Serve Him with Gladness

“Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:2)

Did you hear about the preacher who wanted volunteers from his congregation to do something? He would ask them to volunteer by standing. But, every time he would ask for volunteers, no one would stand. So he came up with the idea of wiring the pews with electricity so when he asked for volunteers he could throw the switch and people from all over the church would jump to their feet. When the next Sunday morning came, he told the congregation of some of the things that needed to be done, and asked all those who would volunteer to please stand and he threw the switch. People all over the congregation jumped to their feet — BUT they found 40 people still in their seats — electrocuted!!!

“SHOCKING Pastor — absolutely SHOCKING! Do you see what I did there?”

Yes, I did. Don’t do it again…

All over this nation, pastors and congregations are asking the same question: “What is it going to take to get people to serve God?” Solutions vary. Some people think the answer is to have more seminars and retreats. These people flock to the retreats and yet when they get home, they forget everything they heard.

I’ll never forget the ladies who came to me about 15 years ago and said, “Pastor, we had such wonderful time this weekend. We got more out of this weekend than we’ve gotten out of three years of your preaching!”

Now brother — that will bless your heart right there!

The problem was, these ladies soon forgot not only what they heard from me, they forgot their wonderful weekend as well.

Some folks think the answer is to activate more programs. If we could just do this or have this event then more folks would come. But today, most churches that I know have more programs than you can shake a stick at, and still the folks don’t serve the Lord.

“So Pastor — what do YOU think it will take to get people to serve God?”

Thank you for asking. I do have an idea.

Psalm 100 tells us exactly what we should do. Verse 1 of Psalm 100 said we should “make a joyful shout to the Lord.” We are kidding ourselves to think that the lost world is ever going to get excited about the Lord when we who claim to know Christ are not excited. We have to be sold before we can sell someone else.

So, we have JOY in our worship. Today’s verse says we have GLADNESS in our service. Joy is from within, but service is from without. Before you have gladness in your service, you have to have joy in your worship. I just believe that Jesus was a joyful and exciting person to be around. I know all the pictures you see have this somber Jesus, never smiling. But I don’t think Jesus was like that at all.

We have plenty of people in churches today who are serving the Lord and doing various things at church — BUT they are griping and complaining every step of the way while they do it. When that is the case, they do more hard than good. What a terrible witness for our Lord! These same folks sit around and wonder why their neighbors, co-workers, family members, and friends will not come to church with them.

I’ll tell you why they don’t come with you to church. They are afraid if they come, they might catch what you got and they will be miserable!

Often lost folks hear complaining Christians come to work griping and complaining about anything and everything that took place in church on Sunday that they did not like. After they are through griping, they turn to their lost friend and say, “Oh, by the way. I sure wish you would come to church with me next week.”

That lost person is thinking — “Yeah right! You just hold your breath and wait for it.”

If we are ever going to reach the world for Christ, two things have to happen. First, God’s people must get excited about the Lord in our worship and second, we must take that excitement outside the walls of the church as we serve others.

I’m not quite finished with this Psalm just yet. We’ll talk more on Monday. Have a great day.

Shout Joyfully

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!” (Psalm 100:1)

I want to spend a few days talking about Psalm 100 with you. Like most people, some of my favorite passages of Scripture come from the Psalms. They are so rich and uplifting. If you are like me, it gets depressing sometimes because of the fast-paced life we live. The Psalms always seem to lift my spirits.

Consider this first verse of Psalm 100. It is a command — “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!” Why does God want us to shout joyfully unto Him. Because this draws attention to the Lord.

Have you noticed all the things people make noise over? It is amazing how many things there are that people will get excited about. I live in East Tennessee — home of the Tennessee Volunteers! There is nothing like gathering with 100,000 of your closest friends at Neyland Stadium and cheering on the Vols. People around here take their football SERIOUSLY!

