“CHURCH LIKE IT USED TO BE”
“How Well Do You Know Him”
This is not the first time Jesus broke bread with His disciples, nor is it the first time He told them His body would be broken for them. He had once told them He was the Bread of Life and many of His followers were offended at His words. (John 6).
Jesus Christ, His Cross, His sacrifice, and His resurrection have been an offense to man for over two thousand years. In recent years there has been more opposition against the teaching of Jesus than in all the generations before. In part, I recognize, by the larger population, but more, in reality, by the rejection of Jesus Christ as God and the acceptance of man as his own god. The disciples received His words, His bread, and daily broke bread after Jesus’ resurrection. They beheld His glory, saw Him after the resurrection, and witnessed His ascension into Heaven and it changed their lives. They did daily thank God for the sacrifice of His Son for them and they remembered His death on the Cross for their sin and they judged themselves according to His righteousness. Their lives were changed by knowing Him not by breaking bread.
“People Or Things”
“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” I Timothy 6:17
There has been a great deal of talk in the past few years during the economic challenges that the wealthy need to give what they have to help those who do not have. People on both sides of the argument are very passionate and are very divided about the issue. God does not condemn wealth in the Bible no more than He praises poverty; He simply states that we are not to trust in riches more than trusting in Him. That principle is for people of all economic standing. God uses the provision He has given each person to help others in their time of need. Our text does not teach that it is wrong to have things, it warns against becoming materialistic or letting those things become more important than God. Is it incorrect to be a hoarder of what we have and refuse to share it or to be envious and covetous of things others have and want to have it? Both are wrong and both dishonor God. He created us to love people and use things, but a materialist loves things and uses people.
“The Value Of The Fire”
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29
As told to me by a friend: I have a coffee cup that I use every morning when I pour my morning coffee; it has a print that was hand-painted by my grandson Caleb. He gave it to me as a gift a few years ago and each morning when I reach for the cup I stop for a moment and say a prayer for Caleb. That painting cannot be washed away and has withstood hundreds of washings without fading; how is that possible? Simple, after the painting was placed on the cup it was taken to a kiln and put to the fire. Before I could enjoy its beauty and usefulness it had to go through the fire. Many of life’s lessons are sprinkled with tears and trials. Many of the greatest of the hymns and gospel songs that speak to our heart have come from the finished side of the fire. Whether our fire is from chastisement, persecution, or testing, its completion makes us pure and ready for the Master’s use. The finest china is put through the fire a minimum of three times, and some even more than that. Why does it go through such intense heat more than once? It is necessary so that its beauty will show and its usefulness will remain.
“Who Is Number One?”
“No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24
There is a great deal of competition for your loyalty; family, friends, possessions, work, and leisure activities all jockey for position or preeminence in your life. You need each, and if you are a child of God, each has been given to you as a gift from your Heavenly Father for your enjoyment and edification. When Jesus delivered this heart stirring and life changing message to a great multitude, He presented a formula of success and contentment for each who would seek the blessing of God. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” What He instructed was simple and biblical; placing the Lord first in your life takes away all other competition; no other person, possession, activity or venture can come between you and Him. There is, however, only room for one number one, either God, or someone or something else. Do not give the remains of the day to the Lord and then expect His richest blessing.
“What Will You Do”
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore, he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8
Daniel and his three Hebrew friends were put in the palace of the king of Babylon to be his servants when Judah was carried away captive. These four young men who had not yet matured into adulthood, were faced with a major decision early into their training to serve in the king’s court: obey their captors or obey God. You see, these young men were already men of the Word of God; they learned and lived the precepts of God’s Word and they had long before their captivity made a commitment to love God and follow and obey Him. We all are occasionally put in a situation where we are faced with a direct conflict with obedience to God’s Word or conformity to man’s demands. It may be an employer asks something that is unethical and a misrepresentation of the facts, or a friend invites you to a questionable activity, or a family member asks you to present a half-truth, saying no could compromise your position with them, but saying yes would compromise your witness for God.
