Traditions and the church

We have all grown up with traditions. Whether it be a family holiday tradition, or a church tradition that has been handed down over the ages, we all know some traditions and generally accept them as the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, that’s what happened in the early church also. For over 1000 years, the church accepted many traditions that were handed down year after year. While many traditions were probably not sin, there were some “bad” traditions undermining the church by the 1500’s (one of which was priests accepting money for indulgences or payment for one’s sin).

Throughout the ages, churches adapt and adjust to new cultures. We see it today in the modern church, as technology and contemporary Christian songs replace hymnals and the singing of hymns.

Now, before we go much further: don’t get me wrong, I’m not against change, or for it. I’m merely presenting a challenge for us each to consider. In the form of a question, I ask, is your church Biblical?

In Hebrews 10, we are reminded that Christ’s sacrifice is a replacement for the annual tradition of the priests’ offering of bulls, goats, and other animals as a payment for our sins. No longer must priests enter the most high place in the temple and offer the blood of an animal to pay for our guilt. Instead, Christ offered Himself, the Son of God, a sinless man, offering what no man could offer.

Not because of what you do, or who you are, but because of who Christ is and what He did.

His sacrifice took the place of a tradition that had been practiced for almost 2000 years.

While there aren’t major changes like that occurring today, I ask the question, is what your church doing right, or simply a tradition that has been handed down? If you don’t know, consult the Bible. What does the Word of God say about …?  And for goodness sake, if you’re going to use the internet to search for the answer, great, BUT, make sure you don’t read somebody’s opinion. Find the passage of scripture that relates to your issue, then read your Bible for the answer.

Grace and Mercy

It amazes me how a God that knows everything I do, can still find a way to love me.

God knows our good and bad (and for me, I’m sure there is much more bad than good). And through it all, He still shows His love for me.

Years ago, I heard a Sunday School lesson on God’s Grace and Mercy and the difference between them.  I had never really studied this before, and it intrigued me. The explanation was rather simple:

  • Grace is getting what you don’t deserve (forgiveness, Salvation, Eternal Life, . . .)
  • Mercy is not getting what you do deserve (punishment, eternal death, . . .)

These simple ways to think about God’s grace and mercy really has an impact on how I think about God.

And His grace and mercy are not something that we should take for granted.  God paid with the price of His Son’s life in order to show His great love for us.

Matt Redman’s recent song “Your Grace Finds Me” <click HERE> is a great song of praise, and prayer, to give back to God:

. . .
It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me, yes your grace finds me

It’s there on a wedding day
There in the weeping by the graveside
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace

The same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh such grace
. . .
So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace*

* Lyrics from Matt Redman’s “Your Grace Finds Me”

What is God’s Will ???

Have you ever wondered “What is God’s Will for MY life?”

That’s a tough question!  I’ve seen Pastors lead series of sermons on that topic.  I’ve even seen churches explore the “Spiritual Gifts” assessment to help people determine the best place for them to serve. Regardless of how it’s done, the question seems to elude some people.

When I was pondering that question years ago as an interim youth pastor at a former church, I pursued the answer for almost a year. I knew God was calling me to something, but I just couldn’t figure it out. It culminated on April 23, 2007.

In March of that year, just one month prior, we conducted a week long team building event with the youth in Tennessee. We had taken about 10 youth to the middle of “Podunk” nowhere, with limited phone reception and NO televisions. It was just us, nature, and God. It was a powerful time, and both Kimberly and I could feel the presence of God calling us to something bigger – but what was it?

The next 4 weeks was a long journey as I prayed feverishly for God’s Will.  What does He want?  I knew what I felt, but what was it that God wanted?  Finally, on April 23rd, it happened.  As I sat in my office at work that day, I finally opened my eyes and saw the vision of what God had planned.  It wasn’t much of a surprise, but God showed me in the ministry. No longer was it my idea, it was God’s. And when I accepted His calling, I could feel the stress in my life disappear.

The next 4 years were a whirlwind of events, with me starting Seminary, starting a family, and not stopping anything.  I was still working full-time; Youth Pastoring part-time. I became “Daddy,” and stayed loyal husband. But I didn’t do it alone!  It was a long trip down that road, but with Kimberly and God – it was possible, and very worthwhile.

Today, I sit in Greenville, in my office once again, wondering what is God’s Will for my life now?  I’ve been here now almost a year, pondering this question. Still seeking.  Still listening.

I believe the following song is suited for those of us that ask that question in our life.

Maybe you too have that same burning question in your life.  God, Please Help Me Find It!  <<<  CLick Here

 I don’t know where to go from here
It all used to seem so clear
I’m finding I can’t do this on my own

I don’t know where to go from here
As long as I know that You are near
I’m done fighting
I’m finally letting go

I will trust in You
You’ve never failed before
I will trust in You

If there’s a road I should walk
Help me find it
If I need to be still
Give me peace for the moment
Whatever Your will
Whatever Your will
Can you help me find it
Can you help me find it . . . *

* Lyrics from Sidewalk Prophets “Help Me Find It”

Do unto others . . . ?

Today as I read from Genesis 20, I kept thinking back to Pastor Carter’s teaching during Boot Camp when he said “when you read the Bible, try to interpret the Big Picture.”

Most people know the story of Abraham when he came into Gerar, and told the foreigners that Sarah, his wife, was really his sister. Abimelech, king of Gerar, then sent for Sarah.

During the night, God came to Abimelech and warned him not to take Sarah, “for she is a man’s wife” (Genesis 20:3 ESV). At this point in the story (because he was unaware of his sin against Abraham and Sarah), Abimelech first begs for mercy from God,

In the morning, as Abimelech told his servants the truth of Sarah, the men became afraid.

Abimelech called for Abraham, returned Sarah to him, then questioned Abraham’s motives for giving her away.

At this point in the story, I get caught up in the variety of emotions that befell the king.  Abimelech found favor in Sarah, pleads with God for mercy, fears his looming sin, then probes Abraham for answers.

What follows this, I declare to be the big picture.

Even though Abimelech has gone through a night of misfortune, distress, or whatever you call it, he calls Abraham and says “My land is before you; live wherever you like” and he gives Abraham sheep, cattle, slaves, and 1,000 shekels of silver.

Wow – a man (Abimelech) that almost sinned, due to no clear fault of his own, goes back to the man (Abraham) who honestly created the environment for the king to stumble, and offers him a fortune.

What can we learn from this?  Forgiveness….  Love….  Obedience….

It’s marathon time!

With the advent of Facebook, we can see (almost) real time, the actions of all of our “friends.” Although I have never personally been an advocate of posting where I am at the exact time I’m there, due to some slight security paranoia, I do find it interesting to keep up with my friends and their activities on occasion.

Lately, as the weather breaks, I have noticed that marathons and outdoor races have started their seasons.  As an ex-runner, I know how hard these races can be on one’s mind and body. It seems when I started a race, that the end would never get near. It would elude me for such a long time. But finally, after watching for the end for what seemed an eternity, and not giving up, the end would draw near, and the satisfaction of finishing was a great reward. The sense of accomplishment was so great, that it would want me to try harder and faster next time.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NKJV) says:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

We may not all run marathons (I know I won’t).  But God compares our spiritual growth several times to that of an endurance race.

He didn’t say come to Him, be saved, sprint for 60 seconds, and your life is over. He said come to Him, repent, be saved, and become my disciple – a lifelong commitment, growing in faith and love; then your new life will begin.

 

Good story with better moral!

FATHER, I WANTED A CAR, NOT A BIBLE

A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer’s showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.

As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study, told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and how much he loved him. He handed him a beautifully wrapped gift box.

Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with his name embossed in gold.
Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said,”With all your money you give me a Bible?” He stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible behind.

Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old. He thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that graduation day. But before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to
him. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things.

When he arrived at his father’s house, sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father’s important documents and saw the Bible, new, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matthew 7:11, “And if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father which is in Heaven, give to those who ask Him?

As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealers name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words… PAID IN FULL.

How many times do we miss God’s blessings because they are not packaged as we expected?

If this touched your heart, please pass it on!!

* special thanks to Nana for sharing this story with me today.

Down and Out? or Up and Over?

“Everybody’s been down;
Hit the bottom, hit the ground,
Ooh, you’re not alone.
Just take a breath, don’t forget,
Hang on to His promises
He wants you to know.” *

 . . . You’re an OVERCOMER!

This morning on my way into work, I heard this song, and although it’s been #1 on the charts for many weeks in the past year, I never really took time to listen to all the words.  They really are good!

So, the question is will you stay “down and out” or come up and over? Will you allow God to take your trials?

“Take a breath, don’t forget
Hang on to His promises!” *

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. – (Philippians 4:19 NIV)

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. – (John 14:12-14 NIV)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. – (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV)

* Lyrics taken from “Overcomer” by Mandisa.

Time Travel

After traveling to Alabama two weeks ago and an hour behind Eastern time, springing forward with Daylight Savings time the same weekend, then driving to Greenville – an hour ahead, flying to Canada – another hour ahead, back to Greenville – an hour back, then to Mexico – two hours behind, my sense of time is really messed up.

Thankfully, my travel is coming to a stop after one more jump two hours forward as I fly home tonight.

We like to think of “time travel” as impossible, except of course if you believe in the movie “Back to the Future,” which I think most of us remember.

But the neat thing is that we can all experience time travel! 

How? Glad you asked.

While I don’t enjoy reading history books, I do enjoy the glimpses I get into history when I read the Bible.

I know some books may seem tedious and possibly unnecessary in the Bible, but I feel that each of us can relate to the Gospels. When I read them, I like to picture myself there, in the scene, like when Jesus healed the paralytic that was lowered into the house by his four friends. I like to imagine myself a fly on the well when the Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asked for some water from her.

I can picture the story of Zacchaeus in the tree as Jesus walked by. Unfortunately, I can even picture myself at Golgotha when Jesus was crucified. But thankfully, we know that’s not the end, but only the beginning of the story. The rest is told in the remaining books of the New Testament, and more specifically in Revelation.

Next time you sit down and read, find yourself in the midst of the Bible and experience Jesus in a different way.

The father of impossible

I am ashamed to admit that I am surprised quite frequently at how God does certain “impossible” tasks. I know that God can do anything, but nonetheless, I am often amazed by His ability to do what we can’t comprehend. 

Today during my reading of the Bible, I studied the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Here is a devoted man that God promised a nation of offspring through his only child. Then God asks Abraham to slay his son on Mt. Moriah. Unlike me, who would, honestly question God “why?,” Abraham obediently obeys the order and makes preparation to kill his only son.

From the story, we gather that not only did he prepare to make the preparations, but Abraham is in the middle of the act, with knife raised, before the angel of The Lord stops this horrific event.

Abraham had such trust in the Lord, that he didn’t have to see how God would accomplish something; he just knew that God would do what He said He would do.

God may ask us to do something that goes against our very understanding, but that’s ok, because He has an understanding much greater than ours.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 ESV)

 

 

He is coming back!

Yesterday I spoke about the great love God has for us. His love is so great that He not only sent His son to die for us, but to die knowing our sinful nature, an ugly and outrageous evil against God. However, God knows that. He knows that we are not perfect, in fact, we are far from it. Yet, His great love still stands true.

And this love that God showed for us in giving His Son, will be shown once again!

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28 ESV)

Jesus took care of sin once and for all when He gave His life for ours.  Now, we can rejoice in knowing that He is coming again, this time not to pay for what has already been bought; but to collect His treasure, His children – us!

While we don’t know the day or time, as can be certified from Matthew 24:36

We do know that He is coming to get us.  Therefore, it is our responsibility to achieve 2 things as we wait for His arrival:

  1. Become the disciple God wants us to be (Romans 12:2)
  2. Help others become disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)