“CHURCH LIKE IT USED TO BE”
“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.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Some think that this is a verse that preachers use to tell people that they should be in church and to make them feel guilty when they do not attend. The reality is this is a verse God has written to tell you that you should be in church with other believers. Your guilt is conviction and your lack of it is your complacency. People say they can go to the mountains, the lake, or the ball game and feel just as close to God as if they are in church, but that is not what God intended for His children. Maybe the correct way of stating their argument is they can be as far away from God in the mountains, at the lake, or at the ball game as when they are in church. I have stated this before, going to church does not make you spiritual, but if you are spiritual you will go to church. How do I know this? Because you will be living in obedience to God’s Word and His command to attend. There is no substitute; not the mountain top, not the lake, not the ball game, not the television church service. God wants you to be in church, your church, where you can grow, serve, give, and encourage others to do the same.
“The Storm’s Product”
“The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked; the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.” Nahum 1:3
Storms are as much a part of the strengthening and growth of the mighty tree as the morning dew, gentle rain, or warmth of the sunlight. Those trees that endure the strongest elements grow to be strong and tall and straight and will provide the greatest use when harvested. You might say the storms they endured are in them and are part of them. None of us are exempt from the storms of life; whether the gentle breeze or gale force winds, the storms become a part of each of us as they pass over us. Like the mighty tree those who are rooted and grounded will endure the storm and enjoy the calm; but the way of the untested or ungodly will not stand alone. I have learned more from the tears that have stained my Bible and my altar and from a broken heart than I have from all the days of calm, peace, and quiet. His storms are in me and part of me.
“Jesus And The Word Of God”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” John 1:1-3
Those who deny the Word of God, deny God, and deny Jesus Christ. Those who would search the Scriptures for truth will find the truth and will learn that the truth will set them free. This is illustrated in Acts by the Ethiopian who was searching for truth as he read in Isaiah; he was all by himself, in the middle of nowhere and God sent one of His servants named Philip to go to him and teach him about the words he was reading and the Word he was seeking. When Jesus walked with the Emmaus travelers from Jerusalem, He taught them that the Scripture pointed to Him as Savior and Redeemer. He expounded the Word to them and let them know that He and His Word are inseparable and eternally bound. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among men and they did not receive Him, one day He will return and receive those who do receive Him.
“Fear Or Fear Not – Our Choice”
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His Word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” Psalms 56:3-4
We put on a brave face, but we are really a fearful people. We are not alone in our fear; the Bible records many of the fears of characters in His Word. It began with Adam; he was the first to show fear. Genesis 3:10 tells us that he hid from God when he heard His voice because he was afraid. Genesis 12:11-13 tells us that Abram was afraid that the Pharaoh of Egypt would kill him to take Sarai to be his wife so he lied and said she was his sister. Before David could pen these words in our text he ran away in fear that King Saul would kill him. The remedy for our fear is found in the fear of the Lord; David wrote, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” How is this possible? David answered that for us, in God have I put my trust. Trust Him today.
“Praise The Lord”
“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
Praise to God is recorded throughout the Bible. Job records praise for creation, the Prophets record praise for Christ’s coming, and the Apostles record praise for redemption. Each, however, also took the time to give praise for God’s promise of Christ’s Second Coming to rule and reign as Kings of Kings, and Lord of Lords. There is great excitement to anticipate His coming to fulfill His promise of His glorious Kingdom. Everything was affected by the fall of man in the garden and everything will be restored to God’s purpose before the foundation of the world. For a brief moment of time, man enjoyed and experienced the fullness of God’s fellowship as he walked with His creator each day in unobstructed innocency and purity. There was nothing to stand in the way of his worship to his Creator. We will know and praise God in that same innocency.
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made know unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” II Peter 1:16
Someone once asked, “How do I know the Bible is really true? Could it be that it is just a book of myths and nice stories?” There are many sources in modern society that teach the Bible could not possibly be true. Even many so called theological experts debate and doubt the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Who is right? It is very important to keep things simple. Take the word of the witnesses to the events, they are credible, they are honest, and most importantly in most cases they were there. In our text, Peter says exactly that about Jesus Christ, “we were witnesses to His majesty.” The Bible is filled with eye witnesses to the majesty of God. We also have Scripture that has been transcribed by another witness that has always been present. Later in II Peter 1:21, Peter testifies that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Another credible, honest, and personal witness to these things. Now this witness becomes the Word of God. Who can argue with such an eye witness? Remember that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17