Sunday, April 24, 2016

Psalm 46 revisited

I was planning on writing on Acts this month since that is what many of our LifeGroups are going through but there are a couple of reasons why I may not (three reasons actually):
  1. I am trying to update the page
  2. There are a lot of really good pages already on the book of Acts to coincide with our LifeGroups
  3. No one really reads this page for preparation for teaching their LifeGroups, so, eh, why bother?
Not being pessimistic but realistic, as my wife says. And I primarily, if not solely, do this blog for my amusement and no one else's amazement. And I was really enjoying the psalms, especially Psalm 23. So here we go with a revisit of Psalm 46. 
    I revisited Psalm 46 in preparation for a funeral.

    Psalm 46 says this. 

 1God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Presence. God is with you and me. He said in Heb. 13:5 “I will never leave you or forsake you.” We may feel lonely, but we are never alone. God is there. Jesus said that I go to prepare a place for you but then He also says "I won’t leave you as orphans, I will send you a Comforter." 

     That means Jesus is literally in heaven with those who have trusted Him. The Bible says not only will God be present with us, but after this life is over, we will be present with the Lord. 

In 2 Cor. 5, Paul said this:
1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7For we live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

     So God is present with us and after this life, we are present with the Lord, immediately and without delay, without fear, without worry.

Promise. Secondly in Psalm 46, I want to look at God’s Assurance in hard times.  2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.

     God doesn’t promise us a rose garden here on earth. There are going to be times when we are afraid, there’s going to be earthquakes, physically and emotionally. There’s going to be fire and floods. Don't doubt, but believe. If faith in God is worth anything, it is worth it when we go through the mountains falling, the waters roaring, the rivers rising. God never fails us, not really. 

     Why do I say that? How can I say when we go through health problems and death and lonely times and dreams disappointed? Because of God’s promise is that in eternity, only our successes and victories in Christ last. When this life is over, eternity is only just beginning. God’s promise is true.

Power. Third I want to see in Psalm 46 not only God’s presence with us and our future presence with Him, not only do I see God’s promise to get us through life and death. But listen to God’s power.
6Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 8Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shield with fire.

    Paul said in the New Testament, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation.” 

     Jesus prayed for Thine is the kingdom and power and the glory.” When he was resurrected, He said all power was given to him in heaven and on earth. But He is not selfish with that power, because in Luke 24:49, he says through the Holy Spirit, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, He will give to us. 

   There is a power that we have from God to go through these tough times, but it is not from us, it is from God. There is a dunamis power from which we get the word dynamite. It’s a power that doesn’t come from within, it is a power that is though it came from an outside source.

      You may say, Pastor Tim, I don’t care about having power. I don’t care a bit about power. Look again at God’s power 9He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shield with fire.

    God gives us power to rest. He has the power to end the war that is within us.
   Pilate stood before Jesus and said “Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.

    Jesus gives us power over the grave. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

     He even gives us power to become a child of God. We are all creation but we are not all His children. John 1:12 says “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Peace. Finally back in Psalm 46 there is a fourth part of this message for us today. 10He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

There is a calmness that we have because of God. If you are a believer you know what I am talking about. There is a book that’s called “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” If I were to write one, it would be “I don’t have enough strength to be an atheist.” 

   Why? Because I love having the peace of God. I love having the God of the universe living within me. No it’s not just the power of positive thinking. It’s not having a good attitude or some Polyanna optimism. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

     Lord knows none of us  are perfect, but we know the one who is perfect.And He loves us perfectly and gives us perfect peace. 

     We can have peace when we go to a funeral because we can be still and know that God is God. We are going to heaven not based on how good we are, we aren’t that good, but how good he was to send us Jesus to die on the cross. 

     We can have power to become a child of God by believing and receive Him.  We have peace and power because He who promised is faithful and true. 

    And like I wrote at the beginning, we have his presence here on earth and when this life is over we will be present with him in Glory. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Persevere when all else fails

Key Principle #7: Perseverance (part 2)
Read Acts 5:12-42

     Perseverance is especially needed by the church. Too often, we are not taught that the rewards of perseverance may in fact be persecution. In the west, it hasn’t as yet resulted in imprisonment, at least not commonly, but we are seeing more and more the world protesting the church when it takes Scripturally accurate stands for Christ.

