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Romans 1:18-20, That’s Not Fair October 2, 2012

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Romans 1:18-20

I had a dream one night where my dad and I arrived at the gates of heaven at the same time. A book was opened to determine if our names were in it. They found mine and said, “Come with us this way and receive your eternal reward.” But, my dad’s name was not found. They said, “I’m sorry, you can’t come in. You’ll have to go through that door.” As they led him away, to eternal destruction, he looked at me and said, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have listened to you, you’re my son. You were a preacher. Why didn’t you tell me?” I was so burden by it, I asked him about his relationship with Christ the next time I saw him.

I wonder what others have said as their verdicts were read as they stood before the gates of heaven, just waiting to get in, only to find out they would not be let in.

Let consider the text.

Paul began the body of his letter to the church at Rome not describing God’s goodness, kindness, benevolence, righteousness, or any other of God’s countless attributes, but with God’s wrath.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” Romans 1:18

Why does Paul begin on such a negative note?

He begins at the point of humanity’s greatest need. We need a Savior.

Everyone wants to go to heaven. Most think that they are going to heaven. But that is not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught;

“Broad is the path that leads to destruction… Narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few will find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46

What possible excuse could they give? Could they argue that it’s not fair?

It is absolutely fair.

There is enough evidence within the created order to point to the existence of God leaving mankind, “without excuse.” (v.20)

We marvel at the grandeur of the night’s sky, the majesty of the mountains, the vastness of the sea and the complexities of life. These are called “General Revelation,” and are available to everyone. Still, there may be some who argue that they did not know; no one ever told them. So, God took it a step further and revealed Himself in a very personal way, a “Special Revelation.” He sent Jesus.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” John 1:14

Jesus is the Savior that rescues us from the penalty of our sin. He is the Divine Revelation of God.

What will you say when you get to heaven?


If you have questions or comments about something you read here today or on another post, feel free to contact me by email : t_watsup@yahoo.com


Places of Honor August 12, 2012

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Luke 14:1, 7-14

Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house for a banquet once. He was invited to be watched mostly. Whether He brought His disciples or not at this point is insignificant. What is significant is the opportunity that presented itself for a parable.

A parable, in its simplest form, is an everyday explanation with a deeper meaning. Teachers call it a teachable moment. For Jesus, parables often explained a spiritual truth in common terms. Very often, an event was unfolding in front of the hearers as Jesus explained the deep truth and similarities to which they were witnessing.

“The kingdom of heaven is like…      a mustard seed…”

Right there, near the hearers was a mustard tree and they would draw their conclusions.

Here, Jesus has been invited to a banquet. As guests arrived He watched some jockey for the seats nearest the host, the places of honor. From these proceedings He made His observations.

He compared the present proceedings to a wedding banquet, a much more formal affair than the current occasion. At a wedding banquet, seats were often assigned, much the same way we do today, with place settings listing the guest’s seat.  The head table is reserved for the wedding party and prominent guests. Wedding planners and coordinators spend a great deal of effort assigning the right guests in the right places. In the weddings banquets of the day, guests would be seated in order of importance to the host.

Guests at the current banquet perhaps arrived early in order to seat themselves in the places of honor. The problem is however, if someone of more importance arrived fashionably late, people in the places of honor would get shuffled about. If a less important guest was seated in a prominent place, they could get moved. With seating already taken, the moved guest could be seated far away from where they started. This would cause great shame.

Instead, what Jesus instructed was not to assume you have a place of honor, but let the host move you up to that place. What Jesus was really saying was, have a proper assessment of yourself. Do not consider yourself more highly than you ought.

Jesus next moved on in His instruction to the host.

Hosts invited some guests expecting to be invited by them later in return. They invited their friends, brothers, relatives and rich neighbors. In an honor-shame culture such as this one, one would be expected to be invited to another’s banquet especially if you had invited them. Furthermore, their banquet would attempt to out-class yours. So, in essence, the first host was paid back and more so later by inviting these others first.

Jesus instructed differently.

Instead, what a true host should do is invite losers and outcast. Everyone listed; the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, would have been incapable of reciprocating the invitation. But, in inviting the likes of these, the host would not be paid back in this life, but in the next.

We call this ministry.

Ministry is messy, expensive and humbling…

Because, the truth of it is simply this, we were all losers and outcasts at one point. We have just forgotten what it was like.

We have all been invited to the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb, but only by the Host’s great benevolence. None of us deserve to be there, so none of us should seek the places of honor. Instead, we should have a proper assessment of ourselves and realize that are merely losers and outcasts invited in.

The Dutiful Servant July 29, 2012

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Luke 17:7-10

What does it take to win medals?

Notations often read, “For meritorious service…” or “…above and beyond the call of duty.” Is it for heroic actions, for exemplary service or for doing your job?