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit. But all these worketh that one and the self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” I Corinthians 12:4,7,11
God gave one or more spiritual gifts to every single believer to help and enable each to work for His kingdom. The Holy Spirit equips us to obey our Heavenly Father for whatever He calls us to do. Somewhere churches got the false idea that some are the servants and others are just bystanders in God’s Kingdom. No one is a bystander; each is commissioned to proclaim the Gospel and has been given gifts to help do their task. Age, gender, education, or ability does not exclude any from service; He is the same Lord over all. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. A spiritual gift is not ability, it is the Holy Spirit manifesting Himself through the believer as He lives and works through God’s child to bring forth acts of service God has called him to obey. Do not waste time looking for others to serve, get busy doing what God equipped you to do for His kingdom.
“Beaten By Bitterness”
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
Bitterness is a never satisfied monster when it is allowed to take root in our hearts; it destroys our ability to make a reasonable and spiritual decision; it compromises our physical, mental, and spiritual health, and it grieves the Holy Spirit (verse 30). The only remedy is forgiveness; its example is Jesus Christ and His willingness to forgive. If you believe the Bible, or even if you do not believe it, you are to forgive as you are forgiven; God will forgive your sin based on how you forgive others. God has promised peace and prosperity to those who will put their trust in Him and follow Him in complete surrender. An example is given; an angel visited two men who despised each other and promised each anything they wanted, but that he would give the other double the request; wealth, health, long life, it is yours if you request it. One thought for a moment and from within his bitter heart said, “Strike me blind in one eye.” Defeat bitterness, forgive the unforgivable!
“The World’s Greatest Book”
“Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.” Psalms 119:4-6
I love the term – The Word of God; I use it all the time because it is a testimony to that which I hold in my hand, The Word of God. His Word teaches that it is God-breathed or Divinely inspired by Him and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16). Moses spent time alone in the presence of God and came back to his people with the tablets that held the writing of God on them. Moses did not scribe the Words of God and he did not chisel them into stone; he simply awaited God’s handiwork to be completed as He wrote His commandments on these tablets of stone. He held in his hand the writings of God by His own hand to be given to people who needed Him. Every time I stand to preach I hold in my hand the Word of God; God’s handiwork to be presented to people who need Him. Sixty-six books Divinely inspired by God Himself; to be put into our hearts and written in our minds by God (Hebrews 10:16). Divinely given and Divinely preserved for the time of man’s greatest need.
“Laughter is Great Medicine”
“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” Psalms 32:11
When is the last time you had a really great laugh? You know, one of those old fashioned belly laughs that comes from deep inside. David testifies of his ability to express his humor to God even in the midst of problems. Psalms 32 deals with his sin problem and the forgiveness he finds in God, and Psalms 35 deals with his man problem and the praise he finds in God. Abraham Lincoln once said, “God must have meant for us to laugh, or else He would not have made so many mules, parrots, monkeys, and human beings.” God wants us to laugh? Good and wholesome laughter is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. When life has become so serious that you are ready to call it quits, stop for a moment and just laugh. I heard of a puppet skit that was about four minutes of nothing but laughing, by the time it was done, everyone was laughing. It was great medicine and it was a great gift from God. You say, “You do not know what I’m going through.” You might be right, but God does and He has given you joy in your heart that will give you a moment to laugh. Try it if you dare.
“Inside and Out”
“Here me when I call, O God of my righteousness, Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” Psalms 4:1
There is a direct relationship with our attitude inside and the circumstances outside. If we maintain the proper attitude, God will use each circumstance to strengthen (enlarge) us. We must look to God and God alone for He alone is our strength and security. We will become discouraged if we look at others and try to get our encouragement from them. Fact is, sometimes God’s people can be so discouraging. David’s men were so discouraged and they asked, “Who will show us any good?” They were discouraged with God, with David, and with each other and in their discouragement they expressed their dissatisfaction with their king who had faithfully led and loved them. David realized that his only hope was in the Lord his God and that God could turn these circumstances into something that could strengthen him and give him peace (see verse 8). He realized that his attitude toward God was more important than his circumstances and the attitudes of his men. At the end of the day, whether everyone has encouraged or no one has encouraged, look to God for He alone will strengthen and show mercy.