Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I have been speaking to the kids at church this month about being thankful. I have tried to express to them that we have so many things to be thankful for. So, I thought I would write a quick note to you guys about Thanksgiving.

There are certain things that we have grown accustom to on Thanksgiving.

  • 90% of Americans will eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Some will bake their turkey, some will smoke their turkey, and a few will even risk burning down their home in order to deep fry their turkey. However you choose to cook it, most of us will eat turkey today.
  • Most of us will visit with family today. Enjoy the time you spend together, because someone may be missing at the table next year.
  • Between 2 and 3 million people will gather in New York to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade. Millions more will watch it on T.V.
  • The Detroit Lions will lose their football game today. I'm not even sure who the Lions are playing, but it's Thanksgiving so they are going to lose.
While there are certain things that we have grown accustom to doing, I would like to challenge each of you to remember five things this Thanksgiving.

  1. Remember those 102 brave souls who left their families, their homes and their comforts and boarded a boat called the Mayflower. They came to a place where they had nothing but hope. Hope for new land, hope for a new world and hope for religious freedom.
  2. Remember that the freedom we enjoy today is possible because someone else was willing to give. During the first winter almost half of the first Pilgrims died. Today, while I sit in my recliner, typing on my laptop and waiting for the parade to start, there are brave men and women now are giving up time with their families so that I can have the freedom I enjoy today.
  3. Remember that we have a good God who blesses us every day of our life. David said in Psalms 68 that God daily loaded him with benefits. We have so much to thank God for.
  4. Remember those who are less fortunate than you. While we gather together with our families and eat more than we can handle, there are others who will go hungry. Whisper a prayer for them. God bless those who donate their time in order to aid those in need.
  5. Remember to tell someone "thank you." Surely we would not go through this Thanksgiving day and not tell someone "thank you."
I pray you have a blessed day. A day full of fun, family and fowl.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Famous Last Words

Second Timothy Chapter 4

A great persons last words are special. A great persons last words are a measure by which we can evaluate their lives. This is the final chapter of the Bible written by the apostle Paul. This final chapter is amazing. When you read this chapter you can see a tone of sadness in the words of Paul. In these words you can hear the feeling of loneliness in his voice. He is in Rome, alone, in a horrible prison. He is cold and asks Timothy to bring his cloak. Because he is lonely and the hours are long, he asks Timothy to bring his books, especially the parchments. In spite of this sadness you can also hear a tone of victory in the apostle’s words. He charges Timothy one last time. He talks about a crown that awaits him on the other side of eternity.

Paul begins this final chapter with a warning. Paul charges Timothy in light of this coming judgment. Since Timothy is going to be judged there are some things he should be busy doing. It was a serious matter that Paul would soon face death, but it was even more serious that he and Timothy were facing judgment. This should be something that we keep in our minds as well. I do not believe that a saved individual will stand before God to determine whether they are worthy of heaven or they will be punished in hell. If this was the case all of us would be deserving of hell. The fact remains that one day each of us will stand before God. Paul mentions in another epistle that when we stand before God, God will reveal the secrets of our heart. Those things that you bury deep down inside, those things that you think no one knows about, those are the things that will be revealed. In light of this coming judgment we should be doing all we can for the glory of God.

The main responsibility that Paul shares with Timothy is to preach the word. This means to proclaim or to give out God’s word. Timothy was to be instant in and out of season. This means that he was to preach the word of God at all times. He was to be diligent and alert to every opportunity to preach the word of God. Did you know that you are a preacher? You say, “Bro. Josh, God has not called me to preach.” While this may be true, you are preaching a sermon every day of your life. You preach to others by the way you live before them.

Paul not only gives the command to preach the word, but he also gives the reason to preach. There was coming a day when people would not endure doctrine. I think we are in this condition today. That day is today. There are very few that will endure sound doctrine. Sure, there are men who have great followings, and churches that are filled beyond capacity. That does not mean that those people are doing a great work for God. It also does not mean that they are not doing a great work for God. I don’t think I’m going out on much a limb however when I say that most of these “mega” churches are “mega” because the man behind the pulpit is tickling the ears of the people, instead of preaching sound doctrine. Everyone likes to be entertained. Everyone wants to know how to “live their best life.” But, according to this chapter there are not going to be many people following a man who stands for truth.

A young preacher once complained to Dr. Spurgeon that he did not have as big a church as he deserved. Dr. Spurgeon asked “How many do you preach to?” They young man answered “Oh, about one hundred.” It is said that Spurgeon solemnly answered “That will be enough to give account for on the Day of Judgment.” A man’s ministry is not based on statistics. A ministry is evaluated by the faithfulness of the worker in the field God has given to them.

Paul’s last words

If we could walk with our minds into the execution room in this Roman prison we would see a terrible sight. This was a bloody place. It would probable make us sick to watch as a prisoner placed their head on the chopping block. A large, brutal Roman soldier lifts his tremendous blade above his head and then in one massive swing severs the head from the body. We would watch as the head drops into a basket on one side of the chopping block, and the body falls limp and trembling on the other side. In these last words Paul lets us know that if what I described is all we see then we are missing something. Paul mentions that he is ready to be offered. The word offering means to be poured out like a drink offering.

A drink offering was interesting in that there were no real instructions given to Israel concerning it. God gave specific instructions for almost every offering, but not this one. The drink offering is mentioned in both the books of Exodus and again in Leviticus. When someone offered a drink offering they would take wine and pour it into the brazen altar. The brazen altar was where burn sacrifices were made and fire was constantly burning. This altar was very hot because of the constant fire. You can imagine as the wine was poured onto the altar a steam would go up from the altar. The steam would just evaporate and disappear.

Paul’s life would soon be poured out like this drink offering. As Paul’s life went down into the place of death his spirit would rise from the altar and disappear, just as the drink offering evaporated off the brazen altar. Paul was pouring out the remainder of his life. Paul had been pouring out his life for many years, and now he would finish it.

Paul summarized his life in three ways.
  • Soldier – “I have fought a good fight.” There were battles to fight and victories to win. Paul had defended the word of God, stood for the truths of the Bible and fought against the powers of darkness.
  • Runner – “I have finished my course.” Life is not just a battle it is also a race. Paul, as an athlete ran to win the prize. To finish his course means that he touched all the bases, he completed every task God planned for him.
  • Good steward – “I have kept the faith.” What an amazing thing to say. Paul could honestly say that he had not veered off course. Paul stayed true to the doctrines and truths of God’s word.

With this in mind Paul says that the time of his departure is at hand. The word translated “departure” is the same word used to describe the departure of the church in I Thessalonians 4. The church will soon depart from this world. Paul was doing this same thing, except Paul was going to depart through a different door. Paul will go through the doorway of death.

Paul is looking forward to the future. He is expecting a crown of righteousness. A crown is a reward. This crown of righteousness is obviously a crown won for living a righteous life. Paul is not saying that just because you believe in the return of Christ you will receive a reward. Paul is saying that those who love his appearing will win a reward. To love his appearing means that you love Him.

In these last days Paul is lonely and he knows his days are few, so he wants Timothy to come quickly. It is touching to see that in his last days Paul wanted his “son in the faith” by his side. Demas has left Paul and went to Thessalonica which was a good distance from Rome. Demas is mentioned three times in the New Testament. The three times he is mentioned tell the story of his life. In Philemon his is listed as a “fellow laborer” along with Mark and Luke. In Colossians he is just named. Lastly in this verse is said to have forsaken the work of God and returned to the world. Little by little Demas went back to the world. This is the same way it happens in the church today. People don’t just wake up one morning and decide they are going back to the world. Satan gets them to take one small step in the wrong direction. One step leads to another. Then before they realize what is happening they are completely separated from God, many times they don’t even realize what they have become.

