Standing on the promises of God

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We sing a hymn about standing on the promises of God. I don’t know what inspired the writer of the hymn but for me what Caleb said in Joshua 14:9-11 is the epitome of standing on the promises of God.

“So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive,” as He said, “these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.”

God made a promise to Caleb. Caleb had to wait 40 years while the disobedient died out in the wilderness. Then he had to wait 5 years as they moved in to conquer the land. And after claiming his inheritance he still had to conquer it.

What an illustration for us. To often we are ready to give up when God doesn’t answer I prayers before the sunsets. Caleb waited 45 years. We expect God step in some miraculous way to answer our prayers so we don’t have put in any effort. Caleb claimed his inheritance knowing he was only going to get it by charging in with sword drawn.

The difference is that Caleb knew the promise of God and we just assume that what we want is promised by God. The only way to know the promises of God is to study them. You have to read the Bible.

Easter is Coming

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Easter is coming and this year it is on April 1st. Every Sunday is a weekly celebration of Jesus paying it all. Easter is the annual service. Here at FBC Callaway, we will gather at sunrise (6:30 a.m.) and celebrate the resurrection. Then at 11 a.m. we will gather in the sanctuary to hear our choir lead us in stirring music that points to the Lord.

Start now on inviting you friends, neighbors and family. Make an effort to invite them three times between now and April 1st. This just might be the Sunday that they give their life to the only one that can save their soul.

Yes, they may say no. They also may say yes. Pray for them often, asking God to soften their heart so that they will come. In John chapter 4 when the woman at the well realized who Jesus was she left her water pot, went and told her town about him, and then she lead them to Jesus. That is all we need to do. Tell our friends, neighbors and family about who Jesus is to us and then lead them to him. Don’t worry if they told you no in the past just be very humble and very loving and invite them again.

Some that read this are not part of FBC Callaway but still invite your friends, neighbors and family three times to your church, bathing your request in prayer, humility and love.

Have You Really Seen the Gift of God?

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In a few days Christmas will be here. For many the day will pass with little thought of Jesus. Some will be distracted by toys, and some will be distracted by reunion with family they have not seen in a while. For others the day will pass just like every other day of the year. While it is true that the modern holiday called Christmas is an amalgamation of many different traditions and Jesus was probably born in the Spring. Let us not forget that Jesus is the greatest gift that God has ever given mankind.

Jesus’ birth was unique but it is not his birth that makes him great. The angel announced to the shepherds not that a baby had been born but that the Savior, Christ the Lord had arrived. Simeon was not excited by a baby but by the Lord’s salvation, the Lord’s revelation to the Gentiles, and the Lord’s glory of Israel. The Wise man came not to see a child but a King.

Only two of the four gospels even mention his birth. All four of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament speak of his death. The gift was not in the birth but in the death. For on that cross as the Lord gave his life so the sins of the many could be forgiven.

The importance is not the baby in the manger but the Savior, Christ the Lord, on the cross bridging the gap between God and man for the glory of God and the redemption of man. 

I hope that this Christmas you personal understand the depth of the Love of the Father in sending his son. That like Simeon God will not let you see death until you have seen the Lord’s Christ.

Some Lack Restraint

Where there is no revelation,  
the people cast off restraint;  
But happy is he who keeps the law.  
Proverbs 29:18

Does the world seem to have lost its mind? Does our nation seem to be spiraling out of control? Does hate seem to be spewed from every corner of humanity? Does it seem like at any minute life as we know is about to be destroyed?

If you answered yes to these questions you are probably watching or reading to much news. That said, There is an increase in hate being publicly spewed. People seem to be more willing to say and do things that a decade ago would not have be tolerated.

The source is a lack of revelation in peoples lives. I don’t mean a lack of a new word from God. I mean people don’t have the current word, what God has already revealed. In Proverbs 29:18 revelation and law are being used as synonyms for God’s word. 

People who don’t have His word cast off restraint. It is the anything goes mentality. Where as those with His word are happy. That doesn’t mean having a copy of the Bible sitting on a shelf in your home makes you happy. They have the Father’s word in their hearts through the love Jesus by the power the Holy Spirit. And when you have that you can be happy.

