The World We Live In

Anyone born before 1970 probably has a good idea of just how much our society has changed in the past sixty years. Before 1960 illegal immigration was a minor issue confined to a few specific states. Drugs were something that only happened in a couple of major metropolitan areas. The vast majority of the population disapproved of same sex relationships. Terrorism only happened in some remote corners of the world.

Sometime around 1960 that all began to change.

I don’t want to paint too idyllic a picture of the pre-60’s world. While many of the issues that we face today were either not present or existed only in an embryonic stage, there were plenty of ugly and sinful things about our society. Racism was rampant (if you think it’s bad now, it was worse then), Christianity was the proverbial lukewarm (Revelation 3:15f) in many churches, abuse, particularly in families, in all it’s ugly forms was normally swept under the rug, and sexual immorality, especially among Christians was too easily ignored.

No, life before 1960 was no Shangri-La and it was only Father Knows Best on our television sets.

That said, it’s true that we are living in a very different world today. We are dealing with issues that only the most perceptive people understood were potentialities.

Which makes me wonder what our world will look like in another sixty years? What issues will our children or grandchildren have to deal with?

And even more importantly, how can we prepare them for what we don’t know?

That’s where the unchanging Word of God comes into play.

We need to teach future generations of Christians the timeless truths and principles from God’s Word to guide their thoughts and actions. Issues have changed throughout history and they will continue to change. Future generations of Christians will have to deal with things that we can’t even begin to imagine today. And that’s the beauty of having something that never changes. Every generation can examine the issues they face against the same standard that every preceding generation used – God’s Word.

God told Israel, I am the Lord God – I don’t change (Malachi 3:6, see also James 1:17). Because God is eternal and does not change, what He says in His Word is also eternal and unchanging.  That’s why the Apostle Peter can write to his generation that His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us (2 Peter 1:3) and we can still hold onto its truth in every succeeding generation.

While the world around us changes, every generation of Christians can judge the issues they face by the timeless teachings of God’s Word and be confident that they can handle whatever comes their way.

I remember when my daughters worked as bank tellers during their college years. The bank didn’t teach them what counterfeit bills looked or felt like – there were too many potential varieties. Instead they taught them what legitimate bills looked and felt like so that when a counterfeit bill came their way they would know something was not right.

That’s what we need to do with the Word of God. Teach truth so that when error comes along, we’ll know that something is not right.

It’s not the issues that we should be focused on, it’s the Word of God.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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Be Sure that What You Say is Worth Saying

I could stop this blog right there. If all of us (including me) would simply adopt this as our motto we’d all be better off. Fewer people would be hurt; fewer conversations would escalate into arguments; fewer outrageous things would be said – and repeated; there would be fewer headlines in the media (maybe they would actually have to find something newsworthy to report!); fewer unsubstantiated things would be repeated over social media – you get the idea.

Think how quiet it would be!

Words matter. That’s why God has so much to say about the way we talk in both the Old and New Testaments. Check out the term word in a concordance – you’ll find that it appears over 1100 times in the Bible, often in the context of how words are to be used and the importance of words.

A few examples:

Proverbs 15:1
A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 25:11
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

James 3:2
For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

It’s significant that Jesus is known as The Word (John 1:1, 14). It’s equally significant that God chose to communicate with us through the written word, the Bible. There are other forms of communication – we use them all of the time to communicate to other people: pictures, facial expressions, gestures, body language.

Even if these forms weren’t adequate to communicate the gospel message, God, being God could have come up with another form other than words (don’t ask me what, I’m not God).

But He chose words. Makes them really significant.

Every day you get to use a method of communication that God sanctified and used for the holiest of purposes.

The problem is that we have taken words/speech so for granted that we have devalued it to the lowest common denominator. We don’t value words the way God values words.

So we use words – the medium that He chose to describe His Son and to communicate the most important message you will ever receive – to lie, deceive, spread hate, devalue other people, cheat, exaggerate, misrepresent, argue and perhaps dozens of other things that are less than worthy.

As a young boy my parents taught us to pray Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight. It’s God’s way of saying Be Sure that What You Say is Worth Saying.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Where’s the GOOD News?

Watching the news on TV can be depressing – I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Most news broadcasts concentrate on everything that is wrong in the world. If an alien landed on our planet and the first thing they did was to listen to the news they would quickly conclude that this isn’t such a good place to be.

But is everything really as bad as the news broadcasters want us to believe or there more to this story? Is it about what sells the most minutes? What brings in the most revenue? I suspect the news is driven, at least in part, not by the news itself but by the bottom line.

I find myself listening less and less to news broadcasts. Not only because of the bias of the announcers, but because I’d rather be happy than sad! It’s a choice and I choose the positive over the negative.

The question is: Where’s the GOOD News?

The answer is that there’s a lot of good news in the world – sometimes you have to search for it but it’s there.

The rest of the answer for the Christian is that the best news is in God’s Word. Here are a few samples:

-God is still in control. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Psalm 33:11

-You are on God’s heart. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. Psalm 34:15

-We have peace. Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

-We have hope. Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

-You don’t have to pay for your sin. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

-The problems of today are nothing compared to what is coming. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

-A better day is coming. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

-You are loved. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. 1 John 3:14

Think about all of the good news that we have as children of God. The actual list is much longer. The point is, don’t be jaded by the news that you get from the television, newspaper or internet – the news from the world isn’t so good, but the news from God’s Word is great!

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Listening to God

One of my Facebook friends recently posted a story that’s making the rounds on the internet.

A man was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching his wife, who was looking at herself in the mirror. Since her birthday was not far off, he asked what she’d like as a gift. “I’d like to be eight again,” she replied, still looking in the mirror. 

On the morning of her birthday, he rose early, made her a nice big bowl of Coco Pops, and then took her to Adventure World theme park. What a day! He put her on ever ride in the park; the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Roller Coaster, everything there was.

Five hours later they staggered out of the theme park. Her head was reeling and her stomach felt upside down. He then took her to a McDonald’s where he ordered her a Happy Meal with extra fries and a chocolate shake.

Then it was off to a movie, with popcorn, a soda pop, and her favorite candy, M&Ms.

What a fabulous adventure!

Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed, exhausted. He leaned over his wife with a big smile and lovingly asked, “Well dear, what was it like being eight again?”

Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed. “I meant my dress size, you idiot!!!”

The moral of the story: Even when a man is listening, he is gonna get it wrong.

I think the women will appreciate that more than the men.

It’s a humorous story but it does serve to illustrate an important truth of the Christian life.

It’s possible to Hear God without Listening to God.

How often do we hear God but we don’t really listen? We don’t make a personal connection with what He’s saying.

It happens to all of us. You take time to read your Bible but right in the middle of the passage your mind has wandered off somewhere. You’re reading on automatic pilot. Hearing but not listening.

Or how many times have you read your Bible – and kept your mind on the text, but what you read didn’t change anything about your life? Hearing but not listening.

In the parable that Jesus told about the different types of soils (Mark 4, Luke 8), He concluded with the statement, He who has ears to hear, let him hear! What He was saying was If you heard Me, listen up! Pay attention! What He wants is for us to hear and to listen.

The point Christ was making was that you need to let what you’ve heard (in the Word of God) change who you are (compare how this phrase is used to the 7 churches in Revelation chapters two and three).

The Apostle James addressed this in his writings when he wrote, But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22). He was admonishing us not just to hear God but to actually listen to Him.

When you take the time to actually listen to God it will produce changes in your life. That’s the only way you can tell if you’re listening and not just hearing.

Unlike the husband, when we listen to God we can get it right!

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Waiting on God

Several weeks ago I wrote about waiting on God. I want to revisit that subject and ask the question: What does it mean to wait on God?

 

The Bible certainly talks about waiting on God and encourages us to do so.

 

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

 

Psalm 37:9

For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.

 

Isaiah 40:31

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings  like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

 

Too many times, however, we equate the idea of waiting on God with inaction; thinking that if God wants us to move ahead, He will do something exciting and dramatic to indicate His will. Our job is to wait – God’s job is to alert us when it’s time to move ahead. But is that what it means to wait on God?

 

The Hebrew words that are translated as wait in our Bibles certainly have a time perspective – but they have much more than that. They also contain the ideas of trusting God (the idea in Psalm 37:9); of seeking God’s guidance (Lamentations 3:25); of living life God’s way (Psalm 37:34); and of acting in God’s time rather than in our time. It is an active waiting. It means doing what we know is right according to the Word of God as we trust God to open opportunities for us for the future.

 

So how do you go about wait on God? You cannot divorce waiting on God from the spiritual disciplines of spending time in God’s Word, prayer, ministry, and worship. And while it is possible to do all of these outside of the church, it is in and through the church that God often chooses to work (hence the admonition of Hebrews 10:25). Waiting on God involves the normal activities of the Christian life, trusting God that He will use them to guide us into the future.

 

Let’s get busy waiting on God and see what He does with and through us this week.

 

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve