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LaGrange First Missionary Baptist Church

Your Treasure

Last week, we began a series based on the study Radical.  We looked at what it meant to come to Jesus on His terms rather than ours.  Have we tried to make Jesus more like us and our society OR are we willing to follow the Jesus of the Bible.  Remember that we looked at what He requires in following:  Superior Love and Exclusive Loyalty.

Today, I want to continue to look at this and what that might mean for us as Christians today.  Let’s begin by looking at what happened when Jesus called the disciples.  Matthew 4:18-22.

Notice what Jesus didn’t say to them…He didn’t tell them to believe in Him.  He asked them to follow Him.  In order to follow, you must believe.  Otherwise, the following will be a short lived whim that is not a lifelong change.  They followed.  What did they give up to follow?

They gave up their nets…their career and source of food.  They gave up their boat…their possessions.  They left behind their father…their family.  They gave up everything in order to be a disciple of Jesus…Superior Love and Exclusive Loyalty.

What about me and you?  What did we have to give up or sacrifice in order to follow Jesus?  My fear is that we are still clinging to everything this world has to offer and we still haven’t completely agreed to follow Him.  We want to follow…but we are holding to tightly to the things of this world.

If you will remember last week, we looked at Luke 14:25-35.  In that scripture, verse 28 talks about counting the cost.  If Jesus really requires absolute obedience and commitment, then this isn’t something we do half-heartedly or with waivered commitment.  This is something that we do with our whole heart.

Was Jesus really serious about what He is asking us to do?  Or have we just given a ton of excuses why He didn’t really mean what He said?  Are we following out of convenience?  Or are we following out of wholehearted devotion?

As we think about that, let’s look at Matthew 13:44.  The man in this parable had found something really really important to him.  He had found something that was more valuable than anything else.  He had found something that was worth selling everything else he had in order to have this one thing.  He wasn’t forced to sell all he had for this one treasure.  He found something worth losing everything else in order to obtain this.

Is Jesus your treasure?  Is He worth selling all you have in order to follow?  Is He worth all of your love and devotion?  Is He worth exclusive loyalty and superior love?  We are told that where our treasure is, our heart will be also.  Something to think about for sure!

Matthew 16:24-27 – In this scripture, we are reminded that we have to be willing to give it all up…because ultimately what matters is Him.  We have to be willing to evaluate all we have and give it all to Him.  We have to be willing to look at our time, our talents, our gifts, our service…our everything and see if we are clinging to something that is keeping us from following.  Are we holding on to something that is good…but is keeping us from being exclusively loyal to Him?

I want to wrap this up with a final thought.  We are Christians in a time of war.  We are in a battle.  We have a job to do.  We are called for exclusive loyalty…commitment…all in to follow Him.  If we are all in, we are called to put on the whole armor (Ephesians) and prepare for the battle.  There are people who have not heard.  There are people who do not know.  This world is looking to take our devotion away from Him.  The enemy will try to steer us in the wrong direction.  We are in a time of war…not a time to sit around and admire what we have.  Let’s count the cost…take up our cross…and follow Jesus.  Are you in?

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Are you really a follower?

Today’s message is based on the study, Radical by David Platt.

What does it mean to REALLY follow Jesus?  I have felt that we might be missing something as a church and as His followers.  There seems to be something missing as we casually follow Him.  What would it mean to have our lives so given over to Jesus that we give Him control over everything?  What does it look like to be that kind of follower?  Do you really want to go there?

We should start with what Jesus told those who wanted to follow Him.  Be prepared because Jesus didn’t have the same terms of becoming a disciple that we do.  We often want to do things our way…we just want Jesus involved in what we are doing.  Let’s look at what it means to follow Jesus on His terms.

Luke 14:26-35

This is one of those parts of scripture that we look at…we think about…and we move on.  We don’t really look at what it means to follow Jesus like this.  This kind of following is serious.  This kind of following requires more devotion than we normally want to give.  This kind of discipleship isn’t comfortable to discuss…so we move on to something much easier…something that fits us better.

Today, we are going to look at what it means to follow Jesus on His terms.  What did He ask of those who wanted to follow Him and what does He ask of us?

