Sunday, October 30, 2016

Does God see your faith by how you live?

Five military recruiters came to a high school to make a presentation to the senior class. Each recruiter represented a different branch of the service. Each was given 15 minutes to make their pitch. The Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force recruiters each got up and did a nice job but they ran over on their time. When the Marine recruiter got up to speak, he only had two minutes left before the kids would be dismissed. He walked up and stood completely silent for the first minute and just stared at the students. When he finally spoke, he said, “I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this room who could even cut it in the Marine Corps. But I want to see those two or three in the dining hall as soon as we are dismissed.” When he arrived in the dining hall, he was mobbed with requests for applications. The motto for the Marines is “We’re looking for a few good men.”
If you look in the Bible, you can find several “good men” - Moses, Job, Joshua, the Apostle Paul, John the Baptist, Peter, and many others. They were not perfect but set a beautiful example we would do well to follow. The Scripture also gives us many examples of “good women” – Esther, Mary the mother of Jesus, Lydia, Mary the sister of Lazarus, etc.
The one that the Bible holds out as one of the best is Abraham. He is called the ‘father of believers.’ That’s because he had such a strong faith. One example of his faith was when the Lord asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Don’t forget, Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. He was the son to whom the promises were attached – that Abraham’s seed would be as countless as the stars, he would be the father of a great nation, and most importantly, the line from whom the Savior, Jesus, would come.
One day (cf Genesis 22), God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. As difficult as this request must have been for Abraham, he shows us that he was willing to carry it out. Right before he is about to slay his son, the Lord intervenes. He told Abraham that he now knew that Abraham loved the Lord more than his son.
While I can’t imagine ever being faced with such a request, I know the Lord asks me to demonstrate my love for him all the time. Abraham’s faith was evident from his love for God, his obedience to his command, and his trust in God’s promises. Our faith is made clear in the same ways.
When we make it clear by our choices and our priorities that we love the Lord and his Word more than anything else, we demonstrate our faith. Will you go to church on Sunday morning or stay in bed? Will you read Scripture or simply watch TV?
When you are tempted to lie to your boss, have an affair with someone at work, cheat on your taxes, etc. you let the Lord know what you think of him. Abraham showed his faith by his readiness to do what God asked.
When you do not worry about the future, face trials and troubles in life knowing the Lord is watching over you as he has promised; when you know that death is no longer your enemy but your friends; that your sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ because God says so; you are living by faith.

We can never be as “good” as God wants us to be. Our faith is often weak and imperfect. Thank God we have a Savior who wasn’t. Through his perfect life and innocent death, he gained forgiveness, life and salvation for us. That’s why we rejoice and look forward to celebrating his birth and his return to take us to glory on Judgment Day. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What does God need to do to get your attention?

What does God need to do to get your attention?

When my alarm clock goes off early in the morning in certainly gets my attention, as well as that of my wife. Referees get the attention of basketball players with a whistle. Babies get the attention of their parents with the piercing screams. Parents get the attention of their teenagers by threatening to take away their phone.
You can't believe how much money is spent today getting peoples' attention. What young person wouldn't want to buy the latest video game or smart phone after seeing it advertised for four months on TV? How can you resist buying a lottery ticket with all the advertising done which moves you to dream about what it would be like to be a millionaire?
Getting peoples' attention is not something new. God's done it many times. I'm sure the dark clouds, thunder and lightning that surrounded Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Ten Commandments got the attention of the Israelites. Don't you think that he got people's attention with the flood, the fall of Jericho, and with the mighty feats of Sampson? One might wonder how God gets our attention today. Since he doesn't openly reveal himself in the same way he did with the nation of Israel, what does he do?
I can't help but think that God has caught the attention of many a new parent as they witnessed the miracle of birth and the precious gift of a child. Doesn't God get our attention when we look up into the heavens and see the marvels of the world which he made? How can we look at a rainbow and not recall that God placed it in the sky to remind us of his promise not to again destroy the world until judgment day arrives.
Doesn't God also get our attention when we find ourselves flat on our back in the hospital awaiting surgery or as we await the results of lab test? What about when we lose our job? When a loved one dies? When tragedy strikes? God can use all these things too to get our attention. When these things take place, what do we do? We turn to God. We look to God for help, for strength and for answers. Where else can we turn? Who else can help us?

What God has done to capture more attention than anything else was the gift of his own Son, Jesus Christ. Look at how much fuss goes on at Christmas time. The resurrection of Christ has done the same thing. It was God’s proclamation to the world that the victory over sin, death and the grave was won for us by Christ. Has he gotten your attention? I pray he has!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Every day is a great day for a child of God!

Two boys who went to the dentist to have a tooth pulled. They walked into the office and one of them bravely said, “I want you to take out a tooth but I don’t want you to use any anesthetic because we’re in a hurry.” “You sure are brave,” the dentist said. “Which tooth is it?” The boy then turned to his friend and said, “Show him your tooth, Tommy.”
It’s easy to be brave when it’s someone else who has the problem. We often tell someone who is faced with a difficult situation to “hang in there.” “Things will get better in time,” we say confidently. We give encouragement to those who have lost their job or are struggling financially. “It will all work out in the end,” we quip, “It always does.” It is easy to keep a stiff upper lip when it is someone else who faced with the difficult situation.
It is another story when these problems hit close to home. When it is our phone or power that is going to be shut off because we can’t afford to pay the bill, when we are overdrawn at the bank, when we are waiting for the lab tests to come back, when it is our spouse who has had an affair, it’s not so easy to take things in stride. When it is our child that is sick and in the hospital, when we find out that we have cancer, when we receive word that our loved one has died, we worry and grieve. We wonder what we are going to do. “How will we get through it,” we ask?
It is easy to say that we trust God when everything is going well. When we are healthy and strong, when we have a good job and a happy marriage, when our children do well in school and stay out of trouble, we put our faith in God and trust him to take care of things.  But, when something goes wrong, are we still ready to make this confession? Are we not often quick to show doubts and fears about God’s providence and wisdom? “Why has God let this happen to me?” “What good can come from the loss of my job?” It doesn’t take much for us to lose sight of the promises of God, to forget all that he has promised.

What has he promised? - to be with us always, to help us in time of trouble, to use his angels to watch over us, to turn every tragedy into a blessing, to provide for our needs every day. Need I go on? God’s gracious promises mean that we have nothing to fear or worry about. Even our sins, as terrible as they might be, have been forgiven. We have been washed clean by the blood of the Savior. As a child of God, everyday is a good day, no a GREAT DAY! Every day we can look forward to another day of God’s blessings. Your day may not be easy but with God watching over you, you need not despair. Just put your trust in the Lord and remember his promises.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Don’t underestimate the power of the gospel.

Romans 1: 16.  "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation for everyone who believes."
A pastor of a fashionable congregation was in the midst of a rather lengthy sermon. Suddenly, he was horrified to see a small boy throwing spitballs at certain people in the congregation. The pastor stopped his preaching and glared at the boy. The boy looked up at the preacher and said, "You go ahead with your preaching, pastor, and I'll keep them awake!" 
There are some Sundays when I could use a boy like that for I know that my sermon just didn’t cut it. I know from my own experience in the pew that it's not always easy to stay awake or to keep your thoughts from straying. I've been there.
On the other hand, we ought not use the preacher as an excuse to not listen or worse yet, not to go to church. If we do, we are cutting ourselves off from the power of God. The power is not in the pastor's words but in God's Word that he preaches. Paul says in Romans that the "gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone that believes." What an amazing truth that is! That "good news" is God's message of salvation, the good news that Jesus has suffered and died to take away your sins. It is the good news that through faith in Christ we have eternal life and that we will spend it with God. No other message, promise, or story can do what the gospel can do.
The simple message that "Jesus loves me" or "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life" has the power to save us from the eternal fires and punishment of hell. The gospel or good news has the power of the Holy Spirit behind it. It has the power to turn our hearts from unbelief to faith, and to strengthen hearts that are already his.

The next time you are tempted to skip church, to stay home and listen to the news or watch TV instead of a sermon, remember Romans 1:16. That message, which the preacher brings, a message centered on Jesus Christ our Savior from sin, has the power to do things nothing else can do. While the preacher may not always bring it across as well as we might, the power to do the job is still there. For it is the "power of God" for salvation not the power of man.
Written by Pastor Stuppy