Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Deceptive or Deceived?

First, take a moment and read 2 Samuel 11 & 12. Yes, 2 whole chapters of the Bible. It will take you about 6-7 minutes. Yes, it’s worth it. Then read on.

From his youth, King David was a committed follower of God. He believed in God’s ways enough that he even took out the giant, Goliath. Yet there was a time when this devoted believer gave in to temptation and committed adultery with Uriah's wife. His walk of integrity was severely compromised. What would happen next? How would David respond to God’s conviction on him?

Ethical and moral failings have set back Christians throughout the ages. We see it a lot today. I don’t know if I’m more sensitive to it today than I was a few years ago, or if it’s just striking closer to home with the people in my church and friends that I’ve had for years. There are many factors that drive people to sin. When a believer decides to do whatever it takes to obtain something he wants (ie. Stuff, a girlfriend/mate, recognition, acceptance by the world) then selfishness or greed is the root cause. At other times the desire for acceptance can tempt us to manipulate people and circumstances—or fabricate lies in order to make ourselves seem more desirable. And fear of conflict can result in compromised standards; many people try to fit in so they can avoid arguments. Compromise seems to be a common factor. Lower God’s standards to fit my life. There, now that’s better for me.

At first, even those close to us may not notice our deception in this. But God always sees. He will use our conscience to produce guilty feelings so we might confess our sin and turn from it. Self-protection will take over if we continue in unrighteousness—we will try to quiet our conscience by justifying the behavior. We begin making excuses for what we’ve done. Over time, we will draw away from certain people so they won't discover our ungodly behavior. By keeping them at a distance, we hope to avoid their scrutiny. Habitual sin may result in lost job opportunities, damaged friendships, broken families, and ultimately, a route away from God. No matter what the situation, when you veer from God’s ways, it leads nowhere good.

When confronted by Nathan, David recognized his sin, acknowledged it, and received forgiveness (2 Sam. 12:13). Here’s where the rubber meets the road now. How do you respond when the Holy Spirit convicts you of ungodliness? Do you see the reality of your behavior and repent? Or do you try to justify it and persist in your conduct? Now, think of how this applies to you personally…and to others you love. Do you need to share this with someone? It might just be the most loving thing you can do.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's Already Happening

Nothing charges me more than hearing about our church members doing amazing things for God. If you were here on Sunday, you know that I preached about Christians having greater boldness to share their faith. Acts 4:29 challenged me personally to pray and beg God for a greater boldness to share the gospel. I encourage you to listen to the message from Sunday, not because I'm some great preacher, but because I think that the story of the early church and what they faced challenges us to make a move for God. Here's the link: www.myoakwood.org/sermons Just look for September 11th called "Great Boldness".

So I get a call this morning from a guy in our church. He's excited to share with me that someone from his work is going to be joining his Bible study. Apparently God did some awesome work to have a mutual friend who goes to church here connect them and open the doors for conversations about God and His church. Now there is divine purpose for all that has happened there and God is using one of our men (or a couple of them) to possibly draw this guy into a relationship with the Lord. Amazing!

I've also had a couple of other stories and emails this week. A lady from our church called me about being bold in her faith in the hospital yesterday. Another lady emailed me about the courage she had to talk about faith and Christ with another student from her class at school. God is using our people to do some amazing things for Him! Doors are bring opened and the gospel is being shared.

At the end of the service Sunday we all prayed together this prayer: "Lord, enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." And then we made it more personal: "Lord, enable me to speak your word with great boldness." Maybe we should all pray that everyday. And maybe through begging God to give us courage and strength and opportunities, maybe God will save many and call many back to Himself through our faithfulness.

Now I'm praying, do it again, Lord! Do it again!

Monday, September 12, 2011

No Good Excuse

Received this from Greg Laurie and wanted to pass it along. I couldn't agree more. Maybe we all need to pass this along to a friend.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. —Hebrews 10:25

A reason is what we offer when we are unable to do something, while an excuse is what we offer when we don't want to do something and want to get out of it. And people offer a lot of excuses as to why they can't go to church.

Yet I look at the commitment that sports fans have—how they will go and support their team, no matter what. No matter what the circumstances or weather conditions, they will root their team on. They will dress in the team colors and even paint their faces. And when their team scores, they will yell in their excitement.

What if people were like that in church—never missing a service, never missing an opportunity to worship? And what if people offered the same reasons for not going to sporting events as they do for not going to church? Think how stupid it would sound: "Yeah, I don't go to the games anymore. The people who sat around me didn't seem all that friendly. And it is so crowded. There are just too many people." Or, "The seats were too uncomfortable." Or, "It is too hard to find a parking place." Or, "The coach never personally came and talked to me."

Or how about these excuses? "Well, I read a book on this sport, and I think I know more than the coach anyway." Or, "My parents took me to a lot of games when I was growing up, so I just don't want to go anymore."

I doubt you would ever hear these excuses for missing a sporting event, yet these are things people say about why they don't go to church. They may have a lot of excuses to offer, but none of them are reasons.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Godly by Association?

There is an old English adage that says, "Still as of old, man by himself is priced. For 30 pieces Judas sold himself, not Christ." We think Judas sold Jesus, but it was in fact Judas who sold his own soul. How much is a soul worth? Judas figured that 30 pieces of silver ought to do it. And not only that, he betrayed Jesus with a kiss—a kiss from hell. Judas could have pointed Jesus out and said, "Okay, guys, that is Jesus. Take Him. Now give me my money." But no, Judas instead went up to Jesus and, in what looked like an act of affection and devotion, he kissed Jesus on the cheek. Judas wanted to appear to be spiritual.

There are people like that today. They are spiritually diseased on the inside but they want to appear godly on the outside. Judas is proof that association with godliness is no guarantee that you will be godly. Do you think that if you hang around godly people, it will make you godly? Not at all. They can be a good influence on you, and I highly recommend that you hang out with godly people. But I also recommend that you be a godly person who influences others. However, these things alone will not change your character in and of itself.

It would be like going out to a restaurant with friends, and while they order off the menu, you say, "Oh, I am not going to order anything. I will just look at the pictures in this menu. That will meet my needs and fill my stomach." You cannot grow spiritually by simply hanging around with godly people. To grow wise and develop spiritually, you must personally take in what Jesus offers.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Be God's You

Have you ever said the words, "I want to be just like you!" to someone? We might find ourselves speaking these words to people we respect, love, and long to emulate. One day, you might find yourself expressing admiration to someone by speaking such a thing. But there's a problem that we must consider.

As we look up to someone and admire them in their maturity and faith we must make sure that we don't try to exactly emulate them. A little girl had once told her mother that she wanted to be just like her. Her mom, with such grace and wisdom, replied: “Oh honey, don’t ever rob the Kingdom of God of who YOU were meant to be…don’t waste your time trying to be someone else. God has a unique purpose for your life, and ONLY YOU can fulfill it.”

How many of us now at the ripe age of 26…38…52…need to hear those words? We look at others, striving to lead like them…minister like them…serve like them…be like them. But all along God is whispering in our ears for us to be who He created us to be…who He needs us to be.

Have you been robbing the Kingdom of God of who you were meant to be? Have you been trying to be someone you are not? Do you need to rest in the fact that there's a purpose that only you can fulfill for God? Or if God has already brought you through this journey, share some of the insights He taught you along the way with others. Build another up and encourage someone to be exactly what God wants them to be!