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Which Way, O Lord?
"This is what the Lord says; 'Stand at the crossroads and look... ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'" Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
The way many people attempt to determine the will of God would make a great new television series entitled, "That's Unbelievable!"
A woman with a lifetime dream of going to the Holy Land was trying to determine the will of God on this matter. Before going to bed one night, she read the tour pamphlet and noticed in the plans that they would be traveling on a 747 jet. She tossed back and forth that night and laid awake for hours wondering what God would have her do. Rolling over in the morning, she noticed that her beside clock read 7:47. Her answer! She became convinced that this was God's answer to her and it was His will for her to make that trip. "That's Unbelievable!"
You cannot readily determine the will of God for your life outside of having your heart opened through prayer, the study of God's Word and obedience to it. And, if you are outside the will of God, you will find yourself without peace in your life.
When the prophet Jeremiah spoke the words quoted above, Jerusalem was being threatened with total destruction. Like today, the warning signs were all around the people. God in His great love was sounding the danger alarm so that they would turn from their wicked ways and be saved. But in Jeremiah 6: 10, we read that "The word of the Lord [was] offensive to them; they [found] no pleasure in it." So, the siege works were being built outside their walls and utter ruin lay ahead.
Has the Word of the Lord been offensive to you? Do you find no pleasure in it? Are you suffering from the devastating effects of your own bad choices, divorce or sexual sin? Are your hopes and dreams dead? Perhaps you are bound up by addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling or pornography and can't break away. Are financial pressures, wayward children or broken relationships weighing heavily on your soul? Is your life under siege? Are you standing at the crossroads today? The Lord is saying to you "Look... ask where the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your soul."
Where is the "good way" to be found? The prophet Isaiah tells us to "Seek ye out the book of the Lord." The apostle Paul teaches that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness."
If there is not a joy in your heart when you read the Word of God or there is no draw to read the Bible at all, then you have not found the Christ of the Bible or you're simply not walking in obedience to God's Son. For He is the Word made flesh. (John 1: 14) You are not truly asking "Which way, O Lord?" You are telling Him how you are going to live and demanding that He bless it. That is the sin which keeps you from living the abundant life promised in Christ.
If you are seeking peace in your life and rest for your soul today, you are standing at the CrossRoads...and all signs are pointing to Jesus!
Undone and Redone! (09.01.05--Sickness!--Psalm 38:21)
Recently I had a crown installed on one of my molars. In the process of doing the work, the dentist created a space between the new crown and a nearby tooth that hadnít existed before. Now, every time I chewed on that side of my mouth, the food would lodge itself in that convenient space and my gum would become very, very sore.
After a number of weeks of eating, hurting, flossing over and over again, I contacted the dentistís office and asked if he could see me sometime in the near future. The receptionist asked me this question: ďMr. Brunner, are you in a lot of pain?Ē I told her the situation and explained to her that it had become so painful that I was having a difficult time eating at all. Expecting an appointment within a week or so, I was quite surprised when she told me that I could see the dentist by 2:15 that afternoon. What a shock! Same day dental service!
I went into the office with great anticipation. It had been months since I could eat properly. Stopping at the desk on the way in I expressed my gratitude to the dentist for seeing me so quickly. The receptionist smiled and answered rather matter-of-factly, ďWell, you said you couldnít eat.Ē Then it struck me. Just plain old inconvenience and mild discomfort could easily merit several weekís wait. And a cleaning? That could be months. But, not being able to eat was an open door to same day service. It seems that in order to see the dentist same day you needed to be completely undone in order to be redone. In this case, the pain merited the gain.
John Donne, a 17th century poet, experienced great pain. . . He endured a long illness which sapped his strength almost to the point of death. In the midst of this illness, Donne wrote a series of devotions on suffering . . . In one of these, he considers a parallel: The sickness which keeps him in bed forces him to think about his spiritual condition. Suffering gets our attention; it forces us to look to God, when otherwise we would just as well ignored Him. (Adapted from Philip Yancey, Where is God When it Hurts?, p. 58.)