Think about this. Have you ever been to a football game where the cheerleaders turned to the crowd and held their fingers to their lips and said, “Please, be quiet. You are making entirely too much noise”? Of course not and do you know why? It is because the cheerleaders know the encouragement of the spectators helps the team work harder to win the game and when the team wins, the crowd will be so excited they will make even more noise!

When we are excited about something, we are going to make some noise. That is what God wants us to do for Him. He wants us to get excited about Him. I asked a Sunday School teacher about what she was trying to accomplish in her class. Her answer impacted me greatly and I’ve never forgotten it. She said, “Pastor Keith, I’m just trying to get my class excited about the Lord.” This teacher recognized something about people today — they are excited about many things, but many times the Lord isn’t one of them.

It is absolutely amazing what I see when I look out into a congregation on Sunday morning. There will be people sitting, staring off into space, their minds miles away. Some folks sit and look like they’ve just been given a dose of caster oil and they are about to be sick any minute. And there are those who are constantly looking at their watch as if they are bored to death with God’s Word.

We call our services “worship services,” but for many people worship never takes place. Do you know why? The reason many people are not excited about the Lord is because they really don’t know the Lord. When you meet somebody who really loves the Lord, you can’t shut them up. They want to make a “joyful noise.”

We need to get hold of ourselves and fall in love with Jesus — and get excited about Him and our salvation! We’ll continue this discussion tomorrow.

Have a great day.

The Bigger Picture

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)

As you read through the book of Jeremiah, one question that is addressed is — “why do the wicked prosper?” (Jeremiah 12:1) Have you ever wondered why it seems that those who openly reject the Lord seem to have everything go their way? I know I have.

Jeremiah was wondering the same thing — and with good reason. Many of these people were trying to kill him. Jeremiah complained about the prosperity of the hypocrites who had plotted to kill him, and he openly wished that the Lord would destroy them. But our verse for today is God’s answer to Jeremiah — and to you and me!

Look at what God says to Jeremiah. He says if you have trouble walking with the foot soldiers, then you will never be able to run with the cavalry. If you can’t handle the things that happen along the peaceful banks of the Jordan River, you will never survive when you are in the jungle where the Jordan overflows its banks and where wild animals roam.

Here’s the point. I’ve learned over the years that my attitude toward the problems I face today will ultimately determine how I handle tougher problems later. If I trust the Lord during the times when things go relatively well and I accept disappointments as part of life, then I will be ready when the really hard blows come my way.

This passage in Jeremiah is also a picture of Jesus’ own life. His own family rejected Him and His hometown questioned His authority. And yet, the worst was yet to come. Jesus not only had to deal with those “minor” distractions — He eventually had to deal with the “major” problem of dying on the cross. Jesus modeled for us the attitude we should have as we face the problems in our lives.

We all face challenging situations in life. Many times I don’t have answers to those questions. It is then that I must focus my attention squarely on God’s goodness and mercy, and I pray that God will show me THE BIGGER PICTURE of where I am headed. When we exercise our faith in the Lord on a daily basis, we are strengthened for the really tough times that will come later.

I hope you have a great day.

Consider the Wonders of God

“Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” (Job 37:14)

Do you ever just get “the blues?”

“Oh Pastor…I hear ya this morning. It’s been raining all week. The bills are piling up. I got too much month left at the end of my money. My kids are a mess. My spouse and I are at each other’s throats. I feel like I’m going down for the third time. My favorite song right now is ‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seen.'”

When I look at the condition of the world today and when I stop and think about all the things going on in my own life and the lives of those I love — it’s enough to give you “the blues!”

I doubt there is anyone reading this little blog who was around in 1919. But during that year, people had the blues too. World War I had just ended, but post-war Europe was still starving. Vladimir Lenin formed the Communist Party in Russia with the goal of world revolution.

In the United States, a battle was brewing — literally — because of prohibition. Cars were accessible to most people, but there were few roads. Inflation was driving food costs sky-high. And President Woodrow Wilson collapsed with a nervous breakdown.

