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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Quiet Time: Captain America Wants You

Captain America Wants You

Read: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

“The weak understand the value of strength (dramatic pause)…and compassion” – Dr. Abraham Erskine.

My son, Matthew, and I just saw the new action movie, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. The flick tells the origin of Marvel’s first super-hero and the beginnings of his battles against Red Skull, the ruthless head of a rogue German military outfit trying to take over the world. Here’s a link to a terrific movie revewer:

In the movie, the good Dr. Abraham Erskine tells the impuissant Steve Rogers, who will soon become Captain America that he was chosen specifically for his weakness, a scrawny body. But the doctor felt the thing that actually qualified Steve was his particular strength, a selfless character. My mind immediately went to the bible verse that reads “strength is perfected in weakness”.

Later that evening, I pondered that scripture passage as I lay in bed. Flashbacks of my childhood began to play in my mind. I remembered being the youngest, smallest, and least athletic boy in my neighborhood. So, I know what it feels like to be picked last for team sports, as well as, targeted by the bigger boys as an easy mark for a thrashing. Unlike Captain America, I didn’t keep getting up after being knocked down. Of course, I did eventually become older, bigger, and more athletic. The beatings stopped and I got to choose my own team from time to time. Although, I never forgot the feeling of weakness.

The apostle Paul said, that he took his limitations in stride and with good cheer (2 Cor. 12:10). I’ve gotta say that I’m not there yet. I want to be brave, strong, even heroic in the face of danger, but honestly, I hate conflict. And when I feel weak, well, I just feel weak; and, you know what, I don’t think I’m alone. However, since the Holy Spirit directed Paul to tell me that strength is perfected in weakness, I know it’s true and that God will perfect His strength in me, and you too.

We may not know all there is to know about being strong in Christ, but we who’ve experienced weakness certainly understand the benefits of strength…and compassion motivates us to press on. So, let’s press in to Him and press on toward the prize (Philippians 3:14).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quiet Time: Just Say No

Just Say No

Read: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
 - 1 Corinthians 9:27

Back in the 80s there was an anti-drug use campaign that used the slogan “Just Say No”. According to government statistics it was, for the most part, a failure. "Effective resistance strategies go beyond repeating simplistic slogans at kids,'" says Michael Hecht, professor of communication at Penn State. However, it’s hard to argue the catchiness of the catch phrase; even the illicit drug culture used it as a wry joke. But, learning to just say, “No”, isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Christ followers to practice. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul seemed to practice saying it quite regularly.

Paul sacrificed self-will and practiced saying no to his fleshly desires, not because they were bad per se’, but because he considered himself a spiritual athlete who was competing as an example to others. He reminded himself daily that there’s nothing wrong with, “No”. He said that he disciplined (literally “bruised”) his body and made it his slave.

It looks to me like too many of us have become slaves of passion. If we want it, we get it, and we get it a lot! So, we suffer from weight gain, alcoholism, and frivolous living. If we don't start telling ourselves, "no" more often, we may become a less creditable witness for Christ. I wonder if we’d grow spiritually, if we began to stand up to our desires and simply said, “No”?

“No” may not get me what I want, but it will probably give me what I need; self control.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Song Series: Bed Head (Living For Jesus)

No Bed Head for Me

Read: 1 Samuel 21:10-15

"Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?" – 1 Samuel 21:15

God can make the most of a bad situation even if we’re the one who creates it.

All of us at one time or another have woken up from a fitful night's rest with the dreaded "bed head". Hairs pointing in every direction with strands popping up precariously making us look like an over-done  Alfalfa from the old Little Rascals. What used to be a morning malady is now an acceptable fashion statement. But, you know, I just don't think it works for me. Kind of like the "day old beard" look that was in a couple of years ago. When I let my whiskers grow or my hairs go unkempt it makes me look like a vagrant; not quite the look I was going for.

David was a mighty man of God; a hero we can all look up to, but there was time that he looked anything but heroic. 1 Samuel records David’s close call in his enemy’s city. He walked into Goliath’s hometown with Goliath’s sword on his hip hoping that no one would notice him. To the contrary, not only did people recognize him as the warrior Hebrew girls sang about (1 Samuel 18:6-7), but they also seemed to understand Dave’s destiny better than he did (1 Samuel 21:11-12). So, the people took him captive (Psalm 56:1) and brought him before king Achish. David saw the trouble he was in and feigned madness; scratching the floor like an animal with spit running down his chin. Achish took one look and let him go. David was neither mighty nor kingly at that moment, but he was free and very humbled, which is a great place to be in renewing a walk with the Lord. (For further study check out Psalm 34 & 56)

I suppose that changing our appearance to look more presentable isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, trusting in looks to garner acceptance is a very slippery slope. Truthfully, this type of behavior is fear based and there’s a fine line between seeking God’s approval verses man’s (John 12:42-44). Therefore, if we find ourselves in a tough spot let’s be encouraged to be who we are, mighty men and women of God and leave the theatrics to thespians.

By Thomas Obediah Chisholm

Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quiet Time: Looks Good to Me

Looks Good to Me

Read: Jeremiah 5:21-29

Therefore they have become great and rich. 28 ‘They are fat, they are sleek, They also excel in deeds of wickedness; They do not plead the cause, The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper;
And they do not defend the rights of the poor.
- Jeremiah 5:27-28

We are easily deceived.

In a social behavior study a man dressed like a bum and asked people for change to make a phone call. No one gave him a dime; literally. To the contrary, most gave him a sour look as they hissed sardonically, "Get a job." Then, this same guy dressed up like a business man. You know, coat, tie, brief case, and all that, and asked passers-by for change; however, this time most people were happy to oblige and often gave him more than he needed. So, what made the difference? Appearance; obviously. Sometimes people fool us and sometimes we fool people, but no-one ever fools God. I suppose, more often than not, we tend to go by what we see not what we know.

Jeremiah was surrounded by people who looked good outwardly yet whose hearts were steadily spiraling downward to wickedness. God, true to His name, Faithful, was pointing out their awful state so that they would repent and return to Him. The leaders, priests, prophets, and their hand-picked cronies were proclaiming and preaching lies; and, get this, the general population loved it! Everybody seemed to be patting the popular guys on the back saying, “Keep it coming man; keep it coming!” Yet, all around them, widows, orphans, and others living life in the shadows were starving both physically and spiritually. No one gave them a second glance, some even took advantage of them, and I’d wager that if the phrase existed back then, a few spat caustically, “Get a job!”

I get tripped up from time to time by leaders who talk well and pander to the crowd. Frankly, some of what they say is true, but most of it is fluff and feel good rhetoric. So, they fool me into listening for a time, but then God calls me close to His side and says, “Child, stop looking at the glitz and come to where I’m working. It may not be sensational but it will always be satisfying.”

Perhaps we would do well to remember that God will right the wrongs and to not be deceived into thinking He isn't in control (Galatians 6:7).

May-be a good goal for us is to simply walk with Him and be wise (Matthew 10:16) because it is so easy to be deceived.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quiet Time: Effective Faith

Effective Faith

Read: Philemon 1:4-7

I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. - Philemon 1:6

Many of you  know that last year, I joined the staff of new church launch in Valrico. We are growing steadily and that's always encouraging, but the thing that really tweeks my knobs is how we are reaching people one on one. Men and women often come to our little fellowship and listen for several months before making a decision for Christ. However, when they finally take the plunge, they're all in and eager to learn and serve. I like that, but I want more.

I want each one of us to become effective as a body of believers, a team, and a family. Pastor Daniel and I are on the same page with this. Like many of you  we don't want to play church we want to be the church, in love and knowledge to the glory of God. To do this, we as a body of believers will need to grow more intement with Jesus, more in love with each other, and more surrendered to His will.

Please pray that God would help us to be effective as a body of believers, and if you let me know your congregation's name, I'll do the same for you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Song Series: The Greatness of Our God

The Greatness of Our God

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:6-8

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
 - 2 Corinthians 4:7

A month to live. What would you do?

Keith is the worship arts pastor at Woodland Baptist in Bradenton. I don’t really know him, his name popped up in my e-mail this morning as someone who needs our prayers. Now, I’m not trying to bum you out, because neither Keith, his wife, nor his kids seemed crushed by this recent news. To the contrary, Keith is fully engaged in the life of his family, as well as, his church. However, what really caught my attention was the line in his recent update that reads, “Keith has been busy planning his funeral.” Planning his funeral, are you kidding me? Keith’s wife finishes the paragraph by writing, “I have to tell you that God's peace has surrounded us every step of the way. Week before last especially I felt closer to God than I have in my entire life.”

I think that we Christians sometimes take our walk with Christ and the accompanying peace for granted. Perhaps we’ve been saved so long that the presence of Christ has become mundane and blasé; nothing more than just another part of our personality. Then, one day, we are confronted with life’s frailty and we remember that God is real and is above it all giving us grace to see beyond the moment here. 

I’m sorry for Brother Keith’s battle with cancer. I hate what disease does to us physically, but I’m so glad for what it brings out in us spiritually. Sure, I’m praying for a miracle, but it seems a miracle has already occurred. Keith is getting ready to go home; his real home. Neither life nor death has power over him because he is walking in the presence of His Lord.

Keith’s wife asks that we agree with her in prayer. She says, “We are praying for God's grace and mercy. We are praying that Keith's mind will stay clear until the end.” Amen, Lord Jesus, make it so.

The Greatness Of Our God
Authors: Jason Ingram
Reuben Morgan
Stuart David Garrard

Verse 1
Give me eyes to see more of who You are
May what I behold still my anxious heart
Take what I have known and break it all apart
You my God are greater still

Chorus 1
And no sky contains
No doubt restrains all You are
The greatness of our God
I spend my life to know
And I'm far from close to all You are
The greatness of our God

Verse 2
Give me grace to see beyond this moment here
To believe that there is nothing left to fear
And that You alone are high above it all
You my God are greater still

And there is nothing that could ever separate us
There is nothing that could ever separate us
From Your love
No life no death of this I am convinced
That You my God are greater still


Friday, July 8, 2011

Song Series: Stand Up For Jesus (Heroes Don't Duck)

Stand Up Stand Up For Jesus
(Heroes Don’t Duck)

Read: Acts 7-8

55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” – Acts 7:55-56

David (not his real name), my neighbor’s son, is a real “stand up guy”. He recently returned from a military tour in Afghanistan. The happy go lucky youth who left us is now a serious and somewhat somber young man. The details are sketchy, but the account of what happened to David begins with a preverbal last stand. There was an enemy attempt to overrun his platoon’s position and David single handedly removed the threat while taking six bullets, as well as, shrapnel from his own grenade due to the close in fighting. You see, David’s a really big guy, which makes him a really big target, so by standing up he drew the fire away from the trapped troops long enough to allow a safe retreat. Men’s lives were saved because a hero didn’t duck. As one man commented, “It just aint in em.”

Stephen was a hero of The Faith. He was one of the first deacons selected by the early church (Acts 6:5) and became a true example of servant leadership. He was a man’s man, full of power, and like the apostles, performed signs and wonders (Acts 6:8). But, being a stand up guy also made him a target (Acts 6:9). Stephen’s end came at the hands of wicked men who had no argument other than their own selfish ambitions and religious traditions (Acts 7:58-60); however, where Stephen’s life ended new life for many began as the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and beyond (Acts 8:1-3). Stephen didn’t duck.

I, like many of you, have been teased, poked, and prodded for standing on the scriptures and the truth of the Gospel. We’ve been tempted to just fit in and not make waves. Sometimes we’ve hidden our faith within when we should’ve headed out. The fact is, walking with Jesus, in essence, requires standing up, and standing up can make us a target. Targets get shot but targets, like heroes, aren’t designed to duck. “It just aint in em.”

Stand Up Stand Up For Jesus
By George Duffield Jr.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict, in this His glorious day.
Ye that are brave now serve Him against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Song Series: Glorious Is Our God

Glorious Is Our God

Read: Colossians 1:24-29

to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory – Colossians 1:27

We have one hope and one message; plain, simple, and POWERFUL!
We preach Christ and Christ alone; no more no less. He is the beginning and end to our salvation and the very hope of eternity. Regardless of where we came from, our standing in society, or our sometimes sordid and wasted past we who believe in Jesus have been given Christ. He lives in us and compels us to share the good news with everyone everywhere. What is the good news? Christ in us the hope of glory, and He can be Christ in you the hope of glory! “We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less.”The Message

We work hard “in the energy God gives us”, at taking this message to our family, friends, neighbors, and beyond because we know that He wants everyone to come to repentance and be forgiven forever. We use our gifts, talents, and treasures to sing, play, and pay for the Gospel to be preached in full recognition that God will move in as we move out. So let’s move out, sharing the hope filled message that Jesus and Jesus alone has the power to bring us into God’s glorious presence to the praise of His glory and grace!

Glorious Is Our God
by Richard Knott

Glorious, glorious
Glorious is our God.
Glorious, alive in us,
Glorious is our God, is our God.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Song Series: A Hero to Believe In (Strong and Mighty Tower)

 A Hero to Believe In
Strong and Mighty Tower

Read: Psalm 18:1-3

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. - Psalm 18:2 (NASB)

My wife and I recently saw the new Transformers movie, “Dark Side of the Moon”. It’s a fun action packed flick that shouldn’t be taken seriously for anything other than shear entertainment. What I love about these science fiction CG extravaganzas is how the super hero always seems to find himself beat down and out of the fight. Then, by some miracle of hidden strength and indomitable courage he rises to ultimate victory over his foe in a flash of fury, forcefulness, and fire. He is after all, THE CHAMPION! But, I found myself chuckling at the end of the movie, because the audience applauded! I mean, they actually clapped in response to the movie’s climactic ending. Why? It’s not real. But, I guess everyone wants a hero to believe in.

God wants to be our hero. When life seems all but lost, He wants us to know that He will win the day. Evil may seem to advance its dark cause, but God is greater and no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:29). God never rises from a position of defeat. He always stands in victory over His foes (Revelation 15:3-4). We can trust Him and take Him at His word.

Having a hero who never finds himself down and out may not be the best ingredient for fictional entertainment. However, our Hero, God, The Rock, and our Refuge is a Stronghold we can all believe in. He is and always will be, THE CHAMPION!

YOUR NAME by Paul Baloche

Your Name is a strong and mighty tower

Your Name is a shelter like no other

Your Name let the nations sing it louder

'Cause nothing has the power to save

But Your Name


Quiet Time: What's A Winner

What's A Winner

Read: 2 Peter 1:1-11

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.          – 1 Peter 1:8

Winner is not a character trait.

Someone asked Vince Lombardi (probably the most quoted coach of all time) if he considered himself to be a great leader. Lombardi answered proudly, “No, I’m a winner.” At first, this statement sound very motivational to me, but then I thought, "How can anyone be a winner?" We can be hard working, honest, stubborn, persistent, self-controlled, godly, but how can we be something that changes based on the score of a game? A virtue by its very essence is immutable.

Peter, in his second epistle to the early church was encouraging them to grow in Christian character. He actually offers a list of virtues that stair step toward the mark of true Christian maturity (2 Peter 1:9). Had Peter been asked by a reporter if he considered himself to be a leader, I think he would have said, “Yes, but I have a lot lower to go.” According to scripture the best leaders are losers. They are willing to lose everything for love of God and man. I like the way (Matthew 13:10-11) reads in The Message bible translation: “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant.” This thought may not translate well in light of today’s “winner” philosophy, but then again God’s ways are always higher than the world’s ways.

It seems to me that the noun “winner” describes a man’s numbers where as his character describes a man’s nature and character doesn’t change with the score of a game.