Sunday, August 31, 2014

Be Known

Be Known
September 1, 2014
1 Corinthians 8:2  "Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God."

Some people have a way of being made known.  I have a friend who can walk into a room, and because of his personality everyone will instantly know he is in the room.  I also have a friend who could walk into a room and be there for hours before someone would notice her.  Her presence is not loud or obnoxious; in fact she can be quite invisible at times.  Either extreme is not necessarily desirable at all times.  It takes maturity to find a balance and temper a strong personality.  Likewise it takes great fortitude for an introvert to come out of his or her shell.  Scripture says that neither is actually important, though, nor is be renown. There is only one thing that matters and that is being known by the Lord.

There are many important people in this world but they may only matter to those in this world.  I can think of a famous scientist, who professes to be an atheist, denying the existence of the Lord or a place called Heaven.  The atheist may be very well known in certain circles but he does not know the Lord.  Even worse, the Lord does not know the atheist.  The Lord knows who he is, but has no relationship with him.  All of the atheist's knowledge and notoriety are of no eternal value.  It is better to be known by the Lord than to be well known.

The Apostle Paul says that knowledge puffs up but love builds up.  He was trying to communicate that worldly knowledge can do nothing for the eternal state of a person's soul, though it make him a great mind or famous.  The only thing that truly matters is to be known by the Lord.  To love the Lord is to be known by the Lord.  Love, the act of loving the Lord, makes a person valuable, because he is known by the Lord.  A man's knowledge does not make him valuable in the Lord's eyes.  Making yourself known when you enter a room is pointless.  Who should care if people know who you are or that you are in a room?  It is better to be known by the Lord than to make your presence known in a room.  The only way to be known by the Lord is to love the Lord.

What you know, who you know, or who knows you---none of that matters to the Lord.  Don't be confused with your identity in the world and being known by the Lord.  Yes, the Lord knows you exist; the Lord knows the atheist exists and even knows the number of hairs on his head.  But the atheist does not love the Lord, therefore has no deep and personal relationship with the Lord.  When the atheist dies, the Lord will have no record of his name in the eternal book of life.  The atheist will go straight to hell, unless he decides to love the Lord.  Only then can an atheist by truly known by the Lord.

You may not be an atheist but my question to you is this: are you known by the Lord?  I am not asking if the Lord knows who you are or how many hairs are on your head.  I am asking if you are known by the Lord.  The amount of love you have for the Lord will measure the depth of His relationship with you.  To be truly known by the Lord is to truly love the Lord.  How much do you love Him?  How well known are you?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gal 1:10, 1 Cor

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Don't Get Rebuked

Don't Get Rebuked
August 25, 2014
2 Tim 3:16  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. . ."

In the Old Testament, a rebuke was considered something rather harsh.  It was more than a tongue lashing, it was something shameful because of foolish and embarrassing actions done out of arrogance.  Most of the time, if there was rebuking to be done, it was by the tongue of the Lord or one of His prophets.  In the New Testament, little changed; Jesus was the one administering the rebukes.  At one such point, the Apostle Peter even tried to rebuke Jesus.  Jesus quickly rebuked him in return.  In the 1800's rebukes were performed by professional clergy, a verbal punishment dealt publicly to an offender in an effort to stop him from his folly.  It was a public tongue lashing that left the offender a bit ashamed of his arrogant actions.

Today we don't rebuke publicly or privately.  It's offensive to rebuke and we would never want to offend someone, right?  If you verbally offend someone for their actions you're labeled as someone with hatred toward another.  No one wants to be a hater.  Consequently, we've erred on the other side in our churches by avoiding difficult topics.  We seldom call out offenders for their actions.  We brush it under the rug or ignore it all together lest we become judges of one another.  We argue that love covers a multitude of sins. Unfortunately, rebuking is still necessary (and required) for spiritual offenders who are living arrogantly against the Gold Standard.  The Gold Standard being the Lord's Word found in Scripture.  If it is spelled out in Scripture then we are to live by it and correct accordingly.  Notice there is a difference in the Bible between correcting and rebuking.  In 2 Timothy, Paul says that Scripture is useful for both rebuking AND correcting.

The difference between correcting and rebuking is rather simple.  You can correct someone who has a teachable attitude.  Someone who is unteachable must be rebuked because of his arrogance.  If you'd like to avoid a rebuke altogether, simply maintain a teachable attitude.  Unfortunately, there are many in our church walls who are not teachable.  So how do you approach someone who is living outside the Gold Standard?  Paul says you should use Scripture.  The Lord didn't need Scripture during His rebukes, neither did Jesus.  Since they are the authors of Scripture, enough is said; they ARE the Gold Standard.  You and I, however, are to use Scripture to set the offender straight.  Paul says that rebuking with Scripture is reserved for believers.  If you rebuke a non-believer, you are simply inviting a mocking from a fool.

