Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The other morning Pallie Sue and I walk into the intensive care room where Bill had just passed away.
As I looked at Donnie I said, "Donnie, the last piece of the puzzle of Bill’s life has been put into place."
Donnie said to me, "Yes, and the last piece went in quick as the twinkling of an eye!"
Why I said that I do not know. I had not been thinking about Bill’s passing as a puzzle. Since then Donnie and I have talked about that statement and I have been thinking about how Bill’s life, and all of our lives are like a puzzle.
On Monday morning as I was driving the school bus, I came to a certain spot on the road where I could see the eastern sky. The sky was bright red with clouds and oh! what a beautiful sight to behold. I thought again about the statement I had made to Donnie.
Here, before my eyes, was a picture that would have made a beautiful jigsaw puzzle to put together. Again, I thought about Bill’s life and how our lives can relate to a puzzle.
It begins when God, in His wisdom, pours out the pieces of our lives and begins to put them into place. For William S. Pirtle, it begin on May 29,1930. Bill spent his early childhood years in south-east Missouri. There he developed his love for fishing, hunting, and the St. Louis Cardinals. Little did Bill know that God was one by one placing the pieces of his life’s puzzle into place.
The difference between God and us is the fact that God already knows where each piece goes. He begins putting our childhood pieces into place. Childhood is like putting the outer edges together, it goes together rather easily. Then the real work begins. But piece by piece, the Lord begins to shape our lives. Each piece makes up part of our lives. No two pieces are alike. The puzzle isn’t complete until the last piece is in place.
Then something happens as we come to the age of accountability. Human nature begins to think that it might not need God’s help to put this puzzle together. God, in His love, steps back to watch us try to work each piece into place. As we struggle to fit each piece into place we realize that it is not as easy as it looks. For you see, we do not know where each piece goes, but God does.
Here are some parts of Bill’s life that God used piece-by-piece for His glory to fulfill His purpose.
There was one piece in Bill’s life at the age of nine that was a call to preach the gospel. Bill did not think that piece fit into his puzzle so he laid the piece aside. He went on trying to put the puzzle together without it. He did not realize at that time that each piece had to be in place or the puzzle would never be completed.
During his high school years, he and a group of friends had a country-and-western band. God used this time to put more of the puzzle together. For God would later use this talent of playing and singing for His glory.
After his high school graduation he got a job working at a shoe factory. While working there he had a near fatal incident of being shut in a steam room. Could it be that this to was a part of the puzzle? Yes, I think it was.
A few weeks later another piece was put in place. He had been invited to a revival meeting at the Church of the Nazarene in Esther, Missouri. There he asked God to forgive him his sins and he invited Jesus to fill his life. It was then that he remembered God had called Him to preach some nine years earlier. That night, at the age of nineteen, he picked up the piece of puzzle he had laid down at the age of nine and accepted the call to preach the gospel. At that time Bill realized he did need God’s help to put his life puzzle together.
In the fall of 1950 Bill packed up and went to Olivet Nazarene Collage in Kankakee, Illinois to study for the ministry.
In 1951 another part of Bill’s life puzzle came into place. He married his first wife, Maxine.
In the spring of 1954 he finished his studies and took his first church at Ricker Memorial Church of the Nazarene in Missouri.
Other little parts of the puzzle began to come along called children, and oh, what a joy they were! There are lots of stories that could be told but it would take far too long. Then later came grandchildren and they too were a part of Bill’s life puzzle. They were a great joy to him. He loved his family very much.
During his 40 years of preaching he served churches in Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma. There were lots of puzzle pieces in those years.
It was while pastoring in Illinois that God, in His wisdom, took Bill’s wife and the mother of his four children to heaven. I am sure that Bill didn’t think that this piece of puzzle should fit into his life but he accepted God’s will even in the time of sorrow.
Another piece was fit into place when in 1980 he met Donnie. They fell in love and they were married in 1981 and had a good life together until God called him home.
The last two churches he and Donnie served as pastors were with the United Methodist churches in Eakly and Seiling, Oklahoma. Due to failing health, he retired in 1992 from active pastorate. He then begin to hold revival meetings. He preached and sang for the glory of God and told about God’s love and forgiveness everywhere he went.
The last few years of Bill’s life were spent in pain and suffering, going from doctor to doctor, trying to find help and finding very little. I am sure many times Bill would ask the Lord why he was suffering but realizing all the time that he was in God’s hands. Even in this time of his life God was putting the pieces of the puzzle into place.
