Saturday, October 4, 2014

Are Our Offerings Sacrificial?

Are our offerings sacrificial (Philippians 4:14-18). 

I just got off the phone with a telemarketer of what appears to be a great organization.  I completely agreed with the stand this organization takes, however I did not financially support their request.  They asked for $100 right off the bat.  I was take a little back by their boldness but still politely refused. More than once I expressed that the church will be my priority when it comes to sacrificial giving but they just didn't get it.  I eventually has to hang-up on the very nice but persistent lady.

I am reminded what Paul said in Philippians 4.

Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.  (NKJV)

Only the church in Philippi financially supported the Apostle Paul up to this point in his journey.  Were the other churches wrong in not sending Paul funds to support his mission?  Not necessarily.  The key to that question is in the verse that says "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account." God asks us to be obedient in the areas he has called us to.  Our desire ultimately is to bring honor and glory to the Father.  Our obedience to His Will draws the attention to Him. Therefore, our obedience is the fruit that abounds to our account.

Are we to give to everything coming and going? No. Are we to give to God? Sacrificially! 

What is holding you back?


Friday, May 16, 2014

What Are Our Sacrifices Today

Malachi 1 teaches us that our sacrifices need to be acceptable to the Lord. Scripture teaches us that one of our sacrifices is our bodies.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 12:1–2.

God has asked us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. A holy sacrifice, one that is acceptable to God.  Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. A believer's sacrifice is his total life to God. It should be a desirable response of the believer. We are to no longer conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The Greek word translated transformed is seen in the English word metamorphosis which is a total change from the inside out. The key to this change is the “mind” (noos), the control center of one’s attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and actions (cf. Eph. 4:22–23). As one’s mind keeps on being made new by the spiritual input of God’s Word, prayer, and Christian fellowship, his lifestyle keeps on being transformed.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stop Making Excuses and Start Seeking Him

I am still studying in chapter 1 of Malachi. In verse 11 we see that the Gentiles will be offering better sacrifices (Malachi 1:11). I know the context of Scripture does not say the following but I want to ask you a question. Do you see today that people worshiping false gods and idols are surpassing the amount of worship and sacrifice you give the one true and living God? 

But we have an excuse don't we? We are full of reasons why we don't seek after they ways of the Lord through Bible Study and devotion.

In verse 13 we see that man has an attitude. Oh what weariness, I am bored, this doesn't interest me.  

Here are some things people often say to excuse themselves from worshiping and serving God:

  • ‘I’m tired.’

  • ‘I had to do this so much as a child, I got burned out on it.’

  • ‘I felt unappreciated.’

  • ‘No one spoke to me.’

Notice how everything is focused on the individual rather than God. Would we dare use such excuses with our employers? If not, we should not dare use them with God!
  • Are we giving our best to God in worship? 
  • Do we arrive on time with hearts that are prepared and eager to worship? 
  • Do we concentrate on what we are doing in public worship? Or do we allow our thoughts to wander? 
  • Do we give the preaching of God’s Word a grateful and careful hearing? Or have we allowed our familiarity with the things of God to dull our appreciation for them? 
Have we lost the wonder of it all? Have we brought ourselves under the following indictment of the Lord Jesus when He said:

Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
 ‘These people draw near to
 Me with their mouth,
 And honour me with their lips,
 But their heart is far from me …’
(Matt. 15:7–8).

We like to avoid thinking about such things, but the more we avoid them, the more our faith weakens. And the more it weakens, the more we rob ourselves of peace, joy and comfort in the Lord. The way back from a sputtering faith is to stop making excuses for ourselves and recognize again the privilege of having God as our Father and our Master.

Lets realize where we are and make the determination to be and stay where we ought to be.


Monday, May 12, 2014

It is Time to Stand Up

Continuing to study in Malachi I want to focus on verse 10 of chapter 1.

“Who is there even among you who would shut the doors,
 So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain?
 I have no pleasure in you,” 
Says the Lord of hosts,
 “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.

 [The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mal 1:10.]

Do you have a tough time understanding the language of that verse? Eugene Peterson paraphrased it quite well in The Message.

“Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Mal 1:10.


There was no "Spiritual person" to stand (Malachi 1:10).  Nobody was around who was spiritual enough to stand up and say this is wrong and I will not allow this to continue! I believe we can see this in our western culture Christianity today. It is watered-down and lukewarm. Many give their Sunday mornings to Jesus and nothing more. Our Bibles sit amidst the garbage in the back seat of our cars only to be picked up once a week. When something occurs that is against God and His ways we keep our mouths closed fearing a lash-back of society. We do not want to hurt anybody's feelings. We do not want to make anyone mad. Many are afraid to be known as a Christian and too often we find ourselves in the same position as Peter in the garden after Jesus' arrest.

We see this everyday. The ACLJ reported of a recent attack by the Freedom from Religion Foundation toward Clemson University. A brief summary of the report is as following

The New York Daily News reported that the group made famous for their war against nativity scenes and our National Motto (“In God We Trust”), has now picked a fight with Clemson University. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has taken the field with a new mission to silence and intimidate a college football coach for sharing his faith with his players. The FFRF is offended that the head football coach for the Clemson Tigers is a Christian that publicly shares his faith with the players of his team. The group argues that Coach Swinney gave a volunteer chaplain access to his players for Bible studies, also gave the chaplain an office at the athletic center, displayed Bible quotes through the football facilities, schedules team devotions, and also leads “sessions on ‘being baptized’” on school grounds. In sum, FFRF argues that “Christian Worship seems interwoven into Clemson’s football program.

You can read more of the article and the ACLJ's plans to help by clicking here.

I want to say at this point "

Praise God there are people like Coach Swinney who are willing to stand amidst persecution". Are you willing to stand-up when necessary? We cannot be a lukewarm undercover Christian. We have to put God on the throne of our lives. When Mussolini was strutting in force across much of the Mediterranean world, he was asked to explain his swift rise to power. He answered, “I found Europe full of empty throne rooms, and simply walked in and took one of them.” As the old saying goes, if you will not stand for something, you will fall for anything.

Church, it is time to take a stand for Christ.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sacrificing Your Best

We recently looked at Malachi chapter 1 and referenced the terms used to describe the relationship between God and His people (Father and Master). Today, I want to spend a little time thinking through verses 7 and 8 of Malachi 1. The Scripture reads as following:

By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. [The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mal 1:7–8.]

We enter into these verses from the questions God asked His priests "Where is my honor" and "Where is my reverence". God was not pleased with the sacrifices they were offering up to Him. In verses 7 and 8 above we see the details of their failures.

The offering had to be perfect, without spot or blemish. Bringing anything to the Lord's table that was less than the best was unacceptable. Do we do that today? Do we bring to God's table things that are unacceptable to Him? I am afraid that we do. 

A.W. Tozer said "The total life, the whole man and the whole woman, has got to worship God. Faith and love and obedience and loyalty and conduct and life—all of these are to worship God. If there is anything in you that doesn’t worship God, then there isn’t anything in you that does worship God very well. If you departmentalize your life and let certain parts of you worship God but other parts of you do not worship God, you are not worshipping God as you should."

I believe we have departmentalized our lives, just as Tozer said. Sunday mornings we have made it a plan that we are going to come to church to worship because it is the "right thing to do". I hope that it is not why people come to church. I hope that you enter the doors because you want to be there.

Let's talk about worship for a second. 

What is worship? Is it what we do when the band plays on Sunday morning? How about the idea that we cannot worship without the band and lights? Are you serious? Does it take someone banging on the drums to get you into a mode of worship? Does it take lights to get you into the mood to worship?

Worship is not an activity…it is a condition of the heart. We can sing, raise our hands, and fall prostrate on the ground and it not be worship. After all, the Old Testament provides example after example of an entire nation which participated in these activities. But they were condemned as false worship because they did not reflect authentic, worshipful hearts!

[So back to our text] God turns to the priests, who should have been the spiritual leaders of the land. The priests were not giving honor to God’s name; they were taking the best for themselves. They brought the poorest of the animals. 

God then says to them "Give that to your Governor and see what happens".  We would not dare give our place of employment the poorest of our work. We would not dare give our teachers the poorest of our work. Why? Because they would fire or fail us. It would effect our desires and goals. We would not have the money to buy that new 50" 4K LED TV.  We would not graduate and make that boat load of money.

You see how all of this is turning out? When we feel it effects our quality of living, we pay more attention to the quality of giving. 
We will never truly sacrifice to the Lord until we truly understand the big picture of where we are in God's Kingdom.

Where is your heart? Is it on the things of this world or on the things of God? Are you sacrificing your best to Him?


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Is He Master or Father to You?

Recently I have been doing some study in the book Malachi while at the same time God has been showing me things about commitment and giving your very best. It is surprising how much we think about quantity of service when God really cares about quality.

God opens up Malachi chapter 1 describing His love for Israel. Then immediately He turns the attention to the relationship between Himself and His people. Two terms in chapter 1 describe that relationship. The first is "Father" and the second is "Master". Not only in the book of Malachi do we see these two terms but they are used to describe that relationship throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

Scripture says he is our Heavenly Father.  One of the New Testament revelations is that God is the Father of individuals. 245 times in the New Testament the term Father is used to describe the relationship between God and His people. As a Father He gives His children grace and peace.  James 1:17 tells us that He gives His children good gifts. But often overlooked, our Heavenly Father gives us guidance and direction.  So our Heavenly Father is a Grace Giver, A wonderful Gift Giver, and the Guider of life. 

Have you experienced His wonderful grace, the gifts of His love and direction? 

Scripture also refers to God as Master. The word Master gives the idea of ownership. In 2 Peter 2:1 the term for Lord is can be translated as Master. It is a term that designates ownership. God is addressed as Master in Luke 2:29. Peter and those with him call him Master in Acts 4:24, and the martyrs in heaven use the same term in Revelation 6:10. Let me ask you is He master over your life? 

If He is Father and Master, do we act accordingly? Verse 6 of Malachi 1 says:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ [The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mal 1:6.]

The priests referred to in this passage were not very honorable or fearful of the Lord. We will talk more about that in the days to come. But for now, if you call Him Lord and Savior, do your actions reflect your words?


Monday, March 3, 2014

The Movie Noah

Ever since The Bible debuted on the History Channel last year there seems to be an onslaught of Christian based movies. This is not surprising considering the fact that over 13 million viewers watched The Bible series. Hollywood obviously wants a part of that cash pie.

Scheduled to debut late this month is the movie Noah. Already, before the release, there is controversy. On Ken Ham's (Answers in Genesis) blog you can find an article dated November 19, 2013 calling the movie unbiblical; while steering people away from the movie. This is quite surprising considering the movie was doing final-edits last week. So three and a half months before the film is in final editing, Christian leaders are already speaking against it. I want to say at this point, that was the wrong move. I will explain why in a minute.

Dr. Jerry Johnson, the new President and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters was able to show clips of the movie last week at the NRB Convention in Nashville. They were not able to show the entire movie because Paramount was still making last minute changes to the film. Obviously NRB noted concerns of the movie's accuracy, however the approach to the problem was completely different.

In an NRB panel discussion with John Snowden, a biblical consultant for Noah, and writer Phil Cooke, it was realized that artistic license was used in the development and production of the film. This action would certainly deviate from the literal reading from the Scriptures. Because of the "imaginative interpretation" used in the creation of the film, NRB President Dr. Johnson requested from Paramount to add a disclaimer to all marketing of the film. Paramount welcomed and granted the request. The following is the disclaimer being added to all marketing material:

"The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis."

More on the discussion of Paramount's grant of Dr. Johnson's request can be found on Paramount's Press Release.

It is not everyday that a major motion picture company decides to take a chance on a film that connects to Christianity. For that reason I applaud Paramount.

The problem with the reactions of Christian leaders is the failure to engage what they see as the issue. They are quick to boycott without an attempt to communicate. Note that it appeared amazingly easy for the NRB to successfully request marketing changes to the film. Imagine how easy it would have been for an organization that specializes in Biblical detail to offer assistance to a company who wants to spend $125 million dollars to put a Biblical event on the big screen. I believe the motion picture industry is looking for ways to engage the Christian community. We need to watch how we react to their desire. I am not sure boycotting is the ultimate solution. At least it did not appear to work for the SBC against Disney years ago.

The God of creation is looking to connect to a lost and dying world. The Christian community must be ready to engage them as they watch this movie. Keep in mind, the world will watch this movie whether you will or not. What will you do with the result?  

Is the movie accurate to Scripture? I have not seen the movie, but according to Dr. Jerry Johnson it is not. Look at 5 negative features about this film by Dr. Jerry Johnson, President and CEO of the NRB.

Does the movie have any positive attributes. According to Dr. Jerry Johnson it does.

You have to decide whether or not you will see this film. I, however, look forward to comparing the movie against the Scriptural account with those who have seen it. Who knows, I may have an opportunity to share my faith.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

When the Elmer Disappears

If you have known me for any length of time you know that I have a fascination for electronics and technology. Being in the broadcast industry allowed me to shadow some truly great electronic and broadcast engineers when I wasn't pulling on-air shifts. I am grateful that some took an interest in showing me their trade and even more, took an interest in my fascination of how things worked.

Years later I found myself testing through electronic theory exams to obtain various levels of amateur radio FCC licenses. Even then, there were people who were interested in seeing me succeed. They were called Elmers in the ham radio community. An Elmer is essentially the same thing as a mentor with a funny name that was given to the job of helping people get started in the great hobby of ham radio. 

Just recently I decided to spend a little more time back in ham radio. To my surprise things weren't the same as they used to be. The face of that great hobby seems to have shifted. The community appears to be more inward focused than outward focused. The new generation is more interested in the product rather than the design. The element of the Elmer is not as prevalent as it once was. 

What does all of this mean? For ham radio it means the new generation will have less access to the experience and guidance of those who are experts in the field. The result is more of an interest in retail products and less of an interest in building products from the ground up. It also means less interest in experimentation and innovation. Essentially the result is a hobby that has completely changed. 

This is happening not only in ham radio hobby but in everything else. The mentor is disappearing. People are more inward focused and don't have time for others. The result  is a change in the face of society. This has already happened and will continue to happen as long as we do not take an interest in others, especially the younger generation. 

When the Elmer/Mentor disappears so will the face of things as we know it. We will slow the pace of progress and repeat the mistakes of history. So make a point to be an Elmer, Mentor, or Disciple and teach others to do the same.