We just returned from SOAR 2018 (Sold Out and Radical) youth conference. One of the great things that happened this week, is the conference recognized modern heroes of the faith. Two such men, Bobby Tucker and James Schoenrock, both surrendered to God’s call to preach young, 13 and 11 years old.
This prompted me to think back on my life. I surrendered to special service at about 12 years old. From then until I was 17, I had plans which didn’t include much thought of God nor the commitment I had made. As that last year wound down, I started an elaborate negotiation with God. I bargained with every possible position in His service of which I could think. Finally, as my senior year in high school began, I yielded to His will wholeheartedly without any lines I would not cross. The rest is history!
This week made me wish I had not waited. My advice to all would be yield to His call now. Don’t wait for the right time and place. Don’t wait until it is more convenient. Like Samuel in 1 Sam 3, when God calls, respond, “speak Lord, your servant is listening.” And respond as Isaiah does in Isaiah 6, “here I am, send me”.
Don’t wait, yield to God today!
We all have our morning rituals. Several years ago, mine included dealing with my bed hair. My golden locks stuck out every direction and I had a cow-lick that wouldn’t stop doing its thing. I would stand in front of the mirror and try to get my hair tamed. Looks like my hair won and walked out in protest.
James talks about a far more important mirror and adjustment each of us must make. James 1:22-25 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
We must be doers of the word. When we encounter the truth of God’s word, we must adjust our lives. We need to live as He instructs us to do. For us to do otherwise would be a silly as looking in the mirror at unruly hair and ignoring it completely. Notice also the promise in v. 25. When we are doers of the word, we will be blessed. Today, let us all be hearers and doers of the word of God.
Did you like tests in school? I remember my classmates and I begging Bro. Anderson to have a test which wasn’t an essay. We all wanted what he called a “multiple guess” test. He finally relented and boy, we got what we wanted, but we didn’t want what we got! That was the hardest test I have ever taken. All four answers were right, and we had to guess which was most right. That felt like more of a trial than a test.
Trials and tests of our commitment to God come all the time. James said it this way,
“12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:12-15
Notice the promise for enduring is a crown of life. Yet temptations come, not from God, but from our own desires. Our mind begins to entice us and pull us away from living the right way. Then, it conceives and leads to sin. We do something the Lord has forbidden. If we aren’t careful, we can become trapped and it brings forth death. Sin works to destroy us.
When temptations come, we must stand firm and resist them. A commitment to living by God’s word will go a long way to leading us in right paths. We don’t have to guess or feel our way through life. We have God’s revelation to guide us through life.
I remember the last time I tried to ride a horse. I had on my boots and hat. I easily got into the saddle and was ready to go. That wild bronco began to move. He moved about 3 steps and the saddle started sliding. It started sliding sideways. Thankfully, we were close to fence and I grabbed the top rail. Of course my boots remained in the stirrups and I was riding side saddle. Literally, the saddle had slid to the side and I was sticking out with my legs on the horse and my hands on the rail. I still don’t remember how I escaped such a “precarious” position. I am glad that horse was so old he really didn’t want to move anyway.
Big thins, like horses, can be controlled by very small things in the right hands. When properly bridled, a well trained horse and rider can work wonders. James compares our need to control our tongues to bridling a horse. Notice what he says, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” JAMES 1:26-27 NASB
James gives two indications of having pure and undefiled religion. First, we must control our speech. Our speech is to be gentle and seasoned with love. We speak truth in love as we call people to repentance when proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Pure religion is also marked by how we treat others. Widows and orphans were some of the neediest in Biblical times. The family of God rallied around them and saw that their needs were met and thus put their love into action. Finally, James reminds us that people with pure religion remain unstained from the world. We must live apart from the sins of the words. That doesn’t mean we have no contact with sinners. (Hint: we are all sinners.) It means we don’t participate in nor endorse their sins. Our message of repentance is a call to leave their sins and serve the Savior.
This morning, let us have a pure and undefiled religion, watch what we say, how we treat others, and remain pure.
It happens frequently. Someone will ask,“Who is that?” I will look at the one in question as they approach and be clueless. All I see is s blurred figure. Finally, when they are practically on top of us, I can discern their facial features. You see, I’ve worn glasses most of my life. I can tell from moments like I have described that is time for an adjustment in my prescription.
Knowing someone’s identity is important! There was even a time when Jesus asked His disciples this question, but He was digging much deeper than just knowing His name.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.””
Matthew 16:13-16 ESV
Peter saw Jesus’ full identity. He was the anointed Son of God. He was Messiah! That knowledge made all the difference.
Once you see Jesus for who He really is, can you ever see life or yourself the same way again
If you met me in field frantically looking at mesquite trees and growing more frustrated by the minute, I can image you would ask what was happening. What would you think if I replied I was looking for bananas? You might call for help thinking I had lost it! Why? Because everyone knows you don’t find bananas growing anywhere except on a banana tree!
In Matthew 7, Jesus used that same illustration this way:
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing by inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-16 ESV
Our Master explains that “fruit” reveals character. Our fruit is best understood in this context as our lifestyle. Wolves will be known by their lifestyle. They will live in a way that pulls people away from God. On the other hand, our lives should be lived to draw people to God. If we are His disciples, it should show. Talk is easy. Everyone can claim to be a follower of Jesus. However, we are warned that wolves will come in acting like sheep, but with bad intentions. But fruit will be displayed. And fruit indicates character!
May we always have discernment in dealing with others and may our fruit always point people to God.
Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there? It was a night like any other night. The monotony continued as you tended your sheep just like all the other nights. The sheep were doing their thing and you and your fellow shepherds tried to stay awake and vigilant for any dangers.
Suddenly the quietness of the night was shattered. There was a bright light and then you see him. The angel started to speak of a special baby and that you could find him in a barn using a feed trough as a bed! Although He was in such humble surroundings, He was King of Kings! As if that wasn’t enough, suddenly the skies are filled with a host of angels praising God. Their cries echoed across the countryside.
“”Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace
among those with whom he is pleased!””
Luke 2:14 ESV
God had fulfilled His promise in the most unlikely ways. The Savior had arrived, but not riding in on a war horse as a mighty conqueror. He arrived on the scene as a helpless baby born in a barn. The shepherds rushed to town and found Jesus just as the angels had said. That encounter left them changed men.
Jesus is still in the life changing business. He gives peace between us and God. He brings us into His family and gives us the capacity to love as He loved. He revealed His purpose in Luke as He read from the old testament and declared that very day the crowd was seeing prophesy fulfilled..
“”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”” Luke 4:18-19 ESV
As we remember and celebrate the advent of Jesus, let us never forget He still brings peace.
Merry Christmas! May the peace that passes all understanding fill your heart now and everyday.
Sounds of the season surround us! While the world keeps turning and finding new reasons to pick apart classic songs and shows, they are still missing the main point. One of the great carols of the season to me speaks of what Christ did when He came to earth. Consider the first verse and chorus of Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne:
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity:
Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee;
Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus, come,
There is room in my heart for Thee.
When Jesus took on flesh, He sat aside His crown and stepped down from the throne of heaven to humble Himself. He went so low, that He became an unborn baby within Mary. He experienced birth, growth, and all that life brings so that He truly knows what it is to be human. He left all that even though there was no room for his family in Bethlehem. Notice Luke 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” ESV. Jesus was placed in a manger as His first bed.
The chorus reminds us of why He stooped so low. He did all of that so that He could bring us into a relationship with God through redemption. He was born so that He could die as the perfect sacrifice. He did just that. Now He lives to save all who call upon Him.
Celebrate Christmas. Celebrate Jesus.