Notice too that the verse is structure in a way that there is an inferred contrast. Those without revelation are not truly happy and those with the law have restraint.

The revelation of God is still in many peoples lives. I would venture to say that most people still have some of the revelation buried in them even though they don’t follow Jesus currently just because of how extensive the church has been in this nation. But as the generations progress the ensuing will be further from the revelation and restraint. Which is a further incentive to pray for revival. Revival would draw more to the revelation, increase personal restraint, and lead to a happier populace. (And give the News less negativity to talk about.)

Traditions: Milestone or Millstone

A milestone is not something that we see now. I can’t even think of a place that still has them. They were stones set up along the road to mark each mile. The serve the same purpose as mile makers on the interstate. As a kid I remember watching the mile markers as I kept track of how far to our exit. Though we don’t see milestones anymore we understands their purpose to measure distance.

A millstone has a completely different purpose. In old mills there were two stones used together for grinding up wheat or corn. The lower stone that is stationary and the upper stone that moves around on lower. Big heavy things millstone are. Not something you can just toss around. Jesus mention that you would drown with a millstone hung around your neck and tossed into a lake.

Now to explain what milestones and millstones have to do with traditions. Traditions in church life can be milestones that mark where they have come from and how far they have come. Those are good traditions. Traditions can also be millstones that weight the church down. Hold it back from reaching the goals that Jesus desires for the church. If the traditions gets to big they can crush a church out of existence.

So what is a milestone tradition and what is a millstone tradition. There is no clear answer to that question. For each church that is different. A tradition in one church because of its community might be a milestone. Where as in another church the same tradition is crushing the life out the church.

So what we need to do is to constantly examine ourselves and our church to see if we are holding onto something that is crushing us or is it marking our path. The best thing to do is when a tradition is questioned is to go back to the Scripture and see if it is Biblical and then get on our knees and talked to God about it. We don’t want to cling to something that is getting in the way of us serving Jesus both corporally as a church and individually.

Good Soldiers Are Not Entangled With Affairs of This Life

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3,4, NKJV).

When I read 2 Timothy 2:3,4 I think of the Children’s song about being in the Lord’s army. We do not often think of ourselves as soldiers but that is one aspect of being a Christian. This earth is a battlefield, not just a physical one but a spiritual one. Many today are worried as they have love ones in military service around the world. In the spiritual war there are souls on the line all around us. Souls are even more precious than lives because should a soul be lost it is lost forever. It is not that lives are not valuable, they are, for to each life a soul is attached. The spiritual war is often overlooked because it takes spiritual discernment to see it.

When Japan surrendered that became the official end of the WWII in the pacific. That however was not the end of fighting in the pacific. There were many Japanese soldiers scattered across islands that did not know that Japan had surrendered. They fought on until they got the word. 

Almost two thousand years ago Jesus Christ died and rose again. Jesus won the war but he did not vanquish all of the enemy. Battles still rage for souls. People are still dying and going to hell. Jesus Christ has enlisted all faithful believers into the war effort. Our duty is to rescue souls. We are soldiers in the spiritual war. We do not volunteer for this duty. Jesus has drafted us. It is part of the very essence of salvation.

Paul reminds Timothy that his activities need to be guided by the war effort to rescue lost souls. There are three things that stand out for the Christian soldier in those two verses. First the Christian soldier must endure hardship. The Christian life is not about the easy road. Christ never promised that we will have an easy life in following Him. What He promised is the way to life is difficult (Matthew 7:14), we must take up our own cross (Luke 9:23, 14:27), and be persecuted in His name (Matthew 5:10-12). Hardship is an expectation of the Christian walk.

Second, we must not allow ourselves to be entangled with the affairs of this life. This is probably the enemies greatest weapon against us. An example is how some Christian get so wrapped in sports that they skip church so they can watch the games. They can tell you the full name, and stats of the players on their favorite team, but they can’t name the ten commandments. It is okay for us to participate and enjoy the things of this world like sports. We are not to become entangled by them. That is encumbered by them so that they drag us down.

