Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What It's All About

A Pastoral Reminder of What It’s All About
From time to time we need a gentle (or perhaps not so gentle) reminder of just exactly what being a Christian is all about.

First of all, one doesn’t become a Christian simply because one decides to do so of their own accord. Nor does one come to Christ based on the persuasion of a wonderful sermon, the affects of a play, the words of a song or the saying written on a plaque hanging on someone’s wall. The truth of the matter is that Christ picks us long before we pick Him! The sermon, the play, the song, and the plaque are simply means of conveying His life-giving word into the soil of our hearts. If He doesn’t prepare the soil in advance there is no hope.

If you are a Christian then you have the Heavenly Father to thank for that. You would never have come to know Christ on your own. Your natural state is completely bent in the opposite direction. It would be easier to drive an eighteen wheeler through a straw than for you to come to be a vessel worthy of transporting the Spirit of the Living God. Thankfully, the same God that can herd camels through needles can drive eighteen wheelers through soda straws. So let’s get one thing straight before going any further. You owe God big time! He owes you nothing.

You were rafting through life without a care in the world headed straight for Niagara Falls in complete oblivion. He found you. He reached out His hand. You grabbed it. Who owes whom?
Here is the good part. You can’t pay Him back! He doesn’t expect you to. He doesn’t even want you to try to.  To pay Him back would be impossible. You’re not God. You can’t do the impossible.

What is the only proper response to such a salvation? Jesus seems to think that the response should be to aid Him in His search for others floating down the rivers of oblivion. I say ‘aid’ with a little tongue in cheek action because how much could you or I ever hope to aid the Almighty? We might just as soon aid the sun in rising in the eastern sky tomorrow morning. We can’t aid the sun; but we can enjoy it. We can marvel at the fresh painting on the horizon each morning and give Him the glory that He is due.

Christ is going to accomplish His mission as sure as the sun is going to rise tomorrow. The only questions that remain: “Are you going to enjoy it?” “Are you going to watch it happen?” To enjoy it is to participate in it. To watch it happen is to be a part of it. He gets a kick out of us enjoying His handiwork.

I’m determined to be ‘on the front porch’ of life and take it all in! I wouldn’t miss it for anything! What about you? Are you going to miss being a participant in what God is doing because there is something that is more pressing? What has become more important to you than watching the handiwork of God? Do you have a project that you’re working on that is more important than watching Him work on His? Are your time, energy, and finances too stretched to make room for Him? Are you too busy for the one that rescued you? Has it been so long ago that you have forgotten what it was like when He pulled you from the edge? Maybe you’ve convinced that you really weren’t in danger. You were! Or, that you would have escaped on your own. You wouldn’t have!

What should Christians see? Should we see: full inboxes; busy calendars; and the next item on our ‘bucket list’? Or, should we see what The Father sees? Should we see rafts drifting by?

I know it’s not something that we want to think about. We would rather turn our heads and watch our kids play ball and act like the rafts don’t exist. They do exist and they are filled with people. There are more of them every day; and the current is growing stronger. The warning signs were torn down long ago. The rafters have earphones plugged tightly in their ears as their fingers peck away at lifeless screens. The current carries them along. Why don’t you want to watch? Are you afraid that God has forgotten about them? He hasn’t! You may have, but He hasn’t.

He will reach out to them! He will save many of them! Do you want to be there when He does? I do! I can hardly wait to be right there beside Him as He drags their bodies onto the shore! I can’t wait to feel the joy spill out of them and all over me as they realize what He has done!

 You may have more important things to do, but I can’t think of anywhere that I would rather be than right there beside my savior as He drags another one to shore.

Did you hear that? It was the angels cheering. The Savior just pulled another one from the edge! You’ve got to see this! Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. Go ahead with what you were doing. I’ve got to go.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Song of Solomon


Song of Solomon

Study 1 – Song of Solomon 1:1 – 2:7

  1. The young woman in this section is a commoner that sees the approaching king and becomes enthralled with him. She desires to be loved by him. He does not look upon her as a commoner, but as a thing of beauty.

  2. Men and women look at one another differently. The man is very visual whereas the woman is more interested in the physical touch involved in relationship. The woman takes comfort in the man’s strength. She desires to rest in his presence.

Study 2 – Song of Solomon 2:8-3:5

  1. The pictures of nature serve to illustrate the life giving power of love.

  2. When you are in love with someone you think of nothing else than being in their presence. Being without them is something that you can hardly bare.

Study 3 – Song of Solomon 3:6 – 5:1

  1. Even though Solomon is a powerful King and comes waltzing in with all of his glory and power on display this young girl is not tempted to chase after the King. Instead she prefers to flee from the harem and to join her lover outside the palace gates! She has found true love that money, wealth, and power cannot buy.

  2. Men should take the time to tell their wives how much they appreciate their beauty. Words of affirmation are very important in a relationship between a man and a woman. They need to be extremely comfortable with one another and with one another’s bodies and need to have open conversation with one another in regard to their sexuality.

  3. I don’t think that we realize the delight that the Lord takes in those that make up His Church. These verses are a reminder of just how precious the Church is to the Lord. He loved the Church enough to die for her!

Study 4 – Song of Solomon 5:2 – 6:3

  1. The dream of the lover being at the door and almost entering into her chamber only to be swept away in the night and for her to be dragged away to be beaten illustrates just how consumed that she was with thoughts of her lover.

  2. The young lady so richly describes her lover to the other young ladies that they too understand why she is so in love with him. May our description of Christ be likewise inspiring to others. May they want to search after Him based on our love for Him.

Study 5 – Song of Solomon 6:4 – 8:4

  1. Christ has a claim upon us that demands that we live to serve and to please Him. Often times we get this turned around and feel that He is our servant.

Sexual intimacy must wait until marriage!

Monday, April 16, 2012

5 Days in Ecclesiastes

When was the last time that you picked up your Bible and turned to the book of Ecclesiastes?  I assume that it has been a while. Ecclesiastes isn’t exactly one of those books that we go to looking for answers. Not because there are no answers there, but rather, because we will find the answers that we don’t want to hear. After all, who wants to hear that “life is meaningless” or to be told that funerals are better than parties? Yet, God in His infinite wisdom gives us this wonderful book. Why? Apparently the book of Ecclesiastes was given to us in order to teach us something. As a matter of fact, we are told that it was written by ‘The Teacher’ (1:1). One can only assume that ‘The Teacher’ intended for us to learn something.

For the past week I have been going through the first ten chapters of this marvelous book. This is what I have learned so far.

1. Life is filled with seasons. The seasons come and go whether we want them to or not. If you are enjoying a good one then enjoy it while you can. Good times should be considered a gift from God to prepare us from being overwhelmed when the inevitable trials come.

2. Life isn’t fair. The righteous are often treated like the wicked and the wicked often receive the blessings that should go to the righteous. Bummer!

3. Luck actually does have a lot to do with it! Be thankful for your God-given gifts and do the very best you can with them, but there is no guarantee that your strength or your wisdom will get you to where you want to go. Sometimes it is who you know, where you were born, or the luck of the draw. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse.

4. Take a deep breath and count to 10! Knee jerk reactions are usually really bad! Venting on facebook is never a good idea! See Ecclesiasted 10:4!

5. Life is bad enough -- get some friends to help you through it! If you don’t have one get one! If you can get more than one that’s even better.

6. There is a time for everything. Live in the season that you are in! Play basketball while you still can there will be horseshoe tournaments in your future followed by ‘who can stay awake the longest’ contests in your latter years.

7. What do you want to be remembered for at your funeral? Start doing it today!

8. We don’t take Church seriously enough! We need to spend less time telling God what to do and more time listening to what He wants us to do. Don’t make Him promises that you have no intention of keeping.

9. Money isn’t everything.

10. Your degree isn’t worth the paper that it is printed on little alone the mountain of debt that you incurred in order to achieve it. You’re broke! SallieMae is rich! Life stinks! Death is where the payoff comes. SallieMae get it in the end! YES!

I have thoroughly enjoyed the past five days in Ecclesiastes and am looking forward to the rest of the book. Why not pick it up today and see what the Lord wants to teach you.

Ecclesiastes 1:1 - 10:7

Study 1 – Ecclesiastes 1 and 2

  1. Those things in this passage that Solomon views as monotonous actually demonstrate the stability and unchangeable nature of the Lord. The sun continues to rise and set, the wind never fails to blow, and the waves continue to crash on the sea. Granted, our lives have no effect whatsoever on this. This may illustrate that our impact on the Kingdom, no matter how much effort we put forth, will not be as powerful as the things that God accomplishes every day without fail throughout eternity.

  2. While wisdom and pleasure may bring temporary relief and comfort, in the end the result for everyone is the same. We all die. Fool and wise, depressed and joy-filled all die and are forgotten by most.

  3. We all die. Everything that we have acquired falls apart or rusts away. Apart from the blessings of the Lord there is nothing worth living for.

Study 2 – Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 4:8

  1. The best attitude toward life is to take it as it comes and realize that things will change. There will always be another day. Some will be filled with blessing while others will be filled with challenges. Enjoy the good time and don’t forget that during the bad times that they most certainly will not last forever.

  2. In this life wickedness trumps justice; the oppressed are overpowered by the oppressor; most of what we struggle to obtain does not matter; and all of the honors and achievements in the world don’t amount to much of anything in the end. Since you have to go through all of this anyway you need to be sure that you don’t go through it alone.

Study 3 – Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 6:12

  1. Friendship helps us make it through the tough times that are inevitable in this life.
    This is why prayer and worship were meant to be done in community rather than alone.

  2. We need to take God seriously. We need to approach Him with our ears open and our mouths closed and be very careful not to make promises to Him that we have no intention of keeping.

  3. Money doesn’t necessarily bring evil, but it certainly can’t keep it from happening. Whether or not one can enjoy their wealth in this life is dependent upon the Lord. More often than not the wealthy are never satisfied and lose sleep over how to acquire more and to keep that which they already have. In the end a stranger is going to end up buying something of theirs at the estate auction anyway for a twentieth of what you paid for it in the first place.

Study 4 – Ecclesiastes 7 and 8

  1. The only things that should truly concern us in life are those things that we want to be remembered for in death. To help find the balance one need only keep the fear of God as their central focus.

  2. We need to be careful about reacting to quickly to our circumstances. Sometimes it is best just to hold steady and wait for things to turn around on their own rather than taking matters into one’s own hands. Always look to those in leadership around you and follow their advice even when you think that quick action is needed.

    The fact that life isn’t always far is a stark reminder that when you can enjoy times of joy and feasting – do it! The time will come when the feasting will end. Life isn’t about the party of course, but enjoy the parties that you can have along the way. The ultimate party is yet to come!

Study 5 – Ecclesiastes 9:1 – 10:7

  1. The Christian can look beyond the grave because of the hope that we have in a risen Christ! Yes, we do face the common end of the wicked in that we stand in judgment awaiting our fate before a holy God. But, beyond that the path of the wicked and the righteous are no longer the same. The eternal end of the righteous is radically different from that of the wicked due to the assurances secured for the believer in the resurrection of our savior.

  2. Natural talent needs to be taken advantage of but is no guarantee of success. Luck has a lot to do with it. The wisest are not always the wealthiest or those in position of power. Many were merely born at the right place at the right time and new the right people. Often times their servants are more qualified to rule than they are. Such is life. Do the best you can with it. In the end the playing field gets leveled at the cross!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2 Chronicles 36

Study 21 – 2 Chronicles 36

  1. “The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested . . .” – 2 Chronicles 36:21. And, the fact that at the close of this chapter Cyrus, king of Persia, promises that the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem with his blessing.

  2. Over and over in this chapter the phrase, “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord” is repeated for one king after another. The fact of the matter is that it did not matter what the people thought of their king. The only opinion poll that mattered was the one that polled only one respondent – the Lord!

  3. Zedekiah refused to listen to the prophet Jeremiah.

  4. No matter how evil we are the Lord is always looking for ways to redeem us. He is always sending His messengers to point the way toward righteousness.

Monday, April 2, 2012

2 Chronicles 15 - 33

Study 9 – 2 Chronicles 15 and 16

  1. Trusting in the Lord is the key to national success. Israel had time and time again fallen away from the Lord and suffered the consequencews of their failure to live in obedience. The prophet let Asa know that as long as he was obedient to the Lord that he would live at peace in the land.

  2. Asa took the word of the prophet to heart to such a degree that he removed his own mother from her position as Queen Mother because she had an image of Asherah in her home. Asa was not messing around when it came to obeying the Lord. Asa a result Asa enjoyed 35 years of peace in the land.

  3. Toward the later six years of his reign Asa placed trust in the foreign King of Syria for his deliverance from the northern Kingdom of Israel than he did in the Lord. As a result the Lord caused him to have a disease in his feet. Asa refused to trust in the Lord during the later years of his life.

Study 10 – 2 Chronicles 17 and 18

  1. Jehoshaphat followed the law of God and rid the nation of idolatry. He also had teachers go throughout the land of Judah in order to instruct the people in the word of God.

  2. Micaiah proclaimed the word of God in spite of the opposition that he knew would come. Micaiah was placed in the stockade after prophesying contrary to what Ahab desired to here.

  3. Jehoshaphat wanted to hear from the Lord no matter what that word was. Ahab only wanted to hear positive things that reinforced him from the Lord.

Study 11 – 2 Chronicles 19 and 20

  1. Whenever Jehoshaphat relied on any alliance other than the one with the Lord he put his reign in jeopardy. The Lord wanted Jehoshaphat to rely upon Him alone!

  2. Jehoshaphat continued to provide leadership in the area of public worship and the instruction of the Word of God to the people of Judah.

  3. When peril came at Engedi Jehoshaphat had learned that the key to victory was relying on the Lord alone. He immediately recognized that without the Lord in the battle that he had no chance of victory. When the Word of the Lord came and told Jehoshaphat that he need not worry – he didn’t worry, but waited on the Lord to fight the battle for him!

Study 12 – 2 Chronicles 21:1-22:9

  1. Jehoram, who had married the daughter of Ahab, followed after the ways of Ahab rather than the ways of his own father Jehoshaphat. The only reason that God did not destroy the kingdom of Judah was because of the covenant that the Lord had made with Judah.

  2. The arranged marriage that Jehoshaphat made with Ahab for his son Jehoram was the direct cause of Jehoram’s downfall. Had Jehoshaphat not made such an arranged marriage with his son then perhaps Jehoram would have followed in the ways of his father rather than in the ways of his father-in-law.

Study 13 – 2 Chronicles 22:10-23:21

  1. Jehoiada waited seven years to ensure that he had a plan in place that was backed by all of the people and that would be sure to succeed. The more time that Jehoiada took to plan the more certain he could be of its success.

  2. Walking in the way of the Lord does not mean that we no longer make plans. We walk in His ways, but at the same time do everything that we can do to make sure that His plans for us succeed.

  3. Jehoiada made sure that the people had committed to his cause. This was not something that Jehoiada did on his own. He made sure that the people were invested in his decision as well.

Study 14 – 2 Chronicles 24

  1. Joash was not a leader so he listened to whoever seemed to have the greater influence at the time. When Jehoiada was alive Joash listened to his advice. The moment that Jehoiada died Joash did not fill the vacuum of power. Instead he allowed others to fill that vacuum and he followed their advice. As a result the nation of Judah was defeated in battle by their enemy.

  2. Zechariah was killed within the Temple grounds and with the full consent of King Joash.

Study 15 – 2 Chronicles 25

  1. Amaziah served the Lord half-heartedly. Amaziah was willing to serve anyone or any god that he thought might give him the upperhand.

  2. When we approach worship and obedience to the Lord in a halfhearted manner we are guaranteed to have disastrous results.

Study 16 – 2 Chronicles 26 – 28

  1. Uzziah “was greatly helped until he became powerful (2 Chronicles 26:15). Uzziah reached a point at which he no longer felt it necessary to place all of his trust in the Lord. He came to a moment when he felt that he was self sufficient and he had forgotten that it was the Lord that had elevated him to the position that he held. It can become very easy to forget our humble beginnings and that it was the Lord that brought us each step of the way. It was from the Lord that we required our knowledge and experience it was not of our own doing. Had I made all of my own decision I would not be where I am at today and would not have acquired the knowledge and experience that I have required. We can never forget our humble roots.

  2. Ahaz failed everyone. He failed the Lord by shutting the temple and serving other gods. He failed the people by allowing 200,000 of them to be carried off with no concern for their welfare. And, he failed himself in that his disobedience denied him all of the blessings of a kingdom that was founded on the Lord. Every one realized this and refused him burial in the tombs of the kings.

  3. Obed the prophet stood for righteousness when no one else would. He confronted the northern kingdom of Israel with her unrighteousness in his demand for the release of the 200,000 captives of Judah. He went up against tremendous odds and did not back down for a moment. Praise should also be given to those in Israel that listened to him and sent the captives back well clothed and well fed.

Study 17 – 2 Chronicles 29:1 – 31:1

  1. Hezekiah spared no expense and went to tremendous lengths to make sure that everything was done as it should be. He even delayed the celebration of the Passover for an entire month in order to make sure that enough priests had been consecrated for the celebration to take place in accordance with the Law of God. He did not rush things.

  2. he fact that the people left the celebration at Jerusalem and immediately went throughout the towns of Judah and smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and destroyed the altars in the high places was an indication that they had truly turned from their wickedness. They were not worshiping the Lord simply because a tremendous festival was taking place. They had truly been transformed.

Study 18 – 2 Chronicles 31:2-32:33

  1. Hezekiah made certain that every aspect of Temple worship was provided for and he went to great lengths to make certain that the priests and their families were well taken care of. As a result of the provisions he made for those that ministered in and in support of the Temple, Hezekiah’s reign was blessed.

  2. Hezekiah met opposition by trusting in the Lord. He put all of his confidence in the Almighty God.

  3. It was only when Hezekiah began to place confidence in himself that he was judged by the Lord. Pride tried to raise its head up against Hezekiah. Fortunately he was quick to repent and to avoid disaster. Quick repentance is key to blessing!

Study 19 – 2  Chronicles 33

  1. You name it – Manasseh did it! Everything that God hated – Manasseh restored. Everything that God had previously destroyed other kingdoms for practicing – Manasseh worshiped!

  2. The Lord caused Manasseh to be carried off in captivity by a roped attached to a ring in his nose! The Lord will do whatever it takes to bring those that he loves to a position of repentance no matter how much pain they may have to endure in the process.

  3. Manasseh restores temple worship, but unlike Hezekiah does not go all the way by demolishing every place of worship outside of the Temple itself. Manasseh did not take the leadership role necessary to lead the entire nation in repentance.