Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let's Make A Deal

Let's Make A Deal with Monty Hall. One of the wackiest and funniest game shows that I have ever watched. They have brought it back with Wayne Brady doing the honors now, but when I was growing up, the original was airing on TV for the first time. There were not a whole lot of choices on TV back then to watch, and most were a lot different than they are now. So it was fun to see people willing to dress up in crazy costumes, trying to draw the attention of Monty so that they could play the game. Sometimes I catch reruns on TVLand and it is still fun to watch the goofiness.
I want to talk today about another deal maker. It is called us and God. Sometimes we try to be deal makers, but more often than not we're just deal breakers. Even Satan tried to tempt Jesus and make deals with Him.

This is from the New American Standard Bible

Luke 4

The Temptation of Jesus
 1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.’”  5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’”
 9 And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written,
 11 and,
 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”
 13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.

Notice verse 12. "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."
How many of us have tried to make a deal with God?
"Lord, if you let me win the lottery, I'll start tithing."
"Lord, if you help me to find the right mate for me, I'll stop spending all my time in the bars."
"Lord if you provide this, then I will do this."

Sound familiar? We need to beware of our actions and not do things that are contrary to what the bible teaches us. The passage above is a very familiar one to many of us who grew up in church. Preachers love to talk about the time when Jesus was tempted by the devil right before He started His ministry. Notice when Jesus succeeds in the temptations, he is attended to by the angels and then he starts his ministry by preaching in Galilee where word about the happenings are already spreading among the people. Notice that Jesus didn't even have to introduce himself as he went to the villages. God prepared the way for him so that he would be more effective, especially at the baptism by John the Baptist. (read chapter 3 sometime.)
God will do the same for us. He will make a way for us when we do what He asks us to do, or not do. We simply need to obey His will, and quit trying to make ours become His. Then God can and will provide for us. Does that mean we'll win the lottery? NO. Odds are 1 in 175,223,510.00. And that is if you buy a ticket. Does that mean you'll meet your mate that God planned for you in a bar? Probably not. Most people that hang in bars are not the people who are going to be serving God like they should. (not all though, some people like to mingle, some people use them as a ministry, such as the CMA motorcyclists ministry.)
Stop today and ask God what He wants You to do today to live a live in accordance to His Will. Then start to be that person. Live that life. And then, watch what God will do.

Our God, is an awesome God,
He reigns, from heaven above,
With wisdom, power and love,
Our God is an awesome God.
(Awesome God chorus by Rich Mullins)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Big One That Got Away

Based on Jonah 1:17-2:10

Let me tell you about a man that got away. It’s quite a bragging story, in so much that it proves God’s power over creatures of the land and the sea. One day there was born a really Big fish. And by really big fish, I mean he was bigger than any baby fish that anyone had ever seen. Now this fish eats everything in sight, and when it grows up enough to play with it’s playmates, they start to make fun of the poor fish. They pick on him and call him names like “fatty”, “double whale” and many other cruel names that we won’t mention here. And when he went to the school of fish, it didn’t get any better. Even the teachers picked on him, because he had been picked on for so long, he had become so timid that he didn’t even participate in class. He tries each year to make friends, but it is always the same ole thing. Finally he just gives up and quits school, even though he had made it to the fish equivalent of high school.
And that is when his life changes forever. You see, he had nothing to do with his time, so here he is just swimming around in the ocean, feeling sorry for himself, when all of a sudden a storm starts to brew, but it doesn’t really bother him, he is so big he is not tossed about by waves or currents from the big storms, but he notices there is a boat nearby, then all of a sudden a body comes flying out of the boat and lands in the water. HOT DOG. LUNCH. (pardon the pun).
He hears the voice and recognizes it is Gods voice, saying “get over there and swallow this man up right now”. Well you can bet he didn’t waste any time swimming over to the body and swallowed him right up. He was so happy to have a meal tossed to him; he didn’t even bite or chew as the food slid all the way down. But a weird thing happened. The body he swallowed didn’t start to digest. As a matter of a fact, the poor fish thought he was losing his mind. He kept hearing things, someone talking inside of him. Now HE was getting paranoia. But God came to the fish and comforted him and listened to what the body had to say inside of him, and it went something like this:
(Read Jonah 2:2-9)
Well, just when he thinks it can’t get any worse than all this that is going on inside of him, he hears Gods’ voice once again, only this time it is very commanding. God tells him to regurgitate the body inside of him, as he has had enough of the punishment. Now this really ticks the fish off, as first he isn’t getting any nutrients from this meal he thought he had; now he has to make himself vomit. If you think it is hard to ram your finger down your throat and try to make yourself throw up, just try it with no fingers. But, the Lord commanded that it be so, and he wasn’t stupid, what God said, God got. So he worked and worked on it and finally about the time he had almost bottomed out on the land, (he wasn’t watching where he was going while he was trying to do this deed), up came this body out of his body and the poor guy landed on the dry land. So now the fish thinks he really is no good, and just a loser. He had a meal and a half, couldn’t even manage to eat it, though he tried for 3 days, then God makes him get rid of his meal, this human body that he had swallowed. But then the man named Jonah finally goes to a town called Nineveh, where God wanted him to go in the first place, (and none of this would have ever happened), and many people get saved.
Three things can be learned from this:
(1)             When God tells you to do something, do it. You may not get the results that you were thinking were coming, (i.e. Sometimes the person who gets the reward isn’t always the person who put out the effort), but the fish did what God said, and Jonah didn’t and look at where it got him.
(2)             Even when you think you’re so different, and maybe you really do stand out from among the crowd, you were still made by God.
(3)             No one is ever a failure if you listen to God. God can use you in many mighty ways that you don’t realize or think about.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Now that was a total loss

Wow ... Finally ... It's over ... The waiting ... The score 21-17 ...
So much hype is built up each year for this once a year event. Already the NFL is advertising the Fantasy Football Experience for the 2012 Season.
Every one contemplates what the commercials will be like. Will they be funny? Who will have the best one? Will the "stock babies" come through again? What will a Dorito's fan have to do this year to win their challenge?
And the game ... Will it be close? A blowout? Will there be the "unforgettable hail mary" pass that we can usually expect at some point?
Last night these questions were answered. Some in short fashion, some in good fashion, and some ... well, they had no fashion sense. So now we await the big tourney's for the basketball fans starting in March. Until then, what will sports fans do?
I have a suggestion.
Church ... with the same enthusiasm that we have shown for the past few months.
We have an opportunity to share an excitement with each other at least once a week. Worship services are generally held once a week, and sometimes even more often than that. When was the last time you felt an excitement for the coming service? When was the last time that you felt you couldn't wait to get in the doors of your house of worship? Or better yet ... When was the last time you even WANTED to get in the doors of your house of worship?
To some it's a duty, a drudgery of sorts. To not go is to: upset a family member, miss out on who is doing what to whom, miss an opportunity to rub shoulders with the important people in the community. Thus these people go week after week. Stand when told to, Sit when told to, bow their heads when told to (usually not in prayer) and leave when the first opportunity arrives.
To some they show up because they have always done it. They grew up going to church, so they are going to teach their family to go to church as a habit.
Guess what? If you belong in the above two groups you have a partner there right along with you. His name is Satan. He shows up every week, not particularly for the purpose that was intended, but instead to see who he may lose and keep those that he can from going astray from his deceptions.
And it's easy. Most people don't know alot about why we should worship or even how to worship. And there is generally no one to teach them.
My wife has never had an interest in football until we got together. Now she is learning the rules of the game and what different penalties mean and she is even developing some favorites among the players. (Watch out Aaron Rogers if she ever gets near! lolol)
What is different? I point out different things, answer questions and explain how and why certain things take place. Now football sunday is a lot more fun around the house (thanks to velveeta and rotel ... j/k)
Have churches and pastors forgotten to do the very same thing with the same people in God's House? Most of us in the ministry have become complacent in making sure that the congregations understand and are able to fully participate in worship. Standing when told to stand, sitting when told to sit and singing some words off of a screen or book do not make a worship experience.
And it's not about the style of worship either. When I allow myself to truly worship in His presence, you could play Jesus Loves Me and I would fall prostrate while praising my Savior.
When you understand the why's and wherefore's and anything else about the event, it makes it an experience. My wife now enjoys the super bowl and any other football game experience because now she understands what is going on. Why things happen the way that they happen. Not that it happens because that is the way it is always done.
Why don't you try to have a super bowl experience the next time your church doors are open.
Here is an easy way to do it:
(1) Sit in your vehicle in the parking lot (make sure the vehicle is off) and take a minute to pray. Ask God to show you and anyone else around you something fresh today and pray that your heart will be open enough to receive it. What a great way for kids to learn why they should be going to church and what to get from it when they see and hear you lead by example.
(2) Go inside the church, greet those along the way with a heart that truly means the words you say.
(3) Find a seat and instead of gawking at who else is there and with whom, close your eyes and clear your mind of everything that you left when you pulled out of the driveway.
(4) Silently continue your prayer, asking forgiveness for your sins and for the Holy Spirit to come within you and prepare you for worship.
(5) This time when you stand, stand in reverence. Sit in reverence. And sing like you mean it. Not just words, but praise that you want the whole world to know that you are glad that Your Redeemer Lives!
(6) This time when you leave, greet those around you. Don't rush out the door. Allow yourself time to be spoken to, both by God and anyone else in attendance. Go home with a heart renewed, awaiting the next service and a vow to live a more godly life in the meantime.
Then you can win every week, no matter how your team does that afternoon!