The last piece was put in place on January 27 , 2008 by the all-knowing and all-loving God. Bill’s work on earth is done. He is no longer suffering with pain.
He never stopped praising God. He witnessed to the doctors and nurses with his last breaths.
Bill left a testimony written in July 1997. It reads like this: "To my beloved family, upon the news of my passing, rest assured that all is 'well with my soul.' Jesus saves, sanctifies and He is Lord and Master of my life and my coming King!"
Sunday, January 27, 2008
In fact, it has been said that "a right understanding of justification is absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith…A true view of justification is the dividing line between the biblical gospel of salvation by faith alone and all false gospels of salvation based on good works."
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:5
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:30
What is justification? Why is it important and what does it mean to us?
Justification is a legal declaration by God. Webster’s Dictionary defines justification as being pronounced free from blame or guilt. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that being justified is the legal and formal acquittal from guilt by God as Judge.
Justification means pardon from sin!
There are two ways to be justified: One can be justified by a testimony. One may be justified by pardon. It is the second that I want us to look at today, because we can find no one who can say that we have not sinned.
In Elements of Divinity by Thomas Ralston I found this statement: "What is implied in justification? The Greek word rendered justification in the New Testament, is a judicial decision or sentence of acquittal"Justification as an instantaneous legal act of God in which He thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us. In this legal act God declares us to be righteous in His sight. The justification Christ offers frees one from the penalty of sin, and will keep one free from that penalty.
Someone once said that justification means, "Just as if I’d never sinned."
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:10-23
In this passage Paul, by the inspiration of God, lays out for us the scene of a court room in which a trial is taking place. Paul has argued the guilt of every man and woman, whether Jew or Gentile, as they are seen in the eyes of a holy and righteous God. The Gentile, even those who have never heard the gospel, is guilty due to the witness of the creation. The good or moral man: the "good old boy" is guilty due to the witness of his conscious. The Jew is guilty because of the Scripture he possesses. All the elements of a court trial are present.
In verse 9 we find the charge. We are all under sin: both the Jew and the Gentile. To say that we are all under sin includes all that goes with it: its guilt and its condemnation.
Then in verses 10-18 we see the indictments against man. He is a totally depraved person. Our character is hopeless. "None are righteous." Our speech is corrupt. Our conduct is ungodly. Sure, there are different degrees to our depravity, but we are all guilty of sin.
In this letter to the believers at
After bringing the indictments against man, verse 19 indicates man’s defense,"Every mouth may be stopped." Think about the day of judgment. There will come a day when every one of us will stand before God alone. Just the thought of standing before God alone makes me shudder. But when we have been justified we need not fear Him! Many think that they will somehow argue their case before the Lord or will put God on trial for what He did or allowed in their lives.
Someone said, "He who would represent himself before the Lord has a fool for a client."
You see, when we stand before the Lord, the evidence will be so overwhelmingly obvious to us that "every mouth will be stopped." There is no defense before God. Because we have no defense, verse 19 also gives the verdict against every man, including us: "and all the world may become guilty before God." Why will every mouth be stopped? Because all are guilty!
You cannot understand justification apart from these facts about man’s sin and guilt before God. Because we are guilty, sentence has been passed upon us. All of humanity stands condemned to die. "The wages of sin is death." However, in justification God, who sits on the throne as Judge, legally declares that we are not guilty. In fact, He declares us to be righteous. In justification God has simply issued a legal declaration about us.
Now, if in justification God can legally declare us to be not guilty and also to be righteous, then two things take place in justification.
- The first thing is this, even though we have sinned terribly and stand before Him condemned, God declares that we are not guilty: that we have no penalty to pay for sin, including past, and present sins. That is why Paul could later say that there is "no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus." That is one part of justification, but it is not enough, because now we stand before God forgiven, but somehow short of what we need.
- That is why we can say that not only have we been declared to be not guilty, but also to be righteous. You see, in the mind of God we are considered to be perfectly righteous before Him. In justification God sees me as having the merits of perfect righteousness. I am not just forgiven; I am actually made righteous.
We can be justified because of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26
We have no righteousness of our own. Paul made that point in Romans 3:10: "There is none righteous." Romans 4:5 says that "I am ungodly." The only way God could look upon us as being righteous is by considering Christ’s righteousness as belonging to me: He justifies me, the ungodly by forgiving my sins and by declaring me to be righteousness.
