Thursday, January 10, 2019

"Laying Up Treasure in Heaven" (Pt. 1) (Jan. 10, 2019)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Laying Up Treasure in Heaven” (Pt. 1)

(Jan. 10, 2019)

 

          Human beings are naturally thing/possession oriented.  People are strongly inclined to be seeking, pricing, considering, shopping for, acquiring, enjoying, storing, organizing, insuring, admiring, envying, and protecting material possessions.  There is enormous pressure to build our lives on, and around, “things.”  Everyone else is doing it, so why not us?  John Stott writes “Worldly ambition has a strong fascination for us.  The spell of materialism is very hard to break.” (John Stott; Christian Counter-Culture; 154)

          The subject of money/possessions often comes up in Scripture.  Why, we might ask?  Was Jesus obsessed with money and things?  Was Jesus a closet accountant?  Roland Leavell offers explanation when he writes “Jesus knew that no man is any stronger spiritually than his attitude toward money and what money can buy.  Jesus understood the vital relationship between gold and godliness.  He was aware of the plague of materialism, the very antithesis of spirituality.  Jesus did not discourage the making of money; he deplored the fact that some men give money the place that God should occupy in the affections.” (Roland Leavell; Studies in Matthew: The King and the Kingdom; 47)

          We live in “the land of plenty” so it is kind of hard for us to discern whether or not we have a problem, or obsession, with money and possessions.  Someone has suggested a simple thought to help us look more honestly at ourselves and our attitudes about these things.  R. Kent Hughes writes “If anything in this world is everything to you, it is an earthly treasure.” (R. Kent Hughes; The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom; 211)  Where do our priorities lie?  What are our priorities?  Jesus taught His followers to re-think where they laid up their treasures what they considered to be their priority.

          In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  First of all, in verse 19 He states that this earth is a poor investment.  James, in his epistle, warns the rich (those with plenty) as he says “Come now, you rich, weep and howl, for your miseries that are coming upon you!  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up treasure in the last days.” (James 5:1-3)  We need to clarify just who are the rich.  We all are!  Everyone is rich compared to someone else who has far less.  What James is saying is that there is enormous danger in investing in corroding riches and wealth.  Paul wrote to Timothy “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men to destruction and perdition.”  (1 Tim. 6:9)

          Many people have worked, saved, and collected all types of things; all these sorts of things have been destroyed by fire, tornados, hurricanes, floods, and have been stolen.  Jesus warns them that, in this world anything made of fabric sewn together can be dismantled, eaten up by insects, and destroyed.  He warns that anything made of metal can, and will, corrode and rust, and ultimately be no good at all.  I have been to salvage yards, on several occasions, and I always see cars, sometimes stacked upon one another.  Some are smashed up, some not.  But, all are junk and are worth nothing except for possibly some parts or pieces.  But, not that long before, these were someone’s new car that pulled into the driveway and made them the envy of their neighbors.  With pride they drove it places.  Now look at it.  Jesus further warns that just in case insects cannot destroy it and rust and corrosion do not destroy it, then thieves will steal it.

          Everywhere we look, it seems, we get further encouragement to be more “worldly” minded rather than to focus on God and those things that are truly important.  The world sees just about everything in opposite terms than do Christians.  It is tragic that the supreme effort of our lives seems to be about making preparation for the here and now instead of for the hereafter.  Basically the next few years instead of eternity!  It really makes no sense at all except to very earth-centered worldly people.  We certainly should want to live, but we also need to keep in mind that there is a big difference between living today and living for today.  There is a story that is told that St. Philip of Neri (Italian Priest in the 1500s), known by all as a great teacher.  He would question his students who came to study law under him.  He would ask each student “Why did you come?”  they would respond “to study law.”  He would ask “What will you do when you have studied the law?”  They would respond “I will set up an office and practice.”  He would ask “What then?”  They would respond “I will get married and have a family.”  He would ask “What then?  They would respond “I will enjoy my home and my work.”  He would ask “What then?”  They would respond “I will grow older.”  He would ask “What then?”  They would respond “I will retire.”  He would ask “What then?”  They would respond “I will eventually die.”  Philip of Neri, the great teacher that he was, forced the student to recognize the need for doing more than merely preparing for this life.  Our destiny is not to be found in this world, but in the next.  (Taken from Charles Allen; The Sermon on the Mount; 120).  If we only think a little harder and a little further out, we will see that much of what we do is nothing more than pursuing and attaining things that will only be in our grasp for a moment.  We must train ourselves to think eternally.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"Recommended Reading from 2018” (Pt. 2) (Dec. 19, 2018)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “Recommended Reading from 2018” (Pt. 2)

(Dec. 19, 2018)

 

          There are many great apologetic works available these days.  Some are written by scholars for scholars.  Some of these works are more geared toward pastors.  While still yet others are oriented toward laymen.  I have read many of these books over the last few years.  They are full of facts that validate the key claims of Scripture like the Resurrection, and the historicity of the early church and followers of Jesus.  Many of these books also examine scientific claims and examine them in light of reason, and even science itself.  It takes a lot for one of these type books to stand out to me as I have read several.  But I would give a 5 star rating to I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek.  It is hard to put down once you begin reading, but it is important to read through it slowly and carefully in order to receive the full impact.  I highly recommend this book be in your own personal library.

          Many accusations are leveled against Christians by those who want to discredit them and label them as ignorant, non-thinking, anti-science, anti-knowledge, etc.  Some of the myths that have been perpetuated have stuck and few know the real truth.  One of the best examples of this is the fact many claim, and/or believe, that Christians once held tightly to a belief that the world was flat even when science was saying the earth was spherical.  There is even an atheistic website where a group of people make fun of the “flat earth,” backward-thinking Christians.  But this is a total myth.  As early as the 4th century B. C. theists believed the earth was round and it was far more unusual throughout the middle ages and beyond for anyone, Christians included, to hold to a flat earth viewpoint.  I read a book this year called Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians by Jeffrey Burton Russell.  It is a fascinating, extremely well researched report of how this was all contrived coming out of a fictional work by Washington Irving and morphing quickly into revisionist history.  It you want to know the truth on this issue, read this book.  If you want to see how easily things can become distorted and true history be forgotten in favor of myth, then read this book!

          I am a big fan of the “Answers in Genesis” (AIG) organization, headed by Ken Ham, and their museum in the Cincinnati, OH metro area which features a full scale replica of Noah’s Ark.  They have put out numerous materials over the years including books, CD’s, DVD’s, booklets and tracts, and an information packed website.  I read a booklet put out by AIG this year called Doesn’t Carbon Dating Disprove the Bible.  This book is short and to the point.  It will help you see the flawed presuppositions of those who trust the Carbon 14 dating method for determining the age of the earth.  Many, in the camp of theological liberalism or accomodationist theology, even try to interpret the early chapters of Genesis by accommodating what science claims with the Bible when it comes to questions about the age of the earth.  Longstanding reliance on faulty methodology and trusting without asking questions has led many believers astray on this issue.  Christians do not, and should not have a “blind” faith but should ask questions in order to gain knowledge.  Ironically, science purports to search for the truth and go where research leads them; however, there are certain things that are off the table to some scientist, such as intelligent design in the universe.  When science takes anything off the table before it starts, science becomes more of a philosophical viewpoint and/or pursuit than actual science in the truest sense.

          I really enjoyed a short book by author Peter Jones called The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture.  It is densely packed with great information and is eye-opening.  It offers to you the potential to gain a great working knowledge of postmodernism, polytheism, and Gnosticism which has its roots in the days of the early church and is still alive and well today in many religious expressions.  You need to read this book, and ones like it, to get a handle on the world in which we live and are called to be missionaries.

