Sunday, January 29, 2017

Spiritual Wellness Part 2 - How Well Do You Read? - Psalm 119:105

This is the second in a series of posts I’m sharing with you entitled Spiritual Wellness. Our spiritual checkup began last time with checking our hearing…it continues today with checking our reading. On several occasions Jesus asked, “Have you not read...?” This question suggests a major failing that not only plagued the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ day but also affects people today…including Christians. The problem is most Christians don’t read the Word of God as they should and that affects their Spiritual Wellness.

So to help us answer the question…How Well Do You Read?…let’s first take a look at the…



This type of reader has never read the Bible…the Word of God. This includes most people in the world and sadly a lot Christians. It’s bad enough for unsaved people to be Biblically illiterate but it’s totally inexcusable for Christians!!!


This type describes those who may possess a Bible but read only a passage here and there. This includes most people who have Bibles. The Bible is the #1 bestselling book of all time but unfortunately it is also the #1 least read book of all time.


This reader will read only certain parts of the Bible…for example Psalms, Proverbs or the Gospels...only to soothe their conscience or calm their troubled heart.


Sadly there are those who read only to prove others wrong or to find verses that justify their behavior. There are far too many people that use the very Word of God to support what they already believe. It’s truly a shame when professing Christians use Scripture to argue their belief that God somehow approves of their ungodly, unholy lifestyles.


I hope this type of reader describes you. One who reads to learn…to understand…to obey God's Word.

Now that we’ve looked at the DIFFERENT TYPES OF READERS let’s take a look at the…



According to Psalm 1:1-3…the blessed person is one who meditates on the Word. As we discovered early on in our study through Revelation…God blesses the person who reads His Word as well as the person who hears His Word. All spiritual blessings begin by reading the Word of God.


God’s Word challenges us first and most importantly to become His children. Once we become Christians His Word is a constant challenge to dedicate ourselves to a lifestyle of obedience to Him. All spiritual life and growth depends upon reading the Word of God.


Paul tells us in Romans 15:4 “through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” And we find this in one of my favorite passages…1 John 5:13…“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” All hope in this life and the next life comes from reading the Word of God.

So we’ve seen the DIFFERENT TYPES OF READERS and discussed the IMPORTANCE OF GOOD READING now let’s look at some…



As Paul instructed in 2 Timothy 2:15…“Study to show yourself approved to God…” There are many Bible reading programs and schedules available as well as translations of the Bible that are very readable. There is no excuse for a child of God to NOT read and study His Word.


Begin and end with prayer. Read for your personal benefit…not to prove others wrong or simply to find verses to back up your opinions. God works on us individually and instructs us through His Word. Bible reading MUST be an important part of your daily life.


Read with the expectation that you will learn and by learning to will be motivated to obedience. Remember the challenge that James gave to us in James 1:22…“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” We should always read to learn what God wants us to do…how He wants us to live.

Listen folks…the Word of God is a precious gift. It is “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” as well as “the words of eternal life.” Hopefully Jesus will not have to ask you… "Have you never read...?"

Have you taken the time to read what the Bible teaches about God’s plan of salvation and about the need to be faithful and obedient? My prayer is that all of us will use this great gift we’ve been given. Let me leave you with a verse…

Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Next in our Spiritual Wellness check-up, we will ask, “How Well Do You Pray?”

Monday, January 23, 2017

Spiritual Wellness Part 1 - How Well Do You Hear? - Revelation 2:7

This is the first in a series of posts I’m going to share with you over the next six weeks entitled Spiritual Wellness.

Just as we have those periodic check-ups to makes sure we’re doing ok physically, we should frequently examine our spiritual wellness in regards to serving God. That will be the focus of this series of messages. Our spiritual check-up begins today with checking out our hearing.

As you know...we spent around a year and a half studying through the Book of Revelation in our Wednesday Bible Study sessions and in the messages to the churches in chapters 2 and 3, we heard Jesus say over and over...“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

So what’s the point of this saying? The point is…the message that is being given is you better pay attention! It suggests that a problem exists in Christians today...many simply don’t listen with the mindset of understanding the message. And if we don’t understand the message, how do we put that message into action?

I’m convinced that many simply don’t understand or appreciate the importance of good listening. Well it certainly concerned Jesus so I think it’s important for us to ask ourselves...“How Well Do We Hear?”

To help us answer this question...let’s take a look first at the…



Isaiah wrote of these kinds of hearers and Jesus applied it to many in His day. In Matthew 13:13-15 Jesus said “This is why I speak to them in parables: though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’”

People are this way because they have hardened their hearts and have closed their eyes to the truth. This prevents them from understanding God’s grace and being saved by Him.


Hebrews challenges Christians with this type of hearing. Hebrews 5:11-13 tells us...”We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.”

When someone has this type of hearing problem, it is hard for anyone to explain spiritual things to them! The fault is not with the subject matter, the preacher or the teacher but with the hearer!


This type of hearer will only listen to what is pleasing to them. The Bible states in 2 Timothy 4:3-4...“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

They don't like sound doctrine or the preaching of the truth. Far too many today are afflicted with this hearing problem!


Jesus spoke of these types of hearers in His parable of the sower. In Luke 8:15 Jesus said, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

Acts 17:11 gives us a good description of this type of hearer...“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

This is the kind of hearer we all should be!!!



For those willing to hear properly, there are wonderful things to learn. We miss out on these blessings if we do not carefully and properly hear! James 1:25 “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do.”


God has ordained that we be saved through faith in Christ. Romans 1:16-17 tells us...

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

This saving faith comes through the sharing of the gospel. Does your hearing hinder the development of your faith?


In the parable of the Sower, the soil bearing fruit was the one which heard properly – Luke 8:15. That is because bearing fruit comes from understanding the grace of God! Colossians 1:6 “In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”

By hearing well we understand God's grace, and thus motivated to bear fruit!

So we’ve seen the DIFFERENT TYPES OF HEARERS and discussed the IMPORTANCE OF GOOD HEARING now let’s look at some...



In other words...listen with a willingness to accept and believe what is shown in God's Word. Keep in mind what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7...”We live by faith, not by sight.”

If we don't hear with faith, we will fall short of our heavenly responsibility.



I hope and pray that we are not like the people in Ezekiel's day? Ezekiel 33:30-32 “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.”

Hearing must be accompanied by doing to be of any profit. James 1:22-24 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

As important as hearing may be, the blessings comes only if we are doers as well!

So how important is good hearing?

When it comes to hearing God, very important! It is essential for the good of our soul!

Have you listened to Him by obeying His word...or does the following question from Jesus apply to you? “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Next in our "Spiritual Wellness" check-up we will ask "How Well Do You Read?"

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Priorities for the New Year - Matthew 6:25-34

Last week I shared with you some verses from Matthew 5 and started 2017 by discussing How to Have a Happy New Year. We saw that if you want to be really, truly happy then you have to be humble in your attitude toward yourself, sin and God. I'm going to follow that up today with Priorities for the New Year.

The beginning of the year is a great time to make some adjustments in your life. You might look at it like an annual checkup or tune up. And the reality is that some of us might need a complete overhaul. Now...the temptation we often have around New Years is to try to manufacture all these changes ourselves. We try to muster the inspiration and motivation to change areas of our life with which we are unhappy. And, as most of us know, sometimes it only takes a few days or weeks until we don't even remember what we were trying to accomplish in the first place. I don't think I'm the only one who struggles with the whole memory thing...

I read about a man who moved into a retirement community to spend the rest of his life there. It wasn't long until he had made a number of friends. There was one lady he was especially attracted to, and she was attracted to him as well. They spent a lot of time together and finally, one evening he proposed, asking her to marry him.

