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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Three (3) Opportunities




Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hang In There

The bible is filled paradoxes. A paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true. Scripture contains many paradoxes, telling us that the weak are strong, the empty are full, the slave is free, the cursed are blessed, and that death brings life. G.K. Chesterton gives this definition of a paradox: “a paradox is truth standing on its head shouting for attention”.

The 1st chapter of James shouts for our attention with paradoxical statements. The opening sentence of this epistle says: “when you fall into trouble be glad about it (paraphrased) in verse 2 and verse 12 is no different, “A person is blessed who endures trouble”. To the human, this makes absolutely no sense at all. I’m blessed because I hung in there through the midst of trying times. I’m blessed in trouble. I’m blessed with no money in my pocket. I’m blessed when my marriage is on the brink of divorce. I’m blessed when my child was shout in a drive-by-shooting. I’m blessed after receiving a pink slip on the job. Here’s another way saying: “Am I being blessed in the midst of hardship, trials, tests, troubles, sufferings, and pain?

James, is concerned that the pressure of life does not take over the life of the Christian to instability. So to encourage them he writes paradoxical encouraging statements to provide stabilizing wisdom to hang in there in when hanging in there ain’t easy. Listen again to these statements (but listen carefully):

“Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into a lot of trials.” – v. 2
“Let the brother of lowly degree (or in humble circumstances) be elevated in due time” – v. 9
“Let the rich be humble for his stuff will perish in due time” – v. 10-11
“Blessed is the person who hangs in there” – v. 12

Translations:

Amplified: Blessed is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive, the victor’s crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.

NLT: God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Phillips: The man who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is truly happy. For once his testing is complete he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love Him.

Msg: Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

Here’s the C.E V (Clint’s English Version): Hang in there, God wants to bless you.


Let’s open the shell of this oyster to uncover the pearls inside. The pearls of wisdom I see in the text are:

I. The PRINCIPLES OF HANGING IN THERE

Blessed is the man who endures temptation;

How can a believer conquer trials and temptations? Answer: A person can conquer trials and temptations with…

A. The Principle of Disposition – “Blessed…”

The text starts with the word “Blessed”. An interesting word within the circumstances of the text presented before us. Blessed is the same word used in Matthew 5: 3-12 in the Be Attitudes. Blessed means to be happy. It is the ability to live independently of daily cares and worries because his every breath and situation is in the hands of God.

The Greeks in using the word “blessed” used in reference to the dead who were “the blessed ones” because they reached the place free of trials, problems, test, struggles, and strains. They also used this word to refer to the socioeconomic elite (filthy rich people). In short, the Greeks felt that one had to be either dead or filthy rich to be considered blessed. However, if we stay with the Greeks usage and meaning of the word it says we have to die or be filthy rich in order to be blessed. Now, let’s talk for a moment, I don’t want to die to be blessed although for the believer dying is a blessing to spend eternity with God. And if I have to be rich to be blessed then I’m in big trouble right about now.

Thank God, that word “blessed” as a wider meaning. John McArthur explains the word to mean happiness is a divine pronouncement, the assured benefit of those who meet the conditions God requires. Therefore, blessed is a state of existence in relationship to God in which a person is blessed from God’s perspective even when he or she doesn’t feel happy or isn’t presently experiencing good fortune. Ultimately, blessed means the state of those who believe in Christ and in so possessing God, posses everything. Being blessed means possessing the favor of God. Warren Wiersbe says: James started and ended with joy to express to the reader that OUR OUTLOOK DETERMINES OUR OUTCOME!

It’s not in the believers DNA to live defeated lives. Charles Haddon Spurgeon says: “Untested treasures may be worthless; not so with those which have endured the fire”.

Here’s what we need to understand today, you’re blessed!

- Blessed when all hell breaks loose in your life
- Blessed if you loose your job
- Blessed if your marriage is falling apart
- Blessed if you loose your job
- Blessed if the doctor gives you a bad report
- Blessed during the gossip
- Blessed during times of test, trials, troubles, and strains
- Blessed in good days and bad days
- Blessed in up and downs
- Blessed rich or poor

You’re blessed because being blessed is a state of mind that lives independently of life’s difficulties.