First, Jesus requires superior love.

What does that mean?  We get a glimpse of superior love here…except we can get confused.  How is it that we can love our brothers and sisters…we can respect our parents…love our children more than words can express…and yet hate them at the same time?

In order to begin to look at what this means, let’s look at a couple of other scriptures along these same lines.  Matthew 22:36-40

This is a verse that we talk about often.  We memorize this verse.  We love the idea of the verse…but rarely do we put this into practice.  Rarely do we find someone who is so in love with God that they love Him with all that they are.  But, Jesus is telling us that this is what is means to follow.

What does a life like that God is your all in all?  What does a life look like where we are completely and totally given over to God?  What does it look like to love God so much that our decisions and our very steps are led by God?

If we can get a glimpse of that kind of love…a love where God is everything…a love where God isn’t first – He is all there is.  If we can begin to open our eyes to the kind of love that He is calling us to…this superior love, then the verses in Matthew begin to make more sense.

Loving God should be your everything.  If we love God with our everything, then the love for the things of this world looks like hate in comparison.  If our love for God is supreme…it drives our lives…it leads and guides who we are.  If our love for God is supreme, it determines what we do every day.

Many of us aren’t willing to love God that much.  We are willing to give Him a little time on Sunday maybe…we are willing to call on Him when we need Him…we might even read the Bible if we have a few extra minutes.  But, following like that isn’t following the way that Jesus has called us to follow.

Jesus doesn’t call us into a casual relationship with Him.  He is asking us to have a superior love for Him.  He is asking us to love Him with all that we are.  We can’t give Him our leftovers.  We must give Him our everything.  Do you want to follow Jesus?

Second, Jesus requires exclusive loyalty.

If we really want to follow Jesus, we will give Him our entire lives.  Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow Him.  What did it mean to take up a cross in Jesus time?

Think about it.  When did Jesus carry a cross?  He carried a cross when He was going through town on His way to be crucified.  People didn’t carry around their crosses casually.  They didn’t carry them around as an accessory.  It wasn’t something pretty that they would do just so people could identify them.  The cross was a way of execution.  It was carried when you were on your way to be killed.

Why would Jesus ask us to take up our cross and follow Him?  In order to follow Jesus, we have to be willing to give up our entire lives…everything…and follow Him.  Let Him be in charge of our lives…our families…our actions…our thoughts…let Him be in control.  That kind of authority we don’t give easily.

The only way we do that is to die to self and alive to Christ.  That isn’t the kind of following that we are accustomed to.  We don’t often think about what it means to follow Christ with everything.  We talk about it…but we don’t often do it.

This isn’t your casual following.  Being a disciple…a follower isn’t something you take lightly.  This isn’t something that Jesus said you just do.

If you look at scripture, you will see that people weren’t flocking to be His followers.  You will see where people started following and then walked away.  If it was easy and fun and a walk in the park, everyone would have followed.  But, it was difficult and dangerous and a big decision.

What kind of follower am I?  Am I ready to give Him superior love and exclusive loyalty?

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Body of Christ

We are the body of Christ… As the body of Christ, we have some important questions to answer:  What are we doing?  Where are we heading? How do we get to where we are led?

God has given us all the direction that we need…we have His Word and the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us on the journey.

We are disciples and we are told what to do as His followers…together as the body of Christ.  We are told to make disciples, to feed, to shelter, to care for, to visit…all for the glory of God.

If that is the direction for the body of Christ…if God’s Word is really that clear that as disciples and followers, that is what we are suppose to do…then why aren’t we doing it?  What is missing?  How does it get fixed?

Prayer is the first place that we begin.  If we are continually seeking His face, listening for His direction, humbly coming before the Lord, then we will know what to do next.  And it should be no surprise when He directs because He has given us direction in His Word.

I think we step out on faith next…Not held back by our own humanity…scared of what is ahead…fearful of what the implications are…but boldly stepping forward in faith knowing that this is God’s fight and we are His soldiers.

Third, we are called to do this together…if we are really the body of Christ.  Paul gave us the well known analogy of how we are to come together to work together for His good.

1 Corinthians 12:1-26

In reading this scripture, here are a few things to note:

A – We are serving ONE LORD – One God, One Spirit, One Lord.  It is all about Him, for Him, and we are working through His power, His strength, and His guidance.

B – We are given gifts to be used for His glory.  When we are not using the gifts we have been given for Him, we are withholding what we are called to do from the body of Christ.  When we wait for someone else to do what we are called to do, then we are not being obedient and thus, harming the overall body from going in the right direction for the Lord

C – Your gift is not any more important or any less important than anyone else’s.  That is YOUR GIFT to be used for HIS GLORY.  It is important because it is what He has placed inside your heart and within you to complete.  If you have the gift of encouragement…then encourage.  If you have the gift of organization, then organize.

D – Different gifts = Different people.  We are not all going to be the same or think the same or do things the same way.  If we do, we have a bunch of arms that go NOWHERE.  That isn’t how we are designed.  We have one Lord and one Spirit and one goal/focus…but we all have different things we do to help that get accomplished.  That means that we will work with people who don’t do things like we would want…but they bring a gift that we don’t have.  Look for the gift in others.

E – Find YOUR passion.  God has laid something special in your heart that drives you to serve Him with all you are.  Find it…it may be oversees missions…it may be children…it may be teaching…it may be serving through encouragement…it may be music…but FIND it because God is ready to USE it!

We are the body of Christ…many members…One Lord…where are we going?  How do we get there?

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

About me?

Day to day, we go through life…influenced by the world around us…sometimes blindly.  We can get so caught up in daily life and especially a material life that we fail to take a step back and reflect on where we are and what we are doing.  I would say that many of us don’t stop and make sure that our speech and actions reflect following God and following His Word.  We could become content with our lives and if we did take the time to reflect, we might find that there are some things need serious prayer and change.

Today, I want to look at what happened to a couple who let power, greed, and envy get in the way of their lives.  1 Kings 21:1-14.

Naboth has a vineyard…a parcel of land which he inherited…priceless to him

Ahab is a king…living next door…wants the vineyard for a vegetable garden…names a price for the land of Naboth…he really wants the vineyard…it works well for him

Naboth isn’t willing to compromise…sell…or trade…Ahab pouts because he can’t have what he wants

Jezebel (his wife) doesn’t see this as a problem since he is the king…so she takes care of it…she makes it happen…at Naboth’s expense.

Tough story for us to read…we quickly judge Ahab and Jezebel and think how horrible they are…we can really spend a lot of time picking them apart because they definitely had some issues.  But, this message from the scriptures is important and I want to share with you what I see going on here that can help us…

They have the ME syndrome

The me syndrome is where everything starts, lives and ends with me…my wants, my needs, my desires, my passions, me…me…me… What I do, I do for me…I work for me…I live for me

The ME syndrome is easy to get…it is how our world works…it is what we are often taught in advertising and shows and in those we watch…

With the ME syndrome comes problems…and these problems often begin very subtly…without notice…we don’t even see them coming…and no one may not even tell us about it because they have the same thing…

Problem 1: Envy

When we have the ME syndrome, we see what others have and we want it.  We see beautiful things all around us and we want them.  All of a sudden, the things that we have aren’t good enough.  The things that have been working just fine aren’t sufficient.  We begin to notice what is around us and feel like we deserve those things as well.  Why not?  Does it matter if we have to cut what we give God to get it?  Does it matter if we have to work a few more hours and cut our family time?  Does it really matter that we will go in debt beyond our means?

We either begin to have a distaste for those around us who have better things or we work ourselves to death to get them…no matter the sacrifice.  Envy is really easy given all of the messages we receive.  We must guard against envy and wanting what others have…

Problem #2: Pride

When we have the ME syndrome, we begin to think a lot of ourselves.  We begin to think more of ourselves that we should.  We begin to realize that we do have power to make this happen…we can influence others…we are somebody.  There is a healthy sense of self…and then there is pride that causes you to think about being self made…when in reality you are God made.  We forget the Creator.  We forget others.  It is all about us and what we can do and accomplish.

Problem #3: Selfish

With the ME syndrome, we become selfish.  We think of self first.  We put self first.  We will help our neighbors if it doesn’t interfere with self.  We are willing to give as long as we take care of self.  We are truly out for self and if there is time and resources left, we will give to others.

The reason all of these are problems is because God’s Word tells us to guard against all of these.  We are constantly taught in the Word to put God first, then others.  We are reminded that what we have all belongs to Him and we are just stewards of what He has given us.  What are you choosing?  Maybe we should take a step back today and make sure we are choosing the direction of the Lord rather than direction of self…do you have the ME syndrome?

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Are you faithful?

Being faithful to God can be difficult.  Often God doesn’t ask us to give Him what we have an abundance of.  It doesn’t take much faith to do that.  In order to be faithful, He may ask us to give Him all we have…or a good portion of what we have…or give more than we are willing at the time.  He may ask us to do that in places where we think that just isn’t possible.  We don’t see that this can be good…we aren’t sure it will all work out.  We get nervous.

God calls us to be obedient with what He has given us.  That means that we realize that full ownership of all we have belongs to Him and so we have to be willing in a moment’s notice to give all He asks back to Him…trusting that He will take care of us when we are faithful.

That is what is going on with a widow in the message today.  Let’s look at just a portion of the journey for Elijah and how this widow is asked to give of her all.  1 Kings 17.

This is a powerful reminder of who God is.  The God that we serve is not powerless or at our beckon call to have something happen.  God is in control and has plans for us if we are faithful to Him.

Let’s notice just a little of what is going on in today’s scripture:

1 – Elijah is depending on God daily for his provisions.  That couldn’t have been easy.  What could he have been thinking as the water was drying up in the brook…as he watched that happen daily?  What had to be on his mind as God instructed him to go to a widow for his next set of provisions?  God feeling the Israelite children wondering in the wilderness comes to mind for me…daily provisions by trusting.

2 – The widow is hopeless but willing.

The widow that he is going to see…she has given up hope.  Her bin is practically empty.  She doesn’t have anyone to lean on.  She doesn’t have anywhere else to go.  She is looking at the end.  And Elijah shows up requesting what little she has.

She could have refused knowing that what little was in her bin was for her and her son.  That could have been the end for her.  But, because she was willing to be obedient and faithful to what God has asked her to do, her needs were met as well.

When she gave of what she had, God met her needs.  The bin of flour was not used up.  Every day, there was more flour.  There was more oil in the jar.  Every single day, she could look and see how God was faithful because she was willing.  Reminds me of Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

This widow reminds me of the widow Jesus spoke about In Mark 12:41-44 that gave all that she had…not out of the abundance that the wealthy had.

3 – God continued to meet their needs.

Not only did God feel Elijah and the widow and her son, He also provided for the healing of her son…who had died.  God saw her need and heard Elijah’s prayer.  God did not leave her but took care of her and Elijah.

Over and over in scripture we see that God takes care of those who are faithful.  Notice that taking care of them doesn’t equate to the things we think of today.  It didn’t mean that He provided her with a new house or brand new livestock.  He didn’t make her the land owner of many acres.  What He did do was take care of her needs.

We can see the faithfulness of these people.  We can read about the faithfulness of so many in scripture.  But, what happens when God calls us to be faithful?  Do we back up and declare that we aren’t like them?  Do we remind God of what we need our provisions for?  Do we show God our bills and explain why we can’t do what He is asking?  OR, are we faithful and obedient and willing to do what He asks right away…without hesitation…knowing that He will provide when we are faithful?  What about you?

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Challenge Continues…

Well, the challenge has been set.  Are you “Sticking To It”?  Last Sunday, I challenged the congregation to take the challenge of reading the Bible every day from Memorial Day to Independence Day.  While it might seem this is not so much of a challenge…when you consider that life so easily gets in the way…it is a great way to motivate us all to continue to be in God’s Word.  I am personally enjoying the challenge already.  I have heard from people who are excited about reading God’s Word.  I am excited to hear what God has to say through His Word to His people.  My prayer is that this challenge would open our hearts and minds to what God has to say to us.  I pray He uses this time to speak loudly…I need to hear from Him.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Building Blocks

Hope Is Here!  We can rejoice because we have hope.  You may be wondering why this really is so exciting.  As I think about all of the events that are going on constantly in our world, it is often difficult to see the hand of God.  It is sometimes tough to see the love of God.  It can certainly be beyond challenging to have hope.  When your faith is tested beyond what you could imagine, all your earthly possessions could vanish in a moment, and those that we depend so heavily on are gone, where do you go?  What do you do? Where is your hope?  When everything is on the line…where is your foundation?

Romans 5:1-5

You may remember as a kid using building blocks.  They come in different shapes and sizes.  It was important to choose the right building blocks in order to provide a steady masterpiece.  You wanted the most solid and sturdy at the bottom as your foundation because it had to be able to hold all the rest of the blocks as you built.  You didn’t want to build real high and then realize that you had big pieces left and to put them on would destroy the whole thing.  As I was studying this scripture, I thought about each of the things we will look at today as building blocks to you and me as followers of Jesus Christ.

As we look at this, Paul is wrapping up where he has been arguing for being justified by faith.  This is a transition point where we take into consideration that since we have been justified by faith…then we have peace with God…

Building Block 1: Peace with God…

Paul is showing us that if we have been justified by faith, then we have peace with God.  In order to even begin to grasp this, we have to understand that we are sinners…and God doesn’t look upon sin…and sin provides a ‘gap’ between us and God…one that we can’t break because we are sinners.  That puts us in a situation we can’t do anything about.  The Bible reminds us that there is no one righteous…no not one…

Except that we keep reading.  It says that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…wonder how that works?  As we continue to read, we see that it is grace that enables us to stand before a Holy God.  Grace…that free, undeserved, unearned gift that God gives through Jesus Christ.  So the key to the gap is that Jesus Christ gave up His life for you and me so that we could be cleansed…and come before God…and rejoice…and have hope…and have peace with God.

That is a HUGE, super important building block…and if we are without it…we will surely fall… And then Paul continues…

Building Block 2:  Tribulations/Suffering

We really have one of two ways to approach this building block.  Suffering/trials/tribulations can either tear us down, steal our joy, rip us apart OR they can produce something good.  We are going to undergo suffering…no doubt.  We are going to come up against things in this world.  We are going to struggle.  We are going to be beat down sometimes.  We live in this world and we are going to have troubles…Jesus told us that.  We don’t even have to know why we suffer…we just know that we do.  And, we can go around feeling sorry for ourselves for our suffering OR we can glory in that suffering and allow it to do a work in us.  In order to understand that, we need to look at what it does…

Building Block 3:  Perseverance

You can glory in tribulations/suffering because suffering helps you develop perseverance.  I like to think of perseverance as “Stick to it-ness”  That thing that people have that gives them the ability to just keep on keeping on even in the face of adversity.  That “never give up” attitude.  That part of us that will not allow this world to get us down because we are serving the Lord.  We get that perseverance by suffering.  We don’t learn to stick to it until we have things that come against us that try to get us to quit and give up.  And when we develop this ‘stick-to-it-ness’, we find that something else happens…

Building Block 4:  Character

When we have been through trials and suffering…and we have learned to keep on keeping on…our character is developed.  We learn that when God is all we have…God is really all we need.  We learn that this world and its goods are fleeting.  We learn that the things we hold so tightly here can be taken from us.  Through these lessons…when we persevere through it all…we are building character.  Character is one of those things that people don’t give to you.  Character is developed.  Character is developed through tough times and through suffering.  Character is who you are even when no one is looking.  When we suffer and learn to persevere…knowing that God is with us through it all…we gain a new perspective on what is important.  We develop who we are in Christ.  We develop character and that is something that we earn – yet people see in us.

Building Block 5:  Hope

Through all of this, we gain hope.  We being to lose our earthly perspective…we learn to stick to it through it all because of this amazing peace with God…we develop a character that can’t be bought…and we live in an amazing hope because no matter what – God is there.

To pull all of this together…Paul writes in verse 5…”Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us”.  WOW!  Hope doesn’t disappoint because God has poured out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  That is amazing!  I can just imagine God pouring out His love on His people who have suffered…and stuck to it…and have built character…and have hope…ALL BECAUSE OF JESUS!  Now that is something to rejoice about!

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Uncategorized