“CHURCH LIKE IT USED TO BE”
“Happy To Know He Is Close”
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you… cleanse your hands… purify your hearts.” James 4:8
I have found that we are not unlike our children in our behavior with our Father. When our children are young they do not venture too far from us, but as they mature and begin to practice some things that they know they should not be doing, then they become more secretive and secluded from us. It is not that they have stopped loving us; they just want to keep what they know we would not approve of away from us. As Christians, we act, and react, much the same. As long as things are right, we are happy to talk with the Lord, but as soon as we do something we know we should not do, we start hiding things from Him. Did you ever stop to think of when we should draw nigh to God? We should draw nigh when we are distracted by the things of life. We should draw nigh when we are disturbed by the things life throws our way. We should draw nigh to God when we are disgusted with life. We should draw nigh to God when we have dropped out of fellowship with Him. And we should draw nigh to God when life has disappointed us by what we have received.
“Please Call Home”
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
No child of God rises any higher than their praying. Everything we ever hope to be for the Lord depends on prayer. It is the most important task of our day, but many would rather go to work to perform tasks they despise rather than pray. The most important part of our day is never seen by anyone but the Lord, and it is found in our prayer life. How many times has the Lord waited for you to come into His presence and enjoy fellowship with Him only to see a day or two, or more, pass without talking with Him? We take the time to learn all the other tasks of life, regardless of how important or insignificant they may be. We can program our televisions, cell phones, computers, cars, and iPads; but we cannot seem to make the time to learn how to talk to our Heavenly Father. Many today can text someone without even looking at the keyboard, but somehow have not found out how to talk with the Lord. It is not a technical or complicated process; you only need an open heart and willingness to communicate with Him. Out loud, or silently, He longs to have fellowship with you.
“The Power Of His Presence”
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” II Corinthians 3:18
The Word of God is where we see God, and where we see ourselves as God sees us. It has been called a mirror by some so that we might recognize that we see our spiritual self reflected from within its sacred pages. One day when Moses was tending sheep he noticed a bush that was burning, but was not consumed by the fire. He decided that he would try to get a better look, but God told him not to look and to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. Later, God gave Moses instruction for the Tabernacle and He explained that the Holiest of Holies was His Place, but it was not open for everyone for it was holy ground. When Christ completed His priestly duties the veil that separated man from the Holiest of Holies was removed and access upon that holy ground was granted through Christ. When Moses returned from the presence of the Lord the people could tell he had been in His holy presence. His image is reflected in us when we spend time in His holy presence.
“The Lord Dealing With Sin”
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” Hebrews 12:5-6
Many of us heard our parents tell us when they disciplined us with a spanking as a child: “This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you.” A loving parent did not hold back discipline, and exercised it when their child disobeyed their warning or instruction. The purpose was to teach their child the difference between right and wrong. God’s purpose in chastening His children is so that we might learn not to sin. Sin left unattended cannot be expected to be forgiven, and ignoring it will only hurt our relationship with God. There are two absolutes: sin is always sin, and righteousness is always righteousness; there is no gray area and God cannot make exceptions or lower His standard of righteousness. He does, however, offer forgiveness through the blood of Jesus to all who will confess their sin to God as sin, and ask for His forgiveness. Sin separated man from God and He hates sin; He chastens His children for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness; and that we might lay aside the sin that so easily hinders.
“Silence Is Not Always Golden, It is Sometimes Yellow”
“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered not a word.” I Kings 18:21
This was a great day for the prophet of God as he set up a showdown between Almighty God and the false god Baal. It was greater than an earlier battle between a shepherd boy and a champion of the Philistines, and it was greater than Moses and Aaron standing against Pharaoh’s magicians; this single prophet of God stood against four hundred and fifty of Ahab’s prophets and he set the stage for God to prove Himself above all other gods. Before Elijah let the prophets of Baal try to get him to consume their sacrifice, before he drenched his sacrifice with water, and before he prayed to God to consume the sacrifice, he challenged the people of Israel to do one simple thing; make a choice to follow God or make a choice to follow Baal. How sad that not even a single word was said. Elijah’s request was no passive suggestion; he demanded a choice to be made. There is only one true God and He will not accept a divided heart. You are faced with a choice today also; it is a choice between the god of idolatry, of materialism, or the Almighty God of Heaven. There is no room for compromise or silence.
