Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day 2010

This is Father’s Day and I have been thinking about fatherhood and all that is involved.

There are good dads in this world who work very hard to care for their families. There are those who are biological fathers only and have no part in the lives of their children. One-third of America’s children are not living with their natural fathers. I want to thank those men today who step up and become fathers to a child whose father has made mistakes and for what ever reason can’t be a real dad to his child. There are fathers who are lazy and don’t try to take care of their families. Now, I want to say something here that some might think is harsh, but I don’t think very much of a man that will not take care of his family!

This week I have been thinking about my dad. I think it’s sad that many times in life we don’t fully appreciate a person's life until he is gone. Forgive me for making references about my dad for a little while this morning. He has been gone to heaven for some years now but I think of him often. My dad was not perfect and he made lots of mistakes but he was still my Dad.

All of us think about our dads in different ways. Some may think good thoughts about their dad. Some may think bad thoughts. Some may have to pray that God would help them forgive their dad for failing them.
I was blessed with a good dad.

This morning I want to share with you from Psalm 128 that tells what a good dad can be.

A good dad is one who fears the Lord and walks in His way.
Blessed is every one that feareth [shows reverence to] the Lord; that walketh in his ways. Psalm 128:1.
The word blessed sticks out in this chapter.

I don’t know much about my dad’s life before he married my mother. I do know that he came from a very poor family. I do know that he only had a third grade education. I do know that he was raised in the Depression time. I do know that he was not raised in a very spiritual home. I do know that it wasn’t until he and my mother married and had children that he began to fear the Lord in a real sense of the word.

My older brother begin playing with some boys whose dad happened to be the pastor of the Nazarene church in our home town. Our uncle lived next door to the church and that pastor came and asked if the children could come to Sunday School. To make a long story short, it wasn’t long until our whole family was in church. Dad became the Sunday School bus driver. Soon our mother found the Lord as her personal Saviour. It wasn’t until later in life that Dad found the Lord and begin to walk with the Lord. (Never give up praying for a person who needs God.)

Even though Dad didn’t know the Lord as his personal Saviour yet he still taught us children to fear the Lord. When it came to church time we were there! Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday night, revival time we were there. Sometimes revival lasted for as much as two weeks, but we were there! We were taught to fear the Lord!

“Blessed is every one who fears the Lord.”

I am glad that God is a longsuffering God. I don’t know why some of us take so long giving our hearts to God, but for whatever reason, we do. It was some years later that Dad began to walk with God and became a man of the word of God. But I do know that because he and our mother feared the Lord, had a lot to do with what I am spiritually today. Thank God for a dad and mother who fear the Lord.

A good dad is one who works hard to take care of his family.
For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.” Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. --Psalm 128:2-4
Dad taught us that hard work never hurt anyone.
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. --I Timothy 5:8.
Now it's hard to talk about one of my parents without including the other. Dad and Mother were good providers for the family. Dad worked at many jobs from ship yards to ice man for our home town. That was before I was born, but during my life as a child he worked in a saw mill. I never remember my dad being without work. He always found something to do. It may not have been work he enjoyed but he always had work, because he wanted to take care of his family. Mother also worked hard to help pay the bills and put food on the table and to buy us children clothes. Two jobs I remember Mother working at are packing strawberries and working in the scrimp factory. They set the example for us.

Dad and Mother taught us children to work. There was always something to do at our house. The girls had jobs and then we boys had jobs. I want you to know that we boys always had the harder jobs, or at least it seemed to me like they were. My sisters would have different thoughts about this.

Let me share with you just a few jobs we boys did: rake the yard, dig up the garden in the spring with a shovel, plant the garden, hoe the garden, milk the cow, and stake the cow out with a chain. One of our biggest jobs was to carry water from the well that had a pitcher pump on it that was about 50 yards from the house. (It seemed to me like it was a mile.) How many of you have had the privilege of drinking from the family water bucket with a dipper? Most days two or three buckets of water would do for the family. But there was more to this water hauling than what we drank. Saturday morning was wash day. Mother had a ringer type washing machine on the back porch. There was a number three wash tub sitting beside the washer. First, we carried water for the washer. Then, we carried water for the tub to rinse the clothes. There were eight people in our family and the washing was for the whole week. We had to fill each one of them many times. After we filled them up, we could go play but we had to be able to hear Mother when she called for more water. Enough about my family.

As I look around this church this morning I see families that I know teach their children the value of hard work. All of you were taught the value of work from childhood just like I was. I feel sorry for children that have everything handed to them. They are missing out on lots of blessings.

A God-fearing, hard-working family is a blessed family.
Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. --Psalm 128:1-2.
There are some blessing that I want us to see in this chapter for the person who walks with the Lord..
  • The Man who fears the Lord and walks in His ways is blessed. “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord.” “Count your blessing name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” If we walk with the Lord we can’t help but be blessed.
  • The man who is blessed is a happy man. “Happy shall you be.” Because we walk with the Lord we will find happiness!
  • It will be well with that man who does these things. "It shall be well with you." Matthew Henry’s commentary says, “Whatever befalls thee, good shall be brought out of it; it shall be well with thee while you live, ever yet better when thou diest, and better yet for all eternity.” The Word says, “God shall supply all of our needs according to His riches.”
  • These blessing shall come out of Zion. “The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion:” Zion was where the ark of the covenant was. The Ark represented the presence of God.
The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion. --Psalm 20:1-2
Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel. --Psalm 128:6.
I am not sure why the Lord let the Psalmist put this verse in but I think maybe he was thinking about us grandparents. Oh, hat joy grandchildren bring to us! When we grow tired we can send them to dad and mom!
If I had known how much fun grandchildren were I think we would have had them first! If you want to hear more about my grandchildren see me after church. It might take awhile!

Hanging on my desk is a reading that Pallie gave me in 1989 that I think every father needs to have:

God said, "Go! Don’t quit! Your work is not in vain. 
I’ll always go with you to strengthen and sustain.”
I said, “God, I’m convinced that I don’t walk alone, 
but there are days when I lack the courage to go on.”
God said, “Go on! Don’t you quit! Remember, I love you; 
Victory is just ahead and I will see you through."
--Terry Tanksley

Happy Father’s Day, dads!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lessons from the Seaside

We can learn a lot about our relationship with God by studying the life of Peter. His journey with Jesus is a study in contradictions.

In Matthew 14:28-30 In the midst of a raging storm, he impulsively climbed out of his boat at the invitation of Jesus to walk on water, only to divert his attention and sink like a stone.In Matthew 16:13-19 we read about His affirmation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” brought him high praise and the prediction he would someday lead the church. But we can read from Matthew 16:21-23 he soon fell from that great height, to receive a sharp rebuke.  Then in John 18:10,17, 25-27 after risking his life to defend his Master against a cohort of soldiers, he denied knowing Jesus to the rabble huddled in the courtyard at His trial. But, after Jesus’s death and resurrection, a seaside reunion with the risen Lord changed everything. Peter learned that being a disciple requires one primary qualification: a willingness to follow.

A lesson we learn is the futility of our labors on our own.
Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. John 21:3.
The disciples had just had an experience of a lifetime. They had watched their leader die! They were very sad until the truth of His resurrection became truth to them. They were at a point where they didn’t know what to do. These few men who were followers of Jesus didn’t know which way to turn. I think maybe that they had a long discussion about what to do and finally Peter said, “Well. I don’t know what you fellows are going to do but I going fishing. They all said “We are going, too!” This was not anything new to these fellows! That had done this before. They liked to fish. They fished for a living.

Let me share some things that I see in this story:

It was night.

Do you ever feel sometimes in your Christian walk that it’s nighttime? That what you are doing is a waste of time? These men were doing what they knew how to do and it became nighttime. They were working just as hard as they knew how to work.

