Tuesday, May 15, 2012
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:1).
Scripture Reading: 1 John 2
John the beloved apostle writes from the perspective of a pastor. He writes to those whom he considers to be his spiritual offspring. His loving heart is concerned that they experience the very best and that they avoid everything that would be detrimental to their spiritual welfare.
In our text, John comes right to the point concerning his objective in writing. He declares that he is writing to encourage them to avoid sin. Phillips translates our text as follows: “I write these things to you (may I call you ‘my children’-for that’s how I think of you) to help you to avoid sin.” John was warning them against the danger of falling into sin. The tense of the verb in the original language suggests that he had primary reference to isolated acts of sin rather than to a continuous state of sin. He recognized that there was constant danger of their falling into individual acts of sin. Later he emphasized that the born-again child of God does not continue to live in sin (1 John 3:4-10).
1) The possibility of falling into sin.
John was aware that it is possible for his readers to fall into sin. He spoke repeatedly of the evil one who would destroy us if it were in his power to do so.
John was refuting the error of the Gnostics who taught that sin did not affect the spirit, that sin was not really sinful.
2) To commit sin is to contradict the new nature.
Later John insisted that sin is of the devil and that it is contradictory to the nature of a born-again Christian to live in sin. He spoke of those who “went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:19).
3) Sin must be avoided because sin is self-destructive.
By its very nature, sin destroys that which is finest and best in life. This is why God cannot condone or tolerate sin. His love requires that he oppose sin in its every form.
Now in Conclusion
John would insist that every believer accept personal responsibility for avoiding sin. We can best do this by being sensitive and responsive to the presence of the divine Spirit living within our hearts. We can greatly strengthen our spiritual life by making much of God’s Holy Word. We must recognize the terrible destructive nature of sin itself and abhor it. We must flee from it. We must refuse to tolerate it. We must not condone it. We must look to Jesus Christ for deliverance not only from the penalty of sin but from individual acts of sin in our daily life.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Saturday, May 12, 2012
“Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom” (Matt. 20:20-21).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 20:20-28
Many have tended to join with the other ten apostles in an attitude of hostility toward Salome, the mother of James and John, because of her preferential consideration of her sons. It is significant to note that while Christ corrected her, he did not berate, criticize, or condemn her.
Let us look at this remarkable mother of two men who were to serve their Lord and their generation in such a manner as to be famous after two millenniums. We should remember that she was not divine. She was imperfect like other mothers. However, there must have been something uniquely different about her, for her two sons were among the first who were selected and who responded to our Lord’s invitation to discipleship (Matt. 4:21-22).
While nowhere do we find a direct reference to the fact that the mother of James and John was named Salome, a careful consideration of all the passages in the New Testament seems to imply that this was her name. There is some tradition that would indicate that Salome was a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. If this is true, then James and John were cousins of Jesus on their mother’s side. We cannot be dogmatic at this point.
1) Salome was a mother of great faith.
Salome had great faith in Jesus Christ or else she would not have made her request for preferential treatment of her sons.
It is possible that her faith was colored by the nationalistic and materialistic expectations that were so prominent in the minds of Jewish people in that day and time. Even if this were true, it indicates that she had faith in Jesus Christ.
Salome had faith in the ability and faithfulness of her sons.
She had high expectations of them. She believed that they were capable and could be trusted. Modern-day mothers need to have a great faith in the potentiality of their children. Dr. M. E. Dodd said concerning his mother, “My mother had a kingdom in her heart and empires in her imagination when she thought of her children and their potential.”
2) Salome was a woman of warm devotion.
Salome had a warm love for Jesus Christ that indicated itself in the critical and dangerous time when he was going to the cross.
“And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matt. 27:55-56). Her genuine faith and warm love were manifested by her presence at the tomb as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week (Mark 16:1).
Salome had a great and exalting love for her sons.
We cannot criticize her for this. Instead, she deserves to be commended.
How do you spell the word mother? It has been suggested that the best way to spell mother is L-O-V-E. How do you spell the word love? It has been suggested that the best way to spell love is M-O-T-H-E-R.
3) Salome was a woman of warm spiritual ambition.
Salome accepted correction from the Christ (Matt. 20:22).
Is ambition for our children sinful? In some instances, the answer would be yes. In other instances, the answer would be no.
If Salome was thinking only of position, power, and prestige, her ambition was selfish. On the other hand, perhaps she wanted her sons always to be near Jesus Christ. Possibly she sincerely wanted them to be of assistance to him. Perhaps she wanted them to be totally involved in his work in the world.
Jesus proceeded to explain what one must be and do to be great in the kingdom of God (Matt. 20:26-28). All would agree that James and John met these conditions.
It is highly possible that Salome was of great assistance in helping her sons to become the servants of Jesus Christ that they did become.
James, the son of Zebedee and Salome, became the first of the apostles to experience martyrdom (Acts 12:1-2). Evidently James learned the lesson of humility and self-sacrifice well to have followed his Lord to the point of death.
John became the “apostle of love.” He was the apostle to whom our Lord committed the care of his mother while on the cross (John 19:25-27). According to the best traditions, John served lovingly, faithfully, and significantly until the last decade of the first century of the Christian era. He spent his last years in the city of Ephesus. From there he was exiled to the island of Patmos where the living Lord gave him the visions recorded in the book we know as Revelation.
Behind these two significant men, we need to recognize a mother who was ambitious for her sons. Likewise, mothers of today should be ambitious for the conversion of their children, for the development of Christian character in their children, and for the entering into of Christian marriages and God-pleasing vocations for their children.
Now in Conclusion
On this Mother’s Day those of us who are husbands and fathers should rededicate ourselves to daily prayer for the mothers of our children. We need to encourage them, express our gratitude for them, and assist them.
On Mother’s Day, each of you who is a mother would do well for yourself and for your children if you would accept your role as a teacher for God. God has blessed you with children that you might disciple them, dedicate them, and discipline them for his glory and for the good of humankind in the world today. If you would be a true teacher for God, you must give yourself to genuine worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. You need to go into the throne room of prayer day by day for wisdom, grace, guidance, and help. You need to have faith in the presence and power and purpose of the Holy Spirit as he works in your own heart and through you to bless your home and your children.
Happy Mother's Day,
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
“And he shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps. 1:4).
Scripture Reading: Psalm 1
The Bible almost begins and ends with trees. Someone has suggested that the heart of the gospel may be found in Adam behind a tree, Jesus upon a tree, and the redeemed in heaven under a tree.
Psalm 1 is a tree poem. Perhaps Jesus took his text for the Sermon on the Mount from this psalm. There is not time here to do justice to a parallel reading of these two great pieces of literature, but if you have not read and compared Psalm 1 and the Sermon on the Mount, a great personal blessing awaits you. Each passage tells about the character, the influence, the conduct, and the destiny of the good and the bad life.
1) Characteristics of the good man (Ps. 1:1-2).
Negatively (v. 1).
God’s man does not get his advice from evil men. He “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.” The guiding influences of his life are not from the enemies of God. He does not adjust his conduct to their patterns.
God’s good man does not hang out with the wrong crowd. He does not loaf around with the unrighteous. He is not too good to associate with sinners, but he does not so adopt their habits that he feels entirely at home with them. The good man may penetrate the darkness as a light, but he does not dwell in darkness.
God’s good man does not become a scoffer in the area of spiritual things. He holds God’s way and God’s Word in high esteem. God’s good man is never found in the seat of the scornful.
Positively (v. 2).
God’s good man enjoys doing what God wants done. The delight he has is not merely one of admiration: it is one of participation. He not only likes to know what the law of God is, but he likes to do it.
God’s good man follows a daily devotional program of self-improvement. He meditates on God’s law day and night with the desire to bring himself up to its standards. The real follower of God studies, prays, works, and seeks to improve himself as long as he lives.
2) Comparison of the good man (Ps. 1:3).
“And he shall be like a tree. .”
Both are planted.
It is not by accident that the tree is by the water. It is planted in a certain place for a certain purpose. The good man is not an accident. He is planted. There is purpose in his location and in his life.
Both are provided.
The tree is planted by the river of water; otherwise it would die for lack of sustaining moisture. The good man is not planted in the desert to die. Above the ground as under the ground there is a river to supply his need.
Both are productive.
The tree brings forth fruit, and the good man brings forth fruit. Jesus once came upon a certain fruit tree and found “nothing but leaves.” He said that some people are like that tree: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16). He then repeated his statement at the end of this same comparison: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (v. 20).
Both are permanent.
The tree is an evergreen. “His leaf also shall not whither.” In the tree and in God’s good man, life does not come and go. The Holy Spirit provides a spring of life in God’s good man that flows continually.
Both are prosperous.
This does not mean that there are no lean years or crop failures. It does mean that a good tree and a good man are planted to succeed, and the total influence of each will be one of victory and success as God provides their needs.
3) The contrast with God’s good man (Ps. 1:4-5).
Let us not forget in our ecumenically minded day that God’s Word not only unites but that it also divides. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Contrasted with the good life is the bad life, the ungodly life.
The bad life is unanchored (v. 4).
For the righteous, the roots of the tree keep it fixed in the wind. But the bad life is like the chaff that the wind easily blows away.
The bad life is unsafe (v. 5).
It will not stand in the final judgment day. This is the opposite of permanent prosperity of the good life.
The bad life is unacceptable (v. 5).
Sinners may place themselves in “the congregation of the righteous,” but they are not acceptable to God until they are changed within. People may affiliate superficially, but God will separate finally.
4) The conclusion of God’s good man (Ps. 1:6).
The explanation of God’s good man is God’s work in and for him. God watches over the plans of the good man, and the good man permits God to do it. Not only does God watch over the plans of the good man, but he watches over his paths. Both in his plans and in his performance God is with his man.
The paths of the evil man lead to doom. It is not so much the way of the ungodly that will perish as it is that the man himself will perish.
Now in Conclusion
There are but two ways for us. Each is vividly described in the Scriptures. It is up to each of us to choose the way we will go.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Sunday, May 06, 2012
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34 RSV).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:24-39
How involved should the Christian be in controversial matters? How involved should the church be in controversial issues? Should the Christian try to avoid controversy at all costs, or does his faith have something relevant to say? Does his faith compel him to act?
1) Conflicts can hardly be avoided.
The church should be faithful in its proclamation of the gospel, and the fullness of the gospel has serious implications for the life of people in their society and for their nation. If this were not so, why would Jesus have said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father. .He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:34-39)
The apostle Paul was not being merely rhetorical when he wrote the following lines to a young person in the Christian life: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Paul was referring to his faithfulness to the gospel-in living for it, in preaching and teaching it day and night. There were problems in the days of the early church that required Paul to stand up and be counted. It has been said that wherever Paul went he was involved either in a prayer circle or in a riot-and the two are not always mutually exclusive.
Jesus manifested his righteous indignation and anger at wrongs in his society. To be sure, he never would have been crucified if he had avoided the controversial. He was too dangerous to have around, so he was condemned and crucified-not only as an unusual, or unorthodox and dangerous religious leader, but as one who was thought to be too revolutionary. The Jewish leaders could not stand Jesus confronting them with the disturbing will and love of God, so they crucified him.
Conflict is not necessarily evil. It can be evil, especially if it is not dealt with promptly and positively. But some conflict is basic to life. Biologists and others who study life tell us that people learned and grew through conflict with their environment; conflict compelled people to seek knowledge that they might gain some mastery over their surroundings. Throughout history one idea has been challenged by another, and in the ensuing conflict either one or the other was victorious or the two merged into a new and entirely different idea. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis-these form the polarity and the movement of life.
Life is action; action is something in conflict with something else. Take, for example, married life and family life. How can two people, even when they are in love, and especially when they are joined by children, ever expect that the home will not have conflict? By the very nature of the case, conflict is not only inevitable, it is natural and basic. A bad marriage can be one in which there is the absence of conflict. One such marriage is pictured in a cartoon of a man and his wife at work in the kitchen. The mild and meek husband, in a burst of real bravery, ventures to observe: “One thing I don’t like, dear, is when you ask me a question, then you answer the question for me, and then you disagree with me!”
Going back to the question “How can a Christian avoid conflict?” he cannot, unless he avoids life around him and puts his faith in the lock box of sentimental pietism.
2) Dealing with controversy.
Conflict must be faced honestly and realistically. We do the greatest damage to ourselves and others when we try to avoid conflict that cannot-or should not-be avoided. Loving our enemies and praying for those who despitefully use us is not negated by our facing the issues that make us enemies. Going back to the thought of marriage, conflict is not what destroys marriage, but avoidance of the issue does. Harbored feelings, hidden resentments, unevaluated indifferences-these can destroy a marriage and wreck family living. A good family discussion is not to be avoided when one is needed. When a family faces the issues, there likely will be differences of opinion, but sweeping conflict under the proverbial rug, refusing to discuss it, hiding from it in sweet, sentimental talk-this is what builds up into a huge explosion in many instances. Then comes the drifting apart and the feeling of “I just can’t stand to live with him [or her] any longer.” Inability to love physically, emotionally, and spiritually often is a consequence. More marriages are destroyed by a couple’s failure to face the issues than are destroyed because they fight too much. However, this should not be taken as an encouragement to pick a fight with your spouse. It is to say that it is better to face an issue than to avoid controversy that needs attention. The same truth applies concerning great public issues confronting a community or a nation.
Now in Conclusion
“I have fought the good fight,” wrote Paul. This should be written across the life of every Christian and every church. The nature of the Christian’s faith demands our involvement in life. It is better to get into trouble with the world seeking to do God’s will than to get into trouble with God because we are afraid to do his will in our world. Let us never forget that the central symbol of our faith is a cross.
God bless you all, Pastor Mike
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11:23-27
With pride and joy we come to the day when high school seniors are recognized as having completed a course of study. We come to this day with praise for our Lord for his blessings upon us. We come with praise for those who have achieved success in this portion of their lives. We should offer gratitude and praise to teachers who have made their distinctive contribution. We come to this day with hope and anticipation, for the future holds great promise. We come to this day with earnest prayer for divine guidance for you as you begin making the decisions that will determine your destiny.
Life is made up of choices as well as consequences. There are some circumstances concerning which you have had no choice whatsoever. You could not choose your parents, and you could not choose the nation into which you were born. You could not choose the date of your birth or the world situation into which you were born. The past has been formed by the choices made by your parents and your response or reaction to these choices. Now a new door is opening for you. A new era is beginning. You will enjoy more freedom in the future than you have in the past. With this new freedom will come a great increase in responsibility. I hope today that you are mature enough to accept responsibility for your choices.
The new world you face can be exciting and satisfying. The road you choose will lead to your destiny. Your responses to circumstances will determine your decisions. It is only proper that your pastor and your parents come to this day with prayers for you.
1) We pray that you will choose to serve God rather than mammon.
“Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). We live in a secularized world where the scientific approach to life is emphasized. Great emphasis is placed on achieving material success.
A Hindu merchant in Hong Kong was observed burning a candle before an image at the beginning of the business day. Inquiry revealed that he was making a sacrifice to the money god. He believed that the money god could give him financial success. He declared that this was the first thing on his agenda each morning. The world’s strong emphasis on economic success would encourage you to live your life dedicated fully and completely to the search for mammon.
Live for something more than profit.
Live for something more than position.
Live for something greater than power.
Live for something more than privilege.
2) We pray that you will choose to sow to the Spirit rather than to the flesh.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).
In our flesh we are kin to the animal kingdom.
In our mind and soul we are related to God. While living in the flesh, in the world, we must recognize that our higher nature is in the realm of the Spirit. We are something more than intelligent animals walking around on two feet.
The person is made in the image and likeness of God. He has an inner hunger that cannot be satisfied with anything except a knowledge of and a relationship to the Creator God.
As you give attention to preparing your mind, do not forget your soul. Determine that you will not be content with a childhood concept of God. As your knowledge of the world increases, make certain that your knowledge of God deepens and grows.
3) We pray that you will choose to enter the narrow gate of disciplined living rather than the broad way of shallow drifting.
“ ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13-14 NIV).
No one becomes a scholar automatically or accidentally.
Scholarship is the result of a desire that is followed by a decision to make diligent inquiry and comprehensive study of some field of knowledge. This requires discipline.
One does not become an outstanding athlete accidentally.
One may possess a wonderful physique and have splendid muscular coordination. However, these do not constitute athletic prowess.
One does not become a medical doctor merely because he has desire.
Desire must be matched with decision and discipline. To follow the course of study that leads to a medical degree requires that one eliminate many available electives and options.
The mighty minority who achieve significance are those who live a disciplined life. Jesus speaks of the gate being small and the way being narrow that leads to the abundant life. He has reference to that narrow gate of decisiveness and the disciplined life of dedicated living. No one can become a dedicated Christian apart from the discipline that makes the will of God the top priority of life.
4) We pray that you will choose to serve rather than to be served.
“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
How do you define success? Do you think in terms of stocks and bonds, farms and property? Do you think in terms of a beautiful home and the latest model automobile? Do you define success primarily in terms of the things that you can acquire and enjoy?
If you want to find the highest success possible, you must do so by defining success in terms of service to others. Jesus warned his disciples against the error of thinking of greatness in terms of exercising authority and control over others. He said, “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:26-27). Jesus paints for us a word picture of a man who thought of success in terms of being served rather than serving. The rich farmer was eminently successful in planning and following a procedure that produced an abundance of material things. These things made it possible for him to be served by others. The divine verdict is that this man followed a policy of foolishness because he thought only in terms of himself. He forgot God, he forgot others, and he forgot eternity. He was living to be served rather than to serve (Luke 12:15-21).
5) We pray that you will choose the will of God as the road map for life.
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
The will of God is not something to be avoided at all cost.
The will of God is not something that we must endure with dread.
God’s will is all-inclusive and comprehensive, and it leads to the highest possible joy and achievement in life.
God’s will is always ultimately best for us and best for others. God is a good God. He loves us to the extent that he gave his Son to die for us on the cross. All of his purposes and plans for us are purposes of love. To find the will of God for your life is life’s greatest discovery. To do the will of God in your life is life’s greatest achievement.
Now in Conclusion
As you face the future, I would suggest to you that Christ is the way for you. He is the way out from the guilt and from the power of sin. He is the way through an unknown, uncertain tomorrow. He is the way to abundant life, to the life that leads to the highest possible usefulness and happiness. Christ is the way to the Father. In all of your ways acknowledge him, obey him, follow him, and trust him.
God bless you all, Pastor Mike
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