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Big Problems With The First Family

Big Problems With The First Family

“…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” – Acts 16:31
Let’s talk about the big problems of the first family.

No, I’m not referring to the President and the First Lady, but to the original first family, Adam and Eve. They were also the first family to have big problems–I mean big problems. Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, and their sin infected the whole human race.

They had two boys, Cain and Abel, and the problem of sin carried over to their children’s lives. Cain became so jealous of Abel’s blessings that he murdered him.

The first family had real problems–from Adam and Eve’s simple disobedience, to seeing one of their children murder his brother. The family of man still struggles with the same problem of sin today. But God has a solution in the person of Jesus Christ, Who came to save us from our sin problem. When a person looks to Christ, in faith, for salvation from sin, it breaks the negative chain of sin that enslaves people and families.

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one the many will be righteous.” – Romans 5:19
A common question is, “How can a loving God allow so much suffering and evil in the world?” It’s a tough question that philosophers and theologians have struggled with forever. There is no completely adequate answer, but it’s important to remember that God is blamed for a lot of things that man does wrong.

When God created man He gave us all a free will. He didn’t program us as robots to always do what’s right or what He wants. Robots have no choice, but humans do. We can choose to trust and obey God–or do things our own way.

From the first man and woman, each person has chosen to go his or her own way rather than God’s way. The result of man’s sin is disease, suffering, and death.

God has done something pretty dramatic to confront the problem: He humbled Himself to become one of us, in the person of Jesus Christ, to show us how to live. Even more, Christ came to die for us. Through faith in Him, we begin to reverse this cycle of evil and suffering.

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The Local Church And The Neighborhood Bar

The Local Church And The Neighborhood Bar

“…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews10:25
Have you ever thought of the similarities of the local church and the neighborhood bar?

In both places:

…people come looking for fellowship;
…people want to go where others know their name;
…people want to go where they are accepted;
…people want to go where their spirits will be lifted;
…people are united around one theme;
…people go where they like the music.

Like a priest, the bartender serves by listening to people’s troubles. But the differences are profound. The bar is centered on booze and the church is centered on Jesus Christ. The bar offers a way to escape problems. The church offers a way to face them, get through them, and overcome them.The spirit inside the bar lowers one’s guard when it comes to temptation and sin. The spirit of the true church encourages people to turn from sin and turn to God.

The bar may be a substitute for the environment of the church, but it never comes close to providing the meaning and purpose found in a Christ-centered church.

THE LIFE OF THE NEW MAN IN JESUS CHRIST

THE LIFE OF THE NEW MAN IN JESUS CHRIST

Col. 3:12-17; Ps. 150; Luke 6:27-38

“Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38).
This is the new and radical teaching of Jesus. He is describing a new way of living in this world, not for ourselves and our pleasures, but for God and our neighbor. As Christ loved us, so are we to love and serve others. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Christ is our example in this. As he gave his life on the cross to redeem us, so we should pour out our life in love and service of our brothers. We cannot redeem them as he did, but it is the pattern of his life that we are to imitate. If we do this, God will greatly reward us. “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap” (Luke 6:38). In a nutshell, “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). And God will reward us to the degree that we give to others, “for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38).
If we want a greater reward, we should give more. We can give our money, our time, and our talents. We can give by preaching the gospel to bring the light of Christ, the light of the word of God, to those who are in the darkness of depression. We can give by giving good example, by giving the witness of our way of life, by renouncing the values, ways, and fashions of the secularized culture around us. We give light to others by not imitating this culture, but by rather being “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16).
We can help others by giving them the example of a Christian life, of a simple life, not a worldly life. And if we are priests, we are to give good example, not presenting ourselves as worldly people, as secularized people, but as persons consecrated to God, dressed as priests, which is a sign of our consecration to God, a sign which helps both ourselves and others, reminding both them and us of God and of the beauty of a life consecrated to him.
And if we are priests, we are to present ourselves as persons dedicated to preaching the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ through the mystery of his cross and resurrection. Only in this way will we ever by able to attract vocations. We will never attract priestly vocations by presenting ourselves as secularized persons, primarily interested in social problems.
As priests we can also help others, as well as attract vocations, by our silence. The prayerful silence in our religious and priestly community houses gives these houses an atmosphere of prayer and recollection, and makes them houses of prayer, sacred places, oases of heavenly peace in the midst of the cacophony of the desert of this world.

Evening Message for August 31, 2014

“Moses’ God”

Exodus 3:1-12

Moses was minding his own business. Or rather he was minding his father-in-law’s business. He was just keeping his father-in-law Jethro’s flocks. He had put behind him the incidents in Egypt. The awful oppression which his people were under. he beatings the Egyptians gave to the children of Israel. The kind of injustices which had caused him to kill an Egyptian. He had also forgotten the attempt to be a leader for his people and the fact that he had fled from Pharaoh. All Moses was thinking about was his job and his wife Zipporah and Gershom his son. Just like us he was probably wondering if the Braves would ever make it into the World Series.

God on the other hand was thinking about other things. God was actively thinking about the way that the Children of Israel were being treated. And God remembered the promise given to Abraham and Sarah that their offspring would be a great nation. God remembered the plan to bring them out of slavery and into a land flowing with milk and honey so that they could be a blessing unto the nations. While Moses was thinking about the Braves, God was planning to save Moses’ people.

God could not forget the slavery of the children of Israel. So God sent an angel to appear to Moses. As Moses was keeping his father-in-law’s sheep the angel appeared to him as a burning bush and said, “Hey you, Moses, take off your shoes and listen to me. I am the God of your ancestors and I have heard the cries of my children as they toil in slavery in Egypt. So I have come to deliver them. I will save them and take them to a land flowing with milk and honey. And I want you Moses to go to Pharaoh and lead my people out of slavery.”

I’m sure Moses was a little overwhelmed to say the least. It’s not everyday that God talks to you out of a burning bush. But Moses was also scared. You see he didn’t understand that God was going to go before him and do the important stuff to free the people of Israel. Moses thought God wanted him to do it all by himself. How was helpless little Moses supposed to free the children of Israel from slavery. So Moses said, “Well, uh, God, or whatever your name is, I most respectfully decline your invitations. Because most humbly speaking, How in the World do you expect me to do that! Pharaoh will kill me if I try to free his slaves I will never see my family and children again.”

God could see that Moses was worried. Our Lord is all knowing after all So God said, “Look Moses, you won’t be doing it alone. I will be with you and I will be guiding you. Look Moses I am in control I know you are worried so I will make you a promise. You go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of slavery and I will lead you safely back to this mountain to worship me.”

God never changes. Some people do not realize this and they think that God was different in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. But God is changeless, the same tomorrow today and forever. The God which spoke to Moses is the same as the God which came to die for our sins.

The story of God calling Moses out of a burning bush is an example of the way that God is. God saw the need that the Israelites were in Egypt and God came down to deliver them. In the same way our Lord sees the need of the people of this world to be saved. And so God has made a way for us to be saved from our slavery to sin.

God is the same today and forever. In the past, God promised Moses that he would not be alone. Moses couldn’t save himself or his people but God promised to do it for him. Today God promises that through the Blood of Christ we will be saved from our slavery to sin. We don’t have to do it ourselves it has been done for us.

The meal which we will take part in later in this worship. service is a sign of this Our gracious God gives us good gifts. God sent Christ so that through the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood we could receive everlasting life. And in the celebration of Holy Communion we remember that gift and give thanks for it. And through this act of worship God feed us the spiritual food we need God has not changed. . God still saves. This meal is our sign and promise that God saves us. Let us partake in Joy!

Each Word A Gift

EACH WORD A GIFT

“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift”. 
Eph 4:29 EHP 

Amongst the many other problems of the age in which we live is the difficulty people have with controlling their tongues. Foul language is commonplace in work situations and there is hardly a movie that does not contain obscenities. Some people cannot put a sentence together without using “four-letter words”. 