You might say to me, "Pastor, I pray and I believe God and I go to church. I read the word. I witness and yet I feel like I’m working in the dark. I can’t see any results. I can’t even feel God!" Maybe you have nights like Job did.
So am I made to possess months of vanity [futility] and wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day. --Job 7:3-4.
We need to remember that the night will end and the morning will come! Don’t jump out of your boat just because it’s night time, because the morning will come!

They were catching nothing.

Not only was it night but all of their efforts produced nothing! Cast after cast was made, and time after time the net was drawn in and nothing in it but tangle and mud. Maybe this is what the book of Ecclesiastes meant.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. --Ecclessiates 2:1.
Now these fellows were not lazy, they stayed with it until morning.

When I go fishing and I don’t catch anything, I am soon ready to go home. I don’t stay with it very long at all.
Do you ever feel like that what you are doing in the kingdom is useless or vanity? Well, just keep on keeping on because God is watching and He will come through for you.

We need to understand that failure and disappointments happen in the most successful Christain lives. Alexander MacClaren said: “Christain work is often done with no results at all apparent to the doer, but be sure of this, that they who learn and practice the wholesome virtue of persistent adherence to the task that God sets them, will catch some gleams of a presence most real and most blessed, and before they die will know that their labour has not been in vain in the Lord, 'They that sow in tears shall reap in Joy.'”

The morning came.

Morning always follows the night! Isn’t that a revealing statement? On towards daylight as they are pulling the net out of the water for the last time, they hear a voice from the shore, "Have you any meat" This was not just a question, "Have you boys caught anything?" It was a statement that says anything that is big enough to occupy our thoughts and our efforts is large enough to be taken into His thoughts no matter how small! All of our toils and all of our anxieties, touch a chord that vibrates in the deep and tender heart of our Lord! This tells me that our Lord is interested in our poor fishing and our disappointments! This question was not just to find out how they had done fishing but it was meant to evoke the answer of “NO!” The consciousness of my failure is the pre-requisite to my appeal to Him to prosper my work under His direction. In order to find His help there must be a confession of our failure, of our inadequacy and a confession of His great power!

Then came the guidance of the Lord.

I want us to see something very important here and that is that the fisherman still did not know that it was Jesus talking to them. Look at verse 4:
But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
Now I have a question for you. What caused the fishermen to do what the Voice said from the shore if they didn’t know who it was? Maybe there was something about the Voice that caused them to obey, maybe they thought that the person on the shore saw something in the water that caused Him to say, “Cast your nets on the other side.” We can’t know for sure but what ever the reason, we know that they obeyed by faith.
We walk by faith and not by sight!
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. --Hebrews 11:1.
Faith means believing the invisible word of God! His command is followed by swift, unanswering, unquestioning obedience which turns to great blessings.
They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. --John 21:6.
The next thing I see is the revelation of the Lord.

Right in middle of pulling in the net full of fish, it dawned on John who it was on shore.
Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord! --John 21:7
The next thing we hear is that tempestuous Peter jumps into the water because he could not wait to visit with the Lord. After a night of toil and having catch nothing, the Lord is revealed to them.

I think that the Lord was there all the time. I think he saw them in the night working hard trying to catch some fish. After all he is Omnipresence. After all he gives us His grace! We need to remember about His grace. Grace is divine favor!

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace. 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun. 

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will up bear. 

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. 
--Annie Flint

His grace is always ready for us even when we can’t see Him! I think the Lord sees us when we are trying so hard to serve Him with little results and He is waiting for the right time to reveal Himself to us.
Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. --John 21:7
 (Some think that is was about 100 yards to the shore.) Then the other followers bring the boat load of fish to the bank.

Then we hear the words of Jesus, “Come and dine.”

Now think about this: As they came upon Jesus the first thing you see is a fire and upon the fire is a fish.
Somewhere Jesus had gotten a fish and bread somehow he had built a fire.
As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. He said, “Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.” --John 21:9-10
Now, listen! Bring the thing that you have done! Bring the prayers you have prayed! He can use what you have. Remembering that He gave us what we have! You may not feel that what you have is of importance to God but it is!
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. --Mark 17:41-44.