Years ago I served in the Army National Guard under a Platoon Sergeant who was unlike any other I have ever known before or since. For all of his charisma and positive qualities I had this against him; he never rewarded his soldiers by recommending them for medals. He would say, “I’m not gonna reward you for doing your job.” I wondered if this was due to laziness on his part. Maybe he just didn’t want to fill out the paperwork. But, how hard could that be? I finally just stopped worrying about the fancies and pretties that others received but that no one in our platoon ever did. We focused on the work and not on the reward. A job well done was its own reward.

As a result, I learned that the Army owes me nothing. The world owes me nothing. My Platoon Sergeant owes me nothing. More importantly, God owes me nothing.

Let’s consider the text.

We consider ourselves servants of God. Jesus spoke time and again about sacrificial service to others. He said to turn the other cheek. He said to walk two miles and to surrender your tunic if someone takes your cloak. We serve God all the while believing that we are somehow being paid in measureable sums. Abundance Preachers talk about living the victorious life. We like to quote Luke 12:37, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” But, somehow we miss the hard truth; God owes us nothing. He is not rewarding us with His love and grace because we are faithful servants. God’s love and grace are free gifts. We cannot earn them no matter how righteous or sacrificial we think we are.

God does not put demands on humanity. He offers salvation free for the taking. But, discipleship is total commitment of all that you are to the God that saved you. This passage presents a proper perspective of the disciple. It is the denial of self. It is the surrender of all that you planned and desired for your life for the call that God has placed on your life, a call to salvation and freedom from sin. It is the recognition that nothing you or I could ever do, even in a thousand lifetimes, would be enough to pay the sin debt that was paid upon the Cross of Calvary.

God owes me nothing, but has already given me everything by sparing me from wrath and divine judgment against my sinful state.

The hard truth is that my Platoon Sergeant was right; I am not rewarded for doing my job. I am an unworthy servant who has only done his duty. The reward has already been given.

When Clichés Are Not Enough August 18, 2011

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We eventually reach a point in our Christian life when clichés are not enough. I think I have heard them all. I have even had other preacher-types say them to me after I have revealed some difficulty I was facing at the time. Clichés are always spoken with such incompetence. It’s as if the other person doesn’t know what to say, but feels the need to say something. A counselor friend of mine would say, ‘they were not trying to reassure you, they were trying to reassure themselves.’
For the past couple of weeks, I have felt like I have been treading water. It started out simply enough; there was a ‘to do’ list that didn’t get completed one day. Those things that did not get completed each day were added to the next day’s list and it snowballed from there.
Like many other families, we were getting our children ready for school. School supplies had to be purchased. Shot records had to be updated. The always popular ‘clothes shopping’ had to be accomplished. It seemed to be non-stop.
Different from other families and any other school years for us though, this year posed new challenges never before faced. For the first time we would be sending our children to public school. We have always homeschooled. Having never had to work through the system as a parent before, (my wife and I were both teachers at different points) there is a lot to it. It is very frustrating. So, for the last several weeks, I have felt like I was treading water and just keeping my head above the surface. At the last moment, just when I didn’t think I could hold on any more, I heard the rescue boat coming. All I had to do was hang on. But, it was becoming more and more difficult.
What do you say to someone who feels like that? I can tell you from experience that clichés are not enough. In most instances in fact, they are not received well. They come across as condescending and judgmental. They seem to smack of a superiority the advisor has that they are somehow “above all that” and “better than you.”
So, be careful with the clichés. Instead, offer a listening ear, a reassuring tone and a helping hand. God did not call us to be the voice of judgment, but the hands and feet of Christ. Help and reassurance require work and aid; not clichés.
If you have questions or comments about something you read here today or on another post, feel free to contact me by email : t_watsup@yahoo.com
You can also check out my “Church Where You Are .org” page on Facebook. “Like” it and stay up to date when I post. “Share” the page with your friends.
Thanks for reading.

Simple Prayers August 10, 2011

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Prayer is the simplest yet most complex thing in the world. It is simple because it is just a conversation you are having with another person. It is complex because the other person you are talking to is God. Let that sink in for a second and the profundity begins to be recognizable.
I learned how to pray early in life. In my early years we attended church as a family. I sat through Sunday School and learned little songs and repetitious prayers. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Or another version says, “Guide me safely through the night, and wake me with the morning light.” These and other repetitious prayers are good for children but sooner or later we must mature in our faith and pray with a greater focus and earnestness.
I had been praying the same way for a while when I was stirred in my spirit by a young teenager. He is the son of a pastor friend of mine who invited his young son to pray at the conclusion of church service one night. I was struck by his sincerity and genuineness. He spoke to God with a childlike faith that I think we can all learn from. You see, he said, “Please…” “Please God, take care of this. Please God do that.” It was so real. I changed my approach to prayer from then on.
It is simple. It is a three line prayer that goes like this, “Dear God, I need a….. Please would you…..?” That’s it.
So, now, you can try it.
“Dear God, I am struggling. Please would you help me?”
“Dear God, I need a new job. Please would you help me find one?”
“Dear God, I want a deeper, more meaningful relationship with you. Please would you help me have one?”
That’s it. It really is the simplest thing in the world until the reality sets in that you are talking to God.
If you have questions or comments about something you read here today or on another post, feel free to contact me by email : t_watsup@yahoo.com
You can also check out my “Church Where You Are .org” page on Facebook. “Like” it and stay up to date when I post. “Share” the page with your friends.
Thanks for reading.