It is obviously not a new factor. Paul would not have called on Christians to avoid foul language if it had not been a problem amongst the community at Ephesus two thousand years ago. Instead they are to speak in such a way that they build people up, inspire them and strengthen them. “Christians should be characterized by words which help the people they are speaking to. As Moffatt translates it, Eliphaz the Temanite paid Job a tremendous compliment. ‘Your words’, he said, ‘have kept men on their feet’ (Job 4:4). Such are the words that every Christian should speak” (W. Barclay, The Epistle to the Ephesians, p104). 

Words of encouragement build other people up. So do words of appreciation and thanks. Judiciously offered, words of advice can keep people on their feet and even start them on a new journey, or guide them to new heights of endeavour. Try to think of things people have said that have helped you and then ask yourself if you could do the same for other people. A compliment here, a sentence or comment of thanks there, a note of positive hopefulness somewhere else can make a world of difference to a number of people. If you see each word as a gift to give you can make a big difference. 

Lord, help me to speak beautifully and wisely.

Friendship

Friendship

“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” NKJ – Proverbs 18:24
A real friend is one of life’s greatest blessings. In this day of temporary relationships, true friendship is rare. How can you find and develop lasting friendships? Proverbs gives us some guidance:

To have a friend, be a friend. Go out of your way to show that you are interested in their lives. Ask questions.

To cement a friendship, be loyal. Demonstrate your willingness to love them unconditionally, even when your friend is not lovable. Be supportive even when your friend is not popular.

To experience lasting friendship, be an encourager. A true friend is someone who tells the truth, but always with your best interests at heart.

There is someone who wants to be your friend, who is interested in you, who is loyal and supportive, and encourages you to do your best. That person is Jesus Christ. Decide today to let Him be your best friend.

Morning Message for August 31, 2014

“Are You Living or Just Surviving?”
Matthew 16:21-28

Are you living or just surviving? There’s a big difference between the two. It’s a matter of quality of life. To merely survive means that your body is functioning but there is no meaning to life. Real life means living with a purpose. Living means having a life that is full and meaningful.

Quality of life is an important issue for many people today. The bookstores are full of self-help books. All of them designed to help you find more meaning in life. People do all kinds of things seeking meaning. People take assertiveness training or join encounter groups. The rise in the occult and New Age religions is a result of people looking for purpose and direction. Some throw themselves into their profession because they hope to find purpose and meaning there. All this activity; just to improve their quality of life.

Of course there are some who don’t try to improve the quality of their life. These are the ones who lose themselves in drugs or gambling or loose lifestyles. They are really trying to escape the meaninglessness of life. They are trying to hide from themselves and others the utter emptiness of their lives. They are merely surviving instead of really living.

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”(John 10:10) Jesus says he can give us an abundant life. A life with meaning; a life with purpose. If we will believe in him and follow him, we will be living and not merely surviving. This is the answer to what so many people are seeking. It is the promise of salvation from the emptiness so many are trying to escape.

But Jesus reveals some truths about discipleship in his words to his disciples from Matthew. He says, “If any want to become my followers, let then deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” This seems contrary to everything that the world is doing to find fulfillment. They aren’t trying to deny themselves; they are trying to actualize themselves. The world glories in the self. They even have a magazine by that name: the product of the me generation. They don’t want to lose themselves instead they spend a lot of time trying to find themselves.

And what is this stuff about taking up a cross. A cross is and instrument of torture. One who carries a cross is one who is bearing humiliation and shame. One who bears a cross is one who bears public reproach. Is Jesus saying that we must be humiliated and tortured and ridiculed to find abundant life? That doesn’t make sense!

And then Jesus says, “For those who want to save their lives will lose it and those who lose their lives for my sake will find it.” That makes little sense at first glance. Logic dictates that if you lose your life you lose it, period. Logically, if you want to save your life you should hold on to it with all your might.