Little is Much When God is In It
In the harvest field now ripened,
There's a work for all to do.
Hark, the voice of God is calling,
To the harvest calling you.

Little is much when God is in it.
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There's a crown and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus' name. 

Does the place you're called to labor
Seem so small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He'll not forget His own. 

When the conflict here is ended
And our race on earth is run,
He will say, if we are faithful,
"Welcome home, my child, well done.
Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. --John 21:13.
God gave them a boat load of fish and now he is using what they had done to bless them with. Jesus not only provided the food but he served them also. There are rewards in serving the Lord.

When we come to the end of our fishing trip, when we work hard for God all our lives, when we come to the shore of heaven , there will be a great feast for us.
And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. --Revelation 19:6-9.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lessons from Mary and Martha

If Jesus Came To Your House
If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two, 
if He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you'd do? 
Oh, I know you'd give your nicest room to such an honored guest, 
and all the food you'd serve to Him would be the very best.
And you would keep assuring Him you're glad to have him there, 
That serving Him in your home is joy beyond compare. 
But when you saw Him coming, would you meet Him at the door, 
with arms outstretched to welcome in your heavenly visitor?
Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in,
or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they'd been? 
Would you turn off the radio and hope He hadn't heard,
and wished you hadn't uttered that last loud nasty word.
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out? 
Could you let Jesus come right in, or would you rush about?
Oh, I wonder if the Savior came to spend a day with you, 
would you just go on doing all the things you always do?
Would you go right on saying the things you always say? 
Would life for you continue as it does now day to day? 
Would our family conversation keep up it's usual pace, 
or would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace?
Would you sing the songs you always sing and read the books you read, 
and let Him know on which the things your mind and spirit feeds? 
Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you planned to go, 
or would you maybe change your plans, for just a day or so?
Would you be glad to have Him meet with all your closest friends,
or would you hope they'd stay away until His visit ends? 
Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on, 
or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?
It might be interesting to know the things that you would do, 
if Jesus came in person to spend the day with you!
--Louis Blanchard

This morning I want us visit a home that Jesus was a guest in. That is the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha .
38Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
 39And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
 40But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
 41And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
 42But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
--Luke 10:38-42
 Three people jump out at us: the guest, Mary and Martha.

The Guest.
Jesus had been ministering and teaching His disciples and was tired and came to the home of Martha and was invited in. This may not have been the first time and we know it was not the last that Jesus came to her home. This was not just any person that happen alone that she invited in but it was the Son of God! He was the King of Glory.

The late Dr. S. M. Lockeridge, a pastor from San Diego, California, said these words that describe her Guest best to me, in a sermon in Detroit in 1976:
That's My King
My King was born King. The Bible says He's a Seven Way King. He's the King of the Jews - that's an Ethnic King. He's the King of Israel - that's a National King. He's the King of righteousness. He's the King of the ages. He's the King of Heaven. He's the King of glory. He's the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that's my King.

Well, I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don't try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of the shore of His supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.

He's enduringly strong. He's entirely sincere. He's eternally steadfast. He's immortally graceful. He's imperially powerful. He's impartially merciful. That's my King. He's God's Son. He's the sinner's saviour. He's the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He's honest. He's unique. He's unparalleled. He's unprecedented. He's supreme. He's pre-eminent. He's the grandest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He's the supreme problem in higher criticism. He's the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He's the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That's my King.

He's the miracle of the age. He's the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He's the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He's available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He's the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That's my King.

Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He's the wellspring of wisdom. He's the doorway of deliverance. He's the pathway of peace. He's the roadway of righteousness. He's the highway of holiness. He's the gateway of glory. He's the master of the mighty. He's the captain of the conquerors. He's the head of the heroes. He's the leader of the legislatures. He's the overseer of the overcomers. He's the governor of governors. He's the prince of princes. He's the King of kings and He's the Lord of lords. That's my King.

His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . . but He's indescribable. That's my King. He's incomprehensible, He's invincible, and He is irresistible.

I'm coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can't contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can't get Him out of your mind. You can't get Him off of your hands. You can't outlive Him and you can't live without Him. The Pharisees couldn't stand Him, but they found out they couldn't stop Him. Pilate couldn't find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn't get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him and the grave couldn't hold Him. That's my King.

He always has been and He always will be. I'm talking about the fact that He had no predecessor and He'll have no successor. There's nobody before Him and there'll be nobody after Him. You can't impeach Him and He's not going to resign. That's my King! That's my King!

Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We're around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but in the end all that matters is God's power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? Forever and ever and ever and ever. . .And when you get through with all of the ever's, then . . .Amen!
This is who Martha invited into their home. Jesus will not go where He is not invited! We must invite Him into our spiritual homes, which are our hearts!
Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah. --Psalm 24:8-10.
John 11:5 tells us that Jesus loved the people of this house very much: “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” He came into this home more than any other home that we can find.

It was Martha who invited Jesus to her Home and made Him feel welcome. Christ's visit was a token of His love to this family and also to ours.

Now Martha was very worried about what she was going to serve her guest. Let's be fair with Martha. She was not lazy but rather very busy working to be the perfect hostess. On this day Jesus had come with His disciples, which would have made thirteen of them plus the three in Martha's family. That’s 16 right? There could have been lots more.

Look at verse one with me:
1After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
Now look at verse 17:
 17And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
 Maybe I have overlooked something, but I can’t find any place where the seventy left Jesus. Maybe Martha was overwhelmed with all the work that needed to be done, even if it was only 13 guests. This scripture in our text said that she became distracted with much serving. She might have been busy giving the servants orders but she could not keep up with all there was to do. The Message Bible said “She was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen”. She was so busy that she didn’t have time for Jesus even though He was the most important guest she could ever have. When we become a child of God do we find other things more important than we do Jesus?

Now we need to understand that what Martha was doing was not wrong in itself but there was something more important at that time. We need to understand that in the world that we live in, there are many things that calls for our attention.

We were in the homes of two of our daughters last week, and I couldn’t help but notice how busy they and their families were. The demand on their time was almost overwhelming. It reminded me of watching the little hamster running on a wheel inside a cage. Always running and never getting done running. I hope as they read this message they will find time to sit down at the feet of Jesus more often and listen for His words as Mary did.

The world we live in forces us to live in a very fast pace, just to keep up. I think that getting so busy with things that we think are important is part of the falling away time that the scripture talks about in II Thessalonians 2:
 1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
 2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
 3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Could it be that the devil knows that he can’t get us to fall any other way, therefore, he will cause us to be so busy that we don’t have time to visit with Jesus?

Well, Martha began to complain to Jesus because she couldn’t get Mary to help her. I can just see her calling to Mary for help. “Mary, come help me.” But, no Mary. “Mary, please come help me with this meal.” But, no Mary! “Mary! Do you hear me?” Mary might have said, “Okay! But wait! I want to hear what He is saying.”

Martha thought she could get help from the Master so she said in verse 40,
“Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.”
Jesus had somewhat to say to her. Now Jesus didn’t tell Martha that what she was doing was a sin but rather that what she was doing could wait for the more inportant things that he was saying at that time. Look at verses 41-42 with me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
In other words Mary chose to do with her time the most important things and that was to hear what Jesus was saying, but Martha was so busy working that she was missing out on what the Lord had to say.

 Mary was being a sponge while Martha was using a sponge!
Mary was sitting while Martha was stewing!
Mary was clinging to every word of Jesus while Martha was cleaning!
Mary was worshiping while Martha was working!
Mary was listening while Martha was losing out on what Jesus had to say!

Mary’s attention to Jesus was two part .
1. She sat and listened to what He had to say.
2. She gave to Him.

Go with me to John’s Gospel chapter 12:1-3:
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Now whether this was the same visit as recorded in the book of Luke, I am not sure, but in this passage we find the importance of Mary’s gift to Christ.