Talking to God July 27, 2011

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As the “religious guy,” I am often asked to pray in a gathering of friends. The assumption is that since I am the “religious guy,” God will hear my prayers before someone else’s, or that I know “how to” pray better than others. Not so…
Prayer is for everyone. It is simply ‘talking to God.’ In Romans 8, we learn that the work of Christ upon the Cross made it possible for us to call God, Father. Where the ancients lived in fear of the Divine, we have a familiarity with Him. Now, that is not to say that we can be flippant about it. Can we say to God, “What up, dawg?” Yes. Should we? No. Even the word, “Abba, Father,” has an attitude of respect to it. I like to think of prayer as talking to God, but as you would the mayor of your town.
Prayer is simple. You tell God what you want or need, He responds. Sometimes the answer is, “No.”
God wants to hear from us. Some would say, “But, God knows everything. Why should we tell Him what He already knows?” Because, prayer is for us. We pray not to inform God, but to come alongside Him, to agree with Him. I believe God wants us to pray so that WE know our needs, our true needs.
Prayer is more than a one way phone call. In our prayer time, we should not do all the talking. We should take time to listen as well. During our prayer time, God will speak to us as well. It is often clearer than at any other time if we will really listen. In that, we learn of His will for our lives, the direction He wants us to go, what we need to change within ourselves, and more.
Do you have a prayer time? When’s the last time you spent time talking to God?
If you have questions or comments about something you read here today or on another post, feel free to contact me by email : t_watsup@yahoo.com
You can also check out my “Church Where You Are .org” page on Facebook. “Like” it and stay up to date when I post. “Share” the page with your friends.
Thanks for reading.

Evidence From Nothingness July 20, 2011

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Since the beginning, there have been opponents of God and His people. They oppose God and all who stand for Him. They make claims that God does not exist, that the Bible is not really the Word of God and that our faith is in vain. They cite other sources they claim are just as valid as the Bible. They cite events and claim them as proof. It has been this way since the beginning.
In our passage today, we find the Assyrians making threats and demands upon the people of God. They point to other gods, their gods, claiming they are as great as God Almighty. The cited the great success and military might of the Assyrian army. They quoted their own scripture and even claimed that God Himself was on their side, against His people; the Israelites.
These claims may have sounded valid. They may have caused some to doubt or fear. But, the truth was yet to be made known. Opponents of God make their lofty claims and site evidence that supports their cause just as the Assyrians did. They say there really is no God. They say that we are alone and our worship ascends to nothingness. God does not really hear nor care, they claim. They say there is no heaven, there is no literal hell, and that Jesus was just a regular guy and that He is not coming back again. Every day that passes adds to their evidence. Every day that passes is one more day they can point and claim they are right. But, they are citing evidence from nothingness. They site their own evidence as support for their cause and, at least for the moment, they may even seem to be right.
But, rest assured. Read the rest of this passage and see what came of the Assyrian king. The words of the prophet Isaiah spoken from God came to pass. They had to get to that point in history in order to be able to see it. Time must pass to prove the facts that are really true. We can only look back in time to see what really happened. We are not capable of seeing into the future. But, God is.
Trust your faith my friends. In time we will see the deliverance of the Lord. In the great and mighty day of the Lord, all opponents will be silenced. We have seen God’s work through history. It has come to pass so many times with absolute certainty. Just because opponents are claiming victory does not mean they have it until all has been accomplished. Though the Lord tarries, do not give in to doubt. Trust in Him. He will prove faithful yet.
If you have questions or comments about something you read here today or on another post, feel free to contact me by email : t_watsup@yahoo.com