          Sadly many Christians do not know anything better than to either “run” or “roll over and play dead” when unbelievers challenge Christian thinking and worldview with their slogans, and poorly thought-out assertions.  In his very helpful book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions Gregory Koukl shows how believers can easily maneuver through conversations with skeptics by simply getting them to think more deeply about what they are asking or asserting.  Overwhelmingly the argumentation of unbelievers breaks down just below the surface and it is our duty as Christians to help them see where there reasoning if faulty, not just for the sake of winning arguments, but for the furtherance of the Kingdom.  Through notable techniques such as “The Columbo Method,” based on the character from the popular television show, Koukl teaches believers to ask simple, non-threatening questions to expose what people really believe in such a way that they tend to realize for themselves that their story, or whole belief system, does not stand up consistently and reasonably.

          During my morning devotional time I read a few books that were really uplifting and encouraging.  One of those books was Heaven on Earth: What the Bible Teaches about Life to Come by Derek W. H. Thomas.  It is a heartwarming, non-technical portrait of Heaven and the life to come.  Another book was Understanding the 66 Books of the Bible by David Jeremiah.  The book gives a brief portrait of each book which starts with a timely, relevant illustration then a very brief overview of the content followed by the key theme and key verse.  It was lite but encouraging to read one or two of these portraits each day.  Perhaps my favorite devotional book of all this year was a book I have referred to often for many years but never read straight through.  The book is called God’s Promises for Your Every Need.  It is nothing more than a topical arrangement of very encouraging Scriptures that speak to a variety of issues and topics.  This book helped me know Scripture better.  It helps me see that yes God does have a lot to say about . . .  It is a book everyone should own and refer to regularly.  It will also help you in your ministry to others when someone at work, a family member, or a friend asks you “Is there a verse in the Bible that says anything about . . .?  You will find the answer in this book easily.

          During the summer and fall of this year I was privileged to teach through the book of Amos on Sunday Evenings.  I am always drawn to the Old Testament Prophets simply because, as a preacher, I can often relate to them on a personal level.  Also, as an American I can see enormous parallels between their day and our day.  Among the prophets, Amos is one of my favorites.  I was aided greatly in my study by J. A. Motyer’s book The Message of Amos in The Bible Speaks Today Commentary Series (BST).  I also found great value in The Roaring of the Lion: A Commentary on Amos by Ray Beeley. The most helpful resource of all was Amos: An Ordinary Man with an Extraordinary Message in the Focus on the Bible Commentary Series (FOTBS) by my former Hebrew Professor at Southern Seminary, T. J. Betts.

          I began a study of the Gospel of Matthew in December, 2016 on Sunday Mornings.  In June of 2017 I made it to the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7).  In October 2018 I finished that very rich block of material taught by Jesus.  In addition to several Matthew commentaries I read books that offered insight into the Sermon on the Mount specifically.  Most of these were very helpful but my favorites among them were Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church by Charles Quarles; Studies in the Sermon on the Mount: God’s Character and the Believer’s Conduct by Oswald Chambers; Reading the Sermon on the Mount with John Stott by John Stott and Douglas Connelly; The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple by Daniel M. Doriani; The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary by Jonathan T. Pennington; and most of all Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (2 volumes) by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom by R. Kent Hughes from the “Preaching the Word” (PTW) Commentary Series.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Recommended Reading from 2018 (Pt. 1) (Dec.18, 2018)


Allen Raynor Weblog: Recommended Reading from 2018 (Pt. 1)

(Dec. 18, 2018)

 

          For the last several years, at year’s end, I have shared some of my favorite books read over the course of the year.  I try to only recommend the true “stand-outs” and realize not every book will appeal to every person.  I further recognize that the vast majority of my readers are laymen so I rarely include technical or difficult books that I read.  My hope is that you will become intrigued enough by a few of these titles that you will obtain them and read them for your own enrichment and personal growth.

          America is no longer a Christian nation.  A movement was started some 35 years ago by Jerry Falwell called “The Moral Majority” but clearly Christians are now the “moral minority.”  The fact we have not been victorious politically on many social fronts does not mean we have really lost.  Perhaps, some of the battle we were/are fighting was/is not the battle God wanted us to waste our time fighting anyway.  The trajectory of this world is downhill morally as we rapidly move toward the glorious return of Jesus.  The question for us is how do we maneuver the treacherous waters of this world until that day?  One of my favorite authors, Erwin Lutzer, has written a great little book to offer believers advice on this front.  The book is titled Where Do We Go From Here: Hope and Direction in Our Present Crisis.  This book is a challenge for Christians to not be in despair even in the face of difficult, even heartbreaking, realities.  God has called believers to be salt and light no matter what this world does or does not do.  The church has a mission and its mission is to be faithful no matter what!

