What Happens When YOU Go to Church?

“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others…” (Luke 18:9)

I encourage you to get your Bible and read the whole parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14).

“I already know that story Pastor. I don’t need to read it.”

I’m sure you are familiar with this parable, but I would suggest that we are actually TOO FAMILIAR with it. We read this parable and we disassociate ourselves from either the Pharisee or the publican. In other words — I’m afraid we miss the point of this parable because we think we already KNOW the story.

For example…

Have you stopped to think about the parallels in this parable?

Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector wanted to stand before God.

Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector went to church (the temple).

Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector approached God through prayer.

Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector believed they were examining their hearts seriously.

Let me explain this a bit. And pay careful attention. Both these men attended church with you yesterday (and every Sunday). In fact, YOU are one of these men!

It appears that both these men had some kind of knowledge of themselves. They both used a system to measure themselves in order to determine their relationship to God.

The Pharisee measured himself by looking at others. Instead of looking to God — he looked at himself on a horizontal level and measured himself by comparing himself to everybody else. He looked DOWN at the Tax Collector and therefore allowed the Tax Collector to become the standard for his measurement.

The result? PRIDE — COMPLACENCY — and SPIRITUAL STAGNATION.

On the other hand, the Tax Collector didn’t compare himself to everybody else. He looked up to God as the divine standard. When he compared himself to THAT standard, he had a completely different experience.

The result? He was AWARE of his sin. He CONFESSED his guilt. He made a PLEA for mercy.

The Pharisee went away from church that day UNCHANGED. He made no decisions that brought him any closer to the Lord. He had no excitement for reaching people. He was simply more detached and isolated in his complacency. As a matter of fact — going to church for this guy was a total waste of time. His experience was all about ME, ME, ME.

“I’m better than everybody here. I don’t even know why I bothered to come. They aren’t excited to see me. They didn’t sing songs I like. They didn’t recognize me for all the wonderful things I do and have done for this church. I may as well have stayed home if they aren’t going to pay any more attention than that to me!”

The Tax Collector had an entirely different experience. Jesus said in verse 14 that the Tax Collector “went down to his house justified rather than the other.” That is a legal term that declares that his prayer was hard and that his plea was granted. His sin was forgiven. He was accepted by God. He entered into a relationship with God in which he would be treated as if he had never sinned.

“Going to church was such a wonderful experience for me today. We sang some new song about the love and mercy of God. The Holy Spirit spoke to me through that message and I saw my need to confess a sin I had harbored for far too long. Immediately, I knew God had forgiven me through His Son Jesus Christ. What a marvelous day! I LOVE going to worship at church. GOD IS GOOD.”

Here’s my question for YOU. What happens when YOU go to church? Do you look around and congratulate yourself because you are so much better than everybody sitting around you? Do you sit in your pew or chair all swelled up with pride because you are outwardly perfect? If so — you are wasting your time. You are looking in the wrong direction.

When I go to church, I thank God that I am able to bow my head and my heart, confess my sin and have the complete assurance that the God of mercy and grace hears me and forgives me. I am then able to be an encouragement to others and I go home singing and shouting because I belong to God!

How was YOUR church experience yesterday?

Have a great day.

Simply Sowing the Seed

“Behold, there went out a sower to sow…” (Mark 4:3)

Jesus made use of parables to get across some of His greatest and most important lessons. I’ve been reading the Parable of the Sower this week and God has spoken to my heart through this passage in a very convicting way. Let me share some of my observations with you. I pray you will be convicted and encouraged as I continue to be.

I grew up in rural northeastern North Carolina. While I was not engaged in farming as a vocation — I was around it enough to know certain things about being a successful farmer. My daddy had a big garden every year, many of my neighbors were farmers and I remember that when it came time to plant (sow) seed — the ground was prepared to receive the seed. It was a beautiful thing — long straight rows, carefully prepared to receive the corn or beans or whatever we were planting.

Do you notice that in this parable, it says NOTHING about the preparation of the soil? It just says, “Behold, there went out a sower to sow…” I”ll come back to this — but hang on — this is more important than I even realized.