B. The Principle of Decision – “Blessed is the man who…”

There is a principle here in the text that I believe is vital to your survival during difficulties. Here it is: “You gotta make the decision to hang in there”. The easy decision to make is quit, give up, sit down, and totally shut down. James is a practical letter written to believers who must make decisions to live in a manner that will glorify God. Look at all the examples of Scripture of people who had to make a choice to live for God no matter what comes there way.

- Abraham had to believe God’s promise of being the father of many nations while his wife Sarah laughed at him and God

- Noah built an ark for flood he’d never seen before and warned the people for 120 years that it was going to rain

- Job lost everything in one day but declares; “Tho He slay me yet will I trust him.”

- Jeremiah wanted to quit on God but couldn’t because he says: “It’s like fire shut up my bones.”

- The three Hebrew boys would not bow to the golden image, placed in fire, but decided to stand for God in the fiery furnace.

- Daniel kept praying before, during, and after the lion’s den.

- Rahab made the decision to hide the spies until the enemy left

- Ezekiel kept preaching in the valley of dry bones until they started living again

- Jesus decided to hang on the cross; “Not my will but thy will be done”.

- Paul and Silas decided to have a prayer meeting while in the jail

Point here is beautiful to behold, hanging in there is decision you must make!


C. The Principle of Determination – “Blessed is the man who endures temptation…”

When I started studying this text, I will admit I tried to re-visit the word “endure” for some new revelation. I was looking for a rhema word from the Lord to help e understand what endurance or hanging in there meant. The discovery I found wasn’t anything new. The word endurance means exactly what says hang in there. The Greek meaning comes back to the same meaning; hang in there. Hang in there under the pressures of life. The word in the original language is really intense. To remain under the pressure is not that of remaining under trial with resignation. That means hanging is not hanging in there living defeated or like a victim. The one thing God doesn’t want us to do is live life always feeling defeated and/or sorry for yourself.

The meaning of endure or persevere is descriptive language.

- Bearing up under the trying ordeal is to be our habitual practice.

- To remain under

- Robert Louis Stevenson says it like this; “Saints are sinners who keep on going.”

- Here’s my definition of the word endure, you gotta keep pushing.

By perseverance the snail made to the ark (Charles Haddon Spurgeon). Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s little nut that held its ground. Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts (Coleman Cox). Though Christians be not kept altogether from falling, yet they are kept from falling altogether (William Secker)


II. The PURPOSE OF HANGING IN THERE

“…for when he has been approved…”

Why is it important for us to hang in there? What’s the purpose? Why so much talk about endurance? What’s at the end of this? I prefer to give up rather than deal with this mess?

Have you ever made statements like these are similar statements? Before you totally loose your mind this explains the purpose for enduring hardships. Here’s the purpose, “for when he has been approved”.

In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens, to stop the practice of shaving down the coins then in circulation. But some money changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money. There were men of honour who put only genuine full weighted money in circulation. Such men were called approved. It is said that we are put to the test for the purpose of being approved, and having me specifications, having the stamp of approval placed upon one.

Enduring and coming out of the test is God stamping His approval on your faith.

I remember a sermon preached by Pastor Maurice Watson, “It’s only Test. He gives an illustration of going to the doctor to his annual check up. The doctor wanted to check the strength of his heart so he placed Pastor Watson on a treadmill and explained to pastor Watson what the test entail. The doctor says; I’m going to start the treadmill and each progression is going to get faster and faster in an incline. The purpose of this test is to test your endurance. The treadmill began and pastor Watson says it was a breeze for him. He was an athlete. This was nothing for him. The doctor warned him that he was going increase the speed and incline of the treadmill. It became a fast walk. The instructed pastor Watson that the speed and incline was going to increase, his walk became a jog. The speed and incline increased and his jog become a run. The doctor says this one is going to prove your endurance. Both the speed and incline were increased to full blown. Pastor Watson describes the experience as a person running for his life of which he ultimately looked at the doctor and told to stop this thing, man, you trying to kill me.

