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The Problems In Our Culture

I have not posted anything for a while, but I feel compelled to write about the chaos in our culture. The shooting in Parkland hits close to home because my family and I lived less than 10 minutes away from Parkland. We attended services at Parkridge Baptist Church in Parkland. I know Eddie Bevil and other pastors who minister in that area. We still have many friends in that community and surrounding communities. All of that is tangential to what I really want to address, which is why our culture is the way it is.
 
The best response to the shooting in Parkland actually helps explain why this is happening in our communities. Tony Evans at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. He referenced 2 Chronicles 15:3-6 in his discussion about the shooting. The answer to the problem is not found in gun control, mental health changes, or better law enforcement. The true problem is theological/spiritual in nature and requires a theological answer.
 
Notice what God’s Word says,
 
3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, 4 but when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. 5 In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. (ESV)
 
Our country is suffering from a lack of peace. We have great disturbances that are affecting cities and nations. Everyone in the land is being afflicted. Why is this so? Well, the surface answer is we are disobeying God’s laws. While that is true, that is not the real issue. I would argue we could force people to obey God’s laws, but we would still be in trouble. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time kept the law and sought to force others to do so as well. Still, there was not true peace in the land.
 
The real issue is that we as Christians (and us as pastors) have failed to fulfill our responsibilities. Look again at verse three, they were “without a teaching priest and without law.” Starting with the pastors, we as Christians are failing to teach and apply God’s commands to our lives. We are failing to be either light or salt, and our culture is falling into darkness and rotting because of the evil in the land.
 
The beginning of the solution to this problem is found in verse 7:
 
7 But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”(ESV)
 
First, we must be courageous. It can be disheartening when it seems like evil is winning. We must have the courage to stand in the arena. We must engage in the battle of ideas knowing that truth will triumph over lies and evil. Second, we must not let our hands be weak. In other words, we must have the strength to continue to do good to our neighbors and share the truth, even if the battle is long.
Through the Holy Spirit’s help, we can persevere. We can be encouraged by knowing that God will reward all those who continue to engage the culture for the purpose of leading others to Christ and sharing truth with people.
 
As Paul writes to the church of Galatia,

Galatians 6:9
9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (ESV)



Being Thankful

 
Colossians 3:17
17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
 
We are living in tumultuous times to say the least. The very foundations of long-standing institutions are being shaken, and our culture seems to be growing coarser each day. One of the problems infecting our culture is a lack of gratitude and appreciation for the many good things we have in our lives.
 
A recent international event has brought the issue of gratitude to light, though many people miss it because of the political contexts surrounding the event. Three UCLA basketball players were arrested for shoplifting while in China for a basketball game. These three young men were arrested and charged for their crimes. Having visited China and reading about the culture there, I can tell you that government officials in China take the law very seriously. Thus, these three young men faced a huge problem. President Trump intervened with the President Xi of China to encourage the release of these three Americans. The Chinese government graciously dropped the charges and allowed the three to return to the United States.
 
It is the aftermath that has created the biggest stir. The three young men issued public apologies that were respectful and seemed to be genuine expressions of remorse for their actions and gratitude for their release. The father of one of these three UCLA players claimed that President Trump had nothing to do with their release. This has led to a “twitter war” between the father and the President.
 
Here is the problem: we have become so engrossed in our politics and so coarse in our public discourse that we have forgotten some of the most simple of character traits that people should exhibit. Gratitude should be an attitude that every person should seek to display, with Christians being called upon having a heart of thankfulness as an expression of our faith.
 
One reason gratitude is hard for people to display is that it requires humility. Gratitude requires us to acknowledge that there is someone outside of ourselves that has helped us. We have to acknowledge that we would not be where we are today without the help or intervention of others.
 
This Thanksgiving holiday, take a moment to appreciate all that you have been blessed with in your life. First, and foremost, give thanks to God for His many blessings. If nothing else, Christians can be thankful that their sins have been forgiven through salvation in Jesus Christ. Of course, living in the United States means that we have been blessed beyond measure with wealth that most of the rest of the world will never experience. We have many, many reasons to be thankful. And let’s not confine our thankfulness to just one day. We should live each day with thanksgiving for all that God has done.
 