Next, I noticed that in this parable Jesus gave four possible outcomes regarding this sown seed. And when you look at the possible outcomes — three of them are BAD! Look at what Matthew 13 says about the soil…

“Some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:4-8)

Notice the seed fell “by the wayside” (BAD), “on stony places” (BAD), and “among thorns” (BAD). 

“Well, Pastor — I KNOW why that happened. If the sower had just taken the time to minimize his risks and he had prepared the soil, he wouldn’t have had such limited success. Any good farmer knows that.”

You know — that’s what I thought too. I was more interested in the results and the methods than I should have been. I thought if this sower had simply made straight rows and cleaned out the weeds and put up a scarecrow — he would have received a much better result. But what I have learned is this — I MISSED THE POINT!

Here’s what I know about this story — the SEED that is sown is the Word of God — see Matthew 13:19. And the sower was apparently given just one job — SOW THE SEED. Scatter that seed EVERYWHERE. The fact that some of the seed falls in places where it produced no fruit does not diminish the power of the seed. There were certain things the sower just didn’t know and couldn’t know. But again — his job was simply SOW THE SEED.

The same is true for me and you as Christians. I don’t know and often CAN’T know the condition of people’s hearts. But that’s ok — my job is simply to SOW THE SEED. Some will fall in places where it produces no visible, tangible and lasting results — BUT some WILL fall on ground prepared NOT BY ME — but by the HOLY SPIRIT of God. The seed that I sow that falls on prepared soil WILL germinate and it WILL grow and it WILL produce MUCH FRUIT.

So, stop trying to develop BETTER SEED — we don’t need it.

Stop trying to PREPARE BETTER SOIL — it’s not your job.

You are just a SOWER and you have ONE JOB — SOW THE SEED! Let’s get busy. Scatter that seed EVERYWHERE. Pray for the Holy Spirit to do HIS JOB and give God the glory for whatever harvest HE PROVIDES.

Have a great day.

What Is God Like?

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

According to the Bible — only a FOOL would say, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). 

When David looked around and saw all the glories and beauties of the universe, he said that God’s glory is declared in all that has been created. Psalm 19 tells us that God has revealed Himself both in the WORLD and in the WORD. He is the God of creation and He is the God of revelation.

Dr. John Phillips, writing about Psalm 19 said, “David wrote this psalm. But when? Did he write it as a shepherd boy on the Judean hills, lying on his back on a dark night and staring up into the star-spangled splendor of the sky? Or did he write it as a fugitive with Saul’s bloodhounds baying on the distant hills? Or was it when he fled from Absalom to seek refuge in the wile wastes of the mountains? Or was it at some quieter moment when, pacing the roof of his palace, he once again lifted his eyes from the darkened streets of the slumbering city to the blazing pinpoints of light that studded the black velvet sky?”

I love to hear what children think of God. Often they will reveal more about His character in their simple explanations than any theologian can describe in many books. Here are some of my favorites…

“God has big hands because the song say, ‘He’s got the whole world in His hands.” (Kalen, age 9)

“God is very loving. I imagine he is very tall. I love Him.” (Lauren, age 9)

God is like a never-ending story that you want to read again and again. When I hear about Him, I want to know more. Although I can’t see Him, I feel Him. He is perfect and pure. I know He has felt pain and suffered greatly to take away my sins.” (Ashley, age 10)

I grew up in a time when preachers preached on the assumption that the majority of people actually believed there was a God who has existed from timeless past and will continue to exist through all eternity. Those preachers had not been tainted by liberal theology that taught us to question the very existence of God. Those old preachers believed the Bible and they believed it when it said, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). 

They made no attempt to PROVE God’s existence — they accepted it because of all they saw and experienced. They, like David understood that “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

In today’s world, people want to require God to PROVE His existence. The element of faith has been greatly diminished. And yet, people operate ON FAITH every day — all day long. When you got up this morning — you put toothpaste on your toothbrush and brushed your teeth. At any time during that process, did you stop and wonder if someone at CREST poisoned the toothpaste in your tube? No — you didn’t. You had FAITH that what you were using was actual toothpaste. 

