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Make Changes with Something that Doesn’t Change

New Year’s Eve

All men are like grass, all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall.”  New Year’s resolution books and programs and articles make a lot of money off that Bible verse.  Peter quotes from the prophet Isaiah and reminds us that all people are like grass or flowers of the field.  We all wither and die.  If you want evidence of sin in this world and the consequence of death, there is no better time to see this than at New Year’s.

Every year we do the same thing.  We review the previous calendar year.  We look at the things we have done, how our lives have changed, how we have aged.  And with this review we quickly look to make changes for the new year because ever year we see the same sorts of things.  I’ve gotten older this year and more out of shape and more flabby.  I didn’t keep my resolutions for last year.  Some of them fell miserably short.  Some of the resolutions I made I didn’t even start on. Read the rest of this entry

God Chose You For a Reason

5th Sunday after Pentecost

God Chose You For a Reason

Text: 1 Peter 2:9-12

Intro

There’s a certain art to it.  Picking fruit at the grocery store.  I don’t know how it works, but I know there is an art to it.  I do know the basics though.  Watch out for bananas that are already very yellow.  They’ll be brown before you know it.  Be careful for certain fruits that are too soft.  They’ll be mushy on the inside.  I also know that usually the freshest fruits (and vegetables) are in the back of the shelf because they want you to take from the front the food expiring the soonest.

But there are other little tricks of the trade.  I find it humorous to watch these in action.  You’ll see people picking up fruit, turning it round and round, gently squeezing it, smelling it, even trying to see how easy a leaf plucks off a fruit like a pineapple.

Everyone takes time when choosing fruit because the last thing you want is to choose a rotten fruit.  Rotten fruit is yucky and gross.  No one wants that.  And nothing could be worse than spending time sorting through all the fruit, you pick out something that smells good and looks good, you take it home and you still find it is rotten to the core!  Yuck!

It reminds me of the old school yard ballgame.  Every day at recess we spent the first five minutes doing the most important thing—picking teams.  There was lots of strategy to picking teams.  If you go first then you have to pick the best player.  Later on you pick players based on what position you can play or what you need on your team.  But whatever happened you wanted to make sure you weren’t that last kid chosen.   You know—the kid that no one wants because he couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a baseball.  No one wants to be chosen last.

Picking teams was tricky too.  Sometimes the best player chosen first struck out at every at bat.  Sometimes the team you picked didn’t play so well together.  Sometimes the player you picked second or third played like they should have been the kid picked last.  Read the rest of this entry

Yes It is My “Business”

The doorbell rang. Of course! Right when I’m in the middle of something!

I went to the door, looked through the stained glass, and knew immediately who it was. I could tell by the mid-length floral dresses. It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses–again.

I opened the door and they began their regular and rehearsed routine. But I cut right to the chase. “Thank you very much, but I don’t need information from anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is truly God.” They had the look in their eyes like they knew they were in for an up-hill battle.

The two ladies at the door couldn’t answer many of my points from Scripture about Jesus being true God and our true Savior who gives eternal life in heaven to all who believe (not just 144,000). They needed to bring in the cavalry for reinforcements.

I shared more truths from Scripture, but they simply wouldn’t listen. Finally, I made one last-ditch effort to wake them from spiritual slumber. They needed a huge wakeup call from the full force of God’s Law.

I smiled and calmly stated, “My name is Phil. I want you to remember that. I want you to remember so that on the Last Day when Jesus comes and you find out you were wrong, you will know that at least one person tried to tell you and warn you.”

Recently I have been writing about a particular topic–homosexuality. In a broader spectrum I have actually been writing about unrepentant sin of every kind–sinning against God without care, sorrow, or regret. The last two days these posts have been a hotbed of discussion and opinions. One of the more common things I have heard from people is this:

“It’s none of your business.”

“It’s none of your business what other people do. It’s none of your business what people do in the privacy of their own homes. It’s none of your business because it doesn’t affect you.”

But don’t get me wrong, I haven’t only heard this from people living the homosexual lifestyle or in favor of homosexuality. I hear this from the church prospect whose living situation isn’t pleasing to the Lord. I hear this from prescription pill addict who won’t admit he has a problem and is in danger of going to prison. I hear this all the time from many, many people. They all say the same thing:

“It’s none of your business.”

But listen to what the Lord said to the prophet Ezekiel 33:7-11:

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of  them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

It was Ezekiel’s job, his commission, his mission, and his ministry to be a watchman for the people of Israel. Just as a city watchman would stand on the city walls and warn of impending danger, so Ezekiel’s job was to warn the people of Israel about the danger of their sins.

Amazingly, the Lord even told Ezekiel that if Israel did not repent of their sins and Ezekiel had not warned them, then he would share in the guilt and responsibility of their sins!

Ezekiel was to be a mouthpiece for the Lord. Why? Because the Lord does not desire that people go to hell. The Lord wants people to turn from their sin and evil ways, to repent, to be forgiven, and to be in heaven. That’s what the Lord wants, and that’s what the Lord wants us to tell others.

Imagine you are at the Grand Canyon. What a beautiful sight! But suddenly, to your horror, you see a blind person walking around the rim of the canyon. The person is using a cane, so he has some awareness of the danger. But he chooses to walk in danger anyways.

It gets worse! Terribly worse!

You see that blind person walking toward the edge. Slowly but surely he nears that edge. Then, sadly, he even walks off and falls to his peril.

You stood by and watched the whole thing take place. But you didn’t say anything. Why? Because it was “none of your business.”

Was it really loving of you to “mind your own business”? Would you not say that though that blind person brought on his own death, you also shared in culpability because you said nothing?

That’s exactly what God told Ezekiel, and that’s exactly what God tells his people today. We are his watchmen. It is absolutely, completely, definitely our business what other people do because it our  job, our commission, our mission, and our ministry to speak the Word of God to others.

No, we are not to stand in judgment of others. That’s for God to do. No, we are not to look down our noses at others as if we have never sinned and we are so much better. That’s neither realistic nor loving.

But rather we are supposed to be God’s watchmen carefully, clearly, and lovingly proclaiming the truth. Listen to the apostle Peter:

15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

God wants us to be prepared to speak his truth, to be his mouthpiece, to be his watchmen. Yet–so importantly–he tells us to do so with gentleness and respect. It is in love for the eternal salvation of those living in sin that we proclaim God’s message: “Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (After we preach the message to ourselves first!)

Many have told me before, “It’s none of your business.” Well actually, yes it is. God has charged me as both Christian and  pastor to be a watchman and to proclaim his truth with gentleness, respect, and love.

And besides, I care! I do not want to see people walk off the edge of the cliff!

So, fellow Christians, stand your watch. Care. Love. Proclaim God’s truth.

It is your business.

Daily Devotion on 1 Peter 1:16-21

Text:  1 Peter 1:16-21

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

That’s the American way! We want proof. We want evidence. We want empirical data. Even photos or video footage aren’t good enough. Those can be doctored up and edited. Thus, we won’t believe anything until we see it first!

We can understand why the lessons for this coming Sunday are so important. They all revolve on trusting in things we haven’t seen. Abraham believed promises from God that seemed impossible. Thomas didn’t believe his disciple buddies had seen the risen Savior Jesus. And in the present, we face a similar challenge: We haven’t ever seen our Savior and our God Jesus Christ!

Peter gives us great encouragement today. The words of Scripture aren’t made up like Harry Potter playing Quidditch. This isn’t the Hunger Games. Peter and the other apostles were eye witnesses and ear witnesses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We can be sure that Scripture is true and that Jesus is truly our Savior because these are real things that real people saw and heard. Ever wonder why there are four gospel accounts? We would call that today  in our culture corroborating evidence!

Even more, Peter continues to assure us about the veracity and validity of Scripture by informing us that these weren’t made up or embellished stories, either. Rather, the prophets and apostles spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. God inspired and helped write every single word–every single letter even–of his Holy Word.

We weren’t around when the Bible was written. We have never seen Jesus. But yet we still trust. This is called “faith.” What a blessing to have this gift of faith given to us by God to believe what we have never seen which such sure confidence!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I have never seen you. I have never heard your voice. Yet continue to give me a sure and certain faith that sees and hears you through the pages of Scripture. Give me a confident trust that you are my Savior and that your words in Scripture are true. Erase my doubts and strength my belief. In your name I pray, AMEN.

God Bless President Obama and God Bless Us!

Barack Obama is President of the United States (POTUS) again. On Tuesday the Commander in Chief was reelected to remain in his office for four more years.

If you look at the voting statistics, it was a fairly close vote. Maybe it wasn’t as close as some people thought it would be, but it was by no means a landslide victory.

So now what? What will all the Republicans do? More importantly, what will conservative Christians do? As I shared in a previous post this week, there are a number of things that are concerning about what the Democrats are trying to do. There are things being approved and proposed that are contrary to our faith and beliefs. Thus, many conservative Christians might have been left frustrated and disturbed after Obama was reelected on Tuesday.

What are Christians to do? How are we to react?

With respect and honor! Once again, we review two key Bible verses:

Romans 13:1-2  Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

1 Peter 2:13-14, 17  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right . . . honor the king.

No matter who is the President of the United States–or even if we live in a country with communism and a dictator!–we owe our government respect and honor. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with every policy or platform. But that does mean we ought be humbly respectful.

God is in control of this entire universe. He created it. He preserves it. Thus, it was according to his holy will that Barack Obama is the one he has allowed to become president.

Why?

Only God knows.

But we do know these things:

  • God promises never to leave us or forsake us
  • God promises that all things work for our good
  • God promises that his kingdom and his Church cannot be defeated

Thus, humbly we accept God’s will and move forward. Maybe Obama was your vote. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter any more. God allowed  Obama to retain his office. God’s will was done.

Therefore, we are to respect our President. We are to pray for our President. We are to pray for our country. And, if we want to make some real changes in our lives and in our country, then we can be resolved to vow what Joshua did in the Old Testament:

Joshua 24:15  But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!

That crystial-clear focus will bring real change in our lives, our communities, and our country.

God be with President Obama. God be with the United States of America. God be with us.

May his will be done. May his kingdom spread.