Two weeks ago on Friday, Abundant Life lost a great man. Robert (Bob) Stanton Sr. went to be with the Lord. We had his memorial service this past Saturday with a full sanctuary of family and friends in attendance. Gerald Calaway, one of our members and a retired minister, remarked to me prior to the service that we had, “lost one of the happy people.” Gerald was certainly right.
When asked to officiate at his funeral and to finalize the day at the graveside, I started thinking about what section of scripture I would use and came to…
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 where we read…
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
As I got to know Bob and from numerous conversations with many people about him, I have come to the conclusion that he fulfilled every aspect of the above section of scripture. Just a month prior to Bob’s death his beloved wife Ricky had passed away. She had suffered with Parkinson’s disease for several years and Bob had suffered a stroke about a year ago. Because of their health conditions they were forced to live in separate care facilities. With all of that on him, I never heard him nor can I find anyone who ever heard him complain. He was always encouraging and loving those around him.
It seemed as if he lived in a constant sense of praise to the Lord.
Considering all of this, let me pose a question for you and me. What will people’s testimony about us be at our funerals? Will our faith and consistency of love and witness for God’s kingdom be the most noted aspects of our lives?
Bob, you set the bar pretty high. Thanks for giving us all a Godly example to aspire to follow.
Well today is my birthday. I’m 47 years old today. There are a couple of things that amaze me about birthdays. First, how quickly they come and go. It seems like only yesterday that I was thinking how old 30 year old people are! I remember when my friend’s grandparents were around the age that I am now! You know… ancient!!
Second, it amazes me how some people make a really big deal about people not knowing how old they are. They reach a certain number of years and then they just stop changing the number they are 39 for the rest of their lives. What is it that they are afraid of or avoiding?
I love what a friend of mine Ron Calaway-Haebeck sent me on a Facebook message this morning. He said that it’s been proven that birthdays are good for you. People who have more of them live longer! The Bible says…
Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding with length of days. Job12:12
It is almost a daily thing that I ask the Lord to give me both wisdom and understanding to both serve him and lead the church better. When I pray that prayer I almost always have some sort of divine impartation in mind. You know that God will pour something out of heaven that will land on my head and give me supernatural wisdom and understanding that will equip me to overcome every difficulty that presents itself. I really wasn’t thinking that He would allow me to get old and along the way both wisdom and understanding would grow in me through the struggles and learning of a long life. However, that’s exactly the process that the Lord uses over and over in the lives of His people.
So, how should we see the passing years? As opportunities to grow into the people God intends that we should be. Do our bodies get slower and weaker? Yes, but at the same time our spirits can get faster and stronger! And that is a great birthday possibility!
I had an interesting encounter last evening. As many of you know Jack (my son) and I go to Tae Kwon Do lessons twice a week together. Earlier in the year we would normally go on Monday and Wednesday evenings. The classes are at 6PM so even on Wednesday evenings we got out in time to make it to Wednesday night activities at the church. However, recently we decided that Tuesday and Thursdays would be easier since Jack is getting involved in Junior Bible Quiz and likes to be there early. Anyway we switched.
Last night as we were meeting some of the individuals that attend Thursday night classes and I met a gentleman that during the normal course of “guy” introductions, the subject of, “What do you do?” came up. After I told him that I pastor Abundant Life Community Church he proceeded to explain to me how he and his family used to attend one church but had recently become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Then he paused…. Then he said, “You know I’m one of those strange Mormons.” Another pause…..
I knew what he was waiting for. He was waiting for me as the pastor of a church to challenge him on why he shouldn’t be a Mormon. I just wouldn’t bite.
Now you might say, “Why not?” You might even feel as if as a pastor I have a responsibility to theologically straighten him out. You might even think that his souls might be in danger and that any and all measures should be used to rescue him regardless of the potential consequences. To be honest, in some measure I agree with all of these, however I have adopted a position that I feel is biblical. Here it is in a positional statement.
Don’t witness to strangers
Why do I feel this way? Because of Romans 2:4 where we read …
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
It is God’s kindness and His love and His truth and His heart that ultimately lead people to accept him. I’m convinced that the primary way that God reveals these things to the world is through us and it’s almost impossible to show these characteristics outside of some sort of relationship. Do I want to reach out to this gentleman? Absolutely, but first I want him to gain an understanding of who I am and that he can trust my words. That takes time. Some might say, “But you aren’t doing anything and he might be running out of time.” I’m absolutely already doing something. I have started praying for him. Also remember 1 Corinthians 3:9 where we learned that we are working side by side with God. I have to trust that God knew exactly when to bring this man into my life. God knew where I was on the, “get to know them first” belief and I have to believe that His timing is perfect.
Also, since when is praying doing nothing?
Today I want to show you another element in our reaching the world for Christ that is indispensible. It is found in Ephesians 4:29 where we read…
Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Did you get that last part? The part about our words giving grace to those who listen to them. Let me pose a question. What is grace? Can you see how this verse fits perfectly in the conversation we’ve been having about loving those around us and working side by side with God? How can people know that God loves them if we don’t? And how can they know that we love them if our words are constantly communicating something different?
Can you imagine what it would have been like to spend time with Jesus? Personally, I believe that his words, even in a rebuke, were filled with life! He breathed out the Love of God to everyone he came into contact with. While he went places and did things that let people know they had a false understanding of who the Father was, it was His words that drew the multitudes. In many places in the scriptures we see that people were amazed at Jesus’ words. In His words people found GRACE.
That’s what Ephesians 4:29 says we should be doing. It’s easy being right all the time. It’s easy to win an argument. It’s easy to point out other people’s mistakes and flaws. But none of these things brings life. It’s when our words give grace that people are drawn to us and to Jesus.
So what’s our challenge?
First, let God’s love flow into us from the Holy Spirit. Then realize that we are working side by side with God. Then we should open our mouths and let God’s grace come out of us to all those who hear!
Yesterday we examined Romans 5:5 which tells us that the Love of God is poured into us by God through the Holy Spirit. I received several comments back concerning how all of us struggle to love the difficult people around us. Did you ever wonder if perhaps it is these specific people whose lives we were intended to intersect?
I do not believe in coincidences! Yesterday and again this morning the Lord had me consider another powerful scripture that goes right with Romans 5:5. It is found in 1 Corinthians 3:9 where we read…
For we are God’s fellow workers…
Wow!! Let that sink in for a few minutes.
In a recent staff meeting I told the staff to never, ever, say, “It can’t be done,” or “It’s impossible.” That kind of thinking cannot be the way the leadership team of a thriving, growing church thinks. Some might say that’s a little arrogant or conceited, however, the reality is just the opposite and is as applicable for each of your lives as it is for our church’s leadership.
All things become possible because of the one who we are working with!
1 Corinthians 3:9 says that we are working “shoulder to shoulder” with God! Now obviously his shoulders are a lot higher and bigger than ours, but God himself said that we are his fellow workers! Can you think of a single thing that cannot be accomplished in that scenario? The reality is simply shown to us in Philippians 4:13 where we read…
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
When you are trying to love that difficult person, or believe that through you God will change the world, remember that you are working in partnership with God! Something in me changes when I consider that God has placed me exactly where I am and that I am there to work in concert with him to accomplish something orchestrated by Him! If we will do those things that strengthen our Spirit and weaken our flesh, then we will be in a “position” to be used mightily of God to advance His kingdom into the lives of the lost and needy! I know you can do it!
Over the past couple of months we have been examining the logical basis for the Bible being God’s book. I have to believe that by now you have either accepted that the Bible is a book that God wrote, or that at least for now you are not going to. Therefore, I want to move out in a new direction.
Each day God gives me something from his Word during my time of study with him. Some days there are many things that the Holy Spirit speaks to me from His word, from the natural world, from things that people say… well the list can go on forever. What I am going to do for a while is take a break from evidences for God and just show you how He reveals himself to me. Hopefully, along the way you will start trusting that God wants to reveal Himself to you as well.
Today I want you to notice Romans 5:5 where we read…
“…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom He has given to us. “
Wow! What an awesome possibility!
Have you ever had a person in your life that you just didn’t want to be around, let alone like, and certainly not love! Maybe it was someone that intentionally went out of their way to hurt you. Perhaps it was what they said or did. Or perhaps it’s just the way they see the world or their personality. For me it’s the “glass half empty” type of personality. You know the type. Nothing good ever happens! In their mind, everything will eventually go bad and everyone will eventually do them wrong in some way.
Even as a pastor and as someone that has been serving the Lord for many years, this still happens to me at times. Sometimes it’s difficult to be kind to everyone.
Are we even supposed to try? I mean, aren’t there just some people that I don’t have to be kind to?
The answer that I hear coming consistently from the Word and from the Holy Spirit is NO!
I am called to demonstrate the heart of God to every person that God brings into my life. Now before we go on, I don’t always succeed! But how can we ever do it? Romans 5:5! The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit! It’s not my ability to love that I need, its God’s. And God does not expect us to represent him in our own strength but in His. How do we appropriate this love? Through the Holy Spirit making His Word leap off the pages of the Bible into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit saturating our spirits with Himself as we fellowship with Him in times of worship and prayer. These are crucial aspects in the daily routine of a Christian.
Without them we end up acting like ourselves rather than Jesus.
In fact that’s what’s wrong in the world today. Christians act more like themselves than they do Jesus. Find a place right now and ask the Father to place His love in your heart today!
Over the past few months we have been talking about a logical approach to Christianity. We began by looking at just a few of the aspects of the Bible to see if we could reach a logical conclusion about whether the Bible is indeed God’s word and if so what are the implications of that decision upon mankind. In my opinion, even the small amount of information that we have examined leads an open mind to the conclusion that the Bible is at least a very special book that it is difficult to assess as anything other than God’s word.
There are however, some further questions that often get raised when a discussion of the Bible comes up. In the next few posts I want to address a few of those questions. The first is the claim that the Bible is inerrant.
Before getting into the basis for belief in the Bible’s inerrancy, I thought that it might be good to define what is meant when inerrancy is mentioned.
Josh McDowell wrote…
“Inerrancy means that when all of the facts are known, the scriptures, in their original text or autographs, when properly interpreted, will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm, whether this has to do with doctrine or with morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. The bottom line is that the bible has been breathed by God. He used men to write out exactly what he wanted them to write. He kept them free from error but at the same time used their unique personalities and styles to convey exactly what He wanted.”
In short, the Bible is the absolutely uncompromised word of the Lord that has no equal or counterpart. It derives its inerrant nature from the character of God who is in all ways without flaw or defect. In fact it is from this nature that we get the word “holy”.
Many hundreds of years ago when English words began to be used to describe God, people used the word “wholly” to describe God. They would say that he is “wholly God”. It was a statement of his completeness. For us the opposite of holy is evil, but in the original usage of the word its opposite would have been something like holey, or full of holes. Wholly meant without holes or complete. Swiss cheese is holey, but God is wholly. Years later, we changed wholly to holy because God is the same through and through without defect or imperfection. Because He is holy, His word must be as well.
Lets look at a little more if it.
Notice Mark 3:1-19
1 Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” 4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. 7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was. 13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Answer these questions:
- What did Jesus ask the Pharisees to help them understand the intent of the Sabbath?
- What was the Pharisees’ problem?
- Who did the evil spirits recognize Jesus to be?
- What three duties are mentioned for the twelve apostles?