Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sit Down and Be Blessed

(Message to Wesley United Methodist Church Celebrating Ushers’ Day - Luke 9: 14 – 18) People all over Waco, Texas are attending churches open in the name of Jesus. They are attending for various reasons. Churches struggle to market themselves like McDonald’s, Target, Mike Staas Plumbing, Allen Samuels, and Katie’s Frozen Custard (local businesses). We know that people evaluate churches and church services like they do businesses, so we try to provide the church experience that attracts the people: (feed them, brief services, tamborines, hospitality, entertaining preaching, charismatic service, good choir, give aways, kind Pastor, drums, and a great musician). Church leaders know that people come to church and leave with an Evaluation Checklist. We’ve all been guilty. “How was the choir? How was the preaching? How was the preacher?” We focus more evaluation on the people in charge than we do on the God in charge of the universe. The choir sings. You physically hear the words and the music. The preacher preaches. You hear the words with your ears, and you understand them with your brain. Then you evaluate the preacher’s message piece by piece: Agree with this; Disagree with that; Good; Bad; Boring, or maybe you don’t even listen at all. Stop evaluating the people who serve you and evaluate the God we are all here to serve. Give Him a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Come to church and work on your relationship with Him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Hear the choir with your ears. Hear the preacher with your ears. But while you are physically listening, your spiritual hearing needs to take control of your thoughts. Spiritual hearing works from the inside out. Ears can’t help you comprehend the spiritual things of God. After Jesus feeds the 5000, He and His disciples had slipped away for some private time. Church leaders and gossipers too, ya’ll know about the meeting after the meeting. Sometimes the meeting after the meeting is in somebody’s office. Sometimes it’s on the parking lot. Sometimes it’s on the phone. Sometimes it’s at the restaurant where you and your crew go after church or after the meeting. Jesus asked His disciples in the meeting after the meeting where He fed 5000+ men, women, and children, using only 5 loaves and 2 fishes, “Whom say the people that I am?” The disciples began popcorning out what they heard. Some say you are Elias. Some say you are John the Baptist. They named other prophets. Everybody had an answer for what “they say.” Then Jesus asked them the most important question that must be answered by everybody in this life, “Whom say you that I am?” Only Peter spoke up. Verse 20 says, “Peter answering said, ‘The Christ of God.” If you are a Christian, a born again believer, you correctly answered this question for yourself one day. If you want to evaluate your church, evaluate your response to this question, “Who is Jesus?” When you try to answer that question, something spiritual should happen to you. Something should start happening to you from the inside out. Everybody needs to know who Jesus is. Once you know who He is, you should come to church and work on your relationship with Him. The work of an usher is a ministry. It is a work of service. Ushers meet the needs of those attending service. They assist with keeping the service reverent. They provide order where there otherwise may be no order. Imagine the problems in the service if there were no ushers “to obey.” Who would manage the offertory worship? Who would assist the people with seating? Who would make the guests feel welcome? We have all needed the assistance of the ushers. What if the ushers had not been available to provide the service we needed? Jesus had been preaching all day in this Bible lesson. The people had followed Him quite a distance away from the town where all the food sources were. The disciples were concerned and suggested to Jesus that He dismiss the service , so the people could go away before expecting to be fed. Jesus told them to feed the people. The disciples said that the only food available was 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. Jesus said to His disciples in verse 14, “Make them sit down by fifties in a company.” Like ushers, the disciples got the people seated. Like ushers, they assured that there was order. Like ushers, they served the people’s needs. Imagine with me what the chaos could have been. 5000+ hungry men, women, and children hear the rumor that the only food available was 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. Even after 1000 people were successfully fed, problems could have occurred from the other 4000 thinking and wondering, “Will there be enough?” Maybe the last 1000 considered cutting into the line for fear that the food may run out. But that did not happen. Jesus told His ushers, “Make them sit down….” The people sat down, and they were blessed. Verse 17 says, “And they did eat, and were all filled.” Everybody’s needs were met. That’s what Jesus does. He meets needs. We don’t need a meal, but we do have needs. We have financial needs. We have health needs. We have a need to be forgiven. We have a need to forgive. Jesus still meets needs. Come into the sanctuary, sit down, and be blessed. Have your needs met. Look at the second half of Verse 17,…”and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets. Nobody hauled away the surplus. They returned it. The disciples were like ushers gathering an offering. The people gave, and the disciples gathered 12 baskets. Wesley, come into your church, sit down, and be blessed by the worship experience. Evaluate your God instead of your preacher. He can pass your evaluation. I guarantee you, if you have a heart of gratitude, you will leave better off than you arrived. Evaluate how He loved you. Evaluate how He picked you up when you were down. Evaluate how He woke you up this morning despite all you’ve done. Evaluate how He has come to your rescue time and time again. Evaluate how He met your needs down through the years. Evaluate how He sent His Son, Jesus to pay the price for your sin. Evaluate how He saved you by the blood of Jesus. Jesus hung, bled, and died on a rugged cross to save me from eternal damnation. Because of the love of God and the obedience of Jesus Christ, I shall have everlasting life. Come into this sanctuary. Sit down, hear what the Spirit has to say to you, and be blessed.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What Do You Need?