 


Emmanuel: God With Us

It is just a few more days to Christmas. If you have kids, then the excitement is probably visible and vocalized every day. I must admit, I love Christmas too. I like the songs, the decorations, and the anticipation (though I can live without the one million Hallmark movies!) Beside all of that stuff though, I’m growing excited about the spiritual significance of Christmas.
 
Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (NASB) This is so radical in perspective, yet we are guilty of missing its significance. Most views about the “gods” over time have seen these “gods” as distant and far away from mankind. The thought of a god being up close and personal with man was unheard of throughout most of history. The God of the Bible is different. God broke in to history and dwelt among us.
 
When we celebrate Christmas, it is more than just an innocent baby that we celebrate. Its God Himself coming to provide a means of salvation for the people that He created. He is not far away but near. God is not uninterested in people, instead He knows every detail about us. In spite of our sin, He loves us unconditionally. His love is so great that Jesus died for our sins while we were still sinners.
 
You may think God doesn’t understand you or your life. Jesus lived with us. He was tempted in all ways like we are, but He was without sin. He experienced the hardships of life, the death of loved ones, and the disappointments of broken relationships. He knows what you are going through and wants to help you find meaning and joy, even in the midst of trials.
 
As you celebrate Christmas, my prayer is that you will think about what it means that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. He knows your joys and your hurts. He wants to bear your burdens and share in your joys. All you must do is to turn to Him, and He will be near to you. 


Total Surrender

I’ve been thinking about of couple of messages I’ve preached recently and how they go together. First, I preached from Mark 10:17-31 on the Rich Young Ruler on a Sunday night. The next Sunday morning, I preached on Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestles with God. In both stories, both men were confronted with the need to give up things in his life to fully enjoy a relationship with God.

According to the young ruler speaking with Jesus, he kept all of God’s commands. He was a rising star in Judaism. He had wealth. However, the Rich Young Ruler walked away sad because he could not give up his wealth. His faith was not in Jesus but in his material blessings. He left with his stuff but missed out on a relationship with Jesus and eternal life.

Jacob had sent ahead of him his family and his possessions, he was injured in his wrestling match with God, and finally had to admit his name (character) to God. He gave up everything, even the false security of hiding who he really was before God. He left with a limp that would always be there, but he also got a blessing and received everything God wanted him to have plus more.

What is the difference between the two? Total surrender. It takes us giving up everything for salvation. If we try and hold on to having some role in our salvation, like being good, or depending on church attendance, or our family’s faith, then we are really rejecting Jesus. Salvation by faith alone is saying that Jesus did all that is necessary for the forgiveness of our sins, and we are depending upon His death and resurrection for our eternal life. Whenever we hold things back from God, we miss out on all that God wants to do through us.

What are we holding on to that is keeping us from Him?

Mark 8:36
36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 8:36.

 

 



Resurrection Day

We have just finished a four week sermon series on the Resurrection of Jesus, the implications of the resurrection for us, and Resurrection Day of believers. It has been a thought-provoking and edifying study. I somehow made it through all four weeks without addressing the topics of the millenium or even uttering the word “rapture.” (Not because I don’t have an opinon but because I didn’t want people to get hung-up on their pet theory and miss the point of the messages.)

I have read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 at many, many funerals. I have always found it to be a comforting and hopeful passage for believers in the midst of sorrow and loss. It still continues to hold that same comfort today.

I think one thing that I learned from my study is the impact of Paul’s closing in verse 58. The promise of our resurrection is to help us be “steadfast” and “immovable” in our relationship with Christ. This assurance of our future resurrection should help us to be solid and anchored when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. It is so easy for believers to be out in the world and to feel like a row boat in the midst of the ocean during a hurricane. Everything our culture is telling us seems to contradict everything Scripture tells us. The temptation to surrender a small point here, or not be certain about a position because it creates conflicts with others is ever present. The faithfullness of God in regard to our resurrection is meant to help us stay firm in our relationship with Him.

The other surprising take away from my study is how the resurrection is to spur us on to good works. Paul goes even further and says we are to “be abounding” in our good works for the Lord. The work we do for the Lord really does matter, and it has implications that will carry on to and past the resurrection. What an awesome thought! It goes back to the idea of “storing up treasures in heaven.” This thought gives me encouragement.

I hope you will take time to study the resurrection. I know these thoughts are not deep or scholarly. However, I hope they serve to get you to study the passage on your own and think more about the implications today of our future resurrection.




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