If we reconsider our court trial, imagine that the charge has been laid against you. You are a sinner and deserve death. The various indictments are carefully laid out. You are given the opportunity to defend yourself, but there is nothing to say. You are guilty. Your adversary Satan grows excited knowing that you are guilty, but before the Judge passes sentence, an Advocate (Jesus) comes forward and tells the Judge that He has enough righteousness to take care of your crime. That is what Jesus has done for you.
Think about this: When Adam sinned, his guilt was imputed to us. In other words, God the Father viewed Adam’s sin as belonging to us. When Christ suffered and died for our sins, our sin was imputed to Christ; God thought of it as belonging to him. He paid the penalty for it. When He died on the cross He paid your sin debt.
In other words like the little song we sing sometimes, "He paid a debt he did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay."
In the doctrine of justification we see Christ’s righteousness as being imputed to us, and therefore God thinks of it as belonging to us. It is not our own righteousness but Christ’s righteousness that is freely given to us.
Justification comes entirely by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
The question now comes up, "How do we receive Christ’s righteousness and the forgiveness of sins?"
Christ’s righteousness is not simply given to everyone, though it was offered for everyone. Romans tells us that "no flesh can be justified by the deeds of the law." In other words, we cannot be justified by any good-doing or by our own efforts. We are absolutely corrupt. Verse 24 gives us the answer. How can we be justified? It is by His grace!
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
We are saved by God’s grace. God did not have any obligation to impute our sin to Christ or to impute Christ’s righteousness to us; it was only because of his unmerited favor that he did it. That is grace! But how does God determine who will receive this grace? Again, verse 26 gives us the answer: he is the "justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus." Romans 5:1
Christ says we are justified by faith, but you must understand that there is nothing inherently good about your faith as though your faith had merit with God. What we learn, though, is that in exercising faith in Christ we are essentially saying to God the Judge that we cannot do for ourselves what is necessary to escape the punishment that comes because of our sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1:8-10
Justification results in some wonderful blessings. When God justifies a man, He says, "I pronounce you a righteous man. From now on I am going to treat you as though you had never sinned. All sin is passed and gone: wiped out. Your sin is not just forgiven, not just pardoned, but the slate has been cleared, it can never be written on again, and you have been set before God as a righteous man or woman."
We have already read some of the blessings of being justified. Romans 5:1 says that we have peace with God. We are not at enmity with Him. I am no longer offensive to Him because He does not see my sin; He sees the perfect righteousness of Christ.
...Being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:7
This is not a "hope-so" salvation. Because many people think they must earn God’s favor for salvation, they "hope" they can go to heaven. But because my salvation is not dependent on me and I have bet all my salvation on the righteousness of Christ, I have genuine hope in God.
Not only do we have a genuine hope, but understanding the doctrine of justification gives us confidence that God will never make us pay the penalty for sins that have been forgiven on Calvary. That is not to say we will not reap what we sow. The drunk driver may still go to jail for running over someone, but he can be forgiven and justified. God will discipline us for our sins, but the fact is we will never, and that means never, have to pay the penalty that is due our sins.
"There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus."
Are you confident that God has declared you "not guilty" forever in his sight? Do you know when that happened in your own life? Think back in your mind to the time you trusted Christ to save you. Can you remember a time when you realized that you stood before God absolutely condemned and guilty? Can you remember repenting of your sinful condition and trusting in what Christ has done to pay for your sin? If you are not sure you have ever been justified: completely forgiven for all your sins and declared to be righteous in God’s sight, what is keeping you from receiving that today?
There is no greater joy than to realize what He has done for us and to stand before Him with complete confidence that we are accepted by Him as "not guilty" and being perfectly righteous forever.
How can we be justified?
1. Admit we are guilty of a crime (sin).
If we say we have no sin , we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. I John 1:8
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God... Romans 3:23
2. Confess our crime.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:8-10
3. Reject our crime.
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:14-15
To repent is to reject!
4. Believe that Jesus forgives us of our crime.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
5. Accept His pardon! Take His free gift of eternal life!
Two men who grew up as best friends, except that their lives took divergent paths. One became a judge, and the other a criminal. At one point the criminal ended up in the Judge’s court. He was obviously guilty, but he was the judge’s friend. If the judge let him off, he would not be fulfilling his role of dispensing justice. So what he sentenced his friend to the appropriate fine for his crime. Then he stepped down from the bench, took off his robe, and wrote his friend a check for the amount of the fine in full. This is what God does in Jesus. He sentences us to death for our sins, but then steps down from heaven and pays for our sins in full with his death.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
- Your thumb is nearest you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, a "sweet duty."