          Most Christians agree that prayer is very important; however just about the same numbers concede they do not pray as much as they should be praying.  Prayer easily gets crowded out by our busy lives, but ironically the busier we are the more we desperately need more prayer.  More than 20 years ago Bill Hybels wrote a great book that became a bestseller titled Too Busy Not to Pray which addresses the issue of the importance of prayer in the midst of our business.  It is simple, straightforward, and helpful.  I read through it over the course of a couple of weeks as a part of my morning quiet time this year.  I believe it will both encourage and bless.

          It is hard to seriously discuss prayer without talking about spiritual warfare.  Sadly I do not think most Christians realize that they are at war.  The powers of darkness are against believers and everything they try to do.  I was blessed by reading Chip Ingram’s book The Invisable War: What Every Believer Needs to Know about Satan, Demons & Spiritual Warfare.  It helped me understand some of the realities of how Satan and his demons work against my life and ministry.  Every believer needs to be more aware of the tactics used by our enemy and his demons.  Ingram’s book will help you greatly in this arena.

          Each year I make a point of reading at least one book on worship.  I believe worship is so much more than we realize.  This year I read a great new book by Keith and Kristyn Getty called Sing!  How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church.  This book will get you excited about worshiping because it will force you to really consider the question of “why” you worship.  When you are able to honestly answer that question, your worship will become really exciting!

          Many, if not most churches, truly desire to grow.  However, many of these same churches do not realize they are doing things that hinder their growth.  Many of the hindrances could be corrected but these things are hard to see by those who have been at the church long-term.  Thom Rainer skillfully addresses many of these hindrances to growth in Becoming a Welcoming Church.  I taught through this book on Wednesday Nights earlier this year and it generated great times of discussion.  It was eye-opening to many of our people who had never thought through some of the issues raised.  Rainer has a companion book that is meant to be given to visitors and prospective members called We Want You Here.  It is a good book and also worth reading and considering.

          When we hear the word “evangelism” we are just as likely to think of a church program as we are our personal responsibility of being a witness for Christ.  That is because “evangelism” became largely “programmatized” by the church beginning around the mid-twentieth century.  Same as with every other program, only a few will be involved.  However, evangelism is a commissioning from Jesus to everyone who believes in Him and needs to be emphasized as such.  J. Mack Stiles presents a refreshing, and much more biblically grounded, perspective on evangelism in his book Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus.  We need not be fooled.  It is not about showing up for a program, handing out tracks in parking lots, or memorizing a fool-proof model guaranteed to get results; it is about each believer building relationships and living out their faith and sharing their faith before the watching eyes of those they know and those they do not know.

          I preached through the Lord’s Prayer (Mat. 6:9-13) phrase by phrase over a several week period in the spring of this year.  As a part of my study I greatly benefited from 4 books specifically written to give insight into the prayer.  These were J. I. Packer’s Praying the Lord’s Prayer, William Barclay’s The Lord’s Prayer, A. W. Pink’s The Lord’s Prayer; but he most helpful and enjoyable one of the four was The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Dr. Albert Mohler.  This book, in particular, is warm and witty.  It takes complex theological issues and breaks them down very simply for the reader.  It is one of the very best books overall that I read in 2018.  I highly recommend it!

          Country music fans will greatly enjoy Charlie Daniels autobiography Never Look at the Empty Seats: A Memoir.  Charlie Daniels has accomplished a lot in his nearly 6-decade career and the book covers his childhood throughout his career all the way up to his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.  But, Christians in particular will enjoy the strong emphasis Daniels puts on his abiding faith and how God has seen him through many hard things in his life.  Daniels is a man of deep conviction, devotion, and faith.  I greatly enjoyed, and was inspired, by reading his memoir.