- The purpose of hanging in there is to pull the best out of you

- The purpose of hanging in there is to glorify God: 1 Peter 1:7 (NKJV) - that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

Hanging in there is for sole purpose of glorifying God.


III. The PROMISE FOR HANGING IN THERE


“…he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

What can we expect from hanging in there?

The promise of the text for those who hang in there is this the crown of life. The believer who endures the temptations of life shall be crowned with life itself, eternal life, life that will go on and on, never ending. This is living life with the hope of a better tomorrow but don’t limit tomorrow to eternity for that’s the ultimate life for us to live.

- We have life now

This text not only speaks to our future life but it encourages us in living for today. The sad indictment is that the pressures of life causing men and women to take their own lives to escape the stress and frustration that life brings. However, this text encourages that we live today in order to live tomorrow. We live today so that we may see a better tomorrow. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalms 23:6)”.

- We have life in the future

We not only have life today but we also have life eternally. Just imagine the actual moment when Christ will crown us with the crown of life. The crown of life will fill us with unbroken joy and rejoicing. The crown of life will bestow on us honor and glory. The crown of life will give us a deep and perfect sense of victory and triumph. The crown of life will conform us to the image of eternal royalty.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

“For our conversation [behavior] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

“And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

The crown is the emblem of spiritual success, given by the King of the universe to those who keep their faith in the midst of suffering and temptation. Life should be taken as identifying the reward and that reward is life itself.

O the friends that now are waiting
In the cloudless realms of day
Who are calling me to follow
Where their steps have led the way

They have lead aside their armor
And their earthly course is run
They have kept the faith with patience
And their crown of life is won

Monday, March 15, 2010

67th Church Anniversary-Thank You

Thank you to everyone who shared in our 67th Church Anniversary. Your support in services, prayers, and finances has encouraged our church family in more ways than one. Many friends and family members came out to help us celebrate this special day and we say thank you for encouraging us with your presence. We were surprised with the presence of a dear friend and member, Donna Bell and her brother Kenneth Bell. Donna moved away about 4 years ago to Erie, Colorado. It was good seeing her and her brother who lives in Lancaster, Ca.

I continued our series, “Practical Christian Living” with our focus on James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is tried, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord promises. Sermon topic: Hang In There. It was truly a message that we needed to hear as a church and as individuals. I will post full manuscript later this week, if I get a chance.

We didn’t catch any in the net yesterday but we pray seed fell on good ground.

After our morning service, we shared in a good meal prepared by the members of the church.

Our afternoon service started a little late of which I apologize. We’re not used to having a two (2) hour break between services now that our service is at 11:15. Before our break between services was 3-4 hours. But overall, the day was good and Tracy did a great job coordinating the service.

Pastor Ronald Saunders preached us crazy with a message from Exodus 15 entitled: How I Got Over? Good and timely message for all present. Thank you, pastor.

As well in our afternoon service we gave honor to Deacon Charles Loud. Many of you know he’s been struggling with health issues for the last year. He’s contributed a lot to the ministry over the years and as a church we thought it was good to honor him in the service. He came to church in the morning service but was unable to attend the afternoon service. Deacon Loud, thank you for your service to First Goodwill Church. God is not unjust to forget your labor of love that you’ve shown to the members of First Goodwill.

I hate spring forward! I need my extra hour of sleep.

I do request that we keep the family of Damon K Hill in your prayers as they mourn his passing. A loss is a loss and loosing a loved is hard to handle under any circumstance.

May God continue to richly bless until we meet again.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Current Event Preaching

There is a rise in what I call “current event preaching”. Current event preaching is taking the latest current event or hot topic of the world and building a sermon around it. I have mixed emotions about it. On one hand, I think it can be very beneficial because people in our churches (as well as society) are looking for answers to explain all the chaos taking place in our world. And then, I believe it can be very dangerous and harmful because our attempts to answer people’s concerns can lead to stripping the text from true interpretation. It is the heart of a pastor to wants to address issues that affect the members and I can truly appreciate that. However, there are others who use current event preaching as a form sermon preparation cheating. You don’t have to work hard to talk about the hot topics.