- The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.
- The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God's guidance.
- The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger, as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.
- And lastly comes our little finger - the smallest finger of all which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, "The least shall be the greatest among you." Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively. --Copied
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Did you know the word church is not found in the Old Testament? The concept may be there, and the foundational ideas for the church are there, but the word church is never used in the Old Testament. The Old Testament talks about "a holy people", a nation set apart for God.
But the first person to use the word "church" in the Bible is Jesus himself. He is the one who initiated the church. In fact the Church belongs to Him.
In our text I want you to look at the words, "My Church."
The church belongs to Jesus Himself. That means that He considers the church to be important .
Someone said: "You can not grow to full Christian maturity without involvement in God’s church."
Ask yourselves these questions.
- Can a person reach full spiritual maturity if they ignore the commandments of Jesus?
- Can a person be a follower of Jesus and ignore His teachings?
- Do you think a person can become an obedient mature Christian without doing what Christ has asked them to do?"
- Did you know there are over 35 commandments in the Bible that you cannot fulfill without being involved in God’s church?
They are commandments like, "Love one another, encourage one another, serve one another, accept one another, greet one another…" and the list goes on and on. Who do you think the "one another" is? When the scripture speaks of "one another" it is speaking of fellow believers – the church. The point is, you cannot fulfill the commandments of Christ without being involved with His people – without being involved in the church of Jesus Christ.
In the New Testament the word "church" is used 73 times. It is a New Testament concept.
If the New Testament puts that much emphasis on the church we need to have a clear understanding of the nature of the church.
Before we look at what the church is – let us understand what the church is not. It is not a social club. It is not a business. It is not a museum. It is not a fraternity. The church is not even a building even though we often speak of it in that manner. The church is not a man-made institution.
What then is the church? It is a creation of God – founded by Jesus Himself.
The Bible gives us several metaphors of what the church is.
This morning we are going to look at four of them. From these metaphors we can gain a greater understanding of the nature of the church.
1. The Bible says the church is a fellowship.
Fellowship is not just something the church is - it’s something we do.
What is fellowship? The best definition is "Two fellows on the same ship." You’re headed in the same direction, so you get to know each other and you associate because you’re going in the same direction. That’s what fellowship is. Fellowship is all of us together heading in the same direction. As Christians, we’re all headed to heaven.
A top priority in fellowship is harmony. If we are going in the same direction, if we are going to be together for a long time – we need to live together in harmony.
When I was about ten years old we had a pot belly stove that was made out of sheet metal. Dad and we boys would go to the woods and cut wood with a cross-cut saw. We had what was known as a two-man saw. The first thing we learned about that saw was that the two people had to be in time with each other.
We need to get along with each other. If you destroy the fellowship, you don’t have a church.
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are there unto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. --1 Peter :3:8-12That is your purpose – that is what you are supposed to be doing – building fellowship with one another.
2. The Bible says the church is family.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. --Ephesians 3:14-15
When you were born you were born into a family. When we become "born again" we are born into a new family -- the church! Our sins have been forgiven. We are given a purpose for living – and we receive a home in Heaven. Our relationships change.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. --Romans 8:16-17When we put our faith in Christ four relationships change:
- God becomes our Father.
- We become His children.
- Other believers become our brothers and sisters.
- The church becomes your spiritual family.
So because we’re a family, we should operate on the basis of relationships.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes it seems that it is easier to get along with those who are not related to us? But there is an expression that says, "Blood is thicker than water," meaning that when push comes to shove family members almost always stick up for each other.
The Bible says we’re to treat each other like a family because the church is a family.
Nobody elected you into your family. You’re not there because some committee asked you to be there. The Bible says we are family because we have been born again – born into God’s family. God has called you and placed you in His family
3. The Bible says the church is a body.
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. --Ephesians 1:22-23
There are many verses in Scripture that says the church is the body of Christ. We’re a body, not a business. We are an organism, not just an organization. Therefore, whatever your gifts and talents, you are needed by the body. You have been placed here to help the whole body. We are a body!
Let me ask you a couple of questions: Could you function without one of your hands? Sure you could – but not as well as if you had two healthy hands. Could you function without one of your legs? Sure you could – but not as well as if you had two strong legs.
The body of Christ is like that – it can function without everyone doing their part – but the truth is it will function much better when all members are involved – using their gifts and talents for the common good.
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body so also is Christ. --I Corinthians 12:12
A top priority in the body is unity with diversity. You can have unity without having uniformity. Have you noticed we’re all different? We have different color hair. We have different color eyes. We have different finger prints. We have distinctly different DNA. We’re different ages. That’s the way God has made us. God loves diversity. Thank God we’re not all alike.
And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. --I Corinthians -22
The point is, whatever you’re gifted at, that’s your part in the body of Christ. God needs you to do your part no matter how little it my seem. Little is much if God is in it!
4. The Bible says the church is a flock.
This was Jesus’ favorite description of the church. He called it "My little flock." Therefore, the church is cared for, and led by, shepherds. Shepherds lead, feed and oversee. In a church, a pastor is to take care of a flock. My primary job as your pastor is to lead, feed and oversee the flock God has entrusted to me. That is an awesome job. Did you know I am going to be held accountable for leading you?
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. --1 Peter 5:2-4
Did you catch that? "When the chief Shepherd appears..." The chief Shepherd is coming and I will be held accountable for being the under shepherd of this church.
Think about this statement: "God-called men are earthly shepherds and Jesus is the Good Shepherd who is divine."
The Good Shepherd is in charge and we have to give an account to Him .
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. --Hebrews
I feel honored that Jesus would called me for such a job. I don’t want to fail you and I sure don’t want to fail Him!
There is a responsibility of the sheep. That is you! Something that you are accountable for as well. Do you know what that is? You are to help make my job as easy as you possibly can. How can you make it easier for me?
Stay connected to the flock – stay connected within the fold. There is power in connection. Be responsive to the preaching of the word.
Grow! Grow in grace! Grow in faith! Grow in love! Grow in prayer! Grow in the word!
A top priority in the flock is togetherness.
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. --Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
We need to care for each other.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. --Galatians 6:10
Stay connected to one another. Care for one another – for you see:
Produce spiritual wool. That is share what you have with others.
From Wikipedia: "Wool possesses much greater ability to return to its natural length after being stretched than any artificial fiber. In water or steam, wool can stretch to about twice its length without breaking. Wool is flame resistance. Ithas the power to readily absorb and give off moisture. Wool is static resistant. The retention of moisture within the fabric prevents a build-up of static electricity. Wool does not conduct heat, but acts as insulator to keep the body at an even temperature."
- A sheep gives wool for the needs of others.
- As sheep give wool, they produce more wool.
- A good sheep follows the good shepherd.
- A good sheep will not follow that which is false.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. --John 10:1-5
All four points have one thing in common. Do you know what that is?
- The fellowship
- The family
- The body
- The flock
They have unity in common!
On Tuesday night we have a Bible study over in the fellowship hall. Some of the folk get there early so they can work on a jigsaw puzzle. They have completed several over time. One time they got to the end and saw that some pieces were missing. So we all began to look for the lost pieces until we found them. For, you see, the puzzle was not complete until all the pieces were in place. Neither is the church complete until we are all in place doing our best.
I want to close with this heart warming story:
A few years ago the Special Olympics were being held in Seattle, Washington. Nine physically or mentally challenged runners lined up at the starting line for the 100 meter run. At the sound of the gun, all the runners began to run as fast as they could. That is all, except for one boy who stumbled, out of the starting blocks. He fell down and began to cry. The other eight runners heard the boy crying and immediately stopped running and turned around to see what was wrong.
Then everyone in the crowd was stunned to see all 8 of them walk back to the place where the boy was lying on the ground and help him back to his feet. One girl with Down syndrome kissed him and said, "That will make it better." Then all nine of them linked arms and walked together to the finish line.
Everyone in the stadium stood up and began to cheer. They gave them a standing ovation that lasted 10 minutes.
Folks, that is how the church should work!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
This morning I want us to think about our commitment to the work of Christ. To help us I will be using a lot of statements from Charles Stanley’s book Confounding Casual Christians.
I want to introduce you to a mythical church member that I am going to call Peter. When we first meet Peter he is attending services at First Church but he left because the services were too formal, every one on the platform wore a tie. He and his family then wandered over to Grace Church because they had a great choir. But before long, we hear they are "happy" at the Christian Worship Center. Soon, however, they move their membership to the Community Church because of the great Bible teaching. After that the youth program at New Hope catches their eye. Now, at least for the moment, they are at the church uptown, at least until something else catching their roving eye.
What ever happened to commitment?
Why do you suppose that there are close to 100 million church members in America yet they are not making more of a moral and spiritual impact?
Why is that on Sunday morning thousands of churches have more empty pews than full?
Why is it that the average Sunday School in America has less than 66 in attendance and that the average worship service has 84?
Why is it that only 50% of the number on any church membership roll can be expected to attend?
If Christians really believe in a real heaven and a real hell, how can we be so silent?
The answer to all of these questions is tragically simple!
Charles Stanley said in his book Confounding Christianity: "God’s people have made a decision about Jesus….but have never made a commitment to Him."
There is, of course, a difference between a decision and a commitment.
Perhaps this cannot be seen any clearer than it is in the failure rate of marriages in America. According to statistics at least 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Why do you suppose that is happening?
Again let me quote from Charles Stanley: "It is because these couples made a decision but did not make a commitment. Every person who married made a decision! They stood before a preacher and made promises and recited vows. They made a decision, they kissed each other and walked out together to live, but not necessarily 'happily ever after,' and not necessarily together. So why did they divorce? The answer is that they made a decision, but they did not truly commit their lives to each other. But when a couple marries and makes a commitment to one another that is a different story."
The same is true in the church. The reason that the church is not making more of an impact in our society is that many church people made a decision about Christ, but have not made a commitment to Christ.
When the pilot of a giant airline is speeding down the runway, there is a certain point where it staying on the ground is no longer an option. When he crosses that line, he is committed to the air, he will take off or a disastrous crash is imminent. At the pilot the pilot can no longer change his mind he is committed.
Unfortunately, churches are filled with people who have never got off the ground. They have been sitting there, gunning their engines, making noise but getting nowhere. They have been planning on it, meaning to, wanting to, trying to, going to, aiming to, hoping to. But tragedy of tragedies, they have never got off the ground.
I want to challenge you this morning to "get off the ground."
The Apostle Paul issues a clear call for commitment when he says,
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." --Romans 12:1-2The word "present" is a technical Greek word used for offering a sacrifice. This is a voluntary act, it does not say "I command you," it says "I beseech you or I beg you." This is something that is completely up to you. He says the motivation is to be, remembering "the mercies of God."
Close you eyes for just a moment think of all that God has done in your life. Think of the "mercies of God." Based on what you have received, can you really say that you owe him nothing? When we reflect on the goodness of God how can we be anything other than committed? Paul goes on to say that it is our "reasonable service."
Based on what we have received, it is "logical" that we would commit ourselves to God. Under the sacrificial system the animal to be sacrificed was committed to the priest, was killed and consumed on the altar. The believers are told that they are to present themselves as "living sacrifices" with the understanding that there is no such thing as "partial sacrifice or a partial commitment."
It is impossible to be "sort of committed." You are either committed or you are not committed. It is not possible to be a partial sacrifice.
There is a story told about a pig and a chicken walking down the road together. As they walked along they read a sign advertising a breakfast to benefit the poor. The chicken said to the pig, "You and I should donate a ham and egg breakfast."
The pig replied, "Not so fast! For you it would just be a contribution, but for me it would be a total commitment."
The pig, at least, understood that it is not possible to offer a partial sacrifice, neither is possible to offer a partial commitment.
To commit ourselves to God means that we are to yield ourselves to him, surrender to him, abandon ourselves to him, entrust ourselves to him and place ourselves at his disposal.
True commitment is not something that you can take back.
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…" There are two words in the original Greek that deserve special attention.
The word translated "conformed" is the word that we get our English word "scheme" from. It means conformation that it is outward without necessarily any inner change. The word is also sometimes translated "fashioned." He is saying, "Do not allow yourself to adopt the fashion of this world, to be forced into its mold."
The word translated "transformed" is the word from which we get the English word "metamorphosis." This is an inner change, which has observable outward manifestations.
This is not something you do yourself. If you "present yourself as a living sacrifice" and you reflect on the "mercies of God," you will be transformed progressively. This is a work of the Holy Spirit but it requires cooperation on the part of the believer. The end result is that you may "prove," that is test out and discover by proof, what is the will of God.
It all begins with commitment.
Today I want you to see with me three clear calls to commitment that every believer has to face. This is based on the supposition that you made more than decision about Christ and that you have already made a personal commitment to Christ.
