Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spiritual Wellness Part 6 - How Well Do You Hope? - 1 Corinthians 15:16-19

This is the last in a series of posts I’m sharing with you entitled Spiritual Wellness. So far in our spiritual wellness checkup, I’ve challenged you to check your hearing, your reading, your praying, your giving and your loving. Today…I’m going to challenge you to check your hoping. Paul tells us here in 1 Corinthians that if we have hope only for this life then we are a bunch of miserable people. Hope is an important part of what it means to be a Christian.

So today…as I finish this spiritual wellness series, to help us answer this final question…How Well Do You Hope?...let’s use the same format we’ve used in all the other posts in this series. Let’s look first at the…

DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOPERS

THOSE WITH NO HOPE...

Unfortunately, this describes most people in our world today. Those who don’t know the Lord so have no hope beyond this life. They have no hope of eternity in heaven. Listen to how Paul describes those with no hope…

Ephesians 2:12, “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

THOSE WITH LITTLE HOPE...

These people have reason to hope but rarely think about the hope they have. Listen folks…even as Christians we can get so bogged down with the cares and struggles of this life that we are blinded to the hope we have. We are also guilty at times of putting on the blinders of sin which cause us to lose sight of our hope in Christ.

In Luke 21:34-37, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.”

THOSE WITH LIVING HOPE...

Folks…in all reality, this is where we all should be as Christians and where I hope you are today. Those of us who are Christians have the greatest reason to have hope don’t we? Sure…life isn’t easy, we have health concerns and lose jobs and loved ones pass away but folks we have the promise of being with Jesus forever. And if that doesn’t give us hope, nothing ever will. Amen?

1 Peter 1:3-5, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Now that we’ve looked at the DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOPERS, let’s talk about the…

IMPORTANCE OF HOPE

FOR MOTIVATION...

Folks listen…without hope, we have very little or no motivation to grow spiritually. Listen to the hope we find in Scripture…

John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

1 John 3:2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

FOR STRENGTH...

Did you know that hope produces endurance in the Christian life?

1 Thessalonians 1:3, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hope also gives us strength to persevere and keep working for the Lord while we wait for His return. Without hope, we will have little or no strength to stand in this world.

FOR JOY...

As Christians, we rejoice in the hope we have. We have a hope beyond this life…beyond this world. Hope that one day all the pain and suffering and trials and sin will be gone! Amen? Without hope, our lives as Christians will be joyless and that’s a horrible place for a Christian to be.

So we’ve talked about the DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOPERS and the IMPORTANCE OF HOPE. Let’s finish today by looking at…

STEPS TO INCREASE OUR HOPE

READ THE BIBLE...

Listen folks…the Bible was given to us for our learning and also to give us hope. I don’t know about you, but I’ve read the back of the Book and I know who wins and I also know that I’m on the winning team. Make note of this verse…

Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide WE MIGHT HAVE HOPE.”

Not only do we find faith in the Word of God…we find hope in the Word of God.

FOCUS ON WHAT IS COMING...

We need to learn to rest our hope fully on the grace to come when Jesus returns. Listen to what Peter wrote…

1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”

Folks we are going to spend all of eternity in heaven with Jesus and with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When Paul talked about the return of Christ and the rapture of the church he said to encourage each other with these words. We should find amazing hope in what awaits us as God’s children.

Our spiritual health is affected by the quality of our hope. Does your hope look beyond the difficulties of this life? I certainly hope so. He has given us EVERY reason to have hope. How well do you hope?

We need understand that our spiritual health is affected by how well we hear, read, pray, give, love and hope. My prayer is that you’ve been both challenged and encouraged as we’ve looked at this spiritual wellness checkup.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spiritual Wellness Part 5 - How Well Do You Love? - Matthew 22:34-40

This is the fifth in a series of posts I’m sharing with you entitled Spiritual Wellness. So far in our spiritual wellness checkup, I’ve challenged you to check your hearing, your reading, your praying and your giving. Today…I’m going to challenge you to check your loving. Jesus said that the greatest of all the commandments was to love God and to love others. The New Testament is full of verses telling us that as Christians, the most important thing for us to do is love.

Remember Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that if he had every gift that God gave but didn’t have love it meant nothing. He finished the love chapter by saying, “And now these three remain: faith, hop and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

So today…to help us answer the question, How Well Do You Love?... We’ll use the same format we’ve used for all the other posts in this series. Let’s look first at the…

DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOVERS

THOSE WHO ARE LOVED FIRST...

