Saturday, June 25, 2016

Prisoners by Choice


One of the worse traps in life is deception. Deception is what occurs when a person believes a lie. Deception is the devil’s greatest tool against mankind. If the devil can get someone to accept his lies as truth, he can control them and everyone they influence. We have no defense against our own faith. Deception makes us Prisoners by Choice.

In light of what is going on around the world these days we are going to take this morning and focus our attention on:

3 Eternal Truths
1.   We need God and God needs us.
2.   God is listening and taking account on planet earth.
3.   God rewards righteousness and punishes evil.

The Bible account we will use this morning comes from the Book of Genesis and beings in chapter 18. (Genesis 18) While we review this account let’s all consider the condition of our nation and the world today in hopes that God will continue to have mercy upon us and hear our prayers.

Genesis 18
1 ¶  Then the LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.
2  So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,
3  and said, "My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.

9 ¶  Then they said to Abraham, "Where is Sarah your wife?" So he said, "Here, in the tent."
10  And He said, "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son." (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)
11  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.

14  "Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son."

16 ¶  Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way.
17  And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
18  "since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19  "For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him."
20  And the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,
21  "I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know."
22  Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.

For 50 Righteous?

23 ¶  And Abraham came near to the LORD and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24  "Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
25  "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
26  So the LORD said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."

For 45 …?

27  Then Abraham answered and said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:
28  "Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?" So He said, "If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it."

For 40?

29  And he spoke to Him yet again and said, "Suppose there should be forty found there?" So He said, "I will not do it for the sake of forty."

For 30?

30  Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."

For 20?

31  And he said, "Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty."

For 10 …?

32  Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten."
33  So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

Genesis 19
¶  Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.
2  And he said, "Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way." And they said, "No, but we will spend the night in the open square."
3  But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

The Lord is merciful to the righteous …

15 ¶  When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, "Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city."
16  And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
17  So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed."

2 Peter 2
7 ¶  And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
8  (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
9  The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

3 Eternal Truths
1.   We need God and God needs us.
2.   God is listening and taking account.
3.   God rewards righteousness and punishes evil.
(God loves everyone but He rewards the righteous …)
May I be so bold and pastoral as to caution you today to:
1.   Get your heart right with God.
2.   Measure your beliefs, convictions, and feelings against God’s Word.
3.   Allow God to use you to influence others to get right with God.

A person is not right just because they are right. We can be right about one thing and still be wrong. (From Eve to Agabus – Acts 21:11-12)

God is still impressed with righteousness - Don’t be a Prisoner by Choice!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Marriage Basics Series – Communication


The Bible is the Word of God intended to communicate God’s Will to mankind. The Gospel of John begins by telling us that Jesus came from heaven to earth in the likeness of man so that He might show us the Father and help us to understand what He wants. Jesus gathered multitudes and told them the wonderful message He was sent to tell. He then sent messengers into all the world to communicate this Good News Gospel to all mankind.

The Bible is a picture of God’s purpose filled attempts to communicate with us. He teaches us that just saying it might not be enough … more attention might be needed if we are to accomplish our goals of making sure others hear and accurately understand the message we are sending. Jesus used more than words to communicate His message. The Apostle Paul was also concerned about people understanding the words some chose to use.

1 Corinthians 14:19  But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.

Many people are poor communicators and perhaps a fair portion of those don’t realize it or can’t imagine they aren’t being understood. They feel the frustration of conversations and may wonder why their expectations are not met but they have no conscious consideration as to why and no idea how to fix it.

There is a principle that says: When you are doing something that is not working, just continuing to do it more won’t fix it.
·        More of the same will only get more of the same.
·        Nothing changes until something changes.

Nowhere can this be seen more than in the area of communication .

1.   People attempt to communicate using:
a.   Spoken Words
b.   Written Words
c.   Gestures
d.   Body Language
e.   Messengers
2.   We have not communicated simply because we made an attempt.
3.   Until the intended message is received with the same intent as sent, communication has not taken place.

Imagine yourself in a relationship with someone who did not speak the same language as you. Communication could be difficult. Extra time would need to be taken on the part of the speaker to making sure understandable words and gestures were used as well as close attention paid on the part of the listener. Hopefully over time two people could learn how to best send the message they wanted the other to receive.

I have had the occasion to travel in many foreign countries over the past 4 decades or so. While living in Europe for a few years it was a continual necessity for me to take extra time and pay close attention to each conversation in order to make certain I was understanding and being understood lest I ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong expectations. Misunderstandings were always a potential and it took work to insure effective communication.

I have had several occasions when even with a translator the right message was hard to communicate because of customs and cultures, as well as feelings which are meant to accompany a message which can be difficult to translate. Nonetheless, I have found that if two people are willing to work and try not to be offended when no offense is meant, communication can take place even in difficult times.

When it comes to marriage people often imagine they speak the same language simply because they grew up in the same country, lived in the same community or went to the same school. We assume people who are close to us understand what we mean because we know exactly what we mean. This is one of the most difficult problems in marriage.

However, to assume you speak the same language as your spouse would be dangerous and often incorrect. You may be from different planets.
·        Meanings are not in words … meanings are in people.

Words are very imprecise vehicles of communications and unless you understand the language of your spouse, children and friends, you may often misunderstand and be misunderstood. Here are some things we need to consider when attempting to communicate with others … especially with our spouse. Ask yourself:

1.   What makes the most sense to me?
a.   Words
b.   Actions
c.   Feelings
2.   What makes the most sense to my spouse?
a.   There is not one best way to communicate.
b.   The best way to communicate is the way that works.
c.   If it’s not working … guess what … it’s not working!
3.   First seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
a.   If your spouse says something with which you disagree or are offended by and their reply is “that’s not what I meant”, believe them. Why? Because it’s not what they meant!
b.   If there has been need for clarification in the past or if you are unsure, repeat what you think you heard before you act.

One of the worst things about poor communication is that if allowed to continue without remedy spouses can either get into the destructive habit of arguing over things they don’t even disagree on or one or both of them stop feeling it is worth the effort to even try to be understood any longer.

If you are having a problem with communication why not go ahead and take a look at the things we have heard tonight.
·        What language do I speak?
·        How does that differ from my spouse?
·        What can I do to learn to better communicate and to more accurately understand them in their language?

If they don’t mean to be a problem … that should go a long way in giving you patience and hope.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father’s Day

John 14:8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied."
I have thought long and hard on just which role is the hardest to fulfill in life. I have come to the conclusion that the most difficult thing to be in this life is a father.
It could be in part due to the fact that generally fathers are more logical and less emotional than the average mother. Perhaps this leads fathers to find it harder to express themselves or make the small talk necessary to build and maintain close relationships. Or maybe it’s just the fact that unlike a mother, a father cannot know the bond that comes from having a child grow inside their womb or suckle their breasts, drawing every ounce of life from that dependent relationship.
Nonetheless fathers are rightfully given the ultimate responsibility to provide for, protect and defend the family while often left with a sense of being out of the real family loop unless and until the family needs provision, protection or defense. Fathers naturally begin the relationship with their children at a great disadvantage and many never manage to make up the distance no matter how hard they try. Perhaps the most misunderstood and least appreciated runner in this race of life is the father.
Fathers come in all three sizes:
Sorry, but they don’t come in perfect! At least earthly fathers don’t …
Not everyone here today can put themselves in the shoes of a father nor see life from a father’s perspective. However, every person who has ever or will ever live can see from the perspective of a child. Perhaps this is one reason why many of God’s first and strongest words concerning fathers are written to children.
I don’t know if it is possible to be a good father, but I do know it is impossible to feel like a good father, unless you have the support and respect of your wife and children. Respect is essential to fatherhood.
For this reason I am so grateful that my mother demonstrated the virtues of a Godly woman by both showing and demanding our father be honored and respected in our home. Though all of the years I and my 3 siblings were at home, it was unquestionable who the head of our house was and how our father was to be treated, spoken to or spoken about.
This was true without regard as to the many stresses and difficulties of life placed on our family by my father’s alcoholism. My mother and each one of us children carried extra burdens because of my father’s decisions and through it all were taught great and Godly lessons such as patience, kindness, faith, love and forgiveness.
As a result, when my father quit drinking in the mid 70’s, over 2 years after the last one of his children left home, there were no irreconcilable differences or heated arguments or harsh words to get over – we were all able to immediately embrace his new found sobriety as a blessed family.
In all of the years I remember from my childhood and young adulthood, two things never lacked: My father never lacked the honor and the respect that was due him as my father and; Neither I nor any member of our family ever lacked the provision, protection or defense of a father when and if we needed. My father died a proud man, proud of his wife, his two sons, his two girls and the 9 grandchildren he loved so much. He also went to his heavenly reward, although suddenly and without warning, nonetheless knowing that every member of his family was proud of him. He knew this because we left nothing unsaid … instead of it being all his responsibility to make up the gap life can sometimes leave in relationships, we each learned that it was our responsibility to keep those gaps bridged.
I’m so glad my mother demonstrated in life and taught me to believe and embrace the Word of God as my individual responsibility without excuse. Here are a couple of scriptures my mom gave me in times she knew both I and my dad needed more than life expected us to get from our relationship.
The first scripture she taught me right out of the Ten Commandments
Deuteronomy 5:16 Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
She also read me the same scripture out of the New Testament to give me a continuing respect for God’s will.
Ephesians 6:2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise:
My mom let me know that without regard as to what anyone else did or did not do, I was still responsible to God for what I did and I could either make things better or I could make them worse. Life was my choice - my choice.
Like most children I wanted my father’s approval and I wanted him to be proud of me. No doubt my mom saw this yearning in me and so she took extra time with me to help me deal with some disappointments I felt growing up with the added pressures we faced. However, in all the time we spent together I never once heard my mother utter any unkind or critical word about my father. She respected him and so I did too.
Through the early years of my adult life I know I made some decisions that my father could have considered stupid however, even after he quit drinking and started paying more attention to family, he never made me feel stupid – he just loved me and gave me his wisdom on anything I asked him about. All in all, it turned out to be a pretty good relationship. However, it would never have survived on a ‘one way’ street.
It’s the same this morning concerning our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our relationship with God will not endure nor will it grow to become all it is meant to be if it is only a ‘one way’ relationship. Certainly God is our Father and it has to be the most difficult role in the universe.
God stands ready to fulfill His responsibilities to provide for us, protect us and defend us. At times He must feel somewhat outside the loop of our other relationships and it may even seem to Him that we only include Him when we need provision, protection or defense.
I know that others around us can seem so much more close to us than does our Heavenly Father at times. However, in truth – He is as close to us as we will let Him be. And, He is never more than one prayer away.
Without regard as to the bad decisions we make or even the sin in our lives, God is proud of us and when it is all said and done, He wants an eternal relationship with each and every one of His children. Sure we might not always understand His actions or at times we may feel that He could have or should have done something differently – however – we must never allow ourselves to speak a critical or unkind word about God either in our own hearts or to others.
A second scripture my mother made sure I knew came from the Gospel of John. I think it may have her favorite book of the Bible.
John 14:14  "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
My mother wanted me to know that I had a responsibility to pray about those things that disappointed me, even when it came to times when I was  disappointed with my dad. She told me that I could ask God for anything … she was right.
I don’t only credit my prayers for the dynamic change in my father’s life and how he became such a strong and powerful witness for the Lord and a source of wisdom and support for me when I pioneered my first Church, which I built on land he made available to me. It may not have been my prayers alone that changed the course of his life but my prayers for him were certainly a part of my daily communion with God and His answer.
Interesting to note that the last phone call I received from my mother before she went to be with the Lord was her giving me orders to make sure I continued praying and make sure I prayed in the name of Jesus! I simply said, “Yes Ma’am”, and she reminded me how I had been raised to respect the Lord, and with that she hung up the phone.

I am very thankful that I learned early and often in life to honor my father because he was my father and that I was also instructed and encouraged to pray for him and let God work on those things which only he and God could change. It ends up that my dad was a good dad … I’d even say a great dad.
Unlike earthly fathers however, God is not just good, or great, God is perfect in all His ways and in all His decisions. We cannot expect our fathers nor our families to be perfect but we can treat them with respect and pray for them. When we need help understanding or coping with the all too common pressures of life we can go to God’s Word and always find that He loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life. Don’t ever give up on a father … (account of the hitchhiker from Australia I picked up)
So, what can we take with us from today’s message on Father’s Day? I trust that you will realize that:
·        You are responsible to do your part without regard as to whether anyone else does or not.
·        God expects us to honor our earthly fathers and to not disrespect them or their memory.
·        Relationships cannot endure a “one way” street.
·        Don’t forget to pray for those things only God can change.
Perhaps we all would benefit from once again viewing life as God intended from the eyes of a child.
I’ll close today by wishing all of you fathers, along with God and my dad who is in heaven, a “Happy Father’s Day!”

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Marriage Basics Series - Forgiveness and the Past


Philippians 3
13  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

God wants to do a new thing. However, new things are often overshadowed by old things. This is true for trees and people.

It can be difficult for some things to grow in a shade. Shadows, especially areas which are deeply shaded from the light can provide comfort for the weary from the heat of the day while also retarding or completely disallowing some greater elements of desired growth.

Our relationships can also be adversely influenced by shadows of the past if they are allowed to continue casting their shade over our lives. Nowhere is this seen more than in the primary relationship of marriage. It can be difficult to forgive and get over the past but more difficult to live in its past.

I have found that people who are either unwilling or unable to forgive and put the past in the past are sentencing themselves to live in the hurt of yesterday while asking someone else to continue paying for something they cannot undo. Whether dealing with issues of trust or personal hurts and disappointments, people who use the past as a whipping post for their spouse or as leverage against them are destroying their marriage.

It is both mentally and emotionally unhealthy to keep dead things around and zombify or idolize them in efforts to justify our past hurts or present feelings. How do we know if we are living in unforgiveness or harboring hurts from the past? It may take time to recover from hurt but our hurt should not provoke us to hurt others. Nor should we relegate ourselves to simply live and make our covenant decisions in the shadow of the past. Wanting others to hurt and living in the past are signs of unforgiveness.

So, how do we deal with our past hurts, disappointments or injustices and get rid of the dark shadows of life. How can we forgive and put the past behind us so that our marriage can have the best opportunity to grow in a healthy and productive way.

1.  Life is a Choice
a.   A Choice to Forgive
                                     i.    Forgive and you will be forgiven
Luke 6:37  “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

b.   A Choice to Not Be Afraid
                                     i.    Philippians 4:6 – (NLT Quote – 4 Steps)
                                    ii.    God has not given us the spirit of fear - fear adds torment!

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

c.   A Choice to Surrender
                                     i.    Surrendered to the Word of God
                                    ii.    Surrendered to the Will of God
                                  iii.    Surrendered to the Way of God

James 4:7  So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.  (The Message)

2.  Make a Commitment
a.   There is nothing so powerful as a commitment (Proverbs 16)
b.   Make a Declaration
                                     i.    Verbalize Your Commitment to Yourself
                                    ii.    Verbalize Your Commitment to God
                                  iii.    Verbalize Your Commitment to Others
                                  iv.    If need be – Verbalize Your Commitment to the devil

3.  Embrace a Better Day
Isaiah 43
18  "Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old.
19  Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.
a.   Write the vision upon a table and make it plain (Habakkuk 2)
b.   Plot a course for yourself
                                     i.    Your mental health
                                    ii.    Your spiritual health
                                  iii.    Your physical health
                                  iv.    Your marital health
c.   Let go and let God … You do your part and let God do His.

The truth is that no one or nothing can change the past. Life is made from what we currently have. You are going to be challenged to build your future on the material you currently possess along with God’s help and your hard work.


Mark 11:26  "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Habakkuk 2
1 ¶  I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
2  And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
3  For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
4  Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Job 22:28  You will also declare a thing, And it will be established for you; So light will shine on your ways.

Joshua 24:15 ¶  "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Proverbs 16:3 ¶  Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Powerful Sunday Morning Message


This morning we are going to cover 3 critical questions which hold eternal significance for you, your family, your friends and even your enemies. It is vital that you know the answers to each question. Truth demands justice … only love demands mercy. Thank God the Truth loves you! First question:

1.  How do I know I am a Child of God?

There are two essential elements present in the life of a Child of God.
o   Faith

Galatians 3:26  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

o   Inner Witness

Romans 8:16  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

1 John 5:13  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

2.  How will others know I am a Child of God?

There are also two essential elements which should be evident in the life of every Child of God.
o   Love & Righteousness  (To Live a Life Right With God)

1 John 3:10  In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

3.  How can I help others to become a Child of God?
o   Care enough to share …
§  We have been given a great and precious privilege
§  We, the children of God, are the Fragrance of Christ

2 Corinthians 2
15  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
·        We smell like Jesus
·        There is a spiritual fragrance known to God and to the souls of men
·        God is using us like a recognizable perfume
·        A reminder of Jesus in the hands of God
·        Among both the saved and the unsaved

16  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
·        We are a reminder first to the lost of their lost estate and the eternal death that awaits the soul without Christ
·        Then we are the perfume of Christ, a fragrance of life to those who know life and a reminder of the sweet life to come.
·        But who could ever be that spiritually impacting on their own? No one … none of us is sufficient for these things in ourselves.

17  For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

Peddling – Corrupting – Watering Down – Mingling – Merchandising:
·        To knowingly or unknowingly deal deceitfully with the Word of God in attempt to achieve gain hoping or moving towards a goal or desire to procure for the speaker advancement in any arena of life from money and fame to power or position.
·        It is often done by attempting to attach a philosophical explanation to the facts of revelation making the theory as important as the fact.
·        The hope is to make the cure more palatable to man’s taste than God designed it to be, when in fact in its mingled state is the rudest taste of all bringing death to the patient if embraced with confidence and claimed for truth.
·        We must not mix opinions, traditions, current trends or human philosophies with the eternal Word of God lest the souls of men be laid to our charge.

How cruel to water down medicine given to the dying which cannot secure life and health without its full strength so that it tastes better and therefore will be more readily and more often received and thus elevate the peddler to servant status.

The Church and its ministry are solely responsible for the work of the Gospel and thereby deeply and awfully connected to eternal joys or everlasting woes of the souls of man.

We are the fragrance of Christ. A reminder to the souls of men that eternity awaits. For some it means life and for others death. This spiritual perfume cannot be denied.

It’s a great and precious privilege to help others become spiritually born again. We each have our primary parts to: Go; Stay; Pray; and Pay so that the pure love of God and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ can find its way to our family, friends, enemies and the coming generations.

Will you help?

In order to help others become a child of God we must first:
1.   Know that we are born again.
2.   Live like we are a child of God.
3.   Care enough to share the truth with others in love.

Only love demands mercy …

Make your decision to do your part and be a:
·        Goer
·        Stayer
·        Prayer
·        Payer

Let’s make a difference for God!