Tuesday, December 30, 2014

15 Questions to Ask Yourself In 2015

"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless you fail the test." -Corinthians 13:5 (HCSB)

The New Year celebration is a time of reflection.  I would encourage you to set some goals for your walk with Christ this year.  Here is a list of excellent questions to reflect on in 2015.  Please note that Don Whitney is to be given credit for writing these questions, and I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase them. 

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?
11. What's the most important decision you need to make this year?

12. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what's one way you could simplify in that area?

13. What's the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

14. What habit would you most like to establish this year?

15. Who is the person you most want to encourage this year?

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

What Can Shepherds Show Me at Christmas?

The first sermon I ever preached in church was on shepherds. It was Christmas time and remember thinking about how they get little attention from most people and there is much we can learn about God and proper response to God from these shepherds of old. Luke 2:16-20 records their role in the nativity story. The occupation of shepherds was a great training ground for some of God’s leaders in the Old Testament. For example, David and Moses were both shepherds before they lead God’s people. Here is the example that I see from the shepherds on that first Christmas:

1. Be Faithful- In Luke 8:2, these shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. We can be easily distracted and tired missing opportunities God has given us. We should remain faithful especially when we are tired.

2. Be Followers- In Luke 2:15, their response to the good news was “Let’s Go See.” The Good news was given to them by the angel and their response was not to forget it and move on, but to follow wherever it leads with urgency.

3. Be Forthtellers- In Luke 2:16-17, the bible tells us that after seeing Jesus, “they reported the message they were told…”. And what is the reaction of the hearers? It is “all who hard it were amazed.” This Christmas bring glory to God by explaining why Christmas is so important for mankind. Explain to all that will listen that Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died as a perfect sacrifice so that we can have a reconciled relationship with God. I can think of no better give to give for Christmas than the gospel explained clearly.

So in conclusion, let’s all be more like the shepherds, but maybe without the smell of livestock! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 10 Bible Verses You Will Never See on a Christmas Card!

It is Christmas Time again, and we will all be receiving Christmas Cards. Many of these cards are written with good intentions of warming the heart with a reflection on God. I have to say I do take issue with many of these cards. It seems these warm fuzzy Christmas cards don't really highlight the fullness of the God of the Bible, showing us a limited perhaps even distorted attribute of God as revealed in Scripture. So I have made a list of the top ten scriptures you will NEVER find on a Christmas Card. While there are many more that could have made the list, this should be good enough to get us to reflect on the fullness of God! Here we go:

10) Luke 14:26

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, and even his own life — he cannot be My disciple.”

9) John 14:24

“The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words. The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me.”

8) Matthew 7:21

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! ’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

7) Luke 2:14 (THE FULL VERSE! The underlined part is usually omitted from Christmas cards!)

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!”

6) Hebrews 10:31

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”

5) Matthew 5:29

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

4) Revelation 19:16

"On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords."

   Note: This is an image of Jesus as a tattooed warrior king! It would make an interesting picture for this Merry Christmas Card to say the least!

3) Isaiah 45:7

"I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things."

2)Exodus 15:3

"The LORD is a man of war;

the LORD is his name."

1)Matthew 10:34

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Note: The little baby Jesus grew up and said these words!

Let us not be lulled to sleep by half truths or distorted images about the God revealed in Scripture during Christmas. Instead let us fully embrace God as He has revealed himself through Scripture. Have a Merry Christmas and praise be to our Holy, Sovereign, Loving God forever and ever amen!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Is Tithing a Commandment for New Testament Believers?

““Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!”

You ask: “How do we rob You?”

“By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions.””
–Malachi 3:8

The Old Testament clearly hands the command to tithe. A tithe is giving ten percent of all that one received from God back to Him. The instruction was to bring that amount into the temple which paid for the priest’s salary, provided a form of society for the poor, and functioned similar to a state tax for the nation. Today, the temple has been replaced by the church for New Testament believers. In addition the replacement of the temple many social safety nets are provide for the poor or disabled though the government, instead of the church. The theme of cheerful giving is a thread thought the Word of God. Let me remind you of a few things about tithing:

1. Jesus praised tithing in Luke 11:42.

Even though He was rebuking the Pharisees, he praised the fact that they did give their 10 percent to the temple. He rebuked them on the fact that that was all they would give. To the Pharisee giving was an item on a checklist to prove righteousness.

2. All your blessings are from God. (1 Chronicles 28:29)

In 1 Chronicles 28:29, King David prayed and said, “everything in the heavens and on the earth belongs to you.” The principle is that anything you have is a gift from God. Your abilities, health, skill set/trade, and opportunities are all gifts from God. Just think if you had been born in 12th century Mongolia on a random mountain top would you have all you have today?

3. We have been given more privileges and responsibilities than Old Testament Saints. (Hebrews 11:13)

The saints of old lived by faith, but had a forward looking faith to the fulfillment of the promises of God. We have many more privileges than the Old Testament Saints. We know Christ, we have the completion of the Word of God, and we have the Holy Spirit dwelling with us daily to help us! Therefore, we should give at least what the Old Testament saints were expected to give, even though it is not commanded.

4. Give from a heart of gratitude for the salvation we have been given (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The apostle Paul never asks for a tithe to be given in the New Testament, instead he implores them to give from a heart of joy and gratitude. We should give from a heart of joy, not expecting a return. Remember God loves a cheerful giver!

No, tithing is not a command, but it is a guideline to check the blind spot of greed in our life. Should we settle for a lower bar of giving than was expected in the Old Testament?