Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Looking Ahead to 2011

Well it’s almost 2011. That means it’s time to celebrate the passing of one year and welcome in another. I spoke to my kids tonight at church about this very thing. I thought I would share with you some of the things that I shared with them. These are things that we should be thinking about as we look forward to the year ahead of us.

When you think about New Years and the celebration that goes along with it there are a few things that come to mind. This time of year we have the symbols of the baby representing the birth of a new year. There is the symbol of the old man representing the old, outgoing year. Many of you will eat black eyed peas hoping that it will bring you good fortune or luck next year. (I like the Danish tradition better which is to eat doughnuts on New Year’s Day.)
As many of us do, we will watch the ball drop in Times Square and countdown to a new year. (I asked the kids tonight how many of them had ever watched Dick Clark count down the New Year and they looked at me like I was crazy. So, I had to ask how many of them had watched Ryan Seacrest count down the New Year.)

The biggest tradition of the New Year however is the “New Year’s resolution.” The number one resolution made by American’s every year is to lose weight; the second is to stop smoking. Those of us that are Christians should resolve some things for this year as well. We should resolve to read our Bible more, to pray more, to be a better witness for Christ. We should resolve to be more loving, compassionate, and patient. In essence we should resolve to be more like Christ.

In Philippians 3:13-14 Paul tells the church that he is pressing forward in his walk with Christ. In so doing he will be forgetting the things of the past and focusing all of his attention on the future. I wish this year we would learn to let go of the past and look to the future. Many of us cannot move forward for Christ because we are looking over our shoulder at the past. The past is the past and there is nothing that can be done to change it. I suggest that you do as Paul did, and forget those past things that are weighing you down. You may say, “You don’t know what I’ve been through.” This may be true. I may not know what you have been through, but I do know the only way you can move forward is to forget it. Forget your past stupidity, past sorrow, past sin, past suffering, and move forward.

The problem with resolutions is that we do not follow through with them most of the time. Someone will resolve to lose weight so in January they will spend time at the gym and eat plain baked potatoes. In February however they will spend time watching American Idol and eating potato chips. Paul knowing that this would be a problem gives us three pieces of advice in the following verses.

  1. Help each other (verse 17) - As much as we like to think we can do things on our own, we truly need the help of others. If I am encouraging you, and you are encouraging me then together we will be helped.
  2. Keep away from those that will distract you (verses 18, 19) - If there is something that is inhibiting your walk with Christ then stay away from it. It may be a person, a thing, a place. What ever it is, stay away.
  3. Keep your eyes on God (verse 20) - If we keep our eyes on the Lord then He will always lead us in the right direction.

I hope this is the best year you have ever had.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Three Wise Men (Fact and Fiction)

Well let me begin by saying “Merry Christmas.” I hope you have a wonderful day with your families, but most of all I hope at some point today you remember what we celebrate this day. Today the greatest gift was given, the gift of Jesus Christ.

Since it is Christmas I thought I would give you something to think about. Something that has interested me for several years is the story of the “Three Wise Men.” This story is so interesting because what we believe about these men is not totally true. The story of the wise men goes something like this, “Mary delivers the baby Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. Just after the baby is born a group of shepherd show up, followed by three wise men with gifts.” When we set up nativity scenes there is the baby, Mary, Joseph, some sheep, a shepherd and three men with crowns. Let me give you four things to think of.

Myth #1 – Why “three” wise men? The Bible never tells us an exact number. All the Bible says is that a group of wise men came from the east in search of the Messiah. The Bible never says that there were three of them. There could have been three, but there could have been thirty, or three hundred for that matter. The reason we have always assumed there were three is because there were three gifts given (gold, frankincense and myrrh.)

Myth #2 – Would it surprise you if I told you that the wise men were never at the manger in Bethlehem? Well, they weren’t. In fact when the wise men found Jesus he could have been as old as two years. Sometime after these men saw the star they came to Herod, according to Matthew chapter 2, and asked Herod where the young child was supposed to be born. Of course Herod did not know the answer, so he asked some scholars who told them in Bethlehem. Herod asked what time they saw the star appear, and asked them to come back and tell him where the baby is once they have found him.

In the same chapter of Matthew we are told that the wise men find Mary and the baby in a house, not a manger. They enter the house and worship the baby, presenting unto him gifts. Of course Herod wanted to harm the baby, not worship him, so the wise men never returned him. When Herod determines that the men are not coming back he has all the young children two years old and younger killed, trying to kill the baby king. It very well could be that at this time Jesus was as old as two, since this was the age of the children Herod had killed.

Fact #1 – These men were wise. These men knew what many others in Jerusalem should have known. If a group of men from the east could figure out that the Messiah was born, then why could God’s people in Jerusalem not figure this out? What a shame that the people of God were not looking for Him. Daniel figured it out; the people in Jerusalem should have as well.

It has been said that wise men still search for Jesus. What a shame it will be when one day soon the Lord Jesus appears to call His church home, and God’s people are not looking for him. It will take many by surprise when Jesus comes to the earth the second time.

Fact #2 – These men were determined. It took these men up to two years to find this child. They were determined that no matter how long it took, or how far they had to journey, they would find the Messiah. Because they never gave up they were blessed with the experience of seeing the Son of God. They worshipped Him, and no doubt they went away telling everyone the experience they had with God.

How determined are we to find Him? Are we determined enough to take the time to look for Him? So many times we give up because the journey is long and difficult. Those who are determined enough to continue to search for Him are rewarded with a wonderful experience, the experience of seeing, worshipping, and forever having their lives changed by the presence of the Son of God.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What the Bible says about Good Works

Titus chapter 3

In three short chapters the book of Titus covers a lot of ground. The first chapter teaches us the importance of order in the church. Chapter two speaks of the importance of correct biblical doctrine. In this final chapter Paul reminds Titus that it is important for any church, or church member to exercise good works. Let’s be clear that God sent His Son to this earth to redeem sinners, not to reform them. Once a person is saved however, God does have something to say to them about displaying good works.

In the early days of the church Christians were looked upon as “odd balls.” They lived different lifestyles. Therefore in the first few verses Paul is encouraging them not to do anything that will draw unnecessary attention to themselves. The way they can do this is by being law abiding citizens. You will say, “Oh, but Bro. Josh we are to follow the laws of God, therefore we don’t have to worry about the laws of the land.” If this is your thought then I have a question for you, “What Bible are you reading from?” The bible is very clear that we are to obey those that have rule over us, including the law of this land.

In fact if you think about it, the laws of the land and the laws of God many times go hand in hand. God says “don’t steal, don’t kill, tell the truth under oath.” I would say that if we obey the laws of God then we will have little trouble with the laws of the land. It is a shame when you hear about a “Christian” getting caught stealing money, taking drugs, cheating the government. What a shame that is, not just for the one that got caught, but for the church as a whole.

Verse two warns us one last time not to gossip. The more I study the bible the more I am convinced that one of the biggest problems in the church is the sin of gossip. Someone said that “you can’t believe everything you hear, but you can repeat it!” Another person said that “people will believe anything as long as you whisper it to them.” This is the way that the unsaved world acts. This should not be the way the children of God act. These things are good works, and they should be exercised by the church.

I feel like I need to point out before I move on, that the bible is very clear that a child of God is to maintain good works. At the same time the bible is very clear that these good works do not affect your salvation. You can work all you want to, but no amount of works will ever be enough to earn salvation. Let me further say that after you are saved good works have nothing to do with maintaining salvation. If sin was to void salvation, then none of us would be saved. In the eyes of God there are no big or little sins, and just one sin is unacceptable when compared to the perfect holiness of God. If you are counting on your good works then I’m afraid that you soon will find yourself disappointed. Any person that claims they have no sin in their life has committed the sin of lying.

Verses 4-5 tell us how a person is saved. We are saved because God showed mercy on us. We did not turn over a new leaf, we are saved because of the mercy God had on us. Paul is clear in these verses that works have nothing to do with salvation. “According to his mercy He saved us.” Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins because He is merciful to you and me. God is rich in mercy, which means He has plenty of it. God is able to save you today, but He will only save you based on faith in what His Son has done. Your works will not get it done.

In this verse we are told that we are saved by “the washing of regeneration.” The word “washing” means to “bathe all over”, or a “laver.” It is a picture of the brazen laver which stood in the court of the Tabernacle. The brazen laver is a picture of the word of God. The brazen laver was made from the highly polished metal the women used as mirrors. This is a good picture of the word of God. We look into God’s word and it reveals to us our condition. It shows us all the dirty places in our life.

I have said over and over that a person is not saved based on their good works. I stand by that, and so does the word of God. The fact is that once we are saved we are to be careful to maintain good works in our lives. Some people think that salvation gives them a free pass on good works. Just the opposite is true.

Titus was to keep reminding these people over and over that they are to have good works.

Before we are saved God does not want to talk to us about our good works. They are like filthy rags in God’s sight.

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”    Isaiah 64:6

After you are saved God wants to say something to you about good works. We are to consider, ponder and be anxious about these things.

Let me further say that to have good works does not just mean to work in the church or to have religious works. While it is wonderful to work in the church, good works also means to lend a hand to that neighbor in need. We should be helpful in the community and help those in need. One of the best ways to help win someone to God is to show them acts of kindness, or good works. This is biblical good works.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Some of the greatest doctrines in the Bible. (You may be surprised.)

Titus Chapter Two

If you were to hear a preacher mention biblical doctrine what would you think of? Maybe you would think of the doctrine of salvation, the doctrine of the grace of God, the doctrine of eternal security. While these are all true biblical doctrines these are not the doctrines that Paul wanted Titus to teach to his church. Many times bible doctrine is more practical than we realize.

In this chapter four groups of people will be mentioned. As these four groups are mentioned Paul will give them some good advice on how they should conduct their lives. These practical doctrines are as important as is the doctrine of the grace of God. The problem is that we don’t enjoy hearing these things because they might ruffle our feathers.

Older Men

Titus was a younger man; therefore it would have been easy for him to neglect the older men in the church. Paul wants him to spend some time teaching these older men how their lives should be led. He begins by telling them that they should be “sober”. To be sober means to be serious or self controlled. It may seem funny but these older men had probable retired from physical labor and therefore they had more time on their hands to get into trouble. Therefore they had to be warned to exercise some self control.

Next they were told to be “grave.” To be grave means to be dignified. Those of us who have small children will often remind our kids to be respectful to their elders. Let me say with all due respect, that an elder should conduct themselves in a manner that is worthy of respect. It is hard to respect someone who does not conduct themselves in a dignified manner.

These older men were to be sound in their lives and in their faith. They were to be sound in love, faith, and patience Paul says. They should know what they believed, and why they believed it. They should have convictions about the word of God. It is sad to see a 70 year old baby in the church. Some people get older, but they do not grow up. A godly saint will be an encouragement to the younger members of the church. Be someone that others can look up to.

Older Women

Now I know that I’m going to lose some of you right here. Before you click this blog away please hear what the Bible says. Don’t take my word for it. Get your Bible down and read it for yourself.

The word “likewise” in verse 3 seems to mean that the older women were to have the same qualities as the older men. They were to behave themselves in a manner that displayed holiness. Beyond that they were told not to be “gossipers.” I am convinced that one of the biggest sins in the church today is the sin of gossip. Over and over the bible warns against the sin of gossip.

They are not to be “drunkards.” This seems to be pretty obvious. I don’t think there is a lot of explanation needed for this one.

Paul not only tells them what they should not be, but also what they should be. These older women were to be teachers. They were to teach the younger women to be “keepers at home”. This is more than just teaching the younger women how to keep up the house, it means to instill in the heart of the younger women the right spiritual attitude toward their home.

The greatest responsibility that God gives to a woman is her home. The younger women needed to learn to love their husband, love their children and how to have a successful marriage. This may not sit well with some but the bible is clear that the woman’s first responsibility is her home. It is serious business to take care of your children and your home. There is an old saying which says “A man’s work is from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.”

If God has given you children and a home then the most important business in the world is taking care of them. This is your ministry, and it is a gift from God. I’m not saying that woman is to be a prisoner in her own home. The bible is saying a woman should be able to manage her home. A husband who can trust his wife to care for the home is blessed.

Let me further point out that while it is the wife’s job to manage the home, it is the husband’s job to lead the home. This may be a big pill to swallow but the husband is to be respected by his wife and children as the leader of the home. Verse 5 tells us that the woman is to be “obedient to their own husbands.”

The idea of being obedient means to “respond” to her own husband. I wonder how many men misuse this verse. They will say something like this “the bible says that you need to mind me better.” Sir that is not what the bible says. The bible says that she is to respond to you. When was the last time you told your wife that you love her? Just as the natural man responds to the love of God, so does the wife respond to the love of her husband. A home that has little trouble with love will have little trouble with obedience.

Young Men

While it is the responsibility of the older men to set a good example it is up to the young men to live up to the example set before them. One day these young men will be the ones setting the example, so it is important to live up to the godly standard set before them.

We teach others by the pattern of the lives we live. If a pastor wants his church to be something, he must be that something first. If you want your children, grandchildren, to be something then you must be that something first. These godly men had set an example now the young men were to fashion their lives after them.


Paul spends a good deal of time in the New Testament speaking to this particular group. The reason he does this is because there were a lot of slaves in the church. Paul warns them not to forsake their responsibilities to their master. Here are three rules they should follow.
  • They should be obedient. They should try to please their masters.
  • They were not to talk back. They were not to gripe about their master to others. This gives a poor testimony
  • They were not to steal. The word “purloining” means to steal. This goes without saying, but you should not steal from your work. Paul tells them to show “good fidelity” which means to be faithful.

These are very practical doctrines, but they are very important doctrines. Please don’t overlook the practical doctrines of the bible. These practical doctrines will have more of an impact on your church and your community than any other doctrines in the bible.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Lesson Learned While At Taco Bell

Have you ever learned a life lesson at Taco Bell? I have. I can imagine that some of you have learned a lesson while at, or shortly after leaving, Taco Bell, but that is not the kind of lesson I am talking about. Let me share with you a true story that happened Saturday night while my family was eating at Taco Bell.

My wife and I took our girls to see the Living Christmas Tree, which was awesome, then to eat at Taco Bell. As we were finishing up our supper one of the girls ask if she could have something else, she was still hungry. I asked her what she wanted, gave her the money to get it and watched her as she went up to the counter and ordered. Seems normal right?

While this is taking place my other girl starts to get the pooch lip. She wants something too, but will not ask me for the money to get it. It is very obvious that she is pouting over the fact that her sister is getting something extra and she is not. Well, the sister returns from the counter with her extra food and starts to eat. The pooch lip is now dragging on the floor.

So, I look at the daughter who is obviously wanting something and say, "I would never do for one child what I wouldn't do for another. All you have to do is ask me if you want something." And I meant it. I am their father and love them the same. I would never give one of my kids something and deprive the other.

Here is the problem. The pouting child is not willing to ask me for what it is that she wants. So, the second daughter finishes her extra food and we leave. As we are driving away God speaks to my heart and teaches me a lesson. God says to me, "So many of my children sit around with the pooch mouth because they do not have something that someone else has, but they have been unwilling to ask me for it." God is our father and He would never do for one child and not do for another. The problem is that we are unwilling to ask Him for what we want.

Jesus said "hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name, ask and it shall be given to you." I wonder what we do without because we do not ask for what we really want. The Bible is clear that God will give us the desires of our heart. If this is true, then why are we pouting over the things we do not have? We haven't asked.

I'm certainly not telling you that God will give you everything you ask for. God knows better than that. What would happen if you gave your children everything they asked for. They would eat candy all the time, they would never go to school and they would grow up to be terrible adults. All I am saying is that you should not pout about what God is not doing for you, when you haven't even asked Him to do it.

So, next time you are in need of something think about what you would do if your child was in need of something. What would you do if you of your children came to you and said they needed something? God is our Heavenly Father. Next time you need something why not ask? You might be surprised what could happen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Get The Church In Order

Titus Chapter One

It is apparent that Paul and Titus had been together in the ministry on the island of Crete. The problem is that the Bible does not record this time for us in the book of Acts, so we don’t know exactly how long they were there. This is proof that the book of Acts does not record everything that took place during those first years of the church. In fact the book mainly focuses on the ministry of two men. Peter at the first of the book, and Paul at the end.

We don’t have to read very deep into these scriptures before we discover that these were not the best people. Paul tells us that these people were known for being liars, gluttons and lazy. That’s a pretty rough description. Paul obviously left Titus in Crete. Sometime after departing he writes this letter to him. It has been estimated that this letter was written sometime around A.D. 64-67.

The Bible doesn’t reveal to us a lot about this young man named Titus. It seems that he was a little stronger person than was Timothy. Titus seems to be stronger both physically and spiritually. Paul expressed concern for the welfare of Timothy, but Titus seems more mature. We know that Titus was a Greek since Paul refused to circumcise him in Jerusalem. But that is about all we know.

Paul’s main reason for writing this letter was to tell Titus to establish order in the church. Everything God does He does with order. The church is no exception. I don’t understand why people feel like the church is exempt from this rule.

The world we live was created by a God of order. Nature and science teach us that the world is one of order. Mankind is a creature that needs order. If we were all just left to ourselves chaos would ensue. The church is built upon certain principles and rule. The church should be a place of order. The people in the church should conduct themselves in an orderly basis.

In the first chapter of Titus the main focus is on the need to establish elders in the church. It seems that there were men already acting as elders, but they had not been ordained for that work. These men had the gift of leadership, and they were exercising their gifts. Again, in order to keep the church orderly it is not enough to exercise your gift. These men needed to be set aside, ordained, for the work God had called them to do.

In order to be used of God for this work these men must be: blameless, they must have faithful children, they should not be self willed, not easily angered and not covetous. God sets for high standards for this high office.

Because God is faithful, He expects his man to be faithful as well. According to verse 9 the preacher and teacher must be faithful. They should be faithful in building up the church by teaching the word. They also must be faithful to defend against false teaching. It takes both these things to have a successful ministry and a successful church.

According to verse 13 Titus was going to have to be a little rough with these people. They were rough people; therefore they had to be treated roughly. I would imagine the man that preaches in the prison should preach a little rougher than the man preaching to a room of kindergarten students.

Lastly, Paul warns them about false doctrine. The biggest problem this church had, and is still a big problem today, was that they were trading the truth of the Bible for man’s tradition. When Jesus was upon this earth He warned constantly about trading scripture for tradition. The Pharisees had a problem with this. Many churches today have this same problem. It may surprise you, but many Baptist churches have trouble with this. Just because some man you look up to preached something does not make it right. You would be amazed at some of the things I have heard preached and taught. We as God’s people must be careful to side with the Bible, not with what some else has said.

This problem is more than just preachers preaching tradition or preferences. It happens in our families. “Well, I know what the Bible says, but Grandma said this…” “Momma always told me…” We must side with the Bible, not with Momma. This may seem like a little thing, and not worth discussing. This was the biggest problem Jesus was faced with in His day, and it is still a big problem today.

Let me finish by saying again everything God does He does with order. God desires order in your home, your church and in your life.