Philippians 4:19 says, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." I have had a variety of experiences in life where I found myself in a position of need. I know what it means to need more time. I know what it means to need more money. I know what it means to feel all alone, in need of a friend. I know the shame and agony of defeat, in need of a word of encouragement. I know what it means to be too angry and bitter to forgive while standing in the need to be forgiven myself. I know the heartbreak of being betrayed by a "friend," more desperately needing the consolation that a good friend provides. Despite the various types of needs I have had in life, my God has supplied all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. I am so glad to know that it is no secret what God can do. What He's done for others, He'll do for you and for me. The Bible is full of the testimonies of desperate men and women who put their faith, trust, and hope in God during their "times of need." Have you ever encountered a need that left you feeling desperate? The father of Hagar's thirteen year old son had given her some bread and a bottle of water before sending her and their son away (Genesis 21:14). How desperate this mother must have felt as she wandered in the wilderness long enough to run out of water! What may her thoughts have been as time passed? Did she develop bitter thoughts towards Abraham, Sarah, or God? How did the honor of being chosen as Sarah's child's surrogate mother turn into this nightmare? Did Hagar have to fight feelings of resentment towards Sarah's unborn son? Was Abraham's act of rejection godly behavior? Would God abandon her and Ishmael and let them die in this wilderness as a punishment? Hagar left her son, shaded by a shrub, and walked a distance away from him. She was convinced that they were going to die, and she did not want to have to watch her son die (Verse 16). I cannot imagine the depth of this mother's desperation. God showed them mercy and supplied their need. An angel spoke to Hagar, told her where to find water, and delivered God's message, promising to bless her son. God supplied Hagar's need, and He will supply all our need too. Look at Naomi's story of desperation in the book of Ruth. She was forced to return to her homeland in humiliation. The condition of the woman who had returned was so unlike the condition of the woman who had left that the people in the city questioned, "Is this Naomi?" Naomi probably would have preferred that the folks back home would not have to see how low her socioeconomic situation had sunk. She was too poverty-stricken to be able to hide it. She had no choice but to return home, just as she was. How embarrassed she must have felt, waiting for her daughter-in-law to return from begging for enough food to feed the two of them. Although God supplied their immediate need for food, He had an even greater plan to meet their need. By the end of Naomi's story, the women who had watched God meet Naomi's needs were blessing the Lord (Ruth 4:14). What God did for Naomi, He'll do for you, and He'll do for me. Out of money? Out of strength? Out of hope? How desperate do you have to be to have nothing else to depend upon except "faith?" According to the 5th Chapter of Mark, a certain woman had an issue of blood for twelve years. She had suffered many things of many physicians. She had spent all that she had. Not only was she not better, but rather, she grew worse. The woman turned to her faith to solve her problem. She encouraged herself, "For she said, If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole" (Mark 5:28). Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is substance. Faith is evidence. Glory to God! Jesus said to the desperate woman with the issue of blood, "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole..." (Mark 5:34). It is no secret what God can do. What He's done for others, He'll do for you and for me! Encourage yourself and have faith in God despite your circumstances and your problems. Believe God's promises and stand on them by faith. If you believe that you are saved by faith according to John 3:16, you should also believe Philippians 4:19, "But my God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." The blood of Jesus will never lose its power. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Encourage yourself by your faith. Turn to God's word, God's promises. What do you need? I have learned to count it joy when I find myself in need. It is exhilirating, and it refreshes my faith watching God meet my needs. Joy!