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell.” James 3:6
Early in July of 1994, during an exceptionally dry summer, lightening struck a remote area outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. A slow burning fire only scorched about three acres over the first couple of days, but events changed quickly and eventually the fire spread and fourteen firefighters lost their lives in the blaze. I read an article written earlier this year about the South Canyon Fire; the effects of that blaze is still being felt today after seventeen years. James speaks of the damage of the tongue as an out of control fire; it starts with only a small word spoken out of bitterness, resentment, or anger, and before long it spreads to depths of hurt and pain that may never be restored. Visitors of the site of that fire have seen its devastation; it is heart breaking to stand where a life has been lost. I have also seen the devastation of the effects of a life destroyed by the malicious words of another’s tongue; it is distressing to see someone’s life that has been destroyed. Solomon reminded: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
“Our Job Before The Lord”
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13
There is a great deal of debate and speculation today about what pleases God; the arguments presented go from self-serving lists of rules to the other extremes of conformity to the world and adding: God will just have to accept things the way they are? Thing is, we do not have to speculate because God has already explained in detail that which pleases Him; it can be summarized in our text and illustrated in the life of Job. Job 1:1 briefly but directly testifies of Job’s life and later in verse nine God personally testifies of his life and the honor he shows him. Both verses testify of four qualities exhibited by Job. First, he is said to be perfect; this does not mean he was without sin, it means he wanted to please God wholeheartedly. Second, God describes Job as an upright man. He has a good testimony before others around him; this was a direct reflection of his relationship with his Heavenly Father. Next, he feared God; this means that he reverently trusted God and worshiped Him alone. Last, he eschewed evil; perhaps this word is not used much or fully understood, but it means he abstained from evil by staying close to God.
“Putting The Past In The Past”
“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.” Philippians 3:13
Many people, maybe most people, well realistically, everyone of us has something in our past that we wished we did not do or at the very least we would like to change something that happened back there. Some may even have something back there that they do not want anyone to know about. What can we do about the past and how do we deal with the guilt and shame of things from back there? We cannot change it, but we can recognize some important facts about our past. First, God knows about our past and He has made provision for each person to get past the past. We must take time to make necessary confession and when confession is made; He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Someone once wrote: The present must forget the past by correction, or else the past will become a moral and spiritual liability for the future. Can you disappoint God by your past? Only if you refuse to confess your past to Him. Read the following verses regarding your past sin. Isaiah 44:22, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 10:17, Psalms 103:12, and put the past in the past.
“And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.” Luke 15:12
Many people today feel that they have been “dissed” by life; disrespected by others, disillusioned by friends, and disappointed by God. Somehow they believe they deserve more than they are given and react with discontentment, discouragement, and dissatisfaction; it is a sense of entitlement to what others have. God calls it covetousness and He calls covetousness sin. Both of the sons of this father in Luke 15 felt they had been “dissed” by their father so they “dissed” him in return. He gave them both his life’s possessions and they were discontented with what he gave them. Genesis 4 records the offering Cain brought to the Lord; he knew it was not an acceptable offering, but he had a sense of entitlement that God should make an exception and accept it; after all, it was planted, grown, and harvested by his own hands. When God refused his offering and accepted his brother Abel’s offering he was discontented with God’s solution and instruction. He became angry with God and rose up and killed his brother because he believed he had been “dissed” by God. How do you react in disappointment? Will you honor the Lord or will you “diss” Him?
“Is The Lord’s Plan Different From Ours?”
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod, the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1, 2
Can you imagine King Herod’s shock when these travelers arrived at his palace inquiring about the birth of a new king? In his mind, he was king of the Jews and was at the very least the sustainer of the Jews and it did not appear that they came to worship him. The next verse records that he was troubled and the city of Jerusalem was troubled also by the announcement that they heard. It just did not make sense. What do we do when the Word of God does not make sense? What are we to do when we are seeking His will for our life and it does not make sense? Maybe the biggest question, is why does God’s leading or His Word not make sense? Is it because we have a different plan for our life than God? Many set a plan for their life that is not in harmony with God’s Word and still expect Him to bless and honor them. Is it because God’s will does not meet our expectations? Human reasoning cannot explain or understand Divine counsel. Is it because we are afraid of where it will lead? This is a life of faith and we can only please God with it.