In Psalm 38 the psalmist writes: ďO Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O GodĒ (Psalm 38:21). Was the Psalmist truly forsaken? Had God left him? Sometimes God leaves us for a time in order to empty us out, to undo us so completely that there is only one remedy for our pain and suffering--immediate attention. He has mercy on none but the wretched, receives none but the forsaken and helps none but the helpless. When we are thus, totally undone, that is when He does His best work. Sometimes it is blessed to be so undone in our sickness and pain. It means that He is close at hand.
There were two Churches of Christ in the small north Texas town. The church where I ministered had split from the older church years before over some petty differences. I was beginning a sermon series on the "One-another" passages of the Bible, when Gabe, a former elder, got up and walked up to the pulpit and said, "Fred, do you trust me?" Confused as to why he interrupted my lesson to ask if I trusted him, I warily said "Yes". Gabe then asked to speak with the congregation. I relinquished the pulpit and sat down. Iím unable to recall the exact words, but in essence Gabe pointed out a lack of love that permeated our congregation. Then he requested that we get up and hug one of our brothers or sisters. No one moved Raising his voice he pleaded, "Do you hear me? Please go hug one of your brothers or sisters and say "I love you." Immediately I jumped up and ran to the song leader and hugged him. Almost everyone else followed suit. "Okay," he said, "now letís go across town and tell our brothers and sisters at the other church that we love them, too.í No one moved Returning to the pulpit I said, "I was going to present a lesson on strengthening Christian relationships this morning, but brother Gabe did a much better job than I could have. Letís get into our cars and tell our brothers and sisters across town that we love them." The majority of the congregation got into their vehicles and headed toward the downtown church. As the long procession began, someone commented to Tom, our Family Involvement Minister, that it looked as if someone had died and we were going to a funeral. "We are going to a funeral," Tom astutely replied. "We are dying to ourselves" During the invitation song Gabe came forward and requested to speak to the congregation. He told the assembly that there had been hard feelings between the two churches since the split. He said we had come to let them know that we love them and want full fellowship once again. We sang the song: Blest Be the Tie That Binds, and closed with a prayer. After the "Amen," almost everyone in the building started embracing each other. I overheard comments like: "Iím sorry for the way we have been acting." "Letís forget the past." "I have done you wrong. Will you please forgive me?" Tears. Laughter. Hugs and kisses. Hearts opened. Offenses forgiven. Grudges forgotten. Bitterness melted. Barriers destroyed. Hatred dissipated. Love permeated. One could truly feel and see the effects of the Holy Spirit moving through that little church all because of the efforts of one man who dared to step out on faith even when he was afraid.
"BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS - for they shall be called sons of God."
You may say "Well thatís nonsense. All you have to do is see all the so-called Christians who have been involved in bloody conflict in history, all done in the Name of God". In fact even Al-Qaeda operates in the Name of a god called Allah.
What about Joshua and David and Gideon who all went into battle because God told them to? What about all the bloodshed of the OT? Itís full of bloodshed in the Name of God! What about God Himself who floods the earth and wipes out all those people? What about Sodom and Gomorrah? That doesnít appear very peaceful!
"Blessed are the peacemakers"! You may well say, "Tell that to the radical Muslims of the world! Tell that to Robert Mugabe! Tell that to the Iranian Government! Tell that to Al-Qaeda! To suicide bombers, to conflict ravaged Israel, to Martin Sheen! Tell that to our world today which is not exactly peaceful!" Well, thatís exactly what He did! He told us, but 2000 years later we are still not listening!
But when He told His disciples up on that mountain about this one, they did listen? What kind of leadership principle is this? What is Jesus getting at? Yeah, I know, we all want peace. Thatís a given, so whatís so radically new and inspiring about this? Why was this one of the points in His leadership series of messages? And how does it gel with all the bloodshed in Godís Name in the Bible and Christian history? In America they even had a gun called the Colt Peacemaker. What a contradiction in terms!
I think the clue is that Jesus says that the "peacemakers" wi...
Brethren Elder Peter Nead [1796-1877] was definitely a man of distinction. Living in a time when few Brethren were authoring books, Brother Nead chose to do so. In penning his theological point of views there was evidence in the words and phrases that his writing abilities were a little amateurish; especially when held in contrast to the deep theological writings of those with scholarly backgrounds. But yet his books often showed a bit of polish for those Brethren from the rural areas of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. As one would read, simple images and even splendid statements could be discovered.
Peter Nead was truly a blessing amid the Brethren, especially during the mid part of the nineteenth century. It has been stated that his book entitle, "Theological Writings of Various Subjects," published in 1850, he has definitely encouraged many individuals to join with the Brethren more so than any other writers. He also is credited as the author of the Brethrenís first published title on faith and practice, called "Primitive Christianity."
In the previous publication one can find this theological statement: ďThe Church, which is the body of Christ, will be found in a state of self-denial, walking in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord, blameless.Ē What a profound statement penned by such a modest man: Definitely here is a series of phrases challenging all its readers to live in a life of ďself-denialĒ and above that to be found ďblamelessĒ in their daily walk with the Christ.
How can anyone of us live such a life? Better yet, is it really possible to do?
Sermon Central Staff
DEMOLITION DERBY AND THE SURRENDER STICK
Lydia and I went to the Demolition Derby at the 4-H Fair this past week and had a blast. I loved watching drivers take aim at each other with the attempt to demolish or disable one another. We saw some great smash ups and did a lot of laughing. I don't know much about how these derbies work, but I do know that the last car still running is declared the winner. The announcer pointed out that each driver has a long wooden stick duct-taped to the side of the car, and if for some reason he can't go on, either because he's feeling a bit woozy from getting clobbered or the car has gone caput, he simply reaches up and breaks the stick, which is supposed to signal to the other drivers that he has surrendered. No one is supposed to smash into a car that has a broken stick.
During one of the heats, a car stalled and I saw a driver reach up and break his stick. Apparently the other cars didn't see this, and so they revved up their engines and came at him full-speed and collided with the stalled car. The driver was not very happy at all. I couldn't hear what he said but I could tell that what came out of his mouth was not a word of blessing. He held his hands up in exasperation and starting waving the stick at the other drivers as if to say, "What's up with that? Can't you see that I'm out of commission here? Stop hitting me."
I suspect that some of you feel like you've been in a demolition derby. You've waved the surrender stick but the hits just keep coming and you don't know how much more you can take. As we wrap up our series called, "When Life is Hard," we're going to learn that God loves to bring out His purposes through our problems.
(From a sermon by Brian Bill, God's Purpose in our Problems, 7/25/2010)
I love my boys. I thank God everyday for blessing me with such good children. There is one thing that I believe all children go through. It is a sense of bewilderment when given a series of jobs.
For instance; my children and I can be cleaning up the yard. I can tell Benjamin to go and pick up around the shed. Benjamin is for the most part a trustworthy young man. I donít have to tell him no more than three times to get this done. After the fourth time, he finally gets around to doing this task. Meanwhile I am working diligently on the other fifteen areas of the yard that need to be cleaned up. If Iím not careful, Iíll soon be working by myself because in Benjaminís mind, he is through when the area around the shed is cleaned up. It doesnít matter that the other fifteen areas look like Dorothyís house in Kansas after the tornado swept through Ė get done with the yard around the shed, Iím done!
What Benjamin needs is a ever so gentle reminder that there is a big picture here to be taken in. He has to be reminded that there are other parts of the yard that havenít even been touched yet. Sure enough, after he gets done with the yard around the front porch, heís off to play basketball. I do love my boys, I really do!
We come to church on Sunday and we donít bother to see the other parts of ministry that havenít been touched. We donít see the trash that has been laying around the church yard for the past four weeks, the jug of oil by the door, the blinds that have fallen apart and havenít been replaced, the meetings that havenít taken place, the families that havenít been fed, and most of all, the lost souls that are still on a pathway where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. All because we donít get the big picture. We find it so easy to do other things that seem more important at the time. We think Ė awe, Iíll have plenty of time to get around to that or the preacher can do that, thatís what he gets paid to do anyway, or someone else will probably do that. Guess what Ė it ainít getting done!!
THE STORY OF MARTIN LUTHER
In 1517, an obscure Catholic priest named Martin Luther placed his life in God's hands when he nailed his 95 theses, his 95 arguments against the Catholic church, on the door of the Wittenberg Church. There was nothing wrong with nailing pages to the door. Everything was posted there for everyone to read. It was the community bulletin board. But Martin Luther had been studying the Bible personally and realized that Catholic ceremonies did nothing to dispense grace and the church had no right to sell indulgences. Salvation is received through faith in Jesus. His 95 theses specified errors of the Catholic church in the light of personal Bible study.
At that time, Catholicism was the most powerful institution in the western world. The Pope not only coronated kings, he could order them to abdicate if he so chose. The power to excommunicate did not so much inspire the fear of God as the fear of eternal hell. Opposition to the church meant a charge of heresy, possible torture, possible death, and certain excommunication.
After ten years of leading the Reformation, a series of health problems assaulted Martin Luther. In April, 1527, a dizzy spell struck him while preaching. Things got worse. By July he wondered if he had long to live. He regained some strength, then was assaulted with depression, heart problems, and severe intestinal complications. In those days, some treatments were as bad as the ailments.
At one point he wrote, "I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain." Some of you may know how that feels. He continued, "I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God."
The most recent issue of Tim Magazine was most revealing to say the least. Who would ever think that such a nationally known magazine would have this unique subject on its cover page and inside? (Issue: July 1, 2002)
“The Bible & the Apocalypse! Why more Americans are reading and talking about THE END OF THE WORLD!” Nancy Gibbs authored the article entitlted: Apocalypse Now.
“What do you watch for, when you are watching the news? Signs that interest rates might be climbing; maybe it’s time to refinance. Signs of global warming, maybe forget that new SUV. Signs of new terrorist activity, maybe twice about that flight to Chicago. OR SIGNS THAT THE WORLD MAY BE COMING TO AN END, AND THE LAST BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL IS ABOUT TO UNFOLD? . . . We seem to be born with an instinct that the end is out there somewhere. We have a cultural impulse to imagine it – and keep it at bay.”
For many years the Church and Bible scholars have used the word “Apocalypse” and even said we live in such an age. The word actually means in Greek: “Revelation or Lifting of the veil.”
Time Magazine writer (Nancy Gibbs) says, “In an apocalyptic age, people feel that the veil of normal, secular reality is lifting, and we can see behind the scenes, see where God and the devil, good and evil are fighting to control the future.”
The article continues by pointing out that even the pre-Christian is thinking about the future. Recent polls suggest that 35% of Americans say they are paying closer attention to news events and how they relate to the coming of the world since the terrorist attacks of September 11th. 17% of Americans believe the end of the world will happen in their lifetime. 36% of Americans believe that the Bible is the Word of God and is to be taken literally. 59% believe the prophecies in the Book of Revelation will come true.
If you have followed the book market you will note that the “Left Behind” Series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are some of the best sellers. They have written 10 boys in the series and have sold approximately 36 million copies.
While I do not know when Jesus Christ will return, I do know this: the Bible says that He will. And in light of what is happening today, it is time for us to do some serious thinking about the Future.
When we look at Jesus’ life and ministry, we see that He spent considerable time talking about the future events. Even the disciples had many questions regarding the future. The Apostles in their writings, especially Paul, spent considerable time speaking about the future events. While the Book of Revelation speaks of the seven Churches of Asia Minor, its main emphasis is on the future.
Jesus reminds us in this passage of Scripture (Matthew 24, 25 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) that we are to “watch” and “be ready.” He emphatically states it over and over. One cannot read these words without feeling a sense of urgency and expectancy today. As someone has written:
“The improbable happens just often enough to make life either disturbing or delightful.”
Growing up as a teenager, I heard a lot about the ...