The Night Cometh

I went to bed the night of November 2, 2010 praying and asking God to choose what was best for me and my future birthdays. Among the traditional birthday phone calls from family members, I had received the news that my brother, Bruce was not expected to live through the night. My heart prayed to God and spoke to Bruce, "You choose." I spoke as I believed. "If you die on my birthday, I know that God will give that choice purpose in my life, and I will somehow be spared an emotional meltdown from the pain of spending every birthday in my future grieving," I resolved. Midnight came. I had my answer, so I went to bed. The choice was clear. Bruce would not die on my birthday. I thanked God graciously and braced myself in preparation for the "inevitable call." I did not know when it would come, but I knew that it would come. In John 9:4, Jesus spoke the words, "night cometh." Night came and went, but the morning of November 3, 2010, Bruce died. His death taught me that there is no adequate preparation for the death of a beloved one. However, nothing in life known to man comes closer to adequate preparation than having a firm faith in God's promises and faith in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus. I found new meaning in the Word of God, such as I did not think possible. My parents had six children together: five girls and one boy. Bruce was second to the oldest. He spent his entire life being the cherished "big brother." We all loved him dearly, but it was I who was indisputably his closest sibling. This became especially true over the last three decades of his life. We bonded more deeply as bold gospel messengers. I continue speaking as a lay-person. Bruce shared the gospel as an ordained Baptist preacher. We spent these decades edifying each other and testifying about the works of our God. Each observed the other as we grew in grace. The life and death process of no other individual has strengthened my walk with the Lord and increased my understanding of the power of the grace of God as did Bruce's process. The pain of grief seems unbearable. My experience forced me to ponder several questions. What do people who do not know Jesus do when they grieve? How do they survive without the blessed assurances of eternal life after death? What words exist, besides those found in God's word, which can bring comfort to those who mourn? More poignant than needing the comfort found in God's word when one is grieving, is the need for its comfort when one is himself/herself dying. The death of others has a way of bringing us face to face with thoughts of our own death. Without question, we are all dying. This is a fact. It is an undeniable universal law of nature. It is true of the sinner, as well as the saint. We cannot change this consequence of "the fall in the Garden of Eden." What we can control is our preparation for life after death, and we can control our quality of life as we await death. Whether we are prepared or not, death comes for each and every one of us at the appointed time. I wrote a book about the subject, Dying. Writing the poems comforted me beyond measure when I experienced the most painful mourning season of my life, when Night came for Bruce. I wrote the poems to comfort myself. The poems were divinely inspired and ministered to my grieving soul. I share them with the hope that they will bring the same comfort to others. (Access the poems at Jesus provides us eternal life after death. Be prepared and prepare others, for...The Night Cometh. Joy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

What An Exit!

I have stood in the rooms of dying men and women. Sometimes there were two or three of us (including the person who was dying). Other times there were eight or ten of us. Each setting afforded a great opportunity for a "spiritual checkup!" If you find yourself in such a setting, whether there are two, three, or three thousand present, be sure that each one present has had a chance to choose Jesus as his/her Lord and Savior.
In Luke Chapter 23, Jesus, even while dying, takes time to save a repenting, dying thief. The matter of salvation is that urgent. If you are in the room of a dying person, even if you, yourself are the dying person, remember to extend Christ's invitation to discipleship and to everlasting life. If all present are saved, what an atmosphere of praise and worship that can be created! What an exit for the one who is dying! Joy!

Do You Know Jesus?

Be sure you meet Jesus
Before you meet with Death.
Your answer will make a difference
When the question is asked,
"Do you know Jesus?"
Your knees will one day kneel
In obeisance
Whether you tell them to or not.
Your tongue will declare that
He is Lord.

Your mind will recall
The many times
He called your name.
Did you answer him?
Did He claim you as His own?

Do you or do you not
Know Jesus?
Answer me
Before you close your eyes and die.
He can save your soul.
He's the only way
To receive eternal life.
Do you know Jesus
The precious Lamb of God?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Glimpse

I have had many occasions to travel into Dallas throughout my lifetime. It still excites me to get a glimpse of the Dallas skyline long before actually entering the city. It reminds me of how I felt on my first trip to Six Flags Over Texas. Catching a "glimpse" of all the fun from the parking lot, made the distance to the entrance seem like a day's journey.

The dying who know Jesus begin a fellowship process with Him that attracts them away from all that exists in this life. Love is a powerful source, and tears are a powerful source, but not even the combination of love and tears can compete against a "glimpse of glory." Mothers have left small children behind. Husbands have died in spite of leaving behind the love of his life. Just a "glimpse" is enough to cause a dying Saint to be unmoved by the love and tears of those being left to mourn their passing. If a glimpse is that powerful, what must it be like to actually enter and dwell in the kingdom? Joy!

The words do not exist
That explain how I am able to resist
Staying when I know
You do not want me to go.
Your tears are full of love and
You cannot understand
How a God of love can demand
That I leave you now.
Though I'll gladly pay my vow
In exchange for the glimpse I see,
I have no words to describe


Survival is the first rule of self-preservation. We fight desperately to live. The fear of dying can control every aspect of a person's life. Fear of dying can cause us to make good decisions. Likewise, fear of dying can cause us to make poor decisions. The first recorded death was that of Abel. He was murdered by his brother. Since that time, an infinite number of tears have been shed by mourners for those who die. History is full of narratives about the actions of individuals desperate to delay dying, often at any cost. Man is afraid to die.

Death is the great equalizer. No matter how rich or how poor; how attractive or unattractive; how young or old, or one's race or gender, we all must face the same fact. Death is inevitable (unless raptured) for every living creature. The thought of death reigned supreme as man's greatest fear. That is...until Jesus rose from the dead and sealed our hope forever in all of His promises for eternal life. Jesus, Himself, is living proof that there is everlasting life after death. Joy!

Like Jesus
I will rob Death of its victory.
Like Jesus
I will live eternally.
Like Jesus
I will not fear the grave's sting.
And just like Jesus
I will one day rise again.
Like Jesus
I will reign
Forever more in glory
Only because He came and
Saved my soul from
The penalty of sin.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eat It!

As a little girl, I attended a Family Reunion for my mother's side of the family. I remember searching the spread for the foods I recognized as my mother's cooking. For months afterwards, my siblings spoke of how delicious the foods and desserts cooked and baked by my aunts were. I could have cared less about what I had missed. I was focused on my mother's cooking. I am still particular about whose cooking I am willing to eat, although much less so than I was in 1970.

I Kings 17: 4 - 7 tells about a group of strange cooks. The prophet, Elijah, had been commanded by God to wait for his next orders in a remote place, near a brook called Cherith. Elijah was served two meals a day by (of all creatures) ravens. God told Elijah before he went to the brook that ravens would be supplying his daily meals during his stay, and he went anyway. Elijah trusted God, so he obeyed God. The prophet ate what the ravens served until God ordered him to leave the brook.

This morning, I listened to three television preachers whose spiritual cooking I usually bypass. I was so desperate to saturate my soul with the preached Word today, that I dared to change the television station. I was willing to eat anybody's healthy cooking or "sound doctrinal preaching." I was so blessed. They helped me to zero-in on the very scriptures I needed in order for my Bible study time to nurture me out of my pity party. If Elijah could eat food served by ravens, surely I could appreciate the meals the television preachers were serving out of the Word of God. I was hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and I was filled. Joy!