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Archive for June, 2009

Priceless!

Let’s suffice it to say today that I failed at coffee making 098.  And that’s all I am going to say about that!  The SECOND pot is actually going to make it!

Now that being said, let’s move on!

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

He is writing to Titus – called him once before his “partner and fellowhelper” in the Corinthian Letters.  Dealing with people can be a difficult task.  When the church is mixed with religious people who take the greatest freedom in the world of “grace” and then stop and teach people that you have to keep the law as well in order to be right with God and you add a great dose of ignorant Christians who refuse to learn and walk with God, you have a tough assignment in that local church.  Paul was famous for teaching young ministers and helping them get their spiritual and theological legs under them.  He was encouraging Titus to teach those who were Christians to remember to walk right.

The Christian life is kind of like milking cows – it’s unbelievably daily.  The basics are just that – basic.  You cannot get away from them.  Watching out for ungodly things, being self disciplined in your moral activities, your Bible Study and prayer, fellowshipping with Believers…things that we must be self-disciplined in.  We do not have a choice.  Let me regress a moment – yes, we do have a choice.  Because of Grace and because God made us people with free wills, we can chose to follow Jesus or we can chose to follow our own ways.

I was interested this morning in Paul’s instruction to Titus!  That is simple, but profound.  Paul had to remind Titus and told Titus to remind the Christian family there.  Some one was to take the responsibility to help keep each other on the narrow path.  We cannot do this Christian thing alone.  It is not meant to be done alone.  We need each other.  I am not going to take a moment to pile drive Governor Sanford for his impropriety in office, but I will visit it enough to say that it would have been helpful to our dear friend if he had a Titus up close to his heart who could have been real enough with him to guide him to walk right before God and men.  When we get “alone” and “away” from others we live dangerous lives and open ourselves up to a major impact by the enemy.

I was watching parents at the Tailgate Party the other evening at the church.  The little kids would walk away from the parents but not for long.  A mom was always watching and a dad had an eye on their child.  It was important to keep an eye on your children.  The older youth got farther away that the little kids but the parents still knew where they were.   However, if you took your eyes off of them long enough you gave opportunity for them to get in trouble.  God is still watching his children.  He is expecting his children to watch His children and to walk with each other encouraging each other to walk lives worthy of our name.

I am glad that I have friends.  I have people around me that care!  Priceless!

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3 Do two walk together
unless they have agreed to do so?

Country Preacher!  Not one of those big time preachers on TV all the time.  Just a simple preacher with a message from God that would change the lives of the people forever.  He was given a message for a people who were comfortable and religious.  Doin’ well, I guess you could say.  Comfortable, complacent, severely slack concerning their relationship with God.  They liked they way this preacher started his sermon.  He started kicking the other nations around.  He was preachin’ to them stinkin’ liberals and they liked it.  But what they thought was a seven point sermon actually had eight.  He got to the eighth point and camped out for a while.

I guess they thought that God was their best friend forever!  Amazing what happens when we get comfortable in our walk with God…or can you call it a walk with God when HE is the only one walking.  Coming to church is no substitute for walking with God!  Walking WITH HIM is his idea from the start.  Adam and Eve were to walk to gether in the garden, that is until SIN entered the picture.  They got to thinking in the midst of their comfort that some how God relaxed the commands.  Self-discipline and a sound mind went out the window and we have been suffering ever sinces.  Jesus walked with God and I am glad He did for He made a way whereby I could walk with God.

How could they walk together?  They don’t agree!  They are going in two different directions.  Can’t be friends if you can’t get along.  Let’s see if I can remember here!  I was 11 when I became a believer in Christ and if I remember well, I chose as an act of my free will to die to what I wanted and promised to allow Jesus Christ to be LORD of my life – boss, controller, owner, the ONE I would follow.  I wish I could say I made that decision and I have never had to work on that one again.  However, I find that when I don’t pay attention to something that it has a way of becoming distant.  You can get very used to that kind of thing.  And when you “get used to something” you have to be very careful not to forget!  Comfort and complacency can be dangerous!

Ruth Graham (Billy and Ruth Grahams middle child), in her book In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart , she tells of a time in her life where her husband relocated a family business in Texas.  He worked in Dallas and she was a stay at home mom on farm they lived on.  His commute was an hour long from farm to Dallas.  He stayed very busy.  She did as well.  Kids.  Daily issues.  Next thing you know they were miles apart as a couple.  He became focused on other women… How can two walk together unless they agree?  I guess you can be together without “being together”.  I guess you can confuse sleeping in the same bed, seeing the same children, eating at the same table, talking to each other on the phone from time to time, with a marriage.  Maybe there is something completely different between being married and being “together” in life.

I am remembering for myself this morning that I made a commitment to the Lord.  He wants to walk with me every moment of every day.  Maybe he wants me to camp out around when our walk started.  Maybe he wants me to hunger for HIM as much as he loves me and wants to guide me.  I am discovering that He wants to guide me more than I want to be guided.  I have a cronic problem with wanting to do what pleases me.  I know I am the only one with that headache, but at least Iam honest.  I am learning.  I have not arrived.

I used to laugh at the Field Day times Nancy used to pull off at McLauin Elementary.  The used to be competitive races.  Now all we have is “sissy let’s make everyone in the world feel good” kind of races.  Everyone’s a winner now!  Like we never compete in the real world.  Anyway, before they took out the competitive edge, she would have a three legged race.  Two people would stand side by side and tie their inside legs that were together with a cord or strap.  Nancy would blow the whistle and the race would begin.  It was a hoot.  Three steps into the race they would be laying all over the ground because they refused to figure out that if they moved their legs at the same time and concentrated on walking together they would go farther down the path.  Someone had to be in charge!  Someone has to take the lead.  When you refuse to learn that, you end up on the ground.

Alright, Lord.  I repent!  Let’s get this three legged race thing going!  I choose to tie my life to yours.  You are the leader.  Let’s go!

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8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

I don’t have a statue of Buddha in my office at home.  There is no burning incense to some deity on a table nor  icons of religious leaders on my walls in my study.  Now, I can hear folk breathing again worrying about that kind of thing.  Neither did Jonah (for the sake of this blog let’s call him “Chief Running Preacher”), but he was traveling with a group of men who were all over that kind of thing.  They worshiped different deities other than the Lord God!  Chief Running Preacher invaded their boat.  Things were going along fine until the running away preacher hopped on board.

It is amazing how irrational a man thinks when he is running from God.  You try to out think One with all the brains and knows all.  Stupid is as stupid does and stupid Chief Running Preacher was on a boat ride into deep water where the Que line awaited for the ride of a lifetime.  It is also amazing how God gets your attention.  Taylor made just for old Chief Running Preacher.  Chief Running Preacher stopped his running once God got his attention.  A big storm, an angry frustrated bunch of sailors, and a quick dip in a deep ocean were the means for getting he and his big fish ride together.  And ride they did.  Big fish swallowed Chief Running Preacher and took him deep in the ocean so he could listen to the heart of God speak.  Rolling around in a fish belly should grab all of our attention.  He started praying.  Smart!

In the midst of that prayer is the verse that caught my attention.  His idol was “doing life his own way”.  And when he decided to do life his way, he forfeited the grace that God provided for him.   I think I am remembering right – Scripture says, ” There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Prov. 14:12  Maybe that is what is meant by him fleeing from the presence of the Lord.

I am reminded this morning that the way of the Lord leads to the grace of God and is filled with the grace of God.  I want to go HIS way today.

How the Lord loved Jonah!  Free ride from the belly of the big fish right up on the beach near his original assignment given by God.  What confidence the Lord had in Jonah knowing that his preaching would be what changes the whole nature of a city.  Chief Running Preacher ran right into the heart of God.  God was waiting for him there.  When I became a believer in Christ, the greatest Traveling Partner in the world partners with me.  God now lives in me!

Teach me to listen to you, Father!  I don’t want to forfeit the grace of God in my life.

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7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

It’s another one of those “Three” things in the Bible.  Father, Son, Holy Spirit!  Body, Soul, Spirt!  Power, Love, Sound Mind.

Timothy got his strength by being around Paul.  He was bold as he could be when Paul was there.  Paul was in prison in Rome.  Even though Paul’s courage and “old man experience and strength” was what protected Timothy, maybe just maybe, Timothy was scared to step out on his own.  Paul saw the potential.  Paul was captivated by the strength of the call on Timothy’s life.  He told him he had a great Godly heritage.  He was raised by Godly women and had a great foundation to work from.  He was timid.

It is amazing what happens when God put a man right in front of Timothy.  We know of Timothy’s grandmother and mother.  The Bible seems to be very quiet regarding any male influence in his life except for Paul.  And what a man to model your life after.  Timothy had a lot of catching up to do and I am certain that his ambivolence in wanting to step up to the plate and be bold like Paul had something to do with his lack of confidence.  Paul certainly was encouraging him.  Timothy knew how to step up to the plate spiritually and lead and be bold because he had seen it in his mentor.

I am reminded that God blessed me with people who encouraged me in my calling.  I am very comfortable that I am called to preach in the local church and that my current assignment from God is to preach here in Florence, SC.  I have had my Paul’s in the past.  I just officiated at my mentor’s funeral a month ago in Jacksonville, FL.  Stafford was one who taught me not be timid in the pulpit but to clearly and graciously declare the truth from whatever pulpit I was in.  I saw it happen in his life.  I got strength from him.

God gave Timothy a great legacy in his mother and grandmother who had the loving sense to raise him in the strength and truth of the Scriptures – the living Word of God – The Bible.  He provided him one more powerful example to follow and his mentor was allowed by God to leave the world two letters that Paul wrote to his friend – Timothy.   Out of love Paul looks this young preacher in the face and tells him that God did not give him a spirit of cowardice, timidity, or fear.  He gave Timothy, Power, Love, and a Sound Mind.

The Power Of the Holy Spirit that lives in us.  “You shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”  Not a thought but the complete truth for all believers who are filled with the Spirit of God at salvation.

The Love of God – one of the great evidence that the Holy Spirit lives in you is that the fruit of the Spirit is love.  He, Paul, states to the Corinthian church that “…three remain, Faith Hope and Love and the greatest of these is love.”  He gives us a love for the Father and for those the Father loves.  That is powerful information to our hungry spirits for we now have the ability to love those who are believers and those who are not believers.  We now have a great story to tell to the world.

Sound Mind – Self-discipline – I am like Beth Moore this morning.  I heard her say to the television crowd the other day that she wishes she had something new to say but there are only two things that will feed a sound mind and that is self-discipline in the area of prayer and Bible Study.  Listening to the Father in heaven talk to you – Bible Study.  Talking to him about what He just said to you is prayer.  Heavenly conversation that will impact the mind and keep it sound.

God seemed to be saying to me this morning, “Jim, forget the timidity deal – there is no fear.  I live inside you and you now have the right to claim that you have power from heaven, the power to love others like Christ does, and you have the right to a sound mind.  Celebrate the fact that the Father loves you enough to live inside you.  Celebrate the fact and act on the fact that you are here to encourage the saints and to witness to the lost and minister to people by loving them.  Celebrate the fact that God – through Bible Study and Prayer – will give you a sound mind and give you strength.  Be disciplined in your walk with me regarding Bible Study and Prayer.”

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12Fight the good fight of the faith.

There are days when I wish you could task four Christian pills per day for ten days and then your work and fight would be over as a Christian.  One could then walk around in great shape with no temptations, trials, struggles and then simply rest it out until Jesus comes to take us home.

OK!  I woke up.  I was reminded again this morning that there is a battle to fight.  There is discipline to exercise.  I was reminded that there is nothing new in this business of walking with Jesus.  Prayer and Study of the Word of God – The Living Word and only guide for faith and practice – are two parts of that discipline that cannot be ignored.  I know that times are changing and that people are doing different than they were in the ’50’s, but, hey, some things never change. I am certain that there are many different things that could be added to the list but in order to win you have to pick up the armor and put it on every day.  You cannot afford to go into this daily kind of battle undressed and unprepared. I cannot pass it off to some other staff person or one of my secretaries.  I cannot expect my wife and children to pick up my slack.  This kind of fighting is for me to do.  I have the responsibility.  Because of the Cross of Christ, and his victory over sin, death and the grave, I can focus, fight, and find myself a victory in this daily pursuit of holiness.

Thank you God for meeting with me today!

The Faith Walk is a fight.  The battle field is right inside my own head and heart.  I am to fight the  good fight.

No time to quit!  Let’s get this day started!

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OK!  I had to get up early and get to the hospital yesterday and I did not get to blog my verse.  Opal was doing alright yesterday and Betty came through with flying colors.

Now Today! 2 Kings 10

32 In those days the LORD began to reduce the size of Israel.

I wanted to know, why!

King Ahab’s dad was Omri.  Ahab was pretty good politically.  He fortified a number of his cities to protect them from attacks.  He was good militarily.  He made military and trade alliances with other countries which were made with marriages, and marriages, then as now, are cemented with religion.  To support his regime, he married the daughter of Ethbaal, King of Sidon and a priest of the fertility goddess Astarte.   She brough her faith along with her.  It just wasn’t the godly kind of faith.  The marriage began to stink quick.  Quickly the nation of Israel began to smell just like her.  It wasn’t long before old King Ahab was allowing his wife, Jezebel to build all kinds of worship centers to her fertility gods.  Baal being one of them.  Once you get it on you sometimes it is hard to get the smell out.

The two of them are now dead – the place stinking with Baal worship and evil.

Think about how long it took to recover from one more evil king Ahab.  He is now DEAD King Ahab.  Dead King Ahab and his Dead wife Jezebel had worked their evil in the nation for years.  The nation is paying for it.  They thought it was alright to live out a life that had no Biblical World View.  They were the leaders and they could do it the way that they wanted.  They left a legacy of evil in the ranks.  Now there is some cleansing needed among the ranks.  New King Jehu is now on the scene.  New King Jehu loves God and begins the process of cleansing.  The cut off heads of 70 princes of Ahab got together in a sack when delivered to Jehu.  They were piled in two piles in front of the gate.  Next came and interesting gathering of the leaders of Baal.  They had a party and worship service and when it was all over they were the sacrifice offered up to God.  Now the princes and the preachers were dead.  God had done what he promised to the family and friends of old Baal Worshiping King Ahab.  He wanted to get the smell out.

I have noticed that when you go into Subway to eat, you come out smelling like Subway.  When they cook the bread, an odor permeates the place and all the clothing you have on.  I like the sandwiches and put up with the smell in order to eat there.  Israel had eaten at the table of the world around them.  Their neighbors had rubbed up close to them and gotten the smell of their gods and lifestyles on them.  Their view of life was so much different than the one that God had instructed for the people of Israel.  But when you eat at their tables it ought not to be a strange thing to walk away smelling like a non-God centered world.  Baal Worship and it’s lusty fleshly lifestyle had infiltrated the people of God. After all the good that was done by new king Jehu, new king Jehu still did not take the cleansing thing the whole way.  He did a lot of good things but still liked to worship the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.  The impact of sin is awesome.  Once it gets in the ranks of your life, the church, or anything including the government, it is especially hard to get rid of the problem and it is very difficult to get the smell out.

Call it what you will, but sometimes what is needed is a backdoor revival.

The Lord did some “spring cleaning” in his household.  Piety and righteous living were not primary and the profane had taken over. I guess it shouldn’t be abnormal to hear that God began to reduce the size of Israel.  He was cleaning up and taking out the trash.  Maybe he wants to travel through the tabernacle of my life gather the trash and carry it out.  Could there be some pet sin that I want to keep.  Maybe I still like to worship my own special golden calf at Bethel adn Dan, too!  I hate it when I am reminded that I am still on this side of eternity and that there are things that God is still trying to clean out of my life.  I am glad that HE is doing it and not others who would never be as patient nor loving.  His Grace is still amazing.

I saw the verse and was reminded that God is still Holy and wants his children to be holy. I am reminded that I have the same choice that Jehu – I can get rid of all sin or just some of it and leave the parts that I like.  I guess as long as I have the choice then I get to pay the price for whatever I choose to do.  I can allow myself to be filled with the purpose of God and be a person of piety, or I can choose as an act of my free will to be a person that lives in the influence of the profane and unrighteous.  My choice.

I was just thinking, it didn’t get in that wicked condition over night.  Years of decay and disobedience combined with a friendship with the world opened the door for the nation of Israel to get in that condition.  They walked into it a day at a time, a choice at a time.  Look at the generations that suffer because of the wicked choices of the leaders (preachers, parents, teachers…or whatever word you want to use).  We leave a legacy that generations have to deal with!  Sometimes it can get pretty ugly…

I guess it is easier to keep clean to start with.  Sometimes all the soap in the world will not get the smell out.

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6 The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.

If I jump off the top of some tall building, the sudden stop at the end of the drop could possibly loosen up a lot of things in my body.  Thankfully there are laws of nature that can give us pain at the end of a stupid jump but are also our friends as well.  Gravity holds us to the earth and keeps us from spinning helplessly out into space.

I guess every time I read this passage, I get caught up with the floating axe head.  Here is a group of preachers who gather to be around Elijah.  They are respectable prophets themselves but they are smart enough to connect to a master teacher who will be their guide and mentor.  They have a need for a larger space for their group to gather and learn. They go and build a simple place to stay.

The axe head was borrowed.  The prophet was not a bit lazy.  He was willing to care for what was borrowed and wanted to do what was right.  Now the borrowed axe head was no longer on the axe handle but now in the water.  Iron does not float!  No joke – fact.  The Book, The Bible – the Living Word of God –  said it was made of Iron!  No joke – fact.  You use things made of iron as an anchor not a floatation devise.  You can twist this story all you want but the laws of nature will not make the axe head float.

Elijah asked him to show him where it was.  He cut a stick and dropped it in the water and the next thing you know – Iron Axe Head Floats!

The God of Nature is not tied to its laws.

I remember that when the budget is low and we (in our human efforts) are seeking to find man made ways to make the weekly demand.  So far the financial axe head has floated.  God has never let me down.  He has never given me all I wanted but has always given me what I needed.   When I am in a counseling session and I see two bull headed people headed right for a divorce and it seems that the laws of nature are again going to show a head on collision – I remember that the marriage axe head floats.  God still can help to “iron heads” keep things together.  You would have thought it would have sunk to the bottom and drowned but again it floated.  God still allows the simple Word of the Living God to be preached and lives still are changed.  What seems impossible always finds a way in the hands of a God not tied to natural laws.  He can still stop a flowing river and allow people to walk across.  He can still open blind eyes and heal broken bones.  He can still cause people who are drowning in the world to float to the top, be rescued and returned to the OWNER who made them – Saved at last!

OK, Tammy – so the pills are wiping you out and you feel like you are drowning in the “feel bad days” – remember axe heads still float.  The God that governs nature is still  ABOVE it all.

Oh, to see my confidence REST in a God who still causes fish to gather on the other side of the boat, calls dead men to “come forth” from the grave, can speak to a fig tree and watch it die instantly, who can become a man and die for the sins of the world giving us hope…and yes, still calls those of us who are so swamped and drowning in the world to float.  It is funny to me that he cut a new stick and the axe head floated to it…

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross…that “stick” is still doing supernatural things – for in the hand of God nothing is impossible.

In God’s hands – Axe heads can float! – I am depending on it!

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