Beacon Bible Expositions calls this, “The extravagance of love for Christ.” A pound of this ointment was a year's wages! Her worship had turned into action! Some thought it was a waste but in verse 7 Jesus speaks words that shows how important this was.
Then said Jesus, "Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this."
Without sitting at the feet of Jesus from time to time and hearing and doing His will, we can’t serve Him the way we need to. Our works must come after our worship!

I want to share with you the words of a song that tells about the good part in a good way.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Oh, what words I hear Him say!
Happy place! so near, so precious!
May it find me there each day;
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
I would look upon the past;
For His love has been so gracious,
It has won my heart at last.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Where can mortal be more blest?
There I lay my sins and sorrows,
And, when weary, find sweet rest;
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
There I love to weep and pray;
While I from His fullness gather
Grace and comfort every day. 

Bless me, O my Savior, bless me,
As I sit low at Thy feet;
Oh, look down in love upon me,
Let me see Thy face so sweet;
Give me, Lord, the mind of Jesus,
Keep me holy as He is;
May I prove I’ve been with Jesus,
Who is all my righteousness.

Mary has chosen the good part, by sitting at the feet of Jesus. What part will you chose?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Scenes of Spring

The flowers appear on the earth...
...the time of singing has come...
...and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Song of Solomon 2:12
Photography by Darrell Ezell.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This is the Day

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. --Psalm 118:24.
This week I have been thinking about this scripture a lot. “This is the day...” This day is the now! Not yesterday and not tomorrow but today!

Yesterday has gone and there isn’t anything that we can do about it. We can’t go back and recall anything about it at all. We can’t change it or remake any remarks that we might have made a or any decisions we made. Yesterday is over! Done!
For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. Psalm 90: 4
We all talk about tomorrow in some manner or the other. “I going to the store tomorrow. I will call you tomorrow." If we knew how much we use the work tomorrow it might surprise us. But the truth of it is we can’t do anything about tomorrow because it is not here yet. We can’t know anything about tomorrow, we can only think what might happen tomorrow. We can only talk about what we might do tomorrow.
Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1.
"One day at a time, sweet Jesus,
That's all I'm asking from you. 
Just give me the strength 
To do every day what I have to do. 
Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus,
And tomorrow may never be mine. 
Lord, help me today, 
show me the way,,
One day at a time." 

We can’t do anything about yesterday, and tomorrow has not come yet so we only have today. I want us to look into this scripture for some thoughts about how to live on this day.

This psalm shows us that there is a relationship with God that is needed today. Let's look at this psalm and see the relationship that the Psalmist had with God.

 Verse 1-4 tell about the mercy of God.
1O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
 2Let Israel [the church] now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
 3Let the house of Aaron [the ministry] now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
 4Let them now that fear [the people] the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
This word “mercy” simply means God's kindness toward us or His favor.

If we look at Psalm 51:1-12 we find these words from David:
1Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.  2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
 3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
 4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
 5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
 6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
 9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
 10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
 11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
 12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
This was the beginning of a great relationship with God. No wonder He said in Psalms 23, “The Lord is my shepherd!”

Now go back to our Scripture in Psalm 118. We will find that the Psalmist finds help in His relationship with the Lord.
5I called upon the LORD...
 6The LORD is on my side...
 7The LORD taketh my part...
 He talks about putting confidence in God rather than man. 
 8It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
 9It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. 
 We find the Psalmist using the name of the Lord as a help in trouble.
 10All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them.
 11They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
 12They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. 
 Verses 13-16 talk about the right of the Lord:
 13Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the LORD helped me.
 14The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
 15The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.
 16The right hand of the LORD is exalted: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.
 A relationship like the Psalmist had with God in this psalm shows a real relationship. But up until now it seems to be one sided. Let me ask you a question. What part do we have in this relationship?

Let's look at our responsibility to find the Lord as our personal Saviour.
19Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: 
In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Isaiah 26:1-2.
 We have a responsibility to enter the gates of His righteousness.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 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 on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:1-3.
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? Hebrews 2:1-4
To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Hebrews 4:7.
Not yesterday and not tomorrow but today we need to find His grace in our lives. Without this experience we have no relationship with God.

