Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Special this Easter

I don't want to give too much away, but last night I came up to the church to see a group that's going to do something special for the service this Easter. It's going to be toward the end of my sermon and it's going to be awesome! This special skit type deal set to music will make the hair on your arms stand up. It's going to be great! Just one more reason not to miss Easter Sunday here at Oakwood. If you're not from the Enid area, go to a Bible teaching local church and be uplifted through the message of the cross and an empty tomb. It's a powerful weekend because of a powerful God that we love and serve. Make it a priority to be at church this Easter...and let God speak to your heart!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Hope of a Holy Week

Yesterday's message was really an intro to this entire week. It's Holy Week! This is the week where we remember that last several days of Jesus life on earth. It's a week filled with teaching, a week of closure, a week of a last supper, a whipping, a brutal cross, and an empty tomb. Pause for a moment, just a minute or two, and reflect on what you know about Easter. What is happening in Jesus life this week? Why don't you take the journey and read the Bible and experience for yourself Holy Week.

Mark 11: 1-11

Mark 11:12-19

Mark 11:20-13:37

Mark 14:1-11

Mark 14:12-51

Mark 14:53-15:47

In the Tomb.

Matthew 28:1-20

You could read this all at once or you could read this day by day as it corresponds. I like reading it with the day that it is. Kind of makes you think daily on the Lord and what was going on. This is meant to lead you through what is recorded as happening each day of Holy Week. I used Mark mainly because it seems to be in the best and easiest sequential order. Read about Jesus last week and be blessed by the Savior of the World this Easter!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Follow Up to Yesterday's Message

Per a request, I've been asked to share a little from yesterday's message. I'm in a series called The Upside Down Way of Jesus. The first week was "Last is First". The second week was "More Blessed to Give than Receive". Yesterday was "Slavery is Freedom". The premise of yesterday's message was that as Christians we are called to be slaves, not just servants of God. That wording is heavy and pointed, but that's exactly what the Bible says and means in many new testament passages about our relationship to Jesus. The call of the gospel is a call to slavery to Jesus. To serve Him only. To give up our rights and identities for Him. A total surrender of who we are. The link to the message is here. You can find the message by the date of March 21st or search it by title.

One of the statements that I quoted was one that a couple of people wanted repeated so they could write it down. The quote is from Joseph Tson and he said this, "In 21st century Christianity, we have replaced the expression total surrender with the word commitment and slave with the word servant. But there’s an important difference because we commit ourselves to do something, but we surrender ourselves to someone. A servant gives service to someone, but a slave belongs to someone." The new testament is trying to convey this thought to us. When we come to Jesus Christ we are to surrender ourselves totally to Him, not "make a commitment". Though making a commitment is not bad in and of itself, total surrender is giving up everything. That's what Jesus called us to do, isn't it? (Read Luke 14)

It's a heavy thought slavery. Tson sums it up well in that last line though. A servant serves someone, but a slave belongs to someone. We are slaves to Jesus because when you believe and accept, you belong. You are no longer your own. J.C. becomes your identity and He is not your master.

After the service yesterday the elders and I prayed with a woman who was having a physical difficulty. As the elders prayed, I was blessed. Several of them referred to God as "Master". This is the call of our life as Christians! Jesus is our master and we are His slaves.

Another item I was asked to share here on the blog was the definition from the Greek Lexicon for the Greek word "kurios" pronounced kooreeos which is translated in the English Bible as "Lord". We hear "Lord" and we think what...God, right? But the use of this term in the N.T. first century culture was a term of slavery as one who was lord over slaves. The Greek lexicon says this, "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding." The part that really gets me in this, and I think got so many others in the message yesterday, was two thoughts. First of belonging, which I mentioned above. And second of the master/kurios having the power of deciding. It's as if, hang in here with me, that the free will that God has given each man is given back when we surrender to Christ and he has the power of deciding. We are surrendering our rights, our personal preferences, our decision to Him. As His slaves we are constantly aligning ourselves with His thoughts, His ways, His directives. And when we do that, we are blessed with holy, righteous, and obedient lives.

I know, there's a lot to digest here. Read Romans 6:16-23. Examine your heart. Pray. Ask yourself, are you a slave to God or a slave to the world? Then, go do something about it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Live Long and Prosper?

Have you ever wondered or asked yourself this questio: why do some die young, while others live really long lives? You can come up with all of the greatest ideas as to why God lets one person live and takes another. You've perhaps heard it said that someone “dies before their time.” Just by simply uttering these words we are assuming that we are promised a long life on earth. We’re operating more under the doctrine of Spock from Star Trek when he said, “Live long and prosper.” The Bible makes no such guarantees for a long existence in this world. The Bible says that our times are in His hands. It also tells us that "there is a time to be born, and a time to die" (Ecclesiastes 3:2 NLT). We don't really get any say regarding the date of our birth or our death. Then again, we have a lot to say about that space in the middle: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12 NKJV). To "number our days" means to make the most of our time.

Sometimes even we preacher-types don’t have all of the answers. (Shock!) Sometimes we all need to realize that it’s okay if we don’t understand everything completely. I think back the the fact that I will probably never know why God calls home some who are so young. And even if I did know why, I seriously doubt that I would fully understand. God’s ways are higher and better than ours. Who are we to doubt or second guess the one who made the universe? Isaiah 55:8-9 puts it this way, 8"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

But one day I will get it. The Bible promises that, saying, "Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now" (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT).

So why does God take choice servants "before their time"? Take Stephen for example. Stephen was a young man, and yet he became the first martyr of the early Church. But how did God use these circumstances? In Stephen's case, God used it to get the believers, who seemed to be "landlocked" in Jerusalem, out of their comfortable "holy huddle" and take the gospel to the other regions. Because of the wave of persecution against the Church following Stephen's death, the believers spread out, and so did the gospel. Then, the very man hunting them ended up coming to Christ! That is, of course, Saul of Tarsus who became the great apostle Paul.

Regardless, it was still a great tragedy that a man died so young, and many godly people wept when Stephen died. How cruel that God would allow such a young man to die this way? Right?!

Why does he allow torment for some, and triumph for others? No one can say this side of heaven. That's in the Lords hands.

The Bible tells the story of the wicked King Herod, who arrested and executed the apostle James. This was James, the brother of John, who was a close personal friend of Jesus when He walked this earth. Just like that, he was gone. Seeing that this pleased the religious leaders who were not fond of the growing Christian Church, Herod went and arrested Simon Peter, their leader. It looked like the end for the great fisherman, but the believers prayed and God delivered Peter from his prison and he lived to preach another day.

Why did James die, and Peter go free? It's hard to say. Life just doesn't make sense a great deal of the time. But God has His purposes that often remain a mystery to us. We are called simply to trust and obey.

So what should we make of all of this? Seize the moment! Carpe diem! Don’t wait to tell someone you love them. Don’t wait to share the gospel with someone. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you are called to today because you really don’t know what the future holds. All that we can do is trust and be diligent in what God has asked us to do. Trust God and obey His word. He’s got everything under control, whether we fully understand it or not.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Way Out

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

As believers, we have God's assurance that we'll never be tempted beyond what we can handle. But here is the problem: sometimes we unnecessarily put ourselves in harms way. As one person put it: "Lead me not into temptation...I can find it myself." No kidding! Why must we put ourselves in what seems to be the direct path of temptation so often?

We live in the real world, I know. We are aware of our weaknesses and "blind spots". It is one thing to be distracted, to get off base, and to get into things that will ultimately entice us by getting there accidentally or unknowingly. But it is another thing to put ourselves in places where we know we are weak. And some of us do that repeatedly.

If you have a problem with drinking you probably shouldn't be spending time in a bar. The single guy who is struggling with sexual temptation shouldn't be spending time alone with his girlfriend late at the dark. That is putting oneself unnecessarily in the way of temptation.

As Christians, we should know that God will "provide a way out". And sometimes that way of escape is the door.

A good example...Joseph (Gen. 37-50). He got it. Day in and day out, Potiphar's wife was trying to seduce him. Eventually, she cast all subtlety aside and just pulled him down on the bed. So what did Joseph do? He did what any clear-thinking Christians young man would do under the circumstances: he ran like crazy.

God will never give us more than we can handle. There is always a way out that He provides. We must choose it. Sometimes we just need to take practical steps to resist temptation. Run like crazy!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010