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February 23, 2018, 2:59 PM

Soap in the Eye!!


When my kids were little we used to buy the tear-free type of shampoo.  The last thing we wanted to do was make them more upset about bath time.  Eventually, each of them learned to keep their eyes closed when they were being rinsed.  As they got older we reinforced the importance of keeping their eyes closed during the shower.  As an adult, soap in the eye is an undesirable experience.  If you have ever had a refreshing shower interrupted by soap in the eye, you understand how painful it can be.  The reality is, if you want to really get clean, soap is required. Depending on how dirty you are, the stronger the soap the better.  Soap is effective for cleaning skin but it’s not anything you want to clean your eye with.  It might work but there are other less abrasive ways to rinse the eyes.  Discovering the best strategy of presenting the Gospel has become a course at seminaries across the world.  It can be very difficult to find the middle ground that is effective without being too abrasive.  Paul provides us with a perfect example of this during his time in Athens.  According to Luke in Acts 17, Paul met with the leading religious groups of that time and region and tried to relate to them the truth of Scripture in a manner that they could understand.  He referenced statements and ideals they would have been familiar with and used them to point the Stoics and Epicureans toward Christ.  He even acknowledged their misplaced attempt of worship of idols and even the unknown god.  The point of his teaching was that Jesus is the Messiah and the time of ignorance had come to an end.  He shared the Gospel in an effective and nonabrasive way. Note that it was not a watered down weak version of the truth, It was the full truth delivered with love.  As with every presentation of the Gospel, there will be those who reject, those who are interested but not right now, and those who accept and are saved by faith in Jesus.  When we share the Gospel let us be mindful of Paul’s model and try to keep the soap out of the eyes of the ones we are trying to help get clean.  The Gospel can be offensive enough on its own, it doesn’t need our help to make it more so.  We just need to faithfully speak the truth in love. 

Robert




February 5, 2018, 2:15 PM

Surprise!


“Surprise!”  Nobody can say that word quite like Gomer used to.  It’s usually something people shout out for a good reason or at a happy time.  The pleasant surprise is always welcomed in the form of a gift, a little extra time, or an unexpected guest.  However, surprises don’t always come with good tidings.  We can rest assured that nothing takes God by surprise.  But since we are not God, it’s safe to say that life will throw each of us that special surprise from time to time.  Psalm 139 tells us that each day of our lives was known by God before even one came to be, that He knows us in our inmost parts, and that there is nowhere we can go that He can’t see us.  That doesn’t mean that He must ask us for approval in order for things to happen.  Unexpected events happen to all of us and my family is currently living in the middle of one of those surprises.  These types of things can be very overwhelming and humbling.  When you are forced to allow people to do things for you and there seem to be more questions than answers it can be easy to look with bewilderment to God and say, “why me, Lord?”  I was having one of these moments as my wife drove me to another appointment and my anxiety seemed to reach yet another level of intensity.  Then a song came on the radio and I was reminded that there is always a bigger picture.  Circumstances in life are seldom about only us.  I have seen the Lord do amazing things in the last few days that might not have taken place if not for a surprise.  I have gained a deeper love for my wife and children as they have had to take care of me instead of me being the one to always watch over, care, and provide for them.  When I listened to the words of that song and thought about the bigger picture, it’s as if the Lord asked me back, “Why you, Robert?”  I’m still trying to figure it out, but I know it has something to do with my faith in Him and how that affects my response to this surprise.  Listen to the song and ask the Lord why He’s chosen to use you for His glory.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUT4trsrBCw

Robert




February 2, 2018, 3:37 PM

Love Those Who Curse You


Unfortunately we live in a world where everyone doesn’t always get along.  Even Christians don’t always act like they ought.  It’s easy to respond in kind when someone treats us as if we are their enemy.  That is often the simple and most common natural reaction.  Matthew and Luke both quote Jesus saying that we should love our enemies and bless those who curse us.  Not only does He tell us what to do but He also shows us how to do it.  As Jesus is hanging on the cross, He pleads for the Father to forgive those who were hurling insults and spitting on Him.  Why? Because they didn’t fully understand what they were doing.  The most dangerous animal is one who is injured and backed into a corner.  A dog in this situation will even bite the hand extended in peace, love, and generosity because it is acting out of fear and pain.  Humans are not the same as animals but we can respond in similar manners.  Often we act out aggressively from a place of brokenness, pain, and fear.  We treat others as enemies when in reality they are not.  These actions are rooted in the flesh as described in Galatians 5 and stand in stark contrast of the fruit of the Spirit.  Paul cautions that we should be led by the Spirit and not the flesh because even those filled with the Spirit can experience times when the flesh dictates behavior.  The key is to remember that when people treat us as if we are their enemies, they are being led by the flesh and that should evoke feelings of mercy rather than anger.  They are merely acting from a place of pain and fear or other emotional damages.  The point of praying for an enemy is not that they would fall off the face of the Earth but that healing of brokenness would lead to reconciliation of relationships and the image of the Gospel would be apparent for all to see.  Two parties in positions of opposition being reconciled in love.  The only real enemy we have is Satan and he will do all he can to disrupt peace, love, and mercy among people, especially the children of God.  Love those who curse you, extend forgiveness even without it being asked for, and be a picture of the reconciliation of the Gospel. 

Robert




January 23, 2018, 10:23 AM

Pruning, Anyone?


When I was called to Beall Chapel as Pastor in May of 2015 it was a special time for our family.  The people here are so wonderful and loving and have always been so good to us.  One of the gifts we received from the church when they welcomed us was a “money tree.”  The money was a blessing but the plant would be a challenge.  Emily and I have never been accused of having a green thumb but we both knew we wanted to keep this plant alive as long as we could.  We kept it watered and made sure it was able to soak up plenty of sunshine.  When we moved to a different house we were able to transplant into a bigger pot to accommodate the growth that had taken place.  It was doing so well, growing and thriving and we were so proud of it.  Then one night recently, I forgot to bring it in the house.  On that particular night, the temperature got down into the 20’s.  The next day when we remembered it was outside and brought it in we were in a state of shock.  This beautiful, growing, thriving plant that we had taken care of for 2 ½ years was in bad shape.  We did the best we could to nurse it back to health but it quickly became obvious that there was going to be a significant amount of loss.  The choice had to be made to cut off the branches that were dead and dying in an attempt to give the others more of the life-giving nutrients they would need to survive, otherwise the whole plant might die.  It was difficult to watch this large plant be reduced to only a couple of branches.  John 15 tells of a similar thing regarding the pruning of branches that don’t produce fruit.  Unfortunately, most of us have “branches” in our lives that hinder the production of fruit and may even lead to a detrimental outcome for the whole person if there isn’t some pruning done.  I would ask you, what do you have in your life that is unhealthy and hurting your relationship with God? Is there something you need to have pruned?  Present your heart, soul, and life before the Vinedresser and let Him prune those things that prevent you from having a growing, thriving relationship with Him.  Do it today.

Robert




January 16, 2018, 10:38 AM

Words of the Farmer


We are sitting at home this morning as a family enjoying a rare event here in East Texas.  Today is like an extra Christmas present for so many people, both children and adults.  The unexpected occurrence of a snow day is something that only happens once every few years and often takes everyone pleasantly by surprise.  However, some of us expected and had anticipated this day.  Several months ago, I was standing in line at a local store and saw the latest version of the Old Farmer’s Almanac.  I picked it up and quickly turned to the section that would tell what kind of weather to expect this winter.  It predicted a cold wet winter with a good probability of snow for our area.  I’m not sure how it works but I am a believer that it is pretty accurate.  So much so that people trust their livelihood to it, basing the planting of their crops on the time suggested by the Almanac.  Another thing people plan their life around is the daily horoscope (I do not put any faith in these).  As accurate as these types of predictions may seem they are both less than perfect and have been proven wrong in the past.  One thing that is perfect and has never been proven wrong is the Bible.  People refuse to believe in the words written by men who were inspired by God to record the things they wrote.  The Bible grants assurances that people should take note of like, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  Also, that no one comes to the Father except through the Son, and Heaven and hell are real places that will be the eternal destiny for all people depending on their faith in Christ.  There is so much more that could be said to support the Bible and why it is far more dependable than any almanac or horoscope.  The Bible is the true and living word of God.  If you don’t believe it, I double-dog dare you to try to prove it wrong. But don’t be surprised if you become a believer. 

Robert


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