Arguing Your Beliefs July 13, 2011

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I checked out a book from the library the other day and read most of it. It did little more for me than remind me that there are real opponents to the Word of God all around. They site evidence that they demand is proof while denying proponents of scripture the ability to do the same. They make claims about the historicity of ancient documents and writings and accept them as absolute but demand another standard for those who agree with the Bible.
Can the Bible truly be read as an historical document? I believe it can.
I believe it is good practice for everyone to read books and articles that do not agree with everything we believe or think. We need to be challenged to develop our own reasoning and sound decisions. Reading works by people who do not agree with your views helps develop, clarify and solidify what you believe and why. It helps us make better arguments about what we believe especially if we know what others believe. They know what we believe because they have studied. Shouldn’t we do the same? If we are so unsure that our beliefs might be swayed, perhaps we are not so convinced after all.
Opponents to the Word of God and all things Christian are all around. They seem to be increasing in number every day. We need to know what they believe and why in order to make sound arguments for the faith and/or against their beliefs. Having said that, I do not believe we should be militant about it. I believe a little open mindedness goes a long, long way. We listen and earn the right to be heard. We hear their reasons and offer our own arguments. It is not that we have to agree with their views, but we don’t have to be disagreeable. But, we should not let them push us around, either. (There’s a balance in there somewhere.) Maybe if we knew what we believed and why we believe it rather than just blind acceptance we could make a better argument for the faith and win more people to the Gospel.
If you have questions or comments about something you read here today or on another post, feel free to contact me by email : t_watsup@yahoo.com

Making God Be Who We Want Him to Be June 29, 2011

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I was talking with a guy in my National Guard unit before we deployed to Iraq last year. He told me has was a C & E Catholic. I wondered within myself whether that was another ‘type’ of Catholic or something, because I had never heard of that before. Turns out what he referred to as himself being a C & E Catholic means he usually goes to church only on Christmas and Easter. He figured that is enough. Somehow, by going those two “most sacred days,” he is covered.
Early in the year, we moved into country to begin our duties. In the midst of all the moving and operations, Easter happened. As the Chaplain for the unit, I made sure to hold a special service recognizing Easter and the importance it has to us as believers. Returning to the compound, I bumped into this person. He asked how my service went. “Fine,” I told him. Then, I asked him if he made it to church, especially since it was Easter and remembering what he told me before about going on Christmas and Easter especially. He told me he did not make it to church that day, even though there were several services held. Speaking through a wry smile he said, “I am sure God will understand.” To which I replied, “What if He doesn’t?”
The problem here is not a lack of belief or faith. The problem here is a misunderstanding of the attributes of God. We cannot separate out one attribute of God over another. We cannot claim one trait in God’s character over another to give us the excuse we are looking for to suit our needs. Yes, God is understanding. He is long suffering and kind. God is slow to wrath and loving. But, we cannot remove those from all His other attributes because God is also vengeful, wrathful and jealous. Even these cannot be individualized for any purpose. God is loving in His wrath and jealous in His patience. He is kind and merciful but also just, holy and perfect at the same time. Individual attributes cannot be singled out to make excuses in order to make ourselves feel better.
God is complete within Himself. He does not require our company, He requests it. He does not demand our allegiance, He invites it. But, God is also God and we should never forget that fact. Just because we can call Him Father does not mean we can be so familiar or flippant.
If you have questions or comments about something you read here today or on another post, feel free to contact me by email : t_watsup@yahoo.com

Christianity By Comparison June 22, 2011

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Matthew 7:21-23
Christianity is not a religion first of all, it is a relationship we have God through Jesus.
Christianity is not based upon comparisons. One cannot be more righteous than another based upon some invented system of comparisons. We are not righteous because of what we ‘don’t’ do any more than we are righteous because of what we ‘do’ do. And, it is certainly not based upon what we do or not in comparison to other people. We cannot say, “Well, at least I don’t…” and think that will win us any points with God. If we were to make a comparison, it would have to be with us as compared to Jesus. He was and is the holy, sinless and perfect Son of God that saves us from our sins. He is the standard by which we measure ourselves. Anything less than pure perfection falls short. Anything less than absolute sinlessness leaves us short of entering the gates of heaven.
How then do we get there? Only by trusting in Jesus. Jesus said of Himself that He is, “The Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Him.” Seems pretty simple to me.
First of all, if there were any other way to make it to heaven but by Jesus, then He died for nothing. All the torment and pain that He endured through His passion would have been for naught were there any other way. I just can’t see that. All that He did; all that He suffered was for us. If we could reason our way to heaven or discover some higher knowledge, then He did not need to die.
Second of all, we cannot earn our way to heaven. That in itself would be “another way.” The Bible calls all our best efforts, all our attempted righteousness “filthy rags.” We cannot give enough, do enough, work and serve and evangelize or whatever enough to earn our way into heaven. It cannot be done. So what on earth gives us the thought in our heads that we could somehow be more righteous than someone else based upon a comparison of our actions to theirs? It just doesn’t make any sense.
Live by the righteousness the Spirit has instructed you in and not by some self conceived comparison with other, fallible people. Our only comparison is with perfection. The only way to heaven is through how we relate to Jesus and not how we relate to others.
If you have questions or comments about something you read here today or on another post, feel free to contact me by email : t_watsup@yahoo.com