In other words, these are people who love only in response to love that is show to them. They will love but others must take the initiative. There are many, many people who base their relationships on this kind of love.

THOSE WHO ARE LOVED IN RETURN...

There are some people who take the initiative…who reach out to show love but will only continue in their love when it is reciprocated. Many people will only show love if it is a two-way street. Listen to what Jesus said about being this type of lover… Luke 6:32, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.”

THOSE WHO LOVE REGARDLESS...

These are people who take initiative to love and persist in love even when it’s not reciprocated. This kind of love is extremely rare but is the kind of love that Jesus demands of His disciples. Scripture commands us to love others unconditionally…even those who are our enemies.

Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love…does not know God, because God is love.”

Jesus, of course, set the perfect example… John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Now that we’ve looked at the DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOVERS, let’s talk about the…

IMPORTANCE OF PROPER LOVING

IT IS THE GREATEST OF COMMANDMENTS...

We saw this in our verses we read from Matthew 22. Jesus Himself said that love was the greatest of all the commandments. Paul and James both wrote about how love fulfills the Law of God.

Romans 13:8, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

Galatians 5:14, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 2:8, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right.”

Listen folks…as a Christian, NOTHING is greater than love when it comes to obeying and serving God.

IT IS THE MARK OF TRUE SPIRITUALITY...

Love is proof that we have passed from death to life. Love is proof that we’ve been born again…proof that we’re really, truly saved. Love is proof that we are His disciples.

1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”

1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We have to understand that NOTHING is greater than love to prove to others that we belong to God.

IT IS THE GLUE FOR ALL RELATIONSHIPS...

All relationships…if they are healthy that is…depend on love. Our friendships, our families, our churches ALL depend on love.

1 Samuel 18:1, “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.”

Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Colossians 3:13-14, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

So we’ve talked about the DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOVERS and the IMPORTANCE OF PROPER LOVING. Let’s finish today by looking at…

STEPS TO BETTER LOVING

FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF GOD...

Scripture says that we are taught by God the Father and God the Son to love each other and that we should follow their example and love others how God loves us.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.”

1 John 4:9-10, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF OTHERS...

Paul…through the leading of the Holy Spirit…gave us one of the greatest chapters in all of the Bible talking about love. 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us the necessity and true meaning of love. It teaches us the permanence and preeminence of love. Let me give you just a few of the phrases from this great chapter…

Verse 2, “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
Verse 4, “Love is patient, love is kind…”
Verse 8, “Love never fails.”
Verse 13, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Folks…I think it’s clear that we can’t deny the importance of love to our spiritual well-being. Love is evidence that we’ve been saved and it’s necessary if we’re going to have spiritual peace and joy. The best way to make sure the love in our lives is true, is to love like Jesus loves. I’ve given you these verses already, but let me leave them with you today…

Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

How well do you love?

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

Spiritual Wellness Part 4 - How Well Do You Give? - 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

This is the forth in a series of posts I’m sharing with you entitled Spiritual Wellness. In our spiritual wellness checkup, I’ve challenged you to check your hearing, your reading and your praying. Today…I’m going to challenge you to check your giving. In our service to the Lord, having the right attitude and the right heart is very important but when it comes to the area of giving, it can’t be stressed enough. As the verse from 2 Corinthians tells us, “God loves a CHEERFUL giver.” Now keep in mind that giving doesn’t just involve your money or tithe…it involves all areas of your life. When we give properly, we give of our tithe…our time…and our talent.

Jesus said this about giving in the Sermon on the Mount… Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

To help answer the question, How Well Do You Give?... I’m going to use the same format I’ve used in the other posts and talk to you first about the…

DIFFERENT TYPES OF GIVERS

THOSE WHO GIVE RARELY...

There are those who refuse to give because they are greedy, covetous and selfish. Now I understand that we can become jaded by the world we live in with everyone wanting something from us but we really hurt ourselves when we refuse to help others when we can. Listen to what Proverbs has to say about this…

Proverbs 14:21, “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.”

Proverbs 19:17, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”

When we are selfish with our resources and time, we not only hurt those we aren’t helping…we hurt ourselves.

THOSE WHO GIVE BEGRUDINGLY...

There are some who only give out of a sense of obligation or duty. There are some who put a $5 bill in the offering plate and squeeze it so hard that Abraham Lincoln thinks the Civil War is starting all over again. Listen folks…we need to keep in mind that we can give everything we have but if it’s given with the wrong heart, motives and attitude…it IS NOT pleasing to God. Giving with a begrudging attitude might benefit the one you’re giving to but it will never benefit you.

THOSE WHO GIVE CHEERFULLY...

The Bible talks a lot about our giving. When we are giving properly we will give freely, joyfully, and sacrificially when it’s needed. We need to follow the example of the Macedonian churches Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians…

2 Corinthians 8:1-5, “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”

Notice Paul said, “They gave themselves FIRST OF ALL to the Lord…” Folks…that’s the key. Proper giving always starts with us FIRST giving ourselves fully and completely to the Lord.

Now that we’ve looked at the DIFFERENT TYPES OF GIVERS, let’s talk about the…

IMPORTANCE OF PROPER GIVING

GOD BLESSES THE CHEERFUL GIVER...

Listen to what the Bible has to say about God’s blessing to us when we give properly.

Acts 20:35, “Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Malachi 3:10…God says, “Test me in this (giving), and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Scripture is clear in teaching that when done properly, giving blesses the person giving more than the person receiving.

GOD PROVIDES FOR THE CHEERFUL GIVER...

Folks…I can guarantee that you will NEVER out give God. This is actually one of the areas where God says, “Go ahead and test me. Just try and see if you can out give me!” I’ve talked with people over the years who tell me they just can’t afford to give or they don’t have the time to give. Listen to me folks…you can’t afford NOT to give. You can’t afford NOT to take the time and give. You will never do on your own what you can do with God on your side. So if you’re one of those who struggles with your giving, let me challenge you to put God to the test. Make a commitment to give properly of your tithe, your time and your talent for the next 2 months. If you don’t see a drastic, positive change in the way God provides and blesses then you can always go back to not giving properly. But I can guarantee once you start giving with the right heart and attitude, you WILL NOT stop.

GOD IS PRAISED BY THE CHEERFUL GIVER...

Did you know giving properly is a form of worshipping God? In fact, our worship isn’t complete without giving. Not only does giving help your worship, proper giving will help others in their worship. Listen to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9…

2 Corinthians 9:12-13, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God…”

So we’ve talked about the DIFFERENT TYPES OF GIVERS and the IMPORTANCE OF PROPER GIVING. Let’s finish today by looking at a couple of…

STEPS TO BETTER GIVING

UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENT WAYS TO GIVE...

Now folks…you’ve heard me say this many times now over the years. Our giving is not limited to our money. We need to learn to become well rounded givers. Now giving financially is extremely important but it’s also extremely important to give of our time and our talents. We need to be good stewards of what God provides to us and we are to use what God gives us…our tithe, our time and our talents…to minister to others. Proper giving in all areas of our lives reflects God’s grace in us.

UNDERSTAND THAT PLANNED GIVING LEADS TO CHEERFUL GIVING...

When we put a plan in place to properly give, we will be less likely to give begrudgingly or out of a sense of duty or necessity. God wants us to give cheerfully not out of fear. If you are giving with an attitude of, “Well I don’t want God mad at me…” you will NEVER know the blessing that comes by giving properly and cheerfully. So learn to plan your financial giving. Pray about what God would have you give and be faithful to it. You can also plan the use of your time and your talents. Schedule and budget the giving of your time and talents. Don’t wait for someone to ask, give of yourself to the Lord freely and cheerfully.

Listen folks…proper giving is an expression of true spirituality and true worship. As we practice giving of our tithe, our time and our talents, we need to be cheerful givers motivated by the grace of God in our lives.

So…how well do you give?

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Spiritual Wellness Part 3 - How Well Do You Pray? - Luke 18:1-8

This is the third in a series of posts I’m sharing with you entitled Spiritual Wellness. So far in our spiritual checkup I’ve challenged you to check your hearing and your reading. In the post today I’m going to challenge you to check your praying.

Here in Luke 18, Jesus told a parable about a persistent widow. The point of the parable was that we should always pray and not lose heart. The concern Jesus had was about really finding faith on the earth when He returns.

Folks listen…our prayer life is an important indicator of our spiritual wellness. The way we pray is an expression of our faith in God. The lack of a consistent prayer life in a Christian reveals that we’ve lost heart in our service to God.

To help answer the question…How Well Do You Pray?…let’s first take a look at the…

DIFFERENT TYPES OF PRAYERS

THOSE WHO NEVER PRAY...

Unfortunately, this doesn’t just include people who aren’t Christians. There are many who claim to be God’s children but NEVER spend any time in prayer. Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

THOSE WHO PRAY SPARINGLY...

One survey showed that only 60% of professing Christians claimed to pray once a day. Now we don’t know what kind of prayer that is and in my experience, that percentage is high. But using that percentage, that means 40% of professing Christians don’t pray on a regular basis. Yet we wonder why we are constantly defeated and have no power in our Christian lives. Listen folks…God isn’t a spare tire only to be called on when we have a blow out in life.

THOSE WHO PRAY SELFISHLY...

Now I’ve talked to you a lot about this type of person. This is the one who uses prayer only to make personal requests. Those who take their wish lists to the Lord like He’s Santa Clause. Paul challenged us in 1 Timothy to pray for others…not just ourselves. We need to grow up and quit being childish Christians who only pray with a gimmie, gimmie, gimme attitude.

THOSE WHO PRAY PROPERLY AND CONSISTENTLY...

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We’ve spent lots of time talking about building a good, consistent prayer life. Praying with the right heart and attitude and not being selfish with our prayers. If you are ever going to be the Christian you should be, it’s going to take proper, consistent prayer.

Now that we’ve looked at the different types of prayers, let’s talk about the…

IMPORTANCE OF PROPER PRAYING

FORGIVENESS OF SIN...

We can find forgiveness of sin through prayer. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I don’t know about you but I NEED His forgiveness and want the assurance of knowing I’ve been forgiven.

PEACE OF MIND...

Did you know that the antidote to anxiety is prayer? Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” If there was ever a time we needed peace of mind it’s in our day. Amen? Folks you CAN have that peace that surpasses all understanding through prayer.

STRENGTH TO LIVE...

Listen folks…this life is hard. Isn’t it? I ask myself all the time how people go through things in life without being able to rely on God. We NEED His strength to make it in this life. We NEED His strength if we are going to accomplish the things He has planned for our lives. The reality is that we CAN be strong, victorious Christians…but not on our own. We have to include Him through prayer. Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE...

God uses His people to accomplish His purposes. How in the world do we expect to know what it is that God wants us to do and where He wants us to server if we never talk to Him? I want my life to be useful to Him…don’t you? In order for that to happen we’re going to have to be people of prayer.

BOLDNESS TO SPEAK...

Paul knew that prayer was the key to sharing Christ with others. Listen to what he said in Ephesians 6, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Don't we want and need boldness when we talk to others about Christ? Absolutely! Folks…winning people to Jesus ALWAYS starts with prayer.

WISDOM TO GUIDE...

I’m sure all of us know this but wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom is the ability to use the knowledge we have. Did you know that we have the promise of wisdom through prayer? James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” We all need godly wisdom to live and make the right decisions in this life.

So we’ve looked at the Different Types of Prayers and the Importance of Proper Praying, now let me share with you some…

STEPS TO BETTER PRAYING

PRAY SYSTEMATICALLY...

Just like our Bible reading, if we are going to have good prayer lives we need to pray systematically. Do you want to have a good, consistent prayer life? You have to make prayer an important part of your day. Develop the good habit of prayer by setting a specific time and place. Isn’t that what Daniel did? Daniel 6:10, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

PRAY SPONTANEOUSLY...

Prayers should not and really cannot be limited to only set times. Sometimes things happen and we need to pray right then and there. That’s what Paul meant when he told us to pray without ceasing. To always have the right relationship with God so we can pray whenever we need to.

PRAY SPECIFICALLY...

At times we are all guilty of praying in generalities. Listen folks…there is nothing wrong with being specific with God in your prayers. God is our Heavenly Father and we need to ask Him for exactly what we need.

Folks listen…prayer is a wonderful privilege. Any time we want we can talk to our Heavenly Father and He is always there for us. Prayer is also a powerful privilege. I read a phrase that sums this up really well. No prayer, no power. Little prayer, little power. Much prayer, much power! Unfortunately for most, prayer is a neglected privilege.

Hopefully that doesn’t describe you today. But the good news is this… If that does describe you, you can…with His help…change that today.

How well do you pray?

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