Thursday, January 24, 2013

Knowing God's Will

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a script for your life telling you all the things you were meant to do? Then again, maybe you want to have your life surprise you. The truth is, there is a basic script that is written for us. That is, our creator, God, has a plan for our lives. We are told in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “Plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future and a hope.” God has a good plan for us. The challenge is for us to understand this plan.
          So, how are we to figure out this plan for our life? The answer is to discover God’s will, even though it is often different than our will. If we can figure out what God has willed for us, then we can know what the plan is. The way to figure out God’s will is through discernment.
            The first step of discernment is to be close to God. It makes sense that we won’t be able to know what God wants if we have gone astray from God. If we are separated from God, we will not be able to hear His calling out to us.
The second step is to be in consistent prayer with God and to seek out the truth of His word. Since these are two of the main ways God communicates with us, we must keep them as constants in our life.
            The third step is to test what you feel God is telling you to do. The first test is that it will not contradict God’s word found in the Bible. The second test is open and closed doors. What I mean by this is that as you walk forward in the plan you believe God has for you, if it is in God’s will, the door will open and you will reach the place God is leading you. If it is not in God’s will, God will close the door.
            Lastly, God will give you a sense of peace in your life when you are in His will. If you are not at peace, this could be God telling you to do something different. Along with this, you need trustworthy friends who can help you see the signs God is putting in your life. In this process there is collective wisdom.
            Don’t sit around wondering what is God’s will. Seek it out! When you do, your life will be so much more meaningful and joyous. Blessings.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Why is it important to read the Bible?- Part 2

Back on April 26, 2012 I wrote part 1 of why I believe it is important to read the Bible. Yet, today I felt that I needed to comment more on this, because so many have gotten out of the habit of reading the Bible. Along with this, many people don’t even bring their Bible to church so they are not able to follow along with the scripture readings! We need to get back into the habit of carrying our Bible with us and reading it daily!!
            Every night my wife and I read devotions to our kids before they go to bed. However, Tiffany’s newest devotion doesn’t write out the scripture (you actually have to look it up yourself!). The other night when we started this devotion, I noticed this, and commented to Tiffany that we need to read the scripture. She responded by saying that there was a good story and a prayer, so that should be enough.
            This got me to thinking, is it important that we read the Bible for our devotions? The answer for me was “yes,” for these reasons:
1.      It is in the Bible that we get the story of creation, our fall (through the sin of Adam and Eve), and our redemption. The pages of the Bible are full of teachings about these truths. It is all too easy to forget what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection.
2.      It is in the story of Jesus Christ and His example that we see how God created us to live and how we have fallen short. Without regularly keeping this truth in front of us, we will stray away from God and fall into our sinful way of living.
3.      The Bible reveals to us God’s nature and the personal relationship God wants to have with us. Even more, the Bible instructs us in the life we are called to live. The Bible also helps us get to know God and His ways all the more.
4.      The Bible helps to guide us into the purpose God has for us. So many people are walking around this world without understanding their purpose. The Bible leads us to that purpose and keeps our eyes focused on it!
5.      The Bible is the truth of God. When we read the Bible we are able to understand what is good and what is bad; what is right and what is wrong. The Bible helps us to stay strong in what is true so that we won’t get deceived by Satan or by the temptations of the world.
I hope that you will commit yourself today to reading the Bible regularly. It is more than just a story. It is THE story. Blessings.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Christian response to 'the problem of evil'

It is not uncommon for me to hear people ask: How can a loving God allow evil in the world? The truth is, evil has come become of sin, and sin has come through rebellion. This rebellion started with Satan. Satan was an archangel who rebelled against God. Satan wanted to be on the throne instead of God, and so God cast Satan (and all the other angels who sided with him) out of heaven.
            Ever since this event, Satan’s desire is to try and pull people away from God. Satan does not do this outright, but rather through deception. Satan seeks to pull people away by getting them to doubt God. In Genesis chapter 3, Satan deceives Eve into thinking that God is holding back on her and Adam by not allowing them to eat of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Once she and Adam ate, they knew good AND evil. Sin was now introduced into humanity!
            Because of our sin, we choose to be selfish. Because of our sin, we choose to be hurtful. Because of our sin, we make choices that negatively affect others. These choices have progressed on down the line, and evil has increased. Yet even in Biblical times, we see in Genesis chapter 4 that sin led Cain to kill his brother Abel because of jealousy. Sin has existed in great form throughout the ages. The evil in the world is a result of our sin and our choices.
            However, Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God does not want to leave us in our sin and evil choices, and so through Christ we can have forgiveness and freedom from sin! When we choose to follow God, instead of our sinful ways, we will do good, not evil.
            My prayer for you is that you would daily seek God and ask God to help you rise above the sin which leads to evil. May God fill you with love and peace. Blessings.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Honest, But Encouraging

They say that honesty is the best policy. I believe that to be true. Yet, part of the challenge of relationships is learning how to be honest with the other person, but do it in a way that doesn’t discourage. There are times when you might say something that seems to be honest, but can be hurtful. There is a great commercial that asks: Was honest Abe always honest? It then shows Abraham Lincoln’s wife asking him: “Abe, do I look fat in this dress?” Abe, hesitates, and says, “Well…” Then his wife gets mad at him.
In this case, it might have been better for him to have said something about the dress not being the best fit for her. Or maybe the dress didn’t flatter her figure as much as another dress might. This would be true, and yet not dwell on the issue of her being fat or not. Another thing he could have said was to point out some good features about the dress first (encouraging words), and then talk about the fact that there might be a dress that she would look even better in.
            Why is it that people have trouble being honest? It is usually because the truth will cause them trouble. Usually people are not honest when they have done something wrong, so they lie. But when the lie is found out, and often times it is, trust is destroyed. This is why we must seek to learn how to be honest.
            So let's get back to being honest, yet encouraging. Part of the ability to do this is to understand who the person is that you're talking to. Some people can take the truth straight out: "You don't look good in that dress." And yet, who am I to tell them this? They did ask my opinion, but I must remember it is only an opinion. I also have to remember that they are asking me because they want my input. So I must seek to give input that will truly help, not hurt.
            If you have ever had a situation where you sought to tell the truth, but the truth damaged your relationship, then you understand the need to be honest but encouraging. Think about what you are going to say first. How will it sound to the other person? Is the way you’re going to say it really the best way to say it? Can you shape your response with some encouraging words? I believe we must seek to be loving, even when we are honest. In this way we will be able to guide, instruct, encourage, and challenge with honesty. Blessings.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is the God of the Old Testament the same God as the God of the New Testament?

At first this question might sound silly since it is one Bible, but many feel that the Old Testament and New Testament describe different Gods. The usual reference is to how God seems to be more vengeful and less loving in the Old Testament, and more loving and less vengeful in the New Testament. But, if you look closely you will see this is not true.
            While there are many rules given in the Old Testament, and many limitations given to God’s people, this is not at all vengeful or mean. God knows that His people need strict guidelines to keep them from the sinful ways of Israel’s neighbors. There is also punishment associated with breaking the laws, but this is actually a loving thing to do. I say this because our nature is to break laws, and the threat of punishment actually helps us to seek to do right.
            In the Old Testament there is much to be seen of God’s love. The Israelites are regularly turning away from God and seeking their own way, and God consistently is giving them the opportunity to come back to Him and receive forgiveness. God’s grace is given abundantly in the Old Testament.
            In the New Testament the focus is on Jesus Christ (the Son of God, God in the flesh) and His bringing the light of God to the world. Jesus brings the truth of God’s love and forgiveness in His teaching, but even more in His sacrifice on the cross. Yet, Jesus regularly teaches about the punishment that will be received for those who reject Him. Jesus talks about the existence of hell for all who choose to not believe in Him. So there is vengeance and punishment mentioned in the New Testament as well.
            We see that God is consistent throughout history described to us in the Old Testament and the New Testament. In fact, many of the scriptures of the Old Testament are prophecies that explain what will come about in the New Testament. He has established laws to govern us, and punishment for those who fail to abide. God gives us many opportunities to be forgiven if and when we turn from our sinful ways and seek Him out. He regularly shows His love, care, and concern for His followers.
            While there could be much more said about this topic, my intent here was to give a simple synopsis on the constancy of scripture and the God of the scriptures. As we are told in Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Jesus, being God in the flesh, expresses to us how God is the same forever as well. Blessings.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What We Have is a Failure to Communicate

            The other night I was trying to explain my sermon to Tami by telling her that Jesus came DOWN from heaven and then went OUT into the world. Thus, my sermon was entitled “Down and Out.” As I was telling her this, Tami kept asking, “You mean when he was a baby?” “No,” I said, “when he was older.” We went back and forth for a couple of minutes until I realized that we were having a failure to communicate. Tami thought I was talking about Jesus coming again (which was confusing her), but I was just trying to explain why Jesus came into the world.
            It is easy to have trouble communicating with others even though we have the wonderful ability to speak and hear and understand. Sometimes we know what we are saying, but don’t say it clearly enough for others to understand. This happened to me when I first started to preach regularly. I knew what I wanted to say in my sermon, but it didn’t always come out that way to the listener. So now I preach my sermon to Tami on Saturday night to get feedback on anything that might be confusing or unclear!
            I have also noticed that when I try and speak to people about Jesus Christ and Christianity that there can be a failure to understand what is said. This often comes from people not having the biblical background to understand biblical truths. It also can come from me expecting them to understand spiritual concepts that might be beyond them.
            So, what are we to do? I think the best way to communicate the message of Jesus with others is to talk about who Jesus is to us, and what He has done in our lives. I like to talk about how I was selfish in nature and sarcastic in my speech. But then I met Jesus and realized that I need to care about others, not just about myself. Or as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
            I also memorized Ephesians 4:29, which says: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  
            Through the touch of Jesus on my life, the forgiveness of my sins, and the realization that my words were important, I began to change who I was and become more the person I was created to be. Hopefully now, through my story and my actions, I don’t have a failure to communicate, but communicate well the love of Jesus! Blessings.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why is it important to read the Bible?

Regularly seen on the bestseller list are “How to” and self-improvement books. Why is this? Because people want to learn, grow, and have more success in life. People are searching for a better life and hope the information in these books will help them achieve this. Another book that is regularly a best seller is the Bible. The Bible is full of wonderful stories, information, and guidance. But even more, we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."
            One of the problems that people can fall into is thinking they don’t need to learn and grow. The only way that this would be true is if a person was perfect. It is pretty clear that no one is perfect in our world. In fact, God, our creator, has clearly stated that: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Since we are not perfect, then it follows that we can always be improving. The best way to seek how growth is needed, and can come about, is to read the Bible. In reading the Bible we will be taught the word of God, we will be able to train ourselves to be the person God created us to be, and we can be corrected from our errors.
            When I met my wife Tami I found out she was a professional golfer. I was reluctant to tell her that I played golf, because I’m not sure I would call what I played golf. I swung a golf club, but there were many errors to my game. When I decided to finally play with Tami, she was able to “instruct me” in how to play correctly; she corrected my errors. The Bible is an important tool in correcting our errors and helping us to live more righteously.
            Along with this, the Bible helps us to get to know the creator Himself. The Bible is full of stories that help us to see the character and love of God. The life of Jesus is a direct picture into the nature of God. The overall story of the Bible leads us to understand who God is, why God created us, and the purpose we have in this world. The Bible also instructs us in how we can receive eternal life (through faith in Jesus Christ), and how Jesus’ death enables us to be forgiven from our sins.
            The Bible is the most important instructional book that has ever been in print. The more you know and understand the Bible the fuller and richer your life will be. The Bible will give you direction and clarity to life. As Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” You can’t live according to God’s word if you don’t know God’s word.  I highly encourage you to read the Bible often. Blessings.