27 May 2010

Wasted Grace

Bro. James preached an excellent message Sunday night from David's admonition to Solomon in 1 Kings 2:1-2. It was one I needed to hear, and one that I'm sure will be a blessing to you. Click here to listen.

Toward the end of the message, Bro. James read and commented on this verse. 1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

The life of the apostle Paul was truly a token of the grace of God. And which of us couldn't say the same? Has not God been abundantly good to us? Has He not bestowed more good things on our lives than we could ever try to number? Paul recognized this, and the verse says that he labored abundantly to ensure that God's grace was not bestowed upon Him in vain. Paul worked diligently to be sure that something good came out of the goodness God had showed him.

Bro. James gave the illustration of giving money to a bum that approached him one of the first times he was out witnessing, shortly after he got saved. The next day, he saw that same bum sitting and listening to his favorite channel on his brand-new radio – that he bought with the money that Bro. James gave him. He had wasted the gift he had been given.

I don't want to waste the gift of eternal life. I don't want to waste the spiritual gifts God has given me. I don't want to waste the opportunities I've been afforded. I don't want the blessings of God on my life to come to naught at the judgment seat of Christ. I don't want God's grace to be bestowed upon me in vain.

One of my Mom's favorite things to tell me as I grew up comes from Luke 12:48. I can't tell you how many times I've been reminded, "To whom much is given, much is required." Keep reminding me, Mom. I need to hear it. Keep reminding me, preacher. I need to hear it. Keep reminding me, Christian brother. I need to hear it. Please keep convicting me, Lord. I don't want all the goodness you've heaped on my sorry, little self to be a complete and utter waste!

PRESS toward the mark (Phil. 3:14).

Follow HARD after God (Psalm 63:8).

25 May 2010

Movie Recommendation

Here's a rare post. But I believe it would be well worth your time to get together and watch this movie as a family.

Click here to compare prices and purchase. Also available at most major movie rental houses.

19 May 2010

There Is Hope

Ezra 10:1-2 1 Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. 2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.

Having recognized that human nature is much like that of a dog who returns to his vomit or the sow who returns to her wallowing in the mire, what is the proper response? Obviously, it's not to excuse our disobedience the word of God. Again, we didn't lose our human nature when we got saved, but God did give us a new nature – one that desires to please Him and obey Him and glorify Him by living in victory over the sins that once had us bound.

Ezra 10 follows up on Ezra 9 with this glorious truth: there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. What do you do when you find yourself slipping back into those old ways you left when you met Jesus? What do you do when confronted with the fact that you've returned to those old habits you thought you had conquered long ago? What do you when you realize you've stopped pursuing righteousness and iniquity is right on your heels (2 Timothy 2:22)?

Assuming that you don't excuse it, you don't give in to it, and you don't give up on fighting it, there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.

The first thing you need is someone to confront you about your sin. Ezra 10:10 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Isaiah 58:1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

Do you have a preacher who is more concerned with pleasing God than he is with building a church and is faithful to the call of God on his life to call sin out for what it is? Then thank God for it. That means you still have hope in this battle called this Christian life. Are you surrounded by friends that care about doing right and living clean and are interested enough in pushing you that direction to point out when something's wrong in your life? Then thank God for it. Without that, you're without hope in your struggle against sin.

Having been confronted, the next thing you need is to make confession. Ezra 10:11 Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Take that thing to the Lord. Yes, He already knows about it, but He wants you to tell Him about it anyway. Yes, you're already forgiven. No, you're not going to hell. But you need to go to God and get that thing right. When the Lord's dealing with your heart about something, you need to take care of that thing immediately. Don't wait until you get home Sunday afternoon, go down to the altar and do business with God. Don't put it off until your goodnight prayer time, get before the Lord wherever you can and confess that thing to Him.

Then you need to come up with a strategy for getting that thing right. Ezra 10:11 and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. The process doesn't stop with confession. Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

What led me to where I am and how can I avoid it in the future? In what areas am I especially tempted, and how can I steer clear of those temptations? Who do I need to separate from? What do I need to cut out of my life? Make some definite decisions about what you can do to keep yourself from going back to the things that once had you in bondage, by the grace of God.

And the last thing you need is the courage to go forward. Ezra 10:4 Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it. Proverbs 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

Don't just confess your sin. Don't just come up with a way to fight that sin. Put the plan into action. Be of good courage, and do it. May God help us see that, though so easily beset by sin, there is hope of living in victory over it.

18 May 2010

Return TO Captivity

The book of Ezra focuses on the rebuilding of the temple that took place following the Babylonian captivity.

A first group of Jews returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel during the days of Cyrus the king (chapters 1-2). Under Zerubbabel's leadership, the altar of sacrifice was reestablished, and the foundation of the temple was laid (chapter 3). In chapter 4, the adversaries of Judah rise up in opposition to the rebuilding of the temple and are successful in having the work suspended, by order of Artaxerxes.

The work was taken up again due to the prompting of God's prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and the confirmation of Cyrus' decree by King Darius (chapters 5-6). Sometime later, Ezra, the ready scribe with a prepared heart (7:6-10) leads a second group back to the land and returns the vessels of service to the house of the Lord (chapters 7-8).

The book concludes in chapters 9 and 10 with a depressing but instructive glimpse at human nature.

A little review before we jump in. What is the book about? The rebuilding of the temple upon the return from Babylonian captivity. Why were the Jews in captivity? For forsaking the genuine worship of the one true God and following after the gods of the heathen. What led them to do that? Mingling themselves with the people of the land instead of destroying them like God had commanded.

Guess what the people are doing before the book that describes their return from captivity is even finished? The very thing that led to their captivity in the first place.

Ezra 9:1-3
1 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass. 3 And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

The rest of the chapter records Ezra's prayer of confession. Here's how he wraps it up:

Ezra 9:13-15
13 And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; 14 Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? 15 O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.

Before we leave the scene shaking our heads in disgust and disbelief, let's take a moment to recognize that we're often guilty of the same. Has not God punished us less than our iniquities deserve? Has not God given us a great deliverance? Has He not saved us from our sins by His marvelous grace?

And have we not been often drawn back into the very things that condemned us? Have we not often returned to the very sins that put us in danger of everlasting judgment? Yeah, we're clean escaped, but every now and again for some strange reason, that pile of vomit we left not long ago starts to look inviting (2 Peter 2:20-22).

That's human nature. But by the power of the indwelling Christ (something we have these Jews didn't), we are called to live above human nature.

God give us more Ezras who tremble at the word of God (9:4) and pray and confess and weep (9:5; 10:1) and strive against sin (Hebrews 12:4) in our homes, in our churches, in our individual lives. Amen.