Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Promises Remembered ...

"And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth… Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." (Genesis 9:12-16 NIV)

As we were driving through Southern Arizona and California last week my wife and I were in unusual weather for us, there was rain, lots of rain. It was somewhat unusual because every now and then the sky would clear and we would have sunshine for awhile. During these times we saw no less than 4 different rainbows, which was quite amazing in itself. But as we saw those we commented to one another about God's promise to Noah and his family after He had destroyed the earth with the Great Flood. God said, "I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant…" He said, "I promise I will never do this again."  

There was another covenant even before that one though. After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden for their sin and disobedience, God Said, "And I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your offspring (Satan) and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15) This was his promise even in the very beginning of time that Jesus would come to the world as its Savior.

In Luke 2 God spoke again through an Angel: "An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Vs.  9-12)

If there is a message we see reinforced at this time of the year through this holiday the world proclaims as "Christmas," it is that God remembers His promises! Think about all of those who proclaim, "Keep Christ in Christmas."  Many of the Songs that are sung are a reminder of at least part of the promise of God being fulfilled.

We know that the word "Christmas," is not in the bible. We understand that the early Christians did not have Christmas celebrations. We understand that most of what takes place in our modern Christmas celebrations has nothing to do with what is recorded in the bible. However that doesn't make the birth of Christ any less wonderful, any less worthy of being remembered. This one event truly was a miracle that changed the course of our world as well as each of our lives for eternity.


God spoke, He promised, He remembered and He fulfilled that promise through a baby born in a stable. Let's not forget the fulfilled promise of a Savior which was born to us in Bethlehem, not just at this time of the year, but all year long.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

JUST SHOWING UP DOESN'T GET THE JOB DONE





I love the Cowboy Culture of the 1950's and 60's! Of course, like many of you I was raised with Cowboys (and Cowgirls), being a main influence on Television and in the movies. You learned why the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad. You learned morals and ethics, you learned respect for others, you learned respect for property and you learned what was acceptable to say and what wasn't, you even learned about the concept of "work ethics".

Though he has been dead for a number of years, no one portrayed what a Cowboy was better than John Wayne. Some say he did it better than anyone else. John Wayne's characters could ride and fight with the best, but he always let his concern for others show through also. He portrayed for us the importance of qualities such as honor, loyalty, bravery and commitment.

In the movie "Rio Bravo," Wayne's character made a statement that echo's much of Christ's teachings about commitment and what he expects from us, when he said "Just showing up doesn't get the job done!"

Jesus tells us, 'If you love me you obey my commandments"! (John 14:15) Because you see, just showing up at worship service "doesn't get the job done," it doesn't do what God demands of us.

I know you may get tired of seeing me refer to this concept so often in my writings, but I do it because I see it as a major problem in the churches throughout our land. People want to wear the name Christian, but they don't want to take it any further than that. Being a Christian means our lives have been transformed from the very foundation of our being. It means as Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)  It means that you are dead to self and alive to Christ. It means… that we finally understand that just showing up doesn't get the job done. It means we finally understand what it means to be buried with Christ and raised as a new creation (Romans 6:3-4). How about you, do you really understand that "Just showing up doesn't get the job done?"







Wednesday, November 5, 2014

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT



Recently I have been made aware once again about a great failing on the part of some church leaders. Somewhere along the line some have forgotten our purpose. Some have forgotten that worship is about God and not about those who worship him. Now, I'm not saying that people aren’t important, but I am saying that just perhaps we need to re-evaluate the focus of why we gather together.

There is a great small book titled, "Showtime! Worship in the Age of show Business", by Dan Chambers. Mr. Chambers takes a look at some of the modern worship practices in comparison to what God's Word indicates worship should be. You might be surprised at the extent to which some churches will go to "pack the pews".

I guess in itself that's not new, people in general have short attention spans. Many today need something to keep them in their seats for the 30 to 60 minutes they sit together with the crowd in their church buildings. We see this in our modern "entertainment" mentality is Television programming. They have to change the image every second of so or people get bored. They have to push the envelope of what is accepted or outrageous to keep people tuned in to their programs. Sadly, this has influenced some who plan worship assemblies.

Again this is not new. Several years ago while we were in Michigan I saw a church advertising in the News Paper that they would be having "Belly Dancers for Jesus" at their church, urging everyone to come. I can't question the motivation of the Belly Dancers themselves, but it sure seemed to me that the church was focusing on the dancing rather than Jesus. What have our churches come to when we have to bribe, promise entertainment or trick people to come and worship with us? What does that say for us as a people when we need those things?

There is an old, old song titled, "Give me that Old Time Religion," what has happened to that concept in our world. What does that say about our society when just worshipping God is not enough? Jesus said in John 4:23-24: "But the time is coming, indeed it's here now, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth."

"True Worshipers," worshiping in Spirit and Truth indicates it is something we need to do, not have done to us! The idea of Worship carries with it the concept of bowing down before the one being worshiped. It is not about us it is about offering ourselves to Him. Our songs or prayers; our messages should center on God and our love for and service to him.

If you are "going to church" (as the accepted concept is used), with hopes that it will "be interesting enough to keep you awake," or "exciting enough to make you feel good," then just perhaps you are going about it wrong.


Russ Lawson

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SATISFACTION





Back in the 60's one of the big hit songs was, "I can’t get no satisfaction," by the group called "The Rolling Stones". It spoke to the constant battle and failure in life to find satisfaction by doing what society expects you to do. Many of us "baby boomers" grew up listening to this music. Many embraced the philosophy of rejecting social norms or socially accepted concepts of right behavior. Today we live in a world where the accepted thing is to just "do your own thing," or "just do whatever makes you happy".

Sadly, this idea has penetrated the minds of many of those who are trying to "find God" or "worship God in their own way". The problem is that though our society may have been bent enough to allow folks to do pretty much whatever they want and still be accepted, God doesn't.

You might be inclined to ask, "What gives you the right to make such a statement?" "Who made you the judge of the world?" My answer is that no one made me the judge of you, it always has been and always will be God that judges. Jesus himself said, (if you accept Jesus as authority in religious matters), in John 12:47-52, "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." (NIV)

You see somewhere in life many have been convinced that "as long as you love God, you can pretty much do whatever you want and still be acceptable to him". Yet, Jesus said, "If you don't do what I have said you will be condemned". The apostle John shared these words with us in 1 John 5:3, "Loving God means keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome".


So, are you looking for satisfaction? Have you tried looking more closely at what God asks of you? Read the Psalms and see what the writers equate with joy and happiness. You'll find it is having a real relationship with God, not just a nodding acquaintance.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What About The Future?


I don't know about you, but I sometimes get concerned about the future. I don't know if I actually worry about it, but sometimes it is close to that. I am concerned about the state of our world; I am concerned about the financial condition of our country; I am concerned about what the government will or won't do to the stability of our country; I am concerned about what kind of world our children and grandchildren will have to live in; I am concerned with how things will turn out in our lives as we grow older.

Again, I am concerned, but don't worry about it. Every day, just as perhaps you do, I strive to turn my future over to God. Sometimes I successful, sometimes I'm not.

I recently read a quote from Corrie Ten Boom that said, "Never be afraid to trust the future you don't know, to a God you do know". I don't know about you, but from time to time I need to be reminded of that fact! Don't most of the issues in our lives have a direct relationship to our reliance upon God or our relationship to him? Who is it we turn to in times of trouble, is it our friends and family, our co-workers, or do we first think of God. Your answer to that question may explain your success or failure in some of your struggles.

I am endeavoring every day to rely more upon God regarding my future. Shouldn't we really be able to trust the future to our God we know? In the scripture we read: "God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) So, if we know this promise and know the one who made the promise, how can we not trust our future to his hands? David said of God in Psalm 31:15, "My future is in Your hands".


We have read the words, we know the promise; we know the one who made the promise, now it is time for us to live like we believe the promise. Stop worrying about that which you can't change or can't direct yourself and turn it over to God.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Politics and Religion


(Houston, TX, October 2014) "The battle over a controversial equal rights ordinance is heating up in Houston, Texas, with revelations that the city has subpoenaed church sermons, among other documentation, from five local faith leaders.

Officials have requested that these preachers deliver communications that have focused on homosexuality or the contentious equal rights ordinance, which these individuals have fervently opposed.

The subpoenas, which were issued last month, seek, “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession,” according to the Houston Chronicle." (Theblaze.com)

This is Satan continuing to chip away at our Christian Freedoms. Just a couple of years ago I urged the members of our church to contact the leaders in government regarding the "Hate Speech" bill that was being proposed. This bill was passed and can be used against ministers who choose to speak out against the sins of our nation practiced by many. Sadly; many in world and our churches ridiculed the idea as foolish to think that the government would try to hinder what teaching takes place in our churches. They were wrong! I believe the following quote describes the problem well:

"Our society is still trying to answer the question, do politics and religion mix? The first amendment of the United States Constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof." What the first amendment is saying is that government should stay out of religion, but religious people can exercise their faith in the influence of public policy.

Over the past fifty years, lawmakers have misinterpreted the Constitution. We've majored in the first part of the amendment while abandoning the second part, and in doing so, we have disenfranchised the gospel, politically, socially, judicially, and culturally. Like a sponge with the water squeezed out, ours is a society with Jesus squeezed out, and we are living in a fifty-year experiment of building a nation without God. No prayer. No Ten Commandments. No sermon at graduation. No Sabbath. No respect for marriage.

Those things may be contributing to factors to some of today's problems: We have massive teen drug abuse, school shooting sprees, and an adolescent suicide rate up 350 percent since 1960. It's time to ask, cannot politics and religion mix?" (Stephen M. Crotts)

It's time that we understand the importance of God's Word once again. It's time for us to stand and be counted and call into account those who govern us. Jesus said this in John 12:47-50   "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."





Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THE BLOOD MOON AND THE CURMUDGEON



 
Last night we had a total Lunar eclipse which is a wonderful event to behold, however in our area it was visible at 4 O'clock in the morning. There has been some discussion about the event being "a sign from God," which I think shows a great lack of understanding for biblical prophecy and events. So, No I definitely don't think it was a sign from God, other that to show how wonderful the universe he created works.

Now my wife is into those kinds of events and enjoys them more that I. She talked about getting up to watch the Lunar Eclipse and I told her, "Well, don't wake me; I'm going to be a bit of a Curmudgeon about it."

Now the dictionary defines "Curmudgeon," as a person (especially an old man) who is easily annoyed, sometimes easily angered and who often complains or grumbles." I don't know if I fit into all of those areas of description, but if you wake me up at 4 A.M. I do tend to be a bit annoyed and grumble about it. The funny thing is; that I'm often up at 4 A.M. working in my office, but if I happen to be asleep I like to stay that way.

As things would happen, I woke up at 3:50 A.M. and thought seriously about trying to go back to sleep. I know that once I wake up, it is very difficult for me to shut down my brain and go back to sleep. However, I also thought about how happy seeing these events makes my wife of 47 years (who just happened to be sound asleep). I thought you have a choice; you can be a curmudgeon or be a blessing to her. So, as gently as I could, woke her up and asked if she would like to go out and look at the moon with me.

We pulled on some warm clothes and went out and stood in our front yard watching the moon and as we watched we saw a shooting star flash across the sky in front of the moon (another one of her favorite things). We watched for a few minutes and went in, hugged and kissed and she went to bed and I went to my office.

OK, what's my point? It is that we have a choice in how we act and how we relate to other people. After 47 years we still do the things Newly Weds do. We hold hands, hug and kiss often, fix one another's tea and coffee, massage sore muscles, go shopping for cloths together and in general do the things that love demands… even getting up at 4 O'clock in the morning to watch the moon.

Notice this interesting modern translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is never tired of waiting; love is kind; love has no envy; love has no high opinion of itself, love has no pride; Love's ways are ever fair, it takes no thought for itself; it is not quickly made angry, it takes no account of evil; It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, but has joy in what is true; Love has the power of undergoing all things, having faith in all things, hoping all things." (BBE)

How about you, have you been a bit of a curmudgeon lately? Maybe it's time to turn things around and remember what love is all about