The next morning, he woke up and remembered his proposal, but he couldn't remember her answer. So he approached his lady friend and said, "I'm really embarrassed. I proposed to you last night but I can't remember if you said ‘Yes' or ‘No.'" "Oh, thank goodness!" she replied. "I remembered saying ‘Yes' but I couldn't remember who asked me."

You know...we too can forget some important spiritual things quite easily as we move through life. So today, I want to keep things really simple and give you a few things found in Matthew 6 that will help us make important changes in our lives...with God's 2017.


Did you know when the Bible talks about the Kingdom of God it's talking about His leadership and authority? Listen folks...He is not simply our adviser...He is our King and we need to recognize His rule over all things and choose to follow His leading. When we refuse to do things God's way, we are moving in the opposite direction of the Kingdom of God.

When Jesus taught the disciples, He told them to pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Seeking the kingdom of God first means that we are seeking to do His will, yielding every area of our lives to what He wants, rather than what we want. So do some self-examination today. Is God ruling in your life? Is He the Boss? Who is in control?

Does God have the final say in your finances? Are you honoring Him as Your Provider? When He says, "Bring your tithes to My house, trusting Me to provide for every need," do you show trust or doubt? Are you being honest in all your financial dealings? Even in your taxes? Listen...this is God's will for His people. Are you always trying to get something for nothing, regardless of who comes out on the short end of the stick? Are you more motivated by financial gain than financial integrity? Is God leading in your finances?

Does God have the final say in your relationships? Do you love people unselfishly, looking out for their best interests...especially those interests that last beyond this lifetime? Listen folks...God wants us to value everyone, knowing they are created in His image. That leaves no room for using other people for what we can get out of them. God wants us to get to know people, recognizing the value He has placed in them, and helping bring them into a relationship with Him! Is God leading in your relationships?

Does God have the final say on how you spend your time? How much time do you spend with Him in prayer and Bible study? Do you spend enough quality time with your family? And listen...I understand that we all need time for ourselves, but that should NOT be our first priority. Is God leading in how you spend your time?

How about your talents and gifts? God has equipped you to do certain things for Him and to do those well. These things help the church function just as God intended through teaching, helping, giving, serving, comforting, encouraging, sharing your faith and all the other areas of ministry. Does God have the final say on how, when and where you use those gifts?

I know I've just thrown a lot at you and you might be preacher you've gone from preaching to meddling. So I guess it's either amen or oh me! But folks...please don't get overwhelmed by all this. Spend some time thinking and praying and writing down some of your thoughts about areas of your life where God challenges you. Maybe start with one thing that God brings to your mind and work with Him on a game plan for change in your life.

Make it your habit to follow God's leading in every area of your life. As you pray each day, ask the Lord to show you His will in all these different areas. Listen to a couple of my favorite verses... Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Trust in God's Leadership...


I think all of us know what the Bible says about human righteousness. Paul said this in Romans 3:9-12, "Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

So how can we as sinful human beings be made righteous? Wow...that's a great question! Paul makes this very clear in both Romans and Galatians. He says that righteousness comes by faith in God. It comes by believing what He said, which is expressed in our lives by obeying what He said. Faith believing always produces a heart change, and the heart change always produces a change in our behavior.

What is it that we must believe? What has God said to us that will make us righteous? Let me give you just a few of the many, many verses that give us the answer...

John 1:12, "To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

Romans 4:20-25, "Yet he (talking about Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why it was credited to him as righteousness. The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

Romans 10:9,10 and 13, "If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Wow!!! Is that awesome or what? So having genuine faith in God...believing in the redemptive work of Jesus at Calvary...and then following His will makes us righteous. Listen folks... genuine faith always expresses itself in an outward expression of love and good works. If someone says, "I believe," but doesn't obey God, they've missed something along the way. Paul said that we are a new creation in Christ and James wrote that faith without works is dead. Understand this...according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, God's righteousness makes us new people in Christ! The old way of living is gone! Everything becomes new. Trusting in God's righteousness means believing God and living like we believe Him! God Himself is the One who will help us do right things through His Word and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Trust in God's in God's righteousness...


You wanna know what that means? It means don't worry! Listen our economy declines and gas prices rise to who knows where and groceries and utilities increase, we might feel the urge to worry about all that but here in our verses from Matthew 6, Jesus said NOT to worry 3 different times.

Those who trust God should devote themselves to seeking Him...seeking His leadership over every area of their lives, and seeking His righteousness. When we prioritize doing life God's way and honoring Him, then we can claim this promise, "All these things will be given to you as well."

I hope you will spend some time and take a good look at your life. Look back over the past year and evaluate the direction of your life. Do the priorities of your life line up with God's will? If the course of your life doesn't include Jesus, He can and will help you set a new course today...if you let Him.

Matthew 6:33 "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

So as we start 2017, let me encourage and challenge you to Trust in God's Leadership, Trust in God's Righteousness and Trust in God's Provision.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How To Have a Happy New Year - Matthew 5:1-6

Back in 1988, Robert Fulghum published his best-selling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. His book included things like...

  • Share everything
  • Play fair
  • Put things back where you found them
  • Wash your hands before you eat
  • And one that most of us wish we could do...Take a nap every afternoon

Years later, someone suggested another book...All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Noah's Ark. This book would include things like...

  • Don't miss the boat
  • Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark
  • Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something REALLY big
  • For safety's sake, travel in pairs
  • Remember that the ark was built by amateurs and the Titanic was built by professionals
  • No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting

Now I think we'd all agree the idea for that second book comes from somebody who has a positive attitude. Attitude is very important when it comes to facing the future. Isn't it? Warren his book Be Mature...put it this way, "Outlook determines outcome; and attitude determines action."

So how can we find that positive attitude moving forward into this new year? I mean, we wish people a Happy New Year, but where does that happiness come from? How can we truly have a happy new year? Well...I'm glad you asked. Let's look at our verses from Matthew 5 and see how Jesus describes people who are truly happy in this world.

Jesus said the poor in spirit are those who are truly blessed...or happy. They are truly fortunate as the recipients of God's favor. They are the ones who experience the fullness of life. So let me ask you this... Do you want to be truly happy? Then be poor in spirit or in other humble. Notice with me today several areas in which we need humility...


Listen folks...we need to understand that without Christ we are morally and spiritually bankrupt. We should confess our unworthiness before God and our utter dependence on Him every single day. Now, that's not what the world tells us. The world says we can find happiness in our own self esteem. Jesus says, we find happiness by acknowledging that there is nothing whatsoever to esteem in ourselves.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

Jesus said this in Luke 18:14, "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Do you want to be happy? I mean really, truly happy?? Do you want to be favored by God? Then be humble in your attitude toward yourself. Be willing to admit that you are a flawed, imperfect person and you need His help. You know what happens when we feel like we're good enough to make it on our own? We fall flat on our faces. I only when we realize that we are nothing without Him in our lives that we fine real happiness.

Listen to what one writer said, "We start every year thinking, this is the year! We resolve to turn over a new leaf – and this time we are serious. We promise ourselves we're going to quit bad habits and start good ones. We're going to get in shape, eat better, waste less time, be more content, be more disciplined, and so forth. We're going to be better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. And then, twelve months later, we've fallen short...again.

The gospel is the good news announcing Jesus' infallible devotion to us in spite of our inconsistent devotion to him. As this new year gets under way, take comfort in knowing that we are weak and he is strong – that even as our love for Jesus falls short, Jesus' love for us never will."

Do you want to be truly happy? Then give up the illusion that you will ever be good enough on your own, and don't be afraid to admit your own weakness. Jesus said, these people are happy, because "theirs IS the kingdom of heaven." Notice, that's in the present tense. Folks that's significant, because in the next six beatitudes the reward is in the future tense. They SHALL be comforted...they SHALL inherit the earth...they SHALL be satisfied...they SHALL receive mercy...they SHALL see God...they SHALL be called children of God. But here the reward is in the present is now – theirs IS the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is a present reality for those who are poor or humble in spirit. Be humble in your attitude toward yourself. Notice the next area in which we need to be humble...


Did you know the sin in your life breaks God's heart? Every single time we sin we break the heart of God. Folks...the reality is that sin in our lives should break our hearts as well. We've allowed too much of this world to rub off on us and we view sin in our life too lightly. The world tells us to minimize our it a mistake...a lapse in imperfection. But scripture says we should recognize sin for what it is in our lives and that we should grieve and mourn over it. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

When we grieve over the sin in our lives and claim 1 John 1:9, God sends his Holy Spirit to help us. He puts his arms around us and He guides us away from that sin. Listen's a dangerous thing for a Christian to take sin lightly. Sin is an extremely serious matter in the life of a Christian and it should break our hearts. It is then, and only then, that we find God's help in removing that sin from our lives.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God will replace the guilt, bitterness, anger and resentment in your life that come as a result of your sin with His peace, love and joy. Do you want to be truly happy in 2017? Then first, be humble in your attitude towards yourself. Next, be humble in your attitude towards sin. 3rd...


Folks...we have to learn to be gentle in our dealings with other people. Be lenient. Don't demand your own considerate of others. Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

Don't confuse meekness with weakness. Jesus was meek but he drove the money-changers out of the temple. Meekness is NOT is strength under control. God calls His people to have strength under control in their relationships. Take what strength you have and use it to serve others. Don't demand your own way. Don't assert your own rights. Instead, treat others as being more important than yourself...make sure THEIR needs are met.

Over time, harsh treatment will harden people and drive them away. On the other hand, there is no power greater than love. Over time, love conquers all. Over time, love changes people's lives. Over time, love brings people to Jesus.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Do you want to have a truly happy new year? Then first, be humble in your attitude toward yourself. Second, be humble in your attitude toward sin. Third, be humble in your attitude toward others. And last today...


As we start this new year, we need to commit ourselves to cultivating a true passion for spiritual things. We need to develop a desire to know God intimately and to follow His ways personally. Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

A young man approached an old monk wanting to know where he could find God. The monk said, "Follow me. I'll show you." So the young man followed the monk to a river where they both waded in. Then all of a sudden, the monk grabbed the young man and forced him under the water. The old man was much stronger than he looked, and he held the young man under for a long time. The young man was flailing, desperate for air and about to give up the struggle, when the monk finally let him go. Then he said to the young man, "When you want God as bad as you wanted air, then you will find Him."

How badly do we really want God in our lives? There are far too many people satisfied with only a little bit of God on Sunday morning and nothing more. But only when we want Him more than food or water, only when we want Him more than the air we breathe, only when we want Him more than life itself, will we ever be truly satisfied.

The world says, "Don't be too overzealous and pushy in your faith. Just get enough religion to be comfortable, but not too much to make you a religious nut case." Listen to how Wilbur Reese described this in his book...

"I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please."

That's all the world wants. But Jesus says just the opposite, "Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Want it more than anything else. It is then, and only then, will you be satisfied."

Do you want to have a truly happy new year in 2017? Then be humble in your attitude toward yourself. Be humble in your attitude toward sin. Be humble in your attitude toward others, and be humble in your attitude toward God. In a humble if you want to be happy.

It seems backwards, doesn't it? If our modern, contemporary society were writing a set of Beatitudes for the new year, it might go something like this...

  • Blessed are the rich and famous, because they can always get a seat at the best restaurants
  • Blessed are the movers and shakers, for they shall make a name for themselves
  • Blessed are those who demand their rights, for they shall not be overlooked

You know...Jesus offers us a better way. He says...

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled

May all of us have a truly happy new year.