But if we must, allow me to suggest what I believe to be helpful hints when discussing current events:

Point People To God – It’s important to remember the sovereignty of God in all situations. Yes, God is sovereign and He’s not an angry God sitting in heaven waiting and wanting to rain down terror on the wicked. No God is a loving God who cares for humanity. In the midst of adversity, people doubt God knows what He’s doing and it’s the responsibility of the preacher/teacher to remind them of what kind of God we serve. We may not understand everything that takes place but God knows more than we do. We have to trust Him, no matter what!

Stick to the Bible – Let scripture do the explaining. Stay away from your opinions, ideas, and philosophies. The bible has the answers to our questions. We may not like the answer but it does give an answer.

Pick and choose the current event wisely – There’s just some stuff we don’t need to discuss from the pulpit. I heard a guy preach a sermon on Michael Vick’s conviction for dog fighting, WHY! Another person preached a sermon of Tiger Woods, FOR WHAT! These topics are not worth the time and energy.

Lead people in a time of prayer – The best response to life’s questions is a prayer response.

Friday, March 5, 2010

May I Have This Dance

A few years ago, Tracy and I attended a class for pastors and their wives. The discussion was good and very helpful. One of the topics that came up was the do’s and don’ts for the pastor, here’s one of the don’ts, “Pastors shouldn’t dance!” Immediately everybody started commenting but they were commenting on the holy dance (or the shout). I knew what he was talking about and asked him to clarify what dancing he was talking about and of course it was not “the shout”.

This week, I received a text message from a member of the church asking me, “Is dancing a sin?” The question being asked had to do with dancing at parties, weddings, for leisure, exercise, etc.

Allow me state an objection as well as explain my conviction on the matter:

First, I think we’ve made Christian living entirely too complicated with do’s and don’ts that have no biblical soundness but filled with philosophy and opinions. Therefore, painting a picture of Christian as boring. Being a Christian is not boring. We have our challenges but this lifestyle is refreshing and joyful.

Secondly, my answer to the text message question was this: “Dancing is morally neutral. There’s nothing wrong with dancing in and of itself. However, it’s your motive while dancing that makes it sinful”. Dancing in a seductive way that will entice a people to sin makes dancing a problem for the believer.

The bible speaks of dancing as being a leap for joy (Eccles 3:14, Job 21:11, Isaiah 13:21). It is also symbolic for rejoicing as seen in Psalms 30:11 which says: “You have turned my mourning into dancing”. One of the most popular illustrations for dancing is David in 2 Samuel 6 where he danced out of his clothes before the ark of God rejoicing or shouting (doing his holy dance). Footnote: David got away with dancing out of his clothes but you need to keep your clothes on.

Dancing, biblically, was reserved for religious worship and festivities and the gradually became a practice of common life on occasions of rejoicing as seen in Jeremiah 31:4, “Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, and shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice”. The women of scripture danced by themselves and that explains why many times we see women dancing by themselves at functions, it was a biblical practice. As well as, many guys can be jerk when it comes to dancing because they dance with their eyes and not with their legs.

The bible is very clear that dancing is a time of rejoicing. As well, dancing can be very therapeutic to escape the pressures of life. Dancing is a form of exercise to burn calories. Dancing can a time of bonding for married couples (Christians and pastors).

There are many dances that are fun and non-seductive. For instances, I like the Cupid Shuffle, Electric Slide, Macarana, break dancing, pop-lock, the jerk, etc. These dances can be done with a group of people without becoming seductive and sinful. For couples: the Cha-Cha, Salsa, Chicago Stepping, etc are fun and it may help enhance the romance level of your relationship. Many people met their mates dancing somewhere before you got saved so why stop now!

Bottom-line: Dancing is not sinful. It’s what you do with it like anything else makes it sinful.

So dance like David, but keep your clothes on.

Peace and Blessings