What Jesus says here may seem illogical, but it is ever so true. Let’s begin with “those who lose their life will find it.” The story goes that a soldier was wounded on a cold battlefield. The medic on the scene quickly realized that a major artery had been severed and he could not stop the bleeding. No matter what the medic did, by the time help arrived the patient would bleed to death. So he quickly removed the blankets and took off the soldier’s coat. The cold air took effect and hypothermia set in and the man froze to the point that his heart stopped. The soldier was rapidly moved to a medical facility where the artery could be sealed. Then he was revived. By inducing hypothermia the medic had stopped the bleeding and bought the patient some time. In order to save that soldier’s life he had to lose it. It was a risk. There was the chance that the doctors couldn’t revive him. Or that brain damage would still occur because of lack of oxygen. But otherwise the man would have surely bled to death. But what would it have profited him to ward off hypothermia and lose the patient. Likewise “what does it profit them if they gain the whole world and lose their life?”

Let me tell you another story; a more familiar one. Jesus took up a cross and “endured great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes.”(Matt. 16:21) He died on a cross for the sins of the world. But he rose again to give eternal life. He could have avoided the suffering and the death, but he would have lost eternal life of all of us. Instead he lost his life so that he could win us eternal life.

If you think about it, it really makes sense that the only way to get a meaningful life is to lose our life. First of all Jesus said, “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Jesus is not just talking about losing our life period, but giving it away for Christ and his kingdom. That makes sense because meaning is not found in ourselves. You can’t find purpose by indulging yourself. The world has been trying that since the dawn of time and it hasn’t worked yet. Purpose is found in Christ. Meaning is not found in serving ourselves but in serving others in the name of Christ. Abundant life isn’t derived from humans but it is given from above by Almighty God.

Are you living or just surviving? The answer to this question is a matter of life and death, because merely surviving is actually a living death. While living means having an abundant and meaningful life, are you aimlessly wandering through your days with no purpose other than to keep your physiological functions working so you can stay out of the cemetery? Or is every day full of the Love and Joy of your Heavenly Father?

Do you want an abundant life, or a more abundant life? Give your life away, then you will find it. Give your heart to Jesus in devotion, and he will give you enough love to overflow your heart. Give Jesus your hands and feet in service, and he will fill your life with inner joy. Take up your cross of suffering and shame so that others may see the way to eternal life.

Don’t get me wrong, if you choose an abundant life you will suffer. If God didn’t spare His Son from suffering, would He spare you? That suffering is necessary so that others can know the joy of salvation. People will ridicule you for giving yourself away. They will despise you for denying the material wealth and ideologies that they hold to. They will persecute and mistreat you for bringing Good News and liberation to those who they oppress.

But the reward is great. For what is it to preserve you life when that life is a living death? Isn’t it better to give up surviving so that you can start living? Your reward for giving yourself away to Christ will be sharing the wonderful saving work of God in this world. And when Jesus returns, and he will return soon, and everyone is repaid for how they lived, you will know an even greater reward.

STRIVE TO ENTER BY THE NARROW DOOR

STRIVE TO ENTER BY THE NARROW DOOR

Isa. 66:18-21; Ps. 116; Heb. 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30

“Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24).
We see here that we have to strive to do the will of God. God justifies and saves us by the work of Christ on the cross, where he suffered our punishment for our sins for us, thus freeing us from the wrath of God against us for our sins, and by rising from the dead Christ illuminates us from within with the splendor of his own righteousness, making us resplendent in God’s eyes. This is the work of Christ, not our work (Rom. 3:28), and this work makes us righteous before God. We receive this justification through our faith in Christ, by which we put our trust in him for our forgiveness, justification, and salvation. All this is through the work of Christ, not through our own work (Rom. 3:28), and we receive it by faith.
If we are truly justified by the work of Christ, through our faith, without our works (Rom. 3:28), then we will strive to enter by the narrow door and strive to do the will of God. To grow in progressive sanctification we must strive and make a strong effort to cooperate with God’s grace. Indeed, we must “enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14).
The narrow door is a life lived completely for God. The wide gate, on the other hand, is the lifestyle of the world, a worldly life, a life centered on ourselves, and its goal is our own pleasure in the things of this world. This is the door of the many, and its end is destruction. It is the wide and easy way. The other way is narrow and difficult. It is the way of the followers of Christ. It is the way of self-denial, the way of the few. Only a few choose this difficult way, which is a life of sacrifice. But this is the way that leads to life. And today Jesus tells us, “Strive to enter by the narrow door” (Luke 13, 24). We have to make a real effort to enter by this narrow way.
This invitation is for all. Those who are truly justified through the merits of Christ persevere and enter heaven by choosing the narrow way of life. It is an error to think that Christ has saved us if we do not do the will of God and if we choose the wide and easy way of the many that leads to destruction. If we do not choose the narrow way of life, we were never saved. Choosing this narrow way shows that we really were justified and saved, when we put our faith in Christ. Those who think they are saved but do not choose this narrow way of life have deceived themselves. Those who do not strive to enter by the narrow door, if they think they are saved, are deceived.
And what is this narrow way of life like? It is the way of evangelical poverty. It is the way that renounces living like a rich man amid his pleasures, for “truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:23-24).
And what does this mean? It means that we are not to live like a rich man, surrounded by his pleasures; we are not to live a worldly life, a life of pleasure in the things of this world, but rather a life of self-denial, for “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24 NKJV). This saying is directed to everyone, to everyone who wishes to follow Jesus. In other words, anyone who wishes to follow Jesus must deny himself and live a life of self-denial. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself” (Matt. 16:24 NKJV). Hence our life is to be focused on Christ, not on ourselves and our own pleasures in this world.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). A rich man, living in the midst of his pleasures, is a person who wants to save his life in a worldly way, and he will lose it; while one who denies himself for the sake of Christ loses his life in this world by choosing the narrow path of life, but he truly finds his life with God. “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).
The narrow door is the door of dying to the world and to a worldly life. It is the door of dying to the life of a rich man, surrounded by his pleasures. Hence I should glory only “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). I should be crucified to the world, and the world to me if I am on the narrow way of life, the way of denying myself in this world. I should die to the lifestyle of the secularized culture around me.
I should not love my life in this world in the sense of living for its pleasures in the things of here below. Rather, I should hate my life in this world, that is, I should hate living it in a worldly way. Only in this way will I be able to truly save my life, for “he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).
In this way I will live for one master only, and not for God and also for mammon, the riches and pleasures of this world, which is to live for two masters, for that is impossible, for “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
So we see that we have to cooperate with the grace of God if we want to grow in holiness. And if we do not “strive to enter by the narrow door” (Luke 13:24), we were deceived if we thought we were justified and saved.

Don’t Steal, Share

DON’T STEAL, SHARE!

“The thief must give up stealing, and instead work hard and honestly with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the needy”. 
Eph 4:28 NEB 

Some people, when they have “gone astray” and then found the error of their ways, are so filled with gratitude that they then dedicate themselves to helping others in distress or need. One such person was Chuck Colson, one of the close group around Richard Nixon at the time of the Watergate scandal. After serving a term of imprisonment during which he came to know Christ, he then spent himself working for other prisoners to draw them to Christ. He “shared” Christ. 

In describing the various ways in which the new Christians needed to walk in the light, Paul always pointed out the sin to forsake and then the positive, creative action that should take its place. For those previously involved in theft, they should both work and do something useful in order to share with others. Sharing has always been a basic activity of people who are Christians. Jesus “shared” when he fed the multitude. In the Old Testament, Boaz had shared when he allowed Ruth to pick the leftovers in his corn field (Ruth 2:1-22), which shows that Christians carried on the example they found in the Judaism from which they sprang. After Pentecost, the early Christian believers shared their substance with each other. 

There is a great need today for Christian believers to share with the needy, whether they have been stealing previously or not. The scarcity of jobs leaves millions starving in most parts of the world. Remember that – and find meaningful ways to offer real help to those who need it most. 

Lord, help me to help others