SERIES PREACHING

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence of “series” preaching in which Christian books have been substituted for the Bible.  Preaching has taken on the form of teaching from someone else’s publication.  This type of ministry originates from those who have a highly visible status.  They will write a book which will potentially offer sermon notes, study guidelines, and videos, which could be used by pastors to teach their congregations.  If the costs of these Biblical extensions are too much, they may simply revert to using the solicited book alone.  More and more church sponsored Bible studies are using Christian authors and their books as an instrument of teaching.  Cell groups, Sunday schools, youth programs, men’s groups, and women’s gatherings center on these publications.  Recently, I talked to a pastor who was involved in this type of ministry.  He raved about the success of his newly elected series.  The program was a blessing not only to his people, but to him.  The book series he had chosen freed him up from sermon preparation so he would have more time to meet the various needs of his people.  Depending on what publication the local ministry chooses, it can last anywhere from four weeks to over six months.

Why have so many pastors chosen this course of ministry?  Could it be that pastors’ wells have dried up?  Could it be that their time with the Lord has been neglected?  Could it be that their study time has been minimized?  Could it be that their fire has turned into embers?  Could it be that the winds of change have affected their direction?  Could it be that God is not speaking to His people?  Why have so many closed their Bibles in favor of opening Christian publications?

So much of our food supply is infused with artificial ingredients.  Organic food is natures offering while grocery shelves are overstocked with foods that contain chemicals and preservatives.  Opening the Word of God and seeing its purity takes effort and patience, while reading Christian publications is digesting what contains human ingredients.  It has already been processed by a Christian author so it can be consumed with a confidence that its contents are safe; or are they?

In the Old Testament book of Amos, God spoke of a famine that would spread across Israel.  It was not a famine of “bread and water” but a famine of God’s Word.  Israel had continually rejected His Word in favor of their personal desires.  As a result of their rebellion, God withheld His Word from them.  The withholding of His Word caused a spiritual famine in the land.  No matter how hard they looked for His Word, it was not to be found. (Amos 8:11, 12)  Could it be that God has seen His Church become so wayward that He has paused in revealing His Word?  When we stop adhering to His Word and start deliberately contradicting what He has said, why would He continue to give us ongoing revelation?  If my observation is right, would it not give credence to teaching substitutionary books?  What is a Pastor to do if God has declared a “Word famine” on His Church?  He has to bring a message every week!  “Series Preaching” seems to be the answer.  If God is not speaking, we tend to read someone who thinks they know what God is saying.

I have no problem using “series publications” in the church setting as long as it is not a substitute for the Bible.  If there is a “Word famine” in some of our churches today, we need to fall before Him in repentance, and then rise up in obedience to His Word.  If we are not willing to obey His Word, we will not be able to hear His Word, for a famine will be upon us.  Thank God for some great Christian writers, but we must never substitute their writings for the Bible.  Just because a teaching is good for one body of Believers does not necessarily mean it is fitting for another group of Christians!

 

ACTING ON HIS WORD

 

I believe that the Bible is God’s infallible, inerrant Word.  It is through His dictates to His anointed scribes that His personage and character is displayed. (II Timothy 3:16a, II Peter 1:21)  As the Believer opens up the Word, the supernatural becomes a natural experience.  We see God in a personal way.  God, known as I AM (Exodus 3:14), has become approachable.  God’s Grace, shown through Jesus’ life and finished work at Calvary, has rent the veil of separation between God and man.  The way is now opened for us to come boldly before Him in worship and adoration.  When we can grasp this truth, there should never be a situation where there is a contemplation of defeat. (Romans 8:31b)  Sure there will be difficult times, but God will never let that situation get out of hand if we let Him “handle” it.  It is only when we decide to be our own “commander and chief” that the outcome will be in doubt.  Depression in Believers is a carnal sin.  Depression is a result of questioning God’s ability to carry us through the challenge.  When we begin to express the negative and its potential influence, we have shifted from faith to reason.  Reasoning magnifies the negative while faith eliminates the negative!

King Jehoshaphat of Judah displayed a working model on how to overcome life’s challenges.  When his land was being invaded by an army that far out numbered his own people, he first acknowledged God’s sovereignty and that He was their God.  He then declared a countrywide fast and called upon God.  He expressed how hopeless the situation was and that without His intervention all would be lost.  He closed his prayer by saying, “…our eyes are upon thee.”  Shortly after that, a prophet stood up in their midst and spoke words of encouragement to the King and the people.  He basically said that the battle was God’s and not theirs.  The prophet then told them that they were to go out to the battlefield the next day and see what God was going to do.  What Jehoshaphat and his people did next was a life-lifting experience.  They fell to their faces and worshipped the Lord.  Then the Levites led a praise gathering where they lifted up their voices in loud praise to God.  The next morning the King challenged his people by saying to “…believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.”  He then assigned singers to precede their army.  They would go forth praising the Lord and singing at the top of their lungs.  As a result of their trust and faith in God, their enemies were smitten! (II Chronciles 20)

The next time the gauntlet is dropped and the clouds of darkness begin to invade the outer banks of our minds, let us acknowledge God’s supreme rule.  Depending on the severity of the situation, let us fast to bring our body under submission to our spirit and soul.  Let us acknowledge our limited resources and visualize Him instead of the problem.  Let us watch and listen for Biblical encouragement through the written and spoken Word.   Sometimes God speaks to us through the Pastor’s message.  (I wonder how many times God was using that message to encourage us, but due to a headache or over sleeping, etc. we missed it!)  When we receive the Word, let us immediately begin to worship Him for who He is and praise Him for what He is about to do.  Let us encourage others who are facing, or will face, similar situations by singing or speaking with uplifted words.  The people of Jerusalem began to acknowledge their vertical praises in a horizontal fashion. They let everyone hear their victory choruses as they marched out to victory.  What a simply formula for victory, yet countless Believers don’t call for help until they have used their own resources to no avail.  Oh, what needless things we suffer because we do not seek God early!

It is time we either acknowledge and trust Him, or continue to exhibit a life that accentuates our human frailty.  The world watches us to see if what we confess really works.  When our crisis situations fail to compliment our confession, we are doing more damage to the Kingdom of God than we are by being a silent Believer.  If we claim we are more than conquerors, let us live like it.

Spiritual Action Suit, Case 450, God verses Israel

 

The book of Malachi, written about 450 BC, is the last book in the Old Testament.  It is a unique book in that God confronts His chosen people (Israelites) with questions pertaining to their lack of respect toward Him.  God lists a number of areas in which His people have failed to live up to the covenant that God had made with their forefathers.  Malachi functions in a limited capacity as an assistant prosecuting attorney.  God speaks in 47 of the 55 verses.  The Jew’s responses to the charges were met with total denial.  Let us look into the transcript of this “spiritual action suit” and get the facts as they were presented.

God starts out by stating how much He loved them.  From the beginning of their conception as a chosen people, God gave them everything they would ever need on their journey of life.  God stood with them through thick and thin.  He stepped in when they made a wrong turn and were facing annihilation.  He was there with His outstretched arms to comfort.  He was there twenty-four/seven to instruct, direct, and guide.  He forgave them more times than one could remember.  Yet, the people countercharged by saying, “How have you loved us?”  They were more concerned with what they failed to get than with what God had given them.  God accused them of not showing Him honor, of not fearing Him, and even of despising His name.  Their response was basically that those charges were bogus.  God responded by pointing out that the sacrifices of blemished animals made a mockery unto Him.  He stated that they didn’t care what they sacrificed, just as long as they fulfilled their religious duty.  God charged the Priests for their departure from the Truth.  They presented their own interpretation of the Truth, and, as a result, caused many to stumble.  God was offended by the spiritual adultery they committed and even the intermarriage with those who did not know Him.  Divorce was promoted, even though God hated it.  God told them they had wearied Him with their words and worship.  Their response was simply, “How?”  He responded by rebuking them for not dealing with sin, calling the sinners good people, and saying that God delighted in them.  Their attitude was that God was not going to do anything about it. (Read Malachi, chapters 1 and 2.)

God moves on with His charges against them.  He desires to know why they robbed Him.  They responded with their continuing naivety by asking, “How have we robbed you?”  The answer was simple: “In tithes and offerings.”  God told them that because of not giving Him what He commanded, they were cursed with a curse.  God told them if they would bring their tithes into the storehouse, He would open the windows of Heaven and bless them bountifully.  He would also rebuke the devourer for their sakes.  God continues to bombard His people by claiming their words were harsh and full of arrogance against Him.  The defendants again claimed ignorance.  God pointed out that their attitude was that all their efforts to serve Him were in vain. (Read Malachi, chapter 3.)

The “spiritual action suit” concluded with God announcing that there was hope on the horizon.  Even in the middle of “the hearing,” God pointed to a resolve that would give His people another chance at restoration.  He would send a forerunner that would prepare His people for His messenger. (Malachi 3:1)  God’s closing argument is that He has not ceased to love His people and would send “Elijah” (John the Baptizer) to turn the hearts of His people. (Read Malachi, chapter 4.)

As people read the transcripts of this Hearing, they seem to center on the tithing aspect, instead of the other concerns of God.  (Why do we think Tithing centers on money only?)  Maybe we think we get more out of Tithing.  Just think of receiving a bounty we don’t even have room to receive, or having Satan rebuked from our finances.  We seem to hear God say, “Where is my money” instead of “Where is my honor and respect?”  What about honoring, fearing, respecting our God?  What about our horizontal relationships?  What about dealing with sin in our lives?  What about Pastors editorializing the Scripture instead of teaching what God intended?  Instead of emphasizing the materialistic benefits of Kingdom living, let us learn to please God by honoring Him with our complete devotion.

IT IS ABOUT GOD

Biblical ignorance has been a weakness of Christians from generation to generation.  The average Christian spends more time watching television than studying God’s Word.   I wonder how many would be willing to admit that they do not even open their Bibles on a daily basis. I wonder how many feel that being spoon fed the Word on Sundays is a good substitute for reading the Word themselves.  I wonder how many read Christian authors as a substitute for their own Bible study?  I am convinced that a great number of Christians are Biblically illiterate.  What they know is framed by what they have heard.  They have trusted their lives to God’s “spokesmen” without the benefit of Biblical verification.  We must never give a “carte blanche” endorsement to any minister without a “trust, but verify” stipulation.  Pastors are to guide their sheep into Truth.  They must encourage their followers to search out the Word themselves.  They must never be a substitute for personal Bible study.  Pastors need to help their congregants to understand the Bible.

One day, some Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him if it was lawful for a man to put away his wife.  Jesus simply said, “What did Moses command you?”  He was actually asking them what they thought the Word said on the subject. (Mark 10:3)  Pastors are too quick to give an answer to those that are searching for understanding.  They need to help the questioners search the Scriptures themselves.  Pastors are not to be the “answer man,” but a guide to the answer.  They will share revealed Truth as God directs, but they are never to be the substitute for people studying the Word themselves.  On another occasion, Jesus was questioned by a Lawyer about how to acquire eternal life.  Jesus responded by asking him what was his understanding of the Scripture. (Luke 10:26)  I wonder how many Pastors use the same approach when questioned by those whom they lead.

Because of lack of Biblical understanding, some Christians seem confused as to the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus seems to be the center of the Believer’s attention.  Everything is around Him.  Even our prayers are addressed to Him.  If we would only look at the Scripture and see what Jesus’ ministry was all about, we would be able to see that everything pointed to God.  Jesus came with a purpose of reconciling fallen man to God.  Yet we continue to focus on Jesus’ earthly ministry.  The cross becomes the focus of our commitment.  What was the purpose of the Cross?  TO BRING MAN BACK TO GOD!  The way to God has been opened, yet we tend to dwell on Jesus instead of God.  When is the last time we set our affections upon God?  When is the last time we raised our voices in praise and adoration to Him?  I am not minimizing Jesus’ Holiness and Divinity, but maximizing God’s Character and Sovereignty.  IF IT WERE NOT FOR GOD’S LOVE, WE WOULD NEVER HAVE KNOWN HIS SON!

The Bible tells us that the only way of coming to the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ is by being drawn to Jesus by God Himself.  For God to do that, we must learn about God. (John 6:44, 45)  When we come to the place of understanding God’s purpose for man, the door/Jesus (John 10:9) will be opened and a whole new life awaits our arrival.  It is through Jesus’ shed blood that we experience a blood transfusion, where it is no longer “me” that lives, but Christ in me. (Galatians 2:20)  Jesus then brings us into a living relationship with God. (John 14:6)   Jesus consciousness without God consciousness lays a foundation that will shift with our emotional climate.  Jesus came with a mandate from God: that man would be able to be reconciled to God through the provisions Jesus would provide.  Jesus was not to be the focal point of man’s affections, but the physical evidence of God’s love for man.

Can we not grasp the reality that the recurring theme of the Bible is man’s reunion with his Creator!  Jesus made the way, now it is up to us to fulfill God’s desire that no one will perish. (II Peter 3:9)  By accepting Jesus’ finished work, our relationship with God becomes personal and everlasting.  We must understand God so we can stand on the promises of His Son.  It is only when God is presented that we will see His great love and accept His hand of reconciliation which He offered, and offers, through the life of Jesus Christ.  Let us learn to study the Scriptures, not as a historical compilation of books and letters, but as a guide book to an abundant and eternal life.  The Bible is God’s abridged book of His love and outreach to His creations!

 

TRUE PRAISE AND WORSHIP

I love to praise the Lord.  Praise is to RAISE up every aspect of our being in acknowledgment of His Holiness and Sovereignty.  Praise is to bring our human trinity (spirit, soul, and body) into complete consciousness of God.  Our spirit cries out “Holy,” while our mind forms the audio of our heart.  Our body displays adoration through our physical actions.  True praise originates from our spirit.  Our mind responds to the prompting of our spirit. Our body displays what our spirit and soul is acknowledging.

Worship comes out of praise.  Many churches define worship around music and token physical displays.  It is interesting that our praise and worship is subject to time restraints.  We may set aside twenty to thirty minutes for making a joyful noise unto the Lord, but as quickly as we enter the “worship” experience, we exit with the same quickness.  We incorporate “worship teams” whose purpose is to lead us into an experience of God consciousness.  Some of the times, these “worship teams” become more of the focal point than the One whom we are to worship.

Praise brings us into the presence of God, while worship is what we do when we get there!  When Believers come together for communal worship, we need to realize what is about to transpire, for we are there to worship with Jesus!  Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)  Praise should be upon our lips as we enter His courts. (Psalm 100:4)  We don’t need to have spiritual cheerleaders to get us ready for our “worship” experience, for we are already praising our way to the Throne Room of God.  There are no time limits in Praise.  However long it takes to release our adoration is of little or no concern.  Worship begins when we enter the Holy of Holies.  It is here where our spirits are bathed in His presence.  “Holy, Holy, Holy” we cry out!  Our interests and desires have been left at the door.  The only consciousness we have is of our Creator and Lord.  His Love engulfs us as we bask in the reality of His Grace.  As with Praise, time is not a factor in our Worship.  It is only when we have exhausted our resources that we leave the Throne Room and return to an atmosphere of encouraging one another.

I wonder how God feels when we exhibit our “cliff notes” mentality when it comes to our worship.  How does He react to our lifted hands or our brief knocking on the door of His Throne Room?  What about those that have found a short cut to the Holy of Holies and have begun to worship, only to excuse themselves within moments so they could return to their time framed service?  Special music has become more of an entertainment experience.  Applause rings out when the person or group is done.  There is nothing wrong with showing appreciation, as long as it is addressed to the One they are singing about.  Music plays an important role in praise as well as worship, but it must never be a substitute for one’s spiritual participation.

We must also realize that Praise and Worship is not limited to congregational services.  It is powerful to join others in the Throne Room of God, but it is equally moving to enter His Gates and Courts with our own family.  When is the last time a husband and wife had a true Praise and Worship experience?  What about with our children?

Let us understand what True Praise is, and then let us be true praisers!  Let us understand what True Worship is, and then let us be true worshippers!

HEAR HIM

One day, Jesus led Peter, James, and John up Mt. Hermon where they would have a mind altering experience.  It was here that Jesus was transfigured (changed) into a heavenly body that was clothed in the whitest of whites.  Besides Jesus transformation, they witnessed Him conversing with two of the great Jewish prophets, Elijah and Moses.  This experience must have ignited an adrenaline rush in these disciples.  Peter was so taken back at what he saw that he ventured forth with one of his spur of the moment responses, one which really made no sense: “…let us make three booths…”  While they stood overshadowed by a cloud, the real purpose of the trip was revealed.

Just days before this Transfiguration, Jesus had explained to His disciples that He would be rejected by the religious authorities and would be killed.  But He also told them He would rise again in three days.  Peter responded to this revelation by rebuking Jesus.  He was not going to let this happen.  Jesus returned the rebuke by telling him he was interested more in the things of man than he was in God’s plans and purposes.  Jesus startled Peter by rebuking Satan’s presence in his life. (Mark 8:31-33)  Peter’s problem was “selective hearing.”  He was hearing only what would fit into his comfort zone. Anything outside of his agenda would have little effect on him.  As a result, Peter was hearing what Jesus was saying, but with little or no understanding. This was a problem Jesus faced throughout His ministry.  A number of times when Jesus was teaching using Parables, His disciples would come up later and ask for a clarification.  Jesus would say, “Are you also yet without understanding?” (Matthew 15:16, 16:11)  The Disciples were thinking too much like the world.  They were trying to apply with their experiential minds what they heard, instead of accepting Jesus’ teachings through faith.

On that day, on the Mount of Hermon, as the Disciples stood recovering from seeing Elijah and Moses, all of a sudden God spoke to them and said, “This is my beloved Son: hear Him.”  To hear the voice of God would dwarf any previous spiritual experience anyone would have ever had!  Why did God speak to them?  Peter knew that Jesus was the Son of God, the Christ, so why would God seem to introduce Jesus to him? (Mark 9: 2-10)  Could it be that God was rebuking Peter for his insolence and self-centeredness?  It was time for Peter and the rest of the disciples to stop with their own agendas and start understanding what Jesus’ ministry was all about.  God was saying it was time for them to take up their cross of self-interest and “get with the program!”

Today, many Believers take a similar approach when it comes to the proclaimed Word.  We know the addresses of the Scriptures and its content, but we tend to accept only that which keeps us comfortable.  If we hear a sermon that does not fit our agendas, we stand ready to alter or ignore its content.  That is what Peter did.  It was unacceptable to him that Jesus would die a violent death, and he told Him so.  When we hear only part of the Truth, we stand vulnerable to Satan’s deceptions.

Hearing the Word is more than giving audience; it is understanding what is being proclaimed.  It is comprehending.  It is putting together the totality of the message.  One of the most dangerous things a Christian can do is to fail to grasp the total picture.  When we mix our tangible opinions with God’s intended Truth, we will run with our emotions instead of our Faith.

 

A SIMPLE WATCHMAN

In a little over six months I will have completed fifty years of pastoral service.  The road I have traveled has been through mountains and valleys.  There have been highs and lows, cheers and tears, jubilation and sorrow, happiness and sadness, victories and defeats.  I have been accepted and rejected by the sheep I was sent to lead.  I have been encouraged and discouraged.  I have seen the sunrises and sunsets.  I have gained friends and lost friends.  I have been understood and misunderstood.  But through it all my faith held, in fact, even the valleys helped my trust in Him grow.  Not once did I ever fail to be obedient to His calling.  Sure, I made mistakes and He let me know it, but I learned from those experiences.  Not once have I ever felt forsaken, for I have a written contract with Jesus that He would never leave or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5)

Almost four years ago, God interrupted my spiritual journey with a mandate to climb the Christian “watch tower” and warn Believers that His Church was out of order.  There were problems within the Body of Christ that resulted in displaying a mixed message to the world.  I had seen the Church move from being Christ centered to man centered, from a Biblical foundation to a sandy footing of Scriptural opinions.  I had seen reason replace faith.  But what could I do about it?  Who would listen to a little known pastor?  I tried to point out some of the errors we were making as the Church, but the response was, “You are too negative.”

After three months of trying to clarify what God was asking of me, I finally acquiesced and Simplyrhetorical was birthed.  235 articles later, I stand amazed at what God has had me write.  These writings have brought me to my knees in search of forgiveness and correctness.  I have written as I believe God has directed, but I also have read them as a Believer in search of Truth.  I don’t know how many have read these blogs.  If there have been only ten people who read these articles, it doesn’t matter.  If these writings are just me writing to myself, I am eternally grateful.

One of the most challenging aspects of the Believers’ life is to acknowledge that their Biblical understanding and application does not necessarily line up with God’s intent.  We tend to get into a false comfort zone, which many times leads us into a lukewarm experience with God.  If Christians are honest with ourselves, we will admit that our spiritual walk is not always what it is cut out to be.  But instead of adjusting our spiritual antennas to God’s frequency, we continue to tune in to teachings that humanize God’s Word.

I am so grateful for those Believers that are in pursuit of real Truth, and those that are willing to pay the price to break from traditions that are not based on God’s intended Word.  There are many churches that understand God’s Word and are growing in Truth every day.  Thank God for Pastors that dare to stand true to His Word, no matter the temptation to cater to “itching ears.”

It is imperative that we teach the next generation to discern real Truth from interpretive Truth.  If we fail to teach our children discernment, the physical church will become a retirement center for Christians.  No matter what direction the physical church decides to take, the True Church, known as the REMNANT, will continue to rule!  Amen and Amen.

 

 

ACTION BASED ON COMPASSION

Compassion begins as a mental realization which is followed by a form of action.  It is a recognition of someone’s situation in which there is a degree of urgency.  It is a feeling of sympathy and pity that leads to an inner yearning to respond to another’s crisis.  Compassion is a compelling urge to get involved.  It is the bringing of our resources to answer the call of the hurting individual.  If there is no action from the observer, compassion fails to be defined.

After Jesus’ rejection from the Synagogues, His pulpit became whatever was available.  He would teach from boats, fields, mountains and houses.  His congregation grew from hundreds to thousands.  People would travel many miles to hear this great teacher share God’s message of salvation and hope.  During a three day evangelistic crusade, over 4,000 were in attendance.   At the end of the crusade Jesus was moved with compassion and action followed.  What He realized was that many had not eaten during these meetings. The people were so eager and hungry for His word, that the desire for food was secondary.  Jesus recognized their need which then led Him to action.  He knew if He ended the Crusade and sent them away, many would “faint” along the way. (Mark 8:1-9)  He voiced His concern with His Disciples and they responded with an attitude of non commitment, by assuming there was nothing they could do. (v.4)  Compassion was not a consideration.  They saw the problem, but offered no positive response to the situation.  Jesus cut through their negative reasoning and simply asked them how many loaves of bread they had.  They responded by stating that they had 7 loaves and a “few little fish.” (Matthew 15:34)  Jesus had the multitude sit down and then proceeded to offer a blessing over the loaves and fishes.  The Disciples became waiters and served the miracle lunch to the hungry thousands.  After everyone had eaten the Disciples cleaned up after them and were amazed at how much was left over.  It took seven baskets to contain the food that was not eaten. (v.8)   Jesus then dismissed the multitude.  Four thousand left the crusade filled both spiritually and physically.

Every day we face situations that challenge us to respond either mentally, physically or spiritually. How we react will determine the validity of our Christian character.  It is one thing to acknowledge a crisis situation, but it is an entirely different thing to do something about it.  Compassion is an important aspect of our faith, an offspring of love; in fact, compassion cannot be implemented without love.  If we do not show love, we become just noise makers. (I Corinthians 13:1)  On that day in the wilderness of Galilee, Jesus challenged His Disciples to action. (v 5)  Could it be that His evangelistic team had brought food for themselves with no thought how they might be called on to meet the physical needs of others?  I wonder how many of us fail to look at our resources and how they might be shared with others.  Why is it we minimize our ability to assist others in a crisis?  When it comes to sharing our “green” with others, we attempt to minimize its potential affect.  “…From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? (Mark 8: 4)  God can always multiply our minimal giving to meet the needs of many, if we will just give what we have.  Compassionate action comes in many different forms.  We must be ready with whatever we have to help those who may not be able to help themselves.  The seven baskets became an embarrassment to the Disciples who doubted that their few loaves could have fed so many.  We must never doubt God’s ability to take loaves and make baskets of abundance. When it was all said and done, the Disciples must have felt ashamed of their negative attitude in responding to Jesus’ compassion.

Jesus was always cognizant of people and their needs.  He responded with as a result of compassion, to the two blind men, the leper, the demoniac, and the widow’s son, to mention just a few.  I wonder what our resume will show when we stand before the Lord to give account of our acts of compassion?

 

 

WANTED: SERVANTS

As Jesus was traveling though the Galilean country side, He began to share with His Disciples how He would be delivered into the hands of those who opposed His ministry.  He would be killed, but would rise again on the third day.  The Disciples were confused and were hesitant to ask for clarification.  What they did then was almost unimaginable; they began a debate among themselves as to who was the greatest.  Their lives seemed to center around what they could get out of life instead of learning to give of their lives.  When they all arrived in Capernaum, Jesus asked them what they were discussing along the way.  The disciples were mute on the real content of their discussion.  Jesus may have smiled at their silence and then He simply told them that real greatest comes from being a servant. (Mark 9:30-35)

If Believers today would start reading the Scripture as a handbook to understanding the role of a servant, we would walk into an area of spiritual growth we have never experienced. Think of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12) as an empowering to reach out to the needs of our fellow man.  So many Christians look at the Gifts as growth hormones that elevate them to “super hero” status.  They gather regularly to experience self edification by falsifying the use of these Gifts.  The trouble is, by Tuesday they are struggling to overcome the littlest challenge to their spiritual walk. To reach spiritual heights, we need to learn to reach out.  Let us ask God every day what He would have us do for His Kingdom.  How can I help the needy, both physically and spiritually?  How can I assist my spiritual brother in achieving his spiritual and physical goals?

Christian book stores are stacked with every type of self help books that deal with achieving the maximum spiritual edification.  In my excursions into the financial world of Christian literature, I have yet to find any type of literature that deals with learning how to be a servant; there may be some, but they are hard to find.  Where are the authors that dare to fight the riptides of popular Christian opinion and write on how to be a servant in a consumer society?  All that God has given us through His Son should be enough to change the world, yet we selfishly use His blessings for self promotion.  There are some Believers that believe in the modern interpretation of “sowing and reaping.”  That is responding to Tele-evangelism (really Telemarketing) where they give under the pretense that their money will go to international outreach and they will, in return, receive a financial blessing.  I am sure some of the solicited money will find the shores of distant countries, but my concern is what about “dumpster divers” and “cardboard mattress” sleepers that are in every city in America.  What about the children in our urban areas that have little clothing or toys?  What about those who cannot afford medical assistance?  Instead of sending money to a Christian broker, why not drive down a street and find a need and meet it?  What about Christians in our own community that are having a hard time making ends meet?  We need to stop “handing off” to someone else to fulfill our calling and start “handing out” what God has so bountifully given us.

The Believers’ calling is so much more than receiving!  It is answering the call to be a servant.  Let us replace our mirrors with windows.  Let us see beyond ourselves.  Let us move beyond secondhand faith to a first hand experience of living the life of a servant!  When we do that, we will understand the true principle of “sowing and reaping.”

 

 

FIG TREE AND MOUNTAIN REMOVAL

Whenever I am given the opportunity to check out someone’s Bible, I immediately scan through the pages to see which verses have been highlighted.  With very little exception I have found that the vast majority underline verses that pertain to acquiring something through the releasing of their faith, or where Biblical personalities achieved miraculous results. It is energizing to our faith to see the potential achievements that can be personalized in our lives.  The problem is we don’t know how motivated faith works. If God has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Peter 1:3), why are we in the hunt for something He has already given us?  Instead of working in the framework of His Word, we take things out of context and use a “claim and frame” attitude.  A case in point is the dialogue around the fig tree that Jesus had with His disciples. (Mark 12 and Matthew 21)   Jesus pronounced the sentence of death on a tree that had given the appearance of figs, but on closer examination there was no fruit.  The harvesting of the figs had not begun, but there still should have been some partially ripe fruit that could have been eaten.  The disciples were amazed at how quickly the fig tree dried up and died.  What Jesus said next is the entrance ramp to misunderstanding.

The central theme of the encounter at the fig tree centered around prayer and having faith in God.  Jesus was showing what the power of prayer, seasoned with faith, could achieve.  It was not a question of cursing a fig tree into non existence, or casting a mountain into the sea; rather, it was having the faith to believe that no matter how little or big the problem or obstacle in our life, it is at our mercy!  Prayer is not crossing our fingers and making empty promises to God, but a confidence we exhibit by our faith in Him.  What does God desire in the situations that confront us?  When God is in the equation we will better understand His purpose and will.  Praying with faith can diminish any problem we may face.  We need to learn to speak what we believe.  Too many times we grow the problem from a fig tree reality into a mountainous experience.  Jesus pointed out to His disciples the importance of speaking to the problem. (Mark 11:23)  Instead of talking about our negative challenges, let us learn to “cast it into the sea” by the words of our mouth.

We must put all of this in the right framework.  Before we can use the authority given to the Believer, we need to behave like a Believer.  Almost with the same breath, Jesus expanded His teaching to an area that was neglected by so many: the doctrine of forgiving.  For the fig tree and mountain to be removed, we need to learn, as the Disciples did, to remove unforgiveness from the base of the tree and the valley of the mountain.  If we are not willing to forgive those that have hurt us, God will not forgive our offenses. (Mark 11:24, 25)   It is astonishing how many Christians are harboring negative feelings against other Believers.  There are Christians who have left churches because they could not stand to worship with their offenders.  How can we overcome problems in our lives, when we have not learned to forgive each other?  When are we going to put down our stones and walk away from judging?  When are we going to get serious about being a Believer?  To get rid of the fig tree, we must first get rid of our lack of forgiveness!  If we delay our forgiveness, the fig tree will turn into a mountain.  The gateway to the supernatural is through forgiveness of one another.  The door to victory is through forgiveness.  When we learn these Truths, the “sea” should be filled with our discarded problems.