Luke was faithful, standing by Paul until the very end. Luke is the physician that wrote the book named “Luke” and the book of “Acts.”  Mark has come a long way since the time he left Paul on his first missionary journey. It is wonderful that Paul pens these words. If he had not written these words then we would not have known how Mark has grown and that things had been mended between the two of them. It also shows that one mistake in Christian services does not make your whole life a failure.

Tychicus was to pastor in Ephesus. He could not stay in Rome forever, there was work to do. It is believed that this man actually worked as a personal servant to Paul while he was in Rome. Carpus lived in Troas and had given hospitality to Paul. Paul obviously had to leave this man in a hurry and left some of his belongings with him. This man would be faithful to guard it until it could be retrieved.

Paul wants Timothy to come before winter. If Timothy waited until winter the ships would be harbored and he would not be able to travel. Paul did not want to risk Timothy not being there before he is killed. Paul asks for his cloak. This reveals a little of Paul’s suffering. I have read that this prison was cold in May and June so it must be cold now. Paul is physically in need. Paul wanted his books. He needed something to keep his mind occupied.

Although many other men forsook Paul, God stood by him. When Paul was discouraged in Corinth the Lord visited him. After he had been arrested in Jerusalem the Lord appeared to him again to encourage him. On a boat in a terrible storm the Lord stood by Paul and told him all would be O.K. Now in a horrible Roman prison the Lord was standing by his servant. You and I may not be in prison, but in all circumstances the Lord will stand by us just like He did Paul.

The Bible does not record for us the final days of Paul. Tradition tells us that he was found guilty and sentenced to die. He was taken outside the city and beheaded. We should thank God for men like Paul. We should thank God for men like Timothy who carry on the work. John Wesley once said “God buries His workmen, but His work goes on.” You and I must be faithful so that future generations may hear the gospel of our Lord, and have the same opportunity to be saved that we had.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Leeeeeets get ready to Ruuummmmble!

I remember when I was a kid the ring announcer was one of my favorite parts of a boxing match. In fact it usually took the announcer more time make his introductions than it did for Mike Tyson to knock out his opponent. I would try to mimic the announcer and say, "Leeeeeets get ready to Ruuummmmble!", like the ring announcer did. Today I don’t watch much boxing, but I love the UFC and they have a great ring announcer. It still pumps me up to hear a good announcer just before a big fight.

This very familiar saying popped into my mind the other day as I fought a battle inside of myself. A few days ago God gave me a thought that I wanted to study and develop. I wrote a blog a week or so ago about the thought of “darkness”. This is something that has my attention and I know that God wants me to study up on it.

So, there I am, knowing that God wants me to study this thought, but finding myself putting it off. “I will start on that tomorrow.” “I would start on that now, but I’ve got other things to do.” “I will start on that, but let me check Facebook and twitter first.” I’m sure that you have never been like this, but I still have to fight this fight.

When this takes place I feel terrible. I wonder why I have such a hard time doing what I love to do. I know God wants me to do, and I want to do it.  So, why is it so hard to get started? As I’m beating myself up for being this way, I am reminded of the fight one of my heroes fought daily.

The apostle Paul, one of the greatest men to ever live, said that every day he was in a fight with his flesh. Paul tells us in Romans 7:14-24 that every time he desires to do good evil is present with him. He tells us that the things he does not want to do, are the things that he winds up doing. Paul finishes Romans 7 by saying “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

So, if a great man like Paul has trouble fighting his flesh and doing the right thing, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. This also tells me that no matter how much I grow in the Lord, and how much I study the Bible I am always going to have to fight with myself to do right. I wish I could say that once you are saved all your problems go away, and you become a saint who never does wrong. If I said that though, I would be lying. It’s a Biblical fact that we will continue to war with our flesh until the day we die.

A couple days ago I finally stepped into the ring with my flesh and decided that I was going to begin to study this thought God had laid on my heart. You know, once I opened my Bible, broke out my laptop, and began to study I got into a zone. I had a blast studying the word of God. Before I knew it I had been studying for almost two hours. I couldn’t wait to finish up my study the next day. I won that fight, but I’m sure it won’t be the last time we step into the ring.

What is it that you are fighting with? Maybe you are putting something off. You know that God wants you to do it, but just can’t bring yourself to get started. I bet if you would just do whatever it is that God keeps telling you to do; you will be glad you did. It’s time to say:

Leeeeet’s get ready to Ruuuuumble!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Second Timothy Chapter 2 (Seven Bible Illustrations)

Illustrations are fun. We use them with our children such as the story of “The boy who cried wolf”. We use illustrations when holding conversations with other adults (“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse”.) When Jesus was here on the earth He was constantly using illustrations, called parables, to describe a point to His listeners. Paul also liked to use illustrations. In chapter two Paul gives seven illustrations to describe the duty of a believer. In these seven illustrations we will be able to see God’s desire for our Christian life.

Steward verses 1-2

The gospel is not something that we get and keep for ourselves. The gospel is a treasure that we are to share with others, who will in turn share with someone else. As a steward of God’s word we should be diligent to study and learn all we can.

Jesus made it very clear from an early age that He was going to be busy. He spoke these words to His mother at the age of 12, “I must be about my Father’s business.” The Father’s business is getting out the Word of God, and Jesus made it clear He was going to busy working.

We are God’s stewards. God needs us to work. Some may disagree with me, but I believe God has no hands unless He has our hands, and God has no feet unless He has our feet. We should be busy working for God.

Soldier verses 3-4

Paul lived in a military state, and at the time he wrote this letter he was in prison. Therefore the illustration of a soldier is easy to understand. In the letter of Ephesians Paul warns the church that they are in a spiritual warfare with the powers of Satan.

As a soldier we are not to be entangled with the affairs of this world. Imagine if you will, a soldier receiving orders from a superior officer about a mission, and the soldier explaining to his superior that he cannot perform his duty because of “some personal matters.” This seem ridiculous, but this is what we do to our superior officer. I know we have to take care of some personal things in this life but we must have our priorities in the right order. Never be too caught up in this world that you cannot live the Christian life.

I read the story of a Civil War soldier who was a watchmaker. One day the bugler sounded for the camp to break up. The soldier complained “I can’t go now I have a dozen watches to repair.” This is the way many of us live our lives.

The Christian life is not a playground, it is a battlefield.

Athlete verse 5

The word “strive” means to contend in a game. I think Paul was a sports fan. One of his favorite illustrations is the illustration of an athlete. Paul talked about boxing, wrestling, running and exercise in his letters.

As a Christian we are to do everything in our power to be a winner. . I don’t know about you but I do not like to lose. If I’m going to compete then I want to win. If you’re on my team I expect you to do everything you can to win.

An athlete will exercise, sacrifice, and work hard to win the prize. Someone said the only exercise a Christian gets it by “jumping to conclusions, running down their friends, sidestepping responsibility and pushing their luck.”

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”   Philipians 3:14

We are warned here that we’re to strive, but that we are to strive lawfully. This means to obey the rules. There is no shortcut in the Christian life. There is not an easy path or a set of tricks that can get you by. Just as a runner cannot cut a corner and a baseball player can’t skip second base, you and I cannot cut corners in the Christian life.

Farmer verse 6

The fourth example is the example of the farmer. We are like a farmer in that we work by sowing seed, tilling the fields of the Word of God. There are several good examples to be found in the illustration of the farmer.

  • If a field is left to itself it will mostly bring forth weeds. God has to work in our lives so we produce more than weeds.
  • A farmer must be patient. You can’t expect to plant in a garden one day, and have corn the next. It takes time for the garden to grow. Just because you are not everything you want to be does not mean God has forgotten about you. Be patient, God will perform a work in your life, but only in His time.
  • A farmer is the first to enjoy the blessings of the harvest. You may not understand what is going on in your life right now, but hold on because one day you will be enjoying the blessings of God.

Workman or Teacher verse 15

The faithful minister will labor in the Word, guard the Word and invest the Word. The teacher and preacher who use the word correctly will build up the church the way God wants it. The sloppy minister will take verses out of context, apply them as they will, and make it say whatever they want it to say. In the day that God judges our work many people will have theirs reduced to ashes.

The Bible is a book of laws, structure and principals that cannot be ignored. If you do not know how to divide God’s Word then you could be in danger. There are certain dispensations in the Bible and different methods in which Christ deals with man. The basis of salvation has always and will always be the same, but throughout the Bible man has displayed his faith in different ways.

For example Abel and Abraham brought lambs to sacrifice to the Lord, but I don’t think any of you took a lamb to church with you Sunday. Jesus was the Lamb of God therefore the need for those rituals are no more. Abel and Abraham looked forward to Christ, we look back.

There are many things to consider when dividing the Word of God, therefore it is to be studied.

Vessel verses 20-21

What qualification would you give for a vessel to be usable? I would imagine that you would not use a vessel for supper tonight that was not clean. Well, let’s give God credit. He is not going to use a dirty vessel either. For a vessel to be used of God it must be empty, clean and available.

Paul divided the utensils into two groups. One group was vessels of honor (gold, silver). The other were vessels of dishonor (wood, earth). Are you a vessel of honor? Are you available for the Master’s use? Are you a clean vessel?

Servant verses 24-25

Finally the child of God is to be a servant or slave. A slave has no will of his own. He works and lives to please his master. This seems strange that in one verse we are to be a soldier and are to fight, and then in another verse we are told to be a servant and not to fight. This is not a contradiction of scriptures. There are times when we are going to have to stand and fight for the truth. Don’t be a coward when it comes to standing for what it right.

At the same time there are places and times when we should not fight. If you are trying to win someone to God that is not a time to argue with them. You remember the story of the woman at the well? She made several statements that Jesus could have corrected her on, but instead he continued to tell her how to be saved. Some things are not worth fighting over. I wish some believers would learn this lesson.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Something I can’t get off my mind!

For the past several days I have been thinking a lot about a word. I was sitting in church Sunday night listening to the preacher and this word just came to me. The word I have been thinking about is the word “darkness.”

Sunday night was the fifth Sunday night of the month. Whenever a month has five Sundays our church will always partake of the Lord’s Supper. On this night Bro. Tom will usually preach about the importance of the Lord’s Supper and what it symbolizes. This past Sunday was no different. As part of his sermon he is talking about the disciples in the upper room with Christ.

As I was listening my mind wandered into that upper room as I though t about that night, and especially Judas. At this time the devil had already entered into Judas. Judas has made up his mind that he will betray the Lord. This is a decision that will ultimately lead to him killing himself.

In the upper room our Lord wanted to share some things with His disciples, but is unable to do so with Judas in the room. Jesus begins to explain that one of the twelve will soon deny him. As the disciples begin to question “Is it I?” our Lord leans over to Judas and says “That though doest, do quickly.”

John records in his gospel that at this time Judas got up to leave. Then John paints a picture that I believe most overlook. John says:

“He (Judas) then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.”

I can picture as Judas walked from the light of the upper room into the darkness of night. This is so symbolic of what took place in the life of Judas that night.

Darkness is spoken of many times in the Bible.
  • Darkness is a physical occurrence. God separated light from darkness at the time of creation.
  • Darkness is a power. Satan and his demon followers are spoken of as the powers of darkness.
  • Darkness is a presence of mind. The Bible tells of men and women who have had their understanding darkened.
  • Darkness is a place. Hell is a place of outer darkness.
So, for some reason this thought has not left my mind since Sunday night. Maybe I will study it some and see where it goes. I'll let you know.