Another part of our responsibility is to praise and pray to Him. Again, from Psalm 118:
 21I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
 22The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
 23This is the LORD's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
 24This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
 25Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
 26Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.
We will have a reward because of our relationship with Him.
God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light... Psalm 118:27.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. I Peter 2:9-10.
He used a little stronger words for His relationship with God in Psalm 118:28.
Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Proverbs 4:18.
There is a song that asks a question that all of us should ask about this day.

Do you ever search your heart
As you watch the day depart?
Is there something way down deep
You try to hide?
If this should be the end
And eternity began
When the Book is opened wide,
Would the Lord be satisfied?

Is He satisfied? Is He satisfied?
Is He satisfied with me?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Altogether Lovely

"He is altogether lovely...
...more than all the world to me...
...fairer than the rose of Sharon... Jesus, my Savior, to me."
Photography by Darrell Ezell.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Living in Response to God

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
--Psalm 32
It would seem natural that we would long to be close to God, our Heavenly Father… for every child wants to know the security of being close to his parents: the familiarity of their faces, the security of their strength, the assurance of their words.

This is a good model for our relationship with God; except to one degree or another the model has been marred a bit. We get wrapped up in our problems rather than our problem solver. We wonder if we really can get close to God.

If we seek, we find a wonderful surprise. If our souls can clear away the debris of life, we find a very present and relentlessly pursuing Father.

Our Father is God whose fatherly love said:
…I’ll create an environment that testifies of my love and care.
…I’ll inspire writers to capture all that is fundamental about myself.
…I’ll come and show you what I’m like in person.
…I’ll even impart my own spirit to be placed in you.

That is a Father who wants relationship. The scripture declares that God’s love longs to listen to our hearts, comfort us, counsel us, and challenge us like a father.

As the Psalmist declared: “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18.) “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8.)

Jesus, in presenting the coming role of the Holy Spirit, said, “If anyone loves me they will obey my teaching. My Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you .Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he loves me well be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. --John 14:15-21
Well, do we really loves Jesus? If we really love Jesus then we will do his will!

Then Jesus gives us some promises:
  • I will give you my Holy Spirit...
  • He will be with you forever...
  • He shall dwell with you and shall be in you...
  • Because I live you shall live...
  • You shall know that I am in the Father and You in me and I in you...
  • If you love me My Father will love you, And I will love you, and manifest (Reveal) myself to you!
And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick ? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad . If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. Mark 4:21-23
Through the manifesting of Christ to our hearts and our obeying His word we can know Him!

How can we experience this constant companionship? This morning I simply want to focus on some of the challenges faced in any parent-child relationship. It’s helpful for us to realize that God not only relates to us with all the desire of a parent to a child, but also with all the power of a parent to a child.

Think about this truth. Relationship cannot be forced. God will not force Himself on us! In other words, if we don’t want to take the time to get close to God then He won’t force us to.

With that in mind I believe God would remind us of the parent-child truths that relate to our intimacy with Him. As I’ve reflected upon the Scriptures this week, four truths in particular have stood out to me in regard to our lives:

The first factor involved in God’s fatherly interaction is our mindfulness. God will relate to us according to our attentiveness. Every parent knows the importance of getting a child’s attention. So does God. So it is, He states most simply in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Often times we think of merely the need for a quiet place to be with God, and certainly silence lends itself to stillness. But stillness of soul is more than silence. It refers to quieting the inner activity of our souls. I find this is one of my greatest challenges to enjoying constant closeness with God. Finding a relatively silence place isn’t so difficult, but quieting my soul is. In fact, silence often seems to unveil all the stirrings and voices in my soul.

