Archive for July, 2008

Faith in God

July 31, 2008

My faith in God is the foundation of my existence.  It is my faith in God which provides purpose, strength and hope.  Purpose, because I believe that God has a role for me to play personally, that I matter, in some small way in the plan that God has for the history of the world.  Strength, because I believe that God will not give me more than I can handle, although I appreciate a line that I heard attributed to Mother Theresa; “I wish that God did not trust me so much.” 🙂  I trust that in Christ I can do all things.  (Phillipians 4:13)  Hope, because I believe that all things work together for good, not just some things, but all things.  (Romans 8:28 )

But where does this faith come from?  Scripture says that “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God.”  (Romans 10:17) so I read the Bible regularly.  Yet there are people who read the Bible plenty and yet have no true faith in God.  I believe that the Word of God is used by the Spirit of God to illicit a response within our hearts.  That response can be acceptance with faith, or rejection and disbelief.  Acceptance is not “blind faith” but rather it is a seeing with the “eyes of faith” rather than natural sight, or reason. 

I must say that the pieces of the puzzle of this life, fit together very nicely, when viewed through the eyes of faith.  For those areas that don’t make any sense, faith fills in the blanks.

Church: part four; Proclamation

July 30, 2008

Proclamation is the presentation of the Word of God.  Now this message may be the reading of the Word,  or it may be preaching, or some other form of communicating God’s message to His people.  It is important that people have the opportunity to hear from God in church.

This message comes through a human messenger.  This can influence the quality of the message.  A friend of mine once told me that listening to sermons is like eating chicken,  you eat the meat and spit out the bones.  This requires a certain amount of spiritual training and discernment that should grow with time.  The Holy Spirit will guide us into truth and will help to apply messages that are given to a group, to our own particular circumstances.

Basics of Christian Growth

July 29, 2008

Many years ago I was involved with a gospel singing group called “The Christian Life Singers”.  It was a great experience and was my introduction to ministry.  We would regularly have times of prayer with people.  If we prayed with someone for initial salvation we always encouraged them to continue in three areas for spiritual growth.  I still believe, thirty years later, that these three basics are the basics for Christian growth.

Bible Reading:  It is important to spend some time in God’s Word every day.  God is able to speak to us through His Word.  It provides structure, guidance, and lots of information.  We can spend a lifetime and still not get everything that is available to us in the pages of The Book.

Prayer:  We need to spend time each day in the presence of God.  We can talk with God about anything and everything.  We can quietly sit in His presence and allow the opportunity for Him to speak to us.  In the presence of God there is joy, help, healing… all that we might need.

Church Attendance:  We need to get together with other believers.  We both give and receive encouragement and support. There is something special about the people of God getting together.  We are not alone in this world, we are a part of the family of God.

These basic disciplines or practices will contribute significantly to our spiritual growth whether we have been a Christian for a few minutes or several decades.

How Should One Live?

July 28, 2008

Last week in my philosophy class we started the section on ethics which addresses the question of how one should, or ought to, live.  I felt inspired to preach on that topic Sunday from Romans chapter twelve and wanted to share the basic principles on my blog.

We should live our lives as a living sacrifice, not conformed to the world, but transformed by the Word and the Spirit into the people that God both calls and enables us to be.  ( vv1-3 )

We should live our lives using our gifts to serve God’s kingdom.  We all have gifts and abilities that are given to us by God.  As we live for God, we will find that He has a wonderful plan and purpose for our lives.  ( vv3-8 )

We should live lives of love and godliness.  We should show the people around us, both Christian and non Christian, the love of God.  We should “abhor evil and cling to what is good”.  We should not repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. ( vv9-21 )

This is, of course, a simplified approach, the actual working out of details becomes more complex, but I believe that this outline provides basic principles by which one ought to live.

Max

July 27, 2008

Max,aka Shiloh, aka Highway,  was found wandering along the highway by a local veterinarian about nine years ago.  He was in pretty bad shape, skinny and sickly.  The vet kindly took him in, named him Highway,  and nursed him back to health.  He had the run of the clinic and made friends with everyone.  This was not meant to be a permanent arrangement so she started looking for a home for him. 

He went home with a family that lived in the country.  There were other dogs, cats and various other animals, plus five kids to play with, it was a great place for a young dog.

One day the oldest of the children heard that their pastor was looking for a medium sized dog for his family.  This young teenager offered to give their dog (Whom they had called Shiloh, because he was a beagle.) to the pastor and his family.  It was a kind and generous offer and that is how we came to have Max.  We renamed him because we didn’t like his other names, besides, now he was our dog.

Max was with us for eight years.  My boys went from young middle school students, to young men in college during those years.  Two birds came and went, and our cat Allie, has just gotten older.  (She wouldn’t hardly come upstairs for the first two years.)  He has been a good dog, not much of a watch dog, and certainly not a guard dog, and not a hunting dog either, (loud noises scared him) but he was a well behaved, friendly dog.  I don’t think that I ever heard him growl at, and I never saw him snap at a single human being.  He would chase animals, but it was all in fun.  He wouldn’t hurt a fly.  He actually caught baby rabbits in the back yard and played with them.  He did not hurt them as far as I could tell. I don’t think they enjoyed the game as much as he did, but they survived it.

A little over a week ago I brought Max back to his old friend the vet.  He had a growth in his neck that concerned me. It turns out it was lymphoma.  The vet said that there wasn’t much to do, it was going to kill him, maybe three months.  I brought him home and we decided to spoil him rotten.  Unfortunately, as it turns out, it was a much shorter time.  Within days Max was having trouble breathing, then difficulty walking, then going to the bathroom, then he stopped eating.   Yesterday I took him to the vet for the last time.  We waited outside while the vet finished with the people who were there before us.  Max walked around the grounds, sniffed noses with a puppy that was in the back yard and then sat with me on a curb until the last customer came out with two big healthy dogs that wagged their tails and sniffed noses with Max.  Max walked in like he owned the place, although slowly and a little unstable, sniffed around a little and then it was time to say goodbye.  He went quickly and quietly, before the shot was even finished, he relaxed and laid his head on my arm, where I was holding him for the vet to do her job, a final act of kindness for this dog who was very, very sick.

Max is buried out in the country.  It is on the edge of a field, in the shade of the woods, with the home, (and kitchen) in sight.  He would have liked the spot.

How to Deal With Problems

July 24, 2008

Faith is the first step in dealing with problems.  By this I mean that you need to be able to have faith that God will be with you and enable you to deal with your problems.  Faith gives you confidence that everything will be all right, which gives you hope.  A person with faith in Christ should never be without hope.

Prayer is the next step.  Ask God to help you, to guide you, to give you strength, or, better yet, to just make the problem go away.

Then research the problem. Read the Bible, seek godly council, seek knowledgeable council. (Godly council may not be knowledgeable, knowledgeable council may not be godly.)  Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment.

Utilize the support of family, and friends, especially from your church.  If you don’t have a church, find one.  If no one will stand with you, reexamine your position, because maybe you’re doing the wrong thing!

Take action.  If the problem has not resolved itself on it’s own then follow through with the course of action that you have settled upon after prayer and research.

Thank God for His help.  If the problem persists, repeat the process.

Church: part three; Prayer

July 23, 2008

Prayer makes a difference!  When we are facing situations that are difficult we can trust that God will either change the situation or change us.  By that I mean that God is able to work in this world in powerful ways in response to prayer.  If the circumstances that we are facing do not change then God will give us the grace, strength and wisdom to deal with the problem.

Prayer is not always about problems.  We pray to talk with God about our lives.  The good, the bad, the everyday; everything that goes on in our lives.

Prayer in church is both individual and corporate.  There are times for personal prayer and reflection.  There are times for the believers to pray together.  It is powerful when people pray together in unity. (Mathew 18:19-20)  It should not be just the leader praying, but all agreeing together.  As we pray together, great things can happen.

Our attitude is important.  Here are a few things to remember. 

We have faith that God loves us, hears us, and is able to help us. (Hebrew 11:6)

We make requests, not demands.  (Phillipians 4:6)

We accept yes, no, and not yet, as answers to our prayers.

We seek the will of God.  (Luke 22:42)

We thank God for all things.  (I Thessalonians 5:18 )

“Pray without ceasing.”  (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Church: part two; Praise

July 22, 2008

Praise and worship is an important part of the church experience.  The most important part of this is that we focus on God.  It is Him, to whom we are giving worship and praise.  Praise is not a spectator sport.  We should all enter in with our voices,  our hearts, our whole selves.  It shouldn’t matter whether we are singing hymns or choruses, whether we have organs or electric guitars.  It shouldn’t matter whether the music is too loud, or too slow, or too fast, or poorly played or superbly played.  What should matter is that we come together to give praise to God as a body of believers.  When we worshipGod in unity there is a sense of the presence of God that will touch our hearts, and refresh our lives.  Sometimespeople focus on the music, the worship team, the volume,  our own feelings, etc. etc. What we should be focused on is the greatness of God, His goodness, mercy, grace and love.  He is worthy of our praise and worship.  Whatever the external quality and details of our worship, if our hearts are right with God, and we are sincerely offering up our praise and worship to God, He will be pleased, even if some people do not like what they see or hear.  This does not mean that we should purposely do a poor job musically, but rather, that we keep our hearts in tune, not just our strings.

Church: part one

July 21, 2008

The church is an interesting mixture of the human and divine, the physical and the spiritual, the imperfect and the perfect.  It is similar to us in that it can be led by the Spirit, or by the flesh.  It can be wonderful, or it can be horrendous.  For all of its imperfections, I believe that the local church plays a very important role in the ongoing work of Christ in the world.  I suspect that many of the problems that people have with the church is a result of focusing on the human side, with all of its imperfections, rather than on the spiritual side, with all of its possibilities. 

The role of the church can be expressed as praise, prayer, proclamation, people and presence.  At various times in the near future I will expound on each of these areas in turn.  It will present, not a complete picture, but a good start on my concept of church.

Fun at Work, or Work at Fun?

July 20, 2008

A few years ago when we were doing some sort of family activity I came to the unwelcome conclusion that having fun was a lot of work!  Planning, preparing, executing and cleaning up before and after an event can be a time consuming and energy sapping experience.  I now appreciate my father even more, who often took the family on various outings when I was growing up.  I never realized the amount of work that he was putting in, until I was the one doing the work.  Like me, he had a job which had some flexibility, but that required a lot of time, yet I never got the impression that he was overworked or overtired.

I don’t think that my boys will be able to say that.

 I am thankful that I have a father who took the time and made the effort to do stuff with me and the family.   I have many wonderful memories of things that we did together.

On a different note, I am glad that I can say that my work is fun.  I love to preach and teach.  I love to talk with people about the things of God and I enjoy letting my mind wander down various philosophical lanes. 

Actually,sometimes, work is more fun, and not as much work; and fun is more work, and not as much fun, sometimes.