Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Second Day of Spring

Today is March 21 and it is the second day of Spring. Yesterday there was a lot of hype on the weather broadcasts and in social media. Not so much today. And today is just as pretty a Spring day as yesterday was. The second day just doesn't get the respect it deserves.

Even in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Thursday got more hype than Friday even though Friday was still first round action.

Heaven won't be that way, I don't think. There will be no second day let down. The beloved hymn says, "When we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we've first begun." Day 3,650,000 will be just as good as Day 1.

It's my personal opinion that heaven won't have 3,650,000 days. Not even 2. There will be no sun because the Lamb is the light in heaven. I see that as just one eternal day. I wrote a song about that years ago. Here are the lyrics.

The Bible speaks of heaven as the hope of all the saved,
Secured as our destination by the life that Jesus gave.
To get there just one thing you must do, to get there just one way:
Believe in Jesus then make preparation to live in an eternal day.

Heaven's a place of rare beauty, that's one thing we know.
We'll stand with our loved ones around King Jesus and praise him while ages shall roll and roll and roll.
And then we'll sing for a million years, shout for a million years, sing for a million more, shout for a million more;
That's the just the beginning of an eternal day spent in the presence of God.

Remember how Enoch walked so close to God that he was not?
God must have had something so special in store that Enoch missed life's last stop.
And I believe John must have seen it, too, as down through the clouds that city came - 
A city not built by hands of men! It's our home for an eternal day!

Heaven's a place of rare beauty, that's one thing we know.
We'll stand with our loved ones around King Jesus and praise him while ages shall roll and roll and roll.
And then we'll sing for a million years, shout for a million years, sing for a million more, shout for a million more;
That's the just the beginning of an eternal day spent in the presence of God.

Here's a link if you'd like to hear the recording by Jubilee (Carri Corbitt, Donny Joe Martin, and me) from a long time ago.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Be Faithful and See What He Will Do

Our Bible study Sunday night was from Malachi 3. That's right, "Will a man rob God?" I've been preaching a series of sermons on Sunday mornings called Letting Go. Let Go of your Fear. Let Go of Your Past. Let Go of Your Own Plans. Let Go of Your Defeats. I thought about a sermon called Let Go of Your Money but I thought I'd let Malachi handle the heavy lifting.

First, let me put out there that I believe God gives each person/family all he/they need to tithe, live, and be generous. Failure to do any of those three is a sign of shoddy stewardship. And I believe that what God provides is exactly what you need, maybe not what you want but what you need.

6 "I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the Lord Almighty. 
"But you ask, 'How are we to return?' 
8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. 
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' 
"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the Lord Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the Lord Almighty.

As you read the text of Malachi 3:6-12, you should notice that God expects people to be faithful in stewardship and he has no problem testing him in the matter. The word "test" is not a word that means to determine what a person knows or doesn't know, which is usually a negative thought, but to prove the validity of something, which is usually a positive. God is saying, "Be faithful and you have proof that I am who I say I am and will do what I say I will do."

Those who are faithful stewards will see the truth that God blesses those who are faithful, provides for them, and gives them a good reputation in the community.

Certainly, we want God to bless us. Be faithful and see what he will do!

And we want God to provide for us. Be faithful and see what he will do!

Did you notice the third promise? God will give the faithful and good reputation…"all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land." That was a promise to God's called people of the Old Testament, Israel. A good way to relate that to today is to realize that faithfulness of Christians - the Church - will result in blessings, provision, and a good reputation. Remember, God's called people (Israel in the past, the Church today) have always been tasked with carrying the blessing of the Good News.

If you have tried sharing your faith recently you may have noticed a negative reception to your effort. Have you wondered why? Could having a good reputation in the community help? I think so. I think that Christians who are faithful to what the Lord says will have a reputation in the community that will open paths for sharing the gospel.

For the sake of the lost around you will you consider being faithful? Not just in stewardship but in all things?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why I Read the Bible

I've been subbing in a Bible class this week. They have daily work that is turned in today. As they scurry to finish, one student asks for help with one of the questions: what is the most important verse in Ephesians?

That's a great question! Not knowing whether or not the teacher had provided a correct response in lecture or notes, I offered a few suggestions.

Ephesians 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 4:7
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 6:13
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

But how do you choose? Even this list leaves out some really good stuff! That's what is so good about reading the Bible: each time you read it you'll learn something. The Bible is refreshing, challenging, exciting, and new.

I challenge you to read the Bible. Read Ephesians and let me know what your favorite verse is.

FYI - the teacher's notes say 3:20-21.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3a)

Do you ever wear down? I watched a student writing his assignment with a pencil that was barely two inches long. I'm sure at on point the pencil was new and full length. But with use it wore down.

The lead wore down from being rubbed against the paper. The wood wore down from being cut away by a sharpener.

At times the pencil was sharp even as it was wearing down.

Once the process started, the inevitable end was that it would wear down. Wouldn't it be cool if the pencil could be restored to its original form instead of wasting away?

Technology can provide material that might last longer. Other writing utensils have been created. But the standard pencil will wear down.

I feel like the standard pencil. The rub of ministry is a grind although it is also invigorating. The sharpening of education, friendships, retreats, and quiet times help my usefulness and slow the wearing down. But the wearing is still happening.

That's why Psalm 23 is so special. Jesus cares for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep.

When I look to him for all I need I find that what he provides is all I want. When I follow him he gives me rest. When I obey him he refreshes me.

And, most importantly, when I realize who I am - one of the Shepherd's sheep - he restores my soul. It's my soul that recovers more slowly than my body. It's my soul that remains tired even though my body is back up to speed. It's my soul that is still hungry and thirsty after my body is fed and watered.

In the New Testament Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (from the Beatitudes in Matthew 5).

If we connect the Psalm with the Beatitude I think we learn the key to overcoming the grind of living, the reality of emptiness, and the hurt of brokenness: our Shepherd takes care of us when we follow him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Best

Why do people choose to as little as possible?

In a college English class the final exam was an essay. We were to bring paper and pen. That was all. On the last day of class prior to the final one student asked, "What is the minimum number of pages that the essay must be?"

The professor said he had no minimum because his minimum would become our maximum. From his years of experience, he knew student would do as little as possible.

The 7th and 8th grade writing classes I have subbed in the last three days had assignments of writing summaries. They were given an article with maybe 200 words. Their summaries were supposed to be no more than 80 words. Other rules applied, like including the relevant points.

As I told one class, "Yes, 10 is less than 80 but I don't think you can give an adequate summary in 10 words." They wanted to do as little as possible.

I even gave them the chance to expand their summaries if their work was a little light. Only one student (out of 6) chose to look again at his work. The others just wanted to play on the Chromebooks provided by the school. So I didn't let them. Those who put out little effort on the assignment could not use the class for a study hall or recess.

They wanted to do as little as possible. Now I'm not the teacher and I don't grade the papers but I'm pretty sure she won't be very impressed with some of the work.

But I can't just talk about students. I'm the same way sometimes. Some days the time I spend reading and studying the Bible is pitiful. And sometimes my prayers don't hit the 80-word mark, either.

I don't think God keeps a word count but I do believe he cares about the effort we put into spending time with him. I think he wants to hear you voice your praise, your concerns, your needs.

I don't think God keeps a stop watch on your study habits but I do believe an Olympic swimmer might be able to hold his breath longer than most of us spend reading the Bible. I think God wants to spend more time with us than we give him.

Did I read my Bible today? Yes.

Did I pray today? Yes.

But did I give God a minimum effort or did I give him my best?

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Beat of a Different Drummer

I thought that line about following the beat of a different drummer would be a good class motto for the Dardanelle High School Class of '82. It's not our motto. I'd have to look in the yearbook to find out what the motto is.

I think about that because I'm sitting in the teachers' workroom at school. The band room is next door. They are practicing and I can hear (and feel) the beat of the drum.

Have you ever felt the drums as the marching band goes by in a parade? That's what I remember most about the Christmas parades when I was a kid. That and Santa Claus making his appearance on top of the firetruck.

Even when you can't see the drummer you can hear the drum. Sometimes you can feel it.

Every day I'm reminded of how the culture I live in does not line up with my worldview. I try to see everything through the lens of God's Word and I try to live my life by the principles taught there. It's not an easy task but when I am able to do it I notice a clear difference.

Something needs to guide me along the path of godly living as the path winds through the world I live in because I'll stray without that help. I need a cadence to keep me in step. I need the reminder of a sound from somewhere else.

God gives the guidance. His Spirit whispers to my spirit about what I should do and decisions I should make. I'm never left alone. He is always with me. That's the promise of Scripture.

Along with the Holy Spirit, I have friends who are also believers who help me. The Proverbs tell us that one man sharpens another like iron on iron. We (believers) need each other. The Christian life is not meant to be lived in solitude but in community.

So I look forward to gathering with my church family. I cherish times of fellowship and Bible study with Christian friends. Don't you?

The nudging by the Holy Spirit and the reminders from believing friends are that drumbeat that helps me keep in line and in step. I believe God sends believers into the world to make a difference through relationships with all people. Lots of voices bombard you each day with attractive offers that will pull you away from the Lord. But there is a drummer tapping a cadence. Can you hear Him?

Monday, February 06, 2017

Be Still and Know

One of the hardest things to do is be still. I'm constantly fidgeting even when it looks like I'm still. I generally don't move too far from the podium when I preach but look closely and you'll notice I shift weight from one foot to the other frequently. Even when I drive it seems I do the same thing because I weave. A lot. Ask the policemen who have stopped me over the years!

The Bible says to be still before the Lord and know that he is God. Often we are just too busy. The constant movement of our schedules and routines keeps us from really knowing God. We run to him when we are in trouble nut don't give him much attention otherwise.

I suggest that a little quiet and still time with the Lord on a regular basis equips us for the hectic times that certainly come. Maybe a few minutes being still before the Lord in the morning will help you deal with some chaos that comes later in the day.

Be still. Be quiet. Listen. Read his Word. Agree with him. Thank him and praise him.