Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fruitful Vines


Psalms 128 NKJV
1 Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.
2 When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants All around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.

This Psalm paints a picture of someone who is blessed, happy, fulfilled, and in love. How does a person get a life like that? It begins with having the right priorities.

(After I complete my studies for each sermon I email a copy to several individuals and church staff members. Each time I email a copy of my sermon notes I include a brief exhortation on what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to me in my private time with Him. I don’t think I have ever shared with any of these mini-sermons with the church before however, this morning I want to just read a portion of what I wrote to them yesterday. I hope you will find this useful for further consideration:

There is an Identity Crisis in America

Who or what are you first?

Are you first a child of God?

Are you first a Baptist, Methodist, or Catholic?

Are you first a Black person, a White person, an Asian, or Hispanic?

Are you first a woman or a man?

Are you first a Republican or a Democrat?

Are you first a member of management or a worker, union or not?

Are you first a fan of your favorite team?

Where do you go to first to decide or determine your stance.

Were they safe or were they out? Is he right or is he wrong? Does the truth matter, does it weigh in fairly or do you only stand on the side which favors your team, your party, your gender, or your race?

Are you open to the truth, without hedging … regardless of who it favors?

Do you have what it takes to be the impartial umpire?

Are you a voice or are you only an echo of self serving rhetoric?

Is there some better way? Should there not be a priority of identities to which our other associations submit and in which a subordinate identity never violates a superior identity? If so, what should be at the top of our identity list?

Who or what are you first? Think about it! …)

Now, let’s get back to our message for this morning … Fruitful Vines!

Watch this before we continue:

Samson and Delilah postcard … Listen to the wrong voice, make the wrong choice.

What was wrong with this guy?

Judges 16:4 And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.

Samson loved her … but she was an unfruitful vine.

What made Delilah an unfruitful vine? She did not love Samson back, she loved herself. Unfruitful vines are vines which, although you care for them, cultivate them, water them, and love them … they do not produce fruit for you and they do not love you back. It’s a one way street … always what you can do for them and if you stop, they just look for someone else to take care of them … no loyalty, no love, no faithfulness, no commitment, no fruit for all of your investment.

Let some better offer come along and they discard you in a heartbeat without remorse and without regret … they take all you offer and may satisfy you as long as it meets their needs, then, when you least expect it and can least afford it, they leave you high and dry.

1 John 2 NKJV
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

Love not the world … it is an unfruitful vine which will not love you back.

The same thing happened to Eve in the Garden. She got her eyes off of what God said and onto what the serpent was saying. The serpent did not love her … he loved himself and what she could do for him.

The world does not love you, it loves itself. Your car, your vanity, your job, your money does not love you … it loves itself.

In the day of trouble you cannot pray to your money or to your vanity and expect it to lay down its life for your need.

1 Timothy 6 NKJV
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Verse 17 calls money, “uncertain riches”, which cannot be trusted.

Money is not evil, just the love of money, or anything else which causes a person to abandon what is right and righteous.

Proverbs 23 NKJV
4 ¶ Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease!
5 Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.

Riches are enticing and elusive … like the fig tree cursed by Jesus in Matthew 21, it promised fruit but did not deliver … an unfruitful vine!

Colossians 3
1 ¶ If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

How can you fall out of love with the unfruitful vines so that you stop cultivating the wrong relationships, investing in the wrong futures, stop listening to the wrong voices, and then fall in love with the fruitful vines God has for your life?

First, take an inventory of your life to make sure you are not the unfruitful vine in someone else’s life.

Then, ask God to deliver you from the unfruitful vines in your life.

Realize that some vines which are currently unfruitful may still be the will of God for your life … surely you can determine which ones … if not, go to God’s Word or get some counsel.

If you are connected to an unfruitful vine to which God has attached you, then be faithful to trust God as you continue to cultivate a fruitful field in which God can bring that vine to its fruitful season.

And don’t forget, make God and His will your top priority.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Favor of God


Since it’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference … we should realize that:

One moment of favor is worth a thousand days of labor.

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

When our two children were in high school, our daughter in her senior year and our son was a junior, we decided to take one last family vacation before they graduated and began leaving home. We had saved for this vacation for a few years and were going to spend it all on this once in a lifetime adventure … a Mediterranean cruise …

(Tell the story of being a day late for our Easter European cruise and the favor we received which no amount of money could have afforded)

When no one else can; when no one else will; when no one else seems to care … God does, God can, God will!

Key Scriptures: Ephesians 3
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In my line of work I depend on the favor of God. Let me show you what I mean …

(Play the video from Israel and the 100th episode of Postcards)

God cares about you; He knows exactly where you are and what you need. And, He has already provided for you before you even know you need or think to ask.

People you have never even met yet are waiting to show you the favor which God demands they give His children. All you have to do is participate by boldly approaching life as God designed it.

You are either acting or reacting in life. God has designed life to react towards you based upon how you act in life. So many people have it the wrong way around. The problems many people face today were caused by their reaction to some circumstance or situation of life. Life offers us daily opportunities to fail or to succeed, what we do with these moments make the difference. We should learn to act, never react, especially in critical moments of life.

God has made His children Kings and Priests in the earth. God created the world as a home for us and He created laws which govern life in favor of His children. The whole universe is set up to respond in a predictable manner to the stimuli of each individual. God governs all of His creation by laws.

One such law is The Law of Reciprocity

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

This law is stated, restated, and confirmed throughout the Bible. Basically … ‘You get what you give from the heart’ … not what you give from the hand or the head, but what you give from the heart. This law is activated and operates by the law of faith. And, faith is a heartfelt matter, even if you aren’t aware of it at the time.

Another is The Law of Friendship

Proverbs 18:24 ¶ A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Yet another law is The Law of Favor

Proverbs 3
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart,
4 And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.

God has already predetermined that the person who shows favor to others will store up favor for themselves. Both heaven and earth favor one who is truly merciful from the heart. This is why Jesus grew into a man in the city of Nazareth having favor with both God and man. Jesus, above all others, showed mercy and favor to everyone, in fact … He gave His life for people who persecuted and crucified Him. From the woman caught in adultery to the Roman soldiers at the cross, Jesus showed true, heartfelt mercy.

No greater love has any man than to lay down his life for a friend.

I believe it’s time we Believers in Jesus begin acting like God intended and exercise the laws He instituted for our benefit by treating others with the same kindness and respect we desire.

Not only those we like or those who treat us good, but even towards our enemies. Jesus said that we should love our enemies and do good to those who curse us and persecute us.

Be kind; Be merciful; Be giving; Treat others like you want to be treated.

When people treat you poorly, don’t react! When life serves you a difficult burden, try to not react. Instead of reacting … act! Act like God and the world will react to you like you are His child. Exercise self control and don’t lose control. Overcome instead of being overcome. Have faith in God and you will gain both the favor of God and the favor of man. Remember, one moment of favor is worth a thousand days of labor … let the Spirit of God arise in you and boldly engage life as the winner God has designed you to be.

Don’t let stinking thinking get you down, depress you or make you want to quit. No body ever won a race sitting on the bench. Get up, get charged up, be merciful and act like you’re a child of God!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Life As God Intended


How was your 4th of July? (first service only)

Are you having fun? Tell me, is God happy when you’re happy? You know, life is designed to be fun and barring the tragedies of life, if you are not having fun, you may not be living life as God intended. And even though seasons of difficulties come, as Jesus said, you can still be of good cheer because you are designed to overcome those difficulties and get yourself back on the track of life God intended.

These past two weeks have been one of the most stressful times I have ever had as far as demands on my time and mental energies. If you know me then you know that is quite a statement. I am used to living in overdrive and maximizing every minute of my life. I even pre-program my sleep time to allow my mind to work while I rest.

Nonetheless, life needs to be fun and too much work and stressful engagement in life can make us forget what life is all about. And, on top of that, if we are not watchful and allow ourselves to stay too busy for too long we will begin to do poorly in every area of life.

When I was 14 my father gave me a car. It was setting out in our cow pasture where it was dragged when it quit running a couple of years earlier. He simply said, there it is … I’ll buy the parts, you do the work and if you can get it running you can have it.

I dragged it closer to our house and used a farm jack and wooden blocks cut off from cross ties to raise it up, higher and higher, until I finally had it setting up on 4, 55 gallon barrels. It was up so high I could almost walk underneath it.

Late one summer night, about midnight, I was under that car working to stab the last bolt started in an almost hidden hole that held the shifter link to the transmission. My mom came out to see me. She brought me a glass of tea which I did not have time to get out from under the car to take from her. She saw how tired I was but also how determined I was to finish. She asked me to stop and come in, clean up and get some rest.

I told my mom how long I had been working on this one last bolt and how close I was to getting it in. She simply turned around and went back to the house. I heard the screen door close behind her and then she stepped back out onto the porch and said, “Son, come on in now. If you will just get some rest that bolt will go in so much easier in the morning.” Well I was pretty frustrated anyway, so I took her advice as an excuse to quit for the night.

The next morning I went out and got back under that car and to my surprise, that bolt which I had worked on getting in for more than an hour the night before, just seemed to slip in so easy that morning. It took no time and I was finished, I let my car down, added some gas, boosted it off and away I went. What a lesson …

Through the years I have used that principle on myself and others with great success and since Brenda knows the story so well, when she sees that I need a break, she tells me to remember what my mom told me … take a break, things will work so much easier when you are rested. It works!

This is why, even with all of the necessary extra business lately, I followed that advice and Friday we went to the lake and just had some family fun. Yesterday morning I got my 3 year old granddaughter, Bella, to get a pan and a wooden spoon and go into the boys’ room, banging on the pan, yelling wake up, wake up!

When then came out, even though I did not have the extra time and so many things were calling out to be done, I threw them all into the pool for an early morning swim in their underwear. Some things in life are just too much fun to pass up even when you don’t have the time … and life, as we know it, is passing so fast.

Take time to have some fun … and don’t let business or troubles of life rob you of what God intended and of the opportunities He gives to you. Don’t be a stick in the mud!

Key Scripture: Deuteronomy 11:21 That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.

This scripture is taken from the passage where God was encouraging His children to read His Word and teach it to their children, talk about and apply it to every area of life. And, if they did, the result would be a long and wonderful life … like days of heaven on earth.

That’s life as God intended … long and wonderful … it’s still what God intends for His children today … a wonderful, eternal life, filled with days which can only be described as heaven on earth.

Reckon what heaven will be like? Not the ‘in the sky’ heaven that seems so far away, but the eternal life heaven … the heaven we will be living and working, worshipping and playing in forever and ever. That Garden of Eden glimpse of God’s will for His children.

Turn with me to the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3. Since the Word is designed to bring heaven into our life, let’s get right to it.

Ecclesiastes 3 NLT
11 ¶ God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
12 So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can.
13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
14 And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose in this is that people should fear him.
15 Whatever exists today and whatever will exist in the future has already existed in the past. For God calls each event back in its turn.

What are days of heaven on earth? What is life as God intended? Simply put by the writer of Ecclesiastes …

Be happy and to enjoy yourself as long as you can. (verse 12)

How? The Word continues … with verse 13:

Eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of your labor as gifts from God.

There is plenty of work to do and you will never get it all done. God intends for us to work as we should, to provide for our families and our future. However, we should realize that it is also God’s will that we live an enjoyable life and as such, we should set aside a reasonable amount of time and resources to make that happen … it is a gift from God.

God intends us to have pleasure in this life and we should acknowledge God for every pleasure He gives. However, if you are intending or enjoying pleasures of the sort which you know God does not give, then you need to stop! Here is a good rule of thumb: If you have to hide to do something then it is most likely not leading you to heaven, but creating hell!

We get this principle from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they disobeyed God, the first thing they did was hide. Why? Because they were afraid!

Sin causes guilt and guilt makes us afraid and so we often cover our fear by hiding. We think that if we hide, no one will notice. However, when God came to spend time with His children in the Garden, He called out to them, “Where are you?”

It was not because God did not know where they were but rather it was because they did not know where they were and how far they had strayed from God’s blessings and protection. Adam and Eve were the ones who had not taken inventory of just how far they were from God …

This is the same question God asks so many today is, “Where are you?”

God wants you to enjoy every blessing and pleasure He sends … a long and wonderful life … but you can’t get it through sin. If you have to hide to do it … just don’t do it!

This morning I am asking you to take inventory … ask yourself:

1. Am I enjoying my life?
2. Is God happy about the things which make me happy?
3. How can I begin to live life as God intended?

Allow me to answer number three for you. The answer is found in the passage where we read our Key Scripture. The answer involves you making the Word of God your guide to life.

Without regard as to the season or the situation you currently find yourself in … God’s Word will work for you. Search the scriptures to find out what you should do about your current circumstances and begin building heaven on the earth, a long and wonderful life, as you apply God’s Word to your daily decisions. It won’t take long --- start today!