You got in your car and put the key in the ignition. Did you stop and wonder if anybody at FORD MOTOR COMPANY had done something to sabotage your car so that when you started it — it would blow up? Nope — you didn’t. You had FAITH that the folks at FORD had made a safe car.

God gives us far more proof for His existence than we have for any of the myriad of things that we use every day ON FAITH. The Bible reveals God, His person, His power, and His purpose in the world. The Bible is the record of God’s self-revelation. Through the ages He has revealed Himself to us. The patriarchs, the psalmists, and the prophets were given insights which were recorded for the benefit of all of us.

The supreme and FINAL revelation of God came to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 1:18; 14:9; Hebrews 1:1-3). Jesus Christ was the eternal God clothed in human flesh, who visited this earth in order that you and I might know what God is truly like (John 1:14). 

Through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God has promised to come in and dwell with you and offer forgiveness and salvation. The Bible is the record of God’s continuous efforts to rescue us from the consequences of our own unbelief and rebellion. Through Christ, God provides forgiveness and eternal life to ALL who repent and believe.

Today, stop and notice how the trees and flowers, the birds and animals all declare the glory of God by their very existence. Then make sure that YOU declare the existence of God. Not only should the heavens declare God’s glory — I should do it as well!

Have a great day.

 

The Spirit of Prayer

“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they thick that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)

I remember the funeral of a very famous person about 15-20 years ago that was officiated by a well-known TV preacher at the time. As a part of the funeral service, this preacher attempted to lead those in attendance in repeating The Lord’s Prayer.  There they were — believers and unbelievers alike repeating the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Right in the middle of the prayer, this famous preacher FORGOT THE WORDS! They muddled on through to the end and somehow the crowd ended up in a final chorus of AMENS.

After that service, a person who attended, was talking to me about it. “Pastor Keith, did you hear Dr. So-and-So trying to lead us in the Lord’s Prayer? He didn’t even know the words!”

I said, “That’s not too surprising to me. It seemed as if the whole thing was nothing more than rote memorization rather than a sincere prayer to God.”

There was a lady standing close by and was listening to the conversation (she did that a lot). Apparently she believed that I needed to hear HER opinion on the matter and she said, “Well, we should actually say The Lord’s Prayer every time we worship. It IS what Jesus said we should say.”

For some reason, this woman just never liked me. Maybe it was because I never agreed with anything she said. She argued with me about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church business meetings, singing the Doxology and now The Lord’s Prayer.

Bless her heart…

Back to my story. 

It was then that I realized that many people do not recognize what Jesus was trying to teach us when He gave us this important prayer. It really isn’t “The Lord’s Prayer” — that occurs in John 17. This is more accurately called “The Model Prayer” or “The Disciples’ Prayer.” And our verse for today (Matthew 6:7) sheds important light on what Jesus was trying to teach us about prayer. He wasn’t saying that we had to say these “actual words” in order for it to be a proper prayer. Instead, I believe He was giving us a PATTERN for our conversations with God. Instead of something to be memorized and repeated, this prayer is a perfect pattern, a blue-print if you will for the way we bring petitions to the throne of God. I think the most important thing about this prayer is the SPIRIT which it encourages and which it was designed to create.

Let me quickly explain what I mean with this quick outline.

1. We pray to the FATHER. Sometimes I hear people begin their prayer with “O eternal, divine Creator of the universe.” They especially do that when praying in a crowd. While there is nothing wrong in particular with those words — they ARE true — Jesus gave us a much simpler way to approach God. He said, “Just call Him FATHER.” I think Jesus wanted us to remember the parent-child relationship we have with God.

2. We pray OUR Father. As believers, we are members of a FAMILY. That personal pronoun OUR is always plural. God is not just MY father. I’m part of a special family and because I have confessed my sin and repented, I have a relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, God is my Father. And He is Father to EVERY PERSON who has come to Him in repentance and faith through the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray OUR Father. 

3. We pray with a spirit of WORSHIP. Call me a “stick in the mud” but I think irreverence is one of the most prevalent sins in the church today! We treat the Holy God as if He was our “buddy.” It is as if we trample into the courts of God with dirty shoes on! Jesus says, “Remember that God is Holy and so treat Him that way. Hallowed be Thy name.”

