Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When everything goes wrong

Habakkuk 3:17 – 19
“When noting goes right.”

I.    Desperate Circumstances.

    A.    The reasons:

        1.    An invading nation.

        2.    Habakkuk saw what was happening as the judgement of God.

        3.    The self-inflicted result of sin.

    B.    The physical reality.

        1.    There was no food.

            a.    No fruit: no sweets, no indulgence.

            b.    No grain: no basics, no stability.

            c.    No meat: no proteins, no luxury of wealth.

        2.    The political picture:

            a.    There were no extras or luxuries to indulge.

            b.    There was no stability, it takes time to produce crops.

            c.    There was no wealth, symbolized by a high protein diet (privilege of wealthy societies).

    C.    The Spiritual reality:

        1.    There are plants without fruit. (See John 15:1 – 6)

            a.    It means they have not “remained.”

            b.    Branches without fruit are pruned, dried and thrown into the fire.

        2.    Oil and grain are the staple of like – for bread and other things.

            a.    Even the basics of spiritual life are missing.

            b.    Oil is often the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

            c.    Grain for bread.  Bread is the symbol of the Word of God and the broken body of Jesus.

What would happen if God sent a “famine” of the Word or the Holy Spirit?

        3.    No sheep in the pens, no cattle in the stalls.

            a.    Cattle were food, also a source of sacrifice.

            b.    Sheep are a biblical picture of God’s people.

When we wonder off we miss the blessing and care of our God.

This is a picture of a desperate situation that effects the righteous and the unrighteous.  It is a picture of judgement due to sin, of empty meaningless lives, and fruitless spiritual lives.  Yet when there seems to be nothing, for Habakkuk, God is enough because he understands joy is not dependent on circumstances (good or bad).

II.    Overriding circumstances:

    A.    God’s names reveal His nature and in this case, hope.

        1.    “LORD” is the sacred name of God, “I am, I am.”

            a.    The Hebrew is “Yahweh” and the Latinized is “Jehovah” (Hebrew does not have the “J” sound.)

            b.    Pick a question, the answer God gives is “I am.”

Does God care? “I am your provision.”

Does God love? “I am love.”

Does God save? “I am your salvation.”

        2.    “God my Savior” (KJV “the God of my Salvation”)

            a.    The Hebrew is “Yeshua” (literally “Yahweh saves”) or in Greek it would be “Jesus.”

            b.    The Vulgate says, “exultabo in Deo Iesu meo” (I will exult in Jesus my God).

        3.    “The Sovereign LORD.” (KJV “The LORD God”)

            a.    The Hebrew is “Yahweh Adonai” (literally “Yahweh rules”).

            b.    Genesis 2, this name is used.

                1.)    [2:4b] “When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”

                2.)    [2:7] “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

                3.)    [2:16a] “And the LORD God commanded...”

                4.    [3:23] "So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”

The Creator had power to create, the right of ownership, the authority to command, the obligation to judge.  All this is unquestionable.  Is it a wonder that evolutionists work so hard at their godless (literally) religion?

    B.    Joy is beyond circumstances.

        1.    We submit to God regardless of what is happening.

        2.    Have you ever gotten tired of working for yourself?  Joy allows us to have confidence that whatever happens will ultimately bring glory to God.

        3.    Joy is our best and final response to God’s victory.

Lessons: God’s people will suffer, either because of sin or their society’s sin.  God’s people will see beyond ugly/bad circumstances.  God’s people will have joy in the most difficult circumstances.


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving is Remembering

Deuteronomy 8
Thanksgiving is Remembering

Context: Israel is read to enter the “Promised Land.”  Moses then gave his farewell speech where he recaps the Law and retells the story of their adventures.

Point: Wealth will either DISCIPLINE or DESTROY you.  You will be thankful (a spiritual discipline) or be thankless and destroyed.

I.    The problem with thankless:

    A.    [v 17] It is easy to become proud.

        1.    Wealth can be a trap [v 12] (which is relative and about our attitude)... satisfied with food, fine homes [v 13], herds, flocks, gold and silver multiply.