          Pastors have a unique calling, but with that calling comes unique dangers.  There are plenty of obvious ones, but there are also plenty of books out there to deal with those kinds of temptations.  In his book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, Paul David Tripp explores pride and breaks it down many different ways.  In fact, the whole book is about how pastors are tempted to let pride, in one form or another, control their lives.  It is so easy to stop letting the main thing be the main thing in our lives, but it really comes down to the fundamentals; how well and how sincerely we do them.  I highly recommend this book for every pastor.

          There are a few books in our Bibles that tend to be neglected, but it is often not because of their lack of content.  One such example is the letter of Philemon and its powerful message of Christian forgiveness.  I was privileged to teach through the book on Sunday evenings earlier this year.  I used several commentaries but the one I most appreciated was Scot McKnight’s volume The Letter to Philemon in The New International Commentary Series (NICNT).  It gives the reader great background, insights, and perspective without being too wordy or overly theological.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Monday, December 17, 2018

"The Essential Nature of Forgiveness" (Pt. 2) (Dec. 17, 2018)


Allen Raynor Weblog: “The Essential Nature of Forgiveness” (Pt. 2)

(Dec. 17, 2018)

 

     The world struggles, and has always struggled, with the question of what to do with Jesus.  He is both good and bad to them.  He is good because of His love, acceptance, kindness, etc.  But He is bad because to follow Him a person has to admit things about themselves they do not want to admit.  On one hand the world realizes that merely receiving Jesus into their lives is not as simple as “adding Him on” for strength, support, and satisfaction but requires a total life change.  On the other hand, they do not want to make that total life change, but somehow see danger in spurning Him altogether. Therefore, many try to search out and walk some sort of imaginary middle ground path.

          For Jesus to be Lord of your life means you ask Him to take control and the world is not really ready to totally “surrender” control to Him.  People want to maintain control of their own lives and seek their own pleasure(s).  In order to ask Jesus for forgiveness, a person has to first recognize their need for forgiveness and then ask Him for that forgiveness.  No more hiding behind the tired excuse of “Well, I think I am a pretty good person.”  An unsaved person (one still lost in his/her sins) sees themselves as being the center of his/her own world/universe.  Jesus frees a person from that bondage to exclusive self focus!

          A great theologian was once asked what he would say to a lost human being if he only had an hour with him to tell this person how he could have eternal life.  His response was that he would spend the first 50 minutes or so trying to convince them of their own bondage to sin and of their own desperate condition.  Then spend the last 10 minutes presenting Jesus.  While this may seem a little strange or out of balance, the point he was trying to make was that Jesus quickly becomes the obvious answer when people get over that major hurdle of realizing they actually need Jesus!  That is where the real challenge lies  This last Sunday and this next Sunday will see millions and millions of Americans not in church.  The simple reason is that many, if not most, do not really see a need to be there.  The world can even display confidence in their non-attendance of church.  Confidence however, never meant anyone was correct.  We have all known plenty of people who were “confidently” wrong.  The need for every human being is the same – to be forgiven by God. 

          Matthew 6:15 says “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  We all need to be forgiven; forgiven by God and forgiven by other people.  I try to do things right, treat others right, etc. but I fall short and still mess up.  When I do, I have to go back to people and ask their forgiveness.  In doing so, I am reminded again of the many, many things I have been forgiven for by other people, but especially by God.  The world is not preaching forgiveness.  The world is getting a lawyer.  Attorneys are advertising on billboards, television, and radio.  “Forgiveness” does not seem to be a word that resonates well with their profession.  Police officers are setting speed traps and waiting in the wings to catch speeders to write tickets; political operatives are working intently to dig up dirt on political enemies/opponents; scammers are scheming and conniving as to how to bilk people out of more and more money then to run and hide.  Ironically, none of those mentioned above want the same thing done to them as what they are doing to others.  Lawyers do not want to be sued, policemen do not want to receive speeding tickets, political operatives do not want dirt dug up on them, and scammers do not want to be scammed!  They want to be forgiven of their indiscretions, misdemeanors, shortcomings, or necessary measures associated with their jobs.   The world does not live by the “Golden Rule” (Mat. 7:12)  The world and its attitude reminds us of the parable Jesus taught about “The Unforgiving Servant” who was eager to have his transgressions overlooked and be forgiven but he selfishly wanted to hold others to the letter of the law for a comparably smaller offense/debt. (Mat. 18:21-35)

