Real Sorry

Sorry GameSome folks think that all they need to do is to say “I’m sorry”.  Perhaps it was something they said that offended you.  Maybe they took something from you.  There may have been some level of betrayal involved.  Is it enough to just say, “I’m sorry”?  Granted, some have trouble even saying those two words, but for others, they don’t blink an eye before those words come spilling out and they expect you to instantly forgive, forget, kiss, and hug.

When Paul was dealing with the problems in the Corinthian church, he knew that he caused them a measure of grief with his stern rebukes concerning their tolerance of immorality.  Yet in his second letter to them, Paul could tell that the grief they experienced wasn’t a shallow sorrow consisting of crocodile tears and “I’m sorry”.  Paul could tell that their sorrow was a deep godly sorrow, one that resulted in an actual change of behavior.  He wrote, “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:11 ESV)

Saying that you’re “sorry” with words is certainly a start, but it’s not the measure of true repentance, the kind that God is looking for.  Real repentance is measured in actions, not tears.

Gift of Blessing One Another

gift-present-giveTHIS WEEK’S PASTOR TO PERSON WAS WRITTEN BY DAVID CATHERS:

When was the last time you got a gift? What was it? What did you do with it after you unwrapped it?

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gives us the main purpose of spiritual gifts.

It is easy to fall into the trap of wanting spiritual gifts that draw attention to ourselves, such as the gift of tongues. We may selfishly flaunt this gift to show off our “holiness”. Don’t get me wrong, there are appropriate times to use this gift, but this isn’t one of them.

How can we tell what is appropriate? Our gifts should be used to build up one another in Christ. The gift of prophesy is a great example. It is particularly important that our words are clear, so that others may benefit from God’s encouragement, revelation, or rebuke.

 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Cor 14:26)

This is the working out of love that God wants to see in His children: using the gifts and abilities He has given us so we can bless one another.

What will you do with your gifts?

All In?

poker-all-inThis week’s Pastor to Person is written by Daniel Grant:

You don’t have to look any further than the headlines to realize that our world is in trouble. Christian persecution, civil unrest, mass shootings, wars and rumors of wars – does any of this sound familiar? And as though this wasn’t enough, so many of us are deep in the mire of personal difficulty!

So what should our response be to the CRAZY world that we live in today? I draw such comfort from the book of Job. Here was a man that had it all, wealth, fame, fortune and a deeply rooted faith. So, when his world was literally turned upside down, Job’s response was to worship God and accept everything that came from God’s hand – both good things and the extreme difficulty of loss.  In all of his trials and temptation, he did not sin but kept his eyes focused on God.

Will you be ‘ALL IN’, just like Job? ‘All in’ is from the game of poker and is that moment that you take the step of faith, place the bet, and put EVERYTHING in the pot. (No, I’m not advocating we learn poker…) Will you join with me as we put ALL our faith and hope in Jesus? This means we will partake in the difficult process of becoming more like the Son of God!

Just Names

Names

Also in Jerusalem dwelt some of the children of Judah and of the children of Benjamin. The children of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, of the children of Perez; and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Col-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of Shiloni. All the sons of Perez who dwelt at Jerusalem were four hundred and sixty-eight valiant men. (Nehemiah 11:4–6)

Every once in a while, you come across a chapter or two in the Bible that is filled with names.  It might be a genealogy.  It might be a list of people who sinned.  In Nehemiah, there is a list of people who were chosen to live in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem.

I know it’s tempting when you come across a list like this to just skip through it.  Some don’t want to try and tackle the pronunciation of all these Hebrew names.  I would encourage you to consider giving it a try.

Are you a person who cares about the things of God?  Then you are a person who ought to care about people.  People are God’s highest priority.  And people are represented by names.  You can bet that your name is on God’s reading list.  He cares for you.  He also cares for the people around you.  Every one.  Every name.

Not Alone

WalkAlone

The idea that God no longer favors the nation of Israel has been around a long time.  In the apostle Paul’s day, people had conjectured that God had rejected His people, the Jews.  To this, Paul responded with a resounding, “By no means!”  Paul then went on to pull from a story concerning the prophet Elijah when he was fleeing for his life from wicked Queen Jezebel. “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (Romans 11:3–4)

There are times in my life when, like Elijah, things have gotten very difficult.  I might mistakenly think like Elijah, that I am the only one that has a passion for God and everyone else must be off on some beach somewhere sipping iced tea.  Sometimes I see so many flaws in the people at church, that I think that no one is taking God seriously, or at least as seriously as I am.  I conclude that I am the only one with a heart for God. My friend, that’s what Elijah was thinking, and he was wrong.  God had not abandoned Israel.  God has not abandoned the church. Elijah needed a fresh vision of God and a commitment to serve Him whether or not he saw anyone else serving Him.  The truth was, Elijah was not alone.  Neither are you.

A World of Hurt

RiotsWhen I read about the condition of the nation of Judah that Hezekiah inherited from his father Ahaz, I can’t help but think of the parallel with our own United States of America.  The nation of Judah had fallen into a world of hurt, and there was a reason for the trouble. Hezekiah recognized the problem and dealt with it by working to restore Temple worship in Jerusalem.  His father Ahaz had closed the place up while promoting the worship of just about every god under the sun.  Hezekiah spoke to the Levites heading up the restoration project, “For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him. …Therefore the wrath of the Lord fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes” (2 Chronicles 29:6,8).

Our nation, too, has fallen into a world of hurt.  Like our politicians, we tend to respond by pointing fingers at each other.  The problem is, we are all to blame.  When we as a nation have turned our back on God, we are like a ship without a rudder.  We sail in circles and act surprised when we run aground. Look at each problem in our nation and you can trace it back to man’s sinful nature. We need new hearts. We need to turn back to God.

Good Listener

Listen

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dave Dunagan:

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way to visit my mother. We had made plans for lunch. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and I was just going about my business driving down the road with not a care in the world. All of a sudden, as I looked into my rear view mirror, I noticed that I was being followed by a police car with its red lights flashing. As I pulled over to the side of the road, I wondered what it was that I had done. The officer informed me that I had entered an intersection after the light had turned red. I was not happy. I mentioned to the officer that I thought the light had not turned red, but my plea fell on deaf ears. At the present time, I am in the midst of paying for my violation in the form of a ticket and traffic school. I suppose that if I had a policeman following me around daily as I drove, I would have many, many tickets.

Psalm 130:1-4 tells us “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.

It’s a wonderful thing to know that with God our pleas never fall on deaf ears, and our sins, which are many, are never counted against us. When we cry out the Lord, there are no “tickets”, no guilty verdicts, only forgiveness. Beloved, call on Him and you will find forgiveness.

May I take your order?

waitressThe waitress comes up to your table.  You’ve been looking over the things on the menu and have been contemplating each item carefully so you can be ready for this moment.  And then comes the words, “May I take your order?”  Lately, I’ve been ordering with the advice from my cardiologist in mind.  I’m trying to learn to order what I need and not always just what I want.

Solomon wasn’t in a restaurant when His Waiter appeared, he was asleep.  On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (2 Chronicles 1:7)

We’ve all heard the jokes about a genie granting three wishes, but this was no genie.  This was God Almighty offering to give Solomon whatever he wanted.  Have you ever thought how you would respond if God appeared to you with the same question?  I might respond with requests for fast cars and lots of money, but that’s a little like me ordering steak and ice-cream at every meal … not good for the heart.  I might respond with asking God to take away all my problems, but again, is that what I really need? Solomon responded by asking God for wisdom to rule over the people of Israel.  That’s a pretty wise choice. Beloved, we get sidetracked by so many things that ultimately aren’t all that important.  Focus on what’s really important.  Perhaps it starts with a request to go deeper with God.

False Help

Golden-CalfIn the ancient days, when men felt that they needed help, they made idols, little figures of a “god” they would cry out to for help.

The Psalmist wrote, “Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see;” (Psalm 115:4–5)

Of course, nowadays in our advanced scientific culture, we laugh at the idea of making little statues and offering a sacrifice to invoke the help of this “deity”. But even today, the principle is the same.  When men need help, more often than not they will turn anywhere they can for help rather than turning to God.

Some turn to the god of money: If only we can put enough money into this project it can be saved.  Some turn to the god of knowledge:  With just a little more intellect, I might find an answer to my mess without having to admit my responsibility to the Creator. Others turn to the gods of sex, alcohol, and drugs:  If I can’t solve the problem, at least I can escape or perhaps dull the pain.  Like the ancient idols of history, these gods do not speak and they do not see.  Their answers do not assuage my guilt nor do they comfort the afflicted.

Beloved, there is only One God.  He is the Creator of the heavens and earth.  He sent His Son.  He’s spoken His Word.  Look to Him.

Where It Starts

Closed DoorPreachers often talk about the need to “repent”, the need to change.  The question I want to ask is, “Where does it start?”

David the Psalmist wrote, I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. (Psalm 101:2)

The Hebrew word translated “perfect” carries the idea of being “complete” (as in maturity) and has been translated as “blameless” or “integrity”.  David was wrestling with living a life that was pleasing to God, and he makes it clear just where it starts:

Maturity begins at home.

Too often we work on the areas of our lives that others see when we’re out and about.  When I’m at church, I’m particularly careful to be sure to behave and watch what comes out of my mouth.  If people at work know I’m a believer, then I work hard to be a good example.  If the friends I hang out with are believers, I try to put my best foot forward.

Though those are all good things to be concerned about, God is concerned about what goes on at home when you let down your hair and lower your guard.  God cares about what you do when He is the only one watching.  Real maturity begins behind closed doors. If you take care of the heart first, the other problems will fall into line.