Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pulpit Time

Pulpit Time
The New Testament clearly presents the qualifications for church leaders (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 and other related scripture). Therefore, a church body must prayerfully and carefully fill its pastoral position(s) based on these scriptural requirements. But once a pastor is selected and becomes fully accepted by the congregation (a transition time is always to be allowed/expected), how often is a pastor’s overall effectiveness in leading the church in obedience to God evaluated?
There are many aspects to a pastor’s overall duties (counseling, witnessing, visitation, etc.). But the primary duty of the pastor is to faithfully preach the Word of God to the flock entrusted to him (Acts 6:1-4). To allow the pastor time to effectively bring forth the Word, elders, deacons, administrators, teachers and others in the church support the overall ministry needs.
Critical Point – Before you consider evaluating your pastor’s sermons, you must start by evaluating your attitude. We often talk about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ sermons. How often do we prayerfully consider if we have properly prepared to hear the Word of God and if we have a good or bad attitude as we sit in the congregation? Ask yourself before God, ‘Do I have a critical spirit? Have I spent the last week studying Your Word?’
This devotion is focused on evaluating three specific aspects of your pastor’s Pulpit Time. When he preaches, is your pastor:
Engaging or Entertaining
  • Keeps your attention with the truth, power and application of God’s Word OR plays on your emotions with jokes, stories, and drama.
  • Committed to challenging and convicting your spirit OR determined to tickle your funny bone and/or getting you to cry.
    • There is absolutely nothing wrong with jokes and stories. Often these help set the tone, illustrate a point, or prepare a heart. But what is the primary focus of the sermon?
      • 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Prepared or Proud
  • In-depth analysis and explanation of God’s Word OR endless examination of the pastor’s life, experiences and personal preferences.
  • Seeking God each week in His Word and prayer; learning as He prepares to humbly bring the message OR dedicated to self-fulfilling activities and pursuing opportunities to demonstrate his self-proclaimed holiness; knowing he can rely on his wit and charm to deliver a stirring speech on Sunday.
    • Our pastors must have time to: focus on their families; relax and enjoy life; build strong relationships with other faithful men of God; etc. But is the pastor spending adequate time in prayer, Bible study and sermon preparation?
      • 1 Timothy 6:3-4 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,
Focused on God or gods
  • The Lord God Almighty is at the center of the sermons OR the focus of the message is programs, promotions and politics?
  • The full counsel of God’s Word is shared by speaking the truth in love OR seeker friendly talks leave everyone feeling good about themselves, their lives and their possessions while no one feels convicted of their sin or the urgent need for salvation in Christ
    • A healthy church will always have some programs to serve its members and its community; promote various activities and fundraisers; and engage in meaningful discussion and prayer concerning our governmental leaders. But the focus of a sermon must be on lovingly sharing the height and depth and width of God’s Word such that the lost are saved and that Christians continue to grow in grace and truth.
      • Ephesians 4:14-15 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ
This devotion can’t possibly cover all the various aspects of evaluating the effectiveness of your pastor’s sermons. The idea is to get you thinking about the content and primary focus of what you here delivered from the pulpit of your church. Please, pray for your     pastor(s) and always treat them with respect. You are under the authority of your pastor as long as you are part of his flock (1 Peter 5:5).  Also, I am not talking about one sermon you didn't like; an honest evaluation could take months or longer.

Praise and thank God for those pastors who are Engaging, Prepared and Focused on God!  Soak up the blessings as you sit under their teaching and pray that God will continue to use them powerfully.  Pray diligently for any pastors who may be Entertaining, Proud and Focused on gods.  Humble seek God's direction about if you can positively impact the situation while ensuring you and your family are in a church that faithfully proclaims the Word of God.
Father, forgive me for the times I have not openly received Your Word as it was faithfully preached; and thank You for the multitude of sermons that have helped educate me and shape my faith in You. I pray that this devotion will convict those who sit in congregations with a critical spirit. I also pray that it would help those who may be sitting in churches under preaching that does not honor You and Your Holy Word. Blessed be Your Holy name LORD! I pray in the name of my savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

In What Do You Trust

In What Do You Trust

In Judges Chapter 7, we read about Gideon and an army of Israelites going to war against their oppressors. Gideon and 32,000 men of Israel were preparing to battle a much larger army of Midianites and Amalekites (7:12). From a human perspective, this just didn’t seem fair. Gideon and his men would have to do something amazing to prevail!

But God, knowing the heart of man, made sure that Israel wouldn’t take credit for the victory He was about to provide.
  • Judges 7:2 And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’
In obedience to God, Gideon reduced his forces to 300 men. So, what had seemed unfair, became literally impossible. And yet it came to pass (7:22).

Our God is in the business of doing the impossible!

The Bible records over and over again how God has been faithful to His faithful children. And He is still faithful in our lives every single day.

Even our money ‘says’ ‘In God We Trust’. But do we really? If the truth be told, it is usually our money, intelligence, education, experience, diligence, strength, skills, friends, family, weapons and other resources that we really trust.

Whatever apparently impassable mountains you face, God is still faithful to His faithful children.  Truly trust in Him, even a little, and He will do something amazing!
  • Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.
  • Matthew 17:20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
  • Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

Dear Lord, Provider and Protector, You alone bring victory and meaning to our lives. Forgive us when we try to take credit for Your gracious gifts of love and mercy. May all we do bring glory to Your Name. When we trust in anything other than You we fail, regardless of what the outcome may appear to be. Thanks for the faith You have given us to trust Christ as Savior. I pray that the true story of Gideon will challenge and empower many to trust You in whatever battle, or decision, or crisis they may be facing. I praise You for Your faithfulness. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Jesus was Fully Human

Jesus was Fully Human
‘Jesus is God’ was the title of last week’s devotion (posted on June 8, 2014). That devotion was focused on Jesus’ deity. However, to more fully understand Jesus, we must also acknowledge and appreciate His humanity. The following verses reveal Christ the Man.
Jesus Lived a Human Life
  • He was bornLuke 2:11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
  • He came in the flesh1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
  • He grewLuke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
  • He hungeredMatthew 21:18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.
  • He thirstJohn 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”
  • He sleptMatthew 8:24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.
  • He weptLuke 19:41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,
  • He was temptedHebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
  • He grew wearyJohn 4:6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
  • He experienced sorrowIsaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 
  • He experienced deathJohn 19:30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Eye Witnesses Declared He was a Man
  • Peter Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know
  • John, Christ’s DiscipleJohn 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John the BaptistJohn 1:30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’
  • Pilate John 19:5 Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”
Jesus Gave His Life for Us
  • His death is the means by which our sins are forgivenHebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people
  • He paid the ransom to free us from the curse of sin and deathMatthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • His resurrection from death is the promise of our eternal life – 1 Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
Jesus’ Humanity was Necessary for His Role as Our Mediator before God
  • 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
Jesus Often Referred to Himself as ‘the Son of Man’
  • When speaking of His humanityLuke 9:58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
  • When speaking of the One who had been prophesiedMark 9:12 Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt?
  • When speaking of His authorityMark 2:10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,
The Bible is very clear, Jesus is God and Jesus was Fully Human! This may be very difficult for us to understand; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true (see Romans 11:33). Beware of any teaching that denies or minimizes either aspect of Jesus’ nature and essence. The miracle of Jesus, God in the flesh, was the only solution to the problem of sin that God could implement without compromising His character (Holy, Just, Righteous, Gracious, Merciful, Faithful, Unchanging, etc.).
God the Son humbled Himself before God the Father and came to Earth as the Man Jesus. While on Earth, in obedience to His Father, and without diminishing His deity, Jesus voluntarily surrendered independent control and revelation of His divine attributes to God the Father by means of God the Holy Spirit. 
  • Philippians 2:6-8 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (see also John 5:19, 5:30, 6:38, 8:28, 12:49-50)
Father in Heaven, thank You for declaring the deity and humanity of Jesus in Your Holy Word. May Your Holy Spirit reveal or confirm this truth in the hearts of those called to be Your children according to Your Will and for Your Glory. In the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Jesus is God

