Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Good to be back!!

Wow...my last post to my blog was just short of a year ago. So much in my life, ministry and mind have changed over the last year. And I look forward to writing about some of those changes here real soon.
I see that some of my brothers have remained faithful to the challenge of blogging in this venue while some others have changed the forum in which they now share their thoughts and concerns about ministry and life. I commend you all for your perserverance in penmanship.

Looking forward to sharing soon!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's An Inside Job

We pressed on this past Sunday in our series of messages from the book of James. Sunday's message covered verses 13-15 of chapter 1. I labled the message "It's An Inside Job."
 I am loving this series!! Admittedly it is way over my head and I love it! The challenge of trying to get it right and not just preach it from the surface has been frought with anguish and excitement.
In this passage James is instructing his hearers who are going through severe trials, to quit blaming God for their temptation to sin. Obviously, the trials they were facing were tough and they were looking for ways to deal with them that were not godly. Interesting note, the same word used for "temptation" is the same word used in verses 2 & 12 as "trial". In vereses 2 & 12 the word "trial" carries the idea of proving the worth or value of something. Or testing something to determine its character. In the text it presents the idea of the believers faith being tested through trials or difficulties.
But why is the same word used for temptation? Well as one writer aptly puts it, "The wrong response to trials can turn a test, which God permits for the believers good, into a temptation, that the devil means for your destruction." That line sunk me in my chair!!
I sought to make 2 clear points from the text why a person can never blame God for tempting him/her to sin.

  • God's Sinless Nature vs.13
  • Man's Sinful Nature vss.14-15
This is a sermon I look forward to preaching again!!! I missed a major section in the 2nd point. I wanted to deal a lot more with the  consequences of man having the freedom to follow his evil desires. God created every human being with the freedom to choose wrong over right. This freedom is an intrinsic right that is part of the human constitution. God created the "fact" of freedom and human are responsible for the "acts" of freedom. However, this raises a dilema. Is God then responsible as our creator for all the evil in the world? Is He responsible for sinceless acts of violence. I mean if He really is God can't he stop and erradicate all sin, evil and suffering. Isn't He the ultimate culprit of evil?
No!!!! He's the very opposite of all of that. He is a holy, sinless, loving, righteous and just God whos nature is constitutionally perfect, sinlesses and without spot!! No, man is the efficient cause of his own sins and the fact that God created us with the freedom to choose to do evil in no way makes Him responsible for the acts of that choice!!! God cannot prodce or promote sin. But God can permitt sin!! But even in permitting sin, He sovereignly and providentially directs it to further His plan for all of creation (see Genesis 50 & Joseph).

Imagine you buy your son a brand new pair of Nike tennis shoes (the $350 dollar pair..lol). Your son goes to school with his brand new pair of shoes, takes the shoe strings out, ties them together and strangles a kid at lunch time with the shoe strings. Who's to blame? Nike for manufacturing and creating the shoe with shoestrings? Or you the parent for buying your kid the shoes in the first place? Obviously neither!! The child is ultimately responsible for acting the way he choose to act.
The fact of freedom given to us by God entails the "potential" for evil because we get to choose how we will use that freedom. Another writer says that "the beginning of sin begins with the misuse of freedom."!!!!

Thank God for being the loving God that He is. Who loved us so, that even knowing we would misuse the gift of freedom He gave to His creation, still decided to die for us!!!

Please pray for this series of messages, Galilee and myself as we labor through it together.

Praise God.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Gospel In Life; Grace Changes Everything

"There are two kinds of moral behavior; "common virtue" and "true virtue." Let's take one virtue: honesty. The vast majority of people are honest out of fear ("Be honest; it pays!" or "If  you are not honest, God will punish you!") or out of pride ("Don't be like those terrible, dishonest people.") Edwards is by no means scornful of this, which he calls "common virtue." Indeed, he believes this is the main way God restrains evil in the world."
"Nevertheless, there is a profound tension at the heart of common virtue. If the main reason people are honest is due to fear and pride-what is the main reason people are dishonest? Almost always it is out of fear or pride. In common virtue, you have not done anything to root out the fundamental cause of evil-the radical self centeredness of the heart. You have restrained the heart's self-centeredness but not changed it. Ultimately, moral people who are being moral out of fear and pride are being moral for themselves."
pgs. 22 & 23

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Keeping It Real

We are in the midst of preaching through the book of James. I have labeled this series "Keeping It Real; How Real Faith Works In Real Life."
 Thus far the study and preaching have been fruitful and very challenging. Today we covered verses 9-11 of chapter 1. This brief passage got the best of me this week and I pray that the work was not in vain. It was really difficult getting my mind around this passage and understanding the flow of the writers argument. I  experienced paralysis from analysis in consulting the commentaries and looking for the consensus of connection of this passage to the preceding text. Needless to say this seems to be a common thought of those who have studied and offer comments on the book. On the surface the books seems to offer pithy, disjointed exhortations. But in studying the passages we have covered thus far, I have found that is not necessarily the case. The passages do have logical connection and further the writers point (s) of emphasis. And thus this becomes the challenge from week to week, to make sure that I understand and can cerebally understand and state the writers flow of thought in clear and precise language.
Today we labeled the message "Passing the Test of Poverty and Riches." I pray the message was received well and hope that those who heard it will truly learn to trust God wholeheartedly when they have little and when they have much!

Please pray for us as we continue through this book. We have quite a ways to go and I pray that Galilee will be a better church and that I will be a better preacher from the labor of the Word!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Ephesian 4:16 Church

"from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:16 ESV

Pastor's have you ever had one of those rare moments of seeing the Lord's church function the way the Lord designed it to function, when the Church is clicking on all cylinders? Praise the Lord I have! This past weekend has been a very encouraging weekend for me as Pastor of the Galilee church.
We spend a lot of time as Pastor's preaching, teaching, challenging, equipping, loving, fussing and complaining. All in an effort to try and move God's people to being and doing the things God wants them to do. Most of the time we do those things without seeing any immediate results and become discouraged in our pastoral endeavors. But let me admonish you fellow Pastor's stick with it!! Keep preaching, teaching, admonishing, exhorting and loving the people God has given you to serve. In God's own time he will give you a glimpse of the fruit He is producing through your labors. He will!!
 God knows when and how to inspire His servant's and when He does we can do nothing but fall to our knees prostrate before Him and just simply tell Him "Thank You."
Galilee it's a privilege to serve you and watch you truly become the church God wants us to be. Thank you all for your efforts this weekend to make the fame, honor and glory of our God known to the people in our Jerusalem, Pottowattomie county. Thank God for the souls that heard the gospel and gave their lives to Christ. Thanks for trusting God enough to get out of your comfort zone and trust God in ways that we haven't trusted Him before!
God be truly praised for all He has done, is doing and is yet to do through the Galille Baptist Church of Shawnee, Oklahoma!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

From Pastor to Pastor

Without a doubt I have much room for improvement in my preaching!!! Admittedly I am very selective in who I listen to for advice on becoming a better preacher of the gospel.
Why? Well maybe it's because I really want to grow as a preacher and look to those I consider to be great Expositor's of God's Word and not everyone that I know that preaches utilizes the Expository method. This however, is not to say that there are not things to be gleaned from those who use other styles of preaching, because there is. I've read great books on preaching that were written by men who great homiliticians and not necessarily great preachers, that have really helped me.
I once had an older preacher tell me that if I wanted to be a good preacher that I didn't need to read a lot of books, just read the Bible. Okay.......I understand his thought and do believe that our Bibles must be our main book of study and we should know it like none other book!! They said Spurgeon bled "Bibline" and that's my goal as well.
 But to make the Bible the only book a preacher reads is at the least unwise advice to anyone who wants to be better at the Art and Craft of preaching.
I've noticed there is also the hesitancy to ask Pastor's what they think of my preaching. Is it out of assumption, pride, fear or arrogance that I feel uncomfortable asking this question? Haven't quite figured that one out yet but I feel I need to start asking it more of my Pastoring friends that are good at the task of Expository preaching.

Monday, November 05, 2012

A Deficit of Discernment

Ironically something is missing among God's people. It is the ability to tell right from wrong, good from bad, profitable from unprofitable and truth from error!
What's missing is Biblical discernment. "Diakrino" is one of the words the New Testament uses for "Discernment" and it means "to separate, discriminate"; then, "to learn by discriminating, to determine, decide." It is the picture of drawing a line or making a crease in order to separate and then make a decision based upon the separation.
Why is Biblical discernment so important? Because it has a great effect on how we choose to see the world and live our lives as believer's. Think about the myriad of decisions you and I will make on a daily basis that in some way effects how we choose to live our lives. Obviously,some decisions are more important than others but all of them in some way effect how we live.
As a believer Biblical discernmetn is vital in helping me live a life that reflects my relationship with my Savior. I can make choices however I want to make them. But without using the Bible as my guide, my choices will tend to be fleshly, worldly and sinful rather than godly and Biblical.
Can this be a reality in the life of God's people? Is this idealistic? Is this being too heavenly minded? Not at all! It's Biblical and what we are called to do and practice as follower's of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Admittedly it's not easy. By default our sinful and depraved hearts and minds will choose what most pleases us rather than submitting to God's choices for us. But it is possible by God's enablement and practice to live a life empowered by Biblical discernment.
It's disturbing to hear a Christian say that what he/she feels is more important that what the Bible says. I recently overheard a conversation between 2 Christian women, one of which is married to a Muslim???
One of the ladies told the other, who's married to the Muslim, who was near death, that "he would go to heaven as long as he kept the faith." This statement reflects not only Biblical ignorance but careless disregard for God and His Word and a deficit of Biblical discernment.
Submitting to God's Word as the rule by which I as a believer determine right from wrong, good from bad, profitable from unprofitable and truth from error is something we as believers must do inspite of what our emotions, feelings and passisons may be telling us to do.
How can we become more discerning as believer's?

1).Affirm the Authority of God's Word. 2 Timothy 3:16
God's Word is just that, God's Word. It is not some man made revelation of some wise men's thoughts about life and what's best for us or a  grand book of Heavenly suggestions. No! Each and every word of the Bible is God's Word directly from the mouth and lips of God, delivered to us by the Holy Spirit through the lifes of men God chose to record His Word.
Poor discernment happens when we value our thoughts, feelings and own opinions over God's Word.

2). Pray and ask God for understanding of His Word. Ps. 119:34, Luke 24:45, Eph. 1:17, Col. 1:9-10
The Holy Spirt plays a major role in helping us learn God's Word and how to apply it to the decisions we make daily. Without God's help we are utterly helpless in learning to make choices that honor Him.

3). Set your mind upon God's Word.
Phil. 4:8, Col. 3:2, 3:16, Rom.12:2
Thinking Biblically is not an unrealistic, idealistic, fanciful idea! It is what the Bible teaches us to do. Without the Word of God ruminating in our minds our decisions are drawn from a carnal and sinful well rather than the life giving water's of God's Word!

4). Practice applying God's Word. Ezra 7:10, James 1:22-25, Hebrews 6:11-14
It takes practice to be discerning. Again by default my sinful and carnal mind will lead me to make choices that please me rather than God.

5). Learn to study God's Word. 2 Timothy 2:15
This in my opinion is where so many of us fail at being discerning Christians. We fail at the art and science of studying God's Word. It's an art because it takes skill and a science becasue it demands study. You can't just pick a line from the Bible and think you understand it's meaning. No! Take the time to study the passage in context, the history, language, the people, the culture. Then and only then can you truly learn the meaning and principle (s) of the passage that you can use to make correct Biblical decisions. Don't make your favorite scripture your hobby horse without knowing it in context!

6). Avoid Sin!! Isa.5:20
Nothing will dull your sense of right and wrong quicker than the practice of sin. Sin will cause you to drift away from the disciplines that help you understand and grow in your knowledge of God's Word and will for you. Just look at the life of God's people in the Old Testament. His own people strayed from him in sin and took on the sinful ways of the nations around them. They made ungodly choices that landed them in enemy captivity. Consider the life of David, Solomon and Samson.

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principle of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. " Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV