Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Athiest and the Bear

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods, admiring all that evolution had created.
"What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!", he said to himself. As he was walking along the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. When he turned to see what the ruckus was, he saw a 7-foot grizzly charging right towards him. He ran as fast as he could. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing, He ran even faster, crying in fear. He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. His heart was pounding and he tried to run even faster. He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up, but saw the bear right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.
At that moment, the Atheist cried out "Oh my God!...." Time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. Even the river stopped moving.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky, "You deny my existence for all of these years; teach others I don’t exist; and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?"
The atheist looked directly into the light "It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as Christian now, but perhaps could you make the bear a Christian?" "Very well," said the voice.
The light went out. The river ran again. And the sounds of the forest resumed.
And then the bear dropped his right paw ..... brought both paws together...bowed his head and spoke: "Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful."

Becoming A Live Church

Becoming a Live Church Revelation 2:1-2:7
I read about a preacher who wanted to impact South Korea for Jesus Christ. And so he started a church in his friend’s living room. One of the parishioners was paralyzed. And so one Sunday, the pastor went over to her. Laid hands on her. And prayed fervently. And she was healed! This got people in the community excited. And they started flocking to the new church in droves. Pretty soon, they outgrew the living room. So they put up a tent in the front lawn. And had services out there. But soon enough, that got too crowded. And they built a church. By the mid 1960s, they had 3000 people.

But one day, as the pastor was baptizing several hundred people, he collapsed to the ground in exhaustion. He was rushed to the hospital. Where he had major surgery. And while he was sitting in bed reading the Bible, he came across a verse in Exodus 18:18 that moved his heart: It said this: "The work is too heavy for you. You cannot handle it alone. You will only wear yourself out."The next day, the pastor called the elders and deacons. And put each one in charge of a certain number of people. After the pastor did this, the church exploded with growth!
Thousands of people gave their lives to Christ. By 1972, there were 10,000 members. By 1979, there were 100,000. By 1984, 400,000. And today, there are almost 800,000 members of the Yoido Full Gospel Church. Making it the largest congregation on planet earth. They support 85 missionaries from their own church. And they have planted new churches in 39 countries.
This is truly one of the most incredible stories in church history.Something equally incredible happened 2000 years ago. On the day of Pentecost. A small group gathered for prayer. The power of the Holy Spirit was present. They praised the Lord. Peter preached the word. Thousands got saved. And the church was born.

You ever wonder why some churches are so vibrant? And get larger almost every week? While other churches are barely able to keep going? In Revelation 3:1, Jesus tells the church in Sardis, "you have a reputation for being alive, but I know for a fact that you’re dead! You’re not preaching the word! You’re compromising your moral standards. You’re playing with fire! Now cut it out! Or I’ll come when you least expect it and shut your church down forever!"I’d hate to be the pastor of that church! So let me ask you this: "Are we as devoted to Christ as we ought to be? Do you think we can experience the power of Pentecost here at F.C.W.C.?”I believe that we can.

The first thing our church needs is a proper purpose. In Acts 2:1, we’re told that on the day of Pentecost, all the Christians were together in one place. To wait for the blessing of God. The promised arrival of the Holy Spirit.
I was reading about a Christian speaker. Who was giving a message on Saturday night. And he said to the crowd, "On Thursday, I met with the President of the United States in the oval office. On Friday, I met with the Vice President. But that’s nothing. Because tomorrow morning at 9am at Church, I’m going to meet with the Lord Almighty!"
That’s why we go to church. Not to check out the preacher. Or to see what sister Mildred is wearing. But to meet face to face with Almighty God.
There’s a famous story about Henry Ward Beecher. He was one of the great preachers of the 19th Century. He was sick one Sunday, so a substitute preacher walked up to the pulpit as the worship service began. Seeing that Dr. Beecher would not be speaking that day, a number of people got up and headed for the door. The substitute preacher said, "All those who came to worship Dr. Beecher this morning may leave. All those who came to worship the Lord, may stay in their seats." You can guess what happened next. Everyone sat back down. The congregation learned a valuable lesson that morning:
We’re here to worship God. Matthew 4:10 says "Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only!" That’s the proper purpose of the church.

In addition to a proper purpose, the second thing we need is powerful praise and worship. I love how everyone in Acts 2 was filled with the Spirit. And they spoke in tongues. And they praised the Lord.I don’t want to go to church. And hear some long, windy, repetitive, theological discourse that has no bearing on life today. I want to connect with God. I want to feel God. I want to experience God. I want to worship God. And then when I leave, I want to go out and serve God.

One of my favorite images from the Old Testament is in 2 Samuel chapter 6. An image of David. Dancing before the Lord. Worshiping God. Celebrating his goodness. With unbridled enthusiasm. That’s what I want for my life. I want to worship the Lord. With all of my love. With all of my might. No matter what anyone else might think of the way I do it.

A live church needs a proper purpose. Powerful praise and worship. But it also needs a powerful message. If you look closely at Acts 2, notice that the reason why 3000 people got saved wasn’t because of the speaking in tongues. It was because of the preaching! Peter delivered a heck of a sermon! "Jesus Christ is Lord! You’re lost without Him! Turn from your sin! Get baptized! Get right with God! Before it’s too late! Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!"

There was this article in a recent magazine, someone wrote the following letter to the editor: "It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them. I have been attending church quite regularly for 30 years. I have probably heard 3,000 sermons. To my dismay, I discovered I cannot remember a single message. I wonder if a minister’s time might be better spent on something else?"For weeks a storm of editorial responses ensued. finally ended by this letter: "I have been married for 30 years. During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals-mostly my wife’s cooking. Suddenly I have discovered I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. And yet, I realize that without those meals, I would have starved to death long ago." A sermon is like a spiritual meal. And a vibrant church is like a cafeteria for the soul. A place where you can be fed and nourished by the Word of God. The sermons in a live church should be that same way. Meaty. Tasty. And satisfying. Psalm 34:8 says "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Jeremiah 15:16 says "When your words came, I ate them! They were my joy and my heart’s delight!" And in John 6:53, Jesus talks about eating the flesh of the Son of Man. Feasting on the Lord and his word.

Why do I quote so many verses in my messages? And the best answer I can come up with is that I need meat in my diet. I need substance in my life. Something to chew on.

Being a live church means having a powerful purpose. Powerful praise and worship. And a powerful message. But we also need the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 says "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Our plans may be noble. Our intentions may be good. But there will be no blessing and no success without a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit on our lives. The Holy Spirit is not just for Pentecostals and holy rollers. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is given to everyone who turns to Christ.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

God's Presence On the Battlefield of Life

1. EVERY OBSTICLE WE FACE IS SUBJECT TO THE POWER OF GOD. Jer 32:1717"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Luke 1:3737 For nothing is impossible with God."The problem we have many times is we take the opportunity away from God by fighting our own battles. When we fail to seek God and go about things our own way and totally disregard our relationship with God and His leadership we are failing to allow God the opportunity to work for us. When we take matters into our own hands we are in affect taking them out of God’s hands. Now don’t misunderstand me I know we need to couple prayer with action. I’m not saying lets just pray when faced with difficultly and do nothing. What I am saying is we need to first pray about our issues, bring them before God and seek His leadership and will allowing Him access to lead us.

2. WHY DO WE GET DOWN IN THE DUMPS WHEN WE FACE OBSTICLES?a). Because we focus too much on the obstacle and not enough on God. This lesson the Israelites learned the first time they came to the Jordan River and sent the 12 spies in to spy out the land. b). We look at obstacles in light of our own power. There was no way, humanly speaking, that Joshua and his followers were going to break through the walls of Jericho and overcome its inhabitants. This great city was the first formidable foe that stood between the people of God and the promises of God. Many times we face problems and difficulties that we can’t overcome in our own power. This is where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is so important to us as believers. The fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in us makes it so very personal. Aren’t you glad it doesn’t dwell near you or over you but it dwells in you?1 Cor 6:1919Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? Phil 4:1313I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.So many times when we face impossible situations in our lives we say there is NO WAY. There is always a way when God is involved. If you would have been there at the crucifixion you would’ve thought their was no way Jesus would be walking around talking and teaching His disciples three days later. c). We fail to view our obstacles as an opportunity for God to demonstrate His power. God can turn our gloom into gladness. Let me stay with the analogy of the disciples and the crucifixion. What about when the disciples were making their way to the tomb on Sunday morning? Do you think they were filled with gloom? Of course they were. What happened on Saturday? The day between the crucifixion and the resurrection? What a gloomy day that must have been. But on Sunday morning God turned our gloom to gladness.

3. GOD IS USUALLY AT WORK REMOVING OUR OBSTICLES BEFORE WE EVER REALIZE IT. In Joshua chapter two when Rahab hid the Hebrew spies she confessed that they were fearful of the Israelites. Joshua 2:8-128Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9and said to them, "I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. God had sent news ahead of time to destroy the confidence of Jericho. They were filled with fear and had lost their fighting spirit. This is one of the blessings of following God’s leadership, if we follow Him; He is sure to go before us. The difficulty for us is trusting that He is working for us when we can’t see it. Did the Israelites know that God was spreading fear through the land concerning His people? Many times when God is going before us and working on our behalf, and we don’t even realize it.

4. GOD CONFERMS HIS PRESENCE AND LEADERSHIP TO JOSHUA. (Jos. 5:13-15)With Moses gone Joshua had everyone looking to him for leadership. Could you imagine the pressure he must have been under to fill the sandals of Moses? With this kind of pressure he really needed confirmation from the Lord. Notice how similarities of the call of Joshua and Moses. Both are commanded to take off their shoes because they were standing on holy ground. This is to confirm the call of Joshua, to give him courage and faith so he can trust God and know that he is God’s man for the job. The Angel told Joshua that he didn’t come to take sides but to take over. We shouldn’t ask, is God on our side? To be phrased properly, “are we on God’s side?”

5. OFTEN TIMES WHAT GOD REQUIRES US TO DO TAKES COURAGE.Do you think somewhere in the process of marching around the city in silence someone might have questioned the purpose behind something so passive? This has nothing to do with common sense or military strategy. This is neither defensive nor offensive what possible good could marching around a city do? This makes about as much sense as Naaman the leper going and dipping seven times in the Jordan River. The rational behind the action is not important; the significance is in the obedience. Could you imagine being there on that day and Joshua stands before the people and says, “O.K. this is the battle plan we’re going to march around the city.” March around the city and do what? You might ask. That’s it, march around the city; that’s all God told me. Well I think you better go back to the Lord Joshua because you obviously missed something. But the cool thing about this story is, Joshua didn’t miss anything.

6. WE CAN’T ADJUST GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS AND STILL BE VICTORIOUS. What if Joshua would’ve added to the Lord’s plans? What if he would’ve had the archers shot over the wall as they marched around the city? I mean at least they would have been doing something offensive, some sort of military force would be applied. Or maybe, he could let part of the people march around the city while the other part worked on braking down the gates, or climbing over the walls. We know that’s ridiculous don’t we? But don’t we do the same thing? We do things that we know are wrong and we justify our actions by saying “oh, that’s just the way I’m, or I can’t help myself.” We jump into sin and turn to others around us and tell them they just don’t understand. Have you ever thought about what would’ve happened if Noah would’ve modified the plans God made for the Ark? What if Noah tried to make the Ark a little more aerodynamic? Scientist have scaled down the measurements God gave to Noah and built a replica of the Ark. When they placed it in water and tested it to see if it would turn over they discovered it was nearly impossible to turn over.