Third, Our focus should be on pleasing our General. Jesus is the one that purchased us on the cross. It is His army that He enlisted us. We should focus our life around Him. Jesus taught us that no man can serve two master. You are either serving Jesus or you are not. The more you focus you life on Jesus the easier it becomes to endure hardship and avoid entanglement.

Sunday School

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that in the last few months I have been pushing the idea that you need to be involved in Sunday school. You know you need to be reading your Bible daily. You know you should be involved in public worship in a church. But do you really understand the importance of small group Bible study? In the early days of the church it is written:

“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42, NKJV.

They were involved in public corporate worship in the temple. Our Sunday morning service is a descendant of this worship time. The disciples were also moving from house to house teaching. They didn't have Sunday school class rooms to gather in so they would meet in homes to discuss the Word of God on a more personal level and in more detail. It was small group Bible Study. Some churches today have gone back to that model. No longer do they have Sunday school but meet through out the week in homes. I am not concerned about the location, in homes, in Sunday school class rooms, or in the back corner of a restaurant is okay with me. I am concerned about your involvement in small group Bible study.

Even years later as Paul prepares to return to Jerusalem he says:

“how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,” Acts 20:20, NKJV.

Decades later we still have public (church worship) and from house to house (small group Bible study).

It is in small group that others learn who you are and you learn who others are. You build bonds so that when you need help they are there for you and when necessary you are there for them. Small group Bible study lets you ask questions so that you can grow in knowledge of the Bible. It is the best help for your personal Bible study.

I really want to encourage you to become a regular attender of a small group. Right now at Callaway we have grade separated small group meetings on Sunday morning at 9:45 am and an all age Bible study on Tuesday at 7:00 pm. I hope one day that we will have more small groups meeting through the week.

One final note if any of you wish to start a new Bible study let me know. I will be glad to help you organize a new class.

The United States is NOT a Christian Nation

The United States has the reputation of being a Christian nation. It is just assumed that the majority of Americans are Christians. But that depends on what your definition of Christian is.

One definition of Christian often used by polls is if a person answers yes to the question, “Do you identify as a Christian?” I have seen that the number of self identifying Christians in the United States ranges from 66% to 80%. The latest Pew Research Poll puts the number at 70.6%. From my personal experience that seems like a fair assessment. So with that definition the United States is a Christian Nation.

But calling yourself a Christian does not make you one. A genuine Christian is radically changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They are marked with many new characteristics like love, joy, peace, giving, mercy, Bible study, and fellowship. For this article I am going to focus on two characteristics. Genuine Christians have a deep desire for Bible Study and fellowship with other believers.

Think of it this way, would you say that a man loves a woman if he doesn’t like her body and her mind? How can a person love Jesus if he doesn’t like Jesus’ body, i.e., fellowship with other Christians, church attendance, and small group meetings? How can a person love Jesus if he doesn’t like Jesus’ mind, i.e., the Bible, group and personal Bible study?

Many claim that around 40% of Americans attend church regularly. That would mean that the United States is not a majority Christian. In all the places I have lived, I have never seen a rate of 40% regularly church attendance, unless what you call regularly is attending once a year.

A 2005 study revealed that weekly church attendance of Americans is at 17.7%. Weekly attendance does not make you a Christian but it is a good sign. The number of people that attend two or more weekly services drop off to a third of that in my observations at 5.9%. Now there are some genuine Christians that only attend one service a week. It may be job, health or a lack of discipleship that hinders them from attending more often. That puts the genuine Christians in the United States at some where between 6% and 17%. That means that the United States is NOT a Christian Nation.

The majority (53% to 64%) of the United States is folk Christians. Folk Christianity is a thin veneer of Christian terminology slapped on top of a thick base of personal relativism. Sadly, the folk Christians are the ones that make the most noise. They are more concerned about boycotts, protests and passing special interest laws than about making disciples, which is a genuine Christian concern.

Be of good cheer, rejoice for even though genuine Christianity is a minority in the United States, Jesus is still Lord over all. His is able to save as many as come to Him.

Reference

- http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

- http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html