“CHURCH LIKE IT USED TO BE”
“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.
“I Will Follow Jesus”
“But I trusted in Thee, O Lord; I said, Thou art my God. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” Psalms: 31:14, 24
Verse twenty-four concludes a prayer, testimony, and song of King David. Realizing God knows more about him than anyone else; he concludes that his Heavenly Father’s leading will never take him down a path alone. The message of Jesus to His disciples was often repeated in His exhortation to be not afraid, but trust in Him. It is a message He repeated perhaps more than any other; we need that reassurance from our Lord today more than ever. It is not because He has breached His promise of protection and care, it is because we are often faithless and faltering. Who knows you better than the One who created you? He leads you, cares for you, and provides for you in ways you cannot fully comprehend. There is no greater love or greater picture of courage than the one given by the One who gave His life for you. David’s prayer reminds that when we put our trust in the Lord, we can be of good courage. There is safety when He leads, there is courage when we ask Him to lead. “My times are in Thy hands.”
“On What Do You Base That”
“O, send out Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles.” Psalms 43:3
Holy wars; they seem to have been fought for centuries of time, but surprisingly they are generally fought in the midst of those who say they are trying to follow God’s teaching rather than against those who oppose it. Disagreements with denominations, dispensations, dress, duty, departure, and definition have caused more division and dispositions among the so-called believers than the opposition of all who are antagonistic toward the Gospel. At the center of this contention is an adversary that divides, dilutes, and destroys the truth in the thoughts and hearts of those who would seek after God. Who is right; many have argued and cried in their desperate attempts to find the truth. God wants you to know the truth about Himself. It can only be found in the place that He has recorded and preserved for us; in His Holy Word. It is only in the Word of God that we can learn about God and find our way to Him as He reveals His way, truth, and life through His Son. God reveals Himself in His Word and the psalmist prayer is the same one we should repeat to God; send Your light and truth and guide me.
“What A Comparison”
“My days are like a shadow that declineth, and I am withered like grass. But Thou, O Lord, shall endure forever, and Thy remembrance unto all generations.” Psalms 102:11-12
This psalm is a reminder of the reality of life and it’s short little appearance of time compared with the eternal God of Heaven. James reminded that our life is only a vapor that appears for a moment and then vanishes away. The psalmist is presenting a simple comparison between man and God; he testifies that man is weak, needy, without substance, and only a vapor in the wind. Then he exclaims that God is everything that man is not; He is all powerful, mighty, and everlasting. His power and provision has given man the opportunity to become all that we are not through His grace and the glory He presented to man in His Son, Jesus Christ. Man believes himself to be his own god, but the psalmist reminds us of how unlike God we really are. Our only hope is found in His eternal love and wondrous provision of redemption in Jesus Christ. Only He can make a difference and a change in the heart of man; then by the power of the Holy Spirit we are made more in the likeness and image of Almighty God. He is everything we are not and provides everything we need to be acceptable to Him.
“Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” I Peter 4:9-10
Sunday afternoon is spent much differently today than it was when I was growing up. People today rush home to watch some sporting event, catch up on some unfinished project, or jump into the covers for an afternoon nap. However, Sunday afternoons in my childhood and early adulthood were spent in building friendships around a room full of people who shared fried chicken or roast beef together. The host would not even give a consideration to turning the television on; this was time for friendship and hospitality, a time to build lives together. We have lost something over the years; in our quest for entertainment we have bonded with sport stars and entertainers that we will never meet and have neglected those whom we see daily or weekly. Sadly, I stand in my place at the head of the line of missed opportunity to visit and build relationships around the table of hospitality. The early church helped each other grow in the faith as they opened their hearts and the doors of their homes to others to share Christ and His love toward each other. They built lives, friendships, and churches around the table of fellowship.
“Friends Or Friendless”
“A man who hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend who sticketh closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
A story related by a Pastor friend: Early in our ministry, I officiated at the funeral of a woman who was 105 years old. I anticipated the funeral home chapel would be filled with family, friends, and others who had known her through the years; however, to my surprise only five people attended besides the funeral director and me. It really broke my heart to see that after a century of life only five people showed up to pay their respects. The facts were that she had outlived her husband, children, siblings, and friends. Her children died unmarried and without children which left her the last living member of her immediate family. She had also spent the last twenty-five years of her life in a care facility and had only the staff that cared for her to show any affection; they were the five attendees at the service. It still caused me to think about those who stand with us in life and I wondered about those who will stand for us at death. You know; people who are not required to be there, but have dropped everything to be there because they are your friend; six who would be honored to carry your body to the grave because they love you. Are you nurturing those friendships today?
“Why Didn’t They Know?”
“And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:31-32
I have read this account of the two who journeyed from Jerusalem to Emmaus following the crucifixion of Jesus many times. It is an exciting account of how Jesus revealed Himself to His followers after the Resurrection. He could have met and preached to the multitudes for a greater impact, but He chose to reveal Himself to individuals instead. It is a remarkable assurance that He is not only interested in reaching people, but that He has come to meet each personally and privately as they seek Him. I always leave this passage with a couple of questions, however. Why did these two not recognize Jesus? Mary did not recognize Him following His resurrection, but when He spoke she immediately knew it was the Lord, but these two did not recognize Him or His voice. Why did Jesus not reveal Himself sooner, or did He? In their grief they did not know that He was with them each step, but He knew them; it was only after He sat down as an invited guest at their table of fellowship did they know Him. Only then were they ready to be a witness for Him.
“It Costs More Some Places”
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24
Many first century Christians gave their life for their testimony of Jesus Christ. We have read of Stephen and James the son of Zebedee, and of Paul, even Thomas the doubter gave his life for his testimony and preaching of Jesus Christ. Do you realize that at this very moment men and women all around the world are giving their lives as they are faced with a choice to denounce Jesus Christ or be killed? Without hesitation they choose Christ, knowing their decision means certain death for them and their family. At this writing, there is a young pastor in Iran awaiting death for his unmovable testimony concerning Jesus Christ. Another pastor in India has lost his life this week for refusing to denounce Jesus Christ as Savior. Countless souls in Africa, Asia, and Europe stand willing to give their lives for the sake of Jesus; many thousands have already done so. In America we have unequaled freedom to serve Christ, attend church, and witness for Him and struggle to find time to give to God!
“Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:19
Put a series of letters behind a person’s name or call them an expert and often that will be the credentials that make others believe they are an expert. The expertise that is recognized by God is not what we say we know about His Word, but by the value we place on it and how it is observed. A humble or non-educated person with little or no formal education that follows the Word of God faithfully may be held in higher regard than his counterpart that has many degrees from colleges of higher learning, but doubts the validity of God or His Word. Jesus was opposed everywhere He went by those students of higher learning. The Scribes and the Pharisees were supposedly the experts of the Law and the Prophets, yet they interpreted God’s Word for their own selfish purposes. According to the Words of our Lord Jesus in our text, those who manipulate God’s Word and try to undermine or alter it will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whosoever believes it by faith and lives it will be great!