Tuesday, October 17, 2017

RIGHTEOUSNESS

I Was Just Thinking About – Righteousness.
When Jesus spoke and shared His heart with His people, part of what he emphasized was Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” He wanted His followers to seek for, hunger and thirst after, Righteousness. One of the reasons is shared in the Book of Psalms. There is a beautiful and helpful statement in Psalm 89:14-15, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” If one is to live in the presence of the Lord, one will have to embrace that which is foundational to the throne of God – righteousness and justice. Additionally, one will also find there His love and faithfulness.
When Habakkuk was seeking some resolve for the nation in his day, he was reminded that (2:4), “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” Some translations state it: “The just shall live by faith.” When Martin Luther read this in his studies of the Book of Romans, it grabbed hold of him and he could not escape the truth in Romans 1:16-17 that, “The just shall live by his faith.” It would be easy to conclude that it was a vital part of Paul’s thought and heart. He repeated that statement in Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.
The aspiration of Paul to be righteous is expressed in Philippians 3:7-9, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” That righteousness is imputed to the child of God on the basis of God’s grace and received by one on the basis of faith alone.
The Reformers were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to make known the Biblical message that the just (those who have been justified by God’s grace) and righteous ones have standing before God by faith and grace alone. It is “not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). It is God’s righteousness that is to be seen in us who have been justified by the bl0od of Christ (Romans 3:24). If others looked at you, what would they see? Would they see a person who thinks he is self-sufficient or one who has submitted his life and will to Jesus Christ alone? What one is speaks so loud people cannot hear what one says!
Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Monday, October 9, 2017

STORMY WEATHER

I Was Just Thinking About – STORMY WEATHER.

With the hurricanes being active and devastating in 2017, lives have been lost, homes and businesses destroyed and devastated, and financial losses considerable. From Texas to Florida on the coast and islands – Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico – the flooding and wind damage has taken a very great toll.

There’s an old gospel song about storms that came to mind:
In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me, 
and there's no hiding place.
'Mid the crash of the thunder, 
Precious Lord, hear my cry,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
Chorus
Till the storm passes over, 
till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand 
in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

The stormy weather also reminds us of a scene in Mark 4:35-41, Jesus is on a boat with His disciples. Jesus was weary and went to the stern of the ship for a brief nap. Verse 36 indicates:“Jesus was already in the boat. And there were other boats with Him.” Suddenly a severe storm erupted and the seasoned disciples were panicked. Verses 36-37 records: “Soon a violent windstorm came up, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So, they woke Him and said: Teacher, don’t You care that we are perishing?”

Two key points should be observed. First, there were other (smaller) boats in a convoy following Jesus and His disciples. Second, the question posed by the disciples when they awaken Jesus: “don’t you care that we are perishing?” It is obvious the disciples cared about their own plight and failed to give any expression of concern for the other boats in the convoy. It is also obvious that in their panic they seem to have forgotten that on numerous occasions Jesus had demonstrated how much He cared about people and their circumstances.

Jesus does not lecture the disciples at this point. Instead, in verse 39, He gives two immediate commands to the stormy sea: “Silence” and “Be still,” He then asks His disciples two questions, verse 40, “Why are you so afraid?” and “Do you still have no faith?”

In our lives, we will all have experiences that occur unexpectedly and are overwhelming. How should we respond to those moments? With fear? With panic? With doubt? With uncertainty? The disciples had attempted to do everything they could to keep their boat steady and safe. Being already weary, they were now almost totally fatigued. In their desperation, they came to Jesus and called upon Him for help. A lesson we should learn from this account is – Don’t wait so long before coming to Jesus who can and will make a difference in those things that would otherwise overwhelm and drown one.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

TO BE LIKE JESUS

I Was Just Thinking About – TO BE LIKE JESUS.

The Apostle Paul shared his heart when he wrote to the Philippian believers about his personal priority (Philippians 3:10-11), “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” He did have a great sense of his human qualifications in the competitive secular world. From that point of view, he also shared his credentials (Philippians 3:4-6), “If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to righteousness under the Law, faultless.”

These two statements by Paul demonstrate the tension that exists when one’s pursuit in life is for personal achievement or recognition. Whether they deserve it or not, some people receive recognition and acclaim due to either their persona or touted resume. They tend to eagerly bask in the acceptance and acclaim of their peers. Meanwhile, others who have considerable merit and ability fail to receive recognition or acceptance as being one who qualifies for some measure of human honor and respect. 

A recent devotional asks a series of questions and submits answers about one’s focus and personal sense of self-worth. They include: “(1) Are you trying to discover your self-worth? You have it in Him—He died for you! (2) Are you plagued by failure and guilt? He does what no one else will or can do for you—He forgives and forgets, kills the fattened calf as heaven rejoices (Luke 15:22-24), and clothes you with the best robes of His righteousness. (3) Are you searching for significance? Search no more—you are His child. There is no greater significance than that. (4) Are you trying to figure out your life and wondering if there is any purpose for you on this earth? The mystery is unraveled in Him as He leads you to live for His glory and to reflect the reality of His character.”

There is a simple, but basic Worship Chorus of personal commitment that should be remembered by each servant of the Lord:

To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus; 
All I ask - to be like Him.
All through life's journey, 
From earth to glory, 
All I ask - to be like Him. 


Paul has a simple resolve regarding the best choice one can make when confronting this tension. It is stated in Philippians 3:7-9, “But whatever was an asset to me, I count as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.” If you aim high, you will find true worth, value and acceptance in Jesus Christ.

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

GETTING TO KNOW HIM

I Was Just Thinking About – GETTING TO KNOW HIM.

The quest for knowledge is noble. Education is a privilege that should never be neglected or taken for granted. Vigilance would require that a stand be taken against the “dumbing down” revisions and relegating a student’s achievements in terms of “Pass-Fail” rather than requiring attainment of the highest standards.

When it comes to spiritual knowledge, there must be a higher standard and requirement about God’s Truth and one’s knowledge of it. For instance, if one’s quest is truth, then it would be best to learn all one can about Jesus Christ because He said: “I am truth” (John 14:6).

In Insights for Today, Chuck Swindoll shares the following: “I remember it well. Almost as clearly as if it happened last month. But it didn't. It happened deep in the summer of '58. I was a Marine. Almost eight thousand miles of ocean between me and my wife. One-word descriptions of my condition? Disillusioned. Stretched. Learning. Lonely. Determined. Sincere. Uncertain. Afraid. The Quonset hut I called home housed forty-seven other Marines, and row after row after row of the identical round-top dwellings wrapped around hundreds of other young fighting men—men who had been trained to kill. No need to contaminate your mind with the stuff that went on inside those barracks. If you have trouble imagining, just think of a pack of hungry junkyard dogs that have been teased until they're snarling and foaming at the mouth. Add an endless stream of profanity, subtract all moral restraint, multiply by tropical heat and humidity, divide it by 365 days a year, and you have some idea of life on Okinawa.” 

Charles R. Swindoll shared a personal moment in his life when he felt all things were progressing toward increased hopelessness. Until, he read the following from the Amplified New Testament – Philippians 3:10 – and he said, “It was all I needed to hear: [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.”

How well do YOU know HIM? Do you know your Shepherd’s voice and are you following Him with complete obedience (John 10:27-30)? How well and how often do you make Him known to others? Do others see Jesus Christ living in you? By your life, as well as by word, are you making Him known? 

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Monday, October 2, 2017

PSYCHOLOGY OF MINISTRY

I Was Just Thinking About – PSYCHOLOGY OF MINISTRY.

The usual focus of Church Boards and Congregations is on the Philosophy of Ministry – what a Minister’s and Church Leadership embrace as the functional priorities (some thoughts copied from Bible.Org). Ephesians 1:5-12 (ESV) gives the main foundational principle, especially in verse 6: “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” and verse 12, “we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” That fits nicely with the answer to: What is the chief end of man? The response is” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Other aspects of the Philosophy of Ministry include: (1) Exalting the Lord in all ways and all things (I Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17); (2) Equipping the saints to do works of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16); and (3) Evangelizing the lost (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20).

An area where there also needs to be focus and purposeful interest is: The Psychology of Ministry. In a cursory research of the subject, one point that is made and seems obvious is: “What are we to do when the problems of daily life seem insurmountable and no one seems to care enough to listen or suggest solutions?” A study from a decade ago suggested that hundreds of ministers abandon ministry each year due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention within their local congregations. If this is reality, does it matter to the average congregant or church association? In a day of political and societal pressure, Peter wrote to the Church – I Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober (sound)mind so that you may pray.” Paul wrote to Timothy similar words – II Timothy 1:7 (NKJV), “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

I want us to think about the Pastor and the Pew. The idea about having a sound mind and being self-disciplined is important. When I do not have the privilege of ministering God’s Word as a Pulpit Supply, my wife and I make it a point to visit the “smaller” churches. At one time, these churches were viable and maintained a reasonable attendance. While sitting in the pew to worship, it is obvious that the one conducting the service is disappointed that the attendance is so limited and small. The question above surely comes to mind when a handful of people are desirous of preserving their Church and so few seem to care. Legitimate excuses aside, when a Minister stands in the pulpit to declare God’s Truth and so many don’t seem to care, it can be very disappointing, discouraging, and in some cases – depressing. He can even muse, if the membership doesn’t care, why should I?

If a Church is to be revitalized, there needs to be a gathering of those whose commitment is at the very least, the expression of Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the LORD.” And the words of Psalm 97:12, “Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” There is an increasing need for firmly committed Biblical Christians who will be loyal to the Savior Who has called them out of darkness into His glorious light (I Peter 2:9-10).

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.
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Friday, September 29, 2017

AWAKENING (Part 5)

I Was Just Thinking About – AWAKENING (Part 5)

Today’s Blog may be the last entry on the subject of Awakening. In a soon to be published book (currently in the hands of proof-readers), these Blogs are expanded under different titles: To Know and To Make Known; The Image Of God In Man; Spiritual Awakening; Desperate For An Awakening; and Leadership Awakening. This Blog would be titled in the Book: Our Heart Cry For Revival:  Real Or Fictional?

In 2005, Dr. Stephen Olford published a book: “Heart Cry for Revival: What Revivals Teach Us for Today.” He wrote: “Never was a church-wide, heaven-sent revival needed than at this present time. It is the only answer to the spiritual warfare we face in every part of the world. Bombs, bullets and body bags will never stem the tide of terror and horror that threatens human existence. We must recognize that: ‘the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ (II Corinthians 10:4-5).”

The last chapter of my soon to be published book contains the following: “There is also a need to consider and evaluate the “leaders” of the particular congregation. Are they godly men of vision and prayer? A goal for leadership is summarized in Acts 6:4, “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.” Was this a good decision? Would there be a good result from this action? There are a series of summary verses in the Book of Acts that characterize the result of a praying church and leadership. Can ordinary men accomplish the extraordinary in the name of Christ?

A first summary answer given is in Acts 6:6-7 (ESV), “The apostles prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”

A second summary verse is Acts 9:31 (BSB), “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria experienced a time of peace. It grew in strength and numbers, living in the fear of the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.”

A third summary is Acts 12:23-24, “Herod, who opposed the Gospel and Paul refused to give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down…But the word of God continued to spread and multiply. In the midst of challenge and adversity, God honored His Word, the Holy Spirit moved among the people, and rather that eradication there was multiplication.

A fourth summary is Acts 16:4-5, “As they went from town to town, they delivered the decisions handed down by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So, the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” The key words in this summary are “strengthened” and “grew daily in numbers.”

What do you think? Can this happen in your local Church, Community, Area? Has it ever been considered? Is there a readiness to make changes? When was the last time this criterion was the standard for spiritual leadership in your Church? Recently? Ever?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

AWAKENING (Part 4)

I Was Just Thinking About – AWAKENING (Part 4)

Spiritual Awakening and Church Revitalization do not just “happen” without careful thought, preparation, effort and prayer. It requires godly people hungering for the presence of God and an outpouring of His Spirit. It is a desire for new life and vitality. It entails a vision of God’s desires and an obedience to His directives. There needs to be a core of faithful men/witnesses (II Timothy 2:2): “The things that you have heard me say among many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be qualified to teach others as well.”

Could it be that we are living in a day when the culture has so infiltrated the Church that godliness is no longer the norm nor the desire of men’s hearts? Can this occur in the twenty-first century Church? Is it occurring and steadily increasing among professing Christians? Is the commentary about the Church the words of Micah 7:2, “the godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men.”?

One of the very practical contributors on about the need for Awakening and that which may hinder it is James Emory White. He began a Church Plant 25 years ago and has been Senior Pastor of the work from the beginning. In reflecting on those 25 years, he has written a soon to be published book – What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary. A portion of that book is in a current Blog form: “25 Years Of Leadership Lessons.” Just a few of his “Lessons” are: (1) Fads and styles, models and trendsetters, will come and go. Stay focused on one thing: the mission. (2) You’ll grow bigger and faster if you focus on transfer growth. Don’t. Reaching the unchurched is what it’s all about. (3) On any and every issue, go to the Bible and then go with the Bible. (4) Prize character over talent, and loyalty over just about anything. (5) Resolve to prioritize children’s ministry. Once again, you’ll find it to be the Best. Decision. Ever. (6) The key question to ask isn’t how to grow the church; the key question to ask is what is keeping the church from growing. (7) You don’t possess every spiritual gift. Don’t operate as if you do or let others expect it of you. (8) Your competition isn’t, and never will be, another church. You’re after the person who doesn’t give a rip about churches. (9) Your core values are the hills you should die on.  (10) Left to itself, the natural flow of the church is to turn inward, grow older and become outdated. Leadership must intentionally combat all three.

Too many churches that are dwindling continue to look inward and become maintenance type efforts. Caring for the “older” members is great but ministry must never be limited to doing just that. There is also a need to consider and evaluate the “leaders” of the particular congregation. Are they godly men of vision and prayer? The goal for leadership is summarized in Acts 6:4, “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.” Was this a good decision? Would there be a good result from this action? Could ordinary men accomplish the extraordinary in the name of Christ?

An answer given is in Acts 6:6-7 (ESV), “The apostles prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” Can this happen in your local Church? Has it ever been considered? Is there a readiness to make changes? When was the last time this criterion was the standard for the leadership in your Church? Recently? Ever?

Prayerfully – consider these things with me!