But how do you know WHEN it is appropriate to rebuke someone?  Oftentimes, it is such a sensitive area that we want to tiptoe around the subject, even pretend a rebuke is not needed.  Again, we don't want to offend anyone, right?  Offer it as a gentle correction first, if the person has a teachable attitude then it will go over smoothly , especially if you are in the appropriate position of authority.  If the person does not have a teachable attitude after a gentle correction, and he professes to be a believer, then a private strong conversation is warranted (without yelling). Hint: never do it publicly unless you are Jesus or a prophet.  If you ever get rebuked, you'll know it's time to reduce your arrogance a few notches.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Lev 19:17, 2 Sam 22:16, Ps 119:21, Pr 9:7, Pr 13:1, Pr 19:25, Pr 28:23, Ecc 7:5, Jer 2:19, Mark 8:32-33, Lk 17:3, 1 Tim 5:20, 2 Tim 4:2, Rev 3:19

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Enough is Enough

Enough is Enough
August 18, 2014
Ephesians 6:4  "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

The Apostle Paul gives instructions to certain individuals, and at first glance, one particular instruction seems geared toward fathers.  But the Scripture is much more than that; it is a glimpse into the character of the Heavenly Father.  Paul writes that fathers should not exasperate their children, but instead train them and teach them in the ways of the Lord.  Seems pretty straightforward but if you unfold the verse, you can find hope for your own life, regardless of having children or not.

The verse's intended meaning for 'exasperate' is one of pushing a person to the point of anger or resentment.  It is easy to push a child beyond his or her tolerance level.  The child's immaturity must be developed and can be pushed over the edge.  A child can lose patience pretty quickly, and become emotionally exhausted.  As a parent, you must learn your child's tolerance levels in any area (work, play, academics, family dynamics, etc).  It is critical to know when enough is enough.  Sometimes enough comes sooner than later and a parent must back off.  Too much instruction in a day can be overkill.  Too much academics in a day can be overkill.  Too much working in a day can be overkill.  Too much playing in a day can be overkill.

This verse, however, isn't just about earthly fathers knowing when enough is enough for their children.  The verse tells you how the Heavenly Father works.  Starting with the creation of the universe, The Lord has always demonstrated His instructions and commands to us first, BEFORE He requires anything of us.  His very first demonstration was taking a rest on the seventh day after creating the Heavens and the Earth.  On the seventh day He rested, then instructed us to do likewise.  This is true for all the Lord's commands.  He does not require anything of us unless He is willing to do the same.  He wants us to be just like Him.  The same goes for the verse found in Ephesians 6:4, telling fathers to be patient with their children's tolerance levels.  If the Lord is asking a human father to know when enough is enough, then He also knows when enough is enough in our own lives.

Remember that the word 'exasperate' means to push to the point of resentment or anger.  The Lord is not willing to push you or take you to the point of resentment or anger.  He will allow you to be stretched and tested and pushed to your limits, but knows when enough is enough.  He is not too harsh, despite your opinion of your circumstance.  If you feel you are in a situation where the Lord is not coming to your rescue or putting a halt to the seemingly overbearing situation, then it means He knows you have the fortitude to make it through successfully.  If you are not making it through successfully, then you are not drawing upon all the endurance levels the Lord knows are deep down inside of you.  He will not treat you like a baby; He expects you to work hard through this emotional turmoil, but He has equipped you to come through it successfully, without resentment or anger.

He also knows when enough is enough.  The Lord will be sure to relent if He knows you are at the point of being damaged.  You are being refined in the fire and the He knows when that refinement is perfect.  He will take you out when you are pure gold.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 20:10-12, Malachi 3:2-3, John 13:12-17, Rom 8:28, 1 Cor 10:13

Sunday, August 10, 2014

No Fear

No Fear
August 11, 2014
Psalm 112:1  "Praise the Lord.  Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands."

There is one particular message repeated in the Bible throughout its entirety.  The message is a command:  fear the Lord.  Scripture says the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom (meaning you cannot be wise by any standards unless you fear the Lord).  Fear in this instance is defined by a healthy respect, an honoring of His authority and position in our lives.  Fearing the Lord is submitting to His design, His template for your life and of those around you.  Fearing the Lord is obeying His commands and following in all His ways.  Fearing the Lord is trusting He will work everything out just as He desires.  It is no small task to fear the Lord; it takes a lifestyle.  But the Bible says there are great rewards for those who fear Him.

I'd like to say I fear the Lord to the fullest extent of the definition, but if I look at my life in retrospect this is not the case.  Scripture says those who truly fear the Lord will reap the benefits through a lifestyle reward.  Here are some of the benefits on that list:  wealth and riches upon their household, their hearts will not be shaken, and they will have no fear of bad news.  There are more items on that list but those three alone are pretty amazing.  I am certainly not a wealthy man by any standards, and my heart has been shaken on more than one occasion.  Most importantly, I know I have lost sleep over the possibility of bad news.  But the Bibles says if you truly feared the Lord, then you will not cringe at the possibility of bad news; you would have no fear.  Those who fear the Lord will have no other fears in life.

While all of us would certainly appreciate more money or more emotional stability, it would certainly be a miracle if no one ever faced another fear in this life.  The full sentence in the Bible reads, "They will have no fear of bad news."  It doesn't suggest that bad news will cease to exist.  Bad news will always abound.  But those who truly fear the Lord will not fret when bad news arrives.  I've sat in expectation of layoffs at work, or the test results from the doctor.  My household has lost sleep over the possibility of losing a child.  Bad news is common it seems but our reaction to that bad news could be quite un-common if we truly feared the Lord.

If you've ever lost sleep over the unknown, it was a sign you were not fully submitted to the Lord in that moment.  Our fear of the situation represents a lack of fear in the Lord.  We are all guilty of this, sadly.  It's not because our minds don't comprehend the enormity of God, but sometimes we lose sight of who is actually in control.  If we truly feared the Lord, we would relinquish control, knowing the Lord would and WILL intervene when He deems it most appropriate according to His design and our own best interests.  Fearing anything in the moment is not fearing the Lord.  My life and your life seldom represent this.

Be honest with yourself and admit you were afraid of bad news this past week.  Be honest with yourself and admit you have a fear of what could happen tomorrow or in the next coming days.  Admitting you have fears is not a weakness, it's an opportunity to realize what areas of your life are not fully submitted to the fear of the Lord.  We can all finish this sentence, "I trust the Lord, except when it comes to . . ."  This is your first and foremost priority area.  It is a chance to fear the Lord to the fullest extent of the definition.  Fear the Lord and you will have no other fears in this life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 27:1, Ps 112, Proverbs 2, Romans 8:28, 2 Cor 9:7-9, Phil 1:14

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Worthy to Worship

Worthy to Worship
August 4, 2014
Psalm 150:6  "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord."

Sin separates us from the Lord.  Our hearts are ugly and even the smallest of sins committed on a daily basis are enough to cast us into the lake of fire to spend eternity in Hell.  Harsh as it sounds, you and I are not worthy of anything in the sight of the Lord.  No amount of good works will overcome the sin in our lives.  The only way to the Heavenly Gates is through the blood-work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  This presents a question in my mind, then, regarding our praise and worship of the Almighty King of Heaven.  Can our sins be such that the Lord does not want to hear our praises?  Can our hearts be so blackened that we shouldn't even bother with praising the Father Above?

We all have thought, at one point in our lives, that the Lord couldn't hear our prayers.  Regardless of its truthfulness, we all have believed the Lord must not hear us at times, blocking our prayers because of our sin.  Clearly the Lord can't hear us, we speculate.  But just because He doesn't answer in the manner we expect doesn't mean He cannot hear our prayers.  The same is true with our praise.  He can hear it---all of it, despite the sins committed this week.  No man is worthy enough to praise the Lord perfectly.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the Lord's expectations.  Even the most righteous man is not good enough for the Perfect One.  It still takes the blood of Jesus to allow the most righteous of men to be in the Lord's presence.  So, if the Lord expects and hears the praise of one, He expects and hears the praise of everyone who is willing.  He wants it from everyone or else He will command the rocks to perform the task.

Regardless of your sin the mere act of praise requires faith in the Lord, a belief in Him who is All Powerful, and an acknowledgment that He is to be praised.  If you can utter an ounce of praise, then it is worth uttering.  In order to praise Him, you already understand who He is and that he is worthy of praise, which is an act of confession all its own.  So, if you've ever been to church and thought the Lord didn't want to hear you worship Him because of the sins you committed this past week, think again.  If you are really insecure about it, confess those sins and praise Him anyway, regardless of how you feel inside.  He deserves praise even when you deserve punishment.  If you can acknowledge that He deserves praise, that's good enough to praise Him.  Truly, forgiveness can be found in the act of praise, especially since the act of praise requires a confession of His greatness in comparison to your weakness.  He is worthy to be worshiped and you are worthy enough to worship Him.

There is one instance, though, when the Lord suggests your act of worship would sound a little sweeter to His ears.  The Bible says when you bring a gift to the Lord and remember your brother has something against you, go first and be reconciled with your brother, then bring the Lord your gift.  Being angry with your brother is just as sinful as committing murder (look it up).  Your life should be an act of praise, constantly.  But if you sin, it does not preclude you from worshiping Him, it only makes it more important.  The Bible is clear, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."  Make sure it is praise, though, and not just lip service.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Ps 18:3, Ps 145:3, Matt 5:21-24, Luke 17:7-10, Luke 19:38-40