Jesus is God
One of the clearest truths presented throughout the Bible is that Jesus Christ is God. The Old and New Testaments declare this truth consistently and unapologetically. Unfortunately, many people don’t believe or understand this fundamental truth. Presented here are just a few of the scriptures that identify Jesus as God.
Jesus Claimed to Be God
  • John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (see Exodus 3:13-14, ‘I AM’ is God’s proper name (Yahweh), the self-existent One)
  • John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
  • John 10:30 I and My Father are one.” 
  • Matthew 26:63-64 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 
Isaiah Prophesied God Coming in the Flesh 
  • Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (see Matthew 1:23, Immanuel means ‘God with us’)
  • Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
New Testament Writers Declared that Jesus is God
  • John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: ('firstborn' refers to Christ's preeminence, not a chronological order - Christ was not created)
  • Colossians 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
  • Hebrews 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
  • 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
The High Priest, Other Jewish Religious Leaders and Other Jews Wanted to Kill Jesus Because They Understood His Claims to be God
  • John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
  • John 8:59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
  • John 10:31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 
  • Matthew 26:65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 
It is critical to understand that Jesus is not ‘a God’; He is ‘the God’!
  • John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
    • ‘Only begotten’ indicates one-of-a-kind, unique. Jesus is the only manifestation of God in the flesh. There is only one God! Yet God exists in three ‘persons’, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghosts. Despite what you may have been told, we will never be a God or the God.
An exhaustive study of the Deity of Jesus Christ means an exhaustive study of the entire Bible. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit of God will use the verses above to convict you of the imperative truth that Jesus is God:
  • For Conversion if you don’t know Christ as Savior and Lord.
  • For Comfort if you have doubts about Jesus Christ being God.
  • For Confirmation if you are already a believer in the Deity of Christ.
My intention for this devotion was to share His Words, not mine.
Father, may the truth of Your Holy Word by the power of Your Holy Spirit reveal or confirm the Deity of Christ to everyone reading this devotion. The understanding and belief that God came to earth in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven is crucial for a right relationship with You. Thank You for sharing this truth, although beyond our complete understanding, beautifully simplistic in its eternal significance. I pray in the Holy name of Jesus Christ my Savior, Amen.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

No PS’s

No PS’s 
After finishing a letter, note or email, people often add additional thoughts after their ‘signature’ as a postscript (abbreviated ‘PS’). A PS is a great way to append what you just wrote with any afterthoughts. A PS is kind of like saying, ‘Oh yeah, I almost forgot …’ 
But with God’s love letter to us, the Holy Bible, there are no PS’s.
  • Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
    • God has not revealed everything to us. Our finite minds are not capable of comprehending all His eternal truth, knowledge, judgment, blessings, etc.
    • In the Bible, God has shared all we need to know for salvation and to live a life honoring to Him.
    • God knows everything; He doesn’t forget and He doesn’t have afterthoughts.
Since the Bible is complete, God does not add to it. And He clearly warn us to maintain the purity of scripture.
  • Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you (see also Revelation 22:18-19).
  • Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. 6 Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
    • Manipulating or altering God’s Word is a dangerous game you don’t want to play.
We are commanded to follow the complete and pure Word of God.
  • Joshua 1:7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
  • John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.
    • We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we live a God honoring life in the power of the Holy Spirit by keeping the commandments.
Knowing the Bible is complete, we don’t alter it. By the power of the Spirit, we obey it. And as we grow in grace and truth, we learn to apply it to every part of our daily lives.
  • Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
    • Accept the Word of God as truth and search it daily for answers to your questions and confirmation of what your are told.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
    • God gave us His Word to:
      • Teach us what is right (doctrine).
      • Tell us what is wrong (reproof).
      • Show us how to take what is wrong and make it right (correction).
      • Counsel us on how to maintain a God honoring life (instruction in righteousness).
Have you read God’s love letter? He wrote it for you! Don’t waste your time waiting on some new revelation from God. Don’t insult God by trusting what others say without consulting His Word. He has given us what we need. There are no PS’s from God!
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. I praise You for sharing with us everything we need to know for eternal life through Jesus Christ and how to live a Godly life once we become Your children. I thank you for the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand and apply the truth of Your Word. You have shared Your Word according to Your perfect plan without a single afterthought. I am overwhelmed to watch Your Word change lives (as it has done and is still doing with me). May Your Word continue to spread across the face of the earth to every tribe, every tongue and every nation. In the name of Christ I pray, Amen.