     This happens in the church and it happens in the world. Maybe at work, you are doing everything you should be doing, but the person in the next cubicle gets the promotion because he went to the bar with the boss and brown-nosed his way to the top. Or you missed getting the title of valedictorian because someone else transferred into your school and the grades transferred in by her weren’t as academically demanding as yours were.

     There are times when a person will consistently tithe and follow God’s leadership and still face financial setbacks or even bankruptcy. A spouse will faithfully keep her marital vows and follow the Biblical commands for a godly marriage, yet see her husband commit adultery and file for divorce. Parents will faithfully train up their children in the way they should go, and yet never see their prodigals come back to the Lord, even when they grow old.

     Whenever I would lead mission trips, especially with teenagers, I would teach the team two simple rules to go by. Rule Number 1: There is a God. Rule Number 2: You are not Him! The point is that we have to follow the rules and that we don’t make them up. Somebody has to be in charge and that typically is not going to be a group of kids who may think they are smarter than the youth minister. 

     Still, we typically think that because God doesn’t play by our rules and because He doesn’t answer our prayers the way that we want Him to, somehow He has failed us. But look in the Bible and you and I can quickly see that God has “failed” a whole lot of people from their point of view, but in reality, He really does know what He’s doing.

    Have you memorized Galatians 6:9? “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Dear Lord, help me to remember that You alone are God and I am not.
When I want to question You, let me instead trust You.
Do not let me lose heart.

Monday, April 11, 2016

When good is repaid with evil...

Key Word Study: Perseverance
Acts 5:12-42

     We at our church just finished the first of what I hope to be several OCLOC ministry days, occurring no less than quarterly and preferably monthly or if need be more often.
     OCLOC stands for Our Church Loves Our Community. The lesson we learn from the early church is that they not only loved their church (Acts 2) but they also loved their community, even when the community didn't love them (at all!). 
      In Acts 5:12-42, we see that it wasn’t just Peter and John preaching, teaching and reaching their community, but now it was all of the apostles who were teaching about Christ. Imagine the boldness it took to be put in prison, miraculously released and then to go back to the same temple all over again.  The Key Word of perseverance is all over the latter part of Acts 5. 
     As  a result of their love and perseverance despite opposition, the community held the apostles in high esteem (see Acts 5:13). 
     Despite the opposition, Simon Peter did not tone down his sermons and did not even try to accommodate those who believed a different way. If anything, he pushed the pedal to the floor and gunned his spiritual motor!
     When I was in eighth grade, I got a paddling for doing something innocent enough: I was smiling at the teacher. Okay, maybe I wasn’t just smiling, I was actually laughing at the teacher underneath my smile, but still I was just smiling. He took me and my friend Paul (who was also smiling with me) out of the classroom and gave us “licks” with a wooden “attitude adjustment” board!  Even though I wasn’t thoroughly innocent, I remember the injustice of being punished for something as simple as smiling!
     If you have ever been punished or rebuked for doing something right, you probably understand one of Murphy’s laws: No good, kind, and selfless deed will ever go unpunished.
     The disciples got something much worse than a simple paddling and they were doing things so much better than simply smiling. They were performing signs and wonders, which generally meant they were healing those who were sick; they were maintaining a good reputation with the people; they were in one accord with each other (oh, that churches could do that today!); they were growing and adding to the every day; people were coming from all around to be delivered from their afflictions.
     With all that being done, we would think God would bless their efforts and deliver to them peace, prosperity, and freedom from opposition. But the Scriptures, history and personal experience teaches us that there are times when you do things rightly, sometimes everything turns out wrongly.

     It is this type of perseverance that would eventually lead Peter to write in his first epistle, But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:20). Jesus was of course right to change Simon's name to Peter, but based on what we know now, the Lord would not have been too far off to have also occasionally called him Murphy.     
     The next few days we will be looking at perseverance in doing well. Consider a memory verse for this week:
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9
Heavenly Father, today I forgive those who have taken my good deeds and returned evil for the good I do. My greatest example for this is of course found in Your Son and my Lord Jesus Christ. Help me not to grow weary in doing well.