1. Commitment to Personal Growth
We are called to commit ourselves as disciples. Disciples are learners. We should never reach a point in life at which we are no longer learners.
One of the things that I admired about my wife’s dad was that at ninety years of age he still wanted to read. When he got to where he couldn’t read anymore he would listen to tapes of Bible reading. He was still a learner.
We never reach a point in life at which we have arrived. Even Paul said about himself:
"Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on …Brethren I don not count myself to have apprehended…" --Philippians 3: 11-12Make a commitment to continue to grow spiritually. Take positive steps to do so.
- Start a Bible reading plan.
- Set aside time each day to pray.
- Read good Christian literature.
- Watch some good Christian programming.
- Never give up on learning.
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." --Hebrews 10:23-25Let us consider one another to encourage each other in loving fellowship of the church. Individual and personal Christianity always involves incorporated and public Chistianity.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church said: "The Bible knows nothing about solitary religion."
The church is described in the New Testament as:
- the building
- the bride
- the brotherhood
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." --Hebrews 10:24-25To provoke is "to incite , or to stimulate, to arouse" each other to love. This scripture says do this the more as you see the day approaching.
The local church is the first level of commitment outside of our personal relationship with the Lord. The local church with all its imperfections is still the Lord’s major avenue through which he accomplishes his work.
The church gathers for worship, teaching and fellowship to gain power to carry out the ministry as each member is scattered to their various places of responsibility in the world. The people who "forsake the assembling together" forfeit the power of a corporate identity.
Sometimes church attendance is beyond our control, I understand that, but we must not let Satan rob us of fellowshipping with the body of believers called the church.
There are those who are too lazy to go to church and they justify it by saying, "I went to church in my living room by watching a T.V. preacher." That’s called recliner religion!
There are some who have to have church in their homes to be able have service. In fact, this church started in the home of it’s founder until the community building opened up.
But some people just do not see church attendance as a necessity. They see recreation as a necessity. They see yard work as a necessity. They see entertaining as a necessity. They see viewing sporting events as a necessity. In far too many lives, church attendance seems to be relegated to last place.
Commitment to church is deeper than just attendance to the worship services, but it does begin there. Commitment to a local church also demands loyalty. When we criticize our church to the outside community we are shooting ourselves in the foot, or as my mother says, "Cutting off our nose to spite our face." Who is going to come with you to a church that you have torn down in their hearing?
Get involved in a Sunday School class. Get involved in Bible study. Get to know the other people of the church.
I know that there are some who are still looking for a church home. We want to be a church that makes them feel at home! We are a loving church. I pray to God that we will always be a loving church.
People who do not have a church home need to keep looking until they find some place to worship and become a part of a Bible-believing church.
3. Commitment to Ministry
Commitment to a local church means deciding on a church "home" and moving in for a permanent stay.
Commitment to the local church also means actively using the talents and gifts to serve in the various ministries of the church. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:6 that "we have different gifts, according to the grace given us." Ministry means putting those gifts to work. We need to be a part of what the church is doing not just spectators.
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: ….. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." --I Corinthians 12We are told that God has sovereignly placed individuals with the various gifts in each of the churches. If the persons with those gifts are not using their gifts then those jobs are not being done. We must commit ourselves to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and use the spiritual gifts that God has given us.
Will you make a commitment that you are going to look for opportunities to put your talents and abilities to work? The greatest ability is availability.
It takes us all to make up the church and to be what God wants us to be! What happens at Ozark View Chapel affects us all! Are you doing your part?
I want to close with a story about a mouse.
A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered.
He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"
The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."
The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"
The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."
The mouse turned to the cow and said "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"
The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose."
So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap
That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -- like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.
The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.
But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.
The farmer’s wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.
The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.
So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember -- when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you," saith the Lord, "thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." --Jeremiah 29:11
Did you hear about the man who was going to sell his cow? He lived close to the market so he decided to walk his cow to town to sell her. On the way he met a neighbor who was plowing with his team of mules. Being a good neighbor, he stopped to talk.
The neighbor man asked him where he was going.
The man with the cow said, "I’m going to market to sell my cow."
The neighbor man, who was a Christian said, "No, you mean you are going to sell your cow at the market if the Lord be willing."
The man with the cow said, "No, I’m going to market to sell my cow whether God is willing or not!"
This morning I want us to think about how to handle the future.
Go to now, ye that say, "To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:" Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, "If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. --James 4:13-17.