With all the dark clouds hanging over us, two song writers named DeSilva and Kern wrote a new song of optimism. Here are the lyrics:

“Look for the silver lining
When e’er a cloud appears in the blue.
Somewhere the sun is shining
And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you.

A heart full of joy and gladness
Will always banish sadness and strife
So always look for the silver lining
And try to find the sunny side of life.”

Not bad advice I suppose, but our verse for today is even BETTER advice.

I’m sure you remember the trials and tribulations of Job. He lost it all — family, friends, possessions. In the midst of all that, God inspired Elihu to say to Job, “Listen to this O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.”

What are YOU doing today? Have you stopped to consider the “wondrous works of God”? Have you thanked God for the blessings in your life — both past and present?

Here’s an idea. Join me TODAY and let’s stop whining and start focusing on God’s silver lining!

Have a great day.

Don’t Take God’s Word for Granted

“Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east, they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)

As I look around me, I am amazed by the abundance. Because of the abundance in our nation, I believe we take many things for granted. We go through life reaching out and taking in the gifts of life with greedy hands, and we assume that these wonderful things will always be here — whenever we need them or want them.

Our attitude toward God’s Word is the same. If you are like me and my family, we have multiple copies of the Bible in our homes. We hear the Bible taught on radio and TV; we come to church and hear the Bible preached. There is no end to the ever-opening doors of opportunity to study and grow in our knowledge of the Lord and His Word. Book stores are filled with books and tapes that will help us understand it better.

Here’s the problem. I’m afraid that fewer Christians are well-versed students of God’s Word now than at any time in our history. We are lazy and apathetic. We claim to be too busy and too preoccupied with our jobs and families and play time, so our time with God and His Word suffers. I’m continually amazed at the number of “Christians” who don’t bring a Bible to church and who don’t have it on their smartphone or iPad. How many people just sit and let a Sunday School teacher or a pastor read God’s Word to them? How many rely on the Scripture to be projected on the screen rather than opening their Bible or their personal devices to read it themselves? That is ridiculous!!!!

I’m aware that Jesus promised that His Word would never be destroyed (Matthew 24:35). He also taught that only those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. It seems to me that we should treasure what we have now — while we still have it. There are still people around the world who have never had the Bible in their own language. There are multitudes of people who have never known the treasure of John 3:16 or Genesis 1-11 or the book of Jonah. We who have been so blessed have the opportunity to carry the Good News to them. We have the answer to the questions they have in their hearts. We have the water that will quench the thirst of their souls.

Don’t take for granted the blessings you have. You have a Bible — read it, study it, obey and SHARE IT with someone today. We can change the world if we will simply be obedient.

Have a great day.

Trust God and Get Out Of His Way

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:9-10)

Charles Spurgeon said, “It is not our littleness that hinders Christ; but our bigness. It is not our weakness that hinders Christ; it is our strength. It is not our darkness that hinders Christ; it is our supposed light that holds back His hand.”

I’m afraid that modern Christians have developed the wrong idea about who needs what. Let me explain.

I firmly believe that we are to be obedient to God’s commands and that we should take seriously the command to carry the Gospel to the whole world. We ought to make a positive difference in the lives of the people we meet every day.

My problem is this…I meet more and more people who give the impression that they believe God couldn’t get alone very well without THEM. I know we all have at least a little tendency to develop the attitude that everything that is done happens through our strength, our talents and our efforts. And while we certainly should offer our strength, our talents and our efforts to God — our offering (even at its best) is really pretty puny.

Spurgeon had it exactly right. God works best when I don’t hamper Him. I end up accomplishing much more then I allow God to work IN me and THROUGH me. When I think about the truly great things that have happened throughout history, I have discovered that God used the least expected resources.

Think about Moses…or Gideon…or Rahab! What about David or Nehemiah or Timothy?

When you and I begin to humble ourselves and live in such a way that we glorify God in what we think and do — we will also be used mightily by God. We are most effective in His service when we realize that it doesn’t depend on us. We need to realize that it’s not our strength that matters — it’s God!

Now that doesn’t mean that we should just sit down and relax. It means that we act with the knowledge that God will use us — many times in spite of ourselves.

So remember, when you run into something that looks bigger than you — let God make you strong and then GET OUT OF HIS WAY! He’s got this.

Have a great day.

Oh Be Careful Little Tongue…

“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.” (James 3:5)

Washington Irving said, “The tongue is the only tool that grows sharper with constant use.”

I read recently that the average person has as many as 700 occasions to speak to someone each day. In the course of those conversations a talkative person uses 12,000 sentences and about 100,000 words. I have had the unfortunate misfortune to run into that 100,000 word person on more than one occasion!

Just stop and think about that…There are actually people out there who may speak in excess of 100,000 words a day!

James reminds us in our verse today that our tongue has great potential — both for good and evil. Think about the destruction that can come from someone who uses their 100,000 words to spread rumors and gossip.

I have an old cartoon that shows a line of pews and the same sentence is being passed verbally from one pew to the other. Here’s the result…

First pew: “My ear kind of hurts.”
Second pew: “The pastor has an earache.”
Third pew: “The pastor got a hearing aid.”
Fourth pew: “The pastor is having trouble hearing.”
Fifth pew: “The pastor got a double earring.”

The last frame shows an elderly lady walking out of the church and she says, “That does it, I’m outta here! The pastor’s got a double earring!”

But not only does the tongue have potential for spreading bad things — we also have the potential to spread blessings if we would speak words of praise and encouragement.

Here’s the question for the day. How are YOU going to use your tongue today? Are you going to speak words that bless the Lord and lift up Jesus and witness for Him? Or will you be involved in gossip and criticism. If during a 24-hour period everything we said were recorded and then play back for us to hear — would we be proud of what we had said, or we be embarrassed?

We all need to watch what we say. Maybe you are not a talkative person. Maybe you don’t use 100,000 words a day. Perhaps you are able to get by with only 10,000. We should make sure that all our words count for good.

William Norris said, “If your lips would keep from slips, five things observe with care: to whom you speak; of whom you speak; and how, and when, and where.”

Great advice.

Have a great day.

I Don’t Remember…

“For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

I heard about an 80-year-old avid golfer who was having trouble with his failing eyesight. When he played golf, he was having a problem seeing where the ball went. Upon sharing his problem with his doctor, the physician hooked him up with a 90-year-old man who had excellent eyesight but periodic bouts of memory loss. The doctor thought the team work would be good for both men. When they made it to the golf course, they were each excited about the game. The 80-year-old teed up the ball and drove it down the fairway. He quickly asked the 90-year-old, “Did you see where it landed?” The 90-year-old said, “Yep, I sure did.” “Great, where did it go?” demanded the 80-year-old. The 90-year-old remorsefully said, “I don’t remember.”

I’m not going to ask how many of you are having problems with your memory. I find that the older I get, the more trouble I am having remembering things. I figure within a few years, I should be able to hide my own Easter eggs!

I would quickly add that SOME forgetting is beneficial to us.

Battista said, “A well-trained memory is one that permits you to forget everything that isn’t worth remembering.” That’s a wonderful statement!

You know what? I’m so thankful today that when I confess my sins to the Lord, He forgets them! They are no longer worth remembering. When my sins are forgiven, God never brings them to my attention. He erases the charges against me and removes the burden of my guilt.

Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

I know in my own life I have often retained memories of my man sins and the devil uses that to plague me. I would love to blot from my memory every reminder of my past sins and never think about them again. But that’s impossible. However, I rejoice in the fact that I know through faith in Jesus Christ — I am completely cleansed from all my sin. My sins will not be held before me at the judgment. When God forgives, it is completely cleared from the record!

John Newton, the author of the great hymn Amazing Grace had great difficulty with his memory. In the later days of his life, a friend asked Newton if he still had a bad memory. John Newton said, “Yes I do, but I remember two things. I am a great sinner and I have a great Savior — and I don’t suppose an old slave trader needs to remember much more than that!”

Have a great day.