4. We pray EVANGELISTICALLY. “Thy Kingdom come.” I know this will not be realized fully until Jesus returns, but I believe the kingdom of God comes a little every time a person gets saved. So when I pray “Thy Kingdom come,” I am praying that I will be an evangelistic witness for my Lord so that every person I meet can know Christ in the same personal way that I know Him.

5. We pray SUBMISSIVELY. When I pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, I am praying that the grace of God and the power of God and the purpose of God would be accomplished in my life on this day. I am pledging my complete OBEDIENCE to God and His purpose in this world.

6. We pray HUMBLY. I remember an episode of The Simpsons where the little kid, Bart prays this prayer — “Dear God, We worked hard to get this food ourselves — thanks for nothing!” Bart Simpson was simply mirroring the attitude of many in our world today. We are so far removed from the process by which we get our “bread” from God, it has become easy to forget how dependent we are upon Him. When I visit other countries, I am quickly reminded of how blessed I am to live in America — but also how dependent I am on God for everything I have been blessed with.

7. We pray with a FORGIVING SPIRIT. Even as I need food DAILY — I realize I also need the mercy and grace of God DAILY. If I am going to be truly happy in this life, I must experience the forgiveness of God in my life AND I must offer that same forgiveness to others. Unresolved sin and unresolved hatred festers and produces a poison in our lives that corrupt the whole system!

8. We pray with a TRUSTING SPIRIT. Within my own strength, I am unable to overcome the evil and temptation around me. I need the presence and power of God to rise above my own weakness and rest in His strength. I therefore pray – “Lead me not into temptation.”

9. We pray giving all the GLORY TO GOD! “For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. AMEN.” All that I have and all that I am comes from the merciful hand of God. I truly believe there would be more confidence in our spirits, more gratitude in our hearts, and more prayers on our lips if we simply recognize how good God is to us! I have come to realize that God is much more eager to bless me than I often am to be blessed.

Remember, the Model Prayer is NOT a magic formula or a spell to be cast. It is a prayer to be prayed with the proper attitude and recognition of who God is and what He has promised to do for us.

Have a great day.

Dear Hudson

Image

Dear Hudson,

It is so nice to FINALLY meet you. We have been waiting for nine long months to finally see your beautiful little face. As a matter of fact, your beautiful face is the most beautiful little face we have ever seen — and it’s no wonder — your momma and daddy are pretty good looking themselves.

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk with you about a few very important things. You won’t remember this day, but I can assure you — I WILL NEVER FORGET IT.  To tell you the truth, you were a bit stubborn. We waited and waited and waited and eventually your doctor finally had to go and get you! I guess you felt warm and safe where you were and I must admit, living out here is not always so warm and safe. But don’t you worry. You have so many people who love you that I promise we will do everything we can to always keep you safe and let you know how loved you truly are.

First, I want you to know that JESUS LOVES YOU. I have a hunch you already know that. It may sound a bit crazy to you, but I’ve always believed that one of the reasons babies can’t talk immediately is because you’d give away all the secrets of heaven. God created you and chose your parents just for you and then sent you here — just for them. As you grow and you lose the ability to remember all the things you might have seen before your arrival, there will always be a place in your heart that will be unfulfilled. At some point, the Holy Spirit will speak to you and call you to be saved. I pray that you will listen and you will be obedient when He calls. Your Poppa has been serving the Lord for many years and I promise it is the most wonderful thing you will ever do. Who knows? Maybe one day God will call you to be a Pastor like Poppa or a missionary! Whatever He calls you to do — always do it right away.

Second, your momma and daddy love you. They don’t even realize just yet how much they truly love you — but they do! I remember when your daddy was born. He’s ALWAYS been a little charmer (don’t tell him I told you that). Your Nana and I love him and your Aunt Danielle more than life itself. Your parents would do anything for you. When they tell you things you don’t like (and they will) try and remember that they are simply looking out for your best interest.

I’ll tell you something else. Nana and I could not have searched the world over and found a better woman to marry your dad than your momma. I’m sure you know this already too, but she is the sweetest person in the world and just so you know — you will ALWAYS be her baby. Your daddy is almost 26 years old and Nana still somehow sees him like he is your size. I think that’s what mommas do. And one day, you will really appreciate it.

Finally, I want you to know how much I love your name. When momma and daddy chose Hudson, they did it because they thought it sounded pretty and it went well with your middle name. But Hudson is a very special name to me. My granddaddy (your great-great granddaddy) was named Hudson. Unfortunately, he died just before I was born so I never got to personally meet him, but I was always told that he was one of the sweetest men who ever lived. He was disappointed that I didn’t get here in time to meet him, but I’ll see him one day when I get to heaven. I pray that you have the same disposition as my granddaddy. He was a good man.

Your middle name of course is your daddy’s middle name and it’s my name. You probably won’t hear it much since it’s your middle name. The only time your daddy ever heard it was when he was in trouble and Nana would say, “DUSTIN KEITH, YOU GET IN HERE RIGHT NOW…” I bet you won’t do anything wrong so you don’t have to worry about that part. My parents (your great-grandparents) gave me the name Keith because Granny’s favorite actor was a man named Brian Keith. When your momma and daddy told me they wanted to name you after me, I was very honored and I cried. To have my son and my grandson named for me is the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. I’m so proud to be able to share that with you.

Your last name is VAUGHAN. Don’t forget to put that last A in your name. A lot of people will try and take it away. My daddy (Popple) told me that the people who spelled it VAUGHN were rich people and since we weren’t rich, the people in charge of spelling gave us an extra letter in our name to make up for it. Sometimes I wish they have just given us some more money — but they didn’t.

I don’t have much in terms of worldly things to give to you, but I am proud to give you the name VAUGHAN. I have worked for many years to take care of that name after it was given to me by Popple. Always remember this — it takes a lifetime to develop your reputation, but it can be destroyed in a matter of seconds if you aren’t careful. Always remember who you are — you are a VAUGHAN — and that means you tell the truth, you keep your promises and you always love God first. I’m sure you’ll make us all very proud.

Well, that’s it for now. There are going to be many other things I will want to tell you as you grow up. I can’t wait to introduce you to baseball. You already have a Yankees jersey (I have one too). We’ll wear them together soon and have our picture made. Your daddy will try and convince you to like another team. Don’t worry — you stick with me. Your daddy is a good man, but he’s just got a blind spot when it comes to baseball. 

Most of all, Hudson, always remember that we all love you very much and we always will. We may not always like the decisions you make or the choices you choose — but there is absolutely NOTHING that you will ever do that will make us stop loving you. You can count on that! 

Now let’s go have some fun! This grandparent thing is going to be a blast!

Love always, 

Poppa

Are You Listening?

“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven.” (Hebrews 12:25)

When God speaks, you and I must listen. Not to do so is the very height of foolishness. Over and over, the Bible says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9).  

I firmly believe that the God who spoke in ages past still speaks today to those who have ears that are willing to hear Him. 

I hear God speak in nature. Last weekend, Edna and I rode up to Cade’s Cove in the East Tennessee mountains. The majestic beauty of God’s creation is so evident as you ride through that national park. I saw two bears, some deer, a coyote and several turkeys. I witnessed the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and the blooming rhododendron. I hear God speak in nature. Every time I visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I hear God speak in the breaking waves along the beach at Nags Head. I hear Him speak as the black pelicans fly over and as dolphins jump in the ocean.

I hear God speak in experience. The great prophets of the Old Testament had a message from God to their day which is still relevant for our day. God has not changed — man has not changed and sin has not changed. The law of cause and effect still works. No new instincts have been added. 

Therefore, we can hear God speak through the experiences of Biblical characters. We can hear God speak through the experiences of Joseph and learn the importance of moral purity. We can hear God speak through Daniel as far as living a life completely dedicated to God regardless of what others might do. In the New Testament, we hear God speak through the experience of the Apostle Paul. We learn the lesson of being content “in whatever state I am” (Phil. 4:11).

Most importantly, I hear God speak to me directly through His written Word.  Dr. E.F. Hallock said that Bible study was “the listening side of prayer.” If we will spend time in His Word, God will speak to us daily. Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord.”

The world teaches us that we ought to strive to be SUCCESSFUL. The Bible tells us exactly how we can be successful. In Joshua 1:8, the Bible says, “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success.” There’s the formula straight from the Word of God. Are you listening?

I believe it is possible that God may be seeking to communicate with you and you simply have been so preoccupied that you didn’t hear Him. Please take some time today to LISTEN. Look at the wonderful world God has created and learn from the experiences of other believers — but most of all — READ GOD’S WORD and just LISTEN. God will speak to all who will listen.

Have a great day.

Look to God

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills — from whence comes my help?” (Psalm 121:1)

Someone has described our world as ruled by guided missiles and misguided men. If that is true, it is because we have been looking in the wrong direction for our guidance and help. Our help doesn’t come from science, education, the military, diplomats, Republicans or Democrats. 

The Bible reminds us that our help comes from God. Psalm 121:2 says, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Erich Sauer said, “If you wish to be disappointed, look to others. If you wish to be downhearted, look to yourself. If you wish to be encouraged to to experience victory, look upon Jesus Christ.”

The psalmist discovered that only the Lord could provide the help, the happiness, the health and the hope for which he longed. When I worship (both privately and corporately), I discover that by waiting on the Lord, my strength is renewed and my energy is restored. Isaiah 40:28-30 says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

The blessings of God are waiting for those who will truly worship Him and seek His face. From God, I receive HELP, HAPPINESS and HOPE. God helps me when I am sick or sorrowful, when I’m disappointed and tempted. God helps me with the responsibilities of my life — as a citizen in the world, and as a member of a family. 

Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” God promises me “fullness of joy” in His presence. In John 10, Jesus said that I would have “abundant life.” Christianity is not a prison! It is a life of complete freedom in Christ. Happiness – as defined by the world — is largely dependent upon what HAPPENS. TRUE happiness comes from God and is constant regardless of what happens in my life. 

Too many people (including some Christians) paint the Christian life as gloomy. They see Jesus as nothing more than a cosmic kill-joy. And yet, after following and serving Jesus these many years, I have discovered that my hope is based on something more than a wish or a grand “maybe.” My hope is based upon the solemn promises of God. 

When trouble comes my way (and it often does) — I have seen that it is possible to have a happy home, a happy church and family, and I have the assurance of a heavenly home at the end of my life. I have all that because I LOOK TO GOD for my help. When you understand who He IS and what He has DONE, you begin to realize that what He will DO in and through you will bring you true peace and contentment.

Today — no matter what comes your way — Look to God. Lift up your eyes to the hills. Your help comes from the Lord. He made it all — He owns it all and He loves it all. He will supply ALL you need.

Have a great day.

Praise the Lord!

“In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 116:19)

The world in which we live goes on and on in spiritual darkness and disillusionment, because we who have experienced the grace of God in our lives have neglected to praise God for His goodness to us — His children.

“WOW Pastor Keith — a little negative this morning?”

No, not really. I was just thinking (a dangerous exercise I know) last week and through the weekend about the prayer requests I hear. To be honest, I hear very little PRAISE for what God has done in people’s lives. Instead, we spend 90% of our prayer time, praying to keep Christians out of heaven. Now I’m not suggesting that we stop praying for the sick to be healed. The Bible says we should pray for that. But even in praying for the sick and suffering — we need to pray for the will of God to be done.

And where are all these people for whom we are praying? After they get healed — shouldn’t we expect them to be the very ones standing and testifying as to what the Lord has done in their lives? No wonder lost people don’t want to be around us and attend our worship services! When we sing, we act like we are mourning the dead and when we pray we pray mostly for sickness and suffering. 

Where are the good old-fashioned testimonies of the goodness of the Lord? If you stand before the average congregation and ask for people to testify about how God has been working in their lives — you can hear the crickets chirp. People look around at the floor and up to the ceiling as if the movement of God in their lives is so rare they are having a hard time finding ANYTHING for which to praise God. 

But the minute we ask for REQUESTS…boy the flood gates open and we can’t write them down fast enough. Again — we should pray for the needs of others — but is that really ALL we should pray about? Is God not at work in your life? Are you so miserable that the only thing you can think about is your aches and pains? Going to a “prayer meeting” today reminds me of the old Hee Haw routine — “Gloom, despair and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no look at all; gloom, despair and agony on me.”

Take a few minutes right now and read all of Psalm 116. It BEGINS with a list of the many reasons why the psalmist found it easy to love God. 

Notice how he begins…

“I love the Lord, because…”

And the list begins.

He has heard my supplications (v. 1)
He has healed my body (v. 3)
He has delivered me from trouble (v. 3)
He has dealt bountifully with me (v. 7)
He has delivered my soul from death (v. 8)
He has wiped the tears from my eyes (v. 8)

Beginning in verse 9, the psalmist reminds me how I can praise God…

I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (v. 9)
I will take up the cup of salvation (v. 13)
I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people (v. 14)
I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving (v. 17)

You and I can make a REAL difference in the lives of others (especially lost people) if we will stop the focus on us and our problems and turn the conversation to the ways God has blessed us and taken care of us. When we give expression to the gratitude of our hearts for the blessing of God upon us, we are verbalizing a Christian witness that can be used by the Holy Spirit to draw lost people to the Savior. 

The psalmist closes with our verse for today — and I pray it will be our prayer not just today but always…

“In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. PRAISE THE LORD!”

When I’m at church, when I’m at work, when I’m walking around in my community — I will open my mouth and 

PRAISE THE LORD!!!

Have a great day.

Getting Rid of the Weight

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

“Hey Pastor…Are you going to get on my case about the little bit of extra weight I’m carrying? I’ve tried to get rid of it, but nothing seems to work.”

Well…I am going to talk about extra weight — but not the kind you might think. In the same way you shed a few pounds, you must also put forth the spiritual effort to get rid of the extra weight you are carrying around in your spiritual life. The “weight” we need to lay aside might be sinful or, in some cases, they may be legitimate activities. There are some things we need to give up not because they are harmful within themselves, but because they are keeping us from serving God and being obedient to what He wants for us.

Let me suggest 4 things you and I need to examine in our lives today. Maybe some of these things are hindering you in your service to the Lord and need to be set aside.

1. We need to lay aside the weight of spiritual immaturity.
In a few short days (we hope) — my son and daughter-in-law will welcome a new baby into this world. Hudson Keith Vaughan will be born and begin his journey on this earth. I certainly don’t expect him to come home a have a steak and baked potato with me right away. He’s going to need milk and eventually baby food BUT ONE DAY — he will sit down with his Poppa and have a steak!

A baby is supposed to act like a baby — but if that baby is still acting like a baby at 10 or 12 years old, then we know something is terribly wrong.

The same is true in the life of a Christian. One of the great tragedies that I see in the modern church is the number of people who remain spiritual babies and never give themselves to a discipline of growth and training that makes it possible for them to be used mightily by the Lord. 

One of my favorite verses in the Bible says this about Jesus Christ…

“Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

There is nothing wrong with being a baby Christian — but there is something terribly wrong if you REMAIN a baby Christian. Lay aside the weight of spiritual immaturity.

2. We need to lay aside the weight of self-righteousness
We all have been guilty of looking around us with a critical spirit and patting ourselves on the back for our achievements when we look at the perceived failures of others. It’s “funny” to me how Christians criticize EACH OTHER! I continually hear folks say (both in word and deed) — “I’ve figured it out and you haven’t.” Whether we are criticizing a non-Christian or criticizing the church — our sinful nature causes us to look at ourselves and pridefully declare — “I’ve got it. You don’t get it.”

Read the parable of the publican and the Pharisee in Luke 18 again. You will quickly see there is no room in the Christian life for a self-righteous attitude — either toward the lost world or toward fellow believers who may not jump on our bandwagon.

In Revelation 3, the problem in the Laodicean church was primarily an attitude of spiritual self-satisfaction. As Christians, we must NEVER allow ourselves to become a pious self-centered circle of people who come together for emotional “self-edification.”

3. We need to lay aside the weight of unforgiveness.
You know what I’ve learned in 30 years of pastoral ministry? Here it is — write it down…

You cannot please everybody!

There is no way to escape criticism. There will be times when others will deliberately seek to hurt us in some way or another. Do you know what Jesus said we should do? 

“Yes, Pastor. I know…but I’ll tell you right now…I don’t like it.”

Let me tell you why it is so hard to forgive. As long as all your attention is directed toward the person who needs to be forgiven, you will never understand and appreciate what Jesus taught us about forgiveness. Jesus’ primary concern was the effect of an unforgiving spirit in the life of a believer. Hard feelings have a way of festering into hatred. Hatred destroys joy and robs you of true happiness. Our hostile feelings do more injury to US than they ever do to the person who offended us. You cannot life an effective Christian life and carry a grudge at the same time. It’s impossible.

4. We must lay aside the weight of worry
Undue anxiety and worry is caused by a lack of faith. Worry is USELESS! Matthew 6:27 says, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”

There is no need to worry about yesterday — you can’t change it.

There is no need to worry about today — you won’t accomplish anything of any value.

There is no need to worry about tomorrow — you aren’t even promised there will be a tomorrow!

I’m sorry I can’t help you drop the excess pounds you may need to drop in your physical body — I have my own problem with that! But I do pray that these suggestions will help us drop the excess weight we may be carrying around in our spiritual lives.

Have a great day.

 

Proclaiming the Good News

“Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” (Psalm 96:2-3)

If you ask most people about the missionary imperative of the Christian faith, they will immediately begin to quote Matthew 28:18-20 — The Great Commission. However, if you study the Old Testament, you will discover that God ALWAYS intended that His people ought to be evangelistic and missionary in their lives. God has always desired to reveal His grace and mercy, His power and purpose, His holiness and righteousness, His love and salvation to the world!

Throughout Psalm 96, the psalmist calls attention to the fact that God has issued a missionary charter for His people. Our verse today describes our mission. We are to “proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” We are called to demonstrate the good news of our salvation. The message to ancient Israel and to the modern church was/is the same.

God’s missionary purpose began with Abraham. God called Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to demonstrate His all-inclusive redemptive purpose. Today, those of us who are believers in Christ Jesus are told that we are a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9) whose purpose is to share the Gospel with the whole world. From Genesis to Revelation, God is a MISSIONARY God! He reaches out to all people, everywhere and those of us who have experienced His grace are commanded to tell the Good News.

But our mandate goes even further than just telling the Good News. Our text says we are to do this “from day to day.” That means to me that I am a living demonstration of the difference that Jesus has made in my life. I am a living exhibit of God’s love. I am an example of the transforming power of the Gospel. And I am those things — EVERY DAY!

I am commanded by the Scripture to introduce Christ to my lost friends and to a needy world. Jesus is the living, personal, holy, saving and redeeming God. The world desperately needs to know this. In Genesis, man is shown in perfect fellowship with God as they walk and talk with Him in the Garden of Eden. In the book of Revelation, we are told that eventually, those who are saved by the grace of God will one day be again in perfect fellowship with God in Heaven. 

In the meantime — I am on a mission to make sure that as many people as possible hear the Gospel and come to faith in Christ. I am to “proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” Our task is to win people to Christ and then equip them to win people to Christ.

Annie Johnson Flint wrote these words…

Christ has no hands but our hands
To do His work today,
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in His way,
He has no tongue but our tongues
To tell men how He died,
He has no help but our help
To bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible
The careless world will read,
We are the sinner’s gospel,
We are the scoffer’s creed,
We are the Lord’s last message,
Giving in deed and word.
What if the line is crooked?
What if the type is blurred?

What if our hands are busy
With other work than His?
What if our feet are walking
Where sin’s allurement is?
What if our tongues are speaking
Of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him
And hasten His return?

Remember — our mission is wonderful. The method is simple. The message is for ALL. And our strength to accomplish this comes directly from the Lord. I pray we will be faithful in proclaiming the Good News of His salvation all day — every day!

Have a great day.