        2.    The pride of life is a dangerous thing.  “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” [Proverbs 16:18]

        3.    Pride keeps us from God [Romans 1:18 – 20].

    B.    [v 14] It is easy to forget.

        1    Forget what?

            a.    God’s work: He brought you out of slavery [Romans 6:16 – 18].

            b.    God’s leading: thirsty land, venomous snakes, etc...

            c.    God’s provision: water, manna in difficult times. [vv 16 – 18]

The danger is we think we produce the good things but God gives the ability to produce good things.

        2.    The result of forgetting is devastating,.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”
[Romans 1:21 – 23]

            a.    We become stupid (“thinking became futile and there foolish hearts were darkened”).

            b.    We lose sight of who God really is and replace Him with gods of our own invention.  (We even reshape Jesus into a benign, wishy washy candy man.)

Thanklessness is connected to being proud, forgetting God, and leaving God for false gods.  The result is destruction.

II.    The discipline of being thankful.

    A.    Be careful to obey [v 1].

        1.    The key to “success” with God is obedience.

        2.    God made a promise, but asks something of us.

    B.    Remembering is a key to thankfulness.

        1.    Remember to be humble [v 3].

            a.    [v 3] “to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

            b.    We need food, but the “word” that comes from the LORD is

        2.    Remember to pass the test.

            a.    God k knows if we will pass, the test is a learning experience for us.

            b.    Desert areas are life’s testing grounds.  (e.g. Moses’ 40 years, Elijah, Jesus, Paul, etc...)

        3.    Remember to accept discipline.

            a.    [v 5] “ Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”

            b.    Discipline is a teaching process (not a punishing process).

If you are not being disciplined by God, then you need to check “who’s your Father.”

Thanksgiving is a time deliberately set aside to remember and exercise gratitude.  Back in the late 1930 America was in a terrible depression.  On top of that, crops were failing and nothing seemed to be going well.  The President issued the yearly proclamation for Thanksgiving and the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism objected.  They claimed there was no reason for thanksgiving.  Their problem is they associated the “good things” of the “roaring 20's” with a reason for giving thanks and missed the important things like friends, family, love, liberty, freedom, and God’s grace.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The 10 Commandments

Psalm 100
The Ten Commandments of Joy

I.    Worship brings joy.

    A.    How we enter God’s presence:

        1.    “Shout” means a joyful cheer.

        2.    “Worship” with gladness.

        3.    “Joyful” songs.

    B.    Joy is a decision.

Abraham Lincoln – “People are just about as happy as they make up their mind to be.”

        1.    There is exuberance in the words of Psalm 100.

        2.    There is reason in these words.

II.    Desire to obey brings joy.

    A.    What commands are part of the new covenant? [from Mike Mason]

        1.    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” [John 14:1] Trust God, be at peace.

            a.    Context of Jesus death, a disturbing idea.

            b.    Context of our eternal destiny, heaven or hell.

            c.    Salvation, and giving peace, is Jesus’ work.

        2.    “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” [Ephesians 4:1]

            a.    [Ephesians 4:2] Humble and gentle means less energy and focus on yourself and more on others.

            b.    [Ephesians 4:3] Unity through peace means trusting and loving enough to not take differences personally.

        3.    “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” [1 Peter 4:7]

            a.    The context is the realization of the end.

            b.    “Clear minded” = alert, “self-controlled” means sober minded.  These facilitate prayer.

            c.    On the peg of prayer hangs love [v 8], hospitality [v 9], and the correct use of spiritual gifts [vv 10 – 11].

        4.    “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” [Philippians 4:4]

            a.    Joy is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian.

            b.    Joy is foundational to gentleness [v 5], and peace [v 6].

            c.    Then there is a promise: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [v 7]

    B.    Joy is a choice.

        1.    Mike Mason – “intentional time set aside”

        2.    Why? Because the “dreary pragmatism of existence” will grind us down if we do not deliberately take the time to be joyful.

(Ill.) Oil change.

III.    Relationship with God brings joy.

    A.    Psalm 100:1 – 2 Worship is a means of expressing and receiving joy.

        1.    Mason – “Unhappy people withhold worship, which is the very reason for their unhappiness.”

        2.    Worship = the presence of God.

            a.    The presence of God causes worship.

            b.    Worship brings a realization of the presence of God.

    B.    Psalm 100:3 Worship puts God and us in context.

        1.    “Know.”  Spurgeon – “Our worship is intelligent.”

            a.    Knowledge leads to understanding leads to choice leads to behavior.

            b.    Not just an emotional ecstasy that overpowers reason.

        2.    What do we know?

            a.    The Lord is God.  (There is no other.)

            b.    He made us.  (Rights of ownership.)

            c.    We are His people. (Nobody else.)

    C.    Psalm 100:4 Worship is joy expressed in thanksgiving.

        1.    A cheerful spirit is appropriate.

        2.    We sing “count your many blessings... and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”  We are surprised because we have deliberately shut joy out of our lives.

        3.    Where there is joy there is thanksgiving.

IV.    God brings joy.

    A.    Consider this: (Psalm 100:5)

        1.    “The Lord is good.”

            a.    This is not part time, it is God’s character.

            b.    Our response is hope born in trust.

        2.    “His love endures forever.”

            a.    Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

            b.    Our response is love natured in relationship.

        3.    “His faithfulness...” (Never ends)

            a.    Sometimes a generation (or two) will miss out, but God does not give up.

            b.    Our response is faith unshaken by time.

    B.    No child of God has an excuse...

        1.    What about circumstances?

            a.    Remember they are temporary (even life long ones are temporary).

            b.    God is not temporary.

        2.    What about heart-ache and pain?

            a.    Life can hurt.  Jesus crucifixion hurt.

            b.    Perspective: eternal.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Almost Christian

Acts 26:28
The Almost Christian

When the Titanic sunk, two lists were posted.  The title of the one list was “lost.”  The other was called “saved.”  So it is spiritually, there are ONLY two kinds of people in this world: the lost and the saved. 

You are either one or the other.

Yet we have created several myths that tend to give people a FALSE sense of conversion.  They are the “almost” Christian and the “sincere fraud.”

Lets look at these groups.

I.    The “lost.”

    A.    They are not saved.

        1.    They have no relationship with God and are described as “enemies.”

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” [Colossians 1:21]

        2.    They have no sense of sin or conviction of sin.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” [Ephesians 2:1]

    B.    Some are willingly determined to go to hell.

        1.    Some have the knowledge of the truth but:

            a.    think it won’t happen.

            b.    think God will change His mind about Hell.

            c.    don’t care.

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.” [Hebrews 10:26]

        2.    Some want to go to hell.

    C.    Traditionally some are “fence riders.”

        1.    They want Christ but they also want sin

            a.    It seems the “best of both worlds.”

            b.    The idea is to maintain sin’s fun without guilt or consequences.

        2.    Their life resembles a ping pong ball.

(Ill.) As I was growing up in the mountains of Pennsylvania, Sunday a.m. the churches were full and the bars were empty.  When the service is over, the church is empty and everyone heads to the bar.

***** When God’s saving grace affects you life: Your behavior (24/7) changes because you are changed.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17] *****

II.    The “almost” Christian.

    A.    They know everything they need to know....  King Agrippa.

        1.    He was an expert in Jewish customs and questions.

        2.    He knew enough about the Scriptures to have some understanding.

        3.    Paul suspected he, at least, believed the prophets.

    B.    They are “good” people: Honest and trust-able in their dealings.  High regard for the truth, typically they do not lie.  Willing to help others.  Avoid what is forbidden (and even dislike the forbidden).  Avoid excess.  Hard working, do good when they can.  Faithful in religious duties and involvement.  Uses prayer.

