Sunday Preview

October 21, 2010

I hope you are doing well. My heart is always encouraged by rain in the desert. I have learned not to expect too much when the weatherman says there is a chance of rain coming, because it usually passes us by. Yesterday Kristina asked me, “Do you think it’s going to rain tonight?” As a realist pessimist I replied, “I don’t think so.” Yet my windshield wipers were going strong as the unexpected rain washed over my car on the way to our office this morning. Rain is a refreshing sign to me that the Lord is the one who meets our deepest needs. I hope that you too will be surprised by unexpected blessings this week as the Lord meets your deepest needs.

My sermon this Sunday is called, “The Gift of God” from II Timothy 1. It is joy to receive gifts, whether it is Christmas, our birthdays or just an expression of a friend’s love. Whether we receive money or clothes or toys, the value of most gifts diminishes over time. We spend the money, wear out the clothes, and the toys break and need to be replaced. The gift of God is something that does not diminish over time. God gives each of us a gift that is exactly what we need. The gift has a great value because it allows us to be a blessing to others. The more we use the gift of God, the more the full value of the gift is revealed.

I’m looking forward to exploring the value of the precious gift of God. I hope you will take some time to read II Timothy 1. Please pray that I will have the grace to make this truth come alive so we can realize the awesome gift that God has given to each of us.

Rooted in Reality

October 15, 2010

Faith is one of the primary topics in the New Testament, yet many people are confused about the nature of faith. I recently heard a preacher on the radio proclaim, “If you can conceive it, you can achieve it.” That statement sounds great, but it is not true. When I was eight, I could conceive of myself playing baseball for the San Francisco Giants when I grew up. I had a great Little League career and I looked forward to being a pro baseball player. As a senior in high school however, the reality of my potential as an athlete collided with the dream I held in my heart.

The idea that we can pray and proclaim something and will happen is not true. No amount of perfect speaking or believing on our part is enough to shape the future. We can declare and cooperate with what God is doing because Christ is in us. God can show us the future through the Spirit or the word, but he is the one who brings it to pass.  If someone rebels against the word of God, we can predict his or her behavior will lead to a bad outcome. We can also predict blessing for those who faithfully love God and their brothers. Jesus said that we must worship God in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). God’s people should be rooted in reality. If we know the Lord, we should see things as they really are, not just as we hope they will be.

Bishop Eddie Long is the leader of a 25,000-member church in Atlanta. He has been accused by four separate young men of seducing them into sexual acts and giving them cars and gifts in exchange for sex. He spoke to his congregation about the situation and the media reported that he said, “Though I am not a perfect man, I am not the man they are saying and I will fight these charges.” Thousands of people cheered their support for him.

The fact that four separate witnesses testified to the same behavior pattern is a strong indication that their stories have validity. I Timothy 3:2 states that the first qualification of an overseer is that he should be above reproach. Why would a congregation ignore the reproach their bishop is bringing to Christ and leave him in his position? Perhaps because their faith resides in the strong leader they love, rather than the word of God which should be the foundation for all our lives and churches. If they confuse their responsibility to forgive those who sin against them with the church’s responsibility to bring discipline to leaders who flagrantly sin, their mess will just get worse. Bishop Long should be removed from his ministry pending the outcome of a thorough investigation into these allegations.

Jesus established the church to nourish believers in worship, love, and faith; yet sometimes church leaders act in their own self-interest rather than the interest of those they are supposed to love and serve. Some leaders establish the identities of their congregations by emphasizing doctrines based on obscure Scriptures. They declare that other leaders who do not emphasize the same doctrines do not know the truth. Those who follow these leaders get cut off from the rest of the body of Christ because they live in the delusion that they are the only ones who really understand the truth.

Our faith should be based on the entire word of God, not on a leader or a unique system of theology. Faith brings us into a relationship with God that is built on love and trust. Faith pleases God because it brings his blessings into our lives and helps us to keep growing in love.

My three-year-old grandson Matisse said, “I want to be a superhero, but I don’t have any superpowers. I can’t even fly!” Faith does not give us superpowers. It does connect us to the Father through Jesus Christ. He gives us every gift we need to enter God’s Kingdom and bring others in as well.

Sunday Preview

October 14, 2010

I want to thank those of you who prayed for me last week when I was fighting a nasty virus and a fever. I’m thankful to be back on my feet and I look forward to being with you at Living Streams this Sunday.
My message this week is called, “The Handwriting on the Wall” from Daniel 5. This is the story of a decadent party thrown by King Belshazzar of Babylon for 1000 of the nobles in the kingdom. To liven up the party, the king pulled out the gold and silver goblets taken from the house of God in Jerusalem sixty-five years earlier. As the revelers praised the gods of materialism, a hand suddenly appeared and began to inscribe a message into the wall.
King Belshazzar was in shock as he watched the fingers carve the message into the wall. He knew it was a message from God, but he couldn’t understand what it meant. None of the so-called wise men of Babylon could interpret the message. Finally at the urging of the queen, Daniel was summoned to interpret the message. He gave a chilling interpretation about the judgment coming on the king which was fulfilled that very night.
God gives each of us messages at critical times in our lives. Sometimes we too need a man of God to help us to interpret what the Lord is saying to us. I’m hoping that we will be able to read the handwriting on the wall when our friends and family are getting messages from the Lord. The crisis that the king of Babylon was facing provided an opportunity for the wisdom of God to be manifest through Daniel. There will be no shortage of crises in any family or group of friends as the years go on. These crises will be opportunities for the wisdom that has been given to you through Jesus Christ to be manifest for the glory of God.