Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Whole Story


Hebrews 11:31  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

The well-known line quoted during the swearing in of a witness who takes the stand during a court proceeding is: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

The whole truth! If the whole truth could really be shared during a trial, any reasonably conscious 14-year-old could render a fair verdict.

It’s difficult to get people to listen to the whole truth and at times the whole truth is simply not yet known.

When we read stories from the Bible, we often judge the main character of the story based on what they did after they encountered their biggest problem or worst failure. It’s what they did after failure or hardship that we remember most. Somehow, we have grace to cover the mistakes and sins of people we get to know after they have changed.

The whole story seems to change the way we feel about people. If we were to get stuck only in the introduction of a person, we might not like them or give them a chance to change or recover.

This was a problem the first century Church dealt with concerning the acceptance of the Apostle Paul. They knew him to be a persecutor of those who believed in Jesus. It must also have been hard for some believers in Colosse to accept Onesimus back into their small congregation after he ran away from Philemon.

God admonishes us to not get stuck in the middle of someone’s testimony. In fact, God especially does not want us to get stuck in the middle of our own testimony. Jesus did not want Peter’s denial, or Thomas’ doubt to be the end of their stories.

·        It’s what Ruth did after she lost her husband that makes the story worth telling.

·        It’s what Bathsheba did after she committed adultery and conspired to murder her faithful husband that makes her worth remembering with honor.

·        It’s what Hannah did after she encountered hardship and barrenness that makes us want to be like her when we face trials.

·        It’s what Mary Magdalene did after she was delivered of seven demon spirits that causes us to acknowledge and embrace her as the first evangelist chosen by Jesus after His resurrection.

·        We imagine Bathsheba to be the virtuous woman of the Bible.

·        It’s what Rahab did after she was a harlot in Jericho that places her on the list of the women of great faith in the Bible.

We remember the characters of the Bible for what they did after they turned their lives over to God. But what we may not always appreciate is the fact that they were still living in their old ways and their old habits and sin-filled situations of life when they made their decision to change.

What are you going to do about your current situation?

Are you willing to hear the whole story before you start judging others? Just remember: The whole truth may not have been told or even lived yet.

1 Corinthians 4 ESV

3  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.

4  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

5  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Let God finish telling the story of someone’s life before you judge them for something they did … even if that someone is you!

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Memorial Day ​Thankful and Thoughtful



Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a day we have set aside to remember those military men and women who gave their lives in defense of our nation. It is from a thankful and thoughtful heart that I say: “We will never forget!”


Our thanks go out to all the families who gave their best and bravest on the battlefields for America duringthe last 247 years. Because of their sacrifices we continue to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. I salute my fallen comrades and pray, God bless America.


We remember things because either we are unable to,or else we don’t want to, repeat them.


So we take pictures, make memories, write notes not wanting to forget.


It has been said that “Those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it.


Remembering those who succeeded and those who failed are both necessary adventures so that we might remain both thankful and thoughtful.


Jesus encouraged us to remember Him and the way He gave His life to save us from our sins. For that we are eternally thankful. Also Jesus asked us to remember someone else.


As we find Luke 17 in our Bibles, allow me to set the stage for what Jesus is going to say and who it is He encourages us to remember.


On one of the last days of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, He was in the city of Jerusalem being questioned by the Pharisees. They were trying their best to trick Him into saying something they could misinterpret so they could misquote Him and have him arrested and condemned. 


In Luke 17 the question they asked Jesus was concerning when the Kingdom of God was going to come. This line of questioning was pursued by the Pharisees hoping Jesus would say something they could use to accuse Him of claiming to be the Messiah. 


Instead of giving them a specific time, Jesus encouraged the Pharisees to Be ready all the time. He said the Kingdom of God would not come with visible observation but rather, the Kingdom of God is within you and the Son will come like lightening … when you least expect it. He continued:


Luke 17

28  “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built;

29  “but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

30  “Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

31  “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.


32  “Remember Lot’s wife.


“Remember Lot’s wife.” Jesus used Lot’s wife as an example of someone we do not want to be. Perhaps you recall the Old Testament account of Lot and his family being delivered from Sodom before God destroyed it for it’s unbridled sin and depravity. If not, you can read about it in Genesis 19. For the sake of time this morning, allow me to fill in a few blanks so that we can also remember Lot’s wife and hopefully not end up like her.

• The account of Genesis 19 takes place about 2000 years before Christ.
• Lot was the nephew of Abraham.
• God blessed the households of Abraham and Lot so much that they needed to separate to they could both find grass for their animals.
• Abraham let Lot choose and Lot chose the fertile plains of Sodom and Gomorrah for the beauty and abundance it offered in those days.
• The citizens of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked and ungodly. 
• They allowed and engaged in perverse sexual sin and lawlessly enjoyed intimidating neighbors and visitors by mob rule.
• God had already sent one warning to Lot and the city leaders by allowing them to be taken captive by 4 kings from the north. Abraham delivered them and rescued all their belongings, but nothing changed. Lot and the city simply went back to their old ways.
• Eventually God sent two angels to tell Abraham that He was going to visit the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and if it was as bad as He had heard, those cities would be destroyed.
• Abraham bargained with God for the lives of the righteous people in the city. God agreed. If the angels found 10 righteous people in the city, they would spare it.
• So the angels went to Sodom and there they met Lotwho invited them and finally convinced them to stay the night at his house. He did not feel it was safe for them to remain out of doors in the city.
• That evening, just before bedtime, the men of the city, young and old from every quarter of the city, gathered outside the front door of Lot’s home. They demanded that Lot send the two men out of his house so the mob could have sex with them.
• Lot refused and offered them his two virgin daughters, who may have already been engaged, instead. 
• The men of the city felt judged by Lot … wow … talk about history repeating itself. “Don’t judge me!” is a mantra in every sinful society.
• The two angels rescued Lot from the mob and miraculously struck the mob with physical blindness … they were already spiritually blind … but so were Lot and the members of his family.


Listen to what Peter had to say about living in a city like Sodom.


2 Peter 2

7 ¶  God delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked

8  (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)  — 


• Lot was vexed … tormented … confused of mind … daily soul torment; he was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked.
• The angels instructed Lot to get himself and his family out of Sodom before they destroyed the city.
• Lot’s sons-in-law would not believe him. Everything looked normal to them. Just like it always had been. They figured Lot to be a lunatic religious fanatic with a guilty conscience.


Genesis 19:16 And while he lingered …


The problem with you lingering when it comes to obeying God is that everyone with you has to linger. 


Genesis 19: 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.


I have said so much about Lot and the angels and the men of Sodom, but Jesus said: “Remember Lot’s wife.Let us move on to our subject.


It’s not difficult to see that Jesus is using Sodom as an example of the world and its sinful affect on the souls of mankind. Everything is going along like normal.


Jesus uses Lot as a man who is saved from the judgment that will come on all the world.


Jesus shows us the sons-in-law to represent those who hear the desperate, pleading words of a loving witness, but reject them and refuse to believe.


Jesus intends us to see the two daughters of Lot as those who believe the witness and follow with the heart of a child.


The angels are just angels. Perhaps the same angels that will one day gather the saved from the judgment which shall come upon all the earth. 


Lastly, we see Lot’s wife. The one Jesus wants us to remember. The picture Jesus paints of Lot’s wife is very clear.

• She is in covenant with a man who is in covenant with God. But she has no personal relationshipwith God herself.
Having a covenant with someone who has a covenant with God does not guarantee you have a covenant with God.
You must be born again.
• She was touched by the angel, and he got her out of Sodom, but she never got Sodom out of herself.
You can have an experience with God and feel the touch and the help of His hand and never turn your life over to His Lordship.


Allow me to close with three major things I found in Lot’s wife. I want to remember not to allow these three things in my personal life. 


1. She lingered in the world.
a. I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delights …
b. Hasten to do the will of God.
c. Though no go with me, still I will follow …
2. She lagged behind in her journey with God.
a. Even after being touched by an angel she missed her opportunity and forsook her destiny.
b. She started dragging her feet and walking slowly.
c. It’s like being dragged to your rescue and recovery.
3. She looked back and was left in the desert.
a. Everything looked ok …
b. Everybody was doing alright …
c. Are you sure these things are wrong …
d. She was stuck in her old day like the children of Israel in the wilderness. They wished they could go back to Egypt. But they all died in the desert.


Simply put: Lot’s wife was a child of this world, and not a child of God. 


Don’t linger

Don’t lag behind

Don’t take your eye off the prize


Be thankful and be thoughtful. Happy Memorial Day! And while you’re remembering, remember Lot’s wife.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Who is Worthy?


Matthew 10:11  “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out.”

Worthy? What did Jesus mean? Who is worthy?

God is looking for good people. His eyes run throughout the earth, searching for those whose hearts are upright before Him so that He might show Himself strong on their behalf. Whether Ruth the Moabitess who was selflessly taking care of her mother-in-law, or Cornelius the centurion who was giving to the poor, God pays special attention to people who are doing good things.

Jesus called these people worthy. People who have a good reputation with God and are willing to help out a stranger in town. They may not be the most religious people in town, they may only be the most helpful.

We must all be watchful and not allow ceremony to take the place of service. Going through the motions of prayer, worship, family, church, or life in general without being connected to the heart and the why of what we do. Generations have traded service for ceremony.

I don’t want to suggest a disrespect for the law or for salvation. We need however, to set the record straight for those who are living hypocritical lives in place of a life that pleases God. God is not impressed with anything, including sacrifice, when your heart is not in it.

So says the writer of Hebrews when in chapter 10 he quotes:

Psalms 40 NKJV

6 ¶  Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.

8  I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”

This evening we are going to hear God’s answer to the question, “Who is Worthy?”. We will find both the question and the answer in Psalm 15.

Psalms 15 NKJV

1 ¶ LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

·        These are the questions of all time.

o   Who is welcome to sit at God’s table and have communion with Him?

o   Who will be a citizen of heaven?

·        How dare anyone suggest there are requirements or that one person is accepted, and another rejected. But it is true! Some are simply not worthy. It unsettles us to think in those terms.

The truth rings through both the Old and the New Testaments clearly pointing the sinner towards a life change which only comes with true conversion. It might be said: “We cannot work our way to heaven, but only workers are welcomed in.” (Matthew 25) However …

Salvation is a matter of the heart and not a matter of the hands.

However It is certain that just as works alone cannot save, grace alone cannot prove. The message of grace and works cannot be separated. The single gift of grace on deposit in a life is fruit.

Salvation has never been proved in ceremony but rather in service.

Back to the question: “Who shall have communion with God and citizenship in His heaven?” Who is worthy to receive a welcome and a “well done” from Jesus? Now for the answer … and it should not shock anyone …

2  He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart;

3  He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;

4  In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

5  He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

Who shall sojourn in God’s tabernacle, and who shall dwell as a permanent resident in His Holy Hill?

Psalm 15 is first a picture of Christ and then of all who follow Him.

Let me be firm in saying that no one is saved by works. You must be born again. Every person is saved by grace through faith, and not by works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Jesus did not do good works so that He could become the Son of God. Jesus went about healing and helping, feeding and forgiving, leading and loving the multitudes because he was the Son of God.

We don’t do good works to get saved. We do good works because we are saved.

Salvation is a matter of the heart and not a matter of the hands.

Salvation has never been proved in ceremony but rather in service.

In Psalms 40 David wrote a prophetic word concerning the coming Messiah. The writer of Hebrews confirmed how Jesus felt. He said: “I delight to do God’s will.” This is the source of my joy. I never consider God’s will to be a chore, a bother, or too costly.

Philippians 2:5  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus …

God is looking for good people who are doing good things because they want to. If you are not one of those people, ask yourself why and then ask God to help you change. Don’t allow your relationship with God to become religion; Don’t allow your service to just be ceremony; Don’t allow your heart to get disconnected from your hands.

Live the word because you love it! I delight to do your will O God.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Golden Thread of Faith


God invites young men and young women to represent Him in every generation. Young men and young women all over the world say yes to God’s call each day. For as long as the earth remains, God will continue to provide the world with a steady stream of faithful witnesses who commit their lives to His work. Some of the greatest Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers the world will ever know are being born around the world every day.

It has always been the case that when God wants something done, a child is born to that purpose. The golden thread of God’s will can be seen running through families who are called and purposed to impact generations. The providential hand of God prepares, positions, provides, and protects those destined to accomplish even a single element of His will. Nothing is left to chance with God.

I’d like you to go with me to the first chapter of the New Testament Pastoral Epistle, 2 Timothy. While you find our text allow me to provide the setting and describe the time and place in which the Apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to pen this letter.

After many decades of study I believe Paul’s letter to young Timothy was written in the late spring of AD66 or AD67. The Apostle Paul was 61 years old at that time and was locked up in a prison in Rome for a second time, this time under the orders of Emperor Nero. Nero was a crazy, evil, power-hungry man. Paul was charged with spreading a new and unlawful religion which had been deemed dangerous to the state. 

The charges against Paul were of course false but that would not stop his impending execution. Paul expected to soon be put to death however before he lost his head, Paul wrote his young son in the faith, Timothy, to encourage him to continue serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

Considered by many to be the dying counsel of one of the most eminent Apostles which he gave to one who had just entered into the ministerial life, 2 Timothy should be listened to with great respect by anyone desiring to offer themselves in service to Christ. Each topic was no doubt selected with extra care knowing those things dearest to his heart and seeing the time was short.

With these things in mind, let’s read the platform on which Paul stood to trust his dying investment and what we believe to be his last words, to this young man Timothy. And by the way, had Paul not trusted him, neither would you. In fact, if it had not have been for one single encounter that impressed the Apostle Paul, chances are we would never even have known Timothy’s name. But, because of what Paul knew about Timothy, Timothy became the heir apparent to the covenant ministry mantle of this great Apostle to the Gentiles.

2 Timothy 1:5  When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

There is a golden thread of God’s Will running through families who are called and purposed to impact generations. It might begin with you, or you may be an intermediary through which the covenant calling of God reaches from one generation to the next. It is even possible that you are the only reason why your ancestors experienced the blessings and the protection of God. We see this in the lives of Joshua, Moses, David, Mary, and so many. Paul recognized the golden thread of faith in Timothy’s family.

It's the providential hand of God prepares, positions, provides for, and protects those who are called according to the will of the Lord. Generation after generation, those who are born to carry the message of the Gospel in their time are called and equipped to serve. This is God’s way.

I believe you are critical to generations yet to come. Today you can begin a heritage or continue the legacy by making one decision. You can commit your life to God’s service. You can offer yourself to Him right now.

John 6:37  “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

Joshua 24:15 … As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Friday, May 19, 2023

True Christianity


1 Peter 1:3-9

Today we are going to be discussing true Christianity. What is true Christianity. Is there a false Christianity? The answer to that question is yes, there is a false Christianity that does not and cannot save. That is anything or anyone we place our faith in that is not Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, that is not the aim of this morning’s message. Instead, we are looking at the heart of Christianity. If we were to boil it down, what is Christianity at the core? What does it mean to follow Jesus in simple terms? To answer this, we are going to go to the writings of one of the original 12 apostles of Jesus, specifically the Apostle Peter. 

Peter had a very unique perspective as a believer in Christ. Peter was one of the 12 apostles of the early church with the responsibility of telling others about Jesus and guiding new believers into true Christianity. Why was Peter one of the apostles? Because Peter saw Jesus. He was an eye witness of Jesus. Peter saw Jesus, he watched Jesus, he listened to Jesusteachings, he watched Jesus live a perfect life. Peter walked with Jesus, talked with Him, and was captivated by Him.

Peter saw Jesus get arrested, he saw Him beaten, he saw him get whipped, shredded with a cat of nine tails, he saw him mistreated, falsely accused, and wrongly convicted. Peter saw Jesus carry His own cross, nailed to it, and then hung naked on a tree to be laughed at, made fun of, and scorned. Peter was there when Jesus died. He heard how Jesus was wrapped up and put in a tomb for the dead.

Though Peter walked with Jesus and talked with Him, through he heard Jesus say that He would die, he was still discouraged. It wasnt enough for Peter and the apostles to see Jesus alive and to see God in the flesh. Peter went back to what he was doing before Jesus found him. He went back to his old way of life. He reverted back to what he knew best.

But then something happened. Peter saw Jesus again! Peter saw Jesus alive; He had risen from the grave!! It was because of this that Peter became a bold witness for Christ, confidently telling others about about what he saw: Jesus risen from the grave!

Not only did Peter tell others about this risen Jesus, but died for what he saw as well. According to Christian tradition, the apostle Peter was crucified upside down for his faith in Christ. Wow. Peter was clearly all-in” on Jesus. If anyone knew what true Christianity was, if anyone knew what it meant to follow Jesus, it was Peter. For that simple fact it gives his words weight, let alone that the word of God was inspired.

With that said, let us take a look at some of the words that the Apostle Peter left with other Christians like you and me.

1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV

v3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”

    We have been born again; not because Jesus died, but that He rose from the dead!

v4-5 - “….to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by Gods power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time…”

    As born again Christians, we have an inheritance that is kept in Heaven where it is being protected from destruction, defilement, and decay.

    What is that inheritance being kept for us? It is eternal life.

    That eternal life will be revealed to us on the day we see Jesus, either in death or in life.

    Either way, we will be stepping into true life.

v6-7 - In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    Gold is tested by being put in an intense fire (1,000 ºC/ 1,832 ºF) in order to be refined. It is only through this intense fire that gold can be refined because it burns away all of the impurities in order to test that it is genuine and strengthening the gold itself. Ultimately, gold is tested & refined by fire because of its value.

    As Peter says, our faith is more precious and more valuable than gold. How much more than should it be refined?

    As we go through difficulty, disappointment, and discomfort in life, it only strengthens our faith in Christ.

    When we go through trials, we come out the other side with a more genuine faith that brings praise, honor, and glory to Jesus.

v8-9 - Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter says, “though you have not seen Him…” We must remember, Peter saw Jesus risen from the dead. However, he was speaking to people who had not. They most likely hadn't even met anyone who had even seen Jesus before.

Peter was describing the essence of Christianity: it is about the unseen Christ. I have thought before, “I wish I could have seen Jesus back then in the flesh.” I just imagined my faith would be stronger and I would never doubt. Yet, there were a lot of people who saw Jesus and didn’t believe. Not that I think about it, seeing Jesus might actually make it harder to believe. Jesus’ true identity was hidden by his flesh. Only a handful of people knew who He truly was.

Peter, who knew Christ, was reveling in the fact that these believers were following Jesus though they never had never seen Him… He describes that as  true Christianity. Peter wanted them to know that as they walk through trials, difficulty, disappointments, etc, true Christianity, following the unseen Christ, was worth it.

When we face trials, let us get back to the basics.

What is true Christianity?

1.     Loving Christ (…though you have not seen Him)

Loving Jesus means that you are personally invested. It means that you have a personal relationship with Jesus. In order to have a relationship with someone, you must devote time to spend with them. In the same way, we must have a personal devotion to Christ.

Peter knew this very well. He knew what it meant to love Jesus. How? Because Jesus Himself told him so.

John 14:15 ESV
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Loving Jesus is not just doing ministry, it is not just checking things off the list. Instead, loving Jesus is devoting time to spend with Him and obeying Him.

Let us not forget our personal devotion to Jesus.

2.     Trusting Christ

John 20:29
“Jesus said to him,
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””

When we say that we believe in Christ, we are saying that we trust Him.
When we say we trust Christ, we are saying that He is reliable to fulfill His promises.

When we face trials and we don’t know what to do, let us trust Jesus at His word. Let us go to the word of God and get a word to hold onto. Let us trust the character of God.

We may or may not get the exact outcome that we want, but we know that God has us in His hands. We know that He is working our circumstances for our good. We know He has a plan and that He is going to make things better.

3.     Finding Joy in Christ

As we love Him and as we trust Him, we begin to find our joy in Him. He becomes the very thing we treasure most. We find joy in serving Him. Ultimately, the things we love are the things we enjoy. There is an authentic and sincere joy that is available for us as believers. There is a greater joy to be found in our relationship with Jesus.

True Christianity involves finding our inner joy, the thing which gives us pleasure and fulfillment in this life, in Christ.


Let us get back to the basics of true Christianity.