***** Good is good, it is not saved.  Neither those who give intellectual agreement with the gospel or those who are devout in religious practices are saved.  The intellectual cannot devise salvation by his own wisdom.  The religious cannot gain salvation by his own moral merit. *****

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” [James 2:19]

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentile.” [1 Corinthians 1:22 – 23]

III.    The “sincere fraud.”

    A.    The “sincere fraud” will abstain from evil and actively pursue doing good.

        1.    Motivated by fear (an attempt to avoid punishment) not love.

        2.    This person is commonly known as a “hypocrite” (lit. “actor”).

    B.    Some have a “sincere” desire to serve God.

        1.    They really do want to please God.

        2.    Fact: They know about God but they do not know God.

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' [23] Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” [Matthew 7:21 – 23]

        3.    Fact: They are building on the wrong foundation. 

“Why do you call me, `Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? [47] I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. [48] He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. [49] But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” [Luke6:46 – 49]

***** In other words, obedience is on their terms.  Like going to a buffet.  You chose what you want and leave the rest behind. *****

John Wesley noted “Sincerity is the moving principle of the one who is ALMOST Christian.”

Reality, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    C.    There is even good designs and good desires.

        1.    There is trouble with “good” because it is not saved.

        2.    (Ill.) Four frogs are sitting on a log, 2 want to jump off.  How many are on the log? (Answer: four because wanting to jump and jumping are different things).  Four frogs are sitting on a log.  Two decide to jump off.  How many are on the log? (Answer: four because deciding to jump and jumping are different things.)

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” [1 Corinthians 4:20]

IV.    The “real” Christian

(Remember you are or you are not.)

    A.    The real Christian is “broken.”

        1.    Another word for this is “conviction.”

“(Because) our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”
[1 Thessalonians 1:5a]

            a.    Broken carries the idea that we are completely helpless before God.

            b.    Broken understands that the only thing between us and the hell we deserve is God’s desire to be merciful.  We call that mercy His grace.

        2.    It is a work of the Holy Spirit.

“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” [John 16:8]

            a.    Broken means we understand our sin, our failed righteousness, and our rightfully deserving judgement.

            b.    Broken identifies with Jesus.

“And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." [25] In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." [26] For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” [1 Corinthians 11:24 – 26]

    B.    The real Christian lives by the law of love.

“Jesus replied: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37 – 39]

        1.    Love the Lord.

            a.    Love is whole hearted, it fills the mind and soul.

            b.    Love is one of those things you know because it fills the mind and thought.

*****God becomes the priority, the things of God are more important than our priorities. *****

        2.    Love others.

    C.    The real Christian has faith that transfers trust.

        1.    The new covenant (broken body and shed blood of Jesus) changes us.

            a.    One idea is repentance: changed mind and changed behavior.

            b.    Another idea is “adoption.”

“Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." [16] The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. [17] Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” [Romans 8:14 – 17]
        2.    The “abba” faith of a child, completely dependent on the Father.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness: I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” [“Solid Rock” by Edward Mote]

IV.    A real Christian is one inwardly and outwardly.   

“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?  Who may stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” [Psalm 24:3 – 4]

    A.    Clean hands: outward life.

        1.    It is easy to pretend inward purity without outward purity.

            a.    We claim a good heart while our deeds displease God.

            b.    Basically this person is a self-deceived open-sinner.

            c.    It is unprofitable, it does us no good, and is down right impossible.

        2.    The “clean hands” is a changed life.

            a.    The soul has not been lifted up to a false god, one of our making (as when we create God in our own image and call him God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit).

            b.    The behavior is in line with the belief.

    B.    A pure heart: inward life.

        1.    It is easy to pretend outward purity without inward purity.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. [28] In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” [Matthew 23:27 – 28]

            a.    Life or defilement comes from inside.

“Nothing outside a man can make him `unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him `unclean.”
[Mark 7:15]

            b.    The pure heart is the source.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” [Proverbs 4:23]

        2.    With a pure heart, there will be consistency.

            a.    It doesn’t necessarily eliminate mistakes, misunderstanding, and mis-speaks.

            b.    It does keep us on track.

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