There is nothing wrong with making plans. We should plan and prepare for the future. In fact, we should never fail to take the time to plan. Being a good steward of our lives necessitates the making of plans. Jesus advocated planning. He told the person who was getting ready to build a building to sit down and figure the costs to be sure he would have enough to finish the project. Jesus told us to plan for the future by laying up treasure in heaven. James warns us to be sure to keep God in our plans. Unfortunately, far too many of us plan our lives without an eye to God. Self-sufficient planning will bring disaster to the soul
What is under consideration here is not open defiance of God, but of an utter disregard for God. This is an attitude of arrogant self-sufficiency. It is possible for one to acknowledge God’s existence with his mouth and yet live his daily life in such a fashion as to deny in a practical way all that he says.
James rebukes this arrogant self-sufficiency by saying, "Come now." Today we would say, "Oh, come on now." It is a plea for re-examination, expresses disapproval of this way of thinking.
By rehearsing their plans he reveals that they treat the future as something that they can not only know, but have control over. At least in their minds the plans have already been implemented. They have decided on...
- ...a precise time: "today or tomorrow"
- ...a particular place: "such a city"
- ...a predetermined duration of the stay: "spend a year there"
- ...a planned activity: "buy and sell"
- ...a profit they expect to gain: "and make a profit"
The complete picture is one in which the will of God is not even considered. These men who undoubtedly are decent, respectable even, consider themselves religious men, but in their daily lives they live as if God had no place in their plans.
To thus live independently of God is to live toward coming disaster.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?' And he said, 'This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry."' But God said unto him, 'Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?' So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Luke 16:16.-21
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. James 4 :1-6
This is a powerful scripture regarding self-sufficiency and those who put their trust in material things. James gives us reason to include God in our planning.
Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. --Proverbs 27:1Everything may be going fine for you right now but a trip to the grocery store could change your life forever. You may go to bed tonight and not wake up.
2. Tomorrow is Uncertain.
And I will say to my soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." But God said unto him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" --Luke 12:19.
This man was so sure he had tomorrow, he had planned on building bigger barns to store his goods. This man is never heard of again in the Bible.
And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, "Go thy way for this time: when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." --Acts 24:25 That time never came for Felix, as we never read of his conversion.
3.Time is Unsure.
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. --James 4:14
It is funny that when you are in your youth you wish to be older, and when you are older you wish to have your youth again.
All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. --Isaiah 40:6-8
I know that I am getting older because my body tells me my get-up-and-go and has got up and gone.
Life is gone quickly. Since we do not know when the Lord will call for us, it pays to live for him day by day. That way, should he call we will be ready. Time is unsure in that we do not know when the Lord will return.
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. --Matthew 25:13
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. --James 5:7-8
Rick Warren said: "People ask me, 'What is the purpose of life?' And I respond: 'In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven'".
This statement made me do some serious thinking about life. Not just about life in general but thinking about my life. You see, one day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me. It is so easy to get so caught up in living down here that we forget about living up there. Man pretty much expects things to be hunky-dory down here.
I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions and trillions and trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act, the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.
We were made by God and for God, and until we figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either we are in one now, just coming out of one, or getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in our character than our comfort. (We have so much to look forward to going to heaven.) God is more interested in making our life holy than He is in making our life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ-likeness. The Lord never ever promised me that I would be rich, or happy but He did promise me that He would be with me to the end.
I believe personally that no matter how good things are in our life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in our life, there is always something good we can thank God for. We can focus on our purposes, or we can focus on our problems. I’ve learned that if I focus on my problems, I will go into self-centeredness, "which becomes my problem, my issues, my pain." It can very easily and very quickly become all about me…
Life is not about me or you or my problems or your problems….Life is all about God! If life is about God then the only major goal in life is to do the will of God. If we do that then all other things concerning life will fall into place.
James chapter 3, verses 13-18 deals with living in Godly wisdom.
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Then look at James chapter 4, verses 4-10 It deals with submitting to God.
Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Remember the man with the cow? Well, it seems that on down the road to town the man with the cow was stop by some bad men and they beat him up and stole his cow. After he came to himself, he started back home and the man plowing the field ask him if he was going home. The man said, "If the Lord’s willing, I’m going home!"
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. --James 4:14
I want to leave you with these questions today.
- How are you living your Life?
- Is it in the will of God?
- Are you prepared to meet God if He calls you today?
- Where are you going?