Have you ever found that to be true? Just as you get quiet, your mind is flooded with competing thoughts and concerns … as you initially try to focus, you find your soul suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder? I might add that I think the things we’re most concerned about may be the hardest because our own thoughts and emotions are so involved; our own desires and reactions fill our attentiveness. At these times, we’re like a wound up child rambling before a parent who waits to really gain our attention. In schools these days if a child has Attention Disorder they give him Ritalen. But God will not use any thing other than His truth. God says “Be still … come let your thoughts and agendas be still before me. Let them rest … get centered … die down.” The full attention of God’s heart is always there for us as our Divine Parent … but we cannot really know His attention until we bring Him ours. What  does God have to do to get your attention, not just silence, but the stillness of your soul? It might be sickness. It might be a child's sickness. It might even be the death of a loved one or friend.

The second factor in any parent-child relationship is our maturity, for God relates to us according to our understanding. Again, every parent understands that they can only relate to a child according to their maturity and understanding. Parents begin with “baby talk” and use simple statements that fit within the child’s conceptual realm. Is it communication? Yes … as real as any other. So it is in our relationship to God, as the apostle Paul described:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. --I Corinthians 13:11-13.
Two important implications in this text: The reality of a distinction of knowledge between ourselves and God
We don’t see the whole picture. Everything God has shown us of Himself is real, but much is still beyond us (… just as a parent’s communication is real, true, valid, but doesn’t attempt to be full). As Paul says, “We are fully known, but we do not yet fully know God.” God sees all, but we don't. Oftentimes we use our perception of needs as the reference point of being close with God, rather than God's perception of our needs. No good parent will respond simply according to their child’s limited perception of their needs. Their response will take into account their greater understanding. “ I need more cookies … to not go to school anymore …” If we make our reference point of need the center of our approach to God, we may not sense his involvement. We must not confuse his agreement and acquiescence to our needs with closeness and intimacy.We must surrender to His higher knowledge.

The second thing Paul notes is the we are to progress in our thinking: Paul recognized that in his own lifetime he had naturally come to think differently … what was natural. Our maturity of understanding must naturally progress in our understanding of God.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. --Romans 12:2.

Are you allowing your mind to mature according to all that your Father has made known to you? Are you learning to take on His perspective rather than demanding your own?

Our motivation. We must recognize that God relates to us in ways that reveal our hearts. We should let the word of God motivate us.
… the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. --Hebrews 4:12
When we think of being close to God, we so often think of God answering our questions. What we find in scripture is that God’s most penetrating interaction came when He asked the question.

The first question God is known to have asked is found in the garden. “Where are you?” … Adam and Eve hiding in their shame. Obviously God knew physically where they were. But it was a question of deeper meaning … a question he asks each of us.

God engaged many with revealing questions:
  • To Cain after killing his brother: “Where is your brother?”
  • To Moses as he went on trying to convince God he was the wrong man to lead the people: “What is that in your hand?”
  • To a man paralyzed for 38 years, He asked, “Do you want to be well?”
  • To His disciples when they shared what others were saying about Him, He asked, “Who do you say I am?”
Today God is still asking questions to reveal the things of our hearts. Many of the real answers for our hearts are found in God’s questions. Are you prepared to find answers in God the Father's questions?

Finally, God relates to us according to our movement. That is, Gold relates to us according to our responsiveness. Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” God is not interested in our academic agreement, only in our active agreement. As James described, “Faith without deeds is dead faith” … belief without action is not meaningful belief. The faith God responds to isn’t an issue of denying our doubts … He honored the one who came saying “We believe, but help us in our unbelief.” It’s not doubt of the mind that’s a problem, but the doubt of the will; the unwillingness to act.

The other night Pallie Sue and I were watching Deal or No Deal. There was a contestant who had been married for 25 years and the contestant's sister said, "They still act like they are on their honeymoon." Many of us are "dating" God but we don’t ever make a commitment to Him! He’s coming back for his bride, not an uncommitted dating relationship.

Are you actively believing what God the Father has shown you?
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? --Mark 3:35-41
The disciples were in the right place when the storm came: close to Jesus! Are you close enough to Jesus, that when the storms come you can reach Him so that he can calm your life?