          Through the unfolding of this parable/story, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that God’s astounding forgiveness is the basis for all Christian forgiveness of a brother or sister.  When we keep  the cross of Christ, and the forgiveness of sin/transgressions, in the forefront of our minds it becomes much easier for us to forgive our neighbor.  We must never quite get over the shock and awe of being forgiven of our own sins.  Living day by day mesmerized by the incomparable love of Jesus and His forgiveness of us changes everything about how we view others.  Let us remember of Jesus “He paid a debt he did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away; and now I sing a brand new song – Amazing Grace the whole day long, Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.”

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

         

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"The Essential Nature of Forgiveness" (Pt.1) (Dec. 12, 2018)


 
Allen Raynor Weblog: “The Essential Nature of Forgiveness” (Pt. 1)

(Dec. 12, 2018)
        
          Have you ever had someone make you angry when you were driving?  Do you suppose you have ever made other people angry with your driving?  When another person does something you do not like out on the road it is very hard not to immediately pass judgment on them.  We must keep in mind that it is also very hard for them to not pass immediate judgment on us when we do something we should not.  Driving incidents are over in seconds, but memories can linger for weeks, maybe longer.  When it comes to driving we can all agree it is much easier to “be forgiven” than it is to “forgive.”

          I believe Jesus knew we would have a hard time with forgiveness because the theme comes up several times in the New Testament.  Out of all the lines in the Lord’s Prayer, for instance, the only one that is expounded upon is the one dealing with forgiveness.  Mat. 6:12 says “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  Then in vs. 14 the Lord further clarifies what He meant. 

          The fact that the Lord’s Prayer is absent of words like “me” and “I” but uses “we,” “our,” and “us” is very instructive at the point of understanding, and seeing the need for “forgiveness.”  Forgiveness goes beyond the surface and gets underneath.  It exposes things we often wish to remain hidden such as motive and intent.  It even reveals how selfish we can be and that is something few want known.  While forgiveness is closely akin to “self-less-ness,” unforgiveness is closely akin to “self-ish-ness.”

          In Mat. 6:14-15 Jesus teaches “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  We have a need to forgive others.  Jesus does not teach here that we have a need to forgive merely “perceived” transgressions against us but instead for actual, real, painful, wrongs done against us.  Yet, as hard as it may be, we are taught by the Lord that both the principle and practice of forgiveness should always be on display in the lives of Christians.  Think about a runway model modeling clothing.  The fashion being featured is meant to be seen, meant to impress, meant to be coveted/desired.  The clothing designers expect those in attendance to pass judgment on what they see.  There hope is that they will like/enjoy what they see and desire to have it.  When the world sees Christians modeling forgiveness in an “eye for eye; tooth for tooth,” kind of world they cannot help but take notice.  Forgiveness then holds a certain shock value to the world; however for the Christian it should all look completely normal.

          We all have both judgmental tendencies and merciful tendencies.  For believers mercy should always rule over judgment.  James wrote “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)  Many often say “I can forgive but I cannot forget.”  Actually putting being “wronged” by someone behind us once and for all is undeniably difficult.  Ted Kersh, in his book on the Sermon on the Mount, writes “One of the most challenging disciplines of the Christian life is forgiveness.  In fact, the very word ‘forgiveness’ may dredge up distressingly painful memories of events or people we’d give anything to forget . . . but for our own sakes, we must cancel the debt.” (Ted Kersh; The Blessed Life; 104; 106)  The most literal meaning of the word “forgive” means “to hurl away.”  It is a picture of taking something and throwing it away from you as far as your strength can throw it.

In the Christian movie “A Matter of Faith” perhaps the most powerful scene comes when Professor Portland looks at Prefessor Marcus Kaman and says “Marcus, I forgive you.”  He had been blaming him for 12 years for getting him fired from the University, ruining his career, and basically his whole life besides.  He had become a cranky bitter man, but he finally realized he had to forgive in order to move on.

          Forgiveness is a consistent theme throughout all of Scripture.  Believers need to look to great examples of men like Joseph who forgave his brothers for nearly killing him and then selling him.  Stephen, of whom the texts says “He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord do not charge them with this sin.’  And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:20)  And of course, Jesus is the greatest example of all.  He cried out from the cross “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 22:34)  The Lord Jesus, of course, had forgiven many along the way like the woman at the well (John 4), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), Zacchaeus the tax collector, etc.  He knew how to forgive and He taught His followers to forgive as well.  He did not ask us to do it because it was easy, but precisely because it was hard and unnatural.  In so doing, attention would be brought to the unmistakable power of the Gospel over and above human tendencies.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Monday, November 19, 2018

Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 4) (Nov. 19, 2018)


“Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 4)

(Nov. 19, 2018)

 

          One of the areas where people often worry most concerns the future.  There is an old French Proverb that says “Never cross a bridge till you get to it.”  George MacDonald put it this way, “No man ever sank under the burden of the day.  It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today, that the weight is more than a man can bear.”  Many, many people have suffered much more in this world than they ever needed to, simply because they allowed worry to captivate their attention.

          In Matthew 6:34 Jesus says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.”  Perhaps we all need to adopt an attitude similar to that of the Apostle Paul as he exhorted the Ephesian Elders.  In Acts 20:24 he says to them “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  Throughout Scripture people are repeatedly told to simply trust in the Lord.  When we worry we demonstrate we are not trusting in the Lord like we should.  We reveal that our human weaknesses have gotten the better of us, at least for a time.

          God wants more for us.  He did not create us, die for us, save us, and then expect us to set around worrying!  You were designed for much more than that.  Someone once told his friend, ‘You worry so much you are starting to look like a wart!”   The unsaved world actually has good reason to worry, but not us Christians.  God has promised to take care of us.  Our future is secure in Him! I love the reassuring words of the hymn “God will take Care of You” written by Civilla D. Martin in the early twentieth-century. 

 

[1]Be not dismayed whate’er betide,

God will take care of you;

Beneath his wings of love abide,

God will take care of you. 

 

[Chorus] God will take care of you

Through ev’ry day,

o’er all the way;

He will take care of you,

God will take care of you. 

 

[2] Through days of toil when heart does fail,

God will take care of you;

When dangers fierce your path assail,

God will take care of you.

 

[3] All you may need he will provide,

God will take care of you;

Nothing you ask will be denied,

God will take care of you

 

[4] No matter what may be the test,

God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon his breast,

God will take care of you.

 

          The Prophet Isaiah wrote the comforting words “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.  Trust in the Lord forever.  For in YAH, the Lord is everlasting strength.” (Is. 26:3-4)  Comforting and compelling words indeed!

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Casting All Your Worries on the Lord" (Pt 3) (Nov. 14, 2018)


“Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 3)

(Nov. 14, 2018)

 

          During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve.  The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care.  But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night.  They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food.  Nothing seemed to reassure them.  Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime.  Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace.  All through the night the bread reminded them ‘Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.’ (Taken from Jeannine K. Brown; Matthew; TTTC Series; 75)  We read in Exodus 16 of how God provided manna (bread) for the children of Israel in the wilderness.  They had to go out and gather it up daily because God wanted them to remember daily to depend on Him.  God desires for us to remember Him and what He has done and what He is doing.  He is “Jehovah-Jirah” our provider; therefore we have no need to worry or fret!  We are told in 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

          In Matthew 6:31-32 we read “Therefore do not worry saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek.  For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”  All too often worry betrays our faith.  We want to be strong and not worry, but worry is so tempting.  Worry is simply irresistible at times. 

          The opposite of worry is confidence.  Remember how last time it was mentioned that worry comes from an old German word that means to “strangle” or “choke?”  Worry tends to strangle or choke out our confidence in God and His promises.  Sadly, worry just seems to be a part of most people’s lives- maybe yours.  Many walk around, spiritually speaking, with a collar of worry that is way too tight.  The very idea of a Christian “worrying” would be almost laughable if it were not a sad reality.  Someone expressed the foolishness of worry through a little humor that brings home the point.  Maybe you have heard this little ditty about worry before “I’ve joined the new ‘don’t worry club,’ in fear I hold my breath, I’m so afraid I’ll worry, I’m worried half to death.” (Taken from Charles Talbert; Reading the Sermon on the Mount; 129)

          Jesus is teaching, for example, that it is unprofitable, even foolish to worry about what you will eat, drink, or wear.  These are the type of mundane things the pagans/Gentiles worry about; not those who know and trust the one true and living God.

          Today young people worry about having just the right athletic shoes, jeans, and backpack for the first day of school.  People worry about whether their neighbors own a nicer car than the one they own.  Studies have shown that one of the biggest worries people have these days is being “unfriended” on Facebook!  We might as well be worrying about the price of eggs in China as to worry about some of the things we do worry about!  Jesus is saying to all of us, ‘Don’t Worry; I’ve got you covered!’  Why then would we continue to worry so much?

          Worry stems from having misplaced priorities.  When we worry, the care/concern for whatever we are worrying about becomes a focus, perhaps a fixation, and we are therefore taking our focus or fixation off God and His Kingdom.  We are not putting it first.  Matthew 6:33 says “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”  The world has no idea how to put God first, but strangely, and sadly, even many believers are not putting His Kingdom first either.

          To seek the Kingdom is to seek the King; to love Him as Savior and Friend, to bow to him as Lord, to trust the God who has redeemed us.  To seek the Kingdom is to evangelize, that is to point others toward the Kingdom.  It is to introduce them to our King and Lord. To seek the Kingdom is to submit personally to God’s reign by obeying Him.  We seek the Kingdom when we obey God at some level of personal cost.  A Christian business owner, for example, seeks the Kingdom when he closes his stores on Sunday, even though it is a good day for sales, so that he can worship and rest and model the same for his employees.  Chick-fil-A restaurants are a prime example of a successful business where following Godly principles are elevated above serving the bottom line.  “Black Friday” retailers serve as examples of those not putting God’s Kingdom first.  In fact they have found a way to put a serious damper on two major holidays; Thanksgiving, by using it only as a launching pad for their sales extravaganzas and Christmas by totally misrepresenting the meaning of the holiday which is actually about celebrating the birth of the Savior and the hope He brings to mankind. 

          There are many practical ways that God’s Kingdom should be given first place.  These include things such as voting for candidates, on every level, that demonstrate real concern for God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and vote against candidates that demonstrate little or no concern for God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  To seek God’s Kingdom first means to consistently look beyond this world to the millennial reign of Christ which is far, far better than anything we now know.  To seek God’s Kingdom first means we invest in things of eternal value and do not waste time, money, or effort in doing things that really have no eternal value/significance.  To seek God’s Kingdom means to put God first, others second, and ourselves last.  To seek God’s Kingdom means to put basic fundamental things like church, Sunday School, prayer meetings, Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, etc. above our personal comfort or personal list of things to do. 

          Commentator Daniel Doriani writes “The context [of Mat. 6:33] suggests that seeking the Kingdom especially means dethroning wealth and possessions as our first pursuits.  We must not hoard treasures or live for pleasure, but put our treasure in heaven by giving to kingdom causes.” (Daniel M. Doriani; The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of the Kingdom; 180-81)  All too often, money makes our decisions for us as we go through life.  Is money your Lord?  Is it what you worry about?  You may say, of course not, but a closer, more honest examination may reveal otherwise.  To seek God’s Kingdom first means all else must be dethroned in our lives and the pursuit of God and His Kingdom must reign supreme.  This is the formula Jesus gave for how not to worry.  Simply seek God’s Kingdom first.  Make it your top priority and worry will quickly fade.

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor