 4:13) The flesh of Jesus knew he had monumental tasks ahead so he started each day in communion with the spirit of God. We should to. If we are to make it through the many challenges that beset us each day, we need to stay in close contact with the spirit of God.

In fact, we need to do as Paul wrote and "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thes. 5:17) Whatever may come our way, we need to pray before, during, and after. If we don't, we will inevitably fail.

Jesus also tells us to "let not (our) hearts be troubled." In other words, it's a choice. We can either worry ourselves to death trying to figure out how to fix the problems we face, or we can remember that Jesus is in control.

"In everything by prayer and supplications...let your requests be made known to God," is what we need to do. We need to ask him for direction and then follow through with the actions that are required for us to do to play our part. 

Finally, we need to keep our mind and hearts focused on "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

The more we keep our minds and hearts on God and good things, the less stress we will have in our lives. When we dive off into ungodly entertainment and activities, then we are much more easily discouraged and stressed. It then becomes a viscous and counterproductive circle.

The more we worry, the more stress we have. The more stress we have, the more we dive off into entertainment (be it books, movies, games, websites, alcohol, etc) to escape our troubles. The more we try and escape and don't face the problems, the worse the problems become. The worse the problems become, the more we worry- and the process begins all over again.

Let us stop the rat race, get off the wheel, and seek God and his righteousness. If we will, then "the God of peace shall be with (us)." Then, it won't be so hard to deal with life. And we will develop part of the fruit of the spirit that he so wants to develop in us- HIS peace.

May the Lord help us ALL follow this advice in our lives. In Jesus name!  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

More fruit: Lessons about the growth of the body, from the Apostles.

Matthew 13:18-23

King James Version (KJV)
18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Ever wonder why we pray and speak the truth to folks and it seems to fall on deaf ears? It seems to me that there are two sides to this answer. 

First of all, I'd like to point out that there are four distinct types of hearers here in this passage.

Of those, 3 of the 4 (75%) do not reject the word of God outright. Indeed, they do receive it- happily. 

Of the 3 that receive it, 2 fall away (66%). One because of the trials of life (they get hurt). The other because of the cares of this life and the pursuit of success (they get sidetracked).

So preachers and teachers- indeed, saints of God- keep on telling it like it is. But, understand, that of the 4 you talk to, only one is going to stick around long term. 2/3 of those you reach will backslide. 

By all means do pray for and go after them. There will be some prodigals among them who will come to their senses and return to Jesus. Don't give up on them. You never know which one will respond.

Secondly, another reason for our lack of response is our own dedication to Jesus. This lack of dedication is shown in Jesus' words when he says that some will bear fruit a hundredfold, sixty fold, and thirty fold. If we all put forth the same effort with the same dedication, then we'd all bear fruit a hundred fold. 

In his opening remarks to his New Testament translation, J.B. Phillips made this statement: "Perhaps if we believed what they (the Apostles and early church) believed, then we could achieve what they achieved." 

I agree, but I would alter his statement for our modern audience: "Perhaps if we believed and practiced what they believed and practiced, then we could achieve what they achieved."

With that in mind, what did they practice, generally, that many of us no longer practice?

Luke 24:49

King James Version (KJV)

49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

Here Jesus gave them a direct command. And they obeyed. 

How many times does Jesus give us a direct command and we either disobey, or analyze it to death- trying to figure it out.

The early church was unquestioningly obedient to the Lord. Shouldn't we be the same?

Acts 2

King James Version (KJV)

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

First, they were ALL filled with the Holy Ghost. This was not guesswork. This was not an empty "just believe it." This was a fact. Jesus had promised them power from on high, and he fulfilled it in the lives of all 120 people in that upper room. So powerful was the experience that it got the whole cities attention. Before that day was out, there were another 3000 souls born again through the same truth and experience of the original 120.

Acts 4:8

King James Version (KJV)

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

Next, they spoke only when filled with his spirit. They didn't rest on the first experience with God. They pursued him all the more! So much so that three times in the first four chapters of Acts, they were filled with the spirit. We should not rest on our initial salvation. We should seek him for more of him. More truth. More love. More of his spirit. 

Acts 4:31

King James Version (KJV)

31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

They stayed in a state of prayer. They had set times for prayer. They also prayed whenever they needed or wanted to in addition to those set prayer times. As such, they stayed in right relationship with God and he was able to do great and mighty things through them. 

Acts 6:4-6

King James Version (KJV)

But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

They allowed others to handle needs. It wasn't a one man (or twelve man) show. It was about the whole body of Christ responding as God moves. Too many of our churches today believe it's all about "the ministry." Only the pastor (or staff) can do things. Everything must go through the "man of God." Sounds good to many, but in fact, it stifles the free flow of the Holy Ghost. 

The pastoral calling is not the whole five fold ministry. There are four other offices listed. Also, there are other offices (Bishop, deacon) listed as well in the scripture. The word pastor is only used ONCE in the whole New Testament. Where do we get the idea that they are the end all and be all of everything?

Look at the purpose of the five fold ministry: 

Ephesians 4:10-13

King James Version (KJV)

10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Notice the progression. Jesus gives the five fold ministry. Why? For the PERFECTING OF THE SAINTS. Ok. We seem to have that much right these days. 

But, why do the saints need to be perfected? To go to heaven? (Yes, but that's not what is listed here.) Notice, the saints need to be perfected, "for the work of the ministry."

Wait, I thought the five fold ministry did the work of the ministry. I challenge you to look up that word "ministry" in the Greek. It's not just about the preachers. It's about helping others. When we give food to the hungry, we are in ministry. When we visit the sick and shut ins, we are in ministry. When we give a testimony, we are in ministry. When we pray for others, we are in ministry. 

But, brother Mike, what if they mess up. Shouldn't they have to go through their pastor for permission first? NO! The pastor is not their Lord, Jesus is!
The pastor is to lead them and teach them the truth. He is to help them grow and pray for them. But, he is NOT in control of what they do when they leave the doors of the church building. Jesus IS!

Besides, what preacher is perfect? Which one of us has never made a mistake since we've been called into his glorious light? Why do pastors and leaders burn out? Because they try to do it all!

Pastors, help your people to grow in God. Teach them to rely on Jesus and his word. Stop trying to control people. It's not your job to control. It's your job to help them to walk in the calling God has laid on them. Let God be God!

If they make a mistake, help them to prayerfully fix it. When a baby falls down or breaks something, we don't lock the child in a corner and not allow them to do anything. We clean them up and teach them. We keep feeding them so they can grow.

So, the saints need to be perfected so that THEY can minister to others. Why? "For the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ."

A) People will get excited when they are used by God to minister to others. This builds up the church- in strength and power. B) When others are won to the Lord through the saints ministering, THIS also builds up the church- in numbers.

We get so caught up in numbers, that we stifle the ministry of the body. This begins to stagnate and kill the body. We have it backwards. 

"Till we all come into the unity of the faith..." We always like to hammer about being on one mind and one accord like the early church was. How do we achieve this? Through creeds? Through control? Through religious education? No! 

We do it through the steps we just covered. When the saints see that God can use them, they will jump at the chance to pray, study, and fast. Why? Because they will be excited about seeing others come to Jesus! They will know that God can use them. We will all be on one page- in unity. 

Unity is not achieved through our programs. It is achieved through our walk with God. It is achieved through the ministry that he gives each one of us. 

Yes. The preacher is important. But, so is the Sunday School teacher. So are the ones who are reaching out to addicts. So are the ones that feed the hungry. It all works together. We are all different parts of the same body of Christ.

The mouth can't grab someone and stop them from falling. It takes eyes to see the danger, a brain to process the danger, and a mouth to warn of the danger. It takes an arm and hand to reach out and grab the person. It takes feet and legs to anchor, so that the back and arms can pull backwards and stop them from going over the cliff. 

See, it all works together. That's how God's church: the body of Christ is supposed to be. 

If we try and do it differently, then we stunt the growth of the church. 

Finally, some people are naturally going to work harder for God than others. That's why some folks produce a hundred fold, while others produce thirty fold. But, they still produce! 

Let the body be the body. Let the vines be the vines. As long as we stay anchored in the branch (Jesus), we will be alright. Let's all do our own part. Let's all work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. 

It worked in the early church. When persecution scattered the church abroad, did it die? NO! It grew wherever it landed. 

If we let God be God, when persecution hits us, we will be fruitful wherever we land. When we let his spirit guide us and his love compel us, we can't help but grow wherever he plants us. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I learned something in Sunday School today.

Galatians 5:19-23

King James Version (KJV)
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Romans 3:18-20

King James Version (KJV)

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.
19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

1 John 3:4

King James Version (KJV)

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

I love Sunday School. 

It is a beautiful time of sharing and learning of God together. I generally do not like Sunday School books, but that's a rant for another time. In Sunday School, unlike a preaching service, the congregation is allowed and encouraged to ask questions and give feedback on the subject at hand. In this way, the body of Christ can share with each other, our experiences and lessons learned about a particular subject. We exhort one another and help each other to deeper and higher places in God.  

I got yet another reason to like Sunday School today. I learned something. Yes, I am supposed to learn something every time. In truth, most Sunday School books are little more than milk and I prefer the meat of the word. However, today was special. 

First, I was reminded that sin is simply the transgression (breaking) of God's law. Therefore, when we sin, we place ourselves back under the penalty of the law- death. To become free of that, we must repent. All this I already knew. But, it was a good reminder nonetheless. 

I didn't learn anything that most would consider earth-shattering. For me, however, it was. 

All of my life I have heard of the "nine fruits of the spirit." It's part of what most Christians consider to be basic information. Today, from a young man 22 years my junior, I learned that there's no such thing as the "fruits" of the spirit. Rather, there is only one "fruit of the spirit" that includes those nine things: "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."

This truly caused me to stop and take another look. After all, I've been writing on the "fruits" of the spirit for the last four blogposts.

Before I had time to analyze it too closely, the Sunday School teacher- a man around my age- agreed and told us that it is on LOVE that the rest of the pieces hinge. We cannot have joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance operating in our lives without the foundation of God's unconditional love. 

Indeed, love is the furtile soil from which the rest of it grows.

So, thank God for Sunday School. Thank God that he shares his knowledge throughout the body of Christ in order to teach each other. Thank God for the reminder that it's not just us old folks who know some things. 

And, to give honor where honor is due, thank you Aaron Sinsley and Miles Duncan, for letting God use you to share what he's taught you.