Saturday, January 17, 2015

Don't Be An Ingrate

An older fellow came into the post office approached an employee and asked, “Sir, could you please address this postcard for me?”

The employee gladly did so. The man then asked if the employee could write a short message on the post card for him, he agreed to do so. Then the old man then asked if he would sign it for him.  When he was finished, the postal employee asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

The old fellow thought about it for a minute and then said, “Yes. At the end could you just put, ‘P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting?’”

It seems that people are not naturally grateful.  Why do we struggle with gratitude?  One of the reasons is the pace of our life.  We get so busy with life that we forget to set aside time to be grateful.  We’re so wrapped up in everyday life that we never stop long enough see how blessed we are.

Another reason for a lack of gratitude is that we’re too consumer oriented, we approach life as if it’s a big shopping trip in which the name of the game is acquiring more.  We get so focused on acquiring the material possessions that we desire that we for get to be grateful for the basic things that God has blessed us with like hot water, a warm bed at night or health insurance. The primary reason that we’re so busy and given to consumerism is that we take everything for granted and we forget to show gratitude to God for all that he has given us. 

Ever notice that ungrateful people are always stressed out?  The reason they’re so stressed out is that they’re ungrateful.  People who are ungrateful believe that they’ve done it all themselves. If you believe you’ve done it all yourself in the past then you probably believe that it’s all up to you in the future.  You don’t need people. You don’t need God. You just carry the load yourself, the result is a stressed-out life.

Deut. 8:10 – “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.”

Ungrateful people seem to have no joy.   Ungrateful people are never satisfied and they’re always stressed out, the result is going to be a lack of joy.

Prov. 10:28 – “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.”

Heb. 12:28 – “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

How do you develop a life of gratitude and “so worship God acceptably, when the economy isn’t good, when things aren’t going your way, when our nation is at war, when the world seems like it’s going crazy?

The Bible gives us three keys to developing a life of gratitude.  First, recognize that everything is a gift from God. The first building block when developing a life of gratitude is to remember who gave us what we have in the first place.  We’re very good at getting, but we seem to quickly forget who gave us everything we have.  Have you ever gone to McDonalds with your kids or grandkids?  You let them order the meal they want. You pay for it. Then when you sit down at a table and reach out and take one of their fries, what do they say? They say, “Hey! Those are my fries!”  You made it possible for your kids or grandkids to be able to have them in the first place?  But those fries are now “they’re fries!” Likewise, we have a tendency to forget that everything we have isn’t really ours – it’s really God’s.

Along with recognizing that everything that we have is a gift of God, we should also, recall what God has done.  We sing: Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One, I actually think that’s a profitable thing to do.  What is it that you’re grateful for? One thing that you notice when you read the Bible is how many times thankful people recall all that God has done for them

Ps. 103:2 – “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”

Ps. 103:3, 10-12 – “3Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…” “10-12 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give you what you deserve?  Instead aren’t you glad that God gives you what you need?  If you don’t understand God’s grace; if your heart doesn’t explode with gratitude when you contemplate His grace, then you don’t have a clue of the shape you were in before you met Christ.  I can sum it up in one word: HOPELESS, You had no meaning, no purpose in your life. Instead it was filled with guilt, fear, bitterness, worry, and regrets. You had nothing you could do to get rid of those things. You had no hope for the future. You were headed for hell instead of heaven. You could never have been good enough to earn your salvation. But God came alone in His wonderful love and said, “I’m going to show you grace.”

Finally, resolve to give thanks in every circumstance.  Many of us are waiting for ideal circumstances before we’re thankful.  I have to admit, sometimes I’m waiting for things to get better to be thankful or for God to demonstrate something miraculous.  What are you waiting on?  For your health to improve?  For your relationships to get better?  For your bills to be paid?  For the time that you can sit back in your E-Z chair and say, “Life is good. I’m finally thankful”?  But that’s not what the Bible teaches!

1 Thess. 5:16-18 – “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

So give thanks just because without Him we are nothing


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sometimes We Need a Godly Smack

When I was Younger I had the opportunity to go with my father when he was hauling cattle.  I had a lot of fun, especially when I got to use the cattle prod.  Okay, maybe a little too much fun.  The cattle prod was used to guide the cattle into the run and then onto the truck.  If the steers weren't cooperating you could just hit them with a little shock from the cattle prod and most of the time they could be easily guided into the shoot.  However, every now and then one of them would get a little stubborn and my dad would take a club and smack it right between the horns and it would become a little more cooperative.

 This is what the lord was talking about when He spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus.  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 9:5)  A goad is a stick that they would sharpen and then use it to guide cattle as they herded them around, an old fashioned cattle prod.  Apparently the Lord had been trying to get Saul's attention and he was kicking against the goads, ignoring God's voice.  So God had to smack Saul down off that horse, knocked him off his high horse if you will, to get his attention.  It worked and most of us know the rest of the story, Saul became Paul and became an apostle of God and probably the greatest preacher of all time.

 Several years ago I too needed to get smacked down off my high horse.  I had taken a job in a city which had made ministry impossible for me. I stopped preaching, I eventually stopped going to church, and then I gradually stopped coming home.  It not only affected my relationship wife, it nearly destroyed it.  My relationship with Christ was even worse.  I had stopped listening to God's prodding. I asked my wife for a divorce and was on my way to meet her to discuss the details, or as she put it, “to work things out.”

I wasn’t having any part of, “working things out.”my mind was set.  On the way to that meeting, on a corner I had made every day for months, I couldn’t keep my lane and wrecked my bike.  I hit a minivan head on at 45mph.  I lay there in the road thinking, “this is it, it’s over.”

It was then that it hit me, if I die, I’m going to Hell.  I knew the truth, I had taught the Word of God, and now I was living as if there were no God, worse, I had become my own god.  I knew I was blessed just to be alive.  My wife was waiting for the ambulance at the hospital.  Wow!  What a spectacular display of God’s love through her.  I had disregarded her as a woman, despised her very existence at times, and treated her as if she were a burden.  All along I failed to see that God made her for me, blessed me with a strong, patient, godly and forgiving woman and I was acting like a fool. I knew the Lord was trying to tell me to go home and restore my marriage and my family.  It took a smack between the eyes, but I am so glad the Lord didn't just stop talking to me altogether.

 So often we get caught up in our own desires and ignore our calling and purpose.  That's what James was talking about, "when tempted no one should say that God is tempting them...we sin when we are dragged away and enticed by our own evil desires."  We kick against the goads, find ourselves completely outside His will going down a road toward selfishness and self-destruction.  Thank God that He loves us enough that He keeps pursuing us.  He who did not spare His only Son will also go to whatever lengths necessary to get us back on the right track.  I don't know about you, but I'm glad that God has a big stick and He isn’t afraid to use it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Up to the Point of Speaking

Philippians 3:13-15New King James Version (NKJV)

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

As human beings it is physically impossible, barring a miracle or a traumatic head injury, to “forget” the past.  So what is the Apostle Paul talking about?  How do we “forget” what is behind us.  How do we get beyond our past?
What is the past?  I looked it up.  In this case it is a noun.  One of the definitions I found said the past is an earlier period of a person’s life that is thought to be of a shameful nature.  This definition seems to fit what Paul is eluding to here.  Not every part of our pasts are shameful, but it’s only the shameful parts that hinder us and need to be forgotten.  It’s the events in our lives where we’ve failed God that seem to be the hardest to get over.  They keep us from worshipping the Lord freely, they hinder our relationships with others.  The past can be a crippling force if we allow it to.
Another definition I found said, “The past is the period of time prior to speaking.”  The past is the period of time prior to the words that are coming out of your mouth right now.  Whew that’s powerful man!  Your past only has a hold on you if the words that are currently coming out of your mouth allows it to. 
If you keep focusing on what you have done, instead of focusing on what God can do, you’ll stay encumbered by the past.  Instead of living in a land of milk and honey, you’ll be stuck wandering in the dessert.  You need to speak the only thing that can erase your past – The Name of Jesus!
Stop receiving the lies of your enemy.  Stop dwelling on your failure.  Paul tells us in Romans that basically the law was given to us to show us that we were incapable of receiving salvation by obeying a set of rules.  The purpose of the law was to show us we are weak and need God’s help.  So He sent Jesus.
In Colossians Paul writes, “13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
God has taken everything that was against you and nailed it to the cross and then made a public spectacle of you enemy the devil.  I can picture the Lord coming up behind Satan with a bloody nail pierced hand grabbing him by the back of the neck, and taking the keys of hell from him, and then dragging him back and forth in front of his subjects so they could see their ruler had been conquered.
God has made us alive in Christ.  We are no longer defeated, we no longer live under a death sentence, our past can longer hold us down, we no longer have to accept the lies of the enemy. in the name of Jesus is the power to do what is physically impossible to do.  It is the name of Jesus that brings about the miracle that allows us to "forget" what is behind us.
Since you past is the period up to the point of speaking – Speak the name of Jesus, forget what is behind you and live, abundantly!