Archive for August, 2011

The Role of Faith

August 31, 2011

There are different aspects of faith.

I.  Saving Faith  Ephesians 2:8-10

We recognize that we are saved by grace through faith for good works.  We do not reach out to God.  God, by his grace has reached out to us.  We are able to respond to God’s grace by receiving it in faith, or rejecting it in unbelief.  If we have responded in faith, then the Spirit of God enters into our hearts and we are “born again’ in the Spirit.  If the Spirit of God dwells within us, then we will be changed.  We do not change so that we can be saved.  We are saved so that we can change.

II.   Growing Faith  II Corinthians 8:7

As we continue in our relationship with God our faith will grow.  The more that we see God at work in our lives, and in the lives of others, the deeper our faith will be established.  As time goes on, the various tests and trials of life will not shake our faith in the One who is with us always.

III.  Miraculous Faith

A.  Matthew 27:21  This verse, by itself, gives us the impression that we can ask for anything that we want, and that we will receive it, if only we have enough faith.

B.  James 4:3  This verse tells us that there are things that we ask for and do not receive, not because of a lack of faith, but rather because we have asked “amiss”.

C.  I John 5:14-15  this verse reveals the condition that if we ask anything “according to His will”  he hears us.  We recognize that we must be willing to pray, even as Jesus prayed,  “not my will, but thine, be done”.

D.  I Corinthians 12:7-11 reveals that miraculous faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, distributed as He wills.  We all need saving faith.  We also all should have a faith that recognizes that God can do anything.  Miraculous faith is when God reveals to us , not that He can, but that He will, do something.

Sometimes people want something so badly, that they wrongly assume that their will is God’s will and then their  miraculous faith is in error.  This can be devastating.  It is caused by a lack of understanding that we are to submit to the will of God, even if we do not understand it.

E.  Philippians 4:6-7 We can bring our requests to God, knowing that He hears us and is able to help us.  We can know that whatever happens, His grace is sufficient for us, and so we can be at peace.

I hope that you will take the time to look up the verses that are listed.  They are powerful and important  in presenting the complete message.

Not My Will

August 25, 2011

God does not conform to our will.  We are to conform to the will of God.  Yet, sometimes I think that Christians try to force God to do their will.  They pray, they quote scripture, they fast, they give, they work, and they expect to receive the desired answer to their prayers.

What if the object of their prayers is not in accordance with the will of God?

How can that be?  The prayer is for something good, worthy, even necessary.

As humans, we think like humans.  God is far above us in understanding.  When God does not answer our prayers, it is not because he cannot hear.  It is not that he is unable to do what we ask.  It is that he has other plans. We should seek to accept what God has for us.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of him.”  I John 5:14-15

We should include in our prayers the same line that Jesus used, “not my will, but thine, be done.”

Restore Joy

August 22, 2011

Here is the basic outline of yesterday’s sermon.  You will need your Bible to be able to read the references.

Introduction:  Jeremiah was living in a city under siege.  He had proclaimed that judgement would come, and now he was living through the attack on Jerusalem.  It was a dangerous and stressful time.  During this time he had a dream in which he received a vision of restoration.

I.  A Word of Restoration  Jeremiah 31:23-26

A.  There is a promise that the city would again be known for justice and holiness.

B.  There is a promise that every weary soul would be fully satisfied.

C.  There is a promise that every sorrowful soul would be replenished.

Remember Psalms 35:5 “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. ”  In our own lives, we may experience times of testing or turmoil, but we can trust that God will not abandon us if we continue in our walk with Him.

D. Jeremiah awoke from his dream and was able to go back to sleep, and his sleep was ‘sweet’.   He was at peace.

II.  A New Covenant:  Jeremiah 31:31-34 

There is another promise of restoration.  Christ will come and a new covenant will be established.  Remember how at the last supper Christ said that “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” .  This covenant shifts the focus from obedience to an external law to having the law written upon our hearts.  This is accomplished by our relationship with Christ.  As the Spirit of Christ  comes into our hearts at salvation we begin the process of learning to ‘walk in the Spirit’ so that we do not give in to the ‘lusts of the flesh’.

The promises given in this section are fulfilled in part now and will be completed when Christ returns.

III.  A New Heart  Psalms 51:7-13

God has always been interested in our heart.  King David was not called a ‘man after God’s own heart’ , because of his moral perfection.  At times he had very serious sin in his life, for which he paid a price.  However, when confronted with his sin he repented and turned to God for forgiveness.  His prayer for forgiveness has become a model for generations to come.

We may have lost the ‘joy of our salvation’ through sin, or simply through the ongoing rigors of life.  It is good to pray the words of David.  “Create in me a clean heart, and restore the joy of my salvation.”  We recognize that the “joy of the Lord is our strength”  and it is available to us daily.

 

Restoration

August 18, 2011

We had  storm about six weeks ago that included significant winds.  After the storm had passed, I went for a run out in the country.  I passed by cornfields that had been knocked over by the wind.   It was an impressive sight.  I felt bad for the farmers because of the apparent loss of product.

The other day, I ran past the same fields and was amazed to see that the corn had been restored.  A few weeks of sunshine and refreshing rains and the corn had managed to be restored.

I believe that our lives can be like that as well.  We experience storms in life that can knock us flat, but, given time we too, can be restored.  This is especially true for those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  God has the power to bring healing and restoration to human lives that is wonderful to see.  We might get knocked down, but God can raise us up again.

25th Anniversary

August 16, 2011

Our 25th anniversary is this month. Having come this far, I believe that I can comment on some of the keys to maintaining a healthy marriage.

Keep Christ in your marriage.  I cannot over-emphasize the importance of maintaining a relationship with Christ.  In our twenty-five years of marriage, I can only remember one Sunday when neither of us were in church.; and only a couple of Sundays that one of us missed due to illness.   I firmly believe that God provides extra wisdom, grace and strength as needed to face the challenges that come our way.

Commitment: There is no substitute for an unflinching resolve to make the marriage work.  This is one time that being stubborn is beneficial.  Divorce is not an option.  Marriage is “till death do we part”  and no fair killing each other!  Commitment also means ‘forsaking all others”.  Our commitment to our spouse is exclusive physically and emotionally.

Communication:  Keep talking to each other.  Talk about the facts of what is happening. Talk about what you hope, or fear, will happen.  Talk about what you feel.  Do not shut down communication, even if that communication is momentarily painful.  Talk it through.

Cash:  Early in our marriage we discussed the difference between  “need” and “want”.  It is important that you learn to live within your means.  Overextending on credit causes all kinds of stress on a marriage.  Learn to be content with what you have, even as you work towards what you want.

These four areas are not all there is to a successful marriage, but they are a good start.  I think that twenty-five years is a good start.  I am looking forward to the next twenty-five. I  think I am starting to get the hang of it.

 

Judgement and Hope

August 15, 2011

Today’s blog is a brief outline of the message that I preached yesterday.  I have not typed out the Bible references.  I would encourage you to read them for yourself as you go through this outline.  They are a vital part of the message.

Introduction

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet.  He was called as a young man to proclaim a coming judgement to a people who would not listen.  He preached for years.  His message was met with disdain.  He was ridiculed, beaten, and imprisoned.  He loved his people but they did not return his love.  He lived to see the judgement of God fall upon the nation of Israel.

I.  Jeremiah 7:2-14  Warning of Coming Judgement

The children of Israel were over-confident in their standing as the people of God.  Their history would not save them.  The presence of the temple will not save them.  They cannot choose to obey some of the commandments and ignore others.

We can see ourselves in this story.  A form of godliness will not save us.  Our history will not save us.  The presence of many churches will not save us.  We cannot choose to obey some commandments and ignore others.

We are called to walk with God and be His people.  If we are doing that, we will keep His commandments.

II.  Jeremiah 7:23-24 Who Will Listen to the Truth?

The truth was spoken, but they did not listen.

Today, who listens to the truth?

How familiar is the phrase, ” I know I shouldn’t but…”

III.  Jeremiah 7:28  Truth has Perished

We believe what we want to believe.  Philosophers call it “cognitive relativism”  where people create their own truth.  Some examples are: The Bible is a good book.  Jesus was a good man.  Creation is a nice story.

IV.  Judgment and Hope

Jeremiah 9:12-16  They have followed their own ways, so judgement is coming.

9: 23-24  There is hope for the faithful, even in the midst of judgement.

17:5-6  Judgement against the unbeliever is sure

17:7-8 Hope is offered to those who trust in God.

Conclusion

Seek to walk with God, keep His commandments, and it will be well with us.

How to Make a Christian Nation

August 11, 2011

How do you make a Christian nation?  If a leader commands conversion, you might get outward compliance, but not true conversion.  In a similar way, if laws are established to enforce church attendance and to make sin illegal, you would again,  get outward compliance, but not true conversion.  The only way for a nation to become Christian is by convincing individual people to convert, and then to freely choose to live a Christian lifestyle.  If enough people in a nation are truly Christian, then that nation could be called a Christian nation.

Unplugged

August 9, 2011

It has been a while since I was blogging regularly.  I was teaching a summer course that required more of my time than the regular semester.  Then I was on vacation.  Hopefully, I will now return to regularly blogging.

For a good portion of my vacation I was offline.  We spent some time at my mother’s lakefront cabin, and she does not have the internet. The nearest available source was about five miles away and I was not up there to sit in a McDonald’s.

I found that I got along just fine without facebook, email, or checking craigslist.

After leaving the cabin, we spent some time visiting with my in-laws.  We spent some time playing golf, and bowling on Wii (sp?)  As we were playing, I couldn’t help thinking that I would rather do those thing in the real world rather than electronically.  Although, the fact that you don’t have to pay for each time that you play, does appeal to me.

Finally, I heard a message about stewardship.  Stewardship of all of the aspects of our lives, not just our money.  It got me to thinking about how much time is spent on-line and whether